FUN, travel

BOOB TAPE AND IDENTITY

There are so many odds and ends when you are getting ready to travel out of the country. Besides the packing and the postponing of newspapers and mail, there are the phone calls to the various banks and credit card companies letting them know when a charge comes through that is not your norm, it is ok.

We were headed to Quebec and Canada is such a close neighbor that it is easy to forget it really is not part of the our borders. I forgot to let the banks know I was traveling outside of the US. As soon as I crossed the border and heard lovely French, I remembered instantly, though. Canada is a very different place from USA and a beautiful and easy place to get to when you want to get away and feel like you are traveling someplace with a more European vibe.

My partner and I roamed the cobblestones streets, learning how to navigate a new city. We ate poutine which should be illegal and I am grateful it has not found its way down to Rhode Island or it could very well be my caloric demise. 

We went to the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec and came upon an exhibit by contemporary artists, Cozic whose description read, COZIC is a two-headed visual artist with four hands made up of Yvon Cozic and Monic Brassard. And it was there I was struck by the question of what is art anyway, and who gets to claim and define that question? 

I appreciate when art does this. When it makes you read every single description card next to it its piece on the wall. We spent three hours looking at this exhibit. Odd, unusual and at the same time, captivating. The art was, at some points, interactive clearly inviting the visitors to be more than voyeurs. Touching, smelling even, being part of their work making me consider that art is more than just staring and feeling. I hadn’t really thought about this before.

What also struck my feminist radar was the description of who they are in their work. This wife and husband team prefer to be described as one artist. It is certainly a brilliant marketing element to their work, but what I noticed is that it is the Cozic name used as the signature of the show and I kept feeling, Where is Monic? 

She gets her due because when they are both written about, she is part of the story in all of the pieces, but where is her name on the art? They have been together since the sixties and I just wanted one piece that said, Monic Brassard. This all could have been her choice from the beginning and I don’t know anything more than my first impression of an exhibit that got me to really think during and afterwards. Art is like this; it gets me thinking about life- feminism, culture, marketing, politics and identity. 

Identity. Who owns it? Who gets to claim it? How is it remembered after the artist passes- in this case after Monic passes? I began wondering who decided to use his name, Cozic, instead of her name, Brassard? In the sixties, would her name have had the success if it he had been attached to her name instead of the other? Doubtful. 

As I made my way through the museum I began counting the number of female artists represented versus the male artists. Before long, I became too distracted by this and stopped as it was deterring me from appreciating the art. If this latest wave of feminism of #Metoo did something beyond its intention, it made me hyper aware of the lack of female representation in mostly everything. It has a long way to go before I walk into a museum and start thinking about counting the number of male artists as a minority compared to female artists as a majority. 

This all means that Cozic accomplished something. Cozic made me think. Two-headed visual artist with four hands made me feel. It made me frustrated and pissed off and smile all at the same time. Mission accomplished.

We made our way out of the museum and to the market, then headed to The Old City where we went on a walking tour. As I made my way into the tourist center to pay for the tour, my debit card was declined and it was there I remembered I forgot to call the bank. Thankfully, I had my partner along to pay while I called my bank to rectify the situation when I learned that the card was on a fraud alert and I would have to call the fraud department. Highly inconvenient. The tour was about to begin and I would have to address this problem later. This is another benefit about vacation, super chilled out. I did not get all wound up, just turned my phone off and said, I will deal with this later. 

After the tour, we walked back to our temporary air b+b home. I called the fraud department where I learned that my card was not declined because I was trying to use it in Quebec, but because someone else had been using it online and the charges seemed suspect. I’d say. Capricurves, Fashionnova, Boobtape and Petco. Four mysterious charges online and in Great Britain. 

When the kind woman at fraud alert asked me if I had charged anything on the website, Boobtape, I laughed. Boobtape is one thing I, for sure, don’t need. I have boobs that are straight out wonder woman- no bra needed- these days thanks to the good old reconstruction. Whoever had decided that they needed Capricurves and boobtape on my credit card at least was considerate enough to buy some pet food for their dog at Petco too. 

I began thinking about identity and how these fraudulent charges caused me to piece together my version of the person who tried to use mine. Maybe the person was struggling with their own identity, trying to add curves and lift their boobs. Perhaps they were down and out and just needed some new clothes to feel better or to go on an interview. I don’t know. But identity and culture are part of this story for sure. 


These days it is not that hard to get misuse taken care of promptly. My card was closed immediately and even though this was highly inconvenient while I was traveling, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. I had planned on changing my debit card to get a more accurate handle on how many automatic charges come out of my account on a monthly basis and to get a new card to start fresh when I got home, anyway. In some ways starting a new identity. 

Art got me thinking about identity and this got me thinking about how important art is for thinking. Traveling also gets me thinking about identity. How people live, where people live, how people interact with each other and with strangers and tourists like we have been this week. 

Language, pride, patriotism are all a part of who we identify with and more importantly how we identify with each other. The Cozic exhibit was like looking into a keyhole to see what was on the other side of the door. This past week in Quebec got me to see that there is so much more on the other side of our border and I can’t wait to come back.

interacting with the Cozic exhibit.
Identity in trying to read this delicious menu at L’affoire est Ketchup, one of the best meals I have ever had in my life, no exaggeration.
family, travel

DOLPHINS AND JELLYFISH

It was a bright clear morning barely a wisp of a cloud in the blue sky. The temperature slowly creeping from a cool 60 to a much warmer 75 in less than two hours. A perfect breeze like there was a fan on my neck at a slow even speed. People of all shapes and sizes beginning their long jaunt to claim their perfect spot where they would be laying their heads hoping for a day of rest from their busy lives.

I speak of the glorious Florida beach in February- Siesta Key, white granite cool sands and the lucky draw of a fine week of sunny perfect weather. A stunning break surrounded by temperatures from the otherwise blustery frigid February of unpredictable New England weather.

Though the temperature “up north” has ebbed into a brief and unusual fifties, purely a chance happening in a New England February, fifty is never the same in the north because of the stark lack of green. Everything is grey despite the teasing warmth. Until I land in my beloved home away from home, I am always surprised that in addition to beach air and warm sunlight, what the absence of green has had in its effect on my personal brightness.

I watch the families and couples, the aging partners holding on to each other for dear life as they try to stay healthy to keep enjoying what I take for granted with both the luck of my youth and my health. I see single women like myself enjoying time alone with only their ruminating thoughts to keep them company. It is hard to close your eyes at this beach because there is so much to watch. The glee in the eyes as the beach goers are filled with the hope and expectations of the day that before them.

