“The Last French Fry”: A Meeting of the Minds and Palates for Valentine’s Day

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I had another post all ready to go for today, but then realized that Valentines’ Day is this Sunday. Luckily, the wonderful women in my DC writers’ group liked a recent essay I wrote about the meeting of the minds and palates that led to my long marriage. They urged me to share it with the readers of my blog. So I’m posting it here. WARNING: It’s very food-centric and may pique your appetite; perhaps you should eat a delicious snack of your choice before reading it.

The Last French Fry

 

I blame my parents for my love of fried food

My Mom died when I was 28 and my Dad is now 93 years old and no longer eats fried food, with or without his false teeth in place. Except when we travel from DC to visit him in Connecticut. Then for old times’ sake, even though we all acknowledge it is not half as good as it once was, a fact which does not deter us, we drive to our favorite place, Rawleys, the old hot dog stand with the wooden booths on the Post Road where locals patiently stand in long lines to eat deep-fried hot dogs. We order with “the works” for my Dad, with “light mustard and onions” for me and with “chili and onions” for my husband. And two large orders of French fries, please.

I always fight over who gets the last French fry.

It is not that I am overly-attached to French fries. It is that I never used to eat the last French fry. For many years I meticulously avoided eating the last of anything, the last cookie on the plate, the last slice of pizza, the last chip in the bag.

My Mom told me that eating the last of anything meant I would become an old maid. A spinster. Unlikely to wed. She shared this bit (among many others) of folk wisdom of unknown origin with me when I was in my vulnerable teens and I took it quite to heart. It was not likely I would be without a husband since I was, from age 13 on, perhaps due to my large breasts, never without a boyfriend in tow. But I studiously refused to eat the last of any food item. Just in case.

When I met Jim, my husband-to-be, at a mixer in our dorm’s courtyard on the first night of international relations grad school, I tried to impress him with my sophisticated tastes.

I pretended to knowledge of foreign films I did not have and acted like I understood his position on the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. I did not want to let on that I regularly watched low-brow shows on TV to relax, read murder mysteries set in cozy British villages for the same reason and relished all fried foods. He thought he had met an intellectual, highly cultured young woman raised in an upscale suburban town. The part about the upscale suburban town was true.

On one of our first dates he set about to impress me with his high-brow interests. He took me to the Brattle Street theatre in Cambridge to see one of his favorite films – the painfully long, classic black & white 1938 Russian drama “Alexander Nevsky” which told the stirring tale of a 13th century battle on the icy steppes of Siberia. As giant horses and costumed Cossacks galloped on the screen, I feigned interest and glanced frequently yet discreetly, I hoped, at my watch.

After the film finally ended, he steered me to a Cambridge cafe he had found earlier that day. For all of Jim’s lofty talk about Eastern European politics and his multiple language abilities, he did not know how to read restaurant menus very well.

Only after we sat down did he discover that the menu he had seen outside the restaurant had been for lunch only. When the waiter handed us dinner menus with their significantly higher prices, I saw him wince. It was then I learned he was a scholarship student from a working class family.

The lunch menu he could afford; the dinner menu was well beyond his budget. I offered to go 50/50 on the check, an arrangement well suited to my 1970’s era feminist policies. And thus our long-term dating and dining relationship was born.

We both liked talking about international affairs (I acknowledged to his delight that he had the more in-depth knowledge), but when it came to eating ethnic cuisine, our palates were on equal footing. It had not gone unnoticed by me that ethnic cuisine offered many varieties of fried food. Somehow it was less guilt-inducing to indulge in fried food if it originated in another country.

As we continued to date through our first year of grad school, we frequented inexpensive restaurants of every ethnic stripe in the Boston area – Greek, Mexican, Sushi, Szechuan and Thai. When those became too tame for us, we ventured further out to Armenian neighborhoods to sample lahmajuns, to Korean communities to eat kimchi and to an Indonesian café to taste nasi goreng.

One of the reasons that Jim liked me, or liked eating with me, which was almost the same thing, given how often we dined out or carried in, was that I talked far too much. I talked more than I ate. He figured this out early on and took advantage of my garrulousness.

While I was busy chatting, he would nod his head, appear to be listening closely to me, but actually was aiming his fork at my plate of half-eaten Kung Pao Chicken, spearing a piece or two or three as I blabbed on. It was only after we had been together for about six months that I realized half of my dinner was regularly disappearing into his mouth. By that time, I was so besotted with him that I didn’t care.

