Friday, December 20, 2013
My mom’s fur coat had been hanging in my front closet ever since I moved her out to California–six months before she died. When we wanted to get our very seldom used cold-weather coats out, we’d push it to the right, and when we wanted to get our luggage out from the crawl space in the back of the closet, we’d push it to the left. We’d been pushing that coat back and forth for ten years, without even noticing it…without me ever wearing it. When the time came for us to relocate to the East Coast, and for me to start purging, I finally had to take the muscrat by the tail, so to speak, and deal with the fur coat. My husband thought I might take it with me, after all winters in Boston are mighty cold, and “lots of people there wear fur.” “No way,” I said. Even though I had nothing against wearing vintage, that black Persian lamb coat with the wide gray and black beaver cuffs was too big, too old-fashioned, and too REAL FUR! It would be very hypocritical of me to claim I was bent on making an ethical statement since I have no compunction about wearing leather shoes and jackets. And I would never scoff at a gift of the latest Miu Miu tote, but I would never be caught wearing a fur coat in public…well, aside from that time during a winter vacation in NYC. I had borrowed a friend’s beautiful parka, never thinking that the “fur” around the hood was real until a group of PETA members surrounded me on Fifth Avenue and followed me down the street yelling, “Bimbo in fur, bimbo in fur!” (Boy, did my kids and my niece get a kick out of that one. Thank goodness none of them were old enough to have iPhones at the time, as I’m sure the video would have been an overnight sensation on YouTube.) My mom’s coat represented so many things to me, so much of her personality and my childhood were wrapped up in that coat. I can remember the feel of the curly fur as I would sink my face into it. And the fur cuffs made me laugh as I would brush them across my nose when Mom wasn’t looking. The black and white paisley silk lining was chosen specifically for her. She had a matching scarf that she draped around her neck and tucked in, just so. So valuable was the coat, I believed, that her name was hand-embroidered on the lining in a fabulous scrolled font…”Blanch.” It was hers and only hers–and in case some mistaken soul should try to abscond with it from any of the various coat check rooms she hung it in, her personal ID was there for all to see. Back in those days it was de rigueur for my mother’s friends to own a fur…in fact many of them had many such coats. Their furriers were treated as members of the family (what five-year-old even knows the word “furrier” these days?!?) My mother had her own furrier–he treated her almost as regally as he treated her coat. And when the weather grew warmer Mom’s coat, like all good fur coats, went on a paid vacation to “summer camp,” otherwise known as cold storage. (Didn’t everyone’s?) The coat for Mom was not just something that kept her incredibly warm, it was a symbol of prosperity and stature. A grand statement and a fierce slap in the face of those shadowy, haunting bogeymen and women who tried to vanquish her flame during the Holocaust. She had made it to Hell and back, and now she had the fur coat as proof of that emergence. The ethical aspect of wearing fur did not hold a candle to the ethical dilemma I dealt with when deciding what to do with the darn coat. How could I get rid of something that represented my mother’s battle cry of defiance? I’ve come across quite a few letters that were written by daughters who have wrestled with similar predicaments as my own. One woman had her mother’s coat made into a jacket so she could keep her mom’s embroidered name intact. Another mentioned that she found an animal preserve that uses old fur coats as bedding for rescued weasels and beavers. And yet one theater lover donated her coat to be used on stage during period plays. I like all those ideas (although I can’t say Mom would be too thrilled to know some old beaver was sleeping on Blanch’s pelt.) But I have to admit when push came to shove, the coat went into a storage facility with the rest of our things. And there it hangs, once again, its future in question. Knowing someone on Mad Men was wearing her coat would probably make her happy, but I know my mother would rather I just keep it as a memento. And I just might…but really, I don’t need the actual coat to remember…the memories I have of her are already embedded in my mind. Does anyone else have a fur coat they inherited?
Monday, May 20, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Sunday, April 21, 2013
(This article previously appeared on Betterafter50.com)
Have you ever walked through a ghost town? There is evidence of the vibrancy and life that once had been a part of the town, but now a deafening stillness exists, and perhaps a sense of peace. Yesterday the town of Boston and its environs were modern ghost towns, victims of the circumstances and proximity to the tragic bombings that occurred earlier in the week. With an estimated population of 4.5 million, these areas are usually bustling with people and vehicles and on Friday you would be hard pressed to find either. They were still, but there was no peace.
There were black tanks rolling through the streets--men in SWAT uniforms carrying on house-to-house searches, German Shepherds rooting and hunting--all shattering what is the relative calm of an urban city.
Where am I? Is this really happening, or is it Jerry Bruckheimer at his best?
The city was at a standstill--just like during a snowstorm...but there was no snow. And as I sat in my Cambridge apartment, under lockdown by order of the powers that be, I found it hard to believe that two men could bring these cities to their knees. Were we overreating? The night before we heard there had been a shooting at MIT. We live in MIT proper--my Kendall Square neighborhood and MIT have a symbiotic relationship--we feed off each other--so it was quite disconcerting to hear the news. All the while we never imagined that the Marathon bombings were connected...
So we went to bed...
At 6am on Friday we learned the horrible news, and the truth. The suspected bombers were not only behind the shooting, but they murdered an MIT police officer and had carjacked a car just down the street. And so began my close relationship with the TV. I tried my best to do some work, read, and exercise (I said I tried--didn’t say I was successful), but the TV kept calling me back. After a long while it became apparent that I was watching a continuous scroll of reruns and listening to assumptions and sound bites. Pundits with specialties in every area of psychology, terrorism, history...you name it--weighed in on the suspects, their family, their life, what was going on inside and out. Friends from childhood who may have passed them in the halls--once--became authorities. Even their car mechanic gave a discourse.
Adam Gopnik, in The New Yorker, spoke of all these “expert” journalists: “We are now a nation of experts, with millions of people who know the meaning of everything that they haven’t actually experienced.”
One dead, one to go. From windows and balconies, families with little to do resorted to taking photos to document the day during their “imprisonment.” It was a search of Marathon proportion for the Marathon Bomber.
And as the day wore on...and on...and on, and daylight began to give way to night light, the lockdown was lifted. (Perhaps the public could be more useful outside their doors rather than behind them?) My husband and I did not rush out, embracing our freedom. There was still a murderer on the loose--where should we go?
And then, in a hurl of bullets and a flash of explosions (another Bruckheimer moment), Suspect #2 was discovered. Our wish for him to be taken alive was fulfilled and the surreal events of the day were over.
Did yesterday really happen? The buses and trains, and cabs are all rolling again. People are out, dogs are being walked, restaurants and bakeries are back in business. I think of the countries in which lockdowns are a normal occurrence. Where hiding in bomb shelters is a way of “life,” something that is built into the fabric of everyday normalcy. How do they do it? Does someone come around with a device a la Men in Black and zap away their memories...until the next time it happens?
There was jubilation in the streets last night, but there is no real reason to throw up our hands in a celebratory fist pump. Too many people have died and too many people are suffering. Succesfully handling the cause for yesterday’s siege is a victory, but a pyrrhic victory nonetheless.
Did yesterday really happen?
Monday, February 11, 2013
This post is part of a Generation Fabulous bloghop. The February theme is celebrity crushes.
I have never been one to advocate hero worship, and thus have had very few celebrity “heroes” throughout my life. Oh yes, there were the people I admired: the civil rights activists, the teachers; the Mother Teresas of the world...and of course members of my family at different times during the years. But there really was never anyone whom I would recommend putting on a pedestal. (I’ve been saving that honor for yours truly...like that will ever happen!)
Kelly Ripa probably falls into none of the categories that I’ve mentioned--I don’t think she’s a philanthropist, and I daresay that she’s not a civil rights’ activist. So it might come as a huge surprise to anyone who knows me (and actually I am quite surprised about it myself) that I am a Kelly Ripa wannabe!
