As I write this, the New York Islanders are tied (1-1) against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the semi-final round of the Stanley Cup (the Super Bowl of ice hockey, although it has been around almost 75 years longer). Growing up on Long Island, I have been an Islanders fan since birth – the team's birth in 1972, having been introduced to ice hockey by my father, who had always been a huge New York Rangers fan.
Understandably, having another hockey team in the New York metropolitan area meant there would be a serious rivalry between the two fan bases. Including at our house. And, often at the kitchen table, although it did not include my mother. She was not a sports fan of any sort, let alone ice hockey, and was not even remotely interested in learning … although she should have created a "penalty box" somewhere in the house for when I misbehaved (which was often) but probably realized I would enjoy being sent there, which would only encourage my misbehavior.
The fact the Islanders only played the Rangers four times a season did not stop the discussions and debates. And, the number-crunching of statistics. (This was well before the internet, and they were not at your fingertips unless you saved, or memorized, the results in the newspaper). This would happen all through the season, and you can only imagine what it was like in 1975 when they faced each other in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Even when I moved out of New York, I followed the Islanders, through highs and lows, and remember how frustrating it was to be living in the South during their historic early 80's run (and again being in the playoffs with the Rangers) surrounded by football fanatics. I would have to call home to talk hockey.
But my fondest hockey memories? Growing up, my father and I watched the games on television, so I will never forget my first live game. It was a regular-season Rangers game in Madison Square Garden (I do not remember the opposing team, so obviously it was not the Islanders), and I am not sure I ever saw my father so mesmerized by anything. Maybe it was being at a pro game at "The Garden" as he typically would not spend money on something as self-indulgent as sports tickets. Or, maybe it was because he had played ice hockey growing up, so it had special memories for him.
Which, in turn, created special memories for me, as I can remember being in awe of his skating abilities when he first taught me how to ice skate (on a frozen water reservoir) – he was as quick in reverse as going forward. Graceful and effortless in both directions. A very different side of him than what I would typically see at home or in his home office.
I also remember treating him years later, just before I went off to college, to an Islanders home game at the Nassau Coliseum. It was a relatively new stadium and has been home to the Islanders for almost their entire existence (this year's playoffs will be the end of that as they will be moving to a new stadium). But, it did not have the history of The Garden, and since we drove there, did not have that special feeling of getting off the Long Island Railroad and taking an escalator up to the game. But, none of that would matter, as the game will always have a special place in my heart,
It was the first, and only, time my father and I went to a game at the Coliseum, and although I do not remember who we played, I do remember us both shouting "Yes! Yes! Yes!" after every Islanders goal, and even louder after their win. And I cannot help but smile thinking about my father … and watching a diehard Rangers fan so excited about an Islander win.
‘Tis the season for joyous celebrations – of whatever holiday you may celebrate. And fond memories. Even though Red wasn’t born when this happened, it’s still one of her holiday favorites (yes, she initially thought Black must have been on the “naughty list”) and a reminder of what the holidays are truly all about.
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 …
For those of you who have followed us for years, you know what’s coming … a naked turkey story. Because as soon as Black wrote it, it became a Thanksgiving tradition.
Black typically doesn’t reminisce, so her memories of a perfect turkey that made for a perfect Thanksgiving (for her) have become the perfect way for us to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. May your day be filled with family and friends and create 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.
It was one of those mindless questions, “What was your favorite childhood book?” And although I couldn’t answer the question, it brought back wonderful memories of my favorite book while I was still living at home. Which recently turned into a new tradition … and maybe the highlight of my summer …
I can remember it as if it was yesterday – I’d be sitting up in bed late at night, reading (well, more like devouring) a biography of Winston Churchill by William Manchester. At almost 1,000 pages (and weighing in at over three pounds), you’d have thought it a college reading assignment, not something for pleasure.
Although more of a Tudor history fan, I found the biography of Churchill (a larger-than-life, literally and figuratively, character, but I won’t bore you with the details) difficult to put down. And it had my complete attention right up to the last word. But then, I felt disappointed. And a little cheated.Because not only was I going to miss my nightly “date” with Winston, but the book left off in 1932. Now, anyone who knows Winston Churchill knows he’s most famous for his extraordinary role in World War II (1939-1945). But then I was relieved to learn,
I had read the first book in what was a planned trilogy. I couldn’t wait for the second one to be released, and five years later, I devoured that book, too (it was a mere 750 pages), and couldn’t wait for the third and final book. But then the author died. And I thought, well, that’s it.
Fast forward decades later. When Black asked her question, I couldn’t remember the book title, which drove me crazy. Rather than go upstairs and find the books, I got online and discovered the most unexpected, but great, news …
William Manchester had started the third book and, knowing he was going to die before being able to complete it, asked author Paul Reid to finish it. Apparently, it was released in 2012, when I was in the midst of being a single mom with two young children and working on Red & Black, so no time for reading. I immediately ordered it, but I wasn’t prepared for what happened,
Even before “Defender of the Realm” arrived (this one’s over 1,000 pages), I decided this would be my summer project. I’d start over Memorial Day weekend with the goal of finishing by Labor Day. But once I curled up on the couch, after office hours and on weekends, often with a Dunkin’ iced coffee beside me, I was transported back almost forty years. Once again, I couldn’t put it down. But this time, I had a companion. As Moo, my beloved labradoodle, decided that she loved having this “quiet time” with me.
I finished the book shortly after July 4 and realized it would be far more than a wonderful summer memory. It was the beginning of a new “tradition” … making time to get back to being a bookworm. It reminded me of the importance of escaping and recharging my batteries. And spending time with Moo. And based on Moo’s excitement the minute I’d pick up the book, including immediately jumping on the couch to join me, I think it might have been the highlight of Moo’s summer too.