When Jim was introduced to my Mom, she fell in love with him too. In part because he was an adventurous eater, but more so because he was always willing to share his dessert with her. When we visited them in Connecticut, my parents took us to their favorite French restaurant where Jim enjoyed moules Biarritz and the restaurant’s signature, Grand Marnier soufflé (order 25 minutes in advance please) for the first time.

Jim impressed both my Dad and Mom as a thoughtful person and a well-mannered eater. However, when he asked the waiter for mayonnaise to put on his tongue sandwich during a lunch at my parents’ mostly-Jewish country club, my Dad’s eyebrows raised high with disapproval.

It took us nearly four years to gain my Dad’s approval, and to realize that despite our religious and socioeconomic differences, our shared food palate would unite us forever. After we got engaged, my Mom gladly set about finding a caterer who would offer a menu to suit the tastes of both our families.

The ceremony was set for 12:30 p.m. rather than noon, because, according to another bit of obscure folk wisdom courtesy of my Mom, it was luckier to marry when the hands of the clock were on the upswing. On a lovely day in late May in the backyard of my family’s house, we toasted with Greek metaxa whiskey sours, dined under a big striped yellow tent on spanakopitas, gazpacho andaluz and coulibiac of salmon and then danced the Jewish hora and the Macedonian horo in circles around the dance floor.

There was nary a French fry in sight at our wedding reception. But then I didn’t have to worry about biting into that last fry anymore. And, luckily, 37 years later I still don’t.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

 

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9 Ways To Be If You Want to Turn 93

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(*happily updating this original post from February, 2015 when my Dad had his 92nd birthday. Now February, 2016 – his 93rd!)

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  He celebrated his 93rd birthday this Monday, February 1.

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his friend, the doctor, for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died young. Taking joy in his four grandchildren, his toddler great-grandson – and looking forward to the arrival of another great-grand child next month.  Bestowing tender care upon his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Ways To Be If You Want to Turn 93

It is not easy to turn 93

You have to know just how to be.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your kids every Sunday at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide wise counsel for many without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine things you must be.

If you want to reach the wise old age of 93

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life you will have had.

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Top Five Reasons I Dislike Being a Grandmother

social media and tablet 3dCaught your attention with that headline? Did it grab your interest and make you want to read on? Good! – That was my goal.

Because I plan to tell the students in the Blogging 101 workshop I am leading that writing posts styled as “Lists” or offering “Controversial Opinions” promise to “drive huge traffic” to your blog.

I learned that critical nugget of social media wisdom while researching How to Grow Your Blog Audience – one of the workshop’s topics.

I won’t share with the class, however, that I hate being told what to write to gain the most readers.  Lists? Not my thing. Controversial Opinions? Fine, but only if that is what flows naturally.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading about the craft of writing. I accept (constructive) writing criticism gladly. But advice about content marketing such as:  “Top 10 Tips for Search Engine Optimization” and “Six Proven Ways to Attract Readers To Your Blog”. Titles like that make me gag.

Content does rule. It must be excellent. Better yet, compelling. And as I said in last week’s workshop, your writing voice should sound like your speaking voice. Relatable. Authentic. The Real You.

Tomorrow – assuming the snow plows locate our post-blizzard neighborhood – I will suggest to the students that they certainly can write lists if they are motivated to do so. But if their writing is beach sand dry, no one will read past list item #1. Offer a controversial opinion, yup, you will draw attention – but you may not like the attention you get – particularly if your opinion is irrational or irrelevant.

But – perhaps the social media experts DO know best?

So I will try a little experiment here in this post. Our two-year-old grandson recently stayed with us for several brief nights and very long days. Thus, I fully qualify as an expert, if not on social media, then on grandmother-hood.

I hereby test the social media waters to see if they will shower me with attention based upon the following:

 

Top Five Reasons I Dislike Being a Grandmother”

 

1. Stepping on stray Legos. In bare feet. As painful as it was in my Young Mom days.

 2. Listening to Raffi. “Baby Beluga” may be a fine song the first 5o times you hear it. Less so on number 51 and beyond.
3. Diapers.  Now made with splashier designs and fancier tape mechanisms, but their content remains odiferous. Why hasn’t some brilliant millennial entrepreneur created a scent-absorbing diaper?
4.Being Asked to Spend $$$ to stock up on Organic Everything.  Organic milk, o.k. maybe that makes sense but organic macaroni and cheese, really?
5. Having to tiptoe quietly, please, around our own house lest we wake the Visiting Napping Toddler. He sets all of the rules even though he is the youngest. Is that fair?

