Thursday, December 31, 2009


Ten years ago, I was ... selling a house which was a home for thirty years ... finalizing a divorce while celebrating my daughter's marriage ... anticipating becoming a grandmother for the very first time ... working full time as a college administrator and advisor ... surrounded by a network of family and friends ... twenty-five pounds lighter ... moving into my very first apartment ... starting over.

I spent New Year's Eve with a childhood friend as we both welcomed, not just another new year, but a new millennium as well. Wow, 2000 A.D. Millennial hopes and dreams did abide. I am usually quite the optimist.

Now, ten years later, I am ... not where I expected to be. Life is funny that way. I want to reach back and grab this decade, shake it hard, tell it to straighten up and fly right. But I can't. None of us can.

On this last night of this past decade, I will think about the next ten years, humbly, with lowered expectations. I am tired, feeling much older, knowing that I should pay closer attention to the words on a Christmas card from a family friend:

We yearn for
Peace beyond our fear
Light after darkness
Hope in the midst of despair
Joy following sorrow
Life coming from death
Compassion learned from pain

I will throw these words around my shoulders and let them keep me warm.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


We had looked in several stores already, hand in hand as we searched for the perfect dress for Sophie's holiday concert.

I use the term 'holiday' loosely. Sadly, this year's songs had little to do with the religious traditions of the season. Certain parents had objected to the idea of actually singing carols and folk songs so the school played it safe and chose songs about the environment, community, and the 'power of one'. Instead of Frosty the Snowman (how politically incorrect could one snowman be?), the audience got to hear about falling rain and snow on mountain peaks with no mention of a Winter Wonderland. Nonetheless, the kids did their part and learned all the non-offending lyrics well.

Parents and grandparents came, took pictures, applauded and affirmed their progeny. I was shamelessly taking digital pics and video recording throughout. The girls looked lovely and lively onstage. I missed the familiar refrains of familiar songs but couldn't help but enjoy the excitement Sophie and Hannah were feeling.

The sense of mystery and wonder which was missing from the secular concert was provided by Sophie's dress. After several stores and no luck, she and I turned a corner in Macy's and both let out a small gasp. I tightened my hold on her hand as she dared to ask, "Oh, Babci, it's so beautiful. Can we buy this one?"

This dress even had a miniature dress attached which would fit her American Girl doll. It was so well made and it was on a 50% reduced rack. I could not believe my eyes and Sophie's good fortune!

We found the fitting room and, as soon as she slipped into it, I knew that Sophie and this dress were meant for each other. As I helped her step out of the garment, I looked at the label and my heart leapt. This carefully made dress was a Cinderella fashion. Memories came flooding back. My grandmother, an immigrant who never learned how to read and write, knew how to sew. She, in fact, worked as a seamstress decades ago for a mill which made Cinderella dresses. I remember my mom telling me how my Babci would often save her wages and purchase the Cinderella dresses for her granddaughters. Here I was, finding a Cinderella dress for Sophie!

How I wish my mom and my Babci had lived long enough to see this new generation of grandchildren, to see the glow in Sophie's eyes as she became a Cinderella for her school concert. The songs, themselves, no longer mattered as much. The magic of the season was in the dress.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Watch the tram car

This has been a whirlwind of a summer and I'm so overdue here. Let me share a rundown ...

The month of July brought: unemployment, birthday-gift trip to Vancouver BC (tour of a television set, hobnobbing with the cast and production crew of Sanctuary), the official "Mattern Cousin Reunion" with the Pacific Northwest Matterns descending on us here in the Berkshires, followed by a three-day August excursion to the Jersey shore. I'll start with the shore trip and blog later about the reunion and Vancouver BC experience.

What great fun to introduce my granddaughters to the Jersey boardwalk! It was a spontaneous decision and Jenn and I jumped at the chance. We found a family motel in North Wildwood, one block from the beach and boards. The first night we initiated Sophie and Hannah into 'walking the boards'. Actually, the Wildwood boardwalk is over two miles long so we also let the girls ride the tram car up and then walked back, checking out the rides and vendors. They were totally in awe and clamoring, "Oh, we love this place!"

If you've never experienced the chaos of a Jersey boardwalk (and three amusement piers), then it would be hard to describe. It's like a county fair on speed. I grew up with trips to Wildwood, Ocean City, Seaside Heights - this was the blue-collar solution to city heat and summer doldrums.

Jenn took her first baby steps in a motel in North Wildwood, just a block or two from where we stayed. Parents, aunts and uncles, cousins all were part of the flashbacks I experienced as I introduced the girls to life at the shore. Heck, I even spent part of my honeymoon in Wildwood! Now that I think of it, Jenn may have had her start in this town. Indeed.

After such a long hard winter, it was so much fun to watch Jenn and the girls as they savored everything. Sophie learned to boogie board and jump the waves; Hannah hit a 'jackpot' slot in the arcade and her eyes nearly popped out as a long line of coupons started spitting out of the game machine. She went on lots of rides but deferred to big sister when it came to the real thrillers - the old-fashioned wooden coasters and the many crazy, stomach-churning specialties that Jenn and Sophie loved. In that, they were so like my mom. I, on the other hand, was perfectly content to take Hannah to the Carousel or Duck Pond instead. The glow of the night lights shined in her eyes as she excitedly absorbed everything and told me, "Babci, I will remember this forever!" The four of us did share a ride on the huge Ferris Wheel and much to my astonishment, the dare-devils, Jenn and Sophie, were more nervous at the top than Hattie and I!

We were making new memories while I relived the old.

Each night we came back from the boards way beyond the kids' normal bedtime and happily exhausted. The girls weathered the entire trip so well, little troopers. Hannah decided that she and Sophie would like to live in Wildwood but how early would they have to get up for school? And could their girlfriends stay over?

I saw myself in their squeals and smiles, knowing that my grandmom, my Babci, was a part of my earliest Wildwood days too.

Summer on the boardwalk ... hearing my daughter laugh out loud and watching her share this wondrous experience with her own daughters for the very first time.

There's nothing quite like it.

Friday, July 03, 2009


It had to happen. And today was a perfect day to make it happen.

My daughter has been taking the heat all week for an article she had published in the Boston Globe. Writing in her usual humorous and self-deprecatory style, Jenn related how she and her two little girls handle the everyday occurrences of living in a very small house and how they often share moments of nudity (and hilarity). The vitriolic comments that followed her article were hard to read - mean-spirited and judgmental accusations which alleged that she was a "corrupter of civilization". How dare she show her naked body to her small children! How dare she answer their questions about such naked bodies!

What the inflamed, self-righteous readers fail to realize is that my daughter is one of the kindest, least judgmental people on this planet. She is also one of the walking wounded. Divorce and mental illness have become a part of her everyday life. She certainly didn't 'ask for' such heartbreaking circumstances but she has taken the cards she's been dealt and plays them with courage, compassion, and humility. She has had more than her share of what some will call bad luck for the past few years: job lay-off, nil finances, medications wreaking havoc with her memory and writing skills. Somehow she wakes up each day and struggles to find meaning and give meaning to the people in her life, including her priority - her precious two daughters.

There is not a mean bone in Jenn's body, so for her to read the hateful commentary following her magazine article came as a shock. However, she has met the hatemongers straight on and asserted herself online. I wish I could be as brave.

Knowing all this and how crazy a week it's been, I called her this morning. She needed a diversion.

Me: "Hey, Jenn, I really need to go shopping this weekend for clothes for my trip. I'm flying to Vancouver next weekend and nothing fits."

Jenn: "Sure, let's do it. I know you like to use me as your personal assistant on this kind of stuff. (Laughter at other end of the line.) Funny how I'm great at dressing other people but never take care of my own wardrobe."

Me: "Super. I'll pick you up for breakfast and then to the Mall. I really need a bra."

We do breakfast and a couple hours later ...

Jenn: "Find the fitting room. No, no ... don't touch the lingerie. Just give me your size and LET ME pick the bras."

Me: "You're such a good daughter. I have to look really nice for the visit to the television set."

Me (in fitting room with my daughter): "Wow, I hope these bras are what I'm looking for."

Jenn: "You've trained me well, Mom. A good foundation garment sets the tone - then we'll find you a nice top."

Now, if anyone reading this has had a problem with Jenn's Boston Globe article, I suggest that you stop reading right now. Go open your Reader's Digest. NUDITY AHEAD ...

Me (now stripped to my waist and struggling into Jenn's first choice for my foundation garment): "Er, are you sure this is my size?"

Jenn (chuckling): "Mom, the first rule of a good fit is to hang those puppies down and slide 'em into the cups."

