More Than Just a Ride

On my recent trip to New Jersey, I decided to finally embrace another facet of twenty-first-century technology by ordering an Uber to get to and from the airport. I am happy to report that, despite my anxieties and fears, I did not end up buried in a landfill or swimming with the fish. Both drivers were professional, personable, and polite. It was my second driver, however, who impressed me the most.

When I glanced at the Uber App on my phone, I noticed that I was able to review his profile. I noticed Carlos was from the Dominican Republic, so I asked him if he had a story. He enthusiastically told me the tale of meeting his American wife while she was on vacation in his homeland. They danced the nights away, and she made many return visits to the island.

Five years ago he moved to America and married her, and now with his green card in hand, he is working as an Uber driver and studying to become a citizen. He proudly told me that he is enrolling in the local community college to study criminal justice with the plan of one day becoming a police officer. He hopes that, as a citizen, his mother will be able to join him here.

Although he did not speak English when he moved here, I was impressed by his command of the language now. I thought about all the people on the western end of the island of Hispaniola, where the Dominican Republic is located—the “shithole” country of Haiti as our president calls it—and wondered what he thought of his adopted country.

I told him how impressed I was with what he is doing with his life and said I hoped he was not discouraged by all the negativity towards immigrants of late. I thought of the talk of limiting chain migration—the program whereby immigrants already residing here can bring their family members to live in this country with them. Carlos sadly told me how much he misses his mama. Will she be able to someday move here?

As I listened to Carlos describe his hopes and dreams, I felt an increasing sense of worry for him. When I made the decision to dip my toe into the world of Uber travel, it never occurred to me how much more than a ride it would be. I wonder who I will meet next.

                                  UBER

Advertisements

A Birthday and No Friends?

We celebrated another family birthday this past weekend. It was held at a cute little place called “My Gym,” which reminded me of your days of gymnastics lessons at the YMCA.

As we all know, little children and the elderly do not have filters on their mouths, so Bryce made the comment that “Lily does not have any friends.” While that is true compared to the amount of friends that a child who has attended school for three years now has, it was not particularly complimentary.

I decided to check out your baby books to see if you all had friends at the tender young age of two. As the oldest child, Kelly was the only one who truly had friends that were not related. They were the three little girls from the playgroup which she attended beginning shortly after her first birthday. That particular year she had three parties. The first was with her neighborhood friends, the second was with her aunts, uncles, and the only cousin she had at the time, and the third was with her playgroup friends.

Jamie had two parties. The first was with her playdate friends, all of whom were the children of my cousins. We had lunch and cupcakes. Like Lily, Jamie was a fan of Minnie Mouse, which was exemplified by some of the gifts—a Minnie Mouse bank, Minnie Mouse Colorforms and a Minnie Mouse train.

Casey, sorry to say, you had only one party, which was with your sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I suspect that as the youngest of three girls, you primarily played with your older sisters. I made a Dalmatian cake, and you received a Dalmatian puppy, a desk from Dad and me, a Ninja Turtle mug,  a Magic Nursery doll, and an Ariel outfit, doll and puzzle. The Little Mermaid gifts should not be surprising since you have reminded me on numerous occasions that the movie was released on the day you were born.

So Lily, when you grow up and read the account of your second birthday and hear what your brother said about having no friends, Aunt Casey and you can commiserate over a glass of wine.

Detective Clouseau Returns

Back in May, I told you the story of my search for the rightful owners of some pictures from two of Grandma’s old photo albums. For seven months, I went full-speed ahead looking to match a photo with an interested relative. In a few cases, I was able to find a still-living person from one of those seventy-year-old photographs. It was great fun—like a living scavenger hunt.

Then I got busy with other projects and forgot about my mission. Earlier this week, I pulled out my folder of photos, dusted off my detective license, and decided to take up the cause again. I got two more hits.

The first was the daughter of a man who grandma had gone to a prom with at Princeton University when Grandma was sixteen. She looked beautiful in her gown, and he was handsome in his uniform.

             Isn’t She Lovely!

Like many of Grandma’s former beau’s, her date had an admirable career. This particular gentleman “possessed a profound insight into right and wrong” and was “an icon in the healthcare community.” Apparently, his granddaughter loves old family photos and supposedly would never forgive her mother if she did not accept my offer to send her the pictures. I was able to relocate eight photos!

The second hit was a woman in six photographs who lives just two hours from me. I located her grandson on Facebook, who sent a digital photo to her, and she told him that she wanted to speak with me. We had a lovely conversation Monday night. I was truly inspired by this woman, who at the age of eighty-nine answered my call on her smart phone, and then informed me that she recently bought herself a new car. She still drives. She sounded so alert and full of life and was quite eager for me to send her the photos—several alone, and one with Grandma.

It was a great chat, and I was so happy to speak with yet another elderly person, like Dad’s 94-year-old golfing buddy, who gives me optimism that not everyone ends up living out there final years in declining health.

Happy New Year.

Happy Happy!

