Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

2009 was mighty fine.

It had some mountains, some mole hills, and everything else in between.

It was the year that I became a mother, a feat that still astounds me every single day.

It was the year that I lost my job. And, yes, I still miss seeing the naked couples in the hotel window across from my old office, in case you were wondering.

2009 was the year that I gave birth to this blog as well. Thank you for visiting me here and commenting on some of my most inane ideas and escapades. It has been a fantastic launching pad for me into the world of writing and, more importantly, it has helped me connect or reconnect with many of you, not to mention myself.

Wishing you all the best life has to offer in 2010 and beyond!

S.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Christmas Miracle


Here is an update on my previous post, My Solution To World Hunger.

Apparently, the alpaca was enough to motivate my husband to study with fervor and now I am beyond ecstatic to report that he has passed the CPA!

It is a Christmas miracle.

Now, of course, the downside of this miracle is that our good fortune means that a third world family will not receive an alpaca, named after my husband, which could possibly have changed the course of their lives.

But here's the thing: we are so thrilled that Mr. B. is finally a Certified Public Accountant that we have decided to purchase the alpaca anyway, no longer to mock his procrastination, but now to honor his accomplishment.

When we better our own lives, shouldn't we do the same for someone else?

Whether you've recently passed the Bar Exam, potty-trained your toddler, or tied the knot with your significant other, there is always an occasion worthy of an alpaca purchase.

Go ahead, soak in the holiday spirit, buy a beast, and then we can all brag that we are CPAs....Clobbering Poverty's Ass, one alpaca at a time.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mind Your Manners

"This is just my second day, ma'am," the young Hispanic woman told the frizzy haired frazzled shopper at the counter.

"Well, call a manager!" the shopper barked back. I rolled my eyes. She looked like she had stuck all of her extremities in electrical sockets and then decided to terrorize the King of Prussia Mall. She had steam coming out of her ears.

"Gloria, can you help me over here for a moment?" the young clerk called to her co-worker, who was straightening racks of children's clothing twenty feet away.

Gloria, a stylish petite woman in her mid-50s walked slowly over to the young clerk who was scanning a two foot long receipt that the shopper thrust in her face.

"It's not 10% off! It should be 20!" the shopper spat.

I looked at her face as it grew scarlet, her hair looked like it was going to jolt out of her head in a fit of rage. I was hoping she might catch a glimpse of me, watching her, and turn around, embarrassed by her poor behavior, or perhaps take a peek at my baby, chewing on a teething toy shaped like a foot. Surely that might make her smile.

She didn't turn around. She glared at the two clerks and continued on her rant.

"I don't have time for this!"

"Ma'am, give me a minute," the older clerk interjected, raising her index finger.

"Don't you dare point at me!" the shopper hollered, pointing an irate finger over the counter in the clerk's face. "I spent $1000 here, I shop here all the time! Do you want to see my receipts?!"

"No, I'd rather not," I whispered to the African-American woman standing quietly behind me, smiling at my boy in his stroller.

The shopper began rifling through her oversized purse, pulling out receipts, tissues, possibly some unfilled prescriptions for anti-psychotics and other things.

I looked at my little angel in his stroller, sucking on the plastic foot. His eyes were wide, his eyebrows raised, as if to say, "Ah, excuse me, Mommy, what is this lunatic yelling about?" I leaned down face to face with him, in his stroller, "Sweetie boy, you're only 8 months old and you have better manners than some adults," I told him, just loud enough for the woman to hear, if she lowered her volume one decibel.

Now, maybe you're thinking this poor woman was just having a bad day. She caught her husband cheating with her best friend, her beloved golden retriever of 15 years just died, or maybe she slaved over a simple meatball recipe and she wound up churning out something that tasted like bison balls.....I hear what you're saying!

We all have bad days, yes. But there is a simple solution for shopping when you're absolutely miserable: stay the hell home and shop ONLINE! Okay? It's quite easy and you don't need to drag the rest of us down into your funk.

The #1 reason to mind your manners, as the "militant shopper" story illustrates, is that when your manners go down the drain, you look like a huge a-hole and you set a poor example for children.

The #2 reason to mind your manners is that you never know with whom you might be messing.

This time last year, I drove to work one morning and merged successfully onto Broad Street and then merged again into my usual parking garage. Now, I could tell that one driver in the line of cars behind me was angry given his incessant honking and hand gestures. But, I am telling you, I made this move every morning and most drivers were happy to let me in. I certainly have cut other drivers off in my day, but this was not one of those circumstances....in my opinion.

When my friend and I exited my car and saw an imposing middle-aged man waiting for us at the front of the garage, hands on his oversized hips, I got a little nervous. He started yelling, "Maybe you didn't know, but you cut off a whole line of cars out there!"

"You've got to be kidding me," I laughed out loud. 'You're hunting me down in the garage to yell at me? I didn't cut anyone off, the cars let me get in. How else could I merge to make it into the parking lot?"

"Next time, you need to go around the block, like everyone else!" he shouted.

"Are you KIDDING me?" I yelled back. (Maybe I dropped a choice word or two in there). "You're accosting a pregnant woman in a parking garage to scream at her at 8 in the morning? What kind of pathetic man does that?!"

I saw his eyes quickly look down. With my puffy black parka all zipped up, I'm sure he had no idea I was seven months pregnant. He started to retreat cowardly, but under his breath, I heard him say, "Next time, you'll go around the block."

Mama grizzly bear came out with her claws. "Next time, I'll do exactly what I just did, which was merge! Next time, you'll check yourself before you go berating a pregnant woman in public!"

He walked away, his head hanging low. "That's right, you keep walking! You gotta be KIDDING ME, like I need this stress first thing in the morning?!" My friend just looked at me with shock and awe in her face. Nobody was going to mess with me or my unborn cub, okay?

In case you need one more good reason, the #3 reason to mind your manners is that people never forget a person with bad manners, or good manners, for that matter.

At least three times a year, my dad, also known as "Mr. Manners," will say, "Remember that time when we took your friend, ______, to see the high school play, Oliver, and she got out of the car and didn't even thank us? "Dad, it was 1983 and she was 8 years old!" I sigh, forgivingly. "Doesn't matter, she had bad manners!"

Of course, this is the same man who would ticket litter bugs $10,000 for each offense and who believes the expression "shut up" should be added to the canon of expletives and is, in fact, much ruder, than a simple F - U.

The greatest compliment my dad ever received as a father was when he was visiting me at college and a long-haired hippie barista told him, "Your daughter has impeccable manners." That was far better than any honor roll certificate or report card that I ever brought home. Even more impressive than passing the Bar Exam. My dad will never forget that.

Okay, so a pothead working at the Ann Arbor coffee joint where I used to study thought I had good manners? So what?

I have come to learn that the little interactions we all share each day, good or bad, really do make a difference.

So, go ahead, smile at a stranger today because you might be the only person who smiles at that person all day or even all week long. Let a pregnant driver cut in front of you. She very likely has a full bladder and is ravenously hungry and needs to get wherever she is going. And, last but not least, say thank you when someone treats you to a third rate high school musical. 26 years from now, someone somewhere will remember if you don't!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unforgettable

When my baby is pounding his plastic aquarium in his crib with his feet and I walk into his pale blue nursery and tell him "Nooooooo," in a sweet tone, he looks up at me with a huge gummy smile, forcing me to smile too. It's a moment I wonder if he'll remember when he's older.

My mom always reminds me of the time when I was three years old, coloring angelically in my bedroom and I got so engrossed in my creation that I colored off the page of the coloring book and right up my bedroom wall. My mom walked in, saw the proud look on my face, and simply had to laugh and tell me how beautiful my drawing was.

As my son grows up, I hope he appreciates how encouraging I am of his unorthodox antics too. Last week at music class, I clapped and hooted while he did the Riverdance on top of a large African drum, while all of the other babies, sitting next to the drum, patted it softly with their fingertips. "That's right, you do your thing, buddy boy," I told him, smiling.

I'm sure a few years from now, I'll egg him on to run down the aisle to the front of a crowded movie theater and put on an "opening act," complete with song, dance and jokes, the way my parents used to encourage me and my sister.

I hope that my baby remembers the first time I put him on a swing at the playground, which made him squeal in joy. I will never forget watching his fly-away hairs on top of his head blow in the breeze and the smile on his face stretch wider and wider.

When I speed him around in a shopping cart or challenge him to a screaming contest at the dinner table, I hope he remembers his Mom-mom and Pop-pop started these wild traditions and he is expected to pass them on. And, speaking of tradition, I can't wait until he can run, so that I can teach him the family tradition of racing one another down the halls of fine hotels to our assigned room.

I hope that my son always know how much joy he has brought to my life. When he's older, I will tell him how I danced in the glistening sun down Chestnut Street to my office on the morning that I found out I was pregnant.

I will tell him how his daddy blabbed to restaurateur, Stephen Starr, a perfect stranger, "Hey Stephen, I'm going to be a dad and you're the only person who knows!" simply because he was so thrilled that he had to tell someone right away. I'm sure he will laugh when I tell him that his daddy bragged to toll collectors on the expressway and long lost college professors via email, weeks before we told our family and friends the great news.

I wonder if my son will recall how I drove to work each morning, rubbing my belly, saying aloud what a psychic I met at a wedding suggested, "We don't care if you're a boy or a girl, we already love you so much, and we can't wait to meet you!" I will never forget how his busy tiny feet would poke me in the sides as I played music for him from every era, calling out the song titles and artists' names like Casey Kasem.

I hope that he remembers dancing with me to Jason Mraz, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson and yes, the Wiggles, the way I remember waltzing with my Gram up and down her linoleum kitchen floor.

I hope that my son remembers how his daddy carefully poured warm water over him, as if he was basting a turkey, while he reclined in his baby tub. I hope he knows that his daddy perfected the "Biscardi Burrito," otherwise known as the swaddle, to make sure our baby was always warm. If I buy my boy fuzzy red feet-in pajamas until he is 15, like my dad used to do, I hope he forgives me.

When my baby's tiny fingers trace down my face, reminding me of the way my dad used to trace an imaginary line between three beauty marks on my cheek, I hope he sees the sparkle in my eye.

