I could never shut up as a kid in school. I talked incessantly, being told to be quiet, several times a day, only to start talking again moments after being reprimanded. I was smart, but social, my teachers would say. And I don’t think I ever got a report card that did not state in loopy penmanship, “talks too much,” and “does not work up to her potential.” In kindergarten I had to sit in the corner by myself one day because I was talking. I came home sobbing, and told my older sister about my misery, who replied, “Welcome to the Friedman motormouths.” As young as I was, I somehow knew that I was following in a less than desirable family tradition. When I had my son, it didn’t take long for the letters A.D.D. to be bantered around. (SQUIRREL!) He was a tornado of activity from his earliest moments. And while he was clearly super bright and engaging, his activity level and curiosity dogged us from his earliest school experiences. I won’t go into the whole, VERY, VERY, VERY, VERY LONG story in detail, but after having him tested in 2nd grade, we found he did indeed have A.D.D., and the school thought he should be put on medication, but we resisted, feeling adamantly opposed to the idea of medicating a 7 year old. By third grade, with the help of an exceptional therapist, who was acting as a sort of parent coach to us, supporting us to make the right decisions with Jake, and a highly experienced, and extraordinary 3rd grade teacher, it became obvious that it was time to seriously consider medication. My husband took a month off from work, and the two of us immersed ourselves in making this decision. We read everything we could, and even visited the renowned Edward Hallowell, the author of “Driven to Distraction.” It wasn’t easy, but drowning in research and exhausted from thinking, we decided to try it. And within three weeks, his teacher called him an “ideal student.” Jake was feeling good about himself, because, what his medication did for him is the same thing as glasses do for a person with nearsightedness. As my husband and I learned about A.D.D., we realized that we both had it, but had learned strategies to cope with it. There was no such moniker as A.D.D. when we were kids, so therefore there was no help for it (the truth is there was no drug for it, so there was no name for it). My daughter, a chatter box like her mom, wasn’t diagnosed until fifth grade, but of course, when the symptoms appeared, we knew exactly who to see, and how to test. But don’t cry for us, Argentina! Yes, we are the A.D.D. family, but I’ve got to tell you, I’ve found that A.D.D. people are some of the most creative and interesting I have met. Those three letters may make it more difficult to focus, but they also seem to make it more possible to take in lots of information, and tap into creativity in fascinating and off-beat ways. And more than not, A.D.D. people are often quite social and have an insatiable curiosity for life. We think of it as a positive in our family. And we treat it like that. I’m not saying, it doesn’t require more work to live with A.D.D, but I am saying I’m grateful for it. Yup, I actually am. It’s kind of a cool sort of malady, once you get the hang of it. It’s thought that Einstein, Mozart, da Vinci, Churchill, Walt Disney, Alexander Graham Bell, and John Lennon, among other creative and high-achieving people had it, too. And while I may not contribute anything nearly as monumental, or significant as those examples, I’m pretty darn happy to be in their company.
Yup, WHAT SHE SAID!
After posting about meeting my husband yesterday, I thought I should, full disclosure, discuss the fact that I’m also in love with another guy. He’s gorgeous and outdoorsy. He’s a runner, and loves to play ball. He’s so cute that women stop him on the street. (RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!)
He loves to cuddle while we watch movies.(Adorable, right!) He is a voracious eater, and thinks I’m a great cook. He hates when I pay attention to anybody else, but he always thinks I’m right. (And who doesn’t love that?) He makes me laugh by doing funny things all day and night. He’s very protective of me. He enjoys a good nap. He practically throws a parade when I come home, even if I’m out for just a few minutes. He is very well-groomed, although he doesn’t spend a dime on clothes. All my girlfriends are jealous that they don’t have a guy just like him.
I love him in the deepest and most profound way. I can gaze into his eyes for hours, and stroke his head, and kiss him all day and night. He knows how to calm me down when I’m crazy, and how to make me smile when I feel blue.
