Ice cream maker from hell

It would be easy to blame the Russians, who are known for online shenanigans. But why, after all, would a Russian hacker use my credit card to send an ice cream maker to me at my home, and then try to send Cuisinart accessories for that machine to Montana? As scammers go, this one’s a knucklehead.

Days earlier, a friend had warned me to change my online passwords because of the theft of a billion passwords by Russian hackers. I figured I would get to it “later.” I was tired of changing passwords.

Hadn’t I just done that a few months earlier to address the Heartbleed security flaw? How many online threats can you hear before tuning out, like a blasé villager in “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”?

Then, one morning, I opened my iPad to find Amazon e-mails thanking me for orders I hadn’t placed.

An ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet maker, worth about $100, was going to be sent here, while a $30 freezer bowl for that machine was earmarked for an address in Alberton, Mont. This town of 416 souls is in the western part of the state, bordering Idaho. But I don’t think you can see Russia from your backkyard in Alberton, the way Sarah Palin can from Alaska.

Another message stated that the e-mail associated with my account had been changed. It’s a good thing the hacker shops at Amazon, which is so very OCD about issuing account updates. I might not have known otherwise.

After calls to my credit-card company and Amazon, I got everything sorted out. The Visa card was canceled and so were the orders, and the Amazon account was temporarily frozen. (The rep thoughtfully asked if I’d like to place a last-minute order before she pulled the plug.)

I spent the next hour changing passwords at Google, my bank and other frequently used sites. Then I posted a humorous tidbit about the episode on Facebook, prompting a wry comment from our beautiful young cousin Victoria. “If they comp you a sorbet maker for your troubles,” she joked, “I’ll take it.”

Two days later, in comes an e-mail from Amazon saying that my order—actually, the hacker’s order—had shipped. I called customer service, but it was too late to intercept UPS and the package soon landed on my porch. The rep reassured me, however, that the order to Montana was never processed or mailed. I guess that’s something.

I’m waiting for the promised call from an account specialist who can send me a return-shipping label. The regular rep couldn’t do it because according to Amazon records, no such account exists. No activity of any sort is possible on it, not even by their own customer service people.

It’s like having your court record redacted. None of it ever happened, in Amazon world—which makes it hard to understand why a big box emblazoned with their logo sits unopened in my front hallway.

Victoria, you might get your sorbet maker yet.

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Too much of nothing: true tales of decluttering

My 30-day declutter purge ended not with a bang, but a whimper. After culling drawers, cabinets, shelves and closets throughout the house on the 29 prior days of the challenge, I was stymied by the demand to unload another 30 items on Day 30. Thirty items—that’s a lot.

In frustration, I grabbed the tin I keep on my desk into which I pop any new business card that comes my way, from a friend, service person or store owner. The box has been with me for a while. There must have been a couple hundred cards stuffed inside, many of them embarrassingly outdated. I threw away half of them and, theorizing that 100 cards must somehow equate to 30 items in the new math of the purge, thus called an end to this curious challenge.

The 30-day purge involves discarding one item on Day 1, two items on Day 2, nine items on Day 9 and so on, for a month. You can throw out, give away, donate or sell the outcasts. It doesn’t matter, as long as you get them out of the house. If you make it to the finish line, you will have jettisoned 465 items. Don’t you feel lighter already?

I began the exercise at the prompting of my friend Stephanie, who was nearing the homestretch of her own purge and urged me to join her. But in truth, I’ve wanted to cull my overabundance for a long time. Like 56% of the people over the age of 50 who were questioned in a recent University of Kansas poll, I have too much stuff.

At the beginning of the year I vowed to go through each room of the house in an organized way and shed the excess. But as with most New Year’s resolutions, this one fell by the wayside after I overhauled just one room: my office. Stephanie’s invitation got me going again.

Steph recommends having a staging area—preferably in the garage or basement, apart from your actual living space—in which to sort and stash your discard piles. I don’t have a garage and my basement is a dim, cobwebbed land of doom, so I used a work surface in my office. I also kept a diary, noting the daily discards and tallying up the numbers. My purge was bifurcated by vacation, and it took me four days to complete the last two days’ quotas. Nevertheless, finish I did.

I made it a point to cull only my own things, not my husband’s. It didn’t seem fair to drag him into it, especially since he’s one of those folks who hates to throw anything out—the sort of guy who will keep a wire hanger from the dry cleaner’s because you never know when you might need to fashion it into a useful tool.

One exception was the mutually owned kitchen, where I raided drawers and cupboards to jettison unneeded utensils, stray packets of soy sauce from the Chinese restaurant and untold detritus from the aptly named junk drawer.

Another was the bathroom medicine cabinets. I tossed squeezed-out tubes of ointment, combs with broken teeth and old lipsticks, and then attacked the