Life Lessons

July 4, 1959

Today is my parents’ wedding anniversary.  Their 60th!  I’m both proud and amazed.  Proud of them for sharing such a loving and enduring marriage, and amazed at how quickly time has passed.  It hardly seems like it was 10 years ago that we were celebrating their 50th golden anniversary.  We had a big party, with all of our extended family, and their many friends.  My brother gave the customary champagne toast and I told the story of how my parents got together.  Today seems like the appropriate time to tell it once again:

Have you ever heard the story of how Babe and Freddie got together?  Sure, they were both living on 91st Street in Jackson Heights. But Babe was a freshman at Bryant High and Freddie a senior at Newtown.  Besides, he was dating this girl Barbara, his mom, Filomena, didn’t like much.  Barbara wasn’t Italian, and she had something of a reputation.  Anyway, Filomena supposedly suggested to Freddie, “Why don’t you date a nice girl like Louise?” although this claim has never been substantiated.

One night in May 1953, Freddie and his crowd were busy at work under the hood of one of their jalopies.  Babe still recalls how cool Freddie was.  He wore his hair in a D.A. and rolled up his pack of cigarettes in the sleeve of his white t-shirt.  His crowd – his brother Joe and cousin Bill, George the Greek, Bobby Fitz, Gesner, Benz, and Desmoni – they were all cool too.  And in a scene reminiscent of the movie Grease, this group of teen-aged buddies had just made a wager with Freddie.  They bet him that he couldn’t get a date with the next girl who walked down the street.  If she said yes, they each had to pay him fifty-cents.  If she said no, he had to pay them.

Meanwhile, Babe’s father, Mike, asked her to go down the street to buy him a pack of smokes at the corner candy store.  Despite being only fourteen, Babe was pretty cool herself.  She wore cat’s eye frame glasses which only accentuated her penciled in high arching eyebrows, and her bright red lipstick.  And when she wasn’t wearing a poodle skirt, she wore peddle pushers!

Freddie took Babe completely by surprise when he approached her because she figured he thought of her as a kid.  When he asked her to go out with him that Friday night she said no.  What else could she do – she was young and her father was strict.  But Freddie persisted, “What about Saturday night?”  Again she refused.  “What’s the matter?” he asked, “Don’t you like me?”  And Babe was forced to admit that although she did like him, her father wouldn’t let her go out on a date.  Without missing a beat, Freddie suggested, “Okay then what about Sunday afternoon?”  And Babe, realizing how easy it would be to sneak out of the house on a Sunday afternoon, finally accepted.

On their first date, Freddie took Babe into the city to Radio City Music Hall to see the floor show and the western, Shane.  After the movie they went for a bite.  Babe was so nervous that she couldn’t quite enjoy herself.  The older girls on the block had coached her, advising her not to order the most expensive thing on the menu or the cheapest.

Apparently, Freddie never technically asked her out for their second date – it was just understood.  And every week it went on, the guys continued to pay Freddie another fifty-cents.  His buddies thought it was all a joke, and didn’t think the relationship would last.  All the while, Babe had no idea about the bet.

Then, Memorial Day Weekend, Freddie took Babe on Newtown’s Senior Boat Ride on the Hudson Day Liner.  When Barbara saw Babe, she got a little crazy and threatened to throw Babe overboard.  Later that day, Freddie asked Babe to go steady.

In June, they were still dating on the sly and Babe couldn’t figure out how she was going to sneak out of the house in a Prom dress, so Freddie finally had to ask her father for permission to date his daughter.  It so happened that Mike was painting the house – a job he didn’t relish – so Freddie offered to help him paint, and we all know how Freddie loves to paint.  And that seemed to do the trick.

The following year, Babe transferred to Newtown and Freddie was going to L.I.U.  Most days, he picked her up after school in his old green Studebaker, which Freddie’s buddies nicknamed The Babe Mobile.  You see, they realized that Babe and Freddie’s relationship was getting serious, so serious in fact, that by the time Babe found out about the bet, it didn’t seem to matter very much.

So how long did the guys keep paying Freddie the fifty-cents?  Well, nobody really remembers.  But they do remember Babe and Freddie’s wedding on July 4, 1959 and how all the guys were flipping Freddie quarters at the reception.

