Saturday, December 29, 2012

The View From Here

Jarrah is EIGHT!

Yesterday we celebrated in the traditional way with a day devoted to the whims of the birthday girl, shared with Joy and family, and this time happily joined by David, who has a full, glorious week off, courtesy of Go-Pro.

Things went a little differently than planned.  There was the requisite visit to Build-A-Bear, which typified our child's personality when she chose the very first, hideous hot-pink cat she laid eyes on and was done looking after that (I joked that I hope she doesn't end up choosing her romantic partners in this capricious and impulsive way:  "Right:  you by the door.  You'll do.") and with a surprisingly small amount of fuss she was persuaded to change her McDonald's plans to Stacked! instead, much to the relief of everyone else who didn't want to eat at McDonald's.  We had a fun lunch at Stacked! even though it takes about 30 minutes for everyone to get their order into the iPad, but we weren't in a rush.

After that, Jarrah headed up to Encinitas with Mary and Paul for some Barbie Dream House quality time, while David and I headed back to our place to gather snow clothes for another annual tradition--sledding and s'mores at Quail Gardens's Holiday of Lights.

Then, once we arrived and she opened the fabulous Spy Kit from Joy, she didn't want to go to the snow anymore, and I just had to roll with that.  I say "I" because no one else really cared, but it did mean David and I had done a whole lot of shlepping basically for nothing, since we ended the night with the traditional pie at Coco's--and we could have had Coco's right by our house.  Ah well.  We all had good company and fun, and Jarrah was happy.

On a more somber note, I missed the traditional homemade Swedish pancakes at our place and most of the Build-a-Bear festivities, as I had an impromptu trip to the opthamologist--my second in three days.  I started feeling like I had a boulder in my right eye about a week ago, followed by a dry, gravelly feeling and an extreme amount of blurriness.  Because I was worried about the boulder, I took a chance and called the same office I went to in 2009 when I had the opthalmic migraine.  That day was traumatic, but ended happily because the migraine went away and I still had my 20/20 vision, which made me not a little bit smug.

This trip was not so triumphant.  It was awesome that not only did they remember me, but allowed me to come in instantly (I mean, like, the minute I called) to check for the boulder, and you'd think I'd have some closure.  Instead, the (very nice) doctor did a quick exam, peeled my lid back with a hook (OW!) to check for rocks, and said whatever it was, it wasn't serious.  She prescribed a full exam on January 10 and said I have Dry Eye Syndrome.  Why do I have this?  Because, apparently, I'm old.  It's more common than anyone thinks, she said.  I have to put artificial tears in my eyes six times a day.

But here's what made me cry.  I couldn't read the eye chart.  Normally, I can read it lightening fast and even see the "Made in USA" at the wee bottom.  This time, I couldn't even read the top line; it was too blurry.  I cried.  What had happened???

So apparently some of the blurriness is due to the dry eye.  But I'm gonna need glasses anyway.  I don't know why this is so hard to accept.  I think people who lost their "perfect" vision early on didn't have as long as I have to get attached to it.  And now I miss it mightily, despite the slight consolation of getting to pick out super-cute glasses.

So off I went with my drops, and the boulder feeling did not go away.  Plus I kept waking up during the night feeling like my right eye ACHED, and it feels incredibly light sensitive, like there's a stripe of white in the middle of it.  It freaked me out enough that when they said they were closing for five days after noon on Friday and could I come right back in, I ran, even though it meant missing some precious birthday moments.

She checked everything again.  Didn't see anything.  Did a fun test where she GLUED little pieces of paper to my eyeballs and told me to RELAX for five minutes with those on, to measure my tears.  I am supposed to have a 15 something-or-other in each eye, and I have a 9 and a 12.  My options are:  continue with the drops, do some other expensive drops for five months that might hurt and might not work, or get some artificial tear ducts surgically implanted in my eyes.  Guess which I chose?

