Saturday, December 29, 2012

Melissa's Beauty Parlor

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

Hair gel.
Hair spray.
Pony tail holders.
Bobby pins.
Eye shadow.
Uncomfortable chair.
And of 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 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.


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 15-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, guitar lessons, her upcoming chorus concert, her friends, shopping, music, and movies.   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.

If you like my stories please feel free to tell me in the comments section below!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Finding Marty

Early in our courtship, my husband Bob and I found ourselves strolling through the picturesque campus of Princeton University.  After browsing through the quaint shops and enjoying our fill of ice cream, we made our way back to the car, admiring each ivy-covered building full of stories seeped in history.  Yet the structure that caught Bob's attention - a bland looking series of buildings reminiscent of army barracks and seemingly devoid of any beauty at all - held stories of a different kind for my husband-to-be.

"Susan and Ron lived here," he whispered, staring at the building.

I looked at my beau and his eyes seemed far away, lost in another time.  He had journeyed to this place before, accompanied by a man named Marty and his wife Frieda who had lovingly opened their hearts to a precocious young boy.   They had brought Bob to Princeton with them to visit their daughter Susan and her new husband Ron, who was a graduate student at the prestigious school.

"I always wonder whatever happened to Marty," shared Bob, who continued to stare at his memories.  "I wonder if he's still alive."

I wondered too.

Bob, who grew up in a single-parent home, first entered Marty and Frieda's life at the age of two when the couple volunteered to babysit him for a week.   Almost as soon as he came through the door, the family embraced him as their own.  And for the young boy who lacked a father, Marty's love helped to close a hard to fill void.

Bob spent many a weekend with Marty, going to the movies and baseball games, sitting on his lap and reading comic books or just enjoying one of Frieda's delicious home cooked meals.  Their loving relationship spanned several years, but as Bob inched closer towards adolescence, things slowly began to change.   Bob's mother found well-deserved happiness with a new man in her life, and eventually she remarried and moved her four children from their apartment in Nassau County, Long Island to a home on the north shore of Suffolk County, only an hour's drive, yet worlds away.

Out of respect for Bob's new step-father, Marty drifted away, leaving my then 13-year old husband left to wonder why this man that he had loved no longer had a place in his life.

The years passed by.  Bob married young, divorced a year later, and became a single parent to his  daughter Jessica, who had just turned 15 when I came into their lives.  Marty had missed out on so many of life's precious moments for the boy that he had loved like a son.  Bob thought of him often, but didn't know where he was, or what to say if he ever did manage to find him.

As we stood looking at the barracks which had so long ago served as campus housing for Marty's daughter Susan, I resolved, right then and there, that I would find Marty.  I would do it for Bob, for the man I loved.

Since Facebook and Google had not yet taken us out of the dark ages, I began my search at the local library, where I looked up phone directories from the New York City area, only to discover there were a myriad of "Martins" who shared the same last name as Bob's Marty.  Not to be deterred, I photocopied the pages, typed out a letter, and sent it off to the many "Martins" of New York City.  While my search did not yield success, I still treasure a heartfelt response I received from one of the "Martins", who wished me luck in my quest.

Unsure if Marty and Frieda still lived in the New York area or if they had moved to Florida, Bob and I turned to Plan B, which involved finding Susan.   Bob could only remember the first initial of Susan and Ron's last name, and he also had the approximate year of Ron's graduation from Princeton.  Not much to go on, but still, it provided a starting point.  I decided to contact the Princeton University archives department and spoke to an incredibly helpful woman who, once I explained the reason for my search, eagerly helped me with my sleuthing activities.

Turns out she had a work phone number for a man who matched Ron's description.  Throwing caution to the wind, I dialed the number as my heart beat in anticipation.  When a man's voice answered the phone, I tried as quickly as possible to describe the purpose of my call, fumbling my words along the way.  The man's response:  "I'll call you back."

Convinced I had done nothing more than make a fool of myself, I had no choice but to wait out the agonizing ten minutes until, true to his word, the man named Ron did, indeed, call me back.


