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.
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.