Dear Darah and Elanah
Hurray, hurray, today is a very special day! It is April 14.
There are two very important reasons why we celebrate on this day. I will start with the one that happened first, according to the Gregorian calendar. On this day, 85 years ago, your Great Nana was born in a state you’ve not yet visited, called New Jersey. Back then, she was just known as “Dolores” but now we all know that she’s The Great of Greats. Your Great Nana! Her full name at that time was Dolores Marian Lembo, but when she married your Great Papa, she changed her name to Mason. A few years ago I learned that she hates her middle name, Marian, so I always use it on envelopes I send to her house now, to tease her because, if there’s one thing that makes your Great Nana The Great of Greats, it’s that she has a GREAT sense of humor. Simply the best, and her kids and grand kids and great grand kids all learned the tricks of the comedic trade from her. So now you know part of the reason Mummy likes to joke around so much.
Actually, I learned, from the day I was born, about being a prankster and a practical joker from both sides of my family. Your Great Grandpa Adam Pazzaglia and his daughters were a bunch of wicked –and I mean wicked– pranksters. You know how Gramma Sue likes to pull pranks incessantly on Mummy when she visits? Yeah, well, Gramma Sue used to do that with her sisters and brother, as well as all of her many cousins, ALL the time. I grew up seeing prank after prank, having pranks pulled on me, being part of crazy, crazy elaborate prank operations, and hearing stories about some of the best pranks of all time.
Those were my favorite: the stories. When I was little, I would ask my aunts, cousins, and your Great Grandma Mel, who is one of the best story tellers I have ever known or will ever know, to tell me funny stories. Not made-up ones. Ones based on actual life events. Like about the time Gramma Sue took a dead mouse and put it on a paper plate under a piece of watermelon, or pizza, and served it to Aunt Peggy, while they were standing near the pool. I was there and watched the whole thing. I watched as Gramma Sue kind of shoved the plate at Aunt Peggy and then as Aunt Peggy screamed, tossed the plate and mouse in the air, and then pushed Gramma Sue into the pool.
That was one I had seen in person, but my favorites were the elaborate stories about hilarious things that had happened or pranks that were pulled. I would say to whomever I was courting for a story, “Tell me a funny story” or “tell me the story about the time…”– and then I would listen intently as the story teller (usually Grandma Mel, but also Aunt Sharon and Aunt Peggy, and Aunt Terry, and Uncle Tommy, and Aunt Mickey, and so many others ) told the tale from start to finish. It was entertainment. A brilliant art form, in my opinion.
So how do you feel about the fact that you two come from a long line of pranksters AND storytellers. Epic pranksters. Epic storytellers. I have never met a group of people SO large and SO lively who like to tell stories as much as your relatives– the Walshes, the Pazzaglias, and the Masons. There are so many things about your big awesome family in Buffalo that I can’t wait to tell you. And so many stories, many of them funny, that I want to share with you. I believe it was this tradition of listening to my family members tell “funny stories” at family parties that helped to make me the writer I am today. This is why I wish that you could be around your big, extended family more: so that you can hear all of the stories, and learn about people, and learn about how people tell stories. It’s all so fascinating. And fun. Yes, fun. Want to know one of the most fun things about your mummy’s childhood? Your Great Nana!
I didn’t grow up just living in one house as a kid. I mean, yes, I had one home with my parents, but I also had other homes. Other places that felt like home. With my grandparents. I didn’t practically live in three houses because someone made me do it; I did it because I loved doing it. That’s partly why Papa called me his little gypsy.
Some of my favorite memories from my childhood took place at my grandparents’ houses. You know how you feel about Bayberry Lane, and how much you love it? Well, I felt that way about many places. That is why I always like bringing you to places in Buffalo that I used to frequent. I want to share stories with you. I, like you and I think like many kids, really grew attached to the houses and locations of my childhood. They live on so vividly in my mind. This is partly why I will be glad for you to travel outside of Macomb more someday. I want you to have more happy, vivid memories in a variety of places.
I practically lived at Grandma Mel and Grandpa Adam’s house on Paradise Road. I have hundreds of happy memories from the time I spent in their house. And my Nana and Papa’s house on Teakwood Terrace was practically my home, too. They made me feel welcome there and I loved to spend weekends there. I would ask my parents to go. It was a fun excursion for my nomadic self.
Oh, hexlings. I could talk all day about your great grandparents. Especially your Great Nana. She used to call your Great Papa lots of sweet names, like “you horse ball” and “you dumb Hunky.” She’s real creative when it comes to coming up with names for people. If you ever need a special name for someone you want to “impress”, just ask your Great Nana. I bet she became so smart with names because of her love of reading. She has always loved to read– romance novels, newspapers, crossword puzzles, church bulletins, anything and everything. And she is one funny lady. Now that she’s 85, she knows that because she’s old and funny, she can get away with saying pretty much anything because of it. At the same time, she also knows how to be a sweet little old church lady when she needs to. We’ll have to ask her about how she does all that!
Now, let’s talk about the handful that is your great grandmother more another time; it’s time to shift to the other reason why this day is beyond special. It is your little cousin’s, our precious baby cutie pie Harper’s, birthday. Harper Dolores, named after the no holds barred Nana before her, turns one today. She has been out and about making this world a better place for twelve whole months. We have only been with our little baby twice, in person, but we think about her and talk about her a lot. She is a part of our daily lives. She is our family. And we are so bummed about not being able to be at her first birthday party, aren’t we! True, we are. But we will still be celebrating her all day.
Today we remember the beautiful day that Harper met her parents for the first time. That she saw sunlight for the first time. That she heard her own voice for the first time. We know that Aunt Missy and Uncle Brian are going to be waking up extra early today to give our Harper lots of kisses and to sigh at how grateful they are for their perfect baby. Harper is almost a toddler! Wow. She’s babbling and crawling and walking, and trying to open doors! Way to go, Harper! Open those doors! She is quite a mover and a shaker, like her Great Nana, and, after seeing many photos of her reading little books and trying to open doors, I have been able to determine that Harper is a Hexling. Definitely a Hexling. Our Harpy, the Hexling.
Darah and Elanah, I know how much you love your Great Nana and your cousin Harper. They will be so excited when they hear from you tomorrow. I will not see you in person tomorrow, but I know your Momma Si will set you up with Facetime so you can wish them happy birthday.
You both read Harper books for her birthday, which was an idea Mummy had a while back, and we will give the books you read aloud, along with the Baby Einstein Shakespeare DVD, to Harper soon. We want to encourage her to love language, books, and Shakespeare.
Did you know that we don’t just learn to read when we’re little? It’s not a one-time event. We’re always learning to read. It’s not a process simply for children. It’s not something we only do when we’re little. We learn to read throughout our entire lives, if we want to do so, depending on what we’re reading. So it’s neat to think that you’re both learning to read, in different ways, while Harper is learning to read in her own way. And while Mummy is learning to read in her own way, too.
Well I am really too tired to continue writing tonight. I loved spending time with you today. Thank you, Darah, for dispensing the grass seed into the muddy spots of the yard for me with such enthusiasm. And thank you, Elanah, for having such a good attitude about being hurried along to and from dance. You both are cooperative and helpful to your parents.
Good night (and morning), my special fairies.