Later that evening, via telephone, my husband reunited with Susan, who now lived in Buffalo, New York, coincidentally only a few miles away from Bob's brother Bruce.  Marty had, indeed, moved to Florida and sadly, Frieda had recently passed away.  Throughout the intervening years, both Susan and Marty had often thought of Bob and wondered how he was, where he was, and if he had turned out ok.

A few months later, our annual visit to Bob's family in Buffalo also included dinner at the home of Ron and Susan, who had three grown children of their own.  Within a year's time, we were able to travel to Florida, giving Bob the long sought after opportunity to embrace and thank the man who had been there during such a vulnerable time in his young life.

On April 23, 1994, Ron, Susan, and Marty lovingly took their rightful place among our circle of family and friends as Bob and I exchanged our vows of marriage.

Although we cried upon learning of Marty's death a few years later, Bob will be forever grateful for the opportunity, however brief, to see him again.  For the reunion finally put to rest the fears that Bob had held onto for so many years.   Marty had never forgotten him, and never stopped loving him.

If you like my story, please feel free to comment below!  Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Saving Melissa From the Train

Last summer, my husband Bob, 15 year old daughter Melissa and I spent a well-deserved mini get away in New York City.  Our original plan had been to merely hop on the train on Sunday for the 90 minute ride to the city, catch a show, then return home the same day.  However, thanks to a discount website, Bob found a relatively inexpensive hotel, so off we went on Saturday morning to enjoy the sights and sounds of the "Big Apple" for an entire weekend.

When Sunday afternoon came, my little family stood wearily in the massive lobby of New York's Penn Station, staring at the giant board, waiting for the flashing signal to indicate that boarding had begun.  The return trip proved uneventful.  Melissa listened to her iPod shuffle, Bob slept, while I nurtured my Facebook habit.

Upon arrival at the station in Hamilton, NJ, we absentmindedly dragged our luggage up the stairs, down the sidewalk, then into the elevator for the brief ride to the third floor of the parking garage.  As we began the journey towards our car located several feet away on the other side of the massive structure, I suddenly heard an insanely loud, terrifying, screeching sound.  For reasons unexplained, my brain processed the frightening noise as an out of control car on the garage level above us....careening its way down the ramp with the sole intention of harming my child.

At that moment, genetically induced "mom behavior" took over!  I would not let a runaway car hurt my little girl.  I instinctively held out my hands and gave Melissa a big, strong, push...assuring she would be out of harm's way and leaving myself directly in the path of 3,000 tons of moving metal.

My daughter's response to my life saving behavior?  "Mom, WHAT THE HECK?!"

I looked around.  Neither mother nor child had been injured by a possessed vehicle.  The "danger" I had shielded her from proved merely to be the sound of an approaching train.


We were in a train station, after all.

Feeling somewhat sheepish, I returned to the car and attempted to ignore the taunts of my husband and daughter who dared to call me............OVER PROTECTIVE!

Yes, I admit, it's true.  I am overprotective, yet I wear the title proudly.

Despite our best efforts, 24-hour protection of our offspring is a task beyond reach.  For at some point, we have to let them out of our field of vision and just pray that in the hours when we are not at their side that they are safe and happy and that soon enough, they will return to our loving embrace.  

It seems logical for parents of young babes to experience these notions, but what my moody, brooding, eye rolling sweet teenager fails to understand is, despite her evolution into young adulthood, my fierce love for her only grows stronger, making it that much harder to let her I know I some day must do.

As a toddler, my Melissa never left my side.  The simple act of me leaving the room resulted in my baby's inconsolable tears.  Today, those tears are more likely to result from embarrassment, as I still insist on peeking out the window every morning to ensure she does, indeed, actually board the bus that takes her to high school every day, an activity that has resulted in my teen giving me the  title of "stalker".

I would proudly admit to being a stalker, if it means protecting my baby from harm.

I would proudly jump in front of a careening, out of control vehicle, if it means protecting my baby from harm.  

I would proudly stand facing a mad man, feeling the brunt of hundreds of bullets, as 20 sets of parents in Connecticut certainly wished they'd had the opportunity to do......if it meant protecting their babies from harm.

