Guest Post: My Thanksgiving

November 30, 2011 § 11 Comments

Rose’s Note of Introduction:

My little sister, Genevieve, is going to be doing some guest blogging for me!  Interspersed with my mindless posting will be her delightful insights, observations, and commentary on many various subjects! 

A little background: Gen is 10 years old, the youngest of the 8 children in my family, and my mother’s baby.  We sometimes call her the Grand Finale.  She attends cyber school from home, and loves playing computer games, reading (a girl after my own heart), and playing in the woods at her friends’ house.  She is also my god-daughter.   She has a wonderful voice in her writing already.  I’m all for encouraging young writers/readers, so the other night when Gen was moping around the house in a fit of boredom, I told her to write something for my blog.  She has written several short stories already and I think her “writing voice” is genuine, simple, and downright hilarious at times.  She has an interesting blend of childlike humor and older wit.  I think it comes from growing up surrounded by older siblings.  But I might write more on that later. 

Without further ado, here is her first entry!

My Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving is a special holiday for me. I get to see my mom make pies, moan loudly about her pie crusts, and see Rose think she makes everything perfect. There is sometimes when she does, then the others she is praising herself, she thinks her egg and cream were mixed together by the hand of… I don’t know… Sidney Crosby? Then, I look into the bowl and see globs of egg yolk mixed with cream.  But I stay quiet, walk out of the steaming hot kitchen and shake my head and cackle at her funny behavior.

My family says for me to come and help them decorate, I do. I want all this turkey and corn and more turkey to surround a beautiful decoration. Then when all the guests arrive and help cook the last foods, I follow Danny around where Rose urges him to go. I make fun of Rose with him when she spills cocoa off the tiramisu. “Rose, you need to get the cocoa on the tiramisu.” I said, joking of course. She looks at me holding back her laughter, “You’re mean!” she says to me and Danny.

At last, she stops making Danny watch her mess up… I mean do a wonderful job on her desserts. Finally, we say grace and start to eat. I get LOTS of gravy and corn, and then I get turkey to be with the gravy, oh, can’t forget those wonderful mashed potatoes! Lastly, I’m stuffed and sit down on the chair, I’m acting as lazy as my cat Pia. The day ends quickly; I’m left at the house doing my computer business.

Thanksgiving is great, lots of friends, jokes, food, jokes about the food, and jokes about the maker of the food. I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving is great like mine.

Tiramisu & Thanksgiving Hockey

November 28, 2011 § 5 Comments

I hope everyone had as wonderful of a holiday as I did.  Family, food, and fun abounded.  Despite my body’s betrayal of me by developing laryngitis on Wednesday night, I managed to concoct a delicious tiramisu and help Mom put together her cranberry trifle.  Enjoy the pictures (taken on my cell, sorry for the quality, although I don’t think it’s that bad) and please don’t lick your monitor. 

Important Fact to Note: The tiramisu was being built while the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were playing.  I didn’t take pictures of every single step because I am a lazy bum and also I was distracted by several humans and their egregious behavior, including Pat (drinking my cooking brandy on the rocks) and Mom (wailing over her too-sticky pumpkin pie crusts) and Cathy (playing Taylor Swift NON-STOP in the other room) and the Penguins game on the radio (losing 5-1 at one point).

Step 1 (In Which I Ask A Really Stupid Question):  I mix sugar and eggs together.  The recipe says to beat them on low for a few minutes and then switch to high.  I have the handheld mixer at 1.  I ask my mother, does the speed go higher?  She points out to me that the clearly-marked numbers go all the way up to 7.  I realize I have no idea why I asked that question.  This bodes poorly.

Step 2 (In Which I Redeem Myself):  I use a spatula to fold the flour into the sugar and eggs.  Fold, it’s one of those recipe words that used to frighten me.  Stir, I understand.  Mix is easy.  Blend, a little ambiguous, but okay.  But fold?  Folding is what I do to laundry and paper airplanes.  Not a dessert.  Yet I gird up my loins and plunge in with the spatula.  I discover, thanks to Mom, that folding is pretty darn simple.  Lift up the spatula, flip it over, repeat.  I can fold! 


