Nothing Lasts Forever

I envy people who have  a green thumb with houseplants. That’s not me. I try, but I just can’t do it. Usually the plants would survive for a brief time, and then very slowly, they would begin to gasp for air and then wither and die.

Dad and I had a plant that required very little sunlight. It was a housewarming gift I believe. We named it Wendell and he lived for many years. I was hopeful that perhaps I had finally learned to be a good plant parent. Wendell was supposed to have a long life expectancy, but I eventually killed him before we left our New York home for New Jersey, where we lived for sixteen years.

I made many friends in New Jersey, and I truly believed that I would remain a Jersey girl forever. As you all know, nothing last forever. When I announced to my dear friend Margaret that we were going to move, she gave me a beautiful house plant as a going-away gift.

Getting a plant from most people would normally be considered a gesture of kindness, but I believe Margaret knew that I did not have a green thumb and therefore purposefully chose to give me that plant rather than an arrangement of flowers. She gave what appeared to be a gift given out of kindness, but I believe she was secretly chuckling at her present to me.

But I was determined to get the last laugh. I carefully tended that plant, and moved it ever so gently from house to house to house—North Carolina to Georgia to South Carolina. It thrived. But then Margaret got sick, and I became more intent on keeping that plant healthy.

Margaret died four years after giving me that gift. One year, we had an early frost, and when I went out to the porch and saw the wilting brown leaves, I was devastated. That plant was my living link to my friend. I removed the dead leaves, and as the plant continued its downward spiral, I added a buddy, hoping that would help my plant survive.

Sadly, like my friend Margaret, my plant did not make it either, so now I have the lovely blue and white ceramic container to remind me of her. In the summer, I fill it with beautiful annuals and think of her. At Christmas time, I fill it with stones and add candles.

Nothing lasts forever, but memories do.


Miles Apart Now

You know I went to two colleges—Douglass, which was the girls’ college of Rutgers, and then junior year I transferred to Montclair State. The order was so wrong. Starting out living away and then spending the last two years as a commuter was not a good idea from a social standpoint. But I had a lot of reasons, so I had to figure out how to meet people.

My friend, Lisa, started out at Montclair from the beginning, and I knew her because we had the same uncle although we were not related to each other. Growing up, I occasionally got thrown together with her so we naturally gravitated to each other. when I transferred. Lisa’s BFF was Mitzie, who went to Seton Hall, so on the weekends we all spent time together.

We were always looking for something to do. One night, we were so bored that we started calling Fairleigh Dickinson dorms in the hopes of finding something to do. We didn’t.

Another time, we staged a kidnapping.  I believe Mitzie was the victim. We blindfolded her and drove to a drive-in movie theater on Route 10 in Morris Plains.  I don’t recall the movie, but I remember the laughter.

One summer, we took a trip to Wildwood Crest.  I think the three of us, along with another friend, got an inexpensive hotel somewhere. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we cooked some of our dinners. Since I had spent so many summers there with my family, it was exciting to finally spend my vacation there with just my friends. So many kids today take off for Florida or the Caribbean, but for me, this was my big college trip.

I always felt so jealous of the two of them because they dated so much more than me in college. It was ironic that I ended up the first to marry!  But all three of us are still married to our original spouses, which is quite unusual these days.

Daddy had that apartment in Knoll Gardens—the same complex where Jamie and Geoff also began their marriage. After we got engaged, I spent a lot of time at Dad’s apartment preparing for the reception with my friends while he was off traveling.  That was during the disco era. We practiced our disco moves so we would be able to perform on the big day.  Those were happy memories for me, so it is sad that the three of us are so far apart geographically.

I never made it to Lisa’s wedding.  I always felt bad about that.  Her wedding was the same weekend Dad’s father died so it was unavoidable, but I was still so sorry for missing out on her day.  She got married in her home somewhere in New Jersey and then settled down in Pittstown—in Huntertown County. She is still in the same house so many years later.

Mitzie and I, however, have not had such deep roots.  Who has had more homes?  She had five homes in four states while I had six homes in five states so I am the winner. I guess that is because I married the Wandering Jew.

Our Other Thanksgiving

Dad and I have been trying to figure out when we began to celebrate the other Thanksgiving and who initiated it. What we do recall is that it evolved from a conversation with a few of Dad’s friends  about how much we all enjoyed Thanksgiving, but since it is typically a family holiday, we would never be able to celebrate turkey day with our friends. But why couldn’t we just choose an earlier day in October or November and then gather with our friends and create a second Thanksgiving? Why not?

Thus began a new tradition.  Sometime between 1978 and 1980, we picked a date and a venue and doled out menu assignments. I believe the first celebration was at Steve and Donna’s apartment. You may not know, but Steve and Dad have been friends since third grade. That friendship has lasted as long as mine with Karen—55 years. That alone is cause for a celebration!

The original gathering was small. There were only six of us—Steve and Donna, Mickey and Ivonne, Dad and me. No children, just three old friends and their wives. I believe, though, that I was the odd person out since everyone but I grew up in Yonkers. But as you know, they are all great friends and I always felt like I was part of the gang rather than the new kid on the block.

We each contributed something from our own family traditions. I remember that the most unique dish was when Ivonne hosted dinner and we had a Cuban turkey, which much to Dad’s delight, meant a spiced turkey stuffed with peppers and onions.

Somewhere along the line, Dave married Barbara and they were added to this other Thanksgiving feast as were Billy and Robin. Each year, we alternated houses, and as the babies came, the number of seats at the table increased. I think, in the end, we had somewhere around twenty-ish.

When we moved to New Jersey, the dinners ended up at our house most of the time—over the river and through the woods to our house they came! Sadly, once we moved to the South, the dinners ended. As far as I know, no one continued the tradition. But for twenty-five years, we always had our special dinners.

We have kept in touch and have gotten together just a few times in New York. The last time was at Jamie’s wedding last year. I am sad to have seen this wonderfully special and unique tradition end. What is more amazing than the number of years we had these celebrations is the fact that among these five couples, there has not been a single divorce. That is so rare today. The only marriage not intact is because of death, not divorce.

Every year I think of those dinners. I miss them and cannot believe we did not take a single picture.