Me (wishing I had inherited my father's genes rather than my maternal Polish peasant-stock knockers): "Okay, they're in. I hooked up the back. What do you think? It's a 'minimizer'. (Ha! That's like trying to hold back Niagara Falls with a bucket!)

Jenn (professionally as if she's done this for years): "Let me slip my fingers in here and pull the straps up a bit. Okay, this one works."

Me: "I need a sports bra today for when I finally return to the gym."

Jenn (looking dubious): "Mom, that's not what we came for today. Let's concentrate on everyday apparel and your upcoming trip, eh?"

Me: "Should I try the other two on?"

Jenn: "Mom, treat yourself. You certainly need more than one considering what you own right now."

I try, I squirm, I wiggle my aging, abundant flesh into my personal assistant's tasteful selections. She eyes me critically and helps me decide on the final choices. I look at myself in the mirror and wish that my youthful, perky bosom was staring back. As my best friend would say, "It is what it is. Deal."

By now, Jenn has found a bra or two for herself and proceeds to strip and try them on. She is now almost forty, the mother of two.

Our bodies are the bodies of women who have gone through many transitions. Jenn reminds me of this and we both take a moment to honor the reality of our soft flesh, curves and cellulite. We are what we are. We are real women.

We hug and smile. Our bodies are no strangers to each other. She sees her future; I see my past.

I suddenly say, "God, how sad about those commentators. They could turn all that negative energy into something positive, like an uplifting bra."

She looks at me and we are now laughing so loudly that we fear a sales assistant will come rushing in to check on us.

Between the giggles I manage to blurt out, "I meant an uplifting blog!"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pilgrim soul

To my daughter on her birthday, a poem by David Whyte from The House of Belonging.

... one small thing
I've learned these years,

how to be alone,
and at the edge of aloneness
how to be found by the world.

Innocence is what we allow
to be gifted back to us
once we've given ourselves away.

There is one world only,
the one to which we gave ourselves
utterly, and to which one day

we are blessed to return.

I love you, Jenn, and bless you on your journey.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The wonder of it all

Twice in my life, I became a mother.

I was not ready, at first, for the tremendous responsibility of holding that tiny newborn and trying to calm her cries, giving her what she needed. Those first few weeks were a blur of anxiety and apprehension. Am I doing it right? The it, of course, being motherhood. My mother only smiled back at me, wisely and mysteriously. She knew what I had yet to learn, that children are resilient and everything was going to be fine.

By the time my son arrived, I had learned a lot. Not only was I more relaxed but so was he. Big eyes, quietly attentive ... watching, always watching.

I love the mathematics of motherhood. The years of struggling and caring and worrying and trying to get it right. Providing roots but also wings. The years fly by and suddenly, from 2, there comes a new generation of 1,2,3,4,5! Now it's my turn to smile and assure my grown kids that they are beautiful and strong parents, that they are certainly doing it right.

Beyond the abundance, I return to a simple act - holding my daughter, stroking her until she falls asleep. Doing what I did so many years ago, wiping her tears and providing a safe space.

I think being a mother takes you to the heights and depths of human experience. Your children's joys and sorrows carve niches in your soul. Sometimes, the richest moments are the most basic. Holding. Comforting. Knowing when to be silent. Looking down at your grown daughter's sleeping face and catching your breath ... remembering those eyelashes on a baby, held and sung to so, so long ago. Smiling your mother's smile and praying that everything will, indeed, be fine.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Swimming lessons

I usually write positive things but this seems the perfect day to release some bad news at the micro level.

My job is 'being eliminated' on July 1. My boss told me the same afternoon I found out that I have some dental problems. The dental problems have turned into three surgical procedures. No dental plan. Small amount of savings as a nest egg for the unemployment will now be re-directed to the periodontist.

Sophie's favorite goldfish (it was actually black and silver) went belly up under my watch. I have yet to tell Sophie who named this little fish Midnight and faithfully reminded me to sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" each night to both Midnight and Goldie. At her last sleepover, though, she announced that the fish were older now and didn't need the lullaby. I think I need the lullaby. Goldfish is tucked away in a plastic cup in the freezer. I owe it to Sophie to let her decide how to settle the remains of her little friend. One if by land, two if by sea ...

Jenn is still trying hard to keep herself afloat. The latest there is a hole in the roof. You can't even make this stuff up.