My heart aches for the families of the beautiful children and adults who lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  

I dedicate this blog to you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Hanukkah Fairy

We all know of the famous Christmas tale that begins, “Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.”  Well, my story takes somewhat of a different spin.  You see, five years ago, I finally had to say to my then 10-year old daughter, “No, Melissa, there really isn’t a Hanukkah Fairy.”

It all began when my baby girl (now a teenager) still enjoyed the innocence of kindergarten.  As December approached, her classmates chattered endlessly with anticipation, wondering aloud what wonderful presents they would find under their tree Christmas morning, courtesy of their hero, the one and only Santa Claus.  From the perspective of a five year old, not getting a present from Santa just seemed so unfair.  It didn’t matter that her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, sister Jessica, and of course, my husband Bob and I showered her with presents for the eight days of Hanukkah.  As one of only a few Jewish children in her class, all that she knew was that her gifts did not come from Santa, and that, in her young mind, made her feel terribly left out.

Sooooo…in a “crazed mom” effort to ease my daughter’s pain….I sort of made up a teensy weensy little lie.   I told her she should feel lucky, because the Jewish people had the Hanukkah Fairy. 

Ok, I admit, I am not proud of my deception to my five-year old.  However, when her big brown eyes lit up, and her frown faded away, I simply had to perpetuate the myth.  What I didn’t count on were all of the questions.   “Where does the Hanukkah Fairy live?”  (At the mall.)  “How does she know what I want for Hanukkah?”  (I tell her when I go shopping, and she picks out the presents and gives them to me) 

The hardest questions were targeted to my husband, who desperately struggled to elaborate on a lie he didn’t invent! 

“Daddy, is the Hanukkah Fairy real?” she asked during a quiet moment when the two shared a car ride alone. 

“Uh, well, hmmm,” came his eloquent response, as he wiped the sweat off his forehead and secretly cursed me under his breath.   “The Hanukkah Fairy is real if you believe it’s real.”

The holiday came and went, and thanks to the Hanukkah Fairy, Melissa finally felt just as special as her friends who received gifts from Santa.

When the holiday season approached the following year, I naively thought my little girl would forget about the Hanukkah Fairy.  Alas, t’was not meant to be.  As Hanukkah inched closer, not only did Melissa wonder aloud about the many presents the Hanukkah Fairy would bring, but she told all of her friends about it, who in turn told their parents, who in turn asked me about this totally unfamiliar Hanukkah tradition.  I had to whisper out of earshot of my daughter and explain to my Jewish and Christian friends alike how and why I invented Melissa’s new-found favorite fairy.

As Melissa got older, Bob and I tried very hard to help her understand that, even though we celebrated a different holiday, we shared with everyone the spirit of faith and goodwill that for me, is the best part of the holiday season.  Each year, we would “adopt” a less fortunate family, and Melissa took delight in wheeling the shopping cart through the toy store, helping to pick out gifts for the kids.  On Christmas day, Melissa made cards out of construction paper and we delivered them to patients in the local hospital where I worked at the time.

We also tried to help her understand the story of Hanukkah.  It takes place in ancient times, when the Syrians attacked the Jews, trying to force them to give up their faith.  Although horribly outnumbered, the Jews won the battle, but their Temple was destroyed.  However, amid the devastation, they found enough oil to burn in a lamp for only one day.  Yet, miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, and that is why we light a candle for each of the holiday’s eight days.  Hanukkah pays homage to everyone who has fought for the right to worship as they please, to celebrate their heritage, to share their own traditions with their children, and to be proud of who they are.  In short, Hanukkah celebrates freedom!

Today, at 16, Melissa has long since put aside the notion that presents arrive thanks to magical beings carrying baskets full of Barbie dolls and Disney princesses.  While she still gratefully appreciates the numerous American Eagle gift cards she is sure to receive this holiday season, for my teen, the holidays have evolved into something much more than an excuse to exchange presents.  It is an opportunity to help me create a festive holiday dinner, to appreciate the memorable traditions that connect us to past generations, and to relish in the love of dear friends and family, both near and far.

Happy holidays to you from The Weinstein family…and The Hanukkah Fairy!

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