I hope that he overhears me on my cell phone, while he's snuggled up in his car seat, telling his daddy, numerous times a day, "He's just the sweetest boy in the whole world."

I hope that he remembers me wiping his tears and rocking him in his soft blue glider, the way my mom rocked me on her lap, when I was 29 years old, on the day my grandfather died.

I hope that he never forgets the thousands of times I have kissed his hands, the way my grandfather kissed mine the last night of his life.

I hope that my boy always remembers that he willed his way into the world and truly earned his name. I wonder if he'll remember the very first time I held him and whispered to him, "I'm going to love you every day for the rest of your life."

Will he forget these tiny moments or will they somehow shape the mosaic of his soul?

When he lays his head down, sucks his thumb and snuggles with his blanket, listening to lullabies playing softly in his crib, and me and his daddy laughing in the next room, I hope that he feels the love all around him and thinks to himself one word:

Unforgettable.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Solution to World Hunger

My husband has one more chance.
One more chance to pass the 4th and final part of the CPA exam.

He has already taken it more than a couple of times. It is not inexpensive.

He is very intelligent and capable of passing this test. When he studies for the exams, he knocks them out.
He simply has not studied. Okay, maybe that's not fair or accurate.
He has studied in between watching Phillies playoff games, dancing the Horah for the hell of it with me in the kitchen, and making our boy smile by making monkey noises.

He has one more chance.
If he fails the test again, I plan to purchase an alpaca for a family in need somewhere in Latin America.
I plan to name him after my husband.
I figure I should take the amount of money equivalent to the failed test and help improve someone's quality of life.

I have my alpaca all picked out and it looks like this:



Imagine if we all bought animals for families around the world every time our loved ones procrastinated. We could end poverty around the world! (Hang on a minute, I've got Bono on the phone....)

My husband is up for the challenge, I think. But he is now using my logic against me.

With his sass and charm, he has informed me that he will be purchasing a water buffalo, named Stacy Biscardi, for a poor Fillipino village, in honor of my failure to clean up my desk. He will also be providing a goat to a family in Africa due to my failure to remove the clothes from the dryer. In addition, some farmer in China will be pretty amped up to have a new cow thanks to my failure to fold the clothes that I abandoned in the dryer, hoping the socks would pair themselves magically.

So, if any of you are looking to light up a life with a llama, look no further than the exposed dry wall in your kitchen or the trash your husband promised he would take out yesterday. We can all do our part. If you are so inspired, check out heifer.org.

Can you imagine if all of our pitiful procrastination started a global movement? It will all be thanks to my wonderful husband, the CPA (Clobbering Poverty's Ass).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Oh Deer


A bulletin arrived in our mailbox the other day, informing us of a "controlled deer hunt" taking place in our neighborhood this week.

"What kind of monsters are going to kill poor little deer?" I asked my husband, conjuring up images of Bambi in my backyard.

Apparently, hunters will be out from 2 to 5 a.m. in the woods. The notice advised us, "If you hear gunshots, do NOT go into the woods." Oh, thank you for the warning. I'm usually out walking in the woods from 2 to 5 a.m., stargazing and gathering berries. Right.

Come on. Who the hell in their right mind would follow the sound of gunshots into the woods in the middle of the night?

When I hear gunshots at night, I usually turn over and whisper, "Babe, turn that off!" My husband responds, "Gee whiz, Old Lady Jenkins, it's Law and Order!" Then I get heated. "I don't care what it is, I can't fall asleep to the sound of gunshots and women screaming, okay?"

Needless to say, I don't think I'll sleep well hearing shots fired at innocent deer. But, here's the kicker. "The hunters will be using silencers," the bulletin explains, in a futile attempt to calm my fears. Oh my god. The hunters are world-class assassins. Great.

I wonder if Sarah Palin will be out with the hunters, clad in Armani camouflage (straight from Neiman Marcus), or does she just prefer to shoot animals from the safety of the sky?

I think I might provide arms to the deer to try to even the playing field. Perhaps the deer would agree to pose with my baby for a holiday card if I outfit them with night-vision goggles and help them mount a counter-insurgency.

I could post signs or start a protest to save the deer. I could hide them in my home. Or I could go out in the woods and warn them tonight. "Hey you, Prancer, hurry, go to Gladwyne! You over there....yeah you.... there's safe haven in Haverford, go!"

I'm not sure why I'm this concerned about the deer at all. When I was in high school, jogging on a tree-lined street in Villanova, I came face to face with a deer. We both looked at each other unsure of who would make the first move. The deer proceeded to trot like a horse down the paved road in my direction and I ran like hell, looking frantically over my shoulder, yelling, "What kind of deer chase people?!"

I have come to the conclusion that if I get involved with this deer hunt, it will be my husband tossing and turning, trying to fall asleep to the sound of gunshots and one crazy woman screaming, "Don't shoot! Stop chasing me!"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Deep Thoughts Over Dinner

"She's a natural, isn't she?" my mom beamed proudly in my direction, as I held my baby on my lap at the dinner table, slipping a saliva soaked strand of my hair out of his mouth, while he sucked his thumb and mumbled something that sounded like, "Oy, oy, oy."

"I knew she would be," my dad responded, "the way she always took care of Snoopy," he finished, dead seriously, with pride in his glistening blue eyes.

Snoopy.

If only I could just throw a leather jacket and some aviator shades on my 8 month old son and put the TV remote control under his "paw" and tell him, "Watch whatever you want and have a great day," motherhood would be soooooooo easy.

Oy, oy, oy.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Don't Mess With a Single Lawyer

I recently came across an interesting document which speaks to my dating desperation three years ago and also to my dedication to the pursuit of justice.

After a disappointing string of dates with another lawyer, I sought counsel from a friend/lawyer who helped me draft this motion, which I considered filing in the Court of Common Pleas, or at least serving on the Defendant.

(To protect the not-so-innocent, I have changed the Defendant's name, but all other facts remain accurate).

____________________________________
STACY B. HEENAN, IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF PHILADELPHIA COUNTY :
Plaintiff, Civil Action No.: 06-12345

v.

JASON R. LAPINSKY

Defendant.
____________________________________



PLAINTIFF STACY B. HEENAN’S MOTION TO COMPEL DEFENDANT JASON LAPINSKY TO PRODUCE THE BRUCE HORNSBY BOX SET


Plaintiff Stacy B. Heenan (“Plaintiff”) hereby moves this Court to enter an Order pursuant to Rule 4019 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure, compelling Defendant Jason R. Lapinsky (“Lapinsker”) to produce the Bruce Hornsby Box Set given to him by Plaintiff on or about November 14, 2006. In support of this Motion, Plaintiff avers as follows:

1. At the end of September, 2006, Plaintiff met Lapinsker while watching the Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game at the sports bar, Fox and the Hound, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Defendant had receding blond hair and blue eyes and in no way matched Plaintiff's "type," but Plaintiff was trying to be open-minded.

2. Soon thereafter, in early October, 2006, Plaintiff and Lapinsker met for a drink at The Continental in Philadelphia. Lapinsker convinced Plaintiff to try hummus for the first time and Plaintiff agreed reluctantly.

3. At the end of October, 2006, Plaintiff and Lapinsker dined at Twenty Manning in Philadelphia. Plaintiff tried the pumpkin ravioli, the first and last “dinner special” Plaintiff ever ordered. Lapinsker sampled the sea bass.

4. On or about November 2006, Plaintiff and Lapinsker dined at Pesto in South Philadelphia. Plaintiff ate gnocchi, Defendant gorged himself on pasta bolognese.

5. In Lapinsker’s car on the way home from Pesto, Plaintiff and Lapinsker discussed Lapinsker’s love of Bruce Hornsby in light of the fact that Plaintiff was to attend an upcoming Bruce Hornsby concert at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, Pennsylvania.

6. On or about November 14, 2006, Plaintiff and Lapinsker hung out at Lapinsker’s apartment to watch the finale of “Dancing with the Starts,” featuring Emmitt Smith.

7. At this time, knowing that Lapinsker was a big Bruce Hornsby fan, Plaintiff gave Lapinsker her only copy of the Bruce Hornsby Box Set (the “Box Set”) she had received from Bruce Hornsby himself at the Bruce Hornsby concert.

8. This Box Set cannot be purchased anywhere. It is a special, limited edition Box Set, which included special live recordings and a dvd, and was given to all ticket-holders at the concert.

9. Plaintiff waited patiently that night for Lapinsker to make a move, yet he only patted her head and then drove her home. Plaintiff vomited approximately 45 seconds after returning home, probably due to the double dose of birth control she had ingested that morning. The extra dosage was in no way related to any events that Plaintiff anticipated occurring at Lapinsker’s residence but was merely to make up for a forgotten dose the day before.

10. In a later phone conversation, Lapinsker told Plaintiff that he had uploaded the Bruce Hornsby cds from the Box Set onto his i-pod and promised to return the Box Set to Plaintiff as soon as possible.

11. On November 18, 2006, Lapinsker met Plaintiff and her friends at the Fox and the Hound to watch the Michigan vs. Ohio State football game. Lapinsker hugged and flirted with Plaintiff.

12. Lapinsker told Plaintiff he had a holiday party to attend in New Jersey that night. Plaintiff told Lapinsker that he should come back after the holiday party at a normal hour to “hang out.”FN1

13. Lapinsker said he would call Plaintiff later and left for the party.

14. That night, Lapinsker called Plaintiff around midnight, but Plaintiff was sleeping.

15. On Sunday, November 19, Lapinsker and Plaintiff talked briefly. Plaintiff was tired and got off the phone around 10pm.

16. Plaintiff emailed Lapinsker Wednesday, November 22, 2006, to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving. Plaintiff loves Thanksgiving and still gets excited to watch the Macy's Day Parade each year.

17. Lapinsker responded to the email, indicating he would call Plaintiff at some point during the long weekend. FN2

18. To date, Plaintiff has not heard from Lapinsker and he has not returned the Bruce Hornsby Box Set as promised.


FN1 Unbeknownst to Lapinsker, Plaintiff had purchased a toothbrush for Lapinsker and several pairs of new, sexy underwear to add to her lingerie collection.

