Category Archives: family

One, Two, Three, Four, I Declare an Egg War

Hello and welcome to another fun edition of “Wild and Wacky Lithuanian Holiday Traditions.” Today’s topic is Easter, or “Velykos.”

In Lithuania there was no Easter bunny, but rather an Easter Hag (“Bobut?). The Velyk? Bobut? was a little old lady who rode around in a carriage pulled by a rabbit. She would deliver each child ONE OR TWO EGGS.

“And you better believe those kids were grateful. Nobody ever heard of jelly beans or Peeps back then. They were just happy to get a couple of warm eggs on their windowsill, straight from the chicken.”

Another thing the Lithuanians did was to race each other home from church in their horse drawn carriages. It was said that the winner would finish his work faster than others throughout the coming year, all of his animals would be healthy, and his bees would make more honey. I imagine this caused more than a few buggy accidents, which is probably why the ancient Lithuanians also used to say special ritual prayers on Easter morning to protect themselves from roadside snakes, wolves, demons, and accidents.

“But guess what, kids! The Lithuanian children were happy to ride home seatbelt-less in a horse drawn carriage because it beat walking.”

Once home, the Lithuanians partook in a breakfast feast of pretty much every kind of meat available to them, bacon, cake, beets, mushrooms, and colored Easter eggs, or margu?iai.” But before beginning the meal, they would count their blessings and divvy up one egg between them as a symbol of family unity.

After everyone had eaten his egg sliver, the Egg Wars would begin. Each person would select an egg and hit it, end-to-end, against another person’s egg. If your egg remained intact, you would go on to the next round and hit your egg against the egg of another winner, and on down the line until one person with an unbroken egg emerged victorious.

That person would live the longest.

After breakfast, kids would roll eggs down a wooden plank on an incline, kind of like in a game of marbles. If anyone tried to cheat by using a fake egg, he would be pelted with raw ones.

“And believe you me, they thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. That’s because they didn’t have TVs, computers, or iPods.”

Growing up, my family retained some modernized forms of these traditions. For example, my dad would always make a beeline out of church right after the Mass of the Resurrection to get a head start on the parking lot traffic. And though we never tried to divide a single egg between us, we always decorated margu?iai and proceeded to destroy them in the Egg Wars. (The trick, if you choose to try this, is to always hold your egg still and let the other person hit it. Also, use the blunt end.)

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The Twin Brothers and I, circa 1981, Cleveland.

Happy Easter! And may your egg remain intact on both ends.

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We of Little Faith

I was minding my own beeswax at the end of the pew before Mass started today when a little old lady came up to me and asked if I was in her Birthday Book yet. She had long white hair and bright pink lipstick and for a minute I thought maybe I’d gone down the rabbit hole.

“Your Birthday Book?” I blinked. “I don’t know what that is.”

“I pray for people on their birthdays” said the mysterious stranger. “What’s your name? I’ll put you on my list!”

Now, I’m usually a suspicious person by nature, but I signed myself right up. I mean, here was someone offering to pray for me free of charge, and I need all the prayers I can get.

I spelled out my full name and gave her my birth date, which she scrawled into a flowery little journal she’d whipped out of her purse. Then she asked for the P-Dawg’s info, which I of course provided, and then the kids.’

I thought that would be the end of it, but before I knew it she was asking me for my parents’ names and birthdays, and also my mother-in-law’s. Now I was starting to get a little uncomfortable, but it seemed uncharitable to deny the rest of my family the opportunity to be prayed for, as well. What was I supposed to say to her? No thank you, I would rather you didn’t pray for the rest of them.

After she was done writing down my entire clan’s personal information in her little notebook, the little old lady gave me a meaningful look, squeezed my hand, and trotted off. I got a distinct sense like maybe she also wanted to hug me, (and ask for more names), but I cut her off at the pass. It’s one thing to give a stranger all of your personal information plus your mother’s maiden name, but quite another to physically touch.

“What were you talking to that woman about?” asked the P-Dawg, who’d been sitting out of earshot.

“She prays for people on their birthdays,” I told him. “So I gave her our stats.”

A small vein in my husband’s right temple began to throb.

“Did you give her our real names?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“And our real birthdays?”

”                         ”

“What other information did you give her?” the P-Dawg sounded alarmed.

“Just our social security numbers and online banking information,” I told him (even though I had not!)

Suddenly it seemed like not such a great idea, what I had done. I mean, if this lady was really praying for people on their birthdays, why didn’t she carry a calendar and write the names in for each day instead?

“Let us pray,” said the priest, and I sent up a silent petition that the Birthday Lady wouldn’t steal my identity.

“Do you think she’s going to steal our identities?” I asked the P-Dawg.

“Probably,” he said.

I couldn’t concentrate during Mass at all because I kept scanning the pews for the Birthday Lady. But I couldn’t see her anywhere and so naturally assumed that she was already back in her lair, hacking into our bank accounts.

Thankfully my daughter, who is a spy in training, had not let her out of her sight. She was ten pews up to our right. There was still a chance to get our names out of The Book!

After Mass I asked the P-Dawg if he would mind approaching the Prayer Lady and asking her to remove our names from her list.

“What?”

“Just say we reconsidered and we don’t want anyone praying for us.”

“I have a better idea,” the P-Dawg said.

“What are you going to do, take her down in the parking lot?”

“No, I’m going to trail her and get a picture of her license plate,” he explained to me. “But first, we’re going to have to split up.”

The children and I camped out in the car awaiting our fate and my husband hovered around the Birthday Lady while she chatted with people after church.

“Where’s Daddy?” asked my son after about ten minutes.

