My grandmother taught me to love good food by her joy in growing it, cooking and serving it. During my childhood, Granny’s table was the safest and most delicious place in the world.
My mother taught me the absolute bliss of birthday parties. Without fail she baked five birthday cakes each year, iced them with buttercream frosting, and decorated them with roses and green leaves. We celebrated in our basement with neighborhood playmates and family.
My father taught me to value home movies, his handwritten captions with the name and age of the birthday girl. A barber who filmed everything he prized, including his five daughters and the Detroit Tigers, Dad zoomed in on Mom’s roses.
Miss Shindler, my sophomore English teacher, introduced me to the beauty of language and tragedy of thwarted love when our class read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Miss Liennemann, my senior English teacher, assigned Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to her students. The novel opened my eyes to the blind spots in romantic love.
Now, well over the hill, I reflect upon these and other people who laid foundational life lessons in my mind and spirit unawares. Productive memory exercise, this review also generates gratitude for those who guided me into the rewarding avocations of parenthood, writing, and gardening.
I’m learning to recognize the fluent hosts of folk who also teach by example. Gino and Marlene Mallia of Leonard, for instance.
The past twenty years, Gino and Marlene have conscientiously fulfilled their respective roles as treasurer and president for the Addison Township Cemetery Auxiliary.
When Gino phoned this past March and said, “We’ve canceled the meetings and spaghetti dinners,” I replied, “I’ve been expecting your call.”
The low-key auxiliary meetings mean much to me. I learn who’s been born, gone off to college or military service, and who’s elderly and needs help. We discuss the cemetery’s history and needed repairs. Gino reports on the program for the Memorial Day Ceremony.
Furthermore, gathering as a community twice a year over a plate of Gino’s spaghetti sustains the ties that bind in peace and understanding.
Presently, Marlene is recovering from a fall. After sixty-five years of marriage, Gino is counting down the days until his wife returns from rehab.
“The people at church signed up to bring meals when Marlene comes home,” he said when we spoke tonight. “Neighbors have brought me dinner, and the kids take me out. I’m puttin’ on weight!”
Yes, we learn how to take care of one another by example. Now it’s Gino and Marlene’s turn to receive.
“Someone offered to take Marlene’s place as president,” Gino said. “She can’t do the heavy lifting any longer.”
I hear in Gino’s voice his concern for his bride and the roles they vacate in the township where they married March 19, 1955, raised their children, and now live with their great-grandchildren.
Dear Reader, this is what sixty-five years of life-lessons can build.
I think that’s worthy of a party, don’t you? When Marlene’s on her feet again, I’ll bake Mom’s banana-nut cake with buttercream frosting, sans the roses.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.