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Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Word From the Weiss

Pattiekeepincool.JPG        If the past week or two have taught me anything – other than what it’s like to live inside a gi-normous oven – it’s an invaluable lesson or two about the value of things.
And what really matters in the end.
But wait. Let me start at the beginning.
I don’t know if it was prompted by the recent flooding in our basement, or we’re just getting on – or getting old – but my husband and I have decidedly entered what you might call downsizing mode. We’ve begun manically purging our closets and cupboards of everything well past its prime or expiration date (including some dresses I bought during the first Clinton Administration and a box of Corn Pops practically old enough to date back to their original incarnation as Sugar Pops).CornPops.JPG
So about the last thing I needed to do last week was go to Brimfield, the mammoth flea market in eastern Massachusetts, where I’m guaranteed to come across tchotchkes and other items that I don’t really need, but suddenly find myself unable to live without.Brimfieldhazzarei.JPG
My cousin and I have a long-standing tradition of journeying together to this marvelous mecca of memorabilia and vintage hazzarei each summer, however. The things you find there are nothing like anything you’ll ever see at Walmart or the mall.
From oddball collectibles to incomparable kitsch, there’s truly no telling what you’ll find there. That makes it the one day of the year when we feel a bit like pirates, surfing the high seas instead of the Web, foraging for hidden fortune, trolling for treasure.Pattieaspiratecropped.jpg
Besides, my daughter had agreed to drive up from NYC in order to accompany us there. So we decided to brave the oppressive humidity and head east early last Tuesday.
I consider this trip an annual tradition, but Brimfield is actually held tri-annually – in May, July, and September – and my cousin and I had already gone once this year. That excursion had yielded quite a haul for me, from a vintage lamp to a sterling silver ladle.
But my greatest coup, as far as I was concerned, was a delicate little ring.cheeseplatefromBrimfield.JPG
I’d come across this great find in a booth featuring miscellaneous items at such low prices that, as they say, they were practically giving them away. This included a set of four colorful porcelain cheese plates depicting scenes of France for only $8, and a lovely glass sauce bowl for 3 bucks. In the case of the ring, the price tag said $6, but in the custom of Brimfield – where hondling for a lower price is not just allowed, but considered de rigueur – the nice, white-haired woman manning the booth let it go for only 5 bucks.RingfromBrimfield.JPG
At the time that I bought it, I must admit that it looked a little discolored and dingy. But I took it home and shined it up as best as I could with jewelry cleaner. And then, when I examined it under the light, I became convinced that I’d gotten away with not just a good deal, but a true steal.
        The band looked like it could be real gold, with a setting no less intricate than the one on my much pricier engagement ring. The dozen tiny clear stones surrounding the jewel in its center sparkled so brilliantly that I wondered if they might be real diamonds.
As for that jewel itself, it was a pale blue-green that looked to me like it might be a precious gem. Judging from the stones I saw online, I figured it to be an aquamarine.
I became so enamored of this bauble that I wore it everywhere and stopped to look at it several times a day, holding my hand up to the light as I reveled in my good fortune. My only regret was that I hadn’t bought a second ring that had been sitting beside it. This had been similarly priced and would’ve made a great gift for my daughter or niece.Aquamarineanddiamondring.jpg
Over the ensuing weeks, I often considered bringing this ring to a jewelry store to have it appraised. There were only two things stopping me.
One was the realization that such an appraisal would probably cost far more than the ring had itself, and then it would no longer be such a great bargain.
 other was a bit more complicated. I was afraid to learn the ring’s true value and possibly discover that my suspicions about its enormous worth might be delusional. Just as all that glitters is not gold, all blue-green stones are not aquamarines.Allegraandmycousin2.JPG
With that in mind, my daughter Allegra and I met my cousin Susan in Brimfield, a small town near Sturbridge.
By the time we’d managed to arrive, my cousin had been there for hours and had already managed to spend all of the hard-earned cash that she had brought along. But she was thrilled to have gathered an eclectic assortment of must-have items, including an attractive pair of ceramic purple candlesticks. 