 

There, I did it, you read it here first. In a single post I offer both a Top Five List and a Controversial Opinion. That should drive the search engines wild! My blog traffic will likely go through the roof. People from all over the country will be tweeting asking me to visit their city to teach a blogging course. Soon I will be earning zillions with My Top Ten Tips On How To Grow Your Blog Audience.

Or else I will go back to writing exactly what I want to write. I think I will tell my students in Blogging 101 to do just that.

 

 

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What’s in a (Baby’s) Name? – Millennials vs Boomers

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Our adult daughter has her 32nd birthday this week. It’s her birthday, she gets to celebrate, she gets the gifts – but the memory of the day belongs to me.

Since I was the one who did ALL the work and was present “in the moment” while she made only a brief, late and loud appearance.

My husband was indeed present but not for the entire event. Later a nurse told me he appeared somewhat faint and had to (was asked to) leave the room. He triumphantly returned for the “it’s a girl” announcement and it was he, not me, who responded when the question came –

“What’s the baby’s name?”

Choosing a baby’s name was – and is –  the fun part. But far different today than it was 30-some years ago.

My husband and I felt the weight of expectations of generations that came before us when choosing a name.

Our daughter, pregnant now with her 2nd child, does not feel this weight. Her husband doesn’t either.

It’s not that they are selfish, it is just that they are millennials.

I have done absolutely zero research to reach this conclusion, unless you call my frequent perusal of websites such as babynamewizard and nameberry – and many similar sites for expectant parents of every demographic stripe.

We (boomers) did not have the internet to guide us in selecting a baby name.

We had exactly two sources:

1. Our parents memories and wishes which we listened to.

2. Books of suggested baby names (printed on actual paper) which we read.

When I was pregnant, my aunt sent me a book on baby names designed to help Jewish parents come up with names that honored their deceased relatives as fits our tradition.  I wanted to use my mother’s Hebrew name as a starting point. That led to its own set of arguments as my dad and my mother’s brothers had different recollections of what my mother’s Hebrew name actually was. And she wasn’t around to tell us.

My husband wanted to honor the memory of his grandmother who helped raise him. And I (respecting my own 1970’s feminist ethos) wanted to give the baby my own last name as a middle name.

I was also influenced by, a somewhat inexplicable in retrospect but fervent at the time, admiration for the British royal family owing to a business trip I took to the UK just before I became pregnant in 1983.  Images of babies named Charles, Diana, Edward and Elizabeth filled my dreams.

Ultimately, our daughter and then our son were given lovely, traditional names to honor family members no longer with us.

Our daughter and her husband have more naming options – and stronger voices of their own, like their millennial brethren.

They will pick a name that suits them. And them alone. It won’t be fanciful, or celebrity-based or (I hope) have a bizarre spelling.

Their biggest concern? They don’t want to select a popular baby name that “everyone else” is using. So I know not to expect to have a grandchild named – Daniel or Noah – or Ava or Emma. (sigh, I am fond of those names.)

It’s their baby – and I respect that (though as I edge towards sleep each night, I make mental lists of names I hope they won’t choose – “Please, let them not chose Cole, Cooper or Cale.” Nothing against those names if they are in your family, but they make me squirm.

My husband and I endlessly discussed and discarded baby names (“Kenneth,” No, that sounded like a dentist. “Douglas,” No, that was someone my husband didn’t like in grade school. “Diana,” my husband put his foot down at that one. “Beth,” too timid, as in the famed Little Women character of my childhood favorite book.).

Our millennial daughter and her husband will use spread sheets to guide their baby name decision-making process.

Our son-in-law (yes, you guessed it, he has an MBA) and my born-an-organizational-expert daughter invented a method for their first child’s name that they will adopt for their second.

The other night at dinner this method was explained to me as follows:

  • A month before the baby’s due date, a spread sheet is created
  • The spread sheet contains three columns
  • Column #1 is where our daughter lists her preferred baby names
  • Column #3 is where our SIL lists his preferred names
  • Spread sheet is shared by both parties
  • In the center Column #2  is created on which the overlapping names agreed upon by both parties are listed
  • Spread sheet is again shared
  • The process continue until there are several overlapping names in Column #2
  • Baby name is selected by joint agreement of both parties from among the overlapping names in Column #2

An efficient and effective millennial method of dealing with a highly emotional decision, don’t you think?

