Memory Lane

Screams Of Horror … Or Laughter?

I was living somewhere called Hazerswoude-Rijndijk. No, I'm not making that up. It's a small, extremely quaint village in The Netherlands about five miles from Leiden, where my oldest daughter, Natasha, was born 23 years ago. In fact, her birthday was just two days ago, which made me reminisce about so many things, including how my sister scared the living daylights out of her when she was only three weeks old.

Now, you need to know that my sister doesn't "do" travel unless it's relatively short flights (six hours or less), so traveling from Houston to Amsterdam was a big deal for her. Of course, staying at The Amstel Hotel, one of the world's greatest hotels, made the "sacrifice" a bit more bearable. At the time, we weren't close, although we were always there for each other if needed. And I never had a single doubt, ever, that she'd be the most amazing aunt when the day came.

So, only weeks after Natasha was born, there she was at the door of our idyllic farmhouse along the Rijndijk River about 40 minutes, and countless miles of tulips fields, outside of Amsterdam. And how did she get acquainted with her niece? By gently tossing her up in the air, almost non-stop, for over six hours. Natasha was my first child, and as any first-time mom will tell you, we're overly cautious with the first one. So, how did I handle this? First, with horror, then when I saw she was being extremely careful and really not "tossing" her very much at all, although it just seemed like it, with some trepidation. (The fact she told me Natasha weighed far less than the weights she lifted daily might've helped.) But mostly, with appreciation as Natasha literally wouldn't stop crying, except for when her aunt gently "threw" her up in the air.

The following day Black invited Natasha and me to spend the day with her at the Amstel. She had arranged for what turned out to be one of the best days I'd ever have with her and Natasha – a private cruise along the Amstel River in a classic wooden Dutch boat, in and out of seemingly all of Amsterdam's beautiful canals, with a gourmet lunch prepared onboard. It was magical, memorable, and something only my sister would do. And Natasha, showing her first indication that she very much liked her aunt's "lifestyle", was a picture-perfect infant for the entire day. Well, almost, as the day didn't start well,

Black had left her room unlocked, and I walked into the most beautiful hotel suite I've ever seen, something out of a 1950s Fred Astaire movie. Natasha's blissful in her carry seat having slept quietly in the car, while I'm admiring the panoramic views of the Amstel River, lost in thought of how this is a perfect moment in time. Until my sister walks in from the bathroom, having just got out of a hot bath, and picks up Natasha. Who instantly starts to scream! But a scream I had never heard before – or since. A scream you'd expect if you saw an ax murderer coming toward you. And then I … laughed, uncontrollably. Because my sister had the biggest mascara "raccoon eyes" that I've ever seen in my life and was probably the scariest thing Natasha had ever seen in her (three weeks old) life.

New Year’s Eve is one of those nights (Black calls them “forced” celebrations) that often have great expectations attached to it. Many people make a big deal of it, but we prefer a lowkey approach, making the evening “special” by spending it with special people – for Red, her daughters, and for Black, close friends.

Some years it can be a bittersweet celebration (if loved ones have passed or no longer live close to home), but that can remind you of what’s most important.

So, let’s all toast to the promise and hope of a new year … and to champagne and toilet paper.

Red's HeadRed

New Year's Eve seems like the perfect time to stroll down memory lane, although I'm guessing your memories are much more interesting than mine.

Black's HeadBlack

"Interesting" is a subjective word. Regardless, are you talking about memories in general? Or, New Year's Eve celebrations?

Red's HeadRed

Actually, it was just a passing comment. But since you've always seemed to make a bigger deal out of New Year's Eve than I have, are there any years that really stand out?

Black's HeadBlack

Truth is the most memorable ones are the ones spent with celebrating with closest friends versus crowds. In fact, I think I have spent more than half of my New Year's Eves with John and Diana. Although, I will never forget bringing in 2000.
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We appreciate that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a favorite Christmas memory. Interestingly, or is it ironically, Black, who barely tolerates the “forced” celebrations associated with holidays (and birthdays) and prefers to look forward to the future vs. reminisce about the past, likes to tell the story of the “Jewish Santa”. Black may see a deeper meaning to it, but for Red, it’s a favorite and heartwarming Christmas story, although she’d never tell Black that …

BLACK: I do not know at what age my Christmas memories began, but I do remember being very young and in awe of a very large – and very well decorated – Christmas tree in our family room. I even remember peeking down the stairs late one evening and seeing my mother standing extremely close to Santa Claus. OK, you might not find that an unusual memory, except my family is Jewish.

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Photo by klohka on iStock

As soon as Black wrote it, it became one of Red’s favorite posts, and now it’s a Red & Black Thanksgiving tradition. After all, what could be a better Turkey Day tradition than memories of a perfect turkey?

And it’s the perfect way to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving that, as Black says below, is … filled with memories that will last a lifetime.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I cannot help but wonder why we are online. However, everyone has their own way of celebrating. I know that Red is in the kitchen cooking – and watching a marathon of "The Godfather" movies. Which is perfect as turkeys take such a long time to cook and patience is important when you want it perfectly browned. So inviting, so appetizing, so … naked?

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