Congratulations, Mom and Dad!

 

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Best of Boston

Grit and Grace

What’s with the radio silence?  Why no blog posts since mid-April?  Blame it on my team – the Boston Bruins.  It’s no secret that I love hockey – the sheer speed and perfectly choreographed chaos of it – the rattling of the boards – how watching a game clears your head and gets your blood pumping.  Since the B’s were in the playoffs, and eventually the Stanley Cup finals which, I explained to my mother in her language, is the World Series for hockey, I spent many nights, over the past two months, staring at the television screen instead of my laptop’s screen.

What began on April 11th as the Bruins’ quest for the Cup ended late last night.  Even though my team did not get to hoist the 37-pound Stanley Cup trophy to celebrate a victory I believe they deserved – I maintain that my team won.

I don’t say this because, in recent years, Boston’s four professional sports teams have won so many championships our city has earned the nickname “Title Town.”  I say it despite the numerous, egregious penalties that were not called on our opponent, leading to shifts in momentum, that tipped the scoreboard.

My team won because they played with grit and grace.  They didn’t whine or retaliate when their opponent resorted to dirty hits.  They owned up to their individual and collective errors on the ice.  And they didn’t publicize or attempt to embellish their injuries, but rather silently played through them.

Which brings me to our captain, six-foot-nine Zdeno Chara, who took a puck to the face in Game 5 of the finals.  There was a lot of speculation as to whether he could continue playing the remaining games of the series with a broken jaw.  But I had no doubt.

Would it have been great if the Bruins had won last night?  You betcha.  I’d wear my #37 Bergeron jersey to the victory parade.  But I’m no fair-weather fan.  I love these guys win or lose.  I love these guys because they showed – in a word – class.

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Home Improvements, Mothers and Daughers

Cleaning House

When you hear the phrase “cleaning house,” do you immediately think it means a company, attempting to trim the bottom line, has laid off a number of workers?

For me, “cleaning house” conjures up something completely different.  It may seem old-fashioned but, at the first hint of spring, I can picture my mother, and my grandmother before her, standing on a step-stool, with a wad of paper towel in one hand, and a spray bottle of Windex in the other, merrily cleaning the windows.  And given that I was born with the same cleaning gene, I carry on the twice-a-year, deep-cleaning ritual known as either “Spring Cleaning,” or “Fall Cleaning.”

It’s been unusually cold here in New England, so I have not yet begun what I call “the Big Clean.”  This activity usually takes a week or so and goes way beyond vacuuming, dusting, or keeping on top of the weekly laundry.  For the Big Clean, I take out the spin brushes that give the bathroom tile a dazzling sheen.  I wash the baseboards and the chair railings with just the right mixture of lukewarm water, white vinegar, and a gentle wood cleanser.  I rotate the mattress, launder the quilts and blankets, and change over the closet with the appropriate clothes of the season.  And yes, I wash all the windows.

Perhaps you don’t feel the same way I do.  Which is fine.  Maybe you’re content if there are no dirty dishes in the sink, and there’s a fresh roll of toilet paper in your powder room.  But I like when my ordinarily clean and orderly house is positively sparkling, and every room smells like fresh laundry, with a hint of citrus.  I’m satisfied when all my ducks are in a row.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons, Mothers and Daughers

Shopping With My Mother

This weekend my mom will be celebrating a special b-day – her 80th birthday!  She’s not only my mother, she’s my best friend.  She doesn’t look eighty, and she doesn’t act eighty.  Here is a re-post from January 2016 to give you an idea of what I mean.

“What other colors does it come in?”

This is how my mother shops for clothing.  When she sees something she likes – be it a blouse, or a particular style of pants, not to mention shoes – she’ll buy it in several different colors.  It’s insanity, I know, but now she’s even got me doing it.  Yes, all I’ve learned about shopping, I’ve learned from my mother.

You’d think living over two hundred miles apart would’ve put a crimp in our shopping expeditions, but it hasn’t.  When I’m home for the weekend, our shopping marathons lead us to fine stores everywhere.  And when she’s visiting me, we often drive up to the outlets in Kittery for a full day of shopping in the great state of Maine.

Then there’s the long distance shopping… I’ll find a voice mail message when I get home at night: “I got something for you today.  It’ll arrive tomorrow by FED EX.”

