Photos

Cameras, like the type professionals use with large lenses, shutter settings and more filters than you can count or the common everyday phone camera the rest of us use, are very picky. They either like your face or they don’t. Some people when photographed always look good and others aren’t as fortunate.
I believe people are born with ‘camera faces’. Those who have the ‘face’ can’t take a bad picture whether posed or impromptu, they always look like they should be on the cover of some fancy magazine. For others, like me, it’s better to stay behind the camera. Remember when Glamour Shots were the big thing? I decided to surprise my family with a Glamour Shot. They were always complaining that there weren’t any pictures of me. They were right. I destroyed most of them. It took the Glamour Shot photographer four tries with several outfit changes to get one that we both agreed that was the picture. He said it was ‘on the house’. It’s wasn’t the camera’s fault and it wasn’t mine. I just don’t photograph well. Either my eyes are closed, my face crinkled up, or I move. Behind the camera is where I’m most comfortable.

Besides taking pictures, I love sharing and displaying them. When I lived in El Paso Texas, I took rolls and rolls of pictures, especially of the mountains – the Franklin Mountains being one of my favorite subjects. I sent dozens of them to my Dad to show him where I was travelling and to keep him in the ‘loop’ of my life. His response – “It’s a rock. Where are the people?” From that day on I made sure someone, whether I knew them or not, was in the frame.

In our former home, we had close to 975 photos. They were in the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms and, in particular, one long hallway wall that acted as the ‘gallery’. When friends or family would come, inevitably they would make their way to the ‘gallery’ and search for their photo…and it was always there! You see, I learned a valuable lesson from my Mom in making people feel important. In her tiny kitchen, the side of the Frigidaire was Mom’s ‘gallery’. When someone was coming for a visit, she would dig their picture out of a drawer that was filled with hundreds of photos and attach it the refrigerator with a magnate. She prayed that not too many people would visit at once since she had only so many magnets. Her visitor would sit at the tiny red-topped Formica kitchen table, talk a bit and within minutes their eye wandered to the frig looking for their picture. When they found it, they beamed, drank another glass of wine and told Mom how much they enjoyed visiting with her. When they left and their car was pulling away from the curb, Mom would take down their picture and put it back in the drawer. When asked why she did this, she’d smile and said, “Everyone, no matter who, likes to feel important and special and their picture on my fridge makes them feel that way.”

When downsizing and preparing our home for sale, we tackled the ‘gallery’ first. It took hours to remove all the pictures, deciding what to keep, what to store and what to give away. However, it took even longer to fix the wall. There were so many holes, it looked like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, The Birds where the focus of the birds’ pecking was our wall. There wasn’t  one square inch that didn’t have a hole. Next home, I promised myself and, especially my husband, no ‘gallery’. Well, that promise lasted about a year before a picture went up here, then another picture there, and then a small grouping and that’s when I realized that the memory ‘holes’ the photos filled where much more important than the holes they left. Where are your photos?

Sitting on the Couch

Peggy and I have been friends for…well, forever. She was one of the first people I met when I joined LeMasters Racquetball Club. We became instant friends. You know how that is. You meet someone and the next thing you know you’re sharing your life stories like you’ve know each other for a hundred years. You instantly formed a ‘forever bond’. Over the years, our bond grew. Through ups, downs, boyfriend drama, job changes, families, weight gain –mine not hers – weight loss –hers not mine, and vacations. Then it happened, she moved. Our daily conversations became weekly then monthly then on birthdays and finally Christmas card exchanges once a year. We were still there for each other – just separated by miles and life.

The other day, Peggy sent an email telling me about the death of her ‘Aunt Bessie’. Bessie, who lived in Philly, was known for being a meticulous housekeeper. Her home was one of those you could eat off the floor. She had many lovely things but one piece held center stage – her couch. In order to preserve it and keep it showroom new, she had it covered in clear plastic which was a 40’s and 50’s phenomena. Her couch was never sat on it by family or friends. When Bessie died, the couch was as new as it was when she purchased it 30 years before. Peggy was sad, by Bessie’s passing but also for her beloved aunt never completely ‘enjoying’ her couch. Peggy vowed that no matter what, she would never leave this life without ‘sitting on her couch’.

