Parenting Personal Essays Politics Relationships Women World

Sharing on Thanksgiving

FullSizeRender-2This Thanksgiving, my favorite daughter, about whom I’m not allowed to write, is trekking in Nepal. She sent me this picture this morning. She told me about the wonderful people she is meeting and how hard their lives appear to be. The only reason I can post it is that I’m counting on the fact she won’t see it.

It took me back to a memory I’d forgotten. Another Thanksgiving.

When Sarah was seven, it was an especially cold Thanksgiving. My friend, whose daughter was Sarah’s friend, and I decided we would take the children on an adventure on Thanksgiving morning. We put them in my SUV and went to Dunkin’ Donuts, where I bought one hundred cups of coffee, one hundred cups of orange juice, and two hundred doughnuts. We drove down to the Port Authority, where many a homeless person finds shelter when it’s just too damn cold outside.

I asked a police officer to spread the word that we were there to other officers in the Port Authority and ask if anyone would like to have a doughnut and cup of coffee. My friend and I sat in the back seat of the car for two hours while those two seven-year-olds handed out coffee, OJ, and doughnuts.

There was a moment. There always is.

Sarah was helping a man who couldn’t decide between two doughnuts. Here is their conversation as I can best remember it:

“You can take both of them. We have enough — and if we don’t, my mom will go get more.”

“Oh, no — do you see the line behind me? I want to make sure we all get one. Maybe I’ll wait and see if there are any left over at the end. And your mom already did a lot for us.”

I saw her look at him. I watched her take in the message that this man, who had absolutely nothing — including a winter coat (I remember him vividly) — was not going to take more than his fair share.

Seeing Sarah’s picture today reminded me of Thanksgiving and sharing around a table an abundance of all things — especially stuffing, in my case.

And then I thought about our country, and how, as a country, we used to be like that homeless man. We used to know when each of us individually had enough, and when it was time to share with our fellow countrymen. All those working for large corporations had benefits. Health care. Retirement. And the shareholders were fine with returns that had slow growth to help them when they retired rather than wealth through stock at someone else’s expense. We didn’t simply buy the cheapest things; we bought from stores where we knew the purveyors. We waited while they gift wrapped the presents. There was enough for everyone, so on Thanksgiving, most Americans could sit back and be thankful for the opportunity our country provided to all its citizens.

We can go back to that. I believe that the 1 percent that I think has taken over my country for their own personal gain — and dollars in the bank that they couldn’t spend if they tried — will be brought down. And this Thanksgiving, when I say my silent prayer before eating my turkey, I will pledge to do what I can to make sure of it.

God bless my broken country on this Thanksgiving.

Parenting Relationships

Bayley: Well Trained Terrorist

IMG_0230I’m pretty sure Bayley is being trained by the Taliban at night to be a terrorist. It’s really the only possibility because during the day, she is constantly with me, so there is no other access to her. They have taught her well.

She never strikes in the same place twice, so when you have protected the vulnerable location where she previously struck, she moves on to other locations along the perimeter. It’s really quite smart, and since the house is large enough, she is never lacking for new options. Take, for example, the other morning when she ate her bed. Actually, if she’d actually consumed the bed, it would have been easier for me than having to go through the entire house and clean up each and every piece of the bed she deposited with remarkable accuracy of position in awkward places. Not just down the hallway, but also under the tables and beds, so I really had to get down and dirty to pick it all up. Her apparent goal: Do the most damage you can, quietly, as quickly as possible, and requiring the most effort to clean up. I’m pretty sure that the whole bed thing was completed in fifteen minutes. Planned. Executed. Total annihilation. Training. Takes training, right?

Then, when she is caught, right in the act, and you draw your guns and confront her, she is smooth. She looks at you quizzically, with earnest confusion regarding what it is you are upset about. Training. It really takes training to execute that response without a hint of her true glee, knowing she pretty much got through the safety procedures to stage her attack with impunity.

Then there’s her posse whom she has snowed, and who stand up for her no matter what. “Come on, Christine, how bad could it have been?” “Look at that face; are you sure someone else’s dog didn’t do that?” Or, my favorite, “Mom, you really are responsible for her behavior. She needs more time outdoors.” While it’s true, I wish I spent more time with her outside, I’m not sure she gets a pass because I only threw the GD ball to her for one hour yesterday instead of the five they seem to think is appropriate. And in her training with the bad guys at night, I am sure they spend real time on “Fitting In So No One Really Believes You Are as Bad as You Are.”

