Fiddler on My Roof

Fiddler on My Roof

In honor that this week is Passover, I’m going to let you in on something.

You know the scene in “Fiddler on the Roof” where Tevye has a dream that his daughter should marry Motel, the impoverished tailor and not Lazar Wolf, the creepy and old, but wealthy butcher? It was a premonition of sorts, even though, technically, Tevye concocted the whole dream in order to help his daughter get out of a marriage arranged by Yente, the matchmaker. And, it worked.

Well, that’s what happened to me. Only, not exactly the same way. Continue reading

A Personal Assistant for the Holidays

A Personal Assistant for the Holidays

This is the time of year I really wish I had a personal assistant. The kind who can do my holiday shopping for me, because, let’s face it, when I do it myself I inevitably end up buying two items for myself, with every gift I get for someone else. Think how much money I’d save if I had an assistant who would forgo my crazy impulse-buying habits and actually stick to the shopping list! Continue reading

A Latina’s Memory of Halloween

Growing up in Queens, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. Heck, it’s every kids’ favorite holiday. The mountains of candy. All the planning that goes into choosing and creating a “spooktacular” costume. The hayrides and visits to the pumpkin patch, in search of the biggest, orangiest, most perfect pumpkin, then taking it home to carve.  Gathering around the fireplace to listen while your father reads aloud Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, and fills your head with ghost stories, guaranteed to scare the bejezus out of you.

Wait. Almost forgot. My family didn’t do any of this stuff.

Don’t forget, my Latino parents were new to this country and didn’t have much. Which is why there were eight of us living in a tiny brownstone in Queens. Besides, they’d never heard of Halloween before.

So, in my house, we were lucky we got to do Halloween at all. And, it was done on a shoestring. There were no Halloween decorations, no carving Jack O’Lanterns, no spending weeks and weeks making an elaborate costume.

My little sister and I, getting ready to go trick or treating. I’m wearing my Cinderella costume for yet another year, while my sister is disguised as a little girl. Very clever, Regina!

We didn’t buy any candy except for that which we were giving away. It would sit in a grocery bag by the door waiting for the trick-or-treaters, and God help the kid in my house who’d try to snitch a piece before the festivities began.

And, the only pumpkins in our house were the cheap, plastic kind that you could buy at the Five and Dime store. They were supposed to be used to collect your treats in, but if you ask me, the black handle was so thin and flimsy, it would often break off before the night was out.

On Halloween day, my teacher would give each of us little boxes, reminding us of the importance to collect pennies for UNICEF. “Trick or Treat for UNICEF,” was what we were supposed to say, though, half the time, I forgot to do so.

I had the cheesiest costume. Back then, costumes came in boxes that had cellophane covered lids, so you could see the mask. There was always a mask, made of hard plastic with a thin piece of string around the back to help you hold the mask in place. Wearing the mask made it hard to breathe or see. Plus, that string could snap, and fall off, causing severe pain in the process. My mask broke the first time I ever tried it on. Ouch!

Not being able to afford the cost of a costume, my mother bought one for me when I was five, in a size way too large, so that I could wear it year after year, all the way through fifth grade. Of course, what I picked to wear at age five, a Cinderella costume, was embarrassing to wear by age 10, and, no matter how I wore it, there was no mistaking it: I looked like a dork.

But, that didn’t matter, because Halloween night in New York was generally very cold, and my mother would make me wear wool pants under my costume dress. At first, I wore my coat under my dress, but when that was no longer possible, I had to wear it over the costume, making said costume no longer visible. Which, made me look just like any other dumb kid freezing to death.

In sixth grade, when I finally had the chance to be something else for Halloween, I decided to be a French painter. Why French? I don’t know. I wore a beret, a red and white striped smock, and carried an artist’ pallet and brush. But, my accent was all Queens, which is why no one could figure out that I was supposed to be French.

At the end of the night, my brothers and I would dump our candy stash on the floor and separate the wheat from the chaff. In other words, the good candy from the stinky.

The Good:  Almond Joy, Snickers, Mr. Goodbar and just about anything else chocolate. Sugar Babies and lollipops were keepers, too.

Stinkers:  Mary Jane’s, Tootsie Rolls, Good and Plenty, waxed lips, and black and orange taffy.

In junior high, Karen, a classmate, invited the whole class to a Halloween party. It was my first such party, replete with bobbing for apples, spooky music, and pumpkin carving. The only thing missing was a hayride, but we lived in the suburbs, for crying out loud, not on a farm.

A friend and I were 14 years old the last time we went trick or treating. All it took was for one adult to answer the door, size us up, roll his eyes, and say, “Aren’t you kids, too old to be trick or treating?” That was the year I hung up my beret for good.

Flash forward many years:  My son was three the first time I took him trick or treating. It was wonderful to see the excitement in his eyes, and the joy from getting more candy than he could ever possibly eat.  At the end of the evening, as we were walking back home, I said to him, next year we’ll start out earlier.

Which made him stop in his tracks, turn toward me with utter shock his eyes, and exclaim with utter euphoria,

“You mean this is going to happen again??”

So, tell me. What are your childhood memories of Halloween?


Happy New Year!

Call me crazy, but I just signed up for a challenge to end all challenges:

To read 50 books (yikes!) and see 50 films (easy peasy, I think) in 2012. In only one year! That’s 12 months, for those counting.

Why, that’s only 365 days!

Can I do it? Time will tell (though, given how busy I am, the odds are against me). Will it be exciting to try? You betcha!

The fifty/fifty challenge is the brainchild of Lilly and Jon, a couple of friends with a passion for the written word. I can give you all the particulars myself, but why bother, when you can read all about it in an email message I received last week from Lilly:

As the year comes to an end, I’m thinking of my New Year’s resolutions, and you are probably thinking about yours.

Well, forget working out more, trying to be a nicer person, dropping your bad habits.  BLAH BLAH BLAH.
In fact, forget all the boring resolutions we’ve halfheartedly committed to in the past… because I have a fun one to propose for 2012: fifty/

Here’s the challenge: 50 books, 50 movies, 1 year, 1 you. 

Why would you possibly do this?  Because, you’re up for a challenge.  Maybe you haven’t read 50 books in your life.  
Maybe you can’t fathom sitting through 50 movies.  Maybe you just need a reason to justify sitting on your couch for the duration of 2012.
My friend, Jon and I got this crazy idea that it would be fun to do, and we’re inviting you to join us—please visit our website ( to determine if you think we’re absolutely insane…or if you want in.   Flip through the FAQs, read about why we are inspired to take this on, and if you’re equally inspired, we hope you will put your name down.  The more the merrier—this is a great family activity (sign up your kids!), tell your friends, tell your co-workers. Heck, tell the dude in the bathroom stall next to you about it.  There really are no limits (Just don’t peer over. Really. Don’t do that.)
You’re not competing against anyone except yourself and your concept of what you can do in a year.  Because we think you can do it.
And before you know it, the year will be over (the world may too, so let’s go for the gold, shall we?) and you will be smarter, better looking, and will have watched slightly less Man vs. Food. Win. Win. Win.
To an adventurous 2012!

Lilly —   

So, I hope you’ll join me in this exciting, and insane challenge, and by signing today.  In the words of Bette Davis, who said, in All About Eve, (which is a classic film, that could count toward your goal of 50 flicks):

“Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!” – And a whole lot of fun, too!