My Year in Books 2018

books

Well, it’s a wrap on 2018 in books.

I read, or at least started, 38 books this year – some memorable, some less so. Most of the books in my reading pile, the ones stacked up on my bedside table in anticipation, I never got to. Among the books on this list are several selections I read for my book club and others I chose based on recommendations from friends and reviews in the paper. But most of the titles on this list fell into my hands through serendipity.

There were books that caught my eye in the library, where I’d gone to check out something else. A few were afterthoughts, casually chosen at the library book sale on my way out the door. Some came through an ongoing book exchange with friends, while others were loans or gifts they generously dropped off while I was recovering from surgery.

As you can see, my list is a bit of a jumble without much of a connecting thread. But my 2018 reading, as reading has always done, gave me hours of comfort, joy, insight into the human experience, the chance to armchair travel back in time and around the globe, a window of escape from reality (and certainly the news), and the opportunity to expand my heart and mind. I’ll take it every single time.

2018 was also a wonderful year for reading accessories. A friend with an eagle eye for treasures found a beautiful silver bookmark for me at an estate sale.  Another gave me a Pride and Prejudice tote bag I take with me everywhere. The mug in the picture is an old favorite from a kindred spirit. We readers know a good thing when we see it.

My favorite books of the year were Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth, George Saunders’ Lincoln on the Bardo, Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah and Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago were the most powerful. Jennifer Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened made me laugh and laugh, and I really needed that this year.

My 2019 reading is underway with Lisa Halliday’s Assymetry. I’m curious to see what all the fuss is about. Next I’ll dive into five Holocaust-related titles, Elizabeth Berg’s The Art of Mending and Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance. Then I’ll see where life takes things from there.

Please tell me what you’re reading in the comments.

Wishing you all health and happiness and plenty of time to curl up with a good book in 2019.

Merri

Here’s what I read:

#1 Spring and All – William Carlos Williams
I love Williams – his poetry and his sensibility.

#2 Nevermore – Laird Hunt
I found this historical novel – about a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to fight in the Civil War – quick-paced and enjoyable, its characters intriguing.

#3 Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie                                                                                  I loved every beautifully written word of this novel about race in America.

#4 Forest Dark – Nicole Kraus
I was so eager to read this and did so with the intensity Kraus’ fiction requires. But the story didn’t stick to my heart the way her other books have.

#5 Lincoln on the Bardo – George Saunders
It took time to adjust to this unconventional novel about the battle for Willie Lincoln’s soul on the day of his death, but it was well worth it. And then a friend and I had the chance to hear Saunders at a book talk soon after. He’s a fantastic speaker if you ever have the opportunity.

#6 The Man Who Fell into a Puddle: Israeli Lives – Igal Sarna
The clever title got me to pull this book off the library shelf. But I couldn’t get into these real-life stories written by an Israeli journalist, as much as I wanted to.

#7 Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jennifer Lawson
A well-written, “mostly true” memoir, this book is laugh-out-loud funny, but also tender and thoughtful, and not for all audiences (colorful language).

#8 Pachinko – Min Jin Lee                                                                                                                    I enjoyed and learned a lot from this immensely popular, epic historical novel about a Korean family that emigrates to Japan, but didn’t get as emotionally swept up in it as I expected to.

#9 My Mother’s Son – David Hirshberg                                                                                        Set in post-World War II Boston, this novel about two Jewish brothers who uncover an array of family truths spans decades. And yet, there’s a rare moment of family conflict, which is something I’d like to talk to the author about one day.  I’m grateful to Fig Tree Books for sending me a copy.

#10 All Over the Place – Geraldine DeRuiter
Irreverent and at moments touching, this memoir recounts DeRuiter’s travels around the globe after losing her job. I laughed out loud often, though again, not for all audiences.

#11 We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adapted from her TED talk, this tiny book is heartfelt, not strident, and it’s worth the 15 minutes it will take you to read.

#12 The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping – Aharon Appelfeld
Appelfeld’s writing is always masterful and raw and leaves a hole in your heart, but so much so in this story about a young Holocaust survivor who begins his life anew on a kibbutz.

#13 The Graveyard Book – Neil Gailman
Wonderful and quirky, this is one of the best novels about parenting and letting your kids become who they are I’ve ever read. Listen to Gailman’s stunning Newberry Medal acceptance speech on parenting and loving books.

