…then there was the time…

If you sit long enough with a family elder inevitably you will begin to hear “and then there was the time…” something. Some story you may have heard before but listen closely for newly remembered details and ask questions.  Especially the nagging questions.

I had lunch recently with my mother before taking her to her doctor’s appointment.  She’s a fan of MacDonald’s hamburgers and always seems to get talkative when we eat them together.  Just the two of us, no Toti so she’s fully present.

She began by saying, and then there was the time I stayed at Aunt Nettie’s during the summer when she lived on 42nd St (and 3rd Avenue) across from the Church of the Immaculate Conception. She was on the second floor.  We were three in the bed and every night they would light the statue and it would shine in the window and we could see it from the bed. (When recounting this to my sister she immediately confirmed it would freak – her – out.)

The Church is still there but they are all long out of the city.  She went on to say that Aunt Lucy lived on 1st Avenue so they would make tomato and egg sandwiches and have a picnic in the park. “I made myself a tomato and egg sandwich the other day but it wasn’t the same” “I get that, I prefer potato and egg”, to which she stated you’re just like “Your Aunt”.

I knew which Aunt she meant, she never called her by name, she was always “Your Aunt”. Taking the mention, I can’t help myself, I say, speaking of My Aunt is that how I got to go and stay with her in Astoria when I was a kid?  Was it a thing?

I was asking because as much as it’s one of the highlights of my childhood I never understood how it came about.  I figured it was because I was a pain in the ass but she said no. It’s because she never had kids so first it was me (my mother) then it was you. I might have mentioned my sister has a theory…

I have very vivid and fond memories of one of the “sleepovers” but in talking with my mother I didn’t even remember the other one. The timeline seemed odd, the one I remember was in 1965 the other was in 1967.  Ahhh my sister said, “the year everything changed” (you can be pretty sure you’re never going to see a post on that)…is the one my mother remembers most vividly. Interesting on so many levels.

There is insight in the timing but there was more insight in the rest of the conversation. In the end it confirmed the contention that existed between my mother and I and my mother and “My Aunt”.  “She had to take charge, nobody could do anything without asking her (did anyone ever try, no I did not ask that question…) she always knew best, she wanted everyone to be like her, do things her way.”  Oh boy, I’ve lived in that space.  In some ways I still live in that space and ironically my mother won’t make a decision without “asking Sandi first”.

Per my mother she was a pain in the ass, you might have noticed I recognized earlier that I too was a pain in the ass.  But she was important to me, I remember later in her life listening to her lament about being old and not belonging, of not being able to do the things that were so important to her once, like cooking her own meals. Something as seemingly small as a gallon of olive oil being thrown away when she moved from her beloved apartment strickened her. All the while she talked the tears ran down her face.  I remember thinking that no one should have to cry when they get old.

I’m never going to be a mother’s daughter, I think we’ve established that many years ago, and there’s a very good chance that I might turn into “My Aunt” with a kinder edge perhaps.  In this past month of ah-ha moments I’m noticing many of her endearing traits coming out in me. Movement is important, cooking for oneself and enjoying what you eat is important, dancing (even just around your living room), truthfulness with a touch of restraint and empathy (she might have missed that part) is important and living life to the fullest you’re capable is important.  This she did in spite of her regrets and her highhandedness. She’s been gone well over a decade but I have her picture at my desk and discuss things with her often.  There are times I think she’ll answer me and a tiny bit of fear crawls up my neck but that’s ok, I’ve also had that effect on people and in the end the goodness always comes through.

I’m looking forward to more of those ….and then there was the time…moments.

Have a good week and look for the ordinary moments, it’s where legacy lives.

 

Complacency

It is so easy to forget where you came from in the day to day ordinariness of life, you forget.  But not this week, no not this week.  And believe it or not I’m not talking about the inauguration, exactly…  I’m talking about young people who don’t know what they don’t know and how that could possibly have happened.  Complacency.

When well intended becomes an excuse I have to question just how much well intention is going on and who is allowing it.  An email that came across my laptop this week rocketed me to parts unknown.  A separate Instagram post did the same but that will need a whole another post.  Both of them sent by 30 somethings, both of them reeked of naiveté and a lack of historical reference. You remember historical reference don’t you?

When a woman separates people who are in the same position by gender, having interacted with the man first then letting the others know that she thinks, “This info might be of value to you ladies also” so she’s passing it along I damn near fainted.  “You Ladies”???The eerie feeling that comes over you when you know you’ve seen this before is jarring and infuriating. This from a woman who never wasn’t allowed to wear pants to work. Pants to work, yeah that.  It’s a real juncture for me because it was in my lifetime.

I am so grateful that I had the presence of mind to direct my rant away from her and check to see if I was overreacting.  Am I being an asshole or did this just happen? It happened. Thank you to the two souls that heard me out and let my rant go on until it couldn’t any longer.

Long story short I cooled off enough by the NEXT day to have a kind conversation with her and explain that what she did, no matter how well intended, counteracted everything that old women like me had ever fought for. Seems funny now to be having a conversation about wearing pants to work… I hope she could hear me, I hope she understands, I hope she’s reading all about the Women’s March on Washington.

The one good thing that may come out of a Trump presidency is a resurgence of women uniting in all things female.  I am disappointed that I didn’t go to the march and I can’t explain why I didn’t go as I’ve been an advocate for women my whole life.  Perhaps I underestimated the power we still have.  I’ll figure that out at some point.  But I will be in full participation of the 10 Actions/100 Days follow up. Every 10 days we will take action on an issue we care about.

“The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving.”  Gloria Steinem

In whatever way you can, I hope that you will revisit an historical timeline of women.  What we have today hasn’t always been, what we have tomorrow may be diminished or lost entirely, adopt a beginner’s mind assume you don’t know what you don’t know and seek historical reference. Ask someone about their experience it may surprise you.

The Women’s March was unprecedented in its size, its peaceful intent and execution, it is yet to be seen if it accomplishes what will be necessary for women to maintain and boost their status in this country, particularly during this term of office. To those of you who marched I applaud you and thank you for your magnificent representation of us all.  That said, I am cautiously optimistic for the first time in more years than I even realized.

Enjoy some of the pictures of the march courtesy of News and Guts, Dan Rather’s newest venture in reporting.

Threads

I wanted to pull the thread, unravel the scarf of my silence and start again from the beginning – Jonathan Sofran Foer

This week was a little like sitting on the step of Aunt Nettie’s sewing room.  The step because it wasn’t so much a room as a tiny former foyer.   She sat at her sewing machine looking out onto Woodside Avenue where any number of older Italian women needed to be kept “an eye on”, Gramma Marco, Mary Sinise, Mrs. Spadafrank, you get the picture.  It’s not lost on me that I now sit at my laptop looking out onto Stowe Lane where any number of older women need to be kept “an eye on” also.  Such is the chore of a real neighborhood.

As she worked mending this or that or making a dress for so and so or altering a jacket for someone else my job was to pick up the many threads she snipped and dropped.  There is a golden rule of life that says don’t ever pull the loose thread on your…whatever, fill in the blank, shirt, scarf, skirt.  This did not apply to her (or my Aunt Millie), she could pull a thread and unravel any number of inches that needed to be snipped and resewn or any collar that didn’t lay exactly straight.  These were the squiggly crimped threads that embedded themselves around the loops of the rug and under and over and made it impossible to vacuum but really she was keeping me busy and out of her hair.

Once all done with the threads (that never happened) I could play in the button box. There was every kind of button you could imagine mostly cut off of garments that were so thread bare they had to go in the rag bag. There were some cards of buttons for brand new garments and there were buttons by the dozen in small cellophane bags. There were embroidery snips, tailor’s chalk and thimbles and safety pins all the tools required to take something apart and to put something back together.  I learned much in that room just by watching.

That was this week, unraveling the scarf of my silence, picking up the threads, salvaging a collar, unlooping the squiggly long threads that had gotten somehow crimped around long forgotten memories.  Taking many childhood somethings apart and putting them back together with an adult’s understanding. Using new buttons and snaps to tailor my ordinary photos into stories.

It was sometimes painstaking work, sometimes dreamy spellbinding work, all of it creative work which I’m looking forward to continuing throughout the year.  The path for this generous gift was provided by robin sandomirsky & alisha sommer  through Liberated Lines – Amplify. They have my gratitude.

Lekvaar Bars

I had the pleasure and privilege of joining my neighbor, Barbara Oreshnick, in her kitchen recently to learn how to make her holiday Lekvaar Bars. Lekvar (which is the most common way to spell the name) is a fruit butter of central and eastern European origin.  It is smooth, creamy, rich and delicious.  It can be made from any number of different kinds of fruits but Barbara prefers Lekvar made from prune.

This recipe, a Russian Polish version,  came from her mother-in-law.  The funny thing about this recipe is that it might never have come into Barbara’s recipe book along with her mother-in-law’s poppy seed cake and nut rolls.  Seems Barbara never wanted to try these delectable bites…then….once she finally tasted them she was hooked.  I can see why and I’m grateful she’s carried on the tradition.

Barbara’s kitchen is nostalgic and warm.  It gives a nod back to a certain period in time when not everything needed to be upgraded to the latest and greatest simply for the sake of upgrading.

The process is much like making any basic dough.

Speaking of nostalgia the site of Barbara’s canisters sent my heart reeling.  For those of you who know me, vintage aluminum is my jam…these were a shower gift to Barbara back in 1954.  Oh how I adore them.

Then on to forming the dough. You’ll notice the jelly roll pan is not greased.

Now for that wonderful Lekvar.

The filling is spread thick and evenly across the dough. Barbara makes the painstaking process of shingling the upper crust of the bars look easy in that “these hands have done this a hundred times” kind of way.

As I watch Barbara I’m reminded of our Italian crostata.  Similar in that it has a bottom layer, a fruit filling but instead of shingling the upper crust we cut strips and make the lattice top.  The first time I tasted these Lekvaar Bars I knew there was a familiarity about them, now I made the connection.  I once had a wonderful crostata recipe that somehow got misplaced so I can see re-purposing this recipe in that direction.  I know Barbara won’t mind.

Into the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  Like most experienced baker’s Barbara has a system for clean up and my time with her was coming to a close.

Days later, when I came home from a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration I found a bag of goodies hanging from the nob on my front door.  I couldn’t wait to open them up.

They did not disappoint, they were absolutely delicious.  Even more so now that I know their history.  I can’t thank Barbara enough for sharing this heritage recipe with me, and now you.  The thought of these wonderful morsels being lost just breaks my heart.  I hope you’ll give them a try, I know like I know you will enjoy every crumb.

 

Sigh

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It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of, what I’ve dubbed the most extraordinary spiritual rantist, Anne Lamott.  The woman can turn a phrase and set my preconceived notions in motion and more often than not kick them to the curb.  Her many books are all permanently embedded in my Kindle to be called up at a moment’s notice because, well life happens and sometimes you need a more grounded perspective. Ms. Lamott would throw her head back and laugh at that.

Help, Thanks, Wow:  The Three Essential Prayers is one of those go-to tomes (can you call a book a tome if it’s on your IPad?)   “…So prayer is our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth, with the Light. It is us reaching out to be heard, hoping to be found by a light and warmth in the world, instead of darkness and cold. Even mushrooms respond to light – I suppose they blink their mushroomy eyes, like the rest of us…”

I have a friend who calls herself an atheist but I swear she prays because her use of the word Wow is reverent.  It’s in response to injustices and fabulously joyous moments alike. When she uses the word Wow it is either preceded or followed by the word, really! Or really??? I know she’s not praying to a God or any type of deity but damn it sounds like prayer.

The definition of prayer is a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.  However, it is also an earnest hope or wish. Period. No Gods or deities in sight.

So if Help, Thanks and Wow are prayers can a Sigh be a prayer?  If it’s not about who you’re praying to and it’s about the prayer itself, can’t that be so?  I find a sigh is so spontaneous.  It seems to come from a deep place, an exhale with benefits so to speak.  It’s a tiny relief valve, a surrender to what appears to be something that requires much more thought.

I had the pleasure of spending time with one of my nearest and dearest people over this weekend.  She is at once grounded and other worldly.  Her reach is right into my heart and we could talk for hours on any and all subjects. Time spent with her is peaceful, heartfelt and kind. She exudes grace.

“But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” 

This we do for each other. When she left a sigh escaped me.

In the end everyone needs some mechanism to accompany their earnest hope or wish.  In any number of given situations a word or a sound may escape, with or without you knowing it. To me those are indeed prayers.

THANKS have a good week.