Pickled eggs. Yes or no?

On this rainy day after Memorial Weekend I ponder how our country’s unofficial kickoff to summer was different in 2020.  For many, it wasn’t. They partied and gathered in large tight groups as always. I pray their recklessness doesn’t push the curve back up in 14 days or so. For others, respectful that COVID-19 is still on the prowl, it was a holiday to share with family and few friends—socially distanced as safely as possible. For me, burgers at my boyfriend’s on his Big Green Egg was perfect.

Because it was just us we didn’t bother with a bunch of sides, compulsory for any proper picnic. We laughed remembering a Memorial Day get-together at my house seven years ago, when I introduced him to some of my friends and pickled eggs. We had just been dating a few months and I was unaware of his dislike for red beets. Detest, really. A picnic favorite of this Pennsylvania girl, hard boiled eggs pickled in beet juice have remained taboo around my boyfriend. He can barely look at them in the display case when we shop at my favorite deli in my hometown.

A day or two after my party, he wrote a hilarious story about his encounter with pickled eggs. In fact, I have been encouraging him to start a blog. His writing is that good … and that funny. So, instead of going on here about coronavirus (not much else newsworthy lately) I will steal an idea from a blogger friend who invited her husband to write one of her posts (coincidentally, about eggs) and I will publish my boyfriend’s story here, complete with a byline—and permission:

Abuse, by Harry Schnabel (May 2013)

“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Ms. Hen. I picked you out from a flock of others because your ad stated you don’t let your feathers get ruffled. I see you graduated with honors from Pecking Order University. I am laid with your accomplishment.”

“Thank you. Now, please, tell me your name and how I may be of help to you.”

“My name is Pic L. Egg and I have been abused. And, because I have been abused I want to see the guilty party get into hot water. Then when we win this case, I want to watch her boil with regret for what she did to me. I want others warned about this abuse and to roll away if at all possible.

“I was born normal; a little out of round, but normal. My parents were regular parents; scratching out a living, sometimes watching a neighbor running around with their head cut off. You know, clucking about living conditions and complaining about the pen leader, Rooster O Bumma. After birth, my parents gave me up. Some human picked me up, and sent me to a factory where I was washed, boxed and shipped to a store. I’m sure, Ms. Hen, you have been told life stories like this, but soon after arriving at the store my life took a very bad turn. You see, I was selected by a woman by the name of Lorrie DeFrank. I am sure she did not want me to learn her name but she made the mistake of putting me on the same table as her mail.

“This DeFrank woman is the one I want to sue for abuse! Here is why. My life looked great. I mean I was looking forward to being cracked and my clothes being slowly pulled away, becoming part of an omelet with my buddies Am Cheese and Grn Pepper, or part of a casserole for a single man, or any number of wonderful life ending experiences. But no! This deranged DeFrank woman had horrible plans for me. She made me into a hard boiled pickled beet juice egg! What a degrading experience! It happened this way. First came the hard boiling, which was ok by me. At that time, I thought my future was yolk golden. Maybe I rolled the wrong way because we had a cooling off period after which I was tossed into this large jar of gross red beets. To make matters worse, the red beets must have had the pee scared out of them because the jar was full of red beet liquid. And, to my surprise, there were other egg prisoners in there, too. No egg should be treated that way!

pickled eggs July 2016

“So there I laid on top of other egg prisoners. Slowly this tart red liquid seeped into my outer layer turning my pristine white to a streaked red. I fought it, but I could do nothing to stop the advancing flow of red pee. It was a burning sensation as it invaded my white. She kept me in that jar for what seemed to be years. But, that’s not the end of this offending ordeal.

“Then mean woman DeFrank took me out of the jar. Imagine, after all that, with a strange look in her eye, she approached me with a knife. I was horrified! She cut me! She cut me! Even that, I might have been able to stand but by cutting me in half, she altered my entire appearance. Now I no longer resembled an egg at all. Now I looked like a badly bloodshot eye staring unblinking from a plate. Double gross.

