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Dinner With a Working Dad by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By Mealtime

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Jeffrey makes pizza

My dad co-owned a car dealership during the early years of my life. He worked six days and two nights a week, so wasn’t home to eat dinner with the family a few nights a week. My mother had a housekeeper who cooked meals in those early years. Those women cycled through, staying a few years at a time. They were all pretty good cooks, something my mother was not. My mother learned some basic recipes from her sister’s housekeeper: roast beef, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, brisket, some form of chicken, Swiss steak. I hated Swiss steak.

My brother and I were well-behaved kids. We didn’t horse around too much, had good table manners, did what we were told to do. We weren’t perfect. I was a fussy eater. I had to have the crust cut off sandwiches and then the sandwich had to be cut a certain way. But tuna and PB and J were reliable favorites for lunch. On Sundays, we either went out for, or brought in deli from one of two favorite restaurants in Detroit. I loved mushroom barley soup and made a whole meal out of a bowl of it. I still relish it when I can find it.

When Dad wasn’t around, Rick would try to provoke some reaction from me. He would kick me under the table. The best was to get me laughing until milk came out of my nose. Then he had really accomplished something! That would drive our mother to distraction. She didn’t know how to handle such unruliness. By and large, she didn’t have to. We were good kids. We always ate in the breakfast room unless there was company over, or a birthday party. Then the dining room was set with Mother’s fine china, good linens, silverware and crystal. I have it all now, but never use it, not even when I am serving a holiday meal. I don’t have cleaning help to do all the polishing and ironing.

7th birthday party in dining room of Detroit house

We moved out of Detroit to Huntington Woods (2 1/2 miles west) in 1963. As best I can remember (such things were not discussed with the kids), Dad’s partner wanted out of the business in 1965; Dad didn’t finish paying for the buy-out until the first semester of my senior in college; ten years later, but before then, for various reasons, the business was underwater and he sold it back to Chrysler at a loss in 1967. He went to work for his cousin, who owned a Buick dealership. The housekeeper was gone. Mom cooked all the meals. Rick was gone, meals were very quiet.

My mother barely knew how to cook. She didn’t teach me. She said having me in the kitchen made her nervous. So I was an unskilled bride when I married in 1974. I learned the same basic recipes as my mother, with a few new variations. I worked each day; Dan went to grad school, either came to the office or came home after class and I cooked a meal for us. We ate on the card table; a wedding gift from my parents’ best friends. On Saturday nights, we went to Tony’s Italian Villa on Rt 9 in Newton for homestyle Italian cooking and on Sundays we joined the rest of the Pfau family at my mother-in-law’s table until they moved to New Orleans in 1977.  Then we were on our own. By that time, we had bought our first condo and moved to Acton, very far west of the city. Dan was out of grad school and working in Cambridge. Soon, I would leave for my first sales job in Chicago. Life turned upside down.

In Chicago, I either traveled, so ate in my hotel, or ate modestly in my apartment. I cooked one meal during my 16 months there. On Thanksgiving, I invited a friend over for meatloaf. Other than that, it was lots of “boiled meals in a bag” (before microwaves) or tuna melt on an English muffin. Christie and I frequently got together for dinner and a movie. She and her family made me and ex officio family member. Dan and I visited about every two or three weekends. Those were like little honeymoons and we really enjoyed ourselves, always going out for fun meals (often with friends) when we got together.

When I returned from Chicago, we lived in the Back Bay, both traveled a lot and from then until I had David in 1985, we ate out almost every night. Why not? We were DINKs – “dual income, no kids” and lived in the city. We enjoyed ourselves. In our last condo – 412 Beacon Street – we had several good friends in the building (with the great luxury of a garage in the rear). If I cooked, everyone had to walk past our unit on the way to the elevator. It was like a big frat house – could they come for dinner? Why not? Lots of fun in that building. We all entertained the others frequently.

We moved to our current home in Newton in 1986, when David was 15 1/2 months old. I hadn’t worked since he was born and stayed home a few months longer. As a management consultant, Dan traveled several nights a week. I went back to work when David was 18 months old and I hired a live-in nanny who would often feed David. She was a better cook than I. She taught me how to roast a chicken and made David hand-cut french fries. Once I became pregnant with Jeffrey, I stayed home for good.

Dan traveled 3-4 nights a week, so I did lots of breakfast-for-dinner with the kids. Jeffrey grew into a very fussy eater (part of sensory integration issues along the autism spectrum), so lots of French toast, pancakes, or (much to their liking), McDonald’s. I tried not to do that too often. But Sunday night, I always cooked and we had a nice family meal around the table.

Jeffrey loved pizza, particularly from a chain called Bertucci’s. We noticed they had all the makings in a case by the take-out counter. He begged me to buy the dough and the rest of the fixings so that we could make our own. I even bought a pizza stone for him to cook it in our oven. I helped him spread some flour on the counter top and roll out the dough (we tried to flip it, but never mastered that technique), he spread the sauce, the cheese, and put on some pepperoni. He watched with excitement as it baked up. The Featured photo was one of his personal pizzas, along with fruit salad, so we had something healthy to go with all the carbs. He was always delighted with his effort.

Dan retired in 2002. Jeffrey left for college in 2007. With my kids gone, and Dan retired, I did too and we go out for dinner almost every night now (we brought in during the lockdown). Eating out was Dan’s daily entertain. Getting together with friends or eating out after a matinee movie was better. Now I cook one or two meals a year – when we have family for the holidays.

Here is my table and my cooking the last time I had everyone for Christmas – 2019! I serve buffet, but always try to set a nice table.

