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Archive for July, 2019

Where were you when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon? The nostalgia this week is killing me.

The summer of 1969 I was a few weeks away from my starter marriage, living in a basement apartment in Cambridge, MA. My roomie, Alicia and I, had a small TV perched on a chair in the corner; I can picture it now like an old Polaroid developing slowly. We stood there watching the grainy image, marveling sure, but also discussing our plans for the weekend like most young girls.

Alicia’s father had invented some kind of outdoor/basement/door, Bilco? Yup, and it’s still in business! https://www.bilco.com/

There I was in a basement, with an heiress to basement doors, looking at the moon’s surface. I was too young to really understand the significance of what we were seeing. We were both Catholic, and our handsome Catholic President had been shot, then MLK and Robert Kennedy; I’d dropped out of school to work at Harvard, and for no good reason I can think of now, I was planning a wedding. 19 years old and full of my own insecurities and vanities – 1969 was a very strange year.

I agreed with President Kennedy that anything worth doing was going to be hard, and that would make its success so much sweeter. After all, how could we revel in our happiness, if we didn’t know despair? How much despair could a teenager know?

Well, I’d had 2 fathers die, a biological and a step-father, and Bob was going to Woodstock! The love of my life was gone, so I thought, and I was making the best out of a bad situation. Better to marry a law student than to continue seeing the phantom of love lost on the streets of Boston. I dug in my heels and had bridal photos done; whatever they put in Catholic churches about up-coming weddings was publicized in his Ohio newspaper.

Did I tell you that Henry Winkler, aka the Fonz, was an upperclassman at Emerson College on Newbury Street in Boston? I was a lowly Freshman/person when we met and he was bound for Yale Drama School. Did I mention that I broke my leg skiing with a Brown student? There had been a few suitors, including one from Colorado I almost married, but I chose this law student because I thought Nelly Bly and the Flapper would approve, and because he was so unlike my high school ghost.

He was rigid, and rule-bound, an Eagle Scout from Cleveland.

We went to the moon, not because it was easy. And I went to Westchester County, NY precisely because it was hard. Because that’s what girls were expected to do in the 1960s. And we had 2 pretty good years and 2 pretty bad years when I sought the first divorce in Connecticut history due to “irreconcilable differences.” It was the 2nd wave of feminism, and I jumped on board.

Where were you when we landed on the moon? This was us when Great Grandma Ada turned 95 in June!

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Did you go to summer camp? Swim in a lake that glistened like diamonds in the sun? Play jacks on the front porch and sleep in a frozen cabin in the mountains with a nun secluded in one corner behind a locked door? Rise to a recording of Reveille every morning and assemble under the flag pole for inspection? Sing your heart out to the Virgin Mary!

No? Well I loved it! I mean I actually dreamt about that place, Camp St Joseph for Girls, into my adult years; so it’s no wonder I jumped at the chance to hold a little day camp of my own for the Love Bug this week. Her brother would be in his pre-school program, and it seems that Pop Bob is busy with other things, so the girls will be large and in charge.

Today we are picking up the Bride and Great Grandma Ada for a trip to The Frist Museum. https://fristartmuseum.org/ Today will be Nana Camp on Wheels.

Four generations will roam the gallery exhibit of “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism…”

“Kahlo infused her work with mexicanidad, an identification with Mexico’s distinct national history, traditions, culture, and natural environment, but in a much more personal way. About a third of her paintings are self-portraits, the works for which she is now most celebrated. They accentuate her distinctive appearance, characterized by a v-shaped unibrow, deep brown eyes, mustache, carefully coiffed hair with braids, and indigenous Mexican clothing. In Diego on My Mind(Self-Portrait as Tehuana), for example, she crowns herself with a festive indigenous Mexican headdress known as a resplandor.” 

So while Mr T terrorizes undocumented immigrants with ICE raids, we will be viewing an exhibition of fine art collected by Eastern European immigrants to Mexico before WWII. “Jacques and Natasha Gelman were glamorous and wealthy Eastern European refugees who married in Mexico in 1941, took part in Mexico City’s vibrant art scene, and acquired art mostly from their artist friends.”

While refugees are separated from their families and caged without access to showers or even toothpaste at our southern border, we will delight in the art of our Mexican neighbors. The irony doesn’t escape me. We now have a commander in chief with bone spurs who loved to cavort with Jeffrey Epstein and tells Congresswomen of color to return to the countries of their origin. His language by Tweet is not so subtle, coded to signal his white nationalist/supremacist/misogynist followers that it’s OK to hate the “Other.”

For awhile I was immune to his horrible early morning Tweet tirade probably made from his golden toilet seat, I was news-free. But I’m home for better or worse. My first day in Nashville I awoke to a headache and sore throat, a viral cold had attacked me. The City is tearing up our alley to fix some damage an apartment building has done to the ancient sewers, so jackhammers punctuate my mornings. And Bob has replaced the classical music station on our Sonos with old-time Rock and Roll. Nothing stands in the way of progress, as Adelaide’s Lament would say, “A person can develop a BAD BAD cold!”  Achoo!

Did I mention that Day 1 of Nana Camp included learning to play pranks!

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My sister Kay is home in her vintage apartment. She’s been here for over 50 years, as long as I can remember. Stunning artwork is sprinkled around her dusty pink walls, it seems that nothing has changed. The old lady upstairs is still moving furniture every night.

Luckily the doormen are divine! That is a very important part of life on the Upper East Side.

When I was a teen I would arrive at the Port of Authority-now I wonder about that moniker but then I took it for granted- and she would meet my bus. We’d hail a cab and head uptown. There were no lines, no Uber.

Kay was my beautiful big sister. She taught me how to walk in NYC, never looking UP like a tourist. She told me not to smile at strange men. We went to the finest restaurants and she would say, “Order anything you want!”

Kay would correct my speech, so that a NJ accent never took hold.

I admired and adored her as only a little sister could. Marriage just wasn’t her thing, she tried it for awhile, but a wild rose is hard to tame. So when she fell and broke her hip she was alone.

Our niece Karen drove up from DC before her surgery and Kay told her a sub-acute rehab hospital was not in her vocabulary. When I arrived on the Fourth of July she was eager to recover. But please people, don’t end up in a hospital when new residents are starting their training, or on a holiday weekend.

Recovery can be slow going.

Today I walked down Madison Avenue making faces at the children clutching the hands of their nannies looking down at their phones. I would always get a smile.

I stopped to pet the French Bulldog who just returned from Nantucket. His name is Gus!

There are more nail salons than I remember. The Armory where the police kept their horses is now a school. Things change, but not my sister’s apartment.

In this heat wave she is worried about running the AC. It is a balancing act; I turn it on and she turns it off. She grew up really poor, whereas I guess I was just poor. She was only 14 years old when our Father died and and the Year of Living Dangerously commenced.

It was a midsummer nightmare on the Fourth of 1949.

Now post-surgery my sister Kay is rallying as usual, walking with a rollator and taking no prisoners. The Flapper would be proud!

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Tonight we had a bonfire on the beach. The Bride’s friend actually lives here, in Old Blue Mountain Beach (yes I get the irony), so we roasted hot dogs and made s’mores over a small fire. It was heavenly, fueled with margaritas and a yellow flag.

The yellow flag means the Emerald Coast is putting on its best show of small waves in a peaceful sea. We’d been floating in the waves all morning like turtles, so this was the perfect ending to our vacation.

I’d just finished reading Chelsea Handler’s new book, “Life Will be the Death of Me,” and was about to start Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book when we got the call.

My sister Kay broke her hip.

Kay is my big sister, the beautiful one who always pulled us out of jams and never told our mother. She was the responsible one. But she also married young and then became a “gay divorcee.” She isn’t gay in that sense, but she did have a lot of fun! Traveling the world as a stewardess with National Airlines, I remember visiting her in NYC and never wanting to leave.

Leaving the beach will be hard but seeing my sister again will be just what the doctor ordered. She’s had surgery only two days ago and has already been discharged to her apartment on the Upper East Side. She is so much like the Flapper, strong and resilient. When PT tried showing her how to walk slowly with a rollator, she insisted on going faster!

So long powdery sand. So long beach. And Happy Fourth of July everyone. I’m never driving on this holiday but I will be flying north.

Bob is the sun to my moon. He took this picture tonight while we were catching sand crabs.

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