Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

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FAREWELL TO A HOUSE

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When a neighbor sold her house, her grown children complained. “How could you give up our childhood home, Ma?” they asked. My friend couldn’t understand what the fuss was. Her kids were already married and settled in their own homes with growing families. Why the guilt trip?

A few months ago, my mother sold her house of 53 years – the one my siblings and I grew up in — to a construction company.

Today, I’m that balking adult child who dislikes any change. I’m miserable at the thought of our house being demolished, unhappy that a huge apartment building will replace my childhood home.

I want to kick and scream, “No, No!” I am emotionally tethered to this home and I need some closure. Badly.

So I travel to Brooklyn from my home in Los Angeles to help Mom clear out some final things before she moves and to say my official farewells to… The House.

To me this is not just any house; it’s many things to many people.

For five decades the house was a constant, a symbol of sameness. So much happened there, yet so much stayed the same. This is the house where we laughed, played, sang, ate, (and sometimes dieted.) The one where we studied, learned, listened, cried, complained, talked, yelled, argued, and partied. The house where my father, the disciplinarian punished us and the one where my mother pleaded for mercy.

The one where we hosted friends, had sleepovers, welcomed guests and celebrated milestones like bar and bas mitzvah’s, sweet 16 parties, and engagement parties. The house where all six of us brought our respective spouses to meet my parents.

This is the house that was always there, while molding us all into the individuals we are today. Saying good-bye to the house signals the end of an era.

My sisters, who live a few miles away helped her toss, throw out, purge. Together, they’ve been sorting through her stuff, discarding, deciding, selling on e-bay, giving away, and packing up her life in the form of furniture, clothes, toys, games, books, pictures, appliances, and so much more.

Ma, you don’t need this. Throw it out,” my sisters told my mother about some yarn and fabric and other objects that have been there so long.

During my visit, mom and I are upstairs in one of the bedrooms. She hands me a bunch of photo albums, tablecloths, and artwork by my late Grandma.

Here, take these, Miriam. I can’t throw them out and the girls don’t want them.” By “girls,” she means my sisters.

I’m sentimental about stuff so I carefully lay the albums in the empty suitcase we dragged down from the attic. I take the lovely round, lace tablecloths even though my linen closets back in LA are full. I pack the art canvases that my then-90 year old paternal grandmother painted.

My father saved everything: Old report cards, New Years cards, some projects. We laugh and reminisce. I take a few and throw out the rest. I take some old sheet music from my piano lessons.

My parents built this house in 1962 when I, then the youngest of four children, was 2 years old. Two younger sisters were born there in that five-bedroom brick home of 2 stories plus a large basement. So many events took place there that our neighbor across the street used to say to my mother, “Eva, this house could write a BOOK!”

The last chapter in that long 53-year old volume reached its downhill conclusion when my father (after 65 years of marriage) passed away last year. Since then, my mother has contemplated the idea of living closer to my siblings. The idea became a reality and the house was sold. My mother began the packing process.

Soon, my mother, who lived and breathed her home, her hearth, celebrating days, months, years and decades of history will be moving – or “downsizing” — to an apartment a few miles away.

The thought of not being able to just pop in there anymore pains me. Till now, living far away, I could fantasize that things stayed the same. Whenever I came back “home” for family events, things were just a little different. My room became a computer room; my sister’s room, my father’s exercise room. My brothers’ room became the sewing room, after a room in the basement morphed from a sewing room into a speech therapy clinic for an acquaintance. Two of the upstairs bedrooms became guest rooms; the basement, an area for guests with a separate entrance.

But the four walls of the house and exterior pretty much stayed the same. The peeling paint and woodwork refreshed every so often, the outside shutters missing. The bathroom tiles, my father’s bookcase, my mother’s breakfront with china, the dining room table, the living room rug where the kids played stayed the same.

More clutter, progeny visiting on weekends and playing Legos and blocks on the living floor. I was now one of many many others who called this home their home away from home.

But that house with that driveway, lawn, front door, combination lock, code and extra set of keys hanging on the gold curly-bumped edges of the front mirror for anyone from the family who needed the car. And the coins and dollars in the “front hall drawer” for needing extra change for the bus or subway.

No longer will I be able to punch in the code on that combination lock on the wooden front door when my husband and I arrive from the airport and quietly take the luggage upstairs while shushing my children in middle of the night.

No longer will I go past the front foyer, down the hall and past my father’s study where he would be sitting there and doing his work. No more smile and wink and kiss. Even as my father has passed away 9 months ago, knowing his study with his desk and bookshelves were still there was comforting.

My siblings lived so much closer to The House all these years as adults, certainly spent even more quality time on a daily or weekly basis than my own long-distance family who came for family occasions, The house was a hub for everyone.

Many grandchildren would spend the night while passing through to summer camp or yeshiva. Neighbors would use the basement for overflow out-of-towner guests. Grandchildren would come by to spend a Sunday afternoon, take pictures, sit and shmooze in the kitchen, and run down to the “avenue” to shop for unique items.

Toddler grandchildren would throw things down the laundry chute and then giggle as the other one stayed downstairs to catch it. Oh what fun! Until my father (RIP) would shush everyone up. But not for long.

Parties for charity were held in the basement and/or the living room, school events took place in our living room, high school play run-throughs, color war projects and cooking classes for organizations were held in our home. My mother said yes to practically everyone or anyone who asked to use her house for an event.

An acquaintance psychologist used the guest bedroom off of the kitchen once a week so that he could be near his part-time practice in the area. A friend who had a speech therapy practice drove in every Sunday and used one of the large areas in the basement for her speech therapy practice. A separate entrance was designated for her clients, right through the basement. The waiting room was the room that used to be our “bike room” when we were growing up.

A cousin in Israel hears about the move and writes, “I can’t imagine that she won’t be living there – so many good memories – such a part of my life. I know it’s only a house – but what a house so full of warmth and love, not to mention good coffee…”

Soon, the house will be demolished – the one with memories of yarn turned into knitting or crocheting, fabric made into clothes, photos taken, old letters sent and received, smiles and tears, parties and homework, meals and friends, sleep-overs, visits, children, grandchildren, home-comings after camp, visits after marriage, baby’s nursed, and non-surprise surprise parties. Cousins coming by, places for our children to stay during school vacations, and places for others to drop by when just in the neighborhood.

It is the end of an era of punching in the combination into the front door to spend time with loved ones in a large and welcoming house.

All that’s left are the myriad pictures in our memories, on computer and in albums to show to future generations and say, “See? That’s where we grew up. That’s the house that could have written a book…”

I sit with my mother in the kitchen, eating salmon that she’s baked in her GE oven with the manual knobs. We talk about the baby grand piano, and that she has no room for it in her new apartment. She offers me the piano.

We research prices on piano movers. I take a look at the keys, some of which have been stripped of their ivories by wear and tear. We talk about moving the piano and restoring it. I visualize the baby grand piano of my childhood in my living room.

As each of us takes whatever material pieces of the house with us, we embrace lessons learned from living there in our hearts and minds. Kindness, flexibility and hospitality. Friendship, love. Knowing we can take those intangibles with us makes me feel just a little bit better about the loss of the house.

Letting go of The House becomes easier with the memories turned into lessons.

But still. No amount of letting go will enable me to walk down that block again.


Grandmother Prioritizing (and pacing too!)

If you were a fly on the wall during a discussion between another “proud grandmother” (pg) and me, this is what you would have heard:

Other PG –  It’s so funny – I find that even though my kids are grown, and mostly out of the house – I have NO time for anything. Continue reading


OH – Those Pesky Pessimists

As a grandmother (and a mother-in-law) I often see things that I don’t agree with. I sometimes find myself brooding and getting really mad (“what are they thinking? Huh?). I usually stay mad for a little while (anywhere from a few minutes to a full day!). But eventually, I try to see the kids’ viewpoint and I handle things accordingly from there. It’s only possible to get things done if I know the other viewpoint.I don’t have to agree with it, but I know and “get it.” Then we can move forward and make adjustments. Continue reading


On Knitting Needles and Reading Glasses

 

Please check out the Israel Bookshop Publication’s  blog today – September 24, 2012!

New post on israelbookshop.wordpress.com

MAZEL TOV! IT’S A BUBBY! – New!

by anamericanjew

So…you’ve just become a bubby, eh? What’s that you’re saying—that I should speak louder? Oh, you’re asking for your reading glasses. Sure, no problem, just tell me where they are… Where? Oh, I should have guessed—right next to the knitting needles…

(Pause to allow eye-rolling and ha-ha-very-funny glares…)

All kidding aside, it’s a big milestone that you’ve reached…and definitely cause for some pampering of yourself, to celebrate your new status! So why not pick up our latest book, a first of its kind—Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!—which focuses precisely on your new stage of life, that of becoming a young mother-in-law and bubby!

….. the book is all about the author’s experiences as a mother-in-law and grandmother. It’s written with humor and candor, light enough to enjoy while sitting and relaxing (it’s not easy chasing after two-year-old  grandsons, now, is it?), yet thought-provoking enough to initiate lots of good discussions, especially with fellow m-i-l’s  and bubbies! Perfect as a gift for those fellow m-i-l’s and bubbies, too, by the way!

So, congratulations on your new status…Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!

anamericanjew | September 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Categories: General, New Books | URL: http://wp.me/pHOOb-gd

On Bubby Births and More

This week my good friend’s daughter gave birth to twin girls! Double Mazel Tov! What a simcha! Also, my niece had a baby girl, and my other niece had a baby boy! Double mazel tov there too! Thank G-d for all these Mazel Tov’s.

Meanwhile, I am  kind of (read: very very) excited about a personal Mazel Tov! – the release of  my book that tells the story of my birth as a Bubby! Five years ago, a Bubby was born; I became a grandmother. Not the first and not the last, and certainly not the only Bubby who was excited to become one (although it sure seems like that, from the way I tend to talk about grandmother-hood!). Nevertheless, I am a Bubby who decided to write about my perceptions, insights and funny stories  vis-a-vis my married children,  grandchildren, and adult children. Those writings —-and more —- evolved into the book, Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! – to be released on September 5, 2012, please G-d, in book stores.

And on September 11, the Bubby (that would be me) will be speaking at her good friend’s house at: 171 North Fuller Ave. in Los Angeles – from 7:30 to 9:30 pm. to promote her book, to sign books that people purchase beforehand from stores, and  bring with them, and to have some books on hand for those who want to buy over there (at a 15% discount while supplies last). Refreshments will be served. Please RSVP – by September 6,  if you plan to attend, at my grandmother/baby gear gemach website — at info@lababygear.com. 

What could be interesting about being a Grandmother? Well, to answer that question, one would have had to read the Binah Magazine which chronicled my birth and growth as a grandmother over the past five years.  And now – Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!   is a sequential collection of those stories in the order of how I experienced them, as well as many additional stories and topics that have never been published before.

I feel passionate about this topic, and look forward to meeting you all at the book signing, as we  share and explore the joys and oys of being a mother, mother-in-law and grandmother!

Mothers, mothers-in-law, grandmothers, daughters, daughters-in-law are all welcome!

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!


A Grandma’s Pajama Party

“When a child is born, so is a grandmother”

The birth of my status as grandmother has been one of the most evolving and growth-oriented periods of my life. Each milestone and event that happens in our family – leads me to learn more things about myself and life.

And tonight’s big bash at our house is proof of that. Tonight, Friday night, our grandson is sleeping over at our house. He is so excited.

And so are we! (well, really me).

True, he’s not coming because of me – the grandmother. Nor is he talking about this Sleepover for the past few weeks non-stop because of my husband, or my single sons, or anything else about our house. The reason he is so very pumped about this pajama party is because his 5 year-old playmate and parents are spending the next few days with us, while they are in transition before moving to another country. Continue reading


The Crooked Cap

My grandson graduated from nursery school yesterday.

When I got to the backyard where the “event” (sounds a bit formal for 4 year olds – doesn’t it?) was being held, I took a seat in the front row – next to his mom.  As soon as the kids came marching into place on the stage (with their teacher leading them in song),  I searched for my grandson among the group, and zeroed right in to watch him in his debut.

I turned to my daughter-in-law and whispered, “Why is his hat crooked?”

She said, “Ma, he’s FOUR.”

True. He’s four. I’m fifty two. And I’m worrying about his slanted sailor cap on his head. Continue reading


Who is Daydreaming Now?

These days there’s a lot of talk about “over-scheduling” of children. Too much structured time. Kids don’t have enough time these days for good old-fashioned day dreaming. You know that behavior that we call “spacing out,” “tuning out” or “ADD” symptoms? Yeah, that one. Well,  here’s my thought on that: I say that grandmothers don’t have enough day-dreaming time. Yes, we run, we go, we text, we drive, we shop, we — and then we collapse into bed at night, and suddenly wonder why we are so stressed.

And then, stress may lead to daydreaming – but not the blissful, imaginative, positive kind. Something entirely different. Continue reading


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