Writing Letters

Dear Father Time,

You’re moving too fast. Thanks to you, the day barely gets going and next thing you know the sun is setting. And gosh darn it, it happens every day! What’s up with that? I think it’s time you put mom at the helm. Continue reading

My Mother’s Sewing Machine

There are shelves in my garage that contain boxes. Boxes of my children’s artwork from their elementary school years. Boxes of old letters. Boxes of books. And, on the bottom shelf is a box that has been taped shut for years. I’ve never opened this box, as its power over me is still too strong and I worry I might fall to pieces if I do.

Inside is my mother’s sewing machine, the kind that has a mechanical foot pedal, which has to be pumped with your foot in order for it to function. Once, there was a time that it was in constant use. But, for nearly two decades, it has remained untouched.

I remember how my mother would sit for hours, sewing. Her worn hands threading the needle, using her best scissors to cut the material, then gently guiding the fabric so that the stitching would line up perfectly.  And, wherever you were in the house, you could hear the machine’s gentle hum, as her right foot pressed down on the pedal, again and again.

Coordinated dresses, courtesy of my mother.

Coordinated dresses, courtesy of my mother.

My mother could be on her feet all day long, preparing coffee for my father, ironing his shirts, making the beds, or weeding in the garden. But, after dinner, she’d steal away for a few hours of peace, and sew. That sewing machine became an extension of her, as she poured her secrets, her passions, even her sorrow into it, for her sewing machine gave her comfort when all else failed, and it gave her boundless joy.

Yet, she didn’t always know how to sew. She took it up when I was gone.  I was eight years old at the time, and sent to live in Venezuela, my parents’ birthplace.

You see, there was a time when my parents planned to move back to their homeland. They sent me ahead, so I could start the school year on time. I boarded the plane by myself, and traveled to South America to live with an aunt and uncle and their three daughters.

But in the end, my parents decided to stay in New York. I missed my mother so much, I sometimes would sneak into my bedroom closet, and cry, as I yearned, more than anything, to see her again.

My mother made this dress for the holidays. That's me at 14.

My mother made this dress for the holidays. That’s me at about 15.

I guess my mother missed me, too, for to fill the void my absence created, she poured herself into her sewing. She took classes, and soon was whipping up dresses, skirts and blouses for me, and even for my dolls. All the love she couldn’t give me because of the distance between us, she gave to the clothing she made and would send to me.

After a year, I returned, thrilled to see my family. Glad to be home at last. And, my mother’s passion for sewing continued through the decades.

I remember the last item she made. It was for my son. In second grade, he wanted to be a Teenage Ninja Turtle for Halloween. She bought a pattern, and went to work right away.

But, around this time, dementia started clouding my mother’s head, and she found herself forgetting how to sew.  She’d take out the fabric, her basket of brightly colored spools of thread, and her sewing tools. She’d look at them and feel frustrated, not quite remembering what to do. Finally, she reached out to some cousins, who also knew how to sew, and asked for their help.

I didn’t know this at the time, but later, at her funeral, the cousins told me how my mother had struggled with making that costume, yet was determined to get it done. Though, it pretty much took a village to finish it.

She shipped it out to me in San Diego, and that Ninja Turtle costume was the best I’d ever seen.  “Cowabunga,” as my son would say. He beamed with pride, wearing it in his school’s Halloween parade.

It was the last thing my mother ever sewed, and I still have the costume.  I cannot part with it anymore than I can part with my mother’s sewing machine.

When she moved to Florida, two years before she died, she and my father carefully packed her machine into a box and taped the box shut.  And, there it sits. On a shelf in my garage.

My son, second from left, in his Ninja Turtle costume.

My son, second from left, in his Ninja Turtle costume made with love by my mother.

Too afraid to open it. Too fearful of the recollections contained within. I imagine her fingerprints smudged on the balance wheel and the handle. A relic of another life, and a reminder of what I once had and will never get back.

All that remains are scraps of fabric, bits of thread, and the love my mother’s sewing came to symbolize. But, if I close my eyes, I can see my childhood home once again. And, I can hear the distant hum of my mother’s sewing machine.

Ohio, Meet Your Newest Resident!

Remember when this was the election refrain heard coast to coast?

Florida, Florida, Florida!

Well, if you ask me, nowadays the refrain has changed a bit. So, instead of the Sunshine State, it’s the Buckeye State you hear about 24/7.

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio!

Which is why, I’m moving to Ohio.  After all, a gal like me likes a little attention now and then. And, what better place to get it, than Oh-HI-Oh, home of the Cincinnati Reds, America’s first professional baseball team, and where the official state rock song is, “Hang on Sloopy.”

