Monthly Archives: May 2017

Things she missed



My father always was waiting for my mother. Even if he told her that they had to leave for somewhere at a certain time, and adjusted it for “Inge Time”, she always kept him waiting.  Even in death, he got to wherever one goes, nine years ahead of her.  She finally joined him in 2008, on May 29th.  That’s when my sister and I became orphans.  However long you have your parents around, when they die, you become orphans.  In the years since she died, I thought about all the changes that happened in the world that would have interested her and angered her.  I thought of moments when I truly have felt that there were events in the world that I was grateful she was not around to see. There are other moments that I wished she was here to enjoy and discuss.

The fall of 2008 the world went through the worst financial crisis since the Depression.  As a woman who worked in the business world she would have been angry at whoever was “minding the store”.  She would have been amazed that Barack Obama was elected president twice and that during his tenure, Osama bin Laden was killed by our military.  She would have spouted that it was good that the SOB had been found and killed.  She liked when bad people got their due.  She would have cheered for “Sully” Sullenberger for saving the plane and landing in the Hudson River.  She avoided “swine flu” and “Ebola”.  She would have worried about all the hurricanes but especially about Hurricane Sandy hitting NYC so hard.  She would been concerned that Michael Jackson passed away “so young” as she liked his music.  She might have been amazed at our landing a rover on Mars, since the Moon landing in 1969 was something we were allowed to stay up late to watch on a neighbor’s television.  Neil Armstrong died after she did .

She would have been worried about the Boston Marathon bombing because it took place in Massachusetts where her children live and would have lamented the number of terrorist acts that occurred on US soil.  As an immigrant, she would have been so angry at the feelings against Muslims because as a Jewish woman, she had known hate and felt its effect.  She would have been irate with Brian Williams  re-writing his own history. She often said that his eyes were too close together and that you couldn’t trust someone who looked like that.  She would have been pleased that Prince William found a bride as she worried about the young princes without their mother.  That President Obama opened relations with Cuba might have provoked feelings in both directions, suspicion as well as curiosity.  Robin Williams death would have saddened her as she liked “Mork from Ork”.

Inge would have taken much joy in knowing that she had great-grandchildren and that my FHB and I were grandparents twice over.  She would have kvelled at her grandson’s wedding and enjoyed meeting her grand-daughter in law.   Knowing that one of her grandsons had made it to Yale in the Nurse Practitioner program , and another one finished up his PhD at Harvard would have made her so proud, and everyone she knew would  have known.  She would have felt much peace in knowing her youngest grandson was safe and living in a idyllic  setting in the Berkshires, not far from Tanglewood and was very happy.

Time accelerates at a pace that I never imagined. Nine years seems like a moment.  Current events become history.  Inge’s death was a piece of her living, not her life.  She’s still the topic most  every day and remembered with stories of motherhood, friendship, life partner for my father, as well as someone whose life was part of the context of my life.  She challenged, she gave, she baked and she is missed.


Rest Stop


The radio described this weekend as the “unofficial beginning of summer”.  We’ve had a week of rain and cold temperatures.  I sit here at home, under a blanket and wearing a fleece jacket.  The windows are open and I can hear the rain as the cool air fills the loft.  There are eighteen more days to the school year.  I have decided to take the weekend off and fill it with movies and perhaps a strawberry rhubarb pie and some down time with my FHB.  This is what relaxation is supposed to be and we all do it our own way.  The  Memorial Day holiday commemorates the day we remember those who died during active military service.  Wishing you all a peaceful weekend surrounded by good company.  Take a moment to remember those who gave their lives so we can live ours the way we choose.

Requiem for a frenemy


A moment of silence please as we remember the passing of my ironing board this evening.  As my FHB said as he tried to revive it (it refused to collapse) “I don’t think you could have found anything made cheaper.  Why do you buy junk?” . I think he was trying to make me feel better.

So I can’t identify as a member of the Greatest Generation who probably included an ironing board in their dowry.  I was born in the early years of polyester but that didn’t mean that somehow I wasn’t  designated as the oldest child, to be the person who would do the ironing, once I was old enough to turn on the iron and not burn myself. The the pile of clothing, including my  my father’s boxers and handkerchiefs, as well as  tablecloths and napkins, made for a busy couple of afternoons between Hebrew School and Girl Scouts.  I know I sound like I must have been Cinderella in another fairy tale, but this was a task that I was required to do.  Who knew that 11 year olds had job descriptions.  My mother did not like to iron, although she told tales of her childhood when the “woman” would come in and do the weekly ironing and my mother was given a cold iron and a handkerchief to make believe she was ironing.   We did not have a “woman”, I was the only one who did a  lot of this horrible, and I say that with no kindness, chore.  I vowed that I would NEVER own an iron, or an ironing board.

