Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

Service of What Triggers Your Memories

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

I’ve already written every which way about memories. Today I will mention some things that trigger mine.

  • On May 1, every year, my father brought my mother a bouquet of lilies of the valley. I think of them both on this day.
  • My dear friend Kathleen, who died in December, sent me a card of Venice many years ago that has been in my living room ever since [Photo below]. She was frugal—she wrote on the back of the notecard’s image having cut off the other half with the message someone else had sent her–so I can’t identify the artist though the original was probably painted in the 17th Century. My husband wanted to retire there and loved paintings of the floating city. I think of both of them when I pass by the card.
  • When Catholics say the Lords Prayer, they stop at “but deliver us from evil.” Protestants continue with “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever and ever.” When Homer attended mass with me, he’d squeeze my hand and move his lips to finish the prayer as it ended for him. At mass, the Catholic priest says those words a few seconds later. These days I whisper them to myself as—and when–Homer would.
  • I saw “Moonstruck” on TCM for the millionth time this week. I love the movie. The pictures of Brooklyn Heights in the ‘80s when I lived there and the scene in the Metropolitan Opera trigger countless memories.
  • Hearing Luciano Pavarotti sing “La Donna È Mobile,” or “Nessun dorma” brings tears. I was a classical music lover and an opera ignoramus before I met Homer. I’m still clueless opera wise but have come to love some arias especially.
  • I haven’t been back to the Oyster Bar, where for years Homer ate lunch before taking the train upstate every week, but when I pass it, you know who I think of.
  • Pictures of cats that remind me of my sweet gray Cat or tomgirl Caramelli Cat [photo above].
  • Bumping into a former neighbor who updated me about people I used to know.

Do things, places, and events spark your memories whether you want them to or not?

Service of Why Do I Do That?

Monday, January 22nd, 2024

I love these French sponges from Trader Joe’s that grow to their full size when wet. They are soft and reach the bottom of a wine glass like little else.

I was changing out my sponges when the subject of this post came to me.

I suddenly thought of some people I never met who were known for having filthy sponges in their kitchen. The husband was a family physician who shared a Madison Avenue office with a friend of my parents. My parent’s pal was a surgeon. He and his wife were frequent dinner guests at the office partner’s home and I must have overheard the revolting sponge observation which is why I frequently change mine. I don’t discard them right away. I use them to clean silver or to wash the kitchen floor.

I brush with Colgate toothpaste—the brand I grew up with—and until the price of Tide went through the roof decades ago, used it.

I gleefully write thank you notes because as a child an adult praised mine. I have an unruly collection of houseplants because my dad did as well. In fact, I’ve previously mentioned a great great granddaughter of one of his dracaena that takes up a lot of space in my living room. The asparagus fern that he nurtured and that burst with happiness upstate isn’t doing well where I now live which makes me sad. Note: He died almost 40 years ago.

I love to shop—and finding a bargain–as did my mother. Like her I have a “present drawer.” Hers was a drawer and mine is a giant TJ Maxx shopping bag that I fill with gifts through the year.

My French toast must be cooked to a crisp, almost burned. That’s because, as I’ve written before, I slept late on Sunday so my breakfast treat lingered on the stove over low heat for ages. If French toast is eggy, I won’t eat it.

Do you remember why you do or buy certain things?

Service of Crazy Memories and What Triggers Them

Monday, January 1st, 2024

A fellow customer at the post office asked if I spoke Spanish because she wanted to warn a mother of two little children about kidnappers. She said she’d once stopped the kidnapping of a child in a public place. Her target this day was a young mother who was allowing her little ones to run around the large Grand Central Post Office far from her and often out of sight.

I don’t speak Spanish and one of the Postal workers told the customer that nobody at work that Saturday did either.

Do mothers like to be given advice by strangers?

I’ve written before about this incident that the potential kidnapping reminded me of. I was at O’Hare in Chicago on my way to NYC. My trip started on a puddle jumper from mid Illinois. A mother handed me her infant and said, “could you please hold her while I go to the ladies room?” and she was off before I could blink. I wondered if I’d ever see her again. When she returned, I asked her why she dared do this, and she said she knew I was safe because she had seen my husband at the originating airport. He was in an Air Force uniform, so she felt I was a good bet. Such faith in strangers was nuts at any time.

You can hardly pass another New Years without memories, sane or crazy, happy or sad.

What triggers your memories?

Service of What Are You Doing Here? Fun Encounters Most of the Time

Monday, January 17th, 2022


Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay

It’s sometimes a treat and a surprise–not always a good one–to see someone out of context.

I wrote “Service of a Small World,” in which I marveled at seeing tenants from apartments I’d lived in–very small ones by NYC standards–working in my Manhattan office building. In that post a friend told of bumping into people who live in his tiny Westchester town on frequent trips to Maine and California.

