Sunday, July 7, 2013

Surround Yourself with Strong Women-- Part One

Only the glasses and the soft gray hair sticking out from under the red turban where familiar as I approached the figure in the Aladdin style shoes, the bright, teal, billowing pants and the elaborately embroidered rich, orange tunic bent over a flower bed.

“Mrs. Rhodes?” my tentative 7 year old self asked. Mrs. Rhodes was our next door neighbor. Her husband had died years ago—they were artists who had lived in the city and moved out to this small old house next to our larger old house. I spent so much time in Ms. Rhodes’s house that I am sure I know it better than even my own childhood home.

From her tiny kitchen came the best bread, cookies and jams. In the kitchen we would sit at little table and have tea and cookies most afternoons. She would tell me about her travels—she had been everywhere. She had this beautiful Bauhaus teapot she picked up in Paris that was on a shelf above the table along with an eclectic collection other housewares from around the world—an ornate patterned dish from Turkey, a beautiful ceramic baking dish from England, a clay pot from somewhere else. Every piece had a story.

 She had just returned from months aboard where she had gone to Turkey and Greece with her travel companion, an equally old and robust woman. They had, of course, stopped in the Island of Rhodes creating quite a little commotion due to her last name. But today’s story was about Turkey. She smiled at me with her gardening trowel in hand—“Do you believe it?” she said, “this is what farmers wear in Turkey.

 I did believe it, because I believed everything that Mrs. Rhodes told me. She was a wonderful teacher and I credit my love of books and art to Mrs. Rhodes even more so than my own intellectual and artsy family. She was excited to show me her new found Turkish skill—spinning yarn with a spindle top. She brought back one for me too so we could make yarn together. She learned from an old peasant woman in a small village in the hills--Slowly out of a piece for fluffy lamb’s wool a string of yarn would appear created by the spinning motion of the top-like spindles at our feet. Mrs. Rhodes could not wait to knit something with the homemade yarn.

And that was the thing about Mrs. Rhoades—she was always traveling, always learning and always excited to teach a new skill to someone else. The best skill she taught me was to be a fearless traveler—people around the world are interesting and interested and it a big beautiful world full of amazing things to learn from people and it is all so much fun. I asked her once—why did she travel so far away? Why did she always go overseas—did she not want to see the United States? “Perhaps when I am older” She said.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Don't Be THAT Girl

“I always tell my daughters—Don’t be THAT girl. Don’t be that stupid girl who gets into the car with a stranger, takes a drink from someone you don’t know, walks down a deserted street…DON’T BE THAT GIRL—You Hear Me?!” My co-worker relates her maternal warning to me and The Beast. We are both quaking.

But that is how you feel as a mom—you see news reports, photos on milk cartons, stories in local papers about a girl…a nice girl, who was probably just being polite, not thinking and there she is…gone. Just the shattered family left behind. How could she have been so stupid, what was she thinking? But that is the thing—girls are taught to be nice and it is so easy not to think when you already know how to be polite.

The other day I was driving The Beast and her friend, The Bulldozer, into the city for a YouTube concert thang that I will not even pretend to understand and I was giving my pre-subway lecture for the benefit of The Bulldozer. " Don’t stare, if there is trouble in the car or some creepy guy—change cars. If someone actually bothers you—call out loud and clear: NO, Leave Me Alone! and New Yorkers will respond and help."

Thanks to my co-worker The Beast and I now just a code phrase to avoid the long lecture—"Don’t Be THAT Girl."  And I pray when the smooth talking guy pulls up in his car or a cute boy offers a drink or the short cut down the deserted street beckons that the fear of Being THAT Girl will overpower all other thoughts.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"I Want a Divorce!"

“Shhhh!” I said to my friend who had called in a tizzy after a fight with her husband. “Never give them hope. If you mention divorce they see a light at the end of the tunnel. Just tell him that you want to go to couples therapy. Because, really, what is worse for a man than talking to his wife about his feelings…that’s right—adding a third-party.”

She was unconvinced, but then I reminded her about how difficult it is to move and who would lift the heavy boxes. “Let’s not go crazy. It is a tight real estate market again just try it--mention therapy, wait for the look of horror and then disgust to cross his face when it finally dawns on him that you mean he HAS TO GO TOO, then open a bottle of wine and see how responsive and nice he is.“

I hear her breathing calm… “I tell you—Therapy REALLY does work.”