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Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’

I hope this will be my last move.

I wasn’t destined to live in the same community for 50 years, surrounded by friends and family, secure behind a picket fence; a well-known, semi-serious journalist and Hadassah “macher.” Macher is a Yiddish word, a noun:

“Someone who arranges, fixes, has connections…someone who is [very] active in an organization” (Rosten) “important person”, “hot shot.”

n. Somebody who is successful, handy, dextrous.

https://jel.jewish-languages.org/words/325

I’ve always felt a sort of underlying derision whenever someone calls someone else a macher. But maybe that’s just me?

I guess the moment my foster parents picked me up – during our Year of Living Dangerously, with the Flapper in surgery and my big sister Kay in a coma – and brought me to Victory Gardens, my fate was sealed. I would be a little gypsy, traveling over the Delaware Water Gap, between NJ and PA. Uprooted at every turn.

I told myself I was happy to have two mothers, one warm and comforting, the other beautiful and mysterious. I was lucky to have two birthday celebrations, two Christmases, and two homes. Pulled between one set of siblings, half siblings and step-siblings and being an only child. I secretly longed to just stay put.

Now I know that longing for something you’ve never had can be a recipe for a depressive disorder. So instead I try to stay present. I’ve chosen to accept our nomadic existence, after all I married an Emergency Physician. Once he’d roll into an ER and fix it, he’d want a new challenge. I always told the kiddos their Dad wrote the book on Emergency Management, and he did!

Yesterday I asked Bob, “How many bathing suits does one woman need?” And like a good manager, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “That depends.”

Sorting and packing is different this time around. There are the clothes I’ll never fit into again, the clothes I’ll never wear again, and everything else. Pandemic fashion has turned out to be comfortable cotton yoga wear I bought at Whole Foods, along with an occasional Eileen Fisher piece on sale, online. Of course I’ll keep these things, and my boots and fancy shoes that stand watch in my closet, hoping I’ll need them again.

But why am I packing so many small rocks? One is from Ireland, and one is for our old neighbor’s dog Hodor, one is a crystal and one is a geode, and……..

Forgive my absence, but during this move I’ll be posting only once a week, on Mondays. By next Monday we’ll be in our new home – all one level with a big backyard. Bob designed the master bath for us to Age-in-Place. My beautiful master closet will be installed next month and the kitchen countertops are delayed because of a mix-up with the center island. No kitchen sink, no backsplash, so we’ll use Uber Eats for awhile.

One learns to pivot when you’ve moved as much as we have. And one learns that home can be a haven when it’s filled with the people you love.

Wish us luck!

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You’ve heard of the expression, “Hurry up and wait?”

Well, our old house renovation had been at a standstill for awhile. We were waiting for the electrician, waiting for the custom island, waiting for our sinks to be shipped… Then, just when we landed in the Golden State, everything started up at once – the painters were stepping all over the plumber installing the tankless water heater, and naturally a piece was missing from our custom island.

Well, it’s not actually missing. Turns out, they sent us the wrong piece.

There we were, standing in another line at Disneyland, when Bob’s phone would ring with another construction problem or question. But this wasn’t like our 1980s Disney anymore! Everything is online. If you want to make a droid at the Star Wars exhibit, you’d better make a reservation. And thankfully, Uncle Dave and Aunt Kiki purchased Lightning Lane passes, so time spent waiting for rides was minimal.

It was the trip of a lifetime! To see the pure joy on our Pumpkin’s face was reason enough to go to LA, but seeing how much his Uncle enjoyed exploring “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” with him was the icing on the cake of our California adventure.

I remember the Rocker filming stop-action videos with tiny Star Wars characters in our garage when he was about the same age. He could barely balance the huge Camcorder on his shoulder. And now, my son’s company is composing music for Disney trailers. It’s Kismet.

Last night, we returned to a chilly, rainy Nashville. No more hummingbirds, no more heated pool and jasmine-lined cabana. Booking a patio table for eight is a fond memory; all eight of us together was magical, plus we spent a delightful day visiting with California cousins!

Today it’s back to reality and renovation, just the two of us, and our old dog, Bean. I’ve yet to get caught up on the news, but I’ll always fight with the Resistance.