Yep, she’s a trained terrorist; I’m sure of it. And, the thing is, she, like all evil things that breathe, is more than just that. She is sweet, smart, funny. When she runs, it’s poetry in motion. Her long, lean body can smooth it out like a thoroughbred running in the Kentucky Derby. When it’s snowing, she can bounce up and down in the snow to get to wherever she wants to go. And, when you take her to the beach, she will run a bit ahead but then turn back and stay right with you, because, in the end, she has no desire to go to Guantanamo when she could instead live happily ever after with me right here in East Hampton.

Bayley. Terrorist. And best dog ever.


Voices in Our Heads

imgres-4I was sitting at Starbucks, biding my time waiting to pick up a friend to drive back to the Hamptons from New York City. A man and his ten-year-old son came in. The son was eye-catching, with large, inquisitive eyes and a big smile, and he was asking his father a lot of questions.

“Dad, if you wake up on a sleepover date and they say they are having eggs and toast for breakfast, and you hate eggs, what do you do?”

I didn’t hear his answer.

Then there was some talk about dad’s boots. Not sure what that was about.

The mother arrived.

Another man arrived.

I pretended to be engrossed in my computer. I wasn’t.

“Well, I’m glad you called me. Getting an early start on on tutoring and testing is a good idea. All the tests are made up to trick you into getting it wrong. He’s smart, but it’s not enough.”

My new favorite young boy’s eyes lost their glow. His smile disappeared, and his brow furrowed.

“Let me give you an example,” the man said, and he pulled out some ridiculous piece of paper with some ridiculous question on it and spent the next few minutes walking through its perils.

His father praised his son’s math acumen, but I could see the son wasn’t as sure anymore, and the weight of his future sat way too strongly on his little shoulders. I liked it better when his biggest worry was how he could gracefully get out of having eggs for breakfast.

I saw twenty years into the future—him telling his wife that he’d thought he was a smart boy until an encounter with a tutor in a Starbucks on a cold January evening when he was ten.

Me being me, I couldn’t do nothing. I took out my notebook and wrote the following note.

I know you saw me smiling at your son’s conversation before the potential tutor arrived. I have never done this before, but I want to tell you that I watched your son’s confidence heading down the toilet. My daughter went through the New York City private school system and went on to Princeton and Harvard Law School.    [Note to my readers: I recognize that I was name dropping and trying to legitimize my point of view to prove that I wasn’t a crazy person. I acknowledge that my daughter’s successes—which anyone who knows and loves me will tell you had nothing whatsoever to do with me—don’t speak to my mental stability, but we lean on whatever we have when doing risky things that may make us look coo-coo for Coco Puffs.]    Please don’t hire this man. He isn’t even speaking to your son, and he’s trying to instill fear in him and seems to be doing a good job. Here is my number. Call me if you want some other numbers to call. —Christine [and I added my phone number] P.S. Please tell your son I will remember him for a long time to come because I thought he was just amazing!

I had to leave. How to get it to them without being shot by the tutor?

I walked over to the table. I still can’t believe I did this.

I said, “Hi, you don’t know me but I have pretty good hearing and I was listening to your conversation, so I’m sorry if this is an intrusion, but I wanted to say two things.” I turned to the boy, whose name I now know is Samuel.

“I think you are really smart. I could see it when I was listening to your conversation with your dad. Don’t you worry, any school would be lucky to have you. Remember my words tonight, okay? And I just want to say that it’s not an easy process, but it all works out in the end.” I dropped the folded note into the dad’s hand and walked out.

I picked up my friend to drive to the country, and she said, “You absolutely did the right thing! Of course you did. I remember when I told my college advisor in high school where I wanted to go, and she said, ‘You will never get in there. What SUNY schools are you applying to?’ I got into all the schools I applied to. I was almost a straight-A student. Class president tenth, eleventh, and twelth grade. Cheerleader. Horseback rider at a national level. But I still remember her words.”

