|That's me, Pattie Weiss Levy.
A Modern-Day "Ima"
on a Modern-Day Bimah
new content posted every WEEK!)
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
A Word From the Weiss
No doubt it was all but inevitable that my washing machine went kaput last week,
just three days after the 90-day warranty expired from when it was repaired back in March. So I was thrilled to be told that
the repair service that had vastly overcharged me last time would honor that outdated warranty anyway. After all, almost everything
these days comes with a firm expiration date, from milk to medicine to microwave popcorn. Even marriage, it seems.
Everything but the demanding
job and undeniable joys of motherhood, that is.
Or maybe I’m just a nice Jewish mom who can’t say no.
After all, five years after my youngest left home, I still seem to be on call 24/7 to perform many of my
former motherly duties… and not always just for my actual kids.
Yes, I’m still happy to field queries
about laundry, offer often unsolicited advice, and endure endless kvetching from both my children at all hours of the day
and night. But I’m also ready, willing and unfailingly able to let countless others get in on the fun.
Take this past weekend. Saturday
didn’t exactly get off to the most fortuitous start, to say the least. I still don’t know what happened, but I
awakened to something bizarre that I cannot explain and can hardly describe. OK, so I’d gone to bed way too late, then
awakened way too early to the sound of our puppy whimpering in her crate beside me.
I reached down to poke my fingers between the bars, cooing softly in a futile attempt to coax little Latke
to go back to sleep before she could awaken my husband. (Not that mere whimpering would ever wake him. With his
hearing, he could sleep through a nuclear attack.)
Then I simply rolled over
in bed. That’s all. And that’s when it happened.
The room around me began to spin rapidly, as though I were on an amusement park ride called something like "The Tornado"
or "The Rotor" (even though I’m a self-professed wimp prone to motion sickness and won't brave anything more
challenging than a merry-go-round). It felt similar to the first time I drank much too much and experienced what is often called
“the whirlies.” But I rarely if ever over-imbibe anymore, and in this case hadn’t had a sip of alcohol
The word “vertigo” came to mind, as I broke into a cold sweat and shut my eyes, mostly because
every time I opened them over the next few hours I instantly got sick to my stomach. I was so dizzy that I couldn’t
sit up, let alone walk. Finally, I managed to fall back to sleep, and when I awakened it had totally passed, as abruptly as
I would later be told by my doctor friend Michael that it most likely had to do with my inner ear, which
controls balance, and that it wasn’t anything serious and might never even happen again. By now, though, it was nearly
noon, and to my disappointment I had to let my husband go alone to the pool club to which we belong while I spent the rest
of a beautiful summer’s day indoors finishing up last week’s blog.
Finally, at half-past 3 I was done
and about to walk out the door with my beach bag when the phone rang. I figured it was my husband wondering where the heck
I was. But no.
It was one of my daughter’s BFF’s, Samara, phoning out of the blue. She asked how I was, then
sadly had to listen to an abbreviated account of the above episode. She wasn’t really calling to inquire after my health,
though, of course, nor to report on hers. She had a favor to ask.
She was en route to New York City for the weekend
with four friends, and they had suddenly come up with an inspiration. All five had lined up assorted friends to crash with
for the night, but wouldn’t it be much more fun if they could stay somewhere together?
“You have this knack for
finding cheap hotel rooms,” Sam noted, recalling the nice mother-daughter getaway I’d arranged for her, her mom,
and my daughter and me last fall. “I hate to ask, but do you know anywhere affordable that we might be able to stay?”
It was late in the afternoon on a summer weekend, at the height of tourist season, and she wanted a bargain-rate
room in New York City that could accommodate five. Could she be joking?
On the other hand, if she really needed to locate
such a find, she’d come to the right place. As you know if you regularly read this blog, I go to the city often because
both my children live there, so I’ve become somewhat adept at finding cheap digs.
Normally, when we’re considering
a trip, I spend hours if not days hunting down a steal, or at least reasonably economical accommodations. In this case, she
didn’t have hours, though, let alone days. She also evidently didn’t have an iPhone on hand, either.
Besides, as I mentioned when I wrote about Sam’s graduation from Smith College last month, she and
I are so close that she jokingly calls me “Mom,” and I refer to myself as her “other mother.” So I
dropped my bag, sat down at my computer, and logged onto Hotels.com. And after about 45 minutes, and a lengthy conversation
on my cell phone with someone very unhelpful in India who said that his name was Jason, I’d managed to land the girls
a small suite in the Murray Hill East Suites on 39th Street and Lex for $169 plus tax.
