This cautionary tale has a lesson: Before embarking on a bike ride, make sure you have taken the right key for your bike chain.
It was a beautiful Thursday afternoon in late April. The kind of afternoon in early spring when every tree is a different color of flowering buds, each branch has that blessed tinge of the lightest green. On that day in April, I wish I could freeze time then and there and live and linger in that feeling of potential that early spring gives. I wished to go no further.
There was nothing pressing on our family schedule for the evening: no plays, baseball games, concerts or meetings. And, our family of five was down two people: hubby in Detroit and my daughter on her way to a youth weekend retreat.
If you have a family, you know that the absence of even one member changes the dynamic of the household, and can inspire you to make a change in an otherwise humdrum weeknight.
Tonight, it would be just me and the boys!
I said “boys, let’s do something different. Let’s bike to the library, get out some books. Then I’ll grill for dinner, and THEN, let’s go to the Canal
for some yogurt for dessert!”
And who could argue with that plan? Not even my boys!
So off we went to the Brighton Memorial Library.
We locked our bikes and spent about 30 minutes reading and selecting some books.
Then, the tale of a wonderful evening took a dark turn.
My eldest son presented me with the key. It wouldn’t fit.
“You told me you had the right key.”
“Yeah, that’s the key, I took it out of the keybox.”
“Did you actually check if it worked?”
Obviously, he did not.
So, we walked home from the library leaving our locked bikes behind to locate the lost key.
Now, during the de-cluttering and staging of our home, somehow the key in question went AWOL.
Now, we had three bikes securely locked at the library and no key.
The grill remained unlit. Our bellies remained unfed.
Armed with a hedge clipper, I loaded the boys into the Traverse and headed back to the library.
Funny thing about a good bike chain. Underneath that rubber coating is a network of woven and twisted wires that don’t snap but merely bend when you try to clip them.
I called the good people at the Park Avenue Bike shop to explain my predicament and see if they had a lock cutting service.
“Are you far from home? Are you in a remote rural area?” asked Park Ave Bike Man.
“No, I’m at the Brighton Library. And I have a car.”
Folks, here is a bit of helpful information: Park Ave Bike is many things to many local bikers, but they do not have a lock clipping service for stranded, keyless bikers.
He then suggested I get some bolt cutters.
So, with the sky darkening, and are bellies growling even louder, we headed to our nearest big box hardware store.
A patient but doubtful man wearing an orange apron helped me select bolt cutters for the job.
“You may have to work at this for a while. This is not a one-person job. You may have to attach pipes to the end of each handle for best leverage at some point to break that lock.”
So, at this point, I am a starving mamma wielding a bolt cutter on the check out line of Home Depot. All I wanted that evening was a cup of soft serve yogurt on the Erie Canal.
At this point, my boys and I were beginning to feel like we were caught in a scene from our favorite comedy. I was taking on the role of Claire Dunphy.
We get back to the library and it is now nearly dark. I start chomping away at the bike lock. Next to me are some more unattended bikes. They don’t even have a chain on them.
A man exits the library and gives us a weird look. He takes out his cell phone.
The librarian comes out and also gives us a funny look.
At this point my eldest son shouts “THERE IS NOTHING TO SEE HERE, FOLKS. WE ARE NOT BIKE THIEVES. THESE ARE OUR BIKES WE ARE STEALING.”
Now, if I was going to steal a bike, I wouldn’t do it at the Brighton Library. The police station for the town is attached to the same building.
Finally, after a few chomps – without the aid of pipes – the bikes are free. The boys and I give a triumphant yelp and there are high fives all around.
We didn’t grill that night. Nor did we make it to the Erie Canal for a yogurt treat. I think I ordered in a pizza.
And the next day, I went back to Park Ave. Bike and bought a new bike lock.
With five extra keys.
A very long time ago, in a New Jersey city far far away, a young girl dressed in all black stood pressed against a mob of other darkly clad classmates waiting for the Smithereens to take the stage. In one hand was a pen. In the other a skinny reporter’s notebook. She was covering the concert for the daily student newspaper for Rutgers University. Her very first concert review. She wondered: could writing for Rolling Stone be far off?
She didn’t have to pay because she had a student media pass. She felt so COOL!
Her date, well, he had to pay.
Fast forward, em, several decades later.
