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Nancy Kelton
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Hi Terence, Thank you for leaving such a sweet comment. Names sure do stick. I really felt awful leaving my Mom there with the one she did not call Marge. Oy! Lasagna. I can still see her. Kind of like your Sarge. Best, Nancy
Dear Mrs. Erenstoft, You are the first person I know to celebrate a 100th birthday. I'd like to mark the occasion by sharing a few thoughts. Until 1991, when I read Molly Katz’s book, JEWISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE, I thought you invented the phrase “little sweater.” The first time I came over after school in first grade, you gave us a snack before we headed outside to play. “Take a little sweater,” you told Inez. Then, every school day morning when I picked her up, you, in your ‘space shoes’ and short sleeve bathrobe, made sure that after she finished ALL her cereal with banana and brushed ALL her teeth, she had “a little sweater.” Once I became an adopted daughter and was at your house all the time, you made sure I had one, too. Sweet. Except in 9th grade when Inez and I wanted bids from Phi Epsilon and went to their sorority barbeque. You came running over after the party was underway and told the sorority girl who answered the door, “Inez and Nancy forgot these and will need them.” And you handed her two little sweaters. We got bids, anyway and did not accept (We were not sorority girls. We just wanted the invitations), but that night we were utterly mortified. Oh Mrs. Erenstoft, it’s my nature to poke fun. I loved 95 North Drive. You left us lots of fresh fruit and cookies and your freezer was full of ice cream sandwiches and parfaits. More important, you left us alone. Whether we were in your finished rec room putting on puppet shows, in Inez’s room playing dress-ups and telling stories, or in the living room singing along with a new Broadway show LP, we had space to just be. You had your own space. I saw that. If you weren’t on the phone or cooking, you were arranging, coming and going—in your pretty matching skirt and sweater outfits—to bridge, a meeting, a luncheon or a concert with Mrs. Fishman, Mrs. Bikoff and your zillion other friends. You had a fun life with the girls and a huge, fun one with Inez’s dad. I never called Dr. Erenstoft ‘Sam,’ or you ‘Janet’ but Inez and I had a hoot substituting your names when we’d sing SOME ENCHANTED EVENING. My parents, too, burst into SAM AND JANET EVENING when they picked me up at your house and when we played SOUTH PACIFIC on our stereo at home. I recently asked Inez for your longevity secrets. Here’s what she said: you eat three meals a day, have never been overweight, eat dinner early, do not nosh, do not complain, walk every day, love music, do volunteer work, play bridge, have lots of interests and tons of friends, get to where you have to go early, and have many places to go. She also said you have always loved your routine and didn’t like to deviate from it. Brava to that, particularly not kvetching and loving your routine.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 5, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
LASAGNA AND MARGE In her 70s, my mother began to call some women “Marge.” The real Marge, a kind, caring neighbor, visited my parents with homemade cookies and condominium gossip. She enjoyed my mother’s company. She and my mother had great rapport. Mostly, Marge appreciated my quirky, unconventional mother. Mom felt safe with Marge. The first new Marge was my parents’ regular waitress at the Florida deli where they ate breakfast. She greeted them each morning with a warm hello and a basket of rolls, and then conversed as she brought their usual egg order along with a white paper bag for the uneaten rolls. When I counted eight bags in the freezer, Mom said, “Marge at the restaurant doesn’t want us to run out.” Other Marges included her longtime hairdresser and a doting home aide. On one of the aide’s days off, my mother fell, broke her pelvis, spent three weeks in the hospital, and then another three in the rehab unit of a nursing home. During that time, my father got pneumonia and died. In my mother’s absence, the doting aide found a new job. I explored other homecare options. None felt right. With enormous guilt, but little choice, I moved my mother in a nursing home in Buffalo, our hometown. In time, Mom blossomed. Her sass and wit returned. She looked and sounded happier and more relaxed than she had been as shut-in the condo when my father was alive. Except for a scowling night aide, she called “Lasagna” the staff showered her with attention and found her fun to be around. “Let’s leave this dump, Marge,” she told her favorite aide one day