This got me thinking. How many things do we cover with ‘clear plastic’ only to be looked at, kept clean and admired? My Mom had 6 cut crystal glasses given to her as a wedding gift in 1939. They were so thin, a heavenly song played when you ran a wet finger around the rim. This special gift was prominently displayed in her china hutch for all to see but not to be used. For years I asked her to designate those glasses to me in her will. I guess I said it so often that one day she gave them to me saying, “I’m not going to die just for you to get the glasses. Take them and enjoy them while I’m still alive!” I took my treasured gift home and put them in…my china hutch, where I could admire them. One day my husband asked why we didn’t use them. That’s when it hit me – I had ‘clear plasticed’ these beautiful glasses, admiring but not fully enjoying them. Today, even after one was broken, we use them every chance we can. And I must admit that everything taste better in them – even my White Zinfindel.

‘Clear plasticing’ isn’t reserved just for things. People ‘clear plastic’ feelings, thoughts, affection, basically anything they don’t share completely with those they love. Maybe it’s time to take off the wrappings.

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Growing Up Rich

I grew up rich – not wealthy. The difference? According to the dictionary, a wealthy person has sustainable wealth and will always be wealthy. Someone who is rich will only be so for a short period of time – until the money is gone. Well, if this definition holds true, then my family wasn’t rich – not by a long shot.

My Dad was a car salesman. He wasn’t the stereotypical kick the tire, sign here, and move onto the next customer type of salesman. He really cared about his customers and if he didn’t think you should buy the car you wanted he wouldn’t sell it to you. Some appreciated this and some didn’t…especially his boss! Dad was rich with integrity and honesty not money.

Our home was like grand central station with a revolving door. There were always one or two extra people seated at our dinner table whether they be friends, neighbors, Dad’s customers or someone just needing a hot meal. Some stayed for dinner while others stayed overnight. Not sure why they wanted to sleep over since the house was small with one bathroom and three matchbox bedrooms each with a closet that held, at maximum, five-hangers. A mattress pulled off the bed and placed on the floor served as the ‘guest’s’ ‘bedroom’ while the ‘bed’s owner’ slept on the box-spring. Not exactly the Ritz Carlton, Holiday Inn or even Motel 6 but a place people wanted to stay.

One of my college friends frequently asked to spend the weekend. I never knew why and never questioned it. During Christmas semester break one year, I received a call telling me to quick turn on the TV. There was my friend being introduced as one of the twelve international debutants for that year. She never told anyone that her family owned one of the largest companies in the world and they consistently appeared on the ‘millionaires’ list. When we returned to school after the break, she again, asked to spend the weekend. I laughed and said, “Of course, your mattress awaits you.” That evening as I lay on my box spring she looked up at me from her mattress on the floor and said, “Do you realize how rich you are?” I guess I looked surprised at this remark so she continued. “My family owns multiple houses. You live in a home. My parents are always jet-setting somewhere seldom knowing or, at least from my perspective, caring what I’m doing. Though at times it might bug you, your parents are interested in every aspect of your life. You sit down together for a home-cooked dinner. I can’t remember the last time we did that as a family. You’re the richest person I know.”

I learned that night that the true measure of ‘richness’ is in health, faith. love, family, friends and laughter and that I was truly living the wonderful life…just like George Bailey.

Funerals

Funerals play an important role. Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things that anyone will ever experience. Unexpected or the end of a prolonged illness, death leaves a void that is seldom filled and leaves us ‘different’.

Funerals give friends and relatives the opportunity to express the love and respect felt for the person who has passed and to show support for those left without them. Whether it’s solemn like a traditional memorial service or joyous as the dancing and music of a New Orleans jazz parade, funerals help begin the healing process.

