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.
Dearest Liam a beautiful baby now on the bema making us beam with pride. He lead the congregation in prayer with a full heart of “right from wrongs,” and hopes and promises for what will continue to be a philanthropic and protective future. He prayed to HaShem to bless his immediate population and the world beyond his four walls with love, health and peace. He never begrudges his birthright and his nature is philanthropic and generous. He truly cares about how other people feel.
Cut to yesterday morning in Pittsburgh. A day of sabbath in a random synagogue engaging in a sermon of prayers and gratitudes as we did one month ago.
No Donald Trump-an armed guard in the Tree of Life Synagogue would would not have prevented this assailant from storming in Nazi style and committing the deadliest rampage against a Jewish Community in our country’s history. The murderer’s life was spared and he was deemed in “stable”condition. As far from the truth as can be imagined.
We are mired in prayer today choosing to focus with eyes who spent formative years in the 1960’s when we walked into a Shabbat service, our school, the bowling alley, or the local candy store and banked on leaving with more than we came in with.
A perfect moment in time stands still for nobody. With the iPhone producing photos with clarity in instant Polaroid fashion, we click on camera, shoot and go to photos. We experience the moment nanoseconds after we lived it. As we sigh a relief that the shot came through after we edited it, enhancing the color and eliminating a couple of years and a few lbs. even better than what we saw when we put our makeup on that morning. As we .com our way in mega- bytes, gif’s, compressed discs, http://www.dropbox, instagrams, monograms and sonograms we use the pause button and catch our breath. We’ve become electronically dependent systemically. When we forget our phone and ask the Uber driver to wait while we run back up, we know we are hooked. Those times that we try to chill without typing a message, posting a picture or playing words with friends (never seeing their reaction to using all 7 letters) are metrically minimal. So often I want to go back to black and white t.v.’s with rabbit ears, get up to change the station and eliminate the panic when I can’t find the remote. Peripatetically we marathon our way through the day. Our slow down, quiet time is listening to an hour of horrific news before we dress for dinner and begin again. We just celebrated a second grandsons Bar-Mitzvah within a month of time. We flew to Israel, recalibrated our daily ways and paused our marathon life. In a very deliberate way we left our phones in the room, counted blessings and realized the view from the inside out. We felt our way through a week of honoring Jack Gomberg. We fine tuned and edited our lives, if even for just one hour, just one day (at a time). This beautifully spirited young boy that we greeted 13 years ago when Sophia reached over and handed us her first born child has now davened his way to manhood. The entire congregation of family and dear friends prayed with one heart. I made a side deal with Hashem. I told him he should take a piece of good from my very full plate of good fortune and give it to Jack. Not to borrow-to keep. We have had front row seats in Jack’s life. Whether watching his expressions when he saw the seals at the zoo surface while being fed, listening to his screams of delight as he requested we give him another push higher on the swing, delighting in his pleasure as he yummed his way through chicken nuggets, pasta and apple juice, marveling at the creativity of his magna tile Gomberg compound, or walking into the room he created in our apt. that became his private movie theater and he asked us politely to shhhh- and please close the door- we have been by his side. And I quote from his Bar Mitzvah speech “Grandpa Ira and Judy I know you would both do anything for me. I feel your love whenever I’m with you.” Back to Jack’s week of Glory. Sophia and David you’ve out done yourselves and then some. The detailed planning and impeccable scheduling clearly a labor of love. No need to hold on to your hats the ride is going to be anything but bumpy. Oh, Sophia you created a happening we will never forget. It all began when the doorman rang up to say we had something that was just delivered.. We opened the package of goodies. Dad received a beautiful back pack. I got a monogrammed, perfect size carry bag to bring on the trip. I saw it as a cool satchel to collect and carry my memories back home. The package included a creatively designed folder with the insignia designed by and about Jack. The syllabus detailed.Jack Gomberg’s Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem, Israel. We both got very cool hoodies that we wore throughout the trip. How extraordinary and fitting that we would be spending a week of exploration and wonder in the area of the world in between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, “The Holy Land.” With every detail in place, bravo Sophia, we boarded the private bus each day and followed our hearts. All the while listening to the cacophony of sounds of children talking and laughing. The welcome dinner began at a restaurant called Kaffit. As we ate and drank we became familiar with the other guests who led with love and came to celebrate Jack Gomberg. We shared the next week from the views and ancient history of Masada and The Dead Sea, to being entertained by a fire eater, who we’ve come to learn has to remember two things. One, that fire and hot air move upward. The second, not to inhale while performing. We toured a 3,500 year old biblical area which is in an Israeli settlement in Shilo in the Northern West Bank. We learned about the history through a movie shown in a spectacular theater of ten giant screens offering a panoramic view of the entire area. We drove ATV’s in roller coaster fashion, through dirt roads filled with olive branches. So exciting, so fun. This was the only bumpy ride all week. We had an evening of karaoke and a montage slide show that Sophia and David put together ahead of time. We were all asked to describe Jack from our point of view. When we woke up on Thursday morning we dressed stylishly, put on the most comfortable, great looking flat shoes, generously given as a gift from Sophia. Another detail to help make our walk easier through the Kotel to the room in the tunnel to listen as Jack became a man. I kvelled and cried as I watched Ira open the Arc and hand his grandson the Sifrei Torah. Jack’s performance was nothing less than spectacular. His speech, for those in the know, so very Jack. As his heritage combines both Sephardic and Ashkenaz, on Saturday morning he paid homage to both sects through prayer. I was in awe of the festive Sephardim part of the service as it was nothing I’ve heard before. With the week coming to a close our young man who came to Israel a boy is now a Bar Mitzvah. Oh Sophia and David you sprinkled seeds, watched them grow over night to sunflowers and now your first born son has grown his first branch. We leave the land of our people, with honor, our love of G-d and the memories you planted in all our names to honor Jack. Baruch HaShem!