Ironic now that  I would mourn having to discard such an object that I loathed for so long.  As time went on, in my adult years, I went from no iron to an iron and a couple of towels on a table (a bad idea since hot iron prints are pretty impossible to eradicate from wood) to a countertop ironing board to a full sized replica of the one of my youth.  We now do bring much of our ironing to a  dry cleaner, who now probably has a swimming pool built on the dollars they charged for our clothes over the years and I certainly don’t begrudge them the lap pool and slide.  However, once in a while there is something that seems ridiculous to spend money on ironing, when I have the years of experience behind me, to do the job and do it well.  I am still  that school aged organized person who picks out their clothes the night before and makes sure things are ironed so that in the morning I can get up and go.  And thus, the shirt was ironed and the ironing board ready to be put away, and I might have just jammed it just a tad too hard and…..killed it.  So, I am a bit grateful that Mother’s Day has passed as I am pretty sure that my FHB might have felt an obligation to get me a new and more sturdy 21st century version.  I never named it, which I am generally known to do for objects that I interact with.  I guess that is why we were frenemies.  I found I needed  it (no gender here) more that it needed me.  Goodbye Gertrude (I guess everything deserves a name).  I guess I hated you less than I thought.

Fish Tales


A few weeks ago, I got my FHB his annual fishing license.  It is usually a Father’s Day gift but now that he is around town on Fridays,  it seemed like a waste of weeks to not present him with the opportunity to go out and play with the fishes.  The weather has not been cooperating, going from winter like temperatures to blazing heat.  May is a funny month.  He tends to approach things with metered steps and so the fish are still safe from his pursuit of things scale-y and slippery, for the moment.

It was a shame that my father, who liked throwing a line into a lake, ocean or river, never met my FHB.  They probably would have enjoyed one another’s company and both have this zen like approach to the art of the catch.  It’s not about the fish as it is about the fishing.  As I kid,  I got to observe my father fish and I was the child who didn’t mind digging for worms.  Sometimes I even got paid a penny a worm.  I watched as he secured the line, cast the line into the water, and waited for that little tug on the end of the fishing pole.  He would gently reel in the line at the start and then as he felt the weight of the fish, he would reel it in more quickly.  My FHB likes to fly fish as well as casting into ponds, and uses my father’s rod and reel which would have pleased my dad to no end.  I had the opportunity to join my father, as the person who rowed the boat to the middle of a lake, in the early morning hours as well as being on a party boat that went into the ocean off of Long Island.  I didn’t own or inherit a pole but once in a while I got to feel the tug of the fish.  I accompany my FHB but more as a distant observer.  He is a solitary fisherman and I give him his space to cast and wait, and wait, and wait.  In our years together, the number of fish that felt sorry for him and jumped on the hook were less than could be counted on two hands.  Several years ago in New Hampshire I heard him call me to come and see his catch.  He triumphantly displayed a small, actually tiny fish, about four inches long who looked up with those big fish eyes, imploring him to throw him back.  I made sounds of great approval and memorialized the moment in a photo and the fish was released back into the wild.  I returned to my book, under a tree, only to be called yet again to see fish number two, followed by fish number three.  A little Dr. Seuss-ish.  I have an eye for details and my gut told me that this fish looked awfully familiar and if I was correct, my FHB did not catch three fish, but one fish three times.  I kept this information to myself.  I don’t like to spoil someone’s moment in nature.

My own fish story goes back to when I was about ten and our family and my parents’ close friends and their son, went to Canada.  We went to Lac Chat in the Laurentians, as this was the place that both couples had met on their honeymoon.  The lake was filled with sunfish or as my father would call them “sunnies”.  I didn’t have a pole but the fish swam around my feet and I was able to reach down and catch one with my hands.  I took my prize and ran back to the cabin.  I knew the taste of victory and as this was day two of our vacation, I put the fish in a drawer in the bedroom because my plan was to bring it back to New York and show my friends.  Needless to say, I didn’t mention it to my parents or my sister, since I wanted to bring it back to New York as my souvenir.  I checked on it frequently to make sure it was still there. After about two or three days, my mother said to my father that something reeked.  My mother was not much of a fan of dead fish and living with a recreational fisherman led her to set clear parameters of bringing fish home, gutted and cleaned, before he crossed the doorway.  My father just took her comments as more of the same.  I had to admit that after a few warm days in the drawer the fish just didn’t look so good and smelled even worse.  However, I was dogged about keeping my prize.  The fish remained there and decomposing until day four when my mother insisted that my father find the source of the now pretty rank odor.  Long fish story short….my secret was revealed.  My father and I had one of those conversations that  I now recognize as a parent’s moment when you want to laugh and hug your child but you need to have that serious talk about poor decisions.  I know he thought I was enterprising but the smell of bleach still lingers because that was part of my penance.

The one that almost got away, or the one I almost got away with.


