Archive | March, 2015

The Sunday Crossword Puzzle Is a Family Tradition For Some

29 Mar

Puzzle

I never do the Sunday Crossword Puzzle when I am home alone. I do get the Sunday New York Times delivered to my house each week, because I cannot see a life without the large Sunday paper on my driveway. I grew up in a home where the Sunday paper was important. We each would take our sections and sit and read quietly, while my Dad did the puzzle.

Daddy loved to do crossword puzzles. When he was retired, he would start each day with a cup of coffee and the newest puzzle in the newspaper. He usually would use a pencil, but at times Dad used a pen. His ability to solve the puzzle was amazing. In fact I knew after his heart surgery when he was back to himself because he was once more able to complete the puzzle in under hour. For a while, after his open-heart surgery, he struggled.

My Dad had one major competitor for the puzzles, my sister. As she grew up, she wanted to do to the puzzles as well. I think they even bought two Sunday newspapers when my sister was living at home while she attended law school. It alleviated fights as they both could complete these impossible weekly puzzles on their own.

They were not good at sharing the puzzle. This made life more bearable for my Mom.   I am not sure if they competed to see who would complete it first, but it would not surprise me if they did.

I just did not want to get involved in the puzzle battles. I would answer a question about a word, if asked. But usually I stayed out of the way. It could be very intense. And although I was an English major and knew many of the references, I was afraid to get involved. What if I made a mistake? So I just bought my own puzzle books and stayed out of the fray.

When my sister married, she married another crossword puzzle addict. They and their children would sit around on Sunday and read the clues out loud so everyone had a chance to answer. They would also take turns being the one to write down the answers. A new family tradition was born. It was a world of word puzzle cooperation!

My husband was not interested in puzzles. So we never developed the tradition of doing the crossword puzzles together. Whenever my parents came to visit me in Kansas, I would read the section of the newspaper with the puzzle in it first so that when my Dad was ready he could do the puzzle. Sometimes one of my children would sit with him when he worked the puzzle, but it was more of watching than participating. Occasionally, my Dad would ask for help with a word.

I would buy my Dad crossword puzzle books so that he would have something to do when we were having down time. I even purchased him a crossword puzzle mug to use when he visited my family. I still have the mug. Whenever I use it I think of my Dad.

In the Catskills a different crossword puzzle tradition developed. My cousin also loves the Sunday puzzle. Every Sunday friends and cousins gather on his lake front property with the latest puzzle. It is passed around to those interested in working on it. Completing the Sunday Times puzzle is a process of teamwork. Clues are read out loud. Comments are made. The group effort often works.

I enjoy joining in because I like the concept of the crossword puzzle. I took my husband to see the movie, “Wordplay,” about the New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz and a crossword competition. I loved the movie. I enjoyed seeing the joy of the competitors as they did well.

So I had to think, “Why did I never get into crossword puzzles when I love word games so much?” I think it was because doing these puzzles was my Dad’s thing to do. And I would not compete. My sister moved back home after college after developing the love of crosswords while at school. So when she lived at home while attending law school, she and my Dad had to work out a compromise; it was purchasing two papers.

Except for a summer or two, I never lived at home again after college. I went to grad school and married. And the crossword puzzle tradition ended in my home, except when my parents visited. I also think that if online crossword puzzles had existed sooner, I might have been more interested.   With online puzzles, each person can work on their own without interfering with others. But even my sister, who does weekday puzzles online, admits that on Sunday she wants to work on a the paper puzzle.

When I get my Sunday Times. I read it over a two-day period. I save the Book Review and the Sunday Magazine for last. Often reading them on Tuesday. But I have never touched the puzzle. When I am with others, I love working on it. So, perhaps it is time for me to take on this tradition and attempt to complete the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle. Perhaps I need to develop a new Sunday tradition.

Advertisements

Crocheting Toddler Blankets Is Keeping Me Busy

26 Mar

Although I am not a grandmother yet, I recently became a Great Aunt. And I have more ‘grand’ babies on the way. I am excited. I love seeing a new generation and watch my nieces and nephews become parents.

I have, over the years, seen many of my friend’s children and former students become parents. And I have enjoyed buying gifts and holding these new arrivals. But it did not occur to me to start crocheting gifts for these beloved babies.

I think I was so wrapped up in my doily making that I forgot that I could make something bigger. I made lots of baby and toddler blankets and sweaters when my children were little. I stopped when I broke my elbow. I only made small items after the accident. However, I have been healed for years.

My other issue is that I love cotton yarn. I do not like to crochet with polyester and other synthetics. So what to do? Baby blankets are usually soft and cuddly because they are made with manufactured yarns.

Thanks to a post on a Facebook group that I follow, Crochet Addict, I had a answer. Someone asked what else could be made with Sugar’n Cream, 100 percent cotton yarn. This yarn is usually used to make kitchen towels and washcloths. I have made some washcloths for a good friend from this yarn. I love crocheting with Sugar’n Cream yarn, but did not know quite what else to do with it.

On the comment line, someone said they made baby blankets from this yarn. I was hooked. Baby blankets? I could do that. The next day I went to one of my local mega craft stores (Michael’s) and bought some brightly colored Sugar’n Cream yarn. I also bought a pattern book for crocheting “Blankets for Toddlers.”   And I began a new journey. The other thing I like about this yarn is that it washes so well. Since it is made for kitchen work, it is also strong. Perfect for use with little children.

First two blankets with Sugar'n Cream yarn.

First two blankets with Sugar’n Cream yarn.

My first blanket is slightly off kilter. I did not plan well with the weight of the yarn and the pattern. So it is longer and narrower then I wanted it to be. But then I saw that people make blankets this size to use in strollers. So it will be used. I am presenting it to a neighbor who just had a little girl on my husband and my 35th wedding anniversary. She is the first baby born since I started making blankets.

My second blanket has come out much more in the shape I wanted.   I went back to Michael’s when the store was having a yarn sale. There is one problem with this yarn. It is sold, at Michaels, in just 2 ounce and 2 ½ ounce skeins. It is difficult to find enough skeins with the same lot number to make a full blanket! (The lot number means that the skeins were dyed on the same day at the same time. If they were not dyed together, then the colors can be slightly off and fade differently.)

I solved this problem by buying three colors and putting skeins of the same dye lots together, while separating them from other dye lots with the other colors. It forms a striped blanket, using one stitch throughout. I think it looks darn good.

Now I am ready to begin blanket number three. I have to make four in all by September. I was out and about and decided to go to a different mega craft store, Joann’s Fabric. I was in for a surprise. At Joann’s, the Sugar’n Cream yarn comes in bigger skeins! There are both three and four ounce skeins. But more than that, the store sells 14-ounce skeins on the cardboard tubes. I can definitely get the same lot numbers there. I now have enough yarn to make my third blanket. And I have a plan in mind for blanket number four!

My new Clover hooks.

My new Clover hooks.

I am having a great time. Especially since with this blanket, I will be able to use my new crochet hooks. Clover crochet hooks were another great idea from the Crochet Addict group. Someone posted a photo of these wonderful European crochet hooks that have a thicker handle. That is the most difficult part of using this yarn for me, the slipping handle. I am hoping these new hooks work better and cause less stress on my hands.

Once I finish the blankets I have promised myself I would make for grand nieces and nephews, I know I will keep making baby blankets. I posted a photo of the two I finished and now some of my younger generation friends want one for their children. I am happy to oblige!

When I am done with those, I will still make the blankets! A friend I know makes them and donates them to a hospital NICU for new babies who need lots of love. I will crochet lots of love in each blanket I make.

I am so happy that crocheting toddler blankets is keeping me busy. And am happy that all my blankets will be going to loving homes.

 

An Odd Affinity To Jelllyfish Attacks

23 Mar
I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

When the tentacle wrapped around my son’s leg in Long Island Sound (Connecticut side), people started running. I was not sure what was going on at first. My son, then about three years old, was standing in about 6 inches of water. His hand firmly grasped by a 10-year-old with two 8-year-old children next to them. We were all together, and I was watching closely.

But I did not see what was just under the water. My son started screaming. I ran over and grabbed him, as a man came running towards me. It was scary. What did this man want? He was yelling something at me, but it took a minute to understand that a giant, dead jellyfish has drifted over to the beach and one of its tentacles had wrapped around my son’s thigh.

As the man ran over to me, he was yelling, “We need to get your son to first aid NOW!” I looked down, and there just under the edge of my son’s swimsuit was a giant welt that encircled his thigh. Bright red and raised, the welt was growing before my eys.

By this time my son was holding his breathe. I could see his lips turning blue. He was so scared and in pain. I had him enveloped in my arms, as the man rushed me towards the lifeguard station. But we did not move far, the lifeguard was on his way running to me, with a squirt bottle in hand. He had heard all the commotion and knew something had occurred.

He sprayed my son’s leg with vinegar. The smell was sickly sweet. But I could see my son relax a bit, as the cool liquid eased the pain and started working on the jellyfish venom.

Needless to say, it was the end of our relaxing day at the beach. Even 21 years later, I can close my eyes and relive this moment and the entire hour or so that my son sobbed till he fell asleep from exhaustion. And I do not mean whimpers. I mean full-throated screams of agony. My friend, my Mom, the three girls and I all wanted his pain to end.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My son developed a healthy fear of jellyfish. He loved the water and he loved swimming. But no longer ever wanted to go into ocean. When we went to Florida to see his grandparents, we would walk along the beach the night before, checking for jellyfish. When he saw a jellyfish lying on the beach he would run in the other direction or hop over them. Usually the beach would be closed if we saw jellyfish. Which was just fine. Most of the time, he just wanted to swim in the pool. And I agreed. I did not want to go through that fear again.

Our family love to go to aquariums when we travel. He loved going as well, but he would quickly run past the jellyfish tanks. He wanted nothing to do them. He did not even want to see them.

I would like to say that this was his last encounter with a jellyfish.

Move forward 12 years. We are again in Florida visiting grandparents. One evening we had dinner with my nephew, who was studying marine biology. He told us all about the different jellyfish and Portuguese Man o Wars, which were common in Florida. And how jellyfish and Man o Wars were not the same things. A Portuguese Man o War was not a jellyfish! Our nephew made that clear. My son was unhappy with the dinner conversation. I think the conversation was actually a foreshadow of what would come the next day.

We were visiting friends on the coast. My son, my college-aged daughter and her then boyfriend went down t the beach to enjoy the great day. The adults stayed upstairs on the balcony and enjoyed visiting. We were getting cleaned up and ready to leave when the younger adults arrived back upstairs. My daughter announced loudly as they entered the apartment that my son ‘was stung by a jellyfish!” He is in pain.”

“Very funny, “ I responded. Thinking that she was joking because of our dinner conversation last night.

“No,” her boyfriend added. “He really got stung. Just as we were getting out of the water”

I looked at my son. Oh no! They really were not joking. I could see that he was in PAIN.

Mother mode kicked in. He really was stung by a jellyfish AGAIN! Well actually not a jellyfish, it was a Portuguese Man o War, even worse!!!

Someone went on line to see what we should do. Did getting stung a second time add to the impact and chances of a systemic reaction? Should I take him to an emergency room? I called my husband, who had remained home during our trip to see grandparents. Probably did not need to take him to the hospital, but needed to watch him for a bit. (My husband is a pediatric allergist, so it did make sense to call him.)

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

Vinegar would help. But the only vinegar my friends had was wine vinegar. We used it. We doused my son’s foot in wine vinegar. And then the jokes began. He did smell like a salad. And their dog did want to lick his leg. We got him calmed down as the pain ebbed. And we overstayed our visit by an hour or so, as we waited to make sure there was no reaction.

All was well. My son recovered.

But his odd affinity to jellyfish attacks have created an environment for jellyfish jokes which have become a permanent part of my son’s family life. I must admit, I am among the worst.   My husband and I travel often. And I still love aquariums. I have been to the aquariums in Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, and more. And each time I go, I take photos of the jellyfish tanks then I email these photos my son.

Sometimes I even buy him jellyfish gifts.

He always smiles and says something like, “Really. This is what you got me.”

But finally I bought him a jellyfish gift that he loves.

His cat’s favorite cat toy had disappeared. He was bemoaning this to me one day, and told him I was going to the pet store to get food for my cat. So I would look for something.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

I found the best toy ever. Developed by National Geographic, part of the price of this perfect toy goes to support animals. It is a jellyfish filled with catnip on a stick. I had to buy it.

When my son came over to pick it up, he laughed. “Really a jellyfish toy?”

“Yes,” I said. You can finally get your revenge. Whenever your cat attacks the jellyfish toy, you can envision those jellyfish that attacked you getting attacked by your cat.”

And he smiled his best smile and agreed it was a wonderful idea.

 

The Final Frantic and Frenetic Search.

20 Mar

“I put it in a safe place.” Seven little words that put dread into our hearts whenever our Mom uttered this sentence. They were always followed by, “but I don’t remember where I put it.” This usually happened right before my parents were going out and she needed a special piece of jewelry to wear.

And it had nothing to do with her age. My Mom started putting her jewelry into a safe place into our apartment in North Bergen when we were young. The problem was that she never remembered the location of the safe place for that item. She could find other items, but never the one she was searching for at that moment.

My Dad, brother, sister and I would jump into action. We would search the house starting with her favorite hiding places. (Places I will not disclose, because maybe someone in my family still uses these places.) It would be a frantic and frenetic search,

Sometimes we found the item, but other times it was lost for almost forever. I say almost, because often, many years later the item would turn up.   My mother had a beautiful silver and semi-precious stone wedding band that disappeared for a decade. It was found in the bottom of her closet, years later by my father, quite accidently. So safe places did work.

I think my Mom got this urge to hide items from her mother. My grandparents grew up in Europe and hid money and jewelry throughout their home in the Catskills.   They had a safe, but they also buried items in the crawl space and within items throughout their home. It was fear that led to this habit. The fear of the need to be able to grab something and run, but still have some money. Luckily they never had to do that in the USA.

They had owned a bakery in West New York, NJ. And my Grandma kept every silver coin that ever came into the store. She once told me that when a silver coin came in, she would put it in her apron pocket and later get a coin from her purse to replace it to make sure the drawer balanced in the evening.

When Grandma passed away, the family was in the Kauneonga Lake for the summer.  I had flown in from Kansas. Under my Grandpa’s instructions, we opened every purse, every shoebox, and checked every coat pocket.  He said, “Don’t throw anything out till you open it. She hid things.”  And he knew his wife. Because Grandma did hide money and jewelry.

We found over 900 silver coins: silver dollars, half dollars, quarters and dimes. Money was hidden everywhere. By the end of the weekend of cleaning, we had bags filled with coins and bills. The coins were divided between her two children and among all the five grandchildren. The money was put into the bank for my Grandpa.

After my Grandpa died, I inherited their bedroom set. My Mom sent it to me with items still inside. She could not bring herself to clean it out. In a small top drawer I found a little purse of my Grandma’s. Inside the purse was $10.00. We missed that! I still have it, put away in a safe place.

My Mom developed this need to hide things, I am sure, from her parents. And so she hid her jewelry throughout their home. It helped the one time we were robbed in North Bergen when I was in high school.   The thieves searched and destroyed my parents’ bedroom. But never found her hidden stash. Her secret and safe place was so good, even the thieves could not find it!

Later, when they moved, her hiding jewelry was so crazy, as they actually had a safe in their apartment. But when she died, the jewelry was missing. It was not in their safe deposit box at the bank. That would have been easy. It was not in the safe in their home, another easy spot. No, Mom had hidden her stash away. And it was our job to do one last search; one last mystery to solve. Thanks Mom!

My sister was frantic. She called me six weeks after Mom died and a few days before I flew out to Jersey to help clean my Mom’s items from the apartment. (In Judaism you do not clean out a person’s items for at least a month. So my sister and I were getting ready to do this.)

“I cannot find Mom’s jewelry,” was her comment. Not said in a calm way at all, kind of an hysterical laughing scream.