Every year, the stupid talk about the alleged “Merry Christmas” ban begins anew. When I heard that our president was promising to bring Merry Christmas back again, I was honestly taken aback. I never knew those words were gone. Where did they go? Who took them away?

I say it to who I want without fear of being arrested by the Christmas secret police, but at the same time, I also am a fan of “Happy Holidays.” December is filled with many holidays, so saying “happy holidays” covers them all. It’s more considerate.

Thinking about all the controversy over what to say makes me think of my grandma. Baba, who spoke little English, would say to us with her very heavy Russian accent, “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Happy!”

She was way ahead of her time. In fact, while picking up our dozen icing-covered, cream-filled, glaze-encrusted box of Dunkin Donuts for our traditional Christmas morning breakfast, I told the cheery young lady behind the counter about Baba’s expression. She smiled and said she liked it.

So I am proposing that America adopt a new expression this holiday season: Happy Happy Everyone!

Personally, you can wish me whatever you want—Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Festivus, Happy Kwanzaa. I am just happy for the smiles and the goodwill.

The End of Innocence

At what age do children begin to lose their sweet innocence? As a grandmother, I have more time to observe than when I was a frazzled young mother of three, and I have concluded that it happens at some point during the fourth year.

Over the past few months, while enjoying many spirited afternoons sitting around the kitchen table playing Candy Land, I observed Bryce clearly cheating. One time the little trickster claimed ignorance when skipping ahead a few extra squares. “I didn’t know I skipped one yellow square.” Another time, I caught him not-so-slyly peaking at the cards while attempting to find the ice cream cone, which would put him near the finish line.

He knew what he was doing was wrong and was even familiar with the word “cheating.” I wanted to throw the book at him and vowed not to let to him win. This was war!

After returning him home today after his latest sleepover, Kelly showed us a broken ornament. Lily was the culprit, but at not yet two, I think she broke poor Cocky’s leg while trying to admire him. It was not intentional. Kelly told Dad and me that she had told Bryce that Bampa could fix it. Bryce had another solution.  “We should hide it from Daddy!”

Gone is the age of innocence.

Under Repair

The Entertainers

You come from a long line of entertainers. There was my grandmother’s great uncle Jack Blue, who was quite a famous dance instructor during the 30’s. He taught celebrities such as Katharine Hepburn, Bing Crosby, and Buddy Ebsen. Although I know those are probably unfamiliar names to all of you, trust me, those three were all very famous.

Several other members of our family entertained locally—including Grandma and Aunt Marian who loved to dance in church shows and at the local VA hospital.

So when the three of you were young, it was not surprising to watch you follow in their footsteps as you sang and danced to the tunes of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast.

Now we have a new generation to follow, and today Bryce gave his first performance at his “My Gym” camp. I have seen him perform his routine at home, but I was quite impressed to hear that he volunteered to do so for his new friends on the first day with them.

Apparently he is a fan of the movie Sing, and he absolutely loves to sing and play his little piano to the Elton John song “I’m Still Standing.” He especially likes to do a glissando.  That’s when you slide your fingers from the bottom to the to on the piano.

I am sorry I was not a fly on the wall of that gym because I hear that the instructor found the song and flashed the lights while he performed. I can’t wait for Lily to join his dance troupe.

                     http://bit.ly/2kFghuC

Back in Time with a Slice of Pie

While Dad and I were awaiting our order at the Kroger’s deli counter the other day, he began chatting with one of their cooks. After what seemed like the end of the conversation, the chef left, but then returned a few minutes later and handed Dad a plate of freshly-baked pizza. What a nice surprise!

The best part of this unexpected treat came when I bit into it and was once again transported back in time—this time to the kitchen of my childhood. That supermarket pizza, while not the tastiest pizza I have ever eaten, was nevertheless the best memory-jogger of the month.

I know I have mentioned how Grandma discovered how to fulfill the meatless Friday Catholic Church obligation by substituting her creamed tuna on toast delight with homemade pizza. However, I don’t believe I shared her recipe with you.

As a very busy mother of five, she resorted to short-cuts often.  Grandma purchased frozen bread dough at our local supermarket, which she used both for pizza crust and “homemade” hamburger buns. She thawed the dough, carefully spread it out on a Crisco-covered cookie sheet, opened up a can of tomato sauce, and topped the whole mess with mozzarella cheese. There were no meat or vegetable toppings. It was simply a plain cheese pie and we loved it.

While the Kroger pizza sauce was definitely tastier than the canned sauce from Grandma’s pantry, that crust definitely tasted the same as her frozen dough crust. With a smile on my face, I told the Kroger cook about my mother’s pie, and Dad asked him if he had made it on site. “No, it comes here frozen!” Aha!!

I headed to the frozen-food department in search of the frozen dough. Alas, it was not to be found, but now I have a new mission in life, which is to find that frozen dough so I can recreate Grandma’s famous pizza. I think, however, that I will add our old familiar twist, which is our traditional pie topped with (can you guess?)…. meatballs, peppers, and onions. Yum, yum!

                http://bit.ly/2BuKqai