Monthly Archives: January 2018

Meandering

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When I have something that I need to get done because of a deadline, either my own or required by something or someone else, I can find so many other things to do instead of what I need to get done.  It isn’t a matter of procrastination, which is a different form of avoidance.  An example….I wanted to write this blogpost an hour ago.  Instead I agreed to watch a show on television.  I don’t watch television because I don’t have the attention span unless there is something else I need to do.  Mind you I never sit idle.  I worked all day at one job, drove to the cleaners, and then to the second job.  I left work and headed to the gas station.  I let the gas tank get to a pretty precarious level and then I fill it. I was putting that off but I don’t like to challenge myself in that arena.  I drove home, parked and came upstairs and began baking a cake and biscotti.  While I was in a flurry of activity, I had started writing in my head.  Translating that into actual virtual writing took a bit of time.

Sometimes, I make a list and count the items and then organize them by importance.  Sometimes I decide to alphabetize the list and then list them in reverse importance.  Sometimes I write the list backwards (sdarwkcab) just to put off what I need to get done. Several months ago,  I had a report due that was required by an attorney.  It was important to my client.  I hate writing reports.  Instead that day, the spices in my cabinet caught my eye, actually both eyes.  I realized, with horror, that some of them might have expired.  I realized that I might have duplicates and could throw out the old ones.  I did a google search and found out which ones lose their essence first and the shelf life of others.  So for those who didn’t know this, some spices last four years but others only 1-2.  Saved you a google search. You’re welcome.  I took all the spices off the shelves and out of the drawer.  I would agree that I have a lot of spices.  I then cleaned the shelves, sorted through the spices and did the discard and then reorganized them both by height and alphabetically.  It’s not a waste of time, even though to the untrained eye it might appear that way.  I felt better, and the report then was written.

In many ways I am a point A to point B type of person.  I live with a point A to point S and back to point J and then possibly to LMNOP.  He is a  meanderer.  I have learned to slow down and take the long way.  The first time we drove a long distance I was sure that I was going to celebrate a couple of birthdays during the time we were on the road. It just seemed so long and winding.  I was waiting for the destination, per usual.  Then I started to pay attention to realize that there were a lot of back roads and alternatives that my FHB knew.  We ended up where we wanted to go, albeit slower than I might have considered.

Writing tends to be where I meander.  Baking is as precise as I get with good results.  Writing requires having blind faith in my own ability to let the words lead me to a satisfying end.  Knowing when something is done is also a skill both in writing as in baking.  To go off half-baked would leave some hungry for more or dissatisfied, and would make me seem flaky.  I’m done.

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His story, my life

Today would have been Edgar “Eddie’s”  96th birthday.  He has always been a big presence in my life.  Without him, I would not be.  Because of him, I am, in part, me.  He was not a large man in stature, only 5’6″.  I would say, I get my lack of height from him.  Even as I grew into an adult, he would always be taller than me and I somewhat liked that. He was strong in character and broad in knowledge.  He was respected for his wisdom, if he did say so himself.  His humor was dry and his wit was punny.  He had a grin that made you wonder if he was serious when he told stories. When he told difficult stories of hard times in his life, there was no grin, but a lesson to be listened to, and to be learned from.

He was my first teacher, along with my mother.  I was not always a good student and tested his patience which was probably quite normal .  In some ways as his daughter I was invited to learn about less traditional female endeavors, like hooking a worm or gutting a fish.  I was expected to not be squeamish and somehow I wasn’t.  He was strict/firm in his expectations and tolerant, when I probably was less tolerable.  He taught me lessons of parenting by learning how he would wait for me to come clean and recognize that when I messed up, I needed to acknowledge my behavior.  One clear memory was when I was in seventh grade and received a D in French.  I did not want to disappoint my parents and worked hard to change the D to an A on the report card.  He said nothing when I showed him the report card.  The day after, my parents went to teacher conference, with said report card in hand.  He came home and sat with me.  Up until that point, I thought I had gotten away with my “clever” solution to my problem.  He said, “I find it interesting that all your grades, except in French, were written in blue ink. I noticed that the A was in black ink and appears to have had a red inked circle around it but it seems faded, almost erased.  Anything I should know?”  I remember holding the report card up to the light like Sherlock Holmes assessing a piece of evidence.  I remarked “no, looks fine to me”.  I felt my face get hot and the tears began to stream down my face.  I moved a few inches away from him as I felt his gaze on my face.  He then said “I had a good conversation with Mr. J. You might have done better changing the  D to a B and using blue ink.”  Nothing more needed to be said.