By the time I got to my club, it was nearly 5 and my husband was ready to leave. At least the pool was no
longer teeming with kids, and I got in a nice, tranquil swim.
Better yet, I got that glow that I used to get
whenever I was recruited to help one of my children with some challenging task, be it finishing a school report due the next
day or learning lines for a play. It’s that rush of endorphins that parents experience, probably far more exhilarating
in its own way than any runner’s high or mood boost induced by drugs: The knowledge that you were there for your offspring,
they actually appreciate you, and you’ve been of significant use because they couldn’t have done it without you.
I was still basking in a bit of this glow when my cousin called me two days later. She had just heard from
an old flame that he wanted her to come visit him on July 4. However, he lives in Philadelphia and she lives near me in Connecticut,
and she didn’t want to make the four-hour drive down. Would I mind checking the trains for her? She wanted to determine
at once if she needed to secure an extra day off from work for the trip, and she didn’t have access to a computer because
she doesn’t have one at work.
Now, perhaps I haven’t mentioned it that much lately because I feared that I was beginning to sound
like a broken record. (Does anyone know what that means anymore, now that we only listen to CD’s and MP3s?) But with
a new puppy in the house, I am so strapped for time that I’m losing my mind. In case you haven’t noticed, I never
finish my blog by Wednesday anymore and often don’t manage to post it until Saturday, because I’m too busy taking
care of a four-month-old mongrel who needs to go out constantly, gnaws on almost everything within reach, including me, and
demands my full attention.
Plus I still hear from both of my kids almost daily by both phone and text-message.
(Yes, unlike many a youngster in their mid-20s, they still call and they also still write.)
So maybe I should’ve told her to look it up herself when she got home, or just said sorry, I’m
so busy tending to my pooch that I can hardly find time to go to the bathroom. But instead I instantly sat down at the computer
again, logged onto Amtrak and began checking the schedule.
And after about 30 minutes of consulting my cousin about when she
wanted to leave and return, and checking countless options, I determined that the most prudent choice for her was to drive
to New Haven and hop a train there on Monday afternoon, then take one back on Wednesday evening, for a whopping $138 roundtrip.
But she deemed this too expensive, not to mention too much of a hassle and drain on her time.
She decided it wasn’t worth her while to go, and that she would invite him to visit her instead.
Whereupon she began to wonder if there were fireworks to take him to on the Fourth. And so I began to Google that.
all fairness to my cousin, though, I should mention that we are so close that we are like sisters, and that she helps
me out, too, and recently was nice enough to drive me to the service garage, twice no less, when my car was
in the shop.)
Then there’s the case of my good friend Pat, who began taking a weekly course in New York recently
and asked me to recommend a play for her to see while there. I quickly obliged, sending not just names, but emails offering special discounts on tickets. She liked my first recommendation,
The Lyons with Linda Lavin, so much that she asked for another suggestion the following week and then yet a third,
finally concluding that the course, which was over, had been OK, but what she really had enjoyed was those plays. “You
obviously know what I like,” she concluded. “What should I see next?”
Of course, it felt good to pass
on my tips and have them appreciated. Great, even. I also enjoyed getting to discuss these plays with her afterwards and relish
Perhaps I should feel grateful that some people view me as a font of information. Or perhaps I should blame
myself for purporting to be an authority on so many things. I have another friend who calls me regularly the moment anyone
in her family is stricken with any physical ailment. “Who’s the best person to extract wisdom teeth?” she’ll
ask, and I’ll automatically reply, “Everyone goes to Judd Fink, but you also can’t go wrong with Jonathan
Goldman.” Or she’ll ask, “Who’s the best gastroenterologist in town?” and I’ll say, “Oh,
Ted Loewenthal, without a doubt,” quickly providing his phone number.
All these queries might be of no
consequence if I were not still tending to my family. In the past 24 hours, my husband has asked me to edit a newspaper story
he’d written for his consumer column about a recent misadventure we had, reviewing it for accuracy. My son asked me
to determine which of two health insurance plans his job was offering was best. And my daughter prevailed upon me to search
the house for a light sweater she hadn’t seen in years so she could wear it as a wrap to a wedding this weekend.
