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Wow…It Is An Email Generation

13 Jun

I had an awakening at the post office today while I waited on line to mail a package.  It was a moment that had a bit of deja vu about it.  I remember when touch tone phones came out, and people quickly forgot about dial phones.  In fact,  I remember my children seeing a dial phone at a local children’s museum and asking me how to use it.  They tried pushing the numbers; they did not realize they had to spin the dial.

Today at the post office I realized what the email generation was losing… the ability to mail a letter.

As I was standing in line a young man, about 18-19 years old, walked up to the clerk with a card and envelope in his hand.  The clerk took it and said,  “What do you need?  This already has a stamp on it.”  The boy said, “I need to mail this card.”

“Oh,” the clerk responded.  “Is this one of our cards?  Do you have to pay for it?”

“No,” the boy responded.  I just need to mail it.”

“Okay,” the clerk said, looking puzzled.  “You need to put the card into the envelope.”

The boy did that and handed the enclosed envelope to the clerk.  It was addressed.

“Now you have to seal the envelope,” the clerk said.

“How do I do that?” The boy asked.

By this time, I was listening in absolute amazement.  He honestly did not know how to mail a card.  The clerk helped him seal it, and the boy left.

Then came, to the same clerk, another young man.  He was a bit older, maybe 20.  And he handed a stamped, sealed envelope to the clerk.

“There needs to be an address on this envelope,” the clerk says.

“I know,” the young man responded, “But how do you write it?  Do I write it across the top like an email address?”

He was not joking.  He had no idea how to address an envelope.  The clerk helped him out, showing him how to put the address in three lines: name; address; city, state and zip code.

To be honest, with the first boy, I thought it was a fluke.  How could that be with someone who was the age of 18 or 19, I did not know.  But obviously he had not mailed a letter on his own.

However, when the second guy got up there and had no idea how to address an envelope, I was almost laughing out loud.  I controlled myself.  But I flashed back to my grandmother. She was born in 1898 and died in 1993.  I remember her telling me about the times before cars and technology.  And how everything was changing so quickly. And then my parents.  Although my Dad did learn to use the computer and email, my Mom never did.

Now we are launching the Email Generation.   Postage and envelopes might become obsolete.  I still get an occasional letter or card from a friend. Not very often.  But I think the email generation will lose the joy of opening mail.

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Missing Mom’s Passover Recipes

13 Mar

The recipes filled a bag.

There were many little issues that appeared during the year that my parents died. Little things that you do not realize will cause distress. But for my sister and me, one of these issues was my Mom’s recipes. They were gone. We searched the house and could not find them. Most recipes we knew because we continued to make them.

But a few seemed lost forever, these included her Passover recipes. Since we used them only once a year, they were not etched into our memories. And so we had to use recipes from books or from others, or just not make that item. Without her recipes, we felt a bit lost.

My parents would come to me each year for the second night of Pesach.   They did the first Seder in New Jersey with my siblings and their families. Mom would cook her share of the meal, and leave all the leftovers for my brother and sister’s families. Because the next morning, bright and early, my parents would fly out to stay with me for second Seder and the rest of the holiday.

My children went to the Jewish Day School, so they were off that week. It was a perfect time for my parents to have grandparent adventures with the children.

Mom would arrive and join me in cooking. We always spent the first seder with other families at friends. But I alternated second night seder with another friend, and so often it would be at my house. Eventually, second night became my domain.

Whatever the case, there were certain foods I did not make until Mom got here. She knew exactly what to do, even though she might have had the recipes written down. After making seders for so many years, she knew her recipes. Whereas, my sister and I depended on her memory to help us.

So I should have known what happened to the recipes. But it never occurred to me.

About a year or so after both my parents passed away, they did so quickly and within nine months of each other, I finally cleaned out the bedroom in my house where they always stayed. We had already cleaned out their condo apartment in New Jersey; had told the managers of the apartment they rented in Florida to take what they wanted and donate the rest, and we had mostly cleaned out the house in the Catskill. So now it was time for me to do the final cleaning and pack up and donate what they had left behind in my house.