Photo taken that very day:

Pickled eggs 2

“I’m sorry for the tears and thank you for passing the wax paper to blot them up.

“There was this man at the party, a real hunk. He said he loves eggs, but I had been abused so badly he wanted no part of me. In fact, he tried to avoid even looking at me. You want to know how bad, demanding, A type personality this unglued DeFrank woman is? She forced him to eat one of my fellow prisoners. Would not give up until he gagged him down. Then, in front of others, as he was swallowing water as fast as he could, she passed the egg plate and asked if he wanted another. I could tell he almost had a heart attack.

“Ms. Hen, there it is. My story of abuse. Can you help me?”

“Yes, Pic, I will help you. This devious DeFrank woman must be stopped from maiming other sister and brother eggs. I will take your case, and do the best I can for you. But, please, do not count your chickens before they hatch.”

Posted in 65 plus, Coronavirus, food, humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

9/11 and now: Forever changed

My flight from Jacksonville to Baltimore-Washington International was scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001. It was a special trip. My granddaughter’s third birthday party was that weekend. Of course, no planes flew into BWI, or any other airport in the country, that day as the world reeled from the terrorist attacks the day before. I rebooked as soon as flights resumed, getting to BWI that Friday. My son met me at the curb. No one would ever meet me at a gate again.

“Why don’t you just fly into Afghanistan and get it over with?” deadpanned my supervisor, a former military commander, concerned about my destination near our nation’s capital. But I had to go. Overcome with sadness like everyone else, I needed to be with my family. Needed to hug that birthday girl.

As always when I arrived, she was excited and playful. We settled down with some books and she flipped through the pages of her favorite, a children’s Bible. “Camel, donkey, Jesus …” she said, pointing to pictures. “What’s that?” I asked when she turned to the burning Tower of Babel. “Airplane smoke,” she said. Tears stung my eyes as I realized the horror she had picked up through osmosis from the nonstop TV news droning in the background of her life the past four days. Some of her sweet innocence, gone like the Twin Towers.

coronavirus 3rd tower of babel 2

 Fast forward 19 years, she is finishing her junior year of college online at home, having been suddenly removed from her roommates and all other aspects of campus life. This time, she is fully aware that an invisible and ruthless predator called COVID-19 has killed nearly 70,000 people in the U.S. so far and will change her world much more than airport gate welcomes.

And that’s not all bad.

Not many people understand human nature like Ken Burns, a filmmaker who has documented many of the country’s major events. So it was sobering to hear him on the Today show last week ranking this pandemic up there with the Great Depression, Civil War and World War II, and predicting that things will be “very, very different” as a result. He said that although huge and unprecedented, this crisis offers opportunities to “shed decades of horrific division” and “bring back love and a sense of community.”

“Get help from others and be kind to yourself,” Burns said. “We will get through this.”

A couple of days later in his daily press briefing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said crises bring out the best and worst in America, “and the best is beautiful.” He appreciates these weeks at home with his adult daughters, aware that they would be off living their lives and not spending this quality time with him was it not for this mandated quarantine.

Yesterday a friend mentioned what a joy it is to get phone calls, which we often regarded as inconvenient interruptions in this era of texting. She went on about “how are you?” is now a loaded question instead of a casual greeting because people really care about your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Pondering how things will be “very different,” consider just air travel. After 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration was established to thwart threats from people. For coronavirus protection, a new profession of sky janitors will be required to continually disinfect not only seats and trays but also baggage conveyor belts. Mandatory masks, reversed or empty middle seats, plastic shields and elimination of snack service are precautions already in place or considered by major airlines, at least for the foreseeable future.

And socially, will people ever shake hands again?

coronavirus 3rd handshake nytimes

Credit New York Times with this hesitant capture.

Or sit side-by-side on bar stools? Or be comfortable within reach of each other without face coverings? I expect not to see the kiss of peace handshake or strangers holding hands during the Our Father at Mass any more. And when I think about my Carolina Shag friends, I miss the hugs as much as the dances.

