Sunday, November 22, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

I realized recently that my blog is being read on Facebook by many who do not realize that there are photos, slideshows and videos attached, so hereafter, my blog posts will begin with a live link to my blog. If you are reading this at already, just ignore.

I was feeling depressed and tired last Thursday morning (November 19) and went back to bed after making Saul’s breakfast and after he left for classes. I was dozing and having a really having a hard time getting up when the tail end of a conversation between Matt Lauer and Scott Hamilton intruded on my consciousness from the television which I had failed to turn off. I opened my eyes just in time to see bald, old Scott Hamilton sailing through the air in the back flip at the end of his routine. Suddenly, I felt ashamed of myself for letting my approaching big birthday get me down, along with all the old memories of pleasant times, long gone, that were evoked this past week. If Scott can do that at his age, I can get out of bed and get myself in shape, too.

Tuesday, November 10, was spent in a surprisingly delightful way preparing for and cooking a meal for 50 people in the kitchen of MBI-EE. Our friends Jerry and Betty arrived here at 11 a.m. just as I had finished loading the car, and we had a great conversation on the way there. About an hour later, the first of the volunteers arrived to help prepare, later joined by Saul, who arrived after school, and, at the end, Larry, who also arrived after school. By 4 p.m. we had finished preparing everything and cleaned up. The atmosphere in the kitchen was absolutely congenial! We had to turn away volunteers who were disappointed that we did not need them. Tired, but satisfied, Jerry and Betty, Larry, Saul and I had a wonderful dinner together at Jasmine in Glenside.

On Wednesday morning, Adele came early bringing some of the contents of her attic to sell to Amanda from Sazz Vintage Clothing who was here at 9 a.m., right on schedule, to look over Mom’s clothing. I was delayed by phone calls in my bedroom, and as I walked into Mom’s room to join Adele and Amanda, my breath left me as Amanda began lifting a spectacular pink net dress out of a large green trash bag. A vivid memory of Adele coming down the stairs looking scintillating in that dress flashed before me, and once again I remembered the look on the face of her rather nerdy-looking date, Aaron, as she descended the staircase. The dress was strapless and completely made from layers of pale pink netting. The full skirt was appliqu├ęd with pale pink velvet roses with green velvet stems and leaves which were set with a sprinkling of rhinestones. Amanda was very happy to purchase that dress along with many other outfits that both Mom and Adele had saved. I could not believe that we were still in possession of clothing that had been worn in the 1950s and 60s. I can imagine the effect that dress will have when restored to its original glory and worn by a new fashion-savvy teenager at some prom in the future. Mom had an elaborate old sewing box and Amanda was really delighted with that as well. Adele and I spent the rest of the morning going through Mom’s clothing that Amanda did not want and could not squeeze into her car, including items of clothing that had remained in the attic after she had been here the last time during the summer. When we finished, we had 36 trash bags full of clothing. I though that was interesting considering that we had 36 suitcases that we gave away to the Salvation Army after our summer garage sale. We had just enough time to meet my old schoolmate, Roxy, and celebrate her big birthday with a delicious lunch at Blue Sage in Southampton. We had a great time conversing, and a great lunch topped off by a shared chocolate panini for dessert, one of my favorite desserts ever. I think the lunch was cathartic for Roxy who, along with her husband, George, had just gone through the trauma on Monday of having to put their old and suffering dog, Jake, to sleep. Saul arrived late after a long meeting, but Beth came over and helped him load the SUV with the bags in time to drop them off at the Salvation Army store in Lansdale before they closed for the evening.

Wednesday evening, we ordered a pizza and Beth brought over her two new housemates, Manuel and Ilsa, along with a great bottle of wine. We all seemed to have lucked out at finding each other. Beth is delighted with this lovely married couple as they are considerate housemates, and they are delighted that Ilsa no longer has to commute to Warrington from Deptford, New Jersey, to her job as a dietitian in a nursing facility. Manuel, who was a CPA in Mexico City, has been looking for a job in this area. During our evening together, Beth and I realized, almost simultaneously, that Manuel might be able to fill a job that Ken had mentioned to us at lunch the previous week. Ken interviewed him and sent him there and, although they did not want him for that particular job, they liked him so much that they offered him another opening they were trying to fill that will take advantage of his Spanish-speaking abilities with extensive travel. In the course of our congenial evening together, we learned that they had rented out their house in Mexico City and had come to the United States with the offer of a job from a friend in Texas. Shortly after making all the arrangements, the friend was laid off along with most of his department, and the person who was supervising was sent to another branch of the corporation.

The dinner we had prepared on Tuesday took place on Thursday evening. I went shopping to pick up a few last minute items. Saul and I picked up Natalie on our way there and stopped to pick up a few more items at Produce Junction in Glenside. Jerry and Betty greeted us when we arrived, a little freaked out at the lateness of the hour, but everything was ready, thanks to the help of competent volunteers, right on schedule. In eleven years of catering, I don’t remember a single incidence where the diners, without exception, were as delighted with the dinner as they were that night. We had cod lamaize on lettuce cups with grape tomatoes, assorted twist rolls, marinated salad, brown basmati rice, haricots verts with cashews, apricot-glazed boneless chicken cutlets, and jumbo oatmeal peanut butter and raisin cookies. Exceptional plates of gorgeous pareve chocolates were prepared by one of our congregants, Susan, who makes them professionally. Some were lightly gilded, others were shaped liked leaves in keeping with the fall theme, some like honeycombs, and with various flavors and textures, such as mint, nuts, and pretzels. Enough food was left and put away in the freezer and refrigerator, after everyone had eaten their fill, to produce a small luncheon the following week. The speaker, Alan Butkovitz, newly re-elected Controller of the City of Philadelphia, was knowledgeable on a number of topics regarding city planning and responded well to questions from the audience. That night, I slept like a baby. The satisfaction of having pleased that many people so thoroughly was a joy to me.

