RSS Feed

Category Archives: Back When I Ate Haagen Dazs…

Take a stroll back in time, back when I was young and calories didn’t matter to me, because there were other problems.

Free to be You and Me

Every summer of my young life we’d pack up the car for our annual 2 ½ hour schlepp, whisking us away from the hot streets of Brooklyn to the cool mountain air. With my brother and me kicking each other in the back seat, unrestrained by seat belts or cars seats, we’d head over the bridges and up to the woods where summer officially began.

After driving what seemed like forever on the not so Quickway, we’d get off and ride for more forever those last five nauseating miles of rolling hills; passing a lot of old barns and nothing, ticking off landmarks and we sang 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.  First came Egg U then Lucky Dip and Davos which was also known as The Big Vanilla, until finally there it was, the big white sign reading Goodman’s – our bungalow colony, our safe haven, our freedom.

We’d pull onto that gravelly road, like crunching glass under our wheels, roll down our windows and hang our faces out the window to bear full witness to our arrival.

The back line of bungalows soon came into view, tiny little white planks of wood that would house families of four or five. Homes that were more like shacks that had nothing but everything we needed. I knew every family in every bungalow up the line till I reached my own.

My brother and I fell from the car like puppies and tumbled into the dewy grass. Woods surrounded us, closing us off from the world. During the summer, groups of kids would sneak away in those woods to a hideaway called the Bear Cave, climbing over the rock with the graffiti scrawled ‘Son of ’44’ that always gave me the shivers.

David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam had been caught by then but I was young and the idea of him and that rock created a feeling of danger that lingered. In fact, the Bear Cave itself, where the cooler, older kids hung out was foreboding enough without even the question mark of bears or serial killers.

There were other reasons to be wary of those woods. I had it on good authority that Old man Zuckerman had lost his arm chopping wood on account of being distracted by kids and was now running around crazy with an axe looking for children to kill. That was the story anyway.

The only time I ventured into the woods was with the camp after a rain to search for little orange salamanders that I would doom to a sad end on my bungalow porch in a plastic tub with air holes slit in the top. I loved those gentle soft bellied creatures.

On that first day up, I’d run from the car, sucking in deep breaths of mountain air and leave my parents to the job of unloading our packed up life and setting up our bungalow. I’d walk out into the large expanse of green lawn, hard back wooden chairs and picnic tables scattered about and watch other families hauling suitcases and boxes into their summer homes, knowing they were full of friends and that I’d be in and out of many of them over the next two months. I had been in and out of them since I was a baby.

That was more than 30 years ago, but I still see all of us there on the big hill above the concession, in the TL where our names are still scrawled, behind the casino on Morris’ side, on the S-line lawn and screaming at each other in Color War.

There was the boy in his parachute pants who my best friend loved and I did a little too; and my friend’s brother with a coil of purple rubber arm bands lazily reading a Richie Rich comic book in his bungalow. There was the girl with the wild kinked out hair and her strong older brother with his half shirts, wide smile and a voice as gravely as the road that led us into the colony. There were the sisters who intimidated me, the girl strutting around in the rainbow bikini and the boy who everyone thought was hot; the shy tall guy, his best buddy and the one I played Zim Zam with.  My cousins were also there with me to giggle under the blankets and have our run of the land.

We will forever be those children rolling down the big hill, playing Catch the Flag and May I, trading stationery and running free, full of life and possibility in a place that will remain forever idealized in childhood dreams; a safe place with bomb pops and bungalow bars and a sweet $1.25 lunch special, where the world couldn’t touch you.

The 70’s and 80’s were long ago. The emaciated, slightly hunched man with the tired old cowboy face who walked the colony picking up litter with a long pointed stick and rolling over the grass with his tractor sold our colony and sent us off.

We all grew up and the world did touch us.

But in Goodman’s we live forever.




Rock on, chair. Rock on!

“Oh my God, the room looks great!” I say, taking in my one year-old niece’s new room in their new house.

