Brody Bunch – Gift Memories over Materialist Gifts

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Taylor Trensch, star of Dear Evan Hansen signed our Playbills, that is a memory!

Creating Memories Over Acquiring More Stuff

“Experiences over material items” that is the Brody Bunch parenting mantra.  I am sick and tired of putting away things that no one really wants or enjoys.  My generation, Generation X, could die from clearing out the things that our Baby Boomer parents thought we might like one day in addition to all of the things we bought when we had first jobs and the economy was great.  So, to limit the clutter for our kids, we have set out to make memories rather than buying another trinket. We haven’t mastered this, but sometimes we get it right.

An Experience To Celebrate a Bat Mitzvah

In celebration of our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, we gave her the choice of many experiences rather than buying an expensive gift.  She is an aspiring actress and singer. Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen was on the top of her list, it was the only thing on her list. With her Bat Mitzvah 7 months behind us, we finally fulfilled her wish.  Tickets didn’t come easy.  And, we were able to pad the show with additional opportunities for more memories. Maybe I was the one receiving the gift, because, just the two of us went on her getaway and I treasured every moment.  I never knew what time it was. She was the perfect traveling partner. She was flexible when plans changed. She has my stamina. She had gratitude for each offering. She laughed at my jokes.

The Agenda, The Journey, The Magic

We went to New York for two full days.  Our journey included the St. Patrick’s Day parade, long walks in Central Park and the West Village.  We had lobster in the Chelsea Market. We did a photo shoot on the High Line. We sang, shimmied, and twisted at Ellen’s Stardust Diner on Broadway.  We ate dinner in an outside heated bar vestibule. When Siri got us really lost, we drank coffee at a Greek diner. We bought new political buttons to wear on our hats for the upcoming March on Washington to fight gun violence in schools.  Some of these buttons were purchased from the same store where we bought our “Vagina Badge of Honor” patches for last year’s Women’s March.

We shared many laughs, like at the parade, someone’s flag brushed me several times and I pulled on it to tell the flag waver that I couldn’t see.  My daughter gasped and giggled, “Mom, you can’t yank someone’s flag.”  When referencing St. Paddy’s day “pot of gold” I stated that because of the local aroma, that the pot of gold is “just pot”. We segued the joke into meaningful conversations about drugs and alcohol.  No one likes these chats, but we have to have them. For good measure, I threw in questions about sex, too. Thanks Parade revelers!

Instead of dining at our favorite restaurant in Little Italy, we found a wonderful bar. We met the owner [female owned] and spoke with everyone near us. We were in a New York State of Mind. And, when my daughter and I were in the bathroom, she told me that we didn’t have time for me to make anymore best friends because we had to get to the theater.  I like doing things until the last minute, to get in more memories, but I knew that she wanted to get to the show.

My other kids kept texting us, “Aren’t you excited!  Just one hour and 19 minutes before you see Dear Evan Hansen!”  and “I miss you! I hope you are having fun!” The kids not on this trip, were celebrating their sister’s excitement and were so happy for her.  Their sibling love was appreciated by her and another gift to me.  It was all magical.

Saw the show, met the lead actor, it was perfect

The show was finally here. It was beautiful and sad.  She has been singing the hits for more than a year. I had my own moments of reflection sitting next to my daughter during this powerful show. Every parent and kid can learn a lot from this incredible production.  A good hard cry was had by me. After the show, we slipped into Junior’s for cheesecake, and the post theater crowd prevented us from getting a table. We called home and said goodnight.

We could see that people were gathering around the theater.  We went back. Two strangers were smiling and pushed my daughter ahead and said, “Taylor Trensch [Evan Hansen] is signing Playbills!” My daughter got up close, I smiled, congratulated him on his performance, and told him that we were here for her Bat Mitzvah celebration. Taylor/Evan Hansen said, “Oh, happy birthday!  I hope your Torah portion went smoothly.”  Wow, glad we couldn’t get the cheesecake!  This was the icing on the cake!

The Journey Continued

After a hotel snafu whereas our paid room, with our checked in luggage, was given away, near midnight, we were put into a taxi and sent to an alternative hotel.  I was mad. I didn’t want our perfect day to end with being annoyed. I made a choice to check myself and chose to remain happy. I gave our daughter a jewelry box with a surprise charm bracelet from Dear Evan Hansen. Her bright smile rivaled that of Times Square’s lights.

The next day, we had a quick breakfast at the hotel.  I shared with my daughter lessons I learned from the show and how some topics reminded me of myself with my mom.  In the background, I could hear an old Billy Joel song and the lyric “it’s always sadness or euphoria.” That song always reminds me of my mom. More tears streamed down my face. It was like I participated in a therapeutic getaway.  We had more meaningful conversations. We were making lots of memories.  

