self love

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

Thirty years ago, when my former husband, Dave and I were in our pre-marriage engagement stage, we had a boat we kept in Newport. It was like a floating camper for us and gave us full access to the fun of Newport, RI in our mid-twenties. Drinking and walking, this is what we did. A lot.

It was on one of these excursions with too many margaritas in our bellies when we walked into the estate jewelry store where we had previously found my engagement ring. The store was owned by two women who were excellent salespeople. We walked in that day to say hello and in the meantime saw two incredible rings. One of the rings was a chunky blue topaz in the center oreo’d with a yellow citrine on each side of the topaz. It was a bold antique ring that I wasn’t quite ready for, but loved it just the same. The other ring was a small elegant row of amethysts on a simple gold band. I playfully (and drunkenly) tried them on, then took them off and we were on our merry way. Back to the boat for a dizzying sleep, but a safe one and this is a fond memory.

The next day or two, Dave came home with the amethyst ring as a surprise for me. This was who he was, a great gift giver and a kind soul and the further away I get from my marriage, the more I focus on these kindnesses rather than what didn’t work. I am enjoying the maturity of this and appreciate that I can focus on the good parts of the twenty years we were together as I grow older. There seem to be more good parts in these reflections backwards and I am grateful for this.

I am not sure what happened to the amethyst ring, but I wore it a lot. I loved this ring, but I have thought about the blue topaz with the yellow citrines often over the years thinking that maybe someday I would have one designed to replicate it. Thirty years later this ring must have had some superpower because I have continued to reminisce about its whereabouts. Maybe because the boldness of the ring is much more who I have developed into as a woman approaching my mid fifties.

Jewelry doesn’t usually have this type of impact on me, I am not a big jewelry person, but clearly this ring left its imprint. It very well could be the memory of its goodness in the early discovery years in a marriage. A young naïve couple filled with hope and dreams about a utopian future ahead. Then you get married and the future changes. Life comes at you and before you know it it is thirty years later and you are not sure how you got HERE. Births, deaths, floods, divorces, home purchases, moves, cancer, new boobs, and here I am.

HERE I AM.

I have found myself. I was lost, now I am found, just like the song says, but I didn’t even know I was lost. In fact Being Lost isn’t really a negative; lost has given me a chance to go looking for the place, the space, the road. To get THERE. To get HERE. Here is saying yes more. Not living in plans and too many appointments without making the appointment with myself too. Saying yes to a random dinner with a friend and making an impromptu date for the next day to wander through a local exhibit at a museum we had all been meaning to go to but when we got there the following day, we learned that we had missed it. Put it in the “I’ll get to it tomorrow” pile as we do with so many events that show up in our inboxes.

So we made the best of it and wandered to one of the stores we had been meaning to visit in our little town. It was a small antique, vintage mixed with new odd combination of sunglasses, jewelry, clothes and knick knacks. We had a great time and as I went to make my way out of the store, my eye caught a sparkly bauble in the case. It was a phenomenal ring, Bold. Big. Hearty. And it was blue topaz and yellow citrine, but reversed from the ring I started this story with. Citrine in the center, blue topaz on the outsides.

“Can I try this on?” I asked excited. I thought I saw the price tag say $144. This seemed reasonable for the beauty that stared back at me hoping eagerly to find its way onto my finger.

The owner hesitantly took it from the case and looked at the price several times before handing it to me. I could almost sense that he thought the ring may be mismarked.

When he finally gave it to me after what seemed like five minutes, and it slid on my right ring finger like it was home again, I asked him if the stone was yellow citrine.

“I don’t know.” he replied. “I was not here the day this arrived.” He looked a little concerned that I was actually going to purchase this ring after asking him the price and hearing him say $68.00.

I wasted no time and quickly ran to the ATM across the street (because he was not taking credit cards in this day and age, hard to believe). I bought the ring, slid it on my finger and realized that if I were to get married again, this would be my wedding ring. So I sent a text with a photo of the ring to my long term partner that read the following:

Michael, if we were to ever get married, I would want this to be my wedding ring, but since we are never getting married (because neither of us ever want to, FYI) I am marrying myself. So happy wedding day to me. And I really meant this. I felt like I made the decision with this full circle opposite ring on my finger to marry myself. I MARRY ME. The thing about Michael is he totally gets me and got this immediately. I am sure he is grateful he has a partner who mutually feels the same regarding marriage. We are committed. Together. This is plenty.

The funny thing about this is that when Dave and I were divorced, I always thought I would take my wedding ring and engagement ring and have them made into a new ring that I would wear on my middle finger and call it a FREEDOM Ring. I never got around to that. I loved my wedding ring and my engagement ring and I couldn’t bear to break it apart. And as much as our marriage didn’t stay put, I loved my experience of the good and the bad of marriage. It made me who I am today and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I didn’t need a FREEDOM ring. I am free. Not because I am not married, because I do think that in a healthy relationship married or not, you can be free too. My freedom comes in the physical and mental layers I continue to shed along with layers of EGO that simply no longer serve. This is because of the work I have done and the life I have chosen.

This is a cause for celebration, this is a cause for a wedding.

To me. Till death do us part.

#imarryme

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SURROUNDED BY BOOKS

SURROUNDED BY BOOKS

Everywhere I look at my grandparent’s house, there are books. Not as many as there used to be as my grandfather realized long before his stroke, long before my grandmother died that they should start to move some of them somewhere. I was an all too welcome recipient as I love not only books, but anything and everything that comes from their house. I realized this last trip their familiar presence has been a staple in my world since I was born and how much I take that presence for granted. Books have been a part of the fabric of my upbringing, their importance the foundation of my life just by their lives on the shelves everywhere I look. On this trip I notice the empty spots knowing that my grandfather kindly sent many of them to me over ten years ago when I gave him my book grocery list. He was all too happy to find a new home for his collection and I was too happy to invite them as a next generation who appreciates the stories they tell.

Most of the books from my grandparents’ home have Jewish themes, Israeli themes, WWII history and one could likely tell from the titles that my grandparents were really invested in their faith. When I say faith, I do not refer to the religious aspect of it, but the cultural element. My grandparents were not religious Jews, but definitely cultural ones and their belief about what is right and wrong and how to live a life that demonstrated this was most definitively led by their Judaism. Many religions can say this, thou shall not…. The familiar Ten Commandments has been a good set of human values for the most part and we were raised mostly with this as our examples.

I have many friends who did not grow up with shelves and shelves of books and in my past life when I was married as I made my way to their homes, this was a unique difference in my observations. Books on the shelves along with art on the walls seemed to go hand in hand. Along with the books, my grandparents have art everywhere and this too has made its way to my home over the years. Again a lot of Jewish themed art along with art from their many trips to places people simply weren’t going to in the sixties and the seventies, China in the late seventies when they finally opened their borders to tourism, Israel starting in 1966, New Zealand, Ghana and Timbuktu and many other out of comfort zone places that shaped their world views. In turn they passed them on to their grandchildren by their examples along with the stories and endless slide shows we had the fortune to witness. At the time though, watching a slide show of a safari made us kids groan, but it instilled a love of travel and adventure in all of us grandchildren that we wholeheartedly appreciate.

As I look around at the dwindling and many out of date collection of books, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Religion, Jewish Civilization to name a few I wonder what on earth we are going to do with all of these books when the time comes for my 101 year old grandfather to move on to his next adventure, hopefully with my grandmother and father and brother. Each time I have visited him for the past ten years, I have looked at all of the “stuff” and thought to myself what the hell are we going to do with all of this? For him as I have asked him repeatedly, he replies with the simple answer, it’s not my problem, it will be yours and Bobby’s. Haha, touche, I think. While it seems like his typical pragmatic approach to all things end of life would apply here, all of this goes out the window because there seems to be in that six foot body of his a small shred of sentimentality after all.

“You are an emotional girl,” he has been fond of saying to me over the years like it was some wart to try to remove from my nose or something. Ironically it turns out that he too has a touch of emotion as well. Even though the pragmatic approach would be to start doling out the art and the trinkets, this I have decided would be admitting that death was at the door waiting. It also takes out of the house my grandmother’s essence, their travels and adventures, and for this, I concede, it makes complete sense to hold on as long as he chooses. He deserves this. It is his stuff and his life. I am sure that when the time comes for him to move on, we will be all too happy to be reminded of his presence in the stories each of these items we will lay claim to tell. The books are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many beautiful items that will find their way into our homes for the next generations. For me it is not the value of the item, the great news for our family is that none of us need any of it, it is the sentimental that I will cherish, the kitchen gadgets of my grandmother, her incredible Corning Ware collection, useful, well cared for and endless reminders of briskets and salads and Jewish Holidays. I am in no rush for any of it because that just means that this world as I have known and loved has come to an end. I have nothing to cry about after all I have had my grandfather way beyond my wildest dreams. The books are just the metaphor for the words and actions he has instilled in me and all of his grandchildren and as long as they are there, this means that he is. This is just fine with me.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL

“Get Out!” my six year old brother at the time screamed at me. I was ten and in his room taunting him like any bored older sister would be doing. I can’t remember the weather, the circumstance or why he was trying to boot me and why I would not be booted. I just remember him yelling at me to get out of his room, reasonable in hindsight as he surely was entitled to his privacy. I was his older sister, though and I had to save face, after all, who is the boss here? I dug in and wouldn’t budge. This was around 1976 when to tell time, you actually had a clock by the side of your bed rather than a cell phone. And a small orange and white circular plastic clock was what came flying at me slamming into my face. Right below my upper lip causing the bottom long part of the stand to make a connection with my skin causing a nice diagonal slice.

I can still see his face, somewhat disbelieving he had done this coupled with total satisfaction that he would indeed have the last word at last. That was until I bolted downstairs to report to my unsuspecting father of his crime, bloody face to prove it. I am not sure what became of my brother’s punishment for this, but I am sure my father was upset by this. This is how it often went with my brother and I imagine many siblings have stories that fall into the theme of protagonist and antagonist between the stages of their lives. My brother though was usually the one who got into trouble, but at the same time, I was a fierce protector of him in the outside world. He was my little brother and I loved him until the day he died which unfortunately was almost twenty three years ago, one month to the day of his 25th birthday. Today would have been his forty eighth year and the age difference is not as great, but this is something I will never know. I remember like it was yesterday having the conversation with him about death because it was at the time where we knew he would not be getting out alive. He was obsessed with videoing his every waking move with those old big cantankerous video recorders that held a full size tape. I was interviewing him Oprah style, tripod and all. We were both baked, smoking pot out of some gigantic water bong, better for the lungs, he would say and I was asking him questions. 
 “Are you afraid of dying?” I asked him this so matter of factly like I was asking him to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work to pick up milk and eggs. It was a courageous question for a 29 year old sister to be asking her 24 year old soon to die of advanced lung cancer baby brother. He never smoked a day in his life other than marijuana once he was diagnosed to help the pain. Before medical marijuana became legal.

He paused, took a long bubbly hit off the water bong, held his breath to feel the soothing effects of the THC that would be a saving grace for him. As he released the smoke he said, “The one good thing about dying young is that people will always remember you at this age.” Always had a funny twist to his words, usually looked at the bright side, old soul for sure, my brother Michael was. I know these words almost verbatim because I videoed him and have the videos to refresh my memory anytime there is a chance I could possibly forget. Unless I got dementia this conversation is not something I will ever forget. No one gets out alive, but burying the love of my life when he hadn’t even started his was one of those moments in time that will never leave my memory.

My brother knew the idiosyncrasies of our inside lives as only a sibling can understand. When he died, so did my personal collaborator of the mom and dad stories that only he would be able to recall. I can see us in my fantasy world of sitting around the dinner table at my fantasy relationship with our mother recalling all of our childhood adventures that she never likely knew about, that mothers shouldn’t know about until this very time. Of course even if our mother would have known, she couldn’t have because we lived with my father for most of our adolescence, my brother when he was ten, me when I was fifteen. But that is for another story, this story is to celebrate his memory on what would have been his forty eighth year today.

He was the first white boy most of us knew to have dreadlocks, back in 1985 in Portsmouth, RI back when white boys didn’t have dreadlocks. He also had a tattoo of a wizard smoking out of a bong that covered almost the entire right side of his very muscular and long back that made my grandparents in Florida demand full t shirt coverage when he visited. Michael was charming, handsome, kind. He had a sense of humor and a pragmatism about him that made him a desired friend to have around. He also lived on the edge, taking way more risks that I surely did at his young age, diving naked off of Fort Wetherhill cliffs with his friends, tossing fireworks back and forth causing my father to have to take him to the hospital for a burn that could have been much worse, BMX racing and stunts, skateboarding all over Jamestown when he was little. There was always an air of mischief around him and he seldom got caught doing anything unless it was something with his older sister so she could blame him. He loved peaches and cottage cheese as a snack and white cake with chocolate frosting and frozen chocolate chip cookies just like I did. He loved Reggae music and Seal and Lenny Kravitz. Michael Andrew Horowitz was an amazing human being and since November 20, 1995, i have never had a day go by when I haven’t thought of him.

