reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the unreachable star. [merely-a-thought monday]

my uncle allen had a beautiful voice. my mom’s brother, he would stand in our living room, with me at the piano or the organ, and belt out songs with great love. he’d bring stacks of sheet music over and we’d page through them, choosing greatest hits from broadway musicals or the radio. sometimes my big brother would play along and the three of us would entertain my sweet momma and dad for hours. there is never a time i hear “the impossible dream” that i do not think of allen.

“and I know if I’ll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart will lie peaceful and calm
when i’m laid to my rest”

(the impossible dream)

i cannot think of anyone i have ever known who was as consistently happy – no matter the difficulty or challenge facing him, he was happy and smiling. his complete support of my earliest recording path is something for which i will always be grateful. my uncle always believed. in his wonderful wife, his adored children, his family, in me. allen was a gift to the universe. when i think about the movie “the fault in our stars”, i realize that he was an example of living this way – recognizing that it matters not how many people you touch or impact or inspire, no matter the tiny or giant legacy you leave in your wake – what matters is that there was one person…one person for whom you have made a difference simply by being on this good earth. anything beyond that is icing on the cake. allen was indeed icing.

the chipmunks are back and i have to say i am delighted. they are adorable and cunning and just really smart little guys. before the winter, they devised all kinds of methods to get to the birdfeeder, despite the metal plate that is supposed to keep them away. they managed to chock-fill their cheeks with seed and carry it off to their wintercondos. now they have returned and they are hungry. they’ve been practicing getting up the feeder, sometimes falling into the grasses below. they have been intentional. they don’t let failure get in their way. they literally jump from the ground up to the plate over and over until suddenly they are somehow balanced there and then they can jump up to the grazing edge of the feeder. they do what’s necessary, then what’s possible and then suddenly they are flying through the air, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

i don’t suppose that’s unusual. everything takes practice. impossible is maybe a temporary matter. i also suppose that there is a certain surprise element to things. we start out with one plan, one path, one intention. we don’t bank on wavering off, we don’t bank on obstacles, we don’t bank on changing direction. impossible.

and yet, there’s possible waving at us from somewhere beyond the impossible dream. and we find ourselves in places unexpected, doing unexpected things, forging those impossible mountains.

there we are, flying through the air, the world in our hands, rewarded by a feeder full of birdseed.

“to reach the unreachable star.”

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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that voice. [d.r. thursday]

if only it were all that simple. seeing into the future, that is. we might be able to avoid the potholes, the pitfalls, the problems that are in our merry way. but, alas, that is not so. and, unlike oatly and its humorous point-on prediction on the lid of its coffee “ice cream”, we struggle between punting and pure intuition, hopping and skipping and maybe crawling our way into the future.

punting is a given. everyone punts. the older i get, the more i realize people are making it up on the fly. lots of experience, education, research, failures and giant successes help, but it is all kind of punting, after all.

but intuition is a funny thing. we can hear it in our inner ear; we can feel it pokin’ at us, like a snickers bar supposedly pokes at our tummies. sometimes we listen and other times we poo-poo it, dismissing it as frivolous or overly obsessive thinking. there are times, however, when we listen and it is spot-on.

in 1993, in august, i took both my small children to the mall. my daughter was three and my son just seven months old. we went to walk around, watch people, maybe purchase a few things. we were going to stop at mcdonald’s on the way home, as we always did, to have a happy meal. driving back from the mall i made up silly songs about going to mcdonald’s and my little girl was excited. this was our mcdonald’s, the one where she knew how to carry her little meal from the counter, around the corner into the back dining room, to the very back table opposite the rear door, the farthest away from people smoking, because, back then, people still smoked in restaurants.

as we drove down the main road of our town toward the mcdonald’s, in the middle of silly songs and a gleeful child’s anticipation, i heard it.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” the voice said.

it was clear. i looked around, surprised to even hear another voice. but there was no other adult in the minivan.

“don’t go to mcdonald’s,” it repeated.

i shushed what i now believed was the voice in my head and continued singing our mcdonald’s happy song.

it got more demanding, “don’t go to mcdonald’s today. don’t.”

that feeling you get in your belly started. the voice nagged me. i started to backpeddle, “well, maybe we will go home instead,” which made my little girl cry out, “no!” from the back seat.

“go home and make a ham sandwich,” was the weirdest. but it was clear. the voice was a ham-sandwich-pusher.

i started to listen. i had lost my big brother just a year prior and he had shown up from time to time, a wave from the next dimension it seemed. and he loved ham sandwiches.

i had to decide fast because we were rapidly approaching the mcdonald’s. i excitedly told my little girl, who – in three-year-old fashion – did not pivot immediately, that we were going to have a picnic at home instead. that we would have ham sandwiches and potato chips and we’d play we’re-on-a-picnic.

we passed the mcdonald’s and kept heading home, a few miles away.

by the time we were unloading into our house i heard the sirens in the distance. the house phone was ringing when we walked in.

“did you hear what just happened at mcdonald’s?” my girlfriend asked.

my stomach lurched.

a man with a gun had gone in the back door of the restaurant and started shooting people. tragically, two people at the table opposite the back door were killed.

i don’t know if they had happy meals; i know we would have.

i know if i could have seen into the future i would have planned on – and sang songs in the minivan about – ham sandwiches and a picnic on the living room floor. i know that tiny bit of adamant intuition-voice saved our lives. i don’t know how that works. i will not question it.

it was a gift.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

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not a dress rehearsal. [merely-a-thought monday]

i don’t believe there is much more frustrating than trying to get the attention of someone you love, someone you care about. you keep upping the ante, waving your arms above your head, metaphorically jumping up and down, raising your own bar time and again. just to get their attention. you try more-achievements-for-1000-please, imploring-for-800-please, passive-aggressive-ignoring-for-600-please, lonely-weeping-for-400-please, poor-acting-out-behavior-for-200-please, but none of it seems to work.

i read in the book “the sentimental person’s guide to decluttering” (claire middleton) a few days ago that the author suspects “people who only need a cup, a plate and a blanket are cold-blooded”. i know this was in application to stuff-in-the-house. but i would hasten to add that it applies to relationship as well. some people, in an unplugged, unsentimental-about-other-people way, don’t need any more than a cup, a plate and a blanket. it all seems such a waste of good time.

when my adored big brother died i was pregnant with my second child so i was an adult, 33 years old. though it is just shy of 30 years ago now i still vividly remember the stunning realization that the world kept going anyway. i had lost grandparents; i was a bit familiar with grief. but this was strikingly different. i could not grok how the world kept going without my brother being able to feel it. this sounds like gibberish to some, i suspect, but grief is not linear nor is it rational. it asks questions of our heart and mind and it slays us with feelings of overwhelm at moments we don’t expect. i looked to a gift i was given – a ceramic sign that says “this life is not a dress rehearsal” – and i thought “pay attention!”.

a few days ago i was talking to one of my long-lost-and-now-found-cousins on the phone. she told stories of her mom, my dad’s sister, things i had never heard. i could literally feel my heart swelling as i listened and laughed and i wanted more tales of my sweet dad’s growing-up years. the summer home upstate new york, the rice in the sweater pockets from mice and the snakes in the outhouse, housekeepers i was unaware they had, the mob boss around the corner in the city. my grandpa’s felt business in brooklyn, piecing felt for pianos, of all things…that connection. a little bit of touch-back, an hour of family-i-had-lost-in-the-confusing-shuffle-of-life. building. paying attention. being astonished.

in a world full of intricacies and details and deadlines and accomplishment and competition and agenda, to stop and pay attention is sometimes a challenge.

to marvel at the song of birds at dawn, to watch the east sky change in answer to the western sunset, to taste the first sip of coffee in early morning, to stare wide-eyed at your grown children…astonishment in exponential depth.

to tell stories of life’s moments, the tiny ones, the top rung ones, the puddle-on-the-floor ones…is exponential sharing of living.

to pay attention to the other, really pay attention – without prompt and without reward – is exponential love.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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old roller skates and skateboards. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

there are presents and, then, there are presents.