Call me shallow, call me vapid...I’m going out on a limb here by admitting this, and I think that alone should earn me some sympathy points. All I know is that most mornings at nine a.m. you can find me in front of my TV waiting to see Kelly and her hunky cohost Michael Strahan come through the door with a flourish.
What will she be wearing? Will it be the black Manolos or the gray suede Nina Riccis? I especially love the black and white Stella McCartney dress she used to wear last year, and there was a little purple number that was another fave of mine. I drink my morning coffee and listen as she and Michael banter back and forth about her kids, her husband...her life. It’s my guilty pleasure--to live vicariously through Kelly Ripa.
Could Kelly and I be friends? She’s a blonde and I'm “brunette,” she is a TV personality, and being a celebrity in my own mind does not make it so. She earns 20 mill a year, and I...don’t even ask. She’s 42 and I am...not. OK, OK, so there are not very many things we have in common...we’re both little, does that count for anything? (Yes, I know, she’s little-er than I am...so what!) Who’s to say that the person you admire has to be like you? In fact, I bet most people admire folks who are nothing like them for that very reason.
But wait a minute...she and I are not all that different. She’s a mom...a working mom. I’m a working mom! So what that she earns a “few” shekels more than I do. She’s out there in the trenches everyday...getting her hair and makeup done...toiling away and interviewing the likes of Ben Affleck, Catherine Zeta Jones and Brooke Shields. She’s under a lot of pressure having to be cute and witty under all those hot lights.
She’s got three children who test her patience just like mine did way back when. And she’s a hands-on mom: picks those kids up from school in her chauffeured SUV(after her morning show and daily two hours of private training at the gym). She shuttles them to doctors’ appointments and after-school activities (and shares the load with her Adonis-lookalike hubby Mark to whom she’s been married for over 16 years). That’s a tough row to hoe, but I can relate...sort of.
In all honesty, I do admire her. I think she’s adorable and a very savvy businesswoman. The little girl from a working class family in New Jersey has earned her stripes.
And I was wrong about her not being philanthropic: last week she participated in the Empire State Building Run-Up for charity. (Wonder how many pounds she lost on that one--she’s probably even littler now!) Kelly, in addition to about 700 people from around the world, including some elite athletes, took part in a vertical race, up 86 flights of stairs. They climbed a total of 1,576 steps, starting at the lobby and finishing at the observation deck. And she finished in 18 minutes! (She was a veritable Tinkerbell flying up those steps--I admire her strength, determination...and knees!)
The charity Kelly was running for was Team for Kids, the primary charity fund-raising vehicle for New York Road Runner’s youth services division. Funds raised through Team for Kids provide “free or low-cost school and community-based health and fitness programs to children who would otherwise have no access to regular physical activity.” The programs serve nearly 100,000 children each year in more than 400 schools across New York City and beyond.
Kelly and her crew raised over $80,000 for Team for Kids at the Run-Up, so don’t be a hater on Kelly; or on me for being a Kelly Ripa wannabe. A person could do worse.
Love ya, Kel...I think I can call her that now. Say “hi” to Michael for me.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
There’s a plastic container on my kitchen counter filled with what most people think is dirt. It’s not...it’s coffee grounds. I once read somewhere that sprinkling spent coffee grounds in your garden is good for the soil. It seems they are loaded with nitrogen, calcium, and magnesium--nutrients that are beneficial to the plants.That was many years ago when I lived in the suburbs. I would make my coffee and once the used grounds had cooled (and dried--you can’t do much with wet, sticky grounds), I would run into the backyard and toss them in whichever patch of soil was closest. I really believed that those grounds were the reason my Meyer Lemon trees did so well. The fruit was plump and juicy and gave off a heady aroma when the pre-fruit flowers blossomed. I daresay my tenants are tending to the tress in the same manner I did. One can only hope.
I live in the city now and I have neither garden nor much soil near me. So, the container sits on the counter waiting to be emptied.
It’s not just because I have no garden that I don’t regularly toss the grounds. I live on a floor that is too high up to keep going out each time I make a pot of coffee--that’s excuse number one. The other excuses range from, “I can’t handle the dog and the bag of grounds at the same time, I can’t let anyone see me tossing something into the building’s bushes, I can’t let anyone see me on the elevator with a plastic bag filled with an unidentifiable brown substance.” So, the container sits on the counter and waits.
I prefer throwing the grounds out at night, when no one is around. But my husband usually gets night duty with the dog, and he says that it's my project, so it's my dumping responsibility. Right before it rains is a good time, because the grounds can really soak into the soil then. But I don’t often plan ahead, and once the rain starts, I usually have an umbrella in my hand--too cumbersome.
The best time to unload the grounds is right before a snowfall. They then get covered up and smashed below the surface. We haven’t had much snow lately, but they do predict a storm is on the way, so perhaps this week is the week.
The container is getting pretty full, and if that snowfall doesn’t materialize, I’ll have to start throwing the overflow down the disposal. And really, since I don’t have a garden, and I don’t have to worry about the building’s soil, I should just forget the whole thing and chuck the entire lot.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
When living in Southern California, obsession with fashion has all to do with looks; weather very rarely plays a part in the decision-making process. The fluctuations are not that drastic: it's either hot, hotter or hottest. There are periods during the year when the temps dip a bit, but for the most part, those “cold” mornings turn into warm days and sometimes, those warm days turn into “cold” nights. (And by “cold,” I mean 30s and 40s--it’s all relative.)
|Michelle in her pumps|
Whenever guests from the East Coast would visit us out West, our rule-of-thumb recommendation would be, “Bring a sweater, you never know...and don’t forget to throw in a bathing suit.” You really don’t need to be a rocket scientist (or a meteorologist) to figure out what to wear in LA.
Now that I am living back on the East Coast, form trumps fashion--often, and weather is the first thing I consider before getting dressed to go out--especially in the winter. I never had to think more about boots than I do now. Back in Cali, they were pulled out only occasionally, and the weather outside never had anything to do with it. I had short boots with kitten heels, and tall boots with spiked heels, and short boots with spiked heels, and tall boots with kitten heels. I probably wore them two months out of the year and after that they were quietly relegated to the inner depths of my closet, giving way to strappy sandals and flip flops.
|Michelle in her boots|
With the varying degrees of weather we are hit with in Cambridge, my inner conversations usually deal with wondering whether I should wear the UGGs--they’re warm, but not waterproof, or the Hunter rain boots--they’re waterproof, but not warm. And if it’s really cold and icy out, I can wear my Sorels--they go down to minus 25 degrees, and they’re waterproof...but they aren’t exactly stylish, so I can’t wear them with dressy clothes. And the other boots, although dressy and stylish, have heels that are too high for walking on icy streets. No, this is not the conversation of rocket scientists either, but it can spin my head.
That’s why I, like just about everyone else on earth, was curious to see what Michelle Obama would be wearing on Inauguration Day. I watched as she wore her silver pumps on her way to church during the early hours of the day, and I was thrilled when I noticed her footwear had changed by the time she stepped out for the Inauguration ceremony.
The thought of standing on spiky heels for a few hours, in 20-degree weather, probably seemed like a daunting task to her, so she changed into long, suede and leather boots. Her decision totally validated me! She had those conversations with herself too--FLOTUS!! She must have been going for the not terribly warm, but warm-er, yet stylish look. And in addition to checking the temperature, she must have known that the day would be dry, since she dropped a cool thousand bucks on those beautiful boots (I Googled them), and I daresay they were waterproof!
|Me, in my coat|
I could now go into the clothing conversations I have in my head, but I won’t bore you. Just know that today I am wearing a coat I like to call my “Fort Knox Coat.” It’s kind of like a jacket within a coat--you put it on, zip up an inside jacket, then zip up an outer coat, snap some snaps, all the way down, and close two large buttons over the throat to make a puffy scarf. By the time I am all zipped, snapped and buttoned in, I look like a potato, and there’s no chance of wind, or anything getting inside. It’s amazingly warm, but I don’t think the coat is waterproof, so....
Sometimes it’s just easier staying home.