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I was so relieved when Biden was elected, and breathed a big sigh of relief when he appointed his new Press Secretary, Jen Psaki. Finally, someone intelligent, who could untangle a president’s bumblings. She seemed to be having fun up there, dueling with the media en masse. Here was someone who showed up, and didn’t antagonize the press room. Plus, she’s a redhead at that!

Being born with red hair can be a comfort or a curse. When I was little, I always wanted black hair. I even prayed for my hair color to change so that I wouldn’t feel so different, so that I wouldn’t stand out. The Flapper once told me she used to rub lemons all over her face to get rid of her freckles; that wasn’t much help. But eventually, I learned to love my strawberry locks.

I was a chameleon, my head of hair turning more of a copper red in the winter months, and almost platinum blonde in the summer. Even as I grew older, I felt like my white streaks were highlights and not grey. So I was rooting for Ms Psaki, as if she were a part of my tribe. But Jen, you did us a disservice this week. Kickboxing?

In an interview on The View, she commiserated with Democrats’ despair over the Senate not passing the biggest voting rights bill in a generation by telling us:

“My advice to everyone out there who’s frustrated, sad, angry, pissed off: feel those emotions, go to a kickboxing class, have a margarita, do whatever you need to do this weekend and then wake up on Monday morning, we gotta keep fighting.”

https://www.newsweek.com/psaki-mocked-telling-those-upset-voting-rights-have-margarita-keep-fighting-1671786

Unfortunately, that just created a firestorm on Twitter. People were saying she was out of touch, that they can’t afford a kickboxing class that costs more than therapy. It even costs more than my drag queen haircut! Her advice for us to keep fighting, while the senators do nothing, was indelicate at best.

Bob and I did our Zoom Pilates class yesterday and took a power walk around the neighborhood. Luckily, Bob had some amazing football games to watch too, since we didn’t have the ingredients for a margarita. Our anger at our dysfunctional government only intensified…

This Monday morning I’ve only heard about Russia and Ukraine, while Tennessee is one of the top FIVE states in the country for Covid per capita. Woop WOO! Voting rights is old news. The very foundation of our democracy continues to be fodder for Mr T’s antics. His judges and legislators want to bend and contort the rule of law to fit their antiquated racist ideology.

So why would we consider defending democracy in Eastern Europe when we can barely defend our own house? When we’ve learned how close we came to the military seizing our voting machines for Mr T? Why are Republicans so afraid of letting every American vote?

And never mess with a redhead. Especially not one in need of some tequila, or gorilla glue.

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“More mama.”

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard Kellyanne Conway’s voice. It’s like chalk on a chalkboard. Ever since she coined the phrase, “alternative facts,” closely followed by saying Mr T isn’t lying because he truly believes what he says, I just figured it’s a wash. I’m actually ashamed she’s  Jersey girl. Thank goodness CNN stopped interviewing her.

She’ll be leaving the White House to focus on her teenagers who are now in the throes of distance learning. But it’s her 15 year old daughter who took to Twitter to cry for help; she wanted to become an emancipated minor, and suggested that AOC would be a much better mom.

I remember when the 13 year old Bride interviewed the Flapper for a history project in 1995, asking detailed questions about life during the Great Depression. Since it looks as if we may be entering another great global economic recession due to this pandemic, I thought you might like to see how my Mother coped with her life in Scranton, PA.

“My first husband died of peritonitis in 1931, because there was no penicillin at that time. He left me alone, at the age of 21, with two children, Shirley and Brian, ages four and two. In 1933 I was lucky enough to marry Robert. He was a pharmacist I’d seen every day on my way to catch the trolley. He raced after that trolley one day to propose to me, and we were promptly married. We lived together in Scranton, and had a baby girl the next year, Kathryn.  

Although it seems ridiculous now, in 1933 the $25 a week that my husband made was good money. By 1935 however our situation had gotten worse. I was pregnant with my fourth child, and my husband had been reduced to making only $7 a week. The owner of his pharmacy had taken it over, and had begun working six days a week by himself. My husband filled in only one day a week, and we had to support our family of five on $7.

