Up early, coffee-inspired, dressed, and ready to cross the threshold into a new day, Sylvia smiles at the prospect of the here and now.
In our 20s, we live with anticipation and energy; the goals (for most of us) are to make tomorrow come faster, have fun today, and remove ourselves from what we looked like yesterday.
The 30s hit and we live with hope that tomorrow will be easier; today we will get ahead a bit or at least stay afloat and that our mistakes from yesterday will not be repeated.
The 40s for many of us are wrought with anxiety and fear that tomorrow we will find that we do not have enough of anything – time, money, love or patience. Today we went through the motions and have little recall of what actually transpired. We long for the lack of accountability and responsibility we had in our youth – yesterday was not so bad.
Ah, our 50s and 60s? Well, we live with intention and purpose. Tomorrow is getting close and it promises nothing, so we focus on what absolutely must be accomplished today. Today we will carve out a little bit of time for ourselves, even if it’s only a second to reflect, breathe, write, or have a bit of conscious “me” time, for yesterday, though we intended to do just that, time slipped away and we cannot get it back.
And here’s where Sylvia & Erma stop and welcome the many wise and witty friends of a certain maturity to add their two cents which has infinitely greater value than anything either of the gals could pretend to know or even imagine.
This Sylvia knows: tomorrow is not guaranteed and yesterday is done. Here and now is all we have!
With Erma’s steadfast friendship and support, Sylvia has come to believe that she has the strength and power to sprout wings on the way down. Today, both admonish the danger of standing in the doorway. The gals recommend crossing the threshold into here and now. No hesitation. *********************
Thresholds are dangerous places, neither here nor there, and walking across one is like stepping off the edge of a cliff in the naive faith that you’ll sprout wings halfway down. You can’t hesitate, or doubt. You can’t fear the in-between. ~Alix E. Harrow, The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Sylvia: I’m thinking about life right now in terms of jelly donuts.
Erma: Of course you are. Everyone should think of life that way. Sweet and full. **************** One year ago today, while I held my father’s hand as he left this earth with the same strength, dignity, and humility that I imagine he entered with, I thought, “Why? Why now?” And after reflection with my son and conversations with God and those in my circle, I realize that the point is not how he died or even that he died. The key is how he lived. With integrity. With conviction. With zest and appreciation. With gratitude and intention. With love. With LOVE. Jelly donuts, folks.
And now I know. My father’s purpose and legacy is one that is so simple, so timely, and so easily missed if you haven’t been paying attention. Jelly donuts.
My father was raised by a man who emigrated from Russia in 1916. A slight, sweet man who raised a family and worked hard to provide. A man, a zayde, who trekked to Cousin’s bakery (New Britain, CT) to pick up jelly donuts and bulkies for his grandchildren. My father, Sam, learned from his father, Jack, the importance of jelly donuts. Jelly donuts every Sunday morning, rain or shine. Jelly donuts equalled love.
So, Dad, like his father, brought his four children jelly donuts every Sunday along with hard rolls and Breakstone butter. (Truth be told, a dozen mixed including jellies for him, two plain for Mom, and glazed, chocolate frosted, and sprinkles for the kids.) Every Sunday. When his children began to have children, Sam became Pop-Pop and would make the rounds to his grandchildren. Jelly donuts. Love.
When my father was declining, I never thought about my actions. I just did. I went into auto pilot. Comfort and consistency. Dad loved his jelly donuts. From Cousins bakery in New Britain to Village Bake House in Niantic to O’Henry’s in Morgan Hill to Dunkin on Cape, we devoured, savored, and indulged in jelly donuts. And I vowed when my father left my home that he would never go without a jelly donut! I’d like to think he never did.
Jelly donuts. Love. Giving and receiving of both. THAT is my father’s lesson and legacy.
Dad, the first man who had my heart❤ Missing you terribly, but I’d like to think that you and Mom are enjoying your favorites today and fighting over the crossword. **************** “To love and have been loved. That is the essence of a life well-lived.” ~ (K. Morgan)
I don’t know what time she was born. I guess I could dig out her birth certificate and find out easily enough. To me, my mother was born the day I came into the world. Obviously, she had a life “B.K.”(before K.Morgan), but I didn’t know her then. All I know of that woman who became my mother, both the little girl who wore braids and gingham and the young, blond-haired teen who played the drums before it was cool for a girl to play a full kit, has been conveyed to me through others’ recollections; her own accounts as she would share an anecdote from her past with the slightly or even poorly veiled purpose of teaching a lesson (Mom was not subtle in getting her points across especially as she neared death); and the photos that I have and covet, still kept in the rubbermaid container that she bequeathed to me before her passing and after my childhood home was cleaned out and sold more than a decade ago. And what connects all of the snapshots, real and those that I have taken in my mind’s eye which remain guarded like priceless treasure, are her eyes. It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul; thus, it follows and must be that my mother, B.K. and always, was and remains one of the most beautiful, trusting, and trusted souls God could have offered this world.
