Tag Archive | mothers and daughters

Best Birthday Ever!

About a month ago, my youngest daughter called and said, “Mom, I’m booking you for August 1st to celebrate your birthday.” I said okey-dokey and wondered what she had up her sleeve. I guessed Sarah might take me out to lunch and possibly bless me with a much needed pedicure because the last time we were together she told me I could climb trees with my long toenails. I love surprises, so I didn’t even try to guess what she had up her sleeve.

My “real” birthday was on Friday, and I have to tell you, I am really blessed with a stable of friends who understand I’m a big kid at heart and I love being special one day a year–a precedent set by my parents a LONG time ago. As children we got to choose the meal and type of cake we wanted, as well as picking something we wanted to do on our birthday. For one day, my brothers and sister became the big cheese for the day. My wants were simple: brats, going to Brown’s Lake, and poppy seed cake.

This year, my day started with a call from my brother Mark singing the traditional “Happy Birthday to You.” Then I got a call from my contractor saying he would be starting the construction of the garage on Monday! I thought that was the best news of the day, until I got a call from my long-lost friend Debbie Collins. Our friendship started in junior high school and lasted until we got too busy with husbands and kids. Birthday RosesNext, my daughter Sarah brought me a beautiful bouquet of a dozen roses before the FedEx guy brought me my new computer. I figured the festivities would wind up after my dear friend Jackie brought over my birthday supper, flowers, and cheesecake. But the beat rolled on. Linda walked down and shared some birthday cheesecake with us, and of course, she gave me a gift too. What a day, huh?

Sarah arrived on time on Saturday–her booked August 1st. She found me in the back bedroom I call my “studio” putting the finishing touches on my latest painting. I wanted to finish a couple of strokes before we took off so I had my back to her as she came into the studio.

2015 Birthday 005When she asked for a hug, I turned around and couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing beside Sarah was my other daughter Amy.

2015 Birthday 001She had flown in from Seattle for the weekend — just for my birthday. (Daughter on the right.)  This was the surprise of a life time. We had been separated for over four years, and it was sheer joy to see her again. Sarah (daughter on the left) and Amy had been working on this surprise for over a month.  Like some crazy person on the “Price is Right,” I put my hands to my face and yelled, “Oh, my God!” about eighty times as I gave each of them hugs and kisses. They got the reaction they had hoped to get. Their plans for me included lunch and a pedicure. Afterward we spent a little time on our new patio with a cool drink. Unbelievable! Two best days ever in a row!

I think experiencing bad days like I’ve been writing about lately, intensifies the great days. I’m still smiling that my two daughters love me so much that they wanted to give me such generous gifts. Spending time with them as beautiful adult women now is as much fun as when I was a twenty-something enjoying them grow up.



Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—March 22, 1940 – Angelo’s old pickup headed straight for the hospital emergency entrance. He ran around the front of the car and opened the passenger door as a shooting pain grabbed Rosalie’s back. He helped her to her feet in the gravel parking lot and walked her to the entrance as another pain hit which nearly broke her in half. This time she screamed. Angelo picked her up and ran to the Emergency Room door. He flagged down a Dominican nun dressed in the traditional black and white garments. “My wife’s having a baby,” he shouted.

She mumbled to herself. “Shhhh – this is a hospital, young man. Sick people are resting.”

“My wife’s having a baby,” he said louder.

“I heard you the first time. Don’t be fresh.” The nun answered and pointed to a sign that read Admitting. “Go.” The nun said and abruptly walked away mumbling to herself, “Honestly, girls having babies are getting younger and younger.”

Angelo swallowed his anger rumbling inside him. As a good Catholic man he realized he needed to respect this nun; otherwise, he would call her a bitch.  He found a vacant wheelchair in the hallway and lowered his wife like a fragile piece of his mother’s good china. “I guess we go this way, honey.”

Rosalie nodded and gazed at him with scared puppy eyes as another back spasm gripped her so hard she arched her back and cried. After the pain subsided, he continued to the Admitting Department. He stood in line where a tired-looking, gray-haired woman sat behind a window with a small opening that looked like a porthole. The woman wore a navy blue smock with, “Saint Mary’s Hospital” embroidered over the left breast pocket. Her yellow-stained finger tips rested on the typewriter keyboard.  Lingering cigarette smoke surrounded her head like a misplaced halo. Her bright red lipstick served as the only color on her grey wrinkled face.

