Shabbat is a really big deal at my house, as it is for most Syrian Jewish families living in Brooklyn today. At my house, Shabbat is partly about spirituality, partly about family but mostly about food...Read More
What do children know about their parents? I mean, really know about them.
The thought was sparked recently when I mentioned to my 24-year-old daughter that I couldn’t wait for the weekend so I could begin to read the stack of books on my desk.
“Really? You’re into it?” she asked.
“I saw a Post-it on top of the books. I thought you were miserable about it.”
This is what she saw...
I had written myself a note, a reminder, to buy Stephen King’s book, Misery.
How often do misunderstandings like this happen? How often do parents transmit a message that is not true?
Years ago, I wrote about my 8-year-old son asking, “Mommy, when did you turn Jewish?” in an essay with that same name. Throughout his life, he heard my husband and I debate how religion should be expressed and explored in our home, and as a result, my child did not understand where I stood. He did not understand based on what he'd heard that I’d always been Jewish, and that I had a strong sense of Judaism. And so on Purim, when we baked homemade hamentash, he was confused, and asked me that question.
Just as easily, he could’ve wondered to himself, not asked the question at all, and not given me the opportunity to explain.
Over and over again, parents are assured (or warned) that if we are ourselves, our children will know who we are, whether we want them to or not.
But what if they get conflicting messages?
What if they only know part of a story?
I spent a lot of time researching this topic because now that I have adult children, I want them to know me, the real me, not some fake version, a projected, fantasized view that keeps me stuck in a specific role. I want them to know me with all my flaws and strengths and everything else that makes me human.
But there was nothing. I mean nothing. I could not find one article about this topic. No matter what sequence of words I strung together, every article I found focused on parents knowing their children, and not the other way around.
I found articles titled:
What All Children Want Their Parents to Know, Relating to Adult Children and The Bill of Rights for Parents of Adults.
Of course, it’s important for parents to know their children or, at least, attempt to, especially if you are interested in an intimate relationship; but why is it so difficult, or undervalued or maybe even taboo for children to know their parents?
My kids think they know me — and to a large degree they do. But I think they, along with children around the globe, fill in the spaces with their own ideas, create their own narrative, project and assume.
I’d like to change that.
I think this blog post is my first step.
When my mother-in-law was 70 years-old, she frequented nightclubs with red ropes outside. While people a third of her age waited in long lines, in freezing temperatures, bouncers all over New York City ushered her in. Have you been to Lavo? she’d ask my daughter-in-law and my daughter. (She skipped right over me, the one who enjoys author readings and likes to eat dinner by 7pm.)
Any other fabulous places I should go? she wanted to know.
Obviously, my mother-in-law has spunk. But she has grace and wisdom too.
Widowed, she knew enough about herself to know she didn’t want to be alone. She joined an online dating service, attended fundraisers and parties for singles. At one of these events, she met a lovely man from South Africa, and within a few months, they were married. I am not exaggerating when I say he is one of the most pleasant and kind people I know.
Women who know my mother- in- law say she should give classes.
The class might be titled:
Set Your Sights On A Goal And Never (Ever, Ever, Ever) Give Up.
I've learned some important things from my mother-in-law.
- Always hold on to the banister when you walk down stairs.
- Everything you say to someone registers. Even if they appear to not be listening, it festers in the back of their head, so say what you have to say.
But mostly, I've learned from watching her.
On Friday nights before Shabbat, Syrian families sometimes gather for what is known as maza, or Syrian appetizers. Maza is a middle eastern tradition and typically, kibbe is served. Kibbe is made of bulgar and is stuffed with spiced chopped meat and deep fried.
There is no telling how far back this tradition goes, centuries I’m sure, but this past summer, in an effort to bring her family together, one of her most important values, she started her own tradition. Wanting to please young and old alike, instead of inviting everyone in her rather large family over for maza (nobody wants to eat fried meat and dough anymore) she invited us for Cookies and Cocktails.
She might be one to do away with kibbe but she definitely hasn’t updated her views on marriage. She thinks everyone should be married. And the sooner the better. So my 24 year-old single daughter is a subject that perplexes her. When my daughter was hesitant to go on a blind date, my mother-in-law told her, “Just go for a drink. What’s the big deal? I would go for a drink with the mailman.”