FN2 Again, unbeknownst to Lapinsker, Plaintiff was planning to ask Lapinsker to accompany her on vacation, either to London or Jamaica.



WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Stacy Heenan. respectfully requests this Honorable Court to enter an order directing Lapinsker to produce the Bruce Hornsby Box Set as soon as possible.

Respectfully submitted,



________________________
Stacy B. Heenan

Dated: January 4, 2007


On January 20, 2007, just a couple of weeks after this motion was drafted, my friend bought me a brand new Bruce Hornsby Box Set and I met the love of my life, hereby making this motion moot. However, I think it remains a good warning to all of those single guys out there: don't mess with a single lawyer!

Monday, November 2, 2009

I've Met My Match

For those of you wondering if I have encountered "my new trainer" again at the gym, the answer, thankfully, is "no." However, there is a new competitor in town.

Yesterday, I was minding my own business, walking briskly on the treadmill, listening to 50 Cent and The Game on my ipod, when a man who looked like Uncle Fester from the Addams Family chose to step on the treadmill next to me. I looked to my right and counted four empty treadmills. I glared at him and almost pointed out with my finger as you would to a child learning to count, "ONE......TWO.......THREE.....FOUR!"

Was this man just another decoy to make me feel better about how out of shape I am? I sighed in disgust, pumped up my speed to 4.1, turned up my music and started rapping audibly along to the beat:

Hate it or love it the underdog's on top
And I'm gon shine, homie, until my heart stop

Go'head'n envy me
I'm rap's MVP
And I ain't going nowhere
So you can get to know me


The man smelled like a combination of moth balls and sweat. Being that my nose is as sensitive as that of a search and rescue canine, I held my breath, which was difficult to do while jogging and rapping at the same time. I glanced down at Fester's 1974 model Nikes and thought, "Okay, you have met your match! You can beat him in the foot race and win the million!" (For those readers who have no idea what I'm talking about, please see my prior post, My New Trainer).

I accelerated to 4.3, barely broke a sweat, and STILL beat out Uncle Fester in a matter of minutes. Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Go'head'n envy me
I'm rap's MVP
And I ain't going nowhere
So you can get to know me

Friday, October 23, 2009

My New Trainer

I was at the gym, which I recently joined, and on the treadmill at 7:41 this morning, thinking to myself how fabulous and empty the gym was and hoping that it would not go out of business. The entire row of about six treadmills on each side of me was empty. It was glorious. No smelly sweaters near me, nobody coughing swine flu droplets nearby. Perfect.

I was listening to Ants Marching on my ipod, reminiscing about sophomore year of college when my friends and I rarely left our Brady Bunch style house, except to go to class, of course, or maybe Hash Bash in the Diag. We played Dave Matthews on constant rotation in those days, that is, when my roommates weren't busy singing Neil Diamond songs or the Frosted Flakes ("Show 'Em You're a Tiger") theme song on the karaoke machine, blitzed out of their minds.

I was feeling the beat and contemplating upping my speed to 3.9, and then possibly jogging at 4.3 when it happened. Some tall blond "runner's runner" hopped on the treadmill next to me. NEXT TO ME.

Now, stop me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a book on treadmill etiquette out there that would suggest you don't get up in someone's grill like that when there are a dozen other empty treadmills available? It was the equivalent to being in a freight elevator alone and someone getting on and standing face to face with you, noses touching.

It was so strange that I thought she might just be looking for a friend, a coach, a date? Was she hitting on me? No. She didn't even glance in my direction. She had the audacity to take the treadmill next to me and then run like a gazelle, forcing me, of course, to pound my speed button from 3.7 right up to 4.5! Oh yeah, now it was a race.

Back before I was pregnant, when someone would hop on a treadmill next to me, I used to like to pretend I was running the final foot race of the CBS Emmy-award winning show, The Amazing Race, with a million dollars at stake. I came up with this bizarre head game as a way to actually train for The Amazing Race, which my friend, Bess and I tried out for a few years ago. (We even went to the Tumi store and asked Tumi to outfit us with racing gear, backpacks, etc. for our television debut, which, by the way, never happened).

So, today was no different, despite the fact that I have not run much at all in the past 14 months. I didn't care. "You can beat this bitch!" I told myself, treading faster in my brand new sneakers, trying not to huff and puff audibly. "This is it! It all comes down to this!" I could see the finish line, smell the taste of victory, envision signing the back of that check.

Then, she ran faster, sensing that I was closing in on her. Okay, short story, she won the million bucks, the pain in my legs sucks.

I'm guessing next time I see that psycho close-runner at the gym she'll be on my shoulders while I'm running. Maybe she was just a decoy trainer hired by my husband, posing as a competitive runner? Either way, I should thank that crazy bitch for giving me a good workout.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hardly a Housewife - Part II

It smells like I slaughtered a bison in my kitchen. Was I stirring up some satanic ritual? Nope, just cooking dinner last night.

You would think that after 8 months of being a "stay-at-home mom" that I would have a handle on this whole housewifey thing by now. Clearly not.

Yesterday morning, the sun came out for the first time in four days and I was up early, racing off to the supermarket with a list, envisioning a fabulous dinner that I would make for my husband before he would watch the Phillies beat the Dodgers and I would fall asleep, as usual, two hours before the most exciting game-winning hit in history.

I decided to make meatballs. Now, full disclosure, I have a history with meatballs. Shortly before my wedding, my mother-in-law was kind enough to share with me her secret family recipe for Italian meatballs. I somehow ended up confused by the measurements and I drowned the meat until it crumbled into a runny bolognese sauce. My husband, two years later, still jokes with his mom that she sabotaged my efforts purposely, but we all know the truth; I have little patience for following a recipe meticulously (or perhaps at all).

Which leads me to last night. I called my sister and told her, "I'm gonna make those Villa (di Roma) meatballs tonight!"

"Interesting...." she laughed, foreseeing some dinner debacle. "Do you have all the ingredients?" she asked skeptically.

"Yep, everything except parsley, . . . can I use chives instead of parsley?"

Silence.

"Are you kidding?" she asked incredulously.

"Yes!" I attempted.

"No you're not."

"Yep, I'm kidding, I'm a kidder, I kid!" I replied.

"Oh my god, you're not kidding."

I threw the chives back in the fridge and happened upon some dried parsley in my "spice cabinet." Woohoo. I was ready to rock.

I had already averted a minor kitchen catastrophe with my dishwasher the night before . . . a catastrophe which I, of course, had created. This photograph doesn't quite capture the rushing flood of bubbles, the several sopping wet towels, nor me on my hands and knees, calling my friend in a panic to ask (for the 2nd time in the past 2 years) what the hell you're supposed to put in the dishwasher to stop it from flooding. (Vegetable oil, in case you're wondering).



I had also cleaned up the oatmeal that had exploded out of the top of my rice cooker yesterday morning. Now, I took Products Liability in law school and that was clearly no fault of mine, but rather a design defect. (You see, the lid does not fit properly over the cooking bowl, so oatmeal shoots out the top and flows like lava down the sides of the cooker).

I put some neo-soul music on my ipod and started to get into a groove in my kitchen while my baby slept in his room. I was actually following directions, dicing onion and garlic (after my mom asked me if I knew what "dicing" meant over the phone; thank you very much, I do!). I slicked up my hands with olive oil and rolled what I thought to be the perfect meatballs, mixed with Romano cheese and bread crumbs and, for a brief minute, I felt like an up and coming Food Network star. Until I bathed the balls in olive oil just a bit too long, when the oil was simply not hot enough. (This I realize in retrospect).

I even made my own tomato sauce, if you can believe that. And I was hopeful, so hopeful. Then I took a taste of one of the balls and ugh, spit it right into my kitchen sink. "It's not cooked enough," I tried to convince myself as I pounded a glass of water to cleanse my palate. "Once it soaks in that sauce, it will be perfect. Just like Villa!" I was positive.

I took my little man out for an afternoon stroll around the neighborhood and let my balls and sauce simmer for hours. When we returned, there were no fires to put out, no suds seeping from the dishwasher any more, and it smelled phenomenal in my house. I snuck a taste of another meatball in the pot and ugh, I swallowed it with a grimace on my face. It tasted like meat drenched in oil. Vile.

At this point, it was 5 p.m. and I was hoping for a miracle to occur in the pot before my husband arrived home from work. I was salivating at the sight of pureed peas, squash, and mango chicken I fed my boy, just thankful that he was not old enough to be subjected to his mom's creative concoctions.

My husband walked in the door as I was stirring the balls with fervor, trying to put a spell on them. "It smells like my mom's house," he said, kissing me. "Yeah, well, it's not gonna taste like it!" I replied, spooning ziti and the oily balls into a bowl for him. I made one for myself too, hoping that he wouldn't grow suspicious.

A quarter of the way through my bowl, I stood up abruptly. "I'm having cereal," I announced. "Don't think you have to finish that."

Okay, so I made incredibly awful meatballs once again and ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for dinner for the second time this week. Does that really make me a bad housewife? Probably.

After spending the better part of my day slaving away over the stove, I gave the baby a bath and laughed while he splashed me so much that when I emerged from the bathroom, it looked like I had just come off a log-flume. I'm sure a good housewife would never have taught her newborn baby to "splash, splash, splash" and encourage him to kick his feet as if he's pedaling in the Tour de France. But, after all, he could be the next Lance Armstrong or, with the way his legs glide through the bath water, Michael Phelps?

I did manage to do one good housewifey deed today. I dropped off some clothes at the dry cleaners; in particular, I dropped off the clothes that I wore to a baptism on Sunday. You see, 5 minutes after sitting down at a table of almost complete strangers at the luncheon, I opened a bottle of formula, momentarily FORGOT that I had just unscrewed the cap and THEN proceeded to shake it all over myself, while the strangers shrieked in horror and immediately commented on how bad the formula smelled. Sorry, party people. What happened next, I'm pretty sure was exactly what that the priest had in mind when he babbled on about sin as I was forced to strip down to a skimpy tanktop while the strangers averted their eyes. A good housewife never would have been such a public embarrassment. I thought about crying. But instead I just laughed.