Could I live with a new grandchild named Cooper, Cole – or Cale?  Of course. Unless they decide to spell the latter name, Kale, in the ultimate millennial joke on their boomer parents. Then all bets are off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When a Friend’s Mom Dies “Old” – and Yours Died “Young”

 

 

 

Mom at party

 

I was standing in my kitchen yesterday when my close friend Liz called. Her mother had died. She was 92-years-old and was in failing health.

My mom died in 1981 when I was 28 and she was 54. She died “young”. I guess you could say that Liz’s mom died “old.”

Does it make it easier on a daughter (or son) if your mom dies at a ripe old age?

Or does it make it harder to lose her since you had her in your life for many more years?

When I sat down earlier today to write Liz a sympathy note – yes, handwritten, yes on personal stationery, yes, very old-school, just the way my mom taught me to do – I wasn’t sure what to say.

In my head I think Liz was pretty lucky. Her mom lived to see grandchildren. Mine did not. Her mom was around to answer questions in Liz’s young mom days. Mine was not. Her mom was an honored guest at the weddings of two of her grandchildren. Mine never had that chance.

I’m not sure Liz saw it that way. The last few years for her mom were rough ones. No matter the number of calls or visits, and Liz was a most devoted caregiver, her mom was always lonely. Liz was busy, worked hard, had her own life; her mom’s life had narrowed.

Perhaps Liz doesn’t even remember what her mom was like in the prime years of her life.

Whereas that is the only way I can think of mine. Age 54. Active, vibrant, on the go. Back to school to get another master’s degree in education. Volunteering in good causes. Taking on leadership roles in non-profits. Hosting family holidays. Watching my sister and I move through our twenties into grad school, boyfriends, marriages, lives.

Then on a random Tuesday – poof – my mom was there one night and the next morning she was gone. I didn’t know she was dying. She didn’t either. (I hope) Am I jealous that Liz got to be with her mom to ease her through her later years as best she could? Or am I secretly jealous that I didn’t have to bear that burden of elderly care-giving?

Likely I would have had many less than admirable caregiver moments. I can be impatient. I might have thought it a personal imposition to give up my time to meet my aging mother’s needs, to take her to endless doctor’s appointments, to deal with insurance, hospitals and aides. I didn’t have to deal with any of that. As Liz ably did.

What do I write to Liz?

“Sorry for your loss.”

Ridiculously trite and also untrue because while I am sorry, and it is a loss, her mother is not going to ever be found. She is permanently gone. There is no death lost and found of which I am aware.

“Hoping your memories will be of comfort.”

This is a phrase I have trotted out before. It is marginally helpful because memories over time do provide some comfort. But then they start to fade. In the first few years after my mom died, she made regular appearances in my dreams. But now I must look at photos to recapture a sense of what she looked and can only guess at what she sounded like.

What I like to do when I write notes of sympathy is to share my own memories of the person who died.

Recalling how Liz’s mom would show up for a visit carrying packages of chicken in her suitcase because the chicken she could buy in New Jersey tasted better than anything you could buy in the DC area.

The time we took Liz’s mom to the beach for the weekend; she loved seeing the ocean again, told me it reminded her of living near the shore when she was raising her family.

When Liz’s mom was in the hospital, I visited her and brought her some chocolate truffles. Liz’s mom, like Liz, was a chocolate connoisseur. After eagerly accepting the candy, she promptly hid the box in the top drawer of the table next to her hospital bed. She did not want to share her chocolates with anyone. I liked that about Liz’s mom.

I happened to be in her hospital room that day when a doctor stopped by – and he stood by the door, barely inside her room. He didn’t even greet Liz’s mom, just started to bark out information and orders.

Not on my watch. I spoke right up and urged the doctor to come in, to stand right next to her bed, I told him that Liz’s mom had very poor eyesight and hearing. She couldn’t see or hear him. He needed to walk into the room, all the way, please, and stand by her bed.

The doctor asked me who I was. I admitted I was not a relative. He finally deigned to stroll into the room to stand next to his patient’s bed and talk directly to her – not at her. A small victory.

I didn’t do much for Liz’ s mom over the years. Not as much as I should have or could have. I listened to Liz when she called me, when she was worried about her mom and when she complained about her, too.