As my own son comes into his 21st year, I try to stay calm for the next few years as I watch him climb his early twenties praying that he sails through 23–25 unscathed, undiagnosed. I am fully aware that everything is out of my control, that worrying about this is not helpful, but no matter how much I breathe, write, meditate, it looms. Trauma is like this, scars heal, but they show up like a tattoo. Every time I look in the mirror, that scar from that clock under my lip is a tattoo my brother gave me and I smile every single time I look at it. I will never know what would have become of my brother and my relationship if he had the chance to age right alongside me, but I do know that the time we had is etched into my heart and my face until the day I die.


hard to believe this was taken in 1992 when Michael Horowitz was 22.
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THE MORNING CONDUCTOR

THE MORNING CONDUCTOR

Good Morning.

said the silent statement from a sun speaking its early light from the east

as we lay in bed.

This morning.

After I read More Mary Oliver to Michael.

Magnificently timed in its courageous attempt

to rise and interrupt the strongest of a dark grey cloud cover.

Competitive between them.

Who would win the struggle?

When the sun speaks, you can feel its force;

This energy can force a person to shed their clothes

From the heat.

This is power.

This is strength.

The windiest day has strength too, but it can’t make you take your clothes off.

So there.

Then the birds.

First it was the chirp chirp of a bird I am embarrassed not to recognize.

After all this is a bird that is my daily morning companion

And I was unsure of its name.

Oh well, I shall just bathe in its sound,

in the repetition and ability to show up in my morning wake up.

Then it was the crow squawking,

standing on its feet like Stalin would

in the winter stripped maple tree in the front yard.

WAKE UP, sleepiest of heads.

LAZY ONES.

GET UP.

GET OUT.

He was demanding in his commands.

But we did not obey.

We rested.

Holding hands.

Listening together.

Then the Geese.

Those screaming winged birds,

with the tribal barking sounds of flying dogs

whizzing by like a carnival coming to a small town with all of their noise.

Then.

Quiet.

I wait patiently, expectantly, for the next sounds.

Cardinal?

No. Like trying to find a heart rock, Cardinals never sound on demand.

Only when you are not looking and listening.

That is their surprise.

Their specialty in my heart.

Nancy told Melissa when she was a child

that the birds sang to help the rise the sun.

Today it felt like the other way around.

The Sun was The Conductor.

Rising and organizing the tweets, the coos, the squawks, the whistles.

One after another.

For the waiting ears of two lovers in bed

on a lazy Saturday morning

unconsciously considering

whether to move or to continue just being.

Listening to the symphony

outside their window

with the delicate background noise

of their shared breath

under the sheets.

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A BEAUTIFUL BIRTHDAY

One happy chic at Union at Second Story Theatre last night.

A BEAUTIFUL BIRTHDAY

I have a unique inner circle of friends who have become my alter family. Besides my Aunt who lives about an hour away, I really don’t have any family in close proximity. My son has an enormous family on my former husband’s side, but in my house, it is up to me to create the noise and bustle of family and I have figured it out.

Family is a loaded cocktail; you get who you get. I am slightly envious of my friends who have these loud and in your face family members who move and slither around each other sometimes happily and sometimes in a way that makes my head spin. As I compare to my own family, their conversations are always forgiving; my family on my mother’s side anyway always had someone not speaking to someone. Forever. Done. On my father’s side, it is quite different. I am much closer to them and the leader of its pack, my Grandfather. They all live south of me though, between DC and Florida, so this makes for a lot less family dinners and get togethers.

Gatherings and get togethers have become a necessary and intuitive need for me. And unlike family, you get a chance to choose who to surround yourself with. As I enter the seventh year of my relationship with my partner, we have not only blended our families, successfully I might add, but also our close friendships. The mingling and marrying, so to speak, of couples between us has created an extended family who has bonded in a way essentially because we have chosen each other. The energy exchange between friends is uplifting and joyous when the connection has the sparks of great conversation, comfort in silence over eating and just simply being present in each other’s company. We have found a rhythm of friends who are the go to group for many dinners at each other’s homes and I count on them immensely for support and love as any chosen extended family provides. Grateful for their contribution in my life. Missing three of the usual group called the Octet, now the Septup as one couple has become divorced, we haven’t missed a beat. After all, we are not living in the fifties and sixties when couples had to mingle with couples and single woman were auto ejected. There are some other couples who are in my direct inner circle and have cross pollinated within this original octet now septet too and they all easily connect. They have similar travel experiences, life outlooks and approaches to generosity and altruism. What comes of this is a connection of healthy dialogue about our children, the natural events of our lives and current events.

One of these friends had for his birthday a few years back an idea to give each of us a birthday gift for his own birthday. He had thoughtfully given us each a piece of artwork from his collection of photographs and we were all really touched. This idea though not an expectation at birthdays has taken on some momentum. We have all realized as we are gaining years, what do we need, but love and connection. Connection is the core driver of these gatherings and my birthday was a cause for yet another get together last night. Missing were three of the original group, and they were totally missed, but added were four of the cross pollinators who have previously met at other times at my home.

My plan was to celebrate by taking us to Second Story Theatre in Warren, RI, but first dinner at their new restaurant, UNION, a totally apropos name for our tribe last evening. It is risky trying a new restaurant before a play as it could have gone south if the dining hadn’t been anything more than stellar. It was more than stellar as we plowed though dish after dish each enjoying tasting from each other’s plates. The service was impeccable, the meal was creative and I had been inspired to give them each a gift in honor of my birthday. What better way to feed my energy and core then to watch seven other grownups open up presents like it was Christmas (or Hanukkah in my case). Besides my famous Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce (yes ML, I have some for you and CL, fear not), I decided to share a ritual that has become part of the fabric of my relationship with Michael C. It may seem corny to some, but it has proven to be grounding and connecting over the years between us. Reading to each other. Sometimes it is an article in the newpaper, but more often it is a deliberate passage in a book about nutrition, relationship, or love and connection. Often this reading between us has been a catalyst for discussion about something that may need talking about or some intimate thought that pops up from the read. I would say of the many parts of our relationship, this of all is one of my favorites because it offers a way to communicate other than the traditional ‘let’s sit down and talk’ kind. Reading to each other has been a way to navigate potential issues before they turn into resentments, a way to communicate without it turning into direct confrontation and also a way to share interests through reading choices, taking our relationship to a much deeper understanding. Reading to each other is communal. It is a way to be present without the phone and the distractions of the daily grind. I can’t imagine doing this with my former husband, he wouldn’t have likely thought much about the possibilities of the result, but I am sure happy I am with someone who came up with the idea let alone is open to continuing the spontaneity of the ritual.

