Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lightening Up… (continued)

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Our whole third week of June was spent clearing out junk and room-by-room, fulfilling a four-page punch list that was given to us by the realtor who had sold both Beth’s house and Jamie’s house in record time, Linda Ventola. This included such items as replacing bedspreads, towels, bathmats, lamps, chandeliers and faucets. We stored, moved, donated and sold many items of furniture. We gave away my large color Tektronix laser printer to a Masonic brother of Saul’s. We wrapped most of our art, photographs, and cherished bric-a-brac in bubble wrap and stored it away. We covered our old-fashioned looking sofa with a new, leather-look slip cover. We washed all our windows inside and out. Linda recommended a cleaning service that was remarkably efficient. Having cleaned my house myself all these years, it was a pleasure to have absolutely everything spic-and-span all at one time. Except for Passover, I clean on an as-needed basis.

That Friday, we went to Jess and Alex’s for a special Shabbat dinner to say goodbye to Sami who was leaving for Camp Ramah on the following Thursday. By Sunday, Father’s Day, we were sick of rearranging and going through boxes of dusty papers and books, but the clean-out work was almost done and we had completed much of the four-page list and were feeling very satisfied as the house began to shape up. Jess was checking out items for her new kitchen at IKEA in Plymouth Meeting and afterward, decided to drive over with Sami and Izzy to assess our progress and have dinner with us. Alex had taken Yona to visit his mother in Cranberry. We had dinner at Tamarindo’s, which worked out beautifully because they had vegetarian and fish options that we all loved. Saul had a whole crispy-skinned grilled red snapper and, of course, I was high on their incredible free margaritas. Jess presented Saul with a new cover for his iPhone that had photos of the girls laminated into it. I slept like a baby that night between the margaritas, the fact that the house was almost completed, and that we were signing the papers to put it up for sale the next day.

Linda seemed extremely pleased with the choices we had made based on her list and we signed the papers while her assistant, Michelle, photographed each room. Within the next couple of days, we finished most of the final touch-up that was necessary.

On Wednesday evening, June 20, Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El officially moved out of the building that it had erected as its home for over 50 years and into its own wing of a building occupied by Keneseth Israel on the Old York Road Corridor a few miles away. After a light dinner and mincha service, with klezmer accompaniment, our 11 Torahs were removed from the aron ha kodesh (ark) and placed in the hands of people seated in a number of convertibles that had been assembled in the parking lot for the purpose of moving them to their new home. The temperature outside was in the high nineties, but at least it was not raining. While the congregants drove over and waited for the Torah procession to arrive, our ranks swelled as we were joined by many other members of the community and members of KI. The convertibles parked at the police station a few blocks away and selected members were honored with the privilege of walking the Torahs the final distance and carrying them into their new home, among them, Saul and Larry, who is presently co-president of the congregation. The event was so well attended that every chair in the facility was pulled into service and there was standing room only in the back. Welcoming speeches were delivered and our first ma’ariv service was held in the new building. A lavish dessert buffet followed. Our friend, Faith, who attended also, met us a little later at Friendly’s for ice cream to celebrate as there was such an unexpectedly large crowd surging toward the dessert table we were a little “cowed.”

Early Thursday morning, we drove to Cherry Hill to see Sami off on the bus to camp. Then we took Izzy and Yona to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden for the day. We had a blast there! The crowds had not yet arrived and Yona had an entire tank of manta rays practically to herself in a special tot area that was built especially for small children. For once, Izzy was too tall for an activity. On the third floor, a large area had been opened designed especially for children so that they could climb, crawl, play, and make music. We stayed until Yona showed signs of exhaustion. Saul was thrilled because after he dropped us at the entrance, he discovered a parking area right next to the handicapped area especially for hybrid cars. The temperature hit 102 degrees that day, and we were very thankful for the short walk back to our car.

We called his sister to see if she wanted to join us for a late lunch. She had just moved into her new apartment and when we arrived to pick her up, she came armed with coupons for a nearby Chinese buffet that was excellent. Yona had fallen asleep almost immediately when we got into the car and it took her almost an hour before she was fully awake in her umbrella stroller in the restaurant and ready to eat something. The selection of food was so extensive, feeding the koi in the fountain in the lobby so entertaining, and the afternoon so hot and humid that we lolled there for several hours sampling various tidbits before taking the kids home. We were so full that dinner was out of the question. As we returned home, Saul got a phone call from our Craig’s List ad about our pool table, the last item left in the basement. We had arranged for Danny to clean and paint the floor, and were afraid he would have to paint around it. Therefore, we were delighted that evening when the three guys arrived with cash, a pick-up truck and the know-how to move it out.