20 knew what my response would be – ahead of time – when i opened his smartly-wrapped gift, fancy homemade ribbon coordinated with the wrappings. but the absolutely delectable time – inbetween giggling over a really wonderfully simple-yet-perfect bow while guessing what was in the box and moving aside the inner paper – was full of anticipation. conversely, i could see it in him too. it is life-enhancing. both ways. those moments you wait as someone – who you know well and for whom you have found something exquisitely perfect – begins to open your gift. it matters not how big or small, free or expensive; you just know you paid attention to little details and you cannot-wait-to-watch-them-open-it.

i pulled out the brown paper in its role as tissue wrap and there was an old-old pair of sidewalk roller skates with a set of keys. circa 1950/1960 heavy metal with rugged metal wheels. vintage.

instantly transported back-in-time to the feeling of rollerskating on abby drive, i could remember strapping on the skates up at the front stoop, following the sidewalk down as it turned and then turned again into the driveway, struggling to stay on the concrete driveway ribbon – as we had one of those driveways with a ribbon of grass inbetween the ribbons of cement and skating into that was a sure way to fall. the end of the driveway had a little bump too; you’d have to stop there (stopping was always an issue) and step over the end of the apron. and then, the street. and freedom.

at some point, my big brother took the metal wheels off of a pair of skates and made a skateboard. i can still feel that board under my feet – the rough ride of metal against cement-aggregate mixture. we sought out asphalt, though, back then, it was in shorter supply. over by the long island lighting company on the sound there was a really long curving road downhill all made of asphalt. it was a little bit terrifying. and required either driving there or toting your skateboard on your bike a few miles. so – in our everyday world – rough rides on steel skate wheels was our destiny.

my brother made the next skateboard with rubber wheels and a bigger deck and, though it was slower, you didn’t feel as imperiled on it. he mostly used that one and the blue painted one with the red hang-loose was relegated to me. there is much to learn from a rough-ridin’ skateboard, a ribbon driveway and an apron-bump.

i wish i knew where those two skateboards were.

but finding them is unlikely, as i’m sure they are long-gone. about as unlikely as 20 stumbling into a pair of old roller skates and knowing they would be perfect.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY


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the holidays. messy. [merely-a-thought monday]

we have a small stack of unopened envelopes on the counter. it’s a stack of holiday cards and we’re saving it for closer to christmas. opening these while sitting together will seem like a visit from these people we care about at a time when visits are scarce and time together is minimal. these cards will help.

because these holidays are messy.

we’ve been succumbing to the hallmark channel. it has been both delightful and a disservice, a bar we cannot touch, with families gathered around roaring fireplaces with cocoa, around kitchen counters icing cookies, around the town square christmas tree singing, around the tree farm choosing the exact right tree to cut down, dancing at the christmas ball. our hearts soar with these picturesque modern-day norman-rockwells and yet…

because the holidays are messy.

in my mind’s eye i can create all kinds of wondrous times – with our children, our extended families, our friends. i envision everyone here at home or at a giant cabin in the mountains with snow gently falling outside, arriving at the door with ecstatic hugs of anticipation. i can hear laughter and records spinning and song and many shared old stories. i catch a whiff of the fireplace and the cocoa, early morning coffee brewing like in all the old folgers commercials, the turkey or ham or lasagna in the oven, snickerdoodles and peanut butter cookies with hersheys kisses and krumkake baking. i can feel the excitement with everyone throwing wrap on the floor, bows and ribbons flying, opening thoughtful gifts. i can see evidence of our angels in the air, my sweet momma and poppo, columbus, my big brother, grandparents, even our babycat. i blink and i’m back. like many of you, i know this wondrous time, though perhaps entirely possible someday, is – again – not reality.

because the holidays are messy.

