I‘m addicted to surveys. I guess it’s not surprising since my husband and I are in the market research biz. I’m interested in what you think about New Year’s Resolutions. Click here to take my survey on this topic and thanks for your help!
Aging- Aging Is Like Art- It’s a Matter of Interpretation
IdeaLizms is a monthly e-magazine I write. The following is a holiday story I included in my most recent edition. Hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Boxer Day, Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa.
Christmas ran through my mother’s veins like Santa’s reindeers racing through the night trying to meet their early morning deadline. I imagine her impoverished childhood denied her the fun and festivities most of her friends took for granted. She spent early years in Omega, Georgia, a place that might as well be at the end of the earth where opportunities go to die. She was the daughter of the town drunk. Buster Woodall generally spent his Saturday nights in jail following an evening of drinking and carousing. Dusting himself off early in the am, he would don his “cleanest dirty shirt” and ask for repentance at his conservative Southern Baptist church.
My mother’s paternal grandmother helped her escape her small town fate, moving her to Orlando. Her years at what was then the only high school in town introduced her to a bigger world and ultimately my father, a sailor from Long Island, New York.
Life in her Levittown-like subdivision, though far from lavish, was sufficiently far from her South Georgia roots.
Straining to leave behind her former life, she was committed to ensuring her own three children fared better at the holidays than did she. What their budget lacked, her drive and enthusiasm made up for. Christmas in the Lang house felt like a Hallmark Holiday movie (albeit a down-the-socioeconomic scale version)
The first weekend in December found the family’s front door festooned with foil and a prickly scotch pine ensconced in a bucket tied for stability to the crank of the jalousie windows.
Boy did those needles stab fingers wrestling to attach colorful bulbs. My mother treated tree trimming the way a Hollywood director treats a movie production. “There is a gap on the left side. “No, no over there” she would direct her slaves, oops! I mean elves. Invariably my rascal of a brother, Michael, would toss clumps of tinsel onto the tree, willingly enduring the inevitable scolding from my mother who wanted her hand cut, misshapen tree to look as fine as possible.
Each child had a favorite ornament. Years later when my father was discarding the remnants of his earlier family life, he gave me what he deemed to be my favorite childhood ornament. I did not have the heart to tell him, it was the wrong one. But I dutifully include it on my own tree each year, paying homage to my childhood memories.
As I write I realize I inherited her spirit. Almost every tradition I’ve instituted in my own holiday celebrations originated from her. Although when I review my list I think perhaps the word “tradition” is too broad. It’s more like Christmas policies, kind of a Roberts Rules of Christmas Procedures. (1) Presents are never opened before Christmas morning. The idea of opening presents even on Christmas Eve was an anathema to our family. (2) No artificial trees ever passed the threshold into our home. Only “real” trees were/are allowed bringing with them the aroma of fresh pine and juniper berries. AND colorful lights. No white lights for us. (I was slightly taken aback when I saw my son and daughter-in-law’s tree bedecked with white lights. (3) Presents were/are in rank order. The “Santa present” was the big kahuna. I remember getting my Smith Corona typewriter one year on which I typed more than a few columns for my high school newspaper. Stockings were filled with little treats. Second tier presents followed– school clothes, mushroom candles, PJs…. We so looked forward to the presents. I can’t imagine there was a lot of money left over in the family budget for Christmas indulgences but it sure felt that way.
I remember the last Christmas my mother was alive. She was quite ill and died ten days later. I showered her with gifts that Christmas morning, knowing there would be little time left for her to enjoy them. I wanted her to feel the way she made me feel all those years ago.
Ok, back to the list…(4) Homemade cookies and milk as well as iceberg lettuce and carrots were left out each Christmas Eve. (My brother’s awakening to the reality of Santa came one year when he discovered the reindeer food carelessly tossed back into the crisper drawer in the refrigerator). (5) My mom would prepare our big Christmas Day meal the evening before. Generally a scotch would accompany her dicing, stuffing, and chopping. One year she noticed her cocktail disappearing faster than she remembered drinking it. Hardly later, my six-year old brother was giggling and summersaulting off my parent’s bed. I don’t think he made it to Christmas Eve services that year.