while I was there. “My daughter’s crazy and I’m missing something important.” “What?” the aide asked. “A man.” “What’ll you do with a man, Esther?” Mom said, “Neck around.” Another Marge polished her nails with wild colors. A kitchen Marge gave her lots of attention and bags of rolls to go. I was grateful my mother found Marges. Then one by one, they left. Mom began to complain. About the food, her stomach, bedtime, and Lasagna. One afternoon, when we were sitting together in the living area and Lasagna was sitting there by herself, my mother, fidgeting and glancing from her to me, said, “Lasagna doesn’t like me.” “Lasagna doesn’t seem to like anyone, Mom.” “She’s mean at bedtime. Why can’t I come with you?” Ouch! I spoke to the social worker before leaving. In the car, I thought about 8-year-old me many moons before, stuck in the children’s dining room at a Catskills resort. “Why can’t I eat with you?” I pleaded with my parents after only one uncomfortable meal. For the rest of that vacation, I sat in the main dining room between my mom and dad. I was not as good a parent to my 85-year-old mom. Later that month, my mother died. The doctor wrote ‘heart attack’ on the death certificate. He told me she’d been asleep. When I... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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GIVE MY REGARDS… It is bad enough they aren’t writing musicals the way they once did. And that we no longer have a Frank Loesser. Or a Rogers and Hart. Or a Rogers and Hammerstein. Or an Adler and Ross. Or a Lerner and Lowe. Colony Records, the great Manhattan music store on the Great White Way, recently bit the dust. The news of its closing six weeks ago (NY Times, August 24, 2012) with a photo of Ernie Doole, a longtime Colony employee, in the basement, dismantling shelves, hit the wrong notes. And hit hard. In the mid-1950s, my family began taking car trips from Buffalo to Manhattan once or twice a year to catch the latest shows. Afterwards we would head over to Colony Records. My father bought me the song books of The Most Happy Fella, Carousel, The Pajama Game, The King and I, Guys and Dolls and whatever else we saw. Piano books from Colony Records were the souvenirs I brought home. As a New York resident and theatergoer since 1967, I became a regular there, stopping in when I’d go to the box office for tickets and before and after the shows. I am not a browser or shopper except at stores that sell music and books. At Colony, I browsed and talked to the salespeople who enriched me with what they knew about composers, groups, and solo artists. Individual pieces and books of Rogers and Hammerstein, Debussy, The Beatles, Chopin, Sinatra and tons of others from Colony are piled high on and next to my piano. As a music teacher in a public school in the early 1970s, I got all my piano books there including “Great Songs of the Sixties.” I still play the songs from those at home. In recent years, Broadway musicals, with few exceptions, have been devoid of heart. And catchy tunes. Only on rare occasions have I walked out singing or humming. Only on rare occasions, do the melodies and lyrics play over and over in my mind. At least there was ALWAYS Colony Records. A visit there and a songbook purchase compensated for super expensive, uninspiring shows. Now that show has closed. An evening on Broadway without stopping there to schmooze, treat myself to a little night piano music, and fill up with what only this sixty-four year old establishment and one-of-a kind-store provided holds no allure. Musicals have lost their magic. Their oomph. Their freshness. Their spark. With the presence of Disney and the absence of Colony Records, the Great White Way has lost its soul. Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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HELLO GIRAFFE This silver-framed picture of my friend, Doreen, is on a shelf next to my desk. The actual picture is four inches by six inches. Doreen was 5’ 10.” In 1965, the day before freshman orientation at Western Reserve University, Doreen and her mother walked into the Howard Johnsons across from campus where I was eating breakfast with my parents. Other kids, flanked by parents, looked anxious. Doreen, with a spark in her eyes, stood out. We smiled. Our outfits were almost identical: navy sleeveless mock turtle neck shells and madras plaid A-line skirts. Hers was taller. “That one towering over her mother is pretty,” my father said. Pretty. Inviting, Warm. Later, as I was moving into my dorm room, I saw her unpacking in a room down the hall and got excited by an already-familiar face and possible friend. That night for our floor meeting, most of the girls appeared in jeans or cut offs. Doreen shuffled