Of course you remember her words. We mark our lives by the terrible things that happen. After my mom died. After 911. We have the voices in our heads that create doubt, and we tend to discount the voices that might raise us to higher levels. Note to self: Listen only to those voices that raise me up.

The story has a happy ending. John, the father, called later that night. We had a lovely conversation. I sent him an article I’d written about the application process. I sent him some phone numbers: Sarah’s math teacher in middle school, and her SAT tutor in high school. I am glad I stuck my nose into someone else’s business that day. There, I said it. Butting in sometimes is a good thing.


International Turtle Day

imagesYesterday was World Turtle Day. (Thanks Shanette for telling me.) Did I ever tell you about the Tiffany Turtles?

When the fabulous Sarah, daughter extraordinaire about whom I’m not allowed to blog, was a small child of about four or five, she loved all things animal. We had a parrot (don’t ask what happened to the parrot), rabbits, cats, and dogs.

One day in early spring she decided she wanted turtles. She promised to ace her SAT’s in fifteen years, so I decided to reward her with a trip to the pet store in New York City with two friends who were on a play date at the apartment. We got in a cab, headed to the pet store on Third and Fifty-something-or-other, and went in to browse the turtle selection.

Cute turtles! Colorful backs. She picked out two that seemed to be moving as if they were alive, plus the accouterments that you need to have a turtle colony. I threw my credit card on the counter while wrangling three four-year-olds and all the turtle stuff, and headed for home where we set it all up. I took the receipt out of the bag, glanced at it and panicked. The turtles were $850 each.

“Stop!” I screamed. “We have to take them back. God, don’t touch them.”

Sue me. I think I made up some story or other about separating turtles from their mother before they are ready and headed to my room to call the store and say we were on our way back with them.

“I’m sorry ma’am,” the clerk said, “but you can’t return live animals. It’s against the law.”

“I’ll give you against the law. Charging $850 for a turtle is criminal!”

“They are special turtles imported from South America.”

“Well, as with most imports, we are getting screwed,” I said, and hung up. They were thereafter known as the Tiffany Turtles from South America. This is yet another example of why we should only sell things made in America.

That summer, my friend Vicki Gershwin called me and couldn’t stop laughing. She was at her house in the woods of East Hampton.”You have to come over right away. The rain brought a bunch of turtles to the yard, and unless I’m mistaken, they are direct descendants of the Tiffany Turtles from exotic South America.” This was before the phrase, “Just Sayin” was in Vogue, but her tone was laced with the sentiment nonetheless. I hung up on her and refused to go to her house for the rest of the summer. I showed her.

The turtles died that summer in the Hamptons and we put them in the playhouse in the Secret Garden so they could go back to nature. They lasted maybe four months. I still think of them fondly sometimes, and I thought it appropriate on International Turtle Day to tell their story. There are no International Turtles. Just sayin’.

Business Parenting Personal Essays Relationships

Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. Oh my!

imgresI had lunch the other day with a friend of mine. Talk turned to fathers, and how similar our two fathers were. Her father was a worker and a golfer like mine. Work and golf and show up now and then to be a larger than life presence in the lives of their kids. Mine was a tough taskmaster whom I didn’t appreciate until long after he no longer had any influence on me. We both acknowledged the enormous influence of those men in our lives.

I told her that when I arrived back in New York City, fresh from the University of Nebraska hinterlands, my dad summoned me to his New York apartment, where he would hold court once every month or so when he had business in the city. He flew in like the Shah on his lear jet, and I still remember pushing the button to the floor of his apartment on the upper east side with a feeling of anxious hope that we would feel good after the visit was over. Both of us. I was still on the Parent Payroll, which in fairness to him I didn’t treat with much respect or regard. It just was. On this particular day, he informed me that he wanted me to enroll in Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School. I was shocked.

“Why, Dad, would I do that? I have no intention of being a secretary.” To be honest, I didn’t have much of an intention to be anything at all. Ah, to live those years over again. Seriously. It’s one of my largest regrets. Not searching for anything other than a man.

Dad replied, “Because, Christine, no matter what happens in life, you can always get a job as a secretary.”

“Well that may be Dad, but I’m not going.” I was so insulted. Insulted I tell you.

“If you do not go, then I will cut you off.”