And although she didn’t exactly articulate it in any audible way, one sniff of our rather fragrant little puppy
after she returned from doggie daycare yesterday, and I knew she was positively begging me to take her into the shower stall
for a much-needed bath.
All perfectly reasonable requests, coming from family members? Perhaps. But each in itself promised to occupy
an hour or more of my time. And if there’s one thing I am seriously lacking these days, it’s time. So I’m
beginning to wonder exactly when it was that I became a public-service hotline… or to put it much more crassly, everyone’s
Was it when I became a mom?
Was it when I became NiceJewishMom.com?
Or was it perhaps when I stopped
having a real, actual job to go to more than a decade ago, so that people began to think, “I’ll call her –
she’s probably doing nothing,” the definition of “nothing” being “nothing for which she is actually
In part it may be as simple as that (because writing a blog is clearly just a “hobby”). I still
remember getting a call the day after I was downsized from my longtime job as a staff writer at a magazine. It was from a
woman who was far from a close friend, asking if I could go pick up her son at a local middle school because he’d just
missed his bus.
And at that moment, I thought to myself, “Oh, well, welcome to unemployment,” realizing that
“unemployment” evidently meant “being everyone’s bitch.”
Not that I’m complaining,
mind you. I love and am happy to hear from all who call. Seriously. I am. Maybe a little too much so.
Cheerier than the Yellow Pages. Able to cough up contact info faster than Google. And infinitely more reliable
than Siri, the robotic voice on the iPhone, who is far from the respectful woman-servant depicted on TV commercials that readily
offers up driving directions, instantly plays “Shake, Rattle and Roll” at the drop of a hat, and locates the nearest
sushi bar or whatever else you require at your slightest verbal command. (Once, not long ago, when I was feeling particularly
down one night, I actually asked her, “How can I kill myself?” and she flatly responded, “Let me Google
that for you.”)
Why wouldn’t friends and family instantly call me? Why, if I could, I
would call me. (And I would talk me, or anyone else who needed it, off of that psychological ledge.)
So the bigger, more pressing and
more perplexing issue is why do I continue to let these people call me, and then readily, and even eagerly, respond to their
Of course there is no greater joy than getting to be of help to others, and nothing makes you feel better
about yourself than being able to show off how capable you are. And I know all sorts of esoteric, random things – how
to find cheap parking in New York, how pick a ripe cantaloupe, and how to make the world’s best matzah balls, of course.
Even how to cure hiccups.
OK, maybe other people also get great satisfaction from performing some service or other for which they get
paid, handsomely, but that hasn’t happened to me in years. Like many an aging mother, I left work behind. Then finally
active motherhood left me behind. And other than getting to pick up after my new little pet, whatever she may smell like or
have deposited or destroyed, I don’t get to do all that much for anyone anymore.
So whenever someone consults my
expertise or asks for a favor, I’m right there! Nice Jewish Mom, at your service. At last, I have a purpose. I’m
needed again. Of use. Sometimes I even step in to offer help or venture an opinion when I haven’t been asked. Why shouldn’t
I give others the benefit of my purported wisdom? What’s a mother for?”
It only concerns me when I consider the example that I evidently have set for my kids. I’m proud that
my son is always there for a friend in need, but worry a bit that he seems to attract emotionally needy and unstable girls
like buzzards to fresh roadkill.
As for my daughter, she’s not just nice. She’s a nice Jewish
girl who can’t say no. So after caring for a sick child all day today in her job as a nanny, she went to stay overnight
with a friend so that she could escort her to the hospital bright and early for chemo. Never mind that my daughter stayed
out incredibly late the night before and really needed a good night’s sleep before going to work tomorrow.
On a recent weekend, she threw a birthday party for a friend on Saturday night and then an engagement party
for another on Sunday. She listens to her friends’ problems relentlessly. She’s let one of them sleep on her pullout
sofa for the past two months. She prides herself on being always available and happy to lend a sympathetic ear.
And when I implore her to stop being Florence Nightingale and just take care of herself for a change –
after all, she’s only 22 -- she retorts that I just don’t understand.
I don’t understand?
Oh, really? Hearing those words makes my head start to spin. Maybe I should be thrilled that she’s already a future
nice Jewish mom in the making. But when I really think about that, well… Here comes that vertigo again.