Step 3 (In Which I, Sadly, Do Not Trust My Instincts): I spray the round cake pans and also line them with wax paper.  This seems redundant to me, but what do I know?  I shrug and carry on pouring the batter in.  In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t dismissed my feeling.  The cakes stuck to the wax paper pretty badly, even though I sprayed it like the recipe said to do.  I had to peel little bits of wax paper off the bottom of the one cake.  Not fun.  I don’t think I’d use it again.  I think I’d just trust to PAM and my ability to flip a cake out of a pan without wax paper.

Step 4 (In Which The Alcohol Is Uncorked):  While the cakes bake (only for 8 minutes!), I stir together the syrup!  It is composed of sugar, strong coffee, and brandy.  This was the smallest brandy bottle I could find at the liquor store!  I don’t recognize this label.  I don’t know if it’s very good brandy, but it’s a darn large bottle for only $9.99.  I wonder. 


Step 5 (In Which I Realize The Cakes May Be Burning a Bit):  The recipe called for a cup of espresso but I just had my mother brew me a cup of extra strong instant coffee instead.  We didn’t have any espresso and I didn’t see any single servings at the grocery store.   This sugary syrup looks innocent… until you get close and smell a whiff of the brandy.  Potent!  Also, the cakes.  The cakes are done!  AAAH THE CAKES ARE DONE FOR SURE.

Step 6 (In Which A Whiff of Brandy Pervades My Kitchen):  While the syrup cools and after the cakes are popped out of their pans and onto wire racks, I make the mascarpone cheese/whipped cream filling.  Here you can observe (I sound like a guidebook) the soft peaks forming in the heavy cream after much beating.  (Side Note but of Much Importance: at this point in the evening, we turned on the WBS Penguins game.) 

Step 7 (In Which Meet Cream And Cheese):  Now the cream gets folded into the mascarpone cheese (which was mixed with a few other things that I now forget).  I folded this beautifully, if I may boast a bit.  In between Steps 6 & 7, the Penguins grew frustrated by the lack of tiramisu in their lives and allowed 4 goals in 15 minutes of play.  I did not allow my anger to disrupt my smooth folding technique.

Step 8 (In Which The Chocolate Bar Teams Up With The Penguins):  There is no picture of me grating the chocolate bar for the chocolate shavings.  This was the worst part of the whole process.  I didn’t freeze the chocolate bar, so wherever I held it, it melted around my fingers as I grated.  The pieces would snap off, so that I had to grate about 15 little half-inch-sized, semi-melted pieces of chocolate, rather than just holding the six-inch bar from the top and grating merrily all the way down, the way I had envisioned.  It was messy and irritating and I scraped my finger more than once.  Meanwhile, the hockey game raged on, a series of unfortunate events and stunned moments of disbelief.

Step 9 (In Which I Recover My Sunny Disposition):  I believe right about now was when the Penguins started scoring, and the game turned from a blowout to a “we actually might have a chance at a comeback” situation.  Therefore, smiles returned to the kitchen as I began to compile the first layer.  I smoothed the brandy syrup onto the cake with a pastry brush, paused to cheer for a goal, then layered the creamy cheese on top.


Step 10 (In Which My Photography Skills/Sanity Completely Desert Me):  Here you can see the second layer of cheese and the top coating of grated chocolate.  I don’t know why I thought this was an acceptable photo.  Let’s count all the ways my photo is terrible. First of all, you can’t even see the layers of the tiramisu.  Secondly, there’s a weird little section, bottom left, where it looks lopsided!  Third, what a terrible angle!!  (Or is that the same as the first reason?)  All I can say is, at this point, I had sampled some cooking brandy and also was drinking Riunite while listening to my hockey team lose a game 7-5 despite outshooting their opponent 54-18.   Thus, this inexplicably bad photo of my surprisingly good tiramisu: 

See all that grated chocolate?  You better be admiring that darn grated chocolate.

Step 11 (In Which My Dessert Suffers Through Comparison to Other Foods):  The tiramisu looks a little lopsided.  I underestimated the amount of filling to spread on the bottom layer.  That’s all right.  It tastes downright fantastic.  Here, it sits on the countertop after chilling all night long.  It merely needs a dusting of cocoa powder.  Danny compares it to a hamburger.  I kick his shins.  My co-worker says it resembles a giant oatmeal & cream cookie.  I sink to the floor in despair.  Pete and Gen cackle hysterically.  The world is against me. 