Years ago, a friend was killed in a senseless and preventable car accident. She left behind a loving family and a business. At the funeral home, with hundreds of others, we stood for hours in a line that snaked from the church to the parking lot. People shed tears, shared stories and agreed that she was too young to die and her death a tragedy for her 5 and 8 year old children. While walking back to our car, I said to Jeff “I don’t ever want that. For my last hurrah on this earth, I want a theme party where everyone dresses in costumes.” He asked, “Like the Wizard of Oz?” I leaned over to kiss him but stopped short when he started singing, “Ding dong the witch is dead…” He was so close to being perfect.

Funerals have been a means of expressing our beliefs, thoughts, and feelings for thousands of years. Providing an emotional outlet for all involved. This outlet comes in many forms – tears, stories and if fortunate, laughter.

My Dad died suddenly. Taken so quickly, none of us had time to prepare. He, however, was prepared, leaving a list of dos and don’ts. His requests included a ‘cheap’ casket, no viewing and a celebration with red wine, cheese, and crackers. He ended his list with, “do this, or I will haunt you.” Mom went along with the wine, cheese, and crackers but stopped short of his other wishes. As people spoke quietly with Mom and other family members, Pete, Dad’s friend of 60 years, came running in waving a Mass card in his hand. He handed it to Mom apologizing profusely for being late. He was paying his respects at an open casket in an adjoining room when he realized it wasn’t my Dad! Mom laughed as did everyone around her and she thanked Pete for providing some levity during such a tough time.

Life is for the living. After the loss of a loved one, life is different. At a Jewish funeral, a Kriah is performed. It’s the partial tearing of a cloth or ribbon symbolizing, though still whole, life is ‘different’ and continues. When something tragic happens or a loss is felt, our friend Stan says to his wife Adele, “Book it Dano” meaning, book a cruise and let’s live life while we can. Good advice Stan.

Doing Something Special

The fabric of our lives is woven by many people. Whether family, friends or strangers, all leave their footprints on our hearts, our souls and in our thoughts. For the most part, we never realize, nor do they, the impact a word, a gesture or even a well-placed kick in the butt will have.


I was reminded of this by a good friend. Nancy and I met eight years ago when she started dating Stew. Stew, a business associate and friend for over thirty years is unique, intelligent and, at that time, on the lookout for ‘that special person’. He found her in Nancy. Equally intelligent and unique, she brought to their relationship balance, a beautiful spirit, sanity and an array of talents to include being a gourmet chef, a businesswoman, and an artist. At dinner, she told us a story that, for me, was awesome and an example of her ‘specialness’.
While riding a train to New York to visit art museums, Nancy and her artist friends noticed the conductor. A tall gentleman, with a warm smile, full head of dark head and a beard. He so resembled the postmaster painting by van Gogh that Nancy asked to take a picture with him. He chuckled at both taking a picture together and the idea of him resembling a van Gogh painting.


Later that evening, when showing Stew the picture, Nancy relived the brief encounter and thought I’ll paint his portrait! And that’s just what she did. After it was completed, the next step would be to give it to him. But how? She knew two things – his first name, Brian, from the badge he wore, and the train schedule from Philly to NY, at least for the day and time she took it. The detective kicked in. After many calls, explaining why she was trying to connect with a conductor named Brian, and that she wasn’t a stalker, she found an employee who knew both the conductor and his schedule. As fate would have it, his train would be at 30th Street Station within the next hour. Off she went, picture in hand, to meet the train and hoping she’d be able to find him. You see, the platform at 30th Street Station is a block long and the train stops for only two minutes to board and un-board passengers. The stars must have been aligned because Brian stepped off the train right where Nancy was standing. She gave him the portrait, took another photo and off he went. Nancy did something special and unexpected for a complete stranger. She has a wonderful memory and Brian has an original Gordon painting.


Opportunities to demonstrate our ‘specialness’ are all around us. Perhaps in this year, we should do something special, by our words or actions, for someone we know or a complete stranger. Who knows, maybe an ounce of ‘specialness’ will change the world.