In a way, this time is a gift to figure out what’s most important. May we remember.

Coronavirus March 2020

Posted in 65 plus, changes, Coronavirus, COVID-19, relationships, What's important | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Quarantine reflections: Learning Zoom and other challenges

On what would have been the fourth day of our transatlantic cruise I am giving thanks for good health, counting my blessings and acknowledging what a minor disappointment that cancellation is compared to the suffering of others. We will sail again. For many, the COVID-19 pandemic is tragic.

Through it all, the goodness and creativity of people have been astonishing. On an Easter weekend phone call, my son and I chatted about how folks have been entertaining and helping each other instead of discussing the dreadful statistics. He shared how churches in his area hid balloons for kids to safely spot from cars instead of having egg hunts. We pray the lessons we are learning will stick.

It’s a weird time, for sure.

coronavirus 2nd blog april 2020

For example, I never anticipated doing this for real. Halloween, maybe.

coronavirus 2nd COVID 19 April 2020 2

This quarantine has presented other firsts and trials. Like learning Zoom. If most children are using it for their classrooms, why can’t a few seniors catch on for a virtual happy hour? Our small group muddled through with such punctuations as: “Now I can’t see Harry.” “I can’t hear anyone, but I see you all.” “I give up.”

So the next day my boyfriend and I agreed to review the rules and practice zooming (is that a verb?) from our respective homes.

coronavirus ZOOM Screenshot_2020-04-13-19-14-20

Baffled again. And he had even called his school teacher daughter-in-law for tips. We had finally connected when my grandson called from his Army base in South Korea. As I hurriedly clicked off Zoom and my face disappeared from the screen, I told my boyfriend I would call him after I talked to my grandson.

“Be careful when you think you leave Zoom,” my boyfriend warned when I called him back. “I could hear your whole side of that conversation.” Note to self: Turn off the device after a Zoom visit.

And then, the groceries.

A few months ago I watched the orange pickup structure and directional signs go up in the parking lot of my neighborhood Walmart, never dreaming I would have to compete for a spot the first time I used the service. With people avoiding stores these days, pickup times fill up fast. After a few futile tries, I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. and scored one for three days later. I had an hour to shop and clicked check out in plenty of time, only to have my credit card rejected again and again. Impossible, I muttered, what’s going on? Eventually I noticed a text from my provider: “Unusual activity on your card at Walmart. Is it you?” “Yes!” “OK, go ahead.” “Sorry, you lost your spot. Try again tomorrow morning,” said Walmart, when my card finally went through. “Only you,” said my boyfriend.

But again, just a minor inconvenience …

Grateful for this safe and convenient service. I will continue to clean my produce like this now that I realize how lax I had been. A change already. 

Coronavirus 2nd blog veggies april 2020

About our cruise …

We observed the would-be departure date with a Stay-at-Home Sail-Away dinner, substituting Bubba Burgers for Princess’ hamburgers, our traditional welcome aboard lunch. My boyfriend set the scene with signs and a special drink. We toasted our good health and good fortune, trusting we will cruise again. We know how lucky we are compared to many others.

coronavirus 2nd sailaway1

This morning Hoda and Jenna talked from separate locations about their family meals, playtimes with children and other cherished family moments … rare during normal times. Yesterday my cousin asked what I think our new normal will be. Hoping for having deep appreciation of loved ones and taking the time to show it.

Meanwhile, heeding this wise man will heal our souls: “No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it for a few seconds.” – Red Skelton

 

Posted in 65 plus, Coronavirus, COVID-19, humor, Senior challenges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Friends are rocks right now

“Do you think you will live through this?”

Since high school, 55 years now, she and I have talked for countless hours on the phone. Shared confidences, dissected all situations and speculated on every ‘what if’ to the point of ridiculous. No secrets.