        “Must have,” like beauty, you must keep in mind, is strictly in the eye of the beholder.Allegraspolkadotlamp.JPG
She’s not the only one in the family who finds all things purple impossible to resist, and before long Allegra had fallen hard for a vintage lamp with big violet polka dots, which was marked $85 but the owner readily agreed to part with for only $75.PattiewithNiceposter.JPG
My most-prized booty for the day included a framed poster of a French seaside scene from Nice that was a little worse for wear, but still rather nice. At least I believed it would look nice in my newly restored basement. (And honestly, for 20 bucks, what would you expect -- something perfect?)
I also found myself unable to go on without a silver-hued Art Deco statuette that might be turned into a lamp… or maybe a candleholder… but most likely would prove incomparable at collecting dust on a table in my living room, along with all of the other knickknacks that I’ve collected from this venue in years gone by.
As often happens with our trips to Brimfield, though, we had a specific agenda. Allegra had come largely in hopes of finding a new night table to replace the dingy and dilapidated one in her apartment left behind by a former roommate.Brimfielddressform.JPG
With that in mind, I persuaded her to bypass some of the other fabulous finds that caught her eye, including an elegant white wire dress frame, and a record player from the ‘50s that we were assured worked, but was decidedly what you might call "low-tech" and sounded so scratchy that I offered to pay extra provided that the record playing on it were not included.phonographatBrimfield.JPG
The best thing about Brimfield is the astonishing variety there. No matter what you happen to be seeking, you can usually find almost infinite options from innumerable eras in every possible style and price range.
        So after awhile
 we tried valiantly to tune out the unrelated distractions, from a bevy of beatific Buddhas (how cool would those have looked on my lawn?) to a mammoth bin of multicolored buttons (how fab would those be if I had time to sew?).
        This day was all about the nightstand.BuddhasatBrimfield.JPGButtonsatBrimfield.JPG


        That is not to say we didn't manage to take a break for a bit of that grease-saturated fare you find at any fair, including the ultimate in decadence (not to mention trayf), skewers of chocolate-covered bacon.AllegraeatingatBrimfield.JPG
        After downing one of these,
Allegra began salivating anew at the sight of some exquisite antiques whitewashed in theshabbychicnightstand2.jpg mode euphemistically referred to as shabby chic (so that they can charge not-so-shabby prices for them). But I lost my appetite at the sight of their $300-plus price tags. And as happened when we went to Brimfield last year in search of a new dresser for her, I made it clear that these prizes were strictly in the realm of someday… in the distant future… when she was rich and famous and/or spending her own dime.
Soon after, a funky facsimile in a two-tone design of vibrant green caught her eye. But she soon pronounced it a little too vibrant. And a little too green.Greennighttable.JPG
Then, at long last, she spied a series of alternatives that were a happy medium. They were expertly restored with bright, glossy finishes, but not too bright.  They were also priced somewhere south of 100 bucks apiece. Each a bargain if I ever saw one.Silvernighttable.JPG
They were almost too perfect. All of them. That created a new problem: Which one should she choose?
agonized about whether to go for a black one or the silver. Then whether to buy this black one or that. Finally, she chose one of the blacks, and I decided to take the other. (If it didn’t look right in my newly restored basement, I knew who’d gladly take it.) And the seller volunteered to shave 10 bucks off the already-reasonable price of each.Blacknighttables.JPG
Mission accomplished! And now most of our money was happily spent.
        Still, o
n the way back to our car, Allegra swooned at the sight of a delicate cameo pin depicting three lovely ivory nudes dancing arm in arm on an oval background of coral. The tag read $18, but the saleslady let it go for $14. A final bargain. How could we resist?cameofromBrimfield.JPG
Only as we drove off, exhausted but kvelling over the day’s catch, did it occur to me that we had never managed to track down the booth at which I’d bought my ring.