My Vineyard house was on the Edgartown house tour this past August. I set the table with my mother’s silver, Irish linens and Blue Tower Spode china, which works better on the Vineyard than in Newton. Though I would no longer actually eat this way, it does make a pretty table.

August 4, 2021, for the Edgartown house tour

 

Paying Respect by
200
(260 Stories)

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9/11 Memorial Wall

We didn’t know Victor 20 years ago. His wife is in a book group with several of our friends. They live in Newton and Martha’s Vineyard and now we, too, are good friends. Victor is Dan’s frequent golf partner and we go to dinner with the couple. One evening, he revealed why he retired early.

Victor was a telecom entrepreneur, finishing a meeting at the World Financial Center at 200 Liberty Street in the shadow of the World Trade Center Towers on the morning of September 11, 2001. He witnessed the attacks. As part of his recovery therapy, he wrote a lengthy essay about his experience. An excerpt appeared in the Martha’s Vineyard’s Times in 2015 and was reprinted this week. He submitted it to the 9/11 Memorial Committee, who were gathering testimonials for their museum and archives. It won a cash prize for memoir writing, which he donated to the Boy’s and Girl’s Clubs of Newton and Nantucket (his companion that day was from Nantucket). A phrase from the essay, (I will link to the whole story), appears on the wall to the room that memorializes the 2,754 souls who were lost that day, as one enters the main entry to the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.

While we still looked up, a man jumped from the building to the ground…At that instant, the towering glass and metal mass of billowing smoke became human.

He did not escape unharmed. He developed bladder cancer from inhaling those toxic fumes, underwent painful biopsies and chemotherapy. He is fine now, enjoying his retired life with his daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. He and his wife travel a great deal when there is no COVID to contend with.

He also gives back. Among his many charitable endeavors, he is on the board of the Newton Boys and Girls Club and works with 9/11 survivors. Just a few weeks ago, he told us about two sisters who worked in the towers. One, after many attempts, had just learned she was pregnant, called her sister in another office to tell her the joyous news. The newly pregnant sister was incinerated that day. Her sister survived. Victor works with the survivor to help her overcome her grief and survivors guilt. She will be doing a PSA for the 20th anniversary.

https://www.mvtimes.com/2015/0909/journal-entry-september-11-2001/

The last time we traveled to New York City, in November, 2019 (before COVID), we visited the rebuilt World Trade Center, took the tour, saw the slurry wall, the memorial to those who perished that day. It is a huge site; I had never seen it before. It really drives home the enormity of the loss, the number of names on the monument (some with white roses, left by grieving family members), and the effort it took to rebuild while paying tribute to the fallen. Today, the area is, again, a thriving hub of people and industry.

Close-up with flower by a victim’s name

Two of the flights came out of Boston that morning 20 years ago. Many of the losses were local. There is a memorial in the Boston Public Garden as well. Every year there is a public ceremony where names are read aloud, bells tolled. Remembrance helps. The Taliban are back in control of Afghanistan after 20 years of war. We must remain vigilant against terrorism, both abroad and domestic. Hate makes people do evil things.

A new Netflix film came out on September 3 called “Worth” depicting the efforts of attorney Ken Feinberg and a colleague to cajole Congress to create a fund for the survivors of the victims of 9/11 and how to equitably distribute those funds. On September 1, I watched a YouTube discussion from the JFK Library, hosted by film critic Nell Minow involving the film’s stars Michael Keaton, Laura Benanti, the film’s screenwriter and producer Max Borenstein, and Ken Feinberg and his colleague Camille Biros. The discussion was wide-ranging, but the thrust of it was about empathy, which in 20 years has all-but disappeared from the public arena. Congress, then led by Republicans, came together to form The September 11th Victim’s Compensation Fund for the good of the people whose loss was unimaginable (actually, as I learned from watching the film, it was to ensure that the airlines weren’t sued, but also about redress for the victims’ families). Michael Keaton (who plays Feinberg in the film), name-checked Jim Jordan, saying could we imagine these people doing that today? It is all about destroying the “other”, red vs. blue. No common good or empathy. And the rise of social media has made this so much worse, amplifying the worst instincts of people, hiding behind online personas. A really sad state of affairs.

An excellent opinion piece by Will Bunch, sent to me a few days ago by a good friend is worth the time to read.

https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/how-september-11-2001-attacks-changed-america-20210905.html

The following is the description of what that day was like in my household, 20 years ago:

9-11 in the Pfau Household

 

Drive by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By Going to Work

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BMW 533i, 1983, white with blue leather interior

With the exception of walking when working downtown, briefly, when I lived in the Boston (while pregnant with David), and taking the bus in Chicago, I always drove to work. During my many years in sales, I either flew to out-of-town appointments and rented a car, or drove to see clients, using my own car.

As a child of Detroit, cars never meant much to me, as we always had a new model in the driveway. Not until we got our first BMW 533i in 1983. I had to learn to drive a stick shift when Dan bought his first BMW (a 320i) some years earlier, but this was my first love affair with a car. It felt like a rocket and I loved driving it. It was white with blue, leather seats, plush, but sports-like. I felt in command of the road. I listened to rock music, changing to New Wave radio when I crossed into Connecticut.

I often drove to Hartford and had no problem cajoling the business consultants from my company to come along with me. They would demonstrate the product, answer client-specific questions about how the product might be implemented for individual needs, and add general depth of knowledge after my initial call, if I felt there was real potential to make a sale.