Last night I gave each of my friends a book of poems by one of most favorite poets, Mary Oliver, who has a vast collection of books to choose from. The first time I ever heard a Mary Oliver poem was at a meditation class that my Rabbi did. Her prose and the layers of nature wrapped in words brought me to my knees. Like a prayer that has the ability to move my heart, her poetry got my attention and I have read her poems frequently to center myself if I feel like I need some enlightenment. I chose a book for each person based on a poem I saw in the book that uniquely reminded me of them. I gave one to each hopeful that they would have the same joy alone and with each other as the book as their own connector and reminder to stay tuned.

From the food, the play, (once again, Ed Shea gets my attention, Talley’s Folly, by Lanford Wilson) and the camaraderie and comfort shared between friends made my 53rd birthday a gift that keeps on giving way beyond the evening.Happy to have made it, may each year be the gift it has become in so many ways.

Why I Wake Early 
 

 “Hello, sun in my face.
 
 Hello, you who made the morning
 
 and spread it over the fields
 
 and into the faces of the tulips
 
 and the nodding morning glories,
 
 and into the windows of, even, the
 
 miserable and the crotchety — 
 
 
 best preacher that ever was,
 
 dear star, that just happens
 
 to be where you are in the universe
 
 to keep us from ever-darkness,
 
 to ease us with warm touching,
 
 to hold us in the great hands of light –
 
 good morning, good morning, good morning.
 
 
 Watch, now, how I start the day
 
 in happiness, in kindness.”

Mary Oliver

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BEST LAID PLANS

BEST LAID PLANS

My sleeping patterns have changed greatly since I have been thrust into surgical menopause almost three years ago this March. Where I used to have a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep these days I wake up often at three or four hour increments. The odd thing though is that when I decide that it is time to get our of bed usually at around 4:30 or 5:00am, I feel rested. One rule I have semi created is not to look at my clock when these mid sleep wakeups happen and this has helped me easily fall back asleep. There is something about knowing that you are up at 3:00am and that wild witching hour usually perpetuates the non return to sleep. I don’t keep my phone sound on ever, no ringing, no binging, no vibrating. I found early on that my short attention span brain became too easily distracted by this Pavlov conditioning and disciplined myself accordingly.

Needless to say when I saw light yesterday morning upon opening my eyes, I knew I had slept past my usual early wake up. So I looked at my clock on my phone and along with the joy of seeing 6:30am instead of 4:00 for a change, a record these days, I also saw the frightening mom’s worst nightmare of four missed calls from my son. The good news was that there was also a voicemail. As quickly as I could muster the brainpower to listen to it, I was as quickly relieved to discover that the only emergency was that he could not find his passport in our house. Normally I would not call a sophomore in college at 6:30 am but I learned through the additional text he sent me that he had an opportunity to go with some friends to Montreal for New Years Eve and they were leaving in less than two hours. Michael was at his Dad’s and I was at my partner’s house and he had no car because it was in the shop. The glory of the lives of our children is that this is what they get to worry about. Fortunate indeed. I had my day planned out, though. Wake up, make coffee, sit by the fire with my man, do some morning writing, go to an 8:00am last day of the year workout, and then secure a place on the couch and do the work I brought over to his house. I could not remember where I put the passports and strangely had thought about this about a week ago reminding myself to find them. I hadn’t so here I was.

“I will come back to Bristol, pick you up and we will find them.” I said this calmly and lovingly. “Are you sure?” he asked tentatively. After all, his experience likely with both of his parents over much of his years has been to sound annoyed and inconvenienced because of this poor planning. I was raised by the master of just say No first to everything. The response I always heard from my parents and then the man I married was usually a NO coupled with a big sigh and the clicking of a tongue, some eye rolling and probably even a flip remark. I too was guilty of this immediate going south reply. I had my plans set for my day and this new plan would surely throw a wrench into it. What struck me the most about my calm and normal non reactive reply is that it didn’t strike me, I didn’t have to think about it. It came naturally, honestly. I didn’t have to talk myself off of a typical trigger reply. I just responded. It was automatic. I was calm and I didn’t feel anything other than appreciation for the notion that I love my son and I could easily do this for him and wanted to. For the moms out there and I know many who respond this way normally and can’t imagine not responding this way, you are the lucky ones. This was not something I learned from anyone. I had to learn it, but in good old Al anon fashion, the first step is awareness, I didn’t even realize my normal response was anything but.

As I began the twenty five minute ride home on a one degree last day of the year drive in the comfort of my warm car, I noticed the light of the morning. I was the only car on the road on this final morning of 2017. The moon was full and ripe with possibility and all of a sudden recognized what just happened. I stared at the sky as I made my way over the beautiful Mount Hope Bridge and drank in the glory of the morning. At 52, I had made a correction proving it is never too late to see the results of the work I have been doing in my own life for my whole life. I felt peaceful and calm. I had a deep awareness of my own personal growth as a woman and as a mother. My plans had gone differently than I had intended and as I made the drive home to pick Michael up and help him find the passports I realized that my response to him was a life changer for me. What a lovely gift to myself and to him to realize that I have changed in a positive way that serves both of us as mother and son. I also realized that my partner Michael was instrumental in his influence over interrupting my automatic negative responses over the years past six years creating an awareness in me by his own positive behavior.

When my son got in the car, I am sure he imagined that I would be upset with him and had a sense of relief to see that I wasn’t. He humbly thanked me for changing my plans and I wondered in the mire of mom guilt how many times I may have made him feel like he was an addendum to my day, especially in the previous years of leaving my husband, his dad, our family as we knew it. I quickly stopped myself for berating my past and using this opportunity with him as a leaping off point to set a new example as his mom guide. As we made our way home to find the passport that I assured him was not lost, just misplaced, I began the gratitude checklist for the change in my day. The text messages that weren’t something horrible, the comfort of a warm car and a super warm house, the gratitude for having a passport that allows both of us to travel afar and blessedly re-enter this United States of America. The ease of throwing on my pajamas, turning on the stereo listening to some great jazz as I decided that the last day of the year would end with cleaning closets. After finally finding the misplaced passports about ten minutes before his pickup was about to arrive, I hugged him deeply or as deeply as a freshly turned twenty year old can return the hug. I sent him on his way with my credit card he did not ask for, but I insisted he take for emergencies. I said “better safe” and he said “than sorry” and I said “than worry.” I jokingly said that me giving him my credit card was self serving as it helped me relieve my sense of worry as he and three of his friends decided to drive to Montreal to bring in the New Year.

As he left on his journey north, I sat comfortably with my newly revised list for my day in the depths of deep inner peace on the final day of this year. Not only have I survived breast cancer, but I took great pride in my ability to continue to learn about myself, to be a better mother to my son and as a result an even stronger woman than I thought I was when I woke up yesterday morning. Strong healthy relationships are supposed to bring out the best in each other. I never really learned this except from peripheral family like my Aunt and my Grandparents. Because they weren’t my daily dose, though my example was my parents and then my husband at the time. As a result, I had to first recognize that this was something I even needed to learn. My friend, Karen taught me this everyday as I was serendipitously placed directly across the street from her mothering as my neighbor for almost twenty years. When I left, I took with me her “because you are his mother,” lessons in my trunk of the extraordinary gifts she and her husband Bob gave to me. My partner Michael unknowingly took the reigns from Karen and continued the lessons by his own example of calm and consistent behavior proving I am never to old to learn how to be a better mom, partner, person, human, woman. And now my son, Michael and I get to be both the student and the teacher together as we both learn how to navigate our lives in the healthiest of ways as he moves into his twentieth year and I move into my fifty third.

The best laid plans are often the ones that are not planned at all. In this New Years resolution crazed world we see in every social media outlet, perhaps the simplest plan is to just be calmer, more thankful and more present to each other. Maybe it is the greatest excuse to reach out to people you may have lost contact with or haven’t made time for. What I love about the New Year is what Oprah said in one of her quotes, “Cheers to a New Year and another chance to make it right.” Maybe this is the plan. Maybe this is enough.



seeing old friends, cleaning closets, staying present, hello my son the greatest teacher of all and a glorious 2018 that lies ahead.
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WEDNESDAY NIGHTS WITH JANE

WEDNESDAY NIGHTS WITH JANE

The last two Wednesday evenings I have somehow managed to carve out some time in this busy holiday season to hang out with one of my favorite clients yes, but more so, favorite women. Last week, we ate at Simones in Warren RI after a trip to IKEA where we basically had the entire 357,000 square foot store to ourselves. Mind you this was the first Wednesday night in December, usually a high traffic beginning to a busy shopping season. The emptiness was depressing as I am constantly reminded how shopping may be a vintage notion at some point in our future, but it was nice to have the entire place to ourselves as we oohed and ahhed over all of the trinkets and designs that IKEA has imbedded in our minds in the way we shop for home goods.

Like Betty and Wilma, we moved through the store at the speed of light with our expert shopping ability that has become finer tuned every year we age. Jane tells stories in a way that no one else tells and she makes me laugh so hard that I cry. No one else I really know makes me laugh like that at the drop of a hat. Add to the stories her ability to mimic her robust and very large Portuguese family’s heavy accents and you would think she just moved here from the old country. She is in a unique vantage point of being the first generation from her immigrant parents as many people who live in Bristol fall into this category. For me I am the fourth generation from my Russian great grandparents so I am very much assimilated into everything American. Jane is too, but her direct connection with her culture, her tribe of family members and their cultural quirkiness makes for some hilarious commentary.

Since the first facial I gave her sixteen years ago, she has had me laughing as her stories are endless. From how her mother prepares for Christmas dinner, (six different potato dishes because God forbid there isn’t enough) to how the double standard of her husband who easily gets out an obligation falls on her by proxy. She darts between the direct and pungent Portuguese language and her native English to translate which of course never translates into the meaning that the native language intends. She does the accent of the women in her family that is so authentic you just know it is because she has been surrounded by their sounds and intonations from the moment she was conceived almost fifty years ago. As the matriarchs of her family are getting older, it is obvious who will take the helm as there is never a moment when there is not a christening, a wedding, a shower, a birthday party, a daily visit to the nursing home or a funeral to not only attend, but to shop, cook, prepare and rally the troops for. Jane is the designated go to gal in her beautiful and tight knit family that at times causes envy because I don’t have any family other than my son, my aunt and my ex-husband in my hometown.

I have figured out ways to create tribe. My partner and his son and their family are now family I call my own. I have a group of close friends and some of their children who I rely on and they rely on me too for the community of family because none of us have what Jane has either. The ability to create tribe and connection with your own choice is probably something that Jane could never imagine as there is never a shortage of sound and sensory overload with her family. Quiet time is not part of their story and I have continued to be the recipient of these stories as I make my way on these shopping and eating excursions this last two Weds evenings and for the past 16 years.

This past Wednesday was no exception as we somehow managed to get together last minute for another shopping adventure and eating again at Simones. I am actually hoping that this gets to be a regular occurrence because it is such a nice break for both of us. Our lives are so different, but we blend together and share our stories on these past two Wednesday eves in such a glorious and divine way. The end result is we lift and energize each other because of the differences and this is because of our total acceptance of those differences. This is the best part of being open to unlikely friendships where maybe on paper we may not share typical commonalities, but our hearts and our energy fields have a connection that feels almost past life. I wish I could share the exact stories, but I don’t want to get her family all jacked up because of a security breach on my part. This could also potentially run the risk of my being banished from the infinite Sunday dinner open invitation at her mother’s house. This would not be good. What I can share though is that the stories are loud and peppery; someone is usually not speaking to someone one day, but the next day they are sharing a meal. This is family. This is love. From the outside it looks like something I would love to be a character in. Knowing the intensity and the sometimes too close for comfort of having so many relatives in a super small town that is a peninsula only inhabited by 22000 people, I think that this is more of a fantasy. I would prefer to watch the action through Jane and her stories and know that I can leave them whenever I get out of her car. Because I grew up as a grandchild of a textile mill owner in Fall River, Mass, though, every Portuguese sound, story, accent is something that I can feel in my cells like it is my own. Her connecting me to this part of my life is much appreciated as a time in the past that I love to bring back to the forefront.

She lost her best friend this year suddenly to an illness and this has spun her into a dark place. Out of darkness often comes light without sounding cliché though I know this does, I am one of the benefactors of the time she now has without her friend by her side. She needs laughter and distraction as she is in the depths of her grief. I get to be one of the women in her life who is removed from the immediate connection and thus the recipient of her need to fill some space with female connection. I relish the job.

This past Wednesday we went to dinner first and then she dragged me way past my bedtime to her other job- going to Macy’s at the Swansea Mall. I assured her that I couldn’t remember the last time I was at any Macy’s or the Swansea Mall for that matter and as we drove up to the parking lot that had about four cars in it, I could see why. I kept reminding her that it was way past my bedtime of 8:30. She ignored my half assed complaints and in truth I loved the adventure. Maybe the plan for the malls of the future should be to knock them down and make parks out of them. There was nothing going on except bored salespeople who could barely point you in the direction of what you were looking for let alone walk you over to it. No wonder no one is shopping there, there is no experience. At least online you can make your own experience in your own house. This was something. As I plodded through the crap, I felt like I would have done better at Job lot. Macy’s is not what it was in Miracle on 34th St. of yesteryear but we managed to find a few old faithfuls. Isotoner gloves for one, my personal favorite. I just can’t buy those online, you really have to try them on and I managed to find two brand new pairs at some crazy 65% off sale price. Meanwhile Jane was up to her job of “working” at the perfume counter, passing out samples to the only other shopper besides me in the damn place. We laughed our Simone pasta filled asses off and I can’t wait to do it all over again.

There is nothing like female friendship. Deep friendships are honest and happily interrupt our otherwise over scheduled lives. I have an inner circle of women friendship that has some common denominators. We may not see each other or speak for time, but when we do it was like we just spent the past week together. There is no guilt or pressure between us. When we are together it is comfortable, and we can toggle between deep belly laughter and teary eyes from one sentence to the next. In fact there is a knowingness that at any moment of any day I could call any one of them and they would be there. Hanging out with ease, enjoying the time, making the time, knowing that we are all so busy in our wacky worlds and we must make more effort in spending time with each other in between those rare spaces of over booked lives. I am so grateful that we made this happen especially before the mad rush of December.

Love you Janey M. You enrich me and I am a better person knowing you. Thelma was right there with us, no doubt.

can’t make it up, j.
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VERY MUCH AWAKE. (the reading I did for my grandfather’s 100th birthday party this past weekend)

VERY MUCH AWAKE. (the reading I did for my grandfather’s 100th birthday party this past weekend)

I turned on my laptop yesterday to give this reading tonight one last go through. Along with the computer, I started up my surround sound music system and got ready to make sure that this piece was exactly what I wanted to say. The song that was my first guest was “What a Wonderful World.” How appropriate that this would be the song that would accompany me and my final thoughts about HERBIE HOROWITZ. Appropos indeed.

I am a fifty two year old woman who has a grandfather who is 100 and for mathematical perfection 100 and one day. You made it, grandpa.

Every time I say this familiar word, Grandpa, I am transplanted like I am in a time machine to my earliest of memories of my very large life growing up as Herbie’s first grandchild. I always add the extra word, favorite, even though these are my injections not his. After all we are all his favorites in each of our own way and this is one of the glorious traits of Herbie. He makes everyone of us feel like a favorite.

When I say the word grandpa, I don’t feel 52, I feel like his five year old granddaughter running through the factory and excitedly yelling grandpa and jumping into his comforting arms as he wrapped them around me; I am at Archer Street sliding open the well organized kitchen cabinets and taking down the jar of prized Macadamia nuts that we would sparingly share. When I say grandpa, my brother and I are searching for the afikomen at Passover and hoping that Herbie had just a little too much Scotch in the evening to pull out a 20 for the find rather than a 1 or a 5.

When I say Grandpa I am leaving as a precocious and somewhat spoiled 12 year old who would have the unrealized privilege at the time of an almost one month trip to Israel and Italy where I would meet Kalman and the Goldner tribe, our Israeli family since my grandparents first trip in the late sixties. When I say grandpa, I am 17 driving with my brother in my 1963 Volkswagon bug for the first time by ourselves on our own to Maine where Herbie and Isabelle come out of the back door and greet us at the Hydrangea bushes and I am automatically calm and at peace. This has been Herbie’s influence on me. Stability, consistency, calmness, knowingness of behavior. There is something to be said for these wondrous traits. 
 The list goes on and I am leaving off at adolescence. Otherwise I would be up here all night and Herbie would be shouting keep it short. It is almost impossible to keep it short when my experience as the eldest granddaughter of Herbie Horowitz is so rich and full. But I will do my best.

Herbie was four years younger than I am today when I was born and as I look lovingly at my son, Herbies oldest great grandson, Michael today at almost 20 he is the age that my father, David was when he decided to elope and subsequently 11 months later, I was born. The shock of getting a telegram because that was the email of 1964 must have rocked Herbie’s sense of what was right from not right. And I am happy to report that at this point, Michael shows no signs of eloping any time soon.

Life is like this though, the best laid plans of Mice and Men. How things are supposed to be is seldom how they end up. Becoming a grandfather at 48 and because of this having a span of great grandchildren from Ronan our newest member less than a year, to Austin and Helena our Kindergartner and first grade representation all the way to a college sophmore. Herbie has witnessed many things that I am sure were not in his radar or his best laid plans. Watching people he deeply loves get cancer diagnosis and unearthing the common denominator of the brch 2 genetic mutation were not in his plans. Surviving his son, David and his grandson, Michael, almost 22 years ago to this weekend by the way, and his younger brothers Bernie and Irving for sure were never in his plans either. Isabelle checking out before him was definitely not in his plans. “Your grandmother screwed me up” was a phrase I heard him say the last time I was visiting reminding me that the plan was for him to go first, but that would be Isabelle, getting the last word ultimately even on her way out.

I have watched his strength as he survived a stroke that compromised his physical strength, but his mind is as sharp as a tack. My grandfather is the one who gives me great pause in my life. More than anyone, he has taught me lessons I could never list on a piece of paper As I go forward in my life, it has taken on a sense of busy ness because I can’t help but be pragmatic in my approach. I am a realist on some level which would surprise many who know me especially my grandfather who thinks I have walked around with my head in the clouds as he has reminded me often, “Alayne, you are an emotional girl.” Spoken totally from an old school man born in 1917 who has different outlook on the way men think versus women surely. I mean think about it, he was born before women even had the right to vote. He was born to Russian immigrants who came to America so they could have religious freedoms as well as opportunities they couldn’t even imagine were possible in the early 1900s. He was born before WWII was even a glimmer. He was born before television was invented or before people even had cars or credit cards, movies, or stereo systems and records and rock and roll and headphones. Never mind the internet and email and cell phones.

Herbie is not the type of man who lives in the past though. He is my pragmatic grounding go to advisor for much advice that requires the removal of my emotions. When I had the devastating flood at my business he reminded me that this was what insurance was for. Oh yeah, I don’t have to freakout, it is not useful. His business advice over the years has been like getting advice from a Harvard business school professor. As I get older, I have found myself replaying its wisdom and actually listening to the majority of it more and more. This is the greatest thing about maturity and getting to still have you around, I get to take advice finally and let you know while you are here and very present that it has been good sound advice.

I have spoken about my grandparents since my voice found me probably at isabelle and herbies 50th wedding anniversary that many of you who are here tonight were in attendance back at the Gulf and Bay Club. Speaking at these events lots of anniversaries and of course the natural life events of eulogies has become one of my most cherished excuses to talk about the people in my life who have been the most influential. To list all of the lessons you have taught me is almost cliché at this point because having you for my 52 years has taught me by your example to say it aloud by my actions not words. My life that I live is so much the result of your actions not words and my deep love and admiration for its potent influence not only in the way I move through the world but the way I have raised my son. This has been mainly because of you and your solid presence in my life. I have said this often because I had such young and wacky parents who were like the anti advice sort. However with the swiftness of a bird protecting its nest, you and grandma never failed to show up and protect with an under the radar elegance.

Probably the highlight of my writing life is that I am here tonight speaking not at your funeral, but at your birthday. I finally get to say what so many people who have left us don’t get to physically hear. My father taught us this as he boldly went where no Horowitz went before when he (and I) decided we would construct an awake wake before he died so he could have his funeral and see it and be in it. This was a startling concept, but for those who attended, we were all enlightened. Even Herbie and Isabelle who as you all may imagine had many misgivings.

This last three years post Isabelle and post stroke have shown all of us what life is really about. Like a Dickens character being visited by the ghost of Christmas past, Herbie has observed the speed of light of his life with the replay of a life well lived. Herbie is an icon and is revered among anyone who knows him. If it is the truth that what you give out you get back, this would be what I have reminded Herbie of despite the health trials and tribulations. He has had the priveledge of seeing the showing up of the tribe in a non stop parade of visits and phone calls. Like the sun rising and setting, Bill Gadreu calls every day at 6pm without fail. Bobby who has developed a deeper relationship with herbie yes because of his personal sense of responsibility sure but more because of his admiration and love for him. This is because of Herbie’s incessant and consistent trips and visits to all of the people he has cared for and about since I remember. Weddings, funerals, births, birthdays, bar and bat mitzvahs, anniversary parties and any excuse to keep in touch.

Patriarch almost feels garish to say. For a man who is not demonstratively emotional, his consistency and his ability to show up whenever possible, has been the most stunning example of a demonstration of love. Love comes in many forms and Herbies non verbal way of showing it speaks louder and bolder than 1000 I LOVE YOU’S. I can see this by the relationships he has formed with the wondrous women who lovingly and patiently care for him in the most intimate of circumstances. Brenda from Belize, Spritual tonya, the writer, nancy, the queen of nighttime crafting, and Anika the warrior aka bad ass anika who never lets anything get by her these women have played a significant role in Herbie’s care, but also in the ease of which we as his family have kept things as normal as we have known them to be in our continued visits and phone calls. Even though he has to write these exhorbitant checks for this care, the man who told me at 25 to start a mutual fund and an IRA (and I actually listened) is my role model for saving for a rainy day (which I don’t usually listen), these beautiful women are like family now in our lives surely. And fortunately for us, his frugality over the years have allowed him to live in his home with this personal care and we too reap the benefits of is financial prowess.

We can see this tonight with over 80 people in attendance. This is significant in a life well lived. His ability to form relationships and maintain them for a lifetime is something that facebook and twitter could never compete with.

There has never been a shortage of love induced language around, towards, above and below you. An omnipresent force in my entire life and if I dare to live to your benchmark I am at the half way point. It is hard to imagine living an entire one of my lives again yet life is like this, the speed of light, a speck on the planet and it is what we do with that speck that ultimately matters.

This is Herbie. More than anyone in my life. This is my grandfather. The largest speck I know surely.

Herbie Horowitz born in 1917 and is now 100 years and four days and counting. (and oh btw he has an older sister, Helen who just turned 102 and yes she still lives on her own)
recipes

BLUEBERRY CAKE

BLUEBERRY CAKE

Dearest Michael,

There is something about a recipe that is handed down from generations. Like Grandma’s HOT FUDGE SAUCE, the blur of the typeface from years of butter on my fingers and hence the recipe, the yellowing of the card, the smear of chocolate all add to the magic of the recipe.

This is a new recipe as you have just started to break out of your comfort zone for your morning breakfasts. You used to be very particular about the am food intake. Chocolate Chip Pancakes, Sweet Bread Stuffed French Toast, Cheese and Red Pepper and Onion Fritatta or Cinnamon Sugar Bagel from Bristol Bagels with only Bristol Bagel cream cheese- see picky, or rather particular. I raised you this way I suppose. Of course, you were always game for breakfast at our go to morning hole in the wall, HOPE DINER. Nowadays, (thank you college and THE LOBSTER POT summer employment) you have branched out into onion or everything bagels, fried egg sandwiches on Brioche rolls from Baptista Bakery, and this new Whitehouse favorite, Mrs. Chace’s Blueberry Cake passed down from one of my dearest friends, Marcia.

In this fast paced world of drive thru muffin shops, four dollar donuts coated with fruit loops, buying a store bought mix these days now seems retro. Baking “from scratch” is so easy and quick if you have the ingredients on hand. Besides the fresh blueberries in this recipe, I always do. Flour, sugar, butter, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla- the staples of a baking pantry. I learned this from your grandmother, my mother and she learned it from her mother. Lucky for this lesson, you, my dear Michael, are the luckier one.

There is something inherently old fashioned about waking up in the morning and pulling out the perfectly sized square Corning Ware glass pan. This favorite cooking dish belonged to your Great Great Grandmother Mimi and I received it from your Great Grandmother Isabelle when they were selling our summer family home in Naples, Maine and had to break down the house belongings. There is something comforting about creaming the dish with fresh butter and setting the stove to 375, getting the recipe ready while you are sleeping. As I sift the dry ingredients and look fondly at the recipe, I am connecting with generations of women who have baked this very recipe for their families. There are some recipes that I just don’t want to re write so I am including it just as I received it from Marcia at a birthday party I had for myself when we first moved into our condo on Poppasquash in March of 2011 when I turned 46. I had just left Dad and I know this was a hard time for you. I am hoping that the continuity and the efforts Dad and I made to keep you in our foremost focus during this difficult time made this painful transition at least a bit softer. My dear friend, Ros has since passed away, but his famous blueberry bushes live on forever in their proud place in this glorious recipe.

MRS. CHACE’S PRUDENCE ISLAND BLUEBERRY CAKE (as written by Marcia to me)

My husband, Ros has 60 blueberry bushes on our property on Prudence Island, and we look forward to July when the early bushes produce fruit. One of the first things I cook with the berries is Mrs. Chase’s blueberry cake. This recipe originated with Mrs. Eugene Chase, a year-round resident of Prudence Island from the 19th century well into the 20th. This recipe was first in print in the early 1940’s. Blueberries, blackberries, wild strawberries and elderberries are native to the island.