“Frankly Dad,” I said with great bravado, having just finished Gone with the Wind, “I don’t give a damn.” I stood up with every ounce of unearned dignity that I could muster, and I walked out.

I was never on his payroll again. I also immediately found a job answering phones at Marymount Manhattan College. “Marymount Manhattan College, how may I direct your call?” That lasted a few days, until I simply took off the headphones and walked away from the switchboard, leaving an “I can’t do this job, but thank you” behind as I shut the door on my way out. I ended up at a financial management company, where my “clients” included Don Imus, who was in forced financial management for not paying taxes and used to yell at me on the air because the management firm wouldn’t give him all his money to spend on photography equipment, women, and drugs. Until the taxes were paid, he was on an allowance.

But I digress. The point is that I can say I have done all right for myself, and while I do not have a Katherine Gibbs certificate, I think I gained my independence, and a dose of reality that probably saved me from never really trying to earn my own way.

“Oh my God,” my friend said, after I had finished telling the story of my dad’s ultimatum. “My dad enrolled me in Katy Gibbs too!” (I guess if you’ve graduated from there you call it “Katy.”) But the difference between us is that she went. And she contends she is the better for it, having learned how to manage paperwork in a way her more artistic peers cannot do. I believe her. Six months at Katherine Gibbs would have changed my life, I’m sure. It would have put me on a different road, to somewhere else. Interesting to say the least.

And what do we have to offer our kids to guarantee them job skills now? There are more college graduates without jobs now than ever before in history. I recently went to look for the Katherine Gibbs School in New York City, and it’s closed. Doors shut. Like so many doors to the middle class, these days, there is no pathway to the doorway; just an infinite number of changing social media and Internet platforms with which to navigate to one dream or another.

I’m not sure what the point is for this blog entry. Roads less travelled? Safety nets for a secure future? Independence? Dependence? I just wanted to say that I understand now why my dad wanted me to have that in my tool box. My daughter’s tool box is ever so full of things that she can call out when she needs them as she travels the road to her future. More than me. It makes me feel good. And, so it goes.


Parenting Personal Essays Relationships

Lessons from My Dad

My Dad and Me
My Dad and Me

My dad died yesterday. What to say? How to honor him? I spent a number of peaceful days before he died alone thinking about sixty years of complex history with him, and so many forgotten memories came to me. Those days last week were some of the best days I’ve spent in years. I list here some of the lessons I learned from a great man, Herbert Bartlett Merser, who lived a full life his way for eighty-six years.

Mack the Knife is the greatest song ever written.

“The difference between first and second, Christine, is winning and losing.”

There are people who can multiply four numbers times four other numbers in their heads. My dad (can you imagine?) was one of them.

If there is a lightning storm in Maine and you are five years old, if your dad pulls back the curtains to show you what lightning looks like, the lightning can’t strike you. Ever.

One unique man can pitch for the majors, go to Harvard University, race cars, and climb a difficult corporate ladder.

“Look at what people did for you, Christine, not at what they didn’t do for you.”

If you ask your dad for help with your homework, he might write out two additional pages of math problems to make sure you understand. Years later you will wonder if he did it to make sure you never asked for help again, or because he just wanted you to be the best you possibly could. Now that he is gone, I know it was the latter.

Golf is more than a game of athleticism. It’s a game of intelligence.

Spam (as in the kind that comes in a can) is a food group all its own.

If you are eleven years old and swimming for the Lake Erie Pepsi Cola Swim Team in your first meet, and there are thousands of people watching, you will hear, above them all, your father yelling for you to swim faster. And you will swim faster.

You can successfully be with one woman for forty-five years. Although she wasn’t my mom, she was the love of his life and he and she made it work. I never saw them fight.

“There is no reason to gossip, Christine. There are too many other things to do with your brain, and you are too smart to waste one single brain cell on things that have no purpose.”

When you are a few days away from the final journey to wherever, be sure to put your tie on to look your best. Always look your best.

I love you Dad.

