“What are you saving it for, the Maypole Dance?”

Standard

‘If you’re not going to lose it, then go ahead and use it’

I remember one time back when I was young and single here in New York City. I was just sitting down to dinner, blissfully alone in my apartment up on 93rd Street. (There’s a great story about how I got this apartment, called “Horowitz Plays the Bedroom”, that you might want to read, but not just yet.)

Anyway. My buzzer rang, and, since I had no doorman, I stuck my head out the window to check out who was down there. Seeing that it was a friend, I put my key in a sock and threw it out the window so he could let himself in and come on up. He comes in and I offer him a glass of wine. Whereupon he looks at my table, where there is a placemat, cloth napkin, pretty plate, nice wineglass, the whole nine yards — and asks (panting; it was five steep flights up), “Oh. Sorry. Are you expecting company?”

A table loaded with joy-producing items, including Child and Friend. I make use of all of these, and not just on special occasions

When I explained that, no, dinner was just me, and yes, I did in fact do this sort of thing every night — every night I wasn’t out, that is — he looked baffled. “All this — just for you?!?”

Sure, I said. Who better to do nice things for?

This story came to mind because there’s been a lot of buzz lately about living simpler lives and giving things away. I don’t know if Marie Kondo actually started it all — there have no doubt been what the Times calls “gurus of tidiness” since the days ladies cluttered their caves with way too many pretty rocks — but apparently this trend shows no signs of abating.

Now actually, I do enjoy a good possessions purge myself. In fact, you can find some pretty good tips about what clothing to keep — or not — in “Just Because It Fits, Doesn’t Mean You Should Wear It”.

Double Kondo. The Child divests herself of a kilt that I had passed on to her. Her reason? No joy. My reason? No knee coverage

So no, this is not an anti-Kondo diatribe. What I’d like to do today is urge you to use — and enjoy — what you don’t purge. If you get rid of something because it doesn’t “spark joy”, then, conversely, the stuff you keep should. And that crystal wine glass or cashmere sweater or engraved stationery can’t do much joy-sparking if you don’t use it.

Case in point: after The Dude’s Mom died, we found a stash of pristine stationery — boxes of it that she had never even opened, much less used. And not even her daughters could get joy out of it — it was monogrammed.

On the other hand, I have a good friend who wears her much-loved and recently-departed mother’s pearls every single day. They are valuable pearls, real heirlooms that another kind of woman would store in a vault. But no, she wears them. And no, she is not a fancy New York City socialite. She is a landscaper and garden designer out on Long Island. And she wears those pearls with her teeshirts, work pants and boots, goldarnit.

Now my Mom is not the pearl-wearing or pearl-leaving kind, unless you count pearls of wisdom. Which brings me to “What are you saving it for, the Maypole Dance?” , a saying she’d deploy when she’d notice someone (like her own mother) saving something for good. When was this time that was “good” enough supposed to arrive, she’d ask? Next week? A year from now? I remember in particular a mink hat my Gramma was “saving”. It was too “nice” even for church, but my mother finally convinced her to wear it to brunch at my Uncle Ronald’s. (Incidentally, I myself practice what Mom preaches. The photo at the top of this post shows me wearing my “good” Ogilvy ten-years-of-service Concord watch — and not much else.)

That’s my wise Maypole-Dance-saying Mom with my Gramma. Who is not wearing her mink hat. But, in fairness, it was a hot day

So, in closing, let me urge you, a la the “gurus of tidiness”, to go ahead and lose the things that don’t “spark joy”. But if you’re not going to lose it, then by all means use it. Eat your Chinese takeout on your best china. Wear the Burberry cashmere sweater while streaming Netflix on your couch.

Oh, and do break out that monogrammed stationery — even if you just use it to jot down your list of things you want to get rid of.

New York City. April 2019

 

No bottles, no binkies. Just Beach Boys

Standard

‘Why being an Aunt is so Great’

I was going to write yet another post about our Ugandan Trip, to be titled (wait for it) ‘Gorilla My Dreams‘. But then some other little monkeys intervened.

The little Ugandan monkeys who wanted to visit me in the worst way. And ‘worst way’ it would have been, had I acquiesced

The monkeys in question would be my (gulp) great-nieces. They are the absolutely adorbs spawn of my Nephew-By-Marriage and his Thank-God-He-Married-Her equally adorbs wife. I, of course, leave out Actual Names in this blog. But these are The Ones Who Own the Chocolate Factory. (When you’re done reading this story, check out their chocolate. Literally.)

The Monkeys in Question. Right after Numero Tres was added to the mix

Those of you who read my stories regularly (your reward awaits in Heaven) know that I have a large and much-beloved family. My Henry side gave me four-count-em-four aunts (and that’s only counting my Dad’s sisters; there were four other aunts-in-law). Continue reading

Paradise by the kitchen light

Standard

‘Meatloaf again. Or maybe chili this time.’

It’s my darned fault it’s been so chilly here in the Northeast. Not only did I stow my chili (speaking of ‘chilly’) pot away, but I put my meatloaf pans in mothballs. Figuratively, that is. It’s sort of like what happened last week when I took our big fat comforter to the cleaners. It snowed.

But back to the kitchen. When the weather’s cold, there’s nothing we Henrys like better than a big ole batch of Anything Made With Ground Meat. Of course, my Oldest Younger Brother Scott, being a Californian, scorns chili made with ground meat. But the rest of us slurp it up like gangbusters. (I’m featuring a photo of a large pot of a late great batch right there at the top of this post.)

When I was growing up, my Mom made chili a lot. Her recipe for chili was the same as her recipe for spaghetti sauce — except that the chili had beans. Continue reading

The Red Shoes (on)

Standard

‘When saying it wrong is too cute to correct’

I was feeling kind of empty, the Australian Open being over and all (oh where will I get my Federer Fix?), so I called my Mom.

(Let me say right off the bat that I am ever so grateful to have a Mom, and that having one as smart and funny and almost-always-available by iPhone as mine is, well that’s just cosmic icing on the cake.)

So, anyway. After discussing various relatives and their illnesses and books and movies and baseball (she doesn’t follow tennis, but I love her anyway), and the Fate of the Nation in General, we got around to my blog. And the fact that my Mom had, yet again, tried to post a comment that didn’t ‘take’. (We won’t go into technical details, except to note that my Mom is extremely tech-savvy, more than I am, in fact. She has personally designed her own emoji. So I am stymied about why/how she can’t post comments. Sigh.)

My Mom and Dad and my Peterson Grandparents, when I was adorably small and in no need of shoes, red or not red

Her comment? It was in reference to last week’s post which, if you recall, was about me feeling like it was about time already to be giving away certain stuff in my closet and was titled ‘At least it’s not a dead-squirrel stole’. Continue reading

At least it’s not a dead-squirrel stole

Standard

‘On knowing when it’s time to let go’

Now, I haven’t gone so far as to embrace ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’, which, if you caught my post from a couple of weeks ago (“Out with the old year, but not out with the old stuff. Yet.”) you know is this thing where Swedes give away their stuff so that their kids don’t have to go through it after they die. Honest.

But lately I have been going through my clothes and offering what I consider choice items to The Child and her pals. They are, after all, in their mid-twenties, which is how old I was when I acquired, say, those paisley corduroy pants. Or the orange-and-white striped cashmere sweater. Or the fancy black dress shown in these photos:

I’m not what you’d call a Clothes Horse, but if you’ve been a grown woman as long as I have you tend to have a pretty packed closet. When an Event comes up, I don’t go shopping, I just dig around in there and find something that’ll ‘do’.

For a recent rather fancy wedding: dress I wore to Niece Ella’s christening in 2000, jacket I got in London when I was working there in the 90s, plus sunglasses scored on an LA shoot in the 80s

Continue reading

“I’ll be (at Somebody’s Else’s) Home for Christmas”

Standard

‘”You can count on me (not to give you a hard time about it)”‘

Or not too much of a hard time, anyway. I mean, what did I expect? The Child is a Certified Grownup now, and not even a freshly-minted one. (She is not only ‘over 21’, she is ‘over 25′.)

Hmmm. It’s a wonder she didn’t spend Christmas Away even earlier

Even when she was a wee Santa-Believing Child I knew that, at some point in the Foggy Festive Future, there would come a Christmas that she would want to spend Elsewhere. And, even though we’ve been guilty of ‘downsizing’ our Christmas festivities as the years have whizzed by — going from super-sized Trees complete with all the Tree Trimmings (including a big ole pot-roast-fueled Tree Trim Party) to ever-smaller sort-of-decorated Trees In Pots to No (gasp) Tree At All — I still took it for granted that she would be with us at Christmas.

After all, she made it home for Christmas all through college. Why, even the year she spent studying in Cambridge (the England Cambridge, not the Massachusetts Cambridge), she managed to get herself Home in time for December 25. (Gosh, I hope I fed her some pot roast.) Continue reading

Is that stocking half full, or half empty?

Standard

‘The Philosophy of Gift-giving. It’s all how you look at it.’

One of the few times I saw my mother weep was one Christmas when she opened a gaily-wrapped package only to discover that my well-meaning father had given her an electric toothbrush. “It’s the latest thing,” he protested as he tried to comfort her. It didn’t help when he pointed out that it came with different heads, one for each member of our family.

Poor Dad. He was one of those well-meaning people who give gifts that they really want. He loved gadgets; ergo, Mom got gadgets. I think it was the next Christmas that he gave her the electric knife.

My Mom later told us about a Christmas when she was very little — a Christmas when she really really wanted roller skates. There was a largish, heavyish roller-skate-appropriate box under the tree that looked promising. But her Uncle Warren Who Liked To Tease (didn’t everyone have one of these?) kept telling her it was a hair ribbon. Poor Mom.

I’m not sure if this was the Christmas Of The Electric Knife. Or the Christmas Of The Electric Toothbrush

Continue reading

Deck the halls with bough of holly

Standard

‘A Grinch Guide to Holiday decor’

Well, maybe not ‘Grinch’. Make that more of a ‘minimalist’. It’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas (well, not as much as I enjoy Thanksgiving; everybody who knows me knows that.) And it’s not that I don’t appreciate a nice Christmas Tree. In fact, I remember gazing out of the car window as we worked our way through small town after small town on those long pre-interstate drives up to my Gramma’s in Northern Illinois, admiring the Trees that were strategically placed in front-room picture windows for maximum drive-by impact.

But I’ve never been one of those people who fusses with the ornaments on her own Christmas Tree, arranging and rearranging them every time she walks by, striving for Holiday Perfection. In fact, I do everything I can to avoid having my own Christmas Tree.

Oh, there for a few years, when The Child was an Actual Child, I condescended to allowing a Tree on the premises. But I got The Dude and The Child to go get the tree. (I made this sound like a fun Daddy-and-Daughter outing, while I cleverly stayed home and sipped champagne.) And I threw a Tree Trim Party to get other people to actually do the decorating of said tree. I made this sound fun, too, by luring friends over with the promise of more champagne — and my Famous Pot Roast — in return for their bringing over an ornament (and this is the important part) hanging it on the Tree. (I’ve told the story of my Tom Sawyerish get-someone-else-to-do-the-work Tree Trickery in a previous hilarious/nostalgic post called ‘(N)o Tannenbaum’, which I invite you to read when you’re done chuckling over this one.)

I decorate myself in preparation for bribing friends with pot roast in return for decorating that bare tree, stage left

Continue reading

Touch ‘M’ for ‘Murder’

Standard

‘The time I out-teched my Techie daughter’

Boy, are my arms tired. I just flew back from the Coast; the Oregon Coast, that is, where I spent a most marvelous three days with two of the coolest women on the Planet, my Mom and my Favorite Sister Laura. (I’ve told her many times that she would be my Favorite Sister even if I had more than one sister, which I swear is the truth even though I can’t exactly test my theory.)

Favorite Sister, pictured at left in tiny hat. Mom, on right. All on the Oregon Coast, just 3 days ago (sigh)

The reason she’s my fave — today’s reason anyway — is that she gave me the idea for this post. Which is about the time I out-teched the most tech-savvy person I know, a person in her mid-twenties who holds a seriously important job at a company so techalicious that I have absolutely no idea what it is they do. It is called Kensho, and you can, if so inclined, read about it here. My brain, as well as my arms, is way too tired to try to ‘splain it to you.

The Person in Question is, of course, The Child.

The Child gets introduced to Technology at an early age

Continue reading

Yes, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

Standard

‘I know because I had my share of stinkers.’

I don’t want to embarrass The Child. Well, not any more than I have to. But I must say that she has excellent taste in boyfriends. So far, fingers-and-all-toes fervently crossed, she has managed to choose ‘dates’ who have not inspired The Dude or me to put on that Fake Nice-to-Meet-You Face. Or not very often, anyway.

(I put ‘dates’ in quotes because I don’t think that’s what Young People call ‘guys you go out with’. But, for my purposes today, it’ll have to do.)

Now, before I dig myself in deep here, let me say that this is not going to be a story about The Child and her ‘dates’. (I can hear her ‘whew’ all the way from Cambridge.) Nope. It’s going to be about me and mine. Continue reading