Angelo cleared his throat. “Excuse me, ma’am. My wife’s having a baby and she’s–

The woman interrupted him.

“Bring her to that door.” She pointed to the door to her right.

“Thanks.” Angelo pushed Rosalie to the door as the clerk unlocked the door and escorted them to a ward of beds separated by long white drapes.

A nurse dressed in white from head to toe met them with a clipboard. The white outfit made her mahogany curly hair and brown eyes appear even darker. Angelo wondered how she stayed so clean when she worked in a place with lots of blood. Her husky voice sounded like one of the guys Angelo worked with on the assembly line. “How far apart are the contractions?”

Rosalie looked up to Angelo as another pain raced across her back.

Angelo answered with authority in his voice. “About five minutes-if that’s what these pains in her back are all about. Her water broke at noon.”

“Very well.” The nurse looked at her wristwatch and noted his response on the clipboard she held.

“What’s your name, sweetie?”


The nurse scowled. “Not you, sir.”

She guided Rosalie to one of the beds, “What’s your name, dear?”

“Rosalie.” She let out a howl as a white hot arrow of pain shot up her back once again. “Please don’t be mad at him, ma’am, he’s just so excited.”

“They all are, sweetie, but having a baby is women’s work.  We can manage without men.” She winked at Rosalie and whispered, “Now, let’s get started.” The nurse took a gown and a sheet from the cabinet in the room and handed them to Rosalie. “Take off all of your clothes including underwear and put this on–ties go in the back. Push this little button when you’re done.”

The nurse turned to Angelo, “And you, young man, need to go back to the admitting clerk and register your wife. I hope you brought your insurance card.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then get to it, boy.” She waved him to the exit.

Stifled protest stuck in his throat as he obeyed another bossy woman. Angelo hung his head and went back to where he first started. By now three people waited in front of him. Angelo paced up and down the dull gray hallway like a caged tiger.

“Next,” the woman behind the glass said.

One by one the clerk processed the people in front of Angelo.

“Next!” She yelled.

“My turn?” he mouthed as he pointed to his chest.

“That’s what I said, didn’t I?” She snapped.

Angelo’s temper reached the boiling point. He glared at the clerk with fire in his eyes; if a pane of glass didn’t separate them, he might have slugged her.

She slipped a blank form into the Smith Corona and looked down at the keys. “Name,” she said.

“Ah, Angelo-

She scowled. “Not you, sir, your wife’s name.”

He bit his tongue. “I’m sorry,” he took a big breath. “I didn’t understand what you wanted. This is our first and I–

She repeated. “Name.”

When the insurance interrogation ceased, Angelo scurried back to the area where he left Rosalie. Her bed was empty. Panic rose in his throat.  He spied the nun he met in the hallway earlier and with a shaky voice he asked, “Sister? Where’s my wife? I left her here while I did all that insurance crap and now she’s gone.”

“Your language, young man!” She scolded as she looked down her sharp nose at him. “No need for that tone. Your wife is on the Fourth Floor. Labor Room 426. Follow me.” She escorted Angelo to the elevator, pushed button number four, and left him standing in front of the gray metal door.

“Thanks,” he growled as she walked away.

Angelo found Rosalie laying in one of the two beds in Room 426. An empty bed tightly wrapped in white sheets with square corners awaited the next patient. Angelo hoped no one else would be put in that bed because he wanted to be alone with his wife as they went through Rosalie’s labor.

“Did they tell you anything?” He asked.

“They say I’m three centimeters, whatever that means. The nurse said when I get to ten, the baby is ready to come out. She said it might take all day.”

“Okay. How can I help?”

She reached for his hand. “Just be with me. Nobody told me what will hap–

Before she finished her sentence, she let out a cry that reminded Angelo of a tortured animal.

“Oh, God, “She panted. “That was a sharp one!” She said.

Angelo never thought of the pain his wife would experience to bring their baby into the world. “Oh honey, what can I do?” As soon as his words left his lips, he thought he might be useless all day.

“Just hold my hand.”

When Rosalie endured each contraction, she squeezed his hand like a football middle linebacker. After the pain subsided, she didn’t want to talk because she needed to get ready for the next pain to stab her in the back.

