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April 2010

South Pacific

When I was thirteen, I saw Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. It was my first Broadway play. It was on tour in Pittsburgh where I grew up, and even though my dog Sparky had disappeared that day, I managed to adore every second. My parents bought me the LP (that's a long-playing record for those who don't remember the pre-CD world), and I memorized every word of every song. I could still sing them all, that is if I could sing at all.

When South Pacific was revived at Lincoln Center in New York about two years ago, I really didn't want to see another old-fashioned musical. But the reviews were glowing and friends told us how much they loved it, so we decided to put it on our agenda for last weekend in New York.

I cannot remember three hours flying by the way they did at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center last weekend. When the overture began, the music brought tears to my eyes, partly because I am sentimental, but mostly because it is so beautiful. I was completely transported. I sat at the edge of my seat with a grin on my face (once the tears stopped), and was mesmerized by the acting, the singing, the dancing, the sets, the music, everything. I didn't want it to end. When it did, I didn't want to leave. I gave some thought to buying a ticket for the evening performance.

Peter doesn't like musicals all that much. So I was a little worried about taking him to this one. Occasionally, I glanced at his face during the performance. It was obvious that he was loving it too.

With all the troubles in the world, with all our concerns about ourselves and those we love, a trip to South Pacific was just what the doctor ordered

My New Friend Charlotte

I knocked a lamp off the table in our entrance hall when I was carrying in groceries the other day.  When it fell, the shade separated from its frame, and although Peter tried to glue it, it was a lost cause.  I felt a little sad because the lamp and the shade had been my mother’s. 

The solution, of course, was a new shade.  And that’s how I met Charlotte.  Charlotte and her husband own a lamp-shade store not too far from our home.  They’ve had the store for thirty-five years.  In this day of big box stores, it’s nice to see a mom and pop shop nearby.  We brought in the lamp and shade, and within moments, she had three choices for us, all acceptable.  We picked her first choice, and could have been on our way.

But she started to talk with us about her life, how she and her husband love the traditional Armenian dishes that she cooks.  She talked about some of her “famous” customers.  She asked us about our careers.  It was a rainy Saturday and we had our usual long list of errands, but we lingered because chatting with her was so much fun. 

Charlotte told us about a church supper she is in charge of.  We agreed that it was a good day for comfort food.  By this time, her husband had joined us, and he was urging her to share her recipes with me.  So she described her favorite lentil dish, insisting that it had to be made with orange lentils from a neighboring Armenian store.  She wasn’t sure of the amounts because she doesn’t measure her ingredients.  She said she would write down the recipes at home and bring them in and that I should call her during the week. She gave me her card and took mine. 

I feel like I have a new friend.

Picture Project

In February I got a $50 gift card for a service that puts photos on a CD. I will use it to digitize hundreds of our old pictures.

In the forty-five years that Peter and I have known each other, we have filled album after album. Deciding which ones to digitize, which to keep just-in-case and which to toss turns out to be both more emotional and more of a time-sink than I anticipated.

We know that our kids won't want all the pictures of random people we met on twenty years of bicycling vacations. We have forgotten most of their names anyway. And how many pictures of the kids sledding do we keep for posterity?

I have been working on my picture project on and off for two months. It's become a burden. It's not the time and effort that's getting to me. It's the realization that the best is behind us. Our wedding, our honeymoon, the kids just born, the kids in school plays, the kids graduating from high school, college, and graduate school.

They may be just fading photos, but they are the story of our life together.

And it's gone way too fast.

Bold, But Not Brash

After looking at a bathroom floor like the one in your grandmother's house—you know, little black and white squares with a black border—for fifteen years, we finally decided to do our bathroom over. It wasn't just the floor. The vanity drawers either didn't close or didn't open, depending on their mood. The counter top was pathetic in its own way. And we had already replaced the tiles on the shower walls after a plumbing emergency three years ago, fully meaning to do the rest ASAP.

We were efficient about choosing and ordering everything, and had the contractor all set. True, our project started four weeks later than scheduled, but that's to be expected. Once the work started, it was just five days of disruption until the bathroom looked beautiful. A new shower curtain would be the final touch. That was a bit complicated, however, involving six visits to the Marimekko store. But on Thursday night we hung it and everything came together.

When we went on our usual Saturday walk, Peter and I commented on what a difference the shower curtain made, how it was worth all the trouble to get it. Peter called the shower curtain "bold (fearless and daring), but not brash (impudent or saucy)." I walked a few steps thinking about how he characterized the shower curtain and how I wished I could be described that way.