It is pink but not frilly. Simple, clean, tasteful. There’s a white crib, and some book shelves holding some worn and well loved books. A typical dresser with a changing table lines the wall.

As of today, there’s also a new pink flowered mini chair for her to sit on that I just bought as one of her birthday presents. But the thing that catches my attention, the thing that draws my eye is a slightly beat up rocker in the corner of the room. The cushion is a muted green and beige, somewhat out of place, yet fitting in quite nicely.

The chair and I go way back. Over 10 years ago, it sat in our city apartment.

I nursed my first baby in that chair. I slept in the chair. We slept in the chair. As time passed, we read together in the chair, favorites like A Time to Sleep and Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

We moved to the suburbs and the chair moved with us. It got a new room and a new baby to hold.  We spent even more time together because this baby really needed the soothing of both mommy and chair, especially at 2am.

When my third son was born, he too enjoyed the bonding of mommy, baby and chair. He barely even noticed, his face squooshed to a boob, that often he would share his space with his brothers who loved nothing more than to climb all over mommy exactly when she sat down to nurse.

As the years passed and my babies grew, we used the chair less often, preferring to hear Go Dog Go and Are You My Mother? in their big boy beds.

The chair was moved to the den, where every once in a while, a little boy and I would sit just to cuddle and rock, cuddle and rock. But it wasn’t often. Usually it was just our cat curled up there, impersonating a throw pillow.

So when my sister-in-law mentioned she could use a rocking chair to nurse her baby girl, I only hesitated a little. She should have it. My sister-in-law and sweet-faced and deliciously rolly niece needed a safe, warm place to snuggle. A place to read and cuddle. I let it go willingly but achingly.

Looking at it now, I clearly see myself (a little younger, a little more sleep-deprived) and each one of my boys in that chair.   I could almost cry, but then I remember. My boys and I don’t need a chair for hugging. We’ve got our own arms.




My other grandma…I remember

I remember when I was a little girl, my grandmother, my mother’s mother, lived blocks from my house, and many days my mother would leave me and my brother in her care.  

I remember playing casino and pisha pasha – a card game that no one in our family can remember how to play and no one else in the world remembers as a game.

I remember going to her pool club, where I’d watch her play mahjong while eating cut up pieces of sweet, drippy cantaloupe.

I remember her refrigerator always had layered parfaits of Jello and cool whip, or it might have been pudding and whipped cream, but I think it was Jello. Could have been both.

I remember bananas, pretty little cups with flowers on them and stories of magic.

I remember beautiful holiday dinners and Shabbat candles.

I remember the whole family going out on Sundays for Chinese food and her ordering Subgum Chicken.

I remember singing, “Oh I won’t go to Macy’s any more, more, more…” and “In Bloomingdale’s Department store, you check them on the second floor…”  Clearly, the connection between Jewish women and shopping runs deep.

I remember sitting on her front porch, and as you could in Brooklyn, climbing over to the next porch and the one after that.

I remember playing Red light, Green light, One Two Three and Mother May I?

I remember rocky road ice cream was her favorite flavor.

I remember me being a bit snarky and insensitive, and really not all that nice.

I remember her getting sick.

I remember her dying.

I was 13, when it happened. I remember being so confused and uncomfortable at her funeral, my first real death. I curled in a ball on a chair and cried.

That’s really all I remember, little vignettes, snippets of truth that have been tenderized by age. I only had her a short while, and I regret not being mature enough to listen, learn or appreciate. I regret childish behavior that can never be resolved. I regret not hugging more. I regret being only 13 when she passed, and not having had her for 42 years like I did with my father’s mother. I regret not getting to love her more, to have built a relationship, to really know who she was.

I regret that I can only remember what I remember, and it isn’t nearly enough.

gm terry

My Labor of Love

Below is an excerpt from my journal about the day my son was born, 10 years ago today, on July 24, 2002 at 6:24am at 6lbs. He is as sweet and delicious today as he was as a baby, only a little more messy, if you can believe that. Happy Birthday baby love. I celebrate you every day since your first. You are, and always will be, just too good to be true.

July 23, 2002 – 2pm

My latest appointment with Dr. G – I’m effaced and 2 cm completely dilated. Dr. G said I’ve made progress and can go at any time. She said if I don’t go by next week, we could schedule an appointment for the end of next week. Uh oh. I don’t want that.

July 23rd – Later…

When she said I could go at any time. We really didn’t think she meant that night, but it turns out that’s what happened. Howard and I left the doctor and went about our normal day – me to the gym, busy contemplating the ultimate end of my pregnancy; and Howard off to work – looking so shell-shocked that I hoped he wouldn’t get lost on the way. We both knew I was pregnant. We had focused so hard on getting pregnant, and then on being pregnant, that  the idea that we would very soon have an actual baby, was, well, inconceiveable.

Later, we sat in front of the TV watching American Idol, another dumb Fox show that we had become addicted to (*it was its first season –who’d have guessed). I started feeling kind of funny and told Howard. We weren’t really sure at first, but when I started leaking, a call to the doctor seemed obvious. He told us to come on down. In less than two seconds, Howard was dressed, stop watch and overnight bag in hand. Off we went.

Hooked to many monitors, Dr. R (of course Dr. G wasn’t on call) confirmed it – my water had broken. Leaking like an open fire hydrant, I was officially admitted. In the beginning, the contractions seemed manageable, and Howard and I waited with anxious anticipation for what would happen next. Turns out, what happened next was an enema to speed up and intensify the contractions. I don’t know who thought up that medieval torture, and I don’t know how I agreed to that without any drugs in my system, but obviously I was vulnerable to figures of ‘doctorly’ authority, even ones over 70 with a bad comb-over. So along with my first labor, I had my first enema, and spent the next 30 minutes in the bathroom, doubled over in torture. Someone was pulling my guts out one by one! Was I going to have this baby in the bathroom?! Never have I experienced such constant, intense pain. This couldn’t be right. All those ridiculous Lamaze classes in no way  prepared me for the twisted anguish that was going on in my body. Deal with pain by massage? Breathe? Take a walk? BULLSHIT! F*&!* YOU lamaze lady!

The woman next door was screaming her head off, sawing on my last nerve. OMG. Was that where this was headed?! I asked for an epidural. Actually, I begged for it. I was blinded by pain by the time the man came and stuck that blessed, beautiful needle, that I had so dreaded, into my back. About 20 minutes later, all was good again.

It was 4am. I hadn’t seen the doctor or had an internal since I had arrived. They told me that the risk of infection with internals increase after you break your water. They also told me that according to the monitors, I wasn’t having very strong contractions. Howard and I were finally resting comfortably. We decided to believe them, even though we weren’t sure we did.

At around 6 am, I began to feel overwhelming pressure ‘downstairs’. I told the nurse, but she again told me that while I was having contractions every minute or so, they weren’t that strong.  I begged to differ. The doctor came in and confirmed it, there was a bowling ball that was about to come out my ass. Actually, he said, I was 10 centimeters dilated and ready to go. The nurse shrugged and said that the monitors didn’t always register so well.  Bitch.

Dr. R told me I was ready to push whenever I felt pressure, then promptly left the room. Huh? For about 20 minutes, Howard and I sat alone unsure of what to do. I quietly, half-heartedly pushed with my contractions wondering if that was what we were supposed to do. When the nurse came back in, I told her again of the overwhelming pressure and asked what Dr. R meant about pushing. She casually told me he’d be in soon, that we’d all push together and not to worry. “Pushing can take a while,” she said, patting me on the shoulder. To set my mind at ease, she took a look at my progress. Well, I wasn’t feeling too at ease when she screamed, “Get the doctor! The head is coming out!”

