Cookies Like Memory

He cut the grass, and then it rained. And then the sun came out and the blazing heat resumed. It smelled just like my grandmother’s house during our vacations in the 1950’s and 1960’s. My grandmother lived in Miami Beach.  I have lived in Florida for almost 15 years, but it has never smelled like Florida to me until that very moment.

Every summer we would go to sleep-away summer camp in Vermont, as the children of a working divorced mom. After that we always went to our Grandma Jennie’s house in Miami Beach for a week or two.

My grandmother made these amazing cookies, crunchy and not too sweet, that she kept in a hall pantry closet and doled out two at a time to my brother and me. For special occasions she made what our family calls the “cherry cookies”, very labor intensive and very yummy. I make both sometimes, generally as a gift for someone in the family as much as a gift for myself. She always made them in the shape of our initials, T for me and P for my brother. I continue that tradition, it makes them taste more like memory. I have never quite duplicated how they tasted when she made them. Like New York bagels, I think it is the water. Maybe just the taste of her fingers on the dough.

On those gloriously free summer days in the Florida heat we would go out in the afternoon sun showers and dance on the lawn in our white cotton 1950’s underwear. We would walk every day and in the little neighborhood park we would stand at the flagpole where she taught us to pledge allegiance with our grubby  hands over our hearts. We would stop at the crest of a walking bridge over a canal and look for dolphins and rainbows. We would go down to the sea and she would hold us on her lap in the ocean, bouncing with the waves, and she would sing to us “By the Sea”. That melody still comes to me occasionally unbidden.

My grandmother was an amazing woman. She lived to be over 100 years old, retaining her faculties and her home well into her nineties. When her neighborhood became predominantly Cuban, she went to the local senior center and learned Spanish so she could talk to them. When she did not feel safe to drive, she walked about four miles to groceries and back. She was extraordinarily self-sufficient, her husband having died one summer in his sleep when we were little and we were there. I went to Miami Beach once in my free wheeling hippie days with a ridiculously tall boyfriend with ridiculously long hair. It was Christmas time, although I don’t recall that she celebrated Hanukkah or Christmas, and we just turned up at her door. We were welcome, of course, because with Jennie you never ever judged a book by it’s cover.

I have long though of her as the single most influential woman that has been in my life. Not to negate my mother’s influence, of course. And I deeply regret that in my unconscious twenties and thirties and my insanely busy forties I did not find the time or energy to be more in touch with her. Life lessons, learned too late and generally unheeded by the young coming behind me.

It is useless to regret but some regrets are unavoidable, they teach us not to make the same mistakes again. But the lessons, they are to be cherished and taken to heart. This amazing woman had standards of behavior that were clear and important, but she also accepted everyone for exactly who they were regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, appearance or anything else that might make them different.

In that moment when my lawn smelled like Florida at my Grandma’s house so long ago, I hoped that I had become half the woman she was. It is good that the bar is set high.

HELP~?

So being laid up as I have been is a different kind of experience.  This is when being single gets interesting.  I am a generally independent sort and for the last ten days I have been mostly helpless as a result of surgery on my feet.  Now we don’t think about our feet all that much, until the can’t be used!  And if I am up too much they definitely let me know.

As a result of this, I have been forced to ask for more help than I am really comfortable with.  And it has forced me to think about why we are so resistant to asking for help.  Do we think we aren’t worth it?  Or that people secretly don’t like you and just won’t show up?  It is odd.  Giving help comes completely naturally, it is just what we are supposed to do.  Getting help, what an emotional struggle.

I have been so blessed with friends who did show up.  Dinner has arrived at my house every day for eight days.  Take out filled in the rest.  I have discovered Grub Hub, but that is a story for another day.  People have taken out my trash, gone to the store, called every day, driven me to the doctor and sat in the house while I took my first shower.  My son has shown up every day since he came back to town, just to see if I need anything.  He is cleaning the pool and other sundry tasks.  All the minutiae of everyday life that you need to be on your feet for.  I thought I was super prepared, hah! That’s a laugh.

And so, having to learn to accept help with grace and gratitude, that is the lesson. I believe there is a lesson in every experience, we just don’t always know what it is.  When my father had dementia and lived with us, the lesson was patience (I have had a few lessons on that…).  When my marriage ended, the lesson was that I am quite enough all by myself.  That prepared me a bit for this next lesson which is that I am not always enough with out some dependence on people who love and care about me, whether I believe I am worthy or not.  I am not sure how gracefully I have managed this but I know this – I am overwhelmed with gratitude!

Things I Want My Son To Know #1 ~ Vote

So. . . I was thinking (I know, you can stop laughing now). If I had a short time to live and my son was still a teenager, which he is, what would I want to say to him, as his mom, his teacher, what would I want him to know? Better to write it down now I think, maybe then it won’t be needed. Either way, a legacy of lessons. If it is, there it will be, one task done. Lots of you will laugh but since I think each blog entry should be about one thing, here is my one thing . . . VOTE. Sounds silly? I am not sure when I became such a promoter of democracy. I know that in the better part of my working life I felt close to the constitution because of what I did; I always felt like a warrior in my role which was in defense of the little guy and in defense of the constitution. But as usual, I digress. I believe, in every aspect of life, that you earn the right to bitch about things by being willing to be part of changing them, by stepping up and raising your hand. Everyone in America these days has an opinion, more often than not a loud and relatively uninformed opinion. Which brings me to a subset of VOTE which is “be informed”. It seems to me that many young people these days have little sense of the world and what goes on it it, despite how global and technologically connected we all are these days. And how few of them have any sense of what news outlet has what bias? Very few I imagine. You can’t intelligently exercise your right to vote if you have no idea who and what you are voting for. But I believe with all my heart that the two most precious gifts our democracy gives us are the right to speak our minds out loud and the right to change things with our vote. No matter how obnoxious your views are to me or how much I disagree, I will defend at all costs your right to express them so long as they don’t actively create actual or immediate harm. And no matter how small or large the election, no matter how local and no matter how much you might think it doesn’t matter, VOTE, exercise your right to be heard. Then you can be heard to complain.