My mother-in-law is a beautiful woman and she takes good care of herself. Exercise may include a brief walk in high heels, usually the length of 2 department store windows, but she watches what she eats. She is known to eat only half of everything. She eats half a main course, half a cookie, half a muffin.
"But what if it’s a mini muffin?” one of her children challenge. “Then you can have the whole thing.”
But she won’t.
She has her way of thinking.
She’s been travelling a lot lately: South Africa, Israel, Mexico, St. Barthes, Turkey, Spain, Portugal.
But please don't misunderstand. My mother-in-law has had her challenges. Her best quality is her attitude.
The class she should teach: A Positive Mind, A Positive Life.
My mother in law is well balanced. She has a chip on both shoulders.
Is there a family relationship more burdened?
Tempting fate, I went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with my daughter-in-law, Margo, last week. We went to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak about her new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
Margo is pragmatic. She is a nurse and scientifically minded. On our way to BAM, Margo rattled off a list of over 32 things she’d done that day, including errands in Brooklyn and New Jersey, tending to her children, helping with homework, meeting with a painter and just before leaving her house, giving an injection to a pregnant friend.
I, on the other hand, tinkered with a story idea for most of the day.
And to tell you the truth, I was feeling a bit down about that. It is hard to stay home, facing an empty screen and have what appears to be nothing accomplished at the end of the day. Of course, I know this is not really true but Elizabeth Gilbert’s message couldn’t have come at a better time. She assured the creative souls in her audience that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing and she encouraged us to keep at it.
She talked about fairy dust and inspiration but she also talked about hard work and perseverance.
She talked about the voices in her head, how they take up space and how she lets them come alive: The Doubter, The Critic, Fear—and while that process didn’t sound so crazy to me, Margo diagnosed her with multiple personality disorder.
You’re probably wondering why my not necessarily artsy daughter-in-law wanted to hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity, especially considering she is one of the few people in the world who didn't even read Eat Pray Love. Or see the movie.
This is how it happened.
I was supposed to be going to the BAM with my husband but he forgot and bought tickets to the Giants game.
I invited my daughter but she opted out.
My son, Margo’s husband, was going to the football game with his dad and Margo didn't want to stay home. I promised her a drink after the reading and let’s just say it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting.
My oldest daughter kept smirking, doubting the whole prospect.
But she was wrong; because while Margo and I are not exactly alike (I drink vodka, she drinks tequila) we both loved the event, and the hole-in-the-wall bar we found afterwards with live music. Granted, it was a bit awkward when two men started talking to us but we left soon after and found a great restaurant. I know I’m in the right place when there are vegan options on the menu.
It’s not always easy for us to find time to get together much less share intimacies. But that night, we learned new things about each other.
A mother-in-law and her daughter-in-law: loving each other, respecting each other, caring about each other.
Now that’s art.
That’s Big Magic.
My husband sent me this picture at 7:40am. The text below said, “Now what!!”
I was in New York City. He was at home in New Jersey.
I laughed hard.
I laughed not only because of his predicament but also because I admired his humor considering the jam he was in.
My husband is bossy and controlling but he’s not high maintenance. And since I am usually the first to criticize him, I wanted to stop here and say I appreciate his easy-going nature about household things.
Recently, every one of his golf shirts went missing. He barely said a word and bought new ones.
When he had only one pair of underwear left in his drawer, he simply said, “Last pair.”
And after a shower, there were no bath towels in the cabinet. I honestly don’t know what he did. (There were plenty of hand towels.)
I spent three days in New York City and he kept sending me texts and pictures, updating me on the status at home.
By the time I got back to New Jersey, let’s just say there was an outdoor garbage can that had not been emptied since the weekend. Inside the can there was a rotting strawberry Pop Tart, some half-eaten Oreos and a handful of sticky Laffy Taffy wrappers. You can imagine the rest.
All of these calamities weighed on me but I hate housework. Thankfully, I have help (new and inexperienced) but still, I don’t supervise well.
We are a big family and it’s hard to keep up.
My mother always said, “Housework is the most thankless job. You clean a sink only for it to get dirty again.”
