Previous month:
April 2009
Next month:
June 2009

May 2009


 Nineteen years ago we dropped off our 18-year-old son Jeremy at Amherst College to start his freshman year. By the time he graduated four years later, we had become friends with his friends and their parents. We didn't expect to visit Amherst again, that is until this weekend.

Jeremy and Katrina asked us if we would like to come to his reunion, a shorter trip for us than for them, to hang out with our grandchildren and Jeremy's classmates. That was an easy call, and we immediately booked a B&B reservation.

The Amherst campus, nestled in the Pioneer Valley, was as beautiful as we remembered. Many of Jeremy's friends were there, most with children between zero and six. We walked over from our B&B to meet them, and our grandson Leo spotted us from about a hundred yards away. Within seconds, he was high in the air in Peter's arms. We could have gone home right then and been thrilled with our weekend.

There was entertainment for the kids and the adults. We watched a live animal show and a children's music concert with our grandchildren. We caught up with Jeremy's friends. We read to Grady at bedtime. And we got to take five-year-old Leo to lunch in a restaurant, just Grammy, Gramps and him. Who knew how much fun that could be?

Grady took a liking to the campus' huge statue of Robert Frost seated reading a book, we think because at age two, Grady loves to "read". It was also as hard to get Grady out of the dinosaur museum as it was to get his older brother off the soccer field.

We watched Jeremy play softball with his classmates, sliding into base just as he did in Little League, and wondered if he would still be able to do that at his next reunion.

If we could go back 19 years and drop him off at Amherst again, we'd do it in a second.

  SANY0310 photoshopped

Four Generations in a Box

My grandmother Kate was born in 1869. I discovered that the other day while going through a box stored under our eaves and labeled "our good crystal". That box actually contains not crystal, but four generations of family pictures.

Kate gave birth to my mother in 1903 when she was 34, and my mother wasn't her youngest child. This, in an era when the average life expectancy at birth was 40 years. An interesting, but irrelevant fact is that I was born when my mother was 34, and our son Jeremy was born when I was 34.

My mother dutifully recorded the birth and death of her parents and all her siblings on an envelope stuck in with the pictures. Her father, Isadore, didn't die until 1960 so I actually got to know Grandpa pretty well. An interesting, but irrelevant fact is that he lived a lot of his life with one kidney.

There are pictures of my mother from high school and with her five siblings. There are several with my mother and father before they married.

Of course there is my baby book with all appearances of teeth recorded and endless pictures of my brother and me. There is the announcement of my birth and both of our children's birth announcements.

There are pictures of Peter and his family from Germany where he was born, including pictures of his grandparents who died in Auschwitz. There is an Hungarian passport picturing him and his younger sister Eva at about four and six (odd since they were not Hungarian). And there are lots of pictures of our own family that probably didn't make it into our many photo albums.

All those lives, packed in a box under the eaves.

There aren't any pictures of our grandchildren there because they are too young. But one day, there will be five generations in a box. Or maybe not—because most photographs reside on the Internet now.

Looking at them online won't be the same as holding those old photos in your hands and imagining what life was like in the olden days.


Yesterday I saw two golden finches cavorting in a field of yellow wildflowers under a cloudless May sky.

Just yards from them was a bank of wild daisies that went on and on along the path that Peter and I were walking.  I could write this entire blog entry about how happy spring made me yesterday.  But I won’t.

I could also write about the smart pair of Ellen Tracy black linen pants that I had snagged for just a song a few hours earlier.  But I won’t do that either.

What was really emotional about yesterday happened in the afternoon.  That’s when I started cleaning out the eaves under our roof, digging out things that by now should be in Jeremy’s home in Maryland (or in the trash). What a trip down memory lane!  Some “stories” he wrote in grammar school, the soccer and lacrosse trophies from high school, really tacky plates from his first apartment deposited here when he went to live in Chile. Photos and photos and photos—they weren’t stored digitally back then.  Year after year of camp yearbooks and cartons of books from college. 

Next weekend we will meet Jeremy and his family at his college reunion and transfer a trunk full of his stuff to their van.  He will keep it, or he won’t. Not a big deal for him either way.

But it is for me



I have a wonderful boss. He was my friend before he became my boss thirteen years ago. He is book smart and possesses exceptional social intelligence. I have learned so much from him.

However, he is leaving.