Before reaching the highway, we stopped at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, which is another part of our tradition, to use the facilities and get a cold drink for the ride home. Allegra crossed the room to get a straw for her iced coffee when a man of about 50 with a kippah on his head sidled up to her and abruptly struck up a conversation.
“Did you go to the show?” he asked. A harmless enough opening gambit.
Hearing that we had, he demanded to know what she'd bought there.
I quickly insinuated myself into the conversation, mother hen that I am, and Allegra and I began excitedly ticking off our many purchases. Then we asked what he’d bought.Maninkippah.jpg
“Nothing,” he replied, explaining that he was a jeweler, but hadn’t managed to find anything of interest.
        Was he kidding? Brimfield is the largest outdoor antiques show in the country and features over 5,000 dealers. How could he have found nothing there?
        At the same time
, having learned his profession, I couldn’t resist bringing up the story of my ring.
        “So you want me to give you a free appraisal,” he ventured with a snide laugh.
“Not exactly,” I said, feeling defensive. But he waved that off with a smile.
“Of course I’d be happy to look at it,” he countered, as he accompanied us outside. He was also curious to see Allegra’s cameo, which we’d left in the car.Loupe.jpg
 she had retrieved her pin, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny folding telescope-like device that I assumed was a loupe. Raising it to his eye, he examined the brooch briefly, then traced his fingers around the delicate metallic scrollwork at the cameo's edges.
“This pin? It’s a piece of junk," he concluded. "It's just plastic. How much did you pay?”
When we told him, a bit sheepishly, he shook his head in disgust. “It’s worth maybe a dollar,” he said.
Then he turned his attention to my beloved ring. After eyeing it fleetingly through the loupe, he pulled a small metal contraption from the trunk of his car and held my ring against it.
“What’s that?” I asked anxiously.ring2.JPG
“Just a magnet,” he explained before delivering his chilling verdict.
“The band isn’t gold. It isn’t common metal, either. It might be brass at best.” The large jewel was of indeterminate nature, he said. As for the gleaming stones around it, they certainly weren’t diamonds. They weren’t even rhinestones. Cubic zirconiums, perhaps?
        He shrugged.
All things considered, I said I was relieved to have paid only 5 bucks for it.
“Five dollars?” he scoffed. "It's only worth 50 cents."
        Fifty cents? My treasure?
My steal?
He went on to assure us that he was equipped to sell us much nicer things. But it soon became apparent that his wares were not what he was bent on selling. For as picky as he might be, he'd finally found something that piqued his interest.
“Are you single?” he asked Allegra, explaining that he was looking for a wife.
Well, the guy presumably knew his jewels, but (kippah atop his head or not) he clearly did not know his Jews… or certainly his nice Jewish girls and moms. That is to say, whatever he lacked in looks and youth (he needed a shave badly and appeared far closer to my age than hers), he had failed to make up for in either diplomacy or charm.
When he asked for Allegra's business card, she surrendered it, not quite sure how to politely refuse. But she didn’t return the phone call he placed to her that night, and she never will.
the ensuing days, I found myself gazing less and less often at the trinket on my pinky. It was still just as sparkly. It was still just as lovely. But it was no longer priceless, or a mystery.
        Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.
        Or is it?
        Allegra was enjoying her visit home so much that she decided to stay over for another night. She also agreed to join me in my purging efforts by going through the piles of old clothing that she had stored in our basement for years.
I was about to carry another box of it upstairs when I heard her begin to shriek.
She had just received an email informing her that she was supposed to sing in a restaurant in NYC that night. It was a gig she had applied for, but she'd never heard back from the event organizers to indicate she had been hired.
        It was nearly 4 p.m. Her gig began at 7. She wasn’t packed or dressed. And we live at least two and a half hours away.BlackHaloSaturnPrintdress.jpg
       She quickly phoned her band members and learned that they were all available.