When I turned 18, I thought I was an adult.  My parents had a nightly ritual when they both arrived home from work. They would sit in the kitchen and have a cup of tea and talk over the day’s events.  In those moments, there were no distractions, only conversation between a couple.  I was asked to bring my father a cup of tea. I complied.  They were deep in conversation.  My sister and I were raised with expectations of “please” and “thank you” and “may I be excused” after a meal.  We had designated seats at all meals.  I put the cup down on the table and waited for his “thank you”.  He and my mother was so engrossed in what they were saying nothing was said to me.  I turned, quite irate, as an 18 year old can be, and muttered under my breath…. “Say ‘Thank You’ you ……..(fill in the blanks with something completely related to the legitimacy of his birth)”.  That was a showstopper.  He roiled in anger and ordered me to my room.  I never had sworn in front of either parent.  They did not swear.  I was, up until that point, terrified to swear.  However, I was 18, an adult, and I could do what I wanted.  We did not talk from that day on until January 27th, 1972.  That was over two months.  My mother implored me to apologize.  I did not.  She insisted I buy him a birthday card. I bought a card that one would give to the old lady neighbor who lived down the hall who you didn’t like or never saw and barely acknowledged. It was cold.  I did sign it “love your daughter”.  No punctuation marks.  Could be read a multitude of ways.  He melted and I thawed.  He brought out some religious book and told me to “promise” I would never use that language ever again.  I couldn’t lie and I said I would promise never to use that language in his presence again and I never did.  That was a seminal moment.  I was his child and he was my parent.  Always and forever.  Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Bright One Queen

Braun Siblings

Naming a Jewish baby is not only a statement of what we hope she will be, but also where she comes from. Ashkenazi Jews have the custom of naming a child after a relative who has passed away. This keeps the name and memory alive, and in a metaphysical way forms a bond between the living and the dead.  I carry the name of my maternal grandmother, Bertha as my first name and my paternal great-aunt Regina, as my middle name.  Gratefully, on some level, I was not actually given their names but a first name that starts with ‘B’ and a middle name that starts with ‘R”.  I believe that had I grown up as Bertha Regina, it might have further constituted additional reasons to be targeted as a child.  The English translation of my Hebrew name is “Bright One Queen”.  .

Not personally knowing the person for whom you are named is a loss when you realize that for you to carry their name into the future, they are left in the past.  My mother talked often of her mother and some of the traits that she saw in me. She told me that she loved to entertain and cook, although she had a cook and maids which I clearly don’t have but I could probably get used to.  She said I was intelligent like she was.  Intelligent is a word that spans many levels and meaning. It is nice to believe that we had things in common and that we might have liked one another.  I don’t believe I resemble her as much as my cousin and oldest aunt do.

Tante Regina was an elusive figure in my family history.  All I have of her is the picture above, as she sits with her younger brothers.  My grandfather Sol,  is pictured on the left and my great-uncle, Siegfried, is on the right.  The picture was taken some time around World War I, as they are both in uniform.  I look at Regina and she looks “Queenly” and regal.  The story I was told by my father was that she was a seamstress, living in the town of Brauneberg or Dusemond, depending on whether the border changed from Germany to France.  It was in the Mosel Valley region, where some good wine came from.  She was single and although her brothers encouraged her to leave in the 1930’s, when Hitler came to power, she refused.  She remained.  She was stubborn.  She did not believe that anything would happen to her.  My grandfather and family emigrated to the United States in 1936 and his brother and family emigrated to Israel.  They never saw their sister again.  As my father recounted the memory of his aunt, he said “It was not the people in her town who came for her, but those from the next town”.