Step 12 (In Which Redemption Tastes Sweet Like Brandy):  I dust the top with cocoa powder and confectioners sugar.  We set it on the dessert table and in a few hours, we devour every crumb.  The cakes are soaked with coffee syrup, the cheese creamy and light.  The grated chocolate adds the perfect hint of sweetness.  It is a dessert triumphant. 

Part Two: The Tale Of The Cranberry Trifle is coming up soon.

My Thankful List

November 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

Ten Things For Which I Am Grateful This Thanksgiving:

#1.  Sidney Crosby’s Return.  Did you see it?  Did you hear it?  Did you read about it?  The goal he scored 6 minutes into the game.  The 2 assists.  The second goal.  The complete domination.

#2.  Danny having a job that doesn’t require him to work disgustingly long shifts the days before and after Thanksgiving, thus making him tired and grumpy on the holiday.  Now he can take the time to relax and enjoy my pies!

#3.  I really like my job.  Because of it, I learned how to shoot guns. 

#4.  It’s Leo William’s first Thanksgiving!! (outside of the womb, that is, haha)

#5.  West Pittston.  I didn’t realize how much I’d grown to love it.  I know Danny’s parents and everyone else can rebuild and make it just as beautiful and welcoming as it was before.

#6.  The new translation of the Mass starts in just a few days!  (Personally, I was a little nervous to use the word “consubstantial”.  But then I practiced, and now I can even say it twice!  Without stumbling over the syllables!  Who knew!?) 

#7. The pet rats.  People can laugh at me, but I never had a pet of my own before.  The cats don’t count; they love Mom more than anyone.  Abby isn’t my own dog.  But the rats have been staying with me since the flood and they are my own dear pets.  They know my voice and come when I call their names.  I love my ratties.

#8.  Our front porch is fixed and we aren’t destitute (not yet).

#9.  I’ve found some really good friendships over the past year. 

And last but definitely not least:

#10. The destruction of Danny and Ryan’s couch in the flood.  Never again will I have to sit on that stained, encrusted thing.

A Short Friday List

November 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

1.  I am looking forward to Thanksgiving.  Richard gave us a wonderful recipe book and I think I am going to try my hand at tiramisu.  Oh, I’ll still make my pies like normal for the holiday, but I want to try something different!  I’ll take pictures of the process too.  I’m a little nervous, but you never know unless you try, right?

2.  The Penguins are right at the top of the NHL standings, which would be really awesome if it didn’t keep happening that every time I go to eat at the Cafe and watch a game, they lose!!  Apparently, I should just stay home and listen to them online.  Sid should be back soon.  It’s going to be amazing.  Mom picked James Neal for her fantasy team.  Well, everyone’s got some beginner’s luck, right? Dan Bylsma’s mustache is the best thing I’ve seen in a long time.  It might even top Pat’s beard. 

3.  I bought some Christmas presents for the sibs over the past few days!!  If you’re curious as to what to get me for Christmas, may I delicately suggest a firearm of some sort?

4.  I don’t have a lot planned for the weekend.  That’s a good thing.  Even though I’m now incapable of sleeping past 8:30 in the morning, at least I can putter around my house in slippers and a hoody, doing nothing for long stretches of time.  Actually, I think I am going to try to get back up to West Pittston and take some pictures around the town.  I think a lot of people have forgotten about the flood but when I drove through WP the other day, it hit me hard, all over again.  There’s still just so much wreckage around.  Maybe not in the typical sense of ‘wreckage’, but I see it in the empty business windows, the dumpsters outside their doors.  It’s there in the construction vans and the darkened windows and the dirty homes. Well, before I get all morbid, I’ll stop.  I really want to do a follow-up post though.    

And now that thinking of the terrible flood days has completely depressed me, I guess that’s all for the list.  Did you ever just have a glum day?  I love the word ‘glum’.  It’s the perfect word for that feeling.  It just fits.

Want to see a picture of the rat fellows?  Of course you do.  They’d cheer anyone up.  Here’s Willie:

Old Before My Time

November 11, 2011 § 2 Comments

Have I ever mentioned how there are times when it’s quite strange to live in a household with lots of younger children?  Six of us eight kids still live at home.  I’m the oldest there now and every once and again, I get hit with a rush of: “Wait!  How are my little sibs old enough to (fill in your random teenage activity, i.e., go to the mall without adult supervision, afford their own McDonalds milkshakes, attend a rock concert)!?”