I am so grateful that my husband allows me to give so much attention to my other man. And that he doesn’t mind that we all sleep in the same bed. In fact, I actually think he loves my guy as much as I do.
My boyfriend broke up with me. How many more pathetic frogs would I have to put up with, before I found the right guy? I was more and more convinced I would never get married. I was working at my first agency job. I had a little crush on an art director, Rob. He had a girlfriend. (Drats!) I had to go to a conference on radio in New York. My sister who lived there, was away. I wanted to go the night before because it began at 8:00, so I asked Rob if he knew anyone in New York I could stay with. He picked up the phone that moment, and called his old college roommate, Peter. He asked him and then gave the phone to me. “I’ll be out to dinner, but I’ll leave the keys with the doorman,” is what he said. “Don’t be upset if he doesn’t pay attention to you, he’s a chemist and he pretty much works all night,” Rob warned me. I was cool with that. I just needed a place to stay, so this was good. I flew with a friend from the agency, complaining about my “single” status. She complained about her married one. We had dinner and then I headed to East 63rd between 1st and 2nd. I grabbed a six of beer around the corner and got the key from the doorman. It was a student slum in a gorgeous building. The couch I was going to sleep on slanted inward. The cushions would suffocate me by morning. The windows had grime on them. Thank you, Rob. I sat myself on a chair and turned on the television, grossed out by my surroundings. In walked a short guy, and a tall GORGEOUS guy. I literally thought, “OHMYGODMAKEITTHETALLGUY!” I wondered if I’d said it out loud. “I’m Peter and this is Kurt, I’m going to change my pants.” Sort of an odd thing to say, but I was so dazed by this guy’s looks, I didn’t care if he’d said, “I’m going to commit a murder.” The Kurt person was droning on in a rather squeaky voice and I was literally thanking my lucky stars that this wasn’t who Rob had gone to college with. Peter came back into the living room and asked me if I’d like to go out for a drink. (But Rob said….) We went to a cute bar down the street, called Nimrods. Then he asked me if I wanted to see his lab. (the new “etchings.”) His lab was nothing special, but then he took me to the roof, which overlooked the glistening East River and we talked and talked, and at like 1:00 in the morning, he said, “Can I be really honest with you?” I nodded. “I’d really like to take a shower with you.” I was so impressed with his candor that all I could do was laugh. And instead of a shower, we kissed and I am pretty sure that there were a million fireworks that went off over the river. Talk about a chemical reaction. I kept saying, “This is crazy.” And Peter kept saying, “It’s New York, anything can happen here.” And it did. I fell in love that night. On First Avenue, at Rockefeller University, after drinking beer at Nimrods. It was that simple. Needless to say I did not sleep on the killer couch. (Nor did I sleep at all). In the morning, I dragged my exhausted self out of bed to get ready for the conference, and Peter outstretched his arms toward me for a hug. This was such an endearing act, I melted like the witch in the Wizard of Oz. “Come back tonight,” he begged. “I can’t,” I answered. We kissed goodbye. I got to the radio conference starry eyed and told my friend that I had met the man I was going to marry. I ditched the conference after an hour and called Peter at his lab. We met and headed downtown to Canal jeans. (I never missed a trip there when in New York) and then to China Town for dinner, talking incessantly, all the way. We called a shocked Rob that night to tell him we were in love. I flew home the next day, with a photo of Peter in my bag, and the dazed and crazed flu-like symptoms of love. And that was that. We flew back and forth for about a year. We had non-stop weekends in New York and Boston, doing all the most fun stuff. It was insanely romantic. It was totally magic. He asked me to get married in the hallway of my Newbury Street apartment (He couldn’t even wait to get upstairs!) I moved to New York for a year, while he finished his post doctoral work. We moved back to Boston, where I wanted to be. (He’d gotten jobs all over the country) and he got a job as an assistant Professor of Chemistry at M.I.T. We have been married for twenty five years. We made two AMAZING kids. It hasn’t always been easy or as much fun as the way we met, but it has been something deep and real. We are a continual work in progress, as we should be. (Remember what Woody Allen said about a dead shark in Annie Hall?)