She can’t even remember who her date was that evening or who ditched who.
That student reporter jumping up and down in the Rutgers Student Center while covering that great local New Brunswick band? The band she loved so much she played a tape recording (yep, tape recording) of their album Especially for You in her dorm room until it broke?
That would be me.
I’m all grown up. But I still love the Smithereens – the honey smooth baritone voice of lead singer Pat DiNizio. The timeless garage band sound.
So when I learned the Smithereens were playing the Rochester Lilac Festival for free, I thought:
“I’ve GOT to go!”
Then I checked on the date.
Hmmm. Being Jewish, practicing Judaism makes you make some tough choices.
I really wanted to have my eardrums blown away by this band who got their start in my college town. But you see, it was Friday night. And the grown-up me — the wife and mom with three kids — has a rule. Friday night is Shabbat. Friday night is family night.
And for nine years now, my family has spent every other Friday night celebrating Shabbat with a chavurah, pretty much a circle of friends who has served as our extended family in a city where we have no family. And with the move coming, we really only have three more gatherings like this left.
Now, our communal Shabbat celebrations start at 7. And, the host’s home was a hop skip and a jump through the lilacs from the stage where the Smithereens would play. And on such a beautiful Rochester night. And who knows if or when I would ever get a chance like this?
I’m a grownup, right? I can make my own decisions, I could have just walked over to listen to one of my fave bands to take me back to my college days, right?
But I made my decision. To set an example for my kids, who have sacrificed many a social outing to be together to celebrate Shabbat.
And, to see my teen kids leading our prayer services with the other teens in the group….
To hear them sing the prayers for years I had begged, prodded and NUDGED for them to follow along?
As I sat and listened to my kids lead the adults in prayer, I knew I made the right choice.
To Pat and the rest of the Smithereens, I’ll have to catch you another time. And in the meantime, I promise to buy your latest stuff.
This time, I’ll just download it.
Have you ever had to make a choice because of the religion you practice?
The months of uncertainty are over.
Ever since October 5, when General Motors announced it would be shutting down its Western New York research facility , life’s carpet of stability had been snatched out from under my family’s feet.
Every night – and I’m not kidding – EVERY night before managing to get to sleep, I’d look around the teal walls of my bedroom and wonder – what’s next? Where will we find a house? What will it look like? Where will home be next.
House hunting in the Detroit area did not put my squirreled brain at ease. Contrary to what everyone believes: (You are moving to Detroit!? You can probably buy two mansions for a dollar!), the housing market in the Detroit suburbs, the ones with the lakes and the great schools, is murder.
NO inventory.Still a decent amount of foreclosures that need so much work that someone would do them a service to tear them down and start all over.
So when a good house comes up, the buyer better be ready and jump on it.
And jump we did. At an open house. Cars lined up and down the street and around the corner to check it out.
We put in our bid. And waited. And the sun went up and down and still no word. And the sun did that two more times.
There were fourteen offers on the table. Ours made it to the final two.
And then the phone call from my transplanted beloved.
We got it!
So overjoyed was I, that the months of pressure, worry and uncertainty were finally over, that upon calling my parents to tell them the deal was done….
I screamed for joy with them over my phone in the backyard.
And we screamed. And laughed. And I jumped. And jumped and jumped.
And busted my knee.
There a was a pop. And a freakish twist that no leg should ever move.
And I wound up on the ground on my patio. Writhing in pain. Gasping, crying and laughing all at once.
Go ahead. Laugh, it’s funny!
Now, I’m off to my doctor and hope that I will not have to find a orthopedist as soon as I move into my new home.
Okay, April fools! We’re really not refugees. But during this very weird week of “vacationing” in extended stay corporate housing, you can say we are a family in between states.
This week, the kids and I joined my husband to live in a hotel just outside of Pontiac, the blight-stricken city just outside of Detroit where General Motors has relocated him.
The hotel is just across the street from the abandoned Silverdome, the former home of the Detroit Lions until 2002.
This stadium cost $55 million to build in 1975 was auctioned off in 2009 for $583,000, property and all.
That’s about the cost for a starter home in the Boston area.
