Free Write Friday-Words

A golden pearl necklace.

A golden pearl necklace. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A white pearl necklace.

A white pearl necklace. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

train – burlap – fiction – pearls – vertigo

Elizabeth sat upright, wearing a navy suit and sweater in the train. Her only adornment was a string of  pearls that she had been given by her mother, passed on by her grandmother on her 18th birthday.

Normally she would be dressed in jeans and her college sweatshirt with no pearls, her hair down but her mother forced her to wear this dreary outfit once every six months to visit her grandmother or “Grandmama.” Her mom really didn’t ask for much so she did it, but complained more and more each time.

The old bag was horrid, so demanding and old school, prejudiced and controlling. She only wanted Lizzy to be “associated” with upper crust white people like herself. Ugh. Lizzy smiled to herself, she definitely wanted to show grams the latest picture of her and Steve, her wonderful boyfriend who happened to be black, kissing in one of those photo booths. Just the thought of it made her laugh out loud.

Her mom was definitely cooler but when it came to her own mother she acted like a puppet probably because the old bag was a rich  bitch. “This is the last time I am doing this” she said out loud to nobody in particular. But, the train had stopped at her station and she willed herself to get out and walk towards her “Grandmama’s ” house although she had to admit, she wasn’t feeling as proper as she looked.

When her grandmother came to the sitting room she offered Elizabeth a cup of tea from the silver tea set which she accepted graciously.Her grandmother’s face turned sideways abruptly and stayed like that. Lizzy had no idea what she was doing. In a few minutes she was stabbing her cheek with her index finger. Lizzy started to giggle, “what on earth is she doing?” she thought. She really tried to stop but once giggling starts it takes on a life of its own. She bit her lip, trying to stop but burst out laughing. When she was quiet for ten seconds grandmother said firmly “Elizabeth Warren, I demand you to kiss me on my cheek!”

At that, Elizabeth lost it, she really did, first she stood up and howled and then when she calmed down she stood up in front of her Grandmother and said “Excuse me? You DEMAND a kiss? First of all that’s gross and second, no one demands me to do anything. Do YOU understand? Her grandmother was so shocked she said she was getting vertigo and that she might faint but Lizzy knew she was faking it.

“How dare you talk to me that way, Elizabeth! I am going to phone your mother and tell her what you have done.” “Feel free” Lizzie answered politely. She was mad at her mother for putting up with this but there was no way she was going to stand for it.

She stood directly in front of grandma and slowly unbuttoned her blue jacket to show a tight Tee shirt that had The Grateful Dead design on it, she pulled off her navy pants and showed off her beige leggings. She went to the garbage and disposed quite elegantly of her navy blue pumps and was feeling quite pleased with herself. She had taken a huge bag which had her ballet flats in them, because she planned to go to a concert afterwards anyway. She thought for a moment whether or not to ditch the pearls but she decided to leave them on, after all, her mom gave them to her.

Her grandmother’s eyes were wild with anger yet she was speechless, no one ever had disobeyed her like this before. Finally, before she left, Lizzy sat down on the couch and told her grandmother what her life really was like. She showed her the hemp bracelets that Steve made for her, dyed in different colors, she even tied one on her grandmother’s wrist. She made sure to show her the photo booth photos, she stood up, thanked her Grandmother for tea, exited quietly and shut the door behind her.

When she finally got home after seeing the concert her mother asked her how her visit was, with her grandmother. Apparently her grandmother hadn’t called. She grinned widely, shrugged her shoulders and said “fine.”

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Plinky Prompt: For Tomorrow, We Die.

Unidentified family, October 1951

Unidentified family, October 1951 (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

  • …for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell us about your last dinner — the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation. See all answers
  • For tomorrow, we die
  • Dining companions? Setting? Conversation?
    Be serious.
    I wouldn’t move from my living room, food would be ordered in from wherever my family wanted, loads of it. My (adult) children would be with my husband and me, our dog would be in my lap, my mother would be with us. We would not talk about the end of the world but the memories we had. We would talk about the good times, the happy times and we would not be looking at any clock. Let the world end when it does, we are holding on to each other, some hold hands, others hug. We eat good comfort food, milk shakes, champagne, anything our hearts desired. No limit. Nothing fancy, nothing different, just a lot more of it. Now is the time to coax those less inclined to talk to share their feelings, to show emotion. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. You can’t change people you just have to accept them the way they are.
    No fights, no domineering, just balance. Love, kindness, support, appreciation. To have had what we did have, together. We close our eyes together and fall asleep. We give our thanks for what was. We have no control over tomorrow.

  • *I hope whoever this photo belongs to will somehow find their way to my blog
  • so I can help to reunite them.

Could it be Magic? (Carry on Tuesday)

Happiness

Happiness (Photo credit: baejaar)

An Easier Life

Nobody ever said life was going to be easy. In our young innocence we just assume it is because we know no different; our families have protected us from life’s troubles. That, my dear, can only last a short time, you do know that right?