And I laughed when the levees gave out on my dishwasher.

And I laughed when oatmeal shot out all over my countertops and hardwood floors like Mount Vesuvius.

And I laughed when my husband took a bite of my "Villa meatballs" that were really "Killa meatballs."

And I laughed when I woke up this morning and it smelled like I slaughtered a bison in my kitchen.

And, if I'm ever going to get this whole good housewife thing right, I think I gotta keep laughing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rites of Passage

My dad always taught me to drive in the left lane. "Leadfoot," as those screaming in the backseat often refer to him, is a thrill-seeker and he ingrained in me a similar taste for adventure. Yet, he firmly believes in the importance of the "buddy plan," an invaluable lesson he carried with him since his army days.

So, after bidding a cheerful farewell to my neurotic friend who bailed on us to seek asylum with classmates in Florence, here I was in Budapest, with my one Michigan crony, Tracey, who shared my enthusiasm for mild danger and excitement. We were 20 years old, carefree, careless, totally clueless. Taking the advice of those who had come before us, we decided to do something daring--- to stay with a family. I thought my dad would have loved the idea, but I decided to wait to mention it.

Arriving at the Keleti pĂș station, we were bombarded by babbling Hungarian women offering their homes to us, through pictures and a limited English vocabulary. Shifting and moaning under the weight of our worn backpacks, we quickly chose Isabel, partly because she was the age of our grandparents, warm, spoke decent English, but mainly because her husband, Solomon, drove a car-something we hadn't been in since we'd left London three weeks before.

My first sense of uncertainty hit me with a pang when Solomon drove us "home. "Dad, if you could see me now," I laughed to myself, eyes wide, as we pulled up to a tenement in the middle of a lifeless ghetto. My eyes met Tracey's with a piercing stare as Solomon opened the bullet-ridden glass doors and led us into the building.

Packed like sardines into the tight rickety elevator whose doors scrawled with swastikas spoke to my greatest fears, I was so close to Solomon because of the enormous bags on our backs I could've kissed him. I verbalized this thought to Tracey, certain that Solomon would not comprehend a word of what I was saying. We began laughing hysterically, as did the confused Solomon. The only alternative at that moment was crying.

Solomon showed us to our apartment, which we learned that we would be sharing for the night with two overzealous Russian men in their 40s. In Hungarian, Solomon gave me a brief instruction on how to lock our five doors and then went on his way.

"Shady, shady, shady," I sang to Tracey, strumming my imaginary guitar, singing a tune which soon came to be our endearing theme song of Budapest. After introducing ourselves to our Russian roommates we dropped our bags in the large red bedroom, drew the ragged curtains which covered the window overlooking the gloomy streets below, and immediately locked the door behind us. We listened to the excitement in the voices of our roommates as they whispered in Russian and giggled like two schoolgirls up to no good. The only words that we could make out were "Terazy" and "Stazy." We decided to get out while it was still light in hell.

The neighborhood was desolate, except for a few haggard adolescents and elderly locals who seemed incapable of smiling. Dogs with missing paws and one eye hobbled by us, searching ravenously for any scrap of meat. Accompanied by the dirty crumpled map that Solomon had provided and a point in the right direction by a somber local teenager, Tracey and I set off for the Hotel Gellert, a beautiful spot on the Danube that was famous for its inexpensive but lavish thermal baths. Crossing the river into Buda, we chatted excitedly about how great the massage would feel on our twisted muscles and aching heads, and how good it was to be out of Germany and relieved of the burden who was now probably fine dining in a piazza in Florence while we were roughing it in the heart of Hungary.

Choosing a different massage option than my companion, Tracey and I were separated in the lobby of the gorgeous hotel and advanced to different locations. Sent with a grunt and a shove in the right direction, as verbal communication was completely out of the question, I first encountered masses of naked women, seemingly unaware of their lack of clothing, scurrying about the "locker room." I was unaware that nudity would be part of the deal here. I hesitantly shuffled past the massage room which reminded me of an embalming room in a morgue- naked bodies stretched across six long tables being worked on by gruff overseers.

Shocked, I silently urged my self, Keep walking, until I reached the burly woman who would give me the next clue in this surreal treasure hunt. I handed my ticket hesitantly to the first of many stern Hungarian women who worked the joint, in exchange for a triangular paper robe skimpier than anything I've ever worn in a doctor's office. The back portion was completely nonexistent, as was all rational thought by this time.

As I entered my assigned compartment and slowly yet mechanically stripped off my layers, I began thinking, "Stazy, this is crazy, this is crazy!" I rationalized to my raging doubt that while in Hungary I must force myself to do as the Hungarians do---take it all off. I stared at the ceiling of that damn cubicle at least twenty agonizing minutes before I worked up the nerve to exit.

Self-consciously walking through the locker room, the only reassuring thought I had was that my chances of running into anyone I knew were pretty slim. The fact that nobody spoke a word of any language that sounded remotely like English was now quite comforting. Seeing that there was a waiting list for massages, I was pointed towards the thermal bath until it was my time.

Entering the large steaming room in my skimpy get-up, I was met by the sight of around forty women of all shapes and sizes completely naked floating freely around the huge pool. Astonished by how casually the locals treated their nakedness and even carried on normal conversation, I felt further alienated. "You've come this far," I told my fear and embarrassment, "Don't turn back." With that, I took off my gown, which realistically served no purpose anyway, and floated to a private corner where I began to relax.

Every few seconds, while lost in my thoughts, I would glance down to find myself one hundred percent au naturel in a thermal bath in Budapest and I seriously began to wonder if I hadn't lost my mind. I quickly became overheated and because I truly feared fainting naked with confused foreigners standing over me debating what to do, I climbed out, grabbed my stupid wrap and headed into the embalming room for my massage- a prospect which no longer scared me in the least. Like a fish, I was rubbed, flipped, smacked, and pounded on by an enormous Hungarian woman with baseball mitts for hands. I returned to my compartment forever fearless, dressed and anxiously met up with Tracey only to learn that massages on her side of the hotel were done fully clothed! We dined that evening at New York Bagels, where Tracey tried to get a bite in between fits of laughter and tears of hysteria.

Later that night, locked behind our door in the projects, we watched "Dallas" in Hungarian, with Tracey translating for me a previously seen episode, while the inebriated Russians occasionally scratched at our door, their hushed voices still repeating our names. I slept no longer than twenty minutes that night as my eyes guarded the door and my mind envisioned the handle turning slowly and the foreign men creeping in, whispering "Terazy...Stazy.." The next day we bid farewell in Russian, got the hell out of the ghetto, toured the sights of Budapest and after a rare cigarette at the urging of my traveling companion, eagerly boarded the train to take us to a safer place.

The day after my "coming out" party in Budapest I rode my twentieth train in three weeks, on my final stretch of a ten country tour. Relieved to be back on the "go," I knew the motion would soon end. Just three more stops on my unpredictable adventure, Venice, Florence and Rome, and then the semester would come to a close. Exhausted, I closed my eyes on the magnificent sunset over Vienna, for the first time in three weeks allowing the moving European scenes to pass me by unnoticed.

"Stay, are you hungry?" Tracey interrupted. "I'm good," I responded, "but I have a bagel right in here, if you want it." I searched through my bag and heard a strange jingle. Carefully dumping the contents of my daypack onto the seat next to me, I was amazed by the sight of the temporary set of keys that Solomon had provided for our stay at his lovely abode.

"You will always have a home away from home," Tracey teased as we celebrated my discovery. "And you, my friend, may end up as someone's mail-order bride, Terazy, because guess who has your address?!!" I quipped, smiling. At last I spotted the day-old sesame bagel. Our eyes met with a shared laugh as I proudly held up dinner like the Olympic torch.

Caught up in the wondrous swirl of colorful faces and intriguing places, I looked back with sentiment and to the future with hope. As our chugging chariot moved us once again through the breathtaking countryside of Austria, with the tunes of the Grateful Dead flowing from our micro-speaker set-up, Tracey and I could only look at each other and grin (as we sang along) while the always prophetic Jerry crooned, "What a long.... strange trip it's been."

Hitch a Ride


I picked up a hitchhiker the other night.

Maybe it wasn't the smartest thing to do, with my sleeping 7 month old in the backseat. But, when a zoftig post-menopausal woman approached my car window as I drove slowly through my condo's parking lot, I could not resist. Her dyed black hair was frizzing up in the humid night air and I saw beads of sweat forming on her upper lip. She tapped on my window with her long acrylic red nails, panting, "I'm lost! Where the hell is 5E? I'm shvitzing out here!"

I quickly surveyed the situation. Was this really a woman or perhaps a man dressed up as a woman? I remembered how Ted Bundy used to put a fake caste on his arm just to garner sympathy from unsuspecting women right before he overpowered them.

Was this person really going to "break the fast" or was she plotting to break my neck?

Was this woman (or man dressed up as a woman) really holding a wrapped noodle kugel? Or was that some sort of concealed weapon? I made a quick decision that it was really a kugel and she was really a woman, a woman going to break the fast for Yom Kippur; a woman tired of walking around a parking lot aimlessly, anxious about being late for her holiday dinner.

"Get in," I encouraged her, "I have no idea where 5E is, but we'll find it."

"Oh, thank you, you're such a doll!!" she gushed at a decibel just loud enough to disturb my sleeping boy. Although slightly irritated by her booming voice, I admired her audacity as she hopped into my car to ride shotgun.

You see, nobody hitchhikes any more.

My great-grandmother used to walk to the grocery store and then hitch a ride home with all of her packages. Seriously. Every single week. "Times were different back then, sweetheart," my grandmom explained recently. "Nanny didn't drive, so that's what she did when she needed to go to the market." Okay.

I, myself, once hitched a two hour ride from Denver to Breckenridge, Colorado, with three teenage boys whom I befriended on the airplane. "I'll meet you at the Loaf N Jug (the local Wawa)!" I told my friend, Mindy, over the pay phone at the Denver Airport. "I thought you were taking the shuttle?" she asked, confused. "Nope, I'm hitching a ride!" I responded proudly. "Wha?" she asked horrified. I don't know if the altitude had already gone to my head, clouding my better judgment, but I sat crammed amongst snowboards, skis, and boots in the back seat of a jeep, listening to the teen boys debut their best teen boy jokes, praying that I would live to see my friend.

