Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mornings with Melissa

Each morning, My 18-year old daughter Melissa's iPhone alarm rings at 5:45 am.  As for me, I enjoy those last few moments of precious sleep until my clock radio shakes me awake a mere 15 minutes later.

As I stumble into the bathroom to embrace my routine, she's already downstairs eating breakfast.

Ocassionally, our fiesty feline will try to convince me that his favorite human (Melissa) neglected to serve his morning friskies.

"Did you feed the cat?" I croak, standing at the top of the stairs, barely concerned that this question has replaced the much more loving, "good morning sweetie" as the first words spoken to my teen at the break of day.

"Yeah," comes her barely coherent response.

Satisfied that the cat has simply feigned starvation, I ignore his plea for more food and force myself into the shower.  It is here that thoughts of the day ahead fill my mind.  Work deadlines, errands to run, appointments to make....all while washing and rinsing my hair.

It is when I am finally toweled and dried, standing in my robe, blowdryer in hand, that I actually see my teen for the first time each morning. She pops in and gives me a hug, yells goodbye to her still sleeping dad, and as the echoes of my "have a great day" wishes reverberate down the stairs, she closes the door behind her and gets in the car, ready to start another day of school.

Our mornings weren't always this devoid of emotion.

As a newborn, Melissa's days were met with diaper changes and bottle feedings followed by snuggling with mommy for her morning nap. Kisses and hugs were in full supply as I unwillingly got her ready for daycare a few months later and made the transition to working mom.

The toddler years involved picking out outfits and getting her dressed and combing her hair and squeezing her tight.  The elementary school years came with more independence, yet I still helped her
pick out her clothes, fed her breakfast, smoothered her with kisses, and watched as she climbed on the bus, waving goodbye as she started her day.

The middle school years found me hiding in the living room, a paranoid mother peeking out the window to make sure she safely boarded the bus.

Now she is in high school.

Senior year in high school.

And our morning interactions are nearly non-existent.

But we make up for it at night.

For it is bedtime when my daughter seeks me out, hunts me down, and tells me about her day. We talk about homework and teachers, tests and college applications,  friend drama and boy crushes, youth group meetings and school play auditions.

I realize that these days are fleeting, and the nearly non-existent interactions that provide the foundation for our days will be all but gone by this time next year, as she'll be getting ready each morning inside a dorm room instead of the bathroom down the hall.

But if my cherub needs to talk, to seek me out, to hunt me down, I will always be there....just a phone call away.

Melissa and me at her Junior Prom, March 2015

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Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Birthday Card

I walked towards the mailbox, tentative in my approach, a sealed and stamped birthday card in hand. If I dropped the card in the box, I ran the risk of an uncertain response. She might send me a polite, albeit, brief thank you text, or I could be on the receiving end of a nasty diatribe warning me never to contact her again.

But in all likelihood the response would be, quite frankly....nothing. She'd ignore my good wishes altogether.

Our friendship had lasted nearly four years when it came to an abrupt end last summer.  Thanks to Facebook, it's now easier than ever to cut emotional ties by simply clicking on the "unfriend" button.

And that's exactly what she did.

Trouble is, I never knew why.

I debated the pros and cons of calling, or texting, or sending a heart-felt email, but kept coming back to one final truth...she no longer wanted me as a friend.

So I moved on.

That is, until I stood at the mailbox, birthday card in hand.

I didn't tell my family or friends of my plans to acknowledge her birthday, not so much because I knew they'd tell me not to send the card.

But because I knew they'd be right.

Yet I wanted to try.

I wanted to send an olive branch of sorts in the hopes that perhaps, just perhaps it would serve as a catalyst for a conversation. Not to rekindle the friendship, but to learn why it had ended.

Two days passed after the card had been placed in the box, and as predicted, I heard nothing. Three days passed, then four, then five.  Still nothing.

I felt like a fool.

A fool who needed to confess to my husband Bob in the hopes he would share words of comfort.

And that's exactly what he did.

We were walking hand-in hand, enjoying nature's autumn splendor when I built up the courage to tell him.

He took me in his arms and held me tight. "Lisa," he said, as he looked in my eyes, "you have the biggest heart of anyone I know."

We lingered for a moment, while I took solace in his warm embrace.

Sometimes I need Bob to remind me that having a big heart is not such a bad thing. Yes, it means opening myself to hurt at times, but it also means opening myself to the love of a husband who has stood by my side since we said "I do", to my beautiful daughters Jessica and Melissa, my grandson Miles, my extended family, and to the incredible women in my life who took the reins of friendship decades earlier and will never, ever let go.

I'm not sure if I'll ever get a response to the birthday card, but as I stood in my husband's arms I realized, it no longer mattered.

I have more than enough love to fill my big heart.  And that's all I need.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Game Night

In the early 1980s, a new type of board game landed in neighborhood toy stores across the country. A game where mindless bits of meaningless data burried deep in the recesses of your brain suddenly became the key to earning the title of smartest player in the room.

A game where the correct answer to a question earned you a "doo dad" which fit snugly into a circular token which looked very much like a pie. Fill in your pie with all 6 multi-colored "doo dads" and you held bragging rights forever, or at least until your opponents begged you to play again.

I am talking, of course, about the Trivial Pursuit craze of the mid-80s, when shoppers across the nation gobbled up an estimated 20 million copies of the game, giving them the chance to demonstrate that they knew exactly who lived at 221B  Baker Street in London (if you answered Sherlock Holmes, give yourself a brown "doo dad"). 

My college friends and I, circa 1985, jumped right onto the Trivial Pursuit bandwagon.  A typical Saturday night would find at least eight of us squeezed around my parent's kitchen table, munching on chips while desperately trying to out-wit each other in this tried and true trivia show down.

Thirty years later, I no longer remember who claimed the title of the smartest in the room...but memories of the resounding laughter that filled my parent's kitchen during those innocent Saturday nights has stayed with me through the intervening years.

While I can't pinpoint an exact reason why our weekend Trivial Pursuit challenges came to an end, I can blame a likely  You see, we graduated college, found jobs, planned weddings, and all too soon, our days were filled with soccer games and dance recitals, and PTA meetings, and last minute trips to the store to buy poster board for the science project due the next day.

We attempted to find those few fleeting moments to connect by phone or social media...and sometimes we even managed to get together for a rare Saturday lunch.  But our weekend Trivial Pursuit parties had become a part of our treasured past...never to happen again.

That is, until last weekend.

Since our college days we have collectively survived first marriages and second marriages, toddlers and teens, new jobs and lay offs, health scares, and money woes.  But there we sat, munching on chips, sitting comfortably around my friend's kitchen table, teamed up with our spouses, roaring with laughter, and once again reaching into the deepest bowels of our brains to remember which two actors starred in Gone With the Wind. (If you answered Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh give yourself a pink "doo dad".

I left my friend's house that night with a feeling of love and warmth that I had so desperately missed....but had never really gone away.

While my husband Bob and I didn't earn enough "doo dads" to fill our pie, I'm confident that the winner won't hold onto their bragging rights for long.  Because now that, 30 years later, we have resurrected game night, I can't wait for a re-match so I can try to fill my pie with "doo dads".....

and fill my heart with the love and laughter of good friends once again.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Christmas on the Starship Enterprise

There have been an onslaught of Facebook posts of late expressing outrage that the management of a number of shopping malls across the country opted to have jolly St. Nick grant children's wishes using a backdrop that looks more like the deck of the Starship Enterprise than Santa's workshop on the North Pole.

Many have claimed that the mall management removed the traditional Christmas scene in an effort to avoid offending anyone. While I am not sure if this is, indeed, the true reason (I have yet to read anything from the mall management that claims this as fact) I would like to share my views.

I am Jewish. I am Liberal. I am not offended by Christmas.

I am not offended by Christmas trees. I am not offended by Christmas lights. I am not offended by Christmas movies, Christmas TV specials, Christmas books, or Christmas songs. I am not offended by Christmas cookies, or Christmas candy, or Christmas pie  (my waistline protests....but not me). I am not offended by Christmas displays at the mall. And I am certainly not offended by Christmas sales at the mall. I am not offended by Christmas parades, Christmas concerts, and my quaint New Jersey town's annual Christmas-themed Dickens festival.

I am not offended by Christmas stockings, Christmas ornaments, Christmas sweaters, Christmas pajamas, or the cute Christmas saying on my bottle of diet coke. I am not offended by red cups, or cups with snowflakes, or blue cups, or purple cups with pink polka dots. I am not offended by Christmas cards, or Christmas Carolers, or those cute stuffed Christmas reindeer toys you find in your local Hallmark store. I am not offended that my doctor's office, dry cleaner, hair salon, gas station, pharmacy, and supermarket boast festive red and green Christmas decorations.

I am not offended if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy New Year. I am not offended by the countless acts of kindness displayed by non-profits, churches, synagogues, businesses, and civic organization who donate toys, food, and funds to ensure those less fortunate have a joyful Christmas.

What I am is grateful that I live in a country where I will not be arrested or persecuted because I choose to put an electric Menorah in my window for eight days each December.

So please, please everyone, there is no war Christmas or any other holiday for that matter. Relax and enjoy the peace and good will of the season.

Although I do have one, teensy weensy request....can we please wait until we've digested our turkey and cranberry sauce before we start celebrating Christmas?

My daughter Melissa and me in front of the beautiful Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center
 New York City, December, 2001