Sunday, April 3, 2016

Transitions

For one joyous week during the month of March, college students across the country happily board buses, planes, trains, and cars, full of anticipation at the thought of spending every moment of their seven day spring break with their parents friends.

Their mothers and fathers will wait anxiously for their arrival, listening for the familiar sound of their offspring's footsteps walking through the front door. They will throw their arms around their cherubs, weeping tears of joy, only to have said cherubs throw their bags down, grab some food, respond to a text, and run straight back out the door.

"It won't be that way with my Melissa," I firmly declare to a friend with a son in college.

She gives me a stare. A poor pitiful stare. A stare that women reserve for friends who are truly delusional.

"No seriously," I say, trying to convince myself. "Melissa and I are so close, she'll want to spend her break with me."

My friend replies with a laugh. A mirthless laugh.

"You'll see," she says.

Although I hate to entertain the notion, I have to admit she's probably right.

While I have approached each milestone of Melissa's senior year in high school with a sense of meloncholy, my daughter has approached each milestone with a mixture of relief and delight. Still to come are her senior class trip to Disney World, the Senior Prom, and then of course, graduation (sob) day.

We'll spend the summer shopping for new sheets, towels, and toiletries to transform a tiny dorm into Melissa's new home. We'll stress. We'll argue. We'll laugh. We'll hug.  We'll probably throw a tantrum or two as I try in vain to hold onto her childhood while she moves ever so closer to independence.

Come August, my husband Bob and I will pack up the car.  We'll drive to American University in Washington, D.C.  We'll help unload. We'll help set up.  We'll make sure she has money. We'll make sure she has food. We'll make small talk. We'll linger.  We'll hug. We'll hold back our tears.

We'll wave goodbye, thinking about the baby we held in our arms, the sweetheart we taught to ride a bike, the home work assignments and sleep over parties, chorus concerts, and high school musicals.

We'll get in the car and drive back to an empty house. We'll be overcome with sorrow, and overflowing with joy, content in the knowledge that our daughter is about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

For despite the sadness, despite the tears, despite the emptiness, we'll know...we'll truly know, that we did good.

And we'll hold onto the hope, that small slimmer of hope, that when she comes home for break, she'll want to spend it with us!

My baby (on left) has evolved into a beautiful young lady (on right) who will soon be starting college (sob).

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Revenge of the Bat

Weekday evenings in winter are fairly uneventful inside the Weinstein household. I walk in the door after eight hours of work and immediately rip the professional attire off my weary bones in exchange for sweat pants and a t-shirt.

Following dinner, my husband Bob and I head to the Family Room to watch TV while my 18-year old daughter Melissa retires to the living room or her bedroom to tackle the latest senior year home work project.

After a couple hours, Bob tunes the tube to zombie flicks or election coverage (not much difference, I know).  Having no desire to watch either, I typically join Melissa in the living room, becoming one with my computer as Facebook fills the hours 'till bed.

As last Tuesday evening unfolded, our routine bore no difference to every other winter night. By 9 pm, I had digested all I could from my Facebook news feed and decided to head upstairs to read before bed. I stopped into the kitchen where I had a clear view of Bob, sitting comfy on his designated spot on the couch.

Before I had the chance to let him know that he could find me upstairs, my husband let out these now infamous words:

"Oh Crap!"

I took only a fracture of a second to realize why he had uttered the expletive. An unidentified creature with wings had taken up residence in the family room, circling and circling in search for blood!

Being the oh so brave, devoted wife that I am...I stayed by my husband's side so that we could tackle this crisis together as a calm, loving couple  I ran like a looney tune to the safety of the upper level of our home, charged into my daughter's bedroom, and slammed the door behind me.

"THERE'S A BAT IN THE HOUSE!" I exclaimed in response to Melissa's befuddled stare.

My thoughts turned to Bob, trapped downstairs with our new house guest. Oh well, logic dictated I must stay in my daughter's room until, um, let's see, the end of time?  Bob and I had enjoyed nearly 22 years together. We had a good run. It had to be this way.

But wait! Another crisis. In my haste to escape the death grip of our flying friend, I HAD LEFT MY PHONE DOWNSTAIRS.  I could let the bat take my husband, but no way would I part with my phone!

But wait! Crisis averted! Melissa had her phone.  My connection to the world had not been severed!

Much to her chagrin, I ripped the phone out of her hands and dialed my darlin', who, fortunately was still alive downstairs.

My "brave" husband cowered by the front door, keeping a sharp eye on the house guest from hell, who had decided to move the party to the kitchen.

This was not the first time the Weinstein family had encountered a noctural terror. A bat had entered our dwelling in the summer of 2002, a story you can read by clicking here.

You would think our previous encounter with bats would have boosted our confidence.

Yeah...not so much.

From the safety of Melissa's bedroom, I gave Bob instructions, such as "swat it with a broom".

Only one problem. The broom lived in the pantry, located in the kitchen, which was now under complete control of Mr. Bat.

Time to move onto Plan B.

"Open the front door," I suggested, still giving instruction via phone from my daughter's barricaded bedroom. "Maybe the thing  will fly out."

Bob dutifully obeyed, but our guest had no interest in escaping the Weinstein's hospitality. It flew back into the Family Room and promptly disappeared, perhaps plotting its next move to annihilate our family.

"I don't know where it went," shouted Bob as he creeped into the now bat-free kitchen and finally grabbed onto the broom.  Acting much braver than I felt, I slowly opened Melissa's bedroom door and made my way towards the lower level of the house, stopping halfway down the stairs. I figured it I didn't actually set foot on the lower level, the bat would leave me alone.

Mr. Bat, in the meantime, had resumed flight in the Family Room. Trying to think logically while my husband swatted at the creature (to no avail) with the broom, I called animal control. No luck. They were closed.

At a complete loss, I mentally ran through my options:
1. Attempt to go to sleep and call animal control in the morning, content with the knowledge that a creature from hell had taken over the lower level of my home.
2. Go to a hotel.
3. Burn down the house.
4. Call the police.

I chose option 4.

The officer who showed up at our front door a few minutes later could not have been nicer. I felt terrible for calling, knowing that surely there were more important things for a police officer to do than help the wacky Weinsteins rid their house of a bat.

He shrugged off our concern, assuring us that bat-calls are a fairly routine occurence for our local police department.

With the calm born out of his training, the officer used a tupperware bowl to gently trap the bat (who now clung to our fireplace) and set it free outside, where it belonged!

Crisis averted!

As I fell asleep that night, I wondered, did our house guest know about our previous bat adventure that humid summer evening some 14 years ago. Did it know that I killed his cousin with a can of Raid? Had it come back, all these years later, to seek revenge?

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!


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PS - this is my 200th blog post! Thanks to all of you for visiting my blog and reading my stories. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Melissa's Beauty Parlor

The room had all the makings of a "real" salon.

Brush.
Comb.
Hair gel.
Hair spray.
Pony tail holders.
Barretts.
Bobby pins.
Ribbons.
Lipstick.
Eye shadow.
Foundation.
Uncomfortable chair.
And of course......my 6-year old daughter Melissa a professional beautician!

I donned my best "sophisticated lady" accent, (which sounded like a cross between a southern belle and the queen of England) and waited patiently in the hallway outside of my bedroom the salon until my daughter  the ower told me it was ok for me to come in.

"Oh dahhhlllinnggg, " I drawled when the "salon owner" opened the door.  "I heard you were the absolute best and it was so haaard to get an appointment.  Thank you for seein me on such short notice."

The salon owner giggled, and instructed me to sit in the chair so she could begin the beautification transformation.

"I've been invited to a faaabuuulous, fancy ball this evening and I knew there was only one person who could just make me look absolutely perrrrrfffeccctttt!" I exclaimed.

"Please be quiet ma'am and close your eyes, now this might hurt a little bit," said my little beautician as she tugged through the thousands of knots in my long, perm-induced curls.

"Ohhhh Ah don't mind....you do what evuh you need to do...after all, beauty is pain, right! HAHAHAHA!" laughed Lisa the lovely British southern belle!

