That's me, Pattie Weiss Levy.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

 A Word From the Weiss


Obama giving Pinckney eulogy.jpg

       In his riveting eulogy for the Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney last week, President Obama called upon the nation to reflect upon racism – the kind of innate, insidious prejudice that can lurk even in those of us who would like to believe we are bigotry-free.

       “Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it,” he said. “So that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but also… the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview, but not Jamal.”

       Let me tell you about my own very recent and memorable experience with “Jamal.”

       As I have mentioned lately – more than once, I’ll admit – my daughter returned to the United States a week or so ago after spending a whole year singing in Hong Kong.

JP and Allegra were due back from Hong Kong.jpg

       Allegra was due to arrive at Newark Liberty International Airport late on a Thursday night. She and her boyfriend JP, who was joining her to visit for a few weeks, were scheduled to get in at 9:40 p.m. But that didn’t mean I would pick them up at 9:40 p.m. After the hour or so it would take to disembark, go through Immigration and retrieve their bags, it was going to be very late.

       I live nearly three hours away from Newark and was busy preparing for my new summer job, so I have no doubt that they would have been perfectly happy to spare me the long trip and take a cab from the airport to Allegra’s apartment on Roosevelt Island.

      But no.

      I wanted to pick them up in order to welcome them back in person with open arms... and a silly homemade sign.

      I wanted to pick them up because, after a whole year of living in Hong Kong, Allegra was carting back a whole lot of luggage.

      But mostly I wanted to pick them up because I am a nice Jewish mom, and that’s what nice Jewish moms do.

       I had lots of work to do that day, including finishing my weekly blog, but I wanted to be there the moment they touched down, even if they might not emerge for eons after. So I kept monitoring the progress of their arduous 16-hour flight on FlightAware.com.

FlightAware.com showed she was halfway home.jpg

       When I first checked after I awoke that morning, I could see that my daughter was already about halfway home. My heartbeat began galloping like a herd of wild horses at the prospect of soon spying her sweet face. Buat 5 p.m.the umpteenth time that I checked, I discovered that for some reason her plane was now due in a whole hour early.

George Washington Bridge traffic unpredictable at best.jpg

       At this, my heart began to race like American Pharaoh going into the final stretch. Traffic on the George Washington Bridge can be a bitch, or at the very least unpredictable. What if I hit a colossal jam? So I jumped into my car and began driving like mad. Destination: New Jersey.

      Following a few initial rush-hour glitches, I encountered little to slow me down and pulled into the airport, miraculously, just after 8My plan was to park in the short-term lot by their terminal and go inside to grab a bit of dinner, and maybe a nosh for themBut before driving through the ticket gate, I pulled over to check their flight once more.


      To my bewilderment, their ETA had changed yet againChanged drastically, in fact. They were now due to arrive right on schedule at 9:40 againSince they were unlikely to emerge for a good hour after that, my silly sign and I had at least 2½ hours left to wait.

Newark airport keep right.jpg

       According to the posted rates, it would cost me $28 to park for that long. I already had shelled out handsomely for a hotel room for the night, since it would be too late to drive back home. It may sound frugal of me – OK, just call me cheap – but $28? To park for a couple of hours? It seemed like a total waste.

      Yet there was no way to turn around. I appeared to be stuck. So I backed up a bit so that I wasn’t blocking the entrance to the lot in any way. Then I flicked on my hazard lights and proceeded to kill time checking email and working on my blog on my phone.

       More than an hour went by in this fashionI was beginning to get hungry. No, make that famished. And five hours after leaving home, I was in dire need of a restroom. But it would cost at least 12 bucks to park for the hour or so I had left.

        I figured I could wait a bit more.

It's Good to Be the King, his shirt said.JPG

       It was nearly 9:30 when another car pulled up behind mine, and I saw a young man get out and run toward me. His hair was a mass of tiny braids and he was wearing camouflage shorts and a black t-shirt emblazoned IT’S GOOD TO BE THE KING.

      I rolled down my window as he approached. “Can I ask you a question?” he asked.

      He too had just discovered the hefty parking fees and wondered if there were any way to exit without paying them. I replied that I was sitting there because I was in the exact same boat, and I really didn’t know.

       At this, he indicated that he was simply going to make a U-turn. This would require driving in the wrong direction along a one-way street. I advised against it.

       “You’ll probably get a ticket,” I warned.

      He shrugged and said he was going to give it a try anyway.

A security van pulled him over.jpg

      Indeed, I watched as he spun around and sped away from the entrance to the lot, only to be pulled over almost instantly by a passing security van. I winced on his behalf.

      About 10 minutes later, I checked on the flight again and saw that it had begun descending rapidly and landing was imminent. It was time to bite the bullet and go in.

      So I turned my car on.

      At least tried to turn it on. I rotated the key in the ignition, but all I heard was a hideous stream of shrill, rapid clicks. Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh! Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh!

      Perhaps when I had switched off my car, I’d left it on halfway so that the a/c or radio would keep running. Or perhaps I’d left on the lights. I thought I had turned it all off. Whatever the case, I evidently had done something dumb. Really dumb.

      My battery was dead.

     Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh! Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh!

      Yup. Dead.

     Now what was I going to do?

AAA would have rescued me... eventually.jpg


     Sure, I’m a member of AAA – the Automobile Association of America (not Alcoholics Anonymous). But by the time help arrived, an hour or more surely would have passed. My daughter and JP would be exhausted after a 16-hour flight. I was exhausted myself.

      What a disaster! What an idiot I was. What the heck was I going to do now?

     At that moment, I saw the young man with the braids and t-shirt driving up again. This time, though, he pulled up right beside my car and rolled down his window.

      He had just picked up his brother, who had flown in from Georgia, but had chosen to drive back to me just to pass on the secret that he had learned. The security officer hadn’t given him a ticket. Instead, he’d told him that if you entered the parking lot and exited right away, the guards in the ticket booths would let you leave without paying a cent.

       He had taken the time to drive back to tell me this even though doing so would require him to drive all the way through the vast parking lot himself in order to exit.

      I could hardly believe my ears.

      I thanked him profusely for his thoughtfulness, but admitted that this invaluable tip would do me little good at this point because my car had mysteriously died.

       “Oh, no!” he replied sympathetically. “Do you want a jump?”

       A jump? “You’re kidding, right?” I asked.

He had a set of jumper cables.jpg

       He was not. He had a set of cables on board and was more than happy to help.

       He proceeded to do another complete 180 and pull his car up so close to mine that they stood like two horses resting in a pasture nose to noseThen he fished the tangled nest of rubber-coated cables – like long, smooth strands of licorice, one red, one black – out of his trunk.

       Incredulous, I popped my hood and jumped out to thank him again. Yet to his frustration, although the hood was open a crack, he couldn’t figure out how to unlatch it. He summoned his brother, who was holding a groggy toddler, to get out and help.

He pulled up so our cars were nose to nose.JPG

     Then he spent quite a while researching my car model on his phone for instructions. No luck. I'd known this was too good to be true.