in this final stretch to christmas i know that expectations are high and disappointment is higher. the simplest moments that our hearts desire are somehow unattainable and complex. it is not an easy time and it is on the heels of a not-easy year for so many, including us.

the holidays are messy.

so we keep the small stack of cards and wait to open them. we sit at the end of the evening in the living room lit by the lights of our tree and the white branches of previous years. we write cards and sticker envelopes and wrap packages and ship. we, like you, try to immerse in both memory-rituals and new traditions, try to make-the-best-of-it. we know that time marches on, too quickly-quickly. in looking back we all know how fast ahead goes. we wish for the holidays we can see – but not quite touch – in our mind’s eye. we know that angst and worries and loneliness and exhaustion and issues and comparisons and striving for perfection and dismaying sadness are not supposed to be a part of the holiday spirit, yet we see tidbits of these shades of blue as we look around. we work to move in grace and trust and hold unconditional love as guiding forces.

we hope for less-messy another year.

i believe the cardinals out back at the pond came to reassure me.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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the banana in cherrytomatoland. [two artists tuesday]

keeping the late late summer cherry tomatoes together will stimulate their ripening, i read. the ethylene emitted by them will urge them from green to pale yellow to orange to red. putting them in a brown paper bag with a banana or an apple would speed things along. right now, they are on the counter in a plastic, hopefully bpa-free, container, lidless, soaking up the sun. somehow, these tiny little tomatoes, regardless of size or shape or green innocence or red wokeness know all about impact on each other and a banana or an apple entering their tomato-only-zone would only help them.

that’s the kind of community we should all live in, work in, play in. because as barry manilow, yes, the guy who writes the songs, said, “everything you say and do is having an impact on others.”

it’s not like we are not aware of that. simple kindnesses as we go about our day make a huge difference – the concentric circles ever-widening, cherry-tomato-land goodness spreading, stimulating ripening, encouraging more goodness. it’s not as pollyannaish as it sounds. in every interaction we have a choice. the expression “there are a hundred ways you could have answered that/handled that” is worthy of our attention.

i’m from new york. growing up on long island is different than growing up in the midwest or the south or even the west coast. there is a rat-a-tat kind of rhythm to conversation there. lots of questions, lots of words. it seems aggressive, but it’s really not. it is, however, easy to interpret it that way. if you want to know about something, you ask. it’s a kind of pummeling with questions; you don’t ask one gentle question and patiently wait.

take the cherry tomatoes, for example. you could ask, what kind of cherry tomatoes are those? (and then wait.) or you could ask: what kind of cherry tomatoes are those?where did you get them?were they from seeds or tiny plants?how did you plant them?did you have to use topsoil?how much water did you give them?how often?do you have to fertilize them?what about sun?do they need to be in the sun?how long did it take before they bore fruit?do they only produce one set of tomatoes or do they keep producing?are they sweet?did you pick them before they were ripened?what about when it got cold?when did you pick the green tomatoes?how did you know what to do with them?can you still eat them?will they ripen?

i’ve had to tone down the newyork in me, slow down the question-pummeling (this is not as easy as it sounds), soften the edges of speech a little. the accent has mostly disappeared, but the rhythm is ever at-the-ready, prepared to garner answers or information or directions, not willing to miss the details. and those details…ever-important. my big brother could tell a story with more words than you can imagine; his details were picture-painting and precise and i loved every minute of his newyork style of storytelling.

we were on long island with my dear friend crunch when he was ordering a pizza. he said: “do you want gahhlic knots with the pizza?whatdyathink, gahhlic knots too?yes or no?are you hungry for gahhlic knots?they make great gahhlic knots at luigis. do you want some?tell me, i gotta awwduh. hello?” and then, in the car on the way to get the pizza and the garlic knots: “ya gotta turn up here.yeah, turn left.yeah after the driveway, turn left.here.left.ok.in about two blahhcks you’ll turn right.right.yeah, about a block now.right.uh-huh.right.yeah.hee-uhh.right.turn.ya gotta turn!”

david was losing it in the backseat. i had jumped right in. suddenly the impressionable pattern returned and i was also speaking, stepping all over crunch narrating where i was to turn. allowing no time for him to keep talking or answer anything i was saying – and vice-versa – we both just kept tawwwking and tawwwking, over each other. david’s laughter was contagious.

there had been (and have been, who am i kidding?) times – admittedly – when, in the middle of a more shall-we-say “heated” discussion d has looked at me and said, “let me finish.” hanging out on long island in the middle of pummeling vocal patterns has helped him realize i mean no harm. and i have adopted his “there are a hundred ways you could have answered that”. because it has an impact – the way we answer, the way we handle stuff.

we both try to be aware, in this still-covid time of much-togetherness and less-time-with-others, of our interactions, knowing that even the slightest acidity can affect things and will ripple outward in our day. instead of leeching negativity into each other, in the most intimate and the most community of interactions, i would rather encourage ripening, blossoming, flourishing.

i want to be like the banana in cherrytomatoland.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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one giant blue notebook. [merely-a-thought monday]

when i was twelve, my parents took a six-week vacation to europe. pre-departure, they arranged to purchase a brand-new 1971 volkswagen super-beetle in germany, picking it up and then driving all over for adventures at hostels and relatives’ homes and small inns in the countryside that served family-style pork chops. they talked about this phenomenal trip for the next forty years or so, reliving memories and favorite moments. in the end, the last time i saw my sweet momma was the day we delivered her cherished blue notebook to her at the assisted living facility and she clutched it to her chest, cooing, “this is it. this is the notebook.” she had written everything down – diary entries and details to remember – and having this spiral was like re-vacationing with my poppo who had died three years earlier. we had searched high and low for it for a couple days and found it in the very last bin we opened in the garage. a treasure. the one thing she really wanted.

there were other trips – indeed, they attempted to visit each of the united states. never extravagant. always cherished.

when i was eighteen i rode in the backseat across the country with my parents in the front seat. they purchased a cb radio before we left and i spent long hours “10-4”-ing as “goldilocks” across the great plains states and up pikes peak and next to the wasatch mountain range and through the flint hills of kansas, which was clearly on a mission for spare change as they pulled my dad over twice within a half hour, deputies standing on the side of the road waving over long lines of cars they then escorted into tiny towns so that you could place money in an envelope at the post office. (i still invoke my dad when i drive through kansas, especially since we’ve had a few breakdowns in that state.) i developed a huge crush on a cute boy in colorado springs at a motel 6 and almost signed on as the touring piano player for the band that this boy and his brothers were in, their parents befriending mine poolside. i pined for days and days after we drove off with four new tires we got at sears and a broken heart i got in the desert meadows behind the motel. i clutched the record they all signed for me and stared at the cover art. no amount of stuckey’s sticky pecan log rolls helped. but my camera and gorgeous scenery were eventually soothing and, even now, as i chalk it up to opportunity not chosen, i remember my mom’s encouragement to consider an unusual path, a road rarely traveled.

in the middle 70s my mom and dad took advantage of what they called “dunphy weekends”. i couldn’t find any details when i quickly googled that, but i remember three day weekends, in places like providence, rhode island – not too many hours from new york – that hotels offered for dirt-cheap, prompting reservations. because they were thrifty, they also would sign on to drive cars to destinations and be flown back, ever the road warriors willing to take on a highway and add to their growing list of states-they-had-been-to.

when i was much littler, i climbed into the pink lilco (long island lighting company) van that my dad and my big brother had converted to a camper and rode upstate with them. never disappointing their rube-goldberg leanings, the camper would always break down on some back road near basically nothing. my dad would take out wire cutters and, clipping wire off of fencing they found on roadside pastureland, they’d figure out ways to fix the van, while i would ponder being lost and never getting home again. their laughter and bantering on those trips was the key to a successful camping trip and we beverly-hillbillied our way across the catskills and the adirondacks.