Well, Sloopy, move over. From now on, if anyone’s doing the hanging in Ohio, it’s gonna be me.

Because being from Ohio means hailing from the number one SWING state in the land. It’s going to give me a lot of cache with the politicos, if you know what I mean. The powers that be. The grand poobahs, and all that.

In other words, I’m heading there to find out what it feels like to be wined and dined by none other than President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. We’re going to trip the light fantastic and dance the night away!

So, my bags are packed, my flight is booked, and I’m ready to go. From now on—or until Election Day, whichever comes first—my days will be filled with pep rallies, town hall meetings, community dialogues, a slew of robocalls, and watching a gazillion political ads all aimed at moi, an Ohioan from way back. And, by way back I mean today.

I better get a day planner so I can be sure to organize my schedule, which is going to be as full as Scarlett O’Hara’s dance card at the Confederate Ball. After all, I don’t want to miss any photo ops with the candidates, any pie-eating contests with Paul Ryan, arm wrestling with Joe Biden, shopping sprees with Ann Romney, or planting a Victory Garden with the First Lady.  And that’s just for starters!

After that, Ann and I will friend each other on Facebook, have a good laugh at the women on The View, for daring to expect the Romney’s to appear on their show. And, Michelle and I will exchange recipes for Stuffed Zucchini and Spicy Eggplant Salad. She’s a healthy eater, you know! Then, we’ll tease the president until he serenades us with another tune from the seventies. Or not.

I imagine that this is how Ohioans are spending their days, volleying from one political event to the next, accepting bribes—I mean, gifts—from the candidates, such as free pizza, submarine sandwiches, and attending free Bruce Springsteen concerts.

Yes, I’m going to just love being courted by both sides of the political aisle. Maybe I’ll even get to be on TV, when I ask the candidates the question that’s on every Ohioan’s lips. The elephant-and/or-donkey-in-the-room question, which goes like this:

“Which do you prefer, Akron or Cleveland?”

Sure, it’s all fun and games until Election Day approaches and then, just like that, they force you to pick one. Ever wonder why the undecideds take so long to decide? Because, just like me, they enjoy being courted. That’s why!

So, please don’t make me pick just one. Not just yet, anyway. I mean, can’t we keep the “love affair” going and postpone Election Day another six months? Puh-lease??

For everyone knows, that once it’s over, it’s over. The die is cast, and all that. And, if you ask me, breaking is up is hard to do. When the day comes, when all the votes are tallied, then every Ohioan will become little more than a wallflower. Unwanted and ignored—until 2016, that is. So, until then, we’ll be going back to our former, ordinary lives, back when we weren’t so darn special.

Back when we were just 11,544,951 ordinary Ohioans, minding our own business.

Make that 11,544,950.

For, after the elections, I’ll be packing up my bags and heading back to California. After all, I know where I’m not wanted.

Holiday Shopping Madness

Every year it’s the same. You’d think, by now, I would have learned, but no. I say to myself, this is the year I’m not going to break the bank. Just get gifts for my kids and that’s it. After all, I’m not made of money.

That’s the intention, and it lasts about 24 hours. Which is when, I realize my plan is not going to work. Okay, then. Just my kids, and my brother who lives in Chicago because he always remembers me this time of year and sends me something that he knows will be meaningful to me. But, how can I get him anything without getting my brother in Florida a gift, too? And isn’t my sister going to be in Florida with our brother, like she is every year at Christmas? I can’t forget about her.

Just a little gift to remind him of home. That's all Henry wants this year.

Then, I remember the two Secret Santa groups I’m in. At work we draw names every year. And the ladies I met one year at a gym for women, also do Secret Santa, though by now Santa is no secret. Each has a $25 cap, and already I can hear the cash register bell going, “Cha-ching!”

There’s also my neighbor and friend who used to take walks with Henry and me before she got sidelined with a foot injury. Cha-ching. Oh, and my handy friend, Gale, who stops by everyday at lunch time, when I’m at work, just so that Henry can take his mid-day stroll through the neighborhood. And, what about my cousins who moved here last year, and my niece who’s stopping by on her way to spend Christmas with her partner’s family? I can’t forget any of them. Cha-ching, cha-ching!

Then, there’s the woman who does my hair and who gave me a small tin of butter cookies the last time I was in, as a hint that she wants a big tip. I don’t even like butter cookies, but I got the hint just the same. There’s also the woman who waxes my eyebrows, once a month, so that I don’t end up looking like Frida Kahlo. Not to mention, the guy who delivers my water, so I don’t die of thirst. There’s the one who protects me from ant infestations and came to my rescue when I was confronted by a rat in my garage. There’s the UPS guy, who wears spiffy, brown shorts all year long, looking quite dapper as he delivers all my packages from Amazon, without suffering any breakage. He’s been looking at me as if he expects somethin., After all, he more than meets his delivery quota with me. And, while I’m at it, I can’t overlook the team of women who arrive like kamikaze cleaners to spit shine my home every other Thursday. I know they’re expecting a little something. Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching, goes the cash register, as I watch the dollar bills flying out the door.