       But then, probing around gently with his fingers, he found the latch himself, and the hood gave way at last.

       Although I’ve seen this task performed many timebefore, I remain a complete ignoramus when it comes to fixing cars. I could only stand by and watch in awe as he attached the clamps, creating a lifeline from his car to mine. Then, following his instructions, I got back behind the wheel and gave it a bit of gas.

       Eureka! In an instant, my defunct battery revved and audibly came back to life.

       Just at that moment, I received a text from Allegra. One word only. “Landed!”

       What would I have done without this fellow’s help? I couldn’t even imagine.

       Although I hesitated to insult him, I felt so indebted that I wanted to express my thanks more fully, and to do it in more than words. I asked if there were any way I could repay him by, well, paying him. But he adamantly dismissed the offer at once.

      “Hey, plenty of people have helped me out before when I was stuck,” he declared. “I’m just paying it forward. Maybe you’ll do the same someday.”

      I hope I get that chance, although I doubt it will involve my using jumper cables.

      For now, all I could do was thank him again and ask if I could take his picture for my blog. Then I asked for his name. He said it was Jamal.

      I kid you not.


      Which brings me back to the President’s prescient words.

       If I had been hiring for any kind of job, I would not have given Jamal a second interview. No second interview would be necessary. I would have hired him on the spot.

       I would hate to think of myself as someone susceptible to racial bias. also hate to generalize about race. But if I do have any bias along those lines, then here is what it is:

It's time to end the racial divide.jpg

       There are good white people and bad white people.

       There are good black people and bad black people.

       There are good ChristiansMuslims, and Buddhists, and also bad ChristiansMuslims, and Buddhists. (Yes, hard as it is to believe, even bad Buddhists, no doubt.)

       There are good Jews and bad Jews, and also, unfortunately, really bad Jews like Bernie Madoff.

       But in my experience, there are not a lot of white people – at least not a lot I have ever met – who would have gone as far out of their way as Jamal did that night for me, a total stranger.

     In my experience, although I hesitate to generalize about people, and especially about race, if black people are different from white people in any significant way, it's that they tend to be nicer. 

      As for Jamal, who was beyond nice, he proved to be my hero, and true mensh.

Allegra, JP, and their luggage.JPG


      Before bidding me goodbye, he issued strict instructions to continue running my car for at least 20 to 30 minutes before turning it off so that the battery wouldn’t die again. Better yet, he advised, I shouldn’t turn it off until I’d reached my destination for the night.

       So I kept it revving until it was time to drive through the parking lot, from which – as he had initially stopped so kindly to inform me – they did allow me to exit free of charge.

My silly homemade sign.jpg

       By the time I had reached the terminal, Allegra and JP – and all of their copious quantities of luggage – were already outside on the curb, waiting for me to pick them up.

      So I did not get to go in and have dinner. I did not get to go to the restroom, either.

      But thanks to Jamal, I did get to welcome my daughter in person, on time, and with open arms.

        And to hold up my silly homemade sign.

5:04 pm 

Thursday, June 18, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


It was my husband's birthday.jpg

        I don't even want to tell you how much we spent on our weekend getaway this past week, let alone what we shelled out for dinner. It was, granted, a birthday dinner.

       Make that a double birthday dinner.

       But still.

       The main reason I can’t believe what we spent on that one meal is that it wasn’t supposed to cost nearly that much. There was no indication it would cost that much. And although what happened was not exactly my fault, I ended up feeling guilty.

       Guilty because I chose the restaurant.

       Guilty because I made all of the arrangements.

We're going on a Jewish guilt trip.jpg

       But mostly, guilty because I am a nice Jewish mom. How else do you think I would feel?

       It all started a few months ago when we were out for dinner with our good friends “Nora” and “Ray.”

      Ray mentioned that at our age he had begun to find himself unable to participate in many of the sports he used to love and had begun to delve instead into the joys of yoga. This prompted me to ask if he had ever visited Kripalu.

       I was referring to Kripalu (pronounced “kri-PAH-loo”) Center for Yoga & Health, the popular, tranquil retreat in Lenox, Massachusetts that is the largest, most established, and best-known Mecca for yoga, health, and holistic living in all of North America.

       He confessed that he had not, and somehow a plan was hatched then and there for the four of us to spend a weekend there together celebrating his and my husband’s then-impending birthdays, which fell within a week of each other in June.

Yoga bridge pose.jpg

       Although Ray may be budding yoga devotee, my husband and I remain total novices at best, and even that is a bit of a stretchonce took yoga class back in college, and then a few years ago, when we first became empty nesters, I signed us up for an introductory series.

        We finished all eight sessions of that series. In fact, we took it twice. And my husband still couldn’get into a decent Downward Facing Dog or any of the other most basic yoga positions. 

Downward Facing Dog.jpgSo we decided that our days of saying “Namaste(“peace”) were over.

       Nora confessed to being such a neophyte at this art that she didn’t even own a single pair of yoga pants (something I tend to live in whether I do yoga or not just for the comfy stretchiness)So I recommended that we just test the waters for our first Kripalu outing by purchasing day passes for $120 apiece, which would entitle us to eat three meals there and take all the classes we wished on a single day (including a 90-minute workshop session on Deconstructing Your Downward Dog), rather than totally immersing ourselves for days.

Kripalu's magnificent grounds.jpg

       I had done this routine at Kripalu three times before and enjoyed strolling their magnificent grounds, then taking an amazing daily noon class called Let Your Yoga Dance, which is not exactly yoga and not exactly dance, but is 100 percent full of joy.

       In order to make a full weekend of it, though, I recommended that we stay over at one of the many lovely inns that welcome overnight guests in the bucolic Berkshires.

Kripalu dormitory room.jpg

       Besides, despite its low-key and ascetic atmosphere, Kripalu's accommodations are on the exorbitantly pricey side. With three daily meals included, per person prices, even for standard double room with a shared public bathroom down the hall (think typical college dorm), run $434 per person per night (and there is a two-night minimum).

       It would actually be cheaper to buy a day pass and stay at a posh inn with private bath nearby.

       During the summer season, most inns are also prohibitively pricey and require a minimum stay of three nights. However, I managed to find one place nearby that hadn’t put its high-season rates into effect just yet and only demanded we stay for two.

The Cornell Inn in Lenox.jpg

       Yes, after spending hours surveying every nearby B&B listed online, I came across the Cornell Inn, which boasted not only charming New England decor but also a lavish breakfast that could be enjoyed al fresco beside a small pond and scenic gurgling waterfall.

Cornell Inn room with New England charm.jpg

       That would take care of breakfast both mornings, and we would eat one lunch and dinner in the Kripalu dining hall, known for its mostly vegetarian and uber-healthy kale-oriented fare.

       But since this was a birthday weekend – a double one, at that  – I figured that we should eat at least one special meal out. Make that a very special meal.

       Over the years, while visiting Lenox each summer, my husband and I have eaten at almost every restaurant in town. There is only one that he especially loves, called Nudel, but it doesn’t take reservations.

      Since Nora and Ray wanted us all to attend a show they’d heard about on Friday night, we couldn’t take a chance on not having a dinner reservation somewhere. And I knew just what that somewhere should be.

Gilded Age inn in Lenox.JPG

       There’s a lovely Gilded Age inn in the center of Lenox with an elegant restaurant on its premises. Not only is this place exceedingly charming, even as New England inns go, but the chef evidently used to be the White House chef when Bill Clinton was in office.

Bill Clinton was big on Big Macs.jpg

       And even if the notion of Bill Clinton’s tastes conjures up images of Big Macs with a side of fries, I figured these items would not be on the menu at this elegant inn.

       Just to be sure, I checked the menu, which boasted offerings more like Filet Mignon with mashed potatoes, cipollini onions and dem-glace or Slow-Cooked Half Duck with butternut puree, forbidden rice with currants, and watercress salad. On further inspection, I learned that the inn's eatery only offered a prix fixe three-course meal for dinner.

       On weekends, this dinner cost a rather hefty sum, but their website stated that on weeknights it cost only $39…and said that weeknights included Friday.

Pan-Roasted Salmon at the Inn.jpg

       OK, maybe that wasn’t exactly cheap. But for a special birthday dinner – a double birthday dinner, at that – it was within the realm of reasonable.

      I wrote to our friends, who readily agreed, then I made a reservation for early Friday evening and promptly forgot about it… until the day before we leftwhen I received a text message from the inn asking me to confirm our reservation, which I did.

       That night, after I’d finished packing, I decided to go online to check the inn’s current menu. I knew that they changed their offerings regularly to feature seasonal ingredients and wondered what wonderful delicacies might be in store for us.

Prix fixe menu.jpg

       That’s when I discovered, to my distress, that the prices had gone up since I’d made the reservation six weeks earlier. Gone up substantially. Perhaps the old prices had been for out of season and high season had already officially begun at this inn.

       The weeknight prix fixe now cost $55 per person,rather than the original $39. On weekends, which it still said meant Saturday and Sunday, the meal cost a colossal $67.

       When I had made the reservation, I had been obliged to give my credit card and acknowledge that the restaurant charged $20 per person if you canceled the day you were slated to arrive.

      It was already after 10 p.m. the night before. Was the place even still open?

     I quickly texted Nora to alert her about the problem and ask what she wanted to do. She wrote back promptly. “No problem. Don’t worry,” she said.

      “Really?” I replied. “With wine it will be a bundle!”

       “It’s a special night,” she countered.

       At those prices, it had better be.

We were ushered into the inn's stately dining room.jpg

       We were all feeling quite celebratory when we arrived at the inn just before 5:30 the following night and were ushered to a table in their handsome, stately dining roomUntil, that is, I looked at the menu.

       The food listed was different from the fare I’d seen listed online the previous night.

       But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was the price. It now cost $67 per person.    

       I couldn’t believe my eyes. Now what were we going to do?

       I always thought that “prix fixe” meant that the price was fixed. Apparently not.

       The only thing that was fixed, in this case, was the game. And the game was fixed in favor of the house.

       Ray and Nora urged us not to make a fuss, but I felt taken advantage of. Having chosen the place myself, I also felt responsible… and responsible for setting it right.

       I waved our waitress over to complain about the inexplicable change. She said she would summon the manager, who appeared about 10 minutes later.

We had already been served our cocktails.jpg

       He didn’t seem terribly interested in making any kind of adjustment, but agreed to speak to the chef about it. Then he disappeared for about 20 more minutes, by which time we had already ordered our dinners and been served our drinks.

       After all, there was no time to go elsewhere now. And we’d presumably be docked $80 if we did.

       Moments after I complained to him, a couple seated near us – the only other patrons present at the time – called over to divulge that they had been similarly misled.

       I was very pleased that they said this, because otherwise I would have wondered if there were some chance I had made a mistake. I also would have worried that my friends thought the error had been mine.

       By the time the manager finally returned from his conference with the chef, we already had finished eating the first course.

       “I’m so sorry,” he said with a distinct French accent. “Zee chef, he says zis is zee menu we are serving tonight, and zis is the price for zee menu. Perhaps, though, we can offer you maybe a bottle of Prosecco?”

       We had already each had a cocktail or glass of wine and didn’t really need to drink any more alcohol, if you ask me. But free ProseccoWell, at least it was a small means of compensation. So we nodded to agree… although by the time the bottle of bubbly arrived, we were nearly done with our entrees.

The inn's oven-roasted duck.JPG

      And I must say those entrees had been skillfully prepared and exquisitely presented, whether or not the price was right.  

      My oven-roasted half duck with English pea mash and broccolini was served in such gorgeous splendor that I swooned at the sight.

Harlan and the key lime pot de creme.jpg

     And the key lime pot de creme that followed for dessert for the birthday boy was nothing short of luscious.

     But I was so mortified when the bill came that I couldn’t sleep that night.

     Instead, I tossed and turned until dawn just mulling over the awkward situation.

     Should we have walked out as soon as we’d arrived, protesting the bait and switch?

     Should we have offered to pay the difference in price on our friends’ bill (although they undoubtedly never would have let us)?

     Had the mistake somehow been my fault? And had our friends just pretended to be good sports about it, but were secretly livid at me?

      I got my answer when I went down, bleary-eyed, to join our companions for the Cornell Inn’s sumptuous breakfast served overlooking the pond.

Cornell Inn pond.JPG

      Nora was still kvelling over the roast rack of lamb she had ordered the night before. She had relished every bite. Ray seemed equally rapturous.

     “So you’re not mad about the dinner?” I asked, incredulous.

      On the contrary, he assured me. They weren’t upset at allHe preferred to look at it this way: We had enjoyed a phenomenal meal in an elegant setting with impeccable service. And with great friends. They were perfectly happy with the entire experience. Why undermine it by dwelling on a minor discrepancy in the price?

       I realized at that moment that he was absolutely right.

When worlds collide.jpg

       The fact was that I did feel deceived, because I was a victim of false advertising. Or at the very least an unfortunate error brought on by old world charm colliding with the age of technology.

       But the main reason I had been upset was that I felt somehow responsible for the mishap and had worried that my friends were annoyed about it. Annoyed with me, that is.

       OK, with the tip – a relatively modest one – the bill came to whopping $186 per couple. That’s the priciest meal for two I have eaten in my memory. Maybe eaten ever.

       My husband, who is the consumer reporter at a newspaper in Connecticut, still chose to call the inn after we returned home to complain, hoping they’d do something to rectify the situation beyond the bottle of Prosecco we hadn’really needed. But I wasn’t optimistic.

       Far better, I figured, to count our blessings.

The Mount in Lenox, MA.jpg

       We are blessed that we can afford to splurge now and then on a birthday dinner.

       In fact, we could afford to splurge further that weekend and also take in a tour of The Mount (home to 19th century author Edith Wharton), followed by an incredible show on Sunday at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Center in Becket. (Did I mention that we spent a whole lot?)

       Best of all, though, by far, is that we have incredible and true friends who are very wise and also willing to let it go when things don’t go their way.

