“The Reason”

For you, I will play “The Reason” less often but I will never stop thinking of the look in your big sad, brown eyes after the fight with your dad. You were younger than thirteen, I think. My heart breaks for you every time I hear that song, it reminds me of your hurt and deeply saddened face.

It captures a moment in time, not all moments have to be good, I know you think they should but you will learn later in life that the bad moments teach us things as well. We get past them, we appreciate when they have passed, we learn from them.

I know you don’t like confrontation, except when you delight in starting it, your dad, will run miles to escape anything even slightly confrontational. I’d rather he yelled and screamed but his family brought him up to ” sweep things under the rug.” They don’t fight, they don’t express their feelings, they hide.

I’m so glad you and your sister have parents with different styles but I’m afraid your sister is definitely like dad. She makes dad seem like a beginner; he is emotional compared to her. There are layers and layers of this beautiful young woman and even if I try to delve inside a bit, try being the operative word, she closes up like a clam shell in a matter of seconds.

You and I wear our hearts on our sleeves, but your sister hides her emotions, I think she shows you the most emotion she shows anyone and I am so glad for that. The fact that you and your younger sister are best friends is better than winning the lottery for me, I never had that relationship with my sister. I don’t know what that feels like but I’m sure it feels wonderful. You have a built-in best friend.

When I was pregnant with your sister (or brother at the time) I swore I would do anything and everything to not have the kind of drama and angst that my sister and I have. I am not going to assign specific blame here, part of it was our parents’ fault, part our own. But, in any case, it is not a healthy relationship and seeing you and your sister together makes your dad and I so happy.

Luckily, your two cousins have a close relationship too. The four cousins loving and liking each other is incredible, growing up we had nobody. I take great joy that the cousins have each other and will always have each other. I’m sure my sister feels the same way.

When the grown-ups are gone, I know you, your sister and the cousins will be close, maybe your kids will spread the icing on the cinnamon rolls at Christmas.

We indulged this morning.

We indulged this morning. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Certain memories get stuck in our brains for different reasons. Why I reacted so strongly to you sitting in your room, playing that song, I’m not sure but it is one moment I will never forget and I know you know that. Luckily, it was one of the rare sad moments of your life.

I remember more, you’re smiling face, you being the prankster, tricking your gullible mom ALL the time, your enthusiasm for food and your kind and sensitive nature. We know each others’ mood over the phone, the breath before we say “hello.” I’m here for you always, I’m sure you know that but once in a while it’s nice to have a reminder, for both of us, I’m sure.

 

 

 

 

 

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Baking For Cousins

It’s been a rough week, I’ve started about twenty new posts and never finished any but last night I talked to a new friend and it felt refreshing like biting into a piece of lemon cake on a hot summer day. Sometimes, when things feel black, an unexpected opening, like a crack in a window, appears from nowhere and you can finally start to breathe normally again.

Open Window

It doesn’t solve your problems and It may not last,  but at least it makes you remember that “normal” really isn’t the deep-down, below the ground hurt, sadness and resentment you have felt for the last few days. It’s as if you have been given a “time-out” to think about your marriage, your grown up children, your family and friends, your Life.

It’s like taking a break without traveling. It’s NOT dreading the barbeque at your house that you felt two days ago but happily making food. Slicing the mozzarella and the tomatoes, drizzling olive oil, and balsamic glaze and scattering chopped pieces of fresh basil on top.

English: Guacamole in a bowl. Photograph taken...

I’m making my daughter’s favorite, everyone’s favorite, guacamole with avocados that have ripened in a paper bag with two apples. I will squeeze fresh lemon on them, add chopped onions, tomatoes, garlic, pepper, salt and a few grains of sugar (my secret recipe) to undercut the acidity.

 

My mouth is beginning to drool. My husband and son are at the supermarket buying meat for the rest of the carnivores, hamburgers and hot dogs.

Mostly, I am hosting this barbeque, to see the four cousins together which never ceases to delight me. Jon, Anna, Tim and Jillian. All grown up but still as close as they were when they were young and building forts in my living room with “Milton.” (Don’t ask)

banana bread!