I’ll call back to tell her, “Thanks Mom, but you didn’t have to do that.”

“I know, but it was so perfect for you – and they were just giving it away.”

“Why’d you FED EX it? I’m coming home in two weeks.”

“I couldn’t wait – I wanted you to have it now.”

When I offer to pay for said item, she flatly refuses.  And I don’t have the heart to point out to her that whatever she supposedly saved on the sale, she’s more than spent on the FED EX charge.

Her other big rationalization for committing what can only be described as consumer carnage is that she wasn’t even looking for this latest treasure.  “I fell over it!” she’ll insist.

She frequents craft fairs, not only to support the local artists, but also to pick up some truly unique, one-of-a-kind items.  She’ll present me with a stunning ceramic bowl or piece of stained glass that’s been stuffed into a shopping bag with bubble wrap and wads of tissue paper.  When I innocently comment, “You didn’t get a box?” she’ll reply, “Box, schmox – he would only take cash – it was tough goin’.”

Despite all the shopping, one of my mother’s greatest gifts to me is not something she purchased, but rather something she taught me.  How to always, always, be generous.

Happy Birthday, Mom!  XOXOXO

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Girl Talk

Girls Who Wear Glasses

The following is a re-post from May 2016.

“Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses,” Marilyn Monroe famously alleged in the 1953 comedy, How to Marry a Millionaire.  Phooey, I say!  Because I’ve been on the receiving end of the pick-up line “I like your glasses” enough to know that’s just not true.

For me, the decision to wear glasses was a no-brainer.  I needed them to watch movies and to drive.  And, well, basically to see.  For a while, I wore contacts but eventually went back to glasses.  Eyewear is, in my opinion, the most under-utilized accessory a woman has at her disposal and I love wearing glasses.  Because the right frames can do more to make a fashion statement than a great scarf or even a fabulous pair of shoes.  After all, your eyes are the first thing people notice.

retro glassestortoise frames (2)geek frames

 

 

Geek frames are undeniably cool.  Rayban Wayfarers are timeless.  Cat eyes are pure glam.  And right now tortoise is everything!  What kind of image does the phrase “sexy librarian glasses” conjure up?  And when you’re not feeling or looking your best, your shades are more dependable than any miracle under-eye cream or concealer!  Yet some women still resist wearing specs.  Go figure…

Case in point: my friend’s thirteen-year-old daughter is nearsighted like me.  When she had trouble acclimating to her contacts, I suggested she wear glasses instead.  She just wrinkled her cute little nose in disapproval.  Then on a shopping expedition, I jokingly handed her a pair of big Jackie-O sunglasses.  I coaxed her into trying different styles and as she posed wearing geek frames, cat eyes, and school boy frames, she liked what she saw in the mirror.  She eventually ditched the contacts for a pair of oversized geek frames that look great on her.

  So whether you go vintage or modern, choose oversized or teensy wire rims, you’re sure to find specs that are right for you.  And remember that men do make passes at girls who wear glasses!

red poppy

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Girl Talk

The Winter of My Discontent

The other day, my friend from Sarasota left me this message:  “Hi Chris – it’s me.  Calling from sunny Florida,” she chuckled.  “I hear it’s pretty darn cold up there in Boston…”

It’s no secret – I don’t like winter. For so many reasons.

If you’re like me, you’re faced with a never-ending string of bad hair days.  If I wear a hat, and dare to take it off when I go indoors, I end up with flat “hat hair” or wild girl “static electric hair,” and neither is a good look.

When you have bad hair, you need to step it up in the fashion department.  Not so easy when you’re dressing from the bottom up.  I check the weather to see what I’ll be trudging through in the morning.  Snow?  Ice?  Slush?  An ankle-deep pool of dirty water?  One thing is certain: the appropriate footwear will be ugly.  Still, I attempt to pull together some sort of ensemble.  Do I wear narrow pants so I can tuck them into the boots?  Or do I try to hide the boots beneath wider pant legs?  Is wearing a dress feasible?  Or will tights look stupid with the boots?  Fashion is pretty much out the window.

Then there’s outerwear: gloves, ear muffs (can I get away with not wearing a hat?), a scarf, and a coat.  Do I risk the woolen coat getting splattered with road salt?  Will a parka protect me any better from being pelted with sleet?