camping some, airbnb-ing lots, hampton-inning in between, i’ve spent a lot of time on the road on trips and for work, both. when my children were small, we would drive, drive, drive, hiding easter baskets in the stow-and-go compartments of the minivan and toting all the age-related child-paraphernalia we needed. living away from family means that most of your vacation trips are to go see them. as time goes on, that’s really still the case.

in this last not-quite-a-decade, we have driven together thousands and thousands and thousands of miles and snacked and laughed and sang and were quiet across the country. we’ve slept in rest areas and in mcdonald parking lots. we’ve found hiking trails all along the way and have cooked in lots of kitchens from the boundary waters of ely to the beaches of the gulf to up-north wisconsin to high elevation of colorado to the cape. we’ve raced storms through alabama and through wyoming. we’ve had happy meals in montana and california and washington and tennessee and new hampshire and new york and florida and most of the states in-between. we’ve walked through tiny towns, toasted life on long island, combed the beaches of hilton head and had coffee in unexpected places in appalachia. the four days we spent in paris, as an add-on after work in the netherlands about seven years ago now, was exquisitely low-key. we walked everywhere, training only once or twice. we carried baguettes and cheese and wine and tiny salads into parks, onto cathedral steps, up montmartre and into our boutique hotel, choosing picnics over restaurants and never feeling like we had missed out.

the list of places i’d like to go grows. from a night or two to full-immersion for a longer stay, i look forward to all of it. i’m guessing i come by it honestly.

so i’ve never been on a luxury vacation. never taken a cruise. never stayed at an all-inclusive resort. i’m 62 and haven’t done the let’s-just-go-lay-around-and-do-nothing-or-anything-we-want-and-get-waited-on thing. i don’t know if i ever will. but it hasn’t stopped me from loving vacation. it’s all really one giant blue notebook.


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in half and in half again. [merely-a-thought monday]

anna quindlen writes about it in “a short guide to a happy life“. the dividing line between before and after. we all have them. though mathematically incorrect for this lyric, as “sawed in half” only leaves the other half, many of us have more than one dividing line, more than one qualifier of our lives, more than one change agent.

i remember my first apartment. it was on long island in a basement partially paneled and partially wallpapered with red brick wallpaper. my dog missi and i moved in with my old piano, a convertible couch, beanbag chairs, a bookshelf and a bistro set. i had free bank-account-giveaway plates and cheap silverware my grandmother gave me, forks, spoons, knives still in my drawer to this day. i had a tiny kitchen in this studio and, though i cooked often, missi and i both ate plenty of cornflakes for plenty of meals. it was not fancy but it was mine.

after i was sawed in half i had to move and, ultimately, found myself in florida, seeking safety from a man whose aggressive pedophilia was predatory, for whom vengeance was foremost. everything was different. from those moments on. there was no going back, no return to innocence. the dividing line was stark and, in 1979, there was no real resource for processing it.

since then i’ve had a few more dividing lines. but, i have found in many purposeful meanderings through my lifeline in recollections and in much intentional parsing out of cause and effect relationships, that many of them relate back to the first sawing-in-half.

having children did not ‘saw’ me in half, but it indeed sawed time into before and after, for nothing would ever be the same and all my after has been waking and going to sleep thinking about them and wishing for their good health, good relationships, good work, love. there can scarcely be a parent who has not been profoundly changed by having children. before. after.

the loss of my big brother came as a mortality-blow. i had lost grandparents at that point, but their lives had been full and eight and nine decades long. my brother had merely reached his fourth decade – forty – an age twenty years ago now for me – and it was premature and devastating. he had been a stalwart rock for me in my years-post-first-sawing and to lose his wisdom and strength had me questioning how the world could go on without him feeling it. it divided time – from a more casual look at life to a more intensely emotional connection to those around me than i already had. if i am needy, emotionally, it is grasping on to beloveds. though i know i must not hold too tightly, i have likely not always succeeded at that, but i try to be at least close enough to always at least feel the wind from their wings. it’s not always possible and it’s sometimes impossible, and i yearn to have my family right close to me as many friends have, but i try – that word again – to trust life and its gifts.