Our house was the favorite, of course, because my sister and her husband were much stricter about food than we were. Hence, when the cousins came over, they said hello, gave us hugs and went directly to our pantry. I loved every minute of it and still do and even though I swore I would never bake another banana bread again…there are two freshly baked loaves waiting for them, on the granite counter.

One with raisins, one with chocolate chips, both with love.

 

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Tales of the youngest child…..

Lee doing her thing

Image by kodama (home) via Flickr

I have an older sister who is five and a half years older than me but in some ways I feel like an only child. We are nothing alike and since she never wanted to have anything to do with me growing up, there are not a whole lot of memories that we share. I always told my sister that I would never “pick her to be my friend.” That says a lot. It sums up everything in our relationship. When I needed HER she was never there for me, when I got mugged and asked her to walk me home the next day, she wouldn’t. When I was abused and woke her up she told me to go away and let her sleep. When I had surgery my sister had to be prodded and pushed by our parents to help me; they told me that. She flew to my college graduation and left before my name was called to the stage. My parents had driven up to my graduation which, agreed, was a very long drive, she flew and they let her. I was always the one left to mop up her messes, to parent our mother and father, sometimes, to parent her. Even now at age 54 and almost 60, we are not close; I may love her but I do NOT like her. When my father was in the Emergency Room many years ago I begged her to come. She refused. I begged her again, to come there FOR ME and she said “no.” She did not come, she didn’t feel like driving in the dark even though it was only a 30 minute drive from her house. How can one forgive that? I try to help people, and do good deeds for others, she doesn’t. My mother says “she’s good at calling every day” and “she knows the daughter to call if she needs someone.” Trust me, I am not bragging, believe me, this is not a competition, I don’t consider myself “winning.” How could I? If she is forced to help it is only when if it is convenient for her. I don’t like having a sister that I can’t rely on for anything. My best friends fill that role. I trust them, I can rely on them. I probably could rely on Facebook friends that I have never met before I could count on her. When my first-born, my son, was born she told me to leave a message on her answering machine because she didn’t want to wake up for the news. She is totally self-involved and selfish and she has no clue how she comes across to others, she doesn’t even know herself. She once told our ill mother that she wanted to have lunch with me but I couldn’t and continued to tell our mother that she would NOT drive the extra 20 minutes to visit our mother. My mother, in tears, tells me these things but not her. She has always gotten away with a lot, my parents did not want to make any more waves in her tumultuous past, not even a ripple. That was their big mistake and I knew that as a teenager but they did not. My mistake? For sometimes thinking she will come through, having a tiny flicker of hope and always being let down. My husband questions me: “but it is your sister” he says, “you KNOW how she is” and he is right. I do know how she is; I will never be sure of why she is like that but I have to accept it because she will never change. The ONLY good thing that came out of my sister and me is that we each have a boy and a girl and the “cousins” adore each other. This is one good thing, maybe it needed to skip a generation; they have each other.

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What Is Not There

The Lower Manhattan skyline shortly before 9/1...

Image via Wikipedia

I was thrilled to be going with my family and in-laws on a 5 day cruise to Bermuda, courtesy of my very generous in-laws. It brought back all sorts of memories that I hadn’t thought about for many, many years.  I remember that 12 years ago my parents treated my sister’s family and my family for a cruise to Bermuda. It was a family vacation complete with my parents, my sister’s family and us, and most importantly “the cousins.” Four little fresh faces, all shiny with excitement, a boy and a girl for both my sister and I: 5, 7, 8, and 10 who love and adore each other. After that trip, they would always be connected and they still are very much so today.

I have a photo that I cherish of my sister and I that shows our happy faces and wind-swept hair. Our brown hair blends together and although we look completely different, this photo just smiled “sisters” and love.

I remember 12 years ago we were all on deck as the boat pulled away from the dock.  There was yelling and whistling and waving, and total excitement; sometimes I wish life could have stopped at that joyous moment but we go on anyway as time wills us, forces us to do.

