Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Autumn of Appetite (Carolyn, Ann, Norman)

A silver lining to this pandemic is the gorgeous Autumn weather and the proliferation of restaurants with outdoor dining; especially considering how much of us missed dining at restaurants. In fact, during one of the first weeks of Best Day's Zoom sessions, I gave the prompt "What's the restaurant you miss the most?" I was surprised by how detailed so many of these stories were, and I thought I'd post them on the blog and see if any of the older buds got to eat at those restaurants since then.

Carolyn Boston

05.14.2020

The Restaurant I Miss the Most

I miss going to the Imperial Inn for dim sum. Imperial Inn was on north 10th street in Chinatown. The Imperial Inn unfortunately closed after 45 years, and the owner retired, and his son was no longer interested in taking the business over. For those who don’t, or haven’t had an experience with dim sum, dim sum is comprised of small Cantonese dishes served with tea. It consists of a collection of pleasing and sweet tastes from a variety of steamed and fried buns, dumplings and rolls. My favorite dishes were the fried calamari, the pork buns, the pork shu mai, and they were the most delicious ever.
Dim sum means “from the heart” in Chinese and it originated from small Chinese houses, were made for merchants that were traveling. And they added small dishes of snacks and provided tea for them as they went on their way.
I was introduced to dim sum when I was living in northern California, and my friends and I would plan to partake in dim sum at least a couple times a month. When I returned to Philadelphia I tried to find a restaurant that had dim sum. Fortunately, a coworker of mine loved dim sum, so we ventured out to the Imperial Inn. And a friend of hers had told her that the Imperial Inn was really good and that they served savory dim sum dishes. When we went we enjoyed the dishes, and were hooked!
So throughout the years we had gone to the Imperial Inn and enjoyed ourselves immensely. I truly miss that wonderful establishment. 

 


Ann von Dehsen

05.14.2020

Pinefish

The restaurant I’m going to talk about is Pinefish, which is on 12th and Pine Street. The atmosphere is very shabby-chic, so all the furniture is mismatched as well as the dishes. There are chandeliers with twinkling lights hanging at all different levels. One room has billowing parachute material hanging from the ceiling. There’s kind of a soft jazz music in the background and all. To me, I like it because it has the three C’s, which are – it’s cozy, it’s casual, and it’s comfortable. They have a $1 raw bar, and a happy hour ($5 drinks), and very good food.
But in thinking about this, much as I like the restaurant for its food and all, I like the restaurant for the memories of times that I’ve gone there. The first time I went there was when I first moved to Philly three years ago. My daughters took me there for my birthday, and it was five days before I was scheduled for hip replacement surgery. So Carolyn, this is for you because you can definitely know what I’m talking about. On that day, it was my birthday and I was in so much pain. I lived on 16th and Pine, was only four blocks away, and I hobbled to the restaurant thinking “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this.” When I got there, everyone was there. We had a really good time, and suddenly I knew, everything was going to be ok. So I just remember that whole dinner and it was really nice.
Another time I met José for a long walk, and we ended up going to Pinefish for a drink, and we shared roasted cauliflower that we loved. And we just laughed the entire time.
When a girlfriend of mine helped me move I took her to Pinefish (which is now only two blocks from where I now live). And we had brunch there which was called “Friends with Benedicts”. And everybody there was in a good mood, laughing, and it’s just a very casual place.
So to kind of end this, I will tell you that on Mother’s Day, on Sunday, my daughters gave me a gift card to Pinefish (because it is open for pickup). But, I’m going to have faith and I’m going to hold onto the gift card and hope that some day I’m going to be able to go in there and sit there and enjoy it. So, that’s my story!