I’d offer to let them drive. Even the president of the company came along once. He had a fancier model of BMW, but enjoyed driving mine. The upper echelon at the company teased me, “You’re making too much money if you can afford that car”. (It soon became our only car, as Dan was involved in an accident with my VW Rabbit, and we found, living in Boston, we only needed one car. When in town, he walked to work. Mostly, we both traveled a lot.)

It was a sad day when we traded in that car. We have driven BMWs for more than 40 years, but not one has meant as much to me as that one did.

(A musical offering from a Boston band appropriate to the era of my car.)

https://youtu.be/xuZA6qiJVfU

 

Finding the Car by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By Senior Moments

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BMW 540i

December, 2003, my first time volunteering for the huge “December Sale” at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. My friend Barbara Cole Lee chaired this sale which ran over several days during the first week of December. She is a force of nature, brought in significant buyers from the art world and beyond and I wanted to do well.

That day, my shift was to begin at noon. I came from my quarterly neurologist appointment. I was still recovering from months of being indisposed with diarrhea and mild depression. I was rail-thin and had been taken off a medication that helped tamp down the migraines because diarrhea was a possible side-effect (I’d been on this medication without that side-effect for years, but never mind). I had my Filofax in the car, samples of a new drug and a new prescription for it. I was running a bit late. I hate to be late.

I got to the MFA with moments to spare before my volunteer shift began. There was a Rembrandt exhibit at the museum. I turned onto the street to the parking garage. The line of cars didn’t move; the lot was full. It took me ten minutes just to get past the line. I turned the corner and turned the corner. I’d park on the street and risk a ticket. I didn’t care, I had to park the car and get in, quickly! I found a space and ran. Snow was in the air. I grabbed my red apron, name tag and away I went.

With Jill Armstrong (a volunteer who became a friend) in front of a Brian Burkhardt jacket, many years later

This was the first public day after private, evening parties and it was busy. At the end of the day, I had a huge sale, but was late getting out. Now the snow was really swirling around and Jeffrey was due home from his Sudbury school on the van. He had a psychiatrist appointment later in the afternoon. I walked the long block around the museum to where I was certain I’d parked my car. It was nowhere to be seen. I checked up and down the block. No where. I had no time to spare. I tried to call Dan. He had gone to a movie and was not yet home. I went back into the sale. No one offered me the use of a phone. I still had an old Motorola flip phone. One of the staff people told me there was a direct line to call a cab just inside the museum. I ran over there and called a cab which materialized in 10 minutes.

I pulled up to our house just as Jeffrey’s van pulled into the driveway. He was in a snit and wouldn’t think of going to therapy. Dan arrived a few minutes later. We had a quick huddle and took the appointment without Jeffrey. One could only push him so far.

I called the authorities to search for my missing car. I assumed it had been towed, since I was parked in a Resident parking zone. It turns out, there are three different authorities that cover that area of the Fenway; the regular Boston Police, the traffic police (meter maids) as this was Resident Only parking and Metropolitan Police (I don’t know what they do). I called Boston Police to see where my car had been towed. (Dan asked me VERY carefully if I was SURE I knew where I’d parked. I pulled out a map and pinpointed the spot. I was CERTAIN.) The police told me to call back later, as they didn’t have any reports, but they might not be the ones who towed it.

I finally called close to dinner time. The policeman said, “Come to a police station and make a report lady. Your car’s been stolen”. I was stunned, but found a station a few miles away and made the report. Then the next day, I began the process of what’s entailed in dealing with a stolen car. This was a very nice, two year-old BMW 540i 6 speed. I had totaled its predecessor (which looked just like it) in a serious accident on the Mass Pike about two years earlier and replaced it with the same car. When I called our insurance agent the next day, he mentioned that. “Yeah, same car. I replaced it with the same make and model.”

I had to send my key (and Dan’s) with a copy of the police report and get a signed and notarized affidavit, affirming that all I’d said was true and send it to the insurance company. We received a check for the replacement value quickly. We took a quick trip to Martha’s Vineyard to get our third car so I had something to drive until the new car I ordered came in.

It snowed heavily the next few days, but we were shoveled out and the  Museum School sale was a huge success. Six weeks later, I got an overdue parking notice on my car. WHAT? Could this be true? The ticket had an address (not the place where I was SURE I’d left my car). I went to check it out. And there was the car, buried under snow. The plow had taken off the passenger side-view mirror, but the rest was intact. I realized that I still had the little plastic valet key in my wallet. I unlocked the car and got out my Filofax and every other personal item. I called Dan. “Should I move the car?” “We don’t own it”, was his reply. “The insurance company does. You have to call them.”

I was beside myself. I DO NOT LIE. I was very careful when I called. I didn’t want to be accused of fraud. I said, “The car has been located.” He was so nice. He said, “You’d be surprised how often this happens. Someday you’ll laugh about this.” I cried.

I’m still not laughing.

Dan tells me they were happy to get the car, since now they could auction it and get some money towards their claim. A moment later, the police called. “We found your car.” No shit.

There were $900 worth of tickets on the car (after a certain amount of time, there were fees on top of the original tickets and the meter maids kept ticketing). I didn’t have to pay, since I’d reported it stolen, but I did have to go to the Parking Bureau in Boston City Hall to get it all squared away. I probably paid $25 just to park downtown.

I volunteered for many more years at that sale. I always began my shift when the doors opened, so I would NEVER have trouble parking again.

Was this truly a “senior moment”, as the prompt implies? I never thought so (I’m writing because my friend John, in a comment on my other story, reminded me of this story, which I haven’t written about). It was a stressful day, at a stressful time in my life. Stress, while rushing around, can bring forgetfulness. And this is a good story, even if I still can’t laugh about it.

