Happy Birthday, Son

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

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It’s two days before my son’s 19th birthday and for the first year ever, he’s not with me, his mom and his family. It’s his first year of college and he is having an incredible time; I couldn’t be happier. But, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss him today and that the thought of him made me cry with selfish sadness. I feel sentimental about my boy, now a fine young man, and I have to get used to the fact that he will be spending his birthdays partying with his friends for many years to come. I know his family is still important but we are in the background now and one day in the future he will celebrate his birthday with his own family.

He is perfectly fine spending his birthday away from his family, it’s just me feeling a little blue. Can you blame me? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I shopped for Thomas the Tank Engine? Or even the horrible fighting games for X Box 360 that we reluctantly bought him when he was older?

I know he still remembers his favorite surprise “Batman” party when he was four when his cousin and his aunt flew up for the party; that was an event he will always remember. Our daughter, his little sister, was terrified of “Batman” and clung to our mother’s helper, Erin, for dear life. He went from “Batman” to beer in a hurry, it seems. I guess I haven’t completely caught up.

Of course I sent him a birthday box last week with sweet treats and a card with a check but I just feel something is missing. That something is him. Right about now I would have been wrapping packages and scurrying to find the special cards that I bought and saved. We would put his presents on the “birthday table” and wait for him to wake up and find them. The whole family would always crowd around the birthday girl or boy, mom and dad. It was always a lot like Christmas every year. Birthdays are really big in our house. Huge.

So on Thursday, I will be wishing my first-born a happy birthday over the phone; I’m scared to “skype” with him because I think I will cry. No matter what, even if I say one word, he will know my infamous “shaky voice” and I don’t want to share that with him on his birthday, his special day. That’s just the type of kid he is, he picks up other people’s feelings in a second, picks up on the same emotional radar that I have. I love you for being a great kid and a wonderful young man. I’m happy and proud to call you my son.

Happy Birthday

Love Always, Mom

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Unhappy Birthday To Me

birthday

I generally savor my approaching birthday all year-long. As soon as I have one birthday I start the countdown to the next. I love birthdays, anyone’s birthday, it’s a celebration of Life. I had thought briefly about having a party for my 55th birthday in our house; there is no way THAT is going to happen. First, I don’t have a house. We are homeless at the moment. It’s under construction, five minutes away from demolition if you ask me. Second, I’m a little depressed and I don’t feel like celebrating now and third, while I like being the center of attention once in a while part of me is very shy. The side of me that loves attention is totally unreliable and generally lasts a mere five minutes. Fourth, I HATE surprises. I plan to skip my birthday totally this year and it is not because I am turning double nickels, I don’t care about age; I care about feeling happy.

Our tiny cozy house is not a home anymore. What started as a kitchen renovation became a total house renovation. We are not living there but carpenter ants and mold are. Not healthy living conditions for us, and the fact that there are no bathrooms that work makes it just a little more complicated. There was a lot of hidden damage in our house, unbeknownst to us, so imagine our horror when one room after another needed work. Long ago, there was a movie called “The Money Pit.” Basically, we are those people.

This year, my birthday will be just  another day. My husband will still be on crutches after his Achilles Tendon surgery, we won’t be back in our home and overall, it’s been a very rough year. In addition to the non-house situation my birthday falls on the most solemn holiday in the Jewish religion, Yom Kippur. While my family does not belong to any temple, nor are we particularly religious, celebrating my birthday on the most solemn day, the Day of Atonement, just does not feel right. Besides, my mother would kill me.

I hope some day I will get back that child-like feeling about birthdays. It seems so sad to have lost that. Our house? I hope that I can also love it again the way I used to. Our house betrayed us, people we’ve trusted have ignored us. I accept that not being happy on my birthday is okay. There’s always next year.

There's Only One Barbra

WHAT MUSICIAN/BAND WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IN A LIVE CONCERT?