With luck, I had ordered some new dresses online, none of which fit me, but one of which she’d tried on for fun and had looked fabulous on her. I told her to go put it on while I raced around frantically packing up her clothing and belongings, which were scattered throughout the house.
The worst of it was that it was now raining torrentially, with tornado warnings nearby. By the time she left, it was nearly 4:30, right in the midst of rush hour. She was terrified that she would arrive late.
        I was equally terrified, but for very different reasons.
        I was afraid that she would drive way too fast for the nasty road conditions and get into an accident.
        But she said she had to go, if only to save face.PattiebitingnailsinNapa.jpg
I spent the next three hours unable to sit still or almost to breathe. And all that time I kept thinking that I had spent the day before – perhaps the last day of my precious daughter’s life – wandering around a flea market shopping for stuff I didn’t need.
The black or the silver? The silver or the black? What difference did it really make?
It turned out that the rain eventually subsided, although with rush-hour delays she still got there 20 minutes late. But en route she had phoned her friend Aubrey, who's also a jazz singer, and gotten her to graciously go over and sing a few numbers until Allegra arrived.
So I guess all was well in the end.AllegrainWaterbury8.JPG
        That is, my daughter arrived safely and got to sing, and I’m still wearing my cherished ring.
        But when I look at it now, mere "junk" though it may be, I see something more precious than diamonds or rubies (let alone aquamarines).
The truth is that I like nice things, and unusual things, and I enjoy getting a bargain as much as the next nice Jewish mom. So I will probably go back to Brimfield next year.
But when it comes to value, it’s not about stuff.
        Who really cares about stuff?TheLevysatCharlieswedding3.JPG
        The thing that makes my Brimfield treasures special is the special people I go there with, and the memories I've collected of being there with them.
        And so I’ve come to realize that, however blunt he may have been, perhaps that not-so-nice Jewish jeweler was actually right.
My pretty ring, whether gold or mere brass, really is only worth about 50 cents. So is my engagement ring, everything inside my house, and the entire house itself… if you compare them to the way I feel about my daughter, my cousin, and, of course, my son… and all the other people who matter in my life and help get me through the hard times (and the sizzling HOT times like these).
Sure, it’s a lesson that we all know. But we also all know how easy it can be to forget at times, in the course of daily life and the endless pursuit of great fortune.treasure.jpg
I may not get to be a pirate sailing the high seas more than once (or twice) a year. But I already have my fortune: my family. And friends. They are my true treasures. They’re my greatest finds. And that’s something you certainly won’t find at Walmart, or the mall.
       Or, God knows, even at Brimfield.
1:07 am 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Word From the Weiss

Nofireworks.jpg         Happy Fourth of July from Connecticut, or as happy as it can be, considering that the annual riverside fireworks display has been canceled… due to flooding.
Flooding? When did midsummer become monsoon season in the Northeast? When did global warming become global storming?
Once there was a time when it didn’t pour for days on end, when entire evenings went by without shrill flood warnings interrupting your regularly scheduled programs on TV, and you had to walk around gingerly outside to avoid getting totally drenched by the oscillating sprinklers watering your neighbors’ lawns and almost everything else in sight.
But if I really wanted to wax nostalgic, I would look back instead to a time when I wasn’t doing something at every single second, or more likely doing three things at once, as I was the other day, when the contractor repainting our flooded basement, a flooring salesman from the cloying TV carpet purveyor Empire Today, and two schmegegges who’d come to repair a crack in our foundation arrived all at once.Pattieinchair2.JPG
        The best thing about summer, after all, is the pleasure of often doing nothing at all. The closest I’ve come to that lately was two Saturdays ago, when it would be fair to say that I ended up doing absolutely nothing… although even that took an awful lot of effort.
Let me explain.Allegrainsailordress.JPG
It all started when my daughter was nice enough to invite me for a girls’ night out in New York City. My husband and I were already coming in that weekend to attend her latest jazz singing gig, and Allegra had heard that her dad was working on Friday night, so I would be all alone.