Twelve years later, my husband’s parents (who felt sorry for us) treated the four of us and them to a 5 day treasure of a vacation, again to Bermuda.  What a difference time makes and it passes so quickly you barely have a moment to stop and think. This time, when we pulled away from the dock, I went outside to look and cheer, and I couldn’t. I didn’t even think of this as a factor when I went outside but as soon as the boat started moving, I felt sad. It was so emotionally charged for me that it was surprising to me and so unsettling.  I couldn’t speak, couldn’t even cry, I just felt numb yet able to feel this horrible and powerful feeling of complete sadness. I went inside as fast as I could, not walking, not skipping but running as fast as my aching body let me. The skyline looked empty with the devastation of the twin towers. How could I enjoy the view when the twin towers were not there?   They were in the background of our first trip; there was nothing now.

It also reminded me in a painful way that my dad was not with us; he passed away 9 years ago but the pain felt fresh and raw  and stabbed me at different moments, like it did years ago. Time does not change that type of pain, it hides, it tries to fool you, but once someone dies that is special to you, life as you have known it, is gone forever.

It’s been a long year, of unemployment for my husband and the pain of Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis for me. Add narrow angled glaucoma, TMJ, chronic pain, and a connected tissue disorder and other unresolved medical problems and that has been my life for the last, long, 4 years.

Back home now, we are enmeshed in back to school errands. Our son is a Senior in HS this year, our daughter is a Junior in HS. Next year there will be another change, that will be wonderful and heartbreaking and empowering and positive. Our son will leave for college, our daughter a year after. I am cherishing every moment that we spend together but I know that there will not be enough time for me. This vacation created new memories for the four of us, ordering room service, having dinner together every night, laughing. These are the memories I will cling to, in my heart, forever. Time goes by and I with it, looking forward, looking back, trying to ride the waves as they rise and fall, rise and fall.

The Ugly Side of Karma

Do you know the feeling when some thought, usually a guilty and  bad one,  creeps into your mind but you’re not ready to accept it yet?  It flits in and out and by the time you are ready to accept the thought, grab it,  and call it your own, you’ve pretty much learned the lesson you needed to learn.  The lesson may be learned at that very second, but for me, it’s usually not owned until it has been written and most probably read.

Our whole Christmas vacation in Aruba was first discussed  over a year and a half ago. Times were tough, I had been very sick with numerous illnesses, one after another, for over a year and a half.  Our marriage had been in trouble the whole summer.  My husband and I were miserable both together and alone and I felt betrayed. The key factor that used to hold us together was trust, but I felt that trust was broken. Verbally. At that time,  I remember vividly asking my mother “if this all works out and we can make it through together, do you mind if the four of us go away together over Christmas break?” Knowing what we all were going through, and the fact that the children were very upset,  she reassured me that it would be fine: “You definitely deserve it! ”

That was then, a year ago. After getting through the summer and my husband and I working our problems out, again, I asked my mother if it was still ok. “Yes, she said, definitely.”  What I had forgotten to do and this was totally my mistake was share these plans with my sister which was my fault. We talked and I apologized and she was gracious.

Going to Aruba had been a yearly discussion since my seventeen year old son had been invited a multitude of times to stay with his best friend at his best friend’s grandmother’s house in Aruba. Huge house. Ok, mansion. We  had never seen it but all of my son’s other friends had been there with their families.   Tim was not able to go several times because we all had plans and, I didn’t want Tim to be away without us at Christmas.  It just never felt right.

The tradition of Christmas with a Jewish family is an unusual one. My parents raised us with no religion, other than culturally Jewish, but we celebrated Christmas.   When I was very small I remember having a Christmas tree, ornaments;  Santa Claus, reindeer, the stuff that dreams are made of.  The only real tradition in our family was that we spent it together. It wasn’t easy all the time. People would fight, or act immature, gift-giving and receiving became an angry or sullen event at times, my sister would think we gave too much or not enough but the 4  cousins were together and that, at the time, seemed enough.