Without the benefit of a mirror (what fun would that be) I tried to hold steady as she brushed my hair over my eyes, behind my ears, to the front, to the side, to the back, split down the middle, back over the eyes again, up, and over.  Her little fingers began braiding and twisting and pinning and tugging until I imagined I resembled an alien from outerspace  the most beautiful belle at the ball.

After much concentration and a considerable amount of time, the beautician surveyed her handiwork and nodded an approval.

"May Ah look in the mirror," I timidly asked, only to have my request harshly denied.

"I am not finished yet," admonished the beautician.  "I still need to do the make up."

Ah.... the make up.

I stood still once again as my pores took the brunt of 3,000 pounds of perky pink foundation topped off with rosey red blush.  Next came the eye shadow, blues and greens and purples and browns, matched to "perfection" with my olive white complexion.  Imagining I now looked like a circus freak a fashion model, I once again requested a peek in the mirror.

This time, after much serious consideration, the beautician approved my request.

When I saw, first-hand, the extent of my talented beautician's hard work, I burst out laughing and ran down the hall to show my husband Bob how lovely and appealing his wife had now become.

He took one look at me, merely shook his head and uttered these simple words, 

"Lisa, that is love."

Being tortured primped and pampered by my 6-year old?

Love indeed.

I don't recall how many visits I made to "Melissa's Beauty Parlor" over the years.  All I know is that the salon has long since closed its doors.

Sigh.

I'll be hard pressed to find someone who has the talent to braid my strands into nine puffy pony tails smothered in so much gel they defy gravity and stand on end.  I'll be hard pressed to find a beautician whose skill and craft will hide my big, brown eyes behind a coating of make up so thick the casual observer will think I've been in a fight.  I'll be hard pressed to find a beautician so adorable that I'll be willing to sit in an uncomfortable chair while she tugs and pulls and twists and turns in an attempt to achieve perfection.

The salon owner exists now only in fond memories, and in its place is a 18-year old who would rather spend hours on her own hair instead of mine.

But that's ok.

As I watch her get ready for an evening out, we chat about school, youth group, the upcoming chorus concert, friends, the senior class trip, prom, graduation, college, and of course, boys.   As she skillfully braids the bangs of her long, thick, brown hair, I somehow convince myself that it was all of my visits to her "beauty parlor" that helped shaped  her desire to work hard, be the best, and settle for nothing but perfection.

Melissa's Beauty Parlor may no longer be open for business, but its spirit will live on in the amazing, remarkable young woman that my "little beautician" has become.

*This blog originally appeared in December, 2012. It has been modified slightly from the original version.

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Last Show

My husband Bob and I first enrolled our daughter in day camp at the tender age of six. While we were thrilled with the prospect of our offspring learning to swim, play softball, and create arts and crafts projects for display in my office, Melissa did not share our enthusiasm.

My cherub would have preferred to spend July and August taking advantage of one of the most important inventions of modern times (air conditioning). However, we had no choice. Bob and I both held full-time jobs, and full-time sitters were hard to find.

So my daughter suffered for seven long summers before we finally lamented. As a middle school student, she had matured far beyond the age where we could force her to board the bus for camp. Yet passing the time between seventh grade's end and the start of eighth by staring at the TV was simply not an option.

Enter an unlikely advocate in our quest for a more meaningful summer....Melissa's history teacher. When not spending his time educating apathetic adolescents about ancient Egypt, Mr. "D". served as Director of a summer drama camp production of The Music Man....and Melissa's friends couldn't wait to audition!

My daughter's excitement evoked memories of my senior year in high school when I joined the ensemble cast (despite my lack of ability to sing or dance) of an obscure musical called "The Boyfriend".  The experience earned its place among the best of my teenage years, and I couldn't wait for Melissa to capture that feeling.

I became a member of a diligent group of "Drama Mamas" who supported the show by selling ads in the program book, constructing the set, and staffing the refreshment table during intermission.

Forced to dress in early 19th century garb and placed unceremoniously in the back behind dozens of more experienced actors for every ensemble scene, Melissa nevertheless embraced the adventure and couldn't wait for more!

