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Posts Tagged ‘Memoir’

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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It’s been a busy week: I started physical therapy; Great Grandma Ada had a visiting  friend from New Jersey, so I took her to a drag brunch; and Ada also regaled her JCC Book Club with a look back on her life… which will have to be continued since 95 years cannot possibly be distilled into an hour!

We did learn something new though – Ada was voted “Most Charming” by her Brooklyn high school class.

Since I’ve found the Senate Impeachment Trial of Mr T most distressing, and not charming at all, I refuse to watch it. Relying on the occasional Tweet to keep me up to date, especially of my favorite Senator Amy Klobuchar, it would seem that only Justice Roberts is taking this trial seriously. I’m glad he admonished both sides to keep it civil and behave with the gravitas the Senate chamber deserves.

A trial with no witnesses and no documents is still a trial worthy of respect. Right?

I was served a subpoena twice. Once a long, long time ago when I was working at Head Start in Jersey City I accidentally hit a homeless woman illegally crossing the street. Just as the sun came up over the skyline of Manhattan, I was blinded turning a corner and didn’t see her. My insurance company kept me in good hands and settled for the maximum amount on my policy.

The second time I was served we had just moved from NJ, and I had left my old car behind, it was a green Ford Explorer that the Rocker had inherited and drove to high school every day. But he wasn’t allowed a car on his college campus in Trenton, so we sold it. Or I should say, Bob sold it to a young man while I was in VA.

Long story short, he was arrested the next day for having marijuana in the car, my old Ford Explorer, and somehow or another I was still listed as the registered owner. Hence, a guy shows up at my door in Virginia ordering me to appear for a trial in New Jersey.  Again, a lawyer was deployed, money was exchanged, and a calamity was averted.

Isn’t it strange that I’ve never been called for jury duty, something I’ve actually wanted to do all my life, but I’ve been served TWO subpoenas! What if I didn’t have car insurance or the money to pay for a good defense? I was recently talking to a friend about Jane Fonda getting arrested for her Climate inspired Fire Drill Friday demonstrations.

I mean with all the protesting I’ve done over the years for women/human rights, why haven’t I been arrested? It’s almost a badge of honor today.

Congress should have subpoenaed Ambassador Bolton, sure, and he would have every right to hire a lawyer and fight it, if the Senate had the guts to call on him. It sounds like he’s willing to talk, and he might even lend some decorum to the proceedings, but his Republican cronies are afraid of the truth. They can’t handle the truth! 

Here is Amy Klobuchar’s early morning Tweet:

 “At 1:30 a.m. after a bunch of votes to stifle key witnesses the Republicans just voted down having Justice Roberts decide the witnesses! Why have this job if you’re not going to protect the Constitution? We are sworn to protect our democracy, not serve the President’s interests.”

Can you handle this cuteness?

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Virgo has moved on to Libra and my worlds are colliding! There was a full moon the night before the Bride’s 40th birthday, which she celebrated in Asheville, NC. She refused to make a big deal out of it and insists she’s totally fine. Well why wouldn’t she be? She’s got a beautiful family, an amazing career, and just became a certified yoga instructor to boot! According to Oprah, at 40 “…you can stop living your life for other people and start living it for yourself!”

Wait, I thought that happened at 50? I’m pretty sure Great Grandma Ada would NOT agree as she lives primarily to help other people!

But here’s the thing. According to the Bride, her Enneagram Type is 1… The Reformer! Now this is your basic Type A personality; she is the Monica of her friends, the girl who gets things done. Hard-driven, “rational, idealistic, principled, purposeful, self-controlled and…wait for it…perfectionistic.” That’s pretty right on.

So for my birthday I was instructed to take the test! This Libra will be turning 71 soon and figured why not? Numbers no longer bother me, it’s a slow roll to 80 when I’ll probably need new knees. Turns out I’m Type 9 – The Peacemaker! Yep that’s me, always wanting to make connections and keep the family together, a typical Welsh Corgi in the dog eat dog world of life. I avoid conflict whenever possible, but I’m not afraid to stand up to bullies. “Easygoing, self-effacing, receptive, reassuring, agreeable and complacent.”

