Archive for September, 2016

conversations with strangers #133

September 8, 2016

At the day job, we’re in the middle of a university sanctioned office rehab (new paint, carpet, windows), and every office around me was being painted as I patiently waited my turn. I sorted and tossed and packed and re-arranged and moved and transferred and packed and lifted and packed and attempted to do my job despite the disruptions.

Finally, it was my office’s turn. I walked into work and ran headlong into the owner of the painting company.

Painting Guy: Your office is falling apart.

Me: What?

PG: Your wall. The plaster fell off in rather large chunks.

The fear of getting trapped in a conversation with him outweighed my desire to know more about what exactly was happening in my office. Plus, his very calm demeanor allowed me to swallow my fear that I’d been working in a death trap. I left them to their devices and hurried to my coworker-on-vacation’s office where I’d be stationed for the next two days.

When they’d finished for the day and I was able to peek into my office, I saw about one third of the wall had been re-plastered and my desire to rearrange my office so I wouldn’t be sitting next to that wall anymore raged. As I contemplated new positions for my desk and cabinets, I remembered what the painter boss man had said during an earlier conversation. (Have I mentioned he’s chatty?)

PG: Success is personal. It’s all in how you define it. No one else cares. As long as you’re comfortable within your means, nothing else matters.

Granted that had nothing to do with interior decorating or safety protocol, but it was really good advice. Especially since he’s such a world traveler (Italy, Belize, all over the US, Germany, England, Australia, scuba diving, skiing, visiting…) and that got me pondering my next international trip, all of which is to say, he took my mind away from the negative (the crumbling but now patched office walls + how will I redecorate when I have no sense of these things + what will I do when I own a home + when will I ever own a home + will it be in a good location or in the middle of nowhere and no one will visit me because it’s too far away, etc.) and fastened it on the inquisitive (what is my exact definition of success) and the positive (a list of the successes I have had so far in this unconventional version of adulthood I’m living.)


September 6, 2016

“Did you hear the latest family news?” Maga crowed into the phone.

“I did! Little baby M arrived!”

“Two weeks early.”

“She was excited to see the world. Like another preemie in the family.”



“Oh, good heavens. I’d forgotten about that. This makes 8 greats, 12 grands, 4 kids. Can you believe I was an only child? It amazes me to think about being an only child and being responsible for a family of this size. It just keeps growing by leaps and bounds.”

“You’ve done an impeccable job.”

“I wished I’d had brothers and sisters. It was just me and my mom, Nana, and her mom, Granny.”

“What happened to your grandpa?”

“He was German. He emigrated to the US and after that, he met Granny in NYC. He died before I was born.”

“She never got remarried?”

“No. It was just her, my mom, and I in NJ. She had such a lovely garden. And a rose trellis with climbing roses. She was such a good gardener. But it was just the three of us. On weekends, my Uncle E would come down from the city to help Granny with her finances, so we had him as a companion, but it was a rather lonely childhood.”

“Were you close with your mother?”

“Very. She was a wonderful woman. A kindergarten teacher for many many years. She had loads of friends. That tells you the kind of woman she was.”

“And you must have had lots of friends too?”

“Oh, of course. At school and in the neighborhood, but with just Nana and Granny and I, it wasn’t your normal childhood. I wished I’d had brothers and sisters. But then after I met Jobo, that was the best part of my life. He was such a wonderful man and we did so many interesting things together. All that traveling for his job. And the four kids we had together. That was special. And now look at the size of our family!”

Her heart was expanding with future generations while mine was full with the past.