Author Archives: Marian Fontana

L is for Lying

Last year, my New Years resolution was to stop lying.  I wasn’t Bernie Madoff or anything but I realized I had gotten in the habit of telling little white ones here and there usually to prevent people’s feelings from being hurt.  Saying “I can’t make it to your party.  I have tickets to the theater” seems a lot nicer than “I’d rather poke my eye with a toothpick than listen to your husband talk about his prostate again.”

Initially, I chose this resolution because it seemed much easier than trying to lose weight but I was surprised at how challenging telling the truth was. One study found that people tell two to three lies every 10 minutes, and even conservative estimates indicate that we lie at least once a day.

That’s a lot of bullshit.

I was shocked at how much I lie often for no reason at all.   I told my dentist I flossed, the doctor I only drank once a week, my therapist I was fine.  Why? Would they really be so upset if I told them the truth?  My lying reached an all time high when I was on-line dating.  Lying is so pervasive on these websites its like an accepted form of courtship.   I had numerous men lie about their age, their jobs, their relationship status and most maddening, their height.  “You can’t lie about your how tall you are” I told a man a little over five feet who said he was six-feet-tall.

According to a survey of 3,000 adults, nearly half the men asked about dating sites said they lie about their job or salary in order to improve their chances at finding love; meanwhile almost half of women lie about their weight, age and body shape.  I don’t lie about my age. I don’t want a potential man to meet me and think, “Wow, she looks old for twenty-five” But I have and will always lie about my weight, even to myself.  “Muscle weighs more than fat,” I say to myself when the doctor moves the giant hammerhead piece on the bottom of his scale up a whole notch.

“Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my chainmail underwear,” I joke.

In my twenties, I constantly lied on my resume to get work.  I taught juggling at the 92nd St Y when to this day I can’t keep two scarves in the air.   I flambéed cherries jubilee at a fancy restaurant nearly setting my stunned customers on fire, and in a scene worthy of “I Love Lucy” I was fired from a law firm after they figured out I didn’t actually know how to operate a switchboard.

I always fancied myself a talented liar but my mother insists that “you always looked like a dog that just stole the steak off the table. ” Even so, I know some of the elaborate lies I concocted then, worked.  I attended the No Nukes Concert, the Elton John concert in Central Park and Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park all when I was “sleeping over Mimi Riley’s house.”

One of my favorite stories that my grandmother told was about my father lying. “I used to tell him I could read lies on his forehead.”  she told me giggling at her own story.   “When he came into the living room with his hair brushed carefully over his head, I knew he had lied to me!! ”

My son is equally terrible at lying, his large brown eyes shifting about like a blind person.  Since I always caught him, his strategy for a while was to tell me everything he does:

“So Terrence and I were throwing cotton balls that were on fire off his roof…”

“Why are you telling me this? You know I don’t approve.”

“I don’t want to lie to you.”

“You’re supposed to lie”

“You want me to lie?”

“Of course not. I want you to omit.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I mean tell me the truth, but don’t tell me everything.”

“Okay, well remember when I told you I was home alone last Saturday night?”

“Okay, actually, I want you to lie.”

And he does.

Aidan is actually quite talented at it, which according to a recent article in US News is my fault.   “By the age of 3, most children know how to fib, and by 6, most lie a few times a day. Experts believe that children learn to lie by observing their parents do it.”  Though I like to think I never lie to Aidan, the fact is that I constantly do.  Throughout his life I have lied to him about sick relatives, Santa Claus, dead pets and the tooth fairy all to protect him from knowing the harsh reality that life can really suck sometimes.   When he recently asked me if I smoked pot, I mumbled, “no” even though I was infamous in high school for making my Board of Ed bassoon into a bong.

A few weeks ago he berated me for lying,  insisting I shouldn’t have told him his Gerbil was taking a nap, that I should have told him that Santa Claus is a farce. I quickly educated him that Wikipedia calls this “The Omission Lie.” “Also known as a continuing misrepresentation, a lie by omission occurs when an important fact is left out in order to foster a misconception.” In fact, according to Wikipedia, there are over twenty-seven types of lies.

“You shouldn’t have lied” Aidan insisted “not to mention the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and …”

“Mr. Koelert.”

“Mr. Koelert?”

“Yes. Remember when I went in for your parent–teacher conference and Mr. Koelert scolded me for not buying you warm clothes for his camping trip?  See, you omitted the fact that I put all your warm clothes on your bed to pack and you chose not to put them in your suitcase, so you omitted a fact just like I omitted telling you that Santa is not real.

This past New Years Eve, I renewed my commitment to telling the truth since in the end, I like it.  I actually feel better about myself and it’s still easier than giving up chocolate.  In the past year, I didn’t hold my nose feigning a cold to get out of plans I simply said, “I feel lazy and don’t want to get off my couch.”  When I was late, I shrugged and said, “I just didn’t leave enough time.”  I told my dentist, “I can’t remember to floss and it’s annoying how it always gets stuck to my finger.”

New research says that decreasing fibs throughout the day can improve health and so I figure my honest approach earns me one extra glass of wine a day.  All right two, and that’s the truth.





K is for Karma

1000010_293187150836121_2077339435_n            I remember sitting at a dinner party in my mid-twenties. My sister was regaling the table with the story of my subway accident.  The person sitting next to me at the table turned to me and said, “You have bad karma.”

Karma, in Sanskrit, means “deed” and is the Buddhist and Hindu concept that a good or bad deed has a cause and effect.   So, according to my dinner companion’s reasoning, I was dragged by a subway in senior year of High school because I made fun of Caroline Burgher in 6th grade for wearing plain Pocket jeans.  I of course hope this is not true, because I struggle to think of anything I did that could warrant my husband being killed on 9-11 or breast cancer, or any of it.   My religion is “shit happens”

That said, I like the concept of karma when it applies to other people.  I take solace in the idea that karma will serve as my personal vigilante and enact revenge on people that have hurt me through the years. I like to imagine that the ex-friend who wrote me the e-mail that made my stomach drop, will wake up with a festering boil on her upper lip on her wedding day.  I hope that the greedy people who took over my organization, opening my mail and accepting invitations without my knowledge will wind up in permanent stand still traffic on the L.I.E.

During a heat wave.

Without air conditioning.

With windows that won’t roll down.

Karma’s a bitch and so am I.

