And, more importantly, here's my awesome new summer 'do. I am a tough guy:
I'm Marcus Hazard Neulander, named after my great uncle Mircea (Mark) and some cool dudes on my grandmom's side of the family. This blog is about me and the good and bad parts of growing up.
My great-grandmother, Oma, passed away on June 20th, a mere 2 days before Dad's b-day. Not a great b-day for Dad, but everyone really enjoyed reminiscing about Oma, and her wild and wacky ways...
Oma had her own special way of doing things and lived her life according to her own brand of crazy. I mean that kindly, as everyone has their own brand of crazy -- look at Mom and her pillow fluffing and vacuuming obsessions and Dad's obscene chapstick collection. And his shoes. Really, Dad, you do realize that all your shoes look the same, right?
She loved us all in her way, and I only wish we had known one another better. At some point she might have understood that my name is Marcus. She seemed to really think my name was Maurice. Or Morris. We're not sure. Even after many years, Oma's accent betrayed her roots.
The one thing we do understand is that Oma loved us. She loved all her grandchildren, and it seems like after 13+ years, Mom kind of became one.
Circa 1999: Oma truly shows her love and acceptance. Nothing says love like the gift of used tennis bloomers. And queen sized pantyhose. And track suits. Even if these tokens of love were really funny and fodder for hours of family laughter, Mom actually always felt a little honored to be on the receiving end. Having a grandparent (albeit surrogate) is worth each used pot/pan and cutting board, every slightly used, oversized pantyhose, and some 20-year-old-used-tennis-bloomers. You know, for the runner in your life.
There are so many stories both from Mom's relationship with Oma and pre-Mom. It's hard to narrow it down... We took a family vote (including Zsa Zsa, Tenzing, and Teddy) and here is our favorite Oma story:
Our Favorite Story
Oma was always a little private about her background, despite how interesting it was -- surviving WWII, moving all over Europe, living in Israel (and Saskatchewan, Canada!), settling in the cosmopolitan city of Dewitt, NY (a suburb of Syracuse). Oma wanted to be an American -- her ardor made you appreciate being born here a little more. Suffice to say: Oma loved DeWitt so much that she went native.
One time Oma was out to dinner ...
Waitress (with Eastern European accent): Your accent... Where are you from?
Oma: Vhat axent? I'm from DeVitt!"
Words to Live By
The Oma coda that Dad lives by to this day is that chocolate is good for your bones. And teeth.
Makes perfect sense.
And explains my love of chocolate: I'm just trying to grow over here! So give me the Z-bar, lady. I mean Mom. Sometimes I forget your name when I need the chocolate.
Ham and SoCo Mom's two favorite stories are definitely:
1. The time Oma went Big Fat Greek (make that Romanian) Wedding on her
2. Learning that SoCo is the most refreshing of all liqueurs.
Let me explain...
1. Mom was a vegetarian for about 10 years, a period that overlapped with meeting Dad and Oma. After several years of going to Syracuse for periodic visits and you-eat-like-a-bird* visits, one might assume that Oma would have it in her head that Mom was a vegetarian. You know, a person who eats no meat.
You would be wrong.
Oma: You want ze ham, right?
Mom: Umm, Oma, I don't eat meat.
Oma: Vhat do you mean? It's ham!
2. Soco is the most refreshing of liqueurs. Right NOW is the point where you're saying to yourself: Southern Comfort? That's hard liquor. That stuff'll knock you on your tuches. Just ask Uncle JP.
Mom and Dad are having another you-eat-like-a-bird visit with Oma, and, ever the good host, Oma decides to pull out her new favorite after-dinner (or lunch) drink. Her friend introduced it to her (apparently on Spring Break? In Cozumel?).
Mom and Dad stifle a laugh, especially at the liqueur part. Let me tell you, they weren't laughing so hard after the taste test (I mean, you have to compare it to all the other after-dinner drinks). In fact, maybe they shouldn't have been driving.
I think they may be exaggerating a tad.
It was really the champagne lunch that got them -- and that was one of Mom's first visits.
Yet, she kept coming back for more.
We love Oma very much and miss her. We can't look at eggplants, or tennis players, the same way. And Mom's chicken will never taste as good. Oma had so much to say about life if you wanted to listen and could get her to talk. She had a beautiful funeral, and Dad gave a wonderful speech that made everyone smile and cry. He told some of the stories here, mentioned her riddle and enigma nature, and just did an outstanding job encapsulating some of her personality and making everyone laugh. And the laughter is really the thing. That's how we will always remember Oma: Both her laughter, which was lovely and contagious, and the moments of laughter which she (unbeknownst?) provided to others.
R.I.P. Oma 20 June 2011.
* you-eat-like-a-bird: Oma showed her love with food. (And used undergarments. And 20-year savings bonds.) She was an excellent cook -- though perhaps the brussel sprouts at Thanksgiving were under-appreciated. From her eggplant dip to the soup to that roasted chicken. And the raw vegetable plate. And the cooked vegetable plate. And the fruit. And the dessert. You better come hungry and stay late. Or eat fast.
But no matter how much you ate, when you finished, having secretly split your pants, Oma would stop, put the plates down, and look at you very seriously. With genuine concern. And say, "You are sooo thin. You eat like a bird."
I'm a big fan of swimming. Of big pools. Of little pools. The sink. Even of hoses.
I like splashing and kicking and dunking. Lots of dunking.
But this whole cool zoo thing -- with all it's water spouts and wet slides. And that infernal clang-clang-clang before the gigantic tub of water dumps all over the place.
Not so much.
That said, there are these great chairs to play on... And some stairs. Oh wait, that's where the giant bucket of water dumps.
You might not be able to tell, but I'm also sporting a tan.
Just kidding. You can still call me Casper. Mom douses me with sunblock several times a day as part of her efforts to protect me from the harmful UVA and B rays of the sun. Whatever that means. I think she's just stealing all my melanin for herself.
So, I've outgrown my car seat. Yeah, that's right: Mom's been driving me around in an infant seat for the last 19 months. And it suddenly dawned on Dad and her, that I am no longer lilliputian.*
I am a giant. So, Mom took me for a little car seat shopping, to try on different styles. I even ate part of my sandwich in this one...
Luckily, without spilling any jelly. The Babies R Us staff is quite relieved.
* They were apparently waiting until my b-day to upgrade my seat. Unfortunately, they missed the opportunity to stunt my growth...