My sister and nephew went to Germany earlier this month and travelled to Bertha’s home town of Bremen.  They found our grandparent’s house where our mother grew up and the graves of our maternal great grandparents,  Adolph and Amalia.  While they were gone, I had it in my head to find out any information I could about Regina.  I used the  name search tool of Yad Vashem.  I had only her name and her approximate birth year.  Not much to go on but enough to find the records.

“Regina Braun was born in Brauneberg, Germany in 1882 to Daniel and Yohana. She was a seamstress and single. Prior to WWII she lived in Brauneberg, Germany. During the war she was in Brauneberg, Germany.

Regina was murdered in the Shoah.” The information was submitted by her brother Siegfried.

I don’t use my middle name as I chose to use my maiden name as my middle name, to honor my father’s family.  Every piece of information I come across feels like a baby step toward discovering and understanding where I come from.  My father collected pieces of our history and searched to make the connections.  It was his obsession until his death.  Tante Regina might have found my lack of sewing ability to be horrific but she might have recognized the quality that her nephew, my father, identified as stubborn in my personality.  She and all the rest are gone, but are not forgotten.

 

 

Drive!…She said.

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Remember your first car?  Mine was a 1972 Dodge Swinger with 87,000 miles.  I bought it in 1976 when we moved to Massachusetts.    It cost about $1,800. I have always been practical about a car.  I never wanted a convertible because I always had visions of being decapitated like Jane Mansfield.  It’s an ongoing worry.   I learned to drive when I was 21 because when you grow up in New York City, you don’t need a car.  Moving to a more rural area meant getting a car and learning to drive.  So, after 43 years, I think I would be considered an experienced driver with an almost, unblemished driving record.

So this rant is for my fellow drivers on the roads in Massachusetts.  I’ve been watching you and I have a number of suggestions.  I can see you reading on your cell phone.  I saw you holding it up at eye level,  and glancing at the road between texts or messages.  I quickly accelerated past you, on the left, in the passing lane, because I was convinced we might meet by accident, if you know what I mean.  I also want to point out to those of you who are engaged in a heated  conversation with your passenger, that turning to make your point, while you are driving,  means you might not exactly see that Mack truck in front of you.  Your passenger is there, right next to you. They have not exited the vehicle while you kept your eyes on the road.  Perhaps a rest area might be a better place to settle your conflict and allow me to drive safely to my destination.  Just a suggestion. For those drivers who apparently may have a woman in labor in the back seat and are racing in the passing lane and then pulling over to the right lane, it is probably not good for your wife/girlfriend/neighbor/daughter.  I suggest calling for an ambulance or a police escort.  You might be too rattled to drive.  And, if by chance, there is no woman in labor in the back or front seat, please slow down.  You are setting a bad example for those children.

Can we discuss turn signals?  They come with your car. They are not an accessory.  They are turn “indicators” which help those behind you not rely on psychic messages from you that you just realized you are getting off the exit.  I am pretty good at anticipating your moves, based on others who drive like you. However, it is just such a help to me when you are considerate and let me know that you are slowing down or speeding up because you just realized that next exit is yours.  I can’t thank you enough for changing that behavior.

I know that I don’t go too far above the speed limit because I don’t like to challenge the rules.  However, on the highways around here there are usually two or three lanes.  I encourage you to take advantage of this and pass me, on the left.  You don’t need to come up on my rear bumper because I am not going fast enough for you.  I don’t want to meet you, know you or have you that close at any time. You are not teaching me a lesson about driving faster.  Go away.

Just a couple of points to consider in the city.  Four way stop signs are something that people seem to struggle with.  They either drive through them after doing a California rolling stop (and we are not in California) or they stop but aren’t sure if they are next to go.  It is like playing chicken and taking your life in your hands or my life.  I appreciate when you encourage me to go first.  However, that just leads to more trouble because it confuses the drivers who thought it was their turn next.  Let’s just use the whoever’s first at the sign goes first and so on.  Thanks.  If I am trying to parallel park and you are behind me, could you not hit the horn continually while I am doing my best to get out of your way?  It kind of throws me off and then I am calling you names which are not nice and when you glare at me, when I look in the rear view mirror, it just slows down the process.  Be patient and we will just get along fine.