Maybe it's not too late.

New Boss (con’t)

My new boss has been on board for eight weeks. I had mixed emotions about giving up "his" position after being the interim boss even though, as I have written before, I did not want the job. I knew I could be helpful to him since I know the ropes, and I wanted him to succeed because I care deeply about the mission of our organization. But I could not predict how it would feel to have a boss who is the age of my children.

We've spent a lot of time together since he arrived. He's smart. He gets it. He has a lot of good ideas. He is moving in measured steps, and he is very consultative with me (and others). He considers me a partner. We are developing trust for one another. All that is good.

But what is even better is that I feel like I have renewed energy, that it's a whole new job, a whole new challenge. I'm seeing things through his eyes at the same time that I am giving him a lot of context and experience. I'm working as hard or harder than ever before, but I feel like I have a new purpose and a new challenge, even while staying at a place I've loved working at for almost thirty years.

Am I lucky or what?

Home is Where the Heart Is

My family moved a lot when I was young. By the time I was nine, I had lived in four different cities. But then we settled down, and I finished elementary school and high school in the same city. After college, I made one major move. But for the last fifty years, none of my address changes has involved moving more than ten miles.

Peter and I lived in an apartment when we got married. After a year, we bought a small house in a nearby suburb followed by a bigger house in the same suburb. Fifteen years ago when the kids had been launched, we moved back to the city. Now we live in a small house that suits us.

About fourteen months ago, a short time after Peter was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, we thought it might be wise to consider moving to an apartment. We thought we might be better off on one floor in a building with an elevator. So we started looking. We saw some really nice apartments, but there was always something that we didn't like. Our real estate broker was good about showing us appropriate places. But nothing was quite right.

On Wednesday she told us about an apartment in a building that hasn't had an opening in the whole time we've been looking, one that has everything that's been missing in all the others, and one we'd been hoping would be the ONE. We talked about it for a long time Wednesday night, and in the end, we decided not to even take a look.

Peter is doing quite well. We love our house. We love stepping out onto our patio and reading in our garden. We like our "gym" in the basement and we like our neighbors. Someday we might regret our decision to stay where we are. If we could predict the future, we might make a different decision.

But for now, this home is where our heart is.

Like Mother, Like Son

It's almost twenty-one years since my neighbor Val moved away. In the thirteen years we lived across the street from each other, we exercised together, we baby-sat for each other, we drank gallons of tea together, and once we exchanged one of our teen-age children for a week because Val had all girls and we had all boys.

The message board on our refrigerator often read "Call Val."

Since July of 1989, she and I have talked almost every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Friends and family know not to call during Val time. It's not quite the same as having each other across the street, but it's the best we can do.

Recently our older son, Seth who lives in Brazil, has started to talk to two of his far-away friends from high school on Sundays too. It's a little more complicated to coordinate because they live in three different time zones. Last week, he reported that their call has become a tradition. They call it the Val Call.

Like mother, like son.


On Friday I wore a pair of black and white "tweedy" pants and a short, chic black jacket to work. It's a spring outfit, and it was just right for a beautiful spring day of meetings. While I was sitting in one of those meetings, I looked down and noticed my tummy. I wear a size six, and I exercise and eat right. In all honesty, I've been known to gain a pound or two over the winter because I hate the short days. But I've never "noticed" my tummy before. I sat up a little straighter, but that didn't help.

It's true that Peter and I have a new habit. We discovered Trader Joe's One Pound-Plus Belgium chocolate bars ($4.59, I think) and. having learned how good dark chocolate is for our health, we've been eating two squares just about every night for months.

On Saturday morning, I dug the scale out of the closet and weighed myself. As usual after the winter, I'm about two pounds over my preferred weight, but that's no different than in past springs. So what's with this tummy thing?

Maybe I need to go down to one square of chocolate and double the number of sit-ups I do. But I have this sinking feeling in my gut that it has something to do with…

being 70-something.

Last Sunday

On Sunday I slept in (that means 8:00 a.m. for me).  When I woke, the sun was dancing across the bedroom walls.  I thought about the day ahead.  There was nothing that I absolutely positively had to do.  Nowhere I had to be.  I virtually skipped down the stairs to join Peter.  I told him how happy I was.  I told him how I want to hold on to this day…to this feeling.