I don’t know that I would have done as much as I should or could have for my mom either. Had she lived. But she didn’t. Liz’s mom did. And Liz now has her memories which I hope will be of comfort.

 

 

 

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It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time! Doing One Thing That Scares You

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Submitting a proposal to give a beginning-level workshop on blogging –  quite cleverly titled “Blogging 1o1” – seemed like a good idea.

At the time.

Last summer when I emailed a suggested course outline to The Writers Center. After all, if I could learn how to start a blog on my own (with some tech help, I admit), then anyone can start a blog. And if you are self-taught, then surely you can teach others?

Or as Eleanor Roosevelt (one of my personal heroes) once said:

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Beginning on Tuesday, January 12th at 11:00 a.m. at The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland (a wonderful non-profit about 10 minutes from my house that offers hundreds of writing workshops), I will be doing one thing that scares me. Not every day. Not sure I could handle that. But on January 12. January 19. January 26. February 2. Two hours on each of four days in early 2016 when I will certainly be scared.

(Or as our 2-year-old grandson recently said before boarding a Big Plane, “I scary.” )

I know just how he feels.

My husband reminds me that when I began this Blog in May 2014 I had no clue as to what I was doing. I had taken two courses at the Writers Center, written a bunch of essays, had a few of them published. After I recovered from the shock of seeing my words in print, I decided I needed a regular venue for my writing.

And hence a Blog was born. Witty Worried and Wolf.  Chosen to sound like the name of a law firm. I practiced law for 33+ years but sadly, the name of the firm was never changed to include mine. Here was my chance to see my name in lights – albeit self-appointed.

What about the “imposter syndrome,” I wondered? The one that regularly haunts me (perhaps you too?), that makes you second-guess your own abilities and accomplishments. Even when something you do receives praise from people who are not relatives.

The imposter syndrome kicked into its highest gear when I was in my second year in law school, having unwisely chosen to take a class called “Unfair Trade”. We would learn about prohibitions on deceptive and unfair trade practices, misleading advertising and the Federal Trade Commission.  Straightforward enough subjects, I thought.

Then mid-way through that fall, the professor brought out the centerpiece of the curriculum – a ridiculously complex, much misunderstood federal law called The Robinson-Patman Act of 1936. The R-P Act was – and is, as far as I know – a rarely used antitrust statute passed in the wake of the Depression to prevent large buyers from getting better prices than buyers with lesser economic power.

Even the Supreme Court called the R-P Act  “complicated and vague”.

I felt as did the Supreme Court.  Adding to my dismay, the professor announced that 50% of our grade on the final exam in “Unfair Trade” would be based on questions relating to the R-P Act.

I was doomed.

Imagine my surprise, when a few weeks into January, our final exam grades were posted, and I saw that I had received a 94 in Unfair Trade.  An “A”! Must be a mistake.

Such was my disbelief that I made an appointment to see the professor during office hours. I recall walking in, sitting down in the chair across from his desk and he asked:

“Miss Wolf, what can I do for you?”

“Ummm, I took Unfair Trade this fall? I just got my grade? And I received an A? I don’t understand?”

(note my early use of female upspeak)

The professor looked at me – this time the disbelief was his.

“Miss Wolf, are you asking me to change your grade? To lower it?”

Two seconds of reflection, then.

“Sorry, Professor, I shouldn’t have come. Thank you for seeing me.”

 

And I hastily retreated from his office.

Since then, I am pleased to report my self-confidence trajectory has improved. I did graduate from law school. I did practice law. I did become a partner. I did have clients who thought highly of my legal abilities. Over the years I repeated these words as a mantra whenever the imposter syndrome threatened to overcome me.

Back to Eleanor Roosevelt. And the one scary thing.

Blogging was scary for me – at first. Writing posts came easily enough, but putting my own words out there into the marketplace of ideas for public examination – what could be more frightening?

I also quiver each time I’m forced to learn the tech stuff that goes along with blogging. What, I asked, when I first got started – are plug-ins, SEO and widgets?

After 20 months of blogging, I know just enough about plug-ins, SEO and widgets to explain what they are; happily leaving it to others who wish to plumb the inner depths of fascinating blog tech tips.

I am much more interested in the words, in helping the participants who sign up for the workshop find their own audiences, craft posts that resonate with them and put them out there for public viewing.

And yes, last week I called the Writers Center to ask if anyone has signed up to take my workshop, always in self-doubt, perhaps secretly hoping that the workshop would be cancelled for lack of interest.

But 12 brave souls will join me, all may be saying as they enter the room at the Writers Center – “I scary” – – – me, too!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gift Giving and Gift Getting: “I’m not hard to buy a gift for, really I’m not.”

FullSizeRender [636456] Kitchen Tyler

 

I spotted a bright blue bag semi-hidden on a chair in our dining room earlier this morning.  Frothy bits of tissue paper erupted from its’ top. It must be another Hanukkah gift! How fun, I thought, my husband, JP, is going to surprise me tonight – on the 8th and last night of the holiday with an unexpected extra gift.

Hanukkah is a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. We light candles, say the blessings, sing songs and celebrate with friends and family. As adults, we exchange small gifts only on the first night.

So what could this extra surprise gift be? I told myself I should wait until he gets home from work. But curiosity often (always?) gets the best of me and I walked over to the bright blue bag. I’m not proud to admit this, but I rumbled through the tissue paper to get a peek.

And what did I find inside the bag?

A kit of prescription preparation supplies for JP’s colonoscopy scheduled for later this week.

Another gift search foiled, serves me right.

I could go all treacly here and say how wonderful it is that my husband remembers (after numerous post-it note prodding by yours truly) to have regular health check-ups and that the real gift will be his news that the colonoscopy went well. All clear, I hope the doctor tells him later this week, no more unpleasant details needed, please.

But instead the dashed expectations of the bright blue bag made me think of my own less than satisfactory history as a gift recipient. Which puzzles me because, all modesty aside, I am both easy to buy for and a truly great gift giver.

Known among family and friends as a “good picker”, I have an eye for that special gift. Like the customized cross-word puzzle I gave my Dad with personalized clues based on his own life history. The perfect vintage poodle print for my friend Liz. The hand-created framed collage I made for JP, then my boyfriend, featuring creative images from the early days of our courtship.

That was also the year that my future-husband-to-be reciprocated by giving me a set of metal nail clippers in a red leatherette case. A few seasons later his Hanukkah gift was a heavy flannel nightgown sporting delicate white eyelet ruffles at its’ high neck. There was also the time he gave me huge, hideously dangling, bright orange fan-shaped earrings.

And when I turned sixty, my closest friends hosted a small dinner for me after which I eagerly opened their gifts. Skin cream. Hand cream. A gift certificate for a facial. More moisturizer. Another hand cream.

So this is how I am perceived: As someone who needs help cutting her nails, likes to dress in the image of an American pioneer woman while sleeping, enjoys wearing large flashy earrings and has very, very, very, very dry skin.

All untrue! Shouldn’t my husband and friends know me better?

You can attribute nice motives to each gift giver, of course.  The nail clipper set proved useful. The nightgown was intended to keep me warm. The earrings were handmade, purchased at a favorite crafts fair.  And while my skin is well-kept, thank you, I do have a known weakness for creams and lotions that smell of lavender. So points there.

Perhaps the real point of the bright blue bag colonoscopy supplies episode is that reality intrudes even during the happiest of gift-giving seasons.

This year it was our two-year old grandson who received from us – in my humble opinion – the most thoughtful Hanukkah gift of all. A relatively inexpensive toy kitchen which we quickly discovered was reasonably priced because it had been falsely labeled as “easy to assemble”. The 75 lb. box was delivered to our door by a brawny UPS guy last week.

Inside the box we found a 16 page booklet of visual-only instructions, 42 separately numbered particle-board and plastic pieces and 104 (I counted) small screws and bolts encased in individual plastic bags.

With my minor assistance, JP completed the kitchen in four plus hours which included much cursing and “whose idea was this” grumbles. But so worth it when our grandson’s eyes lit up when he saw his very own faux stainless steel refrigerator, oven, stove and dishwasher ensemble – including a non-working kitchen faucet and painted-on subway-tile backsplash.

This week while our grandson is busy stirring painted wood food inside tiny pots and pans on his new-four-burner stove, my husband will be busy shall we say, modifying his diet (again, no unpleasant details needed) in “anticipation” of his upcoming colonoscopy.

Celebrations, holidays, spending time with family always coincide with reality. Getting gifts we may not like. Giving gifts we hope our recipients love. And waiting on the news of the one gift always high on our getting older wish list, one you cannot assemble, construct or purchase –  good health.

 

 

 

 

 

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