An Old, Dear Friend

Mr. Benjamin Musser and relatives

By Judy Berman

He was nearly eight decades older than me. But, as friends go, the age span was never an issue.

The moment I met Mr. Benjamin Musser, I knew by his kindly eyes and shy smile that he was someone I could trust. He became my fishing buddy, my good friend and my protector.

My parents and I had a room on the third-floor in my Grammy’s row house. I was excited when he moved in just down the hall from us.

Our family quickly adopted Mr. Musser. By family, I mean the WHOLE family. Aunts, uncles and cousins all accepted him as kin. He was included in our family reunions and other get togethers.

At 82, some might envision a frail man bent over and leaning on a cane. Not Mr. Musser. His daily walks put us all to shame.

One time, shortly before Christmas, he went shopping for a Christmas tree with my Mom and me. We must have scoured every tree merchant’s business in the city. I was the lucky one. I got to ride on a sled – up until we finally purchased a tree.

When we got home, my Mom collapsed on the couch. She was just worn out from our excursion. Then, we heard Mr. Musser’s footsteps coming down the stairs.

He took one look at my Mom and said, comfortingly, “That’s it. You rest now. I have to go run some errands.”

Mr. Benjamin Musser 1

Remember the role Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morito) played to Daniel Larusso (Ralph Macchio) in “The Karate Kid” (1985)? His lesson was that fighting is “always the last answer to problem.”

I learned a different lesson from Mr. Musser. One about patience.

That’s a critical skill when you’re fishing. First, Mr. Musser put a corn kernel on the hook, and then we’d wait for some unsuspecting fish to take the bait.

We caught a few sunnies that way. He cleaned them and cooked them for our dinner. Some of our cats might have benefited from our outing as well.

The only time my Mom raised an eyebrow about Mr. Musser’s influence is when he – and Grammy – allowed me to have coffee. I was about 6 or 7. They’d pour the scalding, dark brown liquid in a saucer. Added a lot of milk and let me drink it.

Mom hinted this practice might get me booted out of any proper social gatherings. But she didn’t put a halt to it.

One day, after school, I came home with some disturbing news. I told my folks that a man, who was driving a black car, stopped across the street from my bus stop. He told me that he worked with my Mom and offered me a ride home.

I had been conditioned by my folks to never accept rides with strangers and said “no.” When I told my Mom about this stranger, she was rattled.

Mr. Musser volunteered to walk me to the bus and come pick me up when the school bus dropped me off.

At work, Mom asked everyone she knew whether they had offered me a ride or knew any one matching the description I had provided. They didn’t.

Looking back, I feel that I lived in this very loving, protective cocoon. Imagine my reaction when I was nearly 8 and learned that we’d be moving because my Dad had accepted a job in another state.

I didn’t want to go. Mom, trying a bit of psychology, gave me the choice of leaving with them or staying with Grammy and Mr. Musser.

Tears ran streaming down my face as I blubbered that I wanted to stay with Grammy and Mr. Musser. I don’t know what Mom and Dad did to finesse that situation, but I was soon on my way to a new home several hundred miles away.

Mr. Benjamin Musser

While we were miles apart, Mr. Musser remained a friend and a part of our family until he died at 105.

He was the dearest friend anyone of any age could have.

 

 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Music Video clip: “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” by Randy Newman. Song in “Toy Story.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy4uiiy0qgA 

Main Photo: Mr. Benjamin Musser with my Aunt Lois Meyers, cousin Dar Mowery, and Aunt Ida Gilbert. (Thanks to my Aunt Susan Wagner, cousin Sherry and cousin Ruby Reich for sharing these photos.)

Photos: Mr. Benjamin Musser

Still Crazy After All These Years

 

Dave and Judy - our wedding day - Aug. 18, 1984By Judy Berman

That short walk down the aisle is just the beginning for those who exchange wedding vows.

Our journey began 30 years ago this month and, like everyone else on this path, we navigated some very uncertain terrain.

Many times, we’d look back on the road not taken and wonder “what if?” Such as the decision to wait to trade in our car until it hobbled into the dealership on life support.

“This is my fault?” Dave asks, smiling, as we are out on a morning stroll.

“Someone’s got to take the fall for this, and it’s going to be you,” I inform him.

“OK. I’ll take the fall for it,” he says, laughing.

I have to thank the late Jerry Rosen, his former boss and co-worker, who gave Dave the best advice ever on marriage.

“There are two rules,” Jerry told him shortly after we married.

“Rule number one: The wife is always right. Rule number two: See rule number one.”

It was a win-win situation for me. I mean, for us.

Dave and Judy - our wedding day - Dave looking stunned - Aug. 18, 1984

Here are some other pearls of wisdom on marriage:

  1. Erma Bombeck: “Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.”
  2. Bill Cosby: “For two people in a marriage to live together day after day is unquestionably the one miracle the Vatican has overlooked.”
  3. Barbra Streisand: “Why does a woman work ten years to change a man’s habits and then complain that he’s not the man she married?”
  4. Nora Ephron: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” (Harry, played by Billy Crystal, in the movie, “When Harry Met Sally.”)

Dave, thanks for your support, your love and for the laughter. Happy 30th Anniversary. For last year’s post about humorous tips on what makes a happy marriage, see story here.

 What’s your favorite memory? Wedding day? First day on your own? Parenthood?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Movie clip: “When Harry Met Sally” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMo36SfyQhw 

Music Video: Silly Love Songs – Paul McCartney https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh15LOppcWQ 

1. Main Photo – Ah! The traditional exchange of the wedding cake – Dave and Judy – our daughters, Jenn and Danielle – August 18, 1984

2. Photo – Dave, with the typical newly-wed man look, ‘What have I done?’ August 18, 1984

Dear Dad

Dad and me - overheated car - Dad clowning around 1

By Judy Berman

Photographs and memories, snippets of a song, so many things remind me of my Dad.

Strolling thru a park, I see a father pushing his daughter on a swing. That takes me back to a wild ride one winter with my Dad on a sled.

A little boy runs up, breathless with excitement. His Dad puts down his cell phone and listens attentively as his son recounts the day’s events. Those special times are fleeting.

How I looked forward to when my Dad came home from work so I could tell him all that happened that day.

Dad and Judy - Copy

A man ran, holding onto his daughter’s bike, until he felt she was confident enough to ride the bike on her own. Another father showed his son the fine art of flying a kite. If I could just turn back the hands of time and return to those days.

I remember my excitement when Dad converted an old orange crate and roller skates into a sidewalk-worthy race car. All the neighborhood kids were eagerly waiting their turn for a ride.

As I look thru old family photos at faded photographs, I also see my Dad’s humor and patience.

In one, our car is by the side of a long, lonely stretch of road. It had overheated. Dad, his hand to his head, playfully milked the moment for a joke. Then he got down to business and got the car running smoothly again.

Dad and me - overheated car - fixing

In all these moments, Dad is with me still. He’s never far from my thoughts.

For all Dads, step-Dads, Big Brothers … Happy Father’s Day. Give yours an extra hug from me.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photo: Dad – Joseph H. Fiet III and me, Dad clowning around when our car’s overheated

* Photo: Dad and Judy (me)

* Photo: Dad and me, Dad working to get the car running again.

 

 

Blueberries, Bears and Fats Domino

Black bear

By Judy Berman

Walking along tidy rows of indigo-colored fruit, we quickly plucked the plumpest, juiciest ones.

How is it that this simple excursion reminded me of my Mom, a run-in with a bear and Fats Domino?

Blame it on the blueberries.

In mid-May, our daughters, a son-in-law and grandchildren continued the family tradition of blueberry-picking at a U-Pick farm in St. Cloud, Florida. It was quite a change from experiences my family had when I was a teen in Oswego County, New York.

Mom told me once about a scary time she had when she was picking berries in the fields and woods near our home and ran into a bear.

Well, not running into, actually. She spotted the furry hulk a few bushes away. Mom made a quick check to be sure she wouldn’t be in between the mama bear and any cub she might have in tow.

Then Mom flung her pan and blueberries into the air, fled the hills and bolted for home.

Blueberry picking 2 - 5-10-14

My folks had 66 acres, and some of it bordered state land. So it wasn’t uncommon to be lured off the path by a tempting berry bush.