We survived, although I’m not quite sure how we did it. Even though food was cheap (two pounds of butter cost 25 cents), we had no money to buy it with. We ate mostly bread, peanut butter, pea soup, and potato soup. I made the bread myself because it was much cheaper to buy the flour than the already-made bread. Instead of using butter, we used Crisco with yellow food coloring (it looked like real butter and seeing is believing).

Today, two pounds of Land O Lakes butter will cost you about six dollars! I’ll transcribe more of the Flapper’s life in the coming days. But I was thinking as I read the Conway Twitterstorm last night, that I was born an emancipated minor. After my Father’s death, my 15 year old sister took care of me while the Flapper went to work. Then after the car accident, just a few months later, I found myself with a new set of foster parents in NJ.

I was never adopted, they promised the Flapper they would care for me with, “no strings attached.” And so they did, showering me with unconditional love, until the day at age 12, I decided to move out. I emancipated myself from my tiny Sacred Heart School life, smothered with too much care and tending, to live with my Mother and my messy, blended biological family. Half Jewish, a quarter Catholic and the rest who knows!

I always had two mothers: one a first generation, religious immigrant from Czechoslovakia who didn’t drive and stayed at home because her husband wanted it that way; and another, a free-spirited, areligious, working, creative woman who looked just like me.

Today is Farmer Bob’s birthday! We first met at our public high school so many years ago, when he was Nathan Detroit and I was Adelaide in the musical Guys and Dolls. I guess what my young self was craving was more drama, more brothers and sisters, more excitement. Not every child can choose their parents! But we had no social media to amplify our teenage angst.

I truly wish the Conways all the best. This is a picture of Bob’s “come as you were in the 1960s” 40th birthday party! I wrote him a nuanced, sexy poem.

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Either you are crafty, or you’re not. It’s like being pregnant, it’s impossible to be only slightly pregnant. Some people see a balled up Cadbury cream egg wrapper and think. “That’s just the bit of sparkle I need for my found art project;” and some people just pick it up and throw it away.

With a bit more time on my hands these last few months, I’ve turned to Pinterest for corona life hacks and inspiration. I discovered how to make fabric masks. I’ve found great recipes, and charming party ideas which I may use in the future, but it was finding an exquisite type of Japanese embroidery that really piqued my interest. I wanted to mend my favorite pair of corduroy pants – and so I started a whole new board:

Corona Crafts – so far I have 23 pins!

Granted, I never would have called myself “Crafty” in the past. I never bedazzled anything, not even a pair of sneakers. I never did scrapbooking, nope never understood that one. Sure I’d put my pictures in books – remember when we’d get to hold a picture? –  but I felt they were self-explanatory. Looking back over those books, I wish I’d have written down a date here and there.

Wait – I take it back. I did make a scrapbook once for the Bride when she went off to college, full of old pictures. I wanted her to remember where she came from, maybe because of my early life as a gypsy. Always trying to fit into two families. There were glamorous photos of Great Grandma Ada as a young bride, and pictures of us floating on a pond in Windsor, MA when the Bride was a baby.

In Middle School, my daughter started making Fimo clay beads. I actually bought a small toaster oven for her to use as a kiln. Since I use a toaster to make toast, buying a toaster oven was an investment in her artistic nature. She has actually passed that particular craft on to the Love Bug, they recently made some lovely Fimo beads for me to incorporate into necklaces.

Granted, I AM a stringer; although my love of stringing pearls into eternity necklaces has been usurped by mask-making. I never considered making jewelry to be a “craft.” For that matter, I didn’t consider my quilting or knitting back in the day to be lumped into that craft category either. I’m not sure why. Were they hobbies? Today, a young Icelandic knitter buys vintage sweaters and knits mouths and tongues onto them. I guess I’d call her an artist. https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2020/05/12/icelandic-designer-makes-scary-masks-to-encourage-distancing.html

Maybe I’m just a Maker! After all, if a man has a wood shop in his garage, he’s called a woodworker. Why does being “crafty” have such a bad rap? Well, searching at dictionary.com gave me a clue: CRAFTY

adjective,craft·i·er, craft·i·est.

