Sheryl and Sons

Sheryl and Sons
I told you they were big.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nachas Part II

     Last week, just before his younger brother sang his way into the hearts of dozens (see post from last week!) my older son was quietly making nachas of his own.
     Rob and his friend G came to volunteer at Friedman Place, where I've worked as a fundraiser since April. Friedman Place is a residence for 81 adults who are blind or visually impaired.
     Rob and G had created a program for residents called Sports Night, something we had never tried before.  They structured it like a talk radio show-- two guys dishing on sports, with the participants asking questions.  They had notes and stats on the Bulls without Derrick,  the Bears lousy offensive line, and the NHL lockout.  They also prepared long lists of trivia questions to try and get everyone involved.
     Rob asked me a lot of questions about Friedman Place residents.  He wanted to know if they had always been blind, and how they "watched" sports.  He wanted them to have fun, and he asked what sports might be particularly interesting to them.  I answered what I could.  There was a lot I didn't know.
     Rob and G scheduled their event on the evening of our Board of Directors meeting which I would be attending, and my boss generously invited them to join the board for dinner in advance of Sports Night.
     G was running late, so when Rob arrived I gave him a quick tour. I showed him our aviary in the lobby where the birds sing to our residents and guests, and our library with braille books. One of our residents brought us into the computer room and showed us how the talking computer program tells him all the scores from the ESPN website.
    I was surprised that Rob so readily agreed to dinner with the board members.  I thought he might find it intimidating but he was happy for the free meal. I knew the board members would be friendly to Rob, but I also knew they'd be curious.  For the last 23 years, I've spent most of my time working on being a good mother.  If someone wants to know if I do good work, meeting my son is a pretty good test.
     Lucky for me, Rob is wonderful. He is smart and well-spoken. He is kind and helpful.  He looks you in the eye and is genuinely interested in what you have to say.  If you look in the dictionary under "Fine Young Man" you would see his picture.  Did I mention that he is handsome?
     I graciously accepted many rave reviews from the board members and my colleagues.  This was different than when my son hit a home run or sang a song.  I don't take any credit for their talents.  But these compliments were because Rob was a mensch, and I take lots of the credit for that.
     After dinner, the boys shared their sports insights with a group of blind adults.  One person wanted to talk about bowling.  Another reminisced about Kiki Cuyler who played for the Cubs in the 1920's.  Two people fell asleep.
     It was a huge success.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nachas in the Bank

     It was my husband Joel's birthday last week.  I bought him a new coat which he sorely needed, but the poor guy has been under a lot of stress lately, and I felt that a more light-hearted gift was in order.
     Our younger son Jesse is a music major at college, and had two end of semester performances scheduled on Friday. I decided to buy my husband a plane ticket to see him.
     There is no medicine that cures what ails you like watching your child shine.  I remember Little League games when my son hit a home run and the other parents would congratulate me, as if I had anything at all to do with the bat in his hands.  It was awhile before I understood that I received their good wishes for being the lucky beneficiary of so much pleasure.
     Buying Joel a plane ticket to watch Jesse perform as the lead singer of a 15-piece swing band was the foolproof birthday gift.  My husband coined the ideal term to describe it: Nachas in the Bank.
     Nachas is the Yiddish word which most closely translates to pride, and is usually used when talking about the accomplishments of children.  But unlike pride, which is sometimes tinged by its cousin conceit, nachas is pure.  Nachas is pride plus love, in equal measures. Nachas is this.  (Click to watch video. Enjoy!)

