Monday, March 30, 2009


Growing older doesn't mean that my mental abilities will automatically be decreased. Maintaining an active mind is the key to staving off mind loss and Alzheimer’s, say the experts. With this in mind I have two favorite exercises that I practice every day. The first one is reading.

I listened recently to an authority on sleeplessness and he stated that one should never read in bed. I guess his reasoning was that reading would stimulate the mind and tend to keep the reader awake. It acts precisely the opposite way for me and the last thing I do every night is read a chapter or two. It works better than a sleeping pill.

My second exercise is working a crossword puzzle. I do this in bed also...first the puzzle and then the book. I'm definitely a creature of habit.

I don’t like to think that I have an obsession to working crossword puzzles but an unsolved one, wherever I find it, is definitely a lure. That’s why I had to laugh when I saw this cartoon.

I remember so clearly being stuck in a Doctor’s office, waiting to be worked in and knowing I would be the last patient of the day. I spied the local paper and was comforted by the fact that I could while away the time by doing the crossword puzzle. When I opened the paper and found that the puzzle had been cut out I almost cried with frustration.

Joseph Addison has said, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body”. I would add crossword puzzles to that. A daily dose of the two of them present me with a mental playground where I can romp to my heart’s content.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A MELODIC MEMORY … San Gimignano, Italy

Recently I watched the enchanting movie “Tea With Mussolini”. It is the story about the plight of English and American expatriate women in Italy during WW II.

This is a 1999 drama and features Cher, Joan Plowright, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Lily Tomlin as the women involved. The story that evolves is both heart-warming and amusing at times. Most of the filming was done in Florence but the end of the movie takes place in the nearby towered city of San Gimignano.

I was very excited by this because my son and I had just enjoyed a day there in November of last year. We had actually spent quite a bit of time in the town’s main church, the Duomo ... where the women in the film successfully save the frescoes from the ravages of war.

It was my second visit to San Gimignano and, as my son and I wandered the streets, I hoped against hope that the same musician who I had photographed before would be there still.

Of course this didn’t happen, but my imagination brought him back to life and I described it to my son.

It was March of 2003 and my friend and I were wending our way to the highest point of San Gimignano. We were surprised to hear music long before we saw anyone playing.

As we approached the crest we saw the musician, who resembled a monk but was more likely a performer who hoped to augment his income by an afternoon’s performance. He had somehow managed to tote his harpsichord over the cobblestone paths to this lofty spot.

We were the only people there so we sat on the grass and soaked it all in ... the magnificent views, the intriguing musician and his medley of Baroque tunes and the total serenity of it all.

Five years later my son and I stood in the same spot and relived that bygone concert. As it had then, this became a highlight of our Italian journey.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

RITA, the “FEMALE NOMAD” and I meet, 2003

In 2001 “Tales of a Female Nomad” was published. It was not an overnight success but it has gained in momentum over the years and I, for one, could not put it down. Basically it is the story of Rita Golden Gelman (author of over 70 children’s books, including the popular “More Spaghetti, I Say!”) who left a failing marriage in 1985 and began an adventure that continues to this day.

She struck out on her own and this is the story of her journey. She travels to Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, Bali and New Zealand for starters. She has little money but she has a gift for connecting with people and this stands her in good stead all over the world. The reader is privileged to be part of her transformation from an unfulfilled suburbanite to a liberal and self-assured woman of the world.

Rita has no permanent address and no possessions except those she can carry. But she does have a website and an active following who e-mail her faithfully. At this writing she is working on her “Gap Year Project”. In a nutshell it’s her dream to have High School seniors take a year off before college to visit other world-wide life styles. You can read about it at her website.

In 2003 I was thrilled to read that she would be spending the month of September as the guest of the Omega Institute in Dutchess County, NY. I knew that she would be giving lectures and readings for the staff but I had no idea if I could be included, as a non-paying outsider. My daughter and son-in-law have a business in that County and we were all anxious to meet her.

I e-mailed Rita and she wrote back to say that the lectures were closed but that we could certainly meet for lunch. And that’s what we did. My children, a friend and I spent 3 hours over a leisurely lunch and I came away with a feeling of awe and respect for her. She is totally dedicated to “living at large in the world” and her inspirational journey is a testament to the fact that we can all live together in peace.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Well, it was a bulls-eye for me anyway ... and it was a complete surprise. I had never heard of Myla Goldberg, nor had I read a review of “Bee Season”, although I see that it actually came out in 2000. I had picked up the book at my local library because it was on the “new arrivals” table. (Our library is very small and all the books are donated so “new arrival” simply means that it is new to our library shelves.)

By the time I was half way through the book I was hooked. I was enthralled with her descriptive ability and the scope of her imagination. It reminded me of the earliest works of Joyce Carol Oates.

The story centers around Eliza Naumann, the 9 year old daughter (and youngest child) of a Jewish family of four. When she, surprisingly, shows great aptitude in spelling they are amazed. She wins her school and her district spelling bees and almost wins in the national competition in Washington, DC. Eliza has been a so-so student until now and the father, Saul, is amazed and overjoyed at this turn of events.

Saul and Eliza spend the next twelve months feverishly training for the following year’s “bee“. Father and daughter become engrossed with this new venture. They see little else and completely fail to realize that the rest of the family is falling apart.

Aaron, the son, is swept up in his quest for spiritual fulfillment and Miriam, wife and mother, comes apart at the seams when her secret life of 18 years is finally unraveled.

The twists and turns of this novel make it a marvelous read. A little research on my part revealed that Myra Goldberg received awards and much acclaim for this book ... where was I during all this ??

“Bee Season” was actually made into a movie in 2005. I have it on my Net-flix list and will watch it this week. I can’t wait to see how they portray Miriam’s kaleidoscope. (You’ll have to read the novel or see the movie to see what that means !)



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The MATRIARCHS ... Grandma and Mother

One dictionary definition of MATRIARCH is: “a mother who rules her family or tribe; ...a woman holding the position analogous to that of a patriarch.”

That would certainly apply to the two women in the pictures. They are my maternal grandmother and her daughter, my mother. They both outlived their husbands and “ruled” well in to their 90’s.

I could relate many tales of their strength and wisdom over the years. They were, to my mind, the type of women who fit perfectly into the role of the matriarch. It was a great comfort to be able to pick up the phone and call Mother, knowing that her advice would always be there for me, for life-shattering moments or just to be reminded of the ingredients for a favorite recipe.

And now I AM THE MATRIARCH and it always takes me by surprise when I think of it this way. I don’t know about the rest of you women out there but my insides definitely don’t match my exterior. Gray hair, a college degree and 75 years of experience don’t wipe away the little girl that dwells within. I still want to be reassured by my mother that “all will be OK”.

In 1950 there was a wonderful TV show that was based on the best selling book by Kathryn Forbes, called “Mama’s Bank Account”. Mama was determined that her children would grow up secure and well educated despite the fact that they were always just one step away from “the wolf at the door”.

However, she always had her bank account and she would assure them that it would be there as a last resort. It carried them through many rough spots and it wasn’t until after Mama died that the family came to realize that her “bank account” did not exist ... at least not in the form of money.

As the matriarch of my own little kingdom I will try to keep her resourcefulness in mind. I hope my three children will always come to me for aid and comfort and to someday realize that I did the best that I could ... albeit with a deception or two along the way.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


The year: 1950 The town: Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts The place: Bendslev’s Luncheonette The Waitress: Me

This was my Senior year in High School and I’d worked at this small restaurant on weekends and after school for three years. It was a “Mom & Pop” operation owned by Mr. & Mrs. Perkins, who were also my neighbors.

Although we had a soda fountain we had no counter seats so it was more like a tearoom in atmosphere except for the clientel. The food was very good and inexpensive so the town workers and students were our best customers. We had a large share of children too since the only movie theater in town was located in the same building.

The Perkins’ also made their own candy. They would often leave the “upstairs” (the restaurant) to my care and they’d retire to the basement where they had a “candy” room. This was an air-cooled, enclosed area with marble counters and molds and they would pour, box and label the candy down there. Everyone in the restaurant would know when they were making a new batch because the aromas seemed to seep up through the floor and we would all groan with anticipation.

The menu never varied and I remember the daily lunch special was a “triple sandwich plate”...3 half slices of bread with three salad toppings, Egg, Ham & Chicken, served with a pickle and fruit in season. Of course we had a wide variety of sandwiches besides this but the busiest section was the soda fountain.

Frappes, Floats, Milkshakes, Malteds and all the ice cream delicacies were dispensed daily but the favorite, by far, was the “Black Cow”. This was my favorite too and I prided myself on concocting the best “Cow” in town. To make sure that the foam wouldn’t overflow the glass I would put a small amount of vanilla ice cream in the glass first, then slowly pour in the Root Beer. I would then, gently, place a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. It would foam up and look great but it wouldn’t make a mess.

I loved that job and Mr. & Mrs. Perkins were very good to me. When I decided to transfer to Boston University for my last two years of college I lived at home and, once again, I worked for them. This was in 1953 and ‘54 and it was the perfect job for a college student. I ate well, made a fair salary and good tips and even kept up with the movies. But, best of all, I could have a “Black Cow” whenever I felt like it !