  1. skillful in underhand or evil schemes; cunning; deceitful; sly.
  2. Obsoleteskillful; ingenious; dexterous.

 

Is it because it implies a woman of a certain age with time to kill, idle hands and all? The Flapper never had time to be crafty; she worked full time and cooked and cared for us, and every Sunday she did her hair and nails, never setting foot in a beauty parlor! She was however a gifted artist, as is Kay and the Bride.

As we all slow down and bake sourdough bread, or make masks, I like to think we are all feeling a bit more creative, when we’re not bored/in/the/house/crying/in/our/wine. And if you don’t feel like making something, that’s OK too… but just in case. Here’s how to make beads out of newspaper – remember newspaper?  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/11/at-home/how-to-make-newspaper-beads.html

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I started off in 1966 at a college in Beacon Hill. Our children were born in the Berkshires. We spent every Spring on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve always loved the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I remember fondly strolling around the Boston Commons watching the gorgeous swan boats in the pond. So I was a tad surprised when Bob mentioned, “the tragedy of the commons” while we were listening to President Cuomo. Our lives in New England were the opposite of tragic!

Turns out this is the perfect term to describe where we find ourselves today – starting to reopen the country amid a cultural war over masks.

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual has an incentive to consume a resource at the expense of every other individual with no way to exclude anyone from consuming. It results in overconsumption, under investment, and ultimately depletion of the resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits. Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.”  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tragedy-of-the-commons.asp

Bob usually has no luck trying to interest me in economics, but this was different, it’s behavioral economics. The tragedy (sometimes called “paradox”) of the commons refers to selfish individuals going after a “common” resource, like toilet paper, only to undermine its infrastructure causing the total collapse of the resource. And supposedly its origin is from the Old English – 18th Century settlers who would let their animals out to graze in the park at the center of town, the commons. This would result in very little park left for the people, or the animals for that matter.

Remember, in Europe only the wealthiest landowners had beautiful parks and gardens behind high, closed walls to enjoy. Designing parks in the center of our colonial cities represented America’s wish to avoid another class/caste system. And so we had a paradox. Over time, the “tragedy of the commons” came to represent not just landscape destruction, but road and bridge decay as well. It became a metaphor for power and authority trampling over the common good.

Whenever the ME became more important than the WE.

Last night I tuned into Netflix to watch The Great Hack. It is a stunning documentary that helps to explain how we actually got here in the first place! I’ve become accustomed to seeing ads for something I was looking up on one site appear on another, but I had no idea how incredibly my data, and yours, have been harvested, tracked and targeted – in particular by governments and political parties. The film delves into Cambridge Analytica, and how they weaponized our data to influence our 2016 election.

Maybe you’re not one to watch horror movies during a pandemic, but this shows you how, without a drop of blood, Mr T the first ME president, was elected by 0.23% in Michigan!

“…this data trail is being leveraged against us, every day: to sell us things, get us to vote or to stay home from the polls, to divide or unite us according to the whims of whoever has paid enough to take our digital threads and weave them into a web of their own desires….

It uses the scandal as a framework to illustrate the data mining structures and algorithms that are undermining individual liberty and democratic society, one Facebook like and meme at a time.”  https://www.wired.com/story/the-great-hack-documentary/

It’s strange isn’t it? The Boston Tea Party of 1773 kicked off our liberation from colonialism, and Mark Zuckerberg turned a dating site for Harvard’s elite students into a data capturing monolith. From his dorm room, long after I was walking through the Commons to Filene’s Basement. Could it be that this great technological connection we are all needing more and more, isn’t at all about the WE?

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The Love Bug went to her first socially-distant birthday party. It was just a few girls, in her friend’s backyard, watching a movie. The Bride texted me afterward because she knew I loved this particular movie, the original Parent Trap with Hayley Mills. In the summer of 1961, when it was released, I was a 13 year old camper; when the Flapper picked me up from Camp St Joseph for Girls and we drove home, I had no idea random people would mistake me for the actress who played twins so perfectly.

Strangely enough, the movie started out at a summer camp. But that feeling of being displaced – one city twin switched her life with the other country twin – hit home. I was always being displaced. I had moved back in with the Flapper when I was 11, but still went to visit my foster parents almost every weekend. I went to Catholic School and then to public high school.

And my mantra, whenever people found out about this strange arrangement, was to say how lucky I was – “I have TWO mothers!”

I had a modern day working mother, and a more traditional stay-at-home mother. The Flapper curled her hair and did her nails every Sunday. She drove a car and swore like a sailor. She was the exact opposite of Nell, and I loved them both. I don’t remember Mother’s Day being a big celebration back then, but once I became a mom, things changed.

My fondest Mother’s Day was back in the Berkshires with my BFF Lee. We both had babies and made the men cook and serve us dinner. Bob and Al were grilling while we luxuriated in the warm sunshine. Spring in New England was such a relief, seeing crocus pop up out of snow, and our Windsor pond melt. Soon crayfish would be nipping at my toes.

Once we moved back to NJ, we were living near Great Grandma Ada, and so we became Mother’s Day Brunch buddies. We’d exchange gifts, usually flowers for planting, and get all decked out like the ladies who lunch. It became a tradition, a rite of Spring, meeting up to celebrate motherhood everywhere.

But how does one celebrate Mother’s Day in the time of coronavirus? We had to leave a package for Ada in the infamous pecan pie vestibule. Peonies from our secret garden (thank you Ms Berdelle), sushi from Whole Foods. And tomorrow Bob and I will have dinner with the Bride and Groom – although he is On Call in the ICU, so who knows? – and I will bring my famous homemade mac and cheese. We will sit a good 6-10 ft apart on their porch in the setting sun.

I feel as if my work here on earth is done. My daughter is an amazing mother. She is an Emergency Room doctor who takes care of the most vulnerable among us, and she loves her children with a ferocity beyond measure. The Bride has started baking sourdough bread, and just gave Bob a starter. The Flapper would be so very proud. Great Grandma Ada should be there with us.

We delivered masks to the Grands in their PJs – Star Wars for the L’il Pumpkin and Scrabble for the Love Bug. Happy Mother’s Day to all my mother…friends! Celebrate like nobody’s watching.

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I saw a meme the other day that went something like this, “There will be 2 types of people on the other side of this quarantine: great cooks and alcoholics!” Let’s all strive for the former.

While Bob and I were chopping up nuts and apples for our virtual Passover Seder, I started thinking about food and our relationship to it – do we live to eat, or eat to live? Now, our days revolve around meals like never before. What kind of traditional foods would we need at this year’s Seder table? What could we do without, since it’s just the 2 of us?

What could we even order on Shipt? Horseradish? Would grape juice be just as good as Kosher wine?

Then I started to wonder if people were going to cook a big ham, studded with pineapples and cherries for Easter? Is everybody still coloring eggs even if there are no little children to hunt for them? Today is Good Friday, and as far back as I can remember it was always pretty unremarkable. The statues and the crucifix at Sacred Heart Church were covered in purple cloth, the mood was always sombre. At home, we gave up meat, so I either ate shrimp or fish sticks!

In Ireland, people will plant root vegetables, especially potatoes today:

“…most had a custom of setting their scealláin, or seed potatoes, on Good Friday when it fell in March. This was termed putting down the early pot”, and the people worked each day from Good Friday until they had set all the potatoes.

If Good Friday was late, and fell in April, it was seen as the point up to which such work should focus. In any case, it was imperative that all the spuds be covered before the cuckoo was heard. Nobody wanted to be a “cuckoo farmer”  https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/10-good-friday-traditions-you-ve-never-heard-of-1.3864889

My foster mother Nell was never a great cook, admitting that if it didn’t come in a can she didn’t know what to do with it. But her one reliable, home-cooked, go-to, comfort meal was pork chops and applesauce, with a side of french fries. This was always a special treat, along with her once a year “Haloopkies.” Pork stuffed cabbage simmered in sauerkraut accompanied by rye bread and butter, nirvana for me in the 1950s.

