Wednesday, December 21, 2016


After 40 consecutive hours behind the wheel, I found myself on the phone with my Aunt Judy. "I'm in New York," I told her. "I'll probably go straight home and skip visiting Grammy till sometime next week."

"You can't do that!" she shrieked. She went on that I had mentioned some time ago that I might stop in on my way moving home from Arizona to Vermont. "She's expecting you!"

A stop at my grandmother's would add about five hours. I had driven nonstop in a Volkswagen Fox (that eventually died one mile from my dad's at the end of the journey and never ran again) that was so packed with my belongings that I only had one butt cheek on the driver's seat. With my aunt's guilt-trip ringing in my ears, I stopped at Grammy's.

She fed me, and we visited. I did keep it brief since I hadn't slept in two days. I only misspoke once: I mentioned that I fit all my belongings in my car except my mini-Crock Pot which I bequeathed to my old housemate. I just couldn't fit it in my car. And my then-75-year-old grandmother sprang into action. She hurried into her garage and leaned a ladder against the loft. Despite my protests, she climbed the ladder and, out of my sight, started moving stuff. Heavy stuff, from the sounds of it.

She finally found what she was looking for: the Crock Pot pictured above. I could have this one, she said.

She didn't understand; the reason I had left mine out west was because there was literally not a square inch of space inside the car for it. I couldn't fit a Crock Pot in my car. She insisted that I take hers. She said she never used it anymore because it was too big for just one person (the argument that I too was unattached at the time carried no weight), and she wouldn't take no for an answer. I finally tied it to my (already full) roof rack with a bungy cord. It clanged every inch of the final 150 miles home.

I have lived in Vermont for the last 17 years. I still have my grandmother's Crock Pot. Tonight we had a hearty vegetable stew. We have made countless chilis and soups. We love this cooking tool. Thank you Grammy... your Crock Pot has been put to very good use.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Found: Long Lost Friend

In 1976 my dad and Uncle John drove us down to Burlington's Battery Park where we picked up our one and only Fresh Air kid. The Fresh Air Fund is a nonprofit that places inner city kids (ours came from Queens) with families in rural settings for a couple of weeks in the summer.

Chad spent 15 summers with us. He was a great friend. When my mom passed away, however, we lost touch with Chad. He never came up again. I always hoped that he was well and wished he knew that we never meant it to end that way.

Twenty-nine years later, he found us on Facebook. I just got off the phone with him. He lives in rural Wisconsin and sounds happy. He was worried maybe we wouldn't remember him.

I never stopped thinking about you Chad. So glad that we're back in touch. Can't wait to catch some fish with you sometime in the future!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Three-Year-Old Violin Lesson?

Violin lessons for a three-year-old? You've got to be kidding me. That, at least, is what I told Gunnar's violin teacher, who is set to start teaching him in two weeks. She describes a lesson with a three-year-old as "busy." And, she says, "we are a teacher, parent, student triangle." Which means I attend all lessons and supposedly learn alongside him.

At which point, I recalled my one and only experience with a violin -- an experience I did not share with her, but I'm about to share with you:

I have always been intrigued with the instrument, so I visited the violin shop off of Church Street several years ago. I taught myself how to play guitar with a beginner book and a cheap guitar; how hard could violin be? I explained this to the violin shop people, and they agreed; and they said I could rent a violin for 30 days to "try it on." Interesting!

I asked if I could see the instrument, and they handed me one of the rentals. I opened a "Violin 1" book, which I'm sorry to say didn't really make much sense. Still, here I was: in a violin shop holding a violin and a bow. Now or never, right? I positioned the instrument on my shoulder and held the bow in place. I placed fingers on strings and paused, holding the bow inches about the strings ready to slide.

There were probably six other people in the shop (employees included) that were exposed to the... the sound... ("screech" would probably better describe it) that came off that instrument at the moment when bow hit string. There was no second try: I put the beginner book down and returned the instrument to the counter without making eye contact or communicating in any way. I immediately left the shop.

Hopefully Gunnar's first violin experience is better!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day Activities

As someone who lost his mother at age sixteen, you'll understand that it's been many years since I participated too enthusiastically in Mother's Day festivities. This changed three years ago; Gunnar was born, and when the second Sunday in May came around, I suddenly had a holiday on my hands requiring observance!

I asked Alison what she wanted to do on "her" day. Her answer: she wanted breakfast, she wanted to do a long run, and she wanted to bring Gunnar down to my mom's grave site to plant flowers. This has become a sort of family tradition (I hope the kids don't mind as they get older -- don't worry, I'm not making them stand while I read prayerbooks or any weird grave site stuff). This year, the kids' role was minimal; it was a rainy Mother's Day, and they were sound asleep in the car anyway. Ali did bring the sleeping Ingrid over for about 30 seconds (at 10-months-old, it was her first visit); Gunnar remained snoring in his seat.

Exactly who did what (or who was even awake) wasn't really the important thing to me. To have my wife and kids at the site where my mother is buried on the date on the calendar that celebrates maternity and motherhood was a special experience. Mothers -- even ones that only make it to the age of forty -- are important people who deserve to be celebrated.

Photo: My mother and me (who is sporting a hairstyle similar to Ingrid's current 'do).