I don’t think of her as a musician, I think of her as an amazing artist. There’s no one else like her, her voice, her range, her beauty. I regret that I did not see her live when she was playing near the date of my 50th birthday. Major mistake. Epic fail. It was too expensive….nothing is too expensive if it is a lifetime dream. I wish I had been more adamant, I wish my husband had listened, I wish we had gone to the concert, spent an excessive amount of money and gone out to a lavish dinner. It would have been worth all the money to be able to reflect back and remember that memory years and years later.

BARBRA STREISAND

1) Barbra Streisand

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Move Over ESL, Cranky Is My New Language

A housecat named Princess who highly disliked ...

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It was one of THOSE days. You know the kind, when nothing goes right, annoying things happen and no matter what you try, it doesn’t help.  Made a decision, did you? Guess what, it was the wrong one. It was the day of Cranky. I spoke Cranky, I lived and ate and breathed Cranky. If I had a cat, her name would be Cranky.  I felt irritable with life’s problematic surprises and unexpected twists and I felt very out of control.

My children doused the only piece of furniture that I love, my green couch, with water guns. No, my children are not 4 and 6 years old, they are 16 and 18.  Need I say more? The couch, that I picked out, and the multi-colored  square rug beneath it have always made me happy. Why? Because it was the first thing that I bought with great strength of style and character; I was so sure about it and didn’t waver; to me, it was my own tiny corner of the Museum of Modern Art, at home.

Later that day we drove to a restaurant to celebrate my husband’s birthday. He got lost again and again. Nor did he have the directions with him, he didn’t NEED that, we had been there twice before, silly me!! When I suggested the GPS, he scoffed. He also made an illegal red turn with the (driving) teenagers in the back seat of the car. I was fuming. Dude, what the HELL were you thinking? You’re supposed to be the role model here. At that moment, fuming and cranky became first cousins.

Once seated in the restaurant our daughter, a vegetarian, asked for the chef’s special vegetable plate and we all knew she wouldn’t touch it. She played with her food and moved vegetables around that included: cooked kale and spinach, and fennel and she ate about two bites for 21 dollars. Before she ordered we suggested she order A SALAD  or pasta but she refused. She knew better and at practically 17 anything we suggest is useless. I even said she might want to tell the waitress the vegetables that she DID like but apparently my idea was stupid. Of course it was.

My husband and son shared a steak the size of a lobster pot, it was so large and bloody, it was hard to even take a glance at it.  I decided to have three appetizers: a buttery bibb lettuce salad with a light yogurt dressing  which was lovely, an appetizer of braised ribs ravioli, sweet and soft, the texture of the braised meat contrasting the delicate ravioli casing.  The red velvet cake I chose for dessert was extremely disappointing and tasteless. For those of you who know me, a dessert I don’t like is equal to a symphony of crankiness.

The heel of my left foot throbbed horribly with pain when I walked, the jabbing pain even woke me up in the middle of the night. Not being able to walk comfortably is crankiness personified. I have iced it, wrapped it, rubbed it and have tried at least ten different shoe and old, peeling orthotic combinations, nothing helps.  I’ve had this before and once it starts it takes a long, long time to go away. It’s a stubborn, stupid, painful, cranky, old ailment for cranky, old, me. It’s not enough that I don’t have energy? Now, I can’t even walk comfortably.

I’m tired as hell and just want to lie on the bed, since every bone and joint in my body is not just aching with pain but screaming with it. There are no medications to heal it, or relieve it, it’s something I have to live with every single day and night of my life. I am trying to stay awake and of course I fall asleep, the lights on, the computer on my stomach. I wake up two hours later, annoyed with myself.

The day and night have not gone well and I was glad it was almost over. I couldn’t sleep after my unexpected two hour nap so my night and day hours were confused. I glanced over at my dog who was sleeping happily at the foot of my bed and I watched her breathe and smile in her sleep.  I look at her with love and feel love. My dog is the anti-cranky.

