We had barely introduced ourselves when the newspaper editor held up our book, gesturing to our "two-faced" logo on the front cover and said something along the lines of …
Ok, off the record, admit it, you embellished the characters in the book to be more entertaining.
When we finished laughing, we explained …
that actually we had toned it down, feeling that no one would believe what we're really like, especially Black. With a journalist's healthy degree of skepticism, he politely smiled, put down the book beside him and we proceeded to do what's most important when you're at Kenny & Ziggy's Delicatessen, deciding what to eat.
And then, what else would two Jewish women (sisters, no less) meeting with Michael Duke, editor of the Jewish Herald-Voice, one of the Gulf Coast's oldest Jewish newspapers, do? We talked. And talked, and talked. About how we grew up in New York. About how we took very different roads in life, yet both ended up in Houston (Black as a career choice, Red because it's where her British husband had been transferred). And how Red had a crisis that Black turned into a book, a brand, and a business. One that was supposed to go to Hollywood but ended up in the world of education, having completed our first semester of teaching at KIPP Houston High School less than a year after Neiman Marcus had launched the book.
So, it began … a breakfast meeting that lasted until almost lunch. We had hoped for an article and ended up with a front-page cover story, with one of our favorite titles, "Raising Kids, Racing Cars." But we never expected that we'd soon begin writing a monthly column for the Jewish Herald-Voice. But now, over ten years and over 120 monthly columns later, here we are. Life has a funny way of taking you in directions you never expected.
Obviously, we didn't know any of that as we reluctantly got up from our table. As we started to walk towards the front cash register, Michael, who we now felt had become a friend in a mere few hours, paused, turned to us, and said:
You're right. You downplayed the characters.
Want to read our monthly column? Here's a list.
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.
|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.|
|"Interesting" is a subjective word. Regardless, are you talking about memories in general? Or, New Year's Eve celebrations?|
|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?|
|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.|
|Oh, this should be interesting. Where were you? What did you do?|
|I do not remember the details. But, I do remember everyone was panicked about Y2K. In fact, for almost the entire year leading up to it, people were certain it would create havoc with computers and computer networks. It turned out to be a non-event.|
|That's it? I thought you were going to talk about some major celebration to mark the turn of the century.|
|No, although not always successful, I always tried to avoid major celebrations. Anyway, 1999 was when I was collecting wine and many of us were certain there would be a shortage of vintage Champagne. And before you ask, vintage Champagne means it is made with grapes from a single year's harvest which happens only three or four times in a decade.|
|Was 1999 one of those years?|
|I will not bore you with the details, but Champagne is aged in the bottle (vintage for significantly longer than non-vintage releases) so it was from earlier in the decade. Anyway, collectors starting buying large quantities of vintage Champagne, which can last decades when stored properly, thinking it was "now or never" …|
|I know better than to ask how much you bought.|
|Enough to last a lifetime. Maybe two lifetimes. Which was a good thing as I lost most of it in the divorce. Anyway, the interesting thing was that because so many wine collectors were stocking up on vintage Champagne, the shortage became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Similar to when people were hoarding toilet paper.|
|Only you would compare the two. One's a luxury item and one's a necessity you'll ultimately use. I guess the good news though is that now you'll never run out of Champagne.|
|Except, my offsite wine storage was broken into years ago – and they stole all the Champagne. Good news is John and Diana still have their stash.|
|So, are you going to spend New Year's Eve with them?|
|Not the entire evening, but the three of us plan to toast love, friendship, and the end of 2020 … with masks, social distance, and some vintage Champagne.|
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.
Apparently, my parents thought it was easier to decorate and give gifts for both Chanukah and Christmas than to try and explain why religiously they only celebrated the "smaller" holiday, although I must have sensed that. (Children usually do.)
And, I remember exactly when I came to the realization that Santa was not real. I was five years old and in the hospital with pneumonia and in the middle of the night, a Santa came by giving out Christmas gifts. I must have sensed his presence because when he arrived at the foot of my bed, I sat up and immediately told him that I could not have any Christmas gifts. He questioned why not (maybe thinking I was going to state I had not been good all year, which probably would have been an accurate statement), and I told him it was because I was Jewish.
He leaned over my bed, pulled away his fake beard, and whispered in my ear, "It's ok – so am I." And without his beard, I immediately recognized him as one of the doctors who had checked on me several times during my stay. We smiled at each other, knowing that we had a special bond, and he left me a gift.
Now, older and wiser, I have come to the conclusion … Santa does exist. You just have to believe …
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?
Growing up, our house used to be where everyone congregated for the holidays. Not because my mother was a good cook, or even liked to entertain, but because my parents bought a house on Long Island while the rest of her family continued to live in apartments in Brooklyn and the Bronx. In other words, they had the most room.
Thanksgiving was always a house full of people and everyone always gathered in the kitchen, which made food preparation a challenge. Especially as everyone loved to nibble on ingredients during the process. For the most part, Mom was a good sport about it. But, the closer we got to the turkey being ready, the more food she would move into the dining room, hoping we would follow the food.
I remember one year when the turkey cooling on the counter looked like something from a magazine – it was perfectly browned. Normally, it was splotchy, although you never knew it once my father was done carving it. (Although an engineer, he had dreamed of being a surgeon and every year as I watched him carve the turkey, I would think he missed his true calling.) Anyway, my mother was so proud of this perfectly browned turkey that she would not let anyone near it, and was delaying the inevitable carving.
However, she made the mistake of taking the balance of the side dishes into the dining room and my father must have been helping as my cousin and I snuck back into the kitchen. In a matter of seconds, we had striped that turkey naked. Enjoying the crispy skin (ok, this was well before the days we were told it was "bad" for you) and laughing until my parents returned to see what was causing the commotion.
Mom was less than pleased, while Daddy tried to hide his amusement. My cousin ran to the safety of his parents, while I stood there defiantly asking if could have a wing. To this day, I cannot see a perfectly browned turkey without remembering that Thanksgiving. And, I venture to guess it has become a favorite memory of my Mom's, as well.
So today, at the risk of being warm and fuzzy (which is Red's area of responsibility),
I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving … filled with memories that will last a lifetime.