Before you know it, you’d look around to get your bearings and realize you had no clue where you were.

That’s what happened when Mom was out with our neighbor, Sophie.

They got lost, and Mom knew Sophie was panicking. In an effort to calm Sophie, Mom lied and told Sophie that she knew exactly where they were.

Fortunately, they stumbled into a scout camp a short time later. Someone brought both of them back home.

Blueberries - two handfuls

The best part, of course, is when Mom returned home with the blueberries. We knew we’d soon be munching down on one of Mom’s mouth-watering blueberry pies or blueberry jam.

And, Fats Domino? How did that rhythm-and-blues artist become a part of this story?

Fats Domino

Well, Fats recorded “Blueberry Hill.” When it played on the radio, my brother, Hank, and I would warble along with him as he sang “I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill, on Blueberry Hill, when I found you.”

Mom had an accent. She would pronounce hill like “heel,” and berry like “burry.” Just like Fats Domino.

Hank and I would always make sure to sing that tune real loud — accentuating “hill” and “berry” — when she was around. Mom knew what we were up to. But she’d just smile and tune us out.

Actually, we were sending her subliminal messages. Hoping that the song itself would inspire her to return to blueberry hill and then back to us with more luscious berries.

A long overdue thank you to Mark Bialczak, a dear friend, who nominated me for the Liebster Award. Mark’s blog is a link to my Central New York roots. His posts range from music to movies to neighborliness and is always a great read. For details on this award, go to Mark’s blog. http://markbialczak.com/2014/03/29/i-have-been-dragon-my-feet-on-loyalty-liebster-awards/

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music video: Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl5hknXqXps 

Photo: Black Bear – taken by Jon Sullivan http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f2/Black_bears.jpg/640px-Black_bears.jpg

Photo: A blueberry bush at the U-Pick farm St. Cloud, Florida. (family photo)

Photo: Blueberries – two handfuls – taken by Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic from Windsor, Canada on Aug. 31, 2009 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/99/Weather_tomorrow-_sunny_with_plentiful_blueberries.jpg/480px-Weather_tomorrow-_sunny_with_plentiful_blueberries.jpg

Photo: Fats Domino – taken at a concert in Germany in 1977 by Klaus Hiltscher http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Fats_Domino_1977.jpg/640px-Fats_Domino_1977.jpg

Dear Mom

Mom and me - at the park 1 - Copy

By Judy Berman

Letters. Such an old-fashioned way to keep in touch. But so lovely to look back on.

How much is lost because letter-writing has been replaced by texting?

Those cryptic little words on an iPhone could never provide the warm feeling you experience when you hold a letter addressed to you.

When I saw a letter from my Mom in the mailbox, I couldn’t wait to get inside, rip open the envelope and savor the contents while sipping a hot cup of tea.

She’d send cartoons, articles from the newspaper, dreams she had, and her hopes for my family and me.

She also included recipes for comfort food that I missed: tacos, chicken and rice soup, meatloaf, and golabki (pigs in the blanket aka Polish stuffed cabbage).

The stack of her letters spans more than 30 years. In one, she wrote about the birth of my second child – still months away. Mom said she was holding my baby who was trying to stand.

A little ambitious. I chuckled at the thought. The child, in her dream, was only 3 days old. A boy with reddish-blond hair.

Turns out, our second child was a towheaded girl. It was fun to read about and know how much Mom looked forward to seeing our little one.

Some Moms may crave fancy jewelry, exotic trips and pricey gifts. Not mine. One year (in August) I sent her a package filled with something I knew she’d been hungering for – Beefsteak Tomatoes.

Beefsteak tomatoes

I wish I could have been there when Mom opened the box. She was ecstatic.

“You know how much I like tomatoes, and you know what a pale imitation I have been eating since we came out here (Nevada). (The ones you sent) are going fast and everyone is enjoying them,” Mom wrote me.

Even though I was grown and on my own, she’d prescribe a huge dose of Momisms:: “Take care of yourself, and for the love of heaven watch yourself on those icy streets. Walking will do you a world of good, but falling won’t.”

Mom - letters from Mom

As I read her letters, I’d smile over some memory that surfaced from just a few lines.