There is the sound of the tap tap tapping of the soccer ball being kicked between two men, the tossing of a football between a mom, her husband and two sons, glimpses of conversation between women catching up on family gossip as they breeze by with matching hats and those calf length pants so many of women of their age seem to wear down here on their way to the shoreline for an early morning walk together.

I sit here in the heat this time under a bright red umbrella I have chosen to splurge on renting for seventeen dollars along with a five dollar deposit and a five dollar tip for just one day. If my grandfather knew what I was spending he would say his familiar one liner, You’re out of your cotton pickin mind. The rental, mind you, includes a sandy haired surfer type probably around my son’s age dragging the umbrella, setting up the umbrella and dragging it back when I am ready to leave. Worth every penny if you ask me. Though I don’t have to rationalize the purchase, it is easier to part with the twenty-seven dollars since I stay here for free every time I visit. This money spent today seems like a drop in the bucket.

Siesta Key is an expansive beach and is quite a walk from the parking lot to the shoreline. I have learned where to claim my own piece of territory since the unfortunate award of # 1 beach in America turned my beloved beach into Disneyworld. But at least there are plenty of parking spots now though out of habit I still get here at 8:00am so I can enjoy some quiet before the throngs of people descend with their loudness and boom boxes of country or rap music interrupting my peace like I am the only one deserving to claim the right.

Though I read entire books, write endlessly and deliberately leave my phone at home, the beach does not allow a bent head for long. There is just too much to see, to hear, to witness and watch. I find myself torn between the intensity of focus my current book requires and the lifting of my head to pay attention to the excitement and curiosity of my surroundings.

The water is cloudier than usual, remnants of last year’s highly publicized and horrific red tide causing temporary breathing problems and a rapid drop in tourism and beach closures unheard of on this beach. I must head for the February dip though since I have to pee like every other person who uses the span of water instead of the long walk to the row of bathrooms at the concession stand. To go to that bathroom, I must get dressed, take my wallet, put my shoes on and traipse. It’s easier in the water and the dip in the gulf in February is like the Atlantic at the end of June refreshing, reckoning, like a mikvah, a Jewish renewal and rebirth I have only once been part of in a much younger life or a baptism for those of you who don’t know what I am talking about.

I do my ceremonial dip that demonstrates to the beach audience that I am indeed a northerner and make my way back to my chair. Because I look up often, I see the familiar pointing from the many walkers at the shoreline as they notice the fins of the dolphins swimming by. Seeing just the fin of a dolphin dip in and out causes pause allowing us if only for a moment to leave our very blue screened lives reminding us that yes, there is a real world out here. Dolphins actually swimming at a real beach at a real shoreline can never be duplicated by watching it on YouTube, though plenty of people can’t resist filming this instead of just watching. Smiles! Excitement! Bliss. Just watching people looking up gives my heart an extra skip as it reminds me that we have not all succumbed to the seclusion and isolation we have allowed our phones to dictate in our non-beach lives.

After I dry off and take a delicious nap dipping in and out of the most meditative REM sleep no app could replicate, I sit back down in my squeaky old beach chair to notice another crowd gathering again at the shoreline. This time they are all looking down at the sand discussing a new finding. A jellyfish. Not just any jellyfish, a nuclear size jellyfish I can easily see from my very far away perch. Men referring to the size of its stinger like the fish that got away on their last fishing trip with the guys.

I was just in that water. I do not want to get stung by a jellyfish especially at the beginning of my solo vacation and I am now concerned that this may be a possibility. Woe is me.

I watch a beautiful couple walk by me speaking what sounds like Polish or Russian annoyed I can’t pinpoint the language. He is fit and his shorts are shorter than the usual length an American man would wear. If I hadn’t heard his voice, the shorts would have still identified him as someone from another place. He is a muscular sort and she is voluptuous and stunning with a rounded curve now in fashion among younger women at last. He sits and promptly checks his phone; she prepares the towels and herself then sits down to take her dress off, a familiar move I recognize. I am transported back to my twenties when I was self-conscious about my own curves and shape. I felt a moment of sadness for that time when I didn’t appreciate what I am sure was a kick ass body.  What a waste of time and a perfectly good body in retrospect.

Now that no one is likely looking at this aging body with the obvious fake boobs, cellulite that seemed to arrive overnight and a bloat that is caused by even one morsel of food these days, I so easily remove my sundress and walk around in a bikini like I am Giselle. I love the irony of this. As I reflect back on my beach day I am sitting on my grandfather’s patio cleaning up my beach writing. Life is ironic in so many ways and as I sit here transcribing my penciled writings onto the computer this morning, I listen to the baby monitor bellowing out the conversation between my grandfather and one of his caregivers sharing yet another intimate moment as he makes his way back into the womb with the slow inevitable journey back. This is irony.

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MY FAVORITE THINGS

MY FAVORITE THINGS

Last year I wrote about my favorite places to shop around town and that hasn’t changed. Bristol has some really lovely places as do many places in Rhode Island and as shopping in actual stores becomes more of what seems like a vintage pastime, I wanted to write again about some of my favorite things to do around the holidays. Maybe it will inspire anyone reading this to take some time before the actual holiday to enjoy the time leading up to the big day.

Without being redundant I will write briefly of some top favorite places to peruse, but I will add some different things in the mix as well as places I love to visit this time of year. My Aunt and I have a tradition for my whole life and now my son’s life too, to go to THE WAYSIDE INN in Sudbury, Mass for lunch. The oldest working inn in the country it really is the feeling of over the river and through the woods (once you drive by the massive Whole Foods and Range Rover car dealers that have taken over what was a lovely country road). This inn is a flashback in time and it has a history worthy of a special drive. It is the quintessential place that generations of families go to for their “special” place. When I go there with my aunt and my son, I am transported to a time where people got dressed up to go to lunch and drink toddies by a warm fire. If Sudbury doesn’t speak to you during this busy time, then THE LOBSTER POT in Bristol fits the bill too. Delicious food in a spectacular water view setting make this a place too that families go for the special occasions.