It’s been a rough couple of months, actually it’s been rough for a long time now. As we grow older we look back on our lives, I do not envy the youth of today. No, I really don’t. Growing older does not have many perks. We all handle it differently. There are cheery and optimistic people with me in the nursing home and some say clichés like “You’re as young as you feel.” Frankly I think that’s a crock…”

There are people like me who are over sensitive to other people’s suffering and pain. I feel other people’s pain, it becomes a part of me, I’ve been that way since I’ve been a child, I can’t undo who I am or try not to care. It doesn’t work. I sincerely wish it would. It would cause me so much less pain. I don’t blame anyone but myself but I always thought caring about others was a good thing, no? Well, not for me, you see.

I’ve accepted, after many years, that people are very different, though growing up I thought everyone felt the way I did so when caring wasn’t reciprocated, I was often hurt. As a child how would you know that all people act differently?  Who else could I learn from if not from myself? Life changed that, many years later in my life, not quickly enough but eventually I learned and adjusted, but it never felt natural to me.You deal with whatever happens to you and sometimes you still deflate like a withering balloon starting from a room’s happy ceiling and twirling slower and slower until all the life that has been kept it in the balloon deflates and now it’s just a tiny lump of pink  lying embarrassingly at your feet, defeated and dead.

Many things have happened in the world lately, things that I thought I would never see in my older years. Things I didn’t want to see: the horror of September 11th, the killing of children and adults in Newtowne, Connecticut and this week, the joyful runners of the Boston Marathon and onlookers killed senselessly. I spent almost half of my life in Boston, the good years, the young, innocent years when Hank and I got married. There was a joy known only to newlyweds, many more days clothed in bright yellow happiness than the darkness of fear. There was nothing to worry about back then; could it have been just magic? Maybe, it was the utter happiness, cloud of love and youth, having no responsibilities and living in a simpler, easier time.

There were no bomb threats or terrorist attacks back then, now our children and grandchildren live in constant fear and uncertainty. I’m glad Hank isn’t alive to see all of this.  The Boston Marathon this past week put people back, straight back to 9/11, this terror spares no one, no place, no time. How hard, how scary it to live actively in today’s world. I fear for my children and my grandchildren. I have lived a long, life, and for that alone, I am happy to be old. If I died tonight there would be no regrets.  Sitting in my room, rocking in my chair, smiling at the pretty white flowers, visits from my children and grandchildren, sleeping and a good meal is all I ask for and all that I want. I don’t envy the youth of today, in fact, I feel quite sad for them.

Passing Over Passover

Day 337 - Tuna and Salad Sandwich

Image by JoeGray via Flickr

It’s a big year for change and not something fabulous like: “OMG, we won 230 million dollars in the lottery.” I wish. My husband, after two years of unemployment, finally found a job three months ago. “Be careful what you wish for” because at the moment (and for a few more months) he is working in Buffalo, NY coming home only on weekends. “Not that there is anything wrong with that” as Jerry Seinfeld used to say but it’s about an 8 or 9 hour drive away from home or a one hour plane ride away and another hour and a half for traffic. Good news: he has a job, Bad news: location, undesirable. Having a job is the most important thing, of all people we know that. Trust me. However, I have a chronic pain disease, Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and being home with two teenagers and a dog, all the time is hard on me physically.

My son is graduating high school in less than two months. This is a big change, HUGE. Our first child going away to college is an enormous change for the entire family and yes, especially for me, his mom. I burst into tears at random times and yet when he is taunting me and acting arrogant I think, ‘it’s really time for him to go.’  I KNOW he is ready to go and he can’t wait. It’s just a little more difficult for the parents and sister he is leaving behind. All I want for him is to be happy but I can’t help feeling a little sad, selfishly for me. My daughter will be a senior in high school next year, only one grade year apart from her brother but in actuality almost two years apart in age. I can’t wait for her to have the limelight in her own family. I was also the youngest sibling in my family; I know how she feels.

Another change: my nephew is  graduating college this year and when I heard him say on the weekly radio show he hosts that there were only 3″ Grand Avenue Freezeout”  shows  left, forever, I burst into tears. Thank you Jon, for playing and dedicating the song Birds to me by Neil Young.  At least when one cousin goes to college, another one will come home. There is a little comfort in that.

My mother has had a horrible year so far because she first broke her wrist and several weeks later she fell down two stairs and broke two of her vertebrae in her back. Right after that, she got a nasty flu with a high temperature. Then she had to take some medicine that she really didn’t want to take. She has never had anything like this before and it took a great toll on her. This was a horrible and long time period and we were all very worried. Finally, she’s a little better but it was frightening.

It’s Passover and while we are not a religious family  my mom was right when she said “Families should be together on all holidays” this was generally our tradition until the cousins got older and one by one are in college. With my husband away, my kids spending all their free time with their friends on their Spring Break, sharing a tuna sandwich with my dog, Callie, did not cut it. I missed everyone and felt sorry for myself. It wasn’t the religious aspect as much but it was more that I was alone and the lack of loved ones sitting close to me that I dearly missed. It’s hard to be home alone on any holiday. Mom, I understand that more now. You were right and I was wrong, this one is for you, with great love.

Technology's Impact on Families: Depends Who You Ask!

iPhone 4 Bumper + Universal Dock w/ DIY Adapter

According to my mother (my teenagers’ grandmother) you would think that society and civilization are quickly burning up with raging orange and red flames of fire because of two second text messages. That said, it is a new generation and technology obviously has changed interaction within families and in the general public.

In my generation we spent all our free time on the phone. I remember walking back and forth from the kitchen to the living room with the long, dirty, coiled, yellow stretchy phone cord to talk to my friends from school who I had just seen hours before. This was way before call-waiting too.

Then there was e-mail and even us parents could pretty much keep up with that as well as the older generation. But now? My children text obsessively on their multi-faceted phones and we have to force them to turn them off while we are eating (which sometimes they do and sometimes they pretend to do.) On a weekend away with the entire family our mother could not believe that the first thing her four grandchildren did was check their phones and Facebook. She was disgusted and distraught and my sister and I (and husbands) were used to it. Our mother took it as a personal affront.

Things change, people change, as parents we get used to things; we have no choice but it is helpful to set limits. The older generation think we have all lost our collective parental minds. In defense of my children they can keep up a great conversation at any time, they do well in school and we have adjusted. That’s what parenting is all about, you need to change with your children and with the times and set some boundaries. Is it easy? Not always. Will it make your children unable to have a reasonable conversation over a family dinner? No. Honestly, if I could figure out how to use one of those fancy phones I would own one myself. I have a simple, made for dummies phone and if I am lucky, I can actually call someone or pick up and scream “hello?” and hear a response. I consider that, for me, a success.

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The Word Love

Now that I am old  and very alone I bought one  place setting of  five different sets of china. I  use them as my everyday dishes because there is nothing to wait for at my age of ninety-three. We never had good china when I was younger and so I bought it for myself. To live another day and wake up in the morning is an occassion. I have no rules now, I  sleep all day if I want to, in my  comfortable old bed that has shaped around my body like clay. I have an old, worn blanket that used to be pink but now it is a little pink and a little gray from age.

I stopped looking at clocks because time does not matter now. If I am hungry, I eat. Sometimes I don’t remember if I ate lunch or breakfast. The phone rings and I try to pick it up but the buttons and numbers confuse me. I don’t always like to answer the phone but I do most times. If I don’t answer  it will ring again and again with loud noises that do not stop.

If it is sunny I will sit on my front porch that is painted white. The porch swing barely moves anymore but I like that. Sometimes I sit outside and watch the people on the street. I drink my apple juice there and when the sun hits the glass I can see rainbows sometimes, I always liked rainbows.

The days don’t feel very long at all now. There are days that melt into each other like chocolate pudding. My daughter always liked chocolate the best as did my late husband but I like vanilla. Vanilla is smooth and light and sweet; my son likes vanilla better too. When I was young I used to call myself “The Vanilla Girl.”

I would not say I am a happy person but I am not sad; I am still.  I am like a painting that hangs on the wall.  Life without my husband is not a life that I can get used to. I speak to him all the time and I answer for him too. Many things I say, I say out loud.  Nobody is here to tell me not to.

Today I got dressed and I wore a blouse the color of a rose; it has a few stains on it but I don’t mind. My knarled, old feet are always barefoot and I remember walking on the beach with my family many years ago and how my toes loved the sand. I wear only clothes that are big on me because I never liked things that were tight. Sometimes I wear a nightgown all day long that my great grand-daughter sent me. It is my favorite thing to wear because it has yellow and blue flowers all over it and because it is from her. Who could have imagined me alive long enough that I would be a great grandmother. It isn’t the same since Grandpa passed on.

Nobody seems to understand. When my children visit  they say I should be “happy” and I  try. They don’t know how it feels when they leave. I love the visits from my family once in awhile but I feel the pain of missing Grandpa worse. There is a sharper pain and it takes a long time for it to go away; it is different from the pains and aches that I have all the time.  I get sad and then later on I feel better because I am alone and I don’t have to smile if I don’t want to.

Later I will watch television from my bed. I never turn the television off. I like to have some noise in the background to keep me company. At first the kids didn’t  want me to live here alone but this is my home and so I will die here too;  surrounded by all my photographs.

I will eat something when I want  like cheese and the inside of the bread that I used to call “cotton” when I was a young girl. I will spread that with butter that is not cold or warm but  comes in a tub; I don’t need to have four sticks of hard butter. I haven’t baked banana bread for many years now.

I am not a mean woman but I am not a kind one either. I am really nothing but I was somebody once. I was a wife to my beloved husband and a mother to our two children; we first had a boy and then we had a girl. Everyone used to say “it was the best of both worlds” and yes, that is really what it was. When I go to sleep I will try to remember a memory but they come and go and then I forget what I was thinking about. That is alright, because that is what happens.

When I wake up in the morning, I will say hello to my dogs and they will kiss my face, and I will drink Ovaltine in a my very favorite mug that has hearts and the word LOVE written on it. I will go on with the day again, and I will sit outside with my dogs and just be.

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.