Parenting Personal Essays Relationships Women

Ya Ya

When my mother died last fall, I was invited to take her place at the monthly luncheon she and her friends have been doing for years. They meet at a different restaurant each month, where they ask for separate checks, hear one another’s reviews of the past month, and generally enjoy each other’s company. When they asked if I wanted to come, I said, “Oh my God, you mean like the Sisters of the Ya Ya? I’m so excited. Thank you. I’m there; just tell me when and where.” None of them knew the Ya Ya Sisterhood story, and I tried to explain, but it fell on deaf ears. Literally. You have to speak up with the Ya Yas. I gave each of them their own copy of the movie for Christmas, and since none of them mentioned it afterward, I don’t think they watched it. Or worse, they watched it and thought I was nuts, which is the more likely scenario.

Here they are. The Ya Ya Sisters. Fabulous all.

The group has eight women in it. My beloved Aunt Nancy, whom I have blogged about, three of my mother and aunt’s friends from childhood, a few neighborhood friends of many years, and now me. The oldest is probably in her late eighties, and outside of me at fifty-nine, the youngest is in her early eighties. One is an ex nun; a few are divorced or widowed; some are still working, others have retired; some are grandparents, others never had children, and so on. They are each unique characters unto themselves, but there is some mysterious common denominator they all have that I can’t quite pinpoint. Is it they never argue about anything, no matter how fraught with opportunity? Is it that they just murmur and ask few questions of each other? Is it that all of them are in the final chapters of their lives and don’t seem to have much left undone? They all smile genuine smiles of affection, and there isn’t a jealous bone in their bodies. They all nod gently when one of them describes an ailment, not in the “Give me sympathy or give me the cure” way my friends and I discuss the aging process, but in a more, “I do so know your pain, and I’m sorry” sort of way that touches my soul. They never complain. They just explain.

I love these lunches, but I leave them with an unsettled feeling that I need to pay closer attention because there is much to learn and I could easily miss it. These women of another generation handle themselves differently than my friends and I do, and I don’t want to miss the lesson.

The Christmas luncheon was the best. We did a secret Santa. You could only spend $5 on the gift, and it couldn’t be a candle. And, you couldn’t buy something from the Christmas Tree Shop, which apparently is filled with $5 things you don’t need.  The gifts were awesome. I got a plant, and it flowered for most of January until I forgot to water it. Ya Ya.

I never miss the YaYa lunches unless I absolutely can’t avoid it. Last month (May’s lunch), it was my daughter’s graduation from law school, and while I’m not nuts enough to have asked the Law School if they could change the date, I did look at the calendar to see if I could squeeze it in between ceremonies. At any rate, it’s the third Thursday of each month—except this month, when it was on the fourteenth. Aunt Nancy called me about picking up some of the Ya Yas a few days before.

“You should know I offered your services to pick up Roz for lunch on Thursday. That’s okay, right?”

“Sure Aunt Nancy, but I thought it was the third Thursday of the month.”

“It is,” she snapped. “This is the third Thursday. I talked to everyone today and everyone is coming except for Elaine, who is in California, and Barbara, who is getting a tooth pulled.”

“Well that’s fine, but it’s the second Thursday, the fourteenth. It would be physically impossible for the fourteenth of a month to be the third Thursday. But it’s fine. I can do it.”


“Oh my, I just looked at my calendar. You are right, it’s the second Thursday.” Pause. “Why didn’t anyone say anything?”

“Well I don’t know, but no matter, I will pick you up at noon.”

When we got there and Nancy recounted the conversation about what Thursday it was, all the Ya Yas pulled out their pocket calendars, which one of the Ya Yas had given them all at the December Ya Ya lunch, and I saw that the two next to me had crossed out the one they had written in for the third Thursday and rewritten the fourteenth. Everyone laughed and laughed, but I realized that my generation would have challenged Nancy’s call for lunch confirmation.

The Ya Yas have taught me a lot:

Patience. Lunch is a few hours, and I’m never glancing at my watch, but stories are told in their entirety, in complete sentences, not in half-phrases and shorthand like my friends and I use. For all their complaining about their fading memories, they always remember to ask about things mentioned in Ya Ya lunches past, and the first thing Marie asked me about was Sarah’s graduation. It matters.

Frugality. They each eat about half of what is on their plates and they take the rest home for dinner.

Commitment. No one misses the lunches. They are marked in the calendar before the year begins, and they plan their travels and appointments around the lunches. I like that. I, who move my calendar around with no rhyme or reason, like one of those beach balls you see at a rock concert, could stand to learn from their example.

I am grateful for the Ya Yas. They have all taken a moment to tell me some story or other about my mom from a different time, usually unveiling something remarkable or unusual about her. They also take a moment to tell me how much it means to them that I am a Ya Ya, and they understand if I don’t have time to go anymore.

I have time. I have all the time they don’t have. And I’m so grateful for this respite from my spinning life to spend time with such wise and kind women.

Ya Ya.



I have long been irritated at the competitive attitude in the great US of A. I remember when the fabulous Sarah rode in the Hampton Classic in the Lead Line with three hundred other darlings. Everyone who entered left the ring with a light blue ribbon. One girl left the ring with the true first place ribbon. It was hard to explain to my five-year old that she didn’t win when she was standing there with a blue ribbon in her hand saying she did. She went on to win a zillion blue ribbons in her equestrian career. She didn’t need a false start to get there.

If we stopped pretending that winning is everything, and the only thing for which to strive, perhaps we wouldn’t need to hand out false first prizes all the time.

It’s like party bags. I grew up before party bags were at all birthday parties. You went to the birthday party, you were entertained, got great food and cake, and brought a gift for the honoree because it was his or her birthday, not yours. Making sure that everyone at the party leaves with a gift is ridiculous and doesn’t teach that some things are just plain not about you. And sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. And sometimes it’s your birthday and other times it is not.

The problem is the expectation that everything should be a win.

Winning means more because it doesn’t happen all the time. That’s the point. And winning something big like an Academy Award or a gold medal at the Olympics is the height of achievement in one’s life. I do not know this personally, having never won something that big, but I have won a number of times in my life, and I know that exuberant feeling that says, “Well done. You did it.” And I don’t want it to come too easily.

Then again, there was my father’s approach, which I do not advocate. I came in second in the first tennis tournament I entered in Virginia. I called him and told him, excited by my achievement.

He said, “Well, you know the difference between first place and second place?”

“No,” I said, stupidly. I should have just hung up the phone.

“Winning and losing.”

See, that’s the mistake. Not winning is not losing. Losing is not trying at all. Losing is not doing your best. Losing is not a bad thing sometimes. If you won all the time, where would the high come from? It took me a long time to get it, but this weekend I experienced the parental challenge of a child who believes she has won when she hasn’t, and I just wanted to point it out to you all again. We all know it. How about we start living it?

That said, I have entered a blog contest and really want to win. Could you… just kidding.



I don’t need to replay the gore-filled details of the bully issue facing the country right now. We are all hearing it on the news. Teens killing themselves after being harrassed twenty-four seven thru on-site school incidents, Facebook, texts, phone messages and Twitter. It really hurts my soul to think about Phoebe Prince’s last days and feeling of hopelessness that must have sent her over the edge.  I can’t think about it anymore.

So, instead I started to think about the history of bullies in my personal experience. Remember Eddie Haskell from Leave it to Beaver? He was the guy who was polite in front of Beaver’s parents and then was a pig to Beaver when no one was around. I remember bullies in grammar school. They were loners who were usually not the sharpest knife in the drawer, generally boys, and they used their fists to bully. The fear was being beaten up.

I remember my stepson Adrian kept getting his ski jacket stolen off his back by a gang of bullies on his way home from school. They were traveling the streets around five pm in the winter just as it got dark. But they didn’t know him. It wasn’t personal. He was a sensitive kid, and actually he might have been bullied at school, but if he was, he never mentioned it. And, when he came home from school, there was nothing to continue the bullying. He was surrounded by his siblings and parents who loved him.

So, now it’s the girls (maybe even more than the boys) and it’s the cool girls. I was a cool girl and to be honest, we were so self-involved we didn’t think about those outside our group. They just weren’t on the radar, and certainly we never, not once, thought about tormenting anyone. I swear. We tee peed a house on Halloween once. But we just picked the house down the street and never knew who lived there. So, this baffles me. If you are in the cool group, why do you need to torment those outside the group? It would be like Bill Gates robbing a bank. What would be the point? He already has the money.

Who plants the seed for the hatred? What fun is there in tormenting another? I don’t get it. The fun in being in the cool group when I was in school was in participating in the school activities. There was a community there, and it included football games, school plays, the Jills singing group, and a host of other ‘cool’ activities that took place at school or with the school’s supervision. We were way too busy ruling the school world to think about tormenting people.