Even Henry gets miffed if I don’t bring him home a new toy or biscuit. “Something to remind me of home,” he says, looking forlorn. And by home, I know he means England. I don’t dare tell him he was actually born west of the Mississippi. Instead, I bring him a box of crumpets from the bakery, and a DVD titled, The Lost Prince.  This makes him deliriously happy.

Then, there’s my son’s new girlfriend. This is her first Chrismukkah with him—and us (yes, we celebrate both). Already, she feels like part of the family, and I couldn’t be happier. So I have to get something for her and of course it can’t be just one thing because I have so many ideas on what she’d like! Cha-ching!

And what about myself?  I can’t see a Black Friday sale or any other sale, for that matter, without getting something for me. Which is why I buy two of everything! CHA-CHING, CHA-CHING, CHA-CHING!!!

Oh yes, every year it’s the same. But next year, it’s going to be different, I am certain of that. Next year, I’m going to keep it simple. Which is why, next year I’m planning to sleep through December, and not wake up until the strike of midnight, January 1st.

So how about you? How did your holiday shopping fare this year? Were you good, or did you go overboard like someone I know, whose name I’d rather not mention, ahem.

Key West Redux

This photo was taken on our first day in Key West, before the rains hit. Simply spectacular, if you ask me.

Ordinarily, today I would post the next installment of The Road Taken series.  But, after my Rick saga, I’ve decided to take a break as I’m not quite sure where my story should go next. Blame it on a brain freeze, or on one too many rum punches imbibed while on vacation. Either way, I’ve hit a wall. If you have any suggestions on how to get past it, I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, since you have been so encouraging about my photos from Key West, I thought I’d share a few more today. After all, the ones I’ve already posted, in Key West, Rain & All, largely focused on the lousy weather we had while there.  It’s only right that I also show you some photos that capture Key West at its best.

If you ask me, Key West is an idyllic locale, and the perfect place for anyone who enjoys a good walk. I didn’t let the rain stop me from clocking in a lot of steps on my pedometer as I wandered around, taking in the lush beauty and flavor of Florida’s magnificent coastal community. As a writer, I found Key West to be very inspiring. I can’t think of a more fitting place in which to lose yourself, if only for a short time.

So, please indulge me as I reflect on my favorite moments visiting the southernmost point of the continental U.S.   I’m hoping, that those of you who commented last week and said you’d never been there, will be motivated to start planning your own trip to the Keys.

Let me know what you think!

I put together this collage as a reminder of all that Key West has to offer. Balmy days, and some good, old-fashioned R&R.

This alley looked like a prime spot for basking in the atmosphere.

What's the story behind this structure, located at the southernmost point? Wish I knew.

One of the many spots where you can stock up on cigars.

I love signage. For some reason, this one reminded me of one of my favorite films.

No doubt, this is the Number One photo-op spot in Key West, a mere 90 miles from Cuba, after all.

Anyone watching the new "Pan Am" series, might be interested in reading this sign. (This photo was taken by my sister.)

Intriguing front yard, don't you think? I wonder what they do inside, when not "Closed," that is.

I'm a sucker for statues.

This dog, on Duval Street, is waiting for his pirate booty.

Chickens and roosters roam freely in this laid-back town.

When I came across this whimsical yard, I felt a yearning to sit down and have a tall glass of refreshing lemonade. Or should I, more appropriately, Key Lime-ade?

This house, with its purple bicycle, green foliage and blue shutters, spoke to me. I wouldn't mind spending half the year here, writing away, and getting around town on my bike, as most of the locals do.

The Banana Cafe is a little French restaurant open for breakfast and lunch. The Key Lime Crepes are mouth-watering divine!

This may look like a dive, but it happens to be Virgilio's, one of the hottest places on Duval Street, for live music and dancing. We had a blast here. It's beautiful inside and an enormous tree growing in the middle of the roofless bar adds to its charm.

I love taking snapshots of flowers. This photo was taken while standing on a small bridge over a pond on the Hemingway house property, looking directly down at a lily pad.

Papa's Hideaway is a bed & breakfast, just a few blocks from Hemingway's house. Maybe next time, I'll stay here.

Hemingway must have spent a lot of time in the bathroom because his bathrooms were absolutely stunning! I love the tile on this bathroom floor. So art deco!

Check out the vanity in this bathroom. Look closely and you'll see my reflection.