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stuffing & nonsense

You know that saying that goes, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t following me”? Well, I’d like to present the corollary, at least in how it refers to me. That would be, “Just because seemingly random, messy situations happen to me doesn’t mean that the universe isn’t laughing its ass off. At my expense.” To wit:

Back in March of 2020 (shudder!) when we were all trying to navigate this new system of getting groceries (and getting by) without endangering ourselves, I tried the ordering online method, placing a big order that I hoped would last us two or three weeks (because remember when everyone said it would be over by then?). Including lots of items for the freezer. The order was delivered on time, the food was safely unpacked and put away, and I let out a sigh of relief that at least that one hurdle had been crossed for the time being. The universe, obviously regarding me as an appropriate plaything, was having none of it.

Less than 24 hours later, our 21-year-old refrigerator – and most of the perishables in it – gave out. Hilarity (at the obvious ridiculousness of the situation) and mayhem (what to do now?) ensued. Because of the pandemic, we didn’t want a refrigerator delivered and installed; because we like to eat more than pasta, canned goods, and cereal, we needed a solution. And Midge the Mini Fridge was it. Small enough to be delivered to our front door and for us to bring inside, surprisingly big enough to hold a decent amount of refrigerated items (and a few frozen meals), and adorable enough to warrant a name, Midge was our saving grace. We and Midge soldiered on for the next few months, until we felt safe enough having a full-size refrigerator brought in and the old one taken away. But Midge remains — unplugged and stored in a closet — perhaps for future happier use.

Now, 20 months later, Thanksgiving Eve is here and the universe is cracking itself up again. As of yesterday, I had all the ingredients for our small but food-filled fest ready to go – turkey breast, check; stuffing stuff, check; fresh cranberries for sauce, yes, yes, yes (I love that one!); pumpkin pie (from the bakery for a change), yes indeed. With my mother-in-law on board for making her sweet potato casserole, I was all set. Or so I thought.

Because I was raised in an environment where food equals love and lots of food equals lots of love – but don’t eat too much or you’ll risk gaining weight (thanks for the conflicting messages) – I couldn’t help but try another cake recipe for the celebration. So I mixed and measured, stirred and sifted, preheated and prepared, and into the oven it went for the recommended 50 minutes. Sort of. At 50 minutes it didn’t look done. At 60 minutes it hadn’t progressed – half-risen and not at all golden brown. (“That’s strange,” I thought naively). At 90 minutes nothing had changed – except, as it was becoming painfully clear, for the status of the oven. Uh-oh.

It appears that a heating coil had gone kaput. As in goodbye. So long. Farewell. And lots of luck with Thanksgiving. That sound I heard above the roaring in my ears and my own choice language was that of the universe chuckling.

The good news? Turkey duties have now moved to B.’s mom’s oven. I’ve still got the sides. Our feast is indeed moveable and will be enjoyed thoroughly albeit differently.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over this era (dating from fridge meltdown to oven cooldown), it’s that you’ve gotta laugh at the things you can laugh at and try to find the humor in the incredibly annoying moments where possible. With all the things we can’t find the funny in, finding it wherever we can has never been more essential for getting by.

So here’s to all we’re thankful for – the people at our table and the friends just a phone call away. Here’s to Thanksgiving in all its perfectly imperfect variations. And here’s to the universe laughing with us. Call it nonsense and sensibility.

Let’s eat.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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block party

Sure, it’s all fun and games until the inevitable happens – that oft-told, sad-but-true, you-know-it-when-it-hits-you case of writer’s block. There you are (or, actually, I am), weaving a tale, telling a story, thinking that you’ve got all your ducks in a neat little row when one tiny duckling refuses to move out of the way. Will not follow the path you’ve set for it. All around just stops, sticks out its little duck tongue at you and says, “Nope, I’m done. Find another way around. Quack.” (Cue end-zone victory dance.)

All to say that, in the midst of writing my second novel, I am flummoxed. Stuck in the mud spinning my wheels. Just a short drive from wit’s end. My characters have gone off cavorting on their own, taking my storyline with them, and, unlike my experience while writing my first novel, this time it seems that I’m not invited along.

“Step away for a few minutes,” some might say. “It will come to you.” Or, “How about a brisk walk outdoors? Nothing like fresh air to clear your head.” Or, and here’s my favorite, “Just think of something else to write. You must have a million stories inside your head.”

Nope. We’re past all that. At this point, each time I step away, my characters just laugh and go even further in the opposite direction. And in terms of taking a walk outdoors, unless it includes a stop at the nearby Trader Joe’s for snacks, all I’m bringing home is a whole lot of nothing.

As to that third suggestion? Oh please. Thank you for your faith in me and for thinking that I’ve got so many other make-believe stories to tell, enough to just sit down and start creating. Not so. Unlike this blog, which seems to lend itself to my writing about my life, writing a novel is so much harder. Here I tell my own observations. There I’m telling my characters’ stories. Here I know everything about what I’m writing. There I’m making it all up. And here I know how each account works out. There … well let’s just say my characters all know but, at this point, they’re not sharing. (Sort of the way I feel about cats. I believe that deep down they have all the answers – but they’re just not telling. Which explains why I’m a dog person.)

So what to do?

Banging my head against the proverbial wall results in nothing more than an existential headache – i.e., If I cannot write, can I truly call myself a writer? And if I am a writer, but cannot write at the moment, then who am I? And if that bag of Trader Joe’s chips is now empty, did it ever really exist at all? And if it did not exist, then are those calories I consumed nonexistent? Oy.

Obviously, I am a writer (you can’t come up with this kind of neurotic stuff and not be) – but this writer needs to somehow get over, around, or past the block. To carry out an end run around that annoying little duckling. To figure out the right breadcrumbs to lure it away and find my way back to my novel’s story.

You may very well ask why I put myself through this at-times painful process. Why, instead of the angst of writing a novel, do I not, say, put together a book of my blog posts instead? They come to me so much more easily and naturally, and they are usually (today’s notwithstanding) quite fun to write. Why indeed.

Because making up a make-believe world is just so awesome. Creating characters, putting words in their mouths, controlling their movements and even their destinies – it’s a kind of rush like no other. And because the tremendous challenge behind it, while incredibly difficult, is unbelievably rewarding when it works. The satisfaction in basing a story on something my brain creates from nothing – versus something I’ve experienced – is just so, well, for lack of a better way of putting it, crazy cool.

That promise of that hard-earned joy is what keeps me going and keeps me writing. And every bit of that writing – whether a blog post, an essay, or a draft – anything I write helps in chipping away at the block until at some point (hopefully in the not-too-distant future), I know I’ll find myself back on my story’s path. My best advice in facing down that stubborn little duckling is to be more stubborn. More fearless. More determined.

And quack louder.

© 2021 Claudia Grossman

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ciao, bella

Everyone’s got their own version of comfort – being with the one you love, curling up with a good book and a better brandy, snuggling with your pet, eating spaghetti and meatballs. No, really, what? In a culinary world where pasta exists in so many shapes and sizes, to say nothing of a nearly infinite variety of gourmet iterations, are we really talking about plain old spaghetti and meatballs?

Well, I am. There’s something intrinsically joyful about the dish. Well, mostly the spaghetti. The very action of twirling it around the fork before popping it into your mouth builds the anticipation. Will it make a neat swirl? Will it all fit on the fork? Will you end up with a marinara mustache if you’re not careful? And the inevitable slurping up the stray strand or two is just plain fun. It feels like being six years old again. Seriously, how giggle-inducing is penne? Not very. Shells? Somewhat better because the sauce gets inside them but still not the same. Fettuccine? Come on, it’s just spaghetti’s fancier cousin. And don’t even get me started on capellini. Sure, it’s angelic looking in the package, but one wrong move and it’s overcooked.

When I think about eating spaghetti as a little kid – before it became known as pasta and got replaced in our pantry by those other shapes and styles – I remember my mom breaking it into shorter strands before cooking it to make it easier to eat. Not much twirling was required (good for little hands, not so good for becoming an expert at the art of dining).

And there’s the rub. Flash forward from my six-year-old self to me as a teenager – shy, unsure of myself, very smart but very awkward and, in my mind, somewhat lacking. I was lucky enough at that age to go to Italy for the first time (a bit intimidating) with my parents (a bit sheltering). It was sort of a conundrum, wanting to appear as the irresistibly, innocently sexy ingenue while a) not knowing how, and b) having my parents by my side, sort of cramping my style. I so wanted to be Audrey Hepburn in Rome but, even though my dad may have called me his princess, I was so clearly not ready for my spotlight.

Until. One day, we found ourselves at a small trattoria filled mostly with locals enjoying their late dinner. And there on the menu was my most favorite comfort food – spaghetti and meatballs – or, at least, what sounded like an incredibly delectable version of it, prepared and suited to authentic Roman tastes. The only problem? Those were full-length spaghetti strands. Cutting them was out of the question. Twirling them, however, resulted in unmanageable forkfuls way too big to eat. What to do?

I nibbled at the meatballs and sort of pushed the spaghetti around my plate, hoping no one would notice (there were worse things, I thought, than having just “and meatballs” for dinner), when my hero appeared. No, not Gregory Peck. Not even Eddie Albert. Showing up at my shoulder with a whispered “Signorina” was our very elderly, very courtly waiter, Antonio (to this day, I still remember his name), spoon at the ready.

And right then and there this chivalrous, oh-so-very European, grandfatherly waiter gently took my fork from my hand, expertly twirled a forkful of pasta against the spoon, and fed me my first taste of spaghetti in Rome. It was, as promised, delicioso. After a second forkful, I nodded in understanding and took the spoon from him. I tried the twirl-against-the-spoon ritual for myself to great success. Antonio then left to take care of his other diners. But not before bowing over my hand, kissing it as he brushed it with his silvery mustache, and saying, “Ciao, bella.”

That short encounter with that very kind waiter did more than teach me how to eat spaghetti. It gave me confidence in myself. It made me feel special. And it made me believe that there was hope for me yet, that my inner Audrey Hepburn would emerge one day. Never having known my own grandfathers, I felt like I’d been gifted one right there in the form of Antonio, if only for a few moments in an out-of-the-way trattoria in the Eternal City.

Roman holiday, indeed.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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tell me a story

Decades before the advent of “Take Our Daughters to Work Day,” my father would take the little-girl me to work with him on occasion. And what occasions they were. This was back in the 1960s, and my dad was a film editor working at a post-production company and editing TV commercials. These were the Mad Men days, and I was so enchanted with his work that advertising and I have had an ongoing love affair all this time.

Having the chance to go to work with my father was so exciting that I could barely sleep the night before. He caught a 7 a.m. commuter train each morning into New York City, so I had to wake up super early, after picking out my outfit the night before. I loved riding the train, sitting next to the window and watching the station signs go by. My dad would read The New York Times commuter-style; that is, he would fold the paper in half the long way and read each page one half at a time (turning the pages in this folded mode is an acquired art form – trust me).

Once we got into the city, I wouldn’t let go of his hand for anything, as the crowds in Penn Station swirled around me. Riding the subway was an adventure — how did he know which train to get on, I wondered, and more important, how could a train travel underground (the cute but neurotic little-girl me tried not to focus on that one for too long).

And then finally, there we were, in his office. The best part was getting to get sit alongside him while he worked in his editing room, seated at his Movieola and viewing and splicing film footage to create a story.

That’s the part that has stayed with me over all these years – his ability to create by being a storyteller. And that’s also the gift he passed down to me. As he created with images – sketching out storyboards, choosing his takes, and creating his final sequences to turn pieces of film into a final story – he taught me the beauty of creating through imagining. For me, creating has come through my writing, and I like to believe it started by watching him love his work.

The other highlights of the day? Getting to sit at my dad’s desk when he was out of his office at meetings down the hall, pretending to field calls and draw my own make-believe commercial storyboards. Being the center of attention when secretaries would poke their heads in and ooh and ahh over me (as I said, this was the 1960s, and secretarial pools were commonplace). Going out to lunch, not at a fancy expense-account restaurant, but at one of New York’s famous coffeeshops where I got to order whatever I wanted (burger, fries, and Daddy, could you please ask for more ketchup?).

I remember barely being able to keep my eyes open on the train trip home. Almost as soon as my father would put his briefcase and our coats up on the overhead rack I’d be halfway to dreamland, exhausted by the excitement of the trip, the energy of the city, and the sheer fun of watching my dad do what he loved – and my learning by example.

While going to work with my dad happened way, way before Take Our Daughters to Work Day became a calendar event, it impressed on me the importance of doing something productive and challenging and creative with my life just as much as it would impress a young girl going to work with her mother (or father) today. It fueled my passion for writing and my love of New York City. It showed me how loving what you do and doing what you love involves skill, talent, and hard work, and that, when it happens, it’s magic. It taught me to imagine and to dream.

And it allowed me to see my father in another dimension. He was a terrific teacher, without ever knowing it, and I was the perfect student, hungry to learn. I only wish he could have seen what I’ve become and could have read the story I continue to tell.

Sugar and splice.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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touching base

How do you know it’s autumn in LA? The Dodgers are in the playoffs.

You certainly wouldn’t know that the season has changed by the weather – until one day you actually do. While much of the rest of the country has cooled down, summer temperatures extend here into October. There may be a day or two in late September when it seems as if we’ve moved on, but no, there’s sure to be a blast of heat sometime well after the autumn equinox.

But then one day – like two days ago, for example – more than the promise of fall arrives, in this case, in the form of gusty winds. Winds that rattle branches and whip up dust and debris (LA is desert, after all). Winds that put a welcome chill in the air and remind us that it’s time to put sweaters and even jackets in the morning rotation. Winds that are definitely not the warm Santa Anas – noted for their heat and the strange things said to happen when they blow – but the bracing (for here) gusts that tell us that autumn, LA style, is about to settle in. That’s when you know that fall is truly here.

That, and the Dodgers are in the playoffs.

Another sign of fall in LA? The Halloween decorations. In this place where the make-believe industry is the focus of so much for so many, the displays are major productions. Not many happy smiling pumpkin faces here – our fall this year is punctuated by everything from realistic skeletons parading up to the roof to truly terrifying clowns (right out of central casting) holding their victims in cages. Gravediggers compete with hands reaching up from the ground while tombstones dot driveway paths like tulips in the spring. While all of it scares the hell out of me, it’s a sure signal of autumn. That, and the Dodgers are in the playoffs.

Watching the Dodgers in the post-season (as I write this they are 2-2 in the Divisional playoffs against the Giants after a heroic home game last night) is an integral part of fall in this place that gave birth to California girls, Beach Boys, and endless summer. As the team, its pedigree practically synonymous with the game of baseball itself, takes to the field for possibly (but hopefully not) the last game of its post-season, the feeling is bittersweet, one of summertime being over and daylight savings time about to end. But it’s also pure joy, stirring up passions for a more genuine time, a time when the romance of a baseball game was enough.

Playing in the footsteps of Koufax and Drysdale, Gibson and Valenzuela, Reese and, of course, the immortal Robinson, these Dodgers carry on the franchise’s storied legacy while telling their own story. One of down-to-the-wire greatness as the days of summer flit past. One of feeling like a kid again and playing outdoors until dark. One of something special in the air – whether it’s peanuts, popcorn, or that autumn wind blowing in the outfield.

Safe at home.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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write the joy

Writers write for many reasons. For me, it’s all about the joy.

Writing the joy means not only writing what you know – the advice given to writers probably since the beginning of time – but writing about what makes you happy. The people, the places, the passions that fuel you. The words themselves that feel good to say and even better to write down and relive. The colors and shadings of nature, of cities, of places visible and those only dreamt about. The things that you’ve seen and heard, tasted and touched, felt with your fingertips and caressed with your soul.

Write the joy of a cerulean blue ceramic bowl filled with a pile of richly colored oranges (and enjoy, with an internal “ahh,” the use of cerulean and ceramic in a single phrase). Immerse yourself in the pleasure of finding the words to describe looking at a glass of ruby-red cabernet, glints of light captured in its depths, and seeing the world as if through a jeweled lens.

Describe the perfect cup of cocoa – write until you can see the creamy color, smell the irresistible lure of the chocolate, taste the sweetness. Until you can feel the comfortable weight of the warm mug in your hand. And until you can remember the very first time you ever tasted cocoa and all the joyful memories that evokes.

Find the words to paint autumn in New England. Leaves of scarlet and gold, amber and purple, deep dark green – all against the bluest of skies. Or New York in the spring – towers of grey and silver punctuated by bodega buckets of tulips in pink and coral and bright red.

Write down how you feel about the person you love most in the world – or describe his kind eyes; her gentle touch; the way he saves you the comics and the crossword from the paper each day; the way she saves you the edges of the brownies because she knows those are your favorite pieces.

I write the joy because it evokes pure elation. Because it allows me to capture, craft, and create small, exquisite moments in time through lines on a page. Because it restores my faith in the power of words to make something beautiful. And because it makes me happy.

Joy to the girl.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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scene stealer

I’m in the midst of watching Scenes from a Marriage, the new limited series that examines moments from a fictional marriage (and is based on the classic series by filmmaker Ingmar Bergman). It is intense, emotional, and incredibly dramatic so far.

That having been said, the title itself started me thinking about my marriage to B. and the scenes you might find us in on any given day. Intense? Sometimes (but also intensely funny a lot of the time). Emotional? Sure, but whose marriage doesn’t include those moments. Incredibly dramatic? Only when someone (okay, me) runs a bit amok. To wit:

SCENE – The Kitchen, Middle of the Night

He: (shuffling in, barely awake) What are you doing?

Me: (removing my head from one of the kitchen cabinets) Just trying to find the parchment paper.

He: The what? And why do you need it at 3 a.m.?

Me: I want to make scones for us.

He: For breakfast?

Me: No, for later this afternoon. But I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d get all the ingredients together. (Moving around pots and pans to see if the parchment paper is hiding behind them)

He: (a bit grumpy) You woke me up with all the rattling around.

Me: (head in another cabinet, this time rifling through bottles of extract looking for vanilla) Hmmm – what? Oh, sorry. I didn’t think you’d hear me out here. Let me just find a few more things and then I’ll be done.

He: (checking out the kitchen counter already covered with bowls, cookie sheets, measuring spoons, flour, sugar, etc.) Is all this necessary right now?

Me: (a bit defensive) I thought this would be a creative project for me given that I’ve never baked these before. Don’t you want me to find new creative outlets?

He: Sure, whatever makes you happy. I’m just wondering why it has to make you happy in the middle of the night – can’t it wait until morning? (Looking around, fully awake now, and curious. Uh-oh.) Why do you keep those bowls in that cabinet? Wouldn’t it make more sense if they were closer to the stove?

Me: Because I like the red bowls next to the blue bowls and there’s not enough space in another cabinet.

He: But if you just move a few things around … (proceeding to empty out two cabinets and rearrange them) Isn’t that better?

Me: But now the bowls aren’t near the drawer with the measuring spoons.

He: Okay. (More stuff piling up all around him as he tries to make order of out what’s now quickly becoming chaos) How about now?

Me: Now I don’t know where anything is because you’ve emptied my entire kitchen onto the floor.

He: I’ll sketch out a plan. (Grabs a pad and pen and proceeds to diagram the entire kitchen cabinet and drawer system, indicating what should go where. According to him.)

Me: (looking at the sketch) Nope.

He: What? Why not?

Me: (shrugging) It just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t flow.

He: How can you say that? Everything is close to where it needs to be for maximum efficiency.

Me: But it’s not pretty. It’s just not the way my brain works. I like the red mixing bowls next to the blue mixing bowls with the yellow-and-green salad dishes nearby.

He: But you don’t use them together. I don’t see why –

Me: (stamping my foot because it’s late and now I’m tired) You don’t have to see why – I’m the one who uses them all and I want them the way I want them!

He: But this way is more logical and will make it so much easier!

Me: But it won’t make me happy. (Sniffling) You just don’t understand me.

He: What are you talking about? It’s just a few mixing bowls.

Me: JUST A FEW MIXING BOWLS? Are you minimizing what’s important to me? Forget it, I don’t want to make the scones anymore.

He: (trying hard not to roll his eyes) I think that maybe you’re overreacting here. (Takes one look at me and realizes he’s headed in the wrong direction) No, not overreacting. What I meant to say is that maybe you’re overtired right now and should just try to go back to sleep.

Me: (more sniffles) Now you just think I’m being silly.

He: No, no, I don’t. Really. (Calculating how much more sleep he can realistically get if he wraps it up right now and realizing the answer is zero) I think you’re adorable. And I think you’re tired. And I think this is going to end up in a blog post which, to be honest, would have been a quieter way for you to spend the time in the middle of the night.

Me: (already headed back to bed, trying not to trip over my bunny slippers)

SCENE 2 – The Kitchen, Several Hours Later

(B. has replaced everything exactly the way I had it, with all the scone necessities sitting neatly on the counter. Including the parchment paper.)

Me: Aww … thank you for doing all this, honey. And you found the parchment paper! Where was it?

He: In the drawer over there with the the pizza pan and the extra potholders. Why you keep it there, I have no idea. But if it works for you, it works.

Me: (innocently) That’s the drawer with all the stuff starting with “p.”

He: (doing a doubletake) Ri-i-i-i-ght. Okay then. Just one more thing before you head into sconeland.

Me: (eyebrows raised questioningly)

He: You know I don’t like scones, right?

Me: (dumbfounded) I didn’t know that!

He: I guess after nearly 25 years of marriage you really don’t know me, huh?

Scene. And heard.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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leap year

So it seems that I find myself in what I like to call my second act. It wasn’t so much a conscious decision on my part but more as if I woke up one morning and realized hey, it’s time to find my next frontier (right after I find my reading glasses).

I’ve spent my entire, 40-year professional career in the business of writing for advertising and marketing, from the agency side to the client side, from working for others to working for myself. It’s been a rewarding, awarding ride.

The past year-and-a-half, though, has been defining (as in the proverbial wrench thrown into the works) career-wise, as so much of my freelance client work moved and stayed inhouse, changing my landscape. And with the art of print copywriting now more the biz of content blasts, it seems that I’ve reached a crossroads. My previous working life sort of behind me, it’s time to choose my next steps.

In one direction, the dreaded “r” word – retirement. I can’t look at that word without flinching, to be honest (too many parent-generation stereotypes of early-bird specials and leisure suits), even though I realize that so many of my friends have retired from incredibly successful careers into a new chapter. Different, yes, but full and active and meaningful. But the word – uh, no.

In another direction, the a-little-too-pie-in-the-sky-for-me “r” word – reinvention. The pressure of that word is way too much – and besides, I don’t want to change to the point of reinventing my wheel (although it would be nice if the wheel ran a little more smoothly, I’ll admit). So that leaves me, a person who thrives on words, with the task of coming up with a new one to suit this stage of my life (and, as someone who thrives on wordplay, I feel obligated to come up with one that starts with the letter “r”).

And so, the word reimagination. To my mind, it seems like the perfect next step down the creative path – not a retreat, not a reset, not even a restoration. But a realization that doing what I love to do continues now in newly imagined ways. Yes, I’ve moved from writing primarily for business to writing almost exclusively for joy. A first novel (something I never imagined being able to do until I did it last year), an ongoing blog (something I take more pleasure in the more of life I experience), creative non-fiction for magazines (no hard pitches, more like “here’s my heart if you’d like to publish it”) – it’s a different perspective and a different outlook and a different lifestyle. Mostly positive yes, but there’s a challenge involved too.

For me, it’s really difficult to turn off the “gotta work” setting, to give myself permission to evolve completely into reimagination without feeling guilty about it.

No matter how often B. may tell me that I’ve earned this chance to write for the sake of writing, old habits and mindsets are hard to break. And, of course, the idea of accepting the opportunity means that I’ve stepped off the professional merry-go-round I’ve been on for most of my life. The change in motion can be a little dizzying. A little anxiety-provoking. And a little scary.

But here’s the thing. You’ve got to get out of your own way in order to move forward. You’ve got to tell yourself it’s okay to make the change or else you’ll find yourself spinning your wheels in “I don’t deserve this.” And you’ve got to be a little bit brave about leaping into life’s new stage.

Imagine that.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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wait up

Yes, I married a younger man. B. is nine months younger than me. Exactly. Forty weeks to the day. So, theoretically, he was conceived on the day I was born (of course I know it’s not an exact science, but work with me here). I like to think that I entered the world, looked around briefly, and then sent a message through the universe that yup, the coast was clear, and that he should proceed accordingly. And I can’t say that I’ve been all that patient waiting from that time on.

To wit:

I knew from the moment I met him that I would marry B. someday. Him, not so much. Sure, he thought I had great legs (he was a 17-year-old guy) but I had the vision. Although I will admit that even I didn’t realize that it would be 22 years later before we said “I do.” (No, we weren’t dating for all that time – we did stay connected but lived in different parts of the country and had separate lives. It just took the cosmos that long to remember that we were meant to be together. That, and a chance phone call at just the right time.) I came to that conclusion before B. did (just like I was born first) – and, when necessary, I take every opportunity to remind him that I used up all the rest of my patience while waiting (sometimes that argument works, sometimes not, but he still loves my legs).

Then there’s the way we approach certain things. Simply put, I often jump right in first, sometimes without looking. Come on, I think, tapping my foot (figuratively), do we really need to consider every detail? His is a more considered strategy. The result? You know how Winnie the Pooh got that honey jar stuck on his nose and needed help removing it? So okay, maybe I have a checkered history with honey jars – but it comes from reacting with my heart first and going all in instead of waiting for my head to catch up.

The thing about patience is that you’ve got to sit still long enough to let it settle on you. With a non-stop imagination like mine (sometimes a gift, sometimes not) that’s not easy. The same coin that lets my creative mind toy with the infinite wonderful possibilities of “what if?” has, on its other side, my ability to find the infinite “uh-ohs” of that question. Sometimes it’s hard to get to the “sit still” part when there’s that much busyness going on. Yes, patience may be a virtue but fortunately it’s not the only one; otherwise, I’d be left to rely on my adorableness to get by (only kidding, adorableness isn’t a virtue).

And that’s where B. comes in (nine months late, but here, thankfully). He is the metaphorical steadying oar as I splash around causing calamity; his is the calm breathing to my proverbial hyperventilating; he finds the straight path versus my impatient zigging and zagging (and tripping over my feet). He’s my quiet place to fall.

So worth the wait.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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just a second

Like lots of other things that have been made easier with time, the telling of it (of time, that is) has become more convenient and much less of a learned skill. Analog clocks and watches gave way to digital versions gave way to smart devices (making those clocks and watches virtually unnecessary.) But for those of us who grew up telling time as more of a story (“it’s twenty to three” versus “it’s 2:40” or “it’s almost a quarter after eleven” instead of “it’s 11:13”), those timepieces strike more of a chord.

After this last strange, strange (to put it mildly) year-plus, where time just seemed to melt into itself, making every day the same as the one before, my watch is now making its cautious re-entry into the world (just like the rest of us). And while I had been depending on my laptop clock for the occasional update, now I’m looking at my wrist again – the way I have ever since I was a little girl, looking at my very first watch. To wit:

That first one had a pink strap and the beautiful Cinderella (whom else?) on its face. I wore that watch proudly, probably from kindergarten through first or second grade, when it was then relegated to a drawer because I had outgrown its childish design. While I no longer have the band, I do still have the watch – pink hands and all – a reminder of a time when growing up to be Cinderella was my life’s ambition. That and dancing in a pink tutu in the Nutcracker Suite in front of the Queen of England. And winning the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

Flash forward through all kinds of Sixties and Seventies “mod” watches – including those where you could “change the band to match your every outfit or mood!” until we land on the gold-toned “bangle watch” my parents gave me for my bat mitzvah. It was meant for “dressy” occasions and to celebrate that I was moving into young womanhood. But to me it symbolized something different – how many more anguishing minutes I would have to endure being the center of attention in the synagogue and how much longer until I could escape back to the peacefulness of my books.

The years passed – college, a career starting and flowering, my growing into who I was meant to be – and so did a few other watches. When I came out to the West Coast to start my life with B. (after having known each other for a mere 22 years), I bought myself a new watch. A new time in my life was starting, and I wanted to capture every minute, every second. That silvery, cobalt-blue-faced Seiko was my gift to myself, a congratulations for finally finding the right person, the right direction, and the right time to give a piece of my heart away (whom am I kidding – he has my whole heart).

After we got married, I gave B. my late father’s watch – a classic gold tank on a black leather band. I was passing something I loved from a man I adored to this man who means everything to me. It was a beautiful watch and B. wore it for years until it could no longer be repaired. But he still keeps it in a drawer as a reminder of us starting out. (Yes, it shares space with the Cinderella watch – sue me for being sentimental.)

Today I wear a stainless steel bracelet-style watch with a silvery-white face, Roman numerals (talk about a lost art), a tiny date box (too small to read without my glasses), and a second hand (for some reason, I really like that feature). Nothing fancy, but comfortable, comforting in its reliability, and completely at home on my wrist.

Some days I wish I could speed it up, to get past the tough times we’re all facing; most days I wish I could slow it down to savor all the good moments. More and more these days, looking at it actually reminds me to take a breath and take a moment to consider how far I’ve come – before I pick up my pace so that I’m not late for the next thing.

Time travels.

©2021 Claudia Grossman

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