      Now, that is really lucky… and ducky.

      But meanwhile, guess what? After my husband complained, the restaurant caved. They invited us to come back for another meal – a FREE one, this time – for four.

       We will have to think of another way to compensate Nora and Ray because we plan to enjoy that meal next weekend, when, as it happens, we will be back in Lenox for our only other visit this summer, this time with our daughter Allegra and her boyfriend JP.

       Wait. Didn’t I tell you? She’s coming home! For good! After a whole year in Hong Kong.

Me at The Mount.JPG

       I guess I should have mentioned that first. Talk about burying the lead.

       I will tell you more about it next week… if I have time with all the excitement.

       For now… count your blessings. And let the non-blessings go.

        Happy summer!

        And Namaste.

8:33 pm 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

 A Word From the Weiss


Jackie and me.jpg

        He’s gone.

       Jackie I mean. I can’t believe that in all this time I’ve barely mentioned him to you. My kids must be tired by now of hearing his name insinuate itself into our every conversation like a pesky Internet pop-up.

       Jackie and his wife Chris moved into the white house with pale green shutters across the street and two doors down five or six years ago. When I first saw him in his driveway, I stopped by to chat briefly and welcome him to the neighborhood. Then, life being busy, and his being young enough to be my son, our paths never crossed again.

Zoey, Jackie's beagle German Shepherd mix.jpg

       Until last year, that is, when he and Chris adopted Zoey – a feisty little beagle-German Shepherd mix. We were already busy being puppy parents ourselves, and suddenly Jackie became our new best friend.

       Or maybe even more than a friend.

Latke loves company.JPG

       Latke, our Portuguese Water Daughter, is as gregarious a critter as you’ll ever find. Since she came into our lives three years ago, we have prowled the neighborhood daily with her in search of canine companionship. To our frustration, many nearby dog owners have invisible fences and think that pet care means little more than letting their dogs roam around on their lawns on their own.

       Others are satisfied to just quickly march their dogs around the block on a leash. They’re too busy with their human offspring to have time or energy to “waste” on doggie play dates.

       Jackie was a distinct exception to this rule.

Jackie was a devoted doggie dad.JPG

       He began to come over several times a week, if not almost daily, to let Zoey and Latke romp and play unfettered in our fenced-in back yard. He was as busy as anyone could be, juggling his job at a motorcycle gear shop with a part-time internship and classes he was taking at a local college to finish his degree. But he still proved to be a deeply devoted doggie daddy to Zoey.

Latke and Zoey's tug of war.jpg

       Like us, he had discovered that without enough exercise or other activity, our pups could transform into mischievous or maniacal little devils. Yet after an hour of toothsome tugs of war and other vigorous anticsthey’d collapse and snooze like docile little angels for the remainder of the day.

       Years ago, I used to walk our previous dog (whose name was also Zoe) almost daily with a fellow doggie mom, and after five minutes we would struggle for things to say. Not Jackie. He is about as chatty and garrulous a guy as you will ever hope to find. Despite our difference in years, there was never a dull moment or lull in the banter.

Latke and Zoey little.jpg

       There was also never a lull in the fun. WheZoey first appearedshe was a mere midget compared to our 42-pound mongrel, yet still anything but timidHigh-spirited and brimming with spunk, she could hold her own and nimbly fend off older and far heftier adversaries.

Zoey, though little, could hold her own.JPG

       And within the year she filled out and shot up so that they were a perfect matchEvery day, the moment Zoey would arrive, she and Latke would spring instantly into action, racing manically around the yard and weaving dangerously, like dare-devil slalom skiers, through the intricate obstacle course offered by our elaborate old wooden playscape.

Latke and Zoey on their obstacle course.JPG

       Then, like arch enemies, they’d battle endlessly, vying over the same twig, tattered toy or other such treasure, snarling menacingly as they waged snout-to-snout combat, deftly managing to just miss each other’s ears or muzzles with bared fangs the way we humans air kiss.

       Yet as fierce as their growls and playful barks might sound, there was no doubt. They each had found their BFF (Best Friend Fur-ever) and bonded for life. Whenever I walked Latke down the block, she would make a beeline for Jackie and Zoey’s house and plant her backside on their doorstepWild horses, let alone a busy but far from muscular mom, couldn’t drag her away.

Latke and Zoey Fur Ever.JPG

       Fortunately, whenever Jackie was there, he was more than willing to step outside with his four-footed charge night and day. Along with being the best neighbor imaginable, the truth was that he needed us as much as we needed him. We soon became a mutual canine collaboration society.

Allegra and her boyfriend JP.jpg


     We took an even more heightened interest in Jackie when our daughter Allegra, who was away singing in Hong Kong, began to date her boyfriend JP. By coincidence, Jackie was not only the exact same age as JP, but just like him had grown up in Hong Kong and left the city at age 8. I began to joke to Jackie that they were secret brothers separated at birth.

Chris and Jackie.jpg

       At the very least, I maintained, they must have crossed paths at some point when they were young. But Jackie would always shake his head and insist otherwise. Hong Kong is a city of over 7 million, he explained. Besides, he grew up having something of a hardscrabble life, first in Hong Kong, then Queens, New York, where he went to live with his father for years after his parents divorced. JP, on the contrary, he would say, had grown up “with a silver spoon in his mouth.”

       It was the kind of blunt thing that Jackie saysBut I kind of like that he’s kind of blunt.

       Besides, along with the candor, he’s beyond considerate and kind. And not just to Zoey.

Our lives have long revolved around our kids.jpg

       People of a certain age – my age, that is – know what it’s like when your children grow up and leave the house. After decades of having life revolve relentlessly around the kids, you suddenly feel like you have lost your sun. There is a void that you will never fill... and a whole lot of silent nights.

       There is also no strapping young man or woman around any more to lift heavy boxes, help carry your suitcase down the stairs… or solve those nasty technological glitches that invariably crop up.

       Jackie did all of that for us, gladly. And more.

Jackie fixing tiles.jpg

       When a small section of tiles on our kitchen floor buckled up over the winter (a calamity we ascribed to melting snow seeping in), a tile company said our only recourse was to retile half the downstairs of our house, which probably would have cost thousands.

       Jackie knows how to fix almost everything and said that was a waste. Instead, he removed the few broken tiles, replaced them with a handful of spare ones we had on hand, and regrouted for little more than the nominal cost of the materials.

Jackie came to the rescue with tech support.JPG

       When my computer crashed a few days later, he managed to get it up and running, just like that.

       And when my husband needed a new car this spring, he joined him at a dealer and advised him what to lease.

       Then there was the time that Allegra, who was visiting from Hong Kong, realized that she had left an invaluable notebook filled with original music at a club where she had sung. We were away in New York City at the time. The club was in Connecticut. There was only one person I dared ask to do us the favor of driving half an hour roundtrip to retrieve it. And he did it.

       Happily, of course.

I brought in boxes from Jackie's doorstep.JPG

       And, of course, we were always happy and eager to reciprocate. While Jackie and Chris were away over the winter, I brought in packages delivered to their doorstep, got our plow service to clear their driveway after a blizzard, and shoveled their walk myself (with only a little help from Latke).

Latke helped me shovel Jackie's walk.JPG

       Then there was the time that some potential buyers were coming over to look at their house unexpectedly. I ran over to fetch Zoey, who was there napping in her crate.

       And when I discovered that she’d had “an accident” in there (yes, with puppies it happens), I cleaned the mess up and opened all the windows in the house to air it out before the buyers arrived.

      The buyers. Yes, I did say "buyers." Which brings me to the sorry truth.

       In December, Chris got a new job that started immediately, requiring her to move to New York at onceJackie stayed behind to finish school and continue working here. They got together on the weekends. But on weekdays he was now more available than ever.

       To my husband, and me, it felt like we had a child at home again. And to our infinite delight, Jackie seemed to reciprocate our feelings. He doesn’t have any relatives nearby, and with his wife living hours away, he seemed to relish having the company. Even ours.

Squid ink fried rice -- a lifechanging experience.JPG

       He not only still came over almost daily, but also began texting me almost round the clock, and not just to coordinate doggie dates. He also would write to tell us what he was eating for dinner (“Squid ink fried rice – life changing experience!”), or often offer to bring something for us when he got takeout himself (“Want a bagel? I’m picking up lunch.”).

       Or he’d simply write to mention things he came across that he thought might interest me (“The BBC Channel is talking about Aushwitz remembered – Channel 1207 on AT&T”).

      But it was eminently clear that our budding liaison had a looming expiration date. We knew it was only a matter of time before Jackie joined Chris to live closer to the city. They soon bought a new home in New York and put their house here on the market.

Latkevand Zoey getting snowy.jpg

       Oblivious to it all, Latke and Zoey continued their daily backyard escapades in the cold and snow. Jackie also continued to join us and listen to me bark at him as though I were his mom.

        “Why aren’t you wearing a hat?" I'd ask. "It’s freezing out. Where are your gloves?”

Jackie playing it cool.jpg

       I couldn't help offering other motherly advice. And noodging him about all sorts of things. Noodging him a lot. Yes, he already had a mother. But he’d never had a nice Jewish mom. And he didn’t seem to mind. 

       With four-foot drifts piled up on their lawn, they didn’t have much luck with buyers. But we still knew it was only a matter of time.

       I began to live in dread of their departure, and was relieved when construction on their new house delayed their move from March to April, then May.

Moving day finally arrived in May.JPG

       But two weeks ago, the moving van finally arrived. I readily volunteered to watch Zoey while the movers loaded up the truck.

       To our delight, Jackie brought Zoey back a few days later when he returned to straighten up. Then, just today, I nearly exploded with euphoria when they popped up again unexpectedly on the block (nothing like an Internet pop-up at all) so that Jackie could pick up a few items he'd left behind and return his cap and gown to school.

      Once again, it didn’t take a bit of arm-twisting for me to offer to supervise the goyls for one final doggie date in our back yard while Jackie tied up some last loose ends.

Latke and Zoey had one last run.jpg

      I watched them zoom around their old obstacle course like race cars speeding mightily on a circular track. Then they played furry hide and seek, darting around the trees until their little legs gave out and they collapsed, pink tongues panting wildly, on cool tufts of grass. At last, seeking refuge from the glare of the afternoon sun, they rested up on the deck, side by side for one last time, seated politely like ladies at tea on their favorite chaise longue. 

      Every time I grow maudlin about Jackie and Chris’s departure, Allegra reminds me that she is about to return to the States. It’s true. After what turned into a full agonizing year abroad, she's moving back to New York later this month, supposedly for good.

Latke and Zoey Best Friends Fur Ever.JPG

       When I think about her extended absence, I begin to wonder if Jackie was heaven sent. Everyone knows I’m such a dedicated nice Jewish mom that it was doubtful I would survive having my daughter halfway around the globe for an entire 12-month stint. To those people, I usually say, “Thank G-d for Facetime!” But I also thank heaven for Jackie.

      Having him around, more than anything, helped to get me through the past year.

       I will miss him, of course. I already doBut we will still continue to talk. And text. For sure.

      But how will we ever explain to poor Latke that Zoey doesn’t live here anymore?       

9:01 pm 

Thursday, May 28, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


Big news!!!.jpg

     I have news. No, not just news. BIG NEWS. Without a doubt, the biggest news Ive had since the day that I began filling this space over four years ago. I am so excited that I'm almost jumping out of my skin and don’t know how to tell you. But I’ve decided that you might as well know nowAfter all, practically everyone else does.

      As you will soon understand.

Kaitlin and Aidan in Monte Carlo.jpg

      By now, you know almost everything about my son Aidan (my son, the Ph.D candidate, jazz journalist, saxophone-playing TV stagehand, and author-to-be, that is). For nearly three years, I have been mentioning the name of his girlfriend, Kaitlin, in the very same breath. And three years is a pretty long time when you are about to turn 32 (as she did last weekend).

       I must confess that I knew a couple of days in advance that he was going to, uh, confer with her about this matter. At least, I knew that he was going to ask her a very important question. I could only surmise what she would answer. But first he had to ask.

       There was some controversy about how he would ask, but I knew that he probably would ask, and also where he would ask. The only questions were how and with what? As of a few daybefore, he hadn’yet bought a ring, and he needed a little advice.

Kaitlin and Allegra are close.JPG

       My daughter, no doubt, was the best person to offer this advice, in large part because she is savvy about these things and in larger part because she and Kaitlin are extremely close. Allegra, however, is still living in Hong Kong, which is 12 hours ahead of us, so she is not always available to chat when we need her. For that reason, the task fell to the next best thing. The next best woman around, that is.

       I guess that would be me.

       I don’t want to give away too many of the details to which I am privy. After all, although this is my blog, this is, in the end, about my son’s life and it is his story to tell. Suffice it to say that he wanted to buy a ring, but is not what I would call a professional shopper. Far from.

        He didn’t know quite where to begin.

Lana and Andrew Save the Date.JPG

      He did, however, have the location narrowed down, and that helped quite a bit. One of his best friends since childhood, Andrew, is married to a lovely young woman named Lana whose father is a jeweler in New York. It seemed only right that Aidan go to him for such a major purchase. But he still had no idea what to buy.

      Kaitlin, who is the sweetest and loveliest not to mention most brilliant girl imaginable, happens to be a Ph.D. candidate herself, and her field of concentration concerns Nature and 19th-century poetry. So I thought it might be appropriate for Aidan to look for a ring that evoked the Victorian Era or at the very least was a vintage style. I sent him some pictures of those.

Vintage engagement ring.JPG

       Kaitlin also happens to be a strict vegetarian and committed to living an ethical life. My daughter, who began to weigh in on the controversy, advised looking at rings made with “conflict-free” diamonds obtained in an ethical manner, available from companies such as Brilliant Earth, which purports to provide fine jewelry originating from pure sources and harvested using socially responsible practices.

       She also suggested that Aidan check out some so-called “vegan” engagement rings, set with a sparkly stone called moissanite in place of actual diamonds.

moissanite engagement ring.jpg

       Moissanite, if you must know, is a mineral discovered in 1893 in an Arizona meteor crater by a French scientist named Henri Moissan. According to Wikipedia, it is the name given to naturally occurring silicon carbide and its various crystalline polymorphs.

       I thought this was a lovely idea. However, Kaitlin is not a vegan, and a polymorph is not a diamond. When was the last time you heard anyone say, “A moissonite is forever?” I thanked her for this thoughtful idea, but thought she should keep it to herself.

Lana in wedding gown.jpg

       Before we could come up with any other bright ideas – or ideas for anything else bright – Aidan told us that he had consulted his friend Andrew, arguably an expert since he got married two years ago, and his wife is the daughter of a diamond merchant.

       Andrew told Aidan that he didn’t need to choose a ring at all. He merely had to put down a deposit on a ring with a jeweler, and the jeweler would give him a “placeholder” ring set with a cubic zirconium with which to pop the question. Then, if Kaitlin accepted, he could return the temporary ring to the store and let her select a ring of her choice.

       This sounded like a brilliant solution. Why hadn’t we thought of it ourselves?

       The more that I thought about it, though, the more I thought that perhaps he should go back to square one. That is, diamond one. You know, the plan in which he would man up,” as they say these days, and dare to choose a real ring for her himself.  

       Allegra whole-heartedly agreed. As she pointed out, this approach had made perfect sense when Andrew had proposed to Lana. After all, as she aptly pointed out, “Lana is the daughter of a diamond merchant!” She obviously would be particular about the ring that she would wear for life.

       Kaitlin, however, would probably be thrilled with almost any ring, and even more thrilled knowing that Aidan had picked it himself.

       Plus, wouldn't it be more romantic to receive the actual diamond ring (not CZ or polymorph) right away and be able to display it to the world at once, rather than having to wait a few days until the end of the holiday weekend to exchange it?

       And if she really didn’t love it, she presumably could still exchange it, anyway.

He went to the Diamond District.jpg

       With that in mind, Aidan went to see Andrew’s father-in-law, the diamond dealer. Who knows how many rings he looked at? I only know that he managed to choose one. And a gorgeous one, at that. (Clearly a diamond. No crystalline polymorphs for us!)

       This, however, raised yet another grueling question. What was Kaitlin’s ring size?

       Aidan called Kaitlin’s best friend, whom he swore to secrecy. But she didn’t know what it was, which was no big surprise. Fact is, I don’t even know what my ring size is.

       Aidan brought several of Kaitlin’s rings to another jeweler to be sized. But it turned out that she had rings in at least four different sizes, possibly worn on different fingers.

       Then Allegra came to the rescue. She was pretty sure Kaitlin wore a size 7, or 7½ at most. He decided to go with that.

       Somehow, I assumed he would save his gift for Sunday, Kaitlin’s birthday. So imagine my excitement when I woke up to a text from Hong Kong Saturday morning. “It’s happening today!” Allegra wrote. Was that ring burning a hole in his pocket?

Then came the text: Theyre engaged!.jpg

       We heard nothing for hours. Then at 1:25 came another text from Hong Kong.

       “They are ENGAGED!!!”

       Did the ring fit? Did she like it?

       “I’m asking,” Allegra replied.

       At 1:33, a text arrived from Aidan himself: “She said yes!!!”

Aidan and Kaitlin engaged.JPG

       By then, though, I must admit, I already had the answers to all of my questions and more. Allegra had forwarded several photos from the happy couple, taken by innocent bystanders in the glorious Brooklyn Botanic Garden, where they’d been strolling when this took place.

       Kaitlin looked ecstatic. So, if you ask me, did he. And the ring was on her finger.

       She loved it! And it fit!

       So you might think I had my happily-ever-after ending already. And if this were a fairy tale, I would. But this drama was unfolding in 2015. So the story did not end there.

Justin and Kristin's engagement party.jpg


       As it happened, my husband and I were slated to be part of another fairy tale that day. We were invited to an engagement party for Allegra’s high school friend Justin. And although we would have preferred under the circumstances to spend the afternoon at home excitedly phoning everyone we know, we were already late for those festivities.

       The party in question was a potluck barbecue to which I had to bring a side dish. By the time I had dressed and assembled my bowl of cold noodles with sesame sauce, we were nearly an hour late.

       Only after we’d arrived did it occur to me to quickly check Facebook on my iPhoneThat’s when I discovered that within half an hour of the event, the news had already gone out online. Not only had Kaitlin posted it, but 94 people had already liked it.

Facebook engaged page.jpg

       Of course, I didn’t mind, or blame her one bit. Thats what people do these days.

       Besides, I was absolutely thrilled that she was so overcome with jubilation to be engaged to my son that she wanted the whole world to know about it… and to know at once.

       So I hastened to like it as well, then got my husband to go on Facebook and like it too. Yes, it might have been rude to do at the party, but how would it look if we were Nos. 250 and 251 among the growing chorus of well-wishers voicing their approval? 

       The only real issue for me was that I had envisioned having the pleasure of getting to tell my friends and relatives personally by phoning them to announce it one by one.

       Of course, most of my friends and relatives are not on Facebook themselves. However, many of their children are, and my children are friends with many of their children (or at least they’re Facebook “friends”). This meant that almost everyone I knew would hear about it before I could tell them myselfIf they didn’t know it already.

       I was bursting with so much excitement that I couldn’t keep it to myself and spilled the beans to almost everyone I met at the party. But it felt a little strange to be telling many complete strangers before I told my closest friends.

       Evidently, my husband couldn’t wait, either. He confessed that he had already texted many of our best friends. Such is life in 2015. This cat was really out of the bag.

The cat was out of the bag.jpg

     We began calling people that night, as soon as we arrived home. But this being a Saturday night, on a holiday weekend, no less, everyone we called was out. We had to settle for leaving cryptic hints. “Call us back as soon as you can. We have some... news.” 

      At around 11 that night, Allegra woke up in Hong Kong and posted it on FB herself. She is not only Facebook friends with many of my friends’ children, but also with many of my friends. Now the cat wasn’t just out of the bag. It was broadcasting live.

       Sure enough, I woke up to an email from my friend Amy. Subject: “Mazel tov.”

       “I hear via the grapevine there is an engagement in your family,” she wrote. “Congratulations to Aidan and to you!”

       I emailed back to both accept her good wishes and offer an apology. When her older daughter had been married two years agoshe had called me personally to spread the news. But she soon replied to assure me that she understood.

        “Enjoy the moment!” she wrote. “And still call your friends! Even us.”

       Alas, we still had no time to do that now. We had signed up for a tennis mixed doubles round robin at our swim club and had to spend the entire morning doing that.

       By the time we had managed to reach most of our friends and family by the end of the weekend, almost everyone already knew. They were all delighted for us, of course. But no one was exactly amazed.

       At least many were amused.