Hitchhiking clearly runs in my family. In the early '70s, my dad used to hitchhike all over Europe; that is, once he ran out of gas in his orange VW bus, named Clementine, and was forced to sell her on the side of the road in Germany for 500 bucks. In those glorious days before cell phones and satellites, he and his army buddy, dressed like Tom Petty, in top hats and shawls, used to go their separate ways, hitchhiking, only to meet up days later at a monument in Madrid or a cafe in Amsterdam.

My dad never forgot the kindness of those perfect strangers in Europe and he reciprocated the favor when he was back in the states, a married father. One new year's eve, mid-80s, my parents were driving home from a black tie party with neighbors, and my dad noticed a man on the side of the road, dressed in a tuxedo, with sunglasses on, well past midnight. The man held a cane in his left hand. My dad, traveling his usual 83 mph, made an abrupt stop at the man's feet, as he often did at red lights.

I'm sure someone in the car, possibly my mom, screamed, "Thomas, what the hell are you doing?"

"I'm picking up this hitchhiker!" my dad probably responded emphatically.

"He's not even hitchhiking!" my mom retorted. "He's probably waiting for a cab or a bus!"

"He's coming with us!" my dad announced.

"Don't you dare," the neighbor in the back seat, encsonced in her white mink coat shrieked. "He'll steal my coat!"

"He's blind!" my dad protested, rolling down his window. "Hop in," my dad told the man. "Happy New Year! Where are you heading?" The man climbed in, incredibly gracious.

I, too, got caught up in the spirit of the new year. "Thank you, you saved me! My corns were killing me, walking around that focacta parking lot!" the bubbe in my car complained. My baby in the back seat let out a high-pitched half-cry. "Here we are!" I said, relieved to have finally found unit 5E. The hitchhiker in my car breathed heavily, tucked her kugel under her thick arm, and opened her car door. "Happy new year, doll!" she gushed. "I've never hitchhiked in my life!" she cried, wiping sweat from her hairline. "Thank you!"

"No need to thank me," I said, "just pay it forward and pick up a hitchhiker sometime!"

Monday, September 14, 2009

Coming Down to Earth


"I went skydiving," I panted to my husband as he carefully navigated the icy roads toward the hospital.

"Keep reminding me," I told him, doubled over in my seat from the waves of jarring contractions. "I jumped out of a plane at 13,500 feet, okay? I can do this!" "You can totally do this, just keep breathing," he said, holding my hand, glancing nervously in my direction.

"I packed barf bags," I half-smiled, opening the glove compartment to expose my stash of plastic bags. I unzipped the puffy black maternity parka that I was wearing, suddenly feeling warm even though I could see my breath in the chill of the car.

"I'll take care of you," he said, his dark eyes reassuring.

I closed my eyes and remembered the plane ride.

"I'm not feeling so great," I yelled to my curly blond haired instructor over the roar of the plane's engine.

"Sit down on the floor," he hollered back. I slid from the bench I was perched on down to the floor of the rickety plane. Some skydiving regular took off his sneaker and offered it to me as a barf basin. "No, I'm good," I lied. My eyes were glued to the 5 foot wide square hole in the floor of the plane just a few feet away from me.


"You didn't just jump out of a plane, honey, you did a BACK FLIP out of the plane," my husband whispered to me as he helped me sit up straight to wait for an epidural. "This is cake." I nodded as sweat poured down my forehead and back, soaking my cotton hospital gown.

I took baby steps towards the massive hole in the back of the plane's floor with my hippie instructor, Rob, strapped to my back. Men and women dressed in colorful jumpsuits with packed parachutes on their backs looked like rag dolls as they flew out of the plane ahead of me. "Here we go!" Rob hollered as I crossed my arms over my chest as he had instructed.

"This might feel a little strange." said the mustachioed anesthesiologist. I closed my eyes and waited for the needle to penetrate my spine.

We back flipped out into the sky. I felt fierce cool wind hitting my face. And then a hand tapped me on the forehead. "Open your eyes!" yelled the skydiving photographer who was face to face with me, soaring through the air. I opened my eyes and saw wind and white clouds zipping by me, and the photographer grinning. "Awesome, right?! Grab my hand," he hollered. Through the force of the wind, I struggled to reach out for his hand with mine. Once we connected, he spun me around like a corkscrew and then let go. I was spinning like a top above the earth.

"It feels better," I told the nurse. "I feel like I'm at a Pink Floyd concert, it's amazing. I feel F-I-N-E, fine!" I whispered to my mom on the phone, while my husband slept curled up in a recliner next to me.

When the spinning stopped, I thrust my right fist out ahead of me, like Superman. I flexed my biceps up, then down, gave a salute, smiled at the photographer as my skin flapped in the wind, outlining my cheek bones. I was euphoric, weightless, soaring through the sky. Little did I know that I was falling.

"I feel nothing, absolutely nothing," I told the young blond nurse after she explained that I was having contractions every minute. "Okay, you're going to start pushing soon," the doctor said from her perch at the end of my bed. "You can do this," my husband whispered in my ear. "You jumped out of a plane!"

Rob, the shaggy-haired hippie instructor strapped to my back, interrupted my poses and grabbed my right hand and placed it on my hip. "Pull the cord!" he hollered.

"It's around his neck," I heard the doctor tell the nurse in a hushed tone. Monitors started beeping. Sweat started dripping. "The baby is not in the right position," the doctor told me. "We're going to try to turn it around."

I yanked the cord and felt a powerful force launch me high into the sky like a rocket. I soared through sky, yelling, "Woohoo!" I heard my parachute open overhead and then felt an abrupt stop. I was suspended in the air. For the first time since I had jumped out of the plane, I noticed the ground below.

"Her blood pressure is dropping," the nurse said, checking the monitor next to my bed. I watched her furrow her brow as she looked at the readings. Without warning, she fastened an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. I sucked in smokey clouds of air and my eyes grew as big as saucers, searching for my husband's face.

"Am I still here?!" I screamed, suddenly feeling very alone. "Yes," Rob hollered back, chuckling. ""You're still here! We're floating." Our red, yellow, purple, green and blue parachute was up over our heads like a gigantic kite in the sky.

I did not recognize any of the faces in front of me, but they all seemed to be mouthing the word, "Push, push, push, push, push."

"I feel like I'm slipping," I yelled to Rob in a panic. "Here, I'm going to tighten your harness," he assured me. "Look over there, see the ocean? Isn't that beautiful?"

I finally saw something familiar, my husband's face, full of love and fear in his eyes that he could not mask with a smile.

"Forceps or a c-section," the doctor said. "First, we'll try to spin the baby around."

My body was no longer my own. Four doctors, a few nurses, residents and god knows who the other spectators were poked, prodded and watched like I was a 4th grade science experiment. I watched all of them from a place high above my bed. I felt nothing but the awful dead weight of my body from the drugs. My legs felt as heavy as tree trunks when they asked me to help lift them into the air. My mind raced and I tried to think about flying.

I was weightless, drifting through the brilliant blue sky, laughing. "Feels like a dream," I shouted.

The forceps looked like a medieval torture device. They were gigantic metal fireplace tongs, running the length of my arms. They were all I could see down at the bottom of my bed.

"I'm going to . . ." I gagged before I could finish my sentence and the nurse turned me on my side and shoved a plastic basin under my mouth. "That happens sometimes when the baby is coming down," she informed me.

The monitor went wild. "The baby's heart rate is dropping," the nurse reported in a contained panic. "We need to do this quickly," the doctor with the metal salad tongs instructed the team. I wanted to just drift away. The doctor flipped the baby with the forceps as everyone in the room chanted, "Push, push, push, push, push, push! Her voice rising, the doctor yelled, "Here comes the baby! . . . ohhhh.....look..... it's a . . . boy!" another doctor gushed. "He's little, but he has chubby cheeks," someone else chimed in.

I felt nothing. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I waited for the cry. I waited for the cry. I squeezed my husband's hand and waited for the cry. The deafening silence overwhelmed the room, pained my heart. I saw doctors, nurses, residents, hurrying around.

I waited. And waited. And waited. "No, this must be a nightmare," I told myself. And, at last, a cry. A cry? A cry! A cry full of life, spirit, will.

"You did it!" Rob yelled as we pulled off a picture perfect landing. My feet were wobbly as we touched down on the ground."That was the most amazing thing I ever did!" I yelled as I high-fived my instructor.

"That was the most terrifying thing I ever did," I sobbed to my husband, as he wrapped his strong arms around me. "Amazing, but absolutely terrifying." The doctor walked carefully over to my bedside carrying a tiny, perfectly-wrapped gift. With my tired arms open wide and my husband by my side, I celebrated the journey. And the view, right then and there on earth . . well, there was nothing in the universe more exquisite.




Friday, September 11, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

The beat of bongos greeted us as we entered the sanctuary. Smiling little girls in sequined headbands and skirts skipped down the aisle and took their seats next to doting parents. Elderly couples walked carefully behind them, calling out, "Shabbat shalom," to familiar faces. A young woman, her bald head wrapped, but barely hidden, tried to quiet her rambunctious pre-teen son.

It was Friday night, September 11th, and this was not the Sha-BBQ that I had envisioned.

Although a driving rain and fierce winds forced the party inside, it did not dappen our spirits. I looked to my left and saw the smile of my friend, Jenifer, and her wife, Cyndi, and their beautiful baby boy, sitting on her lap, digging into a Zip-lock bag full of Cheerios.

"They asked me if I was interested in enrolling him in pre-school here," Jenifer whispered to me. "But he's Muslim," she explained of her African-American foster child. "He's just here for shabbat with us, but he has his own thing," she added, planting a kiss on his cheek. "Got it," I nodded.

"And you know me," Cyndi laughed. "I'm not into any religion at all." I caught a glimpse of the small gold necklace she was wearing.

"Wait a minute, is that a Star of David?"

"Yep, I support my wife . . . and the community. And you gotta see my new tattoo," she continued, her eyes lighting up as she looked at her wife's smile. "I got her Hebrew name written on my arm," she said proudly, pointing to her shoulder. I shook my head, laughing. "Great stuff," I responded, the wine starting to swim around my head as the Klezmer music picked up the tempo.

Two tween girls in front of me shimmied to the sounds and busted out a couple of hip hop moves as the cantor sang. I strained to see just who was rockin' out on the bongos, but it remained a mystery. I couldn't help but hear the lady a few rows behind me to the left who tried to out-sing everyone else in the congregation. I rolled my eyes in Cyndi's direction. "There's always one in the crowd, right?" I didn't know a word of the lyrics, but the vibe in the sanctuary sounded as if Jimmy Buffet might join in. It felt like we were on a booze cruise in the Caribbean.

As the music faded out, we said prayers for the sick, the dying, the departed, for our recently fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, by name. A nine year old girl stood up and told the congregation that she was praying for her friend to get well so that they could go to the movies, and play games, and do the things that they normally did together.

After the service ended, we all gathered at open tables to nosh on some kosher hot dogs and burgers. Three generations of a family joined our table, thankfully without judgmental looks or curious glances at my gay friends and their baby. The mom introduced her tween daughter, dressed in a brown skirt suit, matching her long dark hair and eyes, and her own mother, with silver hair and hip glasses, and sweet blue eyes.

"Do you do timeouts with him?" the girl asked Jenifer bluntly, who was sitting across the round table, feeding small bites of a burger to her toddler.

"No, honey, not yet, he's too young for that."

"Oh. Do you do headshoulderskneesandtoes?" she asked slurring the words together rapidly.

"Yes, and he loves it!" Jenifer responded. The little girl smiled.

She told us she was twelve years old, but her speech and mannerisms told a different story, of a child delayed cognitively to that of a 6 year old. She looked in my direction and fired off random questions with a piercing stare and a mechanical tone:

"Do you have a dog?"

"Not yet, but I want to get one!" I told her.

"What does your mom say?" she blurted out.

"She says, 'Go for it!'" I told her, not skipping a beat or pausing at the oddity of the question.

I told her that I had a baby who was going to come to Sha-BBQ too, but it was past his bedtime, so he was home with his daddy.

"Did you see the play, Annie?" she wondered in response.

"Yeah, it was really cute. Did you see it? Did you like it?" She nodded.

Her grandmother exhaled an internal sigh of relief. Here we were, perfect strangers, engaging this little girl in conversation, no matter how random, disjointed, or surprising the questions. And we did so without judgment or ridicule or uncomfortable looks.

"Do you like Pepsi?" she asked me, noticing that I was drinking the same thing as she had in her hand.

"Oh, I love Pepsi!" I exclaimed. "Cheers!" I yelled, raising my soda can to meet hers across the table. She smiled at me and clinked my can.

"Shabbat shalom!" Everyone at that table raised their drinks too.

The grandmother sitting next to me turned and patted my hand delicately. "I hope you and your husband join," she said. This community? Where differences are not only tolerated, but celebrated? I nodded back at her. We are already members.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SHA-BBQ


I had no idea how much I missed living in Center City until I watched an elderly African-American cowboy, ten gallon hat and all, lasso a stationary bike post on Walnut Street today. Exactly three onlookers hooted and clapped while the man smiled broadly, flashing just a few front teeth. I, of course, was one of the three freaks cheering. I even encouraged my 6 month old baby, smiling in his stroller, to clap along as well. You just don't see that sort of thing here in Penn Valley.

But before I go off on a tangent about how boring the burbs are in comparison to the city, where we used to live conveniently across the street from the sex shop, head shop and psychic (yes, all on the same block!), I should tell you that things are about to change. Someone is firing up the grill over at Main Line Reform Temple.

Hallelujah!

SHA-BBQ is coming to town. What?! At first, when I saw the big sign outside the temple, I nearly crashed my car. I thought it meant that Shaq was coming to a bbq on the main line. But, it's even better than that! SHA-BBQ is a bbq outside the temple on shabbat! This has to be the most exciting new concept to sweep the Jewish community since a bubbe accidentally dropped some matzoh in chicken soup thousands of years ago. And I wouldn't miss it for anything! I have somehow enticed my husband into accompanying me to SHA-BBQ, with the promise of kosher hot dogs and a possible game of Frisbee with the rabbi.

So what will actually take place at this shabbat bbq? Your guess is as good as mine. Will the rabbi be grilling brisket or burgers? Will we sing Shabbat Shalom or Kumbaya? And who exactly will be attending this shabbat shindig? I'm guessing Main Line families, members of the temple, well-dressed and educated, looking to spice up their usual shabbos dinner with the family. What will their reaction will be when our crew rolls up? 2 lesbians with their adorable African-American baby, 1 former alter boy turned atheist, and 1 Irish-Jew who used to cut Hebrew school. What a shanda! Will they welcome us with open arms or stare at us, wondering if this is just an ABC 20/20 "hidden camera investigation" to test their reactions? Should I introduce myself as Stacy, or my Hebrew name, Chava, or simply Chavs, the badass nickname my Italian husband gave me?

I'm wondering what I should wear to SHA-BBQ too. Typical temple clothes seem inappropriate and way too stuffy. For some odd reason, I'm envisioning this SHA-BBQ to be like a great western bbq, the kind you would find in Jackson, Wyoming, with real cowboys manning the meat and telling ghost stories of fallen heroes on the plains. I can just see the men throwing in their keepahs in exchange for cowboy hats. I picture a mechanical bull and the cantor reaching his highest notes as he fights to stay on the bucking beast. I can see the rabbi riding in bareback on a wild mustang to a roaring crowd.

I'm not sure if the rabbi will really go all rodeo on the congregation, but SHA-BBQ promises games and sports, so you never know. If the games include bowling, horseshoes, or any parlor games, my husband is sure to be a hit on shabbos. As for my lesbian friends, our gracious hosts at this SHA-BBQ, well, the last time I played any games with them, it was at their "sperm party," when they were trying to decide whose sperm to use for artificial insemination. Needless to say, I don't think we'll be playing "pin the sperm on the egg" at this bbq.

What does one bring to a SHA-BBQ? Perhaps a guitar, although I'm not sure this cantor will be as cool as the one from my temple, who promised my dad she would learn Bob Dylan's Forever Young to sing at my Bat Mitzvah service. I certainly hope that there's a vibe of peace and love in the air, and even some mj would not be opposed. I think I'll leave home the Buddhist prayer wheel that I keep in my living room, which my dad bought for me after spinning it quickly in the store and chanting, "Baruch ata adinoi......that's all I remember....." Yes, that's it. We'll just try to blend in with the people and not draw attention to ourselves. In the meantime, stay tuned for pix and tales from next week's SHA-BBQ.

Shabbat shalom, party people!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Watch out for Warren


1990

At age 14, I finally reached the pinnacle, Tunk 13, the oldest and coolest bunk in camp. Our new bunk theme song, which we sang at the flagpole, in the dining room, at the pool, and everywhere else around camp, went like this: “I don’t know but I’ve been told, 13 girls are mighty bold. I don’t know but it’s been said, 13 girls give good head!”

We were the pride of Camp Akiba. Role models for all of the little Villagers, the youngest campers.

Nightly raids to boys’ side were what we waited for with baited breath. Taps would play each night around 10 pm, our counselors would be in by midnight, tipsy from their favorite local bar, the Thirsty Camel. We would start gearing up for a raid around 1 a.m. Dark clothes? Check. Sneakers? Check. Flashlights? Check. Cameras? Check. Just the necessities. We would tiptoe around the bunk, so as not to wake our counselors who slept, usually in a drunken haze, on the two opposing cots closest to the front wooden bunk door.

One night, too tired to go on the raid, I decided to stay back with my friend, Lynne. As my fellow bunkmates slipped out of the front door, Lynne and I heard a voice in the night; a voice that was the most terrifying voice a camper could hear: Warren! Warren was the 40 year old peg-legged night watchman who could sense when campers were planning to raid bunks of the opposite sex and would wait outside in the woods to catch them. He was a real life Freddy Krueger who would come out only at night and, legend had it, Warren would sometimes wait under the covers in a camper’s bed, to scare the living daylights out of the camper as he returned from a raid.

“Girls!” Warren hollered. “STOP. RIGHT. THERE!”

Inside the bunk, Lynne and I shuddered at the sound of his voice. Up until that point, Warren was a mere Camp Akiba legend and I wasn’t even sure if he really existed.

“Holy shit, Lynne! It’s W...w..w....warren!” I whispered urgently. Lynne jumped into my cot, throwing the covers over both of our heads. Our counselors woke up in a startled haze and flipped on the bunk light. “Where the hell is everyone?!” one yelled in a panic. At that moment, we heard my bunkmates shrieking, giggling, and running, their sneakers skidding on the gravel outside. They knew that Warren's bum leg was no match for their adrenaline-fueled speed. In his most diabolical tone, Warren yelled after them, “I’ll be waiting for you when you get baaaack!”

“Oh my god!” Lynne panted, gripping onto me, buried under the covers. “Get up, you guys, this isn’t funny!” my counselor prodded in her valley girl accent. “Funny?!!! WARREN is out there!” I insisted, as if he were an ax murderer, hunting down wayward campers. “Turn off the lights, are you crazy?!”

My counselor flipped the light off with a grunt of disgust and climbed back into her disheveled cot. “Whatever, you guys can sit on the field house porch from sunrise to sunset tomorrow, for all I care.” “Sun-rrrrrrrise, sun-set!” Lynne and I began to sing. We giggled and climbed out of bed, feeling a bit safer in the dark. “Where is that psycho fuck?” Lynne pondered, roaming the bunk in her trademark cowboy boots and white boxers, peering out different screened windows from a distance. She walked back over to my bed and pulled the rope that hoisted my window open. The two of us peered out into the pitch black Pocono night and saw nothing but the bunk next door. "I know he's out there," I whispered to Lynne, as the two of us inched closer and closer to the screen. “Boo!” Warren screamed as he popped up into my window, shining his flashlight on his face like out of a horror film. We let out blood curling screams. “I think I’m having a heart attack!” I yelled, laughing, clutching my chest and pulling the covers back over our heads.