I reminded her of the time she did battle with one of my teachers. Mom objected to how the 7th-grade history teacher disputed what I’d written in an essay. This was Mom’s favorite subject, and she knew what I wrote was on solid ground.

Mom responded that wasn’t the first time. When I was about 9, she went to the school district to defend my right to beat up a bully who was twice my size.

“His mother said her son was a bleeder. I told her to teach her son to keep his hands off little girls who only come up to his belt. I assured her that I did not permit you to beat up little gentlemen,” Mom wrote me.

“The principal later told me he did himself a serious injury over that line,” Mom quipped.

I will never forget that bully. But I truly do not remember beating him up.

My regret? I wish I was still able to write to Mom today. I miss our phone calls, her letters, and most of all, I miss her.

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms. Give yours an extra hug from me.

Quotes about Mothers from the Quote Garden http://www.quotegarden.com/mothers.html

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. Tenneva Jordan

Sweater, noun: garment worn by a child when its mother is feeling chilly. Ambrose Bierce

When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child. Sophia Loren, Women and Beauty

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Main photo: Mom (Milly Fiet) and me at the park – It was a long day. I’m tuckered out, and, I’ll bet Mom is, too.

Photo: Letters from Mom over the years

Photo: Beefsteak tomatoes – Taken April 30, 2013, by Lufa Farms (Montreal neighborhood of Ahuntsic-Cartierville). http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cc/Lufa_Farms_Beefsteak_Tomato.jpg/640px-Lufa_Farms_Beefsteak_Tomato.jpg

Santa’s On His Way

Santa and Jessi's little girlBy Judy Berman

Strands of twinkling lights, resembling icicles, dangle from the eves. Christmas trees put on a colorful light show, dance and serenade the neighborhood as I stroll down memory lane.

This time of year, more than any other, is when my mind races back to Christmases past when I was young, and when my children and grandchildren were little. I can’t say for sure who was more excited.

Their countdown to Christmas began before Thanksgiving. Every sighting of Santa only added to their breathless anticipation.

Christmas trees

We’d hit the mall and line up to have their photos taken with the Jolly Old Elf. From a little one’s view, he’s a big guy. Some kids wail. Some squirm to avoid sitting on his lap. Others come prepared with a list, requesting gifts for themselves or someone in their family.

I was reminded of those days when I saw a photo of Abigayle, Sean and Jessi’s girl, sitting on Santa’s lap.

Bright blue eyes full of wonder, Abigayle was in awe as she stared up at the bearded, kindly, grandfatherly gent in the red and white suit.

Her plans to ask for anything for Christmas hit a snag. Maybe, Abigayle was too star-struck to do so. Or, perhaps, the obstacle was: she couldn’t. She’s only 11 months old and her vocabulary is limited to: Mama and Dada.

How I envy her parents and all those who are building memories with their little ones.

This is a season that engages all the senses.

For those now experiencing their own Winter Wonderland, there’s a chill in the air as snow blankets the trees, houses and yards. Logs crackle in the fireplace. The smell of apple pies cooling on the counter is just one of the many tasty temptations this time of year.

Christmas and cookies

My favorite part, when our girls were little, was when we’d bake cookies. They would carefully decorate them with icing. Naturally, they had to sample a few as the cookies cooled. Then, they’d put some cookies on a plate along with a glass of milk for Santa.

They’d leave a short note for Saint Nick and then go to bed. As Nat King Cole sings in “The Christmas Song,” “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight.”

In the morning, they’d rush to check out the gifts under the tree and they’d pause to read Santa’s note to them.

Our wish for you and yours, like the song: “Although it’s been said many times many ways, Merry Christmas to you.”

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Music video: Nat King Cole singing “Christmas Song” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__kQ1PCP6B0 

Main Photo – Santa and Abigayle – Sean and Jessi’s girl, photo permission from her parents,  Dec. 2013

Photo – Christmas trees – taken Dec.9, 2007, by Sjncousin http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6e/Beautiful-christmas-lights-11.jpg/531px-Beautiful-christmas-lights-11.jpg

Photo – Christmas and cookies – taken Dec. 23, 2010, by Till Westermayer from Freiburg, Germany  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9b/Christmas_cookies_%26_decoration.jpg/640px-Christmas_cookies_%26_decoration.jpg

No Place Like Home

The Wizard of Oz - Haley, Bolger, Garland, Lahr - 1939By Judy Berman

Sometimes, you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.

