Sunday, April 22, 2018

Happy Anniversary to My Best Friend

We sat at a small table for two, unceremoniously wedged in the corner of a fancy steakhouse located inside of the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

Bob had argued with the hostess, demanding a table near a window, although I didn't quite know why. After all, the spectacular view of ocean waves crashing against the wind-swept white sand beach could only be left to the imagination, for nothing could permeate the darkness of this cold, January evening.

The appetizers arrived without incident, as did our main meal. We passed the time making small talk, as our server dutifully brought out each course with a smile... diet coke, salad, chicken, steak, a bouquet of balloons....

Wait? What? A bouquet of balloons?

I looked at her, a puzzled expression on my face.

"Oh," she said, stumbling on her words. "We sometimes like to give balloons to nice couples like you."

My attention turned to Bob. "Are you planning something?" I asked, trying to keep the accusatory tone out of my voice.

His reaction to my question took me by surprise.


He seemed genuinely angry.

"I told you Lisa, you are impossible to surprise, it's going to happen on Valentine's Day, so stop asking!" he demanded.

Taken aback by his harsh tone, I didn't pursue the topic, and instead tried to gear the conversation back to mundane small talk.

We finished our meal without further interruption, however, before the server came back to take our dessert order, Bob stood up, an awkward smile on his face. Then, to my utter astonishment, to quote Taylor Swift, he knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring.

Finally, it all made sense. The desire to sit at the best table, the server's gift of balloons (which nearly ruined the surprise) and Bob's feigned anger. I was officially engaged to be married!

Fast forward 25 years.

It was a typical Monday evening and I had just come home after another dreaded workout at the gym. I sat on one end of the sofa, my computer on my lap. Bob sat at the other end, consuming his nightly dose of cable news. I felt tired. I felt sweaty. I felt hot. Yes, I felt oh so post-menopausal hot.

In an effort to get relief, I put my long, matted hair in a messy ponytail, sitting lopsided on top of my head. Bob turned his attention away from the TV to look at me. "You are so cute," he said.

That's right. He thought I looked cute.

He thought his sweaty, post-workout, ponytail-clad wife looked cute.

And that is one of the many reasons why, after all these years, I am still so in love with this man.

When I think back to our engagement in Atlantic City, I could barely see beyond that moment in time. The man I loved wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Nothing else mattered.

Did I realize that my walk down the aisle would signal the start of something much more significant than a night of dinner and dancing followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii? Did I realize how much my world would become intertwined with his, and the joys, challenges, and obstacles we would face together?

No. I couldn't possibly have known where life's journey would take us. But I did know that I was going to marry the man who loved me no matter how terrible I looked, the man who made me laugh no matter how silly the joke, the man who had become my best friend.

Since that night in Atlantic City, we have packed and unpacked our belongings seven times, as each of us took turns following a job to a new location. We saved enough to purchase the single family home of our dreams, and finally downsized to an empty-nester town home. We have held hands during health scares, mourned the death of loved ones, and survived job losses and financial challenges.

We have savored our vacations, taking delight in each other's love whether we're strolling on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore or crossing Abbey Road in London, England. We have seen concerts and ball games, movies, and broadway shows. And yet, we are just as comfortable with a quiet night at home, on opposite sides of the sofa, or cuddled in each other's arms.

We started our journey, just the two of us, with that fateful night in Atlantic City, and 25 years later, after marrying off the oldest, welcoming a grandson, and sending the youngest off to college, it's just the two of us again.

And he still makes me laugh.

And he still loves me no matter how terrible I look.

And as we celebrate our wedding anniversary, he is still, more than ever, my darling, my love, my man of steel.....

My very best friend.

Bob and me during our anniversary weekend getaway to Ocean City, Maryland

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Sunday, April 8, 2018

Summer Clothes Shopping

It happens in April, same time each year.  I stare in confusion at my closet, searching in vain for the cute sun dresses, tank tops, skirts, capri jeans, and shorts that filled the racks last summer.

Did my clothes get sucked into a some kind of mysterious black hole? Do my clothes now exist within some kind of alien dimension, stuck inside the space-time contiuum?

Possibly, because that's the only explanation I can fathom as I face the onslaught of the warm summer months with absolutely nothing to wear.

That's right. Nothing!

Fortunately, there is a remedy to this tragic situation. In stores and shopping malls across the region, brand new summer clothes beckon, promising to get me through until September... if I just take the time to try them on.