Perhaps she would listen if I started
living for myself. And maybe, just maybe, I will. I’ll stop writing this blasted weekly blog and author something I
can actually sell. Or maybe I should accept my true calling in life and simply become a travel agent.
But first I need to find something
for my cousin and her old beau to do next week. Yes, he’s coming here after all! But I’ve already checked and
learned there are no fireworks here on the Fourth of July; they’re being held the following weekend instead. So she
wants me to locate a concert for them, like that great outdoor music festival I recommended the last time he came. I’m
sure I’ll find something. It’s nice to be needed. Knowledgeable. In the know. A true nice Jewish mom. And who
knows better than me?
Friday, June 22, 2012
A Word From the Weiss
So, as I said, it was both my husband’s birthday and Father’s Day last week, and as much as we’d been more
or less whooping it up all week (by which I mean nothing kinky, mind you), you might say that was mere foreplay. The real
celebration would be with the kids over the weekend in New York City, and even though this wasn’t a major birthday at
all, it wasn’t an itsy-bitsy number either, and I’d been planning it for weeks. Months, you might even say.
I’m only mentioning that because, several days later, I can’t stop going over those plans with
a fine-toothed mental comb, trying to pinpoint exactly where I went wrong.
Then again, we all know what can happen to the best-laid plans of mice… and moms.
Back in January or so, I’d
arranged to have some extra nice accommodations for the birthday weekend… with one minor catch. We’d have a large,
luxurious room at the New York Hilton, on a posh floor exclusively for members of something called the New York Hilton Club.
The catch was that this place was trying to sell us a sort of timeshare, and we’d get a special cut rate only in exchange
for taking a lengthy tour of the facilities.
Then in early May, I’d bought four tickets for Saturday night for Tribes, a play at the Barrow
Street Theater in the Village that some friends had raved about. I’d also nabbed a pair of front-row seats for Friday
for Venus in Fur, a play my husband had been dying to see (and which just won a Tony for best actress). How could
we go wrong with that?
All that and dinner out each night may sound like more than enough activity. But no. All four members of
my family are notorious for always biting off more than we can chew… or do. So these would merely be the backdrop for
this festive family weekend.
Before the play on Friday night, we arranged to meet Gail, an old friend of my husband’s who was in from California
and whom he hadn’t seen in nearly 40 years.
Also, our daughter Allegra, who’s a young jazz singer, had
just booked a gig out in Brooklyn on Friday night. We would try to make it there for her second set after our play.
Plus, to make Saturday even more special, my husband invited Tom and his girlfriend Lynn to come along. Tom,
the son of very close friends, recently moved to New York from London, and we’d been eager to take them out and get
to know Lynn.
So… we arrived in the city just in time to check into our hotel, which turned out to be a revelation.
The room was not just luxurious and large; it was gargantuan compared to any room we had ever taken in New York, with an elegant
bathroom to match. We also learned that our sojourn there entitled us to attend a cocktail party with free wine and hors d’oeuvres
on both nights, as well as a lavish continental breakfast each morning in the members’ private lounge.
We didn’t have time for the cocktail party that night, however, because we were already late to meet
Gail at Robert, an elegant restaurant I’d discovered inside the Museum of Art & Design on Columbus Circle. This
visit turned out to be so pleasant and yet so brief (since Gail had bought theater tickets of her own to a play that started
at 7) that we arranged to meet up and continue our conversation later on at Allegra’s gig.
Venus in Fur turned out to be phenomenal, but there’s no point in delving into too much detail
about that because it closed its lengthy run two days later, so you can’t see it now. Suffice it to say that the lead
actress, Nina Arianda, was so brash, versatile and astonishingly sexy that I kept thinking to myself, “So that’s
why she won best actress…” Then two minutes later, I’d think, “No, I guess that’s
Speaking of astonishing, Allegra was her usual engaging and sassy self behind the mic, although to my enormous
disappointment it took us so long to get to Brooklyn after our play that we missed most of her show and only caught the final
three or four songs.
Then it took even longer to get back to our hotel by subway after midnight -- so long, in fact, that we arrived
close to 2 a.m., by which point my husband was ravenous. With luck, as we neared our hotel we spied a hot dog stand in the
Now, under normal circumstances I try to dissuade him from eating hot dogs
on the grounds that they contain too much fat and sodium, not to mention who knows what other nasty stuff. But this was his
birthday weekend, so I was trying to chill out and let him freely indulge many of his bad habits. And there was no mistaking
it… even at 2 a.m., this place was OPEN!