My counselor stormed out of bed and flicked the lights on again. “What is it NOW?!” Warren limped up our bunk’s front wooden steps. “Don’t let him innnnnnnnn!” I freaked. My counselors stepped outside on the bunk front porch to meet Warren. I caught a glimpse of his long greasy hair under the porch light and shuddered at the sound of his maniacal cackle. What my counselors discussed with Warren, I’ll never know. Lynne and I continued to scream until we heard him limp back down our bunk steps and wander off into the foggy Pocono night, looking for our bunkmates.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shore Memories, Then and Now




33 summers. 5 generations. 1 house.

If this one could talk, it would tell tales of hoagie eating, card playing, wave jumping, sandcastle building, sunbathing, and stargazing. It would tell secrets, of children eating candy in their bunk-beds at midnight and a beloved poodle making “pishy” on Gram's new sofa. It would talk of our family marking our own territory, carving our initials into the Ventnor playground, our footprints in the sand. It would remember sun-kissed, barefoot children, with nicknames like “fudgie wudgie,” a favorite dessert from everyone's favorite ice cream man.

It would recall the strollers, the bikes, the rollerblades, racing out the door to the boardwalk, lazy summer days playing in the sand. The sandcastles, paddleball, boogie boards, and bathing beauties. It would talk of scavenger hunts, running bases, wiffle ball. It would sigh at the thought of sleepy children being tucked into bed, dreaming of the rides in Ocean City.

It would remember Fralinger’s saltwater taffy, butter creams from Jagielky’s, tuna hoagies from Dino’s, Saco’s, and White House, pizza from Jo-Jo’s, milkshakes from Lou’s, cinnamon buns from Michelle’s, and water ice from Mento’s. It would remember being the life of the party, the meeting place for friends and family, cocktail hours, hor d’oeuvres, barbecues, feasts. It would laugh at how messy it sometimes got, with water and whipped cream fights, sand in the beds, and that rebellious poodle making “pishy” yet again. It would talk of the family, gathering around the roulette wheel at the dinner table, launching fireworks from the deck, floating in the ocean, with the older generation in shower caps.

It would fondly remember a father showing his daughter every star in the sky, and a mother who told her to reach out for them. There would be stories of cousins becoming as close as siblings, listening to Grandpop's war stories, learning how to take a wave in from Gram. It would remember all of the hugs, the kisses, and the laughter that echoed through its walls. It would reminisce about Nanny and Pop-pop, and friends, who once walked this shore, and cry in joy at every new birth of a baby who would come to love its walls, its secrets, its memories, its view of the beach, the boardwalk, the birds, the ocean, the dolphins at sunset, the horizon, the past, present, future, this world and beyond.

Through the sound of the waves breaking gently upon the sand, it would whisper, very softly, “Can you remember, even just for a minute, a life as good as this?”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hardly a Housewife


"So, do you, like, feel like a housewife now?" my friend and former co-worker asked curiously over taco salads, about a month after I delivered my baby. My hemorrhoids had barely healed and I was delirious from dirty diapers and sleep deprivation. I was much more concerned with sitting than sweeping.

"Not even a little," I laughed, through a bite of lettuce and guacamole. "Not even a tad."

I may be on "eternity leave," but I am hardly a housewife. At least not a very good one.

To be a good housewife, I think, I must go to the supermarket more frequently than once every 5 weeks. And I must buy ingredients that can be used to create an actual entree for dinner, perhaps with assistance from a real recipe. What good are Sourpatch Kids, Puffed Kashi, and Cool Ranch Doritos in my pantry when I have long outgrown the munchies?

To be a good housewife, I know that I must clean often and often means not just the half hour before my housekeepers arrive, in a sheer panic. Sure, in my broken Spanish and over-the-top hand gestures, I can offer my housekeepers anything that I don't feel like cleaning, like my cluttered desk and chair, (which they took, happily), but if I keep that up, eventually, I'll be left without my walk-in closet, refrigerator, and toilet.

To be a good housewife, I'm pretty sure it's my job to keep all bugs, rodents, and other small animals out of my home. There is no excuse for a bird flying around in my living room, shrieking and flapping its wings, banging into the sliding glass door. And there is certainly no excuse for me to be hiding in my bedroom, door slammed shut, while my hungry baby watches me, eyes like saucers, as I scream into the phone, "Send Maintenance now...and send someone with a key! We're trapped in my bedroom and there's no way in hell I'm coming out to answer the door!"

To be a good housewife, I really should entertain. And I think "entertaining" means more than singing lullabies off-key and doing primitive African tribal dances for my husband with the musical accompaniment of Paul Simon singing Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes.

To be a good housewife, I obviously need to cook. A history of starting fires while baking cookies and getting banned from my mom's kitchen for the next year does not help. Neither did the squishy sounds and pops of chicken bones breaking in my 9th grade foods class as my teacher demonstrated how to make chicken soup. Even though I now possess my mother-in-law's famous meatball recipe, the only thing that I can make is a watery bolognese sauce which my husband is kind enough to eat. And although I'm growing basil in my kitchen, I have a long way to go in the culinary arts. Sure, I can chiffinade now thanks to a Williams Sonoma class, but I still can't stand to touch raw meat. When my cousin and I made our first brisket together last winter, we wore surgical gloves and I even considered putting on scrubs. Nevertheless, I am cooking. Recently, I created some concoctions reminiscent of when my sister and I used to mix orange juice and Pepsi back in the early '80s and dare one another to drink it. Last week I made ground sirloin nachos for dinner, inspired by Qudoba. Pathetic.

To be a good housewife, I must do loads of laundry every day. Finally, jackpot! I do, in fact, do laundry from the moment I wake up until the moment I pass out at night and I even do it in the middle of the night, in between making bottles. The problem is, I only do the baby's laundry and I allow mine to pile up like Mount Everest. His laundry comes first because he changes clothes about 8 times a day due to his tendency to spit up as regularly as Old Faithful. I confess, I don't help the situation much. Moments after I feed him a bottle, I dance him around and get him all riled up just because I love to see him smile and hear his angelic laugh. Now I'm changing clothes 8 times a day too. But, so what if the left shoulder of every shirt I own has a spit-up stain on it. Maybe that is the sign of a good housewife. However, I doubt a good housewife would have a mountain of those shirts sitting on her bathroom floor while she's laying in bed blogging.

So, due to my unexpected eternity leave, am I saying, "Adios attorney....hello....housewife?" I don't think so. Not today anyway.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Client I Can't Forget

"So you say you like civil rights?"
"Well, tell me, does this inmate have a case?"
60 years old, chronically ill, walks with a cane
Prison guards think he's insane…a real pain
He thinks he's a lawyer, just missed his calling
caught up in drugs, burglary….many things led to his falling
When he yells out, fights the system
They tighten his handcuffs….to stop him from writing
Swollen and bruised, he cries out for help
On a wing, everyone hears….and they've all heard cries before
from their victims, their cellmates….or from their own mouths
But "maximum security" offers none to them now
They are trapped inside a living hell
Where the line between good and bad is too often blurred
Prisoner or guard, the distinctions become absurd
"Yes," he has a case, excessive force
I'm straight outa law school, passionate without remorse
I drive to prison, put on my toughest face
When my client greets me, I take a deep breath
He is my father's age, just walked a different path
I believe your story, look him straight in the eyes
I know what happened, and sir, they heard your cries
You'll have your day in court, judge and jury
We're in this together, it's gonna be a journey
A year passes and we enter the courtroom
dressed in my husband's suit, my client looks dapper, smart, prepared
On the witness stand, he tells his story, and the judge is the only one who cares
The guard says he had contraband
Pen and paper were his weapons, they argued from the stand
My partner and I fight and fight
The jury looks away just like the guards did when his handcuffs were brutally tight
"Well, no broken bones," they say
"I'll believe a guard over a prisoner any day."
The verdict is in and there is no justice, yet a smile appears on my client's face
“I’ll never forget y’all, the dignity you've shown me, or your grace"
We shake hands and send him the suit as a gift
"please wear this, sir, when you are free and need a lift"
"I'll never forget you either, your story, or your face
The dignity you've displayed, your intelligence, or your grace."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reflections on a job, well, . . . done.


I am 6 months into my maternity leave and I just learned that it has somehow morphed into "eternity leave."

I have been laid-off. Outrageous? Of course. Unjust? Absolutely. Am I bitter? Nah.

In fact, in my reflective and nostalgic state, I have compiled a list of things that I will miss most about my old job and things that I certainly will not miss. So here it is:

The things that I will miss most:

1. Peering out the window of my Center City high-rise office and catching a glimpse of a topless woman brushing her long blond locks in a luxury hotel room window across the street.

2. Calling my colleague and confidante down the hall and screaming into the phone, "NAKED DUDE! OH MY GOD! NAKED DUDE IN WINDOW WITH WOMAN BRUSHING HAIR! Do you SEE THIS?!"

3. Listening to my confidante reply, "Oh my god! He just took the brush! He's brushing her hair! I can't believe this! I'm blushing, I'm shvitzing!"

4. Hosting "Friday concerts" in my office and playing DJ on my ipod set-up while my friend belted out everything from the Dead's Sunshine Daydream to Neil Diamond's version of Chavah Nagilah despite her complete lack of rhythm.

5. Overhearing one of the partners, a former school teacher, telling an associate sternly, "No hugging in the halls!" when she was caught embracing the mailroom guy.

6. Getting e-vites to sex toy parties hosted by the mailroom guy's baby mama.

7. Opening emails inviting the entire staff to the "caf" for leftover pastries, excess halloween candy, or best of all, hot soft pretzels.

8. Watching 4 out of the 4 parnters fall asleep at the monthly attorney lunch, sometimes with their heads bowing dangerously close to the tuna sandwiches on their plates in front of them.

9. Blindfolding the partners and watching them try to smash a pinata at our firm bridal showers after throwing back a few margaritas.

10. Watching a 10 pound bunny rabbit with a 5 pound goiter hopping around under my associate's desk. Harvard Law School's finest!

