Thursday, June 30, 2011

not an auspicious start (lyn)

Vacation starts today.  That’s what I tell myself as an excuse to eat whatever I want for the next five days.  I step on the scale and it’s already high.  122.4.

We are out the door by 8:15, and almost miss our 9 am bus.  Traffic is heavy.  Our $21 cab ride costs more that our bus to Newton, Massachusetts.  I make little nova and cream cheese sandwiches on bagels --- the thins for me, the normal ones for Alexander.  We eat these on the bus.   I figure they should hold us (or at least me) until dinner since I know we'll be eating early. 

Jean and Jack meet us at the train station (Jim and Sally will be coming down on Saturday). “We’ll stop at a Subway’s for lunch,” Jean says.  “Fine,” I say, as I’m sure Alexander is hungry.  I plan on skipping this meal.  But once there, and with everyone else ordering, I give in and order too.  I get a six-inch veggie sub with lettuce, tomato, provolone cheese, avocado, a little mustard, mayo and a drop of vinegar.  It’s perfect.

We get to the Cape a little after four, just in time to start thinking about dinner.  Soon we are eating again.

Jean’s made an unusual, but delicious, cold salad of cabbage, pasta, tomatoes, chicken, red peppers, and some oriental sauce that brings the whole dish to life.  It’s excellent.  She then produces a container of her homemade chocolate chip cookies that are better than Tate’s.  She could open a restaurant.  She’s that good.

After dinner, we spent about twenty minutes discussing future dinners.  My mom’s biggest concern when people are visiting is the food.  Is there enough?  Is there the right kind?  This one is allergic to fish.  That one doesn’t like steak.  Someone else is on a diet and won’t eat pasta.  So she likes to know what we will be eating for dinner every night through Sunday.  Shockingly, we come to an agreement.

By ten, everyone is in bed with their books, newspapers, and iPads.  There is something about the Cape air; it  makes us all so sleepy.  Or is that what it feels like to be relaxed?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

de-hairing (lyn)

I am leaving tomorrow for a few days on the Cape.  I need to get ready.  Packing and a manicure are easy.  It’s the requisite bikini wax I dread.

I’m taking advantage of a free offer from the new European Wax Center that recently opened around the corner from me.  I remember getting my first bikini wax years ago.  “This one will hurt, but after you’ve had a few, it’ll hurt less and less until you barely feel it anymore.”  Decades later and it still hurts as much as the first time.

I make an appointment for this morning.  The European Wax Center is a big step up from the inexpensive wax, hair, and threading salon where I usually go.  What used to be a video shop has been transformed into a pristine, therapeutic-looking environment, with separate sterile rooms for the waxings.  I am introduced to Stephanie who will be my waxer for the day.  Sort of like, “Hi, I’m James, and I will be your waiter today.”  Only Stephanie, in minutes, will be focused on something far more intimate than my food order.

The little room I enter is spotless.  I immediately feel relaxed, despite what is to come.  Instead of seeing a big vat of translucent honey-colored wax awaiting me, I see what looks like a vat of hot tar.  Stephanie begins stirring this thick batter and asks, “Have you ever used hard wax before?”  I’ve never even heard of it.

Stephanie applies the molasses-like substance to my bikini area.  She lets it harden, and then rolls it off.  Presto; the hair comes off too.  It doesn’t hurt, she’s done in minutes, and I leave beach-ready.

Monday, June 27, 2011

a mini-vacation (lyn)

The phone rings early.  I’m asleep but I hear the word “pool” and immediately get up.  It’s Shari.  “It’s a gorgeous day.  I’m taking the day off.  Come with me up to my parent’s and we’ll spend the day at their pool.  I’m calling Corinne and see if she can come too.”  She does and she can.

When Shari offers to pick up sandwiches, I’m grateful.  I don’t stress out over all the calories in “real bread” that I now rarely eat.

I feel like one of the girls in Sex in the City.  It’s my first day in a bathing suit and I’m not afraid to get in one.  I wear the beautiful Karla Colletto I bought last year and have never worn.  I wear it with a summery pink and green crystal necklace that Valerie gave me, and I walk out the door feeling like Carrie without her manolo’s.

I want to arrive at the Cape with a little color, and I’m tired of looking wintery.  With only a 15 on my face and 30 on my body, I lie in the sun thinking I will read.  But the conversation with my two friends is more fun.  It’s all girl talk, and something we rarely do.

When the sun sneaks behind the clouds we take a break for lunch.  The turkey on some grainy wheat bread from Grace’s is excellent.   Shari’s parents had wanted to take us for a nice lunch in their country club dining room, but we don’t want to give up too much sun-time. 

We laugh, we sun, and we even swim.  The day flies by, and by five we are back in the city, tan and rested.  I feel like I’ve been gone a week.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

the bribe (lyn)

Yesterday I had hoped to spend the day with Alexander.  I was thinking maybe a museum during the day, and dinner out and a movie at night.  It’s been awhile since we’ve done any of these things together.  But our plans change.  Alexander ends up at a five-hour driver’s ed class during the day, and over to a friend’s house at night.

So today, I’m hoping we can resurrect yesterday’s squashed plans.

I finally wake Alexander around 10:30.  He gets up with much resistance and tells me that he and his friend are getting together again today.  But he suggests, for us, that we stay in tonight and watch Thelma and Louise on Netflix.  “I’ll make shrimp scampi,” I volunteer.  I know it’s a lot of points but we haven’t had it in awhile. 

Still, I want to do something with my son today. “Let’s go for a walk,” I say.  “Okay, but if I do that, can I go over to Sam’s after?”  A walk with me has been relegated to chore-status. 