Within seconds, the bed was broken down (into a delivery bed) and the doctor was back and in catching position. Approximately three minutes and five good pushes later, little Tyler fell out into the world. He was a perfect mini-Howard, (thank God it was a boy!) and the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

Now two weeks later, I’m still in awe that this beautiful, fascinating little creature is mine. My days are filled with feedings, my nights with, well, the same. My satisfaction is a good burp. My nipples are mutilated. I love every minute of it. Okay, almost every minute of it. I could do with a couple more hours of sleep. But, how incredible is this journey. How life altering. How unimportant everything else seems when his eyes study mine, when a sly looking smile crosses his meaty little lips, when his brows wrinkle in expression just like his father’s. After two years trying, Howard and I and baby Tyler are a family. I’m truly overwhelmed.

A Boy and a Girl in a Little Canoe with the Moon Shining All Around…

The Beginning

I’m not even sure how much I really like him.  He looks cute enough, with his Top Gun crop of hair and a matching Tom Cruise smile. All the other kids seem to defer to him. He’s their leader. I can tell. I shouldn’t have fooled around with him behind the concession. That was bad, kind of skanky, but I had too many wine coolers, and, well, I guess that’s what happens.

My decision-making ability was highly questionable long before I even drank wine coolers; having walked to Tags, the local bar down the road, with my accomplice Farah and using a fake ID to get in. It was an expired, worn temporary license from my older cousin that didn’t even have a picture, but they didn’t care. The skinny, old man with the scraggly hair and stained, crooked teeth, barely glanced at it. He did, however, take a full examination of my 16 year-old boobs. Ew.

I’m nervous, yet buzzed from the high of just being in a bar, and I haven’t even sipped my Seagram’s tropical cooler yet. Oh, it’s good. I look around the sketchy joint filled with a local crowd, that we summer kids called hicks. How did I let Farah talk me into this? She’s the brave one, leaning her sexy, slim body into some townie as she sips her gin and tonic flirtatiously. I was shocked at her drink choice. I had only sampled coolers and beer so far, but she knowingly said, “This is what my mom drinks,” and confidently sucked it down. I took a taste. It wasn’t bad, sweeter than I expected, but, man, did it smell.

I keep nudging Farah. The guy she’s toying with looks in his 20’s, not terrible looking, but intense in his tank top displaying reed thin arms and wife beater muscles littered in tattoos. His hand is rubbing the hand she has resting on the bar and when he stares at her, it’s like when my cat stalks our fish tank. I wish she’d stop talking to him. I may be 16 and in a bar, but I know the difference between bad and real bad. I’m standing next her drinking another cooler, avoiding any eye contact when Farah and the guy start making out – heavily. Farah is pushing up against me and it’s definitely time to go home. I pinch her side hard. “Hey” she cries out offended. “Why’d you do that?”
“We need to go. Now.” She assesses my seriousness in an extended drunken moment where she looks deeply into my eyes. I nod. She nods. She turns to the man, whose spit she probably still tastes, and flashes her 100-watt smile, registering in at a crooked 70% with the gin. Then quickly, she grabs my arm and we race toward the exit laughing.

It’s about 11:30pm and about a ¼ mile walk down Route 42 back to the bungalow colony where we stay. It’s dark but the cars speeding by flash lights as they go. We trip dangerously on the side of the road and laugh all the way back to safety.

We reach the gravel, dirt road that is the entrance to the colony, and see a bunch of our friends and others, milling about and hovering on the front steps of the concession like they are waiting for a bus. Everyone I see falls between the angst, high-hormone ages of 15 and 18. During the days, the concession is a luncheonette and general community area. You can play pool or video games, have a lunch special of pizza, fries and a drink for $1.25, and check the mail basket for any communication from the outside world. (All of 150 bungalows on the colony have their mail delivered to the concession.) The back side of the concession is called the casino and is used for Saturday night shows, card playing and colony meetings.

The front steps are where the kids hang – day and night. Since this is late Saturday, the concession is closed for the night, but the back side is singing with business. Most of the adults on the colony can be found inside, drinking (gin and tonics?) and watching whatever the show du-jour is for the evening – bad comedy, bad singing, a band?  It doesn’t matter. Soon they will all stagger out and walk back up the little hill to their bungalows, where many will continue the party, drinking and laughing it up like the teenagers.