       One, Lorry, recalled that she had found out about her own grandson Spencer’s engagement when the groom’s aunt’s husband’s mother had phoned her from Brooklyn to say “Mazel tov.”

       “Mazel tov for what?” she had replied. The news had spread faster than wildfire. And faster than her own nearest and dearest could phone. For that’s how Facebook works.

       Face it. There are no secrets these days. At least there are no secrets for long.

Kaitlin radiant.JPG

       At least, as secrets go, this is a very fortuitous one. We love Kaitlin and could not be happier.

      Besides, this issue, of all topics, should not be a matter of “What did you know, and when did you know it?” For one thing, it is all about love and marriage, not knowledge. For another, that would leave a whole lot of room for a lot of people to be peeved at me.

       Instead of happy for me. Which I hope you are.

The ring Aidan gave Kaitlin.JPG

       As for when, where, and how the wedding will happenthat has yet to be determined, let alone go up online. I will tell you. Eventually.

       I will also tell you and all of my friends right now. You may be among my nearest and dearest. But you will not be the first to know.

2:48 pm 

Saturday, May 23, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


Golda Meir and Gandhi.jpg

      Jews may not as a rule believe in reincarnation, but I finally know what I want to come back as in the next life, should there be one – not a grasshopper, or great world leader like Mahatma Gandhi or Golda MeirJust someone who grapples with life by making decisions firmly and decisively and then moving on. As opposed to what I am.

       Not that.


       For the past month or so, you see, I have been agonizing over a choice that I had to make. It was a choice that for most grasshoppers, great leaders, and everyone in between would have been what is commonly known these days as a “no-brainer.”

       (I hate that expression and usually think whoever coined it clearly didn’t have one. But to me this choice was so irresistible that there’s almost no other way to describe it.)

No brainer.jpg

       That is, I had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to join my daughter on a trip to Japan.

       Granted, Japan might not be everyone’s cup of (green) tea. My cousin Ilene says she still has vivid memories of World War II, and that you couldn’t pay her to go there.

       But for as long as I can remember, I have longed to go there. I adore Japanese art. I love Japanese culture. I love Japanese fashions and God knows I love Japanese food.

       It has always been at the very top of the list of places I would like to go someday. For most of my life, I believed that “someday” would never come because I’d developed a longtime, serious fear of flying. I just couldn’t imagine enduring that long a flight.

For years I had fear of flying.jpg

       All that changed when my husband and I went to visit our daughter in Hong Kong. Never mind that this required taking a 16-hour flight in each direction; she’d been there for months, and I missed her so much that I would have flown to the moon to see her.

       As long as we were traveling that far, we decided to extend our trip and visit Beijing and Bangkok as well. That journey kept us up in the air for a total of 48 hours round-trip. To my surprise, those flights, which I’d dreaded for months, ended up being no big deal.

       I watched a few movies, ate, slept a bit, ate some more, and arrived. Big whoop.

      And when I came back, having realized I could do it, I felt wonderfully liberated.

       If I could go there, then I could go anywhere. OK, maybe not the moon. But at least, at long last, Japan.

I could go to Japan.jpg

       My daughter, Allegra, has always wanted to go there as well, and we agreed to do it together, preferably before she returned from Asia. She’s now slated to come back in June. That made it sound like our going was pretty much now or never.

       We decided to go now.

       After all, she was living in Hong Kong, a mere four-hour flight away from Tokyo. And although this blog keeps me busy, it leaves me free to come and go as I please.

       Although you’d assume she might have preferred to go with her boyfriend, JP, he was very busy with work and only free to join her there for the long holiday weekend. (Yes, Monday was also a national holiday in Hong Kong. No, not Memorial Day. The birthday of Buddha.) She was determined to go to Japan for at least a week.

        That’s where I came in.

Allegra and JP.JPG

       She proposed that I meet her in Hong Kong and accompany her to Tokyo. From there, we planned to take a high-speed train to Kyoto. JP would join us for the weekend. He said he was happy to have me come along. (That’s the kind of mensch he is.)

       And I would have been happy to be there with them. Not just happy. A trip to the place I have always wanted to go, with my daughter? I would have been happier than a non-kosher animal in non-mud (if you get my drift)!

       Adding to the pleasure, I will dare to confess, was the notion of going without my husband. Of course, it would have been fun to have him come along too. But he was busy with work, and he wasn’t nearly as thrilled about seeing Japan as I was. Besides, a girls-only getaway with my daughter would’ve been the ultimate adventure and fun-fest.

       Plus, there was an added bonus – the prospect of getting to meet JP’s parents.

JP and his parents.jpg

       They spend about half the year in Hong Kong and the other half in Vancouver. For months, they’d been asking Allegra when her father and I might visit. They were returning to Canada in mid-May. This was our last chance to meet them before they left.

       Allegra and agreed that I would plan to arrive in Hong Kong a day or two before they departed, then she and I would go to Japan for a week and have JP join us at the end.

       For Memorial Day-slash-the-Birth-of-Buddha. 

       But then something unexpected arose.

       It was a good thing, maybe even a great thing, but it was a problem nonetheless.

       I ran into a friend who told me about an opening for a wonderful job. I ran into this friend in my doctor’s office while my daughter was waiting to go in for an appointment.

       Until that moment, I had not known that this friend and I see the same doctor. And had Allegra’s appointment not perfectly dovetailed with my friend's appointment – or had the doctor not kept us waiting… and waiting…and waiting until my friend emerged from hers – we never would have bumped into each other and I never would’ve heard about the job.

       Talk about beshert.

I went on a job interview.jpg

       I will tell you more about this job at a later date. All you need to know at this point was that I went on an interview for it earlier this month. And the interview went well.

      Very well.

       The people in charge said that I needed to submit a written proposal, however. And after I submitted the proposal, they said that they would get back to me shortly.

       But shortly, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. A week went by. Then two.

My roses died and I still didn't hear back.JPG

       My husband was so excited that he bought me roses the day that I had the interview. And long after they had wilted, then shriveled and died, I still hadn’t gotten a definitive answer.

       The job was only a summer job. But if I got it, it would start in late June.

       Japan is 11 hours ahead of us, and the last time that I returned from Asia, I was jet-lagged for weeks. Did I really want to be jet-lagged when I was starting a new job?

       Plus, I would need to prepare for the job if were to get it. Did I really want to go on a major trip while worrying about having to prepare for a new job as soon as I returned?

       Then again, what if I didn’t get the job and missed out on the trip too?

       One night, JP overheard Allegra talking to me about my upcoming to visit and freaked. Sure, he wanted me to meet his parents. Eventually. (I guess.) But not necessarily right now, and definitely not the night before they left for six months in Canada.

       Turns out that his mom is a little nervous about flying, too.

       If I wasn’t going to meet his parents, then I couldn’t go to Hong Kong while they were still there. How rude to them that would seem.

       And I certainly couldn’t arrive the day after they left. That would seem even ruder.

       The only thing that made sense was for me to fly directly to Tokyo and meet Allegra there.

       I spent much of my days checking flightsFlights to Hong Kong. Flights to Japan. They were all extremely pricey and getting pricier by the minute.

       In fact, when Allegra saw the airfares taking flight themselves, she booked a flight for herself. She wanted me to come, she insisted. But she was going whether I did or not.

To go or not to go.jpg

      Should I go? 

       Shouldn’t I go?

       How could I go?

       How could I not?

       Every time anyone invited me to do something in late May or early June, I hemmed and hawed. I was afraid to make any plans, since I might be in Japan.

       (A likely story, they must have thought.)

       Meanwhile, the airfares soared so high that JP realized it was sheer lunacy for him to fly over to Japan just for a weekend himself.

      If he wasn’t going to go, Allegra decided, and I wasn’t going to go, then maybe someone else would.

Sheray, Allegra and their boyfriends.JPG

       She asked her friend Sheray, who happened to recently have moved to Hong Kong with her boyfriendSheray agreed to accompany her provided that they flew back to Hong Kong to spend the upcoming three-day holiday weekend with their boyfriends. This only allowed them time to go to Tokyo and back. I really wanted to visit tranquil and serene Kyoto, which I hear is the most exquisite place imaginable. 

       Sheray happens to be a former student of mine from the years that I served as the faculty adviser to the student newspaper at a local high school.

Sheray and Allegra.jpg

       She wasn’t just any old former student. She was the only student on staff who actually wanted to be a journalist when she grew up. So she was particularly close to my heart, and long after she graduated we stayed in touch. I absolutely love Sheray.

       Could there be anything more fun than going to the one place that always had wanted to go with my daughter and one of my favorite students?

       On the other hand, could there be anything crazier than going to Japan for only five days? Not only would it cost a fortune just to fly there, but probably would be jet-lagged the entire time I was there and then jet-lagged for weeks after I returned.

       “You’re worrying too much,” Allegra wrote one night. “Either you come and make it a spontaneous, fun thing, or you just don’t come this time and we plan better next time.”

Temple in tranquil Kyoto, Japan.jpg

       “Are you sure there’ll be a next time?” I responded. What if there weren't? This might be my only chance.

       Should I go? Shouldn’t I go?

       How could I go? How could I not go?

       Less than a week before Allegra left, I finally began to realize the answer.

       Maybe my thinking that this opportunity was a matter of now or never was nuts.

       I always tell my kids that there are no such things as rain checks in life. If you get a chance at something – something that you really want – then you need to act on it right away, because it won’t be here tomorrow. It may not even be here ten minutes from now.

Tokyo scene.jpg

       That seems to have become even more valid as I advance in life. I’m in good health now, and so is everyone in my family. But you never know what life will bring.

       But life could also bring better opportunities. Better than a whirlwind trip to Japan.

       At least half the joy of almost any journeyfor me, at leastlies in the anticipation. At this point, there was no time for anticipation left. I barely had time to pack.

       Besides, if I actually was going to Japan, I probably wasn’t going to go twice. So I wanted to see a whole lot of the country, and I wanted to plan it well and do it right.

       It wasn’t realistic to plan the trip in five days, or to see the whole country in five more.

       Maybe I should wait until I could.

       I was almost heartbroken bidding Allegra goodbye the afternoon that she left.

       But I wasn’t completely despondent. Because I was excited for her… and Sheray.

My husband bought me new roses.JPG

       Besides, guess what? My husband bought me new roses. I finally got the job!

       I’m glad that I will have time to plan for it properly and won’t be drowsy at work.

Sushi chef in Tokyo.JPG

       I’m also getting plenty of vicarious thrills as the girls keep me posted night and day.

       They’ve sent shots of the tiny but cute Tokyo apartment that they rented on Airbnb.com, and videos of masterful sushi chefs giving them a true "raw" deal.

Sashimi in Tokyo.jpg

       They’ve sent photoof the jazz clubs they’ve visited at night, at some of which Allegra was asked to get up and sing. They also sent photos of their biggest and craziest indulgence of all, a visit to Tokyo's top nail artist. (It's all there in black and white... and bling.)  

       Seems like I didn’t have to fly halfway around the world to have the time of my life, after all. They’re having the time of my life for me. Japan is all that I expected and more.

       “I want to move here,” Allegra wrote. “I can only live in New York, Paris, or Tokyo.”

Allegra's nail art in Tokyo.jpg

       As they say, how are you going to keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Tokyo?

      No matter. Sounds like she’s definitely going back sooner or later. Probably sooner. And if she’s going, then I’ve made up my

Tokyo nail art.jpg

 mind. Firmly and decisively. I’m going with her.

      Next time. No matter what.

      Job or no job.

      For sure.

12:46 pm 

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That's me. The redhead on the right. But that is NOT my baby.

     No, sir, that's not my baby. How could any mother smile beatifically while her own child wailed? Never mind that neither of my offspring ever cried so plaintively, as far as I recall (not while I was there to nurture them through their every perceptible need... although my son still complains that I often dressed him in garish and girlish color schemes, scarring him FOR LIFE).
     Besides, I'm distinctly beyond prime delivery age ("Kitchen's closed!" as my mother might say), and my kids had departed the diaper stage by the dawn of the Clinton Administration. Now in their 20s, both are currently living on their own, in not-too-distant cities, although each manages to phone me daily. In fact, to be exact, several times a day, then sometimes text me, too. (That may sound excessive, and emotionally regressive, but I subscribe to the Jewish mother's creed when it comes to conversing with kinder: Too much is never enough.)
     Two demanding decades spent raising two kids who are kind, highly productive and multi-talented, who generally wear clean underwear (as far as I can tell), and who by all visible signs don't detest me are my main credentials for daring to dole out advice in the motherhood department.
     Presenting myself as an authority on all matters Jewish may be trickier to justify.
     Yes, I was raised Jewish and am biologically an unadulterated, undisputable, purebred Yiddisheh mama. I'm known for making a melt-in-your-mouth brisket, not to mention the world's airiest matzah balls this side of Brooklyn. My longtime avocation is writing lyrics for Purim shpiels based on popular Broadway productions, from "South Pers-cific" to "The Zion Queen." Then again, I'm no rabbi or Talmudic scholar. I can't even sing "Hatikvah" or recite the Birkat Hamazon. Raised resoundingly Reform, I don't keep kosher, can barely curse in Yiddish, and haven't set foot in Israel since I was a zaftig teen.
     Even so, as a longtime writer and ever-active mother, I think I have something to say about being Jewish and a mom in these manic and maternally challenging times. I hope something I say means something to you. Welcome to my nice Jewish world!   
In coming weeks, I will continue posting more personal observations, rants, and even recipes (Jewish and otherwise). So keep reading, come back often, and please tell all of your friends, Facebook buddies, and everyone else you know that NiceJewishMom.com is THE BOMB!
The family that eats together (and maybe even Tweets together): That's my son Aidan, me, my daughter Allegra, and Harlan, my husband for more than 26 years, all out for Sunday brunch on a nice summer weekend in New York.

Comments? Questions? Just want to kvetch? Please go to GUESTBOOK/COMMENTS.