Not your average Joe.

10 days into my life as a freshman in college, I walked over to my friend’s dorm room to see if she wanted to catch an early dinner. She couldn’t, she was helping an old neighborhood friend catch-up on some math notes. She introduced me to him and I gave her a look – sure you’re “studying”. Later that night she came over and I got the scoop. They really did just study. She had known him for years. She and her brother spent tons of time with his outgoing, friendly sister. Him, not so much. But he was cute. Super cute. And super intense.  I found out everything about the dude. This guy was not here to have a good time. He didn’t laugh easily and he was almost always working.  He was a bit of a loner. The few friends he had were loyal and protective – just like he was. This was the guy for me.

The next part of the story is up for debate. He says I stalked him until he gave in. I remember it differently. Same outcome. I was 19, he was 21.

College was a blur of happy memories. Summers in NYC, jobs on campus and off, friendships and drama and occasionally some classes. We broke up a few times, for a day or two. Then he apologized and I took him back (again, I’m sure he has a different version but this is my blog. There’s no fairness in blogging.)

He graduated before me and moved into an apartment down the block from the dorm. He had a roommate named JFK (seriously. and he was as quirky as his name.) By the time I graduated he got a better job and moved into his own place. I moved in quickly after.

He’s never said to me that “he needed space” or that “he’s not sure he wants to commit”. From the very first day he was all in.

What followed was the anti-NYC story. Marriage and babies in our late 20s and early 30s. It didn’t make sense to many – but it was so natural to us.

We are a bit of a mismatch.  We always have been. Different things make us tick. As you know, I like to get to know people. any people. I love a good chat. I’m all about a party. I love to laugh, I do it often and at really silly stuff. On paper, I’m the kind of person that drives him batty and he’s the type of person that I would keep away from. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of music. I only know what I like. He’s emotional, intuitive and can breathe fire in a nanosecond. I’m pragmatic, fickle and it takes a lot to get me angry. But we have a really good time together. I won’t say the yin/yang thing because it’s not all that zen. It’s volatile and passionate and I wouldn’t last with anyone else.

A couple of days ago, on his 43rd birthday, 22 years into knowing him – I told him that this would be our best year yet. And he looked at me and said,”it better be.”

When I named this blog he couldn’t figure out why the word “wife” came before the word “mother”. He thought my role as a mother is what defined me, the thing that mattered the most to me. He was wrong.

Happy Birthday baby.

This post will make him extremely uncomfortable and exposed – so why not go for it and add photos right?

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Family Mythology

I’m sure your family has some too.

Legends. Myths. Epic Stories. Exaggerated fables.  Things we talk about year after year and sadly or hysterically, pass on to our kids.

For example, my father came to this country with $8 dollars. Sometimes that figure goes down slightly due to current market fluctuation, but it’s around that number. My sister and I would hear about how he got a job, an apartment, and a car solely with his work ethic and determination. “How did he take a taxi home from the airport?” “Where did he stay?” “How did he find a job?” we’d ask. But that wasn’t part of the story.

A friend of mine told me that his Aunt Judy’s favorite story is about how her parents fell sick with the flu one winter and she and her brother (ages 5 and 7) cooked all their own meals for a week. This seems plausible if by “cooking” they mean making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bowl of cereal. I could live on that for a week. And I have.

My husband and I have continued this great parenting and child rearing technique. We tell our kids in vivid detail about the night my husband proposed (tears, laughter, and a man purse were involved).  We tell them about how, as a young child in NYC, he tried to jump an open cellar on 87th street and missed (a trip to the ER and multiple stitches were involved).  We tell them how he ended up at Billy Joel’s ranch in Long Island as a teenager and has dozens of pictures of Christie Brinkley to prove it (then they ask who Christie Brinkley is). I tell them about interning at “Live with Regis and Kathie Lee” and ironing Brad Pitt’s shirt because his luggage never made the flight in.  I never met him. I handed the shirt to an assistant producer who handed it to a producer who then gave it to his agent to give to him. But it’s like I basically touched Brad Pitt.

What’s great is that now my kids have their own family legends to tell. My daughter was born in the hospital room next to Al Roker’s wife giving birth to his first daughter. This was the pre stomach reduction Al. My mother rode down the elevator with Al and in her beautiful accented English regaled him for minutes with the marvelous coincidence. He was nice and nodded.

Year’s later, while we were vacationing in Montauk – we had another legendary incident. On a particularly cloudy afternoon, we decided to skip the beach and go bowling. Before we hit the ally, we stopped for pizza in a small town outside of the Hampton’s.  I don’t remember if I’ve told the story before – so I won’t go into the details now – but that’s when we ran into and  had our 1.8 minute conversation with Sir Paul McCartney. Epic.

This past week, while on vacation, we added to one of our legends.

