16

December 5, 2010

 

i am the mother of a 16 year old today.  what a ride.  she’s so much her own person and cannot be denied.  goofy and smart and clear in her need to laugh and care in the world.   full of possibilities and purpose and full of wanting to be 12 again.  i guess it’s all in your perspective.  2 cakes (over 2 days) and a platter of cottage cheese latkes (always her request … and a good delivery system for sour cream) later, we are celebrating the birthday week (she’d claim the birthday month) and i alternate between wanting to clutch her close and beaming with pride as she navigates herself solo. 

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HOLD the curtain; there’s a bomb!

May 2, 2010

 

i rarely have been right in the middle of a news story but last night my parents and my daughter and i managed to find ourselves exactly at the scene of the times square bomb scare – at exactly the same time it all happened!!!  my parents are visiting for a week and as a bday gift, i wangled amazing house seats to ‘billy elliot’ – my husband subs in the pit and he was able to request house seats – it was worth it as it was a gift for my father’s 80th bday and my mother’s 79th – both bdays just having passed in the last month.  mom isn’t the best walker in the world – although i think watching new yorkers of all ages negotiating the streets and the subways as a ‘i just do it daily’ thing may have inspired her to be up and about more.  i planned the evening carefully.  we did take the subway in from brooklyn and, though it isn’ t really my thing – the giant touristy restaurant, i picked virgil’s bbq with a 6pm reservation exactly because it was 1 block from the theater and right off times square.  (i don’t like bbq or anything smoked but i had a burger and it was a pretty darned good burger.)   we scored a lovely table upstairs by the window and we were all happy – especially mom and dad with a gooey rack of bbq’d baby back ribs. 

Out the door again at 6:40pm we turned left to walk around on bway – my father was fascinated with the new walking section with no cars.  we turned right to walk up a few blocks and, at first, it looked like we couldn’t walk in the middle due to some construction for a block.  but, as a city girl, you hear and start picking up little odd signals that, even in such a huge crowd, something is a little ‘off’.  one of the comedy club hawkers made a reference to ‘that explosion over there’ and i noticed that our uptown walk (of only 1/4 a block) suddenly felt intensely dense – denser than it should be.  i wasn’t paying as much attention up and out because i was herding my particular group of cats – my dad strutting ahead and wanting to be first at anything that might be interesting; me in the middle looking forward toward him (who forgot his cell phone at home so i couldn’t lose him in the crowd); and back behind me to my teenage daughter who was kindly holding her mom-mom’s arm – my mother walking slower than most people.  but i did look up and forced myself to focus and in a few moments, my brain formed the realization that there were a whole lot of emergency vehicles appearing around us and above us and i realized that, very quickly – really really really quickly, a lot of times square was being locked down…cordoned off with police tape and the metal rails they use to pen in new years eve revelers.  and we couldn’t move forward – even as people were turning around to walk the other way.  i got us turned around but trying to negotiate down a few streets and around toward our theater was difficult – we didn’t know quite what was happening.  my father wanted to stay and watch and didn’t want to listen to my now-barked instructions to follow me.  i, who had watched the 2nd plane hit the world trade center from a roof in park slope, brooklyn, simply had a singular instinct…get out of here as quickly as possible.  (and i really hate crowds.)  but it involved pulling him along to stay with us and keeping mom moving and not tripping over the many rail-feet and curbs and gabillion other people.  i realize now that in moving back downtown, we actually went right past the original bomb/suv site.

i got us down to 43rd street where, miraculously, we were able to turn west and down to shubert alley – cut through and cut through and across 45th street to our theater.  we arrived at 7:10pm and you could feel the tension.  of course, it turned out that the car was right there or right near there but we didn’t really know.  after a bit of gawking and counting ourselves lucky for slipping and sliding to get there, we went in.  and sat.  and sat.  and sat.  i saw that at least 1/4 of the seats were empty for this usually-sold-out show and figured that many people couldn’t get there due to the streets being closed off.  an announcement came that the curtain was being held due to ‘the activity in times square’ and around 8:20 a number of people slid into their seats.  the curtain finally went up at 8:25pm – the latest i’ve ever seen it held.  in the middle of a quiet moment in the 1st act, a distinct blaring police megaphone barking some kind of universal instructions and then hidden again by the soaring orchestra in their next number.  i think i’m not the only theater patron who quietly worried  – unable to quite slip completely into the world of this northern england town of miners. 