Buy the ticket- take the ride! From March, 2017
-As my daily “habits” began I read The Skimm early this morning. There was a follow up to a New York Times article I read a few weeks back in the Sunday Style section another “habit” -It was written by a young woman named Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She was terminally ill and wrote her modern love story “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” She extolled his virtues and told about their love together. She wrote it as an obit to herself. It read like an ad for a singles website that would be flooded with followers. An abbreviated life, albeit lucky in love.
There are so many cliches galore about hanging with people who value you and bring you joy-and in turn staying away from people who set fires and have mastered the art of playing the burn victim. Make a “habit”of choosing the people who cover your back as you traverse through curves in your terrain. Stay very close to “side of the road people,” you know the ones who pull over to text you and let you know that they put an extra leaf in the table, called for rental chairs and are including the people with no where to go for Passover. You never know when you will fall upon your greatest lessons- perhaps from a stranger- RIP- Amy Krouse Rosenthal.
When the leaves were orange and the living was easy. What does the tooth fairy do with all the teeth? Why are the people in the front of the picture so much bigger than the people toward the back? Out of the mouths, when life was oh so mellow.
We bought our first pair of silk stockings which were to be held up by a stretchy pink and white striped garter belt. The days of Ozzie and Harriet, Susan Lucci and Soupy Sales.
We re-dialed after our friends line was busy the first time and screeched with excitement, Conrad Birdie style, over our anticipated coed- girl/boy party that evening. After we sat under a hot dryer with beer can sized rollers in our hair we brushed away the fumes from our eyes left by aqua spray. The decision to curl our hair rather than iron it straight was a good one, our hair came out just right. Getting ready “Was” the excitement. Our new madras blouse and alpaca sweater hung prominently in the front of our closet right above our shiny, new cordovan colored weejuns. Bright, new Penny, dated 1969 heads up in place.
A touch of revlon blush, a glimmer of light pink lipstick proceeded a spritz of Ambush and we were on our way. With dejavu on my breath I can still recall euphorically how it felt when I unbuttoned the wooden clasps that kept my new Pea Coat in tact. The boys gathered on one side of the room as the girls sifted through the 45’s on the other. At this point there was no bottle to spin in sight. Would the Angels sing tonight as our soldier boys danced under the Blue Moon?
The specialty years of pre-teening had a wonderful life of its own. We made room for our daydreams laced with Johnny Mathis lyrics. Our Barbie and Ken’s were repositioned and left to fetch for themselves in the back row of our minds. In the “still of the night” I hold tightly to the memories that Jay and the Americans knew were those Magic Moments.
A -my name is Alice and my husband’s name is Al, we come from Alabama and we sell Apples. As I open the cupboard on memories, bouncing a Spaulding as we sang the A my name is Alice rhyme, lifting our leg over the ball with each bounce, was an all time great walk around the corner and under a tree. A veritable, primordial work out and creative singing lesson all in one. My sister Bettie Ann and I grew up together and hung with the girls on the block. We stopped playing and walked home for our tuna sandwich or the treat of salami on rye, only made better with the delicious taste of mustard. After lunch we would stroll around the corner to the all purpose grocery store. I can vividly see the barrel of pickles prominently sitting next to the left of the front door. We would use part of our allowance to buy candy. Our first go to was a striped pixy stick, a straw filled with lik-m-aid. For those in the know it’s a tasty sugary retrospective in time. The original version of Fun Dip. We would then mosey over to the red licorice and marshmallow peeps. At Halloween the chicks turned into orange faced pumpkins. Fast forward 56 years. It’s 6:00 A.M. time to put up the coffee, my turn to “make the donuts.” I woke up salivating for a piece of my past, inside that grocery store. My sister Bettie Ann and I would bring our bag of goodies up to the counter. The man would take the pencil he harbored behind his ear and tally up our treats.
With our visual bounty in hand we would skip our way home and unveil the contents, perhaps trade a piece or two.
Our afternoons were often consumed through adventures with Dick and Jane, The Bobbsey Twins or figuring out if Nancy Drew was ever going to hook up with one of the Hardy Boys. As we felt the heat of the oven cooking sweet potatoes we knew they would soon be sitting next to the very well done lamb chops and canned peas Sophie was making for dinner. A welcomed pre- dinner activity was watching Patty Duke and her identical cousin navigate their way through high school. We often tried to distinguish between the subtleties in their looks. Hmmm! I long for those days of innocence when the doctor appointments took place as we sat upon the kitchen table. The local store that sold glass bottles of milk and farmer cheese made no room on the shelf for ammunition. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President.
Everybody in Grovers Corners looked into the grocery store and the drugstore once a day in Our Town by Thornton Wilder. It is with older eyes and wiser hearts that we live our lives. So, for today reach for the red licorice after a very sour pickle and make it a good Day!