May day, May day! I guess we'll keep treading water until the rescue ship arrives.

A mother-daughter sitcom. Or the Titanic.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Declarative sentences

"I'm glad you moved here, Babci."

It was spoken softly by the little dark-haired girl descending my staircase. I was in back of her and almost missed the spontaneous words. Sophie's sincerity caught me by surprise.

"Sophie, I'm glad I moved up here too, to watch you and Hannah grow."

"You would have missed a lot."

"I know." Oh, dear heart, I know. Believe me, I know.

"Thank you, Babci, for having me for a birthday sleepover."

"My pleasure." My delight.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lambs and sinners

March has suddenly morphed into early April and still the cold lingers. Sophie spent another delightful weekend sleepover and we raced to the car last night while blowing snow tickled our faces. At least Easter will be arriving soon with its message of renewal and redemption. I think I need both. I've been a bad girl.

Sophie and Hannah and their mommy had treated me to dinner out a few weeks ago to celebrate my birthday. I made the mistake of ordering grilled lamb. Ah, by the time our dinner plates arrived, both girls had scolded me into losing my appetite.

"Babci! You're going to eat LAMB? Poor baby lambs?! Aw, poor SNUGGLY, CUTE baby lambs?" Hannah, in between her chocolate milk and fresh rolls and butter, continued to fix me with a mother-superior glare which wilted the lettuce on my plate.

"I promise not to order lamb ever again, girls." Wink, wink. Nod, nod. When did kids get to be so politically correct?

Faced with their pleading looks and the knowledge of just how much those two shriveled lamb chops were costing, I opted for the economical solution. I ate the lamb.

Years ago, when their mommy was about their age, I was a member of a church folk choir aptly named "Lambs and Sinners". Some weeks, depending on how well we played and sang, we were the lambs; other weeks, the sinners. We took turns spreading the collective catholic guilt around based on our musical performance.

Yesterday, at another restaurant, I tried to swat a tiny fruit fly buzzing around my drink but missed. Good thing I missed. Sophie, the lone witness, delivered an incredulous stare while asking, "Babci, you weren't really trying to kill that fly, were you?!" Sigh. Foiled again.

You think I would have learned my lesson but it doesn't end there. While shopping for some household items at the same mall, Sophie grabbed my hand as I reached for the Windex. She nodded a firm 'no'. "It's bad for the environment, Babci." I passed.

Life's teachable moments. But aren't I the one who's supposed to be the teacher?

Ecological awareness in the youngest generation ...

Lambs = 2
Sinner = 0

Monday, March 30, 2009


My mom was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts. Greenfield is less than an hour away from where I, my daughter and granddaughters now live. I find this quite amazing considering that all our family stories are set in Philadelphia.

Just why Mom was born in New England remains a family mystery. Philadelphia was where she and her folks set down roots, where I was to grow up. Perhaps my granddad (who became a steel worker) was cheap immigrant labor on a railroad project. Driving from western Massachusetts to Philadelphia is an effort even now, six hours by car. How the heck did my grandparents make the trip up here in the middle of winter, a century ago?

They are all gone, long gone. The mystery will not be solved unless Jenn and I do some serious genealogical research in the state archives. We plan to one day.

One hundred candles would have adorned her birthday cake today. Many live to that age now. She was not destined to do so. We lost her too soon, too fast. A doctor would tell me, after emergency open-heart surgery, that she was "in God's hands". We had her with us ten more heroic days but her damaged heart could not recover. In the end, she squeezed my hand and whispered, "Be good. I want to go to sleep now." She had earned her rest.

The family caregiver. The big sister. The loyal wife. The loving mother. Serious child (Sophie again). A flapper, a flirt. Funny (I hear her now in my daughter's laugh). An immigrant's child who scrubbed the marble steps of wealthy families. A laundress. Beautiful, in many ways. Her smile was radiant. Her patience and kindness, steady and admirable.

She was born just over those nearby mountains. I'd like to think she's found her way back just to be close to us. I'd like to think that smile is still shining down on the great-granddaughters she never got to know and on that one granddaughter whom she adored.