Petrichor….the smell of the rain.  I learned that word recently. With the surfeit of rain we have had here in the northeast, it has become not only a frequent visitor,  but evocative of one of those smells that lingers in my mind.  I also think it is a lovely sounding word.  It’s probably going to come up in the New York Times Sunday crossword at some point, so perhaps you’ll want to remember it as it rolls off your tongue.

My sense of smell is strong, both for the intensely foul things (think driving behind a garbage truck on a hot July day), as well as for smells such as  pine trees in a forest, that you can smell as you step on the needles, and wander into the deepest parts of a wood, the dampness holds the scent close.  The sad part of being able to smell all these scents, is that my FHB can’t smell them along with me.  He apparently, somewhere along the way, lost his ability to smell anything.  It seemed to fade away.  I was baking something quite fragrant, perhaps  cinnamon bread, and I was floating along with the smell as it wafted above me, I made a sound of contentment and delight. I was then asked, “What are you so happy about?” and I said “Inhale and take in the amazing smell!”   It was then, that he turned and said “I don’t smell anything” and we were both confused.  There are a lot of medical reasons he may have lost it, but it seems connected to an  overuse of allergy medicine, which is not a very romantic explanation, but accurate.  Smells are not able to be easily described to another person.  It requires my being a bit less effusive because it is so powerful on my end, but just annoying on his.

Let’s talk about flowers and freshly baked bread, not simultaneously.  There are some flowers, like delphinium, wisteria, and honeysuckle that make me feel nostalgic.  Something in a deep part of my memory responds to those flowers and I have not determined where it may have started, perhaps in another life, because it envelops me with such intensity.  It’s rather comical that most flowers make me sneeze since I stick my nose into the bloom, and yet, it makes me so happy in the moment.  I love lilacs, and lilies, but the strong scent sends me running toward tissues and away from the flowers.  I am highly allergic to bees, so that also creates another set of difficulties  since the smell is better as you get closer.

Food is a marriage of taste and smell.  I think coffee smells better as it is brewing than it actually tastes.   Freshly baked bread is probably fifty percent smell and fifty percent taste.  I am doing my research and will get back to you on that one.  There was a Silvercup bread factory that was situated in Long Island City, Queens and was right next to the No. 7 elevated train that went from Flushing to Times Square. That was the train that we took into “the city” a.k.a. Manhattan.  Silvercup was not a great bread. It was an enriched white bread that slathered with peanut butter and jelly did stick to the roof of your mouth every time.  But in the smell department, as you rode by, it was memorable and we would inhale as the train took a curve heading into the tunnel.  If I was transported back in time, it would be a smell that left a wonderful olfactory memory.  It’s been out of business for a long time but it is something that folks that remember.

Smell is the sense that protects us by warning us of fire before we see it and food spoilage.  When my FHB looks at the date on the milk, I am suddenly volunteered for sniff patrol.  A blessing and a curse.  It reminds me of the balance in the world of nature, which doesn’t seem to exist in the people run world.  The recent rain gives us the water we need and the smell that reminds of the dust that settles after a period of dryness.  Nature is so smart and is to be revered and respected.  Less so the people in the moment.



Can’t let this weekend pass without recognizing and celebrating a day to honor all mothers.  If not for my mother, this conversation would probably not occur with you, my readers.  She was one of a kind who lived a life full of extremes and ironies.  She grew up  in a time when her religion targeted her and created a fear she lived with always.  Yet, she stood her ground, as a woman who worked because she wanted to, in a time when most mothers stayed at home, and she offered no excuses.  She was curious and highly intelligent.  Being a mother was challenging for her not because she didn’t love us, but she had to figure out parenting without her own mother as a role model.  Her mother had been a “lady who lunched” and my mother was raised by a nanny who was her world until she left Germany and her nanny behind, when she was 13.  She and her mother had a relationship that evolved as my mother was a new immigrant and her mother encouraged her to explore and get her education, until my grandfather passed away and my mother had to leave high school and work to help out. My grandmother died at fifty-nine, when my mother was twenty-seven.  My mother had married my father at twenty four and moved from Manhattan to Queens to settle into a life that eventually included my sister and me.   From a life of comfortable living in Germany, until the rise of anti-semitism, to living a much more spartan life, my mother continued to power on as a young woman, who would go back and finish high school at night, and take 15 years to finish her college degree in business adminstration while raising us, to working in an array of jobs, where she not only did the work (she loved working with numbers) but she would nurture the co-workers with baked goods ands a listening ear.  She engaged all she met by showing interest and concern. Having two daughters and a husband who was fairly traditional often created a longing to be out and about and she eventually went back to work in Manhattan, where she was part of the energy of the city, which she loved and thrived in.  We were taken to Central Park on Fridays to walk around and visit the seals and have a hot chocolate or soda, depending on the season.  She was happy to share the city with us, with theater and music, another one of her loves.  Her hope, as a teen was to be a fashion designer and yet, when that didn’t work out, her anti-fashionista personal stance, led her down a path of polyester and sensible shoes, and she left the dreams behind and headed in a different direction, which brought her satisfaction.  Once again, she survived a detour and made her choices work for her.  Her parenting was easily surpassed by her grandparenting, and her relationships with her four grandchildren were easier and more fun.  She could take the time to listen to them and they all “got” her.   She was admired by many for her kind gestures. She lived nine years past the death of my father and despite missing him terribly, she continued to work, travel,  and learn new things and participate in a life that still interested her.  She lived until she died, a quick passing that was difficult but was her way.  She always told us not to dillydally and when she got sick, she left with a thank you to America for giving her a place to grow up and old, and for a man on a bicycle who she said, in the last day of her life, was coming to take her for a ride.  My father would never have left her behind and we imagined them meeting again, as in the great love stories.