It’s precisely that last one which prompted this thought stream.  Greg is going to a concert tomorrow night at the Crocodile Rock in Allentown.  It’s Owl City, so I’m not exactly worried about him breaking his young neck trying to headbang properly, but still… Young is the operative word.  When did Greg become old enough to go to concerts!?  Concerts at Croc Rock!?  I go to concerts there!  My brown-eyed baby brother (who used to sit on my lap in church and kick his fat little legs with their little green OshKosh overalls and baby sneakers) doesn’t! 

Apparently, though, he does.  Which is super weird and makes me feel old because I have memories of being at Croc Rock.  Memories of sneaking in through a side door to avoid the line, and finding a dark, scary, back staircase to the outside, meeting the Anberlin guys out back unloading their van while I was taking care of my drunken friend, and getting (semi) hit on by some burly security guard who thought I seemed “too sweet”, and bumping into the Hawthorne Heights guys practicing guitar on a landing of the aforementioned dimly lit stairway. (They were really nice, too.  I always had a soft spot in my heart for Hawthorne Heights after that.)  It’s odd and makes me think: “Wait.  If my younger siblings are old enough to do these things, should I be too old to do them??  Should I be further ahead in my life than I am now?  Help!  When did this happen!?”  And then the introspection sets in, and the frantic cataloguing of where I thought I’d be when I was 25 and where I actually am, and before you know it, I’ve had a mid-life crisis a mere quarter of the way through.

Other reasons why I feel old before my time:

  • Pete is one month away from being a teenager.  For heaven’s sake, I remember sitting at the Zelinka kitchen table, eating waffles for breakfast, when the phone rang and it was my Dad, calling to say we had a new little brother.  I remember I had put a lot of butter on my waffles and their syrup tasted different from ours.  Oh yeah and I was excited about the baby.
  • Cathy will be learning how to drive soon.  The following 35 second video is how I envision Cathy’s driving career:
  • Speaking of LOTR, it’ll be a decade next month since The Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters.  OUCH.  I can conjure up that feeling of jittery anticipation as if it were yesterday.
  • Seeing little Pat Walters drink beer at my kitchen table (and grow a manly beard).
  • Knowing that Leo will grow up a Red Wings fan and being mature enough to realize there’s nothing I can honestly do to stop it from occurring.
  • If I’m home on a weeknight, I’m in bed by 10 pm.  Heck, if I’m at home on a weekend, I’m in bed by 10 pm.
  • I heard a song on the radio the other day and realized I used to have that album… on a cassette tape.
  • When I go to the beach, sauntering up and down the boardwalk in short shorts and flip-flops is no longer the highlight of my time there.  (It’s books and wine on the beach, in case you were curious.
  • Genevieve.  (Basically, everything about Gen makes me feel old.  Wahhhhh.)

Joy and Hope

November 8, 2011 § 5 Comments

In my last post, I’m afraid I sounded a bit angry.  Just a tad.  In this post, however, I am hopeful and excited.  Joyful, really.  You see, in case some readers were not aware, the Catholic Mass is going to change soon.  Beginning in Advent (Nov. 27th, exactly), some of the prayers, songs, and people’s responses will be worded differently.  This is not just a random “change”.   It’s more of a reverting back to the Latin translation.  All our English responses were translated from Latin in the first place, so the “new” translation isn’t so much a remaking as it is a clarifying process.  The committee is making the new translation closer to the old Latin.  As Archbishop José H. Gomez says:

“This is not a new Mass. It is a new translation of the ancient Latin prayers of the Mass.”

