Combined in one big hullabaloo

Today, I signed up SOB and me for a camp reunion in September, celebrating 55 years of Camp Wingate.  SOB started in 1969. I, in 1971.  And one summer in 1974, so did POB.

Camp Wingate.  These two words that evoke sweet days of childhood and friends for a lifetime, and it is quite irrelevant whether or not we see each other for decades.  Whether or not we were in the same bunk.  Whether or not we even overlapped in years.  As long as we know people in common, we share the extraordinary experience that is/was Camp Wingate.

I didn’t know it at the time.  I thought our bedtime was horribly unfair, possibly in violation of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners.  I didn’t understand why we couldn’t get two toppings on our soft-serve at Dairy Queen (what is wrong with sprinkles on top of the cherry or chocolate dip?)  Obviously, prison rations.  Oh, and remember the year when there were too many counselors who offered navel-gazing as the evening activity, so that Pearl had to tell counselors to be at the volleyball court and the waterfront?

SOB and I have to stay at a hotel.  Those bunks won’t do it for our decrepit bodies.  I snore, so we will have to have different rooms at those scary drive-by motor lodges in West Yarmouth (SOB, are ya sure?).  Worst comes to worst, we are sleeping on the floor of Pearl’s house, which we used to call the “Winter House” as distinct from where the family stayed during the summer months while camp was in session.

So, my best friend for those many years (other than POB who stayed for one year and captured my heart) may not come to the reunion.  To entice her, I challenged her to a tennis match but using wood racquets.  (Where does one find a Jack Kramer anymore?)   Years ago, when our friendship was in trouble, we decided not to play the intra-camp tennis tournament.  My best friend was sure to beat me soundly.  The bunk was on my side but I didn’t want that type of division.  The bunk was sensing my anger at feelings I couldn’t fathom and casting Pat in the role of the villain.  And I knew that they were wrong to blame her. I had to deal with how my sense of friendship had morphed into romantic feelings and how afraid I was.  I wasn’t kind to her during that summer, but I never wanted the bunk to pick sides.  We opted never to play that final in the tournament and, in a testament to the principles of Wingate, Pearl told us she was proud of us because we put the embers of a friendship ahead of competition.  For the record, I didn’t stand a chance against Pat.  We all knew it.   But I punished her in my own ways.  Clearly she never deserved it.  I have been a coward all these years because I have never said that I was sorry, that I didn’t understand it all until much later and that maybe she felt betrayed by me.

Will my friend do me the honor of playing a set of tennis and win, lose or draw? It is a little unfinished business.  I do not care about the outcome.  She will win (let’s be honest).  But I want to face my friend and hug her tightly across the net at the end.

If not at Wingate, then at the court of her choosing.  Or we can just meet, hug, cry and talk like I have needed to for over 30 years.

The wonder years

POB recounted this vignette to me after SOS was asleep.  It makes me realize that while being at home is harder work, it is also a lot more fun and challenging.  (The COB can take credit for this insight.)

POB picked up SOS at the bus stop after day camp. They amiably walked the few blocks to our apartment building.  When the elevator came, a skinny teenage boy with acne and long hair emerged.  [I never described boys like this until I was a mother of one.]

The elevator had a smell that SOS could not identify.  It was, however, immediately obvious to POB.  And I am not talking body odor.

“Mommy, what is that smell?”  A teachable moment arrives.

“Sweetie, that is the smell of pot.”

“Pot?”  No name recognition.

POB tried again.  “Dope? Weed?”  [Hell, this kid is growing up in New York City.]

“Huh?”  [Ok, this parenting thing is getting harder.]  “It smells awful.”  The elevator opened to our floor.

“Sweetie, it is the smell of drugs.  That boy was smoking marijuana, a type of which is commonly known as skunk weed.”  [I taught POB that.]

“Eeewwwww.  I was inhaling drugs?????” he asked in horror.

“Don’t worry, Sweetie, nothing bad is going to happen on that short elevator ride.”

Worry over.  Moment forgotten. Back to play and carefree late afternoons after camp.

A missed teachable moment about that urban legend, “contact high,” to keep our son even farther away from smoking dope.  I hope he reads this blog entry when he is 15 years old and using cheesy aftershave and chewing gum to try to cover his tracks as he squeaks in just under curfew while I am pacing in the foyer.

[Note to SOS at 15:  Just remember, dude, once you thought it was disgusting.  Love, E-Mom.]

When breaking the law is just business as usual

I have at least 3-4 bad parenting moments every day.  But my aim is to teach SOS that life is governed by a set of rules:

  • if you do something, then you live with the consequences;
  • never, ever, implicate someone who is innocent;
  • if you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler;
  • if you feel guilty at night, then you need to apologize to someone in the morning;
  • if you’ve done something bad, you have to own up to it and try to make it right; and
  • if you lie, it only postpones the inevitable reckoning and aggravates anyone who would have been sympathetic to you.

SOS asked me about LIBOR and what exactly was being manipulated.  I tried to explain it simply and, to be honest, I was marginally successful (that is to say, inept).

I have been thinking about the Federal Reserve’s expressing concern 3 or 4 years ago, the Bank of England’s having to answer to Parliament, and a venerated international banking institution’s being rocked to its core.  And, there are many banks under scrutiny.  Then I read an article about the cheating, self-dealing and insider-trading done by Wall-Streeters that are just part of business as usual.

This week, I paid a sick amount of money in life insurance, long term care and disability insurance.  Am I a schmuck?  Are all these institutions houses of cards waiting to collapse and shatter my dreams and hopes of providing for my family?

I am tired of people cheating with my future.  If you want to mess up your life, hell, it is your life.  But when what you do affects POB, SOS and me, just be careful never to meet me in person, because, if you are putting my family at risk, I am capable of anything.  Anything.

Sad Tidings

I don’t know exactly where my thoughts will lead me.  I have a sense that they will cause me to contort into a pretzel, because when beliefs meet reality, hell, principles are the first casualties.

My friend.  No, my little sister.  No, not my little sister, really, but someone with whom I have that negative affection thing.  Who needed to be at my wedding.  Who called me to see if I could come a night early for her wedding that was being canceled by the 2011 hurricane. Who called to say she was pregnant.

The person I watch out for.  The person whom, if you cross, you also cross me.  The person whose now-husband I had to meet twice.  Once to scare (I do that pretty well); the second time, to welcome.  There are people in the world that come before everyone except your spouse, your child and your siblings.  She is one of them.

She was pregnant.  20 weeks.  The baby was lost.  Yes, I said, “baby”.  I am pro-choice and pro-life (because isn’t everyone?) but I am not anti-abortion.  It is a choice.  But when the choice is made to carry the fetus, then it is a life.  Logical? No.  Emotional? Yes.  And in my gut, I know I am right.

They named the baby.  G-d needs to know that soul’s name.  That baby cannot be unaccounted for, unremembered, or part of the masses of souls who enter and leave this world without those to remember them.

That little precious bundle had lineage and a future.  That little precious bundle has a different future — with G-d.  That baby is not alone, now and forever.  He has a past and future and parents who remember him. Always.

Here is where everything collides for me.  I don’t believe in G-d, except that I believe that babies who are wanted have souls.  I don’t believe in G-d, except when souls leave this world too soon.  I don’t believe in G-d who lets young babies, who are desperately wanted by their parents, die.  But I pray that G-d forgives my anger and lets this baby’s soul come back as the second child of grieving parents.

I am glad the baby was given a name.  Because his name makes him known in this world and the next.  May his blessing be for a memory.  And may his parents experience joy from the second child who, G-d willing, will out-live his/her parents.

Please, G-d, you have given them the untold joy of a child in the womb and the heart-breaking pain of a child who did not survive.  Be kind that the next child shall excite the joy but never cause the depths of pain.  May that child outlive his/her parents.  So that they never know such pain again.

To my sister-ish friend, you may never read this.  (You never read my blogs when I asked for your feedback.)  But know that in our house, on this day, each year, we will light a candle for the soul that was and will be again.

Baruch dayan emet.

Things I Learned on My Son’s 10th birthday

SOS climbed into our bed after breakfast.  I was the only one in pajamas, because POB and SOS had been up for a while doing all the usual morning routines for a day at camp.  I love this time in the morning.  My family lets me be lazy until 7:30am.  POB learned very early on — at Camp Wingate — that trying to make me a go-getter in the morning was a losing battle.

Today, SOS wanted to talk about his momentous birthday and think ahead about the next decade of his life.

“Will I change as much as I did in this last decade?” 

“Well,” I said, “physically, probably not — you were a scrawny newborn — but emotionally, intellectually and philosophically?  Absolutely!”

He was quiet.  I had to remember that he is only 10 years old.

“But I will always be your baby.  But not in public anymore.”

Oh, the dreaded “not in public anymore”.  I knew it happened after boys hit the “double-digits” (i.e., 10 and over), but on the day that he turned 10?  Was that soooooo necessary?

SOS had his birthday party before the school year ended, so all his friends could come.  His actual birthday is therefore more low-key.  He wanted a hamburger and fries and some Star Wars action figures.  Easy enough.

We went to the “burger joint” and while we were waiting for his order, he posted:

So, not a good parenting day as far as SOS’s nutritional intake.  But french fries are good for the soul.

On the way back, he took my hand and said,

“I know that I am pretty spoiled, but that is what parents are supposed to do.”

“Sweetie, a parent spoils best when she spoils a child with love.”

“Absolutely, that is number 1, but the toys do come in a really close second.”

I give him a look.  That awesome “Mom look” that immediately establishes control over your child’s life.

“Whaaat?” He whines.  “I’m just sayin’.”

Over dinner (we took the grease extravaganza to go), SOS asked, “E-Mom, remember when you said that Dubai was becoming more of a tourist attraction than an oil producer or distributor?”

“I don’t remember telling you that.  We did discuss that Dubai’s leadership has built the tallest building and various (sinking) islands just off its shore.”

“Oh, yes, I remember: I read it in the Economist.”

From deep thoughts to a child’s scrawling hand-writing to reading business porn, all in the span of one day.  Is he 5, or is he 10 or is he 35?  Depends on the moment.

Time to fasten my seat belt; it is going to be a bumpy decade.

And I don’t want to miss one minute of it.

A Remarkable Family

Like most remarkable families, they are not famous.  And they don’t look at each other and think, “gee, we are remarkable”.  It goes without saying that they don’t have a reality TV show.

A man, a woman and their four daughters.  Not the Brady Bunch.  Not hair of gold (like Carol Brady) and their skin was so white that a flash light could give them a sunburn.

I met them at Camp Wingate for Girls.  Not all at once.  First the eldest and then the third child.  A year later, the youngest.  A year or so later, the second child.

1971.  The eldest was someone whom people respected and she was engaged to a counselor at the boy’s camp.  I looked up to her and knew her every move, because she had an air about her.  I don’t think we ever spoke.   The third sister was an oldest camper and the oldest campers were too cool for words.  And I remember that her freckles increased with every beach day.  The weird things you remember 40-odd years later.

Our parents were connected through my aunt and uncle.  The men had survived the war that America won — good triumphed over evil.  Their father lost his leg and my uncle lost some of his soul.  But they soldiered on and their wives healed their wounds because they were our greatest generation and that what just what they did.

For the parents, camp visiting days meant seeing your kids during the day and gathering with the other adults for dinner to eat all of the seafood (tower of treyf) that could fill a stomach.  Being in the hell of war, and healing those wounds at home, entitled these couples to a few non-kosher meals.  At least that.

The youngest came to camp in 1973(?).  She wore tragic danskin top-and-short sets and really pointy keds.  Mom sent me with pointy keds as a second pair of sneakers and I hid them under my bed.  So, I felt for her.  Her legs had mosquito bites all over them.

And then there was the second born.  The photography counselor.  As crazy as this is, she seemed not of this world, and yet the world was too much with her.  I remember that she spoke softly and people listened.  I admired her ability to command that type of attention.

After ten summers at Camp Wingate, the friends you made were for a lifetime, no matter the decades in between communication.  And, even more, these four girls and their parents were family, indirectly, through my aunt and uncle.  But the fourth child  — the one with mosquito bites and tragic danskin outfits — she was my friend.

When the second child died, I knew that bubble of Camp Wingate had burst in some way.  I wrote a letter to the camp director that — however irrational it was — I believed that a cloak of immortality protected us and that belief was shattered.  I mourned the loss of a life and the loss of our collective Linus blanket.  The camp director never wrote back.  What would she say?

Time passed.

The eldest married.  The second was gone.  The third went her way.  And the fourth, dyed part of her hair purple and was a roadie for a rock band.

More time passed.  We aged.  Our parents aged.  Some of our parents died.  Some of life’s waves buoyed us, while others beached us with a mouth full of sand.  Life’s trajectory was no straight line for any of us.

And, yes, I have to thank Facebook for reconnecting with the youngest.  Although I saw her mom at family gatherings, I didn’t have a way of connecting in a way that wasn’t so stilted until Facebook came along.

POB and I decided to have a wedding even before Marriage Equality passed in New York State.  I had mellowed in my rather doctrinaire ways that it had to be legal or I wasn’t doing it.  I thought about the people whom I would want at that ceremony and so many had died already.  Did it really matter more that the Bible Belt accepted it or that Dad and Aunt Betty and Uncle Larry and Aunt Roz were there to celebrate? And if Aunt Betty, then her best friend of 65 years, Phyllis, must come.  And, if Phyllis, then my friend of 41 years, Janet2 must come. Because they are part of us.  Even the daughters I am just getting to know and the daughter whose pain will forever be unknowable.

At the wedding, I couldn’t stop hugging Janet2.  I needed to make up for the decades lost. I still may have to visit her just to hug the stuffing out of her, such as is left after her latest health craze (P.S.:  Kale is really hard to digest.)

Generations of family who are friends.  A remarkably resilient family and resilient lifelong friendships that don’t need to be watered or fed on a daily basis.  Because love runs deep in the earth that sustains us.

(P.S.: To the eldest:  If your kids need anything in the City (or just need a home-cooked meal), they should just come to our doorstep.  We are family.)

 

more scenes from my honeymoon

SOB sent the last of the pictures of POB’s and my honeymoon.  (You remember, the one she and HOSOB took for us, because it was the least they could do to celebrate our wedding.)

Mais, revenons à notre voyage de noces en France.

1. Police demonstration about safety and what a crashed car looks like. This was in front of the Opera. SOB noted that MOB would have enjoyed it and been proud of the public service message.  MOB would have taken a picture of it.  So if MOB had been alive, SOB would have taken a picture of MOB’s taking a picture of this scene.  And, thus, SOB needed to take this picture.  Genes, they cannot be denied their expression.  It is almost mathematical in that quod erat demonstrandum type of way.  The origins of whatever “osis” I have (as in neurosis, psychosis, etc.) is becoming clearer. . . .

2. French people waiting in line at what has a remarkable resemblance to anyone of those gross food trucks roaming New York City, except that they are chic people waiting to eat their croissants.  Chacun à son goût, mais: a roach coach is a roach coach is a roach coach (with apologies — maybe not — to Nazi collaborator Gertrude Stein)

What an awesome honeymoon.  Thanks, SOB and HOSOB.  We couldn’t have had it without you . . . .

A Week in Paris

SOB and HOSOB decided to have a honeymoon in Paris last week. 

Wait, you say, they have been married for 4 years.  Why did they wait so long?

In fact, they did go on a honeymoon after their were married. 

This time, they went on OUR honeymoon. 

SOB probably felt bad because POB and I were not immediately going away to celebrate our marriage (after 12 years, one child, and a mortgage).  SOS had to return to 4th grade the next day.

So, they had one for us.  The least they could do — for us that is.

But when SOB showed us the two photos they took — yes, TWO — I felt like I was there.

Here are all of the people crammed in like sardines around the Mona Lisa — an itty-bitty painting — flaunting the “no photos” rule:

And here is the picture of the sign to the left of the Mona Lisa:

(Beware of pickpockets.)

The rest of Paris?   Breath-taking pictures are Googlable.  This is why SOB can go on my honeymoon anytime.

Fun with Bob and Ted, Carol and Alice

When you meet a straight couple, let’s say, Bill and Jill, it is mostly pretty clear who is who.  Even if their names are run together, like, “this is Bill-and-Jill”.  Chances are pretty good that the boy is Bill and the girl is Jill.  (Chances are also pretty good that you feel sorry for them because their names rhyme.)
 
But if you are introduced to a gay couple, as in, “let me introduce you to Bill-and-Ted” and they just say hello, then you will never ever know who is who, even if, later, you ask someone who knows them. It will never sink in.
 
And if you’re lesbian being introduced to gay male couple, forget it. All men look alike. (I’m sure the boys say that about girls, too.)And it is not like we all look alike (yet).

All I can say is, every now and again, it is a relief to meet a straight couple unless their names are Lynn and Tracy.