I’m Participating in NaBloPoMo. May 1, 2011, “Maybe”

The Sandwich Generation

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It’s my mother’s birthday we are all celebrating with her. I also have to go with my son  a senior in high school to get fitted for a tuxedo for the prom. I’m being pulled in two directions at the same time. Maybe, I should stop worrying so much about what other people think and just do the best job I can. I’m not perfect but I am trying to be kind to everyone. I don’t think it’s working. I feel stressed.  I want today to be fun for everybody but I just can’t shake the feeling that my mom will be upset that I am leaving her brunch (after two hours) to do something for my son. The “Sandwich Generation” I truly cannot win but I know I am not alone in this situation. I thought I was over being a “people-pleaser” I guess not.

My Most Memorable Birthday- 25!!!

bouquet of roses

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IT was my 25th birthday, my parents, sister and I went to a fancy restaurant in New York to celebrate. The food was smorgasbord style but I remember looking at layers of thick orange lox, plump, green, salty capers and huge layers of white onions. I had no idea what I was going to eat. I had always been a picky eater so I’m sure I had bread, butter and an assortment of cheese, which is still one of my favorite meals. The only thing I do remember vividly is the end of dinner when our plates were cleared off the table.

It was dessert time, my favorite time, and my favorite chocolate layer cake had been brought in by my parents from The Homestead Gourmet Shop in Queens. Every year I looked forward to MY annual, traditional chocolate layer cake with raspberry jam filling and creamy milk chocolate frosting with perfect, pink script writing that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Roses, pink and green, made out of frosting, adorned the perimeter of my cake.

There were three black and white-clad waiters singing “Happy Birthday” to (an embarrassed) me. All of the waiters were smiling, each had a bright white starched napkin draped over one arm. I remember looking up after I blew out the candles and saw the waiters singing and smiling, reminding me of the penguin clad waiters from Mary Poppins. After a minute, my eyes saw something so unreal that time stood still. One of the waiters was NOT a real waiter at all. It was my beloved “Uncle Teddy” who lived far away in Israel. My father knew he would be in town and my family had arranged for him to surprise me for my birthday, waiter outfit and all. I remember the moment it registered in my brain and I jumped up from my seat and cried with happiness “Teddy!” He came towards me to give me a big hug and from behind his back he produced a bouquet of roses. I will never forget the feeling I had, the sound of my voice as I screamed his name and the sobbing as I stood motionless in time with my very own special “waiter.” He hugged and kissed me, tears streamed down both our cheeks. It was the best birthday I have ever had and one that I will never forget.

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My Real Age vs. the Age I Feel

Pink Cotton candy.

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Oh, To Be Young…..

I would have to say younger. Much younger. I’m 54 and I never hide or lie about my age, I’m proud of it. I am still child-like, ok, childish…if you insist. I get so excited about my birthday that I can’t sleep the night before; I get excited about my kids’ birthdays too (they are 16 and 18) actually any one’s birthday. I used to think that my birthday should be a national holiday but alas, it is not. Pink cotton candy (it has to be pink, never blue) is one of the wonders of the world for me and I laugh at my own jokes (out loud) even though no one else does but that does not bother me in the least. As my son says “you amuse yourself…..a lot.” So true. He added “and you still like food fights in the kitchen…..” What can I say?  I also need food fights to be cleaned up right after they are over!

Little things make me happy, red tulips, a field of daffodils, seeing a rainbow, a box of milk chocolate Raisinettes. I’m not big on grown-up food at all, foie gras, oysters,caviar, sushi, brain, goat, rabbit or frogs’ legs. I also refuse to eat a bunny, a duck, or a lamb. Yuck. I will stick to an American cheese sandwich (with butter on potato bread) happily but need to drink that with chocolate milk. Peanut butter and jelly with a side of potato chips is a deluxe meal. I am able a responsible parent and grown-up and physically my age is still 54 or older…but if I had to choose, I like the part of me that is “Forever Young.”

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Paging “Mr. L” (Repost with Addendum)

kew gardens queens

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I had a friend on my blog who once lived in the same town that I grew up in at different times. We both lived in Kew Gardens, Queens.  He would read my blog fairly consistently and would always comment with his classic signature “Mr. L.” even though I knew his first name was Abe. When I wrote about our old neighborhood, he loved it. I wrote a few posts on the now dissolved oldkewgardens.com about what it was like growing up in that sweet town and that is where we first met. He contacted me after that and we stayed in touch.