we left at an ungodly 11:25pm and a cheery announcement came from the stage that we were all to exit to 46th street (the back of the theater).  the street was cordoned off  – hundreds of people straining at a police barricade – perhaps many gawkers and some people hoping or needing to get down that block – but onlythe theather-goers were being allowed on the block and, then, only to be let off the block.   we trekked to 8th avenue with my plan to walk to 42nd street and then back over to bway to catch the q home.  it essentially worked – though we had to cross over two times to go around the ‘ground zero’ of the emergency.  in true big city style..we passed loud vibrant restaurants and clubs with partying people having no idea nor any interest in what was happening just a block or two away.  times square on it’s best day is one of my least favorite places in all of new york city and here i was finding myself in the middle of it on a looney saturday night in some surreal drama. 

home by 12:45 – everyone passed out but me – not quite able to ramp down and watching what had now become big-time news.  thankfully, a failed explosive.  but – ohhhhh – my parents will have quite the story to tell their albuquerque friends and our relatives – out for a night of theater and they got a major incident as well and more walking than they thought possible!  which, of course, weaves it together into the regular big night of theater that is new york city.


wearing my heart on my (virtual) sleeve

February 15, 2010

 

i have always been rather independent.  i propelled myself from home and once i muddled through the obligatory earn-this-degree and be a semi-functioning adult in this world decade post-high school, i not only moved to new york city to find my destiny but also found myself traveling the world – hmmm…trying to find my destiny love.  there are lots of people i grew up with – and i’m sure this is true for you or for many people you know – who stayed close to home.  they built their lives around what they knew and function happily there (i’m sure for some, unhappily). 

after much world-wandering, i found myself with roots in brooklyn.  first a tiny apartment in brooklyn heights and then, once i was the other half of a couple, sharing a house (a house in nyc~!) further out in midwood.  my family scattered far and wide.  we all used to be in philadelphia.  and when i say all, i mean pretty much all.  my maternal grandmother was one of 13 children and there were myriads of 1st cousins on my father’s side.  we used to have a ‘family circle’ and i remember trips on big rented buses to washington, d.c. as a big family.  we saw my mother’s side a lot when we were younger and less as we grew older.  now, for both sides, we find ourselves scattered.  a few remain in philly but we’ve flung ourselves to new mexico, atlanta, maryland, new jersey, and california. 

imagine my surprise when i found out that a cousin – a real cousin – lived mere blocks from my office.  i found out by accident years ago when a real estate broker mentioned the name of her buyer for a house and that name, rather unusual, was my mother’s maiden name.  this cousin and i shared a great grandfather.  i got in touch and, perhaps as it was a turbulent time in his life – a child on the way, a new house, a wife who may not have been so motivated to socialize with family that was not hers – we never got together.  i knew that something had happened between our parents – something subtle but perhaps his parents weren’t so keen to socialize with mine.  i never got the whole story – as i think it sat more on his side than mine.  one adult not liking another adult.  one non-related adult not liking their spouse’s related adult.   these things happen. they also were living a very very upscale life – a wildly grand house in the plunk middle of the fanciest part of park slope, brooklyn and parents who retired to the very exclusive hamptons. 

i let much time go by.  last year, teenage daughter turned 14 and i remember thinking that it was so silly that she – my only child – had a cousin mere blocks from her school and didn’t know her.  so i emailed.  imagine my surprise to find out in a cordial return email that she had two younger cousins nearby (what a difference a few years make) and was told all the right soothing things:  nice to hear from you; oh yes we should get together; let’s talk at the end of the summer and make some plans.  time passed.  my adult cousin showed up on fb and i friended him.  we went through the same dance.  i have never been shy about taking the first step.  in this case, i took the first step 3 times over 3x as many years.  well, all things in 3’s.   a full facebook-year later, today, i unfriended him.  whatever his issues are, whatever social plane he thinks he lives on, i am finally unwilling to share my small bit of fb feelings with the cousin that doesn’t want to be a cousin.  it was a valentine’s day release.


compassion abounds

November 29, 2009

 

we had a really lovely 4 days away romping around beantown.  (beanygetsablog in beantown?!)  it was my first time up there since i was in high school and my sister attended wheelock (so that was a really really really long time ago).  and all i remembered from that visit were the train tracks, her college cafeteria and the frat party i was allowed to attend at m.i.t. where her then-boyfriend (since husband) attended.  with my sister-in-law teaching at university there, we had a chance to leave brooklyn and have a few days away. 

my sister-in-law teaches educational theater and had the foresight to get us tickets to see ‘best of both worlds’ at the american repertory theater in cambridge.  i highly recommend it.  it is a gospel retelling of ‘a winter’s tale’ – a shakespearean play that is a little stilted and stumbly (well, as far as i’m concerned).  she had come with us and our teenage daughter last year to see ‘a winter’s tale’ performed by ‘the bridge project’ at bam.  so this was a chance for her (and us) to see the same play done very differently.  the director is diane paulus – she directed the current production of ‘hair’ on bway.  her husband was the lyricist.  it was just the kind of theater i love – minimal sets and actors who can sing very very well and don’t flail about as a way of putting a  song across.  she brought the audience into the play and it was really a delightful afternoon.

sitting on the front side row was a man in a wheelchair.  he was obviously not able to move his own body and his head was held in place also.  i surmised that the older couple sitting next to him were his parents.  i’d guess them to be about 70-75 and he was in his 50’s.  i’d glance over occasionally and think that i could see him making some eye contact with the actors but it could have been wishful thinking on my part. 

the last number was a big choir-backed hallelujah raise-the-rafters, get up, and clap your hands finale.  it melded together as we, the audience, had gone on the journey with the cast and we were all clapping with each other to see this play to the end.  i looked over and saw that the man’s mother was up on her feet like all of us.  but his father (i presume) was sitting with him.  he had taken his son’s hand and was holding it with one hand and clapping on his arm in rhythm with the other.   he must have known that his son could somehow experience this joyful experience as part of the whole audience.  it was so immeasurably touching.  it’s hard to get through the days that we live and the little things can mean all the difference to hold us through the worst of times. 


i really do.

June 9, 2009


18 years ago today, minus a few hours, i was married.  in the living room of our little ‘archie bunker’ semi-detached midwood brooklyn house.  it was so completely different than what i had imagined my wedding would be like.  the place of the ceremony.  the party after in manhattan was just up my alley.  i was a little ‘older’ when i got married – 33 seemed ancient to me.  husband and i were savvy show business professionals and we were very much aware that we were not interested in having the ‘bride and groom in their 15 minutes of fame’ kind of wedding.  i was headlining my own cabaret/jazz act and husband was always on stage also as an instrumentalist and we felt that we had enough of the spotlight.  we were also mostly paying for our own wedding – thank the heavens my soon-to-be husband was as steady about finances then as he is now.  i certainly wasn’t.  in those days, my idea of a budget was to buy a top designer dress on 50% sale at saks on my credit card and worry about it later.  (ok, a few dresses with the same delayed worry.)

our families couldn’t be more different.  pretty well evidenced by the fact that the in-laws met once at the wedding and never again.  but the biggest issue for me was compromising on where we actually had the ceremony.  i was already a reluctant resident in our (still current) house in midwood.  our neighborhood had changed so much and was now mostly very observant orthodox jews – as i got more secular they seemed to get more observant.  so tribal.  i have always been greeted with a very cautious politeness – and, by the children, often with outright hostility.  however, i agreed and the day before our wedding, we all worked on emptying out every bit of furniture from the living room and dining room and set up 30-some chairs and went with the flow.  i thought my parents would faint at this non-showy down-to-earth wedding.  we hired a universalist minister (can’t get a justice of the peace to a private house and no rabbi that we could find would perform a non-religious ceremony for us) and instructed him to absolutely not mention religion and not to offer up that he was a minister for fear that he would be personally responsible for my great-aunt’s heart attack. 

i walked down the staircase – the same one i use every day – dressed in my sweet beaded to-the-knee cap-sleeved dress (procured off the rack from saks – not on sale but, ironically, the most reasonable dress i ever purchased from there!) looking to the world like the hip city daytime bride i was striving to be – and my soon-to-be father-in-law played the most beautiful piano as i walked to meet the man i would marry. 

before i was married, i thought i wanted more – ‘more’ in my wedding.  18 years later, i am eternally grateful to understand that i had more than i could have hoped for.  the people i loved and the people who were to become family to me all together in a setting that was the exact opposite of high theater.  and on top of that, husband is more handsome now than the day i married him.  but also, my willing partner.  18 years and i got the best end of the deal.


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