So, is it the new media options that is presenting this awful culture? Is it the community that is ruled by the kids (Facebook, Twitter, texting) that is creating a Lord of the Flies type of island ruled by the kids? Or, is it the parenting of these kids? Is it the school? Where is the fertile ground that allows the seed of this virus planted that allows it to grow without control?

I am not allowed to talk about my fabulous daughter on my blog. But if I could, I might put forth a story such as this. There might have been a certain girl in middle school who was a tormentor. She would have been a loser, and I would have told my amazing child to mark this moment because this moment of power in this tormentor’s life was the highlight of her life, not her future. I would have told her that this girl would peak in power in this time whereas the rest of the girls would grow and become their most powerful selves later. Years later, we would have seen the girl on a bench in New York City, and it would have turned out that she wasn’t going to college, looked terrible – sloppy and out of it, and I would have reminded Sarah of the moment six years earlier when this personage owned the school space that was her universe and had the power to determine the standing of every girl in her small world. It would have been a moment.

I hope someone can more than fix the problem with school groups that address change in the school. I wish someone would figure out from whence it comes? Where does it originate? That’s the part that scares me the most. In this new world of the realization that positive energy begets positive energy, this negative, toxic energy has to be sucked out of our teen youths … now.

Parenting Personal Essays Women

My Mother-In-Law on Marriage

A new, but good friend of mine is getting married the end of this month, and I just found out that I can’t go because of a business situation. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and I want to offer her something – some amazing piece of information about marriage that will make up for the fact that I won’t be there. I really have no business offering advice on marriage. I’ve been married twice, both unsuccessful and am presently alone. This track record does not make for advice giving. What to offer…

My mind wanders to my mother-in-law. She was an amazing woman. She was ninety when I met her, and she happened to live in my apartment building before I started going out with her son. Once I was getting into a cab she was getting out of, and I reached into the cab to give her my hand to help her out. She swatted at me with her cane and said, “I can do it myself!”

When I realized her son was my boyfriend, I told him the story and he laughed. “Well, she likes to do things on her own, and it seems to me you would like someone like that. She’s not going to be in your space. And, you remind me of her.”

She taught me many things. She had really long hair, but no one ever saw it down. She told me her hair down was reserved for her husband and only when they went to bed. Her husband had been dead close to twenty-five years when I met her, and every day at 4 p.m., wherever she was, she went into a room by herself and chatted with his memory about this and that. Every day. Twenty-five years.

She told me that I should know that a wife needs to be three things to her husband: a wife, a lover and a mother. “Never be the mother in your bedroom, and never be the lover anywhere but the bedroom.” Made sense, and while it didn’t work for me, it was probably because I just couldn’t approach it her way.

She told me other things as well. She told me that if you need to use someone’s bathroom, you have visited long enough and it’s time to go home. She told me that she had taken 90 plus years to accumulate all the things in her vast apartment, and that I should mark her words that by the time she was in the ground, they would be dispersed. So what was the point? She was right — her things were gone quickly, and I remember now the lesson of the waste of accumulated things.

She was very French, and so is my ex. She tried to teach me French, which didn’t work out so well, through no fault of hers. She was explaining once about how you determine which things are masculine and which are feminine when you assign the masculine or feminine to the noun, and she said, “Look, it’s confusing because there is no rule. But here is what I’ve noticed. If it’s something of worth, something you need or would want, it’s masculine and if it’s frivolous, it’s feminine. Sad, Christine, but you know men and they designed the language.”

She was cheap and hard and also commited to me as a daughter-in-law more than I deserved. I visited her weekly, and when our daughter Sarah was born, she did too. I tended to dress Sarah in Osh Kosh overalls when she was a toddler, so she could crawl and explore. I would deliver her every Wednesday in her overalls, and she would be returned later that afternoon in a dress. We never discussed it, but I knew my mother-in-law loved it. So did I.

So, my advise to my friend whose wedding I will miss, who reads this blog, is that she should remember to be the three things to her husband-to-be. And, that she should take some real time to know her mother-in-law in hopes she can find in her what I found in mine.