My husband went back to work a few days into our week at the lake.  He texted me from the train that sitting in the car in front of him, blocked for privacy, was none other than Al Roker – post stomach reduction. Apparently he has a house just miles from where we were staying (that’s what it said on the internet). I begged him to take a picture or start a conversation with our old friend Al. It could go something like,” hey! Remember me? I fathered the kid that was born next to your kid.” or “Hi, small world! We have our firstborn together and now this!”.  He refused. He did however stalk him off the train and get this shot going up the escalator at Penn Station.

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This picture is going right in the photo album.

Virgo

My husband is a cat person.

If he was older, unmarried and a woman – he’d be a really good cat lady. He’s had cats all his life and loved them. Me? Not so much.

This is Virgo – he was with us for almost 12 years.  My husband had just graduated college, gotten a job in the big city and was about to move out of the Bronx – where he had been living for about a year.  As he was leaving, he went to the back of his old building to dump some garbage and a little, gray cat the size of a large rat ran over to him. It was love at first sight for both of them.

Virgo was not a gentle, loving, purring kitty. He was a Bronx born, garbage raised hooligan. He considered every touch a call to arms. He didn’t like to be pet. The irony. A pet that doesn’t like petting.  The only person in our family that even tried to love that cat was my husband – and he’s got the scars to show for it.

Virgo lived the good life. He went from eating garbage in the ‘hood to eating only Fancy Feast – my husband insisted. For most of his life he had a better healthcare plan than all of us combined and he was groomed way more than I was.

It was the first time I ever lived with a pet. I know, I know. Cats are easy. Cats aren’t dogs. Cats are low-key. Except this cat wasn’t low-key. This cat was wild, crazy and mean most of the time. And the liter box. Can we talk about the liter box? It’s box. Full of poop and pee that just lives with you. The horror.

That seat was his perch, his favorite spot in the house.  There is a permanent indent in the cushion where he sat – and where now, our new cat, also sits.  Yes, we got another cat. Lexi. The complete, polar opposite of Virgo. A loving, purring, soft, sweet little girl. You want her?

I don’t think I’ll ever be a cat person. Or a dog person. Or a fish….you get the point. But I’ve made my peace with cat living.

 

 

 

Meatloaf memory

There’s a few posts that have been stuck in my brain – one of them is about my J.O.B – but it’s Saturday, and I really don’t want to think/write/delve into work right now. Even though I love my work to bits, we’ll save that for another day.

I’ve been meaning to tell you about the awkward, long, frustrating courtship that my husband and I had in college. To clarify – I consider “courting” everything that happened before we got together.

Let me set the scene – I was 19, he was 21. I think I’ve told you all that I met him through a friend, who had grown up in the same neighborhood. The only thing she’d told me about him was that he was….quiet, a loner. She was surprised he was even talking to her then – but apparently they were in the same class and he needed notes.

It turned out that he lived in my dorm – on my floor – across the hall from me. We started hanging out, going to lunch, going to dinner, walking to class, meeting up between classes etc. We talked about movies, family, music. He couldn’t believe that I had never listened to Neil Young, Led Zeppelin or any of the classic rock he considered Bible. Back then he was Elton John obsessed – the Springsteen obsession happened much later, during his 30s.

He made me tapes upon tapes upon tapes. I considered each one a secret message conveying his love and desire for me. But weeks, months into the talks, the walks, the chats, the meals – nothing. Not one little hint that he liked me.

I decided it was because we were never alone. My roommates, friends, etc. were always around when we were together. So I started plotting “alone” time. No go. Nothing. It was like I was stuck in a French film – all we did was talk. I was pissed. I didn’t even like all that music I was being forced to listen to – and I couldn’t deal with one more conversation about why The Godfather was the shit!

It was time to let it go. Almost.

At the end of October we heard that we’d have a concert on campus. Someone named Meatloaf was coming to perform. Huh? Who? Never heard of him. But the campus went crazy – apparently he was a corny, cheesy classic. All my gal pals started singing his “hits”. Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, I’d do Anything for Love, etc. I chalked this up to a New York thing.

Then something crazy happened – the boy told me that he’d buy me tickets to the concert because I had to go, I needed to hear him live. Now ladies, am I crazy or does this sound like a date to you? I was thrilled. Like a bat out of hell yeah I’d go (sorry).

What I didn’t realize until that night is that the loner, the shy guy, the dude who was really on his own for the most part – decided to go with 80 other people. I’d never even seen him talk to all these people – where did they come from??

Thank goodness that one of the peeps was his sister. I’d find out later that they were (and are) very close and nothing made them happier than sharing a concert together. She was the opposite of the boy. Like oil and water opposite. She was easy to smile, laugh, and be silly. I immediately loved her. She made you feel like you were her best friend the moment you met her – unlike her brother who had you go through a long, slow interview process to earn his time.

