Just One Moment

I just can’t ignore this historical event. I spent one year sharing memories of my life—some as silly as the admission that I once brushed my teeth with Bengay pain relief cream or the fact that I spent many summer days trying to catch birds with a salt shaker. I blogged for three years about Grandpa’s very unusual childhood growing up in the Soviet Union. This week it’s time to step back and be happy for the historical moment unfolding at our feet.

My grandmother—Grandma’s mother—was finally able to cast a vote for president when she was twenty-five years old—in 1920—which was when my father was not yet walking.

Among Grandpa’s newspapers I found a newspaper published when I was about to enter eighth grade. A careful look at the employment ads shows that they were separated into what someone determined to be “male/female jobs.” These were the days when women worked as secretaries and men always ran the show.

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When I went to college in 1973, my plan was to be a math teacher. Perhaps an engineering career would have been a better fit, but it just never occurred to me. No one suggested it; no one planted the idea in my mind because engineering was typically a men’s field at the time.

Now I have lived to see our first black president, and this week, I am watching as the first woman has been nominated to run for President of the United States. While I understand the dislike of Hillary Clinton by some, I do not understand why all women cannot step back and think about how far we have come since that election in 1920 when my grandmother—and all women—were finally allowed to vote. Now my granddaughters can truly grow up believing that they can be anything.

My dream is that for just a moment, all women can put aside politics and be excited for how far we have come. I would hope that if Grandpa was alive today, as the father of three daughters and a grandfather of seven granddaughters, he could appreciate that moment as well. Why not for a least one moment?

It’s the Corky’s Truck

Dad and I checked out the new Kroger Marketplace on opening day, and I must say, it was definitely not a Shrek. It was the most impressive supermarket we have ever been to, and I was particularly excited by the wine and cheese department. I was going to finally treat myself to my first royalty-check bottle of wine, but I need to do some research first. If I am going to spend more than $10 on a bottle of the fruit of the vine, I want the purchase to be memorable.

When we got to one of the frozen-food compartments, I saw something which took me down memory lane to that Memphis vacation again—a box of Corky’s Ribs! I think Dad’s job in Memphis is when he first fell in love with barbecue (He may say it was at the Tunnel Barbecue in Windsor Ontario but let’s go with Corky’s for the sake of this story.)

When we all joined him at his hotel, he was eager to bring us to his new favorite restaurant, which I believe was conveniently located across the street from his hotel. I cannot deny that their ribs were delectable, and their barbecue turkey was tasty as well.

As you remember, we liked it so much that when his job in Memphis was done, we would periodically have Corky’s delivered to our house in New Jersey. It would be shipped FedEx, arriving packed in dry ice, and as kids, you not only had a meal to eat but the ice to entertain yourselves.

I am not certain who first came up with the idea of renaming the FedEx truck, but whenever a shipment of Corky’s would arrive, you would shout out, “It’s the Corky’s truck.” To this day, when I get a delivery from that truck with the familiar arrow, I think first of those ribs from Tennessee. I guess we will have to try them again someday and see if we still feel the same.

The Skinny on Moon Day


“To commemorate the anniversary of the first moon walk on July 20, 1969, and to accord  recognition to the many achievements of the national space program, the Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 101, has requested that the President issue a proclamation designating July 20, 1971, as National Moon Walk Day.

Now, Therefore, I, Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate July 20, 1971, as National Moon Walk Day. I urge all Americans, and interested groups and organizations, to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs designed to show their pride in this great national achievement.”

Does anyone really know who is really responsible for the celebration of Moon Day? I am sure extensive research may result in a name or two, but our family knows the truth, and I am providing the evidence of proof that it was Aunt Ar.

Six months before the historic moonwalk, her fourth grade class was given a lesson on how to write a business letter. When instructed to write a letter to anyone of their choosing, she decided to write a letter to President Nixon, suggesting that a holiday should be created honoring the day man first sets foot on the moon.

We all know that she did get a response from the White House.

Dear Arlene,

The President has asked me to reply to your letter, concerning your suggestion (moon day). Although certain holidays are of course observed practically everywhere in our country, there are in fact no holidays legally designated as national.

Each state has jurisdiction over the holidays it will observe. Federal jurisdiction is limited to the District of Columbia and federal installations throughout the nation.

It closed, “With the President’s best wishes.”

I believe that the letter contained a card with President Nixon’s signature.  Grandpa wanted to determine if it was authentic or just a stamp. He said if it was real, it would smear if it got wet. Well, Grandpa did the test, and I think it passed the authentication test.

Did Aunt Ar save the letter and the signature? I am guessing not, but let’s wait and see what she says. Perhaps like some of Grandpa’s letters, hers will someday be stored at the National Archives.

In any case, Nixon did declare it an official day of celebration in 1971, but according to the article in the Boonton Times Bulletin newspaper, it was unofficially first celebrated on that July day in 1969. Thank you Ar!

Moon Day- page 1Moon Day- page 2




Hiking With Grandpa

Bryce likes the outdoors and is particularly fond of going on hikes. Hearing him talk excitedly about his adventurous treks with the family reminded me of hikes with Grandpa when I was young—either at Grace Lord Park in Boonton or at the bigger park—The Tourne.

I must have taken you all to The Tourne, but my only memories of this park are of going there as a child. There were several trails meandering through the woods, and at least one of them lead to the top of the Tourne, which provided great views of the New York City skyline.

Grandpa sometimes enjoyed going off-trail, creating his own path through the woods. He instructed me to break a tree branch every few feet to mark our trail on the way up the mountain, so that we could return by the same route using the broken branches as our guide. This did not explain what to do if we got lost going up, but he probably knew the way and, as a kid, it was a fun lesson.

He would point to the rock-covered mountain and explain that this was the remnants of the ice age, so I got a science lesson along with our outdoor adventure. When we reached the top, we’d sit on one of the sheets of rock and enjoy the view.

I must have been quite young because in my memory, he and I went alone. I suppose my other siblings were stuck home with Grandma, so this was a treat to be able to go out in the wilderness of Boonton with just Grandpa. As one of five children, there were not many opportunities for alone-time with either of my parents, so this was a special memory.

Here’s a photo I found of a more grown-up me at the top of the Tourne. I had gone there with some high-school friends. I was too old to go with my dad by then.


Mom 2.0

When I die, many, many years from now, at least one of you—maybe all of you—will speak at my memorial party. (Yes, party and not service!) I know I have been annoyingly providing suggestions for my obituary (lots of details but I want it to paint a picture of me too), the music (Barry Manilow among others), and thoughts on the dress code (nothing dreary).

Dad and I were watching a show on TV the other night—Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. I particularly love Lily’s character, Frankie. The particular episode which precipitated this story was called “The Road Trip.” Frankie convinced Grace to go on a road trip in search of Grace’s old love, who Frankie was able to locate using her superior stalking skills.

Frankie said something that made me jump up and run to my desk so I could write what she said down, knowing I would forget it in the morning. It was so me—a description which I told Dad should definitely be used in my eulogy.

“I am an amateur sleuth with limited self-control and a computer.” Come one, girls. You all know this would make a great opening line at my eulogy or eightieth birthday roast. Does it not sum up me during this part of my life?

Think of all the people I have been able to find—both living and dead. Remember how I took the yearbook I found in the attic, which was from the year Dad graduated, and set out to find its owner? It did not belong to Dad.

I found the father of the owner and even spoke to him on the telephone. He told me where she was currently living, but mentioned he had not spoken to her in years.

I hung up the phone feeling happy that I had located her, yet at the same time, quite sad to hear an elderly father share this information with me, a stranger. So I took a photo of the yearbook and her diploma (which was tucked carefully inside) and mailed it to her. I got no response and concluded she did not wish to be found. Maybe she is in Witness Protection?

Anyway, the point is that I have become “the amateur sleuth with limited self-control and a computer.” So when the time comes, remember to include those words as part of my story. You will have other thoughts and memories I am sure, but you know this speaks of Mom 2.0


We Just Wanted to See Casper

You live in a world where getting information at the snap of a finger is normal. It is so much more difficult to get lost because we have our GPS devices in our cars or maps on our telephones. Yet I know you are old enough to remember the days before our many devices directed us towards our destinations.

Today, I would like to discuss our trip to Memphis in 1995—specifically, the trip to the movies.

Dad was working there for about a year, and we had driven down to visit him and see the sights. One day, you all wanted to go to the movies. I’m not sure which one. It really doesn’t matter, but still, I Googled movies out during that summer and up popped “Casper” starring Christina Ricci. That must be the one.

Anyway, back to my story. We set off in our green minivan from our hotel, headed in the direction of the theater. Obviously, I was not familiar with the area one bit and I am directionally challenged. I am the first to admit it now to Dad. I cannot hide the fact after so many years together.

Iit was just a short drive away, and I had already traveled so far with little trouble (except driving around Washington DC, but that’s another story) from New Jersey to Tennessee so I thought this was going to be easy peasy. I was wrong!

We were driving merrily along the highway when we came to a sign—the proverbial fork in the road. My choice was to head e1ither toward Jackson, Mississippi or St. Louis, Missouri. There was no indication which direction to choose when looking for the movie theater.

I panicked and chose the wrong direction which resulted in us arriving at the theater two hours late. So we saw the next show, and I somehow figured out how to drive directly back to the hotel. I probably asked, which is why, to this day, I say it took two hours to drive to the theater and fifteen minutes for the return trip.

You Can’t See That Movie. It’s Condemned


My grandmother (Grandma’s mom) had a subscription to a weekly newspaper called The Beacon. It was a Catholic newspaper published by the Diocese of Paterson. As a kid, I found little of interest to read in The Beacon. There was no advice column, no comics, and no television listings. There was, however, one extremely interesting column—the ratings by the Legion of Decency, which morphed into the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures.

Each week when the new movies would premier at The State Theater, I would grab my grandma’s latest edition of The Beacon and head immediately to the page with the movie reviews.

This was prior to the ratings you all knew and loved as kids when movies were rated G, PG, P-13, R, and X. The Catholic Church had a much more imaginative system. You will love it!

  • A: Morally unobjectionable
  • B: Morally objectionable in part
  • C: Condemned by the Legion of Decency

The A rating was subsequently divided:

  • A-I: Suitable for all audiences
  • A-II: Suitable for adults; later — after the introduction of A-III— suitable for adults and adolescents
  • A-III: Suitable for adults only
  • A-IV: For adults with reservations

What, I always asked myself, is “for adults with reservations?” Well wonder no more because I went to the current site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which explained that “this indicates films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, are not for casual viewing because they require some analysis and explanation in order to avoid false impressions and interpretations.”

I am positive that Grandma read this column in The Beacon, and that is probably why I was not allowed to watch Romeo and Juliet, which was showing in theaters when I was in eighth grade. Grandma must have learned about the topless scene. To this day, I have never seen this movie.

There is a list of movies which were condemned by the Legion of Decency and I must admit, many of the movies which were slapped by the “C” rating are quite surprising. Supposedly, any film with divorce, homosexuality, premarital sex, and abortion would all result in a film being rated as Condemned.

Among the lucky “C” films are:

1959: Some Like It Hot

1960: Psycho

1964: From Russia with Love

1967: Valley of the Dolls (That was the name of the book assigned to me in college which Grandma told me I had to read with my eyes closed.)

1968: The Odd Couple (One of Dad’s all-time favorites! Shocking!!)

1973: The Exorcist

1975: Rocky Horror Picture Show

1976: Carrie

1978: Grease (Can you believe that! I am a bad mother I guess.)

The American Catholic Bishops are still rating movies today. Here is there newly revised classifications:

  • A-I— general patronage
  • A-II— adults and adolescents
  • A-III— adults
  • A-IV— adults, with reservations (this indicates films that, while not morally offensive in themselves, are not for casual viewing because they require some analysis and explanation in order to avoid false impressions and interpretations)
  • L— limited adult audiences, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling (replaced A-IV classification Nov. 1, 2003)
  • O— morally offensive

You are all adults now. I just can’t do everything for you, so before you see another film, I am trusting you to check out the ratings and let your conscience be your guide.




Fourth of July Confusion


Today is Independence Day, which got me reminiscing about what we did to celebrate the day as a family. Growing up in Montville, our town’s celebration usually occurred the weekend prior to July 4th. It always made me laugh, because I always was amused that they called it “The Fourth of July Celebration” even if the festivities and fireworks occurred in June.

The parade would march down Changebridge Road, and end at the fairgrounds at the high school. As Girl Scouts, you would march in the parade and I seem to recall at least one of you marching because you got some kind of “intellectual award.” (Feel free to correct me.)

When you were little, Dad and I took you to the carnival and I think one of your favorite rides was the giant slide. As you got older, we eventually allowed you to go with your friends. That was a big deal not going with us. We would park on the field adjacent to the library  and then walk down the hill to the fair where we ate junk food, went on the rides, and watched the fireworks.

Eventually, we went to Don and Patty’s house—the site of the most awesome barbecue ever, which is sadly ending this year after 21 years. After stuffing ourselves with everything from burgers to fried turkey and shrimp that Chef Don prepared on at least four grills, we would head to the end of the street to watch the fireworks. Don would ferry chairs and coolers down to the viewing field, and we would all ooh and ah at our town’s spectacular display of colors—complete with patriotic music in the background.

One year, we all piled into the family truckster and headed to Kiawah Island, SC where we celebrated 4th of July with Aunt El’s family. We rented bikes, decorated them with red, white, and blue streamers, and rode in the island parade.

Now you are all grown up and we are now four families, each one celebrating the 4th this year in a different state—SC, NC, MD, and NJ. While I look back with fondness on those days of our family celebrations of your childhoods, I am not sad. I am happy that you have found success, happiness and independence.