in wearing furry bedroom slippers, a head full of rollers, and pink man-tailored pajamas, like the kind she bought me for my birthday almost four decades later. I motioned for her to sit next to me. As the dorm mother announced the dorm rules, I turned to herand whispered, “You look like a giraffe.” Our 41-year giggle-and-gab-fest began. On Saturday evenings, she shuffled around in her rollers, slippers, and pajamas, as most of us got ready for dates. Too tall and shy for most boys, she said she wasn’t even sure how to accept a date. The year before in high school, a male classmate called and asked if she wanted to go to the senior prom, she said she did, but no one invited her. “That’s what I’m doing,” said the boy. She claimed it didn’t bother her that she stayed in. “That’s the way it is,” she said. But in the middle of our sophomore year, she transferred to NYU and lived at home with her parents in Hewlett, Long Island. When I got accepted to NYU on a junior year program, her father urged her to room with me in the dorm. He thought I was perky and sociable so she’d probably meet people. He didn’t mean people. He meant a guy. In September 1967, Doreen arrived at our dorm, Rubin Hall; with her mink paw coat and her fall. We went everywhere together: to class, Chinatown, shopping, museums, the East Village. In our room, after or instead of studying, we gabbed and laughed the night away. Doreen was a math major. She didn’t study much. She got it. And she got me. No judgments. No rigidity. Doreen was accommodating. Kind. Each time I quit smoking and went back to it the following day, she’d go ‘bumming’ cigarettes for me from the girls on our floor so I wouldn’t be the only pest. She was Felix. I was Oscar. She put her papers and clothes away. I acquired clutter. And a law school boyfriend. I suggested we fix... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
I recently tried yoga. Again. Years ago, I took yoga classes. My not-too-flexible body did not bend easily. It was hard to hold each pose. Not the Corpse Pose. That I loved and could hold. I looked forward to yoga to do the Corpse Pose at the end. Partly because my gung-ho yoga friends claimed I’d reap immeasurable benefits and find my inner-Zen, and more because I am not a giver-upper, I hung in for a while. And I did reap benefits. -- I began to meditate. -- I became more aware of my breathing. -- I became more aware of how much I didn’t like yoga. I switched to Pilates. For three 10-session classes, I had the same patient instructor. She loved teaching. She made Pilates fun. It became part of my routine. But a few months ago after a friend showed me the Plank and Boat Poses, I resolved to try yoga again in a committed way and registered for a 10-week course. The course began after the yoga injury excerpt from William Broad’s book THE SCIENCE OF YOGA appeared in The New York Times Magazine, giving even longtime practitioners pause. “Make sure your teacher doesn’t go too fast or make you do too much,” the friend suggested. Of course. Before our first Saturday morning session, I asked the teacher--Yvette I’ll call her-- if she’d read the Times piece. She hadn’t. She hadn’t heard about it. She had already informed us that she woke up earlier than she wanted after a late night out and took two subways to get to class. A nursery school teacher Monday through Friday and a former dancer, she may or may not have been a real yoga instructor. She answered my question with, “People get injured walking across the street, you know.” Duh! I’ve been teaching my entire adult life. The most important part of my job--particularly at the beginning--is to make my students feel safe. I sensed Yvette didn’t want to be there. Neither did I. But I’m not a giver—upper. I got on my mat between two co-eds and listened to what Yvette called her “meet and greet” talk: a monologue about her dancing days and her tough job with her “babies” at nursery school, and an explanation on what we should expect: aches. Next she told us to stand. That I could do. Then the five others--ranging from twenty to thirty something--stretched and contorted into poses I could not hold. Or pronounce. I did what I could. My body ached. I came out of the poses long before the others. I felt like Woody’s Allen’s fumbling cellist in the marching band in Take the Money and Run. Yvette walked around adjusting limbs and saying, “Uh huh. You got it.” To them. Me, she adjusted. Adjusted and twisted, pulling my body parts into different directions from each other and into directions they didn’t want to go. Her response to my injury inquiry had made me tense. Now I was tense,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
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Sep 27, 2012