In winter, I spend a fortune on skin care.  One moisturizer is for my “delicate eye area,” another for my face, and still another to wear overnight.  There’s body lotion for my alligator skin.  And hand cream for my cracked finger tips.  And a thicker, greasier version for my poor feet that haven’t seen the light of day since September.  These products may work, but with so many different scents, I smell like a mixed bouquet of three-day-old flowers.  More than one magazine article has warned me of the dangers of becoming addicted to my lip balm.  But you’d have to pry it out of my dry cracked hands.

All this planning and dressing and moisturizing is hard work.  I’m so exhausted I don’t even want to leave the house.  I think about my friend in sunny Florida, and dream of summer, when I can throw on a cotton t-shirt dress and pad around in a pair of flip-flops.

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

I Blame Shakespeare

My friend’s two young daughters refer to Valentine’s Day as “the love holiday” because, even at their tender age, they’ve figured out that couples celebrate with greeting cards pledging love and devotion, bouquets of flowers, and gigantic heart-shaped boxes of chocolates.  But not everyone has a significant other.  And for some single folks, February 14th can be a tough day.  Here’s a re-post from March 2016 with my perspective.

The “rom-com” plot never changes: the pretty, but downtrodden, single woman gets saved by the rich, good looking, completely idealized man, whose only flaw is that it takes him a little while to figure out that he’s in love with her; then in the last ten minutes of the movie, he must race somewhere to find her and keep her from leaving town.

“Feel good movies,” that’s what they’re called.  But who feels good after seeing them?  Single women?  Like seeing this one movie is going to wash away past hurts and disappointments, bringing instead, inspiration and hope to carry on – and to believe – yes believe, that the exact same thing will happen for you because Mr. Right is just around the very next turn…

While channel surfing late one night, I realized this movie formula was well-established with 1950’s films like Sabrina, and the Doris Day comedies.  Who says that in order to have a happy ending, the couple must get together?

The BardShakespeare.  He’s the one.  All the comedies end with a wedding, just as all the tragedies end with a death.  We’ve had over four hundred years of conditioning!  But The Bard was wrong.  This is the new millennium and, back me up here ladies, in the real world the guy tells the girl that he doesn’t deserve her, that she’s going to be a great wife for some other lucky guy, blah, blah, blah, before leaving her with a few mementos and a broken heart.

So what’s a modern girl to do?

I muted the television and sat for a while in the darkness, only the blue glow of the screen lighting my way.  And in the solitude of my living room, I figured it out.

It’s time to change the narrative.  You can’t expect or rely on another person for your happiness.  You have to find your own bliss.  A happy ending can be whatever you want it to be.red poppy

 

 

 

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Best of Boston

Park It

We had our first significant snow storm a couple of weekends ago.   When my brother and I finally ventured outside, shovels in hand, and peered at all the chairs scattered in the street, he muttered, “here we go again.”

If you read this re-post from March 2018, you’ll know what he meant.

My old roommate texted me four snowflake emojis, and my friend called from Florida when they heard about the latest Nor’easter that dumped 20 inches of snow on Boston.   A snow emergency was declared and a street parking ban went into effect.  When the parking ban gets lifted, what happens next may sound crazy to anyone who’s not from Boston.  Or Chicago, Philly, or Pittsburgh.  This phenomenon, depending where you live, is known as “space saving,”  “dibbs,” or “chair parking.”

Most everyone does it in Beantown because we believe that when you spend several back-breaking hours shoveling out not only the snow that fell, but the surplus snow the plows have dumped in front of your house, you’ve earned this spot – that you can pahk ya cah – and Gawd help the person who tries to pahk there the moment you drive away.

The unofficial rule to this decades-old practice is that once you shovel out your spot, you have exclusivity to the spot until all the snow has melted.  Which could take a while.  This practice is so sacred that some people have been known to leave threatening notes warning that whoever takes their hard-won, shoveled-out parking spot risks bodily harm, and mysterious damage to their vehicle.  However, New Englanders are generally polite so the more accepted way of laying claim to the parking space is by putting a chair in the empty spot.  Any chair will do – a folding chair, a beach chair, a bar stool.   Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty funny stuff: an old toilet bowl, an anchored down Barbie Dream Car, and a plaster bust of Elvis.