Ten hours passed and still no baby. The nurse said first babies usually took their time and be assured Rosalie was progressing nicely.  Angelo wondered how much more pain Rosalie could take. She appeared like she worked all day in a sweaty factory. On top of her weariness, she lost her will to go on. Angelo encouraged her to fight. She screamed while she dug her fingernails into his arm as the contractions came and went. They both needed this baby to make its arrival soon.

Angelo said a silent prayer.  “Oh, God, please let this be over. She’s so tired and growing more fragile as time goes on. Please, Lord. I don’t want her to suffer any more. Let the baby come soon.”

The starched nurse who attended Rosalie since the beginning of her labor announced her shift had ended and she left. A petite woman wearing the same starched white uniform took her place. Unlike her prune-faced predecessor, Debbie O’Malley smiled at the couple and spoke to them with gentleness in her voice. “We need to check you, Rosalie, to see how much longer this little babe of yours will make us wait to meet his or her acquaintance. The doctor is here now, and he wants a report on how you’re progressing.” She turned to Angelo, “I’m sorry, Dad, please leave us alone for a minute.”

“I know. I know. I’ll be out in the hallway.” Angelo rose and stretched his legs before dragged himself from the room.  As he paced in the hallway, Rosalie screamed again. “Oh God,” he prayed out loud. “Please end this.”

After a couple of minutes, the nurse pushed a wheel chair through the door with Rosalie seated. She hung her head and appeared as white as the sheet covering her.

“We’re off to delivery!” The nurse announced. “Follow me, Dad.”

Another pain assaulted Rosalie; she arched her back almost propelling herself out of the chair. The nurse waited for Rosalie’s pain to subside before she continued to the delivery room. They passed a door that read, “Father’s Room,” and the nurse said, “You can wait here, Mr. Armani. Your baby should arrive shortly. Your wife is fully dilated, and I’ll come and tell you as soon as the baby’s born.”

Angelo kissed the top of Rosalie’s head. He whispered. “It’s almost over sweetheart. I’ll be here waiting.”

Rosalie didn’t say a word; her eyes expressed exhaustion and defeat. The nurse pushed Rosalie through another set of doors marked “Hospital Personnel Only.”

Chapter 5

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – March 22, 1940–The Father’s Room didn’t offer any more attractive or comfortable space than any other place in the hospital. Dated “Time” and “Life” magazines littered the only table in the corner of the room. A couple of tin ash trays sat on the table and the stink of stale smoke reminded Angelo he needed a cigarette. He took a Lucky Strike from his shirt pocket and lit up with the lighter Rosalie had given him for Christmas. He took a long drag and exhaled a billow of lazy smoke rings.

Even after a half pack of cigarettes, Angelo couldn’t erase Rosalie’s fearful, childlike expression. He wanted to be with her. Waiting in this dreary room seemed cruel to both of them, but at least here he found a little freedom from her gut-wrenching screams.

He thought nothing would ever scare Rosalie, but having this baby scared her plenty. He looked down at his scratched and bloody arm. He chuckled when glanced at his scratched arm thinking at least he gave some skin in the game. Angelo removed another cigarette from his pocket and held it between his lips.  He leaned back so his head rested on the wall, lit the fag, and took another long drag allowing the nicotine to work its magic. He tried to reassure himself the doctor would take care of Rosalie.

When the red-headed nurse returned, she shook a sleeping Angelo.  “Dad,” she said quietly. “Your wife is having a bit of trouble and things are taking longer than they usually do.”

Angelo got to his feet and stared at the nurse. His stomach flipped. “What’s wrong? I want to see her.”

The nurse calmed him. “Simmer down. She’s in good hands. The baby presented face up, and Rosie can’t push it out. The doctor gave your wife an anesthetic to remove the baby with forceps.” After relaying this information, the nurse returned to the delivery room.

Angelo sat and cried.

Thirty minutes later the nurse returned to the Father’s Room. Angelo sat in the corner with his head down.

The nurse touched his shoulder. “Mr. Armani?”

Angelo looked up to her freckled face. “Is my wife all right? Is the baby here?”

She laughed, “Your wife is resting, and your little girl is an eight pound, eighteen inch long ball of fire! She’s perfect.”

“A girl! Really?” He found the news surprising. Everyone prophesied the baby would be a boy. “And my wife?”

“Like I told you, she needed to be sedated because of the posterior birth, so she’s asleep. I guess your little one wanted to get a good look at the doctor who delivered” She chuckled at her joke.

Angelo appreciated the nurse’s attempt at levity.

“You’re saying she’s a nosy little one?” Angelo let out a laugh of relief.

“You might say that. As she grows up, you can decide.”

“When can I see her?”

“You can go to the nursery now. Come on. I’ll introduce you to your daughter.”

Behind a thick glass window Angelo read a card above a stainless steel bassinet reading, “Baby Armani.” A plump pink baby swaddled in a white receiving blanket slept. A thick crop of red hair made her stand out from the other infants. She tried desperately to put one of her clenched fists into her mouth. A surge of love rushed through him like electricity. He put his face up against the glass and whispered, “Thank you, God.”

He turned to the nurse with tears in his eyes. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she? We talked about naming her Mary, but she looks like a little angel. I think Angelina suits her better.”

“A pretty name for a pretty baby.” Debbie the nurse said, “Babies delivered by forceps usually get nasty marks on their heads, but not your daughter. I think she just needed a little coaxing to make her appearance.”

“Can I hold her?”

The nurse smiled. “Well, not right now. She and your wife need to get some rest.”

He said, “Where is Rosalie?”

The nurse said, “She’s in recovery and will probably sleep until tomorrow morning. The anesthesia takes hours to wear off.  I think the best thing you can do is to go home, get something to eat, call all your friends and family in the morning, and then come back tomorrow.”

“I want to hold both of them; I thought after the baby came, I could give both of them a kiss.”

The nurse said, “I’m sure they both will enjoy your kisses tomorrow. Go home and get some rest.”

Angelo looked down at his bloodied arm. “Maybe going home isn’t such a bad idea after all.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Armani. Your girls are safe and you did great.” She patted his shoulder and left.

Angelo turned toward the glass. “Pleasant dreams, my little girl. Daddy will be back tomorrow.” Daddy, wow!  Daddy. I’m really a Daddy!” He blew her a kiss and whispered, “I promise you sweetheart, I will be the best Daddy ever.” He left the hospital dog tired, but strangely energized. Wait ’til I tell my Pa!


Angelo went home, cleaned up his wounds, and went to bed. The clock told him it was four o’clock in the morning and seeing the correct time splashed a wave of fatigue over him. He woke around eight and called his parents and Eduardo to tell them about his baby girl, Angelina. Both new grandpas wanted to rush to the hospital to visit the newest member of the family, but Angelo told them about Rosalie’s ordeal and said it would be better to hold off their visits until the next day.




When Your Mother Doesn’t Want To Be Your Friend

mothers and daughterI was never lucky to have a close relationship with my mother. I don’t know why, but all of my life, she pushed me away. She never seemed satisfied with my talents, always criticizing me for one thing or another. I had hoped when I grew up, she’d like me better. I never gave her any trouble. I tried to be good all of the time and do the right thing. But, no matter what I did or didn’t do, it was never enough. I hoped our relationship might change when I had children of my own, but it never did. I deep down wanted her for a friend, but she could never let go of her mother role.

But I needed an older woman in my life. I needed someone to guide me. Someone I could talk to when I had a challenge with my husband or daughters. I wanted someone to give me small tips of the mother trade—like how to outwit very smart kids. Someone who was willing to take the time to be with me. Someone who wanted to be my friend.

When I was a teenager, I had my next door neighbor, Mrs. Shiel, who befriended me. We’d sit at her kitchen table and talk girl to woman over a cup of Ovaltine and sugar cookies about things at school and of course, boys. When she died in her sleep, I was lost. And it was a long time before I found another woman who wanted to be my friend.

I got lucky when I was in my late 20’s. I was invited by the director of “The Racine Chorale” to come and sing with his group. This group had some of the best voices in the community, and I was honored to be asked to join them. It was here I met Marie. She was a delightful woman about my mother’s age, who eased me into the new chorus. It took me a while, but since then, Marie has been a dear friend who I love more than I can tell you. She and I are very much alike. We love to laugh and see the world with a smile. Her advice and counsel through the years has been invaluable to me. Plus, we ALWAYS have a great time when we’re together.

When Marie and her husband moved to Florida to retire when I was in my mid-30’s, I thought I would die. Selfishly, I mourned her passing onto a different life, which took her 2000 miles away. But through letters, we remained in touch, and thank God she’s computer savvy because now we email and Skype each other.

With Marie far away from home, my search for another older pal came to an end almost 20 years later when I met Joyce. She’s a strong woman who became one of my clients when I was in my financial adviser stage. She put her trust in me and one day invited me to join her Red Hat group. There I met a bunch of gray-haired ladies, but Joyce was by far my favorite. We’ve remained friends ever since. She loves Ken and understands the trials we go through because she took care of handicapped people in her home for years. She’s been a great source of comfort and support in our friendship, and I’m lucky she’s in my life.

So, even though I never got to be friends with my own mother, I’ve had a wonderful parade of others who have enriched my life with their experience and expertise in life, and at the same time where willing to befriend someone who must have seemed to be a just another kid.

I hope someday, I can return the favor for another young woman searching for an older friend. I wonder what it will be like to be on the other side of the equation.

Short Story Time — THE WEDDING

Sunday morning short story time. Enjoy.

book clipart



The Wedding

2013 Copyright Barbara Celeste McCloskey


Through the glass doors of the chapel, I see an empty space except for my second husband Ken and two other friends of the bride and groom. None of the groom’s family is here. None of my family is here either. Grandmas and Grandpas should be looking on. Brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles are missing, too.

The wedding coordinator opens the doors, and we hear a tinny-sounding electric piano plunk out the wedding march. I look at my daughter, ask if she’s ready, and take her arm as we both step on the pink carpet. But, I want to yell “STOP!”

I can’t, though. It’s not my wedding. It’s what my daughter chose. But I hold tears back because we should be in the church where she was baptized and confirmed, not in some Las Vegas chapel. Her father should be here walking down the aisle with us, but he’s not.

The chapel is a beautiful place in a very false way. It’s painted soft off-white with pink accents. All the pews are padded and covered with white vinyl. The altar is decorate with huge sprays of silk flowers that have no fragrance. The greens, yellows, pinks, and white shades will be a very beautiful backdrop for the photographs, I’m sure.

As we journey up the aisle, I feel my daughter’s tension release when she sees her man. He’s waiting at the altar looking like James Bond in a black tux. Another man dressed in a fifteen hundred dollar business suit stands between the groom and his best man.

As we stand in front of the altar, the man in the expensive business suit shouts, “Who gives this woman to this man?” I stand frozen. Pastor Steve should be asking this question. He should be here in his collar and wedding vestments – not this clown who earlier introduced himself as Reverend Bob.

Finally, with a dry throat, I speak. “I do, her mother.” I let go of my little girl, kiss her cheek and take my place beside Ken in the front pew. The couple turns and faces Reverend Bob, as they do, recorded music that must have been arranged by Yanni plays. Then a photographer positions himself in the aisle and the show is on.

Reverend Bob’s voice booms throughout the empty chapel. “You’ve come here in the presence of God to become man and wife . . .”

My mind drifts to the day my daughter called and told me she wanted to elope, but she wanted me there. Two days later we sat in a travel agency, booking the Rose Wedding Package at the Flamingo Hilton, and in one phone call and eighteen hundred dollars later, the wedding was planned.

As my daughter and her man repeat their vows, I fight to hold tears back. They are smiling at each other, wearing the love for each other in their dark eyes. I notice a sparkle of a pair of earrings her deceased Auntie Ginger gave her, but then the photographer moves in closer, and the Yanni music swells, and the spell is broken.

Reverend Bob drawls in a loud voice, “And  now for the éx-change of weddin’ rings.” He holds the gold bands in his hand and studies them like he’d never saw a pair of rings before. After achieving the desired dramatic effect for the video cameras, he says, “These rings represent your cov-en-ant you are makin’ to each other. When you look at them, they should remind you of the vows you are makin’ today.”

He grins a toothy smile, pauses again, and then continues in his annoying western twang, “Rings are a perfect symbol of love because they are an un-endin’ circle that has no beginnin’ and no endin’. God placed love in your hearts, and after you leave here, you will wear a visible sign to the WHOLE world that you are married.