Complacent?! I’m blaming Catholic School for that one! The Ennegram Institute goes on:

Nines tend to adopt an optimistic approach to life; they are, for the most part, trusting people who see the best in others; they frequently have a deep seated faith that things will somehow work out. They desire to feel connected, both to other people and to the world at large. They frequently feel most at home in nature and generally make warm and attentive parents.

Turning 30 I nearly had a meltdown. Baby Boomers always thought you could never trust anyone over 30, that was the watershed moment; old age was right around the corner! The beginning of the end, the reason to buy black balloons. I was single, childless, and adrift about the big questions. I put a fire engine red henna rinse in my newly permed strawberry blonde hair – it made me look like a lion! Even my sister didn’t recognize me.

When Bob turned 40, we had a “Back to the Sixties” party at the beach and I’m not sure we’ll ever top that one! 40 wasn’t such a big deal for me, although we’d left my beloved New England, my bird sanctuary for the NJ suburbs. I wouldn’t say it was the best decade with menopause on the horizon, but it wasn’t bad either.

One of the highlights of my 40s was leading a group of moms in a No Doubt rendition of “I’m Just a Girl” (Except it was I’m Just a Mom) over a middle school campfire! Why are we here if we cannot embarrass our children? And why does Gwen Stefani still look the same, so gorgeous? And how did I become the mom of a 40 year old?

Consider this my puff piece to the latest breaking news. We’ve been celebrating a lot of birthdays lately and I’m getting hopeful about our country’s future; but maybe it’s just early onset Alzheimers. Or maybe it’s not so early?

Take the Classical Enneagram test yourself, it’s better than the zodiac! And please stay WEIRD! https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

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Here we are, in the middle of another heatwave, and my First Edition’s Parnassus book was waiting for me on the front porch this morning. I left the house early to score some parmigiana cheese to make the pesto my August basil is telling me it’s time to make.

The book of the month is, “Chance’s Are…” by Richard Russo. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner, so I couldn’t wait to dig in; there’s always tomorrow for pesto…

Three 60-something-guy-friends are meeting up on the Vineyard and we flashback to 1969, when they were seniors in college and gathered around a TV to hear their draft numbers announced – like me standing in a deli line waiting for my number. Not. Not like that AT ALL. It’s hard, as a woman today, to imagine the gravitas of that first draft call for our young men in December of ’69. I know that some of my friends had to go to Viet Nam:

Who wouldn’t want to go to Southeast Asia and be shot dead in a jungle?

Some, like my brother Dr Jim, accepted his fate and enlisted; he went to OCS just to get it over with. My step-brother Dr Eric became a med-evac helicopter pilot, cause he told the Army he wasn’t about to shoot people; some friends were deferred for good and sometimes sketchy reasons, and some of them did a walk-around, like Lyle. He ended up training bomb-sniffing dogs in the states. I don’t know how that happened and unfortunately Lyle died last year in Vietnam, so I guess we’ll never know.

My starter marriage husband joined ROTC in 1969 at Harvard Law School. It was supposed to transition him into the National Guard, but that never happened. Clerical error?

Bob got a low number, but fortunately had well-documented asthma as a kid. Even today, if I get a bronchitis, he gets pneumonia. The Bride and the L’il Pumpkin unfortunately have inherited his reactive airway disease, which has been pretty scary in the middle of the night. Great Grandma Ada reminds us that asthma will keep our little Grandbaby Boy safe, always. I try not to think it can also kill you.

In the wake of Woodstock nostalgia, which Gma Ada made Bob retell again this past weekend, I find myself feeling adrift. The Big Chill group did a Face Time chat on the day of their arrival in a re-purposed school bus. Bobby, Dickie, Jeff and friends. They were heading into the unknown of a prolonged camping trip with music, mud and acid; while i was heading into a marriage in Cambridge, MA I thought would save me. A nice Catholic boy. Mea Culpa.