 


 


Norman Cain

05.14.2020

South Carolina Gullah Geechee Culinary Union in Philadelphia

Each year I would go to South Carolina as a child, and I would always enjoy having lunch and dinner at Miss Zillie’s Restaurant which was located in Pamplico, South Carolina, a tobacco warehouse town. And that particular restaurant was in “fresh grow season” the fresh slaughtered fowl and animals from the nearby farms; the workers from the nearby tobacco warehouses would come and eat.
And then on Saturdays when folks came in to enjoy the half-a-day that they would have off from their sharecropping activities, they would gather at Miss Zillie’s Restaurant. Miss Zillie was the sister of my father’s brother’s wife. And she would come down with her children and help in Miss Zillie’s restaurant.
Years later my aunt’s son Dan Junior, who was my first cousin, worked at a restaurant in Philadelphia that was the premier restaurant some 15 or 20 years ago, and had about a good 10-to-15 year run and it was called Mama Rosa’s Restaurant. They had several food trucks out, they were caterers and their main restaurant was very large, it was a very large parking lot was located in Broad and Huntington Park. The facility was large enough to have birthday parties, wedding receptions, etc, and at one time the Temple radio station would operate directly from there.
Now, each New Year’s for perhaps the last 50 to 55 years my aunt who was the sister of Miss Zillie down in Pamplico, South Carolina would have (and I just went to one this past New Year’s) she would always have a New Year’s dinner. And Mama Rosa’s, the premier soul food restaurant in Philadelphia, Mr and Mrs Ritter, that’s what their names were, would come to that New Year’s dinner, and I thought it was ironic that two culinary folk would gather together. It was like fate bringing them together.
Now, one of the things in my research that I found out was that there was a lady who died recently and her name was Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor. She was a culinary anthropologist, food writer and world traveler, and an actress. And she was best known for a cookbook that she wrote which was entitled “Vibration Cooking or The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl”. Now, ironically my aunt and Mama Rosa’s folks were considered anthropology as being of the Geechee folk that were brought as slaves from West Africa and settled on the islands and coast from Cape Fair, North Carolina throughout Jacksonville, Florida. And with them they kept the same kind of culinary skills, the foods and whatnot and the way of preparing the food.
So that’s my story, how the South Carolina Geechee Culinary Reunion always took place for a lot of years at my aunt’s annual New Year’s Eve dinner.

 

 

If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. You can also share our older buds' adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And if you know older buds changing with the times, then you or they can submit them through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.
 

 
And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all. 
 
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 15, 2020

In Spirit (Delores, Joan & Joyce)

It’s been seven months since the lockdowns started in Philadelphia, and we’re not completely used to it. Many of us were able to dine outdoors, attend Zoom meetings, and have socially distant get-togethers. But not everything is the same as it was before COVID-19. Best Day has moved to Zoom meetings, but many of our regular older buds can’t or won’t come to these meetings. I can’t blame them, since Zoom can be frustrating even for people who’ve used it before, and many of them are worried about online privacy. There are options to call in by phone, but those have their own issues.

Many of our older buds are going on walks, to get some fresh air and to brave their favorite stores to run errands. Many of the Zoom regulars are bumping into in-person regulars. Many of the in-person regulars miss Best Day and can’t wait for everything to go back to normal. And everyone on the Zoom meets misses them too. 

We’ve pasted a few stories from a few of our in-person regulars below. Enjoy:
 
Delores Wilson
12.12.2019
Back to the Future
 
We children (girls) looked forward to the favorable weather so we could be outside and play our favorite make-up game that consist of clapping our hands together in a circle with a rhythmatic beat.
We would say words in a poetic fashion. The words had to be consistent with the beat of the hand clap. By the way it was called “Re-Cha-Chi-Cha”.
Double Dutch was fun. Each girl had her own unique style of jumping. When we were going out we were getting car fare, but we preferred to walk and talk. Returning home we would ride back.

 

 
Joan Bunting
11.21.2019
The Day I Could Have Died
 
When I was twelve years of age, I was attacked with appendicitis. Within two months after the operation, I developed an infection.
Before I started having pain that night, my siblings and I had been eating raw peanuts all day.
When the pain had gotten so bad I started moaning and groaning. But the pain was getting worse every minute. My mother took me to the emergency room. The young intern told my mother that there was nothing wrong with me and that I just wanted attention. He gave me a dose of medicine, told her to put a hot water bottle to my stomach and sent us home.
As I was about to go up the steps into the house I threw up the medicine.
The pain got worse than it was before and my mother searched the rest of the night for her hot water bottle. She could not find it to save her life.
Now it was daybreak and the pain was so, so bad. Back to the hospital we went again. By then the head doctor was there. He examined me and wanted to know who was the doctor who told her to apply a hot water bottle to my stomach. She did not know his name and could not identify him. He told her that it was a good thing she could not find the hot water bottle because if she applied it to my stomach it would have busted the pus bag that had developed from the infection, it would have poisoned my system and that would have been the last of me on this Earth.
Joyce Woods
03.05.2020
I Wanted a Large Family
 