Well, that’s about it for now.  I feel better in the hope that this is just like a public service message.  Just please don’t read it while you are driving, arguing, or transporting a woman in labor.  Honk, honk!

Going Home

pexels-photoI think I am feeling a bit maudlin or nostalgic.  There are many writers who comment on the concept of going home.  For sixty-four years I have always identified home as New York City.  I have lived in Massachusetts more than two thirds of my life and yet I still feel, or realize, that I have felt that New York is my home.  This May, it will be ten years since my last parent, my mother, died.  Since that time, I have only been back a handful of times.  More recently, I took some time to really consider why I have been resistant, almost avoidant of going back to visit.  My FHB has never been a New York City fan.  He grew up in Providence, Rhode Island and never yearned to be a part of the city I grew up in.  We would visit my mother on a fairly irregular basis but we never spent a lot of time there.  Extended family and friends still call it home, but there too, we just stay away, despite invitations and opportunities.  There are several older cousins of my father, who still are around and they are in their eighties and nineties. I am painfully  aware that they are the last links to that generation.

My father has been gone almost nineteen years.  His death was sudden, and defined for me the concept of being a half orphan.  It meant that I had lost fifty percent of my childhood responsible adults.  My mother kept going for another nine years and she loved “The City”.  She would travel in by subway until she decided bus rides were easier and she was never in a rush, even if she was running late.  She took full advantage of all that the city had to offer whether it was the New York Philharmonic or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  She stayed a part of the city scene which kept her vital and engaged in the world.  Then, she too, left quickly.  My sister and I reeling from the loss, packed up her apartment of 58 years, and took what we wanted as memorabilia of a life we shared and moved those contents to Massachusetts. My sister continues to visit the city and maintains a strong connection to the culture.  It was actually her gift to my FHB and to me, that now makes me contemplate a visit and a re-entry to the city that still holds so many memories of a childhood, teenage years and a early adulthood that I had put aside.

“Come From Away” is a Broadway show that my sister wants us to see. She says it is something she believes we would love and enjoy. We have the means and now the motivation.  I love Broadway, or at least I grew up loving Broadway.  My mother would bring us regularly to see musicals.  We listened to the albums and learned the words and sang the songs.  It was magic.  I know I miss the magic.  We watch the Tony awards annually and talk in vague terms of going to see a show.

We live in the safety of a small city which has music, museums and theater.  We take regular advantage of all it has to offer.  It’s not New York.  As winter digs in I know that spring is really only nine weeks away.  We forced some narcissus bulbs several weeks ago and we have lovely white fragrant blooms.  In the dead of the winter, we have spring in our loft.   The flowers of Park Avenue in spring, and the blossoms and green of Central Park as the city comes alive,  are memories I have and I want to make again. As children we used to dress up in coats, hats, and white gloves to celebrate the spring.  I’m not sure those will be in our suitcase but I remember the city being welcoming and open to strangers from all over.  I have a feeling it won’t take too long to be in a ” New York State of Mind”. I’m going home.

 

The rules do not apply

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No dinner, no dessert.  Wait an hour before you go swimming after you eat.  Ask to be excused before you leave the table.  Wait your turn.  Don’t interrupt.  Don’t question an adult.  Tell the truth. Manners and rules.  Civility, restraint, sound judgement.

We live in a world with limits and boundaries.  They are not only established theoretically and physically, but also based in order.  As children we test the boundaries. We figure out when we have crossed a line, that  there will be consequences, sometimes serious, sometimes momentary and less critical.  We learn.  We become adults.  We teach ourselves to self monitor our drives and wants and shoulds.  We learn to pay attention to what we need and what others need from us.  We learn that our behaviors truly do affect others.  We develop a conscience and a moral compass that takes us where we go and gives us satisfaction when we accomplish something we can be proud of.