There are some fabulous shops in our state to visit this time of year. Grasmere on Franklin St., Jackie’s Loft on the corner of Franklin and Thames in Bristol, Harbor Bath and Body on Thames St. Kate and Company and Epilogues and Paper Packaging and Panache especially if you are trying to teach your kids to actually write a real thank you note with an actual pen and paper, (fingers crossed) on Hope St also in Bristol to name a few of my personal loves. There is a great new shop that opened on State St. too, The Sand Dollar. Of course if you are a vintage shopper, Second Helpings on Gooding Ave always satisfies. In Bristol even though it is an easy grid, one must really know that the shops are spread out and it takes a little extra walking to hit them all. But if you are patient, starting where Hope Diner is and walking down Hope St as far down as Constitution St, you can weave up and down each street all the way back to Franklin and you will cover the whole of shopping in the downtown area. You can even walk up to Wood St. (Wood St. Bakery for the yummiest of calzones, Azorean Butcher Shop for a little Sao Miguel, Common Pub for delicious Portuguese dinners ) crossing over High St. (C and R Mercantile and Roxies) and you will get a nice walk in as well as coming across some out of the way little shops and food places worthy of your extra time.

If you make your way to Providence, RI then Hope St. is loaded with some quaint shops that are worth a day of poking around even on the coldest of Saturdays. Stock, an elegant kitchen shop, Frog and Toad with such a wonderful variety of goodies you could spend hours looking around. Then there are shops I can’t remember the name of, but love walking in and out of simply because they are all next door to each other and it is so easy to window shop. Unlimited lunch and dinner places as well make for a nice day out with your daughter, best friend, aunt or mom. Another out of the way place that is really special is Simple Pleasures at 6 Richmond St. in Providence. They have beautiful items merchandised in a way that makes me drool.

I like to stay away from the big box stores during this time of year and really capture the essence of small businesses who spend a lot of their time thinking and planning for this very short month hoping that the business will sustain them so they can stay in business. Small businesses are taking a big hit from the discounts offered in the big stores as well as the hard to pass up ease and convenience of ordering in your jammies at three am. Shopping locally and in these small businesses takes a conscious effort, but it is so nice to get out, park your car, bundle up and walk in and out of these stores. Talking to the owners, getting to know your community, showing your kids that shopping is so much more than the simple click of a button ensures for a thriving downtown. Empty storefronts do nothing for our home values and a little concerted effort even if you have finished your shopping goes a long way with these hard working store owners. Store owners are asked daily for donations for our schools, sporting organizations, churches and synagogues and charities. We ask a lot of them in our little towns and this of all the times of the year is the time to give back to them by making a little extra effort to shop in them.

I never thought I would look at actual shopping as a vintage approach to virtual shopping. I never thought I would actually think there would be something called virtual shopping, but it is clearly here to stay. Like writing on a typewriter instead of your laptop, it takes a bit of conscious intent, it takes a bit of planning, of calling your aunt or your mom and saying, Let’s make time for each other before December 25th. Let’s enjoy each other. If not now, when?

This is an excerpt from an essay Steve Jobs wrote before he died.

“Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth, that is true happiness! Don’t educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price. Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food. The One who loves you will never leave you for another because, even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage! The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and Friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life.”



making time is what the holidays are about, this pic with the flowers in my hair is taken at the WaySIDE INN with my brother when he was about 4.







family, friends making more time, because we never know when they are going to leave us. March forth and enjoy your tribe.

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MY LAST VISIT

MY LAST VISIT

For at least the last ten years every time I close the door behind me at my Grandfather’s house in Sarasota, Florida to say good bye again, I think to myself, Will this be my last time, my last visit? The last time I get to be in the company of my proud patriarch, my grandfather, Herb Horowitz. This may make people who are afraid of the word Death, cringe, but in my family anyway, after saying goodbye to my brother, my father and my grandmother, we are used to the topic of END. My grandfather has been instrumental in involving me in the pragmatic discussions about end of life that goes back to when my grandmother was alive well over fifteen years prior to her sudden departure five years ago. My grandparents had a family meeting to discuss with their children the ways of their wills, what to expect, what was supposed to happen, and the general hierarchy of the plan. They had seen much of what could go wrong in families and wanted to be sure that everyone knew the road map when they finally left us. This has been one of those magic memories shaping my view of dying and what trails we leave behind that has left an indelible blueprint in my own life.

Herbie Horowitz has been a planner preparing for the inevitable future and has been consistently most responsible when it came to money. As a matter of fact, it took me a long time to identify my sense of financial success in my own business and life because he set, whether intentional or not, a high bar for what success was supposed to be about. We each have defined success differently. I often live on the edge, I enjoy life with a sense of urgent vigor. This has been a piece of who I am well before I had breast cancer, but it has been my grandparents who have taught me how to plan for later always assuming that there will indeed be a later. This I have not veered from since I have been twenty five contributing to my first 401K. I have also taught this to my son and my young team in my endless discussions about wills, trusts, the importance of good insurance, IRA contributions and bringing up the what ifs with their own families and spouses.

Herb always thought he was going to go before my grandmother and her death before his threw a serious wrench in both of their best laid plans. He goes on though in a way that is indescribable unless you have the pleasure of being in his inner circle of company like I have for the past fifty-three years. I have watched this WWII vet rise to the occasion of life despite the physical problems that have come his way since my grandmother’s death. Because of his proactive planning, he has had enough money to live at home and have 24/7 care so that he can keep his life his own as best as possible. This has been a welcomed gift to his grandchildren especially me since visiting him still goes on the same as it always has, barely uninterrupted and relatively normal. My uncle has taken on the primary role of responsible adult making sure that everything keeps ticking the way it is supposed to and we are all the better for this, surely.

Herb is an extraordinary human offering words of wisdom, advice whether requested or not, usually advice you don’t yet know you need or advice you hadn’t even considered. For him, he has the credibility of a life well lived and the years to prove his sage guidance. We all celebrated his 100th year last year at a lively celebration and I think even he is surprised that he would be around for his 101st birthday yesterday. People around him are hungry and eager for his commentary and his company. The fact that he still has his wits about him and can still multiply numbers without a calculator not to mention his regular conversations with his friends, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and yes his older sister who just turned 103 makes for desired company rather than the forgotten. He brings a lot to the table and the people eager to show up to the plate are all the better for it.

I had the pleasure of bringing him to temple this past Friday night for his birthday and the yahrzeit of my brother’s death. It was an odd juxtaposition of being there to celebrate a man turning 101 on November 17th, born in 1917,coupled with remembering his grandson, my brother who died at 25 on November 20, 1995. Herb walked in on his walker, Missy, his caregiver close by, sporting his navy blue go to blazer looking for a seat close to the aisle. Everyone was seated already and he was the last one standing anxious to sit down when the Rabbi spotted him across a very crowded synagogue. The Rabbi called out to him, welcomed him and the entire congregation turned to sing him a celebratory Shehechiyanu prayer and a joyful round of Happy Birthday in Hebrew. Children looked at him with awe and curiosity, and I could see them calculating the notion of 101 years compared to their young lives and their own parents and grandparents. He beamed with light and welcomed the oohhs and ahhs. He was revered as he should be and I almost wish he was invited to stand up and speak to them to give his wisdom of retrospect on a life well lived. But he would likely say, Nahhhh, what do people want from me, I am an old man. This makes him even more desired company as it is his intelligence coupled with his humility that make for a lovely human being.

I shed tears each time I leave him and every time the phone rings with my Uncle Bobby as the caller id, I hold my breath because the odds are simply against the possibilities of our time together. He is sharp as a tack and shows no signs of early departure, but clearly he has less time ahead rather than more. This is just simple math and reality. He has raised me and my free spirit self with a practicality that surprises me as I get older. I have him and my grandmother etched deep inside me even more so than my own parents who were too young to give the type of advice I didn’t know I needed as they faltered and floundered trying to figure themselves out. All the better for it ultimately since I got the best of my grandparents’ sound stable beautiful contributions to my life.

I do know that each time I shed the tears of grief that just come on at the most random moments each time that door closes when I head back north after a visit, if it is in fact the last visit, I have been a recipient of a life well lived. In a way that will be with me until my grandchildren get to hear my own advice and close their doors after their frequent visits. He is “slowing down” sleeping more, catnaps throughout the day during breakfast, lunch, dinner, television bingewatching, but this is all part of the process of dying. Back to the beginning, needing care and attention in the ways of an infant on some levels. I do know that the visits from all of us wake him up and this causes him the same joy and happiness he has blessed us with. If this was my last visit, I know like all the others before, it was a very good one. A very good one indeed.

alayne and herb with michael in the background snapping the pic #luckyindeed
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UP, UP AND AWAY

UP, UP AND AWAY

There they were, the trio of family making their way through security together headed for sunny Florida. Perhaps to see the grandparents like I was for a precious visit not knowing if this would be the last time they may have the opportunity. Or maybe they were trying to get that Disney family trip in before their only son became too old to want to go with them. I don’t really know, but the airport is one of those places where I can make up stories about every person I watch while I wait for the plane’s boarding call.

I am the person at the airport two hours ahead of time, much to my friend, Ken’s chagrin who is an expert traveler like George Clooney in that movie whose name escapes me, Up? I don’t remember, but I marveled at his character’s pride in packing, his superiority complex in his expertise narrating each step as he made his way to the airport for one of his many business trips. My friend Ken is like this. He travels almost monthly for business, Germany, Hawaii, Denmark, Australia, and his experience leads him to arrive almost minutes before the flight takes off. I have anxiety even writing this. This behavior drives his wife, my dear friend, Ro absolutely bonkers and each time they go into battle over this, I am reminded of how happy I am solo in my ability to decide the whens of travel time. Though I am a seasoned traveler, I feel calmer waiting at the gate two hours ahead of time rather than waiting at home to leave, distracted enough so I can’t get anything accomplished because I am thinking about getting to the airport. I have traveled with Ken and it is a whirlwind, but also invigorating knowing that if shit happens, his experience will get us to the proverbial church on time.

I was not traveling with Ken, however, on this early Saturday morning, but my partner, instead, who is equally as happy to join my time zone party and make our way to the airport, relaxing, using the restroom, getting our tea and reading our books inches from the gate. Today though, we really got there early, like two and half hours, which gave me plenty of time to people watch and make my tales come to life as I watched the dynamics and interactions between the vast majority of people traveling at the same time as we were. I try not to stare, but they are likely thinking the same thing, hopefully their curiosity has been peaked too and they are staring back while I am not looking making up their own stories.

I was intrigued by the family in front of me. First of all, the parents were only about five feet give or take a couple of inches and they looked so much alike. Their very sweet son, who seemed to be about seven or eight was tracking to follow their footsteps in the height department. The entire family looked alike, plump, sandy brownish hair, sweatpants, t shirts, sneakers, ready for travel with their freshly purchased brown bags filled with Dunkin Donuts lore. Leaving the house as early as one needs to get to the airport requires planning if you don’t want to eat the slop that is served in the wee hours. The healthy options are limited so many families just decide well this is vacation so we’ll just start our party time with our first meal once we get there. I of course am a food snob so I pack a nice blend, (yes eye roll here, I know)

I am watching them respectfully to see what snacks will be flying out of the magic bags, they were overweight and their son was too, making me cringe at the first sight of the green bottle that suddenly appeared. It was 7:30 am. I am thinking as I am watching them that the three of them couldn’t be more than late thirties and they were headed for the diabetes and heart disease path faster than a dozen chocolate munchkins heads down their digestive tracts. The boy passed his mother the bottle to open it and to my judgmental horror, my worst fears were confirmed, Sprite. For breakfast. For a chunky eight year old, and the parents who each were each about to drink their own bottle demonstrating the poor and obvious example of bad nutrition. Bottles of soda don’t come in small containers either. I was willing to bet that the bottles they were about to guzzle were at least twenty four ounces. I couldn’t believe that these seemingly nice parents had not received the soda memo that in my world of reading seems to be at every turn. I feel the same way about soda that I do about cigarettes. Super bad. But what does this innocent boy know about bad nutrition choices as his own example of his plump parents set the tone. Soda shouldn’t even be a special treat, it has sugar, caffeine and all kinds of dyes that are hard to pronounce, it doesn’t quench thirst, it is addictive and shoots up insulin levels to the point where children are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes like a common cold. I know as I write this, I am offending the soda drinking households out there, but if weight is a struggle, just simply switching from soda or juice to water could make a difference from an unhealthy road ahead to a healthy one. At least the start of one.

Parents need to take some ownership of the food examples they set, soda, sugared cereal for breakfast, processed foods before school all lead to lots of distracted kids and wired up energy making it hard for these same kids to learn or stay focused when they get off the bus and into the classrooms. I have seen this myself as I used to volunteer in the middle school lunch room and the crap not only that the kids were eating, but the food they were being served by our own institutions gave me a birds eye view into some of the troubles. Often these same kids get misdiagnosed with ADD and all of the other three letter diagnosis we have placed on our kids along with a pill to fix them. If we could just make a shift in their nutrition, many of the issues can be solved, but our medical system seems to ignore this in any consultation. Sure nutrition can’t solve all of the problems, obviously I know this as someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice and I can’t remember the last time I have brought a soda to my lips or a bowl of apple jacks for that matter. As I watched this young family though, I wondered how long it would be before each of them made their way to the doctor for their own medical futures.

