DoYa Dare Me To?

My cousin’s wife once told me that the true goal of parenting was this:  you don’t want to embarrass your children… you want to thoroughly appall them.  Originally, I found that to be funny.  I thought that I had the upper hand.  I soon learned otherwise.

My earliest memory of embarrassing my kids was when they would have friends over and I would attack them with a water pistol or sing or deliver their clean underwear to their rooms while they were entertaining guests.  These were simple.  They were effective.  But soon, both my son and my daughter learned how to get around them.  I would pull practical jokes on them, but when they attempted, futilely I might add, I merely told them that I had taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.

We always sat down to dinner together as a family.  It was really the only time we could be together considering work, school, club and team schedules.  Having extra kids at my dinner table was a regular occurrence.  This naturally provided another opportunity for me to achieve my goal.  All we had to do was reminisce and tell baby stories.

By the time they were teenagers, I came up with a way to humiliate them in public when I would drop them off at school.  When they had gotten far enough away from the car, I would shout, “Do me a favor, while you’re here… learn something.”  The first time I did it, they both turned around with knowing smirks on their faces.  The next few times, they groaned.  Finally, they learned to jump out of the car and run.

Later on, my creativity began to wane.  I then would ask them if they dare me to… jump in a puddle…  or tell the waitress I have an imaginary friend…  or  sit down at someone else’s table at a restaurant and start to eat off of their plates.   There were times when they would dare me, and I would do it, much to their chagrin.

My daughter finally grew weary of this game, and said to me, “Mom, I dare you to behave yourself.”  So, my endeavors to thoroughly appall both my kids came to a screeching halt. She finally informed me, having reached her early twenties, that “Mom, you’re not embarrassing us, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

They are both now married, and I imagine they will soon start families of their own.  It is then they will know the true joy of driving their kids crazy.  It becomes, if you will, a quid pro quo, and they will appreciate the value in it, but I imagine, too, that they will do it with love, as I always have.

And always will.



Standing in the doorway with the sun sneaking through the slats in the window shades, I couldn’t help but lose myself in flashbacks to older days.  The light danced around the room, stopping briefly on moments in time… moments that will forever be in my heart and mind, but will ultimately fade as new memories nudge them deeper into the elevator crevices of my aging intellectual lore.

My daughter filled that room with those memories. She created them. In three days, we, my husband and I will walk her down the aisle and give her hand to a man with whom she will create a new life, and new memories.

In the middle of the floor, on the bright red carpet, we sat, cross-legged, cutting out flowers from a magazine for a collage on which she was working.  Many nights I climbed into bed and lay down next to her and just talked until she could fall asleep (if she wasn’t visiting me in my room).  I can’t remember how many times I sat on the edge of her bed listening to a problem with a friend, or a new Backstreet Boys song. We must have spent hours doing art projects on that floor, even before, when the carpet was aqua colored.

She had decorated the room herself from floor to ceiling herself, with excellent taste, when we offered her the opportunity to do so as a reward for taking the smaller bedroom when we first moved into our present home. She was ten, but had a remarkable ability to make the best out of every situation. She still has that attribute.

The color scheme had changed when she was away on a school trip to Boston, the room transformed to her Coca-Cola theme. Her brother, father and I spent every evening making that happen in three short nights. It seemed to me that was when the door of that room began to slam more, and would remain closed most of the time. Middle School will have that effect.

Over the years, her room was always cluttered. In the aqua days, I would find little girl things: games, stuffed animals, candy wrappers and the like. As she grew into a young woman, her interests changed and so did the clutter. There were running shoes and clothes, make-up, community service awards, art supplies and books. The food wrappers had changed too. There were granola bars, protein bars and vegetarian snacks wrappers now.  Don’t misunderstand, there was still chocolate.  And there were still a few of her favorite stuffed animals. Now, additionally however, there was a vast collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia.

The room has been as she left it almost ten years ago. Empty, except for occasional visits.  The memories remain, sometimes haunting, sometimes tickling my heart. My daughter has, does, and will always have a large part of my heart.  As she enters into this marriage, I know she will bring as much joy to her husband and new family as she has to me. As for me, I’ll likely find myself standing in her doorway, remembering, and having flashbacks.

My Book is a Short Story

I don’t know what happened to chapter one and chapter two.  All I know is that I had a taste of reflection on chapter one when I attended my summer camp reunion last month.  Camp song lyrics came flooding back to my memory and rolled off my tongue as if it was just last summer that I was swimming, playing volleyball, sailing, skiing, performing in a play, competing in color war, being homesick, and then crying because I didn’t want to go home.  I also had the opportunity to reflect back on who I was then, and see who I am now, understanding that life changes you; sometimes for the good, and sometimes it’s not so good.  Thankfully, most of it has been great, and that you can’t go back and rewrite once it’s been published.

Chapter two went just as fast.  My children are no longer children.  They are both young adults making their way in a challenging world.  Hopefully, we gave them a strong enough set of morals and values, sense of right and wrong, feeling of confidence, affinity for family and respect for mankind.  They both live far enough away from us now that I have to depend on that.  I long for the days when I could toss a ball with my son in the front yard, or help my daughter with cutting out flowers from magazines, sitting cross-legged on the floor in her room.  And now, every time I see a family with small children, I say to the young parents, “Don’t blink.”

People always told me Chapter Three would be my time… or our time.  We haven’t quite figured it out yet.  While we have had the blessing of falling in love all over again, we don’t have the energy or the interest to pursue the life we had before children.  We’re much older, and it takes some getting used to.  We’re still working, and certainly not financially independent, so all of our dreams have to wait a little longer, so I imagine you could say Chapter Three is really just a prologue to Chapter Four.  We do laugh a lot.

I am not permitted to discuss what I want to happen in Chapter Four.  I made a promise and I intend to keep it.  The one thing I have learned is that there are no guarantees.  I stay appreciative of every subplot and every page of my story, hoping that once in a while it’s a real page-turner, but that most of the time, its slow and steady, and ultimately, my book will be considered a short story classic.

Life Goes By in the Blink of an Eye

In one week’s time, I was able to relive a lot of the life I’ve led that brought me to this point.  No, I’m not a time traveler, but I certainly felt like one.

From 1965 through 1976, I had the great fortune to spend my summers at sleepaway camp in the Berkshire Mountains.  The camp, opened in 1950, was celebrating its 65th anniversary, and the current owner was celebrating 25 years of owning and running the camp, and as a result, invited all counselors and campers back for a weekend reunion.

I was a child again.  I was able to forget about the everyday stresses of my life as an adult in an unforgiving world.  I rolled down hills, I toasted marshmallows around a campfire, I sang camp songs and I renewed friendships with people I hadn’t seen in 40 or   45  years.  (Stop counting on your fingers if you’re trying to figure out how old I am).  WP_20150606_13_53_11_Pro[1]I even stretched my limits, forgot my fears and challenged my body physically by going zip-lining.  I competed in color war, pulled pranks on my bunkmates and relived the end of the summer banquet traditions.  And then it was over.  The reunion seemed to have passed as fast as my life is passing, in the blink of an eye.

Then it was on to Boston, where I met up with my husband, the American history nut.  His intention was to see everything he possibly could that related to the birth of our country.  WP_20150608_13_49_31_Pro[1]We traveled the route of the Freedom Trail, two and half miles, stopping at every attraction, and did so in one day.  Living in Florida, I’m not used to hills… including Bunker Hill.  It took us nine hours, with 30 minutes for lunch and a half a dozen water bottles each.  Paul Revere had nothing on me!

A cool, indoor activity, like visiting the New England Aquarium, was a welcomed relief.  In fact, it was a huge surprise.  No, we didn’t fall in the shark tank.  We did, however, receive a private tour of the “behind the scenes” of the Aquarium.  We learned some most fascinating facts, most importantly was one, not to raise dragonfish unless you are financially independent, and two, always be nice.  Karma works.  As my cousin’s late daughter, Carly Ferro would say, “Be kinder than necessary.”  That, I believe is why we were picked for the tour.

In Boston, I got my lahbstah, my chowdah and a big fat piece of Boston cream pie.  I was still the happy camper I was when I started this week.

We hopped a plane to D.C., where we grabbed a car and drove to Baltimore to “relive” our parenting days, by visiting our daughter.  Somehow, with time, the roles have reversed.  Our daughter was the consummate hostess, treating us to meals, filling the refrigerator in our hotel room, and sharing her life with us.  We visited Annapolis for the history and the Naval Academy for the cute guys in uniform.  Our daughter provided lunch, again.  The next day, we visited Botanical gardens and a Conservatory,WP_20150612_11_25_59_Pro[1] got lost coming back, and shared a delightful Shabbat dinner.

True to our calling, (like John Muir), we headed for the mountains of Shenandoah National Park on Saturday.  We explored caverns and went horseback riding.  We even had to call my husband’s old boy scout skills to find our way back, because GPS doesn’t work in the mountains.  Back in Baltimore, I got my long-anticipated crab cakes.

On our last day, we went into the city to visit the Maryland Jewish Museum.  The oldest standing Jewish Temple in the country, some great exhibits and then one last visit with our daughter at her home.WP_20150614_16_56_26_Pro[1]

And as fast as that, my vacation was over.  Well, not yet.  After driving back down to D.C., and dropping of the car with 4 minutes to spare, we, through no fault of our own, got to extend our trip for two more hours due to a flight delay.

It was a whirlwind week, which started with a visit to my happiest place.  Then, a lot of history, a lot of hugs and a tearful goodbye.  Both to my daughter and to that relaxed feeling.  I had to return to the everyday stresses of my life as an adult in an unforgiving world.  I’m trying to enjoy every minute these days, because before I know it… in the blink of an eye…

The Other Shoe

It’s a Chicken Little kind of feeling that the “sky may be falling,” or an Eeyore lament of “Oh well.”  It’s a feeling that things are going too well… an impending sense of doom, a fear of the inevitable, when the other shoe is going to drop?

Last fall, when my mother celebrated her 83rd birthday, I wrote her a letter telling her how I had learned so much from watching her go through the phases and challenges of life with such poise and grace.  Mom has always faced change well.  She has been a “fatalist” all her life.  She fears nothing, not even dying, as she has said for as long as I can remember, “When your number’s up, its up.”

This most recent change is no different.  She decided to move herself to an independent living facility.  Mom determined, on her own, that she needed to be around more people, that she didn’t want the responsibility of being a home-owner anymore, and she certainly didn’t want to be a burden to her children should something happen to her.  She found the place she wanted, and with a little help from me, made the arrangements and moved this past weekend.  I helped her sort through her belongings, determining what to take, what to sell, what to give to her children and what to throw away.

I helped her pack, forward her mail, list her condo, change her power and cable service and secure a mover.  And it was done.  We moved her most prized possessions ourselves, and let the movers do the rest, and before we blinked, she was making new friends, enjoying the cuisine and taking walking trips to the bank and drugstore.

I’m so very proud of her and very grateful that she is happy and healthy, as I look forward to many more years with my best friend.

So what is this other shoe thing going on?  Maybe I feel like it went too smoothly, because NOTHING ever goes smoothly in my life.  I’m used to looking at everything that way.  We’ve never made a purchase when we didn’t come home to find a broken section or a piece of the hardware missing.  That’s just the way it always happens.

And I never win anything (except Scrabble against my husband).  Haven’t had three numbers at Lotto in 12 years.  Or, I don’t deserve the praise…  I could have done better… that kind of thing.

I do know that I had wanted to move out of town; almost secured a job to take us there, but it fell through.  Then I tried to slow it down by trying to find a part time job.  Thought I had a fabulous opportunity, but that fell through as well.  So, now mom is settled in her new place, locally, I’m stuck working at the same job, locally.  Once again, I have to adjust.

Perhaps instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop, I need to just switch to sneakers.

Happy Birthday Mom

October 22, 2014


Dear Mom:

When I was a tiny baby, I wasn’t aware of all that you did for me. I know you had your hands full with four of us under the age of six.

While I was growing up, I always wanted to be like you. I thought you were beautiful.  I remember going into your closet and trying on your shoes, and leafing through your wardrobe or watching you put on your eye shadow or your nylons.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t have much to say to you. As Milton describes relationships between a lot of girls and their parents… you knew nothing, and Dad knew less.  I loved you, but I couldn’t sit in the same room with you.

When I went away to college, I first realized what a wonderful mom you truly were. You and Dad instilled in me a solid  set of morals and values, a sense of responsibility, and a pretty good sense of who I was (or at least from whence I came).  The self-discovery part, I believe, is ongoing; as well it should be, because when we stop growing, we cease living authentically.

As a young mother myself, I relied on your wisdom, and that of Dr. Spock. Lord knows you had plenty of experience.  I think I did okay raising my own kids.

I watched how you unfolded and went through many changes in your life, and how gracefully you handled them.

Being a woman is not easy. It isn’t today, and it never has been.  We are called upon to play so many different roles in our lives.  You, my dear mother, have nailed it.  With each passing phase in your life, you get stronger and more able to handle what life brings you.

So today, on your birthday, I want to thank you, for the gift you have given me: the example you have set in being a wife, a mother a woman and a human being.  I am so grateful to have you in my life, and I wish you many more years of health, happiness and fulfillment.  I do that selfishly so that I may continue to have you as my mentor, my best friend.



Now What?

Hello old friend.  Its been awhile.  I have discovered that I need to be at one extreme or the other to be able to write with any lucidity.  Words don’t come to me in a stream of consciousness that makes any sense when I’m on an even keel and caught up in my every life.  They only seem to flow when I am extremely high or extremely low, because I am usually self-centered during those times, and that’s when I write best.  A conundrum, indeed, for me right now.  I think I am happier than I’ve been in a very long time, yet more fearful of tomorrow.

WP_000944My son took a bride on Saturday night.  I am thrilled, as I have loved her as my own for many years now.  The anticipation and excitement leading up to this day, since the announcement of their engagement on New Year’s Eve, has provided an awesome array of emotions.  Their meticulous planning resulted in an exquisite affair, elegant and understated, charming and sweet.  Their love was almost palpable during the ceremony, and the celebration that followed was classic, and as the mother of the bride stated, one of the true special moments in a parent’s life.

Therein lies my “conundrum.”  Now what?  I already promised not to pressure them for grandchildren.  My daughter has her own agenda, and while we will celebrate her earning her masters degree in December, it may be awhile before we start planning a wedding.   I have spent a lifetime “marking time,” and anticipating the next big thing to which I can look forward.

My son’s answer was simple, as he agreed with my therapist, but then again, he is becoming a seasoned mental health professional, himself.  They both said, “Make something up.”

So I’m writing again.