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Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp~WE’RE GRANDMAS NOW

GRANDMAS ARE MOMS WITH LOTS OF FROSTING. 009

I wish I’d thought of that. It’s one of those sayings attributed to “author unknown.” But I’ll confirm that the idea resonates in the day camp.  Many, if not most, of my friends here are grandmothers. Do we show off the latest pictures of the kids?  You bet.  Do we brag occasionally?  Oh, yeah. Are our grandbabies the cutest, brightest, funniest, sweetest inventions since chocolate? Absolutely.

But we’re also glad when the visits are over and all the kids–children and grandchildren–go home.

MY GRANDKIDS BELIEVE I’M THE OLDEST THING IN THE WORLD. AND AFTER TWO OR THREE HOURS WITH THEM, I BELIEVE IT TOO.  — Gene Perret

A funny thing, though.  As soon as we say goodbye at the airport, we yearn to see them again.

It’s become an all-or-nothing proposition in America over the last decade or two. Extended families no longer live near one another, so BIG VISITS compensate and leave us all exhausted. First, the scheduling. Then the waiting and crossing off the days.  Then right before, a frenzy of shopping, cooking and freezing. Most important, the planning of “what to do” with everyone after arrival. We must have fun activities!  And then, finally, the tykes arrive with their parents. And with every hug and kiss, we melt. And are reborn.