In a text chat last week Chester Draues, [a pseudonym], shared a memory that inspired today’s post. He lived in Tribeca in Manhattan and was starting a new management position training staff. On this his first day he bumped into the super’s new girlfriend on his way out of the building and said “hi.”

Who was one of the employees at his new job? The girlfriend, who later became the super’s wife and mother of his daughter. That day at work they smiled at each other. Draues added, “luckily she was a good worker!”

Worth repeating is my shock at meeting, on West 47th Street in Manhattan, an American Army doctor who had travelled, a few years before, on an Air Force plane we’d boarded in Adana, Turkey and he in Asmara, Ethiopia. We all deplaned in Addis Ababa. We went to the hotel he recommended and followed his advice on other matters such as food choices but were never in contact with him after that even though we’d crash landed in the cargo plane we’d shared…which is another story.

And there was that frightful perfume I’ve mentioned here before. The scene: my first job at a magazine. When the editor-in-chief left suddenly, management hired a freelance editor to pick up the slack. This woman was so malicious in tearing up both me and my copy that I’d return to my office unable to write my byline much less attempt a revision. [Always take away something good from every job I’ve advised countless students I’ve mentored. From this woman I learned how NEVER to treat a writer when I later became an editor.] She wore a distinctive perfume. A year later I was in the Hamptons on Long Island at an antique show. As I entered I detected that singular, nasty scent. There she was staffing a booth. I missed that side of the exhibit so as to avoid her.

Can you recall any chance meetings in unexpected places that delighted or upset you?

Service of Channeling Proust: Memories of Mom’s Cooking

Monday, August 16th, 2021

Marcel Proust wrote about how eating a madeleine triggered childhood memories in “A la Recherche du Temps Perdu,” (“In Search of Lost Time”). We all have our madeleine equivalents.

HW shared a loving memory of her Mom’s Sunday family chicken dinners. The poultry started in the oven, on the road to developing a characteristic golden hue, but then she’d add water, cover and cook it some more for a very long time. As a result the bird’s complexion turned gray. She did this so as not to poison the family with under-cooked chicken–her concern. Today HW’s cousins reminisce about those renowned dinners and her mom’s legendary gray chicken.

My mom could transform a disappointing, tasteless store-bought pound or other cake into a scrumptious trifle-like concoction or whip up floating island or enliven leftovers so they’d be toothsome. But I always think of her when I see “French toast” on a menu or on the rare occasion I make it for myself.

She would be surprised I chose her French toast for this post as in addition to the above her lamb chops and chocolate brownies and birthday cakes were also to die. I’m sure she thought that by the time I rescued and devoured it the French toast was within an inch of the garbage.

French toast was a Sunday morning staple in our home. Like many a teen, I lingered in bed long after I was asked to wake up and eat breakfast. To keep it warm mom left my portion on an extremely low flame. By the time I’d get to it, the toast was cooked through, not a smidgen of egg taste remained and it was cracker-hard–on the cusp of burnt. As a result, that’s the only way I’ll eat French toast! I cannot order it in a restaurant.

By the way, French toast in France is called le pain du pauvre–bread of the poor–or pain perdu, lost bread. Fresh bread was a crucial element in French homes. A cook gave day old bread another life by dipping it in egg and milk before cooking it.

When I was a kid my dad didn’t cook. Later he made a serious oil and vinegar salad dressing and cucumber salad.

What childhood foods do you remember?



Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Service of Memories II

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

I passed Pete’s Tavern [photo above] on Tuesday and was relieved to see that it was still in business, looking buff. Landmark restaurants and favorite retail hangouts of my long life in NYC had already gone well before the pandemic but since it began, too many others, some that evoked recent memories, have suddenly bitten the dust.

My father loved Pete’s. In addition to their killer garlic bread there’s another memory that makes me smile. In one week Dad had invited for lunch my mother, a client and me, then a young adult. I was his last date. He looked so pleased with himself when the host, who knew him, teased him about his popularity with women given the assortment of his female guests.

In the mile+ walk at noon on a weekday I was shaken at how empty the Manhattan streets were as I headed south on Lexington Avenue to Irving Place to Third Avenue and 14th Street. You’d think it was a sunny Saturday in August in a normal year. I again refer to the photo of Pete’s above center: Not even a dog walker in view. This does not augur well for the remaining businesses in the short term.

From way back I still miss the Goody Shop in Mount Kisco with its killer chocolate ice cream; the fruit tarts and croissants at French bakery Dumas, about 88th Street on Lexington Avenue; the chocolate sauce from a NJ store Grunings; stationery at Kate’s Paperie and Loehman’s that in its heyday pretty much filled my clothes closet. I liked the one on Fordham Road in the Bronx.

Then there are the pandemic-shuttered businesses such as retail store Century 21, especially the one on Dey Street in Manhattan; Flying Tiger a fun place for kitschy gifts and Jasmine, a super Chinese restaurant on East 49th Street, just three that made my heart sink when they closed.