Sure, for a few years he has entertained some offers, but opted to stay. He is at the age now where he has time for one or two more good jobs in his future. And he has been working way too hard for way too long. He's ready to do something different.

My boss has a sense of humor that brightens every day. He's told some folks, "When Judy started calling me 'honey,' I knew it was time to leave." It's true—I probably spend more time with him than with Peter, and I have accidentally called him 'honey' more than once.

How do I feel about this? Do I wish I had taken the buyout that I was offered in April now that things are going to change so much? Not really. I'm not ready to retire. I think I can contribute to this transition. Challenge is good.

But, I'll miss him.

Hair (Not the Musical)

On Friday I told my colleague Marge that I was "going to the country" on Saturday, and she knew that meant I would be getting a haircut. Kelly, who has been cutting my hair for about twenty years, used to work a two-minute walk from my office, and cut my hair during my lunch hour. But when she started a family, she began to work from home, and I followed her there. Now, instead of a lunch hour visit, it takes the better part of a day to get my hair cut.

On the way home Saturday, I got to thinking about my hair. When I was a child, I had thick pigtails.. I remember the day we cut them off. It was summer, and we were visiting my Aunt Ruth in Buffalo. She and my mother took a scissors and chopped off the braids, ribbons and all. It was more traumatic for my mother than for me, and she kept those braids in an envelope in our dining room buffet for years, maybe until she died.

After that I had to get a real haircut, and Mother took me to her hairdresser—his name was Phil. What I remember about Phil was his regular comments on how thick my hair was. He was always taking thinning shears, and leaving piles of my thick dark brown hair on the floor.

My hair was fairly long during college, and I got sick of it. So when I went to Europe during the summer of my junior year, I had it all cut off in Montreal before embarking on the long journey across the Atlantic. My friend Joanie stood by me while it happened. In fact, I think it was her short hair that inspired me. I figured it would grow back by the time I got home.

The next important milestone in my hair history was when I became pregnant. Peter and I were on vacation in California. I was brushing my hair over the sink in the Hotel Miyako in San Francisco, and it was falling out in bunches. Thus, thanks to the raging hormones of pregnancy, my era of thick hair ended.

In the summer of '92, I splurged on a $100 life-changing haircut in Paris at the Galleries Lafayette. I remember Peter treated himself to a CD of Edith Piaf at a fraction of the hair cut cost, thinking he deserved at least that. He, himself, had no interest in a Parisian haircut.

That haircut gave me a very different look, and I ran to see Kelly as soon as I got back so she could see it and do her best to copy it on my next visit. And that's how my hair has looked ever since.

Except, my hair is now gray. And that's OK with me. I still feel good when I come home from the country, and Peter greets me with his usual refrain, "You look beautiful."


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Unlike some of my friends, I don’t have trouble deciding what to eat in restaurants.  Just tell me what’s gluten-free, and I’m good to go.

Buying clothes?  Not a problem.  No anguishing over whether it’s “me.”  It is or it isn’t.  (Of late, “me” has changed a bit, but that’s another story.)

But lately, bigger decisions seem harder.  For example, my right hip is bothering me.  I’ve had my share of surgeries—knee replacement, break in the other hip, cataracts—and I’m just not up for another hospital visit with a long recovery.  So I’ve decided not to decide, for now.

Two tough decisions are/were on the table in the last couple of months.  First, should I take an early retirement package?  No, I decided. I love my job.  But then a couple of my close colleagues who were going to stay on changed their minds and took the buyout, and I had to rethink my own decision.  I didn’t change my mind, but I felt less confident that I had done the right thing. 

The second decision is still on the table.  It’s about where we want to/should live for whatever years we are lucky enough to have in front of us.  We love our house.  It’s a smaller version of the house where we raised the children, and it seemed perfect fourteen years ago when we moved here.  But it has four floors and more space than we need except for the two to five days a year when the kids come to town.  We love our neighborhood and our neighbors, but we wouldn’t go far away.

One thing I am sure about is that neither of us wants to live here without the other.  And for obvious reasons, when this will happen is totally unpredictable.  Does that mean we should move now? 

I am losing sleep over this one. 

Young and Old

Seventy used to be considered old. To those under fifty, it probably still is. But at seventy-one, I don't feel I'm old, at least not very old.

