The Brody Bunch – Chanukah, Lights, Memories and the Fire Department

Tis the season for the Festival of Lights, Chanukah, Hanukkah, the Miracle of Lights … 2018/5778 (Jewish Year) is down in the books.  Here are the Brody Bunch Chanukah Chai-Lights in no random order.  For those who celebrated, may the new wax you accumulated from your candles add to the good memories from years past.  For all, may there always be light.

  1. Pulling out Rubbermaid boxes filled with preschool made Chanukah art from when the Brody Bunch was little, signifies that Chanukah is upon us. Seeing their little projects displayed brings much happiness.
  2. Hearing Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” kicks off the festivities for 8 crazy nights.
  3. Four kids x eight nights = 32 gifts.  The Brody Bunch tells me that we don’t have to exchange gifts, just light candles, but they have much gratitude, expect nothing, appreciate everything and indulge me in a nightly sibling photo.  We give them things they need or little things we know they want.  Though, it was an epic fail when I let our 13 year old daughter order a book off Amazon on Black Friday featuring her favorite teeny bopper heartthrob like entertainer to discover that I paid for a book about Jeffrey Dahmer’s youth. Thankful for free return shipping.
  4. For the first time, the Brody Bunch created a candle lighting schedule regarding who strikes the match which lights the Shamash candle (the tallest candle in the menorah, the candle helper) and kept to the schedule allowing each sibling to use matches twice. Four siblings x two nights each =  8 nights.  I didn’t mediate once.  That is considered a miracle, too.
  5. Playing dreidel.  Dreidel is a Hanukkah game using something like a spinning top, is similar to gambling, and we use Poker chips instead of Hanukkah gelt (chocolate candy coins) as money. There were no high stake tournaments, but lingering problems such as if the dreidel falls off the table and lands on a good jackpot side, how is that counted? After all these years, we are still in need of clear rules or players become like the Maccabees (the victorious Jews who won the battle) back in a modern battle.
  6. I had so much fun buying boxes of frozen store made latkes, I ran into old friends and we had a great time. But homemade latkes taste better even though they are a lot of work and stink up the house from the oil.  We were gifted with a family friend frying latkes at our house.  And now will be eating the frozen latkes throughout the winter.
  7. We finally used all of my mother’s circa 1970s Manischewitz brand candles. It was a miracle that the jumbo roll of Chanukah wrap, purchased three years ago, the extra long tube that is really hard to store, finally depleted.  I marked my calendar with a reminder to go to the supermarket and restock clearance candles and Hanukkah wrapping paper for next year. Toilet paper and Chanukah supplies, you never stop using either.
  8. Amazon Prime IS Hanukkah Harry.  I will miss my daily visit with our mailman as the last delivery was today. Our mailman is funny like Newman, the Mailman, from Seinfeld.
  9. We festively go through the motions of the holidays for Tradition and to perpetuate our heritage with our children.  The kids waited each night for their Dad to come home from work, late, before lighting the menorahs.  It was a family ritual each night.
  10. My favorite night was night 6.  With more family, we had good laughs, lit lots of menorahs, ate too many homemade latkes, sang Christmas songs, told jokes, used my parent’s very old China serving platters, and the Brody Bunch was full of personality. My kids keep asking what gift I would like to receive and I tell them “just behave”.  They tell me it’s easier to buy a new purse, but on night 6 everyone behaved, that was my gift. Not all gifts are materialistic. I have a new memory to always treasure.
  11. On the 7th night of Chanukah, my daughter lit her Great Grandmother’s menorah. The menorah has been my daughter’s since she had the fine motor skills to place the candles in the holes.  And, this night was special because it would have been my Grandmother’s 98th birthday.  So, I saw the the passing down of traditions from generation to generation literally unfold both in our dining room and in my heart.
  12. On the 8th night, and final night, of Chanukah, I finally located our large dreidel collection and found all of our Jewish themed paper products, it’s like finding your Christmas decorations on December 26th.
  13. Irony ended with the Baltimore City Fire Department.  While celebrating the miracle of lights our circuit breaker kept tripping off.  The electrician didn’t fix the problem, but instead tripped our smoke detectors and left with the smoke detectors chirping.  So, without my family at home, I celebrated the 8th night of lights early when the Baltimore City Fire Department came over with the big truck and lights blaring to help this damsel in distress. What a way to close out the miracle of lights – with fire truck lights.
  14. This Chanukah, I received great memories and new smoke detectors.  Like the Israeli dreidel symbolizes, “A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED HERE, it was a great miracle that I survived 8 crazy nights.

The Brody Bunch – The Sandwich Years

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The Sandwich Years – Caring for the Generation Below Me and Above Me, our Kids and our Parents

It’s not the typical Thanksgiving blog. In fact, it should probably be notes for my future therapist.  On the cusp of Thanksgiving, we have already hosted two family birthday dinners this week as we are in birthday-palooza with Brody Bunch Thing 3 and Thing 4 birthdays just four days apart.  And, my sweet Mom has needed extra support.  All hands are on deck.  My Mom, once two inches taller than me is now four inches shorter than me. Living in Baltimore, I kid her that we may enter her as a jockey in the upcoming Preakness Stakes Horse Race.  I am so fortunate, we have decent insurance policies and my family is on board with all support needs.  

Reflections on Being in My Generation within My Family

Here is what I wish the Brody Bunch knew:

  1. It is important not to buy many things, experiences are better.  Cleaning up is harder when there is so much stuff, it breaks and the landfills are already past capacity.  I am a professional schlepper (mover). I pack things up and take them to donation centers.
  2. Calendaring is an art.  Sports leagues, theater classes, family dinners, meetings, high school open houses, next summer camp opportunities, it is all a fulltime job involving flexibility, calendars, charts, maps and a checkbook.
  3. As adults, having your social security benefits, medicare plan, housing needs, car sales, will and estate planning, retirement, and pre funeral arrangements in place are all big items that are probably better off being methodically planned rather than doing it all in a four week window.  Though these tasks give a recovering helicopter mom, such as myself, a new focus, now that the kids are more independent and a grandparent needs more help.
  4. Taking family photos are important – documenting hard times and celebrations is part of the tapestry and should be remembered.
  5. People are kind.  Hugging and blowing kisses with older people makes them happy.
  6. Humor is the best tool for surviving the roller coaster.

Planning For Death, it is Surreal With Many Expensive Options

Last night, my mother and I shared perhaps one of our most bat shit crazy experiences to date.  In an effort to make things as smooth as possible, it was recommended that we pre plan her funeral. Thankfully this is not an imminent situation, though we were advised to tackle this need now.  The funeral director presented us with many options.  My mother consistently picked the more expensive option and I consistently nodded my head no and supporting the cheaper options.  I tried to beat the financial funeral system hard last night, it can’t possibly cost this much to die.  My mom found comfort in knowing that she could request a playlist of songs for the service.  We laughed so hard with quick self recommendations such as “Only the Good Die Young” and “Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead”.  We had a great time in our funeral meeting.  Did I mention how sweet my Mom is?  We laughed so hard, that the funeral director took notes of our one liners.  She liked the part where we were given a document about “How to Talk To Your Family about Funeral Arrangements” I compared this to “How to Talk To Your Kids about Sex.”

Tradition, Money, and Preserving the Soul

We grappled with tradition. We discussed options that are not in line with how our community defines tradition. Like many, we are faced to make decisions based upon money.  I heard myself say aloud that we want to spend all of the money now to give my mom the best healthcare, living accommodations and life experiences now, and not after.

My mom wanted to know about her soul. All of the decisions we are making are irrelevant to her soul, as she has one of the best souls out there.  And, I would announce that the funeral industry is in bed with the legislature as many expenses are mandated by our state laws.  The rebuke was that it is for the safety of the funeral parlor employees, I didn’t argue with that.

We talked about burial versus cremation.  I heard that cremation would require that I charter a boat should we chose to sprinkle ashes in the Ocean.  My mother belted over, “with your luck, you will be on the boat, and my ashes will blow in your face when you open the box.”  True. So, I am not chartering a boat.

Candy, Singing, Holiday Stress, and Thankful

After our surreal meeting, my mom and I went to a vending machine and cracked open a bag of peanut M&Ms. We sang choruses to the most inappropriate funeral services possible.  But she was very serious about Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”  You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.

While many are stressed out about cooking the turkey, cleaning the house, potential political dinner conversations, if relatives took enough of their medications, this pre funeral arrangements experience shines a new light on being thankful.  I am about to embark on hopefully just a 7 hour Thanksgiving car ride, in a vehicle that the Brody Bunch has outgrown, and I will be relegated to the second or third row, with bags on our laps, and with the wafting smell of four pounds of corned beef in transit. I look forward to being with family from far away even though I will miss my side of the family with whom we see several times per week.  There is much to be thankful about.

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 – The Apple Did Not Fall Far from the Tree

A light blog inspired by my Dad

I am so excited to write this blog, and dedicate it to my dad, Freddie. I really should wait until Father’s Day to publish this, but I can’t. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Freddie is a gourmet cook. Part of his regiment is that he shops and doubles or triples everything so that we have leftovers for next day lunches and a few dinners, it makes him happy. We have a large family, so this is a big financial undertaking.  And, Freddie honors special requests for everyone – steaks, fish, Caesar salads, whatever we want.  We try helping in the kitchen afterwards by putting a few things away.  But after loud and late dinners often on school nights, Freddie is just happy for us to pack up and go. Freddie never criticizes us for anything, except if we use the wrong size storage bags, seriously.  Freddie’s gadget filled kitchen has dedicated shelving and storage areas specifically for his variety of bags.  And, the bags are purchased in bulk.  Oh, Freddie likes to eat out daily.  So, he has a lifetime supply of storage bags in various sizes. So, if a cleanup helper uses a gallon sized bag to only put in a few leftover crudités, it will be stated that a sandwich size bag was more appropriate, “but no problem”.  We never ask where a specific size bag is stored, it somehow cues my dad that he should buy additional replacement bags within the next day or so.

The Perforated Box Filled with Storage Bags was Opened Incorrectly, & it made me think of my Dad

In my kitchen, we  have one drawer for storage bags.  We don’t use them too often. Though, I thought of my dad and was floored when I noticed that a Brody Bunch kid opened the box in a unique way, FROM THE SIDE rather than pushing along the perforated indentations.  I have never opened storage bag boxes from the side, there’s a perforated cut out in the center, but the bags still come out, so I let it go, I saved my snarky complaint for a higher level moment. Last Father’s Day I gave Freddie a box of snack sized storage bags and he was pretty happy with the gift, though I don’t think he has had need for this size, yet.

Plasticware – Wash and Reuse or Recycle?

We just wrapped up two nights of family dinners at my house and I pulled out some plasticware and paper plates.  It was brought to my attention that either you wash and reuse plasticware, or you recycle it.  I have always been in the wash and reuse group. And, I noticed that when my daughter Rachel serves dessert, that she is generous with the paper plates.  I walk around and pull off the extra bottom plates while someone is eating and put the clean plates back into circulation. Like the storage bags, I am pretty particular with the paper and cutlery, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Gift Bags!

In addition to this weekend’s family dinners, our daughter Blanche celebrated her birthday. After Blanche opened her birthday presents.  Without thought, like an old habit, she handed me all of gift bags, “Here you go!  I have to remember not to give presents in these bags back to the people who gave me gifts in these bags.”  We regift, reuse gift bags.

The Apples Don’t Fall Far from the Tree

And there you have it, from plastic storage bags to paper plates and cutlery to gift bags, there’s lots of loves and laughs as the apples don’t fall far from the tree.  

 

Brody Bunch – From Generation to Generation

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Customs

It is customary in the Jewish faith to name your child after the deceased. Our first daughter Blanche, is named in blessed memory after my maternal Grandma Blanche. As the younger Blanche grows, we recognize that she shares similar connections with the deceased Blanche in their candid humor, a sweet tooth for cheap candy and a love of music. Grandma Blanche’s namesake helps keep my memories alive, from generation to generation..

Passing it Down – Tradition!

In celebration of Blanche’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah, my aunt and uncle gave Blanche a little box. When Blanche opened it, she saw something shiny. I saw it too. And, tears filled my eyes. I recognized the shiny bauble as my beloved Grandma Blanche’s initial B charm that she always wore around her neck. Over the years, I forgot about this necklace. But seeing the charm in the gift box reminded me of when I was a young girl, my Blanche’s age, and Grandma Blanche always wore the B hanging out of her shirt neckline.  She draped the necklace over her cowl neck sweaters, she wore it with her bathing suit, she kept it on when adding costume jewelry to her accessories.  Though, I don’t know the history behind the necklace itself, it brings back memories from my youth of time spent with her.  And, despite such an unusual name, it is easy to lovingly recall why my daughter is named after my grandmother because it was her love, caring, generosity and time from my Grandma that helped shaped me today which helps shape my role as Blanche’s mom..

While we were standing around the bar waiting for our dinner table, I believe that Grandma Blanche was smiling down on all of us. Four of her great grandchildren, were inspecting this shiny treasure. One of the kids told me that I can wear Blanche’s B necklace too because B is also for Brody, though Grandma Blanche was not a Brody.

My aunt and uncle have their own granddaughters. For them to give my daughter the necklace means so much to me. I will wear my Grandma’s rubies to the Bat Mitzvah service and I am hopeful that Blanche will wear the necklace. The gems are materialistic but when we talk about  L’dor va’dor, which literally means from generation to generation, the trinkets bring strong memories which link one generation to the next. Unfortunately, Grandma Blanche never met any of her 12 great grandchildren, but the kids feel like they know her from the stories, jokes and memories we share.  Naming someone after the deceased, retelling stories, wearing inherited jewelry, etc helps keeps the soul alive from generation to generation, L’dor va’dor. Tradition!  … cue the music from Fiddler on the Roof.