“Don’t worry! We will find it,” I replied. I really was not worried. I knew it was in a safe place somewhere in that 1600 square foot apartment.  We would find her hidden stash.

When I got to New Jersey, my sister, nieces, daughter and I started cleaning. We opened every shoebox and every purse. But I knew it was not in those. My Mom was so stressed by what my Grandma had done so many years ago, I did not think she would make us go through the same stress. But we checked everything.

My Mom was more organized. She had a little cloth eyeglass bag that she often put her jewelry in. I started searching all the boxes and bags she had piled around the shelves and floor of the closet. There were many! And then:

EUREKA!

I found the jewelry. My sister was so relieved. She sort of sighed a deep sigh. But I felt sad.

‘I put it in a safe place’ had so much meaning that those words had a safe place in my heart. I can still vividly hear my Mom’s voice saying these seven little words. In a way, finishing the search broke my heart. I knew the last safe place was discovered. The last frantic and frenetic search was completed.

 

A Piece of Crumb Cake or A Crumb Bun Equals Love

15 Mar

Crumb cake and crumb buns, I can still taste them. Eating a crumb cake in my family is like eating love.   As the powdered sugar drips and the crumbs fall, we see and smell happy memories. I can not tell you how many important family discussions were held while we sat around eating crumb cake, but there were many. Crumb cake kept us together and talking.

My Grandpa Nat was a baker. My grandparents owned a kosher bakery in West New York, New Jersey. And among my favorite foods were the crumb buns. I say among my favorites, because I liked other items as well: chocolate chip cookies, black and white cookies and rye bread. But for my Mom, there was really just one love: the crumb buns were always the number one item for her.

She told me that as a little girl she were go down to the bakery in the morning and check out the tray of crumb buns, looking for the best one: the one with the most crumbs; the one with the biggest crumbs. And then my grandmother would cut that crumb bun out for my Mom to eat.

I would like to say that she outgrew this need. But she never did. Even after my grandparents closed their bakery in the late 1960s, my Mom still needed a crumb bun fix. When she could no longer find them in bakeries, she turned to Entenmann’s crumb cake to get her fix! Yes, my Mom was a crumb bun/cake addict.

She would share anything with her children and grandchildren, but when it came to crumb cake, she still had to choose the best piece with the best crumbs for herself. We sometimes ‘fought’ over the best piece, but in the end Mom would get it.

Mom loved to eat crumb cake on a paper towel or napkin. She would put the cake upside down on the paper, and eat the cake first. Saving the crumbs for last, she would eat the biggest crumbs first and slowly work her way to the smallest crumbs. Near the end she would fold the paper towel so that the crumbs would gather together. Then when she had picked up all the pieces she could, she would lick her finger to pick up the last crumbs. I still eat my crumb cake that way.

Her children and grandchildren learned early on that Grandma would steal their crumbs when they weren’t looking. Yes she would. If she saw a crumb on your piece of cake that was extremely large, she would just reach over and take it. In fact, sometimes we would notice that the cake in the box would be missing a few crumbs. Mom had secretly taken those crumbs when no one was around.

But the ‘stealing’ went two ways. Sometimes, after my Mom chose her perfect piece, she would leave the room for a minute. Then my Dad would pounce, and hide her cake. He would act surprised and say something like, “That was yours? Sorry I already ate it.” But she knew it was close by.   And he would give it back to her like a guilty teenager.

Finding the piece of cake with the best crumb ever was an important goal. My sister and I soon realized it was best to be up early in the morning to look for the best piece of crumb cake. But it did not matter, Mom usually beat us to the best piece.  As my sister remembers, and it is true,  sometimes the crumb cake was missing a piece from the middle!  Mom had been there first, claiming the piece with the best crumbs.

Entenmann's Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

Entenmann’s Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

The tradition took on new meaning when the grandchildren arrived. It was wonderful fun eating crumb cake together. The crumb cake, which was kept high on top of the refrigerator, would be taken down. Everyone would gather around to look at it, trying to figure out which piece they would get. The corners, of course, were the best pieces. Mom always got one of those.