It seems like everyone else around me gets it though. At other houses bath towels are folded all the same way and stacked properly on shelves. Coffee is delivered to bedroom doors every morning.
That’s certainly not how things work at my house and I often think I’m doing something wrong.
The problem is I don’t want to focus on doing it right.
It's summertime and I want to write and read and ride my bike.
In order not to make myself crazy, I teeter-totter between caring and not caring, cleaning and not cleaning.
I take a break from writing and go to the kitchen. It’s noon and this is what I see.
I also see two of my children, my daughter-in-law and my grandson at the dinette table, talking.
I have choices.
I reach for my cell phone.
I take a deep breath and the picture above.
I decide to write about this and think— One day I’ll get it right.
And then again— maybe I won’t.
I was scared and unsure:
Would people like what I wrote and how I wrote it?
Was I ready for the world of social media?
What if I made a grammatical mistake?
Well, I did make errors. Some I was able to fix, others I wasn’t.
And remarkably, I survived.
Reader comments kept me going.
Some of you responded directly on the blog site, some on Facebook, some on Instagram, some by private text message and many in person: at the grocery store, at parties and on the street.
(You’d be surprised how many people are hesitant to comment through social media. I was happy to learn, I wasn’t the only inhibited one.)
Tuesdays became my favorite day of the week as I woke to other bloggers liking my post and tracking how many people had read.
I heard from people I hadn’t talked to in 20 years, from people all over the country and yes, even an old boyfriend.
My work was read in Australia, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Spain, France, Norway, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Israel, Lebanon, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and more.
A special thanks goes to my friends and family who let me write about them, their outrageous stories and vulnerable moments.
All year, friends teased that they had to watch what they said in front of me for fear they’d end up in a post.
I heard everything from, “Shhh, she’s going to write about you” to “It’s good Corie’s not here.” (Yes, people repeat these things to me.)
Looking for material or attempting to drum up good conversation, this blog has been the impetus for many a dinner table debate.
Over the course of this year, I wrote about topics that mattered to me.
Equal rights- Gay Marriage
Empathy- Still Alice
Parenting- Parenting Gone Well
Friendship- Friendship Matters
Sex- Masters of Sex
Education- Doodle Power
Addiction- Monkey See, Monkey Do
Writing- Writing: It Could Come Back to Bite You.
The Environment- Earth Day 2015.
I wrote about topics that peturbed me slightly- Pouting Face Emoji
And things that annoyed me greatly- A Tip for My Uber Driver.
And things I feared- Fear: The Good The Bad and The Ugly.
Writing about these topics made me focus on them, and in writing Gone Girl No More, I faced my apprehension, put myself out there, and finally got headshots!
Daring greatly (I'm a Brene Brown lover) I'm posting them here.
Help me choose the new From The Core photograph so I can get rid of the blurry one on my About Page.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the night my husband asked me to marry him so this is kind of a double anniversary for me.
And it’s appropriate that my blog about relationships and my marriage share an anniversary because as long as I’m married to my husband, I’ll always have plenty to write about!
P.S. Thanks for reading!! And don’t forget to pick a headshot favorite!!
My mother is extremely organized.
I tend to be less so.
She would’ve never made the mistake I made, which is that this post is a Mother’s Day post and it should’ve been posted last Tuesday, a few days before Mother’s Day, not after; but I got confused, which I do sometimes, and that’s why the post is late, which is another way we differ because my mother is never late. And I mean never.
This is the kind of mishap that has driven my mother to call me flighty, which no one has ever called her.
My mother is disciplined and straightforward.
I am less disciplined and more artsy, which is to say emotional; or as she would say, all over the place.
So I’ve held the belief we were nothing alike.
But when we both showed up wearing the same thing on a number of occasions, I began to wonder.
In addition, I’ve begun to speak as she does, which is significant because she uses words like boondocks and expressions like…
A feather in my cap
The early bird catches the worm.
I start many a sentence, when I’m talking to my kids, with “As grandma would say," and then I say things like…
I’ll eat my hat
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
They tell me I can’t do that. They tell me if I continue to use those phrases, I can’t pretend I’m not really using them.
And I've come to realize my mother and I are alike in other ways as well. We both get nervous when we travel, don’t do well in traffic and are electronically challenged. We both love coffee and hate shopping.