We enjoy this blueberry cake all summer with a hot cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of red wine after dinner as a summer dessert.

2 C sifted flour

2/3 C sugar

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

½ C softened butter (not melted)

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

½–3/4 C milk (Marcia and I have discussed this, she has used almond milk and it has worked fine, I have used buttermilk and ½ and ½ and it has also worked terrifically)

2 C blueberries

Sift dry ingredients. Cut in softened butter. Add slightly beaten eggs, vanilla and milk and then blueberries. Place in a well greased 8 x 11 pan. (I have used the square pan as mentioned but it is a little small. The pan I prefer is the grey square that is a little bigger, but I baked this recipe for Stephen and Julie B. when Stephen’s mom passed away so they would have something to eat before going to the funeral and I am waiting for its return.)

Topping

½ C golden brown sugar

1 Tbsp butter

½ t cinnamon

¼ C pecan meats (optional) I don’t use pecans (neither do I)

Mix brown sugar, butter and cinnamon together. Then add the nuts if desired. Spread over cake before baking.

Bake in 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes.

Here are a few pointers:

· “C” = CUP, “T = TABLESPOON, “tsp” = teaspoon

· Do not skip the sifting.

· When measuring the flour, scoop it into the measuring cup, then with a knife swipe it across the top of the measuring cup so that it is exactly the right cup full. Baking is precise, too much flour will make it dry, but if you do decide to be lazy, you can always add a little more milk.

· The recipe and some others will call for “cutting in the butter.” This may seem odd the first time you try the recipe, but it is exactly as it sounds- you take a slightly softened full stick of butter, cut it down the center lengthwise and then cut it into small cubes. Add them to the flour mixture and with a fork and knife, just simply cut it. It will be chunky and will not be mixed in smooth. This is the glory of this recipe and what makes it so moist. Baking is about not over mixing and not overthinking. Kind of funny that I am a good baker because I tend to overthink many things, but not baking. It is my happy place for sure.

· Always place in a prepared over, meaning preheat to 375 and don’t put in the oven until it is at 375, hot and ready.

I LOVE YOU.

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THE DAY AFTER

THE DAY AFTER

July 4th in Bristol, RI every year is like a wedding. Like an engagement, the planning begins the day after the event and goes full throttle until the big day, usually the following year. Being the oldest and longest running parade in the country, Bristol, RI’s famous July 4th gets a lot of attention and with great reason; it is Americana 101. Good old fashioned family get togethers, back yard barbeques, outdoor concerts and everything in between.

Like a wedding that doesn’t have a honeymoon scheduled the next day, though, July 5th comes with a heavy heart. For many Bristolians, a word for anyone who is born here (in actuality, it is a word some Bristol residents say to describe not only being born here, but being born HERE, like in your actual house and being part of a family who has lived here several generations ago) there is a big let down. I am not a “Bristolian” in the self proclaimed definition sense, but since I have resided here, for half of my 52 year old life, raised our son, have started and maintained my business here and been a community activist here, I will go out on a limb to say that I consider myself part of the tribe we call Bristol. I may not have the bragging rights to say that I have a large circle of family generations, but if Bristol were to be defined by community and love of town, I am definitely a proud, card bearing resident and I love the July 4th celebration.

July 4th in Bristol, RI is even more of a blast if you have a house on or near the parade route and for the past four years, I do. My son and I have the best of both worlds because our house is only four houses down from the actual route so it is easy to participate or avoid the madness depending on your mood (or the sun) on the day.

The first rule of the July 4th parade here is to wake up at the un-Godly hour of 3:30 or 4:00am so you can prepare to claim your stakes on a good spot to place your chairs. Even though there are signs everywhere saying that placing chairs before 5am is not allowed, there are no chair police patrolling our end of the street which is usually the residents and not the tourists. For some people like my favorite neighbor, Dottie, who is 84 and has lived next door for over seventy years, there is a science to the process.

She places like twenty chairs and makes sure she gets the “family spot” under a shady tree. She gets up there and starts her patrol at about 4am. I am guessing here, because I am still sleeping. On hot days, which is usually the case, this has proven to be an excellent strategy. My strategy is when I go to bed on July 3rd, I say, “if I wake up at 4:30, I will place chairs, if not I will take what is left.” This year, I woke up at 4:30 so I just walked up to the corner in my jammies and took the spot that no one wants because it is in the straight sun. I placed my chairs and blanket and voila done in five minutes, no stress. Actually, in all of the years I have lived here, I have only done the chair thing one other time and that was when my mother was visiting over fifteen years ago. My son and I know so many people on the route, that we have always just gone to their houses and done the freeloading thing. I am in the good enough circle. For true Bristolians, like Dottie, this is sacrilege. After all we are talking tradition here.

This year though, I was hosting a big fest, the first time in our house I have done this. This was our fourth year living directly in town (this means that we live in a place where after 8am, you basically cannot leave because the streets are closed off). The previous years, I just kept it to inviting a couple, small and intimate. This year though, I went all out. Maybe it was because this was my son’s first summer back from his first year of college or because of the incredible energy I have felt since I have recovered from my double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery three months ago. I just want to celebrate life often with my son and the people I call family. And celebrate we did.

I cooked too much food, a prerequisite for Bristol, July 4th festivity, I drank too much too early, another rule, thank you Gasbarros for the Proseco recommendation, no hangover. (Another reason to buy, along with great food, great wine.) I claimed parking spots on the street so I could make sure to have enough room for my guests to park in the driveway and I cooked up a storm. Baked French toast and blueberry cake, afterall, when your day starts at 4:30am, people have to eat breakfast. Burgers, lasagna, dips, baked ziti, salads, and about five desserts. Completely unnecessary, but for some reason, tradition. The shopping, the decorating, the organizing gives me such pleasure that though I wake up with a heavy sad heart at yet another July 4th gone by, I am so satisfied that I hosted and created a tradition. Perhaps this is one of the many lessons I have learned from my neighbor. No matter how exhausted or wiped this party that basically starts on Flag Day gets us, there is an inordinate amount of joy it brings to our lives. I know that I participated and created my own tradition the way I dictate and if this is the torch that Dottie and my dear friend Marcia (the person I have basically parade freeloaded from for the past fifteen years) have taught me, it is the importance of continuity and tradition. Though I may not have family abounding around here besides my son and my partner and his son, we make our own family with deep rooted connections of friendships and pretend families. Often times these connections are even more satisfying then the real deal.

And I can’t wait until next year to do it all again.

Thank you July 4th committee for your hard work in making sure that this family affair continues boldly and brightly.







and a great time was had by all.