He hasn’t been on in a long time and I’m beginning to get worried about him. He was last living in California, I believe, and was contemplating whether he wanted to continue living there or not. Mr. L. to me, was like my substitute dad or uncle, since my dad passed away ten years ago. We used to kid around a lot and talk about our favorite gourmet delicatessen, The Homestead. I still dream about their Polish rye bread, sour and chewy and their faux Sachertorte cake made with many layers of raspberry jam between layers of creamy, sweet, chocolate cake. When I lived at home, every birthday cake was this particular cake inscribed with “Happy Birthday.” A real Sachertorte from Austria is drier and has layers of apricot jam but this was sweeter, this was MY cake.

When Mr. L talked about his deceased wife it was with such emotion, always, he still missed her so very much. From what he told me he absolutely adored her. In every “conversation” he would bring up his wife and talk a little about her; those little things that really make up a great marriage, sharing breakfast, the same bed, holding hands.

I know this blog post isn’t going to win any awards, nor will it attract a lot of people but that’s fine. I know Mr. L had adult children but I don’t remember where they live. So, if anyone knows him (and yes, I do know his full name) please let me know. I know I am overly emotional and sensitive, that’s a big part of who I am but I care about him and hope he is alright. I don’t want to lose Mr. L if I don’t have to. Mr. L. please come back and say hello.

ADDENDUM 10/19 2011. I HEARD FROM MR. L TODAY!!!!!!!!!!

Happy Birthday Daddy

Wiener Schnitzel

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November 13th is my dad’s birthday, he would have been 88. He passed away almost 9 years ago but the pain on holidays, birthdays, Father’s Day, is the same raw pain as the day he died.  It’s a pain that is hard to describe for people who have never lost a parent. Believe me, I know.

Instead of wallowing in depression this year I am going to try to remember and honor the man I loved so dearly. His blue-gray eyes, child-like qualities, generosity, pep-talks and his warmth. I miss the soft yet sturdy hugs as if a limb of my own had been amputated. I miss the familiar smell of his after-shave cologne that he sprayed with enthusiasm. My dad and I were very similar; he and I had an amazing connection and a strong emotional bond. We thought alike and we completely understood each other. The day he died, my heart was gauged with intense pain, my heart missing an essential beat.

My dad and I had so much fun together when I was younger. We traveled to  Vienna, Austria, where my grandparents lived. We ate sugary-sweet meringues that were shaped like delicate white swans and sipped hot chocolate with “schlag”  (whipped cream). We ate exploding red-berry sweet and sour tarts in Viennese cafes. My grandmother would fry up her famous wiener schnitzel,  served with plump lemon wedges every single night.

I was in first grade when my mom couldn’t come to open school day but my dad came. I think he was the only father in the class and I was so proud, so happy that he was there. I remember sharing my milk and cookies with him and I felt so important. At a shared birthday party with a friend he surprised me by coming home from work early, sneaking into the party like a secret surprise. It was a joy so innocent and so intense that I remember the feeling to this day. I was shocked and delighted as I wrapped my arms around his tall legs like a clinging, furry animal. Back then dads’ weren’t as involved in their children’s’ lives as they are today but he always had time for me; his little one, his mouse, his baby.

We had adventures, the two of us. My mother worked a great deal, she traveled the world being a tour director and translator. One night my father and I went out to a Spanish restaurant and sipped sangria, with glistening, beaming chunks of bright oranges and green apples bobbing in the rich, red wine. We toasted people we knew with every sip we took. The more we sipped the stranger the toasts were. I remember we toasted a wall -paper hanger guy that never showed up to our house, people we barely knew and random people from the past.