I am so excited to see these new prayers put into practice!  Detractors go on and on about the “archaic” and “melodramatic” language but I find it to be neither of those things.  The language instead seems more formal, more eloquent to me.  And why shouldn’t we have the best possible language in our Mass?  In the Catechism of the Church, it says the Eucharist is “the source and summit of our Christian life”.  The source.  The summit.  Those are potent words.  Those are strong words.  And so should the words of the Mass be.  Strong, potent, bold.  Meaningful.  If the new translation gets us closer to that, who could complain?   The liturgy should not be dumbed down to nothing but “God loves you and God loves me and we’re all good people” vacuousness.  Certainly, God loves us!!  This is evident in the Mass itself!  The sacrifice of Christ on Calvary is the ultimate expression of Love.  Don’t make me endure a Mass full of vapidity because liberal Catholics think words like consubstantial and incarnate are just too hard for us ox-like commoners to understand.   (Oh drat, there I go sounding angry again.)  Would you meet the President of the United States and talk in slang to him?  Would you have tea with the Queen like you were texting your buddy?  Would you propose to your girlfriend by saying “Babe, let’s like get married, maybe?  If you’re cool with that?”   No.  You wouldn’t propose like that.  You would use the best possible language/meaning you had to make that moment of love even more perfect.  At Mass, we as Catholics believe that Christ, our Saviour, Love Incarnate, is truly Present.  If the language is more poetic and old-fashioned, all the better!  Use words that have meaning, that MATTER.   

Words.  Matter.

The language of our liturgy should reflect the awesome (and I use that word in its real meaning)  and magnificent and humbling Sacrifice that is occurring.  This is what the new translation is attempting to do.  Not alienate.  Not confuse.  Not upset.  To provide the proper reverence and awe for what is taking place.  To quote the same article by Archbishop Gomez as above, he says:

“There is an ancient principle in the Church: lex orandi, lex credendi — the law of prayer is the law of faith. That means that the words we pray — and how we pray them — shape what we believe and how we live out our beliefs.  We become what we pray.”

Here is a great article, well worth reading if you aren’t sure why you should be excited for the new translation to come.  It’s by Bishop Peter J. Elliott (Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne) and he really goes in-depth as to the richness of the language we will begin using.  He says things much better than I can. 

“The new ICEL translations reflect not only accuracy but reverence for the mystery of God, indeed the centrality of God, which is the meaning of Christian worship. To elucidate this, we may compare the two translations of the opening words of the First Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon.

The ICEL text that we currently use begins: “We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving through Jesus Christ your Son. Through Him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice”.

By contrast the new ICEL text begins: “To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition, through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices…”

The old text is smooth, shorter, with good words, but they have nothing to do with the Latin original, the majestic “Te igitur clementissime Pater” of the venerable Roman Canon. There the emphasis is on God and how the divine actio liturgica, liturgical action, flows out of the Sanctus and Preface, hence the “igitur”, now recaptured in English as “therefore”. Notice how the new version captures the spiritual sense of reserve and humility before God that characterizes the great liturgies of the West and East.”

One of the changes that has drawn most of the ire I’ve read about in the US, is that when the priest says: “The Lord be with you”, we will now respond “And with your spirit.”  The commentary on the USCCB page explains in depth why this response has changed.  There are several reasons, but I really appreciate this one in particular:

“…for the congregation to answer the Priest, “And with your spirit,” is actually a theological statement about what we Catholics believe regarding ordained ministers.  No. 367 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of how “spirit” can refer to an elevation of the soul, whereby the soul “is raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.”  Through Holy Orders, Christ has forever configured the Priest’s soul to Himself in a special way, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  By specifically referencing the Priest’s spirit, we can affirm this transformation and pray for his ministry.”

That is wonderful!  I like that… “we can affirm this transformation and pray for his ministry”.  I know so many good priests, and guys in the seminary right now, and I pray for their ministry every day.  This new translation hits home for me, even more than the old response did.   

There are many more changes and I would like to go into each one to say how I think it will improve my participation in the Mass, but that would make this post way too long.  And honestly, I can’t do it justice.  Read the commentary on the USCCB website.  They have better explanations than I could give. 

In this new translation, I hear a language of reverence, of awe, and an acknowledgment that here in the Eucharist is contained the mystery of faith, the nourishment of our Catholic souls.  As Pope Paul VI proclaimed in his encyclical “Mysterium Fidei”:

“The Catholic Church has always devoutly guarded as a most precious treasure the mystery of faith, that is, the ineffable gift of the Eucharist which she received from Christ her Spouse as a pledge of His immense love…”  

Anger and Scorn

November 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

In which I rant.

About the new Mass translation to be implemented in just a few short weeks.

I didn’t really edit this post before I published it.  Also, I am angry.  And scornful.  And I use a lot of withering sarcasm.  Not my normal style of post, at all.

You’ve been warned.

