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December 2011

November 2011

Talking Turkey

Thanks to our daughter-in-law Katrina who suggested the tradition, we have a Thanksgiving Grateful Jar.  Before digging into dessert, we read the notes that say what we are grateful for.   We express our gratitude for each other, our homes and our health, and for Reese’s peanut butter cups.

This year, however there was an additional pre-dessert reading by our son Seth.

Seth read a short article about Thanksgiving from the turkey’s point of view.  Not surprisingly, turkeys see this holiday differently than we do. The article was quite funny and no one laughed harder than Gramps (aka Peter). 

Once we had quieted down, Seth announced that the article had appeared about sixty years ago in “The Maroon,” the newspaper of Colgate University. 

It had been written by a staff writer named Pete Kugel (aka Gramps).


Anticipating Thanksgiving

What saves November from being my least favorite month is that it contains my most favorite holiday.  No gifts, just being together around the table with a menu that is a given and is loved by all.  It is a command performance in our family, and except for the year Jeremy lived in Chile, we’ve always been together.

The rituals will take place tomorrow—frantic preparation of the last pie and the stuffing first thing in the morning, a family walk around the reservoir once the turkey is in the oven, a quick detour from the path to a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts (embarrassing to admit), and then the annual family picture that a random  passerby takes at exactly the same place each year. (We do offer him/her a doughnut.)

This year the kids are invited to a wedding on Sunday, and everyone will leave us a day earlier than usual.  The grandchildren are not excited about a baby sitter in a hotel.  So in a phone conversation with seven-year old Leo the other night he asked, “Grammy, why can’t Grady and I stay with you and have Mommy and Daddy drive back from New York to pick us up in Boston after the wedding?”

Add eight more hours to their trip home on the traffic-filled Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend?

Fine with me.

Buenos Aires

November is springtime in Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America”.  And that is why we traveled there with our friends Christa and Gordon earlier this month.

First, the bad news.  Six days into our trip, Christa and Peter had their cameras stolen from their pockets on the subway.  They didn’t feel a thing, but we lost all our photographs. And our cameras.

The good news—everything else was great.  Buenos Aires is huge and a bit overwhelming at first.  But it is manageable.  A few highlights:

  • The parks of the Palermo section of Buenos Aires, including the Japanese Garden, the Rose Garden, and the Botanical Garden
  • The wide boulevards with massive Paris-like buildings and towering trees, particularly the stately jacaranda tree with its purple flowers in full bloom
  • Argentina’s grass-fed beef
  • Dulce de leche ice cream from Freddo’s, a just reward for our hours of walking
  • El Ateneo, a former grand theatre, now a well-stocked bookstore, where you can settle into a balcony box seat and read to your heart’s content or have a cup of coffee on the stage and watch the “audience.”
  • The Recoleta Cemetary where Evita Peron was finally buried
  • A day trip to the UNESCO Heritage Site of Colonia, Uruguay

And then there is the return to home.  Short days, leaf-less trees, winter jackets, work to catch up with.  But most of all, gratitude for what we are still able to do.

Aunt Belle and Eggs

My Aunt Belle was a bit eccentric.  The oldest of the six children in my mother’s family, she never married. And some say she didn’t contribute much to the world.  But she lived until ninety-nine, far longer than any of her more productive siblings.

When the family moved her into a nursing home, Aunt Ruth was her most frequent visitor.  One day the nurse attendant told Aunt Ruth that Aunt Belle asked for a second egg, but they turned her down because of “her cholesterol problem". Aunt Ruth replied something to the effect that “For God’s sake, the woman is 99.  Let her have two eggs.”

I thought of that story the other day because I was planning to be away for a few dinners. Peter always chooses to have some nitrite filled sausage-type dinner when I am not around.  I thought about suggesting that he might want something healthier, until I remembered the story about Aunt Belle. 

Peter isn’t 99 yet, but what-the-heck? If he wants a few nitrite-filled dinners, who am I to stop him?

It's a Bird, It's a Plane...

Most of my coursework at the University of Michigan is buried somewhere deep in my brain, never to be heard from again.  But there are some exceptions.  I remember almost everything I learned in my art history and music literature courses. 

I am convinced that I have retained that knowledge in an accessible part of my brain because I use it all the time in art museums and at concerts. 

On exams in music literature, we had to identify snippets of pieces we had listened to in class. To prepare for an exam, we made up words to the main themes of the music and memorized where in the symphony they occurred.  My roommate and I were particularly good at this, and thought we were pretty original.

I was in Symphony Hall last month for a concert of “war horses.”  The program included Mozart’s monumental 40th symphony.  As the orchestra tuned up after intermission, the words to the opening theme came to mind.   “It’s a bird; it’s a plane; it’s a Mozart…”

My friend Joe was sitting next to me.  He leaned over to his wife and sang the same words that we “invented.”  He had prepared for music appreciation exams the same way when he was an undergraduate.

I guess we weren’t so original.


I never was a daughter-in-law.  When I met Peter, both of his parents had passed away.  Although some might consider me lucky, I feel like I missed out by not hearing what Peter was like as a child and while growing up.  I have seen photos of his mother Hilda, and she was a beauty.  I wish I had known her.  I’d like to think that I would have been a good daughter-in-law, grateful to the woman responsible for bringing my husband into the world.

Now I am a mother-in-law, and I often hear tales of not-so-great daughters-in-law from some of my friends.  But mine is a star.

I love my daughter-in-law.  She is amazing.  She is a great mom, an unbelievable wife, and a solid member of her community.  She is my son’s best friend. 

Once she told me that her friends think she is lucky to have a good mother-in-law. 

I, too, am lucky


Long Nights

Regular 70-something readers know how miserable I am when daylight savings time ends. That first bike ride home from work after dark sucks.

Each year I tell myself that I‘m getting too old to bike at night.  And then I think about walking to the bus stop after work, waiting for the bus in the cold, and walking home from the bus stop.  I decide I am up for another year of riding in the dark.

Unlike most cyclists who tune up their bikes in March, I do mine in October.  I need to have fresh anti-freeze in my brake cables.  And unlike many young, “immortal” night bike riders, I wear a neon yellow jacket over my parka, and my bike has blinking lights front and back. I want the drivers to see me.

This year I have a new addition to my bike.  It’s called BikeGlow Safety Light.  It is a string of flashing lights that wrap around the bike frame, and it is very cool.

Drivers beware!

What I Wore

The other day, I was thinking about the first week that I worked full time after becoming a parent.  I remember how my nerves were on edge as I struggled with the reality that the kids would be coming home from school to someone who was not me.  I recall how exhausted I felt standing on the sidelines at their soccer games that Saturday. 

I also recall what I wore that fall 1980 day. 

I still remember what I wore the day I met Peter in 1965 (and what he wore!) and what I wore to a concert that I knew he was attending shortly thereafter in the hope that he would invite me for a beer afterwards (he did).  I remember what I wore on our first real date. I could also describe the suit I wore in 1980 when I was interviewed for the job I now have.

I do not, however, remember what I wore on Monday.