Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer Memories

         Here's the story

Photo courtesy of
I don’t know when my father’s eyes turned grey.  They were always brown. I know they were, brown like an Italian, my mother’s blue, like a German.  I know that for a fact because I that’s how I spoke of my heritage.  My dad’s German but looks Italian.  My mom’s Italian but looks German.  So, how did they get to be grey?  Does the color leak out as you age?  Will my whole world revert to black and white one day, just as so many of memories of my childhood are?  Will I, too, lose the color from my eyes? Black and white. I see myself, my family, our friends, all in black and white for the first seven years of my life, the time before we moved from the Bronx to the suburbs.

Old family photos show children, in the summer, looking sun-kissed, rosy cheeks and golden curls shine through the monochromatics.  The adults always looked happy.  Stress wasn't invented yet.  I see moms in sundresses, pouring lemonade and dads in sparkling white undershirts, beers in hand. We are pictured seated at tables on front porches. We’re in folding chairs at backyard parties, omnipresent bowls of ice cream, huge watermelons and cans of soft drinks, littering hand-embroidered tablecloths. We smile as we look at the camera, squinting at the sun.  The boys are often pictured showing their best “funny faces”, for then and now forever.  Budding comedians who never made it to the stage.

I love to think of my mother, in her youth, enjoying a summer day but it is my youthful father who fills that space in my memory more often than not.  Mommy worked away from the home all day and Daddy, as a New York policeman who worked shifts, was more available.  It was he who wove together my childhood summer recollections.  I see Dad at the beach, Dad at Playland, Dad in the kitchen, making Campbell’s mushroom soup for our lunch and it was Dad who, on that June morning when we left our first home forever, drove us to our brand-new home in a brand-new car, his surprise for my mother, brother and I.

I remember that moment so well.  The vision of my brown-eyed father, the pride and joy written all over his face as we drove away taking his family to their house in the suburbs in a beautiful shiny sedan that June morning. That car, it was as blue as the sky that day. The sun hung, bright yellow in the sky, exactly where my dad had placed it.

My father hasn’t any memory of this moment or of us making our move but I do, so clearly.  I can’t remember much about the rest of that particular day but I do know this much.  From that day on, my summer memories, in fact all of my remaining childhood memories, are in color. Vivid color. And blue, it's my favorite.
Wink, wink.......Image courtesy of

Monday, June 23, 2014


Photo courtesy of clouducation

I honestly don't think I've ever been anywhere or experienced anything as perfect as the past two days here on Cape Cod.  The first day of Summer came in full glory, and it was non-stop-wonderful from the first breath, as if Summer were a newborn baby.

From the moment I woke on Saturday, right straight through the setting of the sun last night, I was hyperactive.  I cleaned things that had been neglected for a long time, I laundered everything I could get my hands on, sorted things, re-did closets, readied all of the plastic-ware that we use for beach dining, shopped, planned, and visited.  I even managed to get some time to rest and some time to play at a watercolor demonstration called "painting with gravity".  More about that later.

Was it the fact that my husband was away for the weekend, visiting his mother?  Did I feel the need to fill my time?  I honestly don't think so. Here's what I do think.  I was "nesting".  Getting ready in a way that women who are in the final hours of a pregnancy, carry on.  Preparing for the arrival of the new season, much the same way I did when prepping for the arrival of my children.  I doubt that I will ever forget scrubbing the grout in our bathtub with a toothbrush during a heat wave in August of 1973, sticking sequins onto Styrofoam balls, one by one, in March of 1971.  I knew the baby birdies would soon arrive and I had to have everything in sight readied for them.

So, Summer is here, the new baby has arrived.  I probably slept right through the Solstice. That's what happens as a result of this "nesting" phenomenon.  I used to teach childbirth classes way back when young couples took time for things so mundane as learning to breathe and control their bodies without drugs.  By the end of class Number Six, I made certain that they knew the signs of the onset of labor, that there would be a surge, an irresistible force that would drive them to do extraordinary things that would exhaust them. I cautioned the soon-to-be moms, told them to try very hard to not give in to the urges, to sit it out and rest, knowing that labor would be approaching and they would need all of that strength and stamina.