Most of us, not all – and I say that without one iota of judgment – love our mothers and have been loved by our mothers. I have been accused of worshipping mine. In fact, my mother often reminded me, especially as she closed in on fate, that she was indeed human, flawed like the rest of us, so she too should be allowed to make mistakes. She would often say that the one bad rap that mothers had to endure was that they were held to a higher standard than everyone else on the planet! Now that I’m a mother, I admittedly understand this so much better. I digress though.
I did worship my mother, something she never demanded or expected, but it happened nonetheless. How did it happen? Ah, that’s the question. The trusting and trusted eyes! My mother had xray vision, vision that led her to know exactly what another human needed. To many and certainly to her family, this special sense (some call it a sixth sense while others deem it intuition) was who she was and how she lived her life at the very core. And while she may have regretted not doing all of the things she had hoped to do before she died, I do believe she lived a purposeful life and her legacy is an honorable one. Her legacy? Her gift? She left it to everyone who had the honor and pleasure of looking into her eyes. My mother made those who crossed her path feel important, no matter their lot in life. She gave others hope. She found and saw something redeeming in everyone. She wasn’t oblivious to the harshness or evils of the world. She was far from naïve. She was perhaps not even optimistic. Mom was hopeful though; and I do believe there is a big difference between optimism and hope. I think, actually I know, that her trusting and trusted eyes became reflective of that difference.
I’m babbling a bit because as we all know the totality of a life cannot be put adequately into words. Indeed, my mother’s life cannot. Her legacy can though. Hope. She believed in me. She believed in my son, the only grandchild she actually witnessed enter the world. (That connection proved stronger for them than I could have every imagined.) And if you had the good fortune of meeting her, befriending her, working for or with her, she believed in you. That belief, the depth of it in those trusting and trusted eyes, keeps me hopeful to this day and through each day. I don’t believe that life is perfect and I’m far from thinking everything will turn out well in the end. However, I am hopeful.
On her birthday, I am going to trust her and her legacy. I’ll celebrate her life buying her favorite purple blooms, reminiscing about how she and my father captivated wedding crowds with their dance moves, and thinking of my son’s smile, the one he wears when he recounts either a memory he made with his champion, Nana. Her legacy of love and hope endures.
Thanks, Mom. And finally you will be happy to hear that I’ve come to realize that you never wanted to be worshipped; you wanted to be loved. You were. You are. You always will be.
Hey, you! Yes, you! Call your mother today. And when and if you have the chance to see her in person, squeeze her tightly—from me and my mom with love.
2021. All rights reserved. “The Adventures of Sylvia and Erma” overfiftyandfine.com
Yesterday, Sylvia was serving up slices; today, the helpings are not as pretty. Crumbled, in fact, but nonetheless fulfilling.
Erma: I can’t believe you are making pies from scratch, Sylvia. You have many talents, but as you and I know, baking is not among them.
Sylvia: You are assuming I am starting from scratch—a mistake on your part. I have all of the ingredients, but I know my limitations. Well, I’m beginning to anyway.
Erma: Ah, so you are cheating a little. I love that. What did you do? Store-bought crust? Canned fruit filling?
Sylvia: Neither of those. I started out making a whole pie. Rolled out the crust. Cored, peeled, and sliced up the apples and pears. Right on track to make a perfect pie, and then…
Erma: Then what? The phone rang? A neighbor dropped by? What happened?
Sylvia: I changed my mind. I decided that I didn’t want a slice or two of anything, so I let go of the idea of an entire pie. I made a whole cobbler instead.
Erma: You do realize that “whole” and “cobbler” don’t go together. You kind of took the easy way out, don’t you think?
Sylvia: Maybe, but I know that what I wanted today had nothing to do with nice and even. Big, heaping, crumbled scoops are what I needed today. I may not be a slice type of woman. Perhaps I need to accept that what I want is immeasurable and imperfect.
Erma: Syl, you are doing it again. You are overthinking. Some days a pie is simply a pie. Let it be a pie.
Sylvia: Not true, Erma. Pie is never simple. Why should I settle for a pie when a cobbler can be equally satisfying and a whole lot more fun to indulge in?! **************** March 14th, 3/14, is “Pi” day. Pi is an irrational number, but it can only be used as an approximate value. Irrational: unable to be expressed as a fraction.
And there it is… Sylvia and Erma remind each other that they are not pieces of a puzzle in their lives or the lives of others; they are whole just as they are! Nothing irrational about that. ***********************
There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.
Sylvia has been unusually preoccupied these first few days of March. The end of winter always has her dreaming and reflecting—even more than she ordinarily does! She dreams of places not yet visited, renewed purpose, and endless possibility. She reflects on the many stories Erma shared with her about how women wear different hats during different stages of life. Student. Sister. Wife. Mother. Executive. Housekeeper. And the list goes on. Erma always said that the most amazing friendships between women happen when we take off our “hats” and allow ourselves to be in the moment for and with each other.
When Sylvia happens upon a lovely duo who appears to be mother and daughter, she smiles and approaches them to gush about their obvious fun-loving nature and friendship. “M&M“—as Sylvia lists them now in her cell contacts—laugh; and then M, the beautiful, young brunette who looks ravishing in every single hat, offers, “She isn’t my mom. M is Mom’s best friend. We have become friends, too.”
The other M, the more experienced, mature, and equally lovely lady, adds that they have enjoyed a glorious and heartfelt day of love, laughter, and overlapping life experiences. Both of them said final goodbyes to very special people this past year. A powerful connection, indeed.
Sylvia, after sharing her personal story of loss from this past year as well and engaging in a bit of fun with her new friends, wonders, “What if Erma were here to share this experience? Sylvia is certain her best friend would be rolling her eyes and then nearly wetting her pants from laughter as each woman tried on hat after hat. Sylvia and the younger M would then have reminded their more seasoned friends of this new trend, “They are not hats. They are fascinators.”
Yes, fascinators! An absolutely fascinating connection between women that is sure to become a favorite memory. **************** “When women hear each other’s stories, told from the heart, it gives us inspiration to keep on going.” – Elizabeth Lesser ****************
Sylvia, feeling restless and a bit cantankerous this afternoon, closes the laptop and begins thinking out loud: Strength is a strange concept. “Be strong.” “You are stronger than you think.” “Keep fighting the good fight.” Tell me again how strong I am and how strong you think I have been and I might just punch you in the face. I know I am strong, damn it. And I know deep in my soul that I can survive anything—ANYTHING. Well, anything other than my own death, of course. This though, navigating these last ten months of life after loss during a pandemic no less, has tried, tested, and depleted me in ways I never could have imagined. I have tapped into reserves I never knew I had. Most days my belief in myself and my determination to thrive and find the ever-elusive (and illusive) happiness wins. It beckons an inner strength which comes disguised as stubbornness and fear of failure. Strength, or maybe it is willpower, comes cloaked in a thousand thoughts of vulnerability and self-assessment — oh yes, and a smile.
“Just because a person smiles all the time doesn’t mean their life is perfect. The smile is a sign of hope.” ~Anonymous ****************
“Who is your best friend, Erma?” Sylvia asks of her lifelong confidante.
“That’s easy,” Erma replies with a gentle smile.
And although Sylvia knows she has been a loyal and trusted ally, commiserator, and partner-in-crime, she is acutely aware that she cannot replace the true creator of enduring connections. Sylvia sighs with an assured and peaceful easiness as Erma professes that which Sylvia has come to learn fiercely through her friend, “Compassion. My unfailing companion. Stalwart, faithful, and the foundation of all of my loves and friendships.”
❤Compassion is something that when shown even with the smallest gesture is felt deep in the core of one’s being. It is a matter of being fully engrossed in that moment of delivery, both offering and acceptance.
❤Friendships evolve as a result of some of the most intimate commonalities we share knowingly and unknowingly. We do not know about our likenesses unless we open our minds and hearts and become our most vulnerable. Whether it is a common thread of having lost a loved one, endured a tragedy, celebrated a personal victory, or discovered a simple “aha, me too” moment, true connection often requires little effort. It just happens and only requires that we are open to its happening.
❤Every friendship is different. Some are profoundly intricate. Others are simply sweet. Some continuously nourish the soul. Others fuel a moment or event. Some are old and enduring and so deeply embedded in our very being that to live without them is unimaginable, for they sustain us and often resuscitate us. Others are new, lying on the surface, yet equally as important as the old, for they make-up pieces of the puzzle that we need. If the old ones are heaven and earth, then the new ones are all that lies in between.
❤Each of us has the ability to make friends. It doesn’t mean that “light” friendships- those formed between people who chat over FB or IG or other social media platforms; who were neighbors long ago; or who every so often we invite to or see at a dinner party, are superficial. It means that not every moment in our lives is supposed to be dissected to the extent that each instant carries equal impact and intensity. Friendships give us the yin and yang that we require- the joy and the sorrow, the laughter and the tears. Totality.
Love, hugs, and peace to you. Oh yes, and above all else, compassion.