A gift from her many years ago says it all:

Coronavirus April 2020 mug

Nothing she said ever shocked me. Until that question.

“Um, yes. Do you?”

“Uh, no. Not sure.”

Of the two of us, she’s likely safer. While we each have a touch of paranoia, she’s been way ahead of me on COVID-19 preparation. Fortified with provisions to last months, she has remained in her home in a small town with relatively few cases for weeks. Although I’m extremely careful, too, I’m not as well stocked and did run out for groceries during senior shopping hour and to the pharmacy a week or so ago in my big city.

“So, are you staying home all the time now?” she asked.

“Yes,” I promised. “Except to dance.”

Silence. Then, “WHAAAT?”

“KID-ding!”

It felt good to laugh. Too many terrible statistics. Too much anguish and heartache. Could we possibly have imagined this coronavirus pandemic in our lifetime? Just a few short weeks ago, could we have dreamed of this isolation? Best case scenario today according to experts is 100,000 to 240,000 deaths if we strictly comply with social distancing guidelines. If not, could be up to 2.2 million—and that’s just in the U.S.

I am in awe of and pray for our brave health care workers. And I worry … about my son, a surgical technician, and granddaughter, a nursing student. This is real.

Mental health experts advise to connect with others and grab humor however and whenever we can safely. Many people have posted about their silver linings … chats with old friends and precious family time at home.

Yesterday on Facebook one of my friends asked people to “list one good thing you feel we will take away from this.” How refreshing! Freedom to hug, being close to friends and family, and moving about in public without anxiety were repeated. Some hoped for a kinder world.

Some inspiration from children:

Coronavirus April 2020 sidewalk art by kids in Jax

Maybe it’s because we have more time to appreciate friends after our hectic lives screeched to a halt, but they seem to be holding us up best these days. I’ve received and made many calls, all of them priceless. A text from a friend I met in fourth grade, which sparked a long phone conversation, was special. We live 800 miles apart and I see her occasionally when I visit my hometown, yet it took this crisis for us to take the time to reminisce, catch up and show genuine concern. We recalled how our lengthy, hand-written letters kept our friendship going when her family moved to Panama following her dad’s Army transfer … and we gushed about our grandchildren. She told me she missed the 12th Stone, which nudged me to write about all this right now.

“When this is over,” today’s top catchphrase, may everyone truly appreciate all that we are missing now.

For sure, we will never take normal for granted again.

Posted in 65 plus, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Death, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Hope chest – a thing of the past?

In case of fire or flood, some of my precious possessions would not be salvaged. Even my hurricane evacuation plans don’t involve rooting through my cedar chest to rescue treasures such as notes passed in high school, scrapbooks with black and white photos stuck in corner tabs, my stuffed kitty crib toy and a tin coin from Hersheypark. That heavy trunk has been with me through too many moves to mention since my parents bought it to match my white bedroom furniture in the early 1960s. Yet I rarely open it.

Today I did, though, to add another keepsake—a People magazine featuring the life and death of President George H.W. Bush. I’m saving newspapers and magazines about major news events for my grandchildren. When my sons get to this part of my story they will shout, “GONE” … I know it!

A peek inside:

cedar chest jan 2019 3

The Color Day pennants from high school in Chambersburg, PA, are my dad’s, red and white, and mine, blue and gold. Also pictured are high school newspapers, an autobiography I wrote as a young teen, a yearbook my friend Chris and I wrote when we graduated from grade school, and my favorite photo album with the paint-by-number cover.

Back in my day, and way before that, girls had hope chests to collect clothes, linens and household items in preparation for marriage. Families still often use the cedar-lined chests to store clothing, blankets and other fabrics to keep insects away from them. Here’s a Lane ad, circa 1960:

cedar chest lane ad from 50s and 60s

Although furniture companies and carpenters still make and sell cedar chests, using one for a trousseau appears to be obsolete. A quick survey of my granddaughter and a few of her classmates at Penn State yielded this text: “None of us has one and we don’t really know what a hope chest even is, lol.” My niece, also in her 20s, said she loves her two cedar chests that belonged to her mother and grandmother; however, I doubt that she uses them for their intended purpose.