We walked through Koreatown.  I was in accessory heaven. Just one more store!  These trinkets are “different” from the material items we were trying to avoid by making memories – so we made memories while picking up a few more brooches and bracelets. We walked through the Flatiron District. Spent time at the Strand Bookstore. Ate in a hip coffee shop blasting my favorite songs from the 70’s. We went for a long and cold walk in Central Park.  We saw ducks and signs of Spring. I find peace and happiness in Central Park. We intended to go to another diner where we could warm up, and got lost, again. So we walked for a bit and ended up in Ellen’s Stardust Diner.  We had front and center seats whereas we were part of many of the song and dance routines as innocent bystanders. We strolled back to meet our bus home and took in traditional tourist scenery in Times Square.

14 miles of laughs, lessons and “For Forever” memories

My health tracking device noted that we walked 14 miles over two days.  You can cover lots of laughs, serious conversations and historical discoveries in 14 miles. It is the City that never sleeps.  My soul is beaming with happiness. Like the song from Dear Evan Hansen we made “For Forever” memories.

The Brody Bunch – PLEASE be my Valentine!

Valentine’s Day Pre-Planning, Cards

I LOVE Valentine’s Day.  Ahead of festivities, annually, I purchase the Christmas clearance red wrapping paper and save it for Valentine’s Day. I am a planner. I give the Brody Bunch presents which are usually little leftover gifts from Chanukah.  

Valentine’s Day, Classroom Cards

When our kids were much younger, I made sure that each of them had a Valentine for EACH kid in their class. With four kids, it was like a Hallmark factory in my dining room. We would buy pretty paper and make cards.  We never had the popular character card kits. I was disappointed when the kids’ teachers instructed the students (and parents) not to personally address the cards, but rather just sign their names and pass out generic cards to classmates.  With Valentine’s Day a cousin to Halloween in terms of candy, we would go out of our way and find little items to tape to the card, a pink pencil, a heart shaped eraser, heart stamps, something to hype up our generic handmade cards. Think Dollar Store finds!  The kids’ classes were large and we had lots of Valentines to generate.  So, I would buy pretty paper, new stickers, and ribbons, and on lazy cold mornings, we would start making Valentines, like a machine.  

Valentine’s Day, Write from the Heart

At a very young age, one Valentine night, our son declared, while being tucked in, that he did not like store bought cards with our signed names. That year, he was sad. Despite his present bag filled with baseball cards and candy, no one made him a special card, and he was sad. I told him to get out of bed. He walked with me to where I kept my art supplies, and I watched his frown become a huge smile as I made him a very special homemade card.  That was one of my best Valentine moments ever. He taught me that a special card is one with a meaningful message not printed in the card, but handwritten, from the heart. Since that night, I never bought another store produced card. 

Valentine’s Day, Now, My Heart Skipped A Beat

Between my own child’s Valentine card standards, the teachers’ Valentine rules, I found my place in the Valentine empire – art supplies!  We have a closet filled with ribbons, paper, heart stickers, markers, buttons and baubles and more. It’s a very chaotic and disorganized space and happiness is produced out of that mess. Recently, I was hopeful to replenish our supplies.  However, my heart skipped a beat when I photographed pretty art supplies and texted my daughter with excitement about our upcoming Valentines, “Do you want to make valentines?” and she answered, “Yes. Don’t buy, I can make cards.”  I was relegated to feeling like Charlie Brown regarding the Little Redhead Girl.  My kids are getting older. They don’t want to make cards in mass production together.  They will probably used lined notebook paper. Perhaps it should have been a clue that if my kid can text that maybe she has outgrown pretty papers and puffy heart stickers.

Valentine’s Day, Need My Expectations in Check

This Valentine’s Day, I am giving each of my kids a red bag filled with something that they don’t need, with a heart shaped box of candy and a handwritten note.  We will take our annual Valentine’s Day photo with their Valentine heart shaped candy boxes. There won’t be any fancy dinner for me with their Dad on Valentine’s Day as we will be carpooling kids from soccer practice, theater class and Hebrew School. As our kids get older, I know to get my expectations in order.  Incredible memories were created while we made Valentines.  Perhaps those Valentines were more for me than they were for the classmates. Most of those cards should have ended up in recycling, but my memories are still with me.

Before this blog published, I shared with my daughter, the texting one, that I wrote a blog inspired by how much I miss making Valentine cards with her. And it’s that time of the year. She responded, “Well, let’s make some Valentines!” Oh my heartstrings are pulled towards happiness. Though intellectually, I am most confused by the Puberty laced Roller Coaster. I just want to make Valentines!

Valentine’s Day – February 15th!

Perhaps a tradition I recall most from my own childhood is celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 15th. Yes, February 15th. As a child, I always thought that Valentine’s Day was on February 15th because all of the candy and cards were half priced and that is when my family celebrated.

Signing off with much love at full price and clearance price. There’s plenty of love to go around.

The Brody Bunch and The Nutcracker

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I Once Threw Shade at The Nutcracker

It’s the holiday season.  With an abundance of traditional and festive options, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker is one of the most popular winter seasonal highlights for many.  And, I admit that I was not a fan of the beloved Nutcracker, until now.  My mom and my daughter Blanche have made an annual pilgrimage to see this beloved ballet throughout the years. I am invited each year and decline.