So, if you’re alone this Valentine’s Day, remember, life can change in an instant. Someone might get delivered to your door, like I got delivered to Peter’s. You might meet your person by doing something you normally wouldn’t. Love does happen. Good God, I’m lucky and grateful it happened to me on June 18, 1985. I love you, Rami.
Today my sister moves to Miami. I feel like she might as well be moving to Mars. Because the fact is, she will no longer be able to stop by on her way to a doctor’s appointment, and her husband Frank will no longer pop up at Ally’s soccer games as a surprise, and we will no longer be able to go to her house, a few blocks from funky Nantasket Beach, and have our epic sleepovers and our movie marathons, and swim in her neighbor Pauline’s pool, and cook, and laugh our heads off. Nope, no more. And the sadness I feel is so overwhelming, so big, so all-encompassing, I have been pretending it was not going to happen. But today is the day. With my parents being gone for so long (as in dead and gone), Joni and I are a lot of family to each other. We are both movie fanatics, both writers, both a little bit crazy.
We sort of look alike, we sort of talk alike, and we sort of think alike, too. And, of course, we are two of the people in the world who know what it was like to grow up in our town, our house, our crazy family. I love her in a way that gives me context in the world. Sometimes I think if she didn’t exist, I wouldn’t exist either. She was my idol when I was little, and frequently swindled me into doing things for her because of that. She once cut my waist length hair up to my chin, while my parents were out, and I let her sheerly for the attention (She was grounded for a month). She went to Woodstock, lived on Malibu Beach, where I spent three weeks with her before my senior year of high school and started my life-long love affair with California. She has had a super adventurous life. She tried her hand at becoming an actress, has traveled extensively, and lived in lots of places, including England, where she was married to a warm and lovely British actor, who she is still best friends with, although no longer married to. She has worked as a writer for the past 16 years, remarried one of the nicest guys there is, Frank (Who was a sports reporter for the Globe for 20 years, but is the reason she’s moving, because he was offered a great job at BeIn Sports, a new all-soccer tv station and website, and did I mention he is a SOCCER ENCYCLOPEDIA–GOOGLE’S GOT NUTHIN’ ON FRANK.) in a weeklong celebration in Venice, Italy. (Where the Italian Justice of the Peace pronounced her married at “eh, about 12:00–so precise, those Italians!) I am proud of all she has accomplished. There is nobody that can make me laugh, nobody that knows what I’m thinking or feeling, and nobody that understands me quite so well as my sister Joni. She, quite simply, has always been there. When I graduated from high school, college, got married, had my kids, (Right there, by the way!) She has offered me support, loved my kids as if they were hers. I feel like a death has occurred when I think about her not being in her house anymore. So dramatic, you say? But it’s honestly how I feel. The end of the something has begun. It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t one day be old ladies (with our dyed brown hair), with her in her beachy house, and me just an hour away. And yet, I am happy for her to be in warm weather and for Frank to have a job that uses so much of his insane soccer knowledge. But, for me, it’s nothing but awful. I see no sparkly silver lining here. And while I’m grateful, over-the-top grateful, to have Joni in my life, I am terribly unhappy that she is moving. Today. To Miami. I’ve never been particularly good at transitions. I don’t have much talent when it comes to seeing that just because things change, doesn’t mean they can’t be good, or even better than they were. Because you know, maybe Miami will be fun. And I will visit often and be able to stop my near constant whining about HOW COLD IT IS HERE IN THE WINTER. Maybe. Maybe. But more than likely, I will cry for a long, long, LONG, LONG time before that happens, and the only good that will come of it, is that my tears might help melt some of the nine fucking feet of snow in front of my house.
