Monday, September 19, 2011

We Launch Into Our New Lives

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We have been driving back and forth from Philadelphia to Baltimore for almost eight years and I thought it funny recently when I spoke to Saul about having lunch at Thai Orchid (which used to be on our way to visit the kids in Baltimore) on our way to see them. The restaurant is not on our way to Cherry Hill. I haven’t quite gotten used to the mindset that they are an hour and a half closer now and a lot more accessible.

We have had some really good times despite the melancholy that reigns sometimes after the girls go home after “Camp Bubbie and Saba.” Saul and I console ourselves with the privileges of empty-nesters, which is to say that we are able to just pick up and go anywhere whenever the impulse strikes and we don’t have other commitments. For the last few weeks, we have had relaxing, last-minute, dinners in restaurants that we like, reveling in our ability to have an uninterrupted adult conversation.

Our 40th wedding anniversary, which occurred at Labor Day Weekend, was a total washout because of my high fever caused by cellulitis. After spending Friday morning at the doctor, and the afternoon at the dentist to see if I had a gum infection, I spent the rest of the day in bed while Saul ate leftovers for Shabbat dinner. I spent Saturday afternoon in the emergency room of Lansdale Abington Hospital, afraid that the rash on my left ankle was due to a reaction to the antibiotic the doctor had prescribed for the fever, Clindamycin. Saul spent much of the time catching up with paperwork and prep for school that had been put off during the summer.

Jess, Alex, Elaine, Saul and I had a conference call with Sami when she returned from her first day at middle school and she absolutely loved it. One of her teachers turned out to be Alex’s camp counselor and was well known to our family as well. Jess and Alex (Ari, Aaron and Naomi, too) went to the same overnight camp as children, but didn’t really know each other then. Sami made two new friends and had lunch with them and was very happy. The next day, when she went to the teacher to explain who her parents were, after school, she missed the school bus as he enthusiastically hugged her and told her she looked just like her mother. Jess had to pick her up. Izzy was equally happy about her new school and friends. Yona had a few days before beginning her new day care.

The following weekend was such a wonderful, impulsive, and enjoyable one that we have been pleading with Jess and Ari to institutionalize it so that we can do it once a month from now on. Saul had to be present for Team Children in the morning. I was speaking to Ari on the phone while Saul was there, and we decided that it was such a beautiful day for a drive that we would meet on the Eastern Shore at Harris’s for a leisurely late lunch by the waterside. Then, we spent the evening browsing in the Queenstown Outlet Shopping Center, where I found some great buys on outfits that I love for the holidays. By 11 p.m., we arrived at Jess and Alex’s house and visited with them for an hour. We left Ari’s car in NJ and he drove us home in our car. We were in bed by 1 a.m. In the morning, we spent a little time schmoozing, a little time shopping, and then we drove back to NJ to meet Jess and the girls for lunch. We had intended to have lunch at the Afghan restaurant that we had enjoyed a few weeks ago, Ariana, but when we arrived, we found that it is only open for dinner on Sunday. That particular strip mall had a number of other ethnic restaurants from which to choose—Indian, Mexican, and Chinese, as well as a coffee shop and pizzeria. We chose the Chinese because, as usual, the girls wanted sushi, which was available there. The restaurant Chez Elena Wu, was a great and pleasant surprise for us. We weren’t expecting much, given the impromptu nature of our visit, but we loved it so much we can’t wait to return. We all had bento box lunches. The menu provided for a wide range of choices of soups and entrées and everything was delicious. The miso soup was exceptional, as were very delicate and flavorful vegetable dumplings, and the best ginger salad dressing on the crisp salad that I have ever had. The fresh and expertly made sushi was prepared by a sushi chef as the girls watched. Even the tea was a cut above the usual with a nice smoky oolong flavor. The tempura veggies were light, crispy, and ungreasy, as they should be. The glazed salmon was a hit, too. Also included in the bento box lunch was a California roll, which was the usual, and a big scoop of good steamed white rice. Everyone loved their lunches and we ate everything. We had the whole, nicely-appointed and exceptionally clean restaurant practically to ourselves, a boon with small children. The seven of us sat at a lazy susan table, which was very convenient. Our waiter was also unfailingly attentive, and polite, and was very understanding of our requests.

After lunch, Jess took the girls shopping for a cell phone for Izzy. Saul, Ari and I visited Saul’s mother at Lion’s Gate, which is across the street. Saul has been very antsy about going there. We were supposed to visit the previous Friday when I got sick. His mother no longer recognizes any of us, probably doesn’t know who she is anymore, and doesn’t remember that we have been there five minutes after we leave. While she is always smiling and content when we visit, it is a shock to see her this way, and it leaves Saul, especially, disconcerted and sleepless for a few days. We had not been to see her for several months, and Saul was worried that perhaps she was suffering and we would not know. The visit this time put that fear temporarily to rest, at least. She was pretty much the same as the last time. We went to her room and found that she had many baby dolls, both boys and girls reposing there. She had been carrying a boy doll when we arrived and added a girl when we visited her room. When we left, she was positioning the two dolls on the chairs where we always find her when we visit. Other residents were playing bingo with a staff member when we left.

We parted after a rendezvous and brief visit back at the house in NJ. Ari drove back to DC over a much more pleasant and shorter route than when he comes to visit us, and we drove home, stopping for a brief shopping foray at IKEA in Plymouth Meeting.

Wednesday, we met Ken and Randi for dinner at Bonefish Grill. On Thursday, Jess asked us to meet the girls’ school buses and pick up Yona from day care and some time in Alex’s office. She left early in the morning to spent the day working at her job at Pearlstone Center in Baltimore, and Alex had tons of work preparing for the beginning of the school year. I drove to CHC and met Saul after school and meetings and we drove over to NJ together to meet the girls. There was a special program from Izzy’s school at Springdale Farms. Jessica told us it was a harvest festival. I took a Zyrtec when I discovered from the flyer that it involved a hayride (hay fever :P), corn maze, and cider with warm donuts. Just as we arrived with the three girls, the outdoor temperature dropped suddenly about 20 to 30 degrees and a gale-force wind began to blow, followed a few minutes later by heavy rain. As Alex arrived to meet us with jackets, we had just enough time to finish our donuts and cider and go home. Izzy was very disappointed. Alex made the girls dinner as Saul and I headed for a dinner on the road and then home. On the way back, I snapped a photo of the most beautiful sunset I have every seen in my life as we headed over the Ben Franklin Bridge into Philadelphia. The photo, which I took as an afterthought from the car window, a little too late, doesn’t begin to do it justice.

My brother was hospitalized on Thursday when, during a routine checkup, he complained of pains in his leg and it was discovered that he had a large dvt (deep vein thrombosis) at the top of his right leg and two smaller clots in his lungs. My dvt ten years ago was in exactly the same place. He was released on Saturday morning, once his blood had been thinned enough to a safe level.

Friday, I had a doctor’s appointment for my yearly checkup. Before we left, I poached pears and made the dough for the first of the year’s round challot. On the way back from the doctor, Saul and I stopped at CHC to pick up my car from the day before, at Impact! to drop off a bag of unwanted clothing, at Babies R Us to pick up a gift for Jamie’s “sprinkle” on Sunday, and at Trader Joe’s to pick up some odds and ends, and then went home to finish preparing dinner. We were joined at Shabbat dinner by Larry, Faith and Beth. Dinner was homemade challah, homemade guacamole with multi-grain chips, beet borsht with warm boiled potatoes and sour cream, seared sesame tuna, homemade potato salad, buttered steamed asparagus, and a warm, sautéed pear dessert.

On Saturday, we went to synagogue. The day marked the end of the shloshim (30 day mourning period) for the father of our baal korei, (Torah reader) David, and his sister, Atarah. It was, coincidentally, the end of the shloshim for Atarah’s husband, Ira, who had lost his mother. We attended a Shabbat luncheon, sponsored by the bereaved, at which David delivered a shiyur (study session) in memory of his father.

Sunday morning was Jamie’s surprise “sprinkle” or little baby shower. She had been in a minor car accident earlier in the week in a loaner car while hers was in the shop, and had been hospitalized overnight as a precaution because her air bag had deployed. Randi and Haley managed to pull it all together for the party. Jamie had begun having some contractions the night before, but got through the party okay. Ken, Andy and Saul (who was kind enough to drive Adele, Beth, Erica and me to the party in Delaware) hung out at a sports bar for a while during the party. Ken was feeling a bit under the weather, too, but managed to get through everything okay. On the way back, we stopped at the tax-free Costco in Delaware to pick up a few items.

Jess and Alex’s devastated house has begun to come together nicely. The outside pipe was repaired this week, and her powder room and foyer are just about complete. The replacement flooring is curing at her house, ready to be installed in a few days. The girls each have their own rooms which they are settling into nicely, and a playroom where they spend most of their free time. It was a blessing that they all had great experiences with school from the beginning. Ari is becoming more comfortable with his new job and is settling into that new routine. Neri has begun his military service. Saul’s new school year got off to a shaky start with lots of cancellations for flooding, but now is kicking into high gear. Our paths and patterns have changed, hopefully for the better, in a way that will bring us all closer together.

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