Bob’s been sounding wistful. Long before cell phones, how did he ever find Albie in the newspaper taxi on the road to Yasgur’s Farm?

I’ve been wondering what the hell was happening in 1969? We landed on the moon. We went to a concert about Peace and Love in a field. And we started a draft to send our best and brightest off to be slaughtered. What a country.

But even earlier, we imported slaves to our shores and killed Native Americans with impunity. 400 years ago, in 1619, twenty Africans came to Jamestown, Virginia in chains. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

And today a New York City cop was fired, finally, for killing an African American man selling cigarettes on the street in Staten Island. Despite clear video of the man in a choke-hold saying, “I can’t breathe,” it only took five years and a social movement to convince the police chief that Eric Garner didn’t need to die. Anyone wondering why we need a Black Lives Matter revolution should read last Sunday’s Times. And vote for Bernie!

I’m not sure who I’m voting for yet, but my fear is that Mr T, President “Bone Spur,” may try to slide us into another war, you know, for his numbers. His polls are dropping. And with him, it’s all about the numbers, the size of the crowd. Dr Freud would know exactly what that’s about!

Here is the school bus and the newspaper taxi 50 years ago. Did you know where your children were?

 

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“Looking through some photographs I found inside a drawer,
I was taken by a photograph of you.
There were one or two I know that you would have liked a little more,
But they didn’t show your spirit quite as true.”

Those lyrics from Jackson Browne’s song “Fountain of Sorrow” have been playing through my mind lately. We were heading into the home stretch of unpacking boxes and settling into our party farmhouse when Bob decided it was time to digitize our mountains of old pictures – the Bride’s 9th birthday party, the Rocker’s Middle School birthday trip to the Liberty Science Center with the Twin Towers hovering in the background. Eighth Grade graduations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, my little cheerleader and my little ice hockey player.

Every single important event had been chronicled, and sometimes just random moments, like an impromptu trip to DC, or a drive back to the Berkshires, under sparkling amber trees with old friends.

I tried to look at myself objectively, did I look happy then? Or was I rushed and angry because I’d completed the grunt work and didn’t want to “pose” for a picture? What possessed me to don a Groucho Marx nose for a beach birthday party? We have lots of doubles because the second set of pictures were free and you never know who might want one.

A friend sent me a picture of herself, hanging clothes out on a line in the 70s dressed in bell bottoms.  I loved pinning up my clean, wet clothes to the sun, and still love it today even though there is no clothes line outside my city house. I guess Bob never saw fit to catch me hanging up diapers, or maybe he was always working on wash day.

I had a sense during that sweet young motherhood time, a feeling that this was just about the best it would ever be. I’d started writing for a newspaper, pecking out words during naptime and at night after the children were asleep. We had feminist consciousness raising young mom playgroups where we shared our secret mothering tricks and helped each other after each new birth. I used to sew baby elephants that would attach nose to tail across the new baby’s crib.

It was a lifetime ago, and yet it was just yesterday.

“I found some pictures where I still had dark hair,” Bob just said. And my hair looked different in each frame because strawberry blonde hair cannot be captured by a camera. Sometimes it looks like mahogany, and sometimes it looks white. Now that I’ve let it go grey, it actually is a blondish/white!

I’m reading a remarkable book by our local bookstore’s blog editor – “I Miss You When I Blink,” by the very blonde Mary Laura Philpott. It’s part memoir, part humor, and all heart. Following in the footsteps of Bombeck and Quindlen, she talks about her mother quizzing her in First Grade for a spelling bee, and she mentions how mothers always take the blame for our failures. She is, however, smart enough to know how nature can pounce on nurture. She was probably a Type A from the get-go. Philpott is still young by my standards, in her 40s, young enough to remember First Grade.