11. Celebrating major milestones in my life (engagement, marriage, pregnancy) over Dunkin' Donuts in the "caf," even though certain members of the firm tended to fight over the ever popular "manager's special" doughnut with chocolate frosting on the outside and white cream inside.

12. Seeing the blur of one of the partners whizzing by my office door as she ran faster than a speeding bullet down the hall. (Late for the train? Bursting bladder?)

13. Seeing that same blur whizzing by my office in the other direction. (Was she running suicides through the office? Training for the Broad St. Run?) We will never know.

14. Listening to the double-amputee outside of my office building sing, with great enthusiasm but little ability to carry a tune, "I Just Called To Say I Love You," on his karaoke machine that he rolled with.

15. Keeping the local economy alive by dining out for lunch every day with my girls, eating more guacamole than any human being with my body mass index should ever consume in a lifetime, and laughing about topics that I would not dare post on this blog.

16. Getting urgent phone calls from my friend down the hall, whispering, "Stace, you gotta come help me! I need to pee and I'm stuck inside my suit pants! My zipper is broken! (pause) Can you please bring your scissors?"

Things That I Most Certainly Will Not Miss:

1. Creepy Christmas elves that two partners hid in every nook and cranny throughout the firm when December 1st rolled around. Even the ladies' room was not spared.

2. Suspicious smells and sights in bathroom stall #4.

3. Security updates alerting us about anything and everything deemed a threat; from hundreds of Mumia Abdul-Jamal supporters protesting outside City Hall to a dozen musicians playing string instruments along with a seasonal choir group infiltrating our building lobby.

4. Needing to pump iron at the gym just so I could carry loads of files and boxes to court or a deposition while the partner carried his briefcase only.

5. Getting a new office phone list every day and trying to figure out who had been fired secretly.

6. Smelling the pungent plant in my neighbor's office mixed with the greasy spring rolls he enjoyed eating for lunch. Every single day.

7. Getting reamed out by 25 year old snotty court clerks who would respond to my filing questions by screaming into the phone, "Miss, you really should consult a lawyer!" "Uhhh, okay, thank you."

8. Suffering through painfully awkward silences at attorney happy hours, (hosted in our main conference room) and figuring out how I could contribute to the usual conversations about hunting or UFOS or the complexities of being a vegan in this day and age.

9. Scrubbing the fluorescent orange crumbs from my fingertips after attorney happy hours filled with Jack's, Cheetos, and other orange staples from the 1980s.

10. Getting lectured by the plant lady who came biweekly and frowned at my cactus and other Little Shop of Horrors-looking plant while warning me that I needed to be a good "parent" and "nurture them." "I'm too busy nurturing this baby," I would say patting my protruding navel while throwing back a full box of srawberry Nerds.

11. Counting the times that the partner/former schoolteacher patrolled the hallways each day with her bowl of cheerios, watching us wayward schoolgirls like a hawk.

12. Having to dress up in "business casual" attire for "Casual Fridays," as jeans were strictly forbidden.


Now that I'm on "eternity leave," I plan to gorge on guacamole, wear jeans whenever the spirit moves me, and nurture my baby boy, my writing, and my plants. And here's a security alert: TO THE NEW GUY WHO "TEMPORARILY" took over my office when I was 8 months pregnant, watch out for the topless woman brushing her hair in the hotel window across the street and don't be surprised if you see her give you the finger.

Last to Arrive, First to Depart


It was supposed to be the best day of the entire summer. It was supposed to be a time for joyful reunions. It was supposed to be a day when we could get anything we asked for, sort of like Hanukah in July. Simply magical.

It was 1984 and I was 8 years old, away from home for the first time for 8 weeks at Camp Akiba, along with my 11 year old sister.

Every camper began contemplating visiting day from day 1. I wrote home to my parents, sweet letters full of, “I learned to dive today,” “I got up on water-skis,” “the food sucks.” Then came the real purpose: “On visiting day, please bring: a leather jacket for Snoopy, new Guess jeans (because I need something good to trade with my NY bunkmates), jelly bracelets, 5 pounds of salami, squirt cheese, crackers, Doritos, chocolate covered pretzels,…” It went on and on. Most campers saw visiting day as simply a time to stock up the candy trunk, get new clothes, or anything else on their wish lists.

The preparations leading up to visiting day were intense: there were lice checks 2 weeks out so that any infestation could be discovered and wiped out before the parents arrived. There was a field trip one week out to a Pocono beach, which was really just a parcel of gravel overlooking a roped-off lake so full of e-coli that we were not allowed to swim. Nevertheless, this exciting excursion would be fresh in our minds when our parents arrived. There was a steak dinner 14 hours out so that we could tell our parents about the “gourmet” camp food and beg them to sign us up again for next summer.

Visiting Day was a thrill for spectators. All of the campers were split up alphabetically by last name and sent to one of four locations to wait for their parents to arrive. The counselors, in their brand new staff polo shirts acted as preppy security guards who formed a human chain link fence to keep the kids sequestered. As soon as a camper spotted his parents, he would dash through the counselors’ arms at top speed and launch himself through the air. We all watched this scene over and over again, clapping, hooting and hollering, as 50-pound little boys and girls defied gravity, knocking their mothers to the ground, then rolling and hugging and laughing as the moms wiped dirt off of their brand new shorts outfits.

This scene played out over and over again, but not in my family. My parents were the last to arrive.

As an 8 year old child, away from home for the first time, it was so frazzling that my 11 year old sister and I decided to make believe that we saw our parents, just so we could slip out of the counselor fence. We ran a short distance, hid behind a tree, and looked at each other bewildered that our parents still were not there and now we were trouncing in the woods like Hansel and Gretel.

At that moment, I felt sweat dripping down the back of my neck onto my brand new Camp Akiba special visiting day tee-shirt. My sister must have seen the fear in my eyes because she stared at me as if to say, “What?!” I leaned over and barfed in the bushes. I mean, parents from California and Florida, married, divorced, and estranged, were all there before my parents!

Once my parents finally got their asses up that Pocono mountain, a whopping 90 miles from our home, hugged and kissed us for 5 minutes, they decided they didn’t really want to be there at all. They couldn’t stand the heat, the mosquitoes, the bug juice served in the dining hall. They didn’t want to tour our bunks, play tennis, meet our friends and counselors. No, they had another idea.

Despite the camp rule that insisted that parents remain on the premises with their children, my parents wanted to break us out like fugitives. Yes, my parents, who once out-ran a Pennsylvania state trooper on the turnpike and who grew pot in our backyard, which the elderly neighbors raved were the most beautiful tomato plants they had ever seen, were not going to follow a stupid Visiting Day rule. Hell no! Nancy and Tom relished rule breaking.

Duck down!” My mom commanded us, giggling, as my dad’s Mercedes flew by the camp security guard in the exit gate.

“Don’t let him see you!” My parents smiled and waved at the guard, while giggling like two schoolgirls up to no good. This caused more anxiety for me, a child who had just lost her breakfast under a tree only thirty minutes earlier. But, I ducked in the backseat, along with my sister, as my dad cranked up Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

“Step on it, Tom!” my mom encouraged him, just as she had done when they had eluded the state trooper.

“Don’t worry, doll, I got my training on the Autobahn!” My dad laughed, as he leaned to the right, rounding a curve.

“Whooohooo!” my dad yelled out the sunroof, throwing his head back, elated to have his three girls back together again. We laughed in hysterics as my dad sped off down the windy mountain road.

After all, camp was about the adventure.

Where my parents took us didn’t really matter.

“Who wants pierogies?” My mom asked as if they were a delicacy. My family ate pierogies exactly once a year. On visiting day. During our jailbreak. At any random Pocono snack bar that sold them.

“I’ll have pierogies!” I said, “but what if my counselors are looking for me?”

“Oh, stop being such a worry wart!” my sister chided.

“But none of the other parents sneak their kids . . .” I attempted.

“Bor-ing! The other parents are sooooo lame! My mom declared.

“Sweetheart, you know Heenans hate rules!” My dad my added.

“I just don’t want to get in trouble,” I said more to myself than anyone else in the car.

“We’re with mommy and daddy…like, what’s going to happen?” my sister prodded, rolling her eyes.

I flashed back to 4th of July weekend, when I was two years old, and I ventured down the beach to fill up my yellow bucket with ocean water and somehow got lost amidst hundreds of beachgoers. “Don’t come back until you find her!” My mom had warned my dad.

My mind wandered to the time that my mom missed a train to New York City because she jumped off to get a snack moments before we departed. I remember my grandmom shaking her red hair in disapproval, as the train left the station without my mom. “Your mother is so irresponsible!” She seethed, as my sister and I looked at one another and giggled.

I secretly hoped my dad would just speed right down the Northeast Extension and back to Bryn Mawr with us in the backseat.

After our unlawful field trip, we returned to camp and my parents seemed a bit bored. Maybe they had adult A.D.D. Maybe they just hated camp. Maybe visiting day brought back suppressed memories of my mom’s torturous days as a camper, begging to come home every day. Maybe my parents just didn’t know the proper visiting day etiquette. Whatever it was, even though they were the last to arrive, they were the first to depart.

“Really, you’re leaving NOW?” My sister asked mortified, glaring at my mom. “But you just got here!”

“Honey, visiting day is over in an hour,” My mom explained in a sweet tone, hugging and kissing each of us. “And, besides, you’ll be home in just four more weeks!”

I wanted to explain to her that all of the other parents literally had to be pried away from their children with the “jaws of life” one hour AFTER visiting day officially ended. In fact, there would be one, two, three or more announcements over the PA system: “Attention parents, visiting day is NOW OVER!” These messages would grow more and more urgent for the final stragglers who could not bear to leave their children.

My parents never heard these messages. They were long gone by then, back in their central air, reminiscing about our successful jailbreak, probably eating some version of chicken that my mom made for dinner from her favorite cookbook, “365 Ways to Make Chicken.” Back at camp, my sister and I managed to find loving families from Long Island to “adopt” us for the next hour or two.

To this day, when I think of visiting day at summer camp, I shudder remembering the trauma of my parents being the last to arrive and the first to depart. When my son goes away to summer camp, rest assured I'll be first in line on visiting day and last to leave. And, of course, I'll bust him out for some pierogies!


Pages