But here’s the thing I’ve only recently realized about how we are much more alike than I ever before thought.
My mother was an avid tennis player, and a winner too. She played for hours in the brutal New Orleans heat throughout my childhood. And when we moved to New York in 1980, she and her mixed doubles partner were ranked (by the United States Tennis Association) number one in the east.
As a little girl, she hit tennis balls with me, teaching me the game. “It doesn’t have to be the best shot. But never give up. Just get the ball over the net one more time,” she’d say. “That’s how you win.”
What she taught me was perseverance. Yes, it takes talent and dedication to craft to be a writer but what it takes even more than those things is perseverance. I read that a number of years back, and it stuck with me; because I believe it to be true. I could’ve given up a long time ago; but I didn’t.
And that determination is paying off.
As my mother would say, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.
I’ve seen it over and over again: The need to be right. It’s a relationship killer.
It affects marriages, friendships, co-workers and heads of countries.
I saw it, the needing to be right problem, brewing this past weekend over “The Dress”. Husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children vehemently fighting over if “the dress” was blue and black or white and gold.
It was actually comical how intense people got in their efforts to convince others to see what they saw.
My own family had a group chat going for most of Friday. What started out as funny turned well, here it is. You decide.
Note: Text messages have been edited for clarity reasons and to protect those in my family who can’t spell, and those who don’t care about grammar: text message or not.
10:21am Friday morning, I got this from my oldest son. Let's call him Son#1: What color is this dress?
My husband answered: Is this a trick question? It’s blue and black.
Daughter #2: It changes. It was white and gold but now it’s blue and black.
Son #2 said he saw blue and black; but his wife saw white and gold. He said they fought about it all night.
I wrote: Blue and black. And to the gold and white people- what are you talking about?
Son #1 sent this updating us on the picture that had gone viral and the story behind it that had the nation’s attention.
My husband works in the fashion business and he worried about his design team. What if they had color issues?
Son #1, who works in the family business with him, was about to go into a design meeting. He assured my husband he would get to the bottom of this.
Daughter-in-law #1, who is a nurse, sent a very long and scientific text explaining that our retinas have rods and cones and she used phrases like subtractive mixing and additive mixing, and I knew that more than half of my family would not bother to read her text.
Our family discussed “the dress” all day via group chat, today’s version of family bonding.
I was excited because it was Friday; and so, I imagined the prospect of a Friday night dinner conversation about perspective and perception, human complexity and the human condition, a conversation with more depth than our usual dialogue, like is pink salt better tasting than kosher salt? And are the mashed potatoes on the table really mashed potatoes or is it really mashed cauliflower? And how nobody in his or her right mind would ever prefer cauliflower.
So I pushed my agenda and wrote: This is craziness. What an interesting take on perspective.
There was no response to the seed I’d planted.
The next text was from Daughter-in-law #2: It’s white and gold!!!!
We were all flummoxed, but Son #1 said it best: Major bug out.
Daughter #1 chimed in: You guys are nuts. It’s blue and black.
(Reader: I presume you see my family’s sincere interest in understanding one another’s point of view.)
Son #1 sent this picture. What do you see now?
Son #3 wrote: Those are obviously 3 different dresses.
Daughter-in-law #2: I see white and gold in all 3!!!
Daughter #2: No you don’t!!!
Then the real fun began…
Daughter-in-law #2 raised the stakes: I feel sad for all you blue and black people because the dress is white and gold. Fact.
(Now that’s tolerance.)
Son #2 (and the above daughter-in-law’s husband): You’re lying. You don’t see white and gold on the last one.
Daughter #1: I feel sad for you white and gold people. These all 3 are blue and black! What else are you missing out on in the world? What color are blueberries to you?
Daughter-in-law #2: No, I feel sad for you. (Angry emoji face). I can’t believe you see blue and black. I thought differently of you. I guess happy people see lighter things. (Smiley emoji). Good luck in life black and blue people.
Daughter #1: So happy person, what color do you see?
Daughter-in-law #2: Forgot who I’m debating with. Gonna need a little help. (She summoned son #3, my white and gold seeing son.)
He sent this…
Are you blue and black people seeing an evil Satan baby wearing black?