They had their own space, and I had avoided going into it, but my son wanted to move into this larger room, with its own separated entrance.

I finally opened the closet and packed my dad’s jeans and shirts and jackets. I started cleaning out the drawers. Putting tops and items into bags to donate.

There in the bottom drawer, covered by tops, was a small, stuffed plastic bag filled with papers. Recipes. Lots and lots of recipes. She was in the process of rewriting in her beautiful teacher’s handwriting. Passover was back: Vegetarian Chopped Liver, Matzah balls for 10-12 people, Farfel pudding from Sylvia, Baked Gifilte Fish from Lola, Potato Kugel, Stuffed cabbage.

Mixed in were many other recipes, including Hamantasch from Phyllis and my Uncle Stanley’s cookie recipe, which she called Cookies by Stanley. (He was baker and passed away in January 2017, a week before his 90th birthday, on my Mother’s sixth Yahrzeit.)

I would like to say I used these recipes. But I did not.  I put them in my room, in a box, waiting to be used.  I did not share them.  I did not look at them.  I just could not.  Now, I know I need to scan the recipes and send them to my brother and sister. I know that. But for four years they have sat in their bag while I have looked at it as a locked time chest, unable to really sort through the notes left by my Mom.

I decided this year was the time. I was ready.   We are done missing my Mom’s recipes.

Why The Same Old, Same Old Feels Good Now

14 Feb

When I was young, I never understood why my grandmother ate almost the exact same breakfast every morning: Cottage cheese, a piece of toast, fruit, water for her pills and coffee. “Isn’t that boring?” I asked. For me breakfast needed to be an exciting start to the day, especially in the summers.

But now I understand. Each morning I start the day with basically the same breakfast … everyday.  I like it.  Why change?  Occasionally I switch it up, usually when I am traveling.  But when home it is the same old, same old. It feels comfortable. Why change? I have become my grandma.

But I find my need for consistency goes beyond breakfast.  I like to shop in the same stores. I know which clothes lines and which shoes fit me well. Why should I venture to another store when I know I can always find clothes and shoes that fit at Chicos and Clarks?   Yes I sometimes go into another store and find something, but usually it takes more time to figure out where the items I might like are located. But I do go to discount stores that I enjoy like DSW, where I can find my favorite shoes at a less expensive price. 

I am even happy with my usual grocery shopping selection. Friends have tried to get me to go to two newer, more hip, places to do my grocery shopping. But I have my big three depending on what I need. I used to start with Costco for some items, but with no children at home I do not often need bulk food. Instead I buy smaller quantities at a local grocer/supermarket.  Occasionally, I do venture to the newer stores, but I feel a bit out of alignment when I shop there. I have to search the aisles for what I need. 

I often dash over to a nearby Target for sundries. Two years ago they totally remodeled the one I shop at.  The changes were nice, but the disruption made me realize I was getting set in my ways. I like the same old, same old. Although I now love the changes, I feel a sense of loss.  Now I have to readjust my habits to find the items I need. However, I will admit when my favorite brunch place renovated, it became much improved! 

But lately I find that I just like being at home. Especially when I am home.

My husband and I travel … a lot.  We are fortunate that our son lives close. He  moves back to our house to care for our cats when we travel.  But with being on so many trips, the joy of just being at home sometimes is the best.on one hand I know I am getting set in my ways. However,  it just makes the same old, same old feel good. 

Brothers and Sisters Must Stick Together

19 Jan

“Brothers and sisters must stick together,” my parents would continually make this statement to my brother, sister and me throughout our childhood.  If we had a disagreement, they would intone this mantra. It was used in many ways.

If a friend of my brother’s bugged me, he would stop it. But then he would bug me.  Brothers protect sisters from others, but that does not mean he could not tease me. His interpretation of this saying.