Memories are great but what can we do to for the employees of some of these businesses? I checked out on Charity Navigator organizations that help restaurant workers that are listed in a range of articles and none were rated no doubt because they are new. If you supported any please share.

Have your favorite haunts survived?  Do you remember any that are long gone or more recently erased from the scene?

Service of Holiday Memories II

Monday, December 21st, 2020

Since 2008, when I launched my blog, I’ve occasionally written about holiday memories. As many will be spending this season without loved ones–Dr. Fauci said it’s the first year since his daughters were born that he won’t be with them at Christmas–I suspect that those who do gather will be saying, “Do you remember the year…..?” Others will recollect quietly.

As I draft this post salt-free butter is reaching room temperature in the kitchen. I plan to make the Christmas cookies I’ve baked–or helped make–since childhood [photo above]. I shared the recipe in 2009 in “Season of Seasonal Treats.” One year my mother and I made hundreds which we gave as gifts. Together, on her last Christmas, we baked them so she could enjoy the familiar fragrance in her apartment.

I remember a Christmas Eve my oldest nephews, in their late teens, carved the turkey for the extended family sit-down dinner celebration for 30 I hosted alone. I dipped into the kitchen to check on progress and saw them dusting off soil from the bird. I never asked how they knocked over a plant that hung well above the counter on which they were working, nor did I acknowledge the accident at the time. I was most grateful that everyone pitched in that year.

Were or will your 2020 Hanukah or Christmas gatherings be different? Have you thought of past celebrations more than usual? At every fête, before we dig in, our family toasts “les absents,” those missing from our holiday table. This Christmas I will raise a glass to all of you.

Service of Memories

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

From a frenetic to a busy to a quiet life made more so by the pandemic I find memories pop into my head these last months. I usually focus on looking ahead but between the pandemic, the economy and anticipation over the November election it’s increasingly difficult.

I have always been drawn to cherry motifs. Happy memories associated with this luscious summer fruit have inspired my attraction. [The little bowl, photo right, bought at a craft show years ago is an example.]

As I ate some cherries, freshly picked yesterday in upstate New York, I remembered a childhood dinner game. We’d help ourselves to as many cherries as we could eat for dessert and when finished, we’d hide our piles of pits under our hands and give the others at the table a quick glimpse. The winner guessed the number of pits on the other diner’s plates.

Next cherry memory took me to a boutique hotel with restaurant near Puy, France that boasted one of the few up and coming female chef-owners at the time. Her husband was a magnificent host. Some 20 years ago while we were relaxing by the pool after a day of touring we saw her strolling on the property. As she walked she pulled a few cherries from her trees and popped them in her mouth. I remember this scene–and one of two American couples who shared a car who had a rip-roaring fight in front of us–but not what we ordered for dinner. Dessert was crème anglaise with meringue–floating island.

With all the sheltering at home I wonder if families are again eating dinner together and perhaps playing similar games as we did in the day. Have you been distracting yourself with memories to avoid thoughts of the immediate future? What triggers have sparked your memories?

Service of Favorite Things Possibly Gone in Moments

Monday, August 6th, 2018

Niece Alison & mug from John

If we’re lucky, we own and can treasure some favorite things.

Millions don’t have this luxury starting with Californians now homeless due to the Carr conflagration, just one of many. Then there are those who also have lost everything in other fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and floods and some half a million in the U.S. living on the street or in their cars because they can’t afford an alternative. Favorite things are the last thing on their minds.

Glenn Close told The Wall Street Journal Magazine’s Thomas Gebremedhin that her mother’s gloves were among her favorite things. I understood that: I have a worn pair of my father’s leather ones on a shelf in my living room which I mentioned and photographed in “Service of Remembering.” About her mother’s Close said “I find them hugely comforting. Sometimes, when I need it, I put them against my face.” I lay my hand on top of my dad’s gloves for reassurance.

My bet is that most favorite things are small and of little intrinsic value. I know of only one photo taken of my parents on their wedding day. It’s on my wall [photo left].

In addition to books, the physical things I hold dear are mostly small: two coffee mugs nephew John gave me and countless photos—some framed—nephew Edward has shared [see the photo above for one of the mugs and one of the photos]. A copper cocktail jigger from sister Elizabeth and wooden recipe box she gave me decades ago make me feel at home. Daily I wear a ring and bracelets from dear ones along with my wedding band.

A ceramic and a china bowl—one a friend made, the other, a wedding gift—join lovingly-used Vietri dinner and pasta plates [right] we hand-carried from Italy and decorative kitchen towels that I keep until they are in shreds. I love my posters; a cartoon of my father; a vintage silver Tiffany cocktail shaker; key rings; a photo of my parents on a motorcycle in France that Edward framed for us; an oil painting of my mother as a child and my parents’ everyday silverware.

And I’ve just started.

What are some of your favorite things? Do you think “there but for the grace of God go I,” when you hear about devastating natural disasters that turn lives upside down?

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