Christmas Eve dinner with all my favorite guys at our favorite Chinese place.
Category Archives: relationships
Last week’s epic snowstorm provided an unexpected early December treat – the chance to cross-country ski at Albany Muni. I got out there four days and the conditions just kept getting better. It was awesome and Jeter and I loved every minute of it.
Other than the first day when I skied with a friend, it was just me, my dog and nearly two feet of snow. Sort of. Skiing solo provides lots of time for thoughts and when I cross country ski I can’t help but think of my Uncle Wolfgang. He, too, was a cross country skier, albeit much more accomplished than I. Wolfgang, my mother’s youngest brother, was a competitive biathlete in Germany and, as I ski, I do my best to glide with the grace and strength he once did.
As my eyes took in the beauty of the snow covered golf course and my lower back became damp from my exertions, my head filled with memories of my Uncle. He and I, along with his wife and a Lilly boy or two, took some great road trips together around Europe. Wolfgang and Brigitte were great travelers and I have wonderful memories of sharing time with them in Paris, Amsterdam, NYC and, our last trip, Berlin. I miss him and will always be sad that he was taken so fast and furiously by cancer just weeks after we parted in Berlin.
But, I feel him with me, deep inside, and I truly understand the sentiment about how you never really lose someone you love as long as you have memories of time shared. I get it now and it gives me so much comfort and peace to know he won’t ever be gone.
I started thinking about all the little things I do that immediately remind me of people who no longer walk the earth beside me. When I chop vegetables, I remember Len, who taught me how to hold a knife. As I put together a salad in the metal bowl I insisted upon getting in the divorce, I think of my mother-in-law and her inability to not give her son and I something to take with us each time we left her house. If I see a deer dead on the side of the road, I recall my friend, John, who once demonstrated his compassion for a dying doe by finishing the job a car had begun, an act of kindness that he unfortunately wasn’t able to extend to himself.
Losing someone we love and experiencing the void of their absence, especially near the holidays, makes for an emotionally challenging situation. Knowing that we’ll never again hear a loved one’s laughter or feel their embrace, quite plainly sucks. However, if one takes the time to focus instead on what remains – the memories and moments and love shared, it seems to me that they’re never really gone. At least not from our heads and, of course, our hearts.
When I was a kid I had faux aunts and uncles. There were no true relatives (that I knew about) in the States, so my mother provided close friends who functioned on some level as family. It was a laudable attempt and there were some good people in our lives during those years, some of whom remain to this day.
One of these families, the Ls, had the most multi limbed family tree in
the my world and I loved the holidays we shared with them over the years. Dinner usually included all of the following: the married couple, (about the same age as my mom), and their daughter, who was a toddler when we met, his son from his first marriage, joined by her two children from her first marriage. Also present, her first husband with his son from his second marriage. And the three of us.
It seemed like the most exciting, bizarre and totally normal holiday gathering ever. The traditions all blurred together, Jewish, Italian American, German, and the food was crazy – lasagna, bagels with lox, ham and fruit cake. Thinking about those days always makes me smile big.
Yesterday, for the first time in a few years, I had Thanksgiving dinner with friends. It was very low key and comfortable. We brought desserts and a savory vegetable casserole to join the bounty that was already present. While we didn’t play backgammon for boxes of Marlboro Reds, (as I might have decades ago with “my” extended family), we sipped far better wine than in those long ago days, with a mood which was comparably mellow.
At the table was my UG* and his children. And his children’s mom and her partner, along with her partner’s parents and her brother and sister in law. Looking around the table and seeing the threads that tied us all together, I couldn’t help but smile at the familiarity of the situation.
We recreate the chaos with which we are most comfortable. (I use “chaos” here to suggest a familiar dynamic with lots of activity, not as an indication of lack of control.) There’s a vibe or pace that we try to replicate, whether it’s conscious or not, because that’s what we grew up knowing.
Sitting at the dining table with a bunch of people who, through the years, have chosen to share their lives with one another, defines the holidays for me, even more than turkey and cranberry sauce. The combination of common histories and yet-to-be-explored future activities is what I was raised on and yesterday was the first time I felt that familiar energy in a long time.
It was a good holiday.
How was yours?
*don’t ask me what it means, it’s a private
joke term of endearment
Before Waze and Google Maps, I often found myself lost, unsure of the direction in which I was driving. I was way too cool for a dashboard mounted compass or anything like that, so I recalled my Girl Scout training and tried to orient myself with the sun, with varying success. Most of the time, though, I was content with simply knowing that I was traveling in the right direction. It was enough.
Parenting can create a similar emotional state. Yes, there are plenty of tools to offer guidance, and there are some large beacons to indicate if one is on a reliable course, but the bottom line is you just never really know exactly where you’re at when you’re a parent.
So, you look for signs along the way and try to keep your eyes on the road. In the past couple of weeks I’ve observed a few things which have me feeling pretty positive about where my kids are going, literally and figuratively. Please allow me to share.
My oldest son recently returned from his first solo vacation. When he initially told me he had purchased a plane ticket and made hotel reservations, in all honesty, I was kind of concerned. He has a tendency to be impulsive and, while I was excited that he had shown initiative, I feared he might have paid more than he should have for his trip. I don’t know if it’s a firstborn thing but he is resistant to asking for help with anything, which frustrates me. While I’m not interested in micromanaging his life (I swear!), I do wish he would seek advice sometimes.
Turns out he did a wonderful job of making arrangements and planning his time in Florida. He managed to spend time with family, utilized public transportation effectively, planned his theme park visits really well and returned from his week away happy and confident in his abilities.
This week my middle son is heading to London for a long weekend with friends. I’m sure there are parents who would find it crazy that I would be enthusiastic for my child to take time off from work to jet to London for 4 or 5 days, but, I couldn’t be happier for he and his friends. Their plans sound perfect – walking, eating and skateboarding. Bon voyage, my son!
Last month my youngest son started high school. His explorations are of a different type than those of his brothers. Instead of finding his way geographically, he’s doing his best to navigate socially through what we all may recall as a confusing, and sometimes frustrating, time. He is an emotionally sensitive kid, but I have been so proud of his realizations relating to how he should expect to be treated and what a young adult friendship should look like – a fun addition to an already enjoyable life.
I continue to wonder where we’re each going to eventually wind up, but I’m confident we’re all moving in the right direction.
Twenty-five years ago today I got married. It was a beautiful day filled with special moments and memories I will never forget. The photographer complained that the skies were too blue and lacking clouds, yet he still managed to capture images that illustrate what a great day it truly was.
I was 27, nearly 28, on that Labor Day weekend Sunday. I thought of myself as an “older bride.” Friends and family came from miles and miles away to join my groom and me in Washington Park where it seemed that the flower beds had conspired to fit our color scheme, It was everything I had ever imagined my wedding day to be.
The reception was held in a historic Shaker meeting house where guests enjoyed a delicious meal catered by the only restaurant to say “We’re caterers. Tell us what you want and if it’s possible, we’ll do it” instead of “You must have three hot h’or d’oeuvres and three cold h’or d’oeuvres and 2 salads and…” People talked about the food for years. We had so much fun.
But, as you know, a wedding day does not make a marriage. A marriage is hard work under skies that are not always blindingly blue. Learning and growing together takes effort and sacrifice and communication and maybe I wasn’t really as old as I thought I was on that gorgeous summer day.
Somewhere along the way we got lost. Our marriage ended and, while I take no joy in that, I am so very proud of how we’ve together parented the children our love created. We have always been able to put our children and their well being first and avoid the ugliness I’ve seen in far too many divorces.
While I may no longer be in love with the father of my children, I’ll always love the years we shared and that part of my life. It was a really good chapter.