IF I HAD KNOWN HOW WONDERFUL IT WOULD BE TO HAVE GRANDCHILDREN, I’D HAVE HAD THEM FIRST. — Lois Wyse

My own grandmother lived a hundred miles away from me in upstate New York. Every so often I’d arrive home from school and there she’d be!  My parents didn’t do the countdown thing. I guess they believed in surprises. A wonderful surprise. This lady was the only grandparent I had, and she was everything a little girl could want in a grandmother. Some years ago, her memory inspired me to write a story about her, and about grandmothers then…and now.  My own boys were half-grown at the time. I’m sharing my memory with you today–a story of family–so this blog post will be longer than most.

~~~~~Real Grandmas–A Family Story~~~

A real grandma has big jiggly arms. My grandma did, and when I cuddled up to her on the couch, my head fit perfectly against her unique pillow. She’d read to me in her Yiddish accent, “Vee, Villie, Vinkie vent through the town…”  It sounded just fine.

A real grandma knows how to knit. My grandma did and when she started a sweater, she actually finished it. Long after I’d go to bed, she’d continue to knit and leave her work-in-progress where I could see it first thing in the morning. I was always amazed at how red or navy blue string could turn into a bulky garment, a thing of substance, just by moving two long needles against each other. It seemed like magic, but Grandma could do it.

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A real grandma also fills the house with scrumptious aromas, and needs the special assistance of a ten year old granddaughter. Those apple pies, those rugelahs–rolled out dough cut into triangles and re-rolled into crescents with sugar, cinnamon, raisins, nuts, jelly, anything delicious would do. And the strudel made from dough so thin, you could almost see through it. They are all in my mind’s eye as clearly today as when Gram and I shared my mother’s kitchen on one of Gram’s visits so long ago.

“Lindala, you’ll scrape the orange and lemon like this,” she said as she gave me the “rebvison,” the four-sided metal scraper used for such work. I took it proudly. This was not a baby job! She crushed walnuts, set aside raisins and kneaded the dough. The finished products looked like miracles to me, but Grandma just nodded at her efforts and brushed the flour from her hands.file2391298506940

Those delicious fragrances filled my childhood home, but no recipe was written down. How could she write: a pinch of this, a little of that with enough of the other until it was right?  Grandma’s kitchen methods did not end with baking. She made chicken soup in exactly the same way. This artstic style continued until I was about twelve years old.

Whether I had a flash of insight or whether I slowly forced myself to acknowledge that Grandma was old, I don’t honestly recall. But I do remember thinking and worrying about her dying some day. After my initial grief at this realization, I took action.

“Grandma,” I said, while holding pen and paper in my hand, “exactly how do you make rugelahs?” And she told me. Slowly, we worked the amounts out together. A written recipe was finally born in our family, and it was perfect. Anyway, that’s what my boys tell me.

My boys have two grandmas. One does aerobics and one plays catch wtih them using a hard ball and a baseball glove. Their grandmas are in their seventies, in the same decade of life as my grandma was when I grew up.

My sons think that real grandmas are athletes, that real grandmas work full-time until forced to retire at 75, and that the only food grandmas know how to cook is chicken, the quintessential low cholesterol choice. They have never seen either grandma bake as much as a cookie or knit the ubiquitous scarf.  But if you’d ask them about their grandmothers, as I did, they’d tell you that those ladies were absolutely perfect and that they were very real grandmas. Just like mine was.

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THE BEST BABY-SITTERS, OF COURSE, ARE THE BABY’S GRANDPARENTS. YOU FEEL COMPLETELY COMFORTABLE ENTRUSTING YOUR BABY TO THEM FOR LONG PERIODS. WHICH IS WHY MOST GRANDPARENTS FLEE TO FLORIDA. — Dave Barry

Leave a comment to say whether you enjoyed this type of memory and if you’d like to try writing some family stories of your own. I’ve taught others how to do it, and I can get you started right here on my blog. It’s a lovely way to pass down memories without saying, “When I was your age…”  which no child likes to hear!

June contest ends today. If you leave a comment, you have a chance of winning a choice of two books shown below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

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Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp

Golf Clubs 2DIRTY DANCING? Hmm…not exactly…

Work before play. Work before play. That’s the philosophy my DH and I have followed since we married a million years ago. We’ve tried to live our lives responsibly. I’m sure you’ve done the same. We’ve worked hard while raising a family, contributing to the community and making friends. In what seems like the blink of an eye, however, my golfer guy is now chasing a little white ball over a sea of green grass  every day and loving it. I wonder what happened to our old routine.. What happened to “going to work?”

“I am working,” says Mike. “I’m working on my golf game.”

Ah, yes. the golf game. Absolutely. And the fishing club. And the softball league, pickle ball game and the Dine-Around group. Let’s not forget the poker game at the clubhouse. And while we’re at the clubhouse, don’t forget about the swimming pool…and the pool table. Others who live here are still working real jobs.  Ahem…that would be me. But with our move to the Sunshine state, the truth is that we live in a day camp for adults.

This is not my first experience with day camps. No indeed. Remember the movie Dirty Dancing? A sleeper that became a huge hit with Jennifer Gray and the late Patrick Swayze who played a dance instructor at a resort hotel for wealthy vacationers.. The movie was set in 1963, in the Catskill Mountains of New York about a hundred miles north of the city.

I spent many childhood summers in the Catskills. However, I was not wealthy and did not stay at a resort hotel. My family rented a little cottage at one of the many “bungalow colonies” for which the area was famous. A few hundred dollars bought us an escape from the concrete heat of the city during July and August. More important, the Catskills provided a possible escape from the polio virus, infamous for summer attacks in urban areas. And so my family schlepped “to the country” each summer, the car loaded with pots, pans, bedding, dishes – everything we’d need to sustain us through the season.