And then, there are some that never learn, never become aware of others, and do harm and have no conscience.  These words, at this moment, are all I have to process the rage and fear.  I use my intellect to hold myself safe in my mind to not give in to emotional outbursts.  One of the challenges of growing up and older was to learn to truly internalize the understanding that what others think of me, matters less than what I know to be true of myself.  Maybe I misunderstood this concept.  I know it does mean that I cannot be judged by others.  Intent is key.  When I have done something wrong, I apologize.  When I say something hurtful, I apologize.

As I was raising my children, I would tell them that we have two ears to listen, and one mouth to talk.  Therefore we should listen twice as hard before we speak.

The voice that didn’t listen and just talked and invoked rancor and caustic destruction, must be muted.  Don’t mess with the rules.  Peace before power, in the dictionary and in life.

The ties that bind

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Sometimes in marriage, the function of the collaboration might seem like an LLP. If we borrow, in a broad sense, from the legal definition, one partner is less liable in a situation than the other partner, in misdeeds and debts.  The counter to that might mean that when things go well, we both take the credit.  Tonight’s episode of “Installing a New Modem” was brought to you by our local cable company (who I will not credit, as they will charge me for naming them).  We don’t have a choice because we live in the loft and everyone is forced into a relationship with this corporation.  Sometimes my FHB and I make decisions, not in haste, but rather out of necessity because our options are few.  Of the two of us, he is the person who really uses 97.48% of the television time, and that figure is probably a rather conservative number.  I use the internet more, and the home phone, which is the trifecta in this formula, is hardly ever used.

Recently, we were trying to do something called streaming, which apparently has nothing to do with fly fishing, although I thought that was a good guess.  We wanted to watch a particular show on Amazon, who will be named, because I get “free” two-day shipping for $99 a year.  A corporate “friend”, right? Weeks ago, because we could not watch the show without it doing something called “buffering”, which has nothing to do with nail care, although I thought that too, was a good guess, we had to call for tech support.  We would be able to watch five minutes of the show, and then it would “buffer”.  It was beyond annoying.  So my FHB had a conversation with someone in consumer relations (hah, a misnomer if I ever heard  one).  Somehow, the end result was that we signed on for another two years, paid several dollars less, with the promise of better, bigger, and  more bandwidth (which has nothing to do with the size of a marching band…).The story did not end there, because it did not improve either our ability to watch the show, or our mood, which quickly soured.  I spent close to two hours of my life, that I will not get back, talking with some people, who, when the conversation came to an end, informed me that we had done something wrong by not replacing the old modem with the new, faster than lightning speed, modem.  The customer is clearly never right.

My FHB went to replace the said modem, and brought it home and then the fun began.  I would like to say that the television is important to me, but it is not. It takes up valuable wall space and it is a box filled with noise, rarely sound.  However, as in a three-legged race, you have to work as a team, or everyone is unhappy and you trip over one another.   We had to re-set the program, come up with a password, copy all sorts of weird code words and this was the last thing I was interested in doing.  Yet, do it I did.  We both have strengths when it comes to the household technology.  Somehow, which is really odd for me to say, but I am better at figuring out the computer.  He is far better with the television.  I still never know which stations are which number.  I understand the microwave, he takes care of the electric toothbrushes.  In actuality, we did everything we needed to do and the problem still exists.  Oh, yes, did I mention, that the bill for our trifecta, arrived today by email.  Gotta love it.

Sometimes, we talk about a snowstorm we had five years ago when we lost all technology and heat and light for five days in our little house in the woods.   Even our stove needed an electric start.  We talked of being “off the grid”.  It was romantic and unrealistic and for the first 72 hours, was almost fun.  Then it got cold, and dark and not so much fun. Perspective and context.  We are a good team, both in problem solving moments, and in the rest of life.  When two people, one who is over six feet and the other is under five feet, run a race tied together, it is a recipe filled with laughter and compromise.  Still laughing.