Rising to the Occasion Because Your Kid Asks You To

This year, my mom was unable to take Blanche on their traditional outing.  So, I made arrangements for Blanche to see the show, but Blanche wanted me to come, too.  I had no interest.  I saw it once as a child, and that was enough for me.

Though, when your kid asks you to go to the ballet, and her Grandmother can’t go, you rise to the occasion.  For two hours, I was mesmerized.  I loved everything in this holiday treasure.  We saw a stellar production at the Baltimore School for the Arts. From the costumes and makeup to the dancing and the facial expressions, we were given a beautiful gift for the holidays and beyond.  I tried to understand deeper meanings of The Nutcracker.  But deeper meanings pertaining to the story were unneeded.  The meanings in my own story is what unfolded.  It was beautiful, and draining, and a gift received from self reflection.  It was like believing in the magic of the Clara’s dream and the magic of the holidays.

The Magic of The Nutcracker Gave Me Gifts, Too

For the first time, I was engaged in the actual event.  I usually photograph events so I miss being in the moment as I am “focused” on my job. I never realized this.  But I enjoy it. And, I usually watch the expressions on my kids’ faces when we are sharing an experience, but I am never in the moment of the activity.  My happiness is gained by watching my kids experience the moment.  I don’t remember how I experienced things before they were born, but as they grow older, I am sure that I will need to relearn how to be in the moment for myself.  Perhaps, The Nutcracker gave me a gift, too.

Several days have passed since the ballet.  And, I don’t recall watching my daughter’s expressions during the performance. I was most engaged in the actual performance. She doesn’t understand that my experience differs from her experiences. She doesn’t know that I receive much joy out of watching her and her siblings experience happiness rather than enjoying the actual outing itself.  She feels that we went to the show together and shared that journey, which is also true. For her, it is that simple. The moment I treasure most from this outing is that my daughter so much wanted to be with me, and I experienced actually being in the moment.  We were both happy. We supported the arts. And perhaps the arts supported me in my personal growth.

I Understand the Best of the Holiday Season

I finally found the love that many have experienced through The Nutcracker thanks to my daughter, my mom, and the talented performers.  Perhaps this journey of being in the moment, for myself, and with my family, represents the best of the holiday season.  

The Brody Bunch – Growing, Pride & Crying in Baseball

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To commemorate my special birthday, we bought a fundraising brick for our new Little League field and paraphrased from A League of Their Own while honoring the Brody Bunch.  Though, after a phone call and opportunity for our first born little league player, I plan on crying.

Baseball Attire Leads to an Opportunity

Months ago, I was in a Hebrew school meeting and wearing jeans with a baseball jersey and baseball cap. My younger son was wearing his little league uniform. A guy kept motioning to me to get my attention and asked if my kid plays baseball.  This guy was recruiting boys to tryout for the  Jewish Community Center’s Maccabi baseball team. We exchanged information, went to a tryout, my husband was recruited as a volunteer coach, and I sortof forgot about it. Our older son also went to a tryout, and I sortof forgot about that, too.  Coincidentally, I was in another community meeting, and the speaker stopped her presentation and said to me, “Aren’t you the baseball family?” I never really thought of it, but yes!

The Phone Call That Shapes Our Future

Last night, as I was falling asleep, I received an enthusiastic call welcoming our older son, Leo, onto a special baseball team for the experience of a lifetime and are we ready to sign? There are more players than spaces, so we need to commit now.  Wow.  I was unprepared for this call, as I sortof forgot about it.

I hated my circa 1950s housewife response: “I am so thankful, but my husband is not home.”  WTF, Robyn (me)?  I wasn’t sure how we would commit to the large expenses involved. Immediately, I told the Coach how unacceptable my answer was to him. I repeated my gratitude and strongly emphasized that this is my decision, too.

I was distracted by my younger son throwing moldy strawberries from the fridge into the sink.  The entire moment was surreal. I knew that I was proud of my son making the team, I was annoyed with my anti-feminist response, and I was really annoyed with my younger son throwing food across the kitchen.  I was letting negativity override my happiness, and that made me really mad.  That is not me. I sensed that it was more than berry throwing getting to me, my hand was forced to let my older son grow and I see that his time is, NOW.  And my time to grow is also NOW.  We had to accept the literal call and grow, NOW, together.

The Coach asked to speak with Leo. Leo, happily took the call in the bathroom and I was nervously listening through the door. My son is very polite.  But like many teens, he is not the best telephone conversationalist. But, because my family speaks on speakerphone, and Leo thinks this is a common practice, their conversation was audible. I was beaming with pride from his athletic achievement but moreso for his character and demeanor.  I fast forwarded my thoughts by several years, and I imagined that this moment might be similar to receiving the call from a college coach offering my kid a baseball scholarship. But, that is getting ahead of the gift of time.