If I read one more article/blog/quote by some uppity Catholic about how the new translation of Mass has “unwieldy” or “obscure” or “stilted” or “awkward” language, I might just crack.  Honestly, I may (finally) go insane.  Jump off the deep end.  Lose my mind.  (I am not even going to link to any of these because they make me so angry that I refuse to send people to their sites.  Just search on Google; you’ll find some real winners.)  I’m sorry, but the idea that someone out there just deliberately ASSUMES I’m too stupid to understand the word “consubstantial” or pronounce it (or WHATEVER their issue of the moment happens to be) is completely ridiculous and quite frankly, it’s insulting.  Thank you, journalists, bloggers, etc.  Thank you for assuming my stupidity.  Thank you for taking it upon yourself to classify me as an idiot who doesn’t know what the word “consubstantial” means.  Although, you know, the more I type it and say it, the more I realize….  Oh my gosh it is a REALLY big word.  Wow it’s, like, at least, um, how many?  4 syllables!??  OMG.  I can’t handle it.  Heaven forbid!!!  Heaven forbid we make our Mass translation a little closer to the original Latin, a little more meaningful, a little more in-depth.  Heaven forbid we have to USE OUR MINDS while at Mass!!!   I think my head just imploded at that nonsensical idea.  Am I actually going to have to make an active effort to participate in Mass now!!???  NOOO!!!!!  I can’t believe it!!!   Shocking.  The idea.  The very idea that what we say- the language we use- is important!?  What a crazy thought!!!  Words matter??  HA!!  Who believes that??  In all actuality, the new translation of the Mass will give us a better understanding of our Eucharistic celebration.  The Mass is the source and summit of our lives as Catholics!  And we can’t even be bothered to learn a 4 syllable word!??  Seriously??  Have people (many, many people) had the audacity, the utter arrogance, to assume that I (as a member of the general public attending Mass) will find the language too difficult, and therefore, it shouldn’t be implemented!?  Yes.  Yes, they have.  This is the Mass we are talking about, people!! 

Look at what Pope Benedict XVI says about the Eucharist: “In the Eucharistic celebration we do not invent something, but we enter into a reality that precedes us, more than that, which embraces heaven and earth and, hence, also the past, the future and the present. This universal openness, this encounter with all the sons and daughters of God is the grandeur of the Eucharist: we go to meet the reality of God present in the body and blood of the Risen One among us.”

Look at what St. Francis of Assisi says about the Eucharist: ““O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! O sublime humility! O humble sublimity! That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under the little form of bread! Look, brothers, at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before Him! Humble yourselves, as well, that you may be exalted by Him.”

Look at what St. Thomas Aquinas says about the Eucharist: “The Eucharist is the consummation of the whole spiritual life.”

 Oh hey, who am I kidding, though?  People can’t even be bothered to get their knee all the way to the ground when they genuflect (in front of the Tabernacle, you know, wherein reposes Christ, their Saviour), so why would they bother about knowing the word “consubstantial”?  

Seriously, to all you writers who think the language of the new translation is too hard: Shut up.  Stop insulting my intelligence.  Why don’t you close your yammering claptrap of a jaw and go buy a dictionary app for your smartphone?

When Moose Attack

November 1, 2011 § 4 Comments

         We’ve all been taught the lesson from the time we were children: wild animals are not pets.  Don’t feed the bears, don’t adopt a panther (as much as you think they’re beautiful, those coal-black creatures of grace and lethality), don’t fool yourself into thinking that hippo is happy to see you.  I haven’t had much experience with wild animals but the few times our lives have intertwined were, for the most part, normal.  For the most part, you say?

         Yes.  I have had one memorable experience in my lifetime with a wild animal.  This beast of prey, this demon in animal clothing, came after me and my brother while we were on a supposedly idyllic family vacation in New Hampshire.  Some of you who know me may already be familiar with the moose story.  For all readers who are not, the following event is true.  Names have not been changed to protect the innocent because that wouldn’t stop the moose.  He’s probably still out there, hunting us.  (And people wonder why I am learning how to defend myself with arms.)