Truth is, nor did I.

In fact, I recall only two items that I purchased to store in my cedar chest for later—a rolled-up print of “Christina’s World” by my favorite artist Andrew Wyeth, which is still framed in my home, and a Fisher-Price musical toy clock that fascinated me when I worked in a toy store one Christmas in high school and that I wish I had kept after my toddler sons nearly wore it out. When they were adults I gave them their baby books, report cards and other mementoes that I saved in my cedar chest, but I still have a few:

cedar chest 2019 5

Definitely, I inherited my mother’s sentimentality. As a child, it was magical to help her lift the massive lid of her chest, smell the cedar and play with the jewelry in the bins on the long shelf. I still have a shell necklace that Dad brought back from the South Pacific after the war for her. After she died my sisters-in-law and I emptied it, marveling at the things she kept, some of which are in my cedar chest now. Like locks of my hair and baby teeth, and my First Holy Communion dress, purse and prayer book stored in a paper bag from a Main Street store in my hometown.

cedar chest 2019 4

It’s comforting to know those things that tell the story of my life are still there, even though they are neglected most of the time. Maybe someday I will purge much of it before my family has to. Maybe not. Meanwhile, my treasure chest sits in my guest room where it holds suitcases of visitors, many from back home who helped me make the memories within.

cedar chest jan 2019 1

What’s in your cedar chest?

 

Posted in 65 plus, humor, Nostalgia | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Back in time with Valli, ‘Bay-yay-bee’

How could an 84-year-old man make me feel like a teenager again? All it took was hearing Frankie Valli croon “Sherry, Baby” in 12 syllables.

Nearly 24 hours later, I’m still savoring the musical journey through six decades that he led on a stage once graced by Elvis Presley in an historic Florida theater. Frankie’s still got it … and the audience let him know it. Much paunchier and less mobile than the adoring crowd of fit, suntanned youth at Four Seasons shows I saw at Steel Pier in Atlantic City in 1965 and 1966, this audience nevertheless made just as much noise. On our feet often—although not as sprightly—we sang the lyrics and moved to the rhythm, and waved cell phones instead of cigarette lighters. Kids again, for an hour or so.

For me the devotion began in 1962 at age 15 in my grandmother’s rowhouse in South Philly when my cousin Tommy, a couple of years younger, told me about a new group called the Four Seasons and their soon-to-be hit “Sherry.” Huge fans since then, he and I still call each other with any news about the group. He once surprised me with a CD of songs they performed before making it big when they called themselves the Four Lovers.

My collection of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons albums, scratches and all, is treasured. Christmas a year ago my boyfriend bought me a turntable, mostly so I could play them again.

frankie valli jan 2019 1

 But my favorite Four Seasons song, “Soon (I’ll Be Home Again)”—three syllables, soo-ooo-oon!—which came out not long after “Sherry,” is on only my oldest album and they didn’t sing it at any concert I saw. In the early 1990s before they performed in Hagerstown, Maryland, I had the thrill of doing a phone interview with Frankie for my newspaper and asked him why they never do “Soon.” He acknowledged that it’s a great song and he just didn’t know how it got dropped. Today I go there to buy shag shoes, but back in the ‘90s Judy’s House of Oldies in North Myrtle Beach had the best selection of 45s, many obscure. Digging through the bins, I found “Soon.”

frankie valli 3

Fast forward to 2006, a dear friend since childhood told me she had a perfect idea for celebrating an achievement in my life—a new Broadway show called “Jersey Boys.” She knows me well. That weekend in New York with three friends from high school holds cherished memories.

Seems like Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons have marked milestones through most of my life with their music, even in my senior years. Early in my now six-year relationship with my boyfriend, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” became ‘our song.’