Dreaming, Realizing, Role Models & Responsibility

Leo has been playing baseball since he was four. His Dad has coached him for years. And, many of his coaches are our friends. Baseball families become extended family. As a term of endearment, most of Leo’s friends parents are called Coach rather than mister so and so.  Once, Leo asked me what one of his coaches did in the professional world.  It seemed to me that Leo recognized that a professional backup plan should be considered in case the major leagues don’t come knocking at his door.  That was a sad moment of reality for me watching my kid realize that a dream may not become real.

There were many times that we had to have the “Sandy Koufax sat out of the World Series” conversation when Leo was disappointed with us that he had to miss practice for Rosh Hashanah or a game for Yom Kippur.  Now, Leo was offered a coveted spot on the Jewish Community Center’s Maccabi baseball team representing our hometown.

Once the sibling excitement and the news of the hour settled down, Leo and I snuggled on the couch. It was our first time sitting on the new couch together. And, we had a memorable moment, while still unable to bounce off the walls like I usually do in excitement, I spoke quietly.  I never speak quietly. “Leo, you know I am so proud of you?” Leo’s special smile that comes out at very special times, beamed, “Yes, I do.”  I quietly asked him, “How do you know?”  Leo stated, “Because you are my number one fan.”  I hit a homerun.  I asked Leo, “WHY do you want to do this?” Leo told me, “I think it will be fun and I will have a chance to represent the Jewish people.”  Oh my goodness, I hit a grandslam in terms of our heritage.  The grandparents and the Rabbis should be kvelling.

A Plethora of Firsts are Coming Our Way

With this opportunity, there will be lots of firsts for my firstborn. This adventure is scheduled weeks before the start of his freshman year of high school at a new school.  He will be flying on a plane for the first time.  He will be visiting the West Coast for the first time. He will be traveling without his parents for the first time.  He will be have an experience of a lifetime without me, for the first time.  I won’t be there to see all of his expressions, for the first time.  As Leo seeks independence, I am seeking strength in growing and letting go, as best as I can.

Leo stopped attending Jewish camps around age 7, attends school in an urban community, and while we try to have regular Shabbat dinners, being Jewish doesn’t come as easily to him as it did for me growing up in an insular community. This baseball opportunity gives Leo a chance to connect with people who have similar backgrounds and interests.

All of the Brody Bunch kids play baseball or softball, and I use baseball as metaphors when talking about life lessons.  It’s ironic that a lot of my upcoming personal life lessons will also be centered around baseball.  

In my conversation with the Coach, I pulled the mommy card big time: “How are the host families screened?  As a hobby, I photograph little league, I am happy to help!”  The Coach told me that I could travel with the team! Though, I cannot. The expenses for this journey are too steep, and some of the non monetary expenses include me recognizing that my number one son is growing up whether I am ready or not. I am blessed that he calls me his Number One Fan.  

For Me, there WILL be Crying in Baseball

I tell my kids’ teammates, “there is no crying in baseball” it’s one of my favorite baseball expressions.  I believe that this Number One Fan (me), is exempt from the mantra, as when the journey gets closer, I will be crying tears of pride for my baseball player.

The Brody Bunch – The Day After Halloween

Pre Brody Bunch Halloween

It’s odd that I love Halloween.  I grew up in the cyanide poisoning and razor blade scare era, in a neighborhood without many kids, and with a little brother who seemed to get Croup on many Halloweens.  And, whatever costumes I had, always with a plastic mask, which made seeing and breathing difficult, I had to wear my big winter coat over my costume because it was cold.

Early Brody Bunch, Post Halloween = Clearance Finds!

The day after Halloween was another “holiday” chasing 50-75% off candy and costume clearance sales. I no longer eat candy, and sadly, the older Brody Bunch kids no longer play dress up.  As my friend told me, October is all about kids planning the very perfect Halloween costume and then completely changing the said costume choice on October 30th. True.

Halloween Traditions Didn’t Go According to Plan

This Halloween season, things were pretty hectic. The Brody Bunch missed screening the entire It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.  We didn’t honor anyone’s specific costume wishes. Our car broke down outside of the pumpkin patch. We finally purchased pumpkins at the grocery store, five days ago, and these uncarved pumpkins are taking up real estate on my kitchen floor.

Pjs Doubled Up as Costumes, That was my Intended Plan

Smartly, I welcomed each kid to pick out new warm onesie pajamas with the understanding that these pjs would double up as Halloween costumes. Brilliant!  All went well until one daughter requested a $5 racoon mask and wore dark lipstick with the mask and was happy.  Another daughter wore a $400 leather jacket, and decided that with her friends, she would be in a biker gang.  My older son, for the first time, wasn’t a Baltimore Oriole. Instead, he was a rooster, thanks to his pajamas. I love that he had a costume rather than his beloved baseball jersey because the shirt reminded me of what older kids wear in the spirit of still wanting to trick or treat, but not dress up, and I wasn’t ready for that.  My younger son, he didn’t want to be a Minion, but we ran out of time, so he was a Minion. I never dress up, but was sick of being cold, even while wearing my winter coat like I did when I was a child. So, I wore my daughter’s monkey suit onesies and I was warm.  Moving forward, I will now be a monkey on Halloween, or a Minion.

We gave up our cute Halloween totes and resorted using our pillowcases.  Between team jerseys, dark lipstick, and pillowcases, these are Halloween signs that the kids are getting older.

Present Day Brody Bunch Halloween – Our Plan

Fast forward to Halloween with the Brody Bunch.  For several years, we have been meeting at one family’s home, quickly eat pizza, tweak costumes, and split into predetermined groups, do a photoshoot and then leave. The older kids, for the first time, got a ride into a neighboring area.  And, we all agreed upon a time to stop where we were, and walk towards a specific house to end the night together.  The meet up house is very welcoming and hospitable whereas the grill was hot, the chili was simmering, drinks were flowing, and kids traded candy while parents mingled on the front lawn around the bonfire.  We hit perfection.  As crazy as life is, and the world has become, these few hours are perfect.

Reflections While Candy Hoarding, Thanks to the Firemen

As we walked the neighborhood streets with friends, I was sad to recognize, that the Brody Bunch is getting older.  We won’t be trick or treating forever.  So between that and our local fire department, I was quite reflective. The neighborhood fire department, hit with budget cuts, had the trucks out driving around with their lights on. Every few houses, the truck would stop and firefighters handed out candy.  It was the kindest gesture which now motivates me to help “fill the boot” at future firefighter fundraisers. Our firefighters went above and beyond being good neighbors.

Our Kid Found The Perfect Halloween Spot, Because Their Friends’ Families Are So Welcoming

The history of our great Halloween stems from my then 9-year-old daughter hearing of a spot where we should trick-or-treat, just a mile away from our home, and near their school friends.  We were quickly embraced and became part of the Halloween landscape. Pounds of candy for the kids and red Solo cups for the parents to have a cold one or a glass of wine.  Wow, my kid knows how to scope out the good spot!

Most of these friends, we met through Little League baseball.  Many of the dads coach. And, those who don’t play ball, are the neighbors. This is a great pastime in modern history – neighbors visiting, kids having their independence roaming the streets and friends being together. Kids have a night to explore neighborhoods independently. Something kids today really don’t do in this world. Neighbors were outside, people were visiting, eating and drinking. Being free, social, and euphoric seems like a pastime too. Again, it is a perfect few hours.

Candy Sorting and Trading, It’s a Ritual

When we got home, pretty late on a school night, our three younger kids organized their candy and started sorting and trading. They have always done this as a Halloween ritual. Our oldest child left his candy untouched, hopefully brushed his teeth, and went to bed. Without any requests, the kids handed over about 50 pounds of candy for me to donate excluding a mango and Chanukah gelt (chocolate candy coins).

Halloween, It’s a Wrap

I miss the days of matching sibling costumes.  I recognize that our trick or treating days are numbered.  I will always treasure the Halloween candy sorting and trading.  Being with my family and many of our friends at the end of the night, reminds me of the sweetness (pun intended) of being part of a wonderful village.  Candy, independance, family and friends, traditions and the sweetest of old and new memories with the Brody Bunch.

The Brody Bunch – THIS is What’s It’s About

Dating Anniversary, Different Start Dates – Same Group of Friends

Today is the 18th year that my husband has been dating me.  I have been dating Mark an additional 8 months. It was a complicated social understanding which took a heavy handed bartender’s margarita that finally got us on one page. Back then, before the Brody Bunch phenomena, we had a very special circle of friends. With these friends, we volunteered, we traveled, we had regular happy hours, we had weekly Saturday brunches, for years.  We spent holidays together, we experienced happy times, sadness, work changes, first houses, and life. These friends knew Mark and me before we started dating.  

What is THIS All About?

Someone recently asked, me “What is THIS all about”?  “THIS” includes: kids’ sports leagues, applying for schools, touring camps, bills, high health care premiums, and the hamster wheel of life. “THIS” includes many first world problems. My reply to the philosophical or rhetorical question, just a few weeks ago was,“don’t ask that question, just keep moving forward!”  

A Celebration with Friends, Dewey Beach is in our Hearts

However, last night, the Brody Bunch and our old circle of friends gathered to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah. Throughout life we create groups of friends, such as school friends, work friends, camp friends, college friends, early career friends, etc. Mark and I were in a peer group of 20 year old civically and socially minded people. Mark developed a spin off group called, “The Walking, Running, Eating and Volunteering Group” and we did everything in the group’s title, weekly. A part of this group remained very close.  