          In the year 2000, I turned fourteen.  My brother Dan was fifteen.  We were up in New Hampshire, staying at a timeshare owned by family friends.  The month was April (because my parents are the kind of people who like to go on vacation when it’s cold and rainy. They think sunlight is boring).  Dan and I decided to take a walk down the hill behind the house to the nearby golf course.  It was dusk.  We reached the bottom of the hill below the house and used a cute little wooden footbridge to cross the stream that separated the golf course from the road.  Dan was in a golfing phase and I was in a wandering around the woods phase.  On the golf course, which was empty, we meandered for a few minutes looking for stray golf balls (Dan) and daydreaming about running away into the forest with an Indian brave (me).  Not much time at all had passed and I was reaching down onto the fairway for a golf ball when Dan’s voice came from behind me. 

                “Rose,” he said, in that tone of voice you don’t ignore ever, even when it’s your (semi) annoying older brother.  “Stand up really slowly.”

                I stood up really slowly.

                And turned around to see a moose standing some yards away, staring at us with what seemed to be an air of perplexity.  He tossed his head a little and started walking towards us. 

                “Back up slowly.”  Dan was still using that tone of voice and I was terrified.  We backed away, not turning around, keeping our eyes fixed on the moose.  The little wooden bridge was nearby and we were heading for it.  The moose kept walking towards us, not running, not ambling, just pacing steadily with a ground-eating stride.  It was enormous and it was about twenty yards away from us.  It paused for a second when Dan and I hit the bridge and then began trotting.  At that point, we forewent caution and ran for it.  The moose started running too.

           I remember being so frightened that I was almost crying as I ran through the forest towards the little service road.  Why was this moose chasing us?  What if it caught us?  Would it eat me?  Kick me?  Throw me up in the air with its antlers?  I was gasping for air and sobbing a little and it wasn’t helping that I was wearing clogs.  The thicket we were running through had dead branches and soggy puddles all over.  They clawed at my feet and suddenly my one clog fell off.  I didn’t even stop for it; the moose was gaining on us. I ran in my sock and other shoe.  The moose crashed through the branches after us.

                The service road was in sight but there was still the huge hill behind it that we’d have to run up to get to the safety of the house.  Everything was happening so quickly.  I knew we wouldn’t be able to get up that hill faster than the moose.  The animal was already only about ten yards away from us. 

                Suddenly, a blue minivan came down the service road. 

                “Help!”  I screamed.  I waved my arms and I could hear Dan yelling too.

                The driver noticed our imminent doom and braked to a stop, blaring his horn.  The moose jerked and froze.  He tossed his head and snorted angrily.  The driver kept honking the horn, in short hard bursts.  Dan and I hadn’t stopped running and we were finally outdistancing the moose.  We made it onto the road and the minivan door opened.  I didn’t even pause for a second before I hurled myself inside.  Refuge was my only thought, not that I had just climbed into some stranger’s van.  Believe me, at that moment, choosing between irate moose and strange car was not really a choice at all.  It was an instinctive, gut reaction.   “HIDE!!!!” My mind was screaming at me and so I did in the nearest enclosed space. 

                Dan hopped in after me.  The moose made a few more angry hoof-scuffing motions and then trotted off back to the golf course.  I finally regained enough wits to realize the driver of the van was the same guy who’d been at the front desk of the time-share’s enclosed swimming pool/rec center.  I was so glad to see a familiar face that I almost threw my arms around him.

                Dan and the friendly man began to discuss in excited tones what had just happened.  The guy explained that he’d been heading to the storage shed just down the road.  Apparently he helped maintain the golf course as well.  I just sat there, crying.  Thoughts of what could’ve happened to us kept flashing through my mind.  That moose had been close to us.  He’d been gaining.  We wouldn’t have beaten him to our house.  I had almost just died, or at least been injured by a moose.  What if the car hadn’t been driving past?  What if it had been just me out there and I hadn’t even noticed the moose until too late?  Why did it chase us?  It had happened so quickly, all in less time than it takes to tell.

                Dan turned to me.  “Come on,” he smiled.  “We’re alive, right?  And I’ve got your shoe.”

               Dan, being the heroic, chivalrous, and protective brother that he is, had made sure he was running behind me (he was faster than me at the time) and he somehow, in an act of gallantry that still amazes me, had managed to pick up my clog and still keep running.

                I managed a sickly little smile.  “Thanks, Dan.”  I slipped my clog back on over my wet, dirty sock, and then the nice man from the swimming pool desk drove us up the service road and back to the house.  I have never worn clogs since that day.  

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