The Miriam Webster dictionary version describes Karma as

“The force generated by a person’s actions held in Hinduism and Buddhism to perpetuate transmigration and in its ethical consequences to determine the nature of the person’s next existence” Which means I have to wait a whole other lifetime for my ex-friends to wake up with a boil and get stuck in traffic. The good news is that they could come back as a cockroach or a stinkbug and that gives me tremendous comfort.

On the flip side, what if I I have come back for someone else’s bad behavior.  When I was diagnosed with breast cancer after my book was cancelled and I ended my wedding engagement, I stared at the sky and yelled “Was I HITLER in my last life???” This made me feel better and feel less like I was being punished.   When I was in the MRI machine, my breasts dangling into two cups like a cow ready to be milked I would distract myself by imagining my last life as Hitler, or at the very least his girlfriend, Eva Braun.  We have a lot in common after all: we both did gymnastics, we both like skiing and we both have big breasts.

As much as I don’t like the idea that I am paying for the behavior of an ugly man in a moustache, I do like the idea of coming back in a next life simply because I can’t fit all the things I want to do in this one.  I am hoping to come back as a giant African American woman with a voice that makes people’s hearts skip.  I don’t even need to be the lead. I’m not greedy.  In fact, I would be thrilled to sing back up with two other women just like me. We will swing our hips; wear glittery dresses and sing, Ahhhh Oooh when needed.

In Theosophy, karma is the “cosmic principle of rewards and punishments for the acts performed in a previous incarnation.”  Whenever I hold a door open for someone, I like to think that there is a big, fat Buddha sitting on a cloud, tabulating my good citizen points like some cosmic accountant.

But I openly admit I use karma for my own convenience.  Blaming my bad luck on another life is an excuse for not accepting responsibility in this one.  Recently, my brother had his heart broken “I think it’s because when I was a warrior in a past life, I abandoned her with our two year old child,” was the way he justified it.  Yes, he was serious.  Karma, like so many aspects of religion can seem like a rationalization for all that goes wrong in life.  It’s God’s will, bad karma; Allah’s will, beshert, theological determinism.  Call it what you will, but it always lays blame in something other than our own behavior.

The truth is, if you follow karma and the concept of what comes around goes around how do you explain those poor bald cancer kids from St Jude’s that make me cry every Saturday morning?  Surely, they didn’t do anything life or their last one for that matter to warrant such suffering.

The reality is, you can’t get through life without being hurt, hurting others and everything in between no matter what choices you make.   I can hold doors open until my arms go numb but I will still lose people I love, get sick and get stuck in traffic.  The reality is you should hold open the door because it’s a nice thing to do. It makes us live in a pleasant society and not question what grand mistake Buddha, God or Allah made creating this fickle mess called humanity.

To hell with Karma. The truth is, even if I was Eva, Stalin or Mussolini in my last life, I like my life a lot.  In spite of what that dinner guest said all those years ago, I have good karma.  I am blessed with loving friends, creativity, a wonderful family, and a hilarious son. Yes, I have been through a lot and I have met others who have been through even more.  Life leaves a lot of scars, baggage and a thicker skin.   Even Buddha himself knew that “We ourselves must walk the path.”

            Personally I like to walk mine with some red wine and a bit of chocolate and I will gladly hold the door open for any of you who want to join me.

J is for Jewish


I grew up with a Jewish last name. Goldstein to be exact.  I hated having a Jewish last name, not because I am anti-Semitic but because it so closely identified me with something personal like being named Lisa Liberal Democrat or Sally Sleeps Naked.  When I was a Goldstein, people made presumptions about me.  Jewish teachers favored me, non-Jewish teachers wished me a Happy Chanukah. I never corrected them or told them I was raised Catholic. Religion just never seemed like something people should know about me.

My first job after college was as a movement teacher at the 92nd Street Y, arguably the largest Jewish Cultural Center in New York City.   I knew my name had something to do with my getting hired.   I taught a class called Wee Wizards that met twice a week.  Toward the end of class, toddlers would sit on their caregiver’s laps sucking on Sippy cups while I read them a book. Once while reading a book about Passover, a mother corrected me on my pronunciation of the Afikomen, the matzo that is hid for a child to find after the Seder is over.

“It’s Ah-FEE-KO-MEN,” one of the mom’s corrected, furrowing her brow. “Haven’t you been to a Seder?”

“Of course I have,” I said but my Jewish Grandmother Goldstein’s Seder was not a typical Jewish affair. Yes we had gefilte fish and Matzo Ball soup but they were store bought and served out of obligation.  In fact, my grandmother Goldstein hated all things Jewish.  Every question about Judaism I had was met with an eye roll, a shrug and the same dismissive answer: “You’re just supposed to.”  My father was even less helpful, sharing very few stories of his childhood on the Grand Concourse where everyone sat in front of their buildings on folding chairs, speaking Yiddish.   The only story he told was that he shared a room with his sister and grandmother who was Orthodox.  He said she snored so loudly that he kept a slipper on a string. He would hit her with it throughout the night, reeling the slipper back in like it was a fishing pole.

My own Irish/Italian/Catholic mother knew more about Judaism than my father did having studied theology at her Catholic college.   My mother is devout and my father regularly attended mass with her on Sundays. I remember how strange it was to hear the Irish priest say in his thick Brogue  “I want to thank Ira Goldstein for his generous donation to the church.”

While we spent Jewish holidays at my grandmothers, she seemed to enjoy coming to our house for the Catholic ones even more.  “You have better holidays than the Jews,” she would say.  Her attitude confused me and made me even more resolute to finding out why my Jewish family was so un-Jewish.

One Easter, my grandmother, sister and I were sitting on the porch waiting for the ham to finish.  My dad was making us all different kinds of margaritas and kept refilling them until we were tipsy.  It was a beautiful, spring day and the star magnolia was in full bloom, its sweet scent wafting up to the porch.

“Grandma” I said emboldened by liquor.  “Why won’t you tell me anything about your life?” I asked.  Normally, she would stare vacantly at me and say,  “You have beautiful eyebrows.” Instead, she closed her eyes, sighed pressing her small hands to her white curls.

“I remember my father chasing me around the dining room table with a belt for chewing gum on the Sabbath,” she said turning to me and giggling.  “We were Orthodox. You couldn’t do so many things. We had separate plates we ate off of, kosher food only, too many rules.”

“What was your dad like?”

“He died young. Worked in a hat factory until the dust from the felt got in his lungs.” she waved her hand away as if swatting a fly and I knew the conversation was over.

My Aunt Sheila, my father’s sister was the only one of the Goldstein’s that knew our Jewish history. A few years ago, my sister and I went to visit her in Santa Monica.  My Aunt was dying of ALS and could barely speak, her tongue weak, her head hanging low.   I wrote down everything she said, knowing it was my last chance to know something about the Jewish side of my family.  She showed me photos of my grandmother in flapper dresses her hair bobbed and white even when she was only eighteen.  Sheila told me about my great grandmother, how she had triplets that lived three weeks before dying one by one, how she escaped the Russian Pogroms hiding my grandmother under leaves in the backyard while the Cossacks burned down her house.

My Aunt Sheila was the one who told me that Goldstein wasn’t even our real family name. “Your grandpa Joe had been adopted in Portland, Maine,” she told me. “He was born to the daughter of a dentist.  Katz I think the name was. They were a prominent Jewish family. They sent their daughter away to have the baby and then put him up for adoption” While my Aunt struggled to speak, I stared at her beautiful, high, cheekbones that made her look more like an Egyptian princess than a Russian Jew.   “Nobody knows who the father was, probably a sailor in town.  Anyway, the Goldstein’s owned a candy shop and they adopted your grandfather so that he could work in the store. Do you know they didn’t allow him to go to school and then they made him make milkshakes and egg creams for the kids that did? Can you imagine?”

When I got married in 1993, I quickly got rid of Goldstein. At first I tried hyphenating the name becoming Goldstein-Fontana, but I struggled to fit my signature on the checks and soon became just Fontana.

Amazingly, when my grandmother was on her deathbed, she spoke Yiddish again.   She was ninety-four dying in her living room on a hospital bed, the sweet hospice nurse fluttering around her like a bird.

“Biz hundert azoi ve tsvantsik,” my grandmother said to my father. To my shock, my father replied.

“Az a yor ahf mir.”

“What did she say?” I asked my dad.

“She says I should live like a twenty year old until I’m 107.

“And what did you say back?”

“I should have such good luck.”

Today was so cold and snowy I made matzo ball soup from the box.  Just like grandma used to make.  The smell filled the house and made me miss my grandmother and the holiday meals we shared.

I even miss my old name.


I is for Ireland


The Aer Lingus ticket counter employee hoisted my large suitcase onto the scale, her green uniform straining at the seams.

“What do you have, a dead body in there? ” she remarked tying tie a large tag marked “HEAVY” around the handle.

Actually I did.

Inside a small Ziploc bag wrapped inside a white cotton shirt, a pale purple scarf and an FDNY t-shirt was my husband Dave, or I should say, a small amount of his ashes. I was returning to Ireland to throw them into the Irish Sea at the bottom of the cliffs of Ballycotton where we had spent the best day of our lives.

Dave and I had traveled to Ireland four years prior with our son and Dave’s family to attend the wedding of a cousin. The cousin who was from Tipperary was marrying a girl from Cork. The two counties had such historic rivalry in the sport of Hurling that on the day of the wedding the bride wore a red sash for her teams color while the groom wore a blue and yellow tie.

The wedding lasted most of the week and our son Aidan, who had never seen so much revelry in his short four years danced in his sear sucker suit with anyone who asked.

The day before we were to return home, Dave’s mom offered to take Aidan so Dave and I could have a rare day alone. Dave’s head hit the ceiling of the car as we drove out of the seaside town of Garryvoe past Ostrich farms that made Dave mumble, “What happened to the sheep?” The road ended in an overgrown parking lot at the top of a high cliff.

Memory saturates itself with color, so the brown in the cliffs that day made them look like the earth turned inside out and topped with the deepest green grass that blew sideways in the wind.

There was no one around.

We climbed down cracked cement platforms that were so steep they made our knees crack until we landed on the beach where the rocks made a deafening rumble as they rolled under the waves. There was a cave eroded into the side of the cliff and Dave and I hid in there and made love and while my skin was still tingling from it, I jumped into the Irish Sea, the water so cold, I had to paddle my legs and arms frantically. Dave watched me from the shore laughing. I closed my eyes to sear the memory into my mind.

After 9-11, The Irish Consulate had generously donated trips to fire families and so at 4 am Dublin time I climbed into the opposite side of a van with my sister, my eight year old son, my friend Jason affectionately known as my gay husband and my friend Merri, affectionately named my lesbian husband.

Scraping the ancient stone walls with our oversized white van, I drove us for over a week past the serene Galway bay, through County Claire to the majestic Cliffs of Moher.

“Sheep, “Castle” “Jesus Sky” “Church” we yelled as we passed countless cloudy skies where the sun would send shards of light onto the rocky ruins of castles and churches. I drove west to Kenmare finally landing on Dave’s birthday in Kinsale, a small fishing village about twenty-five miles from Ballycotton.   Merri, whose pub guide had become our bible, chose a large, dark pub on the main street called the Whitehouse with doors painted in a thick and bold blue.   The pub was mostly empty and we took up a round table in the middle ordering salmon sandwiches.   I ordered a Guinness in Dave’s honor remembering how he loved sipping the dark, warm beer with a head as thick as whip cream that made a moustache on his upper lip. We used to joke that we were going to the pub to eat a Guinness.

Aidan returned from the bathroom and leaned his head against me.   He had been growing so fast these last few months; I was surprised to feel his almost up to my shoulder. I stroked his soft, straight hair and he looked up at me. The sun had left a spray of freckles across his nose and his eyes were wide.

“I saw Daddy in the hall,” he said. The adults exchanged nervous glances.

“It’s Dad’s birthday so we all feel his presence today,” I said.

“No. I saw him!” He insisted taking my hand and leading me through the dark pub through swinging doors leading to a long hallway painted a pale yellow.

I stopped short.

The wall was covered with photographs of firefighters, t-shirts, flags, wake cards and firehouse patches. Dave had loved to collect patches and the firefighters traded them like baseball cards.

“See?” Aidan said pointing to Dave’s face on the left.   It was his favorite photo of himself, the one I used on his wake card. It was from a rope rescue drill in Long Island City. He is suspended on a rope, high up on the towers of a power plant. He wears a red helmet and his dimples are stretched into a smile. I grabbed Aidan’s clammy hand and marched toward the bar where a tall thin man leaned against a cash register reading the Irish Times.

“Excuse me? ” I asked and he looked up his small blue eyes squinting at me.   “Do you know how those photos of the firefighters got there?”

“They’re from Ringfinnan.” He said in a brogue walking toward our end of the bar. He had thick hair that rolled across his head in white waves.  I stared at him confused.  “The hill where the nurse lives.” Noticing my expression, he leaned in. “Did you not know about Kathleen?”

I shook my head no.

“Kathleen Murphy. She’s a nurse who worked in New York. Her family is from Kinsale. She was working at a hospital on 911 . I forget which one but she was waiting for the firefighters to come in…

I picture a short, stout woman in white orthopedic shoes.

“…but they never did, so she came home and with the help of the town, planted a tree for every firefighter who died.”

I squeeze Aidan’s hand and he leans on my hip.

“Once in a while we get a firefighter in or a family and we hang a photograph or whatever they give me on that wall.”

“Where is this hill?” I asked.

“It’s about a ten minute drive up the road.”

Dave and I had a joke from our first trip to Ireland together. “How does an Irishman give direction?”   “He doesn’t. He just takes you there himself”

And so, Mike insisted he take us there, closing the pub with a flip of a sign.

“This is so nice of you!” I said.

“Go way outta that.” He replied. I loved Irish expressions, how when Aidan was born Dave’s relatives called him “Absolutely stealable.”


We piled into the van and followed him up a winding road where a low ranch house sat overlooking the Kinsale Valley and Bay. At first glance, the yellowing fields looked more like Tuscany, but the bay dotted with white boats and low cliffs was t pure Ireland.

A Golden Retriever trotted over and sniffed Aidan’s shoes.

“I’ll ring the bell then,” Mike said stepping up to the stoop. I glanced the trees in endless, neat rows.

“It’ll be hard to find your husband’s tree since they’re just saplings and there’s so many, you know. “ Mike said stepping off the stoop and leading us to the hillside next to the house.

“I found daddy!” Aidan yelled. Mike and I stopped, noticing Aidan in front of a small tree in the second row. Kathleen had labeled them all with black plastic tags engraved with the names of the firefighters.

“Unbelievable,” Mike said shaking his head. I took Dave’s wake card out of my wallet and leaned it against his tree. We all held back tears watching Aidan press Dave’s wake card into the dirt.

We walked through the rows, carefully reading the names until Mike said goodbye and we piled back into the van to drive to Ballycotton to do what we came here to do.

The sky was overcast, with thick metal clouds making the road much more gloomy than I remembered. We drove in silence until I recognized the small parking lot leading to the path. We formed a line and walked the short trail in silence. I descended the cement platforms to the rocky beach. I closed my eyes remembering Dave’s breath in my ear, the sound of the rocks on the ocean floor quieter than before. “This is freaking gorgeous!” Merri said picking up one of the gray stones piled below us. Aidan was already at the waters edge throwing smaller stones into the sea. I stepped up next to him picking up a flat rock. I tried to skip it but I couldn’t. I always envied the way my sister and my father skimmed stones making six perfect rings that spread out like an echo, while mine always made a dismal plunk.

“You have to find the thin flat ones.” My sister instructed Aidan and as they searched for the perfect rock, I reached into my purse, finding the zip lock bag with Dave’s ashes. There wasn’t much left since I scattered some at Jones beach, some in Prospect park and a few at Greenwood Cemetery.     I remember the funeral director shaking his head when I told him all the places I wanted to scatter Dave. He delicately tried to tell me there was hardly any of him found, but I was relieved to have something. I was one of the lucky ones. I fingered the grainy ash in my hands and took a small handful, throwing it into the Irish Sea. The tears blurred my vision as I remembered how Dave looked on the shore that day while I floated in the water that was so cold it made me hold my breath for one, perfect minute.


H is for Hair

         I like my hair.  I have a long curly mop of it.  It’s part of my Jewish/Irish/ Italian heritage that I am grateful for.  I used to flip my hair to flirt with boys, straighten it to look like everyone else in middle school, and shake it to the soundtrack of Hair, coincidentally my favorite musical.  “Hair, flow it, show it, long as I can grow it, my hair.”

As much as I love my hair though, no one prepared me for the moment it started growing on my face.  I had just turned forty and was pulling into my driveway when I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw it.  At first I thought it was a loose hair from one of my lovely locks, but no, it was a terrifying black thread attached to my chin.

And so I began to tweeze.

A lot.

When I confessed to my older friend my new habit of plucking hair in my car, she nodded with sage understanding. “I call them road hairs.  It’s like you step on the gas and they grow.”

“And the light in the car is so good” I nodded in agreement.

“You can see everything.”  My friend added ominously “Everything.”

A lovely family with three kids live next door.  Since our driveways are right next to each other we have often waved, exchanged niceties and even let our sons play together.  Then it stopped.  Maybe they got busy, but I can’t help but wonder if it was because they caught me tweezing in my driveway one too many times.

My addiction worsened.

  Once, after dropping off my son off, a cop pulled me over. I was terrified, my heart thumping in my chest.  “What did I do?”  The cop was an angry burly man in his late forties and as I rolled down my window, he asked me for my license and registration. 


“What did I do?”

“Talking on the cell phone”

“But I wasn’t!”

“What’s in your hand ma’am?”

I unfurled my hand to expose my pink tweezerman tweezers.

The cop laughed. Hard. It changed the whole landscape of his face.

“I know I shouldn’t do that,” I mumbled.

“No you shouldn’t,” he said trying to regain his composure. “I tell my wife that all the time, ” he said returning my license and registration.  “You have a good day.”

I promised myself I would stop, but every morning when I wake up there is more hair, as if the tooth fairy of my childhood transformed herself into an evil hair sprite magically sprouting black hair on my upper lip and chin while I sleep.

         My desperation led me to spend two thousand dollars for laser hair removal at a company on Staten Island called Barely There. The “business” was across from the Staten Island Mall where a staff of three angry Russian women worked.  After checking in, I would be brought to a room in the back and told to lie in a chair. A woman with streaky blonde hair and a white uniform would shine a light so bright it was as if she was trying to get a confession out of me.

“You have much hair,” she said rubbing a gloved hand across my lip.

She snapped off the light and rubbed a cold numbing cream across my lip and chin.

“STAY STEEL” she commanded, pressing a giant phallic plastic wand onto my face zapping me with it over and over  until my eyes watered and the room filled with the smell of burnt hair.

When I arrived for my fourth visit, Barely There was gone, abruptly closed with a scary looking legal paper on the door. I tried to get my money back, but I was told there was nothing I could do and so I went back to tweezing.

I now I keep tweezers in my car, both bathrooms, purses and in the TV room where I also keep my second favorite item:  a magnifying mirror with a light that simulates the daylight in my car.    My habit is worse than ever as I compulsively rubbed my chin searching for hairs I might have missed.  I even have an idea to design a necklace that can hold a tiny tweezer inside.  I could make a million.

Even my therapist notices.

“Why do you do that?”

“I’m looking for hair.”

Being close to my age, she at first laughs and then tilts her head.

“Shall we talk about that?”

I rant about the indignity of aging, how hard it is to grow old in a culture that seems to only revere people in their twenties. When I finally stop she stares for a long time.

“DIs that what you’re really angry about?” she asks.

“Yes. It is.” I insist. “I really hate having hair on my face.”   She sighs and opens up her I Pad.  I am surprised my session is already over until she looks up and says “I have a great laser guy in Manhattan….”




G is for Gluten

 Seems like everyone is intolerant and sensitive these days.  The protein gluten has become the scapegoat for stomach ailments and the poster child for genetically modified foods.  Everyone with a yoga mat and fedora has joined the ranks of the staunchly gluten free from Zoey Deschanel to Gwynth Paltrow.   Chelsea Clinton had a gluten free wedding cake and there’s even a dating website for gluten free singles.  Being someone who likes to swim against the tide, all of this gluten free talk makes me want to dip my head into a vat of Pizza Dough.

Gluten, I recently learned, comes from the Latin word for glue and even though I am not a fan of chugging Elmers, gluten is actually the protein that makes baked stuff taste good.  Gluten makes pizza dough doughy, bagels fluffy and good bread chewy.  Buddhist monks who were trying to get around the whole vegetarian rule by creating fake meat discovered it. They realized that when they submerged dough in water, the starch washed away and what was left was gummy meat like mass. Namaste.

The problem is of course, that in America we eat more gluten than is good for us.  Even worse, our wheat has twice the amount of gluten than it used to making it harder to digest. But the jury is still out on what this all means.

The fact is gluten sensitivity is a self-diagnosis. There is no test or screening. One simply need to eliminate it from their diet to see if they feel better and this is where I have trouble swallowing the gluten Kool Aid.  One of my closest friends suffers from severe Celiac disease. If she even eats a French fry that has been cooked in oil used for gluten foods (i.e. Onion Rings) she could be sick for days.  It is a serious and potentially life threatening illness that put her in the hospital for two weeks when she was a seven years old.  The rest of her childhood was spent watching her friends eat pizza and ice cream cake at birthday parties while she ate chocolate bars.

Now, everyone loves to tell my celiac diseased friend that they are Gluten sensitive.   I find it gluten insensitive to say that.  Telling my friend they are allergic to gluten is like telling an amputee you get a cramp when you run marathons.  It’s not right.  Of course my friend doesn’t see it that way.  In fact she has been insisting for years that I should try a gluten free diet. Since I met her in my twenties, I have been plagued with various digestive issues all under the general category of IBS. (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)  The very name annoys me and well, makes me irritable.

In my mid twenties, my gastroenterologist wanted me tested for Chron’s   disease and sent me for a colonoscopy. I won’t share the details. We all know the joys of the treatment.  I do however vaguely remember opening my eyes during the procedure and seeing a giant screen starring my colon.  I remember being struck by how long it looked, like those tunnels we crawled through as kids, but longer.  Way longer.  Luckily, the doctor was happy with the look of my colon.  With the exception of some strange bumps and turns along the way, everything was fine.  So I soldier on, wondering why it seems everything I eat makes me sick. I have missed cues onstage; often become as bloated as a Thanksgiving float and keep purses and medicine cabinets filled with GasX.

This past summer, after suffering for over thirty years, I decided to bite the bullet and become gluten free.

It was not easy.

After a few moments in a restaurant, a basket of warm, fragrant bread is plopped down.   Italian restaurants are the worst; their menus filled with pasta and breaded dishes.  On Staten Island, you can feel the chef’s eyes burning through the walls of his kitchen when you ask the waitress “Can I get the chicken parmesan without flour?”

Thankfully, gluten free food products are much more readily available than when my friend was a kid. Even on the remote Island of Staten there are thousands of products lining the shelves of supermarkets trying desperately to simulate the foods you can’t eat. There is gluten free bread, gluten free cereal, gluten free bagels, gluten free pizza, gluten free pretzels and gluten free flour.   All these products cost twice as much as its gluten filled cousin and to be honest, they taste like shit. That’s right. I said it. I don’t curse on my blog, but this crap deserves it.  Since when does a bagel weigh more than a block of cheese and cost more than caviar?

Worst of all, all this gluten free food is made with rice and corn so when I went back to my gastroenterologist, I had actually GAINED four pounds.  He then proceeded to regale me with some of the downsides of a gluten free diet, how oftentimes one misses out on important fiber and vitamins and corn has been more genetically modified even more than gluten.

Just shoot me.

My sister, my mother and too many friends to count have begun to go gluten free too.  Good for them.  In the meantime, I started eating a little bread here and there. Nothing crazy, just a mini bagel at a kid’s party or a cracker at a friend’s house.  I haven’t died.  I haven’t even bloated.    The reality is, I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life never eating bread again. Of course if I had celiac disease I would, but otherwise, what’s the point? Like everything in this country, we take things to an extreme that is perhaps unnecessary.  If there’s twice the amount of gluten in things, I’ll simply eat half what I used to.  I mean, how bad can it be.  Jesus ate bread.

I can even imagine Jesus arriving in present day Park Slope to “feed the multitudes.”          He would take his five loaves of bread and his five fish and magically make it enough for the entire population of Brooklyn until a demanding voice from the crowd would yell,




Jesus would shrug his narrow shoulders and be forced to join the Park Slope Food co-op so he could  buy organic and save some money feeding the masses. When the skinny tattooed twenty something guy attempted to check him out, Jesus would try to remain patient, reminding himself that this man wasn’t a cashier at all, probably just a writer working his co-op shift.

“DUDE! This is A LOT of Gluten free bread!” the cashier would say packing the last reclcle bag with the two thousand loaves.

“The masses are very sensitive,” Jesus would say rolling his eyes and disappearing into the night.

F is for Forgetting

I can’t remember anything. Yesterday, I was writing and forgot how to spell THE.  T-H-E.  Not the words nauseous or bureaucratic (which I always forget) but THE.  These moments are frightening and make me want to pound my skull against the wall screaming, “WHAT ____ HELL?”  I joke with my friends that I am like a 1980’s computer with no memory and a big back end.  I have hundreds of business cards and numbers on scraps of paper from people I don’t remember meeting, I bought a sympathy card and couldn’t remember who died and worst of all, I received a wedding invitation from someone I didn’t know.  Or couldn’t remember.  I googled, I researched, I even called my detective friend who looked through his database and still, nothing rang a bell.  I considered going to the wedding to see if I recognized the couple.  In the end, I decided I simply sent the response card admitting I didn’t actually know who they were.  Amazingly, they didn’t respond.

My friends are kind about my memory loss. They say,  “You’re just distracted, with grief, stress and single parenting” or “It’s a side effect of medical menopause, aging and we all have he same thing”   This might be true  but it feels like crap when I can’t find someone’s name.  There is a firefighter friend who named his son after my deceased husband.  He is sweet and friendly and hugs me hard when he sees me at Fire Department functions.  Not only can I not remember his name but I can’t recall his wife’s name or anything we have ever talked about.  I scroll through the Irish names most the firefighters have: Dennis, Kevin, Sean and Brian but eventually I find it impossible to pretend I know and say the inevitable. “I’m so sorry, but I’m completely blanking on your name.”

After my husband died on 9-11, the slogan that appeared everywhere was “Never Forget”.  When I first saw the bumper stickers and t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, I was moved, touched that the world would remember my husband and all the souls that perished that day.  Now, as an aging widow going through menopause, it feels like a taunt, a challenge I simply can’t do.

When I shared this with my sister, she insisted my memory had always been bad.   She reminded me of the joke I made after Aidan was born.   I insisted that it wasn’t the placenta that was removed after I gave my birth, but my brain.  It is true but I like to think it was a symptom of fatigue that made me forget to click my son into his stroller until someone walking past me said,  “Miss, your dragging your son.”   “Don’t you remember I bough you that book?” my sister said making her point.


“It was called It’s Hard to Make a Difference when you Can’t find your Keys.

“Oh yeah….Where is that book?”

The truth is I don’t remember when I couldn’t remember.

My best friend suggested that perhaps my memory loss was due to smoking pot in high school.  She reminded me of our last reunion,  how I was genuinely stunned by the stories people told me.  It was if they were talking about someone else.   One guy with smoky gray hair and a beer belly sidled up to me, choking me in a tight embrace.

“MARIAN! You look great!  I was just thinking about that day we went to Sheep’s meadow and played Frisbee with Leslie and then we roller skated all the way down to the ferry! ”

I nodded and pretended to remember the awesome day in Central Park we spent together but I couldn’t even remember who he was.  “Did I sleep with you?”  I want to ask, but of course, don’t.

What’s saved me from complete dementia is the invention of Google.  I no longer have to sit with my brow furrowed, scrolling through my foggy memory banks asking ,“Who was that actress from that movie about that thing?”  Without Google, I would truly be lost.  I went on a date with a guy and together we Googled fifteen times. We had to.

I am trying not to panic about my memory loss and focus on the positive sides of forgetting.   Sitting in traffic, funerals, long lines and bad performance art quickly become distant memories.  Returning to a place I have visited is like seeing it for the first time and I am always finding clothes in my closet that I forgot I had.

That’s not to say I don’t remember things.   I do.  In fact, I am downright nostalgic.  When I talk to my son about college its as if someone has smeared Vaseline on the lens of my mind.   Was it really that fun?  I am one ass cheek into a rocking chair with a pipe talking about the good ol’ days when there was no internet, cell phones and only thirteen channels.  “We had only one video game called Pong or table tennis.  You would hit a square digital “ball” and it would take ten minutes to make it to the other side of the screen.”

I’d like to think my memory loss is a function of my brilliant mind having so many brilliant thoughts it doesn’t have room for silly things like how to spell “the” or the name of my dead husband’s friends.  The reality is, whether its menopause, pot smoking or simple absent-mindedness, there is no amount of Ginkgo that will bring those memories back.  My past has erased itself or as Shakespeare so eloquently said, “My dull brain was wrought with things forgotten.” Wait. Was that Shakespeare?  I don’t remember. I better Google it.

E is for Eating



I don’t trust people who don’t love to eat.  I spend an inordinate amount of my day thinking about eating, planning what I am going to eat or being full.   Being part Jewish and Italian, guilt and food are part of my DNA.  Even now, as I write this, I am considering a purchase of Kettle Potato Chips at the deli down the block. I can’t help myself.

Growing up, everything revolved around food. My mother never just said, “Let’s go for a hike.” She’d say, “Let’s go for a hike…I’ll make a nice fresh chicken salad with walnuts and grapes on this amazing grainy bread I found at this new bakery…” There was food tucked in the glove compartment of our car, in pockets of coats, in my mom’s purses.  I never so much as stepped outside without my mom yelling after me “Did you eat a little something?”

Our refrigerator was always packed as if we were preparing for a blackout or Armageddon.  I once found a leftover slice of a Carvel cake from my seventh birthday in the freezer.  I was nine years old.

My family would often spend Sundays at my Great Uncle Angelo’s house.  He lived to be 104 and made the best food I’ve ever eaten.  Before there was “farm to table”, “organic” and “ locally grown”, there was Uncle Angelo’s food.

He lived with my Aunt Anna in a small apartment in Flatbush, Brooklyn with a garden where he grew vegetables and raised chickens.  Pasta was drying everywhere: on the backs of chairs, on tables even on the shower rod in the bathroom. I was only six or seven, but I can still remember the nutty fresh taste of the pesto he made, my first salty caper and how my Aunt Anna killed and plucked the chicken for the Marsala that I still make today.  My mother liked to brag that he managed to stay out of the Great War cooking for the generals.

When I was fifteen years old, my family traveled to Northern Italy to meet my mother’s family.   I know we saw different sites, but I only remember the eating.   Every evening we would walk down a narrow ancient street where my Uncle Pietro would open the door of what looked like an apartment, but turned out to be a restaurant.  It was long and narrow and smelled like garlic and bread.

The woman who owned the restaurant hugged us as if we were old friends and immediately started bring out plates of pecorino, toma cheese, sopressata and grilled eggplant all covered in oil as green as Spring.  I don’t remember anyone ordering, the food would just arrive and arrive and arrive:  bowls of Gnocchi with sage butter sauce, cheesy risotto and braised rabbit served over creamy polenta with local Porcini mushrooms.

When I arrived at college, I had been too spoiled on home made food to handle the dry cafeteria burgers.  My new best friend Gabriella agreed and soon we were making elaborate dinners on one hot plate.   Gabriella was born to first generation Sicilians who lived in Maspeth, Queens and never spoke a word of English. They made their own wine, cooked all day and took their eating very seriously.  Once I got front row seats to Joan Armatrading, Gabriella and my favorite singer, but Gabriella couldn’t go because it was “Tomato Sauce day” on her block.

When I started dating a sculptor who lived upstairs, Gabriella started dating a business major that loved to cook.  Soon, our dorm meals became so elaborate we had to push the furniture back to make room for our picnics of mozzarella, tomato and basil, Penne ala Vodka, chicken parmesan, arugula salad with shaved Pecorino, tomato and olive bruschetta. We never ate it all, but the site of an entire dorm floor covered in delicious food was pure heaven to me.

The sculptor from upstairs who would later become my husband loved my passion for food.  We went to Dim Sum restaurants in Chinatown, Salumerias in little Italy and a tiny Japanese place in the East Village that had half priced sushi on Monday nights.   Dave had never had sushi before and ordered so much; they stacked up the bamboo plates into a tower next to him.

When Dave graduated, I took a gap year and we traveled around Europe for a few months.  We visited beautiful churches, grand museums and muddy canals, but what I remember most was the food: Utrecht was crunchy croquettes, Ireland was salty salmon on grainy brown bread, Venice was a gnocchi Bolognese, and Belgium was garlicky mussels.

As I chomped my way across the European continent, I gained twelve pounds and my thighs chafed when I walked.  When my sister picked me up at the airport she mumbled, “You could have just floated home.”

“When in Rome.” I replied.  Rome was saltimbocca and lemony stuffed artichokes. I indulged when I traveled to Europe, to New Orleans, to Newark.  Every memory I have is forged in food.   When a friend retells an event I can’t remember, she need only add,   “We stopped and had ribs at that great Barbecue place with the giant cow out front,” that the memory of the sticky sweet sour taste of barbecue sauce comes flooding back.

After college, I moved into Manhattan where I met Merri in a writing class. Not only would we become best friends and collaborate on theater together for years, but Merri is the first person I have ever met who loved food more than me.  Everything we did involved having “a little snicky snack”.   When we walked around Manhattan she knew the best places to buy any kind of food: “That Mexican Deli has delicious mole’, this place has a truffle cheese to die for…wait, this Salumeria has prosciutto that they slice as thin as paper…” Merri shopped at Farmer’s Markets and used giant stained hard cover cookbooks to prepare her meals.  After I married Dave, she made us rosemary chicken that Dave loved.   She made it for him for years.

When Dave died on September 11th, I stopped eating.   Ironically, my apartment suddenly filled up with food.  Friends, family, neighbors and even strangers arrived bearing hams and lasagnas, raviolis and platters of cheese.  I threw up everything I tried to eat and subsisted on Ensure shakes and soup.  The food kept coming.  People wanted to do something.  Local restaurants donated dishes until we had to start turning it away for lack of space in the refrigerator.

After a few weeks, I graduated to bagels and butter, grilled chesses. Things I never ate before. Comfort food.  Nothing tasted right and the only thing I could cook was frozen chicken nuggets and fries for my son.   Eventually, I began eating, but my taste buds felt like I had burned them.  Slowly, like a long winter ending, I began to enjoy food again.  It started at a restaurant, where I let a salty steak float around like clothes in a dryer.   At a party, creamy Brie made me close my eyes, at a wedding, a briny oyster tasted like the middle of the ocean.


I moved to a carriage house in Staten Island and bought a long farm table to host my friends.   I began cooking again.  I liked spending the day thinking about what to make: that Italian specialty store with the prosciutto hanging like leathery lamps from the ceiling, that run down bakery with the crispy semolina bread.

My dinner parties became a way to express my gratitude to the people I loved for helping me through the darkest time in my life.  It became a thank you card on a plate.  On warm summer nights I grilled polenta and rib eye steaks with tarragon butter.  In the winter, I made pork chops with peach brandy sauce and rosemary potatoes and always there was a salad with beets or figs and candied walnuts.  I picked fragrant foods so my friends would enter and say, “Damn it smells good in here!”  During these dinner parties, at one point during the meal, I stop and look down the long hallway of my table to take in the evening.  I memorize the images of my friends laughing, eating, the candlelight distorted in the globe of their wine glasses.  I take a bite, I savor, and I swallow and say mmmmmm.


D is for Dave


Dear Dave:

We would have been married twenty years today. Can you believe it ? I’ve been mad at you a few times this last year having to shoulder the teen angst of our son alone.  I have had rebelliontimes two from Aidan ever since he hit double digits.I know its not your fault but sometimes I think your sheer physique would intimidate Aidan a lot more than my shrieking.  Not to mention I have to look up at him to do it.

It hasn’t been easy.

Speaking of which, I don’t know how much power you have up there, but maybe you can get Aidan to do better in school this year? He is so smart, but just can’t seem to motivate the way he needs to. This could be in part to you leaving us on his second day of Kindergarten.  Either way, I don’t think I can sit through another parent teacher conference where they tell me his work effort doesn’t match his intelligence.  He has to buckle down to get into college and I am taking him on all the tours without you but that’s because I want him to have the wonderful experience we had.

Remember the snowball fight in front of Lodge B?  Remember how everyone was looking for us and we hid in  the storage closet and kissed? I am so nostalgic sometimes I think they should just smear Vaseline on my brain.

Three days ago was Aidan’s first day of Senior year. I drove him to the ferry and as he walked away, he turned back and waved, his giant square hand moving in a way that was so like you, it caught my breath.  He is so handsome, Dave. Like you.  At least that’s what my friends tell me.  I am not objective when it comes to him. It is my failing as his mom.

I’m sure you noticed me crying in the car after he walked away. (Why is that always the best place to do that?) I was crying for you and because it was his last first day of school.  I’m sure you noticed he had a suitcase too.  His Senior class is hiking in the Smokey Mountains for the first week of school? Isn’t that strange?   It will be my first 9-11 without him.  The one thing I have learned from these last twelve years is that life sometimes just feels like a series of goodbyes and letting gos.

I often wonder what it would have been like had you lived.  Thirty years and counting. Would we still be in love or like so many couples I know, just co-existing like two pets in a cage.  I’d like to think we would sustain what we had, that we would still have our running jokes and you would keep pinching my ass when I walked by,or maybe it’s just my Vaseline brain talking again.

I am sure you have noticed that I have fallen in love with someone else.  I hope you’re okay with it.  It took me ten years to allow myself to open my heart fully to someone else. I’m sure you would have wanted that for me, right?  He is wonderful and smart and so tall I have to stand on my tippy-toes to kiss him.  You would like that he is 100% Irish! Who would have thought? He is sincere and kind and insecure in the most endearing way, the way you were. I am grateful to have someone to hold my hand through this day.  It is not easy for me or for him for that matter and it makes me love him even more that he can let me have this day to remember you.

But  as you know, I always think about you.  They say memories fade, soften and crack like old photographs, but it’s not true.  Mine are as clear as sky that day.  DAMN that sky.   That too blue sky that marked the beginning of your favorite season and the end of our life together.

What’s strange is that the things   I remember are not the moments you would
imagine. They are not of our wedding day or Aidan’s birth or your graduation from the Fire Academy.  They are small moments: the way your arm draped over me when you slept, the sound of your bare feet on the wood floor of our apartment, the dry rasp of your laugh.  I am surprised that a sound, a smell and a gesture can be remembered so much more than days spent.
But I also remember fragments of things. Poignant short film reels: exchanging gifts on Jones Beach on a cold Christmas morning, pulling Aidan in the old Radio Flyer to a picnic in Prospect Park, Long Pond in Cape Cod with Aidan on your shoulders, Chinese food in the living room on Sunday nights.

I want to remember more, but things have begun to fade, like a dream you try to piece together upon waking.  Maybe this is how our hearts heal themselves.

And I am healing.  I have large swaths of happiness. Two weeks ago, Bernard and I were in the Adirondacks lying in a big wooden bed, the kind you wanted to make, remember?  He had his arm around me and the smell of pine seeping through the window made me feel like I have finally returned to myself after all these years.

But by the time I was driving home on the Taconic, the anxiety of this day began, like a low grade fever. Small things like a glass slipping from my hand set me off on a crying jag that I hadn’t had since, well, last years anniversary.  And that dream I had on Saturday night. That one with the tornado and that rainbow as bright as the one’s we drew with crayons. That was amazing. Especially when you appeared.  Your face taking up the whole screen of my dream.   Your whole square jawed, dimpled face was so close, I could count the pores on your nose.

When I woke up, I had to lie in bed for over an hour to shake the sadness it left behind. Bernard brought me coffee in bed and let me tell him the dream from beginning to end.   We tried to decipher what it meant.  No matter what it meant, I was grateful to have had the dream then to never had had it at all.

Thank you.


Happy 20th Anniversary.




C is for College

Aidan and I are arguing on the back roads of Vermont.  He is furious I am making him skip a day of our ski vacation to attend a class and tour of Bennington  College.

“You act like I am taking you to a gulag,” I say sarcastically, squeezing the steering wheel until my fingers turn white.

“I’m sorry that I don’t want to go to school on my vacation!” he says while texting his girlfriend at the same time.    My thoughts are flying as fast as the white lines, trying to find words that will wake him from the hormonal coma he seems to have fallen into making him completely apathetic to his future, his life and seemingly everything.

“Well, I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for YOU!”  I hiss wondering why everything I say lately sounds like a cliché’, a 50’s sitcom, akin to there are people starving in Ethiopia. 

Recently I was out to dinner with friends in Brooklyn.  They were excited that their kids had gotten into their first choice colleges. One was going to Brown, the other to Wesleyan, the third was already at Middlebury and while I was happy for all of them, I squirmed in my seat and ordered another wine recognizing the feeling I often have when it comes to these things: slightly outside normal.

School has never been easy for Aidan.  He never drew in the lines or even on the line, he read in between them. By second grade, Aidan was diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) a learning difference that has been met with impatience, confusion and a lot of eye rolling, even from me. Medication and a few compassionate teachers along the way have helped, but overall, school was never a place where Aidan felt good about himself.

“I don’t like doing taxes, but I have to,” I say when Aidan complains about homework or tests.  I have become a stereotype: a sighing, frustrated, annoyed parent who picks up wet towels, replaces empty rolls of toilet paper and turns out lights reciting facts about carbon footprints, global warming and waste.  I can feel Aidan tuning me out. To him, I have become the Charlie Brown teacher; a hollow, meaningless voice.  I recently discovered he has me in his phone under “Evil Warlord”. He was looking for his phone and used mine to call. It was on my bed when I heard the theme music for Darth Vader.  Nice.

I speed into the Visitors parking lot. where there is already a tour starting. Aidan sighs when I turn off the engine.

“This sucks.” he says.

“Well if they have a PhD program for being obnoxious, you should do well” I say  slamming the door so hard the group turns toward us.

The perky female tour guide walks backwards past pastoral barns, quaint dorms and sunny classrooms listing the seemingly endless amount of groups and activities she is involved in.  Aidan hangs toward the back of the group texting his girlfriend, refusing to ask questions.

“Oooh, Nice theater” I say as the perky student shows us the pristine theater where two teenagers with nose rings and tattoos are painting a set. Perhaps it is my age and my memory that makes me feel nostalgic for my college years where I acted in plays, questioned my existence in philosophy class and chain smoked with my friends in the library.

Why doesn’t Aidan want this?

“Do you know how lucky you are?”  I ask sliding into my seat when the tour is over. “Do you even care at ALL? “

“Yes! These tours are just boring, that’s all,“ he mumbles staring out the window, the endless texts beeping in.  I imagine snatching his phone and throwing it out the window.  Instead, I look in the rear view mirror at the empty back seat.  I can see Aidan strapped into his car seat at five years old, smiling, singing at the top of his lungs a song about planets he learned on a television show.

I drive the twisting back roads behind Bennington, lost in the memories of how close Aidan and I once were, bonded more tightly than ever by the mutual loss of his father.   I sigh, knowing Aidan,by being obnoxious is simply doing his job so it will be easier to let him go..

Race and Place in Urban America sounds like a good class” Aidan says . He is actually looking through the thick catalogue of courses. I nod and smile slightly.   He will be seventeen next week and he has thinned out, growing tall and handsome, a mop of curls forming around his face .

“Yeah. Sounds very cool.”  I say, pretending not to care.

I want to tell him about a sit-in at Sarah Lawrence when I was there , how the  students shut the school down for ten days demanding more black teachers and students. Instead, I drive in silence, noticing the patches of brown where the snow has melted,  spring hiding patiently below the surface.