I don’t really want to tell you much at all about that tour we took on Saturday. Suffice it to say that it wasn’t
really a tour at all. It was more of a prolonged and very intense sales pitch from a garrulous Indian fellow who used to be
the head of sales for a major corporation. In fact it was so intense that we ended up actually purchasing a timeshare, even
though we’d had absolutely no prior interest in one, and had only agreed to endure the tour in order to get that discounted
room for the weekend.
It was also so prolonged that by the time we had signed all of the papers, the 90 minutes
to which we had reluctantly committed beforehand had turned into three hours. It was already 5, time to leave for our dinner
at Po, an Italian eatery in the West Village.
But we also realized that the evening cocktail party was about to start, and we had been obliged to forego
this perk the night before and really didn’t want to miss it again. Not to mention that after that three-hour “tour,”
we both could really use a glass of wine.
So we decided to take our chances and just pop our heads in for
five minutes. And that is all that we stayed. I swear. But by the time we had taken the subway down to the Village and gotten
a bit lost trying to locate the restaurant, we were 20 minutes late.
Then again, if I had it to do all over again,
I would do it the same way, only maybe I’d linger at that party a little longer. Because 20 minutes, it turned out,
wasn’t nearly late enough.
We walked in very embarrassed to have kept our guests waiting. To our surprise, though, only Allegra had
managed to arrive. She was sitting at the bar writing in a card. By now it was already 5:50, but Aidan, Tom and Lynn were
nowhere to be found.
Aidan had already warned me that he might be a little late when he’d called that afternoon to ask where
and when dinner was. Never mind that I’d sent him an email a few days earlier to give him all this info. He had never
responded to that message, and I realized now that I had failed to follow up and make sure he knew the time and place.
As for Tom, I had texted him a week earlier to invite him and Lynn to join us for the play. When he’d graciously
declined, saying that they would simply come for dinner, I’d written back to warn him that this would need to be exceedingly
early -- by which I meant earlybird-special early -- specifically at 5:30, in order for us to make our 7:30 curtain. But this
evidently posed no problem.
“Great! See u then!” he had replied.
That very morning he’d written again to
ask about the arrangements, and I had responded immediately and a bit excessively, perhaps, with the time, name of the restaurant,
street address and nearest subway stop. Where could they be? (Jewish time is 10 minutes late. Could British time be 20?)
My husband had evidently just texted Tom on the way to the restaurant to apologize for our lateness and assure him that
we were en route. He got a message back now saying that they’d been confused about the time and would be there in 20
Twenty minutes went by, then 30, then 40. Still no sign of Tom and Lynn.
And where could Aidan possibly be? He called shortly after we arrived to say he, too, was on his way, but offered no explanation.
He had landed a full-time job just that week as a production assistant on a new ABC TV series starring Vanessa Williams called
666 Park Avenue, a supernatural drama about a couple who move to Manhattan and realize that their building and its
upscale tenants appear to be possessed. Had he perhaps been called into work that day? He’s always scrupulously punctual.
This was strange.
Along with worrying whether something terrible might have befallen him, I began to realize that even if he
arrived safely soon he’d probably be frazzled and in a bad mood. Another parent might have been annoyed, maybe even
furious. I was just feeling sad.
For one thing, I had long envisioned a delightful and relaxed family dinner filled
with lively conversation, general hilarity and endless toasting to my husband’s health. Clearly, there would be no time
for that now. The play had posted prominently on its Web site that there was absolutely NO late seating allowed. We needed
to leave the restaurant by 7:15. It was now 6:30, an hour late, and half the guests were still MIA.
For another thing, I remembered
a similar unfortunate and unforgettable incident with my father nearly 20 years ago. To be honest, I have never been known
for being the most punctual person. But trying to get around New York City often throws me for a loop, and this was one of
those nightmares from which you just can’t seem to wake up.
We’d been scheduled to have dinner with my father and wicked stepmother after attending a child’s
birthday party in the city with my own kids, who were tiny at the time. But the party had run late, it was difficult to lure
my toddler off the monkey bars, and by the time we had realized that we were hopelessly late we’d been unable to find
a cab and been obliged to walk about 30 blocks carrying a toddler and pushing a baby stroller. We arrived very late to find
that the restaurant would no longer honor our reservation, and to face my father stewing on the sidewalk out front, his face
as red as Merlot.