It’s hot and muggy and noon by the time we leave the house.  Not the best weather for a 3.6-mile walk around the reservoir.  We leave the house and two blocks later Alexander asks, “If I go home now, is there anything else I can do as a substitute?”  I say no.  

In the end, our walk turns out to be just as good as a museum visit.  Maybe better.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

what I won't miss (lyn)

When Alexander was a baby, I read about a woman who kept a jar of pennies.  Each penny represented a day, and the number of pennies equaled the number of days her child would be at home before leaving for college.  Every day this woman would remove a penny from the jar.  I remember thinking how sad it would be to watch the pennies diminish.

Today, if I had kept that jar, there would be a paltry 63 pennies left in it.  Not even enough for a cup of coffee. 

While I was pregnant, I would look at the little room that would my baby’s. And as much as I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a mother, I couldn’t.  This is how I feel now.  I try to imagine a day going by, with Alexander not coming home at the end of it, and I really can’t.

There is so much I’ll miss when Alexander leaves for college, I think it's better to think about what I won’t miss.  And there are a few things.

I won’t miss:
  • Buying Agata’s sorbet and having it disappear in one sitting.
  • Worrying when Alexander is out at night.
  • Thinking about what to make/buy for dinner.
  • Discovering Alexander still up at three in the morning studying because he waited until the last minute.  Again.
  • Getting Alexander up in the morning.
  • Reminding Alexander to …take out the trash, make his bed, write a thank-you note, put his stuff away, unload the dishwasher, finish his whatever that is due soon.
  • Being accused of nagging. 
  • Living in my bedroom so Alexander can take over the living room to work or play.
  • Watching Alexander stress out over a paper, test, grade, etc.
  • Opening the fridge and seeing lots of open Poland Spring bottles that are half finished.

As I write this list I struggle to think of what to include, as the things I will miss keep coming to mind.  That list would fill volumes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

learning to drive (lyn)

I got my license on the day I turned 16.

The driving school I went to was in downtown Brockton, and all I remember was watching a gruesome film that showed mangled young bodies to warn against reckless driving.  As far as the driving lessons themselves, those I remember well.

My father has always been passionate about cars.  He was the person everyone consulted when buying a new one.  He could quote arcane facts about every conceivable model.  He was a true car connoisseur, and because of that, he was the obvious choice to teach me, his oldest daughter, how to drive.

My mother was too nervous to go with me, and would actually let me drive around the neighborhood (illegally) to practice by myself.  My mother still doesn’t like to be in a car when anyone else is driving.  She trusts her own instincts better than others.

My driving lessons with my father would all begin and end the same way.  We would leave the house with optimism and return with me in tears.  My mother never had to ask, “How’d it go?” as my father would always greet her with, “Next time you’re taking her!”  But of course that never happened.  To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever been the one driving when my mom is in the car.

My dad and I have always had a tempestuous relationship. It is amazing that we survived both my driving lessons and my long hair (“Get those bangs out of your eyes; you have such a beautiful face, it’s a shame no one can see it.”).  In the past three years, my dad has mellowed, almost to the point of inertia.  I miss the spark of his that was so easy to ignite.

Alexander hasn’t had a good reason to get a driver’s license.  He can take cabs or public transportation everywhere, and I don’t even own a car.   But I don’t want my son to be one of those people who learns to drive at 40.  So two weeks ago I signed Alexander up for driving lessons. 

Bobby, Alexander’s driving instructor, arrives on Saturday for my son’s first, 45-minute lesson.  Alexander greets him and sees that the driver’s seat is vacant.  He gets behind the wheel of the car, and after a ten-minute how-to-drive synopsis, is pulling onto East 79th Street, a major two-way street in Manhattan.  Alexander’s experience to date?  Driving a golf cart on the Cape.

Lesson number two is today.  It’s raining lightly and the air is misty.  Bobby arrives on time, and Alexander knows to get in on the driver’s side.  I watch as the car jerks its way into the line of traffic on 79tth Street.

I go back inside and make myself a big cup of coffee.  Thinking of my son driving gives me a whole new list of worries.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

cookie monster (lyn)

Before Alexander leaves this morning, he says, “Hey, we need milk and orange juice.  Isn’t that your job to know when we are running out of these things?”  I know he’s joking, but really, as a non-working mom, maybe he’s right.

I leave the house with $15 and no debit card, thinking that should be more than enough, even accounting for the yogurt I plan to buy.  I get to D’Agastino’s and see the black and white Entenmann cookies that are never ever in stock. I grab a box.  The 10-items or less line is not open, but the lines aren’t too bad.  It’s still early.  The cashier rings up my four items.  $18.36.  And that’s with a discount for the large orange juice.  How can it be so much?  Well, it is.  Now I have to reduce my purchase.  The people in line behind me are patient.  They say nothing, but they must be annoyed.  I know I would be. I consider aloud returning the two small yogurts, but when the cashier suggests the cookies, I feel too guilty trading 0-fat yogurt for 4-point cookies.  I come home cookie-less.

But once home, I begin thinking,

D’Agastino’s is always out of these cookies.  I can never find them except on Fresh Direct and I only order from them about once a month.  Alexander really loves these cookies.  They do make an easy and quick dessert.  I know I have self-restraint and would never sit down and eat the whole box. 

I grab my debit card, go back to the store, and buy two boxes. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

why I shouldn't leave my house (lyn)

Late last night I go to the bank and take out $100.  In a nanosecond it is gone.  I reconstruct the day to see how it could possibly have disappeared so quickly.

“I need money for lunch,” Alexander announces soon after he awakes.  He is working for the summer and does not want to bring a lunch in every day, despite my offer to make it.  I tell him that if he plans on buying lunch, he’ll have to pay for it out of the money he earns.  He agrees.  But his first paycheck won’t arrive until he has worked for two weeks. 

I meet my friend Ellen at the Met this morning, to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit.  It’s a fascinating study of a man whose work was so revolutionary and intelligent that one cannot help but be in awe.  The recommended donation is $20, but given my unemployed status, I contribute only five.

After the exhibit, Ellen and I stop for coffee.  We share stories of our youth, and I learn that the person I know today is much tamer than the wilder, younger version I never knew.  But then I wonder if that is true for all of us.  Does age make us less exciting?

I go to Ros Tailoring to pick up a pair of camouflage shorts that I bought at Maxwell’s two summers ago.  I brought them to Ros last week, as they are at least two sizes too big.  They have never been worn.  I think Ros gives me a discount when I surprise him with four little laminated ID’s that I made for his grandson…a fake driver’s license, doctor’s ID, fireman’s ID, and police ID.  I wish I could make a living doing something creative like this.  But really, I doubt there is much of a market for fake ID’s for three-year-olds.  Maybe 18-year-olds, but then that would be illegal.

Next stop is Citarella to buy some things for dinner.  Marinated pork tenderloin, some vegetables, rice, and a chicken pot pie (good for two meals).

I buy some bananas and strawberries at one of the many fruit and vegetable vendors on the street.

I surprise Alexander and order the 3-roll lunch special at Ging’s by 4pm.  Alexander loves having sushi for dinner.  Oh no, am I developing senior habits by ordering the lunch special for dinner? 

Crime may be at an all time low, but still, the streets of New York are dangerous for the unemployed!

Monday, June 20, 2011

lunch at atlantic grill (lyn)

M is leaving around 1:30, so we plan a leisurely morning.  Shopping first, lunch later.

I love shopping with M because she actually buys things.  When I shop with my mom, for example, we can look for hours and the something she is seeking is never quite found.  We may come across almost-buys, but in the end, what she finds is always too long, too short, too expensive, not quite the right color, not quite the right fit, or  too much, “like something I already have.”    In other words, shopping with my mother never results in a purchase. 

M and I have our yogurt, fruit, honey and granola mix and then go over to a couple of little stores in my neighborhood…Hoofbeats and Fill-r-up.   Both sell great gifts and monogrammed items of every imaginable kind.  We both fall in love with Liz Victory’s designs, and end up with monogrammed cosmetic cases.  Deciding on the purchase takes ten minutes; deciding on the color of the monogramming takes another 30.  By the time we’re done, it’s time for lunch.

It’s a perfect day.  Sunny but not too hot.  We got to Atlantic Grill and eat curbside.  Our waiter limps over to our table and apologizes for being slow-moving.  “I’m sorry,” he explains, “But I got a piece of glass stuck in my foot on Saturday, and plan to go to the hospital later today to get it out.”  Today is Monday;  I am glad I’m not his mother.

We consider lobster.  We both love it and there are very few calories in it.  But at $26/pound, and the smallest lobster being two pounds, we pass.  Instead, we both order perfectly prepared chopped salads with grilled shrimp on top.  The salads are great, and so is the lobster and shrimp egg roll that we split before.

M totally charms Salvatore, our glass-infested young waiter.  Before lunch ends, I’m already missing her.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

father's day (lyn)

M, Alexander and I head out to Long Island to celebrate Father’s Day at Valerie’s.   M drives, and we are entertained by her navigation system.  M presses a button and a pleasant live person comes on and says, “Can I help you with directions?”  We say yes, give her Valerie’s address, and like magic, she provides both maps and a “turn-by-turn” display.  It’s impossible to get lost.  I wish I had someone like her shadowing me through life.

We arrive around five, and the other nine guests are already there.  Since it’s a barbeque, everyone is dressed casually.  My family all know M so they are thrilled that she can join us.  The food is so good that I embarrass myself by eating: a tomato mozzarella salad, some flank steak, corn-on-the-cob, green beans, and a hamburger on a bun.  For dessert, I eat a little fruit and a lot of the 7-layer chocolate cake.

After dinner Valerie asks me if I’d like to try on a few pair of pants that she is finished with.  My sister is the only person in the world from whom I am thrilled to accept hand-me-downs.  In the past, we have been separated by many sizes, so this is really the first time I've been made this offer.  I just wish it been made before my five-pound meal.

Valerie hands me several items, one of which is a beautiful pair of Michael Kors summer pants, size 4.  I try them on and M loves them; Val thinks they look great; and I wonder if I have any shoes I can wear with them.  They are stylish and slimming.  I take them home.

Aside from some absent dads (mine is on the Cape and Alexander’s is, well, always missing), it is a great day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

shopping with m (lyn)

M is in town.  She arrives late Friday. Before going to bed around 1, we make a list of all the things we want to do on Saturday.

The list is so long, we know as we are making it that not everything we want to do will get done.  But we are ambitious.  We even consider a museum visit, knowing that will never happen.  We plan to have a nice breakfast.  I will go to the Farmer’s Market, get some fresh strawberries and eggs, and M will make the breakfast.  She has a great egg recipe that she likes, and I have been wanting to try it.

I get up and go to the Farmer’s Market.  By the time I get home, we are both anxious to get moving.  We eat a rushed breakfast of strawberries and blueberries with some zero fat Greek yogurt, with a teaspoon of honey and granola.  We have too much to get done to consider the whole egg thing.

