Archive for June, 2010

Auntie Em & Uncle Lawrence

I’ve spent the last two nights with Emilyn and Lawrence Kogan in Stamford, Connecticut. Emilyn is Steve’s late mother’s sister. I never got to meet Steve’s mom, Fritzi. But being with Emilyn helps me have a sense of her. It helps me know and love Steve all the more. Did I ever tell you how much I love my Jewish family?

I was pretty beat from the two-day train ride-DC ordeal, so we decided NOT to take another train into NYC for our one day together. Instead we stayed at the house all day in our jammies and talked – and worked on some family genealogy. Ah… lovely. It was a day full of family history, photos, and stories. This Brooklyn Jewish immigrant community was so far removed from my small-town Southern Baptist Oklahoma /Texas/California upbringing, we might as well be from different planets. Steve and I are going on ten years together, yet I have so much more to learn about this fascinating family with a rich culture, traditions, and strong ties.

Both Em & Lawrence’s grandparents emigrated from Europe to Brooklyn. They didn’t speak English when they arrived, but they learned it quickly and went to work. The next generation owned businesses. Emilyn’s father, Steve’s grandfather, registered for the draft for both WWI and WWII. Em & Lawrence’s generation had jobs, and Lawrence served in Europe during WWII. Their sons are now professionals in the legal and medical fields. Their grandchildren are working hard on their education and are destined for success. They’ve had their share of troubles, like any normal family, but through it all their love and commitment for one another remains strong.

Em & Lawrence are in their seventies and are always fun to be with. The same year that I was born, they left Brooklyn and bought this little house in Stamford for $18,000. Sometime later, without refinancing, they scraped together enough to add a second floor and more bedrooms upstairs. So now they own a six-bedroom home in a lovely quiet NYC suburb… free and clear.

Lynne, Em, and me

Steve’s cousin Lynne turns fifty on July 9, the day after my fiftieth birthday. To celebrate both our birthdays, Em took Lynne and me out for dinner last night.

What fun. Lynne has a vision for starting a home for women who are just out of prison and who want to be reunited with their children who are in foster care. The home would be an opportunity for these women to get back on their feet financially and socially, and have a supportive environment to rebuild their relationships with their children. She has the know-how to make it work, bringing in grant money, and gathering the right staff. I can’t wait to hear the outcome of this one. For her fiftieth birthday, Lynne and her family are going to the Caribbean for eight days. Cool beans.

Every two years Jay & Lynne’s synagogue takes their youth group on a civil-rights tour through the South. They visit the famous sites of the civil-rights movement and learn about what it took to bring a powerful change in American culture. They also do internships in Washington, DC to learn how to lobby for justice.

Lawrence and Yonaton

Lynne’s oldest, Jenny Rose, is at the University of Vermont. Jenny’s cousin Yonaton is at Harvard. He’s spending the summer in New York City working at Planned Parenthood. He stays with Em & Lawrence when he’s not house sitting in the city. He arrived last night and we stayed up with tea and cookies and talked. For his just-for-fun summer reading, he is plowing through Anne Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. He’s on page 800 out of 1000. He’s reading it because he disagrees with the philosophy behind it and wants to better understand the opposing point of view. He reads to expand his own mind and challenge his own presuppositions. What a novel idea. I loved our discussion.

These are my in-laws. I love them dearly – and amazingly – they love me too.

Right now I’m on Amtrak’s Downeaster, heading from Boston to Portland, Maine, where I’ll start my next adventure with Harrah. I’ll write again, next time I have wi-fi. Might be a day or two.

Thanks for following along.

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Trains

I have always loved trains. As kids, my brother and I would count all the cars at the crossing. Then we would argue about what number we got. I also loved riding the little train around Disneyland, from Fantasy Land to Tomorrow Land. Seeing the backs of all the rides and buildings.

When I first moved to Seattle, I took the train from Santa Barbara. It was a beautiful trip through the mountains filled with brilliant fall colors dusted with an early snow. I was an excited nineteen-year-old beginning a new life in a new city. That train ride was my transition into independence.

Sunday morning, I bid farewell to Kim, and boarded the train in Raleigh heading for Washington, D.C. I had anticipated getting in at 3:15 in the afternoon with just enough time to take in a quick visit to the Smithsonian or some such grand place followed by a visit with Abe at the Lincoln Memorial. Unfortunately, all the museums close at 5:30, about the time I got off the train. Not to worry, I’ll just visit the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. I didn’t realize how far the walk would be. The Capitol is on one end of the mall, Lincoln is two miles away at the other end, and Washington is in the middle. On any other day, there would be these lovely little busses that run circles around the mall all day, but this was Sunday, and they weren’t running. No problem, I thought. I’ve been practicing my three-mile sweat walk with Kim and her buddies. This will just be one more mile, and I’ve been sitting all day in a chilly air-conditioned train. Silly, silly child. It was about 100 degrees with unbearable humidity. I made it about half way to dear Washington and pooped out. My feet were swollen; I was hot, tired, thirsty, and too cheap to hire one of the little rickshaws. I found the nearest metro station, picked up my luggage which I had stored at the train station, and made my way to my hotel. By the time I fell into bed at about 10, I was done. Really – done…and disappointed…and all alone with no one to make me laugh about the day. I’ll have to come back with Steve, with time, and with a plan.

Up at 5:15 Monday morning, to navigate the Metro back to the train station and take the Vermonter to Stamford, Connecticut.

My main focus on this trip is to spend time with my dear girlfriends. But I can’t pass through the New York area without stopping by to visit Steve’s Aunt Emilyn and Uncle Lawrence.

Bad Pets

Yesterday, Kim & I decided to take it a little slow. We’ve been spending every morning in a coffee shop, either Guglehupf or some other so I could post my little blog. Yesterday, I thought we’d be done quickly. I just wanted to upload some of those great pics we took the day before. But NOOOO…. This took longer than anything. In the meantime, we both spilled coffee and made big messes. Oye! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the photos.

After the coffee/photo adventure, I asked Kim to take me back to Cedar Creek Gallery. They have the coolest stuff. I remembered one little item in the “Bad Pets” section that had her laughing so hard when we were there…. I just had to go back and get it for her.
You have to understand… First off is the obvious. Kim is a CAT person. I am a DOG person. Kim has three cats: Oscar, the senior member of the family; Finn, the playful genius; and Lilly, the prissy little girl.

So, having a bad little dog with a cigarette in its mouth, and the word “Bitch” stitched on its butt just seemed appropriate for her guest room.

Secondly, this might reflect a bit of our love-hate relationship.

Remember when I told you that Kim and I first met when she had to tell me that she hated me? Well, since then, we have a bit of fun with it and take turns hating each other.

When we would go camping together, we’d sit by the fire talking. Inevitably some relationship or other would come up. “Sherman likes you better.” “Yeah, but Warren likes you better.” “Well… Jean Marie likes you better.” “Well, you have all these passionate deep friendships.” “Well, you have this whole youth thing going on.” I hate you! This was while smoking those little cigars and sipping something warm and soft that I never thought I was allowed to sip before.

This list would go on. All the things we actually loved and admired about each other would somehow come out as “I hate you because…”

Kim has always been so clear about who she is, what she loves and what she hates. Her clarity would often shock my own fuzzy people-pleasing “likes/dislikes” into stark truth that would surprise me more than it surprised her. Somehow, her complete acceptance of me would make all my pretenses unusable. There was no use pretending with Kim. I hadn’t realized how much I HAD been pretending, especially to myself, until I spent time with Kim.

Being together now is like picking up where we left off. Nothing has changed. Or should I say… she hasn’t changed. I feel more like I can hold my own a bit more with this powerful woman.

This morning, while going on the weekly three-mile sweat walk with her new friends, one of them asked me if Kim has changed since she was a little girl. I haven’t known her THAT long, but I could answer, probably not. She’s the same woman I met seventeen years ago, stubbornly generous, fiercely loyal, compassionate, big hearted, and frighteningly honest. I’m happy for her new friends. I just wonder if they realize what they’ve signed up for.

Last night we had a picnic in Southern Village, this area’s version of our own Windsor Towne Greene. We met our friends here for an outdoor concert of the North Carolina Symphony.

Today, we went with our friends to see Toy Story 3. I cried (Kim did too). I won’t spoil the plot for you, but thinking about it now, I realize why it seemed so moving.

When Kim left California, I felt like my heart was being torn out of my chest. I also see now how we have each moved on, made new friends, and had new and separate adventures. But our love for each other is as strong as ever.

She has taught me new lessons. BE who you are, no matter your circumstances. Cherish the people in your life, all of them. Relish every moment. Notice the details. Love beauty and the ones who create it. And never ever EVER lose your sense of humor.

Thanks, my friend. I will miss you. But my heart is staying secure in my chest this time.

Carr Mill Mall Photo Art

This is an old textile mill in Carrboro, that has been converted into a mall.

Duke Chapel Photo Art

Kim and I both love architecture. Here’s our shot at Duke Chapel.

Guglhupf Photo Art

Kim is a photo artist. I have eight of her pieces up in my home. I’d link you to her website so you could order some beautiful prints for your home, but unfortunately, she doesn’t have one.

Here are a few shots that we took at Guglhupf. I say we…. because she took most of them, and I’m trying to learn. Ha! Good luck!

Next post, I’ll show you Duke.

Amelie…


Kim & I spent the morning yesterday at the Guglhupf Bakery and Café. We’re doing the café’s in the mornings so I can get on the internet to publish the blog. This one is our favorite. Fun little German bakery with lots of cool art, and free wi-fi… We’re back again this morning.

Yesterday, we drove to University Mall in Chapel Hill to meet up with Pam Owen, have lunch, and SHOP… I was expecting the standard mall with all the same old shops you see everywhere. They had a few of those, but most of these were local and really cool. Warmed my heart. Check out the geckos. Sometime, I’ll tell you about Steve and the Geckos. It was a bonus to see Pam again.

After we stocked up at the Wall of Chocolate at A Southern Season we headed home. Kim has a supply of her favorite movies. I had never seen Amelie, so we put it in.

If you haven’t seen Amélie, I think you should. It’s the ultimate feel good movie, and lo and behold, it’s French.

The movie got us talking about relationships. How sad it is when women think we might have found “the one”, only “the one” can’t seem to make up his mind…. Hmmm, do I want YOU or do I want something or someone else? THE ONE will not have any trouble making up his mind.

Darlin’, if he can’t decide, he’s definitely NOT the one.

One of my girlfriends has an expression for what she’s looking for: “The man who will walk across the crowded room for me.” She means the man who sees her, and no one else. Kim and I both had one when we were young. That first love, that we let get away – for really really stupid reasons.

I’m so grateful for Steve. I was the one who couldn’t make up my mind. HE on the other hand, bless his heart, loved me from the very beginning. I never worried about that. And I thank God every day for that.