I'm sitting here now, suddenly aware of birds chirping in the trees and I'm sure that I'm hearing tiny noises that I have not yet heard.  Spring is over. Welcome Summer.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Days

I've begun writing a piece for a group that will meet next week.  The leader of the group has provided us with a prompt, inspiring us to recollect  a summer day from our youth and I was having a difficult time, digging deep and coming up dry every time.  My immediate thoughts were to find and describe a bucolic day, one that had sun, a gentle breeze and a lemonade stand. After a short stream of consciousness in which I had difficulty stringing those idealizations together,  I concluded  that I did not have one memory of a such a day.

The fact is, most of my summer day memories are overshadowed by thoughts of heat, humidity and too many hours filled with counting the days until the end of Summer rather than basking in the sun of one. Looking back, I have visions of myself, dressing on July mornings, preparing for the day ahead, exiting an air-conditioned train (should I wear a lightweight cotton sweater for the chilly ride in?) to a wall of stale heat and hung-over humidity before the longest four block walk on wide-open Park Avenue.  The sun had no place to hide and I'm sure it was always ten degrees hotter there than anywhere else on the island of Manhattan. The humidity of a July day was palpable.  It had a life of its own and as the train rounded the bend in track, just north of 125th Street, it hung above the East River like a giant roll of cotton gauze.

 I feel my feet, sinking into the pavement at Columbus Circle on the day I took my nursing boards in July of 1968.

  I see myself, standing on a subway platform, years later, a soft breeze filling the air space around my face as I fanned with an exquisite little hand bentilator that had been a gift from a Filipino friend.  I held that fan so tightly in the fear that I would be mugged for it.  It was black and white floral and I worshiped it.

And, I can't help but feel sorry for myself every time I think back to the days when, at the end of a "3-H" day, my hopes and dreams of a cool ride home crashed with the announcement of yet another air conditioning equipment break-down, causing the thirty minute ride to feel more like thirty hot and muggy years.

Waves of shock still grip me when I picture myself opening an invitation to a summer a August.  Or a "Look Out, it's a Cook Out" invitation for what I always knew would be the hottest day on record.  My fears would be unmatched when one would arrive, thoughtfully announcing plans for a poolside bash with the words "Grab Your Swimsuit" splashed across the top. There would not have been a cover-up large enough for the area I would have wanted to hide.

Years later find me totally unconcerned about my appearance at the pool party and utterly enchanted with the appearance of baby granddaughters in their bikinis.   I live worlds apart from the days when I was terrorized by the evening weather person announcing the next day's forecast, over and over "sizzler tomorrow, hazy, hot and humid". I live near the seashore now and I welcome those warm days, filled with sun, in a way that almost scares me.  I'm not sure if that is the reason behind my re-shaped memories of perfect Summer days or, could it be that on one, hazy, hot and humid August day, almost forty one years ago, my  whole world, not just my Summers, changed for the better, when I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl.

Sara and Lucy in Hawaii

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

Ten Years has made more than one change.  Dad at 82.  
I did my thing.

It was with my heart in my hand that I made the phone call this morning, with the same pit in my stomach that I usually have when I make that phone call, daily, sometimes twice.  I really, really tried but I lost the battle.Again. Today.

"Come on over for lunch! I'm making pasta"

"Nah, no, but thanks anyway"

"Why not?"

"I just don't feel like it"

Today is Father's Day.  A day that we can honor our fathers, unabashed.  It's the day that we can tell them, verbally, in our kind gestures, or by the use of our friends at Hallmark, how much we truly do love them, and care for and about them.  It's that one day in the year when we can sum it all up without anyone getting embarrassed or without any holds barred.  We can tell Dad that we love him, always have, and always will.  We can let him know that we still remember all the times that he put us first, that he spent his last buck and bore alone the worry of how he was going to buy his subway tokens for the rest of the week, in the days before the words ATM, Debit Cards, Cash Advance or disposable income were in the vernacular.  It's the day, the one out of the 365, when we can tell him that we remember the look on his face when we accomplished so much more than he ever dreamed he might have, sitting there at our graduations, our weddings, our children's graduations and weddings.  It's the day that we can say that together we've weathered a few storms without caving and together, we'll make it through some of the toughest yet to come. I promise to be brave, even if you falter.  I'll keep your secrets.

You'll never read this Dad, but it doesn't matter.  I just want you to know that I agreed with Mom's last words to you when she said "Charlie, you are the bravest man I've ever known".  I just want you to know that I'll never forget anything, and will always think of you as the kindest and most generous man who lived to make his family happy and sacrificed to guarantee that they would be.

It is because of you and Mom, the two greatest teachers of courage and wisdom, that I understand that you've changed, you have not disappeared.  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Tuesday is Museday

  1. 1.
    the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
    "the art of the Renaissance"
    synonyms:fine artartwork 

  2. 2.
    the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.
    "the visual arts"

Every Tuesday, we make art.  That's right.  A.R.T.  A "branch" of creative activity.  Right up there in the definition. 

We express our human creative skills and imaginations.

We don't do crafts.

  We make art.


  Four or five of us


Just as  we've been doing for the past two-plus years.  And, together, we appreciate the "beauty and emotional power" of what we do.  Most of the time.  That's us.  We also drink coffee, eat fresh baked pastries, and we rehearse the lost arts of verbal communication and healthy debate.  Sometimes, we simply thumb through magazines and cut things out that we will use for another day. Another collage. There are days during which we teach each other new creative skills, share supplies and complete works that we can hang in our garages.  But it's art and we make it and, the best part is that the art makes us.

Style?  We each have our own.  Our "signatures". We have been doing this so long, it's easy now to see the patterns, to predict the outcomes, each of us conforming to our inner voices, our muses, our personal guides. Four different departments in the shop of life, each featuring its own story. One will be cherubs, one will be fine details, one will be playful and one will always be glittered.  In a line up, we could easily be identified. We wear our art so well.  And on Tuesday mornings, at ten o'clock, we sit down with each of our muses and allow our art to breathe and direct us. 

Our muses are strong and powerful.  It's all about what they want.  They provide the structure.  They tell us when to start the "catch-up round".  In a matter of minutes, we find out where we've been, who we've seen, what we've eaten and how are families are doing.  Once we find our pulse, we get to our work.  As we cut, paste, color, paint or sit and turn pages, we talk and offer opinions.  Four different women.  Four different opinions surface.  We're like "The View" with glue.  Daytime T.V. would eat us up alive, we're that good.  We don't always debate and we don't always have differing opinions and life isn't always a masterpiece.  But when we come together and share more than our art supplies,  our muses do their best work.  Art stretches itself and we realize that we, with the beauty of our personalities, the luster of our existence, the patina that time has lent, become the real works as we express and apply our human creative skills and imaginations.  When we simply support each other, we become the spectacular works, appreciated primarily for their beauty and emotional power as four women can do for each other.  With the help of their muses......

Please pass the glitter.

Sunday, June 8, 2014


Mid last week found me completing my annual physical exam at the office of my wonderful family practitioner, way down there in Cotuit. I'm a (thankfully) fairly healthy person and for a woman my age, somewhat of an easy patient for one who deals all day with the entire spectrum of womb to the tomb.  When asked, I answer "great" to her question of how I am doing and she always answers with "well, that makes my job so much easier".  We spend most of our time chatting and cover all the bases as we do.  Family life (mine) sometimes co-mingles with hers and the opportunity for teaching never eludes either of us.  She's younger than I but she is very, very smart and very wise so I always listen and learn.  Most of what I learn is about myself.

When the discussion turned to aging parents, to where they are fitting into my life at this time, she of course asked about my father's plans for his future.  He hasn't any and cannot be convinced that now is the perfect time to make some.  If you truly believe you are never going to die, you don't have to make any plans, you just keep on living.  Next question then concerned his living will.  We shared a chuckle and then a serious turn, "do you have a DNR on him?"  D-N-Noooo, I don't!!  I know what he really wants and he trusts me to do the right thing at the right time.  What, resuscitate him and sentence him to another few hours, days, weeks, months of years of the tiny slice of life that he lives?  Prolong his wait for that reunion with the love of his life?  No.  It will not be happening. Not on my watch.

Perfect timing.  I have to make my own plans.  Discussion with husband time but more than that.....I have to make it abundantly clear, put it in writing where it will be seen.  If I give up the game, do NOT, do not, not, not, "R" me!  Leave me alone.  Let God do His thing.  Don't mess with anything.  Especially if I make it to my late eighties.  I don't want to be Rrr'd unless.........

Guns, all guns and all weapons of small, medium or large destruction are removed from the Earth, never to return

Reality shows are banned and never seen again

The Kardashians have all become extinct

Rap music is passe

Cancer is totally cured

There is but one political party and lie detector testing is integral in the leader selection

Parents have stopped applauding and saying "good job" every time a child passes gas

Hand-held electronic devices are forbidden in restaurants and any other public places

Laws are enforced

People realize how stupid it is to text someone in the next room

People realize the incredible waste of time that texting and FaceBook are

Chocolate makes you thin

Everyone lives in peace and harmony, huge houses with swimming pools beside the seashore

Nah, on second thought, just leave me alone, I repeat, leave me alone and DNR anything.  If you do, I will haunt you every night when I finally don't R anymore. I think I  just described Heaven and all the things I expect to find there and it's all looking pretty good. So, please let me die.  Thank you.

Now, where do I sign?

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Do I say what I want and cast my fate to the wind?
Now, here's an explanation if ever there was one
There's a wonderful little sitcom that we watch just about every evening.  It's in reruns and comes on at that time of the day when we are home, just after dinner and it usually marks the beginning and end of our nightly T.V. viewing.  The name of the show is "Modern Family".  In the twenty minutes of dialog, we follow three families, each in different phases of life, offering us a glimpse at their trials and tribulations which the writers deftly weave into stories that correspond to each other in some fashion. The father, Jay Pritchett, is often shown as the least sympathetic to his family's needs but it is he who comes through, says the right thing, and fixes their problems.  Bottom lines are met before the show ends and I often find myself seeking the parallel stories of the three sets and finding in them, series of life-lessons.  This genre is not new. It is one that has been used in the entertainment world for years and sadly, is over-used today in the reality show world.

  Do you recall a seventies show called "Family"?  I had a friend who used to write on her walls the bits of beautiful insights that she heard coming from Sada Thompson, the actress who played the wise and prolific Kate Lawrence.  She was the mother, the one we wished we all could adopt as our own or invite to our homes to speak to our children during complicated times.  She always seemed to have ex-act-ly the perfect answer and we totally disregarded the fact that those words came not with spontaneity, but as the result of hours and hours of work done by professionals behind the scenes. Sada was a great choice for the role of mother.  She knew how to land a line and she made it all seem very, very real. I recall one episode in particular when Kate had taken a teaching job and returned home after her first day.  She was tired, shaken and so in need of comfort and it was the familiar routine of cooking dinner that brought her relief.  She talked to the chicken prior to roasting it, as if it were a friend. She understood the cooking routine and knew she was about to do it well.  It was going to go far better than her first day back at work had gone.

All good entertainment aside, there are no easy answers to some of the questions that life asks.  We're humans, we make mistakes.  We stay things that we live to regret and we repeat the process over and over, as if we had never ventured into that same field.  It's as if we're always walking on the beach before the season starts, heading into the wind, freezing.  The lifeguards are never on duty.  If we're fortunate, we have a Jay Pritchett or a Kate Lawrence waiting in the parking lot, ready to wrap a blanket around us after we've fallen into the water. Most often, we do not and so we go right back to the beach, head into the wind, and keep right on walking.

Life is anything but a reality show.  Life is a reality and families are the realist of the reals.  At the end of the day, they bring us answers and deliver us from all evils, allowing us to continue our lives, un-guarded but always redeemed and reeled in, no matter how far we've walked.