I’ll talk about housing in the Detroit ‘burbs in a minute, but back to the Sonesta:
We are in the company of other GM families in our situation: spouses living here on a temporary basis and commuting back “home” (wherever that is) on the weekends. Wives and children also spending their spring break here in hopes of finding their next home. Only problem (and it’s a big one): there just are not that many homes here on the market that are worth living in.
So many of us are scrambling for the same properties in the same subdivisions. We talk in terminology like “foreclosure” and “short sale” and “HUD ownership” over the breakfast buffet in the common dining area.
Our first room was a bit – fragrant. The previous guests liked to cook with a LOT of cumin and turmeric and the pungent aroma invaded our nostrils the minute we entered. The hotel manager claimed that the room was ionized yesterday when we were out for the day house hunting, but the stench was that of “the beast.” Like Jerry Seinfeld’s car that could not be purged of the B.O.
Then, there were the roaches.
Yes, it was starting to feel like home more and more.
So, after I woke this morning to find a tiny cockroach crawling up the wall of my bedroom, I demanded the front desk to be switched from our cumin-encrusted suite to a smell free, cockroach free one. So now I am sitting in a much better suite.
I may have to like it for a few more months into the summer.
Yesterday, our realtor, sick with a horrid cold, greeted us at the first property.
Now, as we get ready to list our home (no, I can’t call it that anymore. It’s our house. A house. An investment.), we fret about the chipped brick on the front porch stoop. Or the grouting around the kitchen sink.
When I saw these properties, listed for way more than my house could ever fetch, I wondered, “WHY am I killing myself about the clutter?”" The hardship that the previous owners must have faced, to walk away from a house with an underwater mortgage, was evident with each cracked door, torn off sheet of wall paper, or appliances ripped from the wall:
Still, there are friends who have settled happily here, who have transplanted themselves to Detroit, who gave us shelter from the house-hunting storm to feed us not one home-cooked dinner but TWO, and show us around the neighborhood that they are glad to call home.
So, I will still hold out hope. It’s early. Too early to settle for a house that will need months of work before it can even be lived in. Come May, I’ll start to panic. There’s got to be a house out there somewhere that will be our new Detroit home.
This gallery contains 11 photos.
WordPress asked us bloggers for an in the moment day in the life photo challenge. I am sure That others will post about their day on a safari or exploring some Eastern European hamlets. I wish I could offer a post as exciting. But, here is an honest glimse of my life from yesterday. The last […]
This week is my husband’s final week in town. Next week begins his new beginning in Detroit but the beginning of my family’s long drawn out departure from Rochester as we yet again become transplants.
The sentence I have repeated hundreds of times to well-meaning family, friends, and acquaintances is finally here:
“Craig moves in March, I stay through June.” ’
March is tomorrow.
As the move to Detroit moves closer, uncertainty clogs my brain and there are daily reminders that we are leaving Rochester. We know what we have here, we don’t know what we are getting there. It’s that simple.
But then my nine-year-old taught me a valuable lesson. However small, finding one certainty, one thing that will be a known each day might make this whole transplant thing a bit easier.
On a drive to school the other day, my youngest declared he did not like his current room. It was boring.
And he might be right on this one. His room was never intended to be a kids’ bedroom but a spare guest bedroom. It remains the same since we moved in 13 years ago, way before he was a glimmer in our eye.
It is beige. It is very plain.
But (AND PAY ATTENTION POTENTIAL HOME BUYERS) it is brightly lit, private, and has its own bathroom and a huge closet.
He continued to petition his case for a more exciting room in our future unknown home from the back seat.
“My room is really boring, mom, so I am excited to get a new room when we move that is NOT beige. And I want my room to be blue.”
“But there are so many kinds of blues, how will you know which one to pick?” I asked from the front seat.
“I don’t want aquamarine, or turquoise, or teal. Just original, plain blue. Like the blue in a Crayola box, the kind with only 8 crayons.”
And there you have it. One bit of certainty in this very uncertain time.
My son’s new room in our new house in our new town
Hmmm. Home. The WordPress photo challenge: Home could not have come at a better time in my life, a more doubtful time in my life.
After all, I started this blog, transplantednorth, feeling like a transplant who was uprooted from my hometown. It’s only now, as my family prepares to move again, am I understanding that I have been home for quite sometime in Rochester.
What is home?
Is it where you grew up?
Is it where your kids grew up?
Is it wherever you happen to lay your head down at night?
This is a photo of our current home, in all its Rochester snow-covered glory.
But it won’t be our home for much longer.
I don’t know what my new home will look like.
I don’t yet know nor can I visualize the surrounding neighborhood or town of the home of our very near future.
So folks, I guess you can say my blog will become a bit more bleak from here on in as we start to say goodbye to all my kids know as home.
I am hoping to pick up again, to be more cheerful and a return to my more optimistic self once in Detroit
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged.
Then again, it’s been a while since I’ve stayed up past 7 p.m.
Unlike in previous years, where February was our sick month, someone one way or the other in my house was sick from December 31 all the way through January 28.
It started with New Year’s Eve.
My daughter was coughing and sneezing. Then her head ached. I could not find the working thermometer (that expensive Braun ear thermometer I purchased when the kids were babies fell into an open toilet bowl and as a result was thrown away years ago), but with my keen sensory skills, I would say she had about 101.
She knew that her planned sleep-over invitees would not be happening, but please can everyone just come over and she would stay upstairs?
After all, New Year’s Eve 2012 put the close on the last full year we would spend in this house. Everything from now on would be the last, including our last New Year’s Eve get together with our local Rochester friends.
But with flu in the house, I completely understood why everyone stayed away.
All the champagne, cheese, chips, dips, and finger food appetizers (including Mac & Cheese balls! I mean, can anything sound more tempting than Mac & Cheese balls??) I purchased for a small New Year’s get together would have to wait for another time.
My daughter’s flu-like symptoms lasted into the first week of school. As soon as she was better and returned, it was my oldest son who missed a week of school with a sore throat, a seal-like cough, and a headache that wouldn’t quit.
Finally, my youngest was the next victim of the flu and was out for nearly a week. A high fever and a bad cough were the symptoms of his misery.
I have to admit that he DID briefly return to school one evening, thanks to the magic of Advil, to perform in his chorus concert.
The show must go on, right? And again, it is one of his first and last concerts in our current hometown.
Next, it was my turn.
I often encourage my children to take turns in sharing things. This was a turn I would rather have been left out of.
My flu symptoms – both occasions, were sandwiched with the mother of all sinus infections.
I had completely lost my sense of smell for about a week. Do you know how much pleasure the human being gets from their sense of smell?
The aroma of coffee, of fresh herbs, steaming soup, freshly baked bread, lavender-scented candles and vanilla scented body lotion completely evaded me.
A whole head of garlic? In desperation, I cut one in half and inhaled.
NOTHING was getting through my schnozzola. Nothing.
I suspect that even if I had to change a diaper, I would be spared the stench.
“Inhale some red pepper flakes!” My son dared me. ”It will be painful, but it WILL clear you right out!”
I turned down his dare. I may have been desperate, but I’m not a 14-year-old boy.
When my fever went away, and thanks to some more OTC drugs, 100 cups of tea, and my new favorite toy (a Homedics humidifier) my sinuses cleared and I was feeling better.
But the tiredness and the cough only lifted completely in the last 48 hours.
After a month of being sick (and mind you, I know the flu is NOTHING in the face of other serious illnesses,) there is the blessing of
People’s first response when you are sick is always “Feel better!”
So, if you are sick with this year’s miserable flu, and you are reading this, I sincerely wish that you feel better.
You will get better soon. When your head is congested and you can’t even smell the strongest head of raw garlic, know that soon you WILL FEEL BETTER!
Not tomorrow, but soon you, will be better.
Better in the way that you can stay up past 6:30.
Better in the way where you can return to work with renewed energy and without the guilt of knowing you are infecting your co-workers.
Better in the way that you can return to exercising and actually feel energized and not exhausted.
But in the meantime, I leave you this song from The Hostile Hospital, a book in the kids cult classic books, Book the Eighth in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket:
Over my Christmas vacation, I spent hours on a cold floor in Staten Island rolling black plastic contractor bags into bundles of ten.
On my knees, I wrestled with the bags as a camper would a slippery sleeping bag and secured them together with a rubber band. Though this job seemed minor and menial in the scope of helping in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, to someone else who needed those bags to clean up whatever was left of their house, it might mean a lot.
As I worked, a steady stream of volunteers flitted in an out, stocking shelves as well as dropping off supplies. One woman who seemed somewhat in charge said she had volunteered at the Post every single day since the storm hit. Other shelters were closing on the Island and this leading volunteer feared that already, the rest of the world was forgetting what happened here.
She’s the one who needed those contractor bags bundled.
And she needed me to divide up other supplies like steel wool pads with those tiny pods of dish soap.
And she had socks that needed sorting and baby food inspected for expiration dates. My three kids got on that job.
At Guyon Rescue, there is no need for volunteers to make a reservation. There are no shifts. No training videos or marketing messages like other food pantries where my family has volunteered. You just show up and say you want to help. And they put you right to work.
Guyon Rescue is not a shelter, exactly. No one sleeps there. But to the many neighbors in this devastated area of Staten Island, Guyon Rescue has become a vital resource for short-term help since Hurricane Sandy.
Guyon Rescue is an all-volunteer grassroots network of workers and donors that have set up camp in a VFW Lodge around the corner from my childhood home, across the street from so many homes damaged and destroyed. Two months after the storm, you would not believe how people are still living unless you walk the streets here for yourself.
My husband and I also worked outside. With numbed fingers, we scrubbed out a donated refrigerator until the shelves were clean enough to eat from. We dried off equipment and supplies in a make-shift outdoor kitchen sheltered only by a tattered, tarp roof. Many of those preparing meals lived in the neighborhood and could tell stories of the storm surge. Of how many feet of water was in their basement. Or up to the ground floor. In the aisles of the food pantry, one woman collecting goods after she showed her FEMA card at the door told me how she swam out of her house.
It was Christmas Day, and soon, many who still had no power – or were camped out in cars near the remains of their property – would be coming to the post for a hot lunch.
At night, just a quarter mile from Guyon Rescue, my husband and I slept in my parent’s basement on an air mattress. It’s been two months since the storm and the basement looks back to normal. Except they lost most of their furniture when it became flooded with nearly four feet of water.
Now, don’t you go taking out any tiny violins for me or my family. We are the lucky ones.
Over my Christmas vacation to New York city, I also saw the Scream,
and Starry Night
We dined on the finest hot dogs and kinishes a New York City street vendor could offer.
And of course, we visited the tree in Rockefeller Center.
But if you ask me what was the best – the BEST part of my Christmas vacation back to New York City, it was volunteering with the good people at Guyon Rescue.
Want to make a difference in Staten Island with Guyon Rescue? Keep updated by following them on Facebook here. Because the recovery is not over.
In Staten Island, it’s only getting started.
Now that December is here, this post about wrapping things up in my little spot in the Brighton Community Garden is way overdue. But I must write this final post as a conclusion to the unforgettable experience it has been digging, weeding, watering and reaping alongside my fellow Brighton neighbors.
My neighbors and I have shared watering and weeding responsibilities through a hot dry summer. Our tomato patches bursting with more than one family could possibly consume, we’ve traded beefsteaks for exotic varieties such as the green-striped zebra or tiny yellow jelly bean.
Sue Gardiner-Smith, the manager of the garden, made sure that we kept up with our commitments to clear the common paths of weeds and not let our own plots get too overgrown (that meant taming my wild pumpkin vines!) In return, she gave me carte blanche to take as much Swiss Chard as I could cut from her never-ending crop of the green leafy stuff.
My garden experience ended on Veteran’s Day. The kids had the day off. First, we paid a visit to the brand new Veteran’s Memorial sculpture, just next door to the garden:
Then, we got to work. We pulled out the last of the vegetation, blackened and dead as a result of a hard killing frost that descended over Rochester a night or two before:
We pulled up the fencing and the poles ( the boys had to have a stick fight with them atop the compost heap, of course):
Harvested our last pumpkins and carrots, and finally, chopped down the remains of that sunflower that grew to be about 10 feet tall.
Putting this garden to bed would be the first of many lasts for me in Rochester.
Like clearing out this garden, I’m literally pulling up my roots again. Rochester may not be my hometown, but it is for my kids.
When I cleared the last weeds with my kids, I knew I would never garden here again.
I would not be putting down my $25 deposit to renew my lease on this 10′x10′ piece of land that gave me so much delight. Next spring, this plot will be cared by someone else.
Next spring, I’ll be well on my way to finding our next home, and hopefully our next garden somewhere in Michigan.