Easier said than done.

Trying on clothes can lead to one of two scenarios:

1. Lisa finds a wonderful array of attractive designs that fit perfectly and flatter her figure.
2. Lisa concludes that she should become a part of the hippopotamus exhibit at the local zoo.

Scenario #1 = Happy Lisa
Senario #2 = get the picture

But wait, finding the perfect fit is only part of the problem. You slip into the dressing room and struggle to zip and button a potential work dress that looked spectacular on the store mannequin. You sneak a peek in the mirror, expecting to be shipped off to the zoo, only to find that, miraculously, it actually fits.

The dress actually fits!

You turns this way and that, examining your figure from all possible angles. Indeed, the front, the back, and the sides all fall into place. You actually look...dare I say....thin.

But wait.

You examine the front again. What's that beige color poking through the pink and purple flowers?

EGADS! It's your bra! The darn dress that fits perfectly has one major flaw. You can see right through to your undergarments!

"You have to wear a tank top underneath," explains my 20-year old daughter Melissa. "That's the style."

Well perhaps the see-through style is all the rage with the 20-year old set, but for menopausal women like me who are dealing with a steady body temperature roughly equivalent to that of molten hot lava, wearing unnecessary layers underneath something that only Superman should be able to see through is simply not practical.

So now I have to find fashions that not only fit, but are made of a material thick enough to hide what I'm wearing underneath.

With this challenge in mind, I set out this morning for the local mall, determined to avoid joining my hippo friends by day's end. Thanks to my perseverance, I arrived back home several hours later, my wallet considerably lighter, but my mood considerably brighter.

In the closet my new clothes will go where they will safely survive until September, when I search in vain for the cozy sweaters and jeans that filled the racks last winter, and come to the conclusion that I have nothing to wear.

That's right. Nothing!

Fortunately, there is a remedy to this tragic situation....and here we go again.

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Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Weekend Visit Home from College

We sat on the hard, wire frame benches inside the Greyhound bus terminal, stifling our yawns, and absentmindedly listening to a cable news program that nobody in their right mind watches so early on a Sunday morning.

My husband Bob's habit of arriving early for everything meant that we had a half an hour to wait.

A half an hour of extra time with my daughter Melissa, who would soon board the bus that would take her back to her college, located three hours from our suburban New Jersey home.

I could have used the time to have one last, meaningfull talk about life and love. I could have used the time to hold her tight, squeezing out enough hugs to last the six weeks until her sophomore year ended, and I'd see her again.

But alas, there was no need.

The weekend visit home had been a good one. Despite the mounds of assignments and projects and sorority commitments that filled her obsessively organized to-do list, Melissa came home because she knew that her presence at our Passover seder meant the world to me. Especially this year, the first Passover with an empty seat where my mother should have been.

During the all-too-short time leading up to Saturday night's holiday celebration, Melissa managed to squeeze in a long, bed-time talk with mom, a Food Network marathon with dad, brunch with friends, and even reluctant time spent on homework.

Although she seemed so comfortable at home, especially with our kitty cat cuddled by her side, something didn't seem quite right. Not so much with her, but with me. I experienced an emotion that took me by surprise.

I felt selfish.

Selfish for wanting the weekend to never end.

Selfish for wanting to block her path to the bus.

Selfish for wanting her to come home this summer, and every summer for the remainder of her college tenure, instead of exploring internship opportunities in cities much too far from southern New Jersey.

Selfish for wanting her to put aside plans to spend part of her senior year studying abroad.

Selfish for wanting her to return to our little townhouse after graduation, even though a job, a relationship, or (egads) both, may take her into unknown territory, hundreds of miles away from her mother's loving arms.

Selfish for wanting her to live her life under my protective shadow, instead of following her own path to happiness.

For as much as I love having her around, I know, for right now, school is where she needs to be. More important,  I know, for right now, school is where she wants to be.

Bob and I watched as the bus pulled into the station, and Melissa joined the handful of passengers preparing to board. We gave her a quick hug goodbye, and quietly walked back to the car.

The bus was taking her back to her life of projects and parties and sorority commitments and friends.

Back to where she belonged.

Meanwhile, Bob and I put on our empty-nester hats, and went back home to take a nap.

Back to where we belonged.

Melissa and Bob waiting at the Greyhound bus terminal.

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