Still no news on the weird stripe in my right eye.  She says she doesn't see it, but I haven't had the full exam.  So I'm still pretty worried about that.  When your eyes are bothering you, it's hard to think about anything else--ever noticed that?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hanukkah Monologue

The following is an impromptu piece I wrote yesterday afternoon when challenged by my friend, Anna.  She was hosting a latke party and I asked what I could bring.  "How about a comic monologue?"  she said.  "You better not be kidding," I shot back.  "It's okay if you're not off book," she said.  I wrote it quickly and read it after the candle lighting, and that was fun, though as typical in these situations afterwards I was wrapped in a hot paraffin dip of shame for having called attention to myself.  I'm such a paradox.  Love me anyway?


When my daughter started public school, I figured I’d be thumb-wrestling all the other stay-at-home moms for the privilege of presenting on Hanukkah in the classroom, but it turns out:  I’m it.  Each year, I gather up my menorahs, my candles, my dreidels, my gelt and my Trader Joes latkes (shhhh!) and prepare to dazzle the children with the Wonder of Being a Jew.

Last year, something went slightly awry.  I received 22 thank-you notes, 20 of which included some version of “Thank you so much for teaching us about the bloody, bloody battle where everyone died.”  Hmmm.  Thought they seemed a little too alert during that section.  The last two hoped Jarrah would be in their class next year because they liked my cooking.

This morning, it was my turn again, and when the kids returned from recess, they found me attempting to stuff candles into a bunch of nuts (the metal, not the edible, kind) on the preschool menorah I cherish from five years ago.  I also brought the fancy zebra-wood art menorah my atheist husband gifted me with when we’d only been dating three months.  Hmmm.  I guess he really wanted some, um, holiday cheer.

“Can you eat that?” one of the girls asked skeptically as I wedged the pink wax into the recalcitrant holes.  I get that a lot.  If a holiday tradition isn’t about gifts or snacks, they don't see any point to it. 

At least I have a bit more good news than for my Passover presentation.  “Well, they slathered their doors in bloody, shredded lamb and then a lot of people’s children died screaming in the middle of the night while their mommies and daddies cried and cried. The Jews ran and ran, trying not to be shot or drowned, and then we ate some extremely constipating crackers for about 40 years.”  Good times.  Jews know how to party.  You can imagine the mirth after the Yom Kippur talk.  “Wait…you guys celebrate by STARVING?”

 The kids were really great.  They actually seemed interested when I explained that no, Hanukkah doesn’t gallop around the calendar at whim, but actually falls on the 25th of Kislev every year, no matter what.  Sometimes we might be eating turkey at the time, or watching everyone else open their stockings, but by gum, we are consistent.

When I said “Who knows what ‘Nes Gadol Hayah Shum?’ means?” a bunch of hands shot up.  “Isaac?”  I called out.  “Education?” he said. 

Alright, alright, you made your point.  “Dedication” is not exactly a scintillating translation for the word “Hanukkah.”  Why couldn’t it have been “Dazzling Drag Revue and Dessert Buffet?”  We’d get more takers. 

I read them a book called “The Story of Hanukkah,” which contained this priceless lesson:

“Although the Jews were not trained soldiers, they fought incredibly bravely.  They ran out yelling when they saw the king’s army, then ran back and hid behind some rocks until the army left.”  I love how apparently the Jewish definition of fighting “incredibly bravely” is going “Nah-Nah Nah NAH Nah” and then running and hiding.  Reminds me of my favorite quote from the British novelist E.M. Forster:  “I would rather be a coward then brave because people hurt you when you are brave.”  Now there’s a boy who’s going to make his mama proud. 

The kids were dismayed when I said that the Maccabees sobbed because the temple had been messed up and filled with garbage.  They seemed so wounded I wondered if they thought it was kinda like being made to clean their rooms.  That was a pain and suffering they could relate to. 

Dreidel was a big hit.  Everyone got really competitive REALLY fast, and there was a lot of “ANTE UP!” and “SUCKA!” when someone landed on gimel.  One boy looked close to tears and told us “I had the entire pot, and suddenly, it was all gone.” 

