Posted in family, Fathers, film, Mothers, movies

Sweet Nostalgia

Let’s talk about bonbons. Ice cream bonbons, to be exact.

We never had them at home when I was growing up. But when my parents took us to the movies, there was always a box to be shared in the dark, before the feature even started. Those chocolate covered frozen treats were both seductive and terrifying to me, from the moment I saw my parents leave the concession stand with them. I knew when we sat down, the box would open and one would be placed in my hands, still rock hard, along with a wad of napkins. If I put the entire bonbon in my mouth, I would be in instant agony as it adhered to every soft surface it touched. If I tried to spare myself that misery by biting off a reasonably sized piece, the chocolate shell would split, sending fragments onto my chest or lap, leaving the rest to melt in my hands.

Thus, most of my favorite childhood movie memories—South Pacific, Carousel, West Side Story, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Tom Thumb—are intertwined with those bonbons, and the sensation of puffed out cheeks, a sore tongue and upper palate, and melting sweet cream and cocoa.

As I think back, I suppose I could have declined the bonbons, asked for a different treat. But, in a strange way, that would have drained the outing of some of its excitement. Everything was large and magical then—the theater, the films, the treats; and nothing was larger or more magical than those bonbons dissolving in my mouth, and the love in the hands that shared them.

©2019 All Rights Reserved


Posted in family, history

Salt and Pepper

SaltPepper

I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001. We’d come back from a wonderful visit with family in California barely a week before. I was still in its afterglow, as I was still in the long afterglow of four months in Budapest.

Fall was approaching, my favorite time of year. It was a beautiful, mild, sunny Midwest morning. I was relaxed. I was happy.

I came downstairs early, made my breakfast, sat on the sofa in the living room, and turned on the news to see smoke billowing out of the first tower and gawked in disbelief. A few minutes later, the phone rang.

Mom.

New York.

Are you watching? Did you see it?  Her voice cracked. It always cracked. This time was worse.

Yes. I recognized the same crack in mine.

And we watched together, a thousand miles apart, as the second tower was struck, and gasped, together.

My mother didn’t cry much; but she cried that morning.

***

My husband rose about thirty minutes later.

The minute I heard him padding about, I rushed upstairs.

He took one look at me and knew something was wrong.

I think I told him to come down, eked out a few words about the towers, but I don’t remember what I said, exactly. I do know he didn’t linger on the second floor, checking his email, stretching, as he usually does. And I know that when he saw the screen, his face was a mirror of mine—tear-stained, stricken.

I tried to call my mother back, but the lines had gone down by then, so I sent emails to family and friends in New York, hoping they would be received, praying for one answer: We’re all right. We’re safe.

***

Later that afternoon, our spirits numbed by images of burning buildings and planes, we trod off to the grocery store—to replenish staples, get out, breathe.

Everywhere we walked, we saw our shock and grief reflected—in other cars, the parking lot, aisles, checkout counters. No one spoke much. No one smiled. People just shook their heads, sniffled, and sighed.

***

After dinner, my husband gave me a small package wrapped in newsprint, tied with a string.

I bought this for you a while ago, and was going to give it to you for Christmas; but I think you need it now.

Inside the wrapping were the milk glass salt and pepper shakers pictured above.

I know how much you love milk glass.

***

They are a fixture in my kitchen, those shakers, and have been since 9/11, a constant reminder of what preserves, and what burns— salt and pepper.

Both are filled with salt.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

 

Posted in books, creativity, family, fiction, human nature, Mothers, writing

Wrong Way

arrow communication direction display
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Have you ever found yourself heading in the wrong direction down a one-way street?

That happened to my mother when she was driving me to a late rehearsal in Manhattan. It was the first rehearsal, and she was unsure of the best route to our destination, so she made a wrong turn.

I was nine, and I remember exactly three things about that turn: the volume of rush hour traffic heading toward us; my mother’s curses in three different languages; and the speed with which she spun the car around and got us off the road.

She was a good driver, my mother—focused and assured, with marvelous instincts and steady nerves, and loved to be behind the wheel. In all her years of driving, she never had an accident.

But that’s beside the point.

She knew, as soon as she made that turn, she would have to change course.

The times we should do that are not always so clear. We rationalize away warning signs, and tolerate unpleasant treatment and sometimes dangerous conditions telling ourselves we’re exaggerating, misinterpreting, being silly, or even at fault. And we tell ourselves things will get better, because, occasionally, they do. We get a small raise or a little praise. There’s that one night pizza doesn’t make us sick, and nuts do not cause a rash. Or, the phone call from a lover, who’s broken our hearts more often than not, comes after six months of silence.

It gives us all the reasons we need to doubt the truth…

…until the boss goes back to being a greedy, unappreciative, or abusive lout; or there’s a sleepless night dealing with indigestion and hives, or worse; or the lover acts like an entitled, condescending ass before disappearing again.

That’s when it’s time to change course and get off.

***

We can rationalize creative wrong turns, too.

I did it for fifteen years—working on a book, and writing it in ten different ways before I admitted I had turned down ten one-way streets going in the wrong direction.

That was when I decided to forget it, change course.

And a miraculous thing happened: a new route emerged, a fresh point of view…

…from a character who had been begging to speak.

I spent all those years crafting strained and ludicrous narratives for characters in his orbit who didn’t have his eloquence, awareness, depth, or passion.

What a waste…when the truth was in front of me the whole time.

©2018 All Rights Reserved