But I inherited my love of cooking from my mother, the Flapper. Almost every weekend I’d watch her chop, cook and bake delicious meals for her diverse family of Catholic and Jewish kids. She abhorred waste, like many Depression-era women before her, so she’d always make a soup out of leftover pot roast with barley or a mulligatawny stew out of whatever was left in the refrigerator.

I just looked up the word “mulligatawny” since I thought it was a word she made up, but no. In fact, it’s a curry stew! The Flapper loved to embellish the truth, which I hated at first, but came to enjoy with my siblings. If someone dared to ask her if a dessert was homemade, she’d proudly say “Of course!” But you never really knew.

The first dish I cooked last month as the pandemic was looming large was chicken chili. It was the last night we had our Grands sleepover, before we were told to shelter in place. I added whatever vegetables I had left in the refrigerator to the pot, plus 2 cans of beans. I chopped up a poblano pepper for a slight whiff of heat, and served it beside sliced avocado and of course, bread and butter. It was a hit with the Bug and the Pumpkin!

Bob’s got his raised bed planted and we have already picked spinach. We ordered food from Shipt online and were delighted, I may never set foot in a grocery store again.  Never thought I’d ever have someone else do my grocery shopping, but here we are in this brave new world. Searching our pantries for lentils and flour, or matzoh, and remembering how cooking can nourish the soul.

I sent Bob over to Ms Berdelle with some chicken soup last night. Maybe I should start a chicken soup food truck when this over? He ran a pretty great Zoom Seder for our family and friends, from 3 years old to 95! It’s time to clean out the cobwebs in our homes and our minds; this is the season to declutter, to wash our patio furniture, to renew our lives, to plant and welcome fresh air and sunlight into our cloistered homes.

This is the season to stay at home and save lives.

I hope that cooking brings you joy during this lonely, holy week, and that your pantry stays stocked with your choice of beverage. Below Bob is setting up the Zoom Seder, while I prepare the Seder plate.

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We are all figuring out ways to come together while apart.

Bob and I shared cocktail hour one night in a parking lot with neighbors. Some of us sat on tailgates and some got comfy on camp chairs. While keeping the appropriate distance, we got caught up on local gossip – the last time we’d seen each other we were cleaning up the streets after our Tornado.

I like to capitalize Tornado because it seems weighty, and it was my first time cheating death by Mother Nature. And we cannot forget Nashville was already reeling, before our “Stay at Home” order; some of us had no roof, or a home for shelter.

Yesterday we ordered cupcakes from our local bakery, The Cupcake Collection. Mignon is offering curbside delivery! https://www.thecupcakecollection.com/  They had just started up their business again, after losing a good portion of their historic house to record-setting winds last month. I remember the Bride’s Italian Nanny, Giovanna, loved red velvet cupcakes. But we were hoping to celebrate Great Grandpa Hudson’s 94th birthday with some sweet potato cupcakes.

Hudson was a redhead when he was young. He lied about his age to enlist in WWII and served on a ship in the Pacific Theatre. He is the only grandfather my children have ever known since my father died when I was a baby, and Bob’s father, well, he was of no use. My children never met him.

Hudson still serves as Ada’s co-star in Nashville. But when we would visit them in NJ, he was always the fix-it guy, having actually built a hospital in Ghana once upon a time when he was a missionary. He carved gigantic totem poles, fixed furniture, the pool every spring, and any plumbing or roofing problems that might pop up. He was the husband/handyman every woman ever wanted. Over the years, he’d officiate at more weddings than I can count, including the Bride and Groom’s.

We sang the Happy Birthday song to Hudson through a glass window in the vestibule of their assisted living facility. I’m not really sure if he could hear us. Only aides are allowed in and out, but we could talk with Ada through our cell phones. Her spirit is incredible, this virus cannot diminish that resilient light. “How are my babies?” she asked me. So I told her how the Bride is home-schooling, that she has enough PPE for now, and about Dolly Parton’s gift to Vanderbilt. Dolly for President!

She said she likes my red hair, and I told her it was pink leaning toward fuchsia. Leave it to me to decide to color my hair when I won’t be able to see my stylist for awhile.

Bob and I have figured out how to use Zoom, it’s actually pretty easy. I can still take a group Pilates class once a week through my iPad. I only need a yoga mat and a foam roller. I almost don’t recognize myself in that gallery window box – who is that purple headed lady?