“Well…” I said, and his teacher continued:  “…don’t become a gambler!”  Hey, we know some valuable stuff.  They don’t call us The People of the Book for nothing.

Last year, Jarrah told me she was sad that she didn’t get to celebrate Christmas, and it made her feel very alone because all the other kids did.  “Oh, sweetie.”  I soothed.  “I’m so proud of you.  You’ve learned what it means to be a Jew.  Yes, it’s sad, and hard, and you will suffer.  I’m glad you’re getting the hang of it early.”

I jest, but really, I do feel a lot of warmth and good cheer around Hanukkah.  It’s a nice time to spend with family and friends, exchanging gifts, singing and being grateful for the past year. 

Oh, who am I kidding.  Hanukkah rocks because—like my grandmother always said—for eight days fried food has no calories or cholesterol.  Pass the jelly donuts, will ya?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

My Strong Suit

David and I have been married a long time.  I mean, not ladies-and-gentleman-the-last-on-the-floor-for-our-wedding-dance long, but pretty darn long.  Sometimes I'm reminded of how long by a particular incident.  Like this one.

He wanted a new suit to go with his sharp new haircut.  Now, that doesn't sound like a big deal, except when you know all the facts.  Which are:  he hadn't cut his hair in 18 years, and he hadn't bought a suit in 14.  How do I know that last figure so precisely?  Because I was there when he bought the last one, and because we had just started dating.

Four weeks into our relationship, my old pal Synthia called me up and asked me to bring David to her wedding.  This was significant, because she was pretty controlling about her guest list.  She said, "I just get this feeling he's going to be important in your life."  Smart woman.  But you might recall that I met David at a wedding, a wedding where he was wearing an elf-like costume of green pants, a mint green shirt and some sort of green tie.  No jacket.  He didn't own one.  His shoes--brown before that evening--he had handily painted black with "shoe paint."  So you're getting a picture of his personal style.

I suggested that he might be more comfortable in a traditional suit at this wedding, since it was black tie optional.  He agreed, and right there you can tell that he really liked me.  He was going almost as far out of his comfort zone as a few weeks later, when I enrolled him in salsa lessons (that's a story for another day, Readers.)  As we drove to the mall, he was silent and edgy.  When I tried massaging his neck, he snapped "Could you not PUSH my head forward when I'm driving?"  He's a testy one, I thought.  (Actually, I was wrong there.)  When we arrived, I suggested we start in Banana Republic, of which he had never heard.  "Does that have something to do with COLONIALISM?" he said.  I had a bit of a stomach ache.  This wasn't going to be easy.

We ended up at Nordstrom, where the capable Men's Finery dudes took over.  They installed him in a big dressing room, where I could sit and watch.  They brought in a black Mani suit (I heard "Armani") and told us that tailoring was included.  The suit cost about 700 dollars, about which David was incredulous, noting that he had never paid so much for an article of clothing he would probably never wear again.  We also chose some "furnishings," including a sharp blue shirt, a blue-and-gray tie, some dress socks and some smart shoes.  I had to admit he looked pretty nice when they were done with him.  Now if I could just convince him to wash his hair before this event, he'd be a looker.

We had fun at that wedding, and all the weddings after, including our own, three years later.  Along the way, David got a lot more use than he expected out of that suit.  We even added a couple more shirts and ties.

And now, here it was, 11 years into our marriage, sullen seven-year-old-hunched-over-iPhone in tow, after a long day of school, work and general domestic drudgery, and we were back at Nordstrom, in search of a new suit.  We'd both started to notice that the old one was a bit out of date:  pleated pants, thick fabric, VERY long jacket that he seemed to be swimming in.

Here we were, in the very same Nordstrom, in the very same dressing room, on the very same quest, and yet...and yet I started to see glimmers of difference.  And Readers, these glimmers amused me mightily.