The Thought Was Just There by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By Senior Moments

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Now why did I come into the room?

The word was just on the tip of my tongue.

What was the name of that actress in the movie we just saw?

How about the one where your husband INSISTS he is correct when I can prove he isn’t, or that he’s told you something when you know he hasn’t. I’m sure he thinks he has; it was on his mind. He just never told ME! Does that one ring a bell?

I used to have the BEST memory. No longer and believe me, it frustrates me no end. I am far from dementia, but I know I am not what I used to be. I could memorize long monologues from plays for my acting classes (as I had to do regularly). No problem. I could memorize an entire piece of music after several weeks of practice.

Particularly scary is not knowing how to get somewhere when I’ve been there hundreds of times. I have to stop and think before I set out to drive. “Now, HOW do I get there?” Sometimes I turn on my GPS, even when I’m not going far. I just can’t remember. My shrink tells me this is a common phenomenon in post-menopausal women. That was somewhat reassuring, but sure, blame that on lack of hormones too.

I do not believe that doing puzzles or memory exercises will save me. I do think writing helps. I have to remember words. That’s a good thing. One reason I like to write stories ahead is because I often can’t come up with the BEST word as I write. So I like to let the story breathe a bit, and then a better word is likely to pop into my head at a later moment.

On both sides of my family, members lived well into their nineties. However, most suffered from vascular dementia (not Alzheimer’s, but they still lost their marbles; it wasn’t pretty). It is sobering to think about. Eating well, exercising and keeping active in spirit is the best remedy I can think of to try to keep it all together.

 

Ice Dams, Feb, 2015 by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By Home Repair

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Ice Dam outside our living

The winter of 2014-15 was the snowiest we remember in the Boston area with large storm followed by large storm. Then the sun came out, causing some melting of the snow on roof tops, giving way to terrible ice dams from the build up of snow on roofs. We learned the hard way how damaging those could be.

Storm Juno roared in on January 27, 2015. We hung out inside – no need to go anywhere – and I took photos of the snow accumulation outside the window.

Storm Juno, 1/27/15

The plows were running out of places to shovel the snow, walk-ways were narrow. Our home was buried by the time the sun came out. We have a large, one story house with a complicated roof line; lots of places for snow to get caught and ice dams to form.

You can barely see our house over the piles of snow. But the icicles are forming.

By February 12, we had water leaking into all the public rooms of the house, as well as the two west-facing bedrooms (that includes the primary bedroom). But most severe were in the living room, dining room and paneled library, where water leaked in from the ceiling, along the tops of the window frames and in the dining room, behind one wall.

Dan got out every pan, bucket, container and towel in the house. I ran the dryer constantly, trying to keep dry towels for the onslaught of water (it seeped discolored water onto our carpets and curtains as well). Everything in our house is beige.

Library

Living room

Dining room

There was no sleep, we were frantic. We called our contractor who got us the name of someone who eventually came to shovel the huge amount of snow from the roof. That was the only way to stop the melting/dripping cycle forming the ice dams. We signed a long-term contract with him in the event that such an issue happened again. Worth it. The dripping ebbed.

On the fourth day of this catastrophe, we were due to fly to London to visit David. He had moved there the first of the year to begin working for Google DeepMind; he lived in a company-provided two bedroom apartment until the end of that month. We didn’t want to miss this opportunity, but couldn’t leave a leaking mess behind.

I hired my Brazilian cleaning lady to come check on the house daily and send reports to us. She showed me the “WhatsApp” app, through which she could sent photos and video reports (free and secure) about the house. Between that and seeing that the inside leaking had stopped, we took off for London; barely. The roof shoveler showed up hours before we left for the airport. We would deal with the rest of the cleanup when we got home. At least everything was stable and we were in touch with our contractor and the insurance adjustor, for this was an insurance claim too.

Upon our return, we filed the claim, had our contractor work through the estimates with our insurance provider and got estimates to clean and repair everything – get the stains out of the carpet and curtains, cleaned the wood paneling, re-plaster the living room ceiling, fix the hole in the dining room, lots of painting.

Then we set about curing the problem. We put heating elements in all the gutters, controlled through an app on our phones (we could be anywhere in the world, see that a huge storm is raging in Newton and turn on those heating elements). That way, the snow wouldn’t have a chance to freeze in the downspouts again.

But of most importance, we did a major overhaul of our basement sump pumps and drainage systems, since we’d had several bad flooding incidents in the family room over the years.

5 inches of water in Newton basement

A professional team came in and stripped out the whole room, even though it is finished to the same high quality level as the rest of the house.

Stripped out basement family room.

They discovered a small crack in the foundation, which they plugged, found there was a check valve in the wall to our sump pump that was broken! Hence, it didn’t carry water out of the house and we didn’t know about it. Of course that was remedied. They added a second sump pump. But of most importance, they traced the outside line and discovered it was clogged, so the water backed up. They cleared that line as well as looking at the downspout in that corner (where the HUGE ice dam by the living room had formed – the Featured photo). They routed the downspout further away from the house, so the water wouldn’t puddle right by the window well.

We also added a generator. It doesn’t do much good to have great sump pumps and de-humidifiers if there is a hurricane and one loses power. Vapor barrier was wrapped along the walls. Now we feel the room is tight. And we haven’t had a water problem since. The generator and basement system get serviced annually so we know they are all in working order. With more extreme weather, we are taking no chances.

 

Heartbreak Hotel by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By Dating

/ Stories

I hung out with a group of guys who lived in an apartment in Waltham during my first semester at Brandeis. I liked one in particular, but he was only mildly interested. While hanging in his room one evening, a tall redhead, friendly with many of them, wandered in; a junior named Gordon. He was a big guy who lived in an apartment nearby. He offered to sell them some pot. I barely took notice.

Gordon in my dorm room my freshman year

A week or so later, he asked me out, but it was Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur. I was going to services that evening, so I declined. For the first and last time, I attended Conservative Services. I didn’t know they started and ended early, so I could have met up with him later, but didn’t know how to reach him. I didn’t even know his last name.

Reid, a senior who lived in my quad, said a group of them were driving to his parents’ house in Stockbridge later that evening. It was across the state, a two hour drive, but why not go? I said I’d join them. Upon opening the car door, my eyes landed on Gordon. I was mortified; he didn’t say a word. The group drove west for two hours and were greeted warmly by Reid’s parents who put out a large spread of food. I was fasting; obligatory for Yom Kippur. The others, all upperclassmen whom I barely knew, mocked me. Reid’s parents came to my defense. “Respect her. She has principles.” I liked that. We drove back to Brandeis very late.

A week or so later, Gordon showed up outside my dorm just as I headed out for my required PE class. I took modern dance to meet the requirement. I had my hip hugger blue jeans pulled on over my black leotard and footless tights. I told him when the class would end, in case he wanted to meet me then. Sure enough, he showed up. I guess he pursued me in a nonchalant way.

It was a beautiful autumn day. Gordon drove a huge pig of a Buick. He decided we’d go to Drumlin Farm, an Audubon Preserve in Lincoln, west of Waltham. We just wandered around, a nice thing to do on such a beautiful day. We walked past the farm animals and down a path to a campfire site where we sat on some logs, taking in the fresh air and the view.

Suddenly, he jumped up, towering over me, peering down. “What do you know about me?”

It was a fair question. I knew very little and here we were, alone, far from any other human being. This felt really creepy. He leaned down, grabbing my shoulders, pressing them together. He could have snapped me like a twig. (5′ tall, I weighed all of 89 pounds, he was well over 6′ tall, I have no idea what he weighed, but a lot more than I did.) I am sure I looked like the lamb about to be slaughtered. But I summoned up some courage and clapped back with a bit of bravado, “Look, if you are going to rape me, would you hurry up and get it over!”

Somehow, he liked that reply. I had faced him down, shown courage. He released me. I had passed some weird test. We got up, walked back to his car and went back to Brandeis. Looking back, that should have been a warning, but I was too stupid or needy, or something. That was the beginning of our relationship. We dated for several months after that, without any further incident. I knew he yearned for a girl who had a taken a year off from Brandeis and lived in Cambridge. He made due with me. We went to dances together. Those were loads of fun. I stayed over at his apartment. But I was still 17 years old and I didn’t want to mess around with statutory rape, so we didn’t go “all the way”; he found other ways to satisfy himself. I was SO young and inexperienced. I liked the attention and the idea of having a steady guy.

In my freshman dorm (poster of my father in the background; made from the original by my cousin Alan)

We often hung out in Reid’s room. They both played guitar and we all sang the folk/pop songs of the day, which I really enjoyed. I got stoned with them. But Gordon was strange. He would come up to me and challenge me: “Are you cool?” I didn’t understand. Finally I would just say, “Yes, I’m cool” (hardly). Very weird. But those were strange times, I think. Gordon was an extreme manifestation of them. Perhaps, I was drawn to how exotic he was, not like anyone I had ever dated. It was not a love affair, but there was mutual attraction.

He also liked to hang out in the Student Union game room. He played pin ball and pool. I was bored. I’d read my homework while all the bells pinged. Finally it was exam week. I knew I did fine on all my lit courses. I sweated out Math 10 – Calculus. I took it Pass/Fail, but put in a postcard to find out my actual grade. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I got my B- (even though it didn’t count). I had turned 18 the month before and run out of excuses to postpone the inevitable with Gordon. This was the night.

We stopped by the drug store at the end of his street and he bought some contraceptive foam. I was embarrassed. Everyone knew what we were about to do. We went back to his apartment and consummated our relationship. When we were done he said, “You’ll probably be pretty good once you relax.” Yeah, romance was not part of this relationship. And I am a huge romantic.

I spent Intersession with Emily in NYC. Gordon was heading to Florida by car. I got a lift as far as NYC driving with a group who stopped overnight in New York. Gordon and I stayed on a little daybed in Em’s apartment. It wasn’t even big enough for me, much less “Big Red”.

He, George (the driver, whom I knew from that first Waltham apartment where Gordon and I had met) and Jessie, a junior who was involved in the theater and wasn’t at all friendly to me, would continue south the next day. They got into a serious car accident somewhere along the way, I believe North Carolina. Gordon, in the backseat, was not hurt. George and Jessie both had serious head injuries. This was 1971, before shoulder restraints were standard in cars. As Gordon held Jessie along the side of the road, bleeding in his arms, he felt he had to get to know her better.

Jessie

When we all returned to campus, he told me he felt he had to be with Jessie. He had saved her life. Really? Of course I was devastated. I looked to my roommate for solace; she offered some wisdom and sympathy. I dated others for the rest of second semester, but no one special. Gordon would drop by my dorm room from time to time, just to check in, usually at inconvenient times. I never saw him after that school year.

With Bob, sophomore year

I came back to school early sophomore year. Along with suite mates Nettsie and Rozie, I was in the Orientation Show.

With Nettsie and Rozie in Gondoliers, later in Sophomore year.

We were busy rehearsing in the theatre, which was at the opposite end of campus from East Quad, where we lived. We had to hike up a rather steep hill, which crested by the library, before descending to our quad. We did that several times a day, going back and forth to rehearsals, which were really fun. It was a great show; sardonic and funny.

Poster from Orientation Show, 1971; I am in the second row, at the end on the right.

The two others were slightly ahead of me one day and gave a huge greeting to a tall guy with dark hair, mutton chop sideburns, wearing tube socks and shorts. I didn’t look terribly closely and thought it was our classmate and center of our basketball team, Al Klein, so I scurried up to say hi too. It wasn’t, but they greeted him so warmly that I did too. That’s how I met Bob. There was an immediate spark.

I was typecast as the “sexy one” in the show. The second act opened with a Day-Glo Frisbee number. We all wore tee shirts with slogans on the back that became visible under the black light as we each turned to expose the slogans. The person next to me’s tee read, “If you got it…” Mine read:

Back of my tee shirt from Orientation Show

We had a lot of fun! What I didn’t know was that Bob and another guy (with whom I would become friends) were sitting in the front row, taking bets on who would go out with me first. Needless to say, Bob won. Within six days we were a couple, on and off for a year and a half. We had white-hot chemistry between us.

He was the first guy I was totally over the moon about. He was smart, curious, into everything. We both enjoyed all sorts of music. I introduced him to the “New World Symphony”. He took me to our little on-campus coffee shop, where we listened to Joe Val & the New England Bluegrass Boys. Who could have predicted that I would really enjoy Blue Grass music? We took an art history class together. We went to all the dances, and all the movies (Wednesday nights were for old classics, Fridays were first runs). I became friendly with all the guys he lived with. In fact, I’m still friendly with many of them. In 2016, I was invited to made a “guest appearance” at one of their annual dinners. We had a blast. The left-most one was the fellow Bob had the bet with at the Orientation Show in 1971.

With Bob’s friends in 2016

I was always in Bob’s suite, so they all knew me well. After homework was finished, we’d get stoned and play hearts with two decks. The look on someone’s face if they got two Queens of Spades dropped on them in one hand was priceless! I tried to learn to play chess, since he loved it, but that was beyond me. I enjoyed going to our basketball games, with or without him.

Bob slept in my room. My roommate loved him and was a very sound sleeper. We took turns waking her in the morning. She dropped out of Brandeis at the semester break. Then I had a double-single, which I protected fiercely. I confess, I was obnoxious to the various candidates who were sent as potential roommates. Bob and I scared them away and I kept the room to myself for the remainder of the year; such a precious commodity. Bob and I took full advantage of it. He was IT for me. But he wasn’t Jewish, so my parents seriously DID NOT approve.

One might think that life was ideal. I was so happy with him, but Bob had a wandering eye, and more. He just couldn’t settle down. He would wander off with some other woman for a short period, just to check her out. Was she of Greek heritage? Great! Did she play chess? So much better. In talking to some of my classmates recently, I learned that the one of Greek heritage had a serious heroin problem. Her roommates would check her pulse each morning. Depending on her level of toxicity, they’d either call 911, or leave her alone. I had no idea. I doubt Bob did either. Another earned extra spending money as a Playboy Bunny in the club in Boston. She waited on Dan and me at our first anniversary dinner, as described in the “anniversary” prompt. Bob craved those extracurricular bouts.

I’d be crushed (I truly loved this guy), would lose an incredible amount of weight in a short period of time, mope around, but didn’t sit still. Other guys were interested in me and I would accept their offers (never sleeping with anyone else, just going out on dates). Eventually, Bob would come back and all would be right in the universe again.

Jones Beach, summer, 1972

My savvier girlfriends asked why I put up with this nonsense. It is a fair question. I asked myself that question too. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants. I had never before had feelings for anyone like I had for this guy. So I put up with his peregrinations (which were short) and he did always come back. I found him fascinating.

As I have discussed in other stories, I also have deep-seated feelings of poor self-worth; my mother really did a number on me. Yes, it is easy to blame one’s parents, but my mother wasn’t capable of instilling self-confidence in her off-spring. Quite the opposite, nothing I did was good enough. That takes a toll. My father was a love, but wasn’t home much when I was a kid. As someone in retail, he worked six days and two nights a week. We became close once I left for college and he switched careers. Then, he became my rock.

I managed to see Bob a few times over the summer of ’72 and we remained together throughout the first semester of his senior, my junior year, when he now had a single in a dorm dominated by freshman. I became their “den mother”.

He graduated at the end of December, 1972, half-way through his senior year. He and a close friend went off to tour Europe. But we always stayed in touch. We exchange greetings at Christmas. Since he’s a classmate of Dan’s, I see him at their reunion every five years. He is always pleasant. Even during Dan’s health crisis last month, he sent me an email, wishing Dan a speedy recovery. During reunions, I enjoy hanging out with that group of guys. I truly became good friends with all of them; a nice group of friends.

Class of ’73, 30th reunion, with Bob and friends.

 

 

It All Came Together by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By That Summer

/ Stories

Before “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with “my” Lysander

There is a certain time in one’s life when she knows she is ready; she is in her prime. That happened for me the summer of 1969, my sixth and final at the National Music Camp (now the Interlochen Arts Camp). Talent matters, but seniority does too. I had put in my time and blossomed before the faculty’s eyes. As I wrote in Dude – A Message of Love, I had known some of my teachers most of my life and I knew they appreciated me. That summer, I was rewarded.

My lifetime friendships were also in place. I wrote about one (and mentioned the others) in Valerie. These helped me to flourish as well. I remain close to all those women (actually, the entire group of voice and drama majors). Many of us have communicated regularly throughout the pandemic, bringing great therapeutic comfort.

We auditioned for all our roles in the first few days of the summer. I was in Morning Drama. We presented three shows, including the Shakespeare. That season, I played Irene Livingston, a sophisticated actress in Moss Hart’s “Light Up the Sky” and Hermia, the young, star-crossed lover in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, both great roles for me. The Featured photo is me as Hermia with Dave Maier (still a close friend) before the opening of the show, outside our theatre. My dear friend Emily did my hair; beautifully might I add! She even trimmed my hair on my wedding day. I trust her with my tresses.

First act of “LIght Up the Sky”

“Light Up the Sky”

Above I am in the last act of “Light Up the Sky”, wearing a shimmering gold gown and long white gloves, having come from my theater opening (in the play). Years later I spoke with Kitty Carlisle, who originated the role on Broadway that her husband wrote for her. I told her I’d played her part. She asked if I had become a professional actress – regrettably, no.

But that summer I sparkled. In the above photo I’m with Carl Staub, playing the role of the young playwrite. He was also my steady boyfriend for a period, adding to my delight. He even gave me his class ring to wear. It was too large, so I held it in place by wearing mine over it. I so wanted to be in a relationship. We walked around campus holding hands. Puppy love…

with Carl

It ended, I was crushed. After exchanging holiday cards, I never heard from him again (we now communicate via Facebook), but someone was in touch with him and he showed up three summer’s ago when we all met for the “Celebration of Life” for our beloved Operetta teacher, Dude Stephenson; Simple Gifts. We went out to dinner in excellent restaurants in Traverse City every night and had time to talk. Carl pulled out of his wallet my high school class photograph. He’d had it laminated! I read what I wrote on the back. I, obviously, had sent it to him in that Christmas card and wrote about our relationship. That night, we spoke about it; “You broke up with me”, I reminded him. “You said your mother didn’t like me”, he rebutted. My jaw dropped. “My mother didn’t like anyone!” And the years fell away.

2018, dinner with Carl, (along with other camp friends)

I loved playing Hermia too… “Little again, nothing but lower and little. Why will you suffer her to flout me thus? Let me come at her!” Then I threw myself at Helena (the guys caught me) who was after MY guy, thanks to the mischievous fairies, who cast a spell on the other lovers in the forest. I was going to claw her eyes out, or at least tear out her hair; a real, staged cat fight!

In the forest – attacking Helena

Final act, reconciliation; Lysander presents me to the King

Choir and Modern Dance were wonderful classes. I loved them both and always put my all into whatever I did, but Operetta ruled. It was the last class of the day, beginning at 3:30pm. We always performed Gilbert and Sullivan. This summer was the “The Sorcerer”. Here I am onstage, before the show with Dude.

Before “Sorcerer”, summer, 1969

We all auditioned, but there were few leads and only the best actually got parts. I had a decent voice, but not outstanding. I knew that. But Dude favored the theater people and gave us bits to do throughout the show. With about 90 women in the chorus, only those who had special roles got their names in the program.

Sorcerer, opening pantomime

I had two roles in this show. During the overture, Dude staged a pantomime and I was one of three village belles (yes, that is “Lysander” as my partner; we were well-matched; no, we never dated). And when John Wellington-Wells (the sorcerer) does his conjuring, I was a “sprite of earth and air” in a special hooded costume, flitting on and off the stage as he invokes the spirits in his incantation, as was a certain Marcy Zussman, younger sister of our Retrospect founder, John. It was great fun to do those little bits and get some recognition.

Peeking out in “Sorcerer”. Steve Pieters in foreground.

Our operetta was always performed during the 6th weekend of camp. That came to be alumni weekend as well. With such a large group performing, parents came (my own included) from across the country and the shows were always sold out. Now there were only two weeks left to camp. We performed the Shakespeare the next weekend, but Operetta had nothing remaining to rehearse. This particular summer, Dude and Ken Jewell (the music director) decided to perform an all-Irving Berlin concert. There were no auditions; songs were assigned and lots of fun tunes for all to sing. Our leaders even sang “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody”. I finally got a chance to perform in a small ensemble: we sang “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and brought down the house!

“There’s No Business Like Show Business” – 8th week Operetta Concert

Christie is singing, Steve is on her left. We all remain great friends. Finally Operetta, the last class of the last week of my last summer was over. It was time for Dude to pass out his awards, separate from the big ones that would be awarded after Sunday services the next morning. He had a special award for Best Lead, but also one for Best Chorus person (it could go to multiple people). I had won it the two previous summers. And again, he called my name and pulled me up front to give me a special presentation and accolade. Years later, when he was celebrating the first 50 years of Operetta, he declared (and made a plaque for it) that said I was the Best Female Chorus member over the first 25 years! But here I am, receiving Dude’s praise, which we all craved. It all came together for me.

Dude sings my praises – my 3rd Operetta Chorus Award.

 

 

 

 

Ag Fair by
200
(260 Stories)

/ Stories

This year’s poster

The third week of August on Martha’s Vineyard always brings the much-anticipated Agricultural Fair or “Ag Fair”, as it is called. The Vineyard has a huge farming community and everyone gets to show off their season’s accomplishments, from the best pies and jams, to livestock and largest vegetables. There is a whole display hall for crafts, photographs, paintings and other handmade items. On the opening day of the fair, everything is judged. If you go on subsequent days (the fair runs four days), you’ll see items adorned with their ribbons for the prizes they took during the judgement period.

Competitions take place on various days as well (the schedule is printed in a special section of the local paper). Our favorite has been dog agility. Who knew that poodles could run like the wind and do the leaps through the various hoops and hazards set up around the ring. Any breed can compete, but we think poodles are the best. Skillets are thrown, oxen are pulled. This is a real country fair. There was a big state fair in Detroit when I was young, but I never attended. This was my first; it was manageable and so much fun to do with our young children.

Junk food abounds – fried dough, cotton candy, soft-serve ice cream. And lots of things to buy including branded souvenirs of the fair each year. We’d buy the tee shirts with that year’s special design (the Featured photo if this year’s design, just revealed in the Vineyard Gazette).

Ag Fair tee shirts through the years.

Through the years, we also bought the posters for each year and frequently framed them. But as our real art collection grew, I discovered that I gave most of the posters to the Boys and Girls Club resale shop. I have one left, in our sunroom. It is the same design as the left-most tee shirt above. Look how the sun faded the color.

Faded Ag Fair poster decorating our sunroom

Of course there is a midway with lots of rides and games. This is particularly popular at night time with the older kids who are trying to score, but the younger children love the game booths. As a child, Jeffrey loved one game in particular; some sort of ball toss, hit a hole and win a prize. If he couldn’t do it, Dan would take over. Little Jeffrey WANTED that stuffed animal. I’m sure he spent more on tickets than the prize was worth, but we’d keep at it until the prize was his. It’s still in his Vineyard bedroom, though she’s now 32 years old. Sadly, she doesn’t visit often any longer.

a long ago prize from the midway

At a certain point, the kids outgrew the charms of the Ag Fair, and we were weary of the crowds. After years of absence, we went again a few years ago and were again delighted by it, but once every few years is enough for us.

Perhaps we’ll visit again some day with our granddaughter.

 

Cultural Triple Threat by
200
(260 Stories)

Prompted By Hobbies

/ Stories

Writing for Retrospect

I love art, music (mostly singing, but listening as well) and now spend much of my time writing for Retrospect; a cultural triple threat.

I have written over 250 stories on everything from my first job; Posing in 3-D, to the harrowing story of my grandparents’ escape from the 1906 Russian pogroms to their trip across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving on Ellis Island and making their way to Toledo , Ohio where Grandpa opened a jewelry store and flourished; My Grandparents’ Story .Thinking of him, I am truly moved and grateful when I exercise my constitutional freedoms of religion and the right to vote. Both seem increasingly imperiled at the moment.

I recently read a long, interesting article by Timothy Snyder in The New York Times Magazine about those (particularly in southern states) who are trying to dictate how history is taught, making it illegal to teach “critical race theory”. He calls these “memory laws” and the article is entitled “The War on History is a War on Democracy”. He likened it to Stalin during the post-war famine in Ukraine, and Nazi Germany. We cannot re-write history. It does not bode well for our country. I WANT to know about my own history and that of my country. The more informed I am, the better citizen I can be.

I began singing with the Newton Community Chorus in 2003, once my husband retired and could stay home on Monday nights so I could practice. We’ve sung everything from Bach to Mozart to spirituals. Of course COVID kept us apart these past 18 months.  Some tried the electronic programs available, but I didn’t, for various reasons.

I miss my friends in chorus very much (we number between 60 and 90, depending on the popularity of the music we are performing that semester; Mozart and Brahms always gets a great turnout). There has been one email that seems to indicate we will try to gather again, even wearing masks, but much is up in the air. Will we be allowed into the parochial school where we rehearsed before? Will we be able to perform in January? Who will return (Newton has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, so I’m sure we are all vaccinated, but still…singing in close quarters). Much remains to be seen, but I am hopeful. Now the Delta variant has raised its ugly head, so who knows.

I began singing as a small child – the classic Broadway musicals. Though my mother has been gone over a decade now, when she moved into the skilled nursing section of her retirement community, I got to know the music director, who invited me to work up a musical routine with her and we performed familiar Broadway show tunes for the residents a few times a year. Most were truly out of it, but some would sing along and my mother just beamed. The songs were always upbeat. I’d encourage participation on “Do, a Deer”, usually began with “Put on a Happy Face” and end with “Let Me Entertain You” (but only brandishing a scarf). Even after my mother died, I continued to go and entertain for five more years, until the music director retired. I felt like I was doing something good for the community and the staff really appreciated me. It feels good to be appreciated doing something I enjoy.

As I wrote in the “art and art museums” prompt earlier this year, I am a life-long devotee of both art and museums, but the Rose Art Museum (as seem above) at Brandeis has attracted my time and attention for over 30 years. I became an active member when Vicki was seven months old and a Board member 24 years ago (with a few gaps along the way). One could say it is an all-consuming hobby. In addition to loving the shows and learning about the art, I thoroughly enjoy being part of the acquisition process. My husband and I are no longer very active in the art market, so this is the way I can stay active and continue to learn about what is going on there. I keep current and alive. I am involved in two collections committees there.

One, the Sam Hunter Emerging Artist Committee, only considers work of “emerging artists” (a term we constantly debate), but what fun to look at. The committee works on a annual basis, looking at work in depth for about seven months, then going through another in-depth dive on the final candidates and a ballot selection process, until finally, by the end of the year, we determine a single work to add to the Rose’s collection. We have made some memorable purchases; several now on display in the 60th anniversary show. It is a fun activity every year.

Book about the Rose Art Museum, 2009

I am a life-long learner. Whether being active at the Rose, writing for pleasure or singing new music, these are all ways to use my brain; fun hobbies that keep me moving forward.

 

 

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