“Oh, he probably just ran into someone he knows,” I lied, even though I was starting to fret. What was the P-Dawg doing with the Prayer Lady? Had he been successful in confiscating our page? Had she pulled a switchblade on him? Had they come to blows?”

Finally my brave husband came back.

“Well?” I prodded. “How did it go down? Did you get our names removed from The Book?”

“No,” said the P-Dawg.  “She stayed after talking to a bunch of people who seemed to know and trust her, and then she went to the hall for coffee and donuts.”

“I don’t understand. Why didn’t you ask if you could see her Prayer Book, then rip our page out?”

“Because I could get arrested for that.”

We continued to discuss the situation on the car ride home and the P-Dawg reluctantly conceded that the Prayer Lady had probably been legit. I want to believe there are still people in the world who just want to pray for me and everyone I know for the heck of it. And I think it’s a shame that my husband we automatically second guess someone who offers. In fact, I should have asked for her name and info. That way I would at least know how to look her up.

So what do you think? Is the Birthday Lady going to pray for me, or rob me blind instead?

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The Cove of No Return

One afternoon a few days into our vacation, the P-Dawg and I began trolling for a cove in which to dock for the night. He was at the helm and I was leaning over the front railing like Kate Winslet. Only instead of a party dress, I was wearing shorts and a tee-shirt, and instead of my long hair flowing behind me, it was busting out of a half ponytail.

And instead of an ocean liner, I was on a houseboat.

Any time we’d approach a cove, the P-Dawg and I would debate the merits of parking our boat there. There were other house boaters on the lake, and I was hell-bent on securing the best possible location before anyone else found it. If it came down to two house boats and one cove, I was prepared for a sudden death showdown.

Both the P-Dawg and I are wishy-washy people when it comes to life’s most inconsequential decisions, and neither of us wants to shoulder the blame in case a bad one is made. My modus operandi has always been to throw my hands up and let the P-Dawg make the final call, then be utterly disappointed. It’s how I ended up with a sofa that has a pattern of pineapples and coconuts on it.

It was the same with cove selection. We passed several coves that I deemed near perfect. But whenever I pointed one out, the P-Dawg just kept on motoring as though I hadn’t spoken. Eventually we reached a small island, which we both admitted was a tempting location. Problem was, we couldn’t agree on which side of it to dock. By the time we’d circled that island fives times in our houseboat, I had decided it was completely unacceptable and my husband had decided that it was the Promised Land. I wanted to press on further, where I thought I saw the Cove of My Dreams. The P-Dawg was reticent, but neither could he name one good reason why we couldn’t at least give this cove a quick drive by. He finally agreed to motor in for a closer look, at which time he summarily dismissed it.

We continued on our path around the lake – me sulking, the P-Dawg wearing a grim look of determination. Finally he spotted what he believed to be the Mother of All Coves, and which I quickly assessed to be the worst cove on the lake, if not the entire universe.

That one? That cove couldn’t even shelter a hamster!”

“Nonsense,” said the P-Dawg.  “It’s perfect.”

Personally, I thought the cove we’d recently passed, where the houseboat with the whirlpool on its deck was parked, had been perfect. And if not for the half hour we’d spent circling Indecision Island, I felt certain we could have snagged it.

“Fine! Let’s just dock here!” I said, which everyone knows in the international language of married couples means, “You will regret this.”

The P-Dawg made a beeline for his Chosen Cove and right after we hit the shoreline, I jumped out to tie off the lines (our boat didn’t have an anchor). That’s when I noticed that the spot where we had landed was completely unsatisfactory. The spot where we wanted to dock was about six feet to the right of it. Don’t ask me how I knew it.

“I hate to say it,” I said to the P-Dawg, “But we’re going to have to back out again and move this boat a couple feet over.”

The look on P-Dawg’s face said, “Only one of us will survive this vacation.” But he agreed to give it a try. Problem was, our houseboat was rammed up against the shoreline, and when the P-Dawg turned the motor on, it didn’t move. I selflessly offered to stand on the craggy shore and push the houseboat with all of my might while the P-Dawg gunned the engine in reverse.

I nearly gave myself a hernia. Luckily my Mama wasn’t with us, because a hernia was always on the top of her list of things that I would give myself if I wasn’t careful. But by some dumb stroke of luck, and also brute strength, I was able to push the boat hard enough that it became unmoored.

And as I stood in my flip-flops on a rock against the steep wooded shoreline, watching my husband receding in the distance, it struck me that he could just as soon leave me there for good.

I know I would have.

The Cove of No Return

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Dispatches from a Houseboat

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to take a houseboat vacation?

I never did, but it had long been a dream of my husband’s. And since the word “houseboat,” when he mentioned it, immediately conjured up visions of sitting barefoot on a deck listening to Warren (or is it Jimmy?) Buffet and drinking something with a paper umbrella in it, I agreed to give it a try this year.

We rented a boat on a calm lake in the Pennsylvania foothills. And unlike the RV of 2011, it is clean and well tended. Our houseboat has three decks, a grill, a waterslide, a full kitchen, and a bathroom with a decent shower. It’s air conditioned, too, but the breezes from the water make it cool enough that we’ve hardly had to run it.

During the day, we swim off the boat or take little side excursions in the blow-up dinghy we brought along. I actually went down the slide a few times and washed my hair in the lake like some kind of modern day mermaid. The P-Dawg has been doing a lot of fishing and I have been doing a lot of reading with my feet up. As first mate, I have also taken the helm a time or two.

Have there been moments of tension, of good-natured wifely nagging? Has there been sibling-on-sibling violence? Times when the P-Dawg may have wished to throw me overboard?

Sure.

But all in all, it’s been a fabulous vacation. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Arghhh.

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