the day i realized that there was no one left to ask questions of my birth, my childhood, my teenage years, the intrepid and enduring memories moms and dads have, i stared at lake michigan. i won’t forget that moment. i was wondering about my first time on the lake on a sailboat and i suddenly was aware that, without my sweet momma and poppo still here, there would be no answers that i could not remember myself. it came with intensity and orphan-hood surprised me – even then, at 56.

there are other lines in the sand, other befores and afters. relationships, jobs, places, mistakes and learnings, successes and failures. they all count, like every slice of blueberry pie making up the whole, even every rich ingredient making up the slice. the passage of time is a vast bakery of experiences, some more contingent on others, some more independent.

so when the song “life is long” came on at the end of the grace and frankie episode while i was on the treadmill and david was on the bike i was struck by the lyric “sawed in half by the passage of time”. i spoke into my phone recording the words i had just heard, words that made time pause like the button on the netflix video.

and i stared into the timeline in my mind, thinking about life sliced up like pie – a little less vigorously than a saw – but with just as much impact.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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the ice cream truck. [merely-a-thought monday]

“stop!!!!” we’d yell at the top of our lungs.

it didn’t happen often, but every now and then, we got to stop the ice cream man as he jingled his way around the neighborhood. then began The Choice. toasted almond bars or chocolate eclairs or or creamsicles or nutty buddy cones or italian ices (although we most often got those on the way out of modells sporting goods store, which, for some reason, had a stand by the doors). my momma would buy fudgsicles and ice cream sandwiches for in the freezer, so those weren’t viable options. and we would never-ever just buy a cup of ice cream with those wooden spoon things you got in elementary school or with your modells italian ice. that would be lame. it seemed important to get something more novel than what was inside your own house. particularly if it was ice cream on a stick. we knew, at the time, that it was a splurge and we loved every single second of it. we’d sit on the curb or on the grass or on the stoop and relish whatever treat we picked. summer in east northport. summer on long island.

you can hear it coming – “pop goes the weasel” playing incessantly around the ‘hood. it used to drive both my girl and my boy crazy as it approached and passed by – the pitch of the ‘song’ changing keys as it approached, drove by eventually and was in the distance. we laugh now as it passes us these days, for the same reason and because it would likely take a small mortgage to feed ice cream treats to a family from the ice cream man these days. we have marveled at watching families with small children gather together in the park eating dairy queen. a medium blizzard is $4 so a family of five would be $20 just for an afternoon carry-out treat. i don’t know but, to us, that seems like a lot.

harry burt, the founder of good humor, apparently stumbled into ice cream kingdom rule when he froze chocolate topping to use with ice cream. it turned out to be a messy affair so his son suggested using the sticks from his previous invention (jolly boy suckers) and – voila! – the ice cream bar was a hit. his decision to start the ice cream truck/wagon/push-cart was on the heels of his treat-success and, believing that good “humor” had everything to do with the humor of the palate, he had his company name picked out. good humor is synonymous with yummy ice cream and childhood. what a legacy!

a few days ago, 20 went to his freezer after we finished a scrumptious dinner with him. he gestured to 14 to be quiet and reached his hand in, pulling out a container but shielding it from my view. it turned out to be a half gallon of coffee ice cream, which is my favorite tied with mint chocolate chip. it was not cashew or almond; this was straight-up ice cream, which he guiltily knew i couldn’t have. he and 14 enjoyed bowls of this dessert. i had two tiny bites, which were amazing. coffee ice cream always makes me think of my big brother who, night after night, would load his bowl up and eat to his heart’s content. after my minuscule taste-test, i googled cashew/almond coffee ice cream and have a photo of a couple options saved on my phone so that i might seek them out.

someday when i pass a freezer with talenti dairy-free-sorbetto cold-brew-coffee displayed, i will literally yell, “stop!”