Some of you know that I’ve often felt like a character in an Anne Tyler novel, going about her day to day existence, seemingly normal, while balancing an out-of-control inner life. Maybe most writers live in the subtext? It’s certainly helpful right now – in this out-of-control outer life – to stay in the moment, so I thought I’d recommend Tyler’s newest book to you, since we all have a lot of time on our hands. Why not call up your local bookstore?

Her new novel is “Redhead by the Side of the Road.” It’s about second chances, it’s funny and compassionate at the same time. You might want to eat a cupcake while you read it! https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-520904645953AE18-6DD5-4CA6-93ED-99E3EFF69A4C

 

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When I first met Wendi, she was holding her baby boy. Her smile was like sunshine as she showed me around the property. We had finally moved to Virginia, and when the Bride and I first saw the house, she had been away on a business trip. My soon-to-be landlord was a fabulous designer, she flew all over the country installing the dreams of her famous clients.

Strangely enough on that crystal clear day in Charlottesville, Wendi was in New Jersey.

But at our first look, her husband, wanted us to rent their guest cottage. He knew the Bride was starting at UVA Medical School, and he was psyched about our Duke connection. As he led us through the main house and into the dining room, where an old Dutch master-like portrait of a man with a beard hung over a sideboard, I wasn’t prepared for this revelation.

“There’s a building at Duke University named after my ancestor,” he said pointing up to the painting, “It’s the Allen Building.”

In fact, Bob and the Bride were well acquainted with the Allen Building. Turns out it was named after a good friend of JB Duke in the early 1920s, a man from Warrenton, NC – George Garland Allen. Allen had started out as a bookkeeper for the American Tobacco Company in 1895, working his way up in the Duke organization.

My new landlord’s Great Grandfather, on his Mother’s side, had been known to say it was easier to accumulate his wealth than it was to give it away.

This didn’t stop us from moving our Welsh Corgi along with big Buddha Bear and Bailey Dawg (the Bride’s Lab) into the smaller “cottage” on their property. Wendi welcomed us with open arms, in fact she collected a menagerie of dogs too – from a sublime Great Dane to another ridiculous Corgi! When we finally built our house overlooking the Blue Ridge, Wendi had 2 small boys, and 2 matching Labs.

In contrast to her husband’s Southern lineage, Wendi was a California girl. She didn’t come from money; she had been a nanny in NY and then went to school for design. She built her own business from the ground up, and juggled 2 children with the demands of her world-wide clientele. I remember distinctly when she told me about this woman who would come in and cook you a week’s worth of meals on a Sunday and put them in the freezer.

Aha, so this was how working women who might jet off at a moment’s notice took care of their family. This was before GrubHub.

Wendi would throw great Gatsbyesque parties around their pond behind their home. She sent her boys to the public school and became one of the fiercest football moms around. She loved keeping tabs on the Rocker, and made sure her boys knew all about his band. When the Parlor Mob stopped by on a swing through Virginia, she treated them like royalty. When I became secretary of the local book club, she’d make a point of attending if she was in town.

She was one or two decades younger than most of us; a doctor, a few lawyers, a few teachers, and me, the one who could make an email list-serve. Wendi’s California blonde exuberance would always add the fun component to our gatherings. After her divorce, she started a new business of high-end consignment pop-ups that housed many of the pieces Bob and I couldn’t carry with us to Nashville.

Last month, after saying goodbye to her oldest son, who was heading to Australia for his college semester abroad, Wendi died tragically, she was only 53 years old. That baby, that I first met on her hip, is now in high school. When my old friend and neighbor called to tell me the news, I was shaking. How can this be? Didn’t I just talk with her about our trip to Tulum? Didn’t I just see beautiful pictures on Instagram of her December holiday in Puerto Rico? She’d found a new love, and life was looking good for my friend.

How can a light like that be extinguished? My lovely, vibrant Wendi, how can this happen? I hope you knew how many people loved you. Your outstanding sons are your legacy, your Valentines in football jerseys. Sleep peacefully dear heart.

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