#14 Wonder – R.J. Palacio
This book was everything the hype promised. And yes, I cried at the end. Well, that’s not true. I cried on almost every page.

#15 When the World Was Young – Elizabeth Gaffney
It took me three tries to get into this coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn during World War II. The novel explores race, identity, and personal destiny, and features a string of engaging female characters. Local friends: One of the characters is a Jewish math professor at Rutgers in the 1940s.

#16 Bodies and Souls – Isabel Vincent
A true story about the tragic plight of impoverished European Jewish women forced into prostitution in the Americas beginning in the late 1800s. A hard read.

#17 The Choice – Dr. Edith Eva Eger
A memoir about Eger’s survival in Auschwitz and how she learned to heal herself by healing others as a therapist.

#18 Ms. Marvel/ No Normal -Wilson Alphona
A friend gave me Volume I in this series, a short book-length comic about a young American Muslim of Pakistani origin who discovers that her heroic powers lie in being true to herself.

#19 Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell
A heart-wrenching, poetic novel about a young woman who must learn to fend for herself under dire conditions in the Ozarks.

#20 A Guide to the Birds of East Africa– Nicholas Drayson
I bought this novel at the library book sale because of the lovely bird illustrations throughout, but I enjoyed the sweet love story about retiree bird watchers, too.

#21 Garlic and Sapphires -Ruth Reichl
Reichl’s memoir about her career as the New York Times restaurant critic. I was intrigued at first, but soon found myself skimming my way to the end.

#22 An Encyclopedia of a Meaningful Life – Amy Krouse Rosenthal
An alphabetical memoir that conveys the accumulated experiences of a lifetime. I loved this book. It’s poignant and funny. She was a wise and gifted writer.

#23 Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
I read this beautifully written, heartbreaking family sage in one sitting. Patchett has become a favorite.

#24 Yarn Harlot: The Secret Life of a Knitter – Stephanie Pearl McPhee
I prefer crocheting to knitting, but I related completely to McPhee’s obsession with wool and yarn crafting. Plus, she’s funny.

#25 This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage – Ann Patchett
I loved everything in this collection except the final essay. Also, this book will make you want to visit Patchett’s bookstore in Nashville.

#26 Homecoming – Yaa Gyasi
This novel weaves across generations and continents to explore fate and the legacy of slavery. Gyasi writes beautifully, though the book reads more like a collection of interconnected stories than a novel and I found myself losing track at times.

#27 Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder – Caroline Fraser
I was so looking forward to reading this, but could not make my way through more than 85 pages of it. It is too laden with detail.

#28 As Close to Us as Breathing – Elizabeth Poliner                                                                       I enjoyed this novel, a multi-generational Jewish family saga and the ongoing reverberations of a tragedy it endures one summer.

#29 The Little Red Chairs – Edna O’Brien
Goodness, this was a hard book to read, a violent, painful, heartbreaking story about a woman who has to pick up the pieces after experiencing the most devastating kind of betrayal and loss.

#30 The Book of Psalms
Though I recite Psalms in Hebrew all the time, this was the first time I read it straight through in English. Meaningful exercise, though the poetic, musical quality to the language gets lost in translation.

#31 Write Your Way In – Rachel Toor
Excellent college admission essay advice, but also good writing advice.

#32 Dr. Zhivago – Boris Pasternak
I can’t believe took me decades to finally read this sweeping Russian epic that suffered a complicated path to publication. Pasternak won the Nobel Prize for Literature one year later, but he did not make it to Oslo to accept. Read more about how Pasternak won and lost the Nobel.

#33 The Book Smugglers: Partisans, Poets, and the Race to Save Jewish Treasures – David E. Fishman                                                                                                                                    The unbelievable story of Vilna Ghetto residents who rescued valuable manuscripts and artifacts from the Nazis and later the Soviets.

#34 The Line – Olga Grushin
I found Grushin’s use of the queue as a metaphor for the challenges of Soviet life poignant, sometimes deflating. Though I found myself confused occasionally when the book switches from the narrator’s voice to someone else’s thoughts/memories in mid-chapter, I really liked this book.

#35 Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life – Pat Conroy
A collection of the late author’s speeches and blog posts. Some lovely messages, but I haven’t read much of his fiction and I felt left out as a result.

