I spent some time in Longmeadow (Jenni went back to Maine for some of this time) where I grew up. My grandparents moved there from Queens at the beginning of the year, so in addition to my Mom and Rich I also spent time with David and Frieda. Then we all drove up together to Bretton Wodds, New Hampshire to celebrate Frieda’s 90th birthday (my fourth grandparent to have a 90th birthday!!) and her and David’s 70th wedding anniversary (my second set of grandparents to have a 70th anniversary!!!!). I have some massive shoes to fill in terms of life and marital longevity 🙂
October 6-14, 2013 (Sunday-Monday)
The masochist in me asked my Mom to tape the Giants vs. Eagles game so I could watch yet another defeat as soon as I got home. Followed by a heartbreaker vs. the Bears on Thursday night. Since Kenny is at Kellogg, we seriously considered attending that game at Solider Field. I am very thankful we did not.
Time in Longmeadow included meals at Glenmeadow (the retirement community where David and Frieda live), working out at JCC, visiting the travel clinic at Mercy Medical Center (Jen was super helpful and kind and it cost $25 vs. the $95 I pay in LA), sending out personalized Samburu splash bash letters, getting large quantities of passport photos for visas etc. (we “borrowed” the white screen at CVS for background to use with iPhoto passport pic software), catching up on Boardwalk Empire and Bill Maher, a little tennis at the Field Club, MLB playoffs, and more.
I am elated to see how well my grandparents have settled into their new homes. They really are extraordinary. They pretty much never complain. I may have already written this elsewhere, but if you ask how the Springfield Symphony is they never say anything like “it’s OK but doesn’t compare to the NY Philharmonic”. They just say “it’s fabulous.” You would be hard-pressed to find a pair who goes emotionally to that nostalgic sad place less frequently. I also love how much my grandpa disdains white meat chicken. If there is a menu option that includes chicken, as soon as the waitress says white meat he shuts down the conversation.
Burger quality was high in Western Mass. Jenni and I visited Max Burger in the middle of Longmeadow. This is a pretty hip spot where I had the half-pound Alfred burger with Comte, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli plus I added bacon. I chose a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout from many draught options. A couple days later I completed a solo mission to White Hut on my way to the travel clinic. White Hut is legendary in this area.
It has been around since 1939. While it is much the same it has always been, there were actually noticeable changes since I was last there. They added a big menu sign, soft serve ice cream and shakes, raised the prices a bit and now accept credit cards. It used to be cash only and they would always give half-dollar coins as change, if possible. Most remarkable, there is now an Amherst location! At the original, the flat top, metal stools with red tops and fridge full of Stewart’s remain the same. As do both the perfect tasting thin and greasy cheeseburger with fried onions and the hot dog.
The Tuesday afternoon Forest Park farmer’s market was a welcome surprise. My Mom had a u-shaped table set-up with lots of jewelry she makes. The rest of the market was small but efficient. Instead of several different types of each vendor, there was only one or two but the offerings still included lots of vegetables, meat, fresh eggs, seafood, dog food, jams and syrups, kettle corn etc. Mom is kind of the mayor…everywhere she knows lots of people and is perhaps the most gregarious person you will encounter.
There is a Somali family that moved to Springfield years ago and my Mom has been very involved in their lives to help ease the transition. Wednesday night we grabbed a couple pies from Pizza Works and had dinner together. The parents were out, so it was just us and the TEN kids. This family of 12 lives in a small apartment with ONE bathroom. I helped Teta (sp?) with his math homework and then we bounced. From my limited interaction, I suspect if these kids had the same educational opportunities and parental involvement that most of us had, they would be just as likely to succeed.
On Friday we set off for a long weekend in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. I noticed my grandpa’s tire was very low so we stopped at a service station in Longmeadow where they convinced us to replace all four tires lest we have a blowout doing 75 on the highway. This delayed us a couple hours but hey, better safe than sorry. So we head up, stop in Brattleboro at exit 2 on I-91 in Vermont for the amazing Vermont Country Deli and then continue. And as I am driving 75 in the left lane, wouldn’t ya know it: TIRE BLOWOUT. WTF?!?!?! I guess they gave us some defective tires. We called AAA but in the interim a true good Samaritan pulled over and backed up to help us change the tire. He told us he was the youngest of 13 children and was raised right. My grandpa tried to give him $20 but almost got run over as the man pulled away.
With that little mishap behind us, we exited the highway for Route 302 and drove through charming towns like Wells River, Littleton and Bethlehem before arriving at 4 pm to the impressive Omni Mount Washington Resort. That night we had a very solid dinner at Stickney’s which is a pub, steakhouse and more. The cheddar and ale dip was great, as were the ribeye and NY strip that Kenny and I split.
My Mom had a great quote about my Dad, something to the effect of “they always said at Brown if you want to go out at night find Leavitt, but don’t ask him to cut class.” I am not sure they really said that, but if you know Ronnie it was pretty hilarious. Which reminds me of an even better quote that you will appreciate if you know Ronnie. Last time we were all at Peter Luger in Great Neck talking about travel to developing countries. And she said “that’s what I love about it, no privacy.”
Time at the resort included fun tennis games on red clay (shout out to David, looking mighty fine at 91 YEARS OLD!); live music and bar shuffleboard at the Cave (Kenny and I beat this couple 16-0, even though you only play to 15); mailing our taxes from the on-site post office; seeing the room in which the agreement establishing the IMF was signed in 1944; great lunches at the Golf Shed; walks on the paths by/through the golf course; playing a fun new game called Anomia; playing patterns, a family special that Leslie brought to us many moons ago; hot tub; and more.
The property is gorgeous. The lobby is a long room with white columns and hardwood floors. I believe it would not be out of place in SoHo, except for the moose head above the fire place. Breakfast was a good buffet spread with many options. The service is definitely lacking. The effort is there but the execution needs work.
The time with family was fantastic, as always. The three grandkids (Kenny, Sam and I) live in Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles but we all made it to this out-of-the-way destination.
The main event was Saturday night when we gathered pre-dinner for champagne and gifts. I wore my tuxedo for the special occasion. David and Frieda said what they are most proud of in life is their family and how well we all get along and come together.
Sorry to belabor the point, but I cannot stress enough how much I love and admire them. My grandpa had his own animal hospital in Queens and did well, but the key is that they always spent on experiences and not goods. They lived in the same modest house in Queens for over 60 years but traveled all over the world and spent generously on countless family trips and vacations and education for all of us.
It has become a tradition for the grandkids to write a poem/rap to David or Frieda (and my mom for her 65th) for these major birthday events. I have pasted below what we wrote, for your reading pleasure. The night and whole weekend were a great success!
For Frieda’s 90th birthday:
Once upon a time back in ‘23
The world’s greatest grandma came to be
Born in Borough Park, she was such a gem
Yes, a Diamond, and the youngest of them
Jennie and Phillip made a proper Jewish home
But when college came, it was time to roam
Cornell was the call, Balch was the hall
Grandpa was lucky, cutest gal at the ball
With flawless Regents she was a natural grammarian
And for her love of reading, became a librarian
From Alcott to Hampl, she knows good books
That perfect combo of brains and good looks
Frequents the symphony, she’s so cosmopolitan
Been to Burma, and each exhibit at the Metropolitan
Does crossword puzzles and quite the film critic
Packs a mean matzo ball even though she’s arthritic
Noodle kugel, potato pie and apple cake
Oh sugar, the lady can bake!
The number one fan of the New York great Knicks
After the roast chicken I be giving my plate licks
She’s so charmin’ it’s almost alarmin’
Always globe trottin’ with the Harmons
Aboard the QE2 it almost got legal
Accused of impersonating the Queen, but she’s just that regal
Silk shirt and pearls, parasol for the sun
Wears a lot of black and white, but she ain’t no nun
Nor is she loquacious, never mendacious
But definitely sagacious and perspicacious
Even though Migis threw a lobster-induced hissy
Grandma keeps us in good stead at Quisi
That’s no surprise since she’s always so classy
Brings the diplomacy when Ronnie gets sassy
She carries David in duplicate bridge
Despite that her man bought the wrong fridge
And so here we are, it’s been 70 years
Very few tears but a whole lot of cheers!
Now back to Frieda, there’s nobody sweetah
To join your party, we ran here like cheetahs
You’re an inspiration, a comforting soul
You bring us elation, and make us all whole