I was feeling a bit smug with my assessment of them, but I just know that they were all going down an alarming path and I felt like I was watching the beginning of a train wreck knowing it was completely out of my hands. But I guess this is life anyway, no matter how much we think we are in control or think we are controlling our destinies; none of us really know the answers. So maybe drinking the soda and eating the donuts is a happier place than the worries looming overhead. Kind of like a plane ride. We all make our way jam packed into a tube of metal thinking that we are going to land where and when the airline says we are, but we really have not a clue as we make our way up up and away. Look at my grandfather, here he is and here we are getting ready to celebrate his 101st birthday. Wine every day at five, crackers and cheesesticks for appetizers along with the wine, apple cinnamon lego waffles for breakfast and here he is. Still strong. But he never drank soda either, Just saying.

my friend ken, travel expert extraordinaire.
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SEMI SOLO TRAVELING

SEMI SOLO TRAVELING

I love to travel alone. Every time I do book the one ticket please flight for any travels whether in this beloved USA or out of it, I have a sense of personal freedom. I came upon an article not too long ago, perhaps in the NYT or Medium about traveling as a lone female and the freedoms of the experience. I related instantly. There is an inner quest of exploring on my own terms, no compromising, no negotiating, no trying to read someone else’s mind or thoughts that makes traveling solo some of my most memorable.

Flying alone, finding my way to my hotel and figuring out where and how to spend my time and money is some of my most liberating experiences since I went on my first excursion to Paris when I was a mere twenty two. I say semi solo in the title because on that first trip semi alone, I flew with a friend whom I had been working with at a local bar for the summer. He haphazardly asked me if I wanted to fly over with him as he had found a flight for $400 to Paris. At the time, this was 1988–89, this price was a steal. Little did he know that I was in the dire need of leaving a relationship and this was a great chance to move on. In many ways, a trip that was out of my comfort zone, was the push I needed to end a young relationship that I had outgrown. I said yes, not sure if he had asked seriously, this was not a romantic relationship, just one of friendship and it seemed like a safe and great opportunity to fly to a foreign land with someone also headed that way.

This trip was from Boston to New York, New York to Iceland, Iceland to Luxemburg and then a train to Paris. Needless to say, it took a while, but when you are young and without much money to spare, the distance was part of the fun.The plan was he, his name was Chris, and I would fly over to Paris, look up some friend he had met at the bar that summer and stay with them for a couple of days, then he would head west to another friend’s and I would stay in Paris alone for a month.

I had discovered Rick Steves travel guides and had been studying it for months leading up to trip so I knew where I would be staying once I got there. Kind of a step up from a hostel right smack in the Latin Quarter the day after Christmas. It was magic at that time in Paris as it was the 200th anniversary celebration of the Revolution that I knew nothing about. When my friend Chris departed on the second day after we arrived after getting me safely to the place I would be calling home for the next month, I had my first moment of hesitation.

Parisians at the time were notoriously famous for low tolerance for the “Ugly American.” I did my best to practice learning French and had become pretty proficient at asking where something was or how much something cost, but had failed to think that their response would be in very fast French, a dead giveaway for the illusion of my French communication. Traveling alone in 1989 was a lot different for a twenty two year old girl whose previous travails had been a month in Israel and Italy under my grandparents’ care when I was only in sixth grade. Besides an occasional flight to Florida to visit said grandparents, this was a big adventure for me. There were no cell phones or laptops, no google, no apps, and no credit cards. If you needed money, you had to go to the American Express office and this was my place of feeling comforted when I had any moments of panic alone. Not panic because I felt in danger, but just trying to sort out my feelings that came up as this was the first time I was really alone.

I was trying to sort out the inevitable feelings and just get to know them get to reacquaint myself with me. I had taken a personal vow of no romantic relationships, no interludes, a vow of celibacy so I would not be distracted by a boy when I needed to be connected with my inner workings. Boys had been distracting me for most of my young life and I needed to find out who I was and what I was made of. And I was trying to live on the one thousand dollars for one month that Rick Steves had assured me was possible in his book titled something like Paris on Ten Dollars a Day.

I met this great young art student named Carl who was from Wisconsin within my first few days there and he taught me the streets by foot, the art because of his classes and how to navigate the city with a map and our feet. He refused to take the Metro because he was both frugal and he felt that the only way he could really see Paris was above ground. We became fast friends and I went along with him on his walks all over the city. I saw things in Paris I would have not likely otherwise seen because of Carl. A mass on New Years Eve at Notre Dame, which happened to be around the corner from where we were staying. An opera at the Palais Garnier, The Rodin Museum, the modern and newly opened semi controversial addition to the famous Louvre and drinking champagne at the Eifel Tower on New Years Eve also on the eve of the two hundred year anniversary of The French Revolution. Paris was a magical experience for me and gave me much insight into my own sense of self and female power. I have brought this trip into my own self serving luggage ever since.

Traveling semi solo this time to the beautiful Azores to semi be with a group of women was a little different then this first trip to Paris. First of all, I have a lot better economics and I wasn’t there to find myself. I have a great partner who isn’t as interested in global traveling as I am so off I went into the joy of abroad knowing that I wasn’t coming home to figure my life out, but rather missing the life I had figured out. Traveling solo helps me refine my scope. What I appreciate, what needs changing, what parts of me I can say goodbye to and what areas I want to revisit.

Though my semi solo trip layered over a few days with the ladies, because I wasn’t part of their planning party, I knew I could continue to do what I wanted when I wanted. I could lean in to their party or walk away with no hard feelings. This way of traveling is so satisfying to my personality and I recommend it to every woman. We are often told we are supposed to conform to certain preconceived notions on how we live our lives. I like to buck those notions and traveling solo is one of those great gifts we can give ourselves at least once in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing new experiences with my man, but we don’t need partners to guide us; we can and should be on occasion, our own compasses. I have the luxury of a partner who allows this self guided tour I call my life without a moment of hesitation. While I am off and running, he is home and waiting with open arms. This has been a gift in my ability to buy the ticket and climb aboard. We only have one life that we know of and the challenges and risks we take are part of the party. I can’t wait to see where I land next.







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LEAVING ON A JET PLANE

LEAVING ON A JET PLANE

“To change your flight, it will either be $350 economy to Boston or $475 Business class to Providence,” Eduardo from Fall River who owns the quirky travel agency I used for my trip said via a text message over eight days ago. I arrived here in this place called Sao Miguel in the Azores, a virtual speck on the planet smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean barely a stones throw from the East Coast, but a world away over twelve days ago. I knew instantly that six days would never be enough to cover this beautiful landscape and typical of my spontaneous personality extended my trip as quickly as I could eat another bolo. There is something that happens to the spirit when traveling, especially solo. I blow all cares to the wind, worrying about money like calories disappear and like magic it seems like both are unlimited as my traveling companions.

