Friday, February 24, 2017

The Best

On opening my eyes this morning, I reached for my phone, and after scrolling through headlines for the Washington Post, I tapped on my blog reader and began my rounds. Among my stops, I read Mary Moon's gorgeous report on being at the circus with her grandkids, and Elizabeth's sublime reflection on love, all kinds of love, and having a strong back, and the redemptive power of friendship and art, then Grady Doctor's musing about the kinds of men her tender boys will grow up to be, and Rebecca's continuing exploration of her island, and by the time I got to Sabine's memory of the final days of her beloved mother in law, I was weeping, big fat tears on my pillow, and that's how my day started.

I lay there, gutted by memories of my own. Memories of my own mother in law, who was one of the kindest, most loving, faithful, and hardest working women on this earth, who I am forever grateful was one half of the magnificent pair of souls who raised my husband. Today, I am missing my mother in law fiercely. Everything changed in the family after she died, the bonds loosened, she had been the glue. I am no longer mourning how things settled out, I am at peace with what is, knowing I can love from afar, send prayers over the water, and let it be. Still, I miss how we all were when our Nana was alive.

Most of all, I miss her visits to New York to shop wholesale for her store, and the bags and bags of clothes in our living room, as night after night, Mom folded and packed, folded and packed, the children flattening the billowy plastic dress covers into neat piles, all of us talking, laughing, watching TV, telling lively stories, always, always the stories. She was so careful not to intrude on our parenting choices. She never once instructed how we should raise or discipline our kids. I knew it was a conscious decision on her part, and I was grateful to her for it. And when my own children become parents, I hope I will remember her example, and the freedom and ease it allowed in our relationship. I pray my children will be as lucky in their in laws as I have been. I had the very best.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Gastronomic forays

While people marched in Not My President rallies in the city yesterday, I took a breath, turned in my proposal, and then traveled to the Lower East Side with my daughter so that she could share with me a dish that she says might well be the best thing she ever tasted. The restaurant is Tuome on 5th Street off Avenue B, and the dish is snow crab with noodles in a squash and dashi butter sauce. It was as advertised, the flavors so subtle, yet assured, definitely one of the best dishes I've ever had as well. Everything was divine, the crispy deviled eggs topped with chili and the brussels sprouts with bulgur, blue cheese miso and prosciutto crisps—and I don't even like brussels sprouts. I loved sharing it all with my girl, whose palate is very sophisticated, and who literally swoons over a meal such as we shared last night. We're already planning our next foray, maybe to the Beatrice Inn, which used to be a celebrity hub but is now under new ownership and much more down to earth, inviting mere mortals to enjoy the inventive cuisine. And that's the fun of it: My girl knows the backstories, who recently bought where and revamped the menu, who used to work there, who did the decor or the PR. I love these gastronomic adventures with my daughter, a time out from our lives to catch up, roam, discuss, dream.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Holding Space

That picture is meant to hold space for me, its serene beauty to calm me. Everything feels dire, even though intellectually, I know it's not as dire as I'm making it. I know you don't know what I'm talking about and that's probably best. The picture's pretty anyway.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A bigger world

It's possible I am depressed. Maybe it's time once again to seek out therapy, both the talking kind and the physical. I have great freedom in my life. I could go anywhere and do anything on any given day, and yet I stay close to home, because most of the time everything aches and gallivanting around the city is the last thing that seems appealing. But lately, I have begun to feel as if I wasting my good lucky life. Perhaps I need a new doctor, one who will truly chase down the cause of the pain that flares throughout my body, causing me to walk in an awkward, broken way, a smile on my face to mask the ache of motion. I try not to talk or write too much about this, but it is ever-present. I want to travel with my husband but know that a walking vacation is not in the cards. This limits where we can go, how we can explore. I feel like a burden and a limitation on his life if you want to know the truth. It doesn't really help that I suspect people think this pain is because I don't seek out more exercise rather than that I don't seek out more exercise because of this pain. Ah, well. Poor me. This is a poor me post. Still, I'm going to start getting out more. Make myself a bigger world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I love my Valentine

Tonight, for Valentine's Day, the man made me his delicious lobster dinner, and for dessert we had that glorious fruit tart, and it was just the two of us, and lovely.

Monday, February 13, 2017

We workers

So, I finished the book proposal. An entire draft, 54 pages, done. Now I just have to read and edit from beginning to end, and then all that will be left it to screw up my courage and turn it in! I hope those waiting for its delivery will not be disappointed. I've done my best. And I will take their revision notes with grace.

My son has been working long hours lately, double shifts and overnights at the EMS station. He has an apartment to furnish. "Are we rich yet?" he said to me the other night as his dad and I drove him home so he wouldn't have to take the train. Really, the offer to drive him was just an excuse to spend time with him. Now that he no longer lives with us, he's more forthcoming about his days, and I love hearing the stories. He loves his job. He doesn't get paid very much, but he goes home feeling as if he made a difference to someone every single day. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Missing you bad

In his piece "The Madness of King Donald," New York magazine writer Andrew Sullivan captures the surreality of these post-Obama times. Here's an excerpt from his most recent column:

One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all. The president of a free country may dominate the news cycle many days — but he is not omnipresent — and because we live under the rule of law, we can afford to turn the news off at times. A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene. In that sense, it seems to me, we already live in a country with markedly less freedom than we did a month ago. It’s less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes. This is what I mean by the idea that we are living through an emergency.


It's no wonder I'm waxing nostalgic for a time when this was what a meeting with the president's top advisors looked like:

If only this were a movie, and the hero was right now striding up the path to our rescue.

But the hero is gone away. We didn't appreciate our 44th president when he was here doing his utmost for us. Now we have to do for ourselves. My husband likes to say, maybe No. 45 will make America great again, just not in the way he imagined.

All photos by Pete Souza

Sunday, February 5, 2017

I Am An Immigrant

My first U.S. passport photo, 1986.  


The man and I got together with dear friends last night. One of them is a SAG awards judge, so all the nominated movies are sent to him so he can fill out his punch card. The plan was to drink wine, eat chili, and watch one of the Best  Picture nominees in anticipation of the Oscars later this month. We settled on Arrival, which was a fascinating story of alien contact, but utterly confusing to most of us. When it was done, my husband, the scientist, made one comment that proved to be the key to understanding the plot, It was the detail we'd all missed. Suddenly, amid a chorus of Ohhhhhhhs, we got the whole meaning, and now we really liked the movie and wanted to watch it again. But it was late by then so we disbanded and went home.

I love this crew. It's so easy with them. We met when our children ended up in the same kindergarten class at a school that required intensive parent involvement, and we became close. Our kids are also close, but their friendship is completely independent of our friendship at this point. The conversation did of course turn to politics. We were all proud that the ACLU lawyer who'd won the stay on the Muslim travel ban last weekend was an alum of our children's school, whose central curriculum was and is social justice. Is there anything more needed in our country now? Of course, the Muslim ban executive order has logged several more chapters by now, and is unfolding still.

I want to make a record of all the disturbing orders coming out of the White House, and about the white supremacists, Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, who as the president's closest advisors have created one constitutional crisis after another. I want to write about how Trump is repealing financial laws that protect consumers, to directly benefit his own businesses. And so much more. But it's all happening so fast I can't begin to get it all down. But I'm watching and listening, and every morning I make my calls to my state reps, both Democratic and Republican, about whatever travesty happened the previous day. Is it enough? These are uncharted waters. 

On a more pleasant note, my son and his girlfriend have the most charming apartment in a great part of the city—lots of nearby coffee shops and wine bars and sidewalk cafes. Apparently young people moving out on their own are relocating to Astoria in droves, because the rents in Manhattan are just too high. They've brought a bustling hipster vibe to an older immigrant community originally settled by Greek and Middle Eastern families, with a good representation of everyone else. My son's new apartment has great light, and a view of the city across the river which is particularly lovely at night.

I'm remembering now that when I first came to this country forty-one years ago, I saw snow for the first time in Astoria Park. One of my cousins lived in the neighborhood back then, and her sister and I were visiting her for the weekend. Now my son, the U.S.-born child of immigrants, is setting up his first independent home in this neighborhood.

All the kids will be here tonight to watch the Super Bowl and to partake of my husband's famous charred barbecue wings. I notice on TV they're casting the game as a match between Donald Trump's team, the New England Patriots (QB Tom Brady is a Trump acolyte, at least according to Trump) and Rep. John Lewis's hometown team, the Atlanta Falcons. It's kind of ridiculous, really. All the same, I'm rooting for Atlanta.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017