Bob and me with our "Maid" Melissa
During 8th grade she earned the title of "Maid" in her middle school production of Annie, and as a high school freshman, she rocked out as part of the cast of Footloose. 

But the pinnacle came during her sophomore year when her school took on the ambitious task of performing the classic broadway musical, Les Miserable.

When Melissa shared this exciting news, I admit to feeling a small amount of skepticism. How could a group of teens pull off such a powerful, professional musical where the entire story is told through song?

At the end of the day, the director of Les Mis cast her as a girlfriend of one of the students. It gave her the chance to showcase her beautiful voice as part of a group of young ladies singing a sorrowful melody about the sensesless loss of life of the young, idealistic students turned soldiers.

Aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins came
to see Melissa in Les Mis
All told, Les Mis broke records for the high school's show. Each of the six sold out performances found the cast bowing to thunderous applause by an audience on their feet in awe and admiration.

In her junior year,  Melissa joined the ensemble cast of Oklahoma, another chance to share the stage with the castmates and crew who had become the closest of friends.

Fast forward to February 27, 2016 when the curtain closed on the school's final performance of the fun-filled, whimsical Disney classic, Peter Pan.

It was the last show.

Melissa's last school show.

The last school show for all of the seniors who traded in countless carefree evenings and weekends in favor of long, tedious rehearsals. The last school show for the seniors who juggled homework and tests and lack of sleep while giving 100 percent to their passion for performing.

The last school show for the seniors who have evolved into incredibly talented actors and actresses in their own right, many of whom will go on to study musical theater in college.

The last school show for the moms and dad who spent countless frigid evenings waiting in their cars for their kids to emerge from late rehearsals.

The last school shows for the moms and dads who helped their kids learn their lines and practice their songs.

The last school show for the moms and dads who sold candy, built sets, and bought tons of tickets for relatives far and wide.

The last school show for the moms and dads who came to every performance, who watched with delight and wonder for that shining moment when their child took the stage - no matter how large or small the part.

The last school show for the moms and dad who supported, invested, and loved the experience with a passion that riveled that of their kids.

Next year at this time I am sure that Melissa will come home from American University in Washington, DC where she'll be studying communications and public relations. I'm sure she'll want to see the school show, and there's a chance I might go see it too.

But it won't be the same.

It will never be the same.

For the show has ended...and it's time to move on.

The seniors of Shawnee High School's production of Peter Pan.
Melissa, who played a Lost Boy, is in the first row, far right, wearing the white baseball hat.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Slide Show on Plaza Place

I cried when I heard the news.

My beloved grandparents were moving to Atlantic City.

Sure, it was only a 90 minute drive from our home in the northeast section of Philadelphia, but to a 10-year old girl, Atlantic City might as well have been on the opposite coast.

"We'll never get to see you!" I wailed, not realizing how very, very wrong I would be.

My grandparents' cozy, one-bedroom apartment on the 12th floor of a beach-front high rise became host to my family more often than I could ever have imagined.  The building, called Plaza Place, was so named not because it boasted rich and famous tenants, but because it was built on a street of the same name.

We certainly visited during the colder months, but it was those summer days...those warm sweet summer days, that captured our fancy.

My older sister Bev and I spent our adolescent Plaza Place days flirting with the cute teenage lifeguards at the pool or helping our little brother Steven build sandcastles on the beach. Evenings in 1970's pre-casino Atlantic City brought everyone to the boardwalk, the place for parents to see and be seen while their kids played skeeball at dozens of arcades or rode the coaster at the now defunct Million Dollar Pier.

But the best part of a trip to my grandparents' apartment?

The slide show!

After one of my grandmother's delicious dinners, the family would relax for a bit before heading to the boardwalk. That's when Bev and I begged my grandfather to bring out the slide projector.

He pretended to object at first, but Bev and I knew we would always get our way. He'd set up the screen, pull out the projector, place the slide deck on top, all the while hiding the twinkle in his eyes.

Instead of developing his film into the more traditional photo album-ready prints, my grandfather chose to have his pictures made into thousands of slides, and ninety percent of them contained what I considered to be incredibly boring images of vacation destinations from exotic locales across the globe.