Because I have a most fabulous team who cares for me as much as they do about my business, they rose to the occasion to allow me an extra six days away and I took door number two, Providence, business class. The flight leaving at 10:25 instead of 8:00am and arriving at a much more civilized time for my very accommodating son to pick me up. I am flying business class which is a complete luxury I do not take for granted. I have only had this experience once before with my dear brother friend, Ken who is a frequent flyer and got us business class on Lufthansa headed back from Spain.

There is something really over the top snobby about the business class experience. It reminds me of the stories I have read about first class and way below first class on ships coming from areas filled with wealthy tourists traveling on the top and immigrants on the bottom of the ship starting new lives in America. There is a slight discomfort in sassing to my own special line marked Sata Plus, being allowed two bags instead of one, being able to wait in a special lounge with free waters and unlimited snacks that gives me a little hesitation and cringe. I am not complaining, after all I paid for the benefits of this. So when I got to the security check point to place my bags through like everyone else there was no special treatment for the three bottles of pineapple liquor I had purchased at the pineapple plantation. I forgot that they couldn’t go in my bag as they were eight ounces each and I had already checked my luggage. I was asked whether I had any liquids and had just replied no when I watched my bags held up in the scanner. Shit, I have the three bottles of pineapple liquor totaling forty-five euros (about 60 dollars), I remembered and came clean immediately hoping that my business class ticket would allow the free pass. No such luck, confiscated promptly and as I offered the kind woman the bottles to enjoy for herself she assured me they would be going in the trash. What a waste. I secretly hoped someone was in the know of this pile of tourist trash and regularly scoped out the barrels so at least someone would get to enjoy. I’ll never know, but it was quite hilarious as I finally got through the gate and was faced with the duty free store selling the same pineapple liquor. I have to admit, I was tempted, but on principal I refused the temptation.

This glorious island got enough of my economics this last twelve days. From the plastic Virgin Mary statue, my friend Jane bought me, along with the t shirts and beautiful skirts, volcanic stone necklaces, heart shaped rocks, pottery and local teas I have the materials in my two pieces of luggage that will forever remind me of this past twelve days. But even though security took my pineapple liquor, there is not a cell in my body that does not feel one hundred percent in love with this island. As I told the kind woman at the gate that I had a great time and didn’t want to leave, I surprisingly welled up with tears- clearly a sign of a much needed and great vacation. For this I will allow the word journey. Breast cancer twice, learning of a genetic mutation in almost an entire family line, a mother who doesn’t speak to me, a lifelong best friend who went silent for no apparent reason with not even the consideration of an explanation, a double mastectomy, reconstruction surgery, that is not a journey. This has all been my life for the past three years, not a journey at all, more like a tragedy. but this trip, this magical past twelve days of delight and the kindest of people, the laughing, the crying and the laughing so hard you cry, this I will call a journey. My heart is full and I can’t wait to come back.


my morning goodbye to the good life, till we meet again, Azores!
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THE PORTUGUESE MASS


THE PORTUGUESE MASS

This island of Sao Miguel sprinkled with one charming little town after another is a paradise started by and formed by volcanic eruptions. It is a Catholic island, definitively, and I know this because there are over two hundred churches seemingly on every corner and then some. This island is about thirty-nine miles long and ten miles wide and houses over one hundred and forty thousand people and I have had a connection with the people of the Azores for most of my life. Since my family lived in Fall River, Massachusetts and I now live in Bristol Rhode Island, there is a very large community of this amazing group of spirited souls, Azoreans as I have learned to call this group of people, who love, with the greatest of pride, their homeland.

I guess many families who have had mass immigration have a feeling of longing for the lives they left behind as either they, themselves, or the generations before them took a leap of faith for a better economy leaving customs, cultures and family behind as they tried to look ahead rather than behind. This spectacular and very slow island moves at a pace that I have absolutely reveled in for the last twelve days. I have had the unique scope of deep hikes in the quietest of places, food as fresh as the day’s catch, the freshest of meats, cheeses, butters, wines and the friendliest and kindest of people I have had the privilege of meeting. I know the hearts of the people of the Azores because of my good fortune to know many back home, but experiencing their actual community has been the deepest of the onion layer I have enjoyed like they have been my own family.

Usually in my travels as much as I try to travel to places where I know someone so I have the scope of their own perspectives as much as possible, there is always a barrier that separates us versus them. Maybe it is because this culture is so incredibly familiar to me where I don’t have that wall separating us, maybe it is because it is only a four hour plane ride, perhaps it is because I have grown up surrounded my the language a few streets or neighborhoods away, I have loved this trip more than most and I have loved my trips of the past. It could be because this is the first trip I have taken since I have had my final surgery and traveling alone has given me a deep dive perspective on my love of life and travel solo. Maybe it is the blessings I feel in my own health and confidence in my instincts for travel that adds to this distinct pleasure.

From the simple walks around the town of Ponta Delgada at all hours of the late and light filled evenings finding small intimate places to listed to Fado, to the vigorous hikes on trails up mountainsides and down hills to waterfalls and lakes that have taken my breath away. Then there are the monuments and the layers of volcanic rock paths and walls that were built on the backs of hard working men stone by stone centuries ago that remind any traveler that all places are fragile, especially volcanic ones that are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t mean to make this sound like this is Fantasy Island, but for me this past twelve days, it kind of has been.

Women and men have lots of body love for one. Going to the beach every day right across the street from my hotel reminds me how screwed up Americans are about their bodies. I have witnessed the heaviest of rolls of women and men lying comfortably among each other in string bikinis without so much as a twinge of discomfort. I wear one of those cute Athleta skirts, Serena Williams like, sporting my strong and solid thighs and I am the only one with one of these on. I am not exaggerating. No one here wears a skirt, a skort, a tankini or a pair of boy shorts. Everything is exposed from the largest of derrière and breasts to the smallest and in fact, the smallest is kind of the oddball out. I have leaned into some serious body love here enjoying my curves at the beach with the rest of these people; I am never going to not have curves and it is super ok here in this neck of the ocean. Like many Europeans though, no one seems to have gotten the memo that smoking is bad and that to go coffee cups are ok, but this is a small price to pay for every other element being spectacularly easy. I have learned how to speak a very small amount of Portuguese but now it is the day before I leave and it is almost too late. I have gone to the most gold gilded churches and sat among the tiny women praying in the middle of their days for miracles and have tried not to chuckle at the irony of the wealth on the alter. I have gone to Mass for the first time in my life with my friend’s aunt and mother who have instructed me on the dos and do not’s of their religion and have been humbled by their passion.

