And so the crowd consisted of you with me alongIt could have been the three of us as he fine tuned our songThe stage was set, we sat back in our seatWe could have been sitting in a meet and greet.As the evening unfolded with an Amy and Donna shout outWe got a real good taste of what we are all aboutFriends from days of school and sitting side by sideOur story they were telling with a “who knew” from far and wideAs the sister theme popped-up from a woman to our leftOur theme continued, we’re amongst the best!Schoolmates and sisters with 72nd street we shareAs long as we walk together, we’ll have no fearPooling history and devotion, strolled down too many aisles to countAdding layers upon layers as our story it does mountChalked up our differences and taken them in strideAs we’re rounding 56 we got forever on our side.
My mother loved FOOD- shopping, unpacking, organizing the refrigerator, preparing, cooking, eating, wrapping leftovers, eating, cleaning out the refrigerator, eating some more. She studied food and became a dietItian. Studied some more and with her masters degree was titled nutritionist. Then she earned an M.S.W. in social work at the age of 50. I think she wanted to figure out through research why food was always top of mind.We relied on radishes cleaned and in (Tupperware) with French dressing as an after school snack. Sometimes I opted for a can of Buitoni Ravioli, yum as I think about it now.
We waited around and did homework until dinner. We came to expect something breaded, something fried, with Le Seur Peas and a baked sweet potato. We looked forward to broiled baby lamp chops- we still do. The standard appetizer was a salad of iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and carrots shredded on top. Our cabinets were filled with one or more of Hostess-snowballs, cupcakes, twinkies, drakes ring dings and yodels. Wasn’t yours? Euphoric gastronomic recall. Mom saved the Lindt Chocolate for her card games.As the culinary seed was planted I waited for it to sprout into my type of cuisine. I too, love food.
However, everything else around it also delights. I have an extensive salt and pepper shaker collection. Through the years I’ve collected sets from places I’ve traveled to. Antiquing added some of the silver and glass ensembles. My most valued treasures are the sets that were thoughtful and hand picked gifts from family and friends.Betty Boop and Harley Davidson hang out in my cabinet together and are often called on to add extra flavor and put smiles on our faces. Dishes, silverware, vases and amber glass anything, offer flare to my visual hobby. With flowers arranged in one bud vases and table settings in place, we decant the wine and add it to the palette. My collection of soupcons , mine are (petite silver serving ladles), Merriam Webster defines the term as “a touch, a dash a small amount, an inkling.” I first saw a collection at an antique fair in Paris and added them to mine.A piece of advice handed down to my from a wise, older friend was that collecting things you love and having hobbies that help bring you to full expression helps to add grace and delight to your world. Yes and Yes!Shopping for ingredients and researching the best mozzarella and fleur verte, a favorite past time. We align seats for comfort and space as we add to the canvas. As we double check that the creases in the napkins are well pressed in our Downton Abbey moment, we fill the water glasses 3/4 full. Then the final touches- lighting candles and setting up the ice on the bar next to the olives, lemon and lime slices. All the time while paying attention to details, the flames on the oven are on low and I check my ” something breaded, something fried.” I learned from The Best.
With fabulous spirits we danced the “oh, what a night away.” One more evening of “will you dance with me? The music started before we got there. As I put on eyeshadow and lip gloss I listened to Julie Andrews crooning to “On the Street Where You Live” and knew then “I could have “danced all night.” And we did! With our history of forever dance floors we stepped out, turned on our inner souls and boogie, oogie, oogied. A little, vodka and some rack of lamb was the precursor to watching you both devour the bones and leave the meat and potatoes behind. It’s always amazing when I learn the same lesson twice. Last evening I was reminded how I will always have a song in my heart for you, as you both occupy a large part of it. The music may have stopped, but our melody lingers on.🙏
So many of the old adages are now living at my front door. Cliches that I never got, couldn’t internalize or just wasn’t ready for have now come into play with regularity. Fortuitously, they serve as the bettor at our Mah-jongg table and the leathered decorated card turner at our Canasta games. More forgiving and grateful, less of a focus on verbalizing differences seems to be our new posture. We sit down and the magic occurs. First game out we adjust our seat, call on our strategy and throw the dice or deal the cards. We leave so much more to chance. No more rebuffing what is, just fact and acceptance feel like the right paths to take. We flinch at the first interference in our game of Life–and in turn almost welcome it. A phone call from a friend’s daughter sharing the joy over their daughter’s ballet recital is typical. An interruption because the decorator went to the wrong place, perhaps. The bell ringing when the handyman comes to prepare the terrace for planting. We pool our woes and share our joys. We take home the name of a good dermatologist and flatter one another when we admire a new pair of very cool boots. Are we the lucky ones who have turned happenstance into “sheer” delight?