He is sitting on the steps of the concession when I stumble in, wearing denim shorts and a tee shirt; his hair partially covered with a red bandana called a do-rag, across his forehead.  I like how he looks. I know his name, but I can’t remember it. It doesn’t bother me. I plop on his lap and giggle.

He doesn’t say much but I know he likes me. I can tell by the protective way his arm is wrapped around my waist, keeping me from getting up. I feel rooted to his leg. We stay like that for a bit, watching our friends doing stupid crap. Some are huddled at the side of the concession smoking a joint. This boy Jimmy is making up some rap about the bungalows, while one guy, I don’t really know, is chasing another, trying to put something disgusting, that I can’t make out, on his head. Everyone is stoned, drunk, laughing and pretty happy.

“What’s your name again??” I am slurring a little, I can hear it, but don’t care.

He looks at me funny. “Howard.”

I laugh. “That’s a terrible name!”

“What?” He is amused and playfully tickles my side. We go back to watching the group entertain themselves and us. He’s not from the big talkers, I can tell.

Finally he asks, “Want to go for a walk?” This is code for, “Let’s go make-out.”

I agree and we walk around for a little, hand in hand, until finally winding up on the steps behind the concession.

This is not the casino (I couldn’t find a picture), but it is the bungalow colony.

It’s private, but yucky, and even as we are kissing, I’m thinking, this is skanky. His hand starts aggressively pushing up my light pink dress, the one I borrowed from my mother’s closet without her knowing. I push it away. I am now wondering how I get out of this. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wonder long. It turned out, that while Howard’s family did stay at the colony for the summer, Howard and his  friend were working and staying at a sports camp down the road. Midnight was their curfew and we are interrupted by whistles and calls of his name.

We sheepishly emerge from the back of the concession. His friend is in his car already waiting. Howard leans over and kisses me lightly on the cheek. His eyes twinkle, and even at 17, they crinkle up in the corners. I give a shoulder shrugging wave, smiling smug, smiling like I am above it all, before my gaggle of girls drag me away for details. I wonder if I’ll see him again next week.

The Middle

“So, when are you guys going to have a baby?!” my girlfriend Lily asked again. Next to my in-laws, she was the most interested, but unlike my in-laws who knew better, she just loved to beat the dead horse. She also liked to do it publicly like this, every so often, just for effect.

We were at dinner with Lily and her husband Joe, and Cory and Alison, another of our married couple friends. Both already had two year-olds at home. Howard and I had been married for three years now. After our adolescent beginning, we flirted on and off for years, before finally embarking on a real “relationship” when I was 19 and he was 21.  Eight fabulous years later (yes eight – who are you, my mother-in-law?), on the most glorious 75 degree, no humidity day in July, we married. We danced to, ‘You’re Just Too Good To Be True,’ by Frankie Valli, ate the strawberry soup appetizer, (an idea we had stolen from Lily’s wedding) and generally gazed with sparkly-eyed amazement at each other. No day was more perfect. No couple more complete. We traveled and skied, played tennis and glammed around NYC. We had stretched the band of courtship as far as it would go without snapping back on us. The time was right, and now, three years in, it seemed it was time for a baby. Everyone thought so. We thought so. The only one who didn’t seem to think so, was the ‘Baby’ who wouldn’t come.

At the table, I laughed. “Don’t you wish! You guys are just jealous that we sleep at night and can talk about something other than poop.”

Both Lily and Alison looked down their chicken parms at me. “You don’t know what you’re missing”

Big behinds, I thought nastily. But that wasn’t fair, they had no idea of our struggles and their behinds really weren’t big. I looked at my vegetable plate.

It had been more than a year already and I felt no closer to achieving a pregnancy. Who was I kidding, I couldn’t even count on a consistent period.  After putting on almost 10 pounds and dropping my exercise regime to four days a week, old Aunt Flo still proved elusive. She came back. She disappeared.