To this day I carry these traditions in my heart. Only real trees occupy our home. AND no white lights, only multi-colors for our tree. My mother’s little snowy Christmas village inspired my own ceramic version which now rests on the dresser of my granddaughter in Chicago. I still wrap presents to the accompaniment of Miracle on 34th Street (old and updated one) with an occasional Hallmark holiday movie thrown in. While no longer an Episcopalian I still attend services on Christmas Eve.
Yes, the holidays can be frenzied and fatiguing. While I’m not really a science fiction buff I do think holidays offer an opportunity for time travel. Our memories transport us to holidays past and time spent with long lost loved ones; they anchor us to our present; and create a vision for the future. If there is a meaning of life I think it can be found in the word connection. Holidays can foster connection– to friends and family, our past and present, and even with strangers. Our individual self is erased and we are connected as one, even for just a morning.
I started my vacation the Wednesday following the election. I watched the returns with my arms around my BFF, Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonay. The two of us have enjoyed a long history together with Sonoma C. comforting me through more than a few tense times. And she did not let me down Tuesday night as I fretted, fumed, and fiddled with the remote control changing channels for election results. The results of the election are the stuff of another post, however.
My husband and I have been in the election biz for more than 30 years. Early November finds us, and about 600 other political consultants on planes, trains and cruise ships leaving behind the scarred psyches of ordinary people traumatized by snarky television ads and mail pieces describing the mothers of opposing candidates as cheaters and child molesters.
Our “Cultural Cuba” cruise launched from Miami so we took the opportunity to visit dear friends. Stan, also a political pundit, is an expert in wine and scotch. He also fancies fine dining. Just entering Dade County my mouth starts to water anticipating the exquisite food and wine in store for me. And I was not disappointed. Lunch at the Alhambra style 1927 Biltmore Hotel featured bacon wrapped scallops and a white wine so crisp and cool I drank half of the bottle myself.
The Bazaar Mar is a Michelin Star rated restaurant owned by James Beard award winning chef Jose Andres. Andres was featured in a story entitled “We Fed an Island” describing the 18 kitchens he set up all over the island of Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Working with the World Central Kitchen and 20,000 volunteers he served $150,000 meals a day during his three-month tenure on his native island. In total they served three million meals.
The meal consisted of course after course of small plates each with excruciating flavor profiles (Stan’s words not mine). Every fifteen minutes during our four hour gastro experience multiple apron clad waiters with choreographed precision, deposited an array of delicacies such as an Asian taco on a kale chip with ham, cured yellow tail tuna, and caviar; or Cobia “Rosa” ceviche;
the tiniest of sugar cones filled with salmon mousse; and something called a Neptune’s Pillow.
“How do you feel about sparklers?” Stan asked early into the evening. As if he was David Copperfield the waiter magically produced a bottle of icy brut champagne. There was also a White Blend of seven, eight or nine grapes, rounding out our alcohol consumption. (Oh, did I mention we first met in the bar (featuring a gilled bull wall sculpture, for cocktails featuring concoctions such as a “salt air foamed margarita)
A deconstructed key lime pie, shaved grapefruit ice, and the requisite chocolate soufflé put an end to our food intake (and my stomach’s ability to process food). Fortunately our Aloft Hotel was a few blocks away providing a way for our bodies to move around a few of the 3,000 calories we had just ingested. In the distance I saw a neon green P flashing like a beacon. “It’s a Publix!” (Florida grocery store) I cheered. I can get some Pepto-Bismol and Perrier!
I’m 65, this drinking and dining lifestyle is out of my league.
I’m upside down in a dental chair. The only plus (aside from the obvious- saving my teeth and gums) is the fact my feet are above my heart, which, after recent foot surgery, is just what the doctor ordered to keep swelling down.
I keep my eyes closed, ostensibly from the beam of the overhead operatory light, but mostly it’s to keep my hygienist from seeing the pain and naked fear as she approaches my mouth with her “tools”. I submit to these oral hygiene rituals three times a year. I guess because I am diligent about these visits, I rarely have to see the dentist. And God help me when I do. He sounds like an urban cowboy and can’t stop talking about himself when he comes in to check the hygienist’s work. This morning he pats his chest, pointing out a cardiac monitor measuring his rhythm and heart rate (see, already I know to much just from his opening hello).
“Yeah, my new cardiologist says if my heart beats are only slightly irregular I can get off this beta blocker. It’s actually not too bad, I don’t really feel any side effects I just don’t like taking medication if I don’t absolutely have to.”
Do I really want to know all this? My mind’s eye is now forced to visualize his 66 year old skinny (probably hairless) chest with this apparatus attached to his pale skin. I don’t want to imagine that look. I don’t even want to imagine the chests of men I actually care about. I’m usually a prisoner in the chair with no means of avoiding his incessant chatter. Today, I was vertical and able to inch out of the 10’ by 11” closet to pay my bill and leave!
But I actually like the hygienist. Her name is Liz like mine. She knows people I know and asks after my children. She does her share of “tut tuts”. “You know you should floss every day.” (I was once told by another hygienist that I was quite the “salivater” which is problematic for plaque build up). “You know you should brush your teeth for a full minute at least twice a day.” The lecture is given at a time when I can’t possibly respond or defend myself since her hands and tools have taken possession of my mouth.
I actually think it is a myth the rate of suicide among dentists is higher than in most professions. But they probably do suffer from self-esteem issues because rarely does anyone ever want to be in their offices. Every muscle in my body tenses as she wields her pointy medal scalers and thingamabobs in this vulnerable body part. (Who would have thought going to the dentist would be worse than the gynecologist?!).
When I make an attempt to brush my dog’s teeth I’m met with vigorous head shaking and running away. THAT SHOULD BE EVERYONE’S REACTION! Humans really must be either a weird bunch or somewhat evolved creatures to willingly submit themselves to torture once, twice, or like me, three times a year. But I do want to keep my teeth. I remember my Grandmother taking her teeth out at night and storing them in denture cleaner next to the bed. I was totally grossed out. I guess that was a motivator.
Remember the 1976 movie Marathon Man where Dustin Hoffman is tortured with dental tools by an exiled Nazi war criminal? I’ll never forget it. I practically rode in the lap of my then fiancé on the way home from the theater I was so terrified. You would think after 60+ years of dental visits, this would not be the image I conger up. But, alas it is.
Tell me about your experiences. My mouth and my psyche need company! (Obviously I’m no longer still upside down at the hygienist’s mercy in the dental chair as I write this blog post.)
Breaking up with functioning body parts is truly hard to do. No, I’m not having limbs amputated or anything, I’m just less able to use a couple of them.
Recent surgery on both of my feet has proven to be quite limiting. Rest assured, I knew it would be. Who does that? Have both feet operated on at the same time? Patience is not exactly my strong suit. (Actually I’m not quite sure just what my strong suit is but that is another blog post). The “operating” theory was that since each foot was plagued with the same condition (Morton’s neuroma, a/k/a pinched nerves) requiring surgical removal, why not do them both at once. One two-week recovery is more tolerable than two two-week recovery periods. Why go through this process twice? Even in my immobilized state, I’m sticking by my decision, although I’ll admit to having second thoughts.
First of all, I’m pretty dependent upon my husband and friends for survival. All the essential needs have been thrown in question- (1) food has to be prepared, or at least put on a plate and handed to me (2) same is true for liquids, (3) hygiene likewise requires help, (4) sleep is hampered by the skinny sofa (double booking as a bed since my own bed is upstairs), and (5) forget about driving, even to follow up medical appointments.
A friend confided recently that pursuant to a severely broken leg, her mate even had to lift her on and off the toilet. Now that puts intimacy to a real test. How does one do this recovery sans live-in partners?
I am truly grateful for (1) my rollator, which I’ve deemed my Cadillac for providing a small degree of independence, (2) my friends who have provided food, (3) the fact this is “minor” surgery and the recovery period has a time limit, and (4) my workout training has ensured my core muscles and triceps are somewhat in working order.
The pain pills are just the best. They really create the illusion all is right with the world. As much as Jim likes to hear how appreciative I am, he reminds me it is the fifteenth time I’ve told him how wonderful he is. (I don’t think he believes me! I guess in my non-drug induced state, I’m not as nice). I’m giving up on the hydrocodone, however. As fun as it is, I want to come back to real life.
Stiches will be out soon. Hopefully those little electrical zaps in the bottom of my foot will be gone for good. Maybe that means I won’t walk in such a bow-legged manner, which has impacted my knees. This aging thing is tough!
I was drafted (although I prefer the word “invited” since it signifies a privilege rather than an obligation) to be a childminder (British for babysitter) for my grandchildren who live in the Chicago area. My son and his wife, psychologists, were sans babysitter and their schedules were chock-full with clients following their Florida beach getaway.
I was bound and determined this week would be full of adventures for our threesome (Maya- 3½, Rusty 1½, and me- 65). Day one found us at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. The gardens were brimming with stunning flowers with names such as the Plum Fantasy Rose and the tiny daylily, dubbed the “Countess Carrot”. A garden devoted to butterflies occupied the majority of our time. I really came to understand the origin of “butterfly kisses” as these delicate creatures flitted about brushing cheeks and hair.
A model railroad featuring miniature trains running on 1,600 feet of tracks through handcrafted vignettes of American scenes and icons took up the remainder of our time. I took the long way home down beautiful Sheridan Road flanked by gracious mansions allowing sleepy children to take postponed naps.
Day two found us at the Lincoln Park Zoo trying mightily to awaken sleeping lions and Howler monkeys napping during the noon-day sun. A flamingo painted on a little girl’s face followed seeing the real thing in the Waterfowl lagoon.
Then there were the exotic birds, one giraffe and two zebras. AND best of all– a cherry Italian ice that found more of itself on Maya’s dress than on her tongue.
4:30 found me pushing a stroller and negotiating our exit with a very determined and sticky three year old. We were one hot, tired, cranky bunch by the time we reached our car. I should have known when the remote would not open the doors we were in trouble. And yes, of course, the car would not start. Panic engulfed my solar plexus as one child restlessly ran after geese in the adjacent park and the other struggled to extract himself from the stroller.
The parents, in the middle of sessions were virtually unreachable. Triple A was two hours away and by that time my little ones were bound and determined to chase the water fowl down to the lake. HELP! Uber I need you! My female knight in shining armor arrived in her red Dodge Durango.
“I’ll buy you anything you want at Target if you stay put and watch Ruie” I pleaded with my granddaughter. Have you ever hoisted a car seat in recent history?! They weigh at least 25 pounds, are quite cumbersome, and disengaging them takes an engineering degree (as does reinstalling them). Millennial parents are total freaks about car seat safety so I felt incredible pressure to make sure they were bolted securely in the Durango. Fortunately my KISA (Knight in Shining armor) had experience with car seats. Although she would not allow the pound of whole wheat goldfish embedded in the car seat to enter her back seat ).
One hour later (because the Uber driver went south, not north, embroiling us in 5:00pm Chicago traffic) we arrived home. And of course, both children were sound asleep. Again, the panic. How do I lift my sleeping 45 pound granddaughter, her 25 pound brother, and two car seats out? Fortunately my KISA came to my rescue yet again, following me to the front porch with car seats in tow.
Needless to say I gave my savior a five star rating. And, as promised, Target treats for good behavior followed the next day.