I don’t even know what I’m going to say.
Okay, I’ll talk about me.
Back in 1967, that’s when I decided to leave home and get married, I was 19. So a lot of people didn’t think that was quite a good idea. “Do you think you should finish school first?” or “don’t you think you should just wait a while? Maybe you should save more money.” My mother had a lot of older friends and my parents were elderly when I was 19. They were married 21 years when I was born. So they’re elderly and I came up by myself so I had a nice calm life. I didn’t even know I lived in the ghetto. This is on our block, I knew everybody, the same people when I left, and even the grandparents I would go back and take care of my mother. They and all the children would live on that block, the same parents lived there at that time.
So, as far as luck is concerned, I believe in luck, because I know what people mean when they say that. I know what their idea of luck is, and I understand your meaning of it too. I have very diverse life, so I think we have every religion in it from Judaism to Islam to African Methodist, Baptist and I’ve experienced it all. And what I’ve found, most people want good things to happen for their families. They want good honest life. Well I had decided since we didn’t have many children in our family at a very early age I think I was about seventeen that I wanted a large family. Eight to be exact. I would draw my little stick figures. The school I went to I got tired of blue and white uniforms, they were gonna have brown and beige, and I would draw that and it was it in my mind how I wanted these children. Because I was a woman, my father had died when I was nine, and I couldn’t understand why you would carry the father’s name, but I didn’t have a brother. So I said if I biologically have children, well they’ll still be a part of my father, and a part of me, and my mother. So I think I was a very mature child for my age by them being so old. All my friends were old. Even my mother would tell me sometimes, she showed me a picture after I was a teenager, she said, “you see all these people in here?” They were all seniors that had been my friends and passed away. She said, “There’s something wrong with this picture. Everybody’s on here’s dead but you.”
So I didn’t have hardly any friends when I got older too much but I did have a large wedding. It wasn’t intended to be large, it was supposed to be fifty people and I think the way I thought I wanted my mother to be happy because if I had lived with my boyfriend she would have died so I decided to go ahead and have a wedding. But it was supposed to be small. We ended up with nine children. The reason why we had nine was because, and they were all full-term natural births, I didn’t have any medication, nothing to put me to sleep, not that I was a hero but we were trying to eat right. During the first time that I first got pregnant we started reading books and started going to Lamaze classes, everything that we could get our hands on was trying to find out and it was a very nice experience.
So a lot of times, and you see I’m not really lucky, I don’t gamble. A couple of times I did try to play a number I never win. I’m talking about street numbers back in the day, right? So anyway I did it a couple of times but I don’t like to lose money, I like the shows if you go to Atlantic City. I used to be a lifeguard out there as a teenager.
Okay, sorry. Okay, one more thing.
So, after having nine children, a lot of people look at me like, “oh my God,” you know, they look at you like you’re a piece of meat or something, they have a bad idea. But I thought out how I was having children, and that’s what I wanted to do too, and I think that I have some pretty good children. Not everybody has the same type of experience but I think several of them have gone on to college and finished. One works at NASA and that gives me an opportunity to travel. I met a lot of the astronauts there. When they go different places I can go as long as I pay for my plane ride, everything else, I’m there, I could be anywhere else in the country. So they’ll send me tickets, and I can’t afford all of these things but having a lot of children in my family worked out nice for me.
 
If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. You can also share our older buds' adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And if you know older buds changing with the times, then you or they can submit them through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.
 
 
And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all. 
 
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Learning (Eleanor and José)

Things change. Ideas come and go. The only constant is change. When we're a child, we know all this. It's instinctive. Why wouldn't people want to change their lives when the changes are so obviously good for us. We shake our heads at how stupid adults are.

When we're in college and our twenties, we see even more new ideas. They're wild, free and exciting and we can't believe we'd ever though any other way. We know they're scary but the fear is half the fun. We take these new ideas and run with them, confident that if we can accept these new truths, we'll accept all truths.

When we're in our thirties, forties, and fifties, we start to get a little worried. Yes, change is good, but do we really have to change everything? Do we really have to uproot everything just because it's old? Isn't anyone worried about losing touch with our traditions, our culture, our history; all the good things we grew up with? And then we try to warn the young people about this and they just shake their heads at how stupid adults are.

We all think we're prepared for change until it actually happens. Former Civil Rights protestors argue with current Black Lives Matter protestors about how to tackle racism, prejudice and institutionalized oppression. Even if we want the same thing, we don't always agree on how to get it.

Best Day is all about sharing older buds' stories with young people, but that dialogue goes both ways. These stories, in particular, are about older buds learning how different their grandchildrens' world is from their own, and accepting it; and being really proud of their grandchildren. We're all still learning, but what's important is that we're all willing to learn.

Note: These stories contain references to racism and transphobia, along with some outdated terms for Black people. If you need to, skip ahead to "If you want to transcribe for Best Day"

Otherwise, enjoy the stories:

 

Eleanor Kazdan

09.17.2020

My Princess

Sometimes life throws a curveball. Gary and I could never have predicted what life has thrown at us out of left field. It was a gradual awakening that has now fully blossomed. We have been blessed with three extraordinary grandchildren, all born with male parts. I called them my three rowdy grandsons.
From the age of 18-months, the youngest, LuAyin, showed a passionate interest in all things girly: Beautiful scarves, dresses, jewelry, makeup, and all things sparkly. As soon as LuAyin could talk, he declared that his favorite colors were pink and purple. For his birthday he wanted Barbie dolls with fancy clothing and princess costumes. To no avail, we tried to steer LuAyin towards the boy’s section at target. He stood as stiff as a board in the middle of black T-shirts with pictures of cars and superheroes, lips pursed in a pouty frown. Next door in the girl’s section, he came to life, transformed by the sparkly dresses and fairy headbands. Movies with superheroes were out. He declared that only movies with beautiful princesses were acceptable.
When LuAyin was three years-old, we were chatting one day about his growing up, and as I said “becoming a man.” He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Grandma, when I grow up, I’m going to be a woman.” It was as clear as day, right in front of our eyes that LuAyin was a girl, but this reality was too daunting. We continued to use the pronoun “he.” LuAyin’s parents insisted that he wear his dresses and princess costumes only in the house, presenting himself as a boy to the outside world. An adult neighbor snatched his doll from him one day, refusing to give it back. “You can’t play with dolls, you’re a boy!”
About a year ago, with the reality sinking in, LuAyin was allowed to wear dresses and other girl’s clothing out in the world. She turned four in June and has definitively declared that she is a girl and wants to be referred to as such. It is astounding to us that such a young child can be so self-aware. We are trying to remember to use feminine pronouns. She has, at such a young age, fully transitioned to be who she truly is.
I always wanted a granddaughter, but I didn’t think it would happen this way. Life has sure thrown us a curveball, and it will be a challenging journey. But life has brought us a beautiful granddaughter; we couldn’t be more proud and happy.


José Dominiguez

09.17.2020

Singing With Sofia

When Beatriz, my daughter, was eight years old, I used to sing her infantile songs from Mexican Spanish author known as Cri-Cri is the greatest songwriter in Mexico of infantile music. One of my favorite songs was La Negrita Cucurumbé, (Little Blacky Cucurumbé.) I love the song because of the rhythm and the message. It’s about a little girl that goes the sea to try if the white waves could lighten her black face. The song lyrics continues: She wanted to be white as the moon, as the waves’ foam. But suddenly, a fish with a fancy hat appears and says to her, “Oh my gosh, but can’t you see how pretty is your face, Negrita Cucurumbé?” The fish message is positive in the sense that all children’s faces are beautiful just as they are. No need to lose the color.
In those times, the discrimination issue was not important to me, and I didn’t think too much about it. At least, for me, discrimination in Mexico was not an issue. Even when, for sure, it was a real problem for lots and lots of fellow Mexicans. In regard to the song appreciation for me, the music and rhythm was enough. Actually, I currently appreciate many songs in different languages, mostly Russian, French, Italian, Chinese, and English, regardless of the literal meaning of the lyrics. But, here in America, I found a different experience that has enriched my musical appreciation, and it’s that understanding lyrics matter.
Several weeks ago, I was playing with Sofia, my five-year-old granddaughter, and I invited her to sing; without that purpose in mind, I played in YouTube, a musical video of the Negrita Cucurumbé. She liked the music and accepted to participate, but when I tried to make her to repeat the lyrics, she told me, “What is the meaning of the song, Pepe?” So I explained that a little girl didn’t want to be black so she went to the sea to clear her face. She became serious and insisted, “I don’t understand, Pepe, why a little black girl wants to change the color of her skin. Please, tell me Pepe.”
I was surprised by the exploration of the meaning of the song and tried to explain the situation as if it was only a personal issue, not a social issue. So I told her, “Well, Sofia, people have the choice to select their preferences. Some white people want to have dark skin, and who submit themselves to sun and put skin darkener all over the body to change color. Some other people don’t want to change color and use hats, sunglasses and protectors, and some people with dark skin would like to clear the skin with lotion protecting the skin from the sun.” Sofia’s face didn’t change with the explanations. I guess I didn’t convince her. Perhaps she thought that there was another motivation that she ignored.
A few seconds later she told me, “But I think we must love our skin color.” Then, touching her skin arm told me, “I don’t want to change my color. I love it.” After that, I remember how Sasha, her mother, never takes decision based in skin color. Sasha also have a lot of things regardless of the skin color. Another thing that they frequently mention is that for them, Philadelphia is a great and beautiful bubble where friendship is the norm and skin color diversity is one of the many things that enriches our city community.
Sofia thought the same as the fish of the Cucurumbé song, that every children’s face is pretty. In the song, there is no mention of any social problem. So, for the moment, I kept the girl’s struggle as a personal issue.


If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. You can also share our older buds' adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And if you know older buds changing with the times, then you or they can submit them through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.
 
 
 
And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all. 
 
  
 
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Golden Week (Mei, Philip, Michael or Man-Tin, and Robert)

This is a special week for China and Chinese people all over the world: a Golden Week that contains both China's National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival is a particularly important festival that celebrates family, harvest, prayer, the moon (natch) and is known for delicious mooncakes. During this holiday, it's important to remember that Best Day was inspired by our fearless leader Benita's phone calls with her grandmother, Mei Chiu, in Hong Kong. In fact, one of the first stories Mei told was about a widow woman who kidnapped her to raise as her own, and how much her parents struggled to get Mei back home. Connection with family is one of the most important tenants of Best Day, and it only feels right to honor Mid-Autumn with stories from our Chinese older buds: 


Mei Chiu
~2006
Two Mothers
From this story
 
When I was small, I had to serve two mothers. When I was a baby, about the time I was just learning to walk, a widow woman befriended my mother. At first the widow saw my mother in the market and approached her, saying nice things about her lovely baby girl. Then she joked about wanting to take the beautiful child. More and more the widow imposed her unwanted attention, until one day, the widow took me from my mother's arms and announced that from then on she would be my mother.

When Mei Chiu's mother returned home that day without her baby daughter, her husband was furious. His sister, Mei Chiu's aunt, began to negotiate with the widow for the baby's safe return. But that took years, and by the time Mei Chiu returned to her biological home, her parents had passed away. Only her sister and brother were there to tell her all that had happened. 

Philip Pai

09.12.2019

Story About Money

I have a friend who come from Taiwan. She told me she worked hard and saved some money for her children. She expected someday her son have good education and become a senator or president. One day I met her husband. He point to his son and said This young kid will be a command in chief in the country. Both of them love their boy very much. In order to help their son to study in the United States. Even buy a house for their son, but their son didn’t study as well or work. The couple very sorry for their child. When they talk about their son they always cry! Meanwhile I saw a lot of my friend when they come to United States. They were very poor, but their kids work hard and they also study hard. Years later, they have their own business and get Masters or PH degree. Every year they earn money and send to their parents who were in mainland China. The parents they are very proud for they have such a good child. Sometimes I think money can make people happy, proud or make a family cry. It depends how you use it.

Michael Man-Tin Chan

04.26.2012

Returning to My Own Country


It seems like quite a long time not to have seen our club members and I hope all of us will be good for the summer holidays. I returned to my mother-town (Soo Chow) to see my relatives and friends in Hong Kong for 2 weeks. The weather over there is very good during the summer time to see members of the family. We felt very happy get together, especially with the younger generations – they grow up very quickly. 


I have a very good feeling for the young members of my family, and hope to meet them again on my next trip.


Best regards to all our members.

 

Robert Leung

04.08.2010

Lucky Day


Today is my lucky day. My friend Mike and I came to visit this nice senior citizens center, and were fortunate enough to meet my new Chinese friend Benita on her birthday. She is a wonderful lady. She looks and speaks just like my daughter Dorothy.


I’m so very glad and happy to meet her, and all of our new senior center friends.

Forever friends,

Robert Leung 


If you want to transcribe for Best Day, then email us at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. You can also share our older buds' adventures by donating to Best Day, subscribing to our newsletter, sending a note to our older buds, or following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter. And if you know older buds with stories of Golden Weeks, then you or they can submit them through our portal right here. We're especially interested to stories from Black older buds, but we're always looking for stories from older buds of color, older buds with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ older buds, older buds of any gender or sex, older buds of any religion, and older buds who just plain break the mold.
 

 

And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all. 
 
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Shanah Tovah (Eleanor)

Last week was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year; a time of reflection and a call to action for the New Year. With the harvest here and winter coming, it’s important for all of us to reflect on what we did in the past year and what we need to do in the New Year. So, I’m dedicating this post to Eleanor Kazdan, and posting a selection of her stories as a way to look back and look forward:



Eleanor Kazdan
09.12.2019
Lunch
 
My mother was very frugal. Like most families in the 1950’s, my father went to work and my mother stayed home with her four children. Money was a bit tight, and my mother was always looking for ways to make my father’s paycheck stretch a little further. One of her favorite pastimes at our local grocery store was rooting through the bins of canned foods that had lost their labels. We ate a lot of canned peas, corn, peaches, pears and fruit cocktail. One day I arrived home from school to find lunch on the table. Everything looked fine except a plate of ground meat. I took one look at it and blurted out, “That looks just like the food that our neighbors give their dog!” My mother vigorously denied that it wasn’t regular ground beef. Silence descended for a moment before she sheepishly admitted that it was, indeed, dog food!
Eleanor Kazdan
08.08.2019
Paris
 
Planning a trip to France to celebrate a milestone birthday in October has gotten me reminiscing about my first trip to Paris.
It was 1969 and my friend Kathy and I had gone on our first trip to Europe for 3 ½ months, backpack and Eurail Pass in hand. We landed in London, spent a week there before heading to Paris. Kathy and I were both Francophiles and made a pact that we would speak only French in Paris. Getting off the train we were walking on air through this exotic station where everyone seemed exotic and romantic, smoking Gitanes and drinking espresso. In those days there was a Kiosk in every train station where you could book a hotel. We easily got one on the Left Bank for $5.00 a night.
The hotel was run by a cute older couple. Our walk-up room was on the 4th floor. Every morning at 7:00 there was a knock at our door and Madame delivered a tray with big bowls of coffee, fresh croissants, and homemade jam. The hotel doors were locked at 11:00 PM. But the cute couple slept by the door so they could let people in after hours. They warned me and Kathy not to let guys up to our room.
One night Kathy and I went to a discotheque where we met 2 French guys. My guy and I really hit it off, and walked around the streets of Paris for hours. When I looked at my watch it was midnight. I felt embarrassed to go back to the hotel so late, so my petit ami and I stayed out all night on our romantically innocent escapade. Kathy and I met up in the morning. She and her petit ami had stayed out all night as well!

Eleanor Kazdan,
05.07.2020
My Quarantine
 
In mid-March, twelve days after returning from Mexico, my husband developed symptoms of COVID-19 and although I immediately distanced from him, slept in a separate room, I developed symptoms three days later and we both tested positive. His illness was incredibly mild—four days even before he got tested his symptoms completely went away, but I was not so lucky and I was, what I know now, mildly ill at home for two weeks. It was incredibly scary because it wasn’t going away and I kept reading about how after a week it can either get better or can get worse, and mine was not getting better. I had a fever, I was in bed and I had the greatest outpouring of support from my friends, my family, people from my past. It was actually exhausting trying to keep up with the texts and the phone calls, but it made a huge difference.
I was basically more or less in bed for two weeks and I had all the symptoms, which I won’t go into: a little trouble breathing, incredible exhaustion (I could barely walk a step for about a week), and I was so grateful when finally, after two weeks of fever it went away. The worst time of the day was in the morning when I took my temperature and every day I had a fever, not really high, but it just wasn’t going away. So finally, after exactly two weeks, my fever went away and I considered myself better. I have been in the house and not even walking around for two weeks and it was a beautiful sunny day, so this is the best day of quarantine so far, a beautiful sunny day. My husband said, “Do you feel up to taking a drive?” So I said, “Yes” and we got in the car and we drove and it was just like a miraculous dream. I really felt, first of all, really grateful that I had survived and we drove to the back of the Art Museum where there’s a beautiful azalea garden which many of you may have been to. Because it was April, the azaleas were in full bloom and we got out of the car. I was very weak but I managed to walk to the azalea garden. There were a lot of people there not social distancing and not wearing masks, and it felt very miraculous to me to have survived COVID-19 and to see the beautiful flowers and the trees. So like a lot of people, for various reasons, I feel very blessed and very grateful.

Eleanor Kazdan
08.29.2019
Kathy
 
This morning I decided to go through some boxes of old stuff in my basement, which has once again become cluttered. It had apparently been a long time as the boxes were covered with dust. The first box I pulled out was full of old letters, many from the 1970’s. Long, detailed letters, some from friends I barely remembered. Scanning some of them I realized that I had touched many people’s lives. And I also realized that not all friendships last forever, as intense and special as they seem at the time.
Some of my friends had written extensively, so I organized these letters in piles by name Elaine, Coco, Kathy.
Kathy had written me a mountain of letters from home, trips, and her college year aboard in France. I was overwhelmed by her love. And overwhelmed by sadness. Kathy died 30 years ago. She left me so much in her letters. We became friends at summer camp when we were 15. At age 19 we took our first trip to Europe together. We stayed close through moves to other cities.
When we were 32 Kathy found a lump in her breast. Her doctor told her she was too young to have breast cancer. A year later she finally went for tests, and found out it was an aggressive tumor. I was blessed to have Kathy for another 7 years.
Now she lives on in my memory and inside an old dusty box.
 
Eleanor Kazdan,
11.07.2019
Trains
 
I had a chance to reminisce and feel nostalgic on my recent trip to France. It was almost exactly 50 years ago that my friend and I went to Europe for the first time. We were armed with a 3-month Eurail pass that allowed us to hop on and off trains. And we hopped on and off a lot. In those days European trains had compartments that fit 4-6 people. You could end up being best friends with people who shared your space for many hours. And if you were lucky enough to snag a whole compartment on an overnight trip, it was a cozy bedroom for 2.
Things have changed, though. These iconic compartments are long gone. It’s much less romantic now. Just a regular train, everyone facing the same way and not interacting with strangers as much. But the same countryside whizzed by. Fields of lavender, cypress trees, cows who surely mood with a French accent. Paris to Marseilles to Aix-en-Provence to Arles to Avignon. The towns have changed as well. The quaint town of Aix now has an Apple store in the iconic town square. And it’s harder to speak French. More people speak English and want to show you that they can. But France still worked its magic on me.
As they say, “plus ça change, plus ça rest la même."
 

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And don't forget to maintain contact with the older buds in your life. If you can't be there in person, please call them, email them, or message them on social media. And if they're using teleconferencing or remote events for the first time, give them a call and help them set things up. Check in on them to see how well they're getting used to these programs. Buy them a computer or an internet package if they don't have one of their own. It's a human right, after all. 

Curated by Caitlin Cieri