In the summer time, the crumb cake tradition was not only for mornings. In the evenings, as we had our tea, someone would always bring the crumb cake down from the refrigerator. The grandchildren would come running to participate in the feast. Sometimes it was just all the girls eating with Grandma. But other times, the boys would join in as well. In my mind’s eye, I see them all giggling around the table having tea and crumb cake.

When I moved to Kansas, I was so excited to see Entenmann’s crumb cakes at the grocery store. I bought one every time my parents came to visit. But more important, I bought one whenever I felt homesick. Having a piece of crumb cake with my children, always made me feel closer to my Mom.

Even when my Mom was at her sickest, she could usually eat a piece of crumb cake. She would get a look of childlike delight when the cake would be put on the table. She still analyzed every piece, looking for the piece she wanted to eat.

For a month, when my Mom was sick, my daughter lived with my parents. My daughter told how each evening, my Mom would ask for her cake. “Find the most crumbs,” my Mom would say. And my daughter would cut my Mom the best piece of crumb cake and bring it to her. It lightened the day.

When my Mom passed away, eating a piece of Entenmann’s crumb cake became even more important. I felt close to her when I ate the crumbs from the paper towel. Sounds silly, I know. But in those first months it did help. However, about six months after she died, the grocery stores in the Kansas City area, where I live, stopped selling the crumb cake. I felt crushed. I was devastated. I no longer could have my crumb cake fix. I no longer could feel that connection with my Mom.

I can still get crumb cake when I go back east to New Jersey and visit my siblings. My sister almost always buys a crumb cake for us to enjoy during my stay.  It helps. That bond with crumb cake is part of our existence.

IMG_1663

I actually had a lamp made after my mom died that has some of her favorite sayings on it. The Sticks campany, which makes painted furniture, will personalize their items. And so I had something made in memory of Mom. On one side, I had them engrave, “Crumb cake ❤ Love.”

 

 

 

http://www.entenmanns.com/op-prod.cfm/prodId/7203001994#.VQWQLmTF_Ao

 

www.sticks.com

 

My Refrigerator Holds Memories in its Magnets

12 Mar

My refrigerator drives my husband crazy. Not the appliance itself, but rather the hundreds of magnets that have been placed on it over the years. Many of my friends have switched to stainless steel refrigerators, but I cannot do that . What would I do with my magnets?

When I see my magnets, I have memories. Many of these magnets I purchased on trips or at events. Some were gifts from a friend. But most hold special memories for me.

Thanks to a chance trip to an IKEA store and a wonderful magnetic board on which I moved many of my magnets, my magnet collection has areas of themes. Instead of a mishmash of magnets all over, I was able to make montages and delineate sections.   Well I think I have.

IMG_4959

There are the three magnets from Kauneonga Lake, NY, that highlight the Woodstock concerts. The oldest I bought at Vassmer’s when they had a little Woodstock museum set up in one of the storefronts.   One is from 1994 and the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. And the final one came from the BethEl Woods Museum, which celebrated the 40th anniversary in 2009.

I close my eyes and I am in Kauneonga Lake reliving that summer. Close to these magnets I keep a photo from the Catskills that includes my grandmothers and great aunt. There are other magnets near by, but it is the Catskills memory that stands out in this montage.

On the front of my refrigerator are all sorts of magnets.   Some from musicals I attended, others from places I visited. Some show sayings that I think are important.   My magnet collection seems very organized now. And it is.   Most of the magnets you see there are square or rectangle in shape creating organized lines upon lines of magnets.

IMG_4960

When I see a magnet from a favorite show, the music runs through my mind. I see the action and dance and the people who attended the show with me. Great memories.  My magnets hold up important notes and pictures written or drawn by my children or a special child friend.  These need a place to stay, and the refrigerator is that place.

In another corner of the freezer door, I keep my lucky magnets. Hamsas of different shapes and other magnets that I found on trips to Israel and Greece adorn this space.

IMG_4963

Interspersed throughout the magnets and all over the refrigerator are the photos of important people and children: my children, my nieces and nephews, my grandparents, cousins. The magnets hold up the photos, and in some cases the pictures are within magnet frames. All of these pictures hold a special place in my heart.

IMG_4961

The magnetic board I purchased at IKEA contains over 100 magnets from some of my favorite places: Disneyworld, Prince Edward Island and the Anne of Green Gables home, Bahamas, New York City, Aspen, Lego Land, New Orleans, Seattle. Looking at this board gives me joy because I remember so many wonderful places I traveled to with my husband and my family! I can remember the excitement in visiting each new place.

My husband did not appreciate my efforts of magnet organization. He thinks the refrigerator is still overwhelmed by magnets. Perhaps he is right. Perhaps I need to go back to IKEA and buy another magnetic board. The magnets will not disappear. The memories stored in my magnets are too important to me.

Drinking a Glass of Tea is a Family Tradition

5 Mar

Every evening, some time after dinner, I have a cup of hot tea. Each evening I ask my husband the same question as I prepare my tea, “Hey do you want a cup of tea?” Nine times out of ten he answers, “No.”

That was not the response in my home growing up. My parents always had a cup of tea together after dinner. That is when they would have some cookies or dessert. They would sit in the kitchen with their snack and have tea together. It did not matter if they were in our home in North Bergen or our bungalow in the Catskills, When they got older the tradition continued in their apartments in Cliffside Park and in Florida.   Wherever they were, after dinner they had to have a cup of tea.

Perhaps that is why I love tea.

Although they usually drank Swee-Touch-Nee tea (which I always called sweet touch me tea), when they came to visit me, they tried other teas as well.

photo (13)

I keep mint, chamomile, English Breakfast, Constant Comment, and all sorts of herbal teas in my home. For them I always bought some Swee-Touch-Nee tea, including some green tea. Whenever they stayed at my home, I always joined them in drinking a cup of tea after dinner. This tradition sometimes drove my husband crazy.

An example, we took my parents to eat in their first fast food restaurant when we lived in Michigan. We had to be somewhere at a certain time, and were eating along the way.   My Mom wanted a hamburger, cooked medium. That was the first indication to my husband that this was a bad idea. But Mom accepted that all the burgers were cooked the same.

It was when my Dad wanted tea after we ate that my husband lost it a little. “Dad,” he said. “We are here at a fast food restaurant because we have to eat fast. We really do not have time for tea.”

I promised that when we got home later that evening, I would make tea for them. And I did.

In fact, whenever we went out to dinner, Dad had to have tea before the meal was finished. We all learned to have something to drink along with him. It made the waiting easier. When my parents drank tea, they almost always shared a teabag.  Mom liked her tea really weak. As my brother remembers, five dunks of a tea bag were enough.  Dad liked his tea strong.  He would let the tea bag sit in his mug for a while.

Drinking tea had another tradition: the snack!  Some might call it dessert. But in our house it was a snack.  And, of course, having a piece of cake or pie with the tea made it much more enjoyable. Especially when we were at a restaurant and Dad needed his cup of tea.

When my children were growing up, they also liked to have a cup of tea with their grandparents. My son especially wanted to sit with his Grandpa and have tea. When he visits now, he often has a cup of tea with me.

Although I drink my tea without sugar, my son is a sugar addict. He makes me think of my grandfather, who he is named after. “Papa,” who was born in Europe drank his tea out of a glass cup and he often would put a sugar cube in his mouth as he drank it.   Although my son does not put the sugar directly in his mouth, he loves his sugar as his great grandfather did. We often accuse him of drinking some tea with his sugar.

My daughter also likes to have a cup of tea. She seems to like to put honey in hers, especially when she is not feeling well. When she was away at college, I would have honey sent to her for Rosh Hashannah. She and her college friends called it “Holy Honey,” They decided it made the feel better when they were sick. By the time she was a senior, I think I was sending honey to her and about four of her friends.

Drinking hot tea after dinner is not a seasonal event in my family. Tea is perfect throughout the year. It is a good way to end the day. To sit quietly and think about what has happened. A mug of herbal tea calms me.

Each evening as I ask my husband if he wants tea, I flash back for a minute to my parents. I still hear my Mom asking my Dad. I still see her preparing the tea. And I still see them sitting at the table discussing the day. I am so glad that drinking a cup of tea is part of my family tradition.