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.
I've always loved stuffed animals. And the softer and plusher, the better. They're like family. Only, in some ways, better, but I won't go down that road. Not today, anyway. Some children outgrow their love for stuffed animals (or do they just stopping admitting it?), but not me. And although I've stopped adding to my collection over the years (ok, make that decades), there are always those favorite ones that are loved just a little bit more, squeezed a little tighter, hugged a little longer.
Well, for someone who has a theater arts degree and more than a passing knowledge of Tudor history, I'd say that one of the most useful things I've learned is … the repair of stuffed animals. Over the years, I've patched up more than my share of stuffed animals, my own and my daughters. I've even gone so far as to do what could only be called a "full fluff transplant" – turning a very large (over four feet tall), but very "stiff", frog won at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo into the cutest, squishiest frog EVER.
But I digress. Well, maybe just a little because I promise this is going somewhere. (I can hear Black saying, "Then get there already.") Recently Black emailed me a video with a note that it made her want to buy a Vermont Teddy Bear. Knowing she's definitely not warm and fuzzy, let alone a stuffed animal person, I couldn't imagine what the video could be about to make her say that. I should've guessed there'd be a Make-A-Wish connection (remember Bernie's Inauguration Day mittens?), and I couldn't help but smile when I heard that the Vermont Teddy Bear Company was renting office space to Make-A-Wish Vermont for $1/year.
I immediately picked up the phone to tell her how I've always been impressed by the company, but before I could say how the video didn't surprise me, she starts telling me about their "Limb Loss and Difference Limb Bear" that not only offer love and comfort but supports the Amputee Coalition. Finally, I'm able to tell her that The Vermont Teddy Bear Company has always been great, especially in unexpected ways,
Decades ago, when I visited Vermont on a regular basis, I was traveling with one of my beloved stuffed animals – a soft, cuddly sheep that I had gotten in England many years prior. She had what I'd call "old-fashioned" eyes (the type they probably don't make anymore because they'd be considered a health hazard), and over the years, one of the eyes got looser and looser. And while I did everything I could, I knew that it was only a matter of time before the eye would fall off.
I was at the Vermont Teddy Bear Store and mentioned the "condition" to the in-house doctor (seriously, they have one). The next thing I knew, I was leaving my "baby" overnight at their "hospital" (which is usually reserved for their bears) to return the following morning to pick up the patient, who now had a beautifully repaired eye that to this day is perfect.
|It's funny. When the New York Islanders were in the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup, your post about how ice hockey brought back warm memories of you and Daddy, brought back a vivid memory for me, too.|
|I have never known you to be interested in ice hockey. Full stop. Or, should that be "full hockey stop"?|
|Cute. And although we both skated as kids, and Daddy tried teaching me the hockey stop, I never could do it. But my memory has nothing to do with professional ice hockey or even skating. Instead, it's how you handled a bunch of high school ice hockey players.|
|I know you cannot be talking about when I considered joining the girl's ice hockey club. Or, how although I was one of the faster skaters, I quit when I realized the girls were not as interested in playing the sport as they were in "taking out" other skaters. Especially those that showed up for practice with figure skates.|
|Of course, you did. But I didn't even know you had done that, and it seems out of character as you've never been a team sports kind of person. When Sawyer was in her figure skating years, there was a girls hockey team at the rink that seemed competitive, and while I knew that plenty of girls played ice hockey, I still would've been scared of her losing her front teeth or getting seriously injured. But that's not the memory.|
|Well, the only other thing I can think of is when we were all at some family-style restaurant, it could have been Friendly's or IHOP, and I "confronted" those big, burly, and smelly hockey players that just could not stop acting, well, like tough hockey players.|
|Exactly! Although I was only a kid at the time, I remember you coming back to the table laughing and Daddy asking, in that loving and bemused way he had when it came to you and your "antics", what you did this time.|
|I cannot remember what led to me encountering them when they walked in, but I was probably coming back from the bathroom. Anyway, I could not stop staring at them.|
|No surprise there, you were pretty boy crazy at the time.|
|Not for these boys. They were loud and obnoxious. And, I was staring because they were wearing full hockey uniforms, including skates! Granted, they had blade protectors on, but instead of looking tough, they looked silly.|
|They must have towered over you. Plus, they probably weighed at least twice what you did.|
|Including the gear, maybe more, as I probably weighed about 90 pounds. Anyway, they saw me staring, and one of them asked, with attitude, "What are you looking at?"|
|I'd bet just about anything that you gave them what I now refer to as "The Look" – that facial expression of yours that's a combination of "Are you kidding me?," eye-rolling, and "silent" sarcasm. I know as a grown woman I don't want to be the recipient of it, but can only imagine what a group of arrogant high school boys would've made of it.|
|Whether it was "The Look" or just me staring at them, they definitely did not like it. But, what did they expect walking in dressed like that?|
|There's no telling, but it's safe to say they probably didn't expect you to respond to their question like you did. But, to this day, it's one of the most memorable things you've ever said and one of my favorites. It was just perfect.|
|All I know is that it seemed the obvious reply … Puck you!|
I'm not sure where they come up with these "holidays" but today's National Creative Ice Cream Flavors Day … although I can't remember the first time I had a creative ice cream flavor. Growing up on Long Island in the 1960s, my ice cream memories are of your traditional flavors bought in non-descript half-gallon rectangle cartons (not even tubs) from the grocery store. Or, as a special treat or celebration, a coffee ice cream soda (not sure you'd consider "coffee" a "creative flavor") at Krisch's in downtown Massapequa, Long Island (it's still there!). Occasionally, I'd get an ice cream sundae at Friendly's, but I wasn't overly creative – vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and extra cherries.
I guess, in those days, the closest thing to "creative" ice cream was spumoni which was an odd combination – layers of cherry, pistachio, and either vanilla or chocolate ice cream with what, at the time, I thought were "mystery items" but only years later did I learn were dried fruit and nuts. Regardless, it was one of my favorites, although my mom rarely bought it, and I think it may have been because I was the only one in my family who liked it.
Anyway, I may not remember when truly "creative" ice cream flavors appeared in my life, but I'll never forget the first time I went to Ben & Jerry's in Burlington, Vermont. Back then, they only had that one location, but we always made sure to stop there (often more than once) on our frequent trips to Vermont. Many years later, when I visited their factory in Waterbury, Vermont, they were no longer a local secret and were known for making some of the most creative and delicious ice-cream combinations. Ever. (For the record, my favorite's the very popular and very yummy Cherry Garcia, which has a fascinating backstory.)
Regardless, I couldn't help but wonder what my sister, the self-proclaimed "selfish and shallow" size 2, who rarely eats sweets, would have to say about ice cream "creativity" …
I know very little about "creative" ice cream flavors, as on the rare occasion I eat ice cream, I prefer traditional flavors. Although, as a kid, I loved ice cream sandwiches, which I guess required creativity to invent. However, I do know that when Ben & Jerry's needed to raise cash to build a manufacturing plant, they wanted to find a way to share their success with Vermonters and discovered a little-known clause that allowed them to establish a Vermont-only public stock offering. Now that is creative ice cream (making).