This past Sunday I went to St. Anna’s Mass in Furnas with my friend’s mother and aunt and watched a first communion take place. I had no idea it was going to be a two hour mass with no AC. I at once became aware of my religious difference as I realized that my people, in my lovely reformed Jewish congregation would likely never sit for two hours in the baking heat with no AC and if this wasn’t an immediate come to Jesus moment, there never would be one as I fanned myself with the liturgical handout that seemed on paper much shorter than two hours. The beauty of listening to a two hour service in a language I didn’t understand likely made the whole experience much more spiritual. There were a few moments where Tia translated, like the time that the priest was instructing the children to be good and not to be bad. I had to bite my tongue here with the respect my grandmother would have wanted me to have as I almost suggested perhaps it should be the children instructing the priest with all of that skeletons in the closet and shameful burying of the atrocities of men in power.

I was somewhat and humorously commanded by ‘Tia’ to sit and stand and kneel as I listened to a mass in Portuguese as the entire congregation anxiously awaited the St. Anna feast and the procession that was to follow. She had prepared me for the religious indoctrination before we got there, reminding me that I was in no way shape or form to go up for communion. (Like there was even a remote possibility I would be doing that). In her beautifully broken English, when the time came she barked out, “You will stay here and watch my purse until I come back,” and with that order, off she went to stand in line with about five hundred other people, mouths open or hands depending on your level of OCD with germs, I supposed. I found it hilarious that she didn’t see the irony of asking me to watch her purse in church, but I kept that to myself. When she came back at the speed of light, (I am always amazed at how quickly they are able to move what had to be almost eight hundred people through the communion line), I asked her why some had the priest place the wafer in their mouths and some had them place it in their hands. “Personal choice,” she matter of factly replied. Then she spoke softly letting me know that she always worked for priests and they used to tell her after the service how painful it was to put the wafer in so many mouths because of the terrible breath and would wash their hands vigorously with vinegar after mass. I laughed aloud. I had never thought about this and I had to turn my head away so I didn’t start crying with laughter. I remember my doctor jokingly affirming how great it was to get a pedicure before my delivery of my son when I told him my plans of this. He told me how bad some women’s feet smelled. This reminded me of the same thing. Ahh… the problems of priesthood. Who knew?

There is nothing like traveling to gain new perspective, to look at your own life with a different set of binoculars checking out other people’s viewpoints. I learned so much here and of course add to this stunning recipe my own Jewish heritage. The search for any Jewish history here and a story unfolded today like it does in every other area I have traveled to where Jews have been persecuted simply because they chose to practice a religion that started much before Catholicism and Christianity, you know, Old Testament New Testament? But I’ll save that for a different piece because that little gem deserves its own essay. Until my next travels. MUITO OBRIGADO, my beautiful Azorean Friends and Warriors. Until we meet again.




My tour guides, Paula and Christina at LAGOA DO FOGO and at the most delicious restaurant in Lagoa. The beautiful statue of arch angel michael, why the island was named, the small synagogue I found beautifully restored. There are no Jewish people left on this island. For now anyway.




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IN THE VAN OUT OF THE VAN

happy smiley malasadas lady at Nordeste, two bites in and I’m pretty happy myself.

IN THE VAN OUT OF THE VAN

“Alayne, roll the window and take a few pictures,” Jane commanded as we drove by an incredible scenic view in Ribeira Grande, Azores, “the place where the first settlement happened,” our driver guide, Jaime said as he made the curve around the blend of “sweet” water and salt water. By this time it was almost five in the afternoon and the seven women ranging in age from sixteen to seventy seven were a bit spent. (not to mention our male tour guide who probably had enough of this estrogenic bunch). We had completed a whirlwind tour of Nordeste, the northern most tip of Sao Miguel in a Mercedes Sprinter having left at nine am. The frequency of stop, get out, look around, pee and get back in was starting to take its toll on this variety of traveling women.

I don’t usually travel like this. My preference is a full day outside in one area exploring and walking and breathing in the scenic air, learning a little about the landscape, but more so experiencing it with my body and mind and the strength of my legs. This is how my partner and I travel. We are both fit and like to incorporate movement with our lessons of the world. But in this case, I really wanted to see this area, I really wanted to be with this dynamic group of women and be immersed in non stop Portuguese for over nine straight hours. I think. No, yes, definitely. I was willing to take the hit for a day as the van winded and twisted up the hillside in this magical place called Sao Miguel.

I am a solo traveler who surprised her friend so I am in the unique position of saying yes to a day or no to a day because I am not part of the original traveling party. This works for my personality who can easily get annoyed with too many decisions and discussions about where and when to meet for things as simple as dinner. I know myself well and this day of Nordeste in a van full of women speaking Portuguese allowed me to be a witness to two families who argue, love, talk over each other, say it like it is and genuinely enjoy each other’s company through all of it. I am the lucky one as I sit in the front seat with Jen who gets carsick like I do in a tight fit van climbing and then descending the roller coaster experience of the northern drive up and back down again.

Because I had been here for three full days before their arrival, I had already seen a little bit of the towns leading to Nordeste. Because my guides are professionals and knew I was going there, they were careful not to duplicate the journey but instead took me on a deep dive to some real out of the way places within some of the more predictable stops we were likely to go on in the van. Agua de Pau, a coastal find and one of my favorite stops took my breath away as I was surrounded by cliffs and water and volcano remnants that make up this entire island. With my tour guides and my desires, there were no drive bys or drive throughs. We got out of the car, and really walked around, had food, smelled the air and dove in. The opposite of the day with the ladies to Nordeste, but both served their purpose and both were an experience. I don’t’ really even know what we saw yesterday other than one hundred percent beauty, gardens, oceans, cliff and churches.

We had lunch at a place that had the name, Melo in it, Jane’s maiden name, which was in a little town in a hillside that served a buffet like I will surely dream about when I get home starving for just one more plate of Bacalhau. Codfish, for those who are not in the Portuguese know of the translation. I always thought that Bacalhau was the word for the layered yumminess of soaked salted codfish with potatoes and onions, kind of like the Portuguese version of lasagna. Here I have discovered that, no, it just means codfish and the versions of it are endless on every menu here. Kind of like the way one might find the word, pasta in Italy. At least this is my opinion, perhaps this comparison is sacrilege. I don’t know, but I can’t get enough.

