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November 2020
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January 2021

December 2020

Adios 2020

What a year!  So many lives lost to Covid-19.  So many people out of work, or even worse, losing their homes.  But also, so many heroes working under tremendous pressure, putting their lives at risk to help others.  So much creativity in dealing with once-in-a-century limits to our activities.  More chess, more knitting, hours of Zooming.  Families spending so much time together, relationships sometimes stronger, and sometimes not.

Lessons will be learned.  Books will be written about 2020, and courses will be taught.

I’m glad to see it go.

Happy 2021.


Nine months ago, Peter and I gave a party to celebrate his 90th birthday.  We didn’t know then what “Covid-19” was all about, although one couple gave us a hint when they declined our invitation because of the just-beginning pandemic.  I remember we suggested, via signage, that people not hug, but we had no clue what was coming at us. Since then, many friends have told us that Peter’s 90th was the last party they attended this year.

 In the warmer weather, we often gathered in small groups at a distance in the garden behind our building.  But now it’s winter and it’s New England, a bad combination for anything outdoors not related to skiing.

So when we found out that a lovely young(er) woman on our hall had accepted a job in Florida, we needed to find a winter way to celebrate her.  The day we chose turned out to be cold and windy, but six of us carried folding chairs out into the parking area, set them up in a socially-distanced circle, and celebrated Amy.  After she explained her exciting new job, each person read a short poem written in her honor.  There was no food or drink, but we managed to last an hour before six freezing people picked up their folding chairs and the party was over.

We all had a great time.

Good Morning

It is our custom that Peter says a few end-of-the-year words on 80-something.  Here he is…

Seasons Greetings to all.


When I woke up the other day it was still dark. I checked on Judy’s side of the bed.  And when I saw that she was still sleeping, I went downstairs to open the living room blinds. The streetlights were bright.   The traffic lights were working.

That meant that, all through the night, the generators had been generating.  The transformers had been transforming.  The batteries had been battering, or doing whatever it is that batteries do.

Which meant that there would be electricity around to make my breakfast coffee.  Toast my bagel.  Power my smartphone.  To operate my computer and allow me to write this piece.

The buses were running.   The food was being delivered to the grocery stores.

Things may be bad.  (The Economist is late this week!)   There are lots of things we’re going to have to fix when this catastrophe is over. But there are lots of good things going on that most of us don’t appreciate.    They may not seem like much, but think of what life is like in places were those things aren’t happening.

There are lots of things we’re going to have to fix when this catastrophe is over.

But not everything

Semester's End

On Wednesday, I attended my last learning-in-retirement class of the semester.  It was virtual and worked surprisingly well, even when in one session, the study group leader’s internet connection went down.  We just carried on without him for the five minutes or so it took to sort it all out.

In that class, we read five books by Philip Roth, all with subjects relevant to aging. Our discussions were lively and smart, and despite the dreary subject matter, we had our share of laughs.  The author of a forthcoming biography of Roth joined us for one delightful session. 

My other class was about demography.  Our text was The Human Tide. In addition, we looked at lots of United Nations graphs and statistics.  We pondered the future, noting that things like pandemics and global warming will have to be taken into consideration. But in general, it seems that in spite of all of the uncertainties, one can predict quite a bit about what our future world population will look like.

Once again, I was reminded that despite of how long I’ve been around, there’s still plenty for me to learn.

What's First?

It’s now OK to believe that 2021 will bring some relief from Covid-19. As first vaccines are making their way to our front-line healthcare workers, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

Here’s what I plan to do when it is safe:

First, I will be grateful that my family is alright since an unfathomable number of people were not so lucky. After that, I will

  1. Hug my friends
  2. Eat inside a restaurant
  3. Cook for someone besides Peter
  4. Fly to Maryland to see our kids and grand-kids
  5. Stop buying everything from Amazon
  6. Go to plays, movies and concerts
  7. Resume pre-pandemic life to the fullest extent possible

What will you do first?


December is a time for reflection. And I have plenty of time to do that this year because there’s not much on our December calendar.  No Christmas parties. No First Night celebrations. Just virtual appointments with various doctors and a lot of Zooming around.  

December is also a good time for telling friends and family how grateful you are for having them in your lives, especially this year.  It’s been a long time since I’ve hugged a friend.  I miss that.

I hope that next year will be better, but we have a lot of work to do.  Healing our divided country will not be easy.  Distributing new vaccines efficiently and equitably and persuading people to take them will not be easy. Choosing priorities when there are so many things to be done will not be easy. 

We’re almost done with 2020. Thank goodness.  It’s been an interesting year.  Let’s hope that 2021 will be less so.

Jade Plants



In the background of a family picture (above), taken around forty years ago, there is a huge jade plant.  Approximately twenty years and one home later, it perished of an undiagnosed disease.

In a photo below is our current jade plant, and it is its story that I want to tell. 


I have a close friend who is a wonderful potter.  When we moved to Washington, DC in 2017, she wanted a souvenir of me, and asked for the one and only piece of pottery I ever made, a small, misshaped pot, circa 1972. 

Ten months later, we moved back to Cambridge. My potter friend came by to see our new place.  After she left, I noticed that she had returned the small pot she had taken when we moved.  In it was a tiny jade plant cutting with only five leaves.  It has thrived since it’s been "home". 

And so have we.

Falling, Part II

On November 1st, the subject of my blog post was how to avoid falling. On November 12th, Peter fell.  I was in the kitchen when I heard the sound of a crash coming from our study. He said he was fine.  He had just fallen over. He had not hit his head.

But two days later, he was in the hospital with a diagnosis of four broken ribs and internal bleeding that required a blood transfusion and an eight-day stay.

He’s much better now, to our great relief.

Once more, we have dodged a bullet.  Now, with a blizzard in our weather forecast, a pandemic in our country, and an uncertain future, I am glad I have him here with me to dodge more.


Our son Seth has been producing YouTube videos for Brazilians (in Portuguese) for several years. He deals with multitudes of topics about life in America including its politics, fashions, holidays, and the like.

While he was home for Thanksgiving last week, he invited me to join him on Amigo Gringo. He had asked his YouTube viewers to submit questions that they would like him to ask his mother.

They ranged from my relationship to our children to whether or not I would support universal health care.  They asked if I had made farofa, a Brazilian dish made of cassava flour, bacon, onions, garlic, parsley, and chives toasted in butter. (Answer, no, but I’ve eaten it and like it.)

Twenty-one thousand people viewed the video during its first three days.  After the interview aired, many of them submitted comments. Here are a few of the things they said.

    “What a cute mom.”

    “Seth’s mother, adopt me please, please, please.”

    “Adorable video.  I'd spend hours watching Mrs. Kugel explaining things.”

Most important was how much fun it was for me to be part of Seth’s “work”.

(The video is available at  If you would like to watch it, start around minute 3:18.)