Happy Birthday, Mom. We miss you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Love notes

Yes, today's the day. My Medicare card is on its way. I am turning the big "65" and have very mixed feelings about this whole getting older thing. At 60, I felt much more svelte, alive and adventurous. A lot has changed these past swift five years. Some good. Some not so good. Life happens, eh? I am working again, full time. Retirement seems farther away than ever now that the Ponzi schemers on Wall Street and greedy bankers have vaporized my one 401K plan which was modest to begin with. It's not like me to wake up with depressing thoughts, especially on my birthday.

A phone call from Jenn just now had me smiling and provided a much needed mood correction. If I jettison the self-pity and look at the adult kids and grandchildren, I can sit back and say, "Wow, did these amazing creatures come from me?" Nature versus nurture. It has to be both.

My mom would be 100 years old at the end of this month if she were still with us. I think she provided a true holding environment for me and I hope I carried on that tradition of love, laughter, common sense and goodness. "Be good." Those were her last words to me. I hope that's become a family legacy.

My daughter got me to sign up on Facebook a few months back. Recently, I challenged her to write a response to a list of questions that were being asked of small children. I felt that adult kids should have the opportunity to reflect on their parents too. Here are Jenn's answers:

1. What is something Mom always says to you?
a) It's going to get better, Sweetpea.
b) Did you take your meds?
c) I love you.
d) Want to go get a bite to eat?

2. What makes Mom happy?
Let me count the ways. Mom has a terrible psychiatric condition called euthymia...which means happiness finds her, everywhere.

3. What makes Mom sad?
Seeing me sad.
The past.
The things she never found out from her mom.

4. How does your Mom make you laugh?
Again: let me count the ways. We are so divinely different and so the same, it's a perfect setup for comic material. Her ethnic chameleon ways: "HOLA! I AM MARIA ELENA!" Rear-ending parked cars: "That wasn't so bad. I don't know why you had to act like that was so bad. Was that bad? Don't look. Was that bad? Get out and look but don't look like you're looking." Her posting Auschwitz pictures ON FACEBOOK.

5. What was your Mom like as a child?
Strapped to an accordion. Fearful of nuns, chubby until high school, where she was a laugher and adored.

6.How old is Mom?
I am answering this one - the big "65" today!!

7. How tall is your Mom?
5'3 to 5'4ish.

8. What is Mom's favorite thing to do?
Sunday drives, like her father used to do. Shopping with me. Writing fan fiction. Travel to London, Krakow, anywhere. Playing with her grandkids, on both coasts. Posting pictures of my brother and me on Facebook while we beg her to stop.

9. What does your Mom do when you're not around?
Write naughtier fan fiction than usual. Pray to the shrine of Amanda Tapping.

10. If your Mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
Writing a fabulous book about blogging with her crazy, but lovable, daughter.

11. What is your Mom really good at?
Again, let me count the ways: She taught me how to write. She is the least defensive person I've ever known. She is a GENIUS BRILLIANT MUSICIAN. She is wonderful at caring for me...still. She tries so hard to understand my brain, even though it is a foreign country, no map.

12. What is your Mom not very good at?
Parking at the movie theatre. Watching a movie without talking. Subtleties, nuance. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

13. What does your Mom do for her job?
Helps kids find internships and get into college. HARD work.

14. What is Mom's favorite food?
Those little cucumber and fish circles drizzled in vinegar at the Thai restaurant. Pierogies, the real deal. Carbohydrates, baby.

15. What makes you proud of your Mom?
Her ability to roll with the punches, and to keep an open, hopeful heart and fabulous good humor, no matter how bad things get.

16. If your Mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
Maria Elena, the Ethnic Chameleon.

17. What do you and your Mom do together?
What DON'T we do together? Eat at every Bennigan's on the East Coast. Reminisce about family, old photographs. Take day trips together. Laugh together. Cry together. Get coffee together. Do laundry together. Watch 'Zack and Miri Make a Porno' together.

Wait, here's what we don't do together -- I can answer my own question: fight. We don't fight. We got that all out of the way a long time ago and now we're just crazy about each other.

18. How are you and your Mom the same?
Loving. Compassionate. Full of humor. Freak out at veins and IVs.

19. How are you and your Mom different?
It changes. Right now: She is white chocolate, sunshine, resilience, unencumbered, hopeful, outgoing. I am dark chocolate, a cloudy day, shaky, burdened, fearful, exhausted by social events. For now. And I don't mind the dog poo and Eli's enormous Shetland pony ways. Or 'Zack and Miri.'

20. How do you know your Mom loves you?
I know it with every fiber of my being. She says it in every phone call. She radiates it. It is the one thing I have never doubted, and that sure is saying something in a lifetime. She gives her all for me, no matter how exhausted she is.

21. Where is your Mom's favorite place to go?
London! And the Red Carpet (restaurant where she picks up hot dudes).

Thanks, Jenn, for this birthday gift! And thanks, Mom, for planting the seed.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Birthday Girl

You turn six today
Sweet sunny child of my son
Pisces just like me

Your blonde hair, shy smile
Make me smile back in return
Even if alone

Looking at your face
In a picture in my hand
Wishing you were near

Liv, my golden girl
So far away, so special
Six and then, sixteen

I want to stop time
Hold your childhood days in check
But you bounce ahead

Golden curls, giggles
Music, dolls, pretty dresses
Such a fair lady

Happy Birthday, Olivia!

Love, Babci xoxo

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some enchanted evening

I met a man tonight. In a restaurant. He offered to pay my bill.

It's the same restaurant I've blogged about before, nothing fancy or exotic. I love their beer-battered scallops. How can a place in the mountains serve such great scallops? Better than the Jersey shore.

So, here I am, first arrival of the dinner crowd. I have my pick of the place and choose one of my favorite booths - the one in the far corner where I usually sit facing the wall and thinking how much one of the hanging black-and-white photos looks like my son-in-law. Tonight, however, I decide to be social and sit facing the incoming patrons.

A large party arrives, very chatty, and seat themselves way up front near the windows. I order a glass of red wine and my scallops. Soon, a gent comes in and chooses the booth right in front of me. I'm reading the paper and pretending not to notice that he has now sat down facing me rather than sitting on the opposite side of his booth. Heh. This is something that usually annoys me, having another solitary diner facing in my direction. Tonight, though, I'm feasting on those juicy scallops and chilling out with Merlot. Life is good.

Suddenly, I hear someone talking to me. I look up and see a smiling face who is asking what I'm having. He wants to be friendly. I suggest the scallops. He says he loves seafood but he's allergic to scallops. I recommend the night's special, baked haddock. We are starting a conversation about ten feet apart and speaking over the booth. Quite odd, but the wine has kicked in and I'm mellow. He has already ordered a Heineken. I suddenly have the urge to raise my wine glass (above the rim of the booth) and say "cheers" but I refrain. As we eat in our separate booths, we continue to make eye contact and chat a bit. He's a bit hard of hearing and certainly older than I. But he really wants to talk to me.

It's been a while since I've done small talk with a stranger. I find, though, that I don't mind revealing bits of information as his words invite a response. We start with the weather. Doesn't everyone? He has a snow blower and I have been busy shoveling. He offers to clear my sidewalk when it snows again. Oh, boy. He was in the navy almost 20 years, traveled all over the world. And now I'm thinking, where have I heard this before? Is this the guy who was the lunch partner of "Stas"? Holy Hannah! Maybe I misread their dialogue after all. He seems quite interested in me.

He orders his fish; I order my dessert. He inquires about my "husband"; I give him the lowdown on my non-marital status. He shares that he was recently widowed after 40 years of marriage. And his eyes fill up with tears as he talks about his late wife and his stepson who is an architect in Maine (who designed something for the elder Bush). Funny how spontaneous conversations can reveal so much. He owns three apartments, was born and raised in town, and regrets that he never kept a journal or picture album of all his years in the navy. He doesn't have a computer but he does have an adopted grandson. I share that my son's a doctor and my daughter lives nearby with her little girls. He tells me that I don't look old enough to be a grandmother. This is as close as I've gotten to a date in years. He wants to pay for my meal, says it would give him pleasure. I defer but let him write down his name and phone number. He wants me to phone him at the next snowfall. Now this guy was in the navy during the Korean war and married over 40 years, maybe even a part of "the greatest generation" but, still, there is something sweet and kind about him. I listen to his story and I think that touches him. Two lonely diners. I finish my dessert sitting across from him in his booth. No harm done. He knows where I work and shyly mentions that he might drop in sometime. I get up and he stands to help me into my coat.

As I leave the restaurant, I am chuckling. A chance encounter, a man who has lost a partner whom he obviously loved very much. He wanted to talk to me. I responded. Nothing more, nothing less.

And, yet, why do I feel so much more alive and buoyant as I walk over the ice and snow to my empty apartment?