While they were in Phoenix for the winter, my uncle Dan managed a kitchen and bathroom remodel for them, bringing the washer and dryer upstairs and enlarging their galley kitchen. My husband and other workers put in a lot of nights over there, and in recent weeks, the whole family has helped dust, scrub, put away the thousands of canned goods my Papa purchased at the Air Force commissary and organize the millions of calculators Papa also has.
I think we all have those items that we can never have too many of. For me, it is legal pads. They are stashed everywhere in our house. When I worked at the newspaper, I carried a little one even out to dinner in case big news happened, like a parade broke out or someone staged a pie eating contest.
For Nana and Papa it is calculators and crossword puzzle dictionaries. And blenders, my Aunt Mo pointed out. Mo is in charge of putting the kitchen back together. The responsibility came to her by default. She's the only one who knows what's going on.
Yesterday, my mom and I went over to help. While my mom hung pictures and my cousins took the boys to see Shaggy Dog, I dusted and vaccuumed and ransacked the cupboards for food for my hungry baby. The bagel and cream cheese he ate for lunch just didn't cut it.
I'm sure having me there helping was like having a teenager. "Where's the broom?" I'd ask. "Have you seen the clorox? Are we putting the calculators all in one place, or making sure there's one in every room, like you do with crucifixes and kleenex?"
Mo actually has a teenager. She came to help wearing a gorgeous hot pink satin tea length gown, cropped denim jacket, cowboy boots and cop sunglasses. She had just bought the $200 dress for $30 at a resale store. Let me tell you, I am going to start dressing like that to clean my house. It won't make me a better housekeeper, but at least I'll feel like a badass.
Nana has been so excited to see her new kitchen. For years, she cooked dinners for her 10 children in her little kitchen with the big table. At that time, the kitchen drain was always clogged with the remains of goulash and chicken tetrazini and grits and she'd lay a dishtowel over it so that Papa didn't see the plumbing task ahead until he had a full stomach.
When I was little, Nana would babysit me and I'd sit at the big table while she worked in the kitchen and told stories about what things were like during the Great Depression and how her mom and dad and her used to sleep outside on beds in the summer because it was so hot and how she used to listen for Papa whistling down the hallway of the apartment building where he lived with his sister and Nana lived with her mother. Papa, who was older than Nana, actually chaperoned her and her date to a high school dance as a favor to Nana's mother. Nana had a big crush on him. It was one of those rare cases where a long-time crush blossomed into love.
That table is in the basement now. As a surprise, my uncle redid part of the basement so the kids can eat dinner down there. Our family--with 10 kids and their spouses, 17 grandchildren and their spouses and boyfriends and girlfriends, and seven great grandchildren--had outgrown the kitchen and dining room tables and living room card table, and people were eating in shifts. Now everyone can eat at the same time.
So we all plan to be there when Nana and Papa arrive from Wichita, where Papa's sister Mary lives. After the long drive from Phoenix, Nana will be happy to be home. I'll let you know how the Extreme Home Makeover homecoming goes.
Now for today, St. Patrick's Day, the second biggest holiday in Kansas City after the Chiefs vs. Raiders game. The parade is Downtown at 11 a.m. This started years ago with Mike Murphy, a local radio personality and a few others marching one block. Now I don't actually know where it ranks in bigness but suffice it to say that every old Irish family and anyone trying to sell something or get re-elected is in the parade. Now there's a rule that all parade entries have to have some green on them so, you know, the UPS truck tapes a peice of green crepe paper on the side of the truck.
The Kansas City Star always campaigns to get the parade moved to the weekend, so that downtown commuters can actually get to work without calling on St. Patrick to perform a miracle. But parade organizers say that would break the tradition. Anyway, for many in Kansas City, today is an unofficial holiday, like the Royals home opener, Mardi Gras, the day after the Chiefs versus Raiders game and anytime it snows or is sunny.
When I was little, my mom would pull my brothers and I out of school on St. Patrick's Day and dress us in Irish sweaters and anything else European--lederhosen, for instance, and march us through the downtown streets. That's how a lot of Irish families who didn't have a float would show their spirit. But now it's more organized. I think you have to be registered.
So we'll just watch. One year, we watched my cousin Chris propose to his sweetheart, Emily. Now they have a breakfast party every year. It starts in 40 minutes in fact. I better get my little leprechauns dressed. I'll tell you more about the big day tomorrow.
Slainte. That means cheers in Irish. And Pog M'Thoan. That means something obscene in Irish and I don't really mean it. It just sounds festive.