That’s when he said it. Or more like seethed it. He leaned his face into mine and, right in front of
the little ones, blasted off like the bellowing foghorn of an ocean liner about to leave port. “If you can’t show
up on time, then don’t bother showing up at all!”
That is not something I would ever say or think
about either one of my own kids. Rather, I was wallowing in empathy, knowing full well that sometimes things
come up in life -- and sometimes taxis don't. I just wanted my son to show up. I didn’t care that much
when he showed up, but I hoped it would be soon and that he might actually be calm and composed instead of writhing with guilt
To save time, soon after we had arrived I had ordered three assorted salads for the six of us to share as
appetizers so that something would be on the table when everyone arrived. Unfortunately, this normally bustling restaurant,
one of our favorites in the city, had been half-empty before 6, so these dishes had arrived almost instantly. I refused to
let anyone take a single bite, though, until the other guests had arrived, so these assorted stacks of dressed greens had
proceeded to wilt slowly on the table while I continued to glance anxiously toward the door.
Finally, at around 6:40, Tom and Lynn rushed in looking flushed and embarrassed. As I stood to kiss them,
Lynn apologized profusely, explaining that Tom had somehow thought that dinner was at 7:30, rather than the play, and that
in the future I should always contact her if I wanted to be sure they’d get it right. And I realized that was the first
big mistake I probably had made. In my experience, social arrangements are the purview of women exclusively and can under
no circumstances be entrusted to men.
As they glanced at the menu to put in their orders, I decided I simply
had to call Aidan to find out what was happening and ask what he wanted to eat, so that I could order on his behalf.
“I’m having trouble finding a parking space!” he declared when he answered, sounding palpably
unnerved. Why he had driven instead of taking the subway was beyond me, but I begged him to pull into a parking lot a.s.a.p,
assuring him that I’d gladly pay whatever this might cost. He agreed, although I knew he wouldn’t comply, and
he finally burst in at 6:50, just as our entrees arrived, looking grim and harried with an ultra-short new summer haircut.
I jumped up to give him a big hug, hoping this might allay any fears he had that we were angry. Then we all began gulping
our food. We had only 25 minutes left to eat it -- so as much as I tried my best to put on a good game face, it
was painfully obvious that I was feeling aploplectic.
As we chewed frantically, Aidan offered up a true confession as to his whereabouts, which weren't anything
unusual or sinister at all. He simply had been invited to join a large group at the beach for the day, and hadn’t realized
that dinner was going to be so early. In fact, he’d texted Allegra about the schedule before leaving, but she’d
never responded, and for some reason he had failed to consult me (no doubt assuming that I might have discouraged him from
going, although in truth I only would have encouraged him to return an hour earlier).
In turn, I informed him that I
had expected that our whole family would meet for Sunday brunch the next day, but had discovered that our accommodations included
breakfast, for which he was welcome to join us. He replied that he was already eating brunch with an old friend from home
who was in the city for the weekend.
The young man he was meeting suffers from a chronic illness, so I couldn’t
entirely fault him for wanting to give him some time. Still, I was surprised and disappointed.
I proposed that we meet for a late
lunch or early dinner instead, to which he responded that he had a meeting all afternoon to discuss a script he was working
on with some colleagues for a Web series.
“But honey…” How could he have scheduled a meeting?
“It’s Father’s Day,” I said.
This may sound like standard behavior for many a young person in his 20s – indifferent, oblivious and
too busy to fit his poor old parents in – but that was far from typical for my son. Aidan is always considerate,
always eager to talk to us and even confide in us, and invariably available for family occasions. And he is especially
close to his dad.
On the other hand, I realized now that I had never actually mentioned anything about brunch or lunch or any other plans for
Sunday. I'd simply assumed that the kids realized it was Father’s Day and would have set it aside to spend with us.
Then again, as we all know, when you assume you make an “ass” out of “u” and “me.”
Or maybe, in this particular case… just me.
We managed to down our food in time, but there was no time to consider dessert. The maitre d’, knowing
of the occasion, surprised us with a single scoop of gelato with a lit candle in it, over which we sang a hurried “Happy
Birthday.” Then my husband paid the check and we made a mad dash out the door.