First off, I had researched suits before we arrived, and I already knew to ask for a particular Hugo Boss that had caught my eye.  The suit guy (who seemed like a lifer, compared to the young turks on the floor) sized him up and brought him a Long.  David slipped it on and pronounced it comfortable.

"No," I said.

"No?" they both said.

"No.  Jacket's too long.  I want something that hits about hip length.  Kind of like"--my gaze swept the room, alighting on a 20-something dude behind the register--"his.  I think it will look better because David has a long torso and really short legs."

"I do NOT have really short legs," David corrected.

"Okay, whatever, but I want a shorter jacket.  Can he try a regular?"

"But, madam...this jacket fits him well.  It's his size."

"Hmmm.  No harm in trying the regular, though, right?"

Both of them seemed a bit peeved, but the regular was located, and I proclaimed it perfect.  Something was wrong with the pants, though.

"Are they going up his butt?"  I asked.  "I think he needs some shoes.  Maybe a dress shirt, to really see how everything lies."

Suit-Lifer (aka Charles) scurried off, and David was kitted out with shirt and shoes.

"Not that kind of shirt.  I want something thinner.  Chic-er."

Charles galloped off.  David galloped after him, to ask about the pants, and I could hear them yelping in the corridor.  Jarrah's head was down over the Zombie Invasion.

And then I started giggling.  Because I realized...THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  No need to stand on ceremony anymore--David doesn't get fashion, he knows it, I know it: DONE.  And the guy's been married to me for 11 years.  No need to pretend I'm not a bossy thing who wants things just so.  David knows it, and now--lord love him--Charles the Suit Guy knows it, too, and he won't make the mistake again of asking David's opinion about anything.  That's not where his sale is going to get made.

I can hear them in the hall.

"She didn't like the shirt!"

"Does she like the pants?"

"I don't think so!"

Now I could just enjoy myself.  With the new shirt, something was not quite right with the jacket length.

"Okay.  How about the Dolce and Gabbana?"

Charles raised an eyebrow.  That was a significantly more expensive suit.  The way I figured it, if David was averaging one new suit every 14 years, he might as well make an investment.  Charles scurried off, and returned with a beautiful D&G suit.  It looked fabulous on David.  He even smiled, looking at himself.  He never does that.  Something was wrong, though--and we needed another size.

"No problem," I said.  "Let's check the computer for other Nordstroms that might be able to send it to us."  For some reason, this seemed like a surprising solution to our friend Charles.  But he did it, and the correct suit was located in San Francisco, to arrive within five business days, in time to be tailored for the upcoming party.  As he rang us up, he said "See?  I told you he was a Regular length all along."  And then he winked at me.  He winked at me, Readers!

That settled, we headed out onto the floor to look at shirts and ties.  "White?"  David asked.  "No," I said.  "Something with color.  More contemporary."  He picked up a tie with some sort of gold pattern. "I like this."

"Oh, sweetie," I said.  "No.  No, you don't."

Last night, the D&G arrived from San Francisco, and we had it tailored.  It's perfect, fits like a glove.  Makes David look even taller, if that's possible.  I picked out a lavender paisley tie.  David was skeptical.  "You'll get used to it," I promised.  Charles brought over an electric blue one to show me.

"Yes?"  he said.

"Hmmm."  I said.

"You can just say you don't like it."

"Oh, I will.  I was just trying to figure out why."

I caught sight of myself in the mirror.  I looked like a vaguely homeless freak, wearing a mismatched shirt and hoodie, pajama bottoms, hair sticking out of the pony tail in every direction, and my purse COVERED IN DIRT from having left it on the ground during an outdoor party last weekend.  Yep, I looked like a high roller, alright.  Hey, Big Spender.

And yet, it was because of me that this suit sale was going down.  Now that I think about it--I'll bet Charles sees this a lot.

And it was certainly no surprise to David.  Nope, it was pretty much like any other Friday night--me deciding what he's going to do, and he--for the most part--happily doing it.