When we finally made it to the northern tip, we were greeted by a park with small trails and waterfalls. Water from the mountain running through an actual home that is now a tourist walk through led us to a woman who was selling homemade Malasadas, a Portuguese doughboy, but that word is almost insulting. Like a bottle of wine at a particular special occasion, hard to recreate by buying the same exact bottle later on, it is the experience that we knowingly had that made that glass so delicious. Maybe it was a cold fall evening in a chair by what you would know would be one of the last fires outside after dinner and after a stunning foliage season that made this wine taste so good in retrospect. This malassadas was like that, eating it in an old home handmade by a local woman who had a smile that was part of the sugary joy of the first bite.

The food here is deliciously authentic and homemade beyond my dreams. There is the bread at every table and the local butter and cheese and the ice cream. All taken from the cows I saw in the midst of blue and white hydrangeas that grow like a weed on the hillsides they have instinctively made ridges in with their hooves so they don’t roll down the steep volcanic hills. Organic and au natural like no farm in America could ever claim. Oh and the wine and the tea. We stopped at the tea plantation along the way to learn how they make tea and it was fascinating to make a connection between what goes into those individual bags I drink daily. At least here I got to see how completely natural and pure the process is and understanding that local tea at this plantation is the real deal. I promptly bought twelve boxes because I am insane and am already worried I will not be able to drink it again until my next visit.

And as anyone from Rhode Island would predict, at the tea plantation we ran into someone we all knew from Bristol also visiting here and immediately took a photo. I have seen over the years of travel that no matter where I go, I always run into someone I know or who knows someone I know from little state of Rhode Island, the smallest state in our country. Add this to another element I love about where I live when I do finally make it back there. There is a simple and slow quality here and even though where I am staying is mobbed with tourists at the major points of interest, there has been no pushiness or impatience even with the American travelers I have encountered. (well maybe a little with the Germans, but we can talk about that in my next writing). My friend, Jen, keeps joking that we are in a place that runs on PST, Portuguese Standard Time, and though she says this jokingly, I have learned in my short stay that this is a compliment. We need more slowness to our lives. At least I do, anyway. Getting in a van and out of a van all day with my self proclaimed adopted family who has welcomed me like I am one of their own was a glorious experience that I will never be able to recreate. Once was enough, but the once was a gem in my life and I am so happy I said Yes again.





running into our friend Sony from Bristol at the tea plantation was a trip, the making of the tea, the ladies in the van, waterfalls and food, what could be better.
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A NEW MEMORY

A NEW MEMORY

“I think you need a new bag or fix this one,” Jane said to me inspecting my blue and white evenly squared checked cotton throw bag that takes me on my travels happily and joyfully. She was looking at the straps that were coming unstitched because this bag has come with me on all of my adventures for well over ten years if not more. I quickly became defensive; I am not nor will ever be a fashion icon for anything especially a purse. For me it is what bag climbs with me, what bag has the right amount of pockets to hold just enough without being cumbersome.

“This bag was given to me by an old friend who was a traveling superchick right into her eighties. Her daughter used to make them, then they both died within a few months of each other and I keep this bag with me on all excursions to remember Joy,” I said a little churlishly. She realized my sass and quickly reminded me that she was just pointing out the stitching so I could fix the straps. In the end, it was a win win because Janey got to learn about Joy and Anne and their connection to the bag and I got to see the straps coming undone before they did, before the day before my big hike up the mountain.

I went to the front desk of my five star hotel knowing that they would likely have one of those handy sewing kits. They did and as I got into the elevator, I was already stressing out about how I was possibly going to thread the eye of the needle with these eyes. Take a breath, relax, I could almost hear my old friend Joy saying proud and happy that I was still using the bag all these years later. I got into the room and it was like Joy the angel was looking out for me, of course the seven different colors of thread would already be threaded in the seven different needles! I was relieved and so happy that Jane now would become a piece of this bag as I pulled the navy thread choice out of the package.

I have never been much of a sewer. My grandfather, my great uncle and my father owned a textile factory and all sewing was given to them to do any repairs there. My father knew how to sew, not my mother. This was odd in Fall River, Mass at the time as most moms were stay at home moms and did stay at home kind of things. Also living in a major Portuguese community, you would have thought that my mother might have picked up some of that luscious home care. But this was not my mother and though we lived in this community, our community of friends and life were Jewish. I am guessing and this is a broad generalization, that most Jewish women in my mother’s circle of stay at home moms didn’t sew either.

As I pulled the thread out, my index finger and thumb automatically looped and knotted the end of the thread so that when I pulled my first stitch through, it would stop at the knot. It was such an automatic reflex, I almost didn’t notice. But then my father appeared before me like he was standing there and I could remember him teaching me this when I started to take sewing lessons at about eleven or so at the Singer store in the Harbor Mall. I think it was a Singer store, maybe it was a material store that had Singer sewing machines, but I took lessons there on Saturdays until I made a few skirts using patterns. My father used to drop me off and then pick me up after the class. I remember the patchwork skirt I made out of left over velvet that he gave me from pieces in the factory. I loved that skirt and was so proud of my work. I may even have a picture of myself at my grandparents house for some Jewish holiday. I will have to find it when I get back home.

Memories come out of nowhere like that. An innocent comment from a dear friend who also lost her father to Esophagus cancer just a few months after my dad passed from the same illness. Our friend, Jen also part of this trip who was my cohort in this surprise, lost her father suddenly after a family vacation in this very place. Witnessing the conversation then going on the trip with me hiking only to find out that the Portuguese folk song Christina, our tour guide, belted out on the mountain was her dad’s favorite. I learned this because her mom who is also on this trip told us before we went to dinner. Everything connected. All because of a torn strap in need of repair.

Healing is like this, one stitch at a time, the wound will never be completely healed. There will always be that scar that when you glance down at can make you absently put your finger on it to feel the bumps and rough patches, it is an omnipresent guide as you remember what caused it in the first place. But then there are those tenderest of moments where one can see and hear that long deceased person like he is standing in front of me saying, Alayne, this is how you thread the needle, this is how you make the knot and these little memories that flood out of nowhere are the gifts that keep on giving.

All because of a tear in a strap and a need to repair. Our dads convened yesterday for sure as a dynamic trifecta, maybe it was the blood moon, maybe it was the connection of Portugal that my father loved like it was his homeland, maybe it was the power of five women traveling with their own baggage separately and together trying to heal their own wounds. What I do know is that there is magic among the tribe and our lives are better because we know each other.