December 25, 2016

The Most Thoughtful Gift I've Ever Gotten

From my niece: "So that you're never lonely."

How Traditions are Started

Today, while making gingerbread cookies, I competed in the world’s fastest question-answer period known to man:

 “Can I eat the cookie dough?”


“Can I eat the cookie dough?”


“Can I eat the cookie dough?”


It reminded me of my grandmother.

“Can I have this one?”


“What about this one?”


“I already touched this one. Can I eat this one?”


Born in the depression and brought up sharing bath water, my grandmother would make gingerbread cookies for Christmas and every year she’d burn the first batch. It became a source of much speculation in my family because despite 50 years of practice, she not only burnt the cookies­ she insisted we eat them first.

My dad said it was because she hated cooking and this was her way of expressing it. The problem was that cookies are cookies and one can develop an acquired taste for even the burnt ones. So she continued to make the cookies and we continued to eat them.

Today, 13 years since she passed away, I’m understanding her better. While answering a field of questions, I accidentally burnt a batch, and not only did I still get appreciation for making them but I also didn’t have to eat them. A nod to my grandmother, o wise one. 

December 23, 2016

Table Manners for the Holiday Season


I don’t have kids and to be honest I don’t like hanging around mothers. 'Yes' to woman with children. 'No' to mothers. And yes, there’s a difference but it’s not for reasons everyone thinks.

A lot of mothers don’t know what to do with me. They’re not sure if I like kids, they don’t understand why I don’t have them, and they don’t know what to talk about if it isn’t about family life. I know this because as soon as I talk about my life without children they suddenly become open to distraction. While they're telling me all about sleep deprivation their kid’s climbing an electrical fence. While I'm telling them all about jet lag it’s suddenly “Jimmy, don’t hold the Kleenex so tightly.” They’ll use the word ‘interesting’  and then avoid asking me questions. In other words, I find myself holding up a conversation with someone who obviously doesn’t want to talk to me in the first place.

So the musical Matilda is in town. My sister-in-law bought tickets for her kids and invited me. I adore my nieces but I envisioned myself either standing in a sea of mothers eager to talk about teachers or poo or worse enduring an awkward silence that can only be quelled by a conversation that doesn’t include me–except perhaps my nationality.

But it’s Christmas time and well, I adore my nieces, so to see Matilda I went. It was quite amusing. If you don’t know the story it’s about a little girl with misunderstood parents: two people, finding their way in the world and being vilified for it. Tango is not an easy dance to learn and Russians can be very particular about car ownership. But somehow life pursuits translated into bad parenting. In the end Matilda goes to live with her teacher.  The crowded cheered and I still don't get it. 

Shunned if you don’t, judged if you do. It’s much better to be an Auntie.

The Perfect Bow