I now live on a street that vehemently adheres to space saving and my brother and I are facing a dilemma.  We don’t have a chair we’re willing to sacrifice to the elements and place in front of our house.  Do we go to the nearest discount department store to buy a cheap, dispensable chair?  Or do we put something more unorthodox in front of our house as a space saver?  We have plenty of rubble from my on-going house renovation.  A discarded kitchen cabinet?  The old stove?  Or perhaps a slab of counter top with the sink still attached?  My brother believes in the “go big or go home” approach, figuring the heavier the item, the greater the chance no one will move it and park in front of our house.

In the end, we’ve decided to follow the “when in Rome” adage and  we’re going with the chair.

 

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Girl Talk, Life Lessons

Roommates

Whenever I speak about them, I don’t call them my friends.  Our relationship is special and it needs a qualifier to describe who they are and what they mean to me.  So I refer to them as my old roommates because living together made us closer than friends, and more like family.  Even though it’s been many years since we last lived together, this still holds true.

We met as grad students at Emerson College.  All three of us came from the New York-New Jersey area and were new to Boston.  The close quarters of grad school housing only helped our friendship to flourish.  At the end of the year, another New Yorker joined us, and the four of us moved off-campus.  Our new digs, a railroad-style apartment, was much larger, but in need of a major face-lift.  As young women living in the city, we didn’t mind residing in a self-proclaimed student slum.  We were too busy having fun.

Graduations and jobs inevitably ended our time of living together.  My roommates left Massachusetts – for New York, New Jersey, and New Mexico, while I found a cute studio apartment and stayed in Boston.  Although we often go for long periods of time without seeing one another, we stay in close contact.

Last winter, New York was the first of the roommates to visit me in my new home, arriving only a few weeks after I’d moved in.  She could see beyond the bare walls and the pile of cartons in every room, to what it would become with time.  And her enthusiasm for me was palpable.

In early November, New Jersey and New Mexico came to town for a conference and stayed with me for a couple of nights.  My first over-night guests since the big home reno was completed.  This symbolism was not lost on me.

We talk, we text.  And when I’m lucky enough to spend time with any of these three amazing women, we don’t miss a beat.  Time and age do not matter.  We feel as if we’ve never lived apart.  I’m sure we always will.

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Life Lessons

New Year’s Resolutions

Eat healthy, lose weight, join a gym, get more sleep…  It’s easy to make New Year’s resolutions but most people have a hard time keeping them.  For me, the key to keeping New Year’s resolutions is to be honest with yourself by setting realistic goals and adopting behaviors you can live with.  In that spirit, I’d like to share my plan for the new year.

Diet:  My three fruits per day will be two raisins and a glass of wine.  Cutting carbs is never easy, so rather than set myself up for failure, I won’t even attempt this.  However, when choosing brown food over white food, I will include two servings of chocolate (one dark and one milk). This way, the milk chocolate can double as one of my two dairy servings.  The other, a cup of ice cream (any flavor).  To reduce meat intake, I’ll cut bacon to no more than 3 slices with my weekend breakfast or brunch.  And a daily glass of V-8 to wash down a multi-vitamin should cover my veggies.

Weight:  Some people weigh themselves every morning, but I’ve always found once a week to be sufficient.  Funny thing: back in October, my scale broke.  I haven’t bought a new one and I’m not sure I need to because I really don’t miss this weekly ritual.

Exercise:  The gym is conveniently located a few doors down from the drug store and supermarket in the strip mall nearest home so I can easily go to the gym a few times per week.  If I park at the far end of the parking lot, and walk, I don’t even have to actually go into the gym.  I can just go past it on my way to the market where I’ll be buying all of my healthy food.

Sleep:  The sleep experts advise getting up and going to bed at the same time each day.  This would mean getting up at 6 AM on Saturday and Sunday.  Seriously?  What if I don’t set my alarm clock over the weekend and simply leave my rise-and-shine time up to fate?  I do resolve to go to bed earlier.  My goal is to turn out the lights at 1 o’clock.  After all, you can’t get much earlier in the day than 1:00 AM.

This should all work for me – hope it’s helpful for you.  Happy New Year!

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