Friday, we finally remembered to take to car to the dealer for its scheduled check-up. Saul and I had breakfast together at the Perkins across the street, receiving the call just as we were finishing that the car was done and was in great shape. Larry and Beth joined us for Shabbat dinner. We had home-made challah, home-made smoked turkey and split pea soup, home-made guacamole, stuffed cabbage over pappardelle noodles, and gezer hai. For dessert, we had pareve chocolate mousse crepes.

Last weekend, while Saul was volunteering with Team Children, I napped and did the New York Times Sunday Crossword puzzle. The weekend was fraught with tension as I began to discover more and more problems with the upgrades we had installed which inhibited my ability to get my computer work finished in time for deadlines. Late Saturday night, Saul was up until three in the morning, saving my files, wiping my hard drive clean and beginning the process of reinstalling everything. Early Sunday morning, we transferred my working files to a laptop so that I could continue to make progress on meeting my deadlines this past week.

The whole week was spent in great tension, working long hours on an unfamiliar and ill-adapted computer. One of my clients made life even more difficult by changing the format of their publication without any understanding of the process by which it is produced, and then asking for changes just at the moment when it was about to go to press. Saul has been an angel about trying to get everything working smoothly for me again, and it has not been easy, I have not been an angel, nor are we finished with the problems. To break the tension, I baked cookies and mandelbread. Our exterminator was coming for his routine spraying on Wednesday and, now that the plants are in the garage for the winter, I have the area around them sprayed, although not the plants themselves. I figured I had better pick and make use of my gigantic limes before the spraying, so several hours on Wednesday were spent preparing my favorite lime cornmeal cookies and lime and anise flavored mandelbread.

I spent a few hours on Tuesday going through a large carton of greeting cards that my mother had saved for many years. I had asked Adele to pull out any that had personal notes written in them, but evidently the task was too heart-wrenching for her. We had saved them for one of Adele’s neighbors who uses them for craft projects, but found that she was no longer doing them due to an illness. As I was dumping them from the carton into a trash bag for recycling, I realized that there were still photos and notes among them. A number had been sorted into a manila folder on which Adele had written, “greeting cards that Mom kept because she treasured them.” I opened every single card after my discovery, sorting out the ones on which lengthy notes were written and the ones containing photographs. I also sorted out all of Ken’s Bar Mitzvah cards including many from friends and relatives who died many years ago. After going through all the cards, I realized that my heart had been totally wrenched and that Adele had a theme going of which I had never really been aware. For many, many years, Adele had been purchasing large, exquisitely-decorated, sentimental cards from all of us for Mom’s birthdays and for Mothers Day. I realized this toward the end of sorting through all the cards and felt really bad about tossing them out in a trash bag. So, I dumped them all back in the carton and went through them one-by-one again, removing any that said Mom, Mother, Dad, or Father. I plan to make a scrapbook with them for Adele with a still-in-the-wrapper scrapbook that we also found among Mom’s things.

Thursday, I went to Faith’s Talmud study class where one of the themes we discussed was the abundance of prayers that exist in Judaism to show our appreciation for even the smallest of life’s blessings. Saul and I had dinner that night with Adele and Ken at a new restaurant, Luigi’s in Warminster. Ken called the following day to ask if I still had the bag of cards, as one of his secretaries recycles old cards into Christmas wreaths. By a stroke of luck, or perhaps inexplicable coincidence, Saul had neglected to put out the recycling on Thursday morning, and the bag of cards was retrievable from the trash bin. Soon, they will be new again.

We spent this past Friday morning at the doctor’s office for routine blood work for Saul. His blood pressure was great in spite of all the tension. After his fast, we had breakfast/brunch together at The Cheesecake Factory in Willow Grove, absolutely the best place to have an omelet in the area! They gave us such a big booth that we called Larry, who lives nearby, to see if he wanted to join us. Our phone call found him sick in bed with a fever.

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and preparing Shabbat dinner. I invited Beth to bring Ilsa and Manuel for dinner and they were our only guests this week. We bought a variety of Middle Eastern food at Costco so that Saul could treat his global studies students with the leftovers this coming week. We had Manchego and membrillo, hummous with pine nuts, tzatziki, peach mango salsa, and crackers, home-made challah, potato, leek and Cope’s dried corn soup, vegetable lasagna, kohlrabi coleslaw, and fresh-from-the-oven warm home-made chocolate chip cookies with French-roast coffee. Life is indeed very good for us, and in keeping with the theme “Everything Old is New Again,” I will try to stay more upbeat about my upcoming big birthday and see if I can find ways to renew my old self.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The chocolates leaves, made by Susan Nachmann for the Men's Club Dinner, were based on the JTS pin for the current Torah Fund Campaign.