Her book has me literally laughing out loud! “She’s refreshingly honest and very funny, especially when, at a much-anticipated kid-free dinner party, she finds herself in an endless “momversation” (my term, feel free to borrow) on the subject of chicken salad. Boiled or baked? Shredded or chopped? Grapes or no grapes? To salt or not to salt? I chortled as Philpott fumed through dinner: “I had to concentrate to keep from shaking my head no no no, to keep from yelling, SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP . . . Fifteen minutes in, I wanted to scream, ‘Is anyone having some genuine feelings about something? Does anyone have something fascinating or funny or weird to discuss?’”  ”https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/you-know-that-funny-friend-you-look-for-at-dull-mom-parties-here-she-is-in-book-form/2019/03/29/cf43b17e-49ba-11e9-93d0-64dbcf38ba41_story.html?utm_term=.b9b497aebabc

We’ve all had those “momversations.” Seriously, if you know of any other Type A out there, this one’s for them.

Hope y’all had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend. I’ve always said the Flapper did the very best she could. Losing my father when I was 7 months old, then almost losing her own life in a car accident 3 months later. She was a strong and resilient woman and I see her qualities still in my own children, in their determination, chutzpah.

She waited for me to return of my own free will, and I will always be grateful for that. Here I am in my early 40s. Why did I choose a peplum dress? It was the 80s.

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Waiting is a big part of “adulting.” One of my parenting mantras was, “Want? Work. Wait!” Teaching our children to wait, and not decompensate over an ice cream cone, is serious business. Eventually we must all wait for a plane, wait in line for a coffee, wait for a paycheck before paying the mortgage. Like Penelope, weaving by day and unraveling by night, we women are experts at this waiting game.

When I was little, I’d wait by the door for my father’s return from work. In one of his pockets he had hidden a small trinket. I can’t remember what they were exactly, only that they could fit in the palm of his hand. Maybe it was a colorful rock, or seashell? Perhaps it was a barrette? It didn’t matter really, because my memories of him are his many small acts of loving kindness.

We would collect popsicle sticks until one summer day he built me a dollhouse.

We would roll up coins from my piggy bank and deposit them in my savings account.

We would always stop for an ice cream sundae at Zanelli’s after Mass on Sunday.

Until one day years later, I walked into Daddy Jim’s hospital room and he didn’t remember me. My visits with him at the end of his life, coincided with finding Bob again, in that same hospital. Great Grandma Ada stopped me by the elevator and said, “Come with me, you’ll never guess…”

Last night I was visiting with the Bride in her ER. I’d accompanied a friend and neighbor to the hospital and we were given the royal treatment. She had an EKG done while I was parking the car! Then, while I was waiting for her tests and scans to be read, I simultaneously read a post about “Waiting” from my dear friend Bess. She too had been waiting in a hospital:

As for me, I watch and wait, and try to be who he needs right now. We are all headed down this road. John is just a few steps ahead of me. Acceptance of the new limitations of our bodies, re-evaluation, re-prioritizing, using everything we’ve learned over a lifetime to figure out how to navigate in a new reality where the only certainty is uncertainty.

My heart goes out to Bess and her husband. May this next procedure work its magic. And my heart is breaking for all those federal employees who are working now without pay. To all those furloughed and waiting at home to get back to work. To our fellow citizens who must choose between a trip to the grocery store or an electric bill.

It’s hard to accept our new reality, with a toddler-in-chief at the helm. The uncertainty of this time in our lives can seem overwhelming. The L’il Pumpkin must wait for a new helmet before he can ride his scooter. The Bride had to wait and see if the Love Bug’s new passport would be renewed. And I am waiting for Bob’s safe return from NJ.

I will not look at ridiculous pictures of McDonald’s sauce in silver gravy boats at the White House; it’s not funny at all to me. Instead, I will drive my neighbor to T’ai Chi, because it’s Tuesday. And leave you with a thought, some of us are better at waiting – insert crying/laughing emoji.

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