it won’t be the ice cream truck ringing bells or playing “it’s a small world” or “pop goes the weasel”. it won’t be standing at the side of the road in the hot sun with a dollar held tightly in my hand in line behind other sweaty, excited kids. it won’t be staring at the poster on the side of the truck with too many choices, the scent of coppertone wafting through the air. but, like all the children gathered around the proverbial ice cream truck in full glorious summer, i will be filled with good humor.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

and a little reminder from our CHICKEN MARSALA:


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34 = 20 + 14. [d.r. thursday]

34 – the combination of 14 & 20 – love to cook together. they chop and laugh and saute and bake and grill, punting their way through recipes. with glasses of wine in hand (and lately, maybe old-fashioned wisconsin old-fashioneds) these two brothers-of-different-mothers gleefully prepare dinner.

twice a week we three (61 when you add us all up) used to dine together. and then covid. for well over a year, dinners stopped and phone calls commenced. but even zoom doesn’t come close to the ritual of preparing good food and sitting down all together around a table. finally, fully-vaccinated and still wearing masks out in public spaces, we are back. and so there is a piece of our world that has righted; the axis is just a little less tilted. we are grateful.

20 goes way back for me. shortly after my beloved big brother died, i believe he looked down from heaven and hand-picked out 20 to stand in for him. he didn’t expect 20 to be exactly who he was, he just expected him to be there for me. and vice-versa.

my little girl and 20’s little girl took ballet lessons together as tiny ballerinas and 20 and i sat on the wood floor with other parents just off the studio, morning light spilling in through the windows. my little boy drove his matchbox cars up and down the hall, including on and off 20’s legs, clearly seeing in him a man who adored the magic of small children and their imaginations. it was like group therapy, this cadre of parents on the wooden floor, and we still think of those times fondly. we followed ballet class with an ice-cream-sundae trip across the street to andrea’s and sitting on high stools at jack’s cafe in front of the soda fountain. cups of hot coffee and watching our tiny girls make straw dolls with paper napkins and my little toddler boy having soup-that-race-cars-eat with a side of saltines and pickles were glittery times…priceless. in the way that life and mystery goes, 20 happened to be a graphic designer at a time in my life when i needed a graphic designer. we celebrated my first album together and he designed many of the next ones. there for meetings or reviews, i watched him and justine and duke at work. i had the good fortune of secondhand learning; i still credit 20 with the way i design things now. it was inevitable that we would still be almost-brother-sister 27 years later. i imagine this will go on forever and ever, in the way that my own big brother devised it. only now, we are a trio of compadres. we’d have it no other way.

in this time of so much loss for so many, we have not gone unscathed. jobs and security, finances and healthcare, communities-within-communities, relationships – all have an iota of decimation. the rituals of our life together are the things we hold onto, the firm footing that delivers us from one day to the next. for us, resuming the twice-a-week dinners with 20, friday night potlucks with our dear-dear friends which have temporarily become happy-hours in their backyard, our familiar-trail hikes watching the seasons change in the woods…these are real, three-dimensional and steady and are evidence of life beyond these times. they are evidence of a return to some semblance of normal, though we suspect things may never actually be normal again.

we are still careful out in public. we still wear masks and use sanitizer. at OT appointments they still take my temperature, have a pile of masks at the door and ask a slew of covid questions. we are wary of too much exposure – our innermost circle demands it, for this pandemic is still alive and well and we do not wish to place our dearest close ones at any potentially devastating risk.

yesterday we passed a teen girl walking down the sidewalk, mask at her chin, with a sad, sad face. it made me think about all the people who have lost loved ones during this year-plus of covid. i wonder how they feel as they watch others, in seeming cavalier fashion, gather in crowds, throw out their masks and throw any remaining caution to the wind. i’m guessing maybe they are heartbroken. because there is no going back. it can’t be undone. and the loss of their beloveds has not changed others who do not walk in their shoes.

i guess it’s the lack of empathy, the lack of looking-out-for-each-other, the lack of small efforts of willingness to aid the big community that i find most disturbing. because, really, in the ritual-festooned-relationship-rich-shimmering-end we are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.

just ask 34.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY