Much To My Delight

Much To My Delight

When an Old Friend Comes to Town

When an Old Friend Comes to Town

 

Just when winter feels like it may never end, and the city’s brightness has been dulled by a callous wind and an unfaithful sun,

a little burst of light appears.

An old friend comes to town.

She is a tiny ball of fire, all revved up by the city’s interminable pace, the same one that makes you feel so tired much of the time.

She finds it thrilling, wild, inspiring, popping and crackling with energy and life.

She sees the city the way you used to see it,

Before the sheen on the Big Apple faded from high gloss to semi-matte.

times square

Her hotel is in Times Square, next door to the theater where some 22-year-old girl from Ohio’s dreams come true every night because she finally made the chorus in Chicago.

It’s only blocks away from the dirty hostel you stayed in during your first night in town almost 14 years ago,

Back when you had a lot in common with fresh-faced Ohio girls with dreams of making it in the big city.

You and your friend pace the streets until one in the morning, past ice skaters in Bryant Park and posh store windows on 5th Avenue.

And she is dazzled by the lights, the people, the buildings, and the smell of street vendors’ barely-burnt peanuts and cashews.

She tells you that she’s proud of you for moving here all those years ago; for saying you were going to do something and really doing it. And wow! she says. What an exciting place to live!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the way everything sparkled at 22.

Until an old friend comes to town,

and you remember.

me at 22

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Advice to my niece on her 8th birthday

 Today is your birthday, precious niece of mine. Well, actually, it was a few days ago, but you’ll notice as you get up there in age that sometimes things don’t go exactly as you planned. I obviously intended to write this a week ago but other obligations got in my way. My first piece of advice to you on your 8th birthday? Relish being an 8-year-old. Once you hit double digits time starts spinning much faster and you begin wondering where it all went. Things get complicated. Obligations multiply. Life gets trickier.
 I’m speaking to you frankly because you’re not a baby anymore, and I think you can take it.
Not only are you not a baby anymore, but I’m guessing that in a year or two you’ll be a foot taller than me. That’s hard for me to believe, and even a little tough to digest. These past eight years have probably moved at the speed of molasses for you, but like I said, time moves much quicker when you get older like me.
To me, it feels like only yesterday that I got the call from your daddy early one morning.
“Allison’s here,” he said so proudly into the phone. Man, that was a good day.
And you’ve given our family so many more of those. You’re our greatest source of joy.
But I’m not here to make your head swell by telling you what a sensational person you’re shaping up to be. If I was going to do that, we’d be here all day. No. My mission today is to give you some keen, earnest advice about life. Not because I think I’ve got it all figured out (trust me kid, I’ve got miles to go), but because I’ve been listening to that song “Ooh La La” a lot; the one with the chorus that rings: “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger.”
 So here goes. The stuff I wish I knew when I was younger. And don’t worry; this isn’t your gift. That’s still coming in the mail.
#1: Don’t get weird about food. Don’t restrict or deny. Don’t punish or withhold. That potato chip looks good, doesn’t it? Chew, swallow, enjoy–that’s what it’s there for. It’s okay to eat those–maybe not everyday–but sometimes. Remember: Extremes= bad. Moderation= good. This formula applies to a lot of other things too.
#2. Hit the pool everyday during your summer vacations. This is your shot.
I’ve never met an adult with such a luxury. Not even a rich one.
#3: I know you love your electronic toys, but be aware that when you’re my age and start reflecting on your greatest childhood memories, none of yours will include any of them. Never choose to play with a screen when you have the option of spending time with an actual person. Also: I know it’s not up to me, but try not to sign up for a Facebook account until you’re like, I don’t know… 30?
#4: Learn how to cook some stuff. Not because you’re a girl, and that’s what girls are supposed to do, but because you’re a human and humans need to eat everyday to stay alive. It’s good to know how to do things for yourself. Nothing wrong with getting help from others, but you’re capable of anything. Get started early–you’ll impress your friends and thrill your parents.
# 5: Keep rockin’ the bold fashion choices. You’re eight.
You can get away with pretty much anything. Werk it.
#6: Keep making this face. It’s your golden ticket. A lot of peoples’ smiles light up a room;  yours can brighten a galaxy.
And don’t give up streamer handlebars on your bike until it’s absolutely necessary.
Jason + Anna Photography
#7: You’re so pretty. Yay! Embrace it, feel confident, enjoy being a girl.
But then get over it, and fast because nobody likes a pretty jerkface.  Don’t be a mean girl. Ever.
#8. Go easy on those curves, lady. You almost bucked me off last time.
But I wholeheartedly endorse your fearlessness.
#9: If you have the chance to dance with your daddy, take it.
#10: Remember how loved you are. Every day, all the time, and for so many reasons.
Even if you never take any of my silly advice.
(PS: If you need more life lessons from Auntie Jenn, here’s last year’s letter.)
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Wedding Recap: Part One– Our Ceremony

 

When you date for nine years before getting engaged, you have ample time to fantasize about what kind of wedding you’d like to have. I knew I wanted to get married in my dad’s backyard in Texas years before backyard weddings became the trend, and long before my wonderful groom was ready to take that step with me.
I can tell you now: Our wedding was worth every minute of that wait.
In fact, I think our marriage will be stronger because of it. Not because dating longer is somehow better, or because we already have several years of commitment under our belts, but because that period of struggle–when I was ready, and he was not–taught us how to truly communicate our needs to each other. It forced me to exercise understanding even in my most impatient moments, and it gave him the time he needed to feel comfortable taking that walk with me.

I’ll say again what I said to friends who asked whether I thought we would ever get married.
“I would like to be married, but if it’s not in the cards, I’ll make my peace with that.”
The truth is, I would have rather stayed unmarried to him forever than gotten married to anyone else.
It was never just about getting married.
It was never just a desire to have a beautiful wedding.
It was about the two of us finally looking outward in the same direction, and looking forward to a long life with someone I have loved for a long time.
And okay… maybe it was about the thrill of seeing him look at me that way as I walked down the aisle. You can’t blame a girl for that.
My father shook his hand. The next-door neighbor gave the blessing. Our siblings did the readings.
We wrote our own vows.
And even planted a tree.
There were moments that made me smile.
And moments, of course, that made me cry. In this one, I’m reacting to my brother, who in a rare moment of sentimentality called his big sister beautiful. That’s the funny thing about weddings. Every person who agrees to be there reveals their love for you. Not just the person holding your hand.

Rings were passed onto fingers.

And when he looked in my eyes and called me his wife for the very first time, I didn’t know if my heart would be able to handle that much unbridled joy.
And just like that, I had a husband.

A long-haired, drum-playing, technology-obsessed, Croatian guy named Vinny from Queens.
He is really nothing like the type of guy I ever pictured myself marrying.

And so much more than I ever hoped my husband would be.

Nearly ten years ago, we sat on this swing in my father’s backyard and discussed the idea of dating. Seems like so long ago. But it also kind of feels like it was yesterday.

 

And though there have been some dips and curves along the way, taking this road with him has been the greatest adventure of my life.

So far, anyway.
Stay tuned for Part II–The Reception!
 
 
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35.

You know it’s funny–I don’t feel 35. Most days, I don’t think I really look 35 either. But yet, here it is–June 14th. My 35th birthday.

I still remember when 18 seemed old.

These days, my Facebook friends post birth announcements and snapshots of their kids’ birthday parties; news of their parents’ retirements and occasional passings. When you’re 35, there is a sudden undercurrent of panic about reaching advanced maternal age and a sobering realization that ogling Zac Efron without his shirt on is inappropriate and mildly creepy. The last time I had my teeth cleaned, the hygienist called me “sweet girl” and I found myself wondering how much time I had before people started addressing me as ma’am instead.

Still, I actually feel pretty good about this birthday (which is unusual, by the way). At 35, I know who I am, feel gratitude for what I have and care a lot less about keeping up with everybody else. I love life. That’s why I wish it wasn’t going by so fast.

I’m at a point when 18 seems so very young.

And because I am a full-fledged grown-up, there will be no celebratory shots or loud parties to attend. Instead I will slip into heels and a pretty dress and share a quiet dinner with the man who, God willing, will toast me on my 45th, 55th, and 65th birthdays too.

It’s a happy birthday.

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The Story of Bob and Sue

This is the story of Bob and Sue.

They met on the tennis courts in 1947.  
She was 18 with long, thin legs and inky-black hair like a movie star.

He was 21 with a gap-toothed smile, attending college on the GI bill. After a year of dating, they married and moved into a small trailer equipped with a two-burner stove, an ice box and an outdoor community bath. Money was tight and they both worked their way through college. Eventually they bought their first house for $8,000 and started their family.

They became educators. They had two children, and hosted barbecues and birthday parties in their backyard. They didn’t own fancy clothes or cars. They never took extravagant vacations. They continued playing tennis and golf together. They lived life simply, and appreciated everything. They had the same values, and they had each other, and it seemed like that was all either of them required for a happy, fulfilling life.

Before they became my grandparents, they were simply Bob and Sue.

A few years ago, at their 60th anniversary party, they were asked the secret to long-lasting marriage.

“Don’t get divorced and don’t die,” my granddad joked.

But if you read the book they wrote together last year–a living memoir of their life together–you’d hear how he really feels about his girl.

 “I met Susan soon after arriving at college and we dated for a year. She was my dream girl and I felt we were soulmates. We soon decided we wanted to marry. She was 18 and I was 21 and when we approached Mrs. Walker to get permission, she advised against it. We were totally smitten and we wanted to marry anyway. Mrs. Walker was probably right about it, but after 63 years of marriage I guess we did okay. We are still in love.”

And it shows.

They are respectful and kind to each other. They hug and hold hands and help each other off the couch. He still pats her butt when she exits a room and she still laughs at all of his jokes, even the corny ones. They are the kind of couple that is simply delightful to be around. They chose each other, and you can tell they chose right.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the couple who has taught me the most about love…

Bob and Sue.
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Advice to my niece on her 7th birthday.

Never call anyone stupid. You’ll forget that you said it, but they never will.

Don’t try so hard to grow up so fast. The makeup can wait. Wear braids and bows and pigtails as long as you can get away with them.

Learn how to accept the word no. Learn when it’s appropriate to say it too.

Play fair, and share all your toys.

Spend as much time as you can with your grandparents. They are interesting and exceptional people with many valuable traits to pass down.

Use your brain, your talents and your manners.

Expend your energy engaging in all the verbs that make childhood delicious–skip, bounce, sing, jump, spin, and twirl. Do them all as often as possible.

Don’t waste your energy comparing yourself to others too much. Instead of wishing to be more like them, find gratitude in the joys of being you.

Ask your dad to teach you to play guitar. Not only will you have a great time together, but one day when you’re grown and someone asks how long you’ve been playing, you’ll be able to say, “Since I was seven,” and you will feel like a total bad-ass.

Always lobby for the window seat. There’s a lot of good stuff in this world to see.

Don’t let pretty be the only word people think of when describing you. You are smart and kind and wonderful. Live in a way that makes everyone notice those things.

Play all you want with Barbie. Just don’t expect to grow up to have waist-length platinum hair, a disproportionately tiny waist or permanently pointed toes.

Don’t talk to strangers…unless they’re Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber…or whoever 7-year-olds are into.

Dream really, really big. Like, Texas-big.

Turn off the TV. Power down the computer. Ask a friend to go out and play. Ride bikes. Build forts. Pet  animals. Count stars.

Keep a journal. I wrote one when I was your age, and you have no idea how happy it makes me to read it as an adult.

Don’t be in a rush to shave your legs. It’s not as glamorous as it looks.

If a pony ride is available, take it.

Listen closely to your parents, your teachers and your elders. Tune out bullies, whiners and pessimists.

Don’t fight your mother on the sunscreen. You’ll thank her later.

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happy birthday brother

When you first came around, I wasn’t too sure what to make of you.
I didn’t know much, but I had a hunch you were trying to steal my thunder.
It didn’t take too long for you to grow on me though.
I liked you. Very much.
And held you close for as long as you’d let me.

We had some good times together, you and me. 
We golfed…
and wore matching sailor suits…
and attended lavish parties and galas. You were my very first friend.
Still, it was clear from the start that you and I are very different types of people. 
I am gregarious and chatty. You are mellow and reserved.
I am spunky. You are serious. 
I am the stooge. You are the straight man.
You don’t talk much, but when you do, it’s to say something hilarious or brilliant. Usually both.
We don’t hang out much, but when it happens, I have more fun than you really know. 
And you sure don’t hug me much, but when you do, I light up like a Christmas tree. 
Today is your birthday. You are 33 years old. You are smart, and talented, and fantastic at what you do. 
You have the world at your feet, and a really wonderful future at your fingertips.

And you have her. 
I’ve grown to like her. Very much.
And I will hold her close as long as she’ll let me.
And wouldn’t you know it…she is growing up to be quite spunky.
She is animated and very, very silly.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you’re a father, and she is the new stooge to your straight man.
But even though we’re all grown up… 
It’s nice to know that some things never change. Happy birthday Adam. I love you, kiddo.
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For Mama

For Mama

Some moms stencil roses on top of freshly baked pies and bake homemade petit fours for their daughter’s tea parties. Some volunteer for the PTA and design cookie bouquets for teachers. Others sneak into their kids’ room every night to turn off lamps, kiss foreheads, and gently slide glasses off the bridge of a nose.

Mine did all of that. She also served dinner on roller skates and let us throw a whole pot of cooked spaghetti all over the kitchen just because it seemed like fun. My mother has always been equal parts supportive and silly; grounded, but wild. I loved being her daughter because I could tell she loved being my mom. I felt lucky to be her kid. And now that I’m a grown-up, I’m lucky to be her friend.

She embraces people with an open mind and an open heart, and taught me to always do the same. She laughs easily and often and sprinkles joy like confetti wherever she goes. I try to live my life with curiosity, spunk and humor, and I learned how to do that by watching her.

It’s her birthday today, so technically when the candles are blown out all wishes should go to her.  But if I could steal just one, it’d be to live closer to the most special woman in my life because I miss her every day. I love you, Lil’ Mama.

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Happy Birthday, D.W.

Happy Birthday, D.W.

Back in my early New York City days, I shared a land line with my roommates. Listening to each others’ voicemails was unavoidable and my roomies used to get a kick out hearing the ones my Dad would leave for me. A thick Texas accent dripped off his tongue like honey and the message was always the same.

“Hey baby, it’s your Daddy. Just checkin’ in on ya. Hope you’re out havin’ fun somewhere.”

Like the rest of him, even his voicemails are charming. 
He is also handsome, easy to be around, and rather brilliant at what he does for a living.

He is the kind of person my brother and I are both striving to be, although my sibling seems to be doing that in more obvious ways. He has adopted my father’s manner of dress and followed him down the same career path. I like to think I’ve inherited his work ethic, his easygoing attitude and a personality that strikes an even balance between serious and silly.

Today is my Dad’s birthday. It’s an age that ends in a zero, a fact he’s trying to downplay as much as possible. To that end, I’m not gonna gush about how much I love the guy who cut and styled my hair until I was 17 and amused me with his spot-on Mickey Mouse impression. I won’t embarrass him by letting him know that my lucky streak began the minute I was born his daughter. I won’t make a big deal out of how great he is at the job of being my dad.

Instead I will say simply this:

Hey Daddy, it’s Jenn. Just checking in on ya. Hope you’re out havin’ fun somewhere.
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