One of our best annual vacations was a trip to Dewey Beach, Delaware.  We rented a mansion on the beachfront.  About 18 years ago, this place cost $4000 for four nights over the long Memorial Day weekend. 18 of us piled in.  It was one long party.  We called ourselves the “original Dewey group”.  A few people didn’t come back in future summers and new people joined the group. We did this trip several times. And, it always rained when we took this trip.  The trip eventually ended.  The Dewey crew split off into smaller groups.  And, life got in the way.

Identifying with A Scene in the Movie, City Slickers

Last night, most of the group, along with my children, reconvened to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah.   We had more sunshine last night than we ever had on our beach trip.

“What’s all of THIS about”?  There’s a conversation in Billy Crystal’s movie City Slickers about middle aged friends on a comedic soul searching journey on a dude ranch that refers to this experience.   

Curly,  played by Jack Palance, a seasoned cowboy, and asks Mitch played by Billy Crystal: “Do you know what the secret of life is? THIS, [and holds up one finger].” Mitch: “Your finger?” Curly: “One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.” Mitch: “But, what is that ‘one thing?’” Curly: “That’s what YOU have to find out.”

So, here we were on the dance floor, in between classic hits from the 80s and songs of today celebrating a friend’s child who became a man in the eyes of our collective faith. Our kids were dancing near us, checking in during dinner and dancing. We laughed about old times.  We gushed over our growing kids. We checked in about each other’s’ parents. I unloaded issues I would never post on Facebook. There was so much love and happiness.  I missed our friends so much.  We all had a good time.  In our younger days, we volunteered in our community.  We got married.  We had kids.  We experienced each other’s’ sadness. We became consumed in our kids’ worlds.  And then we made new life friends through Little League, and the PTA.  Everyone is part of the journey.  But what is THIS all about?

What is all of the Stuff About?

I am in the midst of cleaning out a loved one’s home during a housing transition.  My own home is also in need of a purge. We spent years buying and gathering more stuff and now it is everywhere and we are attached to it, but don’t need most of it. Simplicity seems like a better alternative Again, it’s a first world problem.  “What’s THIS all about”?

To Life! To Us!  To our Friends!

Last night, while I was with many dear old friends, who I have not seen on a regular basis for more than 10 years, and those I have seen quickly in passing at the supermarket or such, quality time has been missed. This is the group, the “original Dewey crew” that knew my husband and I before we were dating.  And, last night, they didn’t realize that we would be celebrating 18 years, which is Chai (Life), in Judaism, of dating.  These were the friends who helped us get where we are today, and they didn’t even know that today is a significant day for us and that they were part of it.

Taking a Reunion Photo, We Were Meant to take a Photo of ALL of US

We all danced together, and told some one liners from the past.  I requested that the photographer take a group picture of the original Dewey crew still hanging on late into the night. I have always done our photos, but I wanted to be in this group photo, too.  We were lining up. And, then significant others and spouses joined in the group photo, as they should.  And, then our kids jumped into the photo, as they should. We were watching our legacy unfold last night THIS is what it’s all about.

Last Dance, THIS is What it is All About – Friends, Memories & The Future

We were called together to celebrate a happy time. The whole night was a reflection of our past as we celebrated a young man’s future… perhaps “THIS is what it’s all about”. I asked the disc jockey if he ever heard of Donna Summers’ song, “Last Dance”? The D.J.’s announced last song was one that I never heard of.  Our Dewey group saw Donna Summers in concert. The D.J. obliged my request and played a final “Last Dance” and there we were, most of the original Dewey group, significant others and kids, singing and dancing the Last Dance. One friend said to me, “hey, I think you have a new blog from tonight.”  And, my old friend Chippy, was right.  I have had a writing block for a few weeks. Not only do I have a blog, I have a very warm spot in my heart for old times. Life is a blessing and hard.  But to see the past, and reflect on the future and know that we are happy, healthy and wealthy in memories and love, “THIS” is what it’s all about.

The Brody Bunch – The Season Changes and So Do We

Fall Season With Younger Kids

When the Brody Bunch was younger, Fall signified pumpkin patches, jumping in leaves and slow walks picking up acorns. Traditions are now memories that I try to keep going each Autumn, albeit watered down. As Autumn seems to arrive faster and faster each year, I try to schedule all of my favorite Fall pastimes, which now all happens the Saturday or Sunday just before Halloween.  As the leaves change, my heart yearns for pumpkin patches, acorn finds, but not so much raking.

Fall Season With Older Kids, Life is Moving Fast

The weather is getting chilly.  The Brody Bunch is super busy.  Weekends are not our own. We are on this incredible hamster wheel: homework projects, multiple sport tournaments, baseline goals of having clean underwear for the week, grocery shopping, paying bills and aging grandparents.  The aging grandparents part is new because the “sandwich generation” is kicking into full speed for me.  There have been highs and lows, but mostly highs. I love the time I am spending with my Mom and the harder and life lessons conversations with my Dad.  The kids spend even more time with grandparents visiting and being shuttled to extra curricular activities.  We all need more help and everyone is pitching in.  And, everything seems to be pumpkin spiced.  I never liked pumpkin spiced anything, I know that is considered blasphemy to some.

I loved the times at the pumpkin patches and being in awe by the changing colors seen in nature.  As the kids get older, I am getting older, too.  The seasons seem to change more rapidly and the memories seem so long ago. We are at the point where the Brody Bunch can use knives to carve their own pumpkins and a landscaping company blows the leaves. When the Brody Bunch was little, I thought those were really hard days. Imagine being in pumpkin patch with 2, 3, 4 and 5 year olds and being hopeful that we could round up all of the kids and their pumpkins before the last tractor hay ride headed back to the parking lot, also known as civilization.  

“Puff the Magic Dragon” Syndrome

The changing of the seasons and how we mark time reminds me of Mary, Peter and Paul’s classic song, “Puff the Magic Dragon”. This song is about a little boy, Jackie Paper, who had a great imagination and believed in the pretend Magic Dragon named Puff. One day, Jackie made way for other things, and Jackie moved beyond Puff. This lyric sums it up:
“A dragon lives forever but not so little boys/Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys/One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more/And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar!”

Believing in the Magic of Fall, Make it Happen, Again

The memorable magic of Autumn has shifted because we have made way for other things. The Brody Bunch is Jackie Paper. And, I still want the Brody Bunch to hold onto the magical moments before growing up.  I am hopeful that as the seasons change, that the Brody Bunch still finds time as a whole Bunch to explore a pumpkin patch, look for changing colored leaves and collect acorns throughout the season.  We may even stop on the way home for a pumpkin spiced latte and sing “Puff the Magic Dragon”.  

Nature, love, memories, tradition, aging, and pumpkin spice and everything nice.

The Brody Bunch – Our 15th Anniversary


The Morning of Our Anniversary 

Apparently I didn’t lock the bedroom door. We were surprised when our youngest child barged into our room, jumped on us, and gave anniversary kisses. I was repeatedly asked, “Mommy, why are you smiling so much? Because you are so happy?”  Um, rather highly embarrassed!

Thanks to YouTube, we danced to our first wedding dance, Edwin Starr’s “Oh How Happy”. Most people know this artist’s more popular song, “War!”  How ironic for us.  And, we are oh so happy!

The Night of Our Wedding

We delivered all of the catered dinner leftovers to a homeless shelter. A little girl saw me in my wedding dress and tiara and announced that a real princess was dropping off food.   Not a bad foundation to begin married life. After all, we met by making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the hungry. 

15th Celebration, Not Celebration, Life is Happening

I had grand plans of being in New York, where we had our honeymoon to commemorate this milestone. But, as my friend reminded me, John Lennon said something along the lines of “Life happens when we are busy making plans.” And it was confirmed that I did not win steeply discounted tickets for the  #springsteen musical on Broadway. 

Instead, I ate a dry Caesar salad while visiting a loved one in the hospital. We literally wished each other happy anniversary greetings before I sent Mark off into the night to pick up our kids from the Middle School dance. I even missed the dance. I love chaperoning this event, but our kids were thrilled that I missed the dance. Instead, after 5 minutes of an anniversary dinner with Mark, I had time to pull this blog together as a tribute to my best friend. 

This is What It’s All About

I write this blog from a hospital room as a visitor. We have had more than our share of blessings and happiness. The journey is part of the deal. Mark Brody, it has been much longer than 15 years, and this sitcom has been renewed including four wonderful spinoffs, The Brody Bunch. Love, laughter, tears, carpools, hospital food, it’s just what we know as Friday.  Happy Anniversary, with love. 

Update Since Blog Published:

I was reminded by my other half that eating our anniversary dinner in the hospital is apropos as four of the five best days of our lives happened in this same hospital where all four of our children were born. The 4 kids and our wedding, #ThisIsUs  We are The Brody Bunch. 

The Brody Bunch – My Mother’s Makeup Table

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Seeing my mother, myself and my daughter in the same mirror and triggered memories 

 

Scents Brought Memories Back From My Childhood

I sat at my Mother’s makeup table.  I was alone in her room.  I flicked on the light switch and the circa 1960s hard white light round, bulbs were illuminated. Well, most of the bulbs were bright, some of the bulbs need to be replaced. Suddenly, I was engulfed in familiar smells from my childhood.  Scent is a big trigger for memories. I sobbed. The smells of my Mom’s lipsticks and eye and lip pencils were all bringing back vivid memories from when I was little.  I remember my Mom sitting at her makeup table every morning and doing things to her face that Vogue models do before a photoshoot. Back then, my mom was younger than half of my current age today.  I didn’t see us get older.

Like a Child, but as an Adult, I Went Through My Mom’s Things

Like I did when I was as a little girl, I opened the makeup table’s main drawer.  I marveled at the treasures inside. There were organized containers overflowing with products.  The best of the best name brands were tucked in this drawer: Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and some other moderately priced names. I remember being with her at high end cosmetic counters and department stores buying these products when I was younger.  And, sometimes, we would go out to lunch after a she bought her makeup and nailpolishes.  I even remember one place she shopped, there was a line of pay telephones each enclosed with a glass door for privacy and a seat for comfort. Sometimes, when I was finishing lunch, she would make a business call from one of the telephone booths.  When I was older, maybe 17 or 18, I occasionally shopped at the same makeup counters. The makeup artists knew me because I was there as a kid with my mom, but it was too expensive of a luxury for me during high school and college.

True Colors

Truth be told, while I was in her makeup table last night, I did put on a lipstick, just like when I was younger.  I was surprised to see a gold tone shade, which is in the family of color tones that I wear. By opening this drawer, memories emerged and I time traveled back by four decades. So long ago, my mom wore bright reds and fuchsia pinks.  But, there was a modern color from today.  A color quickly gave me a reflection of time.  I measured time with a color.

Empathy and Hugs

I didn’t realize that I was crying.  My daughter, Rachel, 11, came into the room.  Rachel has been known to open products, smell them, and not return items as found.  But not last night. Unlike me, Rachel did not partake in opening items.  Instead, Rachel stood above me while I sat at the makeup table and she just hugged me. And, she hugged me for a long time. Just the night before, I hugged my own mom, and I hugged her for a long time.  Rachel championed empathy.  My mom is an empathetic person.

The Bright Light Went Dark

In my moment of hysteria, because I was unexpectedly flooded with memories, Rachel brought over pictures of me with my Mom from when we were much younger, way before the Brody Bunch phenomena. Rachel’s intentions were good. The pictures from old family occasions combined with the scents from the makeup took me way down memory lane.  I could even remember the master bedroom where this table also stood in my childhood home.  For a short moment to me, and a long moment for Rachel, I was a mess.  Rachel’s comfort helped calm me down, and then, one of the 1960 hard white light round bulbs popped and went dark.  I could no longer see my perfectly painted lips painted with my Mom’s lipstick.

Love, Memories and 3 Generations of My Family Sat at this Makeup Table

From this experience,  I have a new love for this piece of furniture as there a connection from my mom to me and from me to my daughter. Now three generations of women in my family have seen their faces through the same mirror on this makeup table, both sad and happy.  And, we are all beautiful.

The Brody Bunch – I Need A Time Out

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“Man Cave”. Hiding Space.  MY Space. My Time Out.

It was a long time before I was discovered “hiding” in the bathroom.  I have a great set up: a seat (other than the toilet), nutrition bars for sustenance, and a cup for water. The air conditioning is strong, the heat is comfortable, and the WiFi is reliable. There is even a soothing fan humming in the light fixture which is zen like in keeping out the occasional “MOM, I NEED….” problems simply because I cannot hear them.  If I plan ahead, I bring in fresh coffee.  On occasion I have searched Amazon, while in the bathroom, so that I could purchase a Keurig machine for my bathroom. I drink my coffee black so this is a real possibility since milk refrigeration is a non issue.  A coffee machine in the bathroom, brilliant!  I am so easy to please.  I created what society recognizes as a “Man’s Cave” for myself and it’s MY space. The Brody Bunch is an intense and loud group and sometimes I need a time out.  And, sometimes, during my time out, I look at old digital pictures, listen to my favorite music, watch This is Us or read trash websites. Most of the time, I reflect and find the humor in the moment and blog, post, document and share it.

The Brody Bunch is Banished from the Master Bathroom

I banished my entire family, the whole Brody Bunch, from the master bedroom bathroom. I can’t remember if empty toilet paper rolls, pee pee on the floor, the toilet not flushed, or my empty shampoo bottles pushed me over the edge.  But I banished everyone, including my husband, from using this bathroom.  My dirty clothes are no longer commingled with sweaty workout clothes or grass stained baseball pants. Though, now I do own that the hairs on the floor are my own. Once in a while I clean up their bathroom but complain minimally as to not encourage any of them to creep back into my bathroom.  

I Accidentally Announced My Brilliant Idea on Facebook

A lot of quiet time went by with me in the bathroom.  I would announce that I had to go to the bathroom and that was it!  After many successful breaks in the bathroom, I erred with a Facebook posting when I announced during a blizzard, that all was going well because my family thought I was in the bathroom, constipated.  However, I had snacks and was really watching a movie online.  Also, I might have had a mini, or two, and my husband was checking Facebook.  Thanks to Jose Cuervo and Facebook, I outed myself.

Rule Breakers, Evidence Left Behind

I try not complaining when evidence appears in my “Cave” such as the toilet seat is left up, someone cut their nails over the sink, or toilet paper is depleted. While clues are obvious that a Brody Bunch member crossed into the land of my sanity, I can’t give into their bad coverups of using my bathroom, because I am afraid they will freely use the amenities rather than sneak an occasional visit. Yes, they are rule breakers, I am okay with rule breakers, but it gets on my nerves. This unspoken bathroom battle lives on because I have nowhere else to hide and rejuvenate from the Brody Bunch.