“What am I, Chopped liver?”
It was a question from my grandnephew, Sean Thomas. Late Saturday night, I was sitting with a group of adults around our kitchen table unwinding after a long day of entertaining.
Sean Thomas waved a book in the air as he repeated the question as we all stared at him and his outburst. Apparently, he had just read Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey (http://bit.ly/TT-SS-SJ), an anthology that featured a piece I wrote. It was about moving from Philadelphia to New Jersey and the ensuing events that kept our family in the Garden State, although for some of us, reluctantly.
Sean’s arrival to New Jersey was one of the ensuing events that had kept us planted where we are. He is the son of my niece Bridget, who found herself a single mom winging it alone with an infant Sean, while she worked a full time job and continued her college education. Our living situation at the time allowed us the opportunity to invite Bridget and Sean to come live with us, expanding her support network while she finished up school and continued to work.
The story in the anthology mentioned Sean, he was barely two years old, although the gist of the story was mostly about the cultural adjustments and comparison of city living to the life in Jersey.
But the thirteen year old Sean could not see that. He noticed that not only was he briefly mentioned in the third person, but he felt it was not expanded about just who Sean is as part of our family. He felt a little slighted and that maybe he didn't get he share of a spotlight. This piece is all about Sean and his place in our life.
Sean Thomas is one of my ‘grands’. Technically not a grandchild, but he calls me by the name all the male grandchildren call me, “Ahnee”. That name is a contrived version of Grammy. When Sean and my grandson Mikey began to speak, Mikey had speech difficulties and vocalized Grammy to Ahnee, Sean acclimated to it, the name stuck, but oddly enough, only the boy grands call me that, the girls all say Grammy. It’s o.k. I appreciate the individuality and the differences between the boys and girls. It’s actually pretty entertaining and especially endearing.
Although he was an only child for the first seven years of his life, Sean had a most normal toddlerhood and early childhood as if he had siblings. Like his mother, he has an especially close relationship with his New Jersey cousins as if they are sister and brother and brother and brother. Just like siblings, they spar and argue, but always have each other’s back.
Sean gives exceptional hugs. When he was much smaller, he would run up to me, jump into my arms, wrap his arms around my neck and say “squeeze me, Ahnee!”
Now he is tall in his adolescent growth spurt and wraps his arm around me and squeezes tight and hard, tilts his cheek to mine, all with the same emotion we shared when he was little. We love those hugs. I love that he still hugs me so tightly and am very careful to not expect such a display of affection when outside of the family circle. He is, after all, a growing young man.
Sean is very intelligent and excels academically. He enjoys school and thrives on the challenge of school subjects that demand more work outside the classroom. He plays a variety of sports and since he is one of my ‘grands’ and there are more than a few, he gets the same attendance criteria from me I do for each of the grands and events they participate in. I attend at least one. During his last basketball season I almost failed to see Sean play and was saved when he mentioned to his Mom that I had not yet been to any of his games. That message was relayed and I managed to attend his last game. It didn’t matter what the outcome of the game was, I showed up. Showing up is important to kids, and Sean is no exception. He knows who he can depend on to ‘be there’.
Although his mom has established their own family life in their own separate household, Sean often tells how much he misses living with us. He misses my chicken soup, my meatballs and macaroni, he simply misses my cooking but is quick to praise his Mom’s ‘different’ cooking. He frequently asks, “When are you gonna make Chicken Soup?” When I do make chicken soup, I let him know 'the soup is on'.
Chopped Liver? No. Sean is Crème Brule, crunchy and toasted on the outside with sweet creamy custard resting easy under that hard crust.
He is one of my favorite desserts.