#36 The Last Convertible – Anton Myrer
A nostalgic, sentimental story about a circle of friends at Harvard on the eve of Pearl Harbor – their friendships, romances, war-time experiences, careers, and lives.

#37 The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
Not sure what compelled me to reread this children’s story about a stuffed rabbit that becomes real, but I’m glad I did. It’s a great lesson for everyone who is getting older, which is all of us.

#38 The Alice Network – Kate Quinn
This was a good book to end the year with – a historical novel about a female spy and an American socialite who give a French war profiteer his comeuppance. The Alice Network was, in fact, a network of spies in France during World War I.

In addition to the books listed above, I read two short pieces that were meaningful and I want to mention them here.

The first is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s  “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” – a remarkable piece of persuasive writing. His use of language and the way he infuses words with power deserves reading.

And lastly, E.L. Doctorow’s short story, “The Writer in the Family,”  which packs a full-scale novel’s worth of family conflict into a 11 pages. Wow.

It was a good year!

 

 

Saying Goodbye to Lord & Taylor

LTselfie

I went to the city last week for a few meetings. To those of us who live in its orbit, the city means New York City, with its unique urban quirkiness, culture, and pulse. It has so much to offer, but one of my favorite things about it has long been its potential for shopping serendipity, especially in tourist-jammed midtown this time of year.

Nearly all of that’s gone now –  the costume jewelry, hand-knit puppets, used books, and all kinds of items for sale on tables set at random intervals along the sidewalk. They have been replaced by “I Love New York” merchandise, $10 knock-off watches, and pashminas, identical displays without much character on every corner. It’s a shame, too, because shopping on the sidewalks of New York was once an adventure, the source of some wonderful finds.

On the other hand, Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue was where I went when serendipity would not do. I was devastated when I first heard the news that the store, which opened in 1914, would close its doors after the holidays. It feels like a seismic shift, the loss of a landmark on my personal Manhattan landscape.

I, like so many others, made a pilgrimage to its holiday windows nearly every year since childhood. Later, it would become my go-to place when I began to shop for myself. The Saks I could afford, it’s where I bought my first professional wardrobe and nearly all of what my mother and grandmother called foundation garments.

In December 1991, I purchased an outfit at Lord & Taylor that would launch 1,000 ships in my life. I wore it to an interview at the Joint Distribution Committee, a position that brought me to Zagreb in 1992, where my career changed direction and I met my husband. When we married, I bought outfits for our sheva brachos there. When I was pregnant with our boys, the store’s ladies room was my public bathroom of choice. Later, after we’d already left the Upper West Side for the suburbs, I’d return to search its racks for a dress for their bar mitzvahs.

It’s no surprise, then, that after my meetings last week, I felt compelled to bid Lord & Taylor farewell on my walk back to Penn Station. I wanted to say thank you, and to pick up a souvenir to remember it by. I happened upon the perfect thing as soon as I entered the store.

See these geese? Smitten, I wanted to take one home.

geese

Although I was on a tight budget, I knew the evening gowns were selling for $16.99 and figured a goose wouldn’t run me too much. I got giddy envisioning the ideal location for it in our living room, where it would allow me to wax poetic about the Lord & Taylor of yore. Plus, I wanted the fun of walking down Fifth Avenue with a large goose under my arm, though I was somewhat concerned about getting it on the train.

I asked a saleswoman at one of the makeup counters for help. She had no idea whether the geese were for sale or not, but she smiled at me like nothing was odd about my request and went off to inquire. She returned with the disappointing news that the geese were destined for other Lord & Taylor stores in the suburbs.

I told her in earnest, “These are New York City geese. I can’t imagine they’ll be happy there,” forgetting for a moment that I now live in the suburbs, too. Still, believe me, that goose would be loved and cared for in our home, not ignored in some dark storage closet in the bowels of a mall.

Anyway, she was lovely about the whole thing, reassuring me that I’m not alone in my feelings of nostalgia for the store, though she admitted I was the only person who’d asked her about the geese. She suggested I head to the 10th floor, where fixtures and staging items were for sale, figuring I might find the right souvenir up there.

This eerie display of mannequins greeted me as I stepped off the elevator.

mannequins

Everything Must Go!  Ha! Everything but the geese, apparently.

I roamed around a bit, curious what I might find. There were large frames, light fixtures and ornaments, oversized flowers and miniature chairs, as well as an array of miscellaneous items that once beautified the store’s display tables and windows. In the end, I found this wounded bird – not quite a goose, but a little something with feathers and character.

bluebird

With my new .50-acquisition in the tiniest plastic Lord & Taylor bag, I boarded the train bound for home. Yet I haven’t stopped thinking about the goose that got away, and also about the fact that this is the end of an era. Until the store closes after the holidays, I’m going to dream that one of those geese takes flight and finds its way to me. We belong together in the embrace of our shared retail memories.

If not, I guess it will be off to the mall next December to pay them all a visit.

My Barbie Camper & the Birthday of My Dreams

cupcake

The Barbie Camper is the only birthday gift I remember asking for when I was a child. Though I’m sure there were other items I requested over the years, I can’t name even one. But I wanted that camper so desperately I thought I’d explode if I didn’t get it. I still recall the feeling of urgency I sensed then, as if it were a physical thing, like a souvenir I might display on a shelf.

I was in first or second grade at the time, and I can see myself in the paneled basement of the house we lived in then. I also have a clear picture in my mind of the moment I tore open the wrapping paper to reveal the Barbie Camper of my dreams. It was Thanksgiving morning, the day we celebrated my birthday every year. Even when it wasn’t really my birthday, it was close enough.

It also made sense.  Every Thanksgiving, relatives would travel from the Bronx to our home in suburban New Jersey to eat turkey and the fixings with us. As it happened, I was born on my grandparents’ anniversary. I’m pretty sure my Great Uncle Eddie’s birthday was around that time, too. I loved that my favorite people in the world were there with me and that we celebrated our mutual happy occasions together, all the more so as I got older.

Still, the Thanksgiving on which I received the Barbie Camper had the makings of the best day of my life – until family friends dropped by early in the morning before our Bronx relatives arrived. Their son mistook the camper for a chair and, crack.  You know how the story ends. I was heartbroken, devastated, though for reasons I never discovered or just cannot recall, the camper was never replaced. Working through my disappointment enabled me to develop a grit that has serviced me throughout my lifetime, but it was a loss that made an impact nevertheless, one I still think about decades later.

I’m not interested in a Barbie Camper at this point in my life, or any camper for that matter. Better to let Barbie figure out how to park it. I have enough trouble with my tank of a minivan. It’s also likely that the camper, if it were still in my life, would’ve been sent out the door in one of my fits of decluttering by now. But for fun, I went online and was delighted to see that my memory of it was spot-on, though it’s hard for me to believe this was the stuff of my dreams.  In case you’re curious, here’s what the camper looks like.

The camper accident was the beginning of the end of my interest in Barbie altogether, the moment when I began to wish for the same simple things I still ask for each year. If my family is reading this, I’m counting on you to come through.

I’d like to ask something of all of you out there as well, if that’s okay.  In honor of my birthday this year, I hope you’ll help me bring more light, love, and healing into the world because when I turn on the news, things are looking quite grim.

Please consider giving a little tzedakah (charity) or going out of your way to do a kindness for someone. Recite some Tehillim (Psalms). Pray for the stability of the universe. Pray for the safety of Israel, that our soldiers will be unharmed in their mission to protect us. Pray for California. Make peace with someone you’re struggling with. Hug your parents and spouses and children. Make their favorite dinner. Greet the cashier at the market extra warmly. Smile wide as often as you can.

And if you’re inclined to do so, have a piece of cake or a slice of pie on Thanksgiving with me in mind. Make a blessing on it and be sure someone is there to answer amen. That’s how we make angels and we sure need more angels in the world. Move the pillows off the couch to make room for them. Invite them to relax their wings and stay for a while. Bolt the doors and don’t let them go.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m grateful that you are reading and that you are here with me on these pages.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving if it’s your thing to celebrate, a beautiful Shabbos, and a Chanukah filled with light, wonder, and miracles.

Love,

Merri

 

 

 

In Praise of the Dictionary

 

dictionary

When I teach writing to young students, one of the first things I tell them is that I keep a dictionary by my side when I read. I do this for one simple and obvious reason:  so I can look up the meaning of words I don’t know.

The surprise in their eyes is priceless. At first, they can’t believe it’s true. There are those among them who are convinced that adults are familiar with every word in the English language. I guess some folks are, but I assure them the average human – even a well-read one – is not.

I explain that this habit of mine goes beyond the necessity of understanding what I’m reading. I happen to enjoy learning a new word or reacquainting myself with an old one I haven’t used in a while. Keeps the mind supple. It also gives me the happy glow you get after a good meal.  I want my students to get excited about it, too, so they’ll see the looking up of words as a means to broadening their horizons. That’s why I tell them how much I love dictionaries, which are all over our house – on bookshelves and the table next to my bed, even near the cookbooks in the kitchen. They are my constant companions because reading is something I do in all sorts of places.

I’m aware that some of the dictionaries in my stash are outdated, like the  Webster’s I bought in college and the American Heritage edition I acquired for my last full-time job. That’s why I got myself a new one last year. It’s heavy and lovely and a number of the definitions have tiny pictures accompanying them. I keep it on the coffee table in the living room. But I haven’t recycled any of the old ones. I can’t seem to let them go. I like to suggest to my students that they treat themselves to a nice one, too.

Yes, I say to them, “I know the standard English dictionary is available online.” I also know that as vast as it is, it takes up no room that way, which would free up our coffee table for other things, like coffee cups. When I must, I avail myself of the resource, like when I’m reading in a doctor’s waiting room. It would be impractical to carry a dictionary with me wherever I go.

But the cyber edition is just a means to an end, while a paper dictionary has endless potential for serendipity. Only within its pages can you stumble upon the word chantey (a sailor’s song, sung while working) out of the corner of your eye while looking for the meaning of chapman (chiefly British usage, a peddler). It’s delightful when this happens. I could get lost in the Cs alone.

Mostly, I love that dictionaries allow us to hold the diversity of our language in our hands, laying the vast quantity of words out before us, like a Viennese table with a million plus treats to choose from.  I share this thought with my students, hoping they’ll catch my enthusiasm. I promise them that growing the number of words in their vocabulary gives them enormous power to frame their world (Which way do I turn to save the universe?), not only the practical ability to share their specific feelings about their new baby nephew (I am besotted with you.) and homework (I’d like to defenestrate my textbook, but won’t.).

Besides, there’s always a new word to learn – slang or technical jargon,  words borne of world events and cultural watershed moments. I tell them it’s good to keep abreast of change. We humans are forever creating language, helping it to evolve and grow. It’s kind of a superpower, really. I suggest that they read more about that in Andrew Clements’ chapter book Frindle. I read it with my boys when they were young and am grateful I did. It’s still one of my favorite stories from their childhood.

When they’ve finished Frindle, I encourage them to open a dictionary – not in their servers, but in their hands – at home, in the library, or at school.  Smell the ink on the page. Then, I tell, them, behold the low-lying fruit and grasp at all the delicious words they can.

Finding Good Things In The Last Place I Thought To Look

shoes

It’s the season of atonement, the days spanning from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur.  I should probably be writing to you with thoughts about the holidays, but at the moment, I’d prefer to talk about Walmart instead.

I’ve never liked Walmart much, in great part because it’s enormous. Yet where we live, it’s the only general goods store open until midnight, which comes in handy at 11:15 p.m. when one of your children mentions in a casual manner that he needs a hard-to-find school supply for the next morning. And sometimes it’s helpful because I just need to get out of the house, to clear my head late at night when everything else is closed.

Two years ago, I made a hesitant peace with Walmart, not that I was trying, nor because I embraced the fact that you can buy underwear, craft supplies, snacks, bug spray, and spackle under the same roof. The reason was that yours truly inherited a wicked pair of bunions from her grandmother and has a very hard time finding a comfortable pair of shoes.

It was completely by chance that I discovered Walmart sells a good pair of flats. I was driving to a meeting when I realized I’d left the house in flip-flops without more professional footwear to change into. There was no time to return home, so when I spotted Walmart on the horizon, I pulled in and headed to the shoe department at the back of the store. The only other option on my way was a supermarket.

I tried on a pair of black, faux leather flats. They had a wide toe box – perfect to accommodate my bunions – and a flexible, cushioned sole. I couldn’t believe how comfortable they were. But friends, shoes have seduced me in the footwear department before, tricking me into thinking they’re the ones. I buy them, bring them home, wear them. A perennial optimist, I’ve purchased all the fancy brands that promise comfort like you’re walking on air. Still, I’ve ended up with a towering pile of shoes I can’t wear and plenty of blisters. On my last attempt, I wore the shoes out of the mall, but my feet were in agony by the time I got to the car.

As surprised as I am to admit this, the Walmart pair was different. So different and so comfortable, in fact, that I drove back to Walmart a week later and bought the same shoes in three different colors.  My love for flip-flops remains strong and true, but I finally have options for more formal occasions since my pump-wearing days are long over.

I wore the black flats this Rosh Hashana. They aren’t fancy, but unless I tipped you off, you’d never know they were only $9.97. And I’m pleased to report that in the two years I’ve owned them, I’ve worn them to work, shul, weddings, and bar mitzvahs without a blister or cramp to speak of.

In the end, though, I’m not really writing this blog post about Walmart. It’s more about exploring opportunities to be open-minded because you never know from whence your blessings will come in the year ahead. They may be waiting for you in the last place you’ll think to look, perhaps even the last place you’d ever want to look. But you’ll never know until you try.

Wishing you a wonderful year of blessings in whatever shape and form you long for them to appear. May they reveal themselves to you with ease, and may you have the mazel to find them wherever you turn.

 

Sorry, But There’s Been a Change of Plans

roadtrip

Beach musts include reading-sunglasses, a classic, a book about the power of books, a map, and sunscreen. Alas, they remain on the dining room table.

For the past 15 years, we’ve embarked on family road trips each summer, most of them two weeks long. To anyone who asked What on earth are you thinking? as we packed three young children for a cross-country ride in the closed quarters of a minivan, I would answer that we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I always say that the trips are akin to childbirth. Messy and loud and sometimes painful, but our memories are filled (mostly) with the good parts. Otherwise, we would have gone only the first time.

My husband and I both like to travel and explore, and we are always looking for a change of scenery. We wanted our boys to catch the same adventure bug. We believed that by exposing them to history and culture, to new places and experiences, we would open their minds and instill in them a sense of curiosity. Plus, we knew this would give them plenty of fun, crazy, and meaningful childhood memories, even if they kvetched at (many) points along the highway.

We were also aware from the outset that this wouldn’t be a forever thing, that the boys would one day outgrow road trips with their parents, or they’d simply be too busy doing something else. We did a headcount before pulling out of the driveway each summer, astounded and grateful that everyone was still in the car. In fact, we kept going even after our first minivan gave out.

Last year, one son was already in college and another was working at a sleepaway camp. To our delight, we managed an abridged road trip anyway, carving out a block of time when everyone could participate despite their not-so-overlapping schedules. But this year, planning things got tricky. While we usually have our destination chosen by winter, the Triptik from AAA in hand months in advance, and the hotels booked not long after, we had nothing set until a few weeks ago.

The participants were all moving parts even then. We were now up to a college student and another on his way to a gap year in Israel. The odds weren’t in our favor. It was likely that at least one of the boys wouldn’t be able to join us. We were sad, but prepared, figuring we’d best get used to it. Yet, to our shock, we still found a few days when we could all head up north to the beaches in New England.

Days before our planned departure, the older two – the ones I thought were most likely to bail – were signed on. My husband had booked rooms, mapped our route, and found interesting stops along the way. Meanwhile, I’d begun to think about what to pack for our meals when I realized there was no way I’d be able to sit for that long of a ride in the car. Unfortunately, that recovered I’m not.

My husband and I were back and forth about whether they should go without me, but I insisted. I didn’t want to break tradition. They all needed the R & R, the worry-free hours of lazing on the beach with the ocean in front of them. Besides, if they stayed home, they’d just spend the week of vacation on their phones. Better they get some non-digital fresh air.

Once I announced I wouldn’t be going, my youngest asked if he could stay home, too. It was, in part, a statement of solidarity with me. But he’s also got a lot of summer work to do and the clock is ticking. We agreed. The two of us have been toiling away at our various projects, including some adventures in the kitchen. I wouldn’t call it a vacation, but we’re enjoying one another’s company.

Am I disappointed we’re not altogether on the open road? I’d be lying if I said no. And while it would be incorrect to say there was no Ukraincik road trip this summer, it wouldn’t be completely accurate either. It hasn’t been the same for any of us. Then again, life is all about making plans and watching them change, then letting go. G-d willing, we’ll make plans again next summer. Who knows? Perhaps the stars will align and we’ll all be able to go.