“Then you can come to the Mermaid Parade with us on Saturday!” she exclaimed.
        “Mermaid Parade?” I asked. “What’s that?”Mermaidparade2004.jpg
She explained that it was a Mardi Gras-style event held annually in Coney Island, modeled after the notorious Halloween parade in Greenwich Village, to which people come dressed (or not so much) as outlandish sea creatures. That is, to say that many of the costumes inAllegraatMermaidParade2012.jpg evidence are somewhat on the skimpy side doesn’t begin to cover it. Most of the women there parade around topless. Allegra and her apartment mate Jamie had gone last year – fully dressed, I might add, unlike two unidentified gents who posed with her – and had the time of their lives.
Almost any time that I get to hang out with my daughter amounts to having the time of my life, so I accepted without reservation. Then I relayed these plans to my husband.
“Mermaid Parade?” he asked. “What’s that?”MermaidParadeoctopusgirl.jpg
For some reason, as soon as I explained, he immediately insisted on coming too. So suddenly I was no longer headed for a girls’ night out in NYC. Nice Jewish Dad and I would drive in early on Saturday instead in time to chauffeur the girls to Brooklyn.Pattieinsailordress.JPG
Having gotten a gander at the vintage-looking black-and-white sailor swimsuits the girls were planning to wear, my husband and I came dressed in color-coordinated garb. This consisted of a sailor-style dress I’d bought in Portland, Oregon, last summer for me. For him, I picked out a white linen shirt and black pants. To top things off, I brought two crisp white sailor hats left over from the year that I wrote a Purim spiel for our temple based on South Pacific.Harlaninsailorsuit.JPG
Unfortunately, we were running on Jewish time, which is to say that we got a bit of a rather late start, as usual.
        Allegra had decreed that we needed to arrive at her place on Roosevelt Island no later than noon in order for us to get them to Brooklyn for the start of the parade at 1 p.m. But when we finally pulled up at around half past 12, they said that they weren’t ready anyway.
Weren’t ready?
        Allegraasmermaid.JPGWhen they came down in their own sailor suits of sorts, they sure looked ready. They’d liberally dusted their bodies with glitter and were each sporting an ersatz tattoo or two. Apropos of their seaside destination, both were wearing black fishnet stockings. And along with the sailor hats that I’d also given them, they’d fashioned belts from the plastic lobster and crab I’d found in our basement, left over from a sea-themed party I’d thrown years ago. Never mind that these items were not just tacky, but trayf.Jamieasmermaid.JPG
After spending the whole morning primping, they were famished, they said. They wanted us to drive them to a deli for sandwiches. There was nothing to eat in Coney Island beyond Nathan’s hot dogs, they claimed, wrinkling their well-glittered noses.
After that, they insisted on going to Starbucks to wash their lunch down with overpriced iced coffee.
My husband grew apoplectic over all of this delay. Enough with the Jewish time (and wasting both time and money). He wanted to get going now.MermaidParadeNathanshotdogs.JPG
Why, I asked, was he in such a hurry? I told him to chill out. The Mermaid Parade was their thing, after all, and we were awfully lucky that they were letting us tag along.
        In fact, speaking of that, he never had been officially invited to join us in the first place.
“Of course I was,” he countered, sounding audibly offended. But at that he piped down.
By the time the girls were finally set to leave, it was going on 2 p.m., so they decided to drive alone in Allegra’s car and have us follow them. They wanted to stay at the parade for as long as humanly possible and were worried that we might want to bail earlier.HarlanandPattieinsailorhats2.JPG
Judging from my husband’s level of interest, that wasn’t likely to be a problem. We did have to be back in time to meet some friends for dinner at 6, however. So we readily agreed.
As we drove, we listened to the radio, which kept giving updated reports about the parade. Devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy last fall had threatened to torpedo the festivities. The decision to forge full steam ahead anyway made the event a major news story.
        But that's not the reason
my pulse began to race as we sped down the Belt Parkway.Skeeball.jpg
Along with my great delight to be included in one of my daughter’s adventures, I was thrilled to be returning to Coney Island. I hadn’t set foot there since the late 50s or early 60s, when my maternal grandparents often had taken my brother and me there to stroll the boardwalk come summer and win prizes playing arcade games like Skee-ball.
Allegra had said that the drive would take only about half an hour, and had assured us that there'd be plenty of parking available. As soon as we approached the general vicinity, though, traffic slowed to a standstill.
        By the time we had reached a busy thoroughfare called Neptune Avenue, well over an hour had passed, and we found ourselves mired in gridlock.
Countless streets near the parade route were cordoned off by police barricades, we discovered. The rest were glutted with endless lines of cars.TrafficatMermaidParade.JPG
This was evidently in part because, in view of the full-scale media blitz, a record number of people had decided to attend this year. But there was also another issue.
The issue was that there were no public parking lots in sight. Not even one.
After creeping along for quite a while, my husband and I lost sight of Allegra’s car. So we began to drive around aimlessly ourselves, desperately seeking parking.
By now it was nearly 3 p.m. The parade had begun almost two hours earlier. We feared that we might miss it entirely. Yet there wasn’t a free space to be had anywhere.
Allegra phoned to say that she’d stumbled across an actual public lot, but that it was charging $60 to park.
        That wasn’t just highway robbery. It was full-fledged extortion. So she had continued to forge on. Pattiebehindthewheel.JPG
Given the heavy traffic that we had encountered getting there, my husband and I figured that we needed to leave the parade by 3:30 in order to get back to Manhattan. This would give us time to check into our hotel, park the car, and change our clothes before meeting our friends. We didn’t want to show up at the restaurant in sailor suits.
Yet now it was already past 3 and we hadn’t even parked yet. Even if I could find Allegra’s lot, we could only stay for a few minutes. I wasn’t about to pay $60 for that.
So we kept driving around.Harlaninsailorhatincar.JPG
After we’d made our second tour of duty down something called Mermaid Avenue, I saw what looked like the parade route in the distance and made my husband an offer that I knew he would not refuse. I would drop him on the next corner and continue the hunt myself.
“Take pictures!” I called after him as I pulled off.
Then I continued to cruise the area, if you can call it “cruising” when you’re driving so slowly that your car might as well have dropped anchor.
Allegra, who was still circling the vicinity herself, texted me to apologize.
“I can NOT believe this!” she wrote. “I had no clue. I took the subway last year.”
In desperation, I considered asking various people standing in front of their houses if I might pay them to briefly park in their driveways.
        But that seemed kind of tacky and I didn’t have the nerve.metalgate.jpg
After another half-hour, I spied an opening on a side street. Every space that I’d seen so far had turned out to either be in front of a fire hydrant or be marked with multiple placards warning, “No parking in front of driveway.” This lone space was alongside a metal gate that led to a house, but the opening looked too narrow for any car to fit through. Could you even call it a driveway? It was just a footpath at best.
        At least there was no “No Parking” sign in sight.
I quickly pulled in and scrambled out onto the sidewalk, feeling as euphoric as if I'd just won the lottery, when a young man strode out onto the front steps of the house. A girl of 3 or 4 in pigtails gripped him halfway up his leg. He did not look happy. At all.Jamaicanmanonporch.jpg
“That’s where you’re parking?” he called in what sounded like a Jamaican accent, placing his hands on his hips. He sounded less angry than disappointed in all mankind. “You’re going to block my driveway?”
I stopped dead in my tracks, mortified. “Oh, that’s your driveway?”I asked. It didn’t seem like it would help matters any to malign this pathetic path.
         “I’m so sorry!” I said.
He and the little girl stood there watching me vigilantly as I slunk back to my car in agonizingly slow motion, as if I were walking down a gangplank bound for the deep sea. I was so reluctant to get in again that I dared to give it one last shot.
“Actually, is there any way that I could pay you to park here for just a little while?" I pleaded. "Please! I can only stay for 20 minutes at most, and I’m dying to see the parade.”
He stared at me flatly, clearly unmoved. Even the tot at his knee looked stony-faced. “No,” he replied, shaking his head gravely. “Someone’s coming over. Right now.” Then he continued to stand his ground until I was safely back behind the wheel.Pattiebehindthewheel2.JPG
By now it was already past 3:30. I’d been inside my car since 10 a.m., except for that brief hiatus inside the deli when we'd gone to buy the sandwiches.
Moments later, another text came in. This time it was from my husband.
“Where are you? It’s over,” it said.
Was he kidding? Over?
        Fini? Before I got to see a single fin?
My heart sank at the very thought. Had I come all this way for naught?
        But I felt far, far worse for my daughter. 
As eager as I had been to see the scene and learn what all of the hubbub was about, the thing I was most excited about was that my kid had wanted me to come along. How many parents – nice, Jewish, or otherwise -- get invited along for such decadent revelry?
For Allegra, though, who was presumably still cruising the area, missing the parade wasn’t just a small disappointment. She and Jamie had been deliberating about their costumes for months. This would be tantamount to having a little kid miss Halloween.MermaidParadefloat.JPG
Since I didn’t actually know what the heck it was I had missed, anyway (other than from the few fairly tame photos that my husband had managed to snap), I decided that the only pressing matter right now was to show up on time to meet our friends.
So I quickly rendezvoused with my husband back at the spot where I had deposited him.
To my relief, I got a text message moments later from the girls, who had decided to return to that exorbitant parking lot after all. Never mind that the parade itself was indeed already over. Any chance to salvage the day was worth almost any price.AllegraandJamieatMermaidParade.jpg
I could only hope that there was something left for them to do or see. “Take pictures!” I replied.
And so they did.
Although the procession of floats and marching revelers had disbanded by now, they still managed to enjoy themselves thoroughly and cause quite a stir, by their account.
        “Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with us,” Allegra would later attest.AllegraandJamiewithmermaids.JPG
This included two bare-bellied denizens of the deep who had made ample use of glitter themselves.
There was also the colorful creature from the Blue Lagoon with the iridescent green tendrils.Allegrawithmermaid.JPG

          Then there was the girl who rose to the occasion by sporting nothing above the waist but a pair of white roses (although how she had managed to attach them remains a mystery to me).

        Seeing these,
 I realized that as seaworthy as our own get-ups may have been, they were a little too demure. Honestly, what could I have been thinking? Would we have belonged in any of those pictures? We had no seaweed or sparkles and I was covered from neck to knees. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there was no bare there.AllegraatTomiJune2013.JPG
        The good news is that
 we managed to get back to the city, check into our hotel, change into normal clothing, and arrive at the restaurant precisely at the dot of 6.
        Not to mention park the car... in an actual lot!
After dinner, our friends and some relatives joined us at Tomi Jazz, the Japanese restaurant on East 53rd Street where Allegra was singing that night. And by the time we arrived, my little mermaid was already there, having changed into high heels and a raspberry colored taffeta dress.
Looking at her, in fact, you would have no clue about her whereabouts earlier that day, other than for the telltale traces of glitter everywhere, which wouldn’t wash off for days.PattieatTomiJazzJune.jpg
We got to hear her sing for two hours and hang out with her during intermission.
So in the end, I think it would be fair to say that I did absolutely nothing that day. But I still got to hang out a whole lot with my daughter. So I also pretty much had the time of my life.Pattieasmermaid.jpg
If this is a story of an old mom and the sea, then I’m afraid it is just another sorry tale of the one that got away.
        Or is it?
As they say, at least half the fun of almost any experience is in the anticipation, and my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed that. And of course, there’s always next year's Mermaid Parade… for which I may not dye my hair blue, or get a tattoo, but I will definitely be taking the subway.    
12:50 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.