Every bungalow colony had a day camp for children. After all, mothers needed a break, too. Whether it was arts & crafts, nature walks, swimming, knock-hockey, punchball, softball, blueberry picking, or campfires with ghost stories, the kids were kept busy from morning til night.  Every bungalow colony also had a casino–not the gambling kind–but a big social hall for adult parties and shows on Saturday night. These were the  places where the comedians and entertainers of the time honed their skills and sharpened their acts. Buddy Hackett, Milton Berle, Eddie Fisher…they all found their way to these summer audiences. But the parents agreed that the best talent show of all was the one put on by their kids in the day camp.

Last month I attended a talent show by the “kids” in my day camp for adults. A home grown entertainment that was second to none this year. As though the spirit of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland hovered over the place and cast, the “Let’s put on a show” theme had imbued this day camp. On the big night, the turnout in both talent and audience was exceptional.

So now that this day camper and her golfer guy live in a 55 and better community, what has changed about day camp from our earlier years?

Not a darn thing! The fun activities and making new friends are still part of the schedule. And if the distance from the pitcher’s mound to home plate is a little shorter, or more time is spent fishing instead of running bases…well, some accommodation is to be expected as gray begins to dominate our natural hair color. (Not that it dominates for very long around here!)  We might not be up for some “dirty dancing,” but the dance floor is definitely crowded on New Year’s Eve.

From those bungalow  colonies in the Catskills to this day camp for active retirees, my life echoes the past. I’m holding onto the happy times and the loving memories of family long gone. I’ve  become an older iteration of who I once was, proving once again that the “child is father of the man.” Or, as a famous sailor enjoyed repeating, “I yam who I yam.”

What have you held onto from your childhood? Can you recognize yourself in the mirror of time? Has your life come full circle?

CONTEST NEWS!!  I’m thrilled to add a fabulous prize to this month’s drawing.  Five authors from OnFireFiction are offering a five story romance package called: LOVE ME SOME COWBOY. Each story is a full novel from Lisa Mondello, Jean Brashear, Barbara McMahon, Day Leclaire and Ginger Chambers. I’m a member of OnFireFiction and am happy to provide this terrific prize in addition to a copy of FAMILY INTERRUPTED.

Love Me Some Cowboy - 5 book package

Post a comment and have your name added to this  drawing!! Contest runs through May 31st.

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As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.

Linda

Starting Over ~ and Over and Over…

Empire State Building - my hometown symbol.

Empire State Building – my hometown symbol.

ONCE A NEW YAWKER…

A few years ago, I shared the news about the  birth of my first granddaughter on my website.  One reader wrote to me and said I had to move to Florida, that I could not live a thousand miles away from a grandchild. Well…okay.  Maybe I agreed in spirit, but practical reasons prevailed then. Now, however, I know she was right!  Nothing beats living near family. So, for the fourth time in my married life, I’m starting over in a new home. Which might sound like a royal pain in the neck to many of you.

I grew up in the Empire state, in New York City, with aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby. For those of you who might imagine New York to be only a hustle and bustle place, let me assure you that family neighborhoods thrived. My childhood was secure in Jackson Heights, Queens, with many friends and real everyday people living in apartment houses, attached row houses or single family homes.

As a young married woman, I moved north to the Bay state, to a place called Worcester. I had never heard of the town and was very nervous about relocating and leaving my familiar territory. So Mike and I made weekend trips every month or six weeks back to the city to visit everyone. Both sets of parents visited us as well.  Grandchildren are such a draw! Worcester, Massachusetts became a place on the map for all of us. It took just a little time for us to settle in very well.

When our sons were in college, Mike and I headed to the Lone Star state because of a new job. Was I thrilled about moving?  No. We’d become very comfortable in Worcester and didn’t want to leave our friends behind. Who wanted to start over again? But, we did..Whether by plane or car, we headed back up north regularly. Every time LaGuardia airport came into sight, my heart raced with excitement. And two years ago, we started over in the Sunshine state.

I’ve actually loved living in all four places – New York, Massachusetts, Texas, and Florida – and feel lucky to have tasted life in various sections of this beautiful country. What can beat genuine Texas B-B-Q or the casual lifestyle? “Hey, y’all. How’re doing?” Texas Friendly is what I call it.  And what can be more breath-taking than the blazing autumn foliage of New England, or more fun than apple picking time? I scarfed up the clam chowder and lobster whenever they were on sale.

The time it took to transition from tourist to resident, adapting to the culture of each region, became shorter with each move. But no amount of regional delights could erase my New Yawk beginnings.

It seems to me that ‘starting over’ is NOT a problem that interrupts your life. It’s simply part of the  long adventure that IS your life. Whether it’s a new home, or a new husband, I think starting over enriches the journey. While my New York roots remain strong, and I will always reach for a second cup of cawfee, a glass of Florida orange juice tastes very sweet, too. .

I’ve set several of my stories in New England and Texas. Oddly enough, The Soldier and the Rose, a WWII love story, was the only book I’ve written that took place in New York City. Are there any native New Yorkers out there reading this blog? How about visitors to my hometown? Or is New York the last place on earth you’d go?

DRAWING!  Post a comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a copy of Family Interrupted. Winner chosen tonight!  Will post winner’s name on Thursday.

I post a new blog every Tuesday and Thursday.  Hope to see you for the next episode of Starting Over.

Best always,

Linda