My parents had an activity with their weekly Canasta group called “Coffee and…” I am now getting that the “and” was so much more than chocolate bridge mix or babka. Yes mama, I’m counting sevens and aces, remembering to take the Talon and looking three cards back not to throw the deck.
I love our “and.” When I was younger and had a piece of chicken. I would eat the wings last. I savored the best for then. I now sit down to our chicken lunch and go for the wings first. I rush thru my broccoli and cheddar omelette just to get the cards in my hands. I know that the real reason I enjoy our games so, is because they recapitulate my parents activity of continuity. Well here’s to so many more days of Mah Jongg, Canasta “And.”
There’s a hold up in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s broken out in fights. There’s a traffic jam in Harlem- that’s backed up to Jackson Heights. There’s a scout group short a child, Khruschev’s due at Idlewild- “Car 54 Where Are You?” Gunther Toody and Officer Muldoon- where are you when we need you? Indelible visuals of their caricatures implanted in our minds. We only wanted them to get back together as partners. Their chemistry was real. My go to is Barbra with an A. “Was it all so simple then or has time re-written every line?”
When the going was good, with euphoric recall, I remember the days of no wine, maybe sweet sixteen roses. We drew the hopscotch board on the part of the sidewalk that was flat. Throwing my skate key as my hopscotch shooter was so exciting- where would it fall? Happy to land with two feet on 3 and 4 or 6 and 7 (double squares). Biggest worry was that the street light would go on before I found my skate key en route home to watch the latest episode of Dr. Kildare, ( Richard Chamberlain) was very cute . We loved playing stoop ball- loosely based on baseball, only we used a Spaulding and retrieved it from the stoop steps, rather than from a batter. Really loved the game of Jacks. We didn’t care that we were often left with scrapes on the side of our hands from pinky to wrist. Bacitracin and band-aids were big in our house. The boys on the block played Stickball, (baseball with a stick.)
Johnny on The Pony was a fave, rough housing at its best. Great memory and first glimpse into early on-set competition was watching the boys play skully. Remember flicking bottle caps into a chalk made skully board? Object not over-flicking–nope it’s on the line.
And then came the “Whistle.” I think our father practiced it a few times before we heard it coming as a “it’s time.” We did not look forward to hearing that sound at all, and in the middle of a game -ugh! But Daddy we aren’t done. “Please, just a little bit longer.”! Denominations of time didn’t matter. Ten more minutes would have done. I cherished these after dinner nightly reunions. Iris Stoller and Linda Widensky were becoming my two best friends. I just got my new jacks set and they wanted to play with me. The crescendo of childhood memories was getting our baby bead bracelets with the letters spelling our names and encased in gold. Our piece of the sky, indeed.
So with resignation and dismay I left the street. Bath time, Dr. Kildare and maybe some of Pinky Pinkham( Dorothy Provine) singing a few tunes at the Charleston Club. So like the corners of my mind filled with the innocence of skate keys, Nancy Drew books and red licorice; never a clue that Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five would become the thundering moral statement of our time. Oh, what I would give to hear that infamous whistle beckoning me to come in, just one more time- And Daddy this time I would come in right away!
With make-up and hair in place I dressed for a blessed day for Liam’s right of passage. With a lingering picture of the first glimpse of him 13 years ago I entered the shul carrying that memory in the forefront of my mind. This beautiful baby boy was about to ritualistically come of age. Yes indeed I was kvelling. With luck and determination I’ve come to know this young man in an intimate and charming way. I just love him.