However, my grandfather took delight in "secretly" placing family photos at the end of each vacation slide deck. That meant we were forced to politely sit through what felt like 3,794 images of Russia or Spain or Portugal or Egypt. We waited in anticipation, listening to that distinctive "kachunk" sound the projector made when my grandfather pressed the button to advance to the next slide. We never knew which images would appear on the screen. Pictures of Bev and me holding our infant baby brother, pictures of us frolicking in the ocean, pictures of birthday parties, dance recitals, holiday dinners...he had them all. Precious memories placed strategically at the end of each deck.

Today those memories are stacked unceremoniously amid dozens and dozens of boxes of slides bathed in decades of dust and grime inside my parents' garage.

Lost memories hidden in slides that are impossible to see without a projector and screen.

Lost memories that someday, someday, I'll find a way to transfer to prints.

Not surprisingly, there are very few photos of my grandfather hidden amongst those slides, for he took pride in his skills behind the camera, not in front. When a devastating stroke took its toll, my grandfather passed his treasured Nikon to me.

As a young adult, I used my grandfather's gift to capture autumn's spendor, spectacular sunsets, and scenic gardens in spring-time bloom. But I soon realized what I longed to capture belonged not to nature, but to my heart.  I captured photos of the college friends who joined with me on the journey through our 20s, where fun began when the work day ended as night clubs held promise for finding our future Mr. Right.

I captured photos of an adorable guy named Bob whose title soon changed from boyfriend to husband.  I captured photos of a newborn baby girl named Melissa....a toddler at play...a pre-teen frolicking with friends in the ocean...birthday parties, dance recitals, holiday dinners....I had them all.

Today, instead of viewing treasured family photos on a screen in my grandparents' Plaza Place living room, I can simply scroll through life's moments conveniently stored on my phone. Yes, the technology has changed, but the time-honored tradition of reliving my memories has not.

In the coming months, I'll add photos of a high-school graduation to those memories....and before long, bittersweeet images of college move-in day.

Perhaps, just perhaps, when my "baby" is tucked away in a distant dorm, that's when I'll finally find the time to tackle the ardous task of transferring those slides to prints.

And while my daughter embraces her exciting future, I will embrace my distant past.... where summer nights found my family gathered in a cozy living room to watch the slide show on Plaza Place.

Me (in the orange coat) with my sister Bev and our beloved grandmother Ann.
One of thousands of pictures stored in my grandfather's old slides.
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Sunday, January 24, 2016

House for Sale

It felt right.

Everything about it felt right.

Well, almost everything. I'll admit, some repairs were needed. And yes, some updates were in store. But the oversized, cozy, eat-in kitchen more than made up for the living and dinings rooms, both decorated with wallpaper that perhaps had been in vogue when purchased circa 1971.

Despite the hideous wallpaper (which has since been torn down), the house met all of our criteria for that long-desired "dream home".

My husband Bob and I found this house thanks to my new job, which required my family to relocate from central New Jersey and look for living space two hours to the south in the spring of 2004. The sale of our tiny townhouse gave us the money we never thought we'd have to make a down payment on a single family home.  A small down payment, but a down payment nonetheless.

We moved into our dream home and two months later, I watched my 7-year old daughter Melissa board a yellow bus, enroute to start first grade in a new school, in a new town.

A new town with new friends to make! A new town with parks and playgrounds to explore! A new town with parades and festivals, quaint boutiques, and neighborhood restaurants where you'd be sure to run into familiar faces week after week.

Our home played host to holiday dinners and birthday celebrations, sleep overs and pool parties. Our home played host to many a night spent helping Melissa with home work assignments, rehearing for school musical auditions, planning youth group events, watching movies together, or simply talking about school, friendships, and of course, boys. Many a night we sat in comfortable silence in the living room, Melissa working on the lyrics to an original song, while I held the computer on my lap, working on yet another blog.

I knew that the days in our dream home were numbered. I knew we wouldn't stay there forever. I knew that the barbie dolls and building blocks that littered the living room floor would soon give way to video games and DVDs, backpacks and text books, and finally, college applications. And I knew that once my Melissa traded the safety and security of our dream home for a tiny dorm on some far away campus that Bob and I would be getting closer to trading  in our dream home for something smaller, more manageable.

I just didn't think it would happen so soon.

My heart didn't want to let go. My heart wanted to hold on.  My heart clung to precious memories of a place where Bob and I raised a sweet little girl and watched with awe and wonder and pride as she transformed into a beautiful, talented, smart, creative, ambitious young lady. A young lady in her senior year of high school. A young lady all too ready to take her rightful place this autumn as a freshmen at American University in Washington DC, three hours away.

My heart held on, but I knew better, and so did my much more logical husband. College came with a price tag, and Bob convinced me that reducing our monthly mortage payments by downsizing would certainly help.

So today, a "For Sale" sign adorns our front lawn and before long, new owners will make their own memories within these walls.

We plan to stay in or near the town we have grown to love. But no matter where we go, or where we live, the dream home where I raised my baby will always be mine. It will live on in precious memories.

It will live on in my heart.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Beatles Songs and Lullabies

The  "Meet Baby Miles" party had been a huge success. After five months of sharing photos and videos of our grandson with family and friends, my husband Bob and I finally had the chance to show off the world's cutest baby in person.

Thankfully, despite his usual protest at being cooped up in his car seat, Miles fell into a deep sleep while his mommy (my step-daughter Jessica) enjoyed the quiet, uneventful three-hour drive from Washington, D.C. to our house in southern New Jersey. (Her husband Brian was saddled at home with the flu.)

As soon as they walked in the door we were greeted with smiles from Miles (rhyme intended!), and those grins weren't only reserved for us.  He cooed and smiled and laughed and delighted in being held by nearly a dozen of his biggest fans.

At day's end, when the last of the family had walked out the door, Jessica decided to spend the night rather than tackle the long drive home alone during the late evening hours. She took Miles upstairs to my bed, and, with her sister (my 18-year old daughter Melissa) lying by her side, fed the baby,  read him a book, and then attempted to lull him to sleep.

Only one problem.

Baby Miles wanted no part of it.

I fought the urge to join them and instead stayed downstairs with Bob, determined to keep out of the way. I figured too many people in the room would serve as a hinderance rather then a help as they tried unsuccessfully to convince this adorable baby to enter a world of dreams.

From the downstairs living room I heard laughter. I heard cries. I heard cooing.

What I didn't hear was silence.

Finally, I gave in and joined my daughters and grandson on the bed. The baby sat quite comfy in his Aunt Melissa's arms, smiling and cooing and doing nothing that indicated he would ever fall asleep.

Taking advantage of my arrival, Jessica decided to leave us alone for a bit so she could get herself ready for bed.

As his mother closed the door behind her, I cradled the baby in my arms. Melissa snuggled under the covers next to me, giving big smiles to her nephew, who returned her affection with giggles.

Sleeping baby Miles
Drawing on the motherly instincts that sat dormant for nearly two decades, I picked up baby Miles, placed his head on my shoulder, stood up, rocked him gently, and sang him a lullaby. The same lullaby I sang to my newborn baby girl nearly 18 years earlier.

When Melissa had entered my life, I never knew, I never realized, I never imagined that I could love someone that much. I never thought that my heart would burst when I held her in my arms and rocked  her to sleep, singing a Beatles song called "I Will" that I claimed for my own. A lullaby that would forever bond my daughter to me.

Who knows how long I've loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to I will

For if I ever saw you
I didn't catch your name
But it never really mattered
I will always feel the same

Love you forever, and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever, we're together
Love you when we're apart

And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
Oh you know I will
I will

I instinctively sang those words to my grandson as I rocked him gently in my arms. And as he slowly closed his eyes, I looked over at my 18-year old daughter cuddled so comfy in my bed.

She too, had drifted off to sleep.

The lullaby still worked. An unbroken bond held together by love.

My 18-year old daughter Melissa at 4 months.The lullaby that worked then still works now!


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