The Little Holiday That Could

Tonight, the first night of Chanukah, I take out the brass menorah and crack open the box of multi-colored candles. Setting it on my mantel, I am ready to share with you my lifelong experience of the little holiday that has its eight days of minor glory. It’s a Jewish holiday, but not really a religious holiday—no services or solemn remembrance—more of a nod to…

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Music to my Ears

I lost my dad Julius in 1980 when he was sixty-seven. At the time, I thought that was old. Now I’m older than he ever got to be. My father learned to play the trombone in the high school marching band. From there, he became an audiophile and developed a love for every kind of music. Dad became expert in all of the new renditions…

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Origin Story

In my 71st year, going into my third as a widow, I decided to join a newly formed literary discussion group at the local library on Saturday afternoons. It was a step out of darkness, away from the mourning, then grieving, first for my husband, then for my mother ten months later. I had not understood—how could I have known—that recovering from three years of…

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Faithful Friends

I don’t have any pets now. But over the years, we took many different species into our home or yard, including dogs, cats, Oxfordshire sheep, chickens to lay eggs, iguanas, gerbils, turtles, fish. I remember when we found a tortoise wandering on the lawn with a shell the size of a toilet seat. We escorted him back to the lake, never to be seen on…

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Ground Zero

THE VISIT: On August 15th, I visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City for the first time. I approached the site with trepidation, not sure if I could withstand the fearsome presence of that day like no other. Unlike me, the victims of the plane crashes and the collapse of the buildings had no choice. The first responders did not think twice, many punished…

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Roommates, the Risks and Rewards

When my cousin Donna slept over my house in Linden for the weekend, we stayed awake through the night, giggling, telling secrets, pretending we were movie stars. When I slept over her house in Elizabeth, we did the same. Neither of us had sisters, and anyway, sometimes cousins get along better than siblings. On the other side of my family, my mom’s, I was one…

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Getting Away

ROUTE ONE INTO THE DEEP SOUTH—JANUARY 1955 When I was ten years old, I left New Jersey to hit the open road in the back seat of my grandfather’s gray Buick Special. Whenever we visited my mom’s parents in Glen Cove, Long Island, my “Zayda” took us for Sunday drives. But this was different—this was big. My mom Rose and my little brother Stuart would fly…

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Reflections on the Long and Winding Road

In some retirements, the lucky worker gets a gold watch and a pension. In my case, on a not especially memorable day in December 2016, nothing earth-shattering happened. I informed the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers that I did not plan to renew my license. They briefly explained how to remove my name online from the rolls and ended the call with “Congratulations, Attorney Levine.”…

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Another’s World

🌹  My mom Rose was a nursing home resident for three years in her mid 90s. She was assigned a roommate, Beverly (not her real name), who was 40 years younger. Beverly was very bright and an excellent conversationalist. She had flawless porcelain skin, smooth and silky hair to her shoulders, and a winning smile. I have some sense of the maladies that landed her there…a…

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Marilyn of my Young Dreams

When I was a preteen in the 1950s, my cousin Marlynne and I were fervent Marilyn Monroe fans. We subscribed to movie magazines—Photoplay and Modern Screen—with a feature on our favorite movie star in every issue. We each made up scrapbooks and pasted in every possible picture and article we could find. When I visited my cousin in Philly, I always brought my updated scrapbook and we…

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The Summer of ‘63

I’m still traumatized by getting fired without cause at age eighteen going on nineteen. I was thrilled to work for the summer at the five and dime lunch counter in downtown Elizabeth, New Jersey. I proudly wore my starched yellow uniform with the white apron, designating me as part of something important, in this case the great American variety store with the orange block letters…

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Summer in Paradise, Then and Now

I live in a 1956 ranch on an acre in a small New England town. There is a protected wetland on one side, a forest in the back bordered by an ancient stone wall, and a neighbor on the other side. No sidewalks. 🌱 The grass is mature, thick, and deep-rooted, leaving little room for interlopers, just the occasional sturdy dandelion and the clumps of sweet…

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Three Easy Pieces

QUORA is an internet website used by two hundred million people around the world to ask and answer questions in a wide range of categories. I discovered the world of Quora.com through my friend Jill who has been awarded Top Writer status for five years in a row. Participants come from diverse backgrounds, ages, countries, interests, and beliefs. Some of my chosen topics are Aging,…

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What’s the last present you unwrapped?

It’s a special event when one person gives a gift to another, for any reason. Gift cards or registries are now the most popular choice of gifting for birthdays, graduations, weddings, holidays, housewarming, etc. In some ways it’s impersonal, but in other ways it’s better. We’ve all given or received gifts for which we or the recipient have no use or liking whatsoever. 🎈  …

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Goodbye to Endless Winter

After a couple of days with temps in the eighties, I decided to put away my winter clothing. I may regret it, as May weather in New England can be unstable. We are advised not to plant tomatoes until Memorial Day weekend. The eager gardeners who cannot resist often regret it. ☀       ☀       🌤       ☀  …

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The Story of Her Hair 💇🏻‍♀️

When I was born, my grandmother tied a strawberry pink ribbon around a curl on top of my head, my first hairstyle. In elementary school, I wore my stick-straight brown hair in a pony tail, with bangs across my forehead. Closer to my teens, my hair took on a darkly burnished auburn sheen, not quite the brighter red of my mom’s hair. She braided my hair each…

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A Winter Day in April

After a full week starting in New York City and ending at home this Friday afternoon, I have just enough energy to sit at the dining room table with a cup of hot tea. The day is dreary, the upcoming April weekend promising no more than low forties temperatures, and now, snow flurrying energetically like interference on an old television screen. Three trees lie in…

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Is Letter Writing a Lost Art?

I’m just now recovering from my shock that cursive script is no longer taught in most elementary schools. And, I have learned that those who do not learn to write script cannot read it either, as if it were a foreign language. I own a family treasure, my parents’ fervent courtship letters exchanged in 1943. My dad wrote in a deliberate, ornate, vertical hand. He…

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🍫 Chocolate Day 🍫

I took off to New York City last month to visit my daughter and her family. Each morning, after I leave my two-year old grandson at daycare — where his lifelong buddies Calvin and Aakash greet him with unrestrained glee — I head to the neighborhood patisserie for my coffee, brioche, and digital New York Times. On Tuesday of my Upper West Side week, I…

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Swept up in the Mid-Century of Change

My dad spent a portion of his weekly paycheck on books for me and my little brother Stuart. If household funds were tight, my mom implored him to go to the library instead, but my dad had no will power when it came to buying books. He followed the publishing news to find out which new titles won the Caldecott or Newbery Medals, that brushed gold circle on the cover with embossed impressions for young fingers to touch…