Category Archives: long island

My high school box

Sophomore Homeroom in the Art Room. Lots of doodles during announcements and a big win for the Christmas Decorating Contest that year.

I love titling my blog posts.

So my parents live here now and with them came many boxes from their attic back in Malverne, NY. My dad dropped off said boxes the other day.

One was of books from college. Boring. Straight to Good Will.

One was filled with American Girl Dolls. More on this another day.

One was my wedding dress.

And one was a box of memorabilia from sophomore and junior year of high school. Bingo!

I suppose I could write a sappy post about showing my children my wedding dress and veil. After all today is our 13th wedding anniversary. And I could write about how I choked up thinking about that beautiful day and how it led to my beautiful children. And how Darcy will wear my veil one day at her wedding.

But that would both be a bunch of lies and lame. Let’s talk about some of the stupid stuff that was in my high school box. Like the bottle cap and meticulously saved label from a bottle of Olde English. For those of you who don’t know, Olde English, or O.E.,  is malt liquor that comes in 40 oz servings. You can get it at the 7/11 on Franklin Avenue if you ask the derelict guy who hangs out in the parking lot to buy it for you. That is, if there are no Malverne PD getting coffee. Those guys are VERY attentive to teens at 7/11. #thankyouforyourservice, our heroine hash-tagged begrudgingly.

Darcy was with me as I sifted through trinkets and notes I had once held so dear. All of a sudden, Darcy hands me something. She’d been chewing on it. It was a red candy-colored condom. She held the wrapper in her other hand. I know what you’re thinking. Whoa, Kristin was getting laid in Sophomore year. But no, perv. And if you’re my parents reading this, you should know that I have never known the touch of a man and both my kids were immaculately conceived.

Muno from Yo Gabba Gabba.

Seriously, I actually have NO IDEA why I saved a red candy-colored condom. I can only assume this condom was a gag gift of some kind. Probably from one of my demented best friends. (Hello Laura! Hello Terry!)

Either way, Darcy handed it to me and said, “this is gross. It’s not candy.”

“No, it’s not candy. Give it here,” I took it and promptly threw it in the garbage bag.

“No! It’s a balloon! You blow it,” Darcy whined.

^^Not even going there.^^

It reads “O.K. girls, circle theorem #161 on the board.” and “Barry Darling” and “Math class 201.” Mr. Dickson is Poseidon on this card.

No, I would not be blowing up a condom for my 3yo to frolic through the garage with. I did, however, think that it would be awesome to dig up  her Muno figurine and put this condom on him #raincoat (Note: I didn’t actually do this).

Speaking of inappropriate things I don’t remember at all, let’s talk Barry Dickson. (I didn’t plan that his last name would be so ripe with meaning right after I talked about condoms but it worked so I’m going with it.) I found a birthday card from my friend Jen that was entirely about Barry Dickson. The card was an Ode to Barry and I had no idea who this man was.  After leafing through my sophomore yearbook, I discovered that Mr. Dickson was our math teacher. Maybe Jen had a crush on him and I indulged her with dirty jokes and double entendres involving math words like “protractor.”

But it wouldn’t be a stretch for me to have a crush on Barry Dickson. As any hetero girl who attended an all-girls high school can attest, when there’s no boys to pine for, the male teachers take over that space in your head. Barry is what passes for hot when there are no boys your age, lots of hormones, and pressure from Sacred Heart Academy to get into a good college–all shrouded in Catholic traditions.

 And Mr. Dickson was Jewish which makes him downright tropical in hotness. Because while it was never stated explicitly by any authority figure in my life, when you go Sacred Heart and all the dances/cotillions/proms which constitute your interactions with the opposite sex are with Chaminade boys, anyone other than Catholic reads as  FORBODEN and therefore extra sexy.

Mr. Dickson could eat meat on Friday. So exotic. He may as well have been a public school boy.

There was one teacher I remember thinking was cute. It’s Mr. Pierre-Louis. And he sealed the deal when the Hofstra University Jazz Band came to perform with him. And then he broke out into Scat singing. He was awesome. This was two years after Swing Kids. So bringing your college jazz band (college boys!) and then scat singing with them (WTF! He’s the band teacher! I didn’t know he could sing too!) and combining all that with Swing Kids (Christian Bale! Dancing! WWII Germany!)?

Basically Mr. Pierre-Louis was fighting Nazi oppression with his raspy voice.

The experience of opening up a box of your memories and having no recollection or reference point for some of them was dizzying. Like a coma patient waking for the first time, looking at her husband and uttering, “Are you the doctor?”

Okay, it’s not that serious at all. And, upon further recollection, at 37 years old, I suppose memories of my sophomore math teacher have faded into the background in favor of memories of Jackson walking for the first time or Darcy sleeping through the night for the first time. The latter is not a memory but a fantasy.

And who has room for high school memories when Lake Highlands Soccer Association keeps changing the damn schedule?! Off to 3yo soccer!

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Filed under friends, long island, nostaglia

Lieselotte Landgrebe, 1932-2016

lieselotte-landgrebe08112016My grandmother died last month. Below is the eulogy that I wrote for her and read at her funeral…

Oma wasn’t your typical grandma/nana type. No smells of baked goods wafting from a kitchen window or overly saccharine compliments.

She was German-American, a child of the Great Depression, and she survived many hardships. Her way of loving was influenced by that.

But, make no mistake, it was a way of loving—of loving fiercely and steadfastly. You saw her love in her successful marriage, in her commitment to her children—one of whom was a special needs child. You saw the love in her attachment to her grandchildren and her delight in her great-grandchildren.

So this morning, let’s talk about her way of loving.

Oma was a character. She had spunk and fire and she was fun to be around. A quality of hers I’ll miss most is her sense of humor. Oma had this brilliantly irreverent sense of humor. And she had no qualms about employing shock value. No filter. That was her. If Oma had been born a bit later in the 20th century, I’m certain would have had her own Bravo TV show.

011_8aWhen a person has such a sense of humor, there’s a treasure trove of stories and memories to share. Unfortunately, not many of these stories are appropriate to share with a Pastor present.

But I’ll tell one.

At a holiday gathering a few years ago, we sat together and chatted about a new show on HBO—Rome. (This chat, of course, happened after I received the ritual $20 from her shirt. “Here. For gas. Or nails,” she’d say.)

We agreed that Rome was a great show—a little violent but a riveting political drama. But then we got to what Oma really wanted to discuss. Anyone who watches HBO knows the network is not shy about actors baring it all. Oma wanted to talk about James Purefoy—a particularly “talented” actor. My cousin Laura, who was maybe in middle school at the time, came over and tried to sit with us. I thought I would dodge this part of the conversation. But before Laura even sat down in the chair, my Oma promptly dismissed Laura with, “we’re discussingsomething private.” I’m unsure if she intended the double meaning there, but it wasn’t lost on me.

img_8997I giggled so many times when I talked with her. And because my grandmother was so candid and never prim or phony, you could talk to her about anything. She was real. She never tried to put on a façade. And I’ve learned a lot from her in this way.

Oma also grand-parented with a steady hand and a strict eye. If we did something wrong, we knew it. She held us accountable. Like when I was in elementary school and she’d lend me some of her coveted Disney VHS tapes. I believe she delighted in having a movie I’d love to watch and borrow but Oma would also threaten to charge a late fee if I didn’t return it in a timely fashion.

Or there’s the time when she and Opa babysat for Mags and I when my parents went to Jamaica. I cut Driver’s Ed one day and she made me vacuum the same room for like three days in a row. Of course as 15 year old, I felt this punishment was like I was in a chain gang.

img_8100And then there’s the time, I cut rips in my jeans for a cooler look. She took them from me. I thought oh, no. What would she think that I ruined a good pair of pants? And I got some classic Oma side-eye for this. But a week later, I got the jeans back with perfect rips up and down the legs. My grandmother had painstakingly cut and pulled each thread so they looked like they were straight from a designer store. I didn’t realize it at the time but this task must have taken so long and been so tedious. This illustrates the kind of grandmother she was. Sometimes a bit rough in the delivery, but underneath that roughness was a gem of a woman and mother—a gem with diamond strength and clarity in her devotion to her family. Oma held us accountable. Because Oma was never failing in her accountability to her family. And she was unfaltering her accountability to me, to her other grandchildren, to her children and she was unfaltering in her dedication to my grandfather throughout their 63 years of marriage.

I’ve just started a book called Present over Perfect—it’s a bible study written by a mother in her thirties for women at my age and stage. It invites mothers to be present and not strive to be perfect—something mothers often try to be. It says to live with intention and soulfulness. The feeling of love and connection with family and friends will come from that intention, that presence. Oma did this. And she didn’t need a Wednesday evening Bible study to remind her to do it. She was always present. She was always there at her home on Norfeld Blvd until she passed in her bedroom on Monday. When I called to chat, she was there. But of course, after about ten minutes, you’d get “Okay, I’ll let you go.”

birthday-party-pictures-14Well, now it’s up to us to let her go. We will revel in a memory of a woman who was devoted and fun and anything but cliché. She set an example as a grandmother and as a mother and as a wife. Her marriage to my grandfather is an example to me and my husband everyday—a lesson in devotion, in accountability, in faithful love. And I know I can move forward today knowing that I am a better woman for having known and loved my Oma.

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Filed under family, long island, motherhood