My neighborhood is kind of great. I live on a one way street, and everybody is actually nice. Kids play in the road. We have block parties in the summer. There is a fabulous park a block and a half away that has concerts every Wednesday night when it’s warm, and a sprinkler and playground, where mom’s bring their kids to play, and connect with each other to save themselves from forgetting how to speak (my kids WERE LITERALLY RAISED AT EMERSON PARK.
We went there day and night. We had lunches, picnics. We even spent the shell-shocked night of 911 there with our good friends, pizza and a lot of wine, while our kids ran around untouched by the new world.) We borrow ketchup and eggs, and pancake mix from each other. We walk to our schools, because we’re just a few blocks away from our grammar school, a few blocks away from the high school. We live near our quirky little town center called Brookline Village, where my one of favorite restaurants in the world is located–
Pomodoro, (AND MY FAVORITE BARTENDER IN THE WORLD IS, SAM.) And where you can find my fantastic personal trainer (who has saved my back, and my life), Colleen Quinn at Eutopia, and the cool little pub, Matt Murphy’s, and the incredible sandwich shop Cutty’s and
the super awesome cafe KooKoo, owned by the equally super awesome Elie and Ali (who also own the fabulous Innerspace Yoga Studio, and apparently NEVER SLEEP). And there’s all sorts of other stuff in the Village too, like the post office and the T, and Starbuck’s, to name a few. And we all live close to one another, so there’s a lot of respecting one another’s privacy, but basically it’s a bunch of good people, and I think we sort of all know that we have a pretty great thing going on.
The other night I went to a birthday party for one of the neighborhood legends . It was her 50th and a lot of the hood was there. It was kind of an astounding thing to think of all the time I’ve known Martha. Because in that time, we have witnessed our kids go from babies to teenagers. I met her when she was walking her twin boys in their stroller, all smiley, cheerful new mom, and I was walking my daughter, all cranky, my-baby-never-stops-crying, semi-psychotic basket case MOTHER WHO CLEARLY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO PROCREATE. In that first encounter, when we exchanged pleasantries, as you do when you see someone who has a baby around the same age as yours, I told her how difficult my daughter was because she cried all the time and she didn’t sleep through the night AND NEITHER DID I. I was immediately thinking, THIS IS A MOTHER OF TWINS, SHE WILL GET MY MISERY LIKE NOBODY’S BUSINESS. But it was not to be. Big smile on her sunny face, “They’re really good, and they sleep quite well, ” she said, of her twins, in some sort of words, which I can not exactly recall, BECAUSE I WAS ABOUT TO GET MY OWN WING AT MCLEAN’S, plus I was trying to hold back my arm from hitting her across the face with my hand BECAUSE SHE WAS CHEERFUL AND WELL RESTED, in the face of MY TOTAL AND COMPLETE EXHAUSTION AND PROJECTED FEAR THAT MY BABY WOULD CRY FOR THE REST OF TIME. Anyway, I didn’t know it then, but now that I’ve known Martha for 14 years, i can tell you that she’s just that kind of person. Perhaps that’s how they make ’em in Canada, which is where she grew up. You can pretty much throw anything her way, and she will spin it into gold. And the thing about her is, that it’s GENUINE. She is totally genuine, real deal, no artifice. She believes in everyone’s best. She thinks everything is possible. And she will help you to make whatever you’re thinking, happen. She’s a connector of people and a nurturer of ideas. She’s a cheerleader and a true believer. She will show up for you. She’s the person you’d like to be when you’re at your best, but rarely are. (I’m sorry, I’ll speak for myself, here.) She will bake you a cake if you’re sick. She will whip up a cute little gift for your birthday and leave it on your porch, when you least expect it. She will write you an inspiring email to thank you for doing something at school. This is a really, really, unusually kind person. The kind of kind person we would all be lucky to know. And she’s part of what makes my neighborhood so great. Happy 50th, Martha. Canada’s loss. Our gain.