Friday, March 11, 2016

Thank-You Note, 30 Years Later

Dear Danny,

Thank you for the journal.
It had,
until last month,
Lay dormant in its box--
corners broken,
worn flat
from too many moves.

Thank you for the glimpse
my 13-year-old mind.

The self-portrait
of a not-quite child,
not-quite young woman,
standing on the brink
of Jewish adulthood.

The pink-festooned pages on which I dutifully recorded
"Favorite Movie: Back to the Future
Favorite Actress: Molly Ringwald"
(in pencil, in case I changed my mind)
remain mercifully smudge free.

My tentative scrawling
and belabored cursive
detail my thoughts
before, during and after
the event itself.

A thoughtful present then—
A treasured blessing now,
as I face
the same milestone

30 years later

With my not-quite child,
not-quite young woman,
standing on the brink
of her own Jewish adulthood.

She asks, "What were you feeling?"

I can point to the words,
line by line,
a secular D'var Torah
providing insight and commentary
into the scrolls of our own
Book of Life.

What a gift.

Your friend,

Monday, March 03, 2014

They really want a fish

My daughter, the future lawyer/writer, just handed me a list of ten reasons why she and her brother should be allowed to get a fish as a pet. I have had a strong "no pet" policy in the house since I have had my own domicile; I figure I have enough to be getting on with, cleaning up after my two children and my husband who is not the tidiest person on the planet. Anything with hair is definitely out. We entertained the idea of a hermit crab for a time, until last summer, when she learned that she would have to handle the crab to bathe it. Bye-bye hermit crab. Here are my daughter's Reasons for a fish (with her spelling and grammar intact):

  1. We can show you how responisble we are.
  2. They are colorful.
  3. They can keep you entertained.
  4. We can expeirence the fish so we know if we should get them when we have kids.
  5. We are going to keep bugging you for one.
  6. It would teach mommy to love pets.
  7. We can relive the barfing fish everyday.
  8. It will teach us how to take care of a pet.
  9. Most of my freinds have pets.
  10. If we get 2 fish will have somone to keep him company.
While #7 made me smile (a throwback to a fish tank in a restaurant on summer vacation two years ago), I have to marvel at her skillful use of rhetoric in #4 and #5, with the appeal to emotion on #10. Sadly, I am not swayed by the bandwagon on #9.

Since she has agreed to clean the tank (I don't think she has a clue what she is in for), we will be adding an unknown quantity of fish to our household in the near future. I figure if she and her brother drop the ball, there will be natural consequences that I can live with (flush), and everyone will learn a lesson. Who knows, I might be pleasantly surprised (#6, #8, #1).

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

For Natalie

I received word yesterday that my father's first cousin was moved to hospice. She has been fighting cancer that has now moved into her colon and caused a perforation. Her sons and grandchildren and with her and giving her the care she needs.

I wrote a small piece to capture what I will remember about Natalie, because she, like all of us, deserves to be remembered.



In the summer, we'd see the wavy brown hair
Elegantly perched above your sun visor,
Neat wrap skirt tied
On your slim hip,
Tan, freckled shoulders
Reflecting the sunlight;
Pausing just a moment
While making the turn.

The golf spikes striking concrete
Would foreshadow your voice
As you turned to greet us,
Always smiling,
Always wanting to know the whole of everything
In five minutes or more.

In the fall, you'd arrive in all your finery,
The perfect earrings falling
Next to a perfectly framed face,
Icing-drop cookies in hand,
With stories to tell
And questions to pose.

Golden bronze-glinted fingers
Flew, here and away,
To punctuate tales of summers
And children
And deals
And gatherings gone by
And family.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Contracts and the End of the World

It has been a banner summer so far, replete with a large-scale violent attack (see: Aurora, CO) that makes you question everything from gun control to racial profiling in the media, and a weather-related inconvenience (see: derecho) that gives you new-found appreciation for climate control.

Here in our little corner of the world, we have also experienced one broken arm, two heads of lice, and three sore throats (one necessitating antibiotics). Is it the end of the world? According to my son, it has to be. Witness:

(Scene: Morning in the Jacob household. Children are running amok, avoiding clothes and toothbrushes. Husband is looking for clean laundry. I am on computer but soon give up to pack lunches for children. Sam, age 6, enters my office with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in his hand.)

Sam: Mommy, can I take this to camp today?
Me: Why?
Sam: So I can read it. So I won't be bored.
(long beat)
Me: Sweetie, I think this one is a little tough for you to read on your own. Why don't you take something else to read?
Sam: (whining) Liiiiiike whaaaaaaat?
Me: I don't know. Ask your sister for a suggestion. I've got to go pack your lunch.

