Something About Mary

heart of gold

I apologize for the late post. I went to New York for a funeral. Pleas read on. 

The first time I met Mary, she was moving into the house next door to mine. She was tall, Italian and had short black hair, curled and coiffed so it never moved.  Her seven-year-old daughter, Beth, asked me if I wanted to have a picnic on the front lawn. I was nine and wary of hanging out with younger kids, but she was so nice and she was right next door, so I said yes. Beth and I laid a blanket out on the tall grass that grew above the septic tank. We could hear her mom and dad, but mostly her mom, directing the movers as they emptied their truck. Mary was  multitasking, taking care of Beth’s baby sister while she got the house in order.

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Just Like Riding a Bicycle

imagebot (11)Fingers crushing the handle bars, I started to pedal. The bike steered me on a wavy path before I realized I was leaning too hard on the handle bars and squeezing too tightly. I loosened up and got more control over the bike. I pedaled it up the incline, around the circle, shaky. It wasn’t true what they said. You really do forget how to ride a bike. I made a few laps around the cul-de-sac and slowed down for a break. I wasn’t used to using those muscles. I braked slowly and when I’d slowed down enough, put one foot down for balance. At least I remembered that.

I hadn’t felt that shaky on a bike in nearly forty years. I thought of the hot-pink bike my parents bought for me, with the chain guard that said “Sweet and Sassy.” Neil, my next-door neighbor, made fun of that all the time. “Sweet and Sassy, Sweet and Sassy,” he’d taunt in a singsong voice. Even so, it was a great bike. It was two steps up from my tricycle – I’d never had the middle step, so I wanted training wheels. read more

Saying Goodbye

grandmaYiaya Julie was my birth-grandmother. I met her three years ago, when we went to New York and met my birth family. She cried and told me “I wanted to meet you before I die.” The sentiment was funny at the time. But now she’s gone, and I see how lucky we both were for those three years.

I’d never known an old person like Yiaya Julie. The old people in my family were bitter and complained all the time. Yiaya Julie was full of life, always smiling, hugging, and apologizing for her (perfect) English. We spoke to each other in a combination of English and Greek, and she was forever taking me or my kids to her apartment to do or see something special. She showed me pictures of her late husband – my grandfather – and the daughter she lost too soon. She showed my kids her pet parakeet and played games with them.

Since I only knew her for three years, I don’t know that much about Yiaya Julie’s story. I do know that she immigrated to New York from Greece and made a good life for herself. I admire her because I know I could never be that brave. read more

Finding a Home

houseWhat a difference a home makes! Last year at this time my husband and I were miserable. It was April in Seattle, characterized by cold rain storms – a change from the constant showers in the winter and half-days of rain in the fall. We’re summer people and in Seattle we had to wait forever for summer. If we were lucky, it would come in June. Most of the time, summer came in July but sometimes it would hold out until August. Once summer arrived in Seattle, we had beautiful weather – 70s and 80s and hardly any clouds, but it was too short for us.

We moved back to Maryland in December. Six years ago, we’d moved out by the Chesapeake Bay and we loved it there, but my husband got a promotion that took us to Seattle. We were optimistic, but after six years, Seattle grated on us. It wasn’t just the weather. It was the people. Seattleites, for the most part, are very polite and superficially nice, but they’re very guarded. I knew people for years in Seattle and didn’t learn anything about them. I’m not making it up. The phenomenon has a name: “The Seattle Freeze.” It refers to the moment that Seattleites freeze up – usually the moment you ask them anything more personal than their name. They’re also called “The nicest people you’ll never get to know.” Sometimes you’d know someone for years and then find out they never liked you.  read more

Home sweet home

houseIt took a lot of doing but we did it. We’re officially East Coasters again. It all started with a house. We wanted to move but didn’t have a firm date, a job, or a plan. Nevertheless, I was cruising the real estate sites (See “My real [estate] obsession”). I insisted that my husband find a job first, until I found my dream house online and had to have it.

My husband had been running into road blocks on his job search because recruiters would see his address and assume he’d want them to cover moving expenses, even though his cover letter clearly stated that he wouldn’t. So he was pushing to move without a new job. I vehemently objected, then I found the house, we reviewed our finances and we had a meeting of the minds. read more