I feel young

  • when I am on my bicycle.
  • when I think of my wonderful Aunt Ruth who is 94 and going strong.
  • on Facebook.
  • when I think about all the things I look forward to.


I feel old

  • when Peter reminds me that he had a job during high school delivering telegrams. (Have our kids ever seen a telegram?)
  • on the beach in Rio in my one-piece bathing suit.
  • because my knees won't let me jog anymore.
  • when I realize that I spend most of my time with people who were not born when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Sometimes I feel old; sometimes I feel young.

But I always feel lucky.

Home Again

Home Again

I'm one of those people who often says "Last week at this time we were…" or "A week from now, we'll be…" So, last week at this time, we were walking on Rio's famous Ipanema Beach. It was late fall there—I'd say it was 75-80 degrees, and everyone was beautiful.


I told Peter and Seth, "Next week at this time, it will seem as if we were never away."

And that turned out to be true. There was a day or two at home when we were living on the fumes, so-to-speak. But now our regular routine is re-established, and we have only our memories and photos to remind us of our trip. Although it was not high on my places-I-want to-see-list, I am really happy to have visited Brazil.

Who knows what other great surprises lie ahead?

Brazil II

This morning (Saturday) over a breakfast of guava juice and pão de queijo in a juice bar near the apartment we rented in Rio, it seemed like we had come to know at least a small part of this great country that plays such a large part in our son's life.

Our road trip from São Paulo to Rio was a beautiful drive, mostly along Brazil's stunning coastline. We spent two days in the colonial town of Parati, including a trip to a "you can't get there from here" beach in Trindade, forty minutes away. We sat at a table on the beach in our bathing suits while eating one of the best meals (shrimp in a sauce made with dende oil) of our trip. We then drove to Rio where we spent two nights, had two great dinners, saw the city from the heights of Sugarloaf and Santa Teresa, and walked for hours along Ipanema and Copacabana, two of the world's most famous beaches.

And suddenly it was time for us to leave Brazil.

It wasn't a perfect visit, but it was pretty darn good. It's hard on both sides when parents parachute into a grown child's life for eight days. But our visit got the job done—we can now picture him in his São Paulo apartment, and we know some of the places he hangs out. We have experienced the richness he sees in the Brazilian culture. We have seen the challenge and the opportunity that Brazil offers him.

Seth dropped us at the Rio airport for our 3:30 flight back to São Paulo and then to New York because he was heading north to Minas Gerais for work. By the time we boarded the plane, I had forgotten the few not-so-great moments of our visit. As the plane climbed into the sky over Rio, tears ran down my cheeks.

It never stops being hard to say good-bye to one's child.





Geography Lesson (Sort-a)

Brazil is big, maybe as big as the U.S. It has 27 states, and we are visiting two in the Southeast, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.  Sao Paulo (the city) is Brazil’s economic capitol, teeming with people.  Its contrasts are great--from the unemployed and poor workers to the rich industrialists.  “Downtowns” are everywhere as groups of tall buildings are everywhere. 

Sao Paulo is dangerous.  Seth told me not to keep my purse on my lap in the car because someone might smash the car window to grab it at a red light.  In fact, after dark, cars are allowed to run red lights to avoid just that.

We spent four days in SP.  We saw fabulous neighborhoods like hilly Vila Madalena with its bright orange, red, or purple clothing and craft shops, not to mention the lively bar scene.  We saw where the ex-pats live, stunning tall buildings, all double-gated and guarded, including one where an Onassis daughter lives.   We also drove through many poor areas of the city. 

We went long distances without leaving Sao Paulo.  One day we took a long drive to a theatre to see a Broadway-quality production of “The Rebellious Nun” (aka The Sound of Music”) in Portuguese.  We loved it.

We ate at top restaurants and with the locals in “kilo” places where you choose from a buffet and pay by weight.  We visited a shopping (the Brazilians’ word for mall) in Higienopolis, a wealthy neighborhood walking distance from Seth’s apartment. (That’s pronounced Ee gene op olis”, by the way.)

We went to two museums.  We learned to put used toilet paper in a wastebasket because that’s what Brazilians do.  We learned that sucos (freshly squeezed fruit juices) are divine, especially watermelon.

We left SP to go along the coast to Parati (pronounced par ah CHEE) and Rio.

Some people like Sao Paulo; some people don’t.  If your child lives there, it doesn’t matter.