The next morning, the house spotless, lock-boxed, uncluttered, and ready for presentation, Saul and I packed our bags and headed for a mini-vacation with Ari in DC. We had a great, relaxing time. I had not done any personal shopping for summer clothes since last year and most of my tops had small holes in them from repeated washing. Why are most clothes now being made out out of tissue-paper thin cotton or non-breathing rayon or polyester? We spent an enjoyable afternoon together at the Queenstown Premium Outlets and sitting at the waterside at Harris’s on the Eastern Shore. Ari, Saul and I were all extremely pleased with our purchases. We ate out together at some of our favorite places. We did little chores around Ari’s house, like hanging art, doing laundry, stocking the refrigerator, etc. During the week, while Ari was at work, Saul and I took a drive through the National Arboretum. With scores of trips to DC over the years, we had never known it existed, and had been driving by within two blocks of it since Ari’s days at GW. To say we were blown away by the size of the grounds, the beauty of the landscaping, the incredible buildings and facilities, and the diversity of the flora and fauna would be an understatement. And of course, like most of the activities of this type in DC, it is all free!

We returned home in the evening of June 26. Our friend Larry, who is single, was due to have laparoscopic surgery on the morning of June 27 to repair a fistula. Larry has not been in good health since back in September of last year and has been in and out of the hospital while doctors have been trying to find the source of the problem. A bout that put him in a hospital while he was traveling in Cuba recently was the last straw. We waited at Abington Hospital, along with his friend, Ken, while the surgery was performed. When it was over, the surgeon told us that he had discovered a hard baseball-sized mass that required more extensive surgery to remove. Larry wound up with a larger incision and two resectionings. The mass turned out to be benign. The surgeon told us that he would be hospitalized for at least a week. We had expected him to convalesce with us after two days. We stayed with him for a few hours when he was brought up to his room. Then together, we made the decision to return to DC as he would be under constant professional care and would have plenty of friends to visit him and look after his needs. We could always return home in three to four hours if necessary.

We used Thursday to catch up with mail, laundry, and finishing a publication on which I had been working. Saul, who is now president of the faculty senate, had scheduled a meeting at Chestnut Hill College for Friday late morning. On Friday morning, we again packed our bags, headed to the meeting, delivered the disc for the finished publication to my client, and then traveled on to DC. We picked Ari up from work and had an early dinner at The Heights nearby in Columbia Heights, Ari’s neighborhood.

Later that evening, a huge thunderstorm with over 80-mph winds swept through DC downing huge trees and power lines which caused a near catastrophic power outage for more than 1.5 million customers in Virginia, DC and Maryland. We were among the lucky ones because we did not lose power at all. During the following week, and for 11 days in all, temperatures in DC hovered around 100 degrees. With no air-conditioning, and facing a possible week of those temperatures with no power, and in some cases, no clean water, families all around the area underwent hardship and stress, while road crews came by the hundreds from as far away as Canada to work under sweltering conditions to restore power as quickly as possible. Everywhere we traveled, unusual conditions prevailed. In Target, people were sitting around on the floors near electrical outlets, cooling off and charging their cell phones. A Thrift Drug that had retained their power while most of their neighborhood had lost it had been just about cleaned out and was in the process of restocking. Traffic lights that were dead for days, even at large intersections, required careful traversing with the prevailing understanding that they were to be treated as two-way stop signs. The Motel 6 chain in certain areas near DC was charging $500 per night. The local news channels interviewed people that had to trash large quantities of expensive food stored in their freezers and refrigerators. The malls were inundated with people trying to cool off and get something to eat. Several people were killed or maimed by falling tree limbs. During the height of the storm, I was never so happy to be in a 103-year-old, three-story, brick row house. Despite all this, we elected to stay in DC in the comfort of Ari’s air-conditioned townhouse because as things turned out, Larry was hospitalized for almost two weeks.

On July 4, we had breakfast at a dim sum restaurant we recently discovered in Silver Spring, Oriental East. It was as good as the others we usually frequent, but was much less expensive. Then, we went for a drive out to Costco in College Park, but found it closed for the holiday. Since we were already part of the way there, we then drove to Arundel Mills where we toured Maryland Live! the new casino there. Ari played the slots for a while and won a grand total of less than $2. At least he didn’t lose! We spent a few hours happily and successfully shopping at the mall before heading back to DC for the national fireworks display. We arrived half an hour early and found a parking spot near a high school that sits on one of the highest vantage points overlooking the Washington Monument. We let the air-conditioning run until it was time to walk a block down to view them. They were as spectacular as we remembered from picnicking on the fourth, by Lincoln’s left foot at the Lincoln Memorial, on the National Mall, for several years while Ari was in college. The crowd in which we were standing, fueled by much partying and beer, was high spirited and, at various intervals, broke into spontaneous renditions of “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Returning to Ari’s, we discovered that we no longer need to stand in a crowd in 90-degree weather. From his roof deck, we had a 360-degree view of multiple professional fireworks displays, some so close that the ashes were falling onto the roof and we discovered later that we had all been blackened from leaning on the railings. The displays, both homemade and community, continued until well past midnight. Next year, we hope to host a party at Ari’s house. During our time in DC, we also saw the movie, Moonrise Kingdom, which was offbeat and charming, at the E Street Cinema. We tried a new restaurant that opened down the street from Ari, Kangaroo Boxing Club, that has johnnycakes that are habit forming. We also discovered a great joint in Silver Spring, Urban Barbecue.

We drove back home on the Sunday afternoon following July 4. Not a soul had visited to look at our house the entire two weeks we had been away, and since it had gone on the market. Very discouraging! On Monday, after unpacking our suitcases, we went out for breakfast and a dozen bagels at Manhattan Bagel. Then we began shopping to restock the house, first at Trader Joe’s, then at Costco, and then to Produce Junction. Around noon, we got the call from Larry that he was expecting to be released shortly. We went home, unloaded all the groceries, and then drove to Abington Hospital. We all waited, impatiently, for three more hours until they finally released him just after he had dinner. As we drove home, we called our friend, Faith, who was picking up Larry’s mail and asked her to join us at home for pizza and also to bring the mail. I called and ordered the pizza and it was delivered just a few minutes after we arrived. Larry was in good spirits, being out of the hospital, and joined us for a slice and to schmooze for a little while.

On Tuesday, while I did laundry from our trip, I made Larry some scrambled eggs for breakfast. It was the first decent night’s sleep and decent meal he had had in two weeks. I spent the afternoon preparing some food for the week, deviled eggs, cup custard, kasha and bow ties, and seared tuna.  A visiting nurse came to see Larry and change his bandage.

We all took it easy on Wednesday. I blogged all day while Saul spent most of the day reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a rare pleasure for him. We had watched the English language movie together at Ari’s, which had spurred him to read the book. Now, he has to see the movie again so he can understand what he was watching. We defrosted a big container of Alex’s smoked turkey soup with matzoh balls and had it for dinner. Larry’s health has been improving with each passing day.

By Thursday, Larry needed us to take care of something at the bank for him, and while we were out, we decided to have lunch at a new Hibachi Buffet Restaurant that was opening a little north on Rt. 309. We were disappointed to find that it was still under construction. We decided to have leftovers again for lunch at home. Later in the evening, while Larry turned in early, we treated Ken and Randi to dinner at Earl’s in Peddler’s Village. I had been holding a certificate for the place for almost a year. When I called to make a reservation and gave them our last name, they knew Saul’s first name from a previous reservation. We have not eaten there in at least six years, so I was shocked that our name was still in their database. The ambiance of the place is top notch and the food is all locally-sourced. We shared a couple of appetizers, and salads. Our entreés were expertly prepared and beautifully presented. The service was friendly and very efficient. We went back to Ken and Randi’s for a while after dinner to catch up with each others’ lives and try to plan a trip to Florida for Thanksgiving.

Since there had been no calls on showing the house, and no signs that there would be, I decided to mess up my kitchen by making Shabbat dinner at home. Our realtor told us that she had sent out 3,500 flyers initially and received not one response. Very discouraging! First thing in the morning, Saul took Larry to his doctor for removal of his staples. I stayed home and blogged. When the guys called to say they were on the way home from the doctor, and it went okay, I made a batch of challah dough and got ready to go out to lunch with them. They picked me up and we drove over to nearby Metropolitan Diner where the owner, Jill, who was a student at Engineering and Science of both Saul and Larry, stopped by our table to chat with us for a while. We drove across the parking lot and I ran into Costco myself to buy a few items while the guys waited. Then we made yet another trip to Trader Joe’s so Larry could walk around a bit. I spent the afternoon preparing dinner—homemade challah, chicken soup and matzoh balls from my freezer, baby spinach salad with hot sesame dressing, chicken paprikash, kasha and bow ties, steamed cauliflower, and jumbo peanut butter, oatmeal, and raisin cookies. Faith joined us for dinner. I really missed Beth! Larry went off to bed early, Faith left shortly after, and Saul resumed reading the book that was consuming him. I polished off the Sunday New York Times Crossword Puzzle in two hours before I fell asleep. I am now playing the puzzle on the iPad that Larry gave me for my birthday, and it is so much nicer to use than pencil and paper! I am allergic to inks and toners, so taking the iPad to bed with me to read a book or play games is so much cleaner and hypoallergenic!

Larry wasn’t up to Saturday morning services yet, so we stayed in and relaxed on Saturday, having a large, late, lox and bagels breakfast. I caught some old movies on television and put the house and kitchen back into its formerly pristine state, while Saul finally finished the book. Larry’s co-president, Lori, and her husband, Saul, came for a visit on Saturday evening.

Sami was due to return from her half session of camp on Sunday and the kids were leaving the next day for a beach vacation with Alex’s mother and sister and brother’s families. Saul and I drove over to Jersey with all our beach paraphernalia for them to use, hugged and kissed our granddaughters to pieces, and had an early dinner at Yuki Hana, a new all-you-can-eat sushi joint that is near their home. Sami chose the restaurant, having been seriously starved for sushi at Camp Ramah. From her conversation, we could tell that she truly enjoyed camp very much. We headed home early right from dinner, as most of Sami’s clothes had not arrived yet from camp or had disappeared in the laundry and Jess needed to buy her some things to take on vacation. Later that evening, a violent thunderstorm rolled in with continuous loud crashes of thunder and lightening right over our heads.

This morning, I went with Saul to the doctor for him to have overdue blood work and a routine check-up. The regular nurse was on vacation and the substitute gave up after two sticks. As a result, we had to spend an additional hour and parking fees at Abington Hospital for them to take his blood sample. He had been fasting for the sample, so he was quite hungry by the time they were finished with him. We had a nice breakfast at Lancer’s Diner, across from the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, where Saul had been stationed for boot camp and training when he was a teenager. Jacksonville Lancers was also the name of his drill team while he was serving time in the Navy. Gazing at the airfield through the large windows as we had breakfast brought back lots of old memories for both of us. The day turned into a rather hedonistic one in the end. We drove from Lancer’s to Grin Nails in Spring House where we both had mani/pedis. Neither of us has done this in a few years, and Saul was long overdue. His feet in sandals were positively awful and we bought him a great pair of casual shoes on our shopping trip to hide them. Among our wonderful treatments as we sat side-by-side were hot rock massages to feet, legs and backs. While I had taken Saul with me for pedicures a few times a couple of years ago, he had never had a manicure before. I think he enjoyed it almost as much as the pedicure. By the time we arrived home, I think Larry, who has been feeling better each day was getting cabin fever. He wanted to drive somewhere where he could walk a bit with a shopping cart for support. We had forgotten to get Saul fish oil capsules that he takes for his arthritis on our previous forays, so we went back, yet another time,  and bought some other odds and ends as well. Larry was doing so well and it was such a beautiful day that we asked if he wanted to go for a drive to Owowcow for ice cream. He had never been there and was game for it. We drove the 23 miles to Ottsville, and each of us had the 5-scoop, $5 special because we could not decide on just one or two flavors. None of us were hungry for even a light dinner after that. Returning home, we lounged for a couple of hours before we finally were up for some food. I made Larry another scrambled egg and Saul and I had tea and crackers.

In the afternoon, as we had pulled up to Costco, our realtor called to tell us that since we had put the house up for sale, nothing had gone up for contract except a couple of houses that were very low end. She felt that the record heat and July 4 holiday week had made people lethargic about looking for new homes. We decided to wait and see if things pick up next week. With Larry convalescing here and the girls coming for an abbreviated Camp Bubbie and Saba next week, we are not pushing at the moment. We are enjoying our “light” house for now and trying to remain positive. We feel that we have done everything in our power to make this happen, and that it will happen when it is time. Both of us believe that things happen a certain way for a reason and we are content to wait and see how the future develops.

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