Monday, November 12, 2012


     Today my son left.  In a good way.
     If life is lived in three acts, childhood, adulthood and old age, Rob has just finished Act I. He graduated college in May and got the job he wanted most.  He had been living in his boyhood room for the last six months with home run baseballs hit out of Roemer Park, the Harry Potter series, and a Chicago Bulls comforter.  He's been saving his money and preparing to pounce on an apartment in the city when his friends found jobs.
     I have loved having him here.  I loved that after a hard day figuring out what work was, he came home sweet home for a hot dinner at my table.  I made sure there was always milk in the refrigerator, toilet paper in the bathroom, and clean underwear in the basket.  I thought he might stay till spring, but his friends said the word, and in two weeks he was gone.
     Rob arranged the move.  He reserved a 26-foot moving truck and shopped for a 60-inch flat screen TV. I digested that my assistance was generally not needed.  I was glad to make a minimal contribution by washing the found-at-last-minute mattress pad, and donning my rubber gloves to scrub some mold off a dresser taken from the basement.
     I'm not weepy.  I'm not.  He's living in Chicago, only about ten miles away.  His office is not far from our house, so I suspect we'll still see a lot of him after work (if I've made dinner) or in the morning (if he needs clean socks from Joel's drawer.)  He is a child who does not need a lot of distance from us, and for that I'm grateful.
     But it has occurred to me that when my younger son comes home from college, the nest will not be full. It will never be full in that same way again.  Rob lives somewhere else now.
     It's as it should be. By all accounts, my mothering has been a huge success.  But the bitter part of the bittersweet moment is not that he's in Act II.
     It's that I'm in Act III.

Monday, November 5, 2012


     I'm having an illicit love affair with my son's Halloween candy.  Each morning when he leaves for school, I enter his room and find the blue pillowcase hiding under his desk.  I delight in the Tootsie Rolls I know he doesn't like, and hope against hope that I will find a Baby Ruth that has been left behind.  Today I sniff out a small box of Junior Mints which I open right away, and steal a Snickers to bolster me for my conversation with his math teacher.
     When I was a child, I hid my Halloween candy because I knew my mother was eating it.  I counted it every night and made notes in my diary:
     M & M's (plain)---5, (peanut)----4
     Reese's Peanut Butter Cups----4
     Hershey Bars----1
     Dum Dums----14
     My mother was never interested in Dum Dums.  She was eating all my Hershey Bars, and there was no one to make her stop.
     My mom grew up in a junk food-free household.  My immigrant grandparents did not take food for granted, and brought those sensibilities to the grocery store.  My mother recalls that when she came home from school for lunch, my grandma would sometimes serve lamb chops.  No Fluffer Nutter sandwiches for her.  My grandma baked pies and cakes for special occasions, but on a regular basis, my mother had no access to the sugary treats she craved.
     When she became a mother, she decided to have an open pantry policy.  She allowed us to eat whatever treats we wanted with the idea that if they were always available, we would not crave them the way she did.  Of course there was no scientific basis for this theory, and it turned out to be completely false. My childhood breakfast was two Hostess cupcakes and a cup of hot chocolate.  Things have not improved.
     My doctor is in the same building as a Fannie May candy store that sells "seconds."  I buy Pixies for a fraction of the regular price.  Shopping there is like going to a liquor store at eight in the morning.  There is no pretending when you are buying deformed Pixies that you are bringing them to your boss's house for dinner.
     When I was six or seven, I came home from school and my house smelled perfect.  My mother had obviously baked brownies, and the house had the warm chocolate aroma that made me forget all about my hard day in first grade.  I called out to my mother to let her know I was home, and checked the kitchen counter for the brownies.
     I couldn't find them anywhere, so assuming they were still in the oven, I asked my mother when they would be ready.
     "What brownies?" she asked.
     "The brownies that are baking," I replied.
     "There are no brownies," she said.
     "But I smell them!" I cried.  "I smell brownies!"
     "There are no brownies," said my mother without looking me in the eye.
     I found some Ho-Ho's in the cabinet and poured myself a glass of milk, but I was bewildered.  Maybe Mrs. Valenti next door was baking brownies.  Could the smell sneak all the way over here like that?  That seemed so cruel it was probably against the law.
     Years later I asked my mother about the brownies--if she remembered that day.  She confirmed my long held suspicion that she of course had baked brownies.  Then she had eaten the whole pan.
     I have become my mother and I have the thighs to prove it.  I have a silver filling in every tooth in my mouth.  Since I have inherited this disability, I have no confidence I will ever be cured.  I have nightmares about being an obese, toothless old woman, but hope that I'll still be able to gum an occasional Marshmallow Peep.