Over the years my sibling and I have come together many times to help each other.  And this sentiment fills my mind and my soul. We will always stick together.  We repeated it many times when our parents passed away within nine months of each other.

As we cleaned and divided their homes, my brother would say, “Nothing is worth fighting over.”  And we knew that “Brothers and Sisters must stick together.”  It helped to hear these words from my parents. It was an emotional time, and sometimes we needed this reminder.

But I have to say my parents and their siblings took this to the zenith degree.  My Dad and his sister passed away within days of each other. It shocked us, as we sat shiva for both.   My Dad called my Aunt almost every day after my Mom passed, but even before they spoke often. And each winter spent months together in Florida. At the time I remember thinking that they could not survive without each other as they were so close. So although I was shocked when it happened,  I was not really surprised.  Brothers and sisters must stick together.

But this week it really amazed me.  To be honest my Mom and her brother had a separation.  They did not speak to each other the last years of my mother’s life. This broke her heart. Although she often spoke of her brother, Mom passed away before the rift was ended. Her mantra of “Brothers and Sisters must stick together,” did not help in this instance.  But my cousin, who I always kept close with, came to see her. And that help to ease her.

In the past six years the family has healed.  My siblings and I have visited with my Uncle. We see our cousins.  We help in times of need.  Brothers and sisters sticking together. The family has reunited. 

Yesterday my Uncle passed away.  He had been ill for a while, but this week he went into hospice. I spoke to my cousins multiple times during the week.  And texted in between.  I love her and I knew this was so difficult.  And then he slowly slipped away, just days before his 90th birthday. When I got the call I was not surprised. But a few minutes later it hit me, this day was my Mom’s yahrzeit, the religious anniversary of her death.

I texted my cousin: her response was perfect, “Maybe now they will make peace.”

But to me it was a sign. To my siblings I texted, “Brothers and sisters must stick together.”

It is a GRAVE Matter…Really

6 Jan

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My parents and grandparents are all together.

Over the years I have avoided one important part of my estate planning.  Buying a gravesite for my husband and for me.

I know this is important. But the thought of buying a grave made me sad.  I do not know why. My parents planned ahead. They purchased their graves as part of a family plot in New Jersey. In this same shared area rest all four of my grandparents, my parents and my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side.  When I was a child, no one was buried there. Unfortunately, now all but one of the assigned graves are now filled. 

At the time the graves were purchased, only my two uncles’ names were placed on the contract, as the cemetery would not allow  three names to be on it.  This left my father out. It was not a big deal until my mom died, and we found out that we had no authority to open her grave.  Same thing with my dad.  Luckily we are a close family and my cousins immediately did all that needed to be done. In fact my one cousin went out of his way to help all the cousins as he not only arranged for us to purchase perpetual care for the graves, he has also kept close watch on the care.  When we suffered the loss of our parents and his mother within a year, it was this cousin who made sure the that all three stones were placed properly. We are so thankful for his concern. As we suffered multiple losses that year.

Every year when I go back east, my sister and I make a pilgrimage to the cemetery.  Besides visiting all of our relatives, we take a short stroll to the resting place of my cousin’s other grandparents and relatives.  They are all so close together.  Remembering to bring the correct number of stones, is the hardest part.

Across from our parents, my sister and brother have a resting spot that includes their spouses. Unfortunately one grave is already occupied.   In fact it was this death about five years ago that started my quest and my inquiries about cemeteries.  But it has not been easy for me.

It was convenient for my siblings to buy for all of them as they  live in New Jersey.  But for me it is different.  My husband is from Missouri, and we live in Kansas. We have no family here.  Our daughter lives out of the country. And though our son lives near us now, who knows where he will end up.  So we have been indecisive about what to do.

Where should we eventually be buried?  OY! The best was to ignore this nagging and difficult choice.

This fall one of my close friends, a walking buddy, spent an entire walk telling me about the arrangements she and her husband recently made for their final home.  She also wanted to be sure her children would have no worries. The decision is made and paid for in advance.  It made me start thinking about our grave matter once again.

To be honest my husband does not care where we end up.  “When we are dead we are dead,” he says. “It won’t matter to us at all.”   But I think it will matter to our children if they do not have to worry about this decision in the midst of emotional turmoil.  It is hard enough when a parent dies without having to make this decision as well.  I knew my obsession had to be dealt with when I found myself reading the cemetery plot ads in the Jewish Forward.  That was a bit too much even for me.

As I am interested in genealogy, it was important to me that  our descendants  to be able to find us. I have seen the joy of discovery as people find the graves of their grandparents, great grandparents and even further back. It is so wonderful to have these in one place. So even though we belong to two synagogues, and we could buy plots in their cemeteries,  I do not want to be alone, away from everyone. It might be crazy, but that is how I feel.

The issue came to a head this past November, when my husband’s stepmother died.  She always planned to be buried on one side of my husband’s dad.  He and his first wife, my husband’s mother, are already buried there, as well as my husband’s grandparents. But things did not go as plannned.  Even though there are four empty graves in the plot, my father in law had never designated her to be buried there.  And with my father in law and his brother both deceased, the four plots are owned by the five adults in the next generation.  Since we are out of contact with my husband’s cousins, we were not allowed to bury her in this grave. It made for a tense few days. But the cemetery’s executive director would not  allow it.  (We assume the cemetery must have had lawsuits in the past over similar issues! )

No matter,  she had to be buried in a different cemertary.   But at least it was with her family. A cousin of hers who had purchased multiple plots donated one to her.   I was glad she was not alone.

This situation, the days of trying to figure out what would happen, increased my determination that our children should not have to deal with the issue of a grave site.  I was so upset. I do not want my children worrying about where to bury me. I want it settled.

But now I had a plan.  It is stupid for us to go to New Jersey especially since there are four perfectly good plots in St. Louis.   I am on a mission.  I am working with the cemetery to track down my husband’s first cousins.  It seems we are all joint owners of these four graves. I want two of these plots. It is stupid for them to stay empty when they can be used.

Even the woman I am working with at the cemetery agrees it is foolish to leave them unused.  But she says it happens often. Families drift apart and move away.  The original owner is long dead.  And the ownership continues to pass on to the next generation involving more and more descendants. And the cemetery is stuck, unable to let anyone use the graves.

Well one thing I have learned through my interest in genealogy, and my great contacts on the “Tracing the Tribe Facebook” group, research.  The person at the cemetery told me she could not find my husband’s cousins.  I took that as a challenge.  Within 90 minutes I had their names, their spouses’ names and the names of their children.  I have sent that information on to the cemetery’s office for them to be contacted.  (My research did remind me that my father in law and his brother died just over a month apart.  Even though they had not spoken to each other in perhaps 25 years, they had this connection: One died two weeks before 9/11 and one three weeks after. )

I have another back up plan as well.  My sister in law in St. Louis also has a group plot with her brothers and parents. When I unloaded my stress over finding a grave, she told me that they had some extra plots.  “You probably could buy two plots from us, if that would make me feel better and calm you down,” she laughed as she made this suggestion.  But my loving niece understands.  She promised me that she would come to visit ” her crazy aunt” in St. Louis.

My new year’s resolution for 2017:  I am focusing on resolving this grave matter.   I hope to find my husband’s cousins and come to an agreement about the graves.  Or purchase two plots from my sister in law’s family.  It is my resolution to buy two graves…   NOT that I want to use them anytime soon.
Update: we have two graves with my sister in law and her family in the St Louis area. I am at peace. My children will have an easier time with this knowledge. 

How I Learned That I Really Am 60 Years Old

9 Jul

I admit it; I am 60. It happened suddenly. One day I was 25 and getting married. And moments later I was 60, married for 35 years and had two adult children. How did it happen? I am not sure. But I will tell you that I do not feel 60. In my mind I am much younger. How old, I am not sure; but definitely NOT 60.

I walk between 2 – 5 miles daily. I exercise. I work. I volunteer. I do word puzzles. I write. I read. I crochet. I visit with friends. I shop. I keep moving. I am mildly obsessive and overly concerned at times. Most people I meet do not think I am 60, except perhaps for the grey hair. I do not get my haired dyed. And many times I am in a room with women my age and older, and I am the only one with grey hair. So I guess that might indicate my advancing age.

But recently, I realized that in fact I was 60. I realize that being 60 has made a few changes in my life and how others view me. Perhaps, it is just others who do not really know me.

It happened in Rome. My husband and I arrived on a Wednesday, arriving at our hotel about 11 am. Once we got into a room we decided to go exploring. Close to the hotel was the Castle of Saint Angelo, a lovely spot to investigate. We spent hours there going room to room, inside and out, lost in the corridors that date back centuries.

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The Castle of Saint Angelo.

We finally found our way out and walked back to our hotel for a nap before a meeting and dinner. Imagine our surprise when our host arrived 45 minutes early. We were tired, but we got it together. He took us to tour the Basilica of San Paola and its cloister. Then to the Bambino Gesu Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Rome, for a short tour and where my husband presented a talk to the allergy section. From there it was out to dinner with 13 others for a five-course Roman meal….delicious. And then a two-mile walk to what we were told was the best gelato in all of Rome, the Gelateria Frigidarium. It was delicious. But we did not get back to our hotel till midnight.

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

The Great Synagogue in Rome, Italy

Now after traveling for 20 hours, touring and a giant meal and gelato, I was tired. But with jet lag, I still did not sleep that well. And we had to be at the Jewish Quarter by ten in the morning for a three-hour tour organized by Jewish Roma. We did it. It was wonderful. We ate lunch in the Jewish Quarter then grabbed a taxi to get to the Vatican where we had another, 2:30 pm tour scheduled.

A portion of the ceiling in the extremely long reception hall, also known as the map room because of the frescos of different areas of Italy.

A portion of the ceiling in the extremely long reception hall, also known as the map room because of the frescos of different areas of Italy.

Also planned by Jewish Roma, we had a semi-private tour with one other couple. I would say they were in their late 30s and the tour guide, perhaps in her late 40s. This tour would take us through the Vatican Museum, not air-conditioned, to the Sistine Chapel. The museum winds it ways through room after room of art works. Long halls, galleries, so much to see. So much walking!! And finally, we are all herded into the Sistine Chapel where everyone stands and looks up ward at the magnificent art drawn by Michaelangelo. At least it had some air conditioning.

It was in this room that I realized I am 60,and other people noticed. We had moved to the back of the chapel to look around there before going out. Our lovely tour guide Sylvia, suddenly turned to my husband and I and said, “There are some seats that just came available. Why don’t you go sit there!”

Okay, we can. We walked over and my husband and I sat down. I looked over at him. He looked really tired. I must look tired as well, I thought. Then I looked up. The three younger adults were looking down at us. And I had a epiphany moment, I knew what they were thinking. They were thinking that we were worn out. They were worried about us. Would these seniors make it through the tour? Are they ok? Wow! I now know what my parents thought when I sat them down somewhere to rest. And you what? I needed that rest. It felt wonderful!

After a few minutes, perhaps ten, we said we were ready to go on. Really, we reassured the guide and the couple. And on we went. When the tour ended my husband and I went into St. Peter’s Basilica for a while. But after about 20 mintues, I was done. It was time to go back to the hotel. And I was not going to walk!!! Even though my husband assured me it was just about a mile. NO! I won.

We walked to the edge of St. Peter’s Square and got a cab.

Back to the hotel. It was about 5:30 pm. I took a quick shower and went to take a nap. My husband said he tried to wake me at 7 pm, for dinner. I did not move. I also did not move at 7:15 when he tried again. Finally at 7:30 pm, I did wake up and we went out for dinner.

We went just a block from the hotel to a lovely restaurant; then on to a gelato shop for dessert.

It was a wonderful day. We walked another six miles. We saw so much and learned so much about Rome. But we also learned that we are 60 years old!

How I loved the Golden Chair! But Giving it Away Might Be A Blessing.

11 Jun

As a child I was in love with the Golden chair that was situated in front of a vanity table at my grandparent’s home. This small easy chair had been my mother’s chair. It was once upholstered in a print fabric, but sometime after my Mom got married, my grandmother had it upholstered in a golden leatherette.

I LOVED that chair. It was the perfect size for a child to sit in and imagine. I imagined I was a princess when I sat in that chair! I imagined I was on an adventure when I reclined in the chair. I would read a book and lounge there, dreaming. I so wanted that chair.

I used to ask my Grandma, all the time, if my parents could bring the Golden chair home and keep it in my bedroom. And my Grandma always said, “No!” She would not give up the chair.

She never sat in it. I am not sure if she kept it because she knew I loved to sit in it; or if she had another reason? My Grandma did not like to give things away. She did not horde, but relinquishing her possessions was difficult. Perhaps it was the results of her childhood in Europe in the early 1900s? I do know. I only know she would not give me the chair!

The chair was in my grandparent’s apartment in New Jersey. There was an area that was kept locked and separate. Behind the locks were the living room and my mother’s old bedroom. As I got older, Grandma would unlock the door and let me be there on my own to dream in the chair.

When they moved to the Catskills for the entire year, the chair went with them. It was always a part of their home. It was a great place for me to read a book on a rainy Catskills day.

Grandma did know how I longed for the Golden chair. She always told me that it would be my chair one day: that I would own their bedroom set and the chair. So I should not worry. She knew that I loved the golden chair. But I did not want to wait! I wanted the chair then, when I was a girl.

My grandmother died when I was 26 years old. My grandfather passed away when I was 34 years old. About a year after my Grandpa died, my parents had the bedroom set and the Golden chair shipped to my home in Kansas.

It was bittersweet. I was glad the Golden chair was finally mine. But I missed my grandparents.

The chair

I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the chair. I had it re-upholstered in a sparkling geometric print fabric. And I placed it in the room of my then three-year-old daughter. It had the place of honor in a corner with a lamp behind it. I told her that it would be her reading and imagining chair. And it was. She sat there often with a cat either on her lap or under the chair. She read many a books in that chair.

When she was older, she used it as a desk chair, even though it really was not intended for a desk. I think she loves the chair as much as I do.

My Mom once asked me if I was happy that I finally got my chair. And I was happy, but I told my Mom I would have enjoyed the chair even more if Grandma had given to me when she was alive. Receiving the chair after they died put a pall on it. I told my Mom that I would have loved having the chair to read in all the time, not just when I visited my grandparents.

Most important, if Grandma had given me the chair when she was alive, I would have known that she really wanted me to have it. Getting it when she had passed away took some of the joy out of the chair. In fact, I never have sat in the chair in all the years that I have owned it.

My parents gave us items when they were alive. In my mind,I think the Golden chair had something to do with it. When each of my siblings and I had a child, we were presented a piece of family jewelry.   Artwork and furniture was given as well.   Yes, when they passed away a few months apart, we had many other things to go through. But they had always been so generous and loving, we were able to say that there was nothing worth fighting over! These were my brother’s favorite words.

I hope to be that way with my children. I do not want them to wait till I am dead to get something from my house that they really want. My husband always says that ‘we don’t own material items, they own us if we let them.’   There is no item in my house that I need, except maybe my computer.

I would rather see the joy on my children’s faces using something they love from my home. I hope that one day my daughter says to me, “Mom I want the Golden chair.” And even though I have always loved that chair, it would be a blessing for me to give to my daughter.