I quickly put my makeup on.  Some tinted moisturizer.  Cream blush.  Mascara.  And lipstick.  I look in the mirror and am not happy with what I see.  I am so pale.  “You look fine," M tells me when I ask.  “You just need to put a little makeup on.”

We tell Alexander we’ll call him about lunch.  “We’ll meet you somewhere nice,” we promise.  Mussels are considered.  We leave around 10.

Our first stop is La Terrine, my favorite little store for fine dinnerware and linens.  By the time we leave, M and Kathy (one of the owners) are best friends. 

We stop along Lex at a few shoe stores and a couple of clothing stores, but no damage is done at any.  But now we are both hungry, and don’t want to stop for a long lunch.  Still too much to do.  So we pop into a Pinkberry and each have a mini passion fruit yogurt that tastes like sorbet and is only 3 points, according to M.  It’s delicious, but not nearly as satisfying as a bowl of mussels.  I call Alexander and he is understanding of our change in plans.

We make an unexpected detour into a pet store and end up playing with an adorable Havanese we dub Lucy.  Good that I didn't have an extra $2,800 and a larger apartment, or I would be training Lucy right now.

Bloomingdales is our next stop.  We get as far as the Armani cosmetic counter, where M and I meet Joey, who happens to be from M’s hometown.  He’s a makeup artist, and tells us that it’s been his dream since age five.  His father is a homicide detective and an older brother is a cop.  Joey is gregarious, talented, and talkative.  And, he wears makeup so beautifully you would never know he has it on.

M sits down and Joey begins his artistry.  When he is done, an hour and a half later, M looks sensational, but we are both in a hurry to leave.  While waiting for M, I get a quick makeover at the Yves St. Laurent counter across the way.  I had begun the day looking drab and washed out, but emerge from Bloomingdales feeling glamorous and flirty.

Next stop is Chinatown where M has promised to find a friend a fake Chanel white watch.  Since this item is not sold legally, we have to be secretive in approaching the many stalls that line Canal Street.  Some vendors are more trusting than others.  One stoic Chinese salesman ignores M completely.  When she insists on asking him if he has the watch she is looking for he says, “Go way.  You look like FBI.”  He tells us to try Macy’s.

Around 4, we take the subway home, exhausted and hot from a long day of shopping.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

disaster in the kitchen (lyn)

Wednesday night. 11pm.  Alexander has just gotten in.  I am answering emails.  Suddenly I hear Alexander scream, “Oh my G-d, what happened to the kitchen?”  I come in, and our sink is backed up to the brim with black opaque water.  The kind where you are sure that some sea monster is living beneath it.

We call down to the lobby.  Morgan, our fake doorman, is on call.  Morgan uses our lobby as a hotel.  Every night, between 11 and 7, he pulls up a chair with a ratty looking red pillow, locks the front door, and goes to sleep.  If you are out and get in after 11, you have to wake Morgan in order to get into the building. 

So I call down and wake Morgan.  “Morgan, call Roberto and have him come up.  My kitchen is flooding.” Surprisingly he does, and more surprisingly, Roberto shows up.

Without going into all the details, some pipe below my apartment gets clogged.  Roberto must fix the problem by morning, before tenants start using their water.  So, Roberto begins work.  I don’t know exactly what he is doing but I do know that it is very very loud.  He is snaking something down my pipes.  He is taking out all the wet stuff from under my sink.  He is rattling things around. Black water is on my floor and encounters.  It is in the dishwasher and sink.  it smells.  It is disgusting.

Alexander and I talk for three hours, as it is impossible to sleep.  Finally Roberto leaves, around two.

This morning Roberto and another worker come back and totally dismantle my sink.  Then they remove the cabinet doors underneath the sink.  And finally, they move everything from under the sink to my floor.  The place is a wreck.  

I leave.  When I return,  I clean the kitchen.  I rearrange all the bottles and boxes and brushes and other things under my sink.  Then I do three loads of dishes in order to be sure that no black water touched anything we’ll ever eat from.  And while I am in the cleaning mode,  I  re-arrange the contents of my refrigerator, just for fun.

It’s only late afternoon and I am exhausted.  I’m guessing I earned a ton of activity points today.  But then, who’s counting?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

in-between (lyn)

So I go to Weight Watchers today and am delighted to see that I am 120.6.  That’s even .6 down from my last weigh-in on May 25th.  In the three weeks in-between, I have:

  • Not tracked once.
  • Eaten a ton of pizza at a school reunion.
  • Celebrated post-prom at a Mexican restaurant that offered gigantic portions that I then consumed.
  • Had a nice Italian dinner out with Carol.
  • Had a small apple pie every week from the Saturday Farmer’s Market.
  • Gone to a party at Penny’s and ate my way through it.
  • Purchased and eaten Lloyd’s carrot cake more than once.
  • Had three huge celebratory meals to celebrate Alexander’s graduation, all at very nice restaurants.
  • Eaten a big dinner with Zelia in the West Village, including a dessert of pie and ice cream.

I have been conditioned by Weight Watchers to make good choices.  But still,  I have to wonder. Am I really that good in-between these big eating events, or am I going to wake up one morning and be 40 pounds heavier?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

need to start paying attention again (lyn)

Last night Zelia and I have dinner and see a play in the West Village.  We go to my favorite, casual little restaurant, Westville.  The food is fresh, plentiful, very good, and reasonably priced.  It’s also a block from the theater. 

For only $38, we eat well.  I have teriyaki salmon, some greens, asparagus with parmesan and an outstanding rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream.  We leave the restaurant feeling disgusted with ourselves.

The play, Side Effects, is a two-person play about a feuding couple ala Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  It is well-acted but exhausting.

I get on the scale this morning, 122.4.  Time to start paying attention again.  I cancelled my Weight Watchers etools this week, as I haven’t used them in months.  I’m going to see if it’s possible to maintain a weight of 122 or lower without paying for etools.

We’ll see.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

and finally, dinner (lyn)

Three hours after coming home full from graduation excitement and food, eight of us meet up for dinner.  This time without my camera.

Valerie has picked the restaurant, Lusardi’s.  We are greeted by the manager, Amar.  He used to manage another restaurant called Willy’s that closed a few years ago.  Willy’s was my go-to restaurant, and Amar watched Alexander mature from a restless baby in a high-chair to a well-behaved high school graduate.

I wasn’t hungry, but ended up eating as if I were.  Buffalo mozzarella and tomato/roasted pepper salad, duck breast with apricots, and shared desserts.  The most memorable part of dinner with my family is never the food, and tonight is no exception.

I think I’ll trying living on fruit and vegetables for a while.  But these past two celebratory days have been worth every single bite.

lunch at the NY botanical garden (lyn)

Before leaving the school, we take more pictures.  By then, everyone is wilting and the men have all soaked through their shirts.  But at least no one had to use the ambulance.

Three parents have arranged a beautiful lunch at the New York Botanical Garden.  About 50 families (400 people) attend.  The Botanical Garden is a short drive away.  The room is beautiful.  After last night, I didn’t think I could ever be hungry again, so I am amazed at how much I eat.  I skip the steak, but still have salad, salmon, pasta, asparagus and dessert.  The food is excellent.

I hate saying good-bye, and know that the people with whom I am friendly, I will continue to see.  Alexander’s leaving Horace Mann is also an ending for me.  No more school events.  No more weekly e-blasts.  No more Horace Mann mail.  No more HM bills.  No more Saturday afternoon football games.

I’m going to miss the association I had with Horace Mann.  I ask Alexander if he had it do over again, would he still have selected this school.  His answer is a resounding yes.  I agree with him; he chose wisely.

alexander graduates (lyn)

It’s 95 degrees.  A sweltering hot day.  So hot, that Horace Mann has ambulances at the school just in case.  I wear a sleeveless dress with a sheer bolero top.  It’s so hot that I even take the jacket off and bare my arms. 

Alexander still can’t tie a tie, so he brings it with him, knowing we will see someone who is capable of this talent.  We get to school and see Dr. Schiller, the head of the upper division.  He ties my son’s tie.

The school looks beautiful.  Flowers decorate the stage.  My son, and 175 classmates, are ready for their big day.  Zelia and I arrive at 8; the outdoor graduation is to begin at 10, but the euphemistic doors are opening at 8:30.  Hordes of people surround the tent.  At 8:30, the ropes are lowered, and a normally reserved and sophisticated group of parents madly run to save seats.  It looks like the images on TV of Macy shoppers rushing in the day after Thanksgiving.  I’ve come prepared with pre-made RESERVED signs.  I get 7 great seats, close to the front.

I bring tissues, expecting to cry.  I don’t.  The ceremony is strangely unemotional.  While the speakers drone on, I recall Alexander’s entire education.  He began before his third birthday.

In Nursery school, I would regularly get phone calls from Wendy, the head of school.  “Lyn, I have Alexander here in my office,” they would all begin, and I could hear my son crying in the background.  It would break my heart, as the infringements were always so minor.  I hated Wendy. 

Alexander loved Manhattan New School and thrived there.  The teachers adored him.  He had many friends.  And he was easily at the top of his class.

When it came to Middle School, we looked at many.  Both public and private.  Alexander was accepted everywhere but wanted Horace Mann most of all.  His first day of school, on September 4, 2004, was a happy one.

And today, after 15 years of schooling, Alexander is graduating.  I am so very proud.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

dinner at T-Bar (lyn)

Sally, my 18-year-old niece, comes to NY from Boston to celebrate Alexander’s graduation.  Sally graduated on Sunday.  Her dad, Jim, is also in town.  Tonight, we join Valerie and Abbey for dinner at T-Bar.

Our reservation is for 8:30, giving us more than enough time to get ready.

It is brutally hot.  T-Bar is a busy NY scene, so I want to look like I belong.  I love my perfect little Wolford tulle black skirt.  It’s form-fitting, short, but not too short, and perfect for an evening out.  I put it on and ask Alexander to take pictures.

I snap a few of him and Sally first.  

Then I ask him to take some of me.  I smile. I pose.  I feel like I am looking good.  Later, when I upload the pictures, I see my son’s humor. 

At the restaurant, I eat too much.  A cosmopolitan (they are the best here).  Tuna tartare appetizer.  A big burger and fries.  A few tastes of some communal desserts.

It’s a nice night, but then I embarrass my understated sister who does not like having attention drawn to her.  Abbey suggests a group photo.  It’s almost 11, and the restaurant is mostly cleared out.  And so we pose.  The remaining diners look on with smiles.

Monday, June 6, 2011

cleaning spree aftermath (lyn)

My hands laden with Calvin Klein, Donna Karen, Anne Fontaine, Gucci, Michael Kors, Etro, Akris, Theory, Sonia Rykiel, and Brunello Cucinelli, I walk two blocks, dripping with clothes, over to Designer Resale.  It takes two trips for the 25 items I am carrying.

In the past, I’ve had several great jobs, and my wardrobe reflects them.  Now I wish I had spent less and perhaps I could be saying that my co-op reflects my past good jobs, and not the clothes I am now trying to sell. 

My hands being full, I need to maneuver free an arm to open the door at Designer Resale.  The bored looking clothes specialist is in no hurry to help.  She is saving her energy for the vigorous inspection that will soon follow.

She goes by the name LC.  The process begins with LC hanging the clothes that are still in cleaning bags; these range in size from 2 to 10, with most on the low end.  Before I was heavy, I was petite.  I feel overweight just looking at some of my old clothes.  Next, LC readies herself for the fun part of the job, the inspection.  She puts to shame those federally trained people at the airports.

LC meticulously evaluates, inside and out, every piece of clothing.  She sorts without speaking, so I begin to ask.  “What’s wrong with blah blah blah?”

 “Well, this one has yellowing around the neck.” 
She points out a speck of yellow, around the size of a pinhead, on a blouse I’ve worn once.

“I’m sorry, this brand we don’t carry.”
What?  This she is saying about my once-worn black velvet dress that I bought at a small and expensive Soho Boutique.  I feel so bad for the dress, I am compelled to defend it.  “I’m sorry,” LC says, “but we have a lot of clothes right now and can only take Gucci, Fendi, Prada and the like.”  I look around and see an unstylish Max Mara suit hanging.  She follows my eyes.  “We’ve been told by the owner that we have too many dresses right now.  Try back in a month and maybe we can take it then.” 

“This one has a smudge.”
A nearly microscopic lipstick mark on a beautiful cream-colored Calvin Klein skirt would come off with one swipe of Tide-to Go.  I’m sure that doesn’t matter.  LC is enjoying her power.

By the time she is done, I feel deflated.  I leave, arms still full, with 13 pieces.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

cleaning spree (lyn)

It started last Tuesday when Vince came to clean my windows.  By the time he left, I felt like I had regained my vision.  I could see the trees outside, and everything inside sparkled.

This inspired me to clean further.

On Thursday, I tackled my bookshelves, miscellaneous drawers, one closet, and a buffet.  I tossed or gave away books.  My handyman got a still-working (I think) VCR.  Old DVD’s were donated to the library. 

Today, after my massage, I decide to clean my clothes closets.  Usually I’m hesitant to throw away clothes that have nostalgic value.  But not today.  Robyn comes over and helps with the more difficult items.

“This pink skirt?  I hardly ever wore it; it looks like new, and it fits.”
“No.  You can’t wear a pink skirt.”

“What about this nice blue knit jacket?”
Too matronly.  Give it to your mom.

And this skirt?  Do you think it's too long?
You know how I feel.  You have a good shape now.  Show it off.

“What about these shoes?”
“Hideous.  Get rid of them.”

In the end, I make three piles.  The largest is a pile to go to a snobby re-sale shop.  A second, smaller pile, will go to my mom.  And the third pile I’ll toss…the clothes in this pile are not even good enough to be donated.

But along the way, I re-live some of the stories in my clothes.  There's a lot of history in what we wear.

  • A stunning black silk Oscar de la Renta dress that I wore to a black-tie advertising event in 1985.  I remember my very geeky boss telling me that night that I looked beautiful.  The dress is still gorgeous, and surprisingly still fits.
  • A black velvet dress with an organza, gold trimmed collar that I wore in 1989 to Eric’s father’s 50th birthday celebration at the Hilton.  I was so nervous to meet him that I got very drunk (and I don’t drink) and within an hour of the party beginning, I passed out.  I spent the evening asleep on a pile of coats until Eric woke me up to leave. 
  • A to-the-floor grandmotherly-looking skirt that I bought in Soho in 2008.  I wore it to Jill's 50th birthday party and was pleased with the way I looked.  By then, I was too heavy to feel sexy and too overweight for anything short.  I think I actually believed that a Soho-bought skirt added a degree of coolness to an otherwise frumpy look.
  • A black Gucci cashmere dress that I bought in Las Vegas at the Forum Shops in Caesar’s Palace.   I was there on business, though I don’t remember what business.  I loved this dress, and felt elegant whenever I wore it.
  • A tiny black silk Michael Kors tube dress that I purchased for a black tie event.  I don’t remember the event.  I don’t know if the dress still fits.  But I do know that I would never wear anything that short again.
  • A black Donna Karan dress that I wore to my 25th High School reunion in 1994.  I was tiny, toned, and mother of a yet-to-be two year old.  Some of my classmates were already grandparents.  I felt vital and sexy.  Someone I didn't know, the husband of a classmate, told me I was the youngest-looking person there.  I'm sure it was the dress.
  • A black silk dress that I bought in the late 80’s-early 90’s from Morgan le Fay. This was my favorite clothing store.  It was on Spring Street in Soho, and the clothes were edgy and unique.  Even when the store moved from Soho to Madison Avenue, their styles maintained a downtown sophistication.  This past winter I bought I pair of fingerless gloves there.  I can no longer afford their dresses.  The clothes still remind me of working at CBS and being in the best shape of my life.

I feel much lighter now.  As if I just lost another 40 pounds.  I can say good-bye to my clothes, knowing the memories will stay intact.

I go to a garden party (m)

The invitation to the party this afternoon said "Casual attire."  The party was a thank-you reception for people who supported this particular skater's charitable events. 

I go alone as the males in my family have no interest. 

Casual.  Casual.  What do I wear?  Well, I  had so much success with yesterday's white pants--hot pink blouse-- outfit that I wore it again.  All I change are the earrings and I press the shirt.

I plug the address into my GPS and set out.  Down Route 9, into Brookline.  I vaguely recall a visit to someone's house here once, many years ago.  Who was that?  Oh, yes, Liza.  It was her grandmother's house.  I remember two things about that visit.  One: She called her grandmother "Grandmother."  Two: the house was bigger than the town in which I grew up.

Driving off Route 9, I come to this windy road with gorgeous homes and beautiful trees.  I see a sign for Frederick Law Olmstead's historic home.  He was a famous landscape architect.  Did the Arboretum in Boston also known as The Emerald Jewel.  The rhododendrum were enormous and came in all different colors--deep purple--deep rose--light pink. 

My GPS says I'm close enough to spit on the house but I see nothing.  A little man jumps out from the bushes and asks me to stop.  He tells me I may go "up to the main house."   I keep driving.  All of a sudden, a castle appears.  I get out of my car and have no idea where to go.  I've never seen so many entrances in my life.  I go up the stairs onto the patio.

I must be at the wrong party.  Women in straw hats and beautiful sundresses.  Men in seersucker jackets.  Champagne in flutes.  Little pastries on silver trays.

Me in my Haviana flip-flops.

I feel as though I've stumbled upon a scene from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.

My little skater friend appears, all decked out in a designer dress.  She lives here.  In this castle.

I am overwhelmed.  There are two grand pianos in the drawing room.  She and her sisters are concert pianists.  I try to talk up this nice gentleman but he excuses himself to "get back to work" (turns out, he is  a waiter). 

Another skater--a male--comes up to me and tells me to come with him to join one of the house tours.  This is surreal.

In the next room, I see the dessert table. 

I am underwhelmed.

A couple of simple cakes, obviously store-bought.  Some strawberries.  A few petite fours.

That's it.

I don't know why, but when I see this paltry display, I get my confidence back.

I want to load these people in my car and take them to Cousin Patty's and show them how a real party gets done.

one walk, two parades (lyn)

I finally schedule a much-needed massage at Asia Tui-Na Park.  I discovered this place six years ago and haven’t been in about two.  It’s a small, no-frills, massage place, where for $85, you can get a 90-minute,  first class massage by tiny Asian women with the strength of sumo wrestlers.

I decide to walk the 2.5 miles there.  I begin on 79th and Madison, and work my way down to 28th Street.  Along the way I stop into Wolford's where they are having a private sale.  I know this because I received an invitation. There are no big window signs shouting 50% off.  But I know.  So I go in.  Big mistake.

A half hour later I’m back on my walk.  First, I need to fight my way through 30,000 yarmulke-clad boys and young girls, all marching in the Salute to Israel Parade.  I’ve never been a big fan of parades, and definitely don’t like having to compete for sidewalk space.  But finally, around 57h Street, the sidewalks open up.

I have my little nano cranked up and am walking at a good pace.  Lady Gaga and Black Eyed Peas keep me moving.  But around 40th Street, I see people wearing headdresses and waving flags.  It’s another parade. This one is for Philippine Independence Day, and runs from 23rd to 40th Street.

I wonder what city office approves two parades, both on the Upper East Side, for the same exact day and time?

I finally make it to my appointment.  Asia Tui-Na Park is not a fancy place.  Only curtains divide workstations, so I get to hear the conversation of the man next to me.  Fortunately it is brief.   “Please go slower.  And don’t forget my feet.”

Amy, my small masseuse, has amazingly powerful hands.  Massages here do not feel good.  They hurt.  A lot.  I leave feeling sore and will wake tomorrow feeling even more sore.  But it’s nice to be unknotted.

I take the subway home.

shocking pink (m)

Saturday.  Two graduation parties.

My husband and I go to WW together.  I'm down 1.6 pounds (must be the bike ride with Sam on Friday).

First graduation party is our next-door neighbors.  Starts at 2 p.m. We clean the garage all morning so I feel good.  I shower and change.  Go through my closet and see black, black, black and black.  Wait...a pair of white pants.  I put them on.  Not bad.  Next I go for a bright pink linen shirt.  I put that on.  So not me, but it's not black.  I decide to wear it.

Get to our neighbors house late.  We live next door, yet we're late.  People have come from all over the state and we're late.

My neighbor, S, the pretty former cheerleader comes to greet me.  She's stunned that I'm festooned in such bright colors.  Joan, the busy mother of three whose house sits appropriately enough at 12 o'clock on the cul-de-sac (she doesn't miss a trick on the street), leaps over a chair to greet me.  "I've never seen you in bright colors!"

Maybe this is why they call it Shocking Pink?

an unexpected bike ride (m)

I was raised to put work before pleasure.  Homework, housework, work work.  If I ever took a few minutes to sit in a chair, my mother would say, "You have nothing to do?" which would spring me out of the chair and into action.

Old habits are hard to break.  After my mother passed away, I picked up the ironing of the shirts for my sons and husband which she used to do every weekend.  It takes me about 2-3 hours to get through everything.  My friends tell me I'm insane and they are correct.

At the top of my list to do these days is to clean the garage, the shed and the basement.  Since Sam is home from college and hasn't yet started his full-time job, this week is the perfect window of opportunity to tackle these big projects with him.

Sam and I set aside Friday to do the basement.  I have a large puppet theatre, a mock store-front complete with wooden shelves and faux canned goods, a little blue table and chairs, and a Lego table to give to my friend, Betsy, who has 3 beautiful granddaughters. These items need to be washed down and set aside.  Then there's the closet filled with Christmas ornaments (half of which are broken), my grandmother's china (with George and Martha Washington's faces on the plates and cups), old stereos and LPs, etc.  Ugh.

Sam comes home at noon from his test run of his commute to work on the transit system.  We're good to go.

I look out the window again and see a perfect day. Sunny, low 70's, dry, slightly breezy. The radio is playing "Live Like You Were Dyin'" and I think about my friend who died this week and get a lump in my throat.

Then it hits me.  If I were dying, would I really be using my time to clean a basement?  Or, would I go out on this beautiful day and spend time with my son?

Easy answer.  I ask Sam if he wants to go for a bike ride instead of cleaning the basement.  He looks like he won the lottery.

We get to the garage and my bike is ready as I put air in the tires last week.  My husband's bike is a disaster.  The bike is 23 years old, with thin tires, both of which are completely flat.  The white walls on the tires are cracked and yellow.  Sam tries to put air in them, but the air is gushing out.  "Oh, well, I guess we're going nowhere," he says.

Get in the car.  We're buying a bike.

We drive to International Bicycle and pick out a simple mountain bike.  And helmet.

We get back in the car and I realize I'm in sandals.  I can't ride a bike in sandals.

Sam drives to Modell's Sporting Goods.  I buy sneakers.  Gray, silver and pink. I'm surprised they had size 10, wide.  Sam says they look good and he laces them up for me.  I feel like the kid.

We drive to Cambridge, park the car and venture out.

We ride along the Charles River from Cambridge into Boston and back to Cambridge.  We ride for an hour and a half at a good pace.  Sam is bemused by my bell which I ring to let people ahead of us know we want to pass on the left.  "Stop with the bell!" he shouts from behind.   The only time we stop is to pick up a brochure from the sailing pavilion.  Maybe I'll try sailing this summer.

They say we remember moments, not minutes, in our life.

I will remember this bike ride for the rest of my life and I suspect Sam will also.

Live like you were dying.  Nice concept.  Try it.

Friday, June 3, 2011

a potluck party (lyn)

Twice a year or so, Penny has a potluck dinner party.  She has a big, beautiful terrace, and when the stars are out, and the weather is warm, it makes for a perfect party venue.

Tonight is one of those nights.

I bring home-baked cookies.  Well, sort of home-baked.  I buy the frozen chocolate chip cookie dough from Agata, and from that, make cookies.  I feel this is more than I usually do, which is to pick up something.

I eat before going to Penny’s, the idea being that I won’t be hungry.  Half a Subway vegetable sandwich with pringle lights.  Maybe I’ll have some dessert there.

Given that Memorial Day has passed, I decide to wear white.

Robyn picks me up, and is carrying her contributions.  A big terrine of gazpacho soup, with a side of cut up cucumbers and avocado to add later.  Hers is fully homemade.  She also brings a big bowl of quinoa that she’s made with some green stuff added.  My contribution is paltry by comparison.

We arrive on the early side, and already all the seating on the terrace is taken.  I am never totally at ease at these type of stand around and talk events, so I grab some food to have something to do.  Just a taste of a delicious chicken and fig dish.  Then some chips and guacamole.  A couple of shrimp with cocktail sauce.  And someone has made ziti.  Have to have a little of that.  One piece of sushi.  Some fruit.  Some non-alcoholic punch.  I should have had more than a half sandwich before coming.

Finally some seats open up and I find a few friends.  I have a small brownie and some purple and white M and M’s.  My friend takes a couple of cookies, not knowing that I brought them.  She bites into one.  “These are awful.  They taste like alcohol.  Have you tried done,” she asks.  “Only when I was baking them,” I reply.

roommate issues (lyn)

At eleven, when I finally insist that Alexander get up, the conversation goes something like this.

Me:  Do you want eggs for breakfast?
Alexander:  Ya, that would be great.
Me:   When you’re done with breakfast, I have a few things I want you to do.
Alexander:  You have an amazing ability to turn everything into a nag.

While he’s been sleeping, I have:
  • Gone out and bought fruit.
  • Brought his shirts to the cleaners.
  • Washed the blueberries.
  • Washed and cut up all the strawberries.
  • Unloaded the dishwasher.
  • Pulled old poster boards and a foosball game out from under his bed, and cleaned and dusted his room.
  • Reviewed the shelves in our living room, making a pile of old games that I think Alexander no longer uses or wants. 
  • Cleaned out the bottom of a big closet, tossing old binders, an old answering machine that I will never use again, etc.
  • Reviewed all our DVD’s and made a pile for Alexander to review before I give them away.
  • Made coffee (ok, not much credit is due here; my Keurig requires little effort).
  • Wrapped two large graduation gifts.
  • Talked to a couple of friends and my mother.

Alexander reluctantly gets out of bed.  He showers.  I make him a 3-egg omelet with blueberries and strawberries on the side.  I tell him that he needs to help me with a few things when he’s done.

With his friends, Alexander is calm and easy-going.  I never see him get upset or raise his voice with anyone besides me.  In the past I’ve said, “You know, I think because you are so comfortable with me, you think it’s okay to sometimes yell at me.  Well it’s not.   I don’t want you to grow up and think it’s ok for you to yell at your wife or girlfriend the way you sometimes yell at me.”

So today, as I’m reviewing with Alexander the things I’d like him to do, he says, “Mom, you know how you are always telling me that I sometimes get so angry at you, but you never see me that angry with anyone else.  And remember how you always say it’s because I am so comfortable with you?  Well did you ever consider that maybe you're the only person I get angry at because you are the most annoying person in the world?"  


But really, should I have to tell my son to unpack three days after he’s come home form a long weekend and his suitcase is still sitting unopened in the living room?

Or to remind him for the 40th time to fill out the required forms for Cornell, some of which are already past due?

Or to please make his bed which hasn’t been made all week?

Or a million other things.

Still, he’s my most favorite roommate ever, and when he leaves, I’ll be very sad.