Friday, November 23, 2007


The turkey was carved and consumed. Ty and I had completed the drive back to our home and were sitting on the floor, playing with our beautiful twin baby boys. My parents joined us a short while later; they were planning to stay overnight. They took off their shoes and got down to the serious business of playing with their grandchildren on the rug.

My father, ever sentimental, got this dreamy look in his eye.

"Whoever would have guessed that we'd be so lucky," he wondered aloud. "I mean, one would have been a tremendous blessing, but we got two! We have so much to be thankful for."

The babies gurgled and cooed. I smiled. "Awww, Dad. I know exactly what you mean."

He leaned back and sighed. "Imagine that. TWO parking spaces that are legal for tomorrow's alternate!"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where the air is sweet

A local restaurant closed while I was pregnant. This in itself isn't particularly noteworthy; there were probably a dozen local restaurants that closed while I was pregnant. Restaurant closings generally sadden me--I think the vast majority of them represent the failure of someone's dream. This one in particular, though, I'm having a hard time getting over.

The restaurant in question opened in 1972. It was, almost unbelievably, one of the first real, contemporary restaurants in what is now a thriving, restaurant-destination neighborhood in New York City. I was not yet a twinkle in my parents' eyes. They were three years into their thirty-eight-year marriage. Many weekends, they would grab a bite at this new place. Other weekends, they would pile their records, record player, and German shepherd into their VW Bug and take off, perhaps to an antiques auction where they'd pick up a Bob Dylan-esque brass bed, or perhaps just to lounge on big pillows in front of a fireplace.

When they tired of that, I came along. The restaurant being family-friendly, they kept right on going there for dinner, bringing me along in my little Aprica. In time, I grew old enough to play their arcade-style Pac-Man game before dinner and order raspberry cheesecake for dessert, which the waiters brought to me topped with whipped cream in the shape of a unicorn. I was beyond delighted.

In the throes of the '80's diet movement, the place built a salad bar. Somewhere along the way, the salad bar disappeared, along with the Pac-Man. The old-timers at the bar, much like the restaurant itself, and even its wooden dining-room tables, never seemed to go anywhere.

When Ty and I married, we realized that the restaurant had the best-tasting, best-priced steak in the neighborhood. We took full advantage. When I got pregnant, their French onion soup was one of the few foods that I could tolerate during the throes of morning sickness. We'd huddle in a booth, scared and thrilled, and dream of bringing our babies to this magical place that encapsulated the modern history of a neighborhood.

One Sunday, after Mass, we stopped in for their brunch, the best-kept brunch secret in town. $8, including brunch entree, rolls, coffee or tea, and Bloody Mary or mimosa. An unbelievable bargain in a town where going to a movie costs several dollars more than that.

You know what happened next. The dining room was dark. Some official-looking guy explained that the dining room was "closing for renovations." When the construction cleared away several months later, the storefront was hip, beautifully renovated, and completely different. Different looks, different menu, different crowd. Different name.

I know we aren't supposed to cling to ephemeral things in life: restaurants, stores, TV shows, even houses. But I can't help it. I can't help but miss beloved things that go away, and I can't help but crave a small degree of stability in a fluid world.

Wordgirl recently wrote about Sesame Street. This morning, my father remarked that he remembered when I watched it as a child, and how, with his grandsons, he's happy those days are back. I always loved the songs, the stories, and the Muppets when I was young. They provided me with a wonderful foundation. I just never imagined they'd provide me with a rock.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Strike it rich

I support the WGA in their current striking efforts, for two reasons.

One, I think their demands are reasonable and justified.

Two, I cannot live without a third season of Dexter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The happiest place on Long Island

Yesterday Ty and I went to Ikea to get some kitchen stuff, seating, and adorable, inexpensive, anthropomorphic Scandinavian plush toys. And Swedish meatballs. I restrained myself and had steamed vegetables with them instead of potatoes, and only two small bites from the pool of lingonberries on the side of my plate, so the overall diet damage wasn't too bad.

Speaking of which, I'm down three pounds and feeling a little bit better. I still think there should be an activity entry in the Weight Watchers system for "lugging a writhing, screaming eight-month-old around while enduring head-butts and kicks to your breasts and genitals, 17 minutes," and that such an activity should be worth at least seven points, but, hey, I've discovered the delicious little Weight Watchers one-point cakes, so why ask for the moon when you have the stars.

Ikea during the week is an entirely different animal than Ikea on the weekend. It was so calm that Ty and I half expected to find Tord Bjorklund himself noshing on reasonably-priced gravlax in a quiet, sunny corner of the cafeteria, contemplating home-furnishings domination via a new line of brilliantly-designed sofabeds. There was enough room in the aisles that we were easily able to maneuver around the obligatory nitwit in four-inch heels who was there to buy two picture frames and score a day's worth of leisurely-paced windowshopping, and insisted on walking right smack in the middle of the footpath. Most of the children there with their parents were also preschool-aged or younger, so it hurt less than it would with some of the bigger kids when they hurled themselves at us from atop a Kramfors sofa or Lack coffee table.

I love Ikea. I really enjoy the meatballs, but I especially enjoy the fantasy that the chain wraps up for you in a saffron-colored bow, for only $5.99. Turn this corner, and you're a chic Stockholm bachelorette outfitting your new apartment, complete with a white leather chair and throwback shag rug. Head that way, and you and your spouse are pioneers in the country, building your own log cabin and your own kitchen to go with it. Like butcher block countertops? Saw your own! You may have entered the store on a low-carb diet, but, by george, you're going home with that pine bread box, and also with a festive green ceramic fondue pot! Each well-lit display offers you a peek into a new world--not unlike a Disney theme park. You can touch and play and build and arrange, and everything is brightly-colored and upbeat.

What surprising places make you happy?