That thought comes to mind when I consider a little girl who’s swept away with her best friend to a very strange land. She spends the bulk of her time trying to return to a place of comfort and love.

I’m talking about the ultimate road trip movie, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

This movie might seem an odd choice for a Thanksgiving offering. But it has it all: a buddy movie/road trip made up of an odd cast of lovable characters.

Just like many of us gathered around the table this holiday, each has a different personality and a personal quest. For some, it’s the drumstick. For others, it’s something much deeper.

For Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), an orphaned teen, she’s trying to avoid a nasty neighbor, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton). The cranky woman, upset that Toto bit her, threatens to have Toto put to sleep. Dorothy runs away with Toto to protect him.

She didn’t get far when she ran into a phony fortune-teller, Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan). The Professor tells Dorothy that her Auntie Em (Clara Blandick) has fallen ill worrying about Dorothy.

Dorothy returns home, but the family is hunkered down in the storm cellar trying to avoid a tornado. Dorothy darts into the house with Toto and is knocked unconscious. When she awakes, her home drops right in the middle of the Land of the Munchkins.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says as she surveys the neighborhood.

Good news. They’re OK and the little people – the Munchkins – are welcoming. Bad news. Her house fell right on top of the Wicked Witch of the East and she’s deader than a doornail.

The Wizard  of Oz - Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland - 1939

Her mean sister, the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), is not too happy about this. She warns Dorothy: “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”

Before she can carry out her threat, Glinda (Billie Burke), the Good Witch of the North, comes to Dorothy’s rescue. Glinda quickly transfers the dead witch’s ruby slippers onto Dorothy, telling Dorothy that they have powerful magic and will protect her. Dorothy and Toto go skipping off down the Yellow Brick Road in search of the Wizard of Oz who will surely help her get back to Kansas.

On the road, Dorothy runs into a talking Scarecrow (Ray Bolger). When he finds out where Dorothy is going, he asks if he can go along. He hopes the Wizard will give him a brain. Soon, they spot a rusted out Tin Woodman (Jack Haley) and oil him up. He’s in search of a heart. The last one to join this little group is the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who confides that he’d like the Wizard to give him courage.

Wizard of Oz - 1900

In their travels, they encounter the nightmare that most of us do. Flying monkeys. (Hey! We’ve all been there. Right?) Fatigue. For us, it’s the long road trip and the big meal. For them, the witch casts a spell as they’re running thru a field of flowers.

“Poppies … poppies will put them to sleep,” she cackles.

Eventually, Dorothy turns the tables on the old bat. When the witch tries to set the Scarecrow on fire, Dorothy throws a bucket of water to douse the fire … and drenches the witch … which proves her undoing.

“I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!” the witch screams … and, then, she is no more.

In a road movie, the main character grows as the story progresses. Such is the case with Dorothy and her friends. They find that they had it within them all along to achieve the things they went in search of.

Glinda tells Dorothy that she’s always had the power to return to her family.

Dorothy clicks her heels together three times, repeating the magic phrase that will take her home, “There’s no place like home … There’s no place like home.”

Soon, Dorothy and Toto are back with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. And that curmudgeon, Miss Gulch, is no where to be found.

Now, if only a turkey wishbone had that kind of magic.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie trailer – The Wizard of Oz - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cg8PrPVqCd8 

Main Photo: Jack Haley, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, Bert Lahr – The Wizard of Oz (1939) – MGM film http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/bd/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Haley_Bolger_Garland_Lahr_1939.jpg/635px-The_Wizard_of_Oz_Haley_Bolger_Garland_Lahr_1939.jpg

Photo: Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland – The Wizard of Oz (1939)  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/The_Wizard_of_Oz_Margaret_Hamilton_Judy_Garland_1939.jpg

Photo: Wizard of Oz – Dorothy meets the Cowardly Lion, from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz first edition. Illustration by W.W. Denslow (d. 1915)  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cb/Cowardly_lion2.jpg/459px-Cowardly_lion2.jpg