Don’t Climb that Ladder! Living out the Cycle of Life and Love

I’ll love you forever. 

I’ll like you for always. 

As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.

This is the  lullaby of a mother to her son in Robert Munsch’s beloved picture book, Love you Forever.

This mother crawls across the floor of her son’s  bedroom, and if he is fast asleep, she cradles him on her lap while reciting the lullaby.  She does this when he is a baby, a toddler, a 9-year old, a teenager, and ultimately an adult.  Yes, an adult.

Finally the mother is too old and sick to come to her son, so he visits her.  And as he cradles and rocks his mother, he repeats the familiar words, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always.  As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”

After his mother dies, the son goes into the room of his own baby daughter, picks her up from her crib, cradles her, and recites the lullaby.  And so the cycle continues.

Now, it is pure sacrilege to utter a word of criticism regarding this beloved classic. Maria Shriver has praised the book, saying she could not read it through without crying.  It was even featured in an episode of  “Friends”  when Joey gives a dramatic reading at Emma’s 1-year birthday, leaving everyone overcome with tears.

But as for me, my tears dry up at the scene where the mom goes to her adult son’s house.

She brings a ladder and climbs through his bedroom window!

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Publishers Weekly said about this part of the story, “Either it moves you to tears and you love it, or it makes your skin crawl and you detest it.”   Another critic said, “It’s either a touching account of a mother’s unending love or the ultimate helicopter parenting gone bad.”

I find this scene downright creepy.  But maybe that is because, if I’m truly honest, my heart’s desire is to do the very same thing.  I am jealous of those mother-daughter relationships where they talk or text each other multiple times a day.

But I also know that healthy detachment allows grown children to find their own path and parents to find their own lives while remaining cheerleaders, pray-ers, safety nets, listening ears.

So we should probably resist the urge to climb into our kid’s bedroom window in the dead of night.  Much as we want to.

That said, I am going in the garage right now to make sure the ladder is in working order and will fit in the back of our SUV.

Joy here: 

Where was I in 1986 when this children’s picture book was published?? I don’t remember it at all.  In fact, I never heard of it.  I was a bit busy at the time, having made the decision to move back to New York City and finding out I was pregnant with our 1st child.  Nevertheless, a book that so many people know and love (some hate) and that won The Parent’s Choice Gold Award, as well as selling 30 million copies worldwide, is hard to miss!

I listened to it being read on a You Tube video this morning. While sweet, endearing, and touching, it’s a bit of an over the top obsessive mother child story (in my opinion). Cradling your teenage child at 17?!!  Child services might be called in today!!!

I could picture SNL doing a skit on this and having a blast doing so, but I also smiled to myself.  It dovetailed so well with my thoughts on letting go and over texting my adult children.  What’s the right amount of space?  Will they reach out if they really need me or should I be happy that they are trying to work out their own issues?

I wonder how tall a ladder I would need to reach my daughter’s 2nd floor apt?  Kidding!!

Today’s Takeaway…

-A bond between a mother and child is powerful, and for most of us, lasts until our last breath of life.

-Know when to pull back and when to dive in.  It takes practice!  Maybe, by the time your children have children of their own, you’ll get it right!!

As always, enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

 

Love, Love, Love from Revisionist Retirement!

 

Barclay here —

When our father passed away in 2004 at the age of 95, my brother Charlie wrote an essay entitled,  Love Love Love .

During our father’s final days, conversation was difficult.  Charlie recounts,

 Two weeks before he died, Dad and I had the following

exchange. I said: “I really love you, Daddy.” He said: “Don’t make

me cry.” Neither of us cried. We held hands. “You know, Dad, when

you get to the other side, there might be lots of questions. I hear

that it’s a good idea to say the word ‘love’ a lot.” He squeezed my

hand three times and said:

         “Love. Love. Love.”

This holiday, may we go out of our way to squeeze each other’s hands.  May Love, Love Love pervade our homes, our hearts, our whole beings, as we spend time with family, give and receive offerings, and perhaps honor that empty chair of a loved one passed.

And may this same Love Love Love carry us all into 2020!

 

This is our wish for you and yours.

 

Love, Joy and Barclay

 

Please note that Revisionist Retirement will be taking a brief  blog-cation in January.  But we will pop back into your email before you know it – filled with Love, Love, Love!

Happy Thanksgiving, 2019!

Joy here:

As Thanksgiving rolls around yet again, it calls to mind many memories.  It is truly my favorite holiday, always has been.  It is about food, gathering together as a family, whatever that family unit may consist of, traditions, being bored with your relatives, wondering how you could possibly be related!!, falling asleep after the big meal. watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, pretending you like the football game that is on (who’s playing?!) remembering the holiday of the past, particularly if you have lost loved ones along the way. Thanksgiving is about all of these things and more.

Funnily. enough, as my friend CC would say, I donated several pieces of my parent’s furniture to The Salvation Army last week.  In case you didn’t know, mahogany is so out!  Millennials like light wood, (“mid century everything!)  One of them was a mahogany dining room table   (from the 1940’s where you would add leaves to expand it). We had this piece of furniture in the foyer of our UWS apt for most of the year, but opened it up for “company”. My mother, Muriel, spent days ahead of Thanksgiving preparing for family.  It included a trip down to the lower east side for nuts, prunes and apricots (she made this concoction of prunes, apricots and marshmallows with a toothpick as  a sweet treat-have never seen this anywhere else!) borrowing metal chairs for extra guests, polishing silver, getting the “good dishes” down from a shelf way up high in our kitchen (needed a ladder to get down), and putting out white bread to get stale for the famous Weinstein chestnut stuffing.

As Maria Shriver said in her weekly Sunday paper, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It is filled with smells I remember, pictures in my head, stories of yesteryear, and a longing for my parents, who I miss every day.”

This year, my first born daughter won’t be with us as she is in Europe, so I will miss her dearly, but my younger daughter and her boyfriend will join us and make new memories.  I can’t wait!

So this year, remember the past fondly, but don’t live in it.  Soak in every moment of this wonderful holiday. Don’t let little things aggravate you.  Let them roll off your back.  They are unimportant.  We don’t know what next year will bring, so be happy for the now.

Lastly, in addition to my love for my family, my friends, my dog Winston, and the life I have led thus far, I am thankful for my dear friend Barclay who I have blogged with for almost 2 years now.  I am truly blessed.

 

Barclay here:

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday as well.    It’s a day of REST where it’s perfectly acceptable to plop on the sofa, eat the leftover pie straight out of the pan, and sip your first glass of wine around 2pm as you monitor the simmering dishes on the stove.

In my teaching days, Thanksgiving would fall right after 3 nights of parent-teacher conferences where you would be so tired you’d worry if you were repeating yourself mid-sentence.  Thanksgiving represented your reward for hard work and a time to reflect on the blessings of your family and your job – even if you had just put your foot in your mouth at 9pm the previous night and called 2nd grader Suzie, Sally, right to her parents’ faces.

Even though we Marcell’s don’t have a big family, on Thanksgiving, we always had every traditional dish represented at the table –  the four of us plus Grandma Rosie would sit down to-  twice baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, sweet potatoes, a giant turkey amply stuffed, alongside green beans and salad  chiming in as the only healthy options, and that being questionable.  This feast was followed by 3 kinds of Bakers Square pies.  You would think we were preparing for a marathon the following day.  No wonder we all plopped on the sofa in a carb coma!

This Thanksgiving, we will have the traditional carb extravaganza – but we will also be overwhelmed with gratitude.  (Our wine may make its appearance at 1pm!)

2019 brought two tiny miracles into our lives – our twin granddaughters who are now home from a lengthy stay in the Neo Natal Intensive Care.   We are praising God for our expanded family and looking forward to joys present and to come.

Maybe this is cause for another potato dish at our table!

 

Gratitude is indeed good for the soul.

The daily devotional that I read says this for November 22nd  —

“A thankful attitude opens windows of heaven.  Spiritual blessings fall freely onto you through those openings into eternity.  As you look up with a grateful heart, you get glimpses of Glory through those windows.  You cannot yet live in heaven, but you can experience foretastes of your ultimate home.  Such samples of heavenly fare revive your hope.  Thankfulness opens you up to these experiences, which then provide reasons to be grateful.  thus, your path becomes an upward spiral; ever increasing in gladness.  Thanksgiving is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of Love.

Even if your Thanksgiving looks a bit like this New Yorker cartoon, may your heart expand with the language of love.

Thanksgiving.

 

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Thanksgiving Memories

With Thanksgiving this Thursday, Barclay and I thought we would start a tradition of writing our own recollections.  After all, in this first year of publishing http://www.revisionistretirement.com, we want to celebrate with you. To our followers in Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere in the world, it’s the spirit of being with people you care about over a meal that you are fortunate enough to have on your table.  You are all family now since you know far more than you ever wanted to about both of us!! I like to call it blog catharsis!  I digress…

I love Thanksgiving, always have.  It’s an innocent holiday, no gifts, no high expectations (I hope the mashed potatoes come out fluffy.  I hope the turkey isn’t dried out, …) but rather traditions passed down from generation to generation.

Muriel, my mother, labored over Thanksgiving every year.  She ironed the bedspreads (I’m lucky if I make the bed at all!) went down to the Lower East Side to buy nuts, prunes, dates and marshmallows that she made into a confection stacked with a toothpick.  She took that recipe from her mother.  She had to climb on a ladder to get the “good” dishes down from a cabinet in our kitchen too tall for any human being to reach without help. Linen tablecloths and napkins passed down from my great grandmother to her daughter (my grandmother) to my mother with monograms. A bygone era of formality and manners.

The most important tradition was the chestnut stuffing, no recipe, but passed down by observation.  It started with 2 day old white bread, scoring chestnuts, roasting them to sweet nuttiness, and the addition of chicken broth, sautéed onions, celery, salt, pepper, paprika, touch of sage, onion powder, and if a bit dry, a touch of oil.  I can’t give you specifics because they are in my head and only passed on to family members! This one recipe was the hallmark of our family celebration, coupled with watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade while my mother ironed the bedspreads and attended to last minute details before the 3:00 planned feast.

Traditions are wonderful to pass down to our children, make them your own and value them.  The generation they came from will live in the foods you prepare, as well as the smells in your home unique to your own family history.

Barclay…

Peggy was not big on holiday fanfare. I will have to consult my brother on this, but I don’t recall any Thanksgiving feasts or Christmas stockings.  When we moved to Florida she didn’t bother with a Christmas tree.

So when I became a mom I was determined to go to the other extreme.

The only problem was that I was not much of a cook.  My mother in law, Rosemarie, had to resuscitate many a parched turkey or salvage many a side dish of dry stuffing or limp green beans.  Sounds appetizing I know!

For dessert we eventually just turned to Bakers Square since my pie creations were not exactly award-winning.

But we did have FUN in the kitchen and around the table.  Our neighbors would come over for cocktails and appetizers and we’d be a happy group by the time dinner was served around 4pm.

We loved playing games as well.   After dinner, a card game of Hearts would be in full swing while football played in the background.

Joy is right about the innocence of Thanksgiving.

Just family, friends, and togetherness.  A tad drunk – chewing on a dry turkey!

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We welcome your own recollections of Thanksgiving and why you think it’s special.

FAMILY

Whether you call it mishpachah, famiglia, familia, famille, or my peeps, these are the folks you are bound to by blood.  There are memories, secrets, feuds, warmth, feelings, as well as DNA that binds one family member to another.  They are not people we choose, but who by marriage, birth, remarriage, or adoption are part of our life on happy occasions and sad.

Yesterday, was such a day in my family. We all came together to say goodbye to my uncle Morton, my mother’s only sibling.  Muriel  (if you have been reading our blog http://www.revisionistretirement.com you know she was my mother) passed away almost 28 years ago, far too soon, at only 71 yrs old.  (looks super young to me now!) Her brother outlived her to a ripe old age of 94 1/2.  He lived longer than anyone in our family by far and he lived a good life, a happy one.

His daughter FranLisa, my cousin handled his funeral calmly, with composure, and grace.  She read a few paragraphs she had prepared to the small gathering of family and smiled through tears about the man she knew and loved.  The word “kindness” was repeated many times.  He said good morning to people he met at his assisted living facility, folks in the hospital  or  people that needed a smile in the dining room.  He was married to my aunt for 57 years and he worked until he was 74.  He died peacefully truly from old age not from disease or accident , though he had fallen recently and just wasn’t interested in going through physical therapy for the 3rd time.  (I get it)

As I looked around the group gathered in front of our family mausoleum (room for 3    more!) I felt a sense of belonging and connection.  My own daughter stood next to me as well as my husband. I stood next to my cousin and put my arm around her feeling close and touched by her strength in putting her dad to rest.

The service was followed by a lovely lunch at a waterfront restaurant in Westchester, surrounded by people that loved my uncle.  A cousin made the 3 hour drive with his daughter (aided by 2 canes) to recount stories of the old days.  They made me smile and they made him happy to tell them. (and tell them and tell them)

The ties that bind a family should be reinforced, cultivated, nurtured.  The Thanksgiving meal (that everyone in my family always complained about going to) is still the ritual we will remember for many years to come. Soak it in, relish it; for the family that we have in our presence today won’t be here forever, but the emotions we shared will.

Today’s Takeaway…

. Love your family, cherish them, even the crazy aunt that blurts out obscenities or the black sheep of the family that did too many drugs in the 70’s!  They are your flesh and blood and you share a unique history.

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy

 

 

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Mother’s Day 2018

Joy —

Today being Mother’s Day calls for a special post.  Barclay and I have been experimenting on co-writing certain posts.  We feel jointly our own individual memories and perspectives make for one hell of a great read!! (all modesty aside)

Mother’s Day, to me has always been about celebrating my own mother, not my motherhood.  It took me many years and sadly the death of my own mother to understand that this is my day too.  Funnily enough, as my good friend Christine would say, my own mother, Muriel (of previous blog fame!) thought these holidays were silly.  She always said, “the greeting card industry invented them” and “every day should be about celebrating your mother.”

I always remembered to say I love you and to be mindful of how special a person Muriel was (quirky, a bit odd, a character for sure, but the best mother I could have wished for, if I had ordered her up) So this day, May 13th, 2018, I recall the very first Mother’s Day without mine. (Muriel passed away Feb 21, 1990.)

I changed my mind and decided not to be teary and remember that first Mother’s Day, but rather to reflect on the unique character that Muriel was.  She was trapped in the 1950’s, but secretly had a yearning to break out..  She didn’t care for other women that much, small talk, swapping recipes, and ladies lunches.  My mother preferred to  take her Tuesday off from motherdom and wifedom (though she didn’t work), ride the #4 bus downtown, shop at Lord & Taylor, and eat lunch at the Birdcage restaurant, probably collecting her thoughts and dreams. She then would prepare my father’s shrimp cocktail  for when he came home serving him as he sat throne like waiting for his food.

She was a great listener and old ladies (probably a few years older than me now!!) loved telling her their problems.  She was compassionate, thoughtful, and kind hearted. She wore a girdle, though she was thin all her life, never accentuated her curvature of the spine (born with it) by wearing form fitting clothes, and sat in the window of the bathroom where the natural light was best to apply Max Factor pancake makeup, false eyelashes in the 60’s and thereafter, as well as pressing it all onto her skin with ice wrapped in a tissue.  Oh, the things we do for beauty! She used Noxema every night to wash her face, applied cold cream, and wrapped her bouffant hairdo in toilet paper to keep it in place until next week’s beauty parlor appointment.

She loved me dearly, though not overly affectionate (my father made up for that) and I always knew I could go to her for whatever upset me. I always wanted my relationship with my daughters to be what I had with my mother and I have been blessed to have that.  So this Mother’s Day, 2018, I think of you mommy, but also know it is my day too.

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Barclay —

Sometimes I am asked how I came to live in the midwest.  The answer I give is that I attended college in suburban Chicago and then “settled” here (as if I am Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie).  The real answer is I was trying to get as far away from my mother as possible.

This was a positive.

States between us — I now have an entire file drawer filled with birthday cards – she was fond of Snoopy – and notes that begin with “Dearest Barcs” or better yet, “Barcsy” and end with hand drawn hearts, the emojis of yesteryear.   I also have letters written in careful cursive on yellow legal paper – all ending with the word, love.

 

Love wasn’t a word Peggy used with wild abandon.   But she did love fiercely without sentimentality.  A friend of hers once told Charlie (my brother) and me how proud she was of us – to the point of boasting.  For some reason she could only direct such thoughts to her pen or to Florida friends.

But…

At the end we discovered that Peggy had her own file drawer.   In it we found clippings from college tennis, letters from camp, articles written, birthday cards – featuring the Peanuts gang of course.  Evidence of pride.  Of love.

When Mom passed away one October evening in 2010 we held her hands standing around the hospice bed – something she would have recoiled at.  She would also have been aghast at not wearing lipstick.  Yet she looked radiant as she stepped onto gold pavement.

Surrounded by Love.

 

 

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” – Maya Angelou

 

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No takeaways today, just enjoy the day.  If you are a mother rejoice in being lucky enough to have children.  If you want to have them, may your prayers be answered to have them.  If you are fortunate enough to still have a mother to call, go ahead and pick up the phone.  No text, no email, just let her hear your voice.

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy