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Saturday, July 25, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


My parents while they were still married.jpg

       One day, about 20 years ago, my mother divulged to me that my father had called her to say there was something very important that he wanted to discuss with her. Confidential as this information might have been, I of course divulged it at once to my brother. He and I began to speculate wildly on what this important thing might be. And try as we might, there was only one thing that we could come up with.

       Never mind that they had been divorced by then for nearly 20 years.

       Never mind also that for most of those 20 years they each had been married to someone else.

Stuie and his second wife Elaine circa 1997.jpg

       We became absolutely convinced that our dad wanted to get back together with our mom. What else could it possibly be?

       OK, there may have been plenty of other things that it could possibly have been. But there was only one thing that secretly, deep in my heart, I still inexplicably wanted.

       Whenever I speak of my parents’ divorce to people, I don’t think I am truly resorting to hyperbole when I say that they had one of the worst marriages on record. By the time I was born, just over five years into their tale of unhappily-ever-after, they were already vociferously miserable together and had been that way for most of those five years. That they remained together anyway more or less (very often less) for 24 more years was nothing short of a miracle (or the world’s worst case of inertia). My father glared at her with contempt almost any time that she opened her mouth. And never mind looks that could kill. I don’t want to air too much dirty laundry right here, but suffice it to say that he often seemed ready to strangle her, and one night he almost did.

       I spent most of the years that they were together both dreading that they would divorce and wishing that they would do it already. And once they finally did, my only wish was that they had done it sooner, since they seemed so much happier married to other people.

       And yet….

The Parent Trap Hayley Mills version.jpg

       One of my favorite all-time movies remains The Parent Trap. I am talking about the original Hayley Mills version from 1961, although the 1998 remake starring a teenage Lindsay Lohan back before she became the train wreck that she is now wasn’t half-bad.

Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap 1998.jpg

       In this Disney-generated, live-action, modern fairy tale, twin girls separated soon after birth following their parents’ divorce end up by chance at the same summer camp. When they realize that they are a matched set, they hatch a Prince and the Pauper--style plan to switch identities and lives. The purpose: not only to experience how their other half has lived for all these years and to at long last meet the parent they each have never known, but more essentially to get their estranged parents to fall back in love again so the family can reunite.

The Parent Trap twins separated at birth meet a camp.jpg

     There is, of course, the requisite fly in the ointment – dear Dad is about to marry someone else. Considering how heinous the wicked stepmother-to-be appears to be, you can’t help rooting for the twins' foolish yet well-meaning match-making plot to succeed. But being the daughter of parents who were always on the verge of divorce -- up until the day they finally managed at long last to cross to the other side -- I had my own personal vested interest.

The Parent Trap Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara.jpg

       Perhaps there is an innate desire within all of us to have an intact family of origin. For as much as I knew rationally that my parents were a mismatch made in hell, a small voice inside of me always wanted the fighting to stop so that we could all be together happily ever after.

       I remember that feeling now every night when it’s time to walk our dog after dinner. Latke loves that it stays light late enough in summer for us to fit in a family walk after we finish eating. But she doesn’t love it nearly as much when either Mommy or Daddy is too busy with work and stays behind while the other tries to set out solo. As much as Latke loves to walk, she pauses at the end of the driveway to look back longingly and expectantly… and if you try to coax her onward, she pulls back stubbornly and rears up like a bucking bronco. For the thing that she relishes most about that walk is that we do it all together.

Latke likes to walk as a family.JPG

       I thought about that one night last week when my husband was reading aloud to me in the car. He doesn’t normally read aloud to me, let alone do it in the car. But we were on our way back from visiting our kids in New York City, and we had already heard the latest headlines on 1010 WINS radio repeatedly, ad infinitum for hours… and we had finally finished the terrific book that we’d been listening to on Audible.

      (That terrific book, if you must know, was The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion, which was the sequel to The Rosie Project, the last amazing and hilarious book that we listened to on Audible.) 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.jpg

       What my husband read to me was my favorite part of the Sunday New York Times. In fact, it’s my favorite thing in any newspaper during the entire week – the “Modern Love” column.

      That week’s entry was entitled “The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give.” I was instantly intrigued because, as I have mentioned, my son recently got engaged. There was a time in my life when I was interested mostly in meeting the man of my dreams. Then it was getting pregnant, followed by dealing with toddlers, then teenagers, then how to get your kids into the college of their choice. Now those topics bore me silly, but anything that even alludes to getting married is an automatic must-read.

Modern Love: The Wedding Toast I'll Never Give.jpg

       This particular column turned out to be less about weddings than marriage itself, though.

       It focused on the inevitable exasperating conflicts that crop up in any relationship after the idealistic belief in heartfelt vows like “I’ll always be your best friend” wear off.

       The author, a writer named Ada Calhoun, claimed to love weddings as much as the next sap, but after a decade of marriage now knew the sad truth about those solemn vows. Whenever she attends a friend’s nuptials, she said, she must stifle the urge to leap to her feet and correct naively besotted declarations like, “I will never let you down.”

The author, Ada Calhoun.jpg

       She knows that the dewy-eyed infatuation phase eventually wears off, giving way to the never-ending frustrations of having to deal with your mate’s idiocyncracies, annoying habits, and habitual mess-ups.

        “I want to say that one day you and your husband will fight about missed flights, and you’ll find yourself wistful for the days when you had to pay for only your own mistakes,” she wrote. “I want to say that at various points in your marriage, may it last forever, you will look at this person and feel only rage.

       That is precisely what I had felt toward my husband only a couple of days before.

       We’d been on our way to NYC in the car to hear our daughter sing on Friday night. I was behind the wheel, as usual; the fact is that I’m not a fan of my husband’s driving, and he would just as soon let me drive so that he can read the newspaper in the car (although not necessarily read it to me).

traffic on Hutchinson River Parkway.jpg

        There is one segment of this trip that invariably leaves us mired briefly in traffic. But far worse, this particular junction on the Hutchinson River Parkway almost always leaves us mired in a brief altercation. It is a point in Westchester where the highway narrows and the left lane comes to an abrupt halt. Most drivers heed the sign in advance and change lanes accordingly. But there are always a few stragglers who drive along obliviously until the last possible moment and then begin signaling that they want to push their way in.

       My husband seems to believe that driving a car is some sort of us-against-the-world competition, and that if I let even one of these cars in, then they will have beaten us in the race to get ahead. Or at the very least they will have taken egregious advantage of usOr taken some important advantage away from us.

Lane narrowing sign.jpg

       Sure, I will admit that it’s a little obnoxious when drivers choose to ignore that a lane has slowed down before an exit and try to get away with proceeding as far as possible, then muscle their way in. On the other hand, I know what it feels like when you make a mistake and need to change lanes and no one will let you in. Also, to be honest, I just don’t care. What real difference will it truly make in the scheme of things if I let another car in? We may end up arriving at our destination 10 seconds later. So what?

       Yet last Friday night, my husband had just put in a stressful week of late nights, and so he became especially adamant -- almost deranged, if you ask me -- when we approached this intersection. He began berating me not to let any other cars in no matter what.

       I also had just put in a stressful week of late nights, thanks to my new summer job, and I was not in any mood for his manic outburst. So ignored him and let one car in. Then another.

       And before I knew it, we were really at each other’s throats. Over what? Nonsense.

      Yes, thinking about it now, I know it was nonsense. And you know it was nonsense. But at the time I had reached my limit and it seemed like a matter of life or death. Or at the very least marriage or divorce. And I was suddenly very much in favor of the latter.

I love the dog.jpg

       I went so far as to tell him (as I let yet another car cut rudely in) that he could have full custody of the dog. That was just to add injury to insult. Or vice versa.

        I love the dog.

       As the “Modern Love" columnist had noted, there is a form of Buddhism that can be summed up with the words, “Life is suffering – and yet.” And marriage can be summed up pretty much the same way. “I love this person, and yet she’s such a mess. And yet when I’m sick, he’s not very nurturing. And yet we don’t want the same number of children.  And yet I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be single again.”

My husband eats ice cream every night.jpg

       I don’t relate to any of those particular examples myself. And yet my husband’s insistence on working out for at least an hour every day no matter what, and his need to watch violent TV shows late at night at a deafening decibel level while I'm trying to write, and his complaining relentlessly about his weight yet continuing to eat two heaping bowls of ice cream right in front of me every single night while I am trying to diet... well, these things make me want to do things to him that will be reported not just on local TV, but the national evening news.

       And yet somehow we keep going on and on together.

       And yet I begin to think about how silent the house would be if we didn't.

       And yet my favorite line in that entire column was a bit of parental advice the author repeated“ ‘The way to stay married,’ my mother says, ‘is not to get divorced.’ ”

       But that incident on the Hutch took place two days before my husband would read that column aloud to me in the car, and at that moment I did not want to stay married any longer. Never mind that this dopey dispute was nothing new. In fact, it was something very old. I was ready to call it quits right then and there.

You'reBacon Me Crazy.jpg

       My daughter – someone for whom our marital squabbles are indeed very, very old – often chides us for continually fighting about the same trivial issues, as though our encountering the same old thing were so shocking that we suddenly find it totally intolerable. But isn’t that what is most exasperating in marriage – always having to deal with your mate’s crazy habits and eccentricities until the moment that you suddenly find them totally intolerable?

       Or is it just that on most days we manage to put up with our partners’ craziness (for we all have some form of craziness), but then we all have those days when we have had a hard week, or not enough sleep, and we find that craziness suddenly intolerable?   

       “The longer you are with someone, the more big and little ‘and yets’ rack up,” Calhoun wrote. “You love this person. Of course you plan to be with him or her forever. And yet forever can begin to seem like a long time.”

We just celebrated our 31st anniversary.JPG

       Tell me about it. She was writing this after only a decade of marriage. My husband and just celebrated 31 years last week. We have more than our share of “and yets.”

       And yet I must admit that I enjoyed having him read to me in the car, and after we got home that night I made a nice dinner and we watched a new TV show that we both like, then we went to bed and began another week as though nothing had ever happened.

      Yes, we began another week and another month, and soon it will be another year.

      Although my parents were officially married for nearly three decades, they were separated on and off throughout my teenage and young adult years, and they never made it to our miraculous 31.

      I don’t remember any more what that important thing was that my father wanted to discuss with my mother back then. Perhaps he suddenly wanted to apologize to her for the way he had treated her all those years. Perhaps he wanted to talk about my brother or me. But no, he did not want to ditch my evil stepmother and get back together with my mom.

My mother and Sid.jpg

       He died still married to Ms. Evil Knievel. My mother died a decade later still married to my stepfather, Sid, and, hard as it is to believe, we marked my father’s 17th yahrzeit (anniversary of his death) last Sunday.

       And yet…

He read the newspaper to me in the car.jpg

       I’ll admit it. I secretly hope sometimes that my parents will still get back together. Could they be together again in heaven? If there is a heaven, do they know there that people have gotten divorced and make sure that they are kept safely apart? Or do divorced parents get to start all over again there and overlook all the negative “and yets?”

       Maybe that is the very definition of heaven.

       Or maybe heaven is simply having someone there (even someone a little annoying and crazy) to read to you in the car.

12:42 pm 

Friday, July 17, 2015


A Word From the Weiss


I'm too busy with my job to write about it.JPG

      Sorry I posted nothing at all last week and barely have a moment to emit more than a blurb now. I’m just too busy with my new (summer) job. I’m dying to tell you about my new (summer) job, but I’m too busy doing it to talk about it. So you will have to settle for this.

       Barely a blurb.

       I woke up to an email from a local supermarket, The Big Y, this past Tuesday offering 10 percent off that day for seniors, and realized with a mixture of delight and utter horror that their age criteria (60 and over) meant ME. Of course, after dropping our dog Latke off at the groomers, I headed straight over.

       Couldn’t miss a chance like that.

I'm ready for my senior discount.jpg

       Soon enough, I found myself stocking up on everything we could possibly need and a few things for my kids as well. (They may not be seniors quite yet, but why couldn’t they be seniors by association?) Between sale prices and that 10 percent discount, I managed to save a whopping $117.

       (PLEASE NOTE: I did not spend over $1,000 at the supermarket. Honestly! I am just reporting what my receipt said I saved in total, including the savings on many items that had already been marked down.)

Gray gridlock at the checkout counter.jpg

       Of course, this exercise in frugality required contending with gray gridlock at the checkout line, not to mention listening to a 10-minute debate that went on between a wizened geezer and his wife about bread crumbs. (Yes, 10 minutes. I kid you not.)

       “No, not seasoned! Plain! Not unsalted! Regular. No, not that one! And not that one! I only want 4C, not the store brand! It stinks!”

A 10 minute debate about bread crumbs.jpg

       Then there was the tiny, barely-5-foot octogenarian who was struggling mightily to get a can of gravy down from a high shelf. I asked if I could help her, and she assured me she could manage. But just at that moment I got a phone call on my cell. She, of course, assumed I was still speaking to her, so she continued speaking (and speaking!) to me.

       Was it worth it?

       Maybe not, because I then had to lug that whole giant haul out to my car, then into the house and put it all away. Between the shopping trip and all of that, it took half the day.

       At least I got some further mileage out of the dealbecause when I posted about it on Facebook it set off a blizzard of comments reminiscent of last winter’s snowstorms. (If only we could have one of those now.)

       “My market senior discount begins at 54. The outrage,” my friend Suzanne wrote.

They had a 10-minute debate about bread crumbs.jpg

       “The horror. The horror,” I replied (quoting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness). “At least I stocked up on everything from paper towels to tofu to my senior-plus husband’s hearing aid batteries. May never have to shop again.”

       A neighbor named Meryl promptly weighed in to note, “I hope you got the Silver Savings Card (free to age 60 and up), which automatically gives you all silver coin discounts! I was perturbed that they didn’t want to see my driver’s license when I asked for mine!”

       “Perturbed?” I replied. “I was incensed and ready to call the manager. Is it time for Botox? Don’t answer that.”

There is also a senior discount at McDonald's.jpg

       My friend Suzanne didn’t answer that, but she did reply to Meryl. “That’s unforgivable,” she wrote, whereupon the two, who have never met, began a lengthy dialogue about how Meryl knows Suzanne’s sister Roberta and went to summer camp with her friend Janice Turteltaub. This went on for so many comments back and forth that I was tempted to suggest they get a (chat) room and take the conversation elsewhere.

       But then my friend Arlene piped up to complain that she hadn’t gotten the store's email. (If you have to be a senior, or whatever we 60-and-over-somethings are, there should be some compensation in this world.) “Is it today?” she asked. And Meryl began to talk to her.

       This prompted someone named Jack, presumably a friend of a friend (or maybe a friend of Janice Turteltaub’s) to put in his own two cents. “You can get a discount at MacDonald’s, but then you’d have to eat it,” he wrote.

       Eat at Mickey D’s? Yes, they are advertising their latest upscale offering, a lobster roll, this summer. But how good could it be? And no matter how good, it is of course trayf.

       “As I said – the horror. The horror,” I replied.

       At this point, to my surprise, even my former rabbi, Stephen Fuchs, who remains a friend on Facebook, chimed in to answer my mostly rhetorical question about whether the experience had been worth it. “Hilarious!” he said. “But $117 is $117!”

        Amen to that.

I am now that person in my family?.jpg

       I was momentarily heartened to finally get a comment on the matter I thought was most cogent. Not whether the indignities I had suffered were worth the savings, but about the indignity of being eligible for that savings at all.

       “It’s all in your mind,” my friend Liz posted. “You look like a teenager.”

       “Feel like a teenager. Shop ‘n save like an old-timer!” I replied.

       Thinking about this made me realize how true at least the second part of that observation was.

       “My mother died with about 17 cans of coffee in the cupboard,” I noted. “She didn’t even drink much coffee anymore. But they were on SALE!”

       At this, a friend named Cindy entered the fray. “We all have that in our family history,” she wrote. 

       Do we? I wonder. Yes, I suppose we do.

       But am I now that person in my family? Oy.


2:39 pm 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

 A Word From the Weiss


Obama giving Pinckney eulogy.jpg

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

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

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

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

JP and Allegra were due back from Hong Kong.jpg

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

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

      But no.

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

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

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

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

FlightAware.com showed she was halfway home.jpg

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

George Washington Bridge traffic unpredictable at best.jpg

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

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


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

Newark airport keep right.jpg

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

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

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

        I figured I could wait a bit more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A security van pulled him over.jpg

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

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

      So I turned my car on.

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

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

      My battery was dead.

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

      Yup. Dead.

     Now what was I going to do?

AAA would have rescued me... eventually.jpg


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

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

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

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

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

      I could hardly believe my ears.

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

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

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

He had a set of jumper cables.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      I kid you not.


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

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

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

It's time to end the racial divide.jpg

       There are good white people and bad white people.

       There are good black people and bad black people.

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

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

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

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

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

Allegra, JP, and their luggage.JPG


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

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

My silly homemade sign.jpg

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

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

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

        And to hold up my silly homemade sign.

5:04 pm 

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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.