I think it was around the fall of 2006. My oldest daughter Caitlin announced she was done with high school. This would be cause for celebration if she had not been in the 10th grade. However, she was and I was worried. On the one hand, who doesn’t want to quit high school at some point? The school she attended was no easy ride. For a quirky, artistic kid who was a slight misanthrope, it was tough. She listened to Big Band music, loved Star Wars, off beat British comedies and wore wild mis-matched ensembles during an n’Sync, blond and Britney-fied era. But, she had a plan.
The plan was to get her CHSPE…yeah, I had never heard of it either, but I did the research and found it was the California High School Proficiency Examination and that it was as good as a California High School Diploma, unless you wanted to join the military….(not something Caitlin needed to worry about).
A few of her friends had done it and none of them regretted it for a moment and in fact seemed to be thriving having been set free from the bonds of Calabasas High.
So, I agreed to let her take the test on two conditions.
1. Enroll in community college. Part one was easy for her as she truly liked learning.
2. Get a job. This was a little more difficult. She interned part time at her dad’s company, but after awhile, it became apparent she needed a ‘real job’. Out came my ultimatum routine and into my car she went as we drove around to local businesses while she proceeded to do the old, ‘are you hiring?’ campaign to prospective employers.
Having no luck, I remembered a new little restaurant…or was it a market…or was it a cheese manufacturer…? I couldn’t quite remember, but I do remember the owner was a very friendly woman who welcomed me and treated me like I was a familiar face, even though I had never set foot in the door and told her up front, I wasn’t going to buy anything I just wanted to take a look at this so called ‘cheese closet’.
So, Caitlin and I drove over to the craziest parking lot in town, parked and in a last ditch effort to get the kid off the dole/couch I told her to go in and see if they needed help.
A half hour later, she came out smiling and said, YES! The owner, named Ellen wanted her to come in tomorrow and give it a go. No red tape, no pesky applications and references. Just a big welcome to the family! The next day would be the first day of many years Caitlin worked at the Blue Table. In fact all three of my kids would subsequently work there at one time or another, but Caitlin was the mainstay, working through college, a gap year, holidays and a return home, to try and figure out a way to get back to London side job.
|A motley crew indeed.|
Now, I have always been a big believer in surrogate parents. Not in the way traditionally thought of. You know, inserting eggs and stuff into another uterus, I mean more like the old Hilary Clinton- It Takes a Village type of surrogate.
I guess since I was a pretty young mom (25,26 and 30) well not that young…but I was a pretty stressed out, neurotic and overwhelmed mom, I relied on the help and wisdom of other people to assist me with my three bright, strong willed, challenging children. My parents of course were always there. They seemed to love my kids much better than they loved me! I think they are the first to admit this too! My best friend Carol, who had a daughter the same age as my middle daughter was a great person to discuss analyze and figure out elementary school girl behavior. My third child’s nanny, Carla, who was younger than me but so patient kind and loving. Sometimes I thought she was going to kidnap my baby and take him back to Guatemala and claim the little red head as her own! Not sure how that would have gone over, but I could not have asked for a better person to take care of Jack when I was running around being a soccer mom. These were just a few of the people that encompassed my ‘village’.
And finally, Jim and Ellen and to a certain extent their daughter Gina who was like the older sister Caitlin never had.
They taught Caitlin how to cook, make a great latte and although they didn’t truly succeed, they did attempt to make my curmudgeon of a daughter a decent service person in their restaurant. Granted Gina did scour Yelp in search of nasty comments about Caitlin’s attitude, but no matter what, they loved Caitlin and accepted her for all her quirks. Jim I always felt understood Caitlin the best…being slightly curmudgeonly himself on occasion. Just sayin….Caitlin loved and adored him and I was always grateful to the Marcione’s for their love and acceptance of her.
And then they took her to Italy. Yepp! They handed my kid a once in a lifetime opportunity They went to Italy for two weeks, put up with her having a seizure on the airplane on route and delayed their own vacation to stay with her at a hospital in Germany. Jim and Ellen wouldn’t leave her behind. I will never ever forget that kindness. The Italian “la familia” runs deep in the Marcione family. I myself am a little bit of everything and never felt a deep connection to a culture, but seeing the family in action, made me long for it myself, but then I realized, with Jim and Ellen, once you’re in (and it is easy to get in), you’re always a part of their family.
Unfortunately the family, all of us, lost Jim last week. I’m headed out to Gina’s house soon, to revel in that sweet family, eat their amazing food and smile thinking of Jim watching down on all the loves of his life. Ellen, Angela and Gina.
Thank-you for letting my family be a part of yours always.