Mothering is a verb as mother is a noun and name.  The act of caring for others is not limited to women who give birth.  We all have role models apart from the women who give us biological life and those women, mentor us, challenge us, teach us and they may be family, teachers, community leaders, doctors, secretaries,  or the woman behind the counter at a place we stopped for a soda on the way home from school. She might be a person who is just someone you like seeing day in and day out, and there may be no connection other than a helping hand or question that shows interest in you.  She may be someone you admire or respect from a distance or someone in history.  Our personal strength may be in serving in that role or having been lucky enough to be offered some help by someone who was “like a mother”.

Thanks to my mother and all the women who helped me and continue to help me every day in large and small ways. Ever grateful.


Stuck on Words

This evening, while gathering some paperwork to send out in the “regular” mail, I turned to my FHB and said “I’ll go make a photocopy of the documents”.  I heard myself and thought I should look at my feet and see if I am wearing sensible oxford shoes and ankle socks and perhaps a poodle skirt.  Sometimes I think I am stuck in a time warp because as much as I consider myself a woman of the 2017s, I revert back to terms that really date me, and not in an attractive way.  There are smells of the purple ink of the mimeograph machine that I can conjure up and imagine choking on chalk dust.  I still refer to Xerox machines and Mixmasters despite being able to send a copy wirelessly and  make some cakes in the Kitchen Aid mixer.  Sometimes I say to people, “I left a message on your answering machine” and I get strange looks.  They usually remark…”You mean a voicemail?” and I will smile, a sort of sheepish smile.

Many of us grew up in the world of telephone exchanges long before there were area codes.  We had two phone numbers in our apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens; one that started off Illinois 8 and the other was Havemeyer 6.  I was told that in the towns surrounding and including New Bedford, all you had to do was dial the last five numbers.  When is the last time you spoke to an operator?  Do they still exist?  Is anyone out there worrying about whether our phone calls go through?  Probably not.  It was comforting to speak to some random woman when you pushed the “O” and she genuinely wanted to help.  There’s no more long distance although there are certainly many long distances.  It’s just different.  Moments where I forget the terminology and lapse back into the venacular of 1962 or thereabouts, I wonder why those words are still so imbedded in my vocabulary, as thought it was my first language.  It felt like a connection to where I lived.  Our neighborhoods were identified by the exchanges.  Folks stayed in one place and your phone number was something that didn’t change and you remembered long after you moved away.


I have a gyro wheel in my office for students to play with while we are talking.  They are completely fascinated by the fact that I had that as a child and loved to move the wheel back and forth, no batteries, no wires and a rather simple lesson in movement and flow.  They are mesmerized by the motion and often ask if they still make them because it turns out “it is really cool, Miss”.  I could play with my Jack In the Box endlessly and time after time, I would jump like it was the first time.  Probably a bit weird, right?  My FHB and I will often talk about the words our parents said which sounded so wrong when they used them.  My father used to say that he felt “uptight” and I remember shuddering and thinking that I will never use that word again and he’d better not talk like that in front of my friends.  I was just horrified. I imagine that my children as they were growing up, had similar moments when I embarrassed them by saying something that they felt was their word or expression, and I had no right to use that in conversation.  I remember when one of my sons was travelling to South America while he was in college and he said that he would send me pictures of his travels but I had to establish something he called a Facebook account.  When I told him that I already had one (this was in 2008), he was adamant that I was doing it to spy on him.  What a concept…a parent monitoring their child’s activity or anyone else doing that to people you don’t even know based on information as part of an algorithm.  Whoever thought I would understand and use a word like algorithm with appropriate meaning.

I suppose that my current experience is akin to my grandmother’s wanting to see what the inside of an RV looked like or to fly in an airplane since she was born in 1887.  So, if a self driving car shows up, I’ll get in, put on my seat belt,  hang on,  and enjoy the ride.