Then we got this:
Then this arrived:
We continued to debate throughout the rest of the day. While there were a couple of digs here and there, there was plenty of laughter.
I can’t help but think there’s something important to be learned from “the dress” and the dialogue it sparked.
No matter how logical the reasoning, the fervor of the argument, the force of the claim, those who saw gold and white could not see black and blue no matter how much the black and blue people wanted them to, and visa versa.
Wars happen, divorce happens, often because people need to be right.
But what if there is no right? Or more precisely, depending on how you see things, what if both sides are right?
We sat at the dinner table, my husband and two of our children.
My husband was joking around when he said, “you’d still be in the bayou if it wasn’t for me.” (By bayou he meant New Orleans.)
I didn’t say anything.
“And you wouldn’t have anything to write about.” (It’s true - he’s given me plenty of heartache. Oops- I mean, material.)
“What would you be without me?”
I played along. “I can’t imagine what my life would be like without you.”
“A lot less therapy,” my son said.
We had a good laugh over that one.
“My poor mother,” I said, “she thought it was because of her.”
But the truth is I sought out therapy because of me.
I’m a believer.
It’s simple really. I’ve learned so much.
Like the time my typically good-natured 14 year-old son was fighting with all of his siblings and my therapist said that his bad behavior was making it easier for him to separate from our loving family. She assured me that what he was doing was developmentally appropriate. With this understanding, I engaged with him in a way that was sympathetic, not punitive.
Like the time I learned that while my husband could be overly assertive, it was my job to find my voice and practice agency.
Like the time a friendship veered off-course, and I discovered I couldn’t change anyone but myself.
What I’ve learned in therapy has been invaluable.
I treasure every insight realized and every nugget of information acquired.
And it's good to know, when all else fails, in the words of Robin Williams, according to Freud, "if it's not one thing, it's your mother."
My grandmother, Freda, brushed her beauty parlor- coiffed hair at a gilded light-blue vanity table. She dabbed her wrists with Bal a’ Versaille perfume and never left her apartment without a full-face of make-up.
She painted her eyelashes with electric blue mascara and her fingernails, bright red.
I care about what I look like, I do. But for most of my adult life, I couldn’t care as much as my grandmother did.
Believing it to be a waste of time, not to mention narcissistic, I couldn’t be bothered to change my jewelry, or my purse, to match my outfit. Plus, more often than not, these acts led to calamity.
I misplaced jewelry. I forgot my wallet at home.
The truth is that as a young adult, I devalued fashion and judged how much energy my grandmother put into her looks, always calling attention to herself.
I don’t anymore. I respect it and wish I had the many colorful crocodile purses or Gucci silk blouses she gave me.
What she wore was how my grandmother expressed herself.
This was her art.
She was the canvas: every splash of color, how every fabric draped, the clanking of bracelets on her arm.
My grandmother didn’t have the opportunity to attend NYU’s art program or Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, as I did. She did what she could with what she had.
She wore colorful, long, flowing skirts and called herself a gypsy. Other days, strutting around New York City, well into her eighties, she wore black leather pants.
Last weekend, I went to the Museum of Modern Art and saw Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibit.
Matisse referred to his process as painting with scissors. And it occurred to me that my grandmother painted with clothes.
For texture: a snakeskin belt, a fur coat, a silk scarf.
And color: purple was never just purple. It was aubergine; and on her palette there was milk white, canary yellow, coal black and robin egg blue.
For as long as I can remember, while I adored my grandmother, I thought when it came to fashion, we were completely different.
Rebelling, I undervalued what was in vogue, attempting to carve out my own identity. But when we make decisions based on unconscious motivations, we cut ourselves off from our true selves.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – Jung.
I have come to appreciate fashion, and to see it as art; but for many years, I reduced my grandmother to a mannequin and saw her belief system as flawed. I went the opposite way, finding fashion frivolous and unnecessary. But in doing that I was being controlled by my family’s value system around beauty just as completely as if I had become a fashionista.
The Matisse cutouts are made up of positive and negative shapes. The positive space is generally considered the subject and the negative space is not the subject.
The negative space is equally as important as the positive space; and paying attention to the negative space can have a surprising effect on a work of art.
In studying the Matisse cutouts at the museum, I came to see what’s conscious in us as positive space; and what’s unconscious as negative space.
It’s in exploring both, what’s conscious and unconscious, that we come to know who we really are and what we really want.
I don’t have to care about fashion the way my grandmother did; but I don’t have to not care either.
On April 14, 2014 Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist organization, kidnapped 276 female students in Nigeria.
On December 15, 2014 the Pakistani Taliban killed 141 people (132 of them children) in a school in Peshawar.
Terrorists understand that education corrodes extremism.
Terrorists understand that education is the most powerful force to transform society.
That’s why they keep attacking schools and school children.
It is unthinkable and utterly disturbing.
In a New York Times piece, What’s So Scary About Smart Girls? Nicholas Kristof writes, “When terrorists in Nigeria organized a secret attack last month, they didn’t target an army barracks, a police department or a drone base. No, Boko Haram militants attacked what is even scarier to a fanatic: a girl’s school. That’s what extremists do. They target educated girls, their worst nightmare.”
In a more recent essay, Kristof states, “I’ve concluded that education may be the single best way to help people help themselves.”
So what’s my point?
Is it that…
A. American leaders should know this too and should invest more in education both domestically and overseas?
B. Individuals will find power in getting educated?
C. Parents must educate their children?
D. All of the above.
Malala Yousafzai miraculously survived and is now an activist who speaks on the rights of children. She brought worldwide attention to the mission: BRING BACK OUR GIRLS after the kidnappings in Nigeria.
Sometimes, I feel helpless because it seems there is little I can do.
But in an effort to be a part, albeit a small part, of the solution, I support Room to Read, an organization that envisions a world in which all children can pursue a quality education, reach their full potential and contribute to their community and the world.
It has been said that the most influential of all educational factors is the conversation in a child’s home.
What’s the conversation at your house?
Wanting to spend time with my two daughters, I recently took them to Canyon Ranch in Miami. Even though they are 7 years apart, everywhere we went, people thought they were twins. They are becoming women. And I notice how they’ve grown.
Elaine, 16 years old, speaks up, her voice determined. She knows how to ask for what she wants and get it.
Rachel, 23, keeps reminding me she can take care of herself, which of course she can.
I watch them. And wonder about who they are as individuals, and who they are as sisters.
When I am around them I feel more my age. It’s striking.
I stare at their young bodies. Firm.
Often now, I can’t hear what they’re saying; and even when I can, I don’t always understand. They do a lot of explaining.
They share things with each other that they wouldn’t share with me.
I like that and I don’t.
We do spa-like things. We weigh ourselves. We talk about food. We try out the sauna. We relax on the beach and read books.
We laugh over little things like how Rachel fell asleep in the sun and tanned half her face.
They go to a Rock Climbing class and take Advanced Boxing, while I write. They have each other.
When they return, there are stories. There was an instructor. Adam. "He liked me," Elaine said. "The other guy liked me," Rachel added. "Okay," Elaine said. They both giggle. "No fair," Rachel said. "You’re guy was cuter."
Later, they do a couples massage. They come back to the room in spa robes. There are more stories. Two boys asked them out in the elevator.
“Every time I leave you two alone, you get picked up,” I say. And then I point out that they had an unfair advantage being naked under their spa robes.
They aren’t inhibited. That night at dinner, they go braless.
And then the next day, they are kids again frolicking in the ocean, splashing and shrieking when jellyfish swim by. I sit on my lounge chair and watch. Listen.
We play a game. Name 3 characteristics that describe each of us.
They say I’m unique, and as much as I’d like to believe this is a compliment, coming from them, it’s questionable.
They make fun of everything I do; but then, unexpectedly, and miraculously, they’ll come for a hug or sit next to me and put their head on my shoulder.
While sometimes, in my eyes, my daughters go from being my babies to young women in the world, for them, I think, I am always, simply their mother.
The light was green but I wouldn’t budge. Richard, my 10 year-old son, sat in the passenger’s seat next to me. “Go, Mom.” “Did you just litter?” I asked Richard. “It was a tiny gum wrapper.” There was another honk. And then another. “Get it,” I said. “Get what?” “The wrapper. We don’t litter.” “Mom, go,” Richard said. The number of cars behind us grew and the honking got louder. Driving in Brooklyn is never easy. Congestion and road rage are common. “Pick it up, Richard,” I said, calmly. “Mom, it’s not a big deal. Just go.”
Still, I wouldn’t drive.
I guess Richard thought that retrieving his garbage was less embarrassing than having his mother cause major traffic and a scene because he got out of the car and picked up the wrapper.
Back in the car, Richard went on to tell me how throwing that one piece of paper out the window made no difference to the world. And I told him how I couldn’t disagree more.
Not littering is one way I show my respect and gratitude for the land we live on. It’s one way I give back.
I learned about giving, in small ways, early on, when at school we had a can drive every Thanksgiving and wrapped presents for poor children every Christmas. At Halloween, I walked door-to-door, an orange coin box in my hands, and collected money for Unicef. Around Easter, I sang in the school choir in old age homes.
Did those things not matter?
It is my opinion that those things mattered a lot. They mattered not only to the people who were on the receiving end, but they mattered to me. Acts of kindness are good for the soul. With Thanksgiving just two days away, I set out to write about giving and gratitude and almost didn’t thinking I should be more original. But then I came to this- maybe some things don’t get old; like love and peace and yes- gratitude.
Alicia Keys recently came out with a new song, We Are Here, which begets an important question, why are we here? Asking us to reflect on this stirs our sensibilities, and her intention was to start a movement. She has used her art as an impetus for people to come together and make a difference, make the lives of others better.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead
Take the Ice Bucket Challenge for example. People cared and they responded. All over the world, people participated; and in just 3 weeks, ALS received 13.3 million dollars in donations and created enormous awareness.
Some think the challenge was about narcissism more than altruism but I disagree. I think there is a light in us called goodness. And it was sparked.
But we have to be careful because the light can just as easily be extinguished. In the opinion pages of The New York Times, Tim Kreider writes On Smushing Bugs and his description of what happens to people when they shut down, and forget to pay attention, seems relevant.
“A bug may be a small, unimportant thing, but maybe killing or saving one isn’t. Every time I smush a bug I can feel myself smushing something else too-an impulse toward mercy, a little throb of remorse. Maybe it would feel better to decide that killing even a bug matters.”
What I’m trying to say is that every little action, or inaction, is significant. And just as we can diminish an act, an act as small as killing a bug, we can commend its grandness not to. It’s about consciousness and conscience. It’s about compassion and respect.
So let’s show our thanks, whether it’s for the land we live on, or our ability to give to others. Pick something, anything at all. Be creative. You will inspire and motivate others to do the same. You can make a difference.
There are many stories attached to my name; but the one that I recently discovered not to be true is the one in which my not then married father flirted on a beach with an attractive girl and asked for her name. She said, Corie.
In the real version, he was at work, and no flirting was involved.
A true story is that my father’s mother’s name was Celia; and it is Syrian tradition to name a first-born daughter and son after the father’s parents.
My parents broke tradition in naming me Corie. They simply used the “C” from Celia. (It was the 60’s.)
No one ever called me Celia. Not once.
And no one ever spelled my name right. No, I mean, NEVER. Cory, Corey, Cori, Corrie- are just a few among many variations.
This drove my mother crazy. I don’t know why, but I didn’t care.
On top of all the misspellings, Corie is sometimes a boy’s name; and in sixth grade when my hair was cut short, very short, at a Broadway show, while visiting Manhattan, the usher called me Sir.
When I was fifteen, I went for my driver’s license. I presented my birth certificate as identification and so my license was issued, Celia Corie Sutton.
This was an identity crisis in the making. I then had I.D. with a name I’d never used.
A few years later, I got married. My marriage license said, Corie Adjmi. My passport said, Corie Adjmi. My American Express card said, Corie Adjmi. (Actually, it says, Corrie Adjmi.)
And so of course, spelling continued to be an issue. (Go spell ADJMI correctly.)
“There are no vowels,” I heard over and over again in regards to my new last name. And “What an unusual name. Where is that from?”
“Syria,” I’d answer, my identity shaky once again because I didn’t feel connected to my Middle Eastern heritage. No one ever questioned Sutton.
I got into a routine. I simply spelled out my first and last name before giving anyone a chance, or offered to write it myself; and the fact that all my identification didn’t match didn’t matter for the next quarter of a century; but everything changed after 9-11.
Soon after 9-11, at the airport, because my ticket was issued Corie and my license said, Celia, I was frisked as if were a national security risk, violated from head to toe. My carry-on was dusted with white powder and then unpacked on a metal table in front of everyone, bras and all. They detained me for half an hour and I had to beg to be let through. Thankfully, security relented, although I wouldn’t take that chance again today. Now, I issue my tickets accordingly. For domestic travel, I use my license and I am Celia. International, a passport, and I’m Corie.
But my airport problems still linger. My husband and I recently applied for TSA PreCheck.
He was approved. I was rejected.
And the reason given was that the names on my I.D.s didn’t match and apparently that appeared suspicious. While my husband breezes through security, I wait in long lines and get felt up, barefooted. He smirks on the other side, relaxed and drinking coffee, reading the newspaper; or he browses in Hudson News deciding if he should buy raw almonds or cashews.
Fed up, I went to motor vehicles. (And I resist going to motor vehicles as most people resist being brutally beaten and interrogated.) Armed with my social security card, my passport and my marriage license, I thought I could change the name on my driver’s license to Corie. I was informed that unless my birth certificate and passport matched, there was nothing they could do.
I applied for a name change. Even though I didn’t want to change my name, I convinced myself it didn’t really matter if I was Celia Corie or Corie Celia. I guess the heavens (and possibly the spirit of my dead grandmother) disagreed because the paperwork, which I completed, was over an inch thick; and at least four court appearances were required. I gave up thinking I’d rather be strip-searched.
Not too long ago, I submitted a short story, That’s How It Was With Howie. And it was published in Verdad. The story has a male protagonist and, as requested, I submitted my bio in third person. The editors at the magazine assumed I was male, and the bio printed at the end of my story, reflected that assumption. Again, I didn’t care. I took it as a compliment. I’d nailed the voice of the main character. (But that’s me, I guess, whoever that is- always looking on the bright side.)
But this is the craziest part- I did it again. (The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.)
About two years ago, for writing purposes, I started using my maiden name. I went from Corie Adjmi to Corie Sutton Adjmi and in the age of the computer these might as well be two different people.
And so the trouble with my name continues because I’ve tested out different names like I’ve tested out different hairstyles, which is to say, without much forethought. But I’m figuring out, okay slowly and the hard way, things get complicated when you change your name like day of the week panties.
According to tradition, when either one of my married sons has a daughter, her name will be Corie.
One name. One identity.
And for a moment, I am happy for her, thinking this is a good thing.
But really, if I’m honest, I like being more than one person. Or at least, pretending I am. Maybe this is the sign of a personality disorder but I prefer believing it’s because I’m Aquarian.
Like a butterfly, I flit from project to project, always changing jobs.
I moved four times in the last four years, constantly changing my home zip code.
Why not my name?
It was after 11 a.m. I’d been up for hours and already had two cups of coffee. I’d read the newspaper and worked on a blog post. I’d cleaned the kitchen and started dinner. I’d gone to the pharmacy and the grocery store.
On my way to the dry cleaner, with a list of more things to do in my hand, my phone lit up. There was a text from my 16-year-old daughter who was still on summer vacation.
TEXT MESSAGE: The air conditioning in my room does not work at all and so I couldn’t fall asleep last night till 2 a.m. and I woke up 20 times in a heat flash.
SEPARATE TEXT: And I’m dripping sweat.
If I had written back based on my initial reaction, it would not have been pretty.
Do you know what I’ve already done this morning and how much I still have to do? You slept until noon (when I’m upset, I tend to exaggerate) and you’re complaining? Is that text a nice way to start the day?
But I also know I was triggered by her discomfort. Honestly, when things don’t go right for her, I feel it. I took a deep breath and reminded myself I’m not responsible for everything, and that I didn’t have to fix the situation immediately; we’d both survive.
Parenting is not science; it’s an art. Our communication doesn’t always go well; but on that morning, it did.
MY TEXT: Good Morning, Love.
No lecture. (Admittedly, there was a bit of sarcasm but tinged with affection.)
HER TEXT: Lol.