Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Learn To Fly

The journey begins...my second mother/daughter vacation with Perri, but oddly to my mother's condo in Florida. I wonder what wisdom will seep from the apartment walls from my mom to me to Perri. I hope that when Perri (and Russell) gets to be my age she will remember whatever lessons I am trying to impart, just as I now try to remember the multitude of dos and don'ts that my parents gave to me over the years.

Perri was on an earlier flight to Florida, flying solo from Boston, where we will meet up in West Palm Beach. Yet we insisted she keep in touch during critical steps of her journey. And so she did, texting to let us know the cabhad arrived (first text, 5:15 a.m.), that she arrived at the airport and was waiting to check her luggage (5:35 a.m.), that she made it through security and she bought a Starbucks ice caramel macchiato (6:19 a.m.), that she doesn't have (or forgot to pack) ankle socks for her sneakers (6:21 a.m.), that she's enjoying the sunrise view at the gate (6:33 a.m.), that she boarded her plane (7:20 a.m.), that she was turning her phone off (7:29 a.m.). Whew!

So how did my parents handle my flying solo to Israel in 1973 following the Yom Kippur War to volunteer on a kibbutz during my junior year of college? No cell phones, pay phones too expensive except for one collect call when I arrived in Lod Airport. I'm sure they were just as concerned about my safety, if not more so; it was right after a war, after all. Yet they freely let me go. The lesson: Let her fly! Literally and figuratively. And so I did.

I arrived at the bus station in Jerusalem just as the public transportation system was shutting down for Shabbat. I had no idea how to get to a high school friend's apartment (he, along with a few others I knew were there for junior year abroad). I had befriended a father and daughter on the bus (or rather, they befriended me), and they offered me a ride to the apartment, with a warning about stairway lights that go on only if you push the button at the bottom of the stairs (of course, they never told me about how to find the button in the dark!).

Somehow I managed. I managed (with the help from another friend, also there for her junior year abroad) to get from the volunteer office in Tel Aviv to the kibbutz in the Negev where I had been assigned for the month. I managed to survive the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift in the Styrofoam factory, inspecting and packing coffee cups. I managed to take trips to Beersheba, to drink Turkish coffee while playing chess, to try smoking--ugh (part of our pay was a pack of cigarettes and 2 chocolate bars each week; smart me, I traded the cigarettes for extra chocolates, and my hips are paying till this day). I managed to get back to Jerusalem for a few days sightseeing staying in a hotel near the Arab quarter because I asked the taxi driver to take me to a cheap hotel...and he did. I managed all this without checking in with my parents every step of the way.

My parents taught me a valuable lesson, one which I now pass along to Perri and to Russell—learn to fly solo and enjoy the adventure. Try new things; make smart choices; and when you need to, call (or text) home.

Friday, March 15, 2013

People Are More Important Than Things

I remember many trips to shopping malls, antique stores, and flea markets as a youngster. My mother once told me that she liked to acquire “stuff,” because as a child she didn't have much. She talked about a doll that she and her two sisters had to share, making its bed in a shoebox with clothes fashioned out of scraps of material that my grandfather, a tailor, brought home. Though if you talk to my two aunts, they will tell you a different story—that my mother (the eldest) somehow didn't share as much as they did.

But in all her acquisitions, I only remember a few things that she actually searched outa white wicker rocker, a glass and silver match striker, and a cranberry glass pitcher. Cranberry glass is a decorative (not mass produced) glass whose shimmer is achieved by adding gold chloride to the molten glass.

For many years, she used that pitcher at holiday dinners at dessert time, putting in milk for the coffee drinkers. When I was about 15, she delegated that taskfilling the pitcherto me. The memory is vivid so many years later. As I poured the cold milk into the pitcher, I heard a noise, and then noticed a crack near its bottom. I shriveled up; I was devastated. She had searched many years for that pitcher; it was one of her joys; and in one instant, I had destroyed it.

Though upset herself, she tried very hard to console me, claiming blame for the crack. I am a science teacher, she said. I should know that if you pour cold milk into a warm pitcher, the glass will expand...and crack.

And then the learning moment. Besides, she added, things aren't that important; people are important.

Her words echoed in my head recently when Doug was in a car accident. Airbags deployed, our new car (only two months old) severely damaged, he emerged without a physical scratch. He was and is still shaken by that experience. Nearly $14,000 later (the final repairs on the loose transmission bolts completed today), he and I are very grateful for our insurance policy with Allstate!

More importantly, I am grateful that he is alive. It's something Ive reminded him about in the six weeks since the accident: It's a car; its money; its upsetting, but its not that important. You are important.

Sometimes in the hubbub of our daily lives, in the rush of work and the race to acquire more things, we forget the basics: Things aren't that important; people are important.

As I age, my note to myself is to always keep that in mind. I want to always be appreciative of the people in my life—my clients, my girlfriends, my brother and his wife, my family, my children, and my Doug. I love you all now and know that I always will.