So after the usual husband/wife “let’s have a baby” stuff proved unsuccessful, I started going to a fertility doctor to be monitored. Every month now for months, I’ve been watching the sonogram machine with my new best friend, the ever-popular vaginal stick, as we chart the growth of my follicle (that’s fertility talk for potential egg). It needs to be at least 18mm to be viable for ovulation and fertilization. Some months I don’t have a follicle to watch. Last month, my follicle grew to an exciting 16mm. We thought the next day it would be at least a sustainable size, but no, the next day my follicle was down to 14mm, then 12mm, and then it disappeared, taking my hope along with it.

“You guys are worse than my parents.” Howard chimed in, sensing my vulnerability and need to be rescued.

“I’m ready to go.” I smiled, ending any further conversation.

“I’m not going home yet!” Joe exclaimed. “We have a sitter and this is our first night out in a while. Let’s have another round.”

“You guys go ahead. I’m really tired.”

Lily’s eyes perked. “Tired you say? Hmmmm. And you haven’t touched your wine either.” The wheels were turning and you could hear the train pulling into her station. “Is there something you want to share?”

I leaned in close and whispered in her ear, “I’m going to share with everyone how much you weighed when you were pregnant, if you don’t just let me just go home.”

She just looked me up and down slyly, and feigned offence. “Ouch. Okay, you win. Go home and rest.” She cocked a brow and used her nurturing voice. “It’s important to get plenty of rest. Take care of her Howard.”

“Don’t worry, I do.” He said and put his ever protective arm around my shoulder.

We said our goodbyes and headed out into the night air. It was fresh and crisp for June and we walked the 12 blocks and two avenues back to our apartment. “Lily was an ass.” Howard declared

“Ah, she was just being Lily.” I defended, although I didn’t know why.

“Yeah, an ass.” He insisted, but was smiling that crinkly smile. “Let’s just forget them.”

I returned the smile and snuggled under his embrace. He kissed my nose, then my lips. “It’s just about you and me, baby.” He said.  My guy, who didn’t typically have much to say, generally seemed to say the right things when he did.

“But what if…?” I could barely say the words. “What if, you know, it never works?”

“No matter what happens, remember, It’s you and me. That’s all that matters. Besides, it’s going to happen. I know it.” I nodded, so happy I married this man I knew as a boy. He was concrete under my feet. A smile in the dark. A shoulder in a storm.  He loved me beyond words and I loved him with many.

Without needing to mention it, we headed straight to my favorite yogurt store, where Tony, the manager, greeted us happily. “My favorite couple! How you doing? What can I get you guys?” After making our selections, we walked the last two blocks home.

Once in comfy clothes, I plopped down on the couch, and flicked on the television. While Howard got the cards, I opened up my yogurt and took a spoonful of happiness. We spent the next hour engaged in a heated game of Rummy 500 that turned into Rummy 1000. For the record, Howard beat me, but for once, I didn’t care. I had my mind on other things.

I got up to clean up our finished yogurt (and the chips Howard had eaten afterwards) and get ready for bed. Howard moved behind me and whispered suggestive husband things in my ear. My body relaxed into his, but my brain was still feeling tense. “Let me shower.” I said, needing a moment. “I’ll meet you in bed.”

Stripping off my sweats, tee shirt and underwear, I stepped into the steamy shower and breathed deeply. It had been a long night and an even longer year. Except for the fertility issues, everything was so good, but those issues weighed on me more and more. I felt so tired. I was in no mood for sex. Lately, it was almost a chore. “It’s day 16, come home.” “We have a follicle that may ovulate, hurry up.” Kind of kills the fun factor.

Like for instance, I know that on this day, day eight, there was practically zero chance that I could get pregnant. Hot water dripped down my face. I remembered back, well over a year ago, before the doctors told me I had the hormones of a woman in menopause, when had decided we would “try”. It was so exciting and wonderful, just deciding to do that made everything first-time special. Even though at that point, I hadn’t cycled for over a year, there still seemed so much possibility. We were so innocent. Two kids wanting a kid. So hopeful, so happy, until months turn into more than a year, and the promise of hope became tainted in reality. And here we were. Doctors, sonogram sticks, blood tests. I wanted a baby. Howard wanted a baby. He would be such a good father. He would love me no matter what. I want a baby. He would love me no matter what. I want a baby. Water, water everywhere. Babies, babies everywhere. I couldn’t stop the tears.

The (Never) End

“We have a baseball game tonight, so I got all Tyler’s stuff together by the steps.”

I nod, barely listening. He says this almost every day. I’ve got to get breakfast on the table, switch the laundry, pack the backpacks and get the boys down all in seven minutes.

“Are you listening?” Howard asks.

“Not if you’re telling me where Tyler’s baseball things are again.”

“Fine.” He grumbles. “Just remember to get him down to the field by 5:30pm.”

I nod.

“You’re not listening.” He accuses.

That makes me smile. “I am listening, I’m just ignoring. There’s a difference.” I brush past him to the steps. “Boys!” I yell up. “Brush your teeth and come on down!”

He stands, leaning up against the kitchen counter drinking some orange juice and chewing on a piece of whole wheat bread. He’s not finished. “And don’t be late. Get there on time.”

I raise a brow and roll my eyes, if I could, I would roll my entire face.  “Yes, coach.”

Baseball was always important to Howard. When we were teens, he was already a serious player and working as a coach at a sports academy. In college he was a pitcher, and Captain of his Division I baseball team. He had hopes, like so many other young, talented athletic men, but that’s all they turned out to be. Now, decades later he has a new field of dreams, and at this moment, they are stomping down my stairs.

Boy one. Boy two. Boy three. Three boys. Three beautiful boys. Tyler, Michael and Julius. My joy. My happiness. My life. They roll into the kitchen like tumbleweed, tracking bits of garbage as they go, and barreling over anything in their paths.

“Mommy I want…!” They say simultaneously, each with their own unique requirement.

7 year-old Michael – milk.

4 year-old Julius – gummy bears!

9 year-old Tyler – hug.

I go about satisfying each of their requests. Michael gets a cup of milk with his pancakes. Julius gets vitamin gummy bears with his cereal. Tyler, my sweet first baby, gets a hug.

“I want a hug!” both Michael and Julius cry, leaping from their chairs and attacking us. Tyler complains. “I was the one who wanted a hug!” They are still all piled on top of one another, no one refusing to give any edge to the other.

They’re such copycats!” Tyler whines. He wanted milk!” He points angrily at Michael.

“I want milk too” Julius squeaks. He is around my legs. I try to extract myself from everyone. “Okay guys. Let’s sit down.”

Howard is eyeing us with amusement that borders on annoyance. “Mama!” He calls out. “Stop mama-ing them!”  I look at him. I am a statue and they are like ivy wrapped around me. It’s annoying and I love it. I can’t help it. I smile at him like I have the best secret. It’s Howard’s turn to roll his eyes, but still, he kisses me on the cheek, then ravages the boys, who run away screaming.

Settled in their seats, semi-eating and fully annoying each other, I quietly give Tyler an extra squeeze which I know he appreciates.

“Okay, I’m going.” Howard calls out. “I’ll meet you at the field.”

“Have a good day.” I call back. I feel very 50’s housewife every time I say it.

“I’m going!” He yells once more.

“Have a good day!” I yell back and glare at the children.

“Have a good day daddy,” They immediately sing song, and like a puppy waiting for a whistle, he comes back to the kitchen to ruffle their heads and give me a kiss, before disappearing.

Once he’s out, I get the kids together much easier. We are fed, packed, sun-blocked and outside waiting for the parade of big and little yellow buses which run up and down the street collecting all the kids who go to different summer camps. Fifteen minutes, and a lot of hugs and arm waving, later, I am alone. It’s the first time in almost ten years that I have over five hours to myself. It is strange, exciting and sad, and I slowly make my way back into the quiet of my ransacked house.

I gym, run an errand or two, then come home, shower and write. 2pm comes pretty fast, and before i know it, I am carrying a sleepy Julius off the bus. At 4:30pm, in comes Michael and at 4:45pm, Tyler arrives.  We talk about camp a bit, but it’s rush time again. Tyler must change, eat and be at the field by 5:30pm or I’m going to be in trouble.

At 5:20pm, we’re in the car. “We’re going to be late, Mom.” Tyler concludes.

“The field is five minutes away. We’ll be fine.” I assure him, but I’m a little nervous. It’s more like eight minutes, and Howard will be on the early train. He could beat me there. It’s not my fault Julius had to make a last minute poop, but I probably shouldn’t have taken the phone call from my mother. We are all buckled in and I turn the key. The car makes a sputter sound and the engine does not catch. Uh oh.

Michael says it, “Oh no. That’s not good.”

I turn the key again, give it a little gas and pray. The engine turns. “See, we’re fine.”

“Nine minutes.” Tyler reports.

We don’t get two blocks before a car pulls in front of me – a police car. I automatically slow down below the speed limit, stopping an extra full second at each stop sign until finally, he turns and goes down a different block. I do a little speeding (just a little) to make up a minute or so.

“Five minutes.”

“Stop it Tyler.”

We are on a roll until – and you’re not going to believe this, but it is true – we turn and a student driver is right in front of us. He doesn’t stop three seconds at stop signs, he stops thirty. And he doesn’t drive 20mph, he drives 2mph. I mutter some frustrated words that probably weren’t child friendly, causing my children to giggle. It was all I could do to keep from slamming down on the horn.

“We’re going to be late.” Michael teased. He was right. It was 5:27pm.

I control myself, which isn’t easy, and don’t race around the impressionable, young driver. I don’t want to freak him out and besides that cop could be nearby. We arrive at the field just as the clock turns and I hear Tyler announce, “5:31pm. We’re late.”

I see Howard. He has beaten me there. I’m in trouble.

The game won’t start until 6pm, but Howard likes them there early to warm up. Michael, Julius and I get out and go over to the bleachers to watch for an hour or so, until I have to get Michael to his TKD class. Besides the gnats, it’s a gorgeous night and Tyler is pitching, a chip off his daddy’s block. He looks beautiful out there and for three innings, he strikes out each player as they come up or they pop up into an easy fly. When he comes off the mound for the final time, Howard catches my eye and nods. He’s saying, did you see our boy?! He’s so good. I nod back. I know. I know. From across the field, we are connected in parental pride.

Julius and I leave to take Michael to his TKD class. Howard and Tyler finish the game. We both get home around the same time and it’s an explosion of voices and activity and excitement. Tyler goes over, in great detail, his pitching stats and then his hitting – an impressive base hit, double and a triple. Michael is equally proud. Tonight he has received another stripe on his TKD belt. He’s only seven and a brown belt. If a strong wind doesn’t blow him over, he will kick your ass. Julius bounces back and forth between his older brothers, just excited to be there and be awake.

After some kitchen action and then some shower action, we finally get the boys to bed. It’s almost 10pm and we are ready to crash on the couch. I run into the kitchen for a cup of frozen yogurt for myself and a bag of pretzels and hummus for Howard, who is mindlessly flicking through the channels on the television. We eat our snacks for a bit and stare at the 10 o’clock news in silence. Finally, Howard says, “You were late.”

“One minute.” I protest.

“Still late.”

I can’t argue that, so I argue something else. “Are you going to eat the whole bag of pretzels?”

Thankfully, he sort of laughs. “Someone cranky?”

“Maybe.” I concede and he snuggles me under his arm

“Well, don’t be cranky tomorrow.”

I smile, what I hope is a shy, cute smile, but I’m not 16 anymore.  I’m 42. And I’ve spent my whole life with this person beside me. He’s knows my good. He knows my ugly. He is still my rock when I’m in a hard place. The arm around my shoulder. The man I love deeply and sincerely, without reservation, even when he is so unbelievably annoying. We’ve made a life together, and it is good.

Happy almost anniversary.” He says and kisses my lips.

“Happy almost anniversary.”  My forever.