It seemed to be enough until 8 years ago when  6  days after Christmas on New Year’s Eve, my dad passed away. It was also the day before my parent’s wedding anniversary on New Year’s Day.    After that, nothing was the same, ever.   Christmas for me, and probably  others was absolutely depressing and horrible.  I wanted to move Christmas to my house but apparently there was no wiggle room for any other alternative.  In my estimation that was a major mistake.

Once my sister and her children went on a cruise paid by our mother but in the end, my mother and brother in law decided not to go. My family stayed behind to be with our mom on Christmas, we didn’t want her to be alone. Surprisingly,  she was furious at our decision.  It was another one of the countless, “we want to be thoughtful and be with you actions” that always seems to blow up in my face and I become the evil one. Part of my life back then. Part of my life when I accepted it. Not anymore. It was a pattern and I tried to crush it with every bone in my body. Progress.

The Fessler, then Fessler-Bernsein, then Fessler-Friedmann  Christmas tradition in our family,  is that we have store-bought, refrigerated cinnamon rolls that come in a tube with  a container of vanilla icing; the best part.  This has been a tradition since my sister and I were children and we finally passed down the tradition of icing the cinnamon buns down to our children many years ago. We also had scrambled eggs and bacon, hard rolls that now have turned to bagels and presents; too many presents or too few, name in a hat, no way. Just for the children? My sister and I were jealous, after all, we were children too. But not having the sound of the Christmas bell ringing in the holiday by my father was key. One can’t replicate a tradition if a big part of the tradition is not alive anymore. But so it went….until this year.

This brings us to the present when we were scheduling our flights, the four of us, to go to Aruba. The grumbling started gaining momentum and soon my mother was hysterical trying to make us cancel it at the last moment and “guilting” us beyond belief. It wasn’t fair to anyone but when feelings are hurt, fairness flies quickly out the window along with the early morning singing doves?

So, we are here in Aruba, having a lovely time, entitled to have a good time after my health problems, our marital problems and now my husband’s unemployment status.  We had paid for the trips many months ago and we decided we did not want to cancel; it had already been paid for.  Our son, Tim,  is staying with his friend Aaron in his grandmother’s mansion and Jillian, Dan and I are staying at the Marriott and enjoying ourselves immensely.  The sun is hot, the breeze is beautiful and the water, my most beloved element, is light blue and sparking. Everything is great here. Except it isn’t.

I miss Tim. I actually am a little upset, sic, hurt, that Tim wants nothing to do with us.  Kind of like my mom probably feels about me? I have no idea.   These are the lessons we are  born to learn the hard way. Tim is probably doing all sorts of things I probably don’t want to know about living in the Bachelor Pad with Aaron, aka “the pool house.”   He stopped by unannounced once with his friend to say hello because his friend’s dad gave them a mini-lecture on how it would be nice to see your family on Christmas Day.

Ouch.    These are the lessons we are  born to learn the hard way.  I do mind that my son is acting invisible, a little arrogant, and very much cool and distant. The irony is not lost on me. His age, 17, is not lost on me  We gave him permission to go and to have fun, not fully thinking that he would,  to the extent of not even sending an e-mail or picking up the local phone to say hello.  It burns and it stings and I feel like a complete idiot. What did I THINK would happen? Well, actually, not this.

We try to teach our children good lessons, life lessons. What have we taught our son about this trip? Yes, we felt he was owed this vacation, yes, my mother said we should go, yes, we love it here in all it’s beauty…….but the truth of the matter is at this moment, I feel like I want to cry. I want to cry as my disappointment as a mom and begrudgingly as a daughter who now feels just the tiniest of guilt.

The Christmas tradition in our family, which is the most traditional thing we do, is that we have store-bought, refrigerated cinnamon rolls that come in a tube. This has been a tradition since my sister and I were children and we have passed down the tradition now to our children who now frost the cinanmon buns.  It really isn’t anything much, the store buns are the same every year, every year we fight about how crispy the bacon should be or how many presents we should buy. But, we’re together and while I love being on vacation, anyplace warm, watching the four cousin  battling over which cinnamon bun to ice and how much wouldn’t be so very bad. We learn from these experiences.  Whatever goes around, comes around, the very definition of karma. It bites.