Reverend Bob lowers his voice. “Honey, turn a little to the right so the photographer can get a better shot.” My daughter adjusts herself according to his stage direction. Then he says, “Do you want to put the ring over the glove, darlin’?”

She blushes. “Oh . . . no. I’ll take it off.” My daughter wears a gold bracelet her sister gave her for her sixteenth birthday on her left wrist over her long, white glove. I’m so happy she was sentimental enough to wear mementos from family members who couldn’t be here. Little by little, the stubborn glove comes down, but the bracelet hinders fast progress. “I’m sorry.” She whispers.

Reverend Bob says, “Don’t worry, honey. Take your time. This is your day.” Then he winks at her. “And, besides this is my last weddin’ for today. There’s no need to rush.”

Pulling, tugging, stretching, and finally giggling, the glove finally comes off. The rings are exchanged and Reverend Bob wipes his brow with a silk handkerchief like he’s working hard. Even though the place is air-conditioned, he’s sweating like a horse.

Now it’s time for the big finish. Reverend Bob’s voice takes on a dream-like quality, which reminds me of a DJ on a late-night jazz radio station. “And now as a happy couple, who has pledged their love in front of God and these witnesses, I want you to take a few silent moments to look into each other’s eyes.”

On that cue, the damn Yanni music swells again.

After the proper chord is reached, Reverend Bob says, “I want you to stop the clock.” He pauses. “I want you to go back to the very SECOND that you ré-al-ized you didn’t want to live ONE MORE DAY without each other. I want you to go back to the SECOND when you knew life would have NO meaning if you weren’t together.” He pauses again.

I’m thinking – for godsakes, man – this is a wedding, not a Vegas floor show.

My thoughts are interrupted when he speaks again in a booming voice. “And now that you both are in THAT moment, I want you to leave this pretty little chapel and become each other’s ad-ver-tíse-ment. Always bring HONOR to each other. Become helpmates to each other. Celebrate your victories. CLING to each other when life gets hard. But always re-mem-ber the love you feel today – AS GREAT AS IT IS – will deepen as you go through the years together.”

Reverend Bob stops, raises his hand and his voice crescendos. “And by the powers vested in me by the GREAT STATE OF NEVADA, I prṓ-nounce you HUSBAND AND WIFE!” He lowers his arms and says, “You can kiss your bride.” He grins for the camera, and I half expect him to take a bow.

Reverend Bob has one more command as he directs the bride and groom. “Turn around and face the audience.” As my daughter takes her new husband’s arm, Reverend Bob shouts, “It is my great pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, to present . . .” He takes a deep breath, and the tinny-sounding piano replaces the Yanni music as the newly married couple rushes down the pink aisle. I hear the rustle of her beautiful dress and the two of them giggling as they go out into the hallway.

I feel the love they have for each other, and of course, I cry. My heart is pounding and now I’m sweating up my matronly mother-of-the-bride dress. My first born is beginning a new life, and I finally have a son. Ken kisses my cheek and takes my hand. We walk up the aisle and I feel sadness for everyone who missed this, sweet, simple wedding with a Vegas spin.

My daughter rushes toward me and she gives me a kiss. “Mom, we did it!” Her eyes are as wide as they were when she was four and discovered she could tie her own shoes.

I hug her. “Was it everything you dreamed of?”

“Oh yes, Mom. It was perfect. I got to be the princess, and I married my handsome prince. And I know we’ll live happily ever after.”

Now it was time for more pictures out in the “tropical” garden on the Flamingo property.

Before we join the wedding party, Ken says, “I know this isn’t the wedding you wanted for her, but you made her happy on her special day.” He puts his arm around me. “And Reverend Bob had one thing right.”

“Oh yeah, what was that?” I grinned.

“He said as time goes on, love will grow. And that’s what’s so amazing. Just when I think I can’t possibly love you any more, you do something incredible like you did today, and somehow my love for you grows more.” He kisses me like we were the ones who just got married.

A teardrop rolls down my cheek. “Shucks, darling,’” I say in a Reverend Bob drawl, “You just say all the right stuff.” I laugh and brush the tear away. “Let’s go have some fun!”

We run out of the chapel and join the others on the lawn where my daughter has never been more beautiful.