For the concert last night, I used a favorite evening bag. Inside was a ticket from a 2004 Frankie Valli show at the same theater. To be honest I wondered how much difference I would notice in his voice. The other three Seasons have long been replaced multiple times, most recently with energetic young performers who keep their beat alive. Still a fabulous showman with a huge orchestra, there’s no doubt that Frankie Valli is an old man. Now and then verses seemed to be an octave lower. But especially with “Stay”-ay-yay, just a little bit longer—which actually made me hoot—and “Sherry,” his sweet falsetto sounded as strong as ever.

frankie valli jan 2019 2

Oh, what a night!

 

Posted in 65 plus, humor, music | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Flashback: Christmas in the ‘50s

This morning I was on the road by 8, my holiday to-do list heavy on my mind. Last night my boyfriend reminded me that I said the same thing last Christmas, about being overwhelmed by holiday obligations and cutting back for sure this year. The short drive from his home to mine took me over the picturesque Intracoastal Waterway. Heading up the ramp I tuned into a Christmas music station just as Jingle Bells started to play. Took me straight back to my childhood. And then … chills … a turquoise and white Chevy that I guessed was a 1954 model appeared in my rearview mirror. I slowed down to allow it to pass on the top of the bridge. Not sure if the driver saw my thumbs up. I tried to block out the high-rise apartment building on the left and the sprawling Mayo Clinic complex on the right and pretend it was 1954 when I was 7 and still believed in Santa Claus. Instead of shopping and decorating and doing a million other things when I got home I opened a box of old photos looking for snapshots of Christmases in the ‘50s.

Remember waking up on Christmas morning to scenes like this?

Christmas 1952 2

This was 1952. Oh, what a happy feeling! Santa had been there. It truly was magical. As I write this it’s still a single-digit December day. Many people have their trees up by now, even real ones. When we were really young that was part of our Christmas morning surprise, too—a tree decorated with silver tinsel, colored lights and shiny balls. As we kids got older and wanted to help trim it our tree went up before Christmas Eve, but never more than a couple of days.

Here’s one from 1954:

Christmas 1954, Lorrie 7, Gerry 5

 

My Cinderella watch was as high-tech as it got in my childhood Christmases. This is the last year it was just me and my brother Gerry waking our parents before dawn on Christmas morning. Joe arrived the next year, and Chris the year after that. Dad built that wardrobe for my dolls’ clothes. He told me he was helping Santa. It ended up with one of my younger cousins. I wonder if her granddaughter has it now?

After Mass on Christmas morning we would make the rounds through the neighborhood to see what the other kids got, sometimes on brand new bikes. Then they would come to see our stuff.  One of my fondest memories is being with family and friends between Christmas and New Year’s. We visited all our aunts and uncles and cousins, and they came to our house. We “showed the gifts,” played games and music, and ate cookies and other snacks such as cream cheese and olive dip on crackers and little ham salad sandwiches. People popped in and out all week. I doubt if they phoned first. These days, I don’t go across the street without letting my neighbor know I am coming.

Later in the 1950s Dad set up a Lionel train on a large platform he built for the track and the tree—fun for many Christmases to come. As I write, thinking of those early holidays, I can smell that smoke if I try hard. After the four of us were grown and gone, Dad set up the train in the basement each Christmas—for the grandkids, he said, but we knew it was for him, too.

My sons with Pap Pap and his train in the 1970s:

Christmas 1970s, Dad with Tom and Tim and Lionel train

In this fast-paced, high-tech age, it’s my wish that my grandchildren, too, experience the joys of simpler things that make priceless Christmas memories.

Hoping that the youngest comes to cherish my mother’s animated Santa that used to fascinate his dad at his age:

Jace with Grammy's Santa Christmas 2018

No matter how much I scale back on decorating, writing cards and keeping up, however, this Nativity goes up first to keep it all in perspective.

Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas! And as my toddler sons used to say, “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!”

 

Posted in 65 plus, Christmas, holidays, humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments