Thursday, December 29, 2016

MANY Thanks!

My friend Mike, like myself, turned 60 this year (it’s only been days for me, and I’m still processing the farewell to my fabulous fifties). Mike wrote letters to 60 people who had influenced his life (yup, 60 letters!) I was very touched to receive one of those letters (I taught his daughters in Confirmation class, and they went on quite a few mission trips with me). 

I determined that I, too, would pen special notes, one for each year of my life. Though I realize the hand-written missive is usually more meaningful, in my case the recipient would not have a clue what I had said to them, such is my penmanship these days. So—I’d type them on my computer. That was the ticket! I began to make a list of the 60 lucky folks who would unexpectedly hear from me. My high school French teacher! My first grade best friend! A fellow actor from my dinner theatre days! They would be thrilled to know that they had been fondly remembered by a middle-aged woman in Pennsylvania! Wouldn’t they??

Then reality sunk in. Who am I kidding? Writing (always belated) thank you notes for gifts is the extent of my non-electronic correspondence—and those only because our mom drilled the etiquette into us. I gave up on individual Christmas card notes years ago, and can’t bring myself to pay postage for Yuletide greetings simply signed, illegibly, with my name. “Who do we know named Elsa? Elijah? Elliott?” I imagine the puzzled queries of my friends as they try to decipher my handwriting.

This heartwarming project is, alas, probably not going to happen. But maybe…maybe I could do a much briefer version of Mike’s tributes. I could tweet about my honored people! Short and sweet!

Mo and I ready for Sister Mary Frances' musical extravaganza!

 My Nana’s (very) eccentric elderly friend: Retta O’Brien, you taught me that you’re never too old for go-go boots and bright red lipstick! Four year old me called you a “glamour girl.”  

The meanest kid in elementary school: Peggy C., thank you for toughening me up! I needed the exercise of running home, sobbing, after you banished me from your house.

My ambitious choir director: Sister Mary Frances, from you I learned that 26 solos in an 8th grade concert is about 20 too many, especially if one is the theme from “Gone with the Wind.”

The violinist who stood us up at our wedding: Thank you “Itzhak Perlman”! The processional sounded pretty strange without you, but the money we saved paid for the gas between Atlanta and our NYC honeymoon.

The hairdresser who gave me that hideous perm: Appreciated the special “do,” Donna! I looked just like a life sized Shirley Temple doll. Every 35 year old woman’s dream.

And so on. My favorite bus niece with the seven (God love her) children.. shout-outs to them all! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m on a roll here. Gratitude abounds, 140 characters at a time. 60 tweets or bust!

The exact moment I realized my wedding violinist was a no-show

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Comedy Club, Parc Brasserie, Overnight at the Warwick: I could get used to this!
As a special touch during a fabulous week of 60th birthday celebrations that included an evening in the city and a great party the next day, Yaj and Sher treated me to a manicure and pedicure in Chestnut Hill. I usually tuck gift certificates for things like these away for three years before hauling them out and realizing that they have lost every penny of their value. Because, I tell myself, I am too busy to be pampered! Plus I feel badly being scolded by those hapless souls whose job it is to beautify me.

Saturday, my manicurist/pedicurist was an exuberant Russian woman named Marina. She examined my hands and sighed, deeply and dramatically. “Ahhh, your skin eet’s so so dry. Do you drink vater all day? No? Dat is vat I thought. Look, I rub in lotion and dry skin eet comes right off. You vill do dat at home, yes? Rub in lotion every day? OK yes! And I vill not cut nails as short as you do. And you vill not cut short nails from now on, yes? OK yes! You say you vant clear polish? No you do not vant dat. You vant a light peenk color, like so. Dere!”

And that was just the hands. I looked at my poor old feet and saw them as Marina would: dry (of course), thickly callused (I like to go barefoot as often as I can), with chipped, uneven nails. I quickly plunged them into the whirlpool so that they were less visible, but Marina knew. Each foot rated its own heavy sigh as my beauty professional used some weird buzzing tool to scrape off the calluses, then moisturized (a lot), and applied polish (NOT clear). Dere!

I didn’t get a massage this time, but have had them a couple of times in the past. These are the moments when I am described as “incredibly tense” with “muscles all knotted.” Note to masseuse: calling someone “incredibly tense” just makes her incredibly tenser. At home, Sheridan sometimes will rub my shoulders, and even he (my own offspring!) will be critical of my tightness and tension. “Try to relax!” they all say. This advice brings me right back to labor and delivery, where I was told to “try to relax” between mountainous contractions. Didn’t work then, either.

I guess I am just not a good spa candidate. I looked around the salon the other day at all the happy, relaxed, soft-skinned women drinking their complimentary tea, and knew I was totally out of my league.

Soft feet and polished nails! It's a birthday miracle!

Three days post-treat, my nails still look nice and my skin still feels soft, but I know it’s just a matter of time. Pretty soon I will be back to my old jagged-nail, dry-skinned self, and I will shrug my incredibly tense shoulders and get on with life. But I will always be so grateful to my amazing family for this fairy tale birthday week, when 60 did, indeed, feel like 30.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Searching for (Baby) Jesus

Every year in June, I start looking for pregnant women. I am most comfortable approaching women who I am 100% certain ARE with child, but when I get desperate I’ll talk to anyone who looks like a maybe, just in case. This has led to some embarrassment from time to time, but I am never deterred from my goal: I need Baby Jesus.

Our church has a pageant every Christmas Eve, with a winsome cast of Sunday Schoolers, and a real live baby in the starring role. I have directed this extravaganza for the past 15 years, and, always, the hardest part is finding a baby the right age (between 6 weeks and 4 months) who can lay in the rocking cradle without rolling over and possibly rolling out of it onto the floor. You would be surprised how many people pay no attention to my one simple rule when deciding to expand their families! Babies in July indeed! And then they are all disappointed when I have to turn their precious infants down. Not my fault that they didn’t plan ahead!

My Jesuses over the years have included: boys, girls, a set of twins (Jesus and a spare), and several tiny Catholics (we are Lutheran, but at a time like this who cares?) They are usually pretty well behaved (Mary is handed a pacifier along with her costume). It is a great part for young aspiring actors: in the spotlight through the whole show, with no lines to learn and no rehearsals to attend. I only ask that they be suitably dressed: solid color onesies, with no pictures of zoo animals or “clever” sayings on them.

In our version of the Christmas story, B.J. is carried from the back of the church, down the center aisle, up two stone steps, to the cradle. The carrier is the “Head Angel,” who is usually a middle schooler. It’s a long, perilous journey for the pair, and my heart is always in my throat (especially on those stone steps). We’ve always been very lucky, and the Holy Infant has made it safely to the manger. When the occasional Head Angel has appeared in church wearing heels, I make her walk barefoot, which when you think of it is more authentic anyway, right?

Well this year MY son and daughter-in-law DID plan ahead. Peter was born September 23rd, perfect timing. No more stalking Motherhood Maternity, or sending out flyers through the nursery school. I have my own home-grown Son of Man! I find myself being even more protective than usual because he is mine. I briefly thought of running background checks and getting fingerprints for this year’s Head Angel, but decided that might be a tad excessive. I do plan to put extra padding in the cradle to make it more comfy, and if he fusses I personally will pick him up, even if I have to leave the pulpit in mid-sermon to do so. Nothing but the best for this little Messiah!

Baby Jesus AKA Peter Seyfried