We went to the bagel store together, early on a Sunday morning and the store was closed. However, the fresh, warm, doughy bagels had already been delivered to the store in huge paper sacks. My dad happily took some and we left, an experience a teenager doesn’t forget! We would go grocery shopping at a huge Pathmark store with my mom and he and I would find the biggest size jars of silly things: three-pound troughs of peanut butter and dill pickles, tubs of mandarin oranges and hide them in the cart as a joke. My mother would roll her eyes and shake her head, clearly not amused, but my dad and I would laugh hysterically. Often, there would be open boxes of cookies or candy and we would help ourselves to free samples. Back then, we weren’t worried about poison or germs or anthrax.

My father spent his entire life working for TWA,  getting free airline tickets for our family.  My father, mother, older sister and I flew to: France, Greece, Portugal, Israel, Switzerland and Germany. First class seats were a mere eight dollars extra but that was a lot of money years ago and a very special treat.

This Saturday on my dad’s birthday my husband and I are going to visit my mom and take her out for lunch, we don’t want her to be alone. I know that spending the day with my mom would make my dad very happy.  He loved my mom more than anyone else in the world. Later, that night, my kids and I will remember him with his own, signature and messy concoction, “Papa’s game”: a “mixture” containing  little bits of everything that is leftover on our plates and in our glasses, swirled together with a spoon and a smile. This year, I will toast to his memory.

Buying A Purple Shirt While Eating Jelly Beans

This is a picture i took for the Candy article.

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This is the kind of post you want to read on a Monday afternoon when the clouds are all gray and gloomy and it is the start of a brand new week. The orange-green-red leaves on the trees are swaying and they look like they want to cry. I’m thinking about the future and living somewhere else where the sun stays out all day and you don’t have to wear a thick black jacket.  The only perk today is that our house is clean and it looks pretty. There are no cobwebs that I can see and the wood shines like a Pledge commercial. It smells lemony and the beds are made and the sheets are fresh and I am planning to take a hot bath tonight. It’s against house rules to put your dirty body into a brand new made-up bed with sheets and blankets that beckon you and smile.

It’s our friend Christina’s 16th birthday and she looked so sweet and innocent and happy like a shiny polished Macintosh apple. My son drives her to school and back every day along with his sister seated proudly in the front seat. Christina was wearing the soft beige scarf that my daughter gave her for her birthday. Her arms were packed with brownies and oatmeal cookies and chocolate cake that her school friends made for her birthday celebration. Oh to be young, filled with sweetness, innocence and incomparable joy. I see myself in young Christina, all eager and willing to please, her arms outstretched for a big, warm, hug.

I’m listening to music to quell the anxiety that has been plaguing me for the last week. It starts in the late afternoon and escalates until nighttime; my stomach clenches and my legs ache with unbearable pain. My aches and pains stem from stubborn, bossy, Fibromyalgia and sleep comes as a welcome relief.

I’ve taken down all the photographs of my children when they were very young and replaced them with an up-to-date picture of the two of them grinning, their eyes alive with mischief; my son’s arm casually draped around his sister’s shoulders. I had to beg and plead a lot for that one portrait. While I am extremely proud of my children’s independence I have had a few problems lately adjusting to it.  I can’t forget the moment last year when my son said patiently “Mom, High School is one big lie.” It is a message that has been burned into my brain and I think of it often.  I didn’t believe him then but I do now. Apparently, lies are commonplace but I need to force myself to look deeper, for honor, and not compare my past, unhappy and burdened youth to their present, over-indulged happy lives.

I am booking a massage at the local spa, a gift I received for my birthday, and I am looking forward to it. There, I will not think of the last year, tension pressed up against stress like two sweaty lovers: unemployment and illness together as one.  I will fantasize about traveling, seeing the tulips in Holland, a trip to Israel in the spring, perhaps the countryside of Spain. I will picture my loving husband’s face, his hand in mine, playing the punch buggy game in the car and competing in the “I love you more” contest. I will remember that when I asked him for a phrase, another definition for “empty nest” he threw his head back, howled loudly, with glee and in a snap of a second he shouted: “Freedom.” I love him so much in many ways but I especially love him for giving me that.

Dedicated to Danny