Sam: Sydney, what book can I take to camp to read?
Syd: I don't know. Look on your shelf.
Sam: I've read all of those a million times. Can I take Diary of a Wimpy Kid?
Syd: But it's mine.
Sam: I just want to borrow it. J--- is reading it.
Syd. Hmmm. Hold on a sec.

(Long beat, as I reenter the picture and overhear:)

Syd: Just sign here.
Sam: Okay.
Me: Wait, wait. What are you signing?
Syd. Just a contract. It's nothing.
Me: Wait a minute. Let me see that.
Marc: Sam, don't sign anything without reading the fine print.
Me: Don't sign anything from your sister without showing it to me first.
Syd: It's too late. He already signed.
Me: Give me that.
Syd: No!

(Scrappling for paper ensues. I win and read contract, replete with cost of book and ISBN. I immediately tear up contract.)

Syd and Sam: No!
Me: No way.
Syd: He signed!
Me: Now it's null and void.
Sam: I can't take the book?
Me: No. Because you promised that if you lost it, got it wet, or basically breathed on it, you would buy her a new one.
Syd: So?
Me: So?! You don't put a contract on your brother.
Sam: But now I don't have anything to read! You said I couldn't take The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and you told me to find another book. So I found Diary of a Wimpy Kid and now you won't let me take that either. And everyone in camp is bringing books to read, and I won't have one and I'm going to be bored! It's not fair!

(Commence tantrum that lasts 10 minutes, escalates, and involves counting and a timeout. He repeats some variation of the above lines, and ends with the following phrase, repeated over and over, as he is escorted, crying, to the car to go to camp:)

Sam: It's got to be the end of the world! It's got to be! It's got to be the end of the world!

(End. Finally.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled that he wants to read. I'm slightly perturbed that he is "bored" at camp and feels the need to find ways to amuse himself, but of all the ways he could do so, books are definitely at the top of my list.

But the end of the world? C'mon, kid. I'll see your tantrum and raise you a derecho. Just don't tell Pepco!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

From today's journal:

It is amazing how clear the solutions to problems become when I look at them from a position of love, not fear. Fear never did anything for me except hold me back and make me eat.
I am done with fear.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Thought

I just want someone to look into those big brown eyes and say, honestly, "You matter. You. Matter."

Monday, July 09, 2012

Journey On

(I hesitated for a moment on capitalizing the second word in the title, but my editor brain said, "Capitalize the first and last words in a title," so there you have it.)

I went back to the beginning of my blog today and realized that I started writing this behemoth before my son was born. He will be seven the first week in August. That's a long time and a lot of words. Seven! Seven. That's substantial in kid years. Although he still thinks his sister has it all over him. He was talking about her impending Bat Mitzvah (in three years!) and said, "Wow, she'll be the only kid in the family that has two numbers [double digits]." He cracks me up. She'll be in double digits in less than a year. But his brain doesn't work that way.

I took him to get his hair cut yesterday. I was watching him in the mirror, watching him as he couldn't watch me, because his eyes were closed and his head was down. His face was a little flushed from the heat, and his skin was tanned from our recent, unplanned trip to the mountains. Every so often, he'd look up and see me staring, catch my eye, and smile at me. His grin would round his cheeks and show his dimples, and the two front teeth that are partly grown in. We'd smile at each other, and the stylist would ask him to put his head back down.

And I'd watch, not seeing my almost seven-year-old, but seeing the 12-month-old sitting up straight in the red metal car, dodging the comb every time the stylist came near his face. The three-year-old with his eyes fixed on the TV screen, unwilling to look down at his belly, even with the promise of a lollipop if he did. The five-year-old who shyly tugged at my arm and whispered to me to remind the lady that he "doesn't like the water" sprayed on his hair.

I hear echoes of the future, wondering what battles lie before me. He wants to grow it longer, and I think it looks better short. We're disagreeing over style, and maybe even color. I glance back to the present, to the rounded cheeks, and fight back the urge to gather him in my arms and make him swear to me that he won't grow it out too long, or fight me on his curfew. Or break my heart.

I blink back the tears and look away before he can see them. When the stylist finishes, I ask him if he wants a little gel in the front. This is usually the highpoint of his haircut, getting a little product and strutting around like a "cool dude" for the rest of the day. But he smiles and declines. She offers it to him and he says no thank you. "A little water, then," she says, wetting her hands and combing them through his now-shortened locks so that the front stands up just a bit. I expect him to recoil at the touch of the water, but he takes it like a man.

When we exit the shop, I grasp his hand to cross the parking lot to the car. He doesn't pull away as he usually does, and I am grateful. His still-small fingers entwine with my own. I breathe deeply, trying to memorize the moment and the feeling, knowing the next seven years will pass by just as quickly.