By then I was so over the weirdo courting/hanging out that I decided to just let loose and have some fun. There was cheap beer involved. We all went to the concert (where he DID NOT sit next to me, I’m just sayin’) – and then back to his room. Again – who are all these people? His sister and I spent most of the night talking – and I spilled my beans. Everyone knew I liked her brother – except her brother.

She was giddy with excitement. She begged me to tell him – she begged me to let her tell him. And because I was tired, and had just sat through the most heinous concert (where an actual meatloaf was thrown at Meatloaf) and again – cheap beer was involved – I gave in. Fine. Tell him. What did I care. Nothing was going to happen. Trust me, besides jumping him, I’d tried everything else.

So she told him. And it turned out that he liked me too. The very next night he kissed me and it was all over, for me. He told me that all those days, weeks of talking he just didn’t know. And that he wanted to be sure, really really sure that he wouldn’t be rejected. Dummy.

This is us – circa Meatloaf concert.

Papaji

The kids came home from camp this weekend and the world rejoiced – right?  That’s how it felt to me.

My parents waited a whole 2 hours after they got home to call them. My mother lit candles and said prayers – I’m sure all the Indians Gods were involved.  I spoke briefly to my father who said just one thing to the kids coming home.  He said,”Good.” Then he passed the phone to my mother who took 30 minutes to tell me that only parents who don’t love their kids send them to camp.

That conversation sums up my entire childhood.

Have I ever told you about my dad? I should, you should know him.  He loves music – both classical and popular.  He has always rocked a ‘stache. He’s got a massive sweet tooth, loves to draw and spends most weekends napping and reading a paper. He’s a man of few words. Actually, no words. The only instance when he tucks into a long narrative story (and still will) is when he talks about his college years. The short period of time when he left home and went to boarding school. Ask him about that and he’ll sing like a canary.

He was one of 4 boys – his mother died after his youngest brother was born. He never told us how. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of her.  He was raised in a village – hardcore 3rd world style.  His entire education was funded by scholarships.  He wanted to be a doctor, worked toward it for years, but didn’t have the money to go to through med school.  There was, however, an American initiative to sponsor pharmacists from small Indian villages (not really, but I can’t get a straight answer on how it all went down).  They would pay for college and then pharmaceutical school – and in return you would agree to work in either Canada, the U.S. or Africa for a couple of years.  He went for it.  This was before 9/11 and before the world wide web took over – things were easier.

His stories of that time are amazing. He left home and  never looked back, he lived with several different families that took him in and he lived in several different youth hostel type of places.  By the time he graduated, he was also married.  He decided that Canada was the place for him/them – and made the move.  He talks about the move – leaving his country/his family/his new bride – in the most non dramatic way.  There’s no big, epic Ellis Island moment where he reached the promised land.  The really big news about making the big move? He tried and liked chicken.  That was about as “shock and awe” as he gets.

My mother stayed back in India while my dad set-up shop.  He eventually decided that New York City was a better option vs. Toronto.  And that’s how we landed on Plymouth – I mean Queens….via Canada.

For the most part – I had a very boring, protected childhood. My parents didn’t really fight – it was usually my mother yelling about something and my dad reading a paper.  I don’t remember him ever raising his voice at me or my sister – he may have nodded along while my mother ripped us apart but nothing more than that.  Sister – do you concur?

There was one part of our life where he was very vocal and aggressive – school.  He knew about every homework assignment and every project. He went to all the conferences and meetings and attended every concert (did I tell you I was in choir for 8 years, and that we made Nationals in High School – we did a rendition of Phantom that would knock you over. Sorry).

He is the most opposite of my mother as anyone could and would be.  She is the fizzy, bubbling tablet to his still water.  Forget the yin to her yang – he’s the calming yogurt to her spicy curry.  I can hear my sister rolling her eyes so I’ll stop now.

My baby was born on the same day as my father – which is ironic considering he has my mother’s disposition.

I wonder who I’m like?  I’m probably the best of both of them….yeah. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Here’s a couple of pics of my dad – one from his wild, chicken eating Canadian days – and one from today (technically last Christmas)

 

40 is the new black

At 10 I was living in Albany,NY with my parents enjoying my last year as an only child, having as much fun as I could, happy as a clam.

At 20 I was in NYC, going to college, shacked up with my boyfriend, his family became my family, my friends were my life, I was completely clueless and again, happy as a clam.

At 30 I was married to that boy, we moved out of NYC, we had our first house, our first baby, and absolutely no idea of how we were going to make it, and I really was happy as a clam.

At 40 I am still shacked up with that same boy (legally),  we have another house, in another town, 2 punky kids that are surrounded by love (thanks to our unstoppable family and friends), and, well, you know. Clam. Happy. Me.

Music to my ears

I grew up in the 80′s – with neon shirts, shoulder pads and pop music.  I loved it – Ok, not all of it. I didn’t love music. I liked music.  I did the alternative thing with The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Camper Van Beethoven – and I did the mainstream thing with Duran Duran, Madonna and Culture Club. I went to some concerts, not many.  In my defense, the only music playing in our house was Bollywood soundtracks and Sanskrit prayer chants (fun fun!)

Cut to college.

I meet a boy.  He was consumed with music.  Consumed.  An entire wall of his room was dedicated to (alpha order) CDs.  He went to as many concerts as he could get to.  He listened to everything. He literally had a soundtrack for every occasion. Music was (is) his life.  He made me tapes.

Then I met a girl.  She would be the yin to my yang for my college years and beyond.  Smart, sassy, funny – all my favorite things in a human.  Later in life she would go on to marry my boy’s best friend.  True story.  She also loved music.  She listened to singers and bands that I’d never heard of.  It wasn’t alternative – it was totally underground and phenomenal. She made me tapes too.

These two schooled me on music.  Hello, Elton John.  Hello, Ani Difranko.

That was awhile ago.  Those CDs are now packed away in big cases (he almost teared up the day we put them away), and I don’t even own a tape recorder anymore. But I still have all the tapes. And the music is still strong.

My kids know more about The Beatles and The Stones than I ever will.  My husband usually calls my daughter when he wants to hear a new group. They’ve already been to more concerts than I went to in my entire childhood.   My pal is happily married with a kido – and listening to amazing musicians,  I’m sure of it.

Me?  I play along…get it…play….like a guitar…or a piano….

I know you all don’t demand proof of my insane ramblings – but I like to provide it anyway…Here’s what used to be  95% of my husband’s life.

Now it’s 80%….85% tops.

    

So besides supplying me with amazing music – my gal was also an artist.  Every tape she made me had an original design. She did funky, cool collages before it was cool to do funky, cool collages. Thought you should know.

  

The green is always grasser

Back in 1991 when I started dating my husband, he wasn’t the chipper, happy-go-lucky guy he is today…haha

Forget glass half-full/half-empty.  He didn’t even have a glass.  “Suck it up” was and is his mantra, his motto.  That and “I hate people”.

For the most part, I’m pretty optimistic.  Next to him – I’m little miss sunshine.

When I graduated college I thought I’d instantly find the job of my dreams.  I had a degree with my spankin’ double majors – English and Religion – to lean on.  I’d done some really cool internships, worked in the alumni office since my Freshman year – and let’s not forget how beloved I was by all my professors.  I would find success.

I was wrong.  I ended up working several less than stellar jobs where I basically did the following:

  • got breakfast and lunch every day for the CEO of the company (it was a 2 person operation, me and him) – he wouldn’t even let me answer the phone.  I spent most days there filing papers in a drawer.  There wasn’t even a radio to keep me company.
  • worked at a big ad agency in a fancy building where they did let me answer the phone – and then yelled at me non-stop for answering it wrong
  • worked in the admissions office at a private nursery school in NY.  I spent my days weeding out applications from 3 year olds who didn’t make the cut – and then calling their stressed out parents and killing dreams. The kid cried. The parents cried. I cried.  Everyone was always crying.

I know, I know.  These are uptown problems (as Chris Rock would say).  I wasn’t mining coal or laying railroad tracks – but I was miserable.

After a few months of jumping from one job to another – and hating each one – I was done.  I was pissed.  I was convinced that every single person in the city was doing better than me. Where was my shiny career?

That’s when my man, the grumpiest person alive, sat me down for some words of wisdom and optimism. He said in his most non-growl voice, “the green is always grasser.”  I laughed.  He didn’t. He was completely serious. It was perfectly imperfect advice. I use it almost daily.  Almost.

Mista Mayor

Photo Circa 1994. Me and then newly minted Mayor of NYC , Rudolph Giuliani. We were at the Pen & Sword Honor Society dinner at my college, he was the keynote that night, and an alum.  It took me all night to work up the nerve to go meet him… when I finally did, all I could say was,” My birthday is May 28th too!”. He just smiled and laughed. I think a security guard moved in closer and someone took the picture. That was it. Not sure how I got into the honor society. Here’s my main observations about this photo:

  • I rocked that tuxedo top I borrowed from my roommate.
  • Those earrings weren’t even close to being the biggest ones I owned.
  • See that hair…that’s my pre-marriage, pre-babies, frizz free, never-touched-a-flat-iron hair. I would trade one of my kids for that hair now.
  • Not sure why I felt the need to wear white eye shadow – maybe to draw extra attention to my unkept brows?
  • What I remember most about the night is that I was too chicken to tell the waiter I didn’t eat chicken – and since I wouldn’t eat anything on the plate with the chicken I hid in the bathroom until dessert was served.

Good times.

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