Not to be so vulgar as to actually
mention money, but that meal cost us well over 200 bucks, and we gobbled it in little more than half an hour. Talk about fast
We made it to the play in time, but even that was a bit of a disappointment. Somehow, I’d gotten the
impression from the friends who’d recommended it that it was hilarious. And there's no denying that it had its share
of amusing moments. But Tribes, a play about a wildly dysfunctional Jewish family with a deaf son, was hardly what
I would call a comedy.
Sure, it was brilliantly written, and the acting was superb. But there were too many uncanny parallels with
my own family – the daughter was trying to be a singer and the mother was a writer working on her first book, not to
mention that hearing problems run in my husband’s family – along with various other extremely unsettling elements
(one of the sons may be hearing impaired, but it’s the domineering, temperamental father who is totally deaf to all
his children’s needs). So it ended up being mostly disturbing.
To me, in fact, the only truly light moment of the experience came when I was following my husband upstairs to the restrooms
and a man came out and told me that I was about to walk into the men’s room. And then I realized that the
man who had just snatched me fromthe jaws of public humiliation as Richard Jenkins, the actor who starred in HBO’s
Six Feet Under, The Visitor, and about 100 other movies, who just happened to be in the audience.
After the performance, realizing
that we had been too rushed at dinner to consider taking photos, I snapped a few shots of my husband with the kids inside
a frozen yogurt shop. Then we walked the kids across town to the East Village, where they each were meeting respective friends
(which is why I had scheduled dinner for before the play instead of after, assuming that they’d still want to spend
Saturday night with their peers).
But the tenor of the play and the tension
of the dinner had put us all into a foul mood, and although everyone had smiled for the camera, no one was
feeling particularly celebratory or festive.
So, although it was still fairly early, my husband and I headed
back to our hotel. Our favorite new hot dog stand was – guess what? – still OPEN. But neither of us was remotely
in the mood.
I tossed and turned in that big,
comfy, king-sized bed all night, then oddly overslept, only to be awakened at around 9:30 a.m. by my cell phone ringing. It
was Aidan, calling to get the address of our hotel. He was on his way over for breakfast.
“What about your brunch?”
His friend wasn’t feeling up to it and had canceled out.
I hastened to text message Allegra
so that she wouldn’t feel left out (I may be a bit inept at rallying the troops at times, but I am not remotely deaf
to my children’s needs). She said that an old friend had slept over and was still asleep, so she couldn’t leave
immediately, but to save her something to eat and she’d get over as soon as possible.
Aidan showed up with a very sweet card for his Dad, and we had a relaxed and prolonged breakfast in the members’ lounge
– so prolonged that we were the last ones to leave and only vacated after the cleaning crew began to vacuum loudly all
Allegra joined us in our room shortly afterwards, and after downing a few items that I had procured for her
from the buffet, the four of us took off, laughing and joking around as we made our way back to the Village. The sun was out
in full force, there wasn’t a cloud visible on the skyline, and it felt like the night before had never even happened.
Aidan eventually did have to take off for his meeting, but we arranged to meet at a nice outdoor café
for that late lunch if he could manage to get out in time.
Then Allegra, her Dad and I spent the afternoon strolling around, poking into shops and eventually each buying
a stylish new summer hat at an outdoor stand in Soho.
It felt as if we had briefly lost our way, or our heads, the evening
before. But then, just like that, we had suddenly found them again.
Aidan didn’t make it out of his meeting in time to join us for our late lunch, alas, and unfortunately
we had to leave by 5 in order to get home in time to pick up the dog where she was boarding. Otherwise, it was what I would
call a picture-perfect Father’s Day.
Which just goes to show that
you can't let yourself get too down about anything, even a derailed family dinner, because all's well that ends swell, and
tomorrow really is another (Father's) day... or whatever it is they say.
As for that timeshare we had been persuaded
to buy, we canceled it the very next day. It’s not that we won’t be going to the city as much as ever to hang
out with our kids. We’ll just be staying at other, cheaper, and far less luxurious places, which will leave more money
for eating out and going to the theater.
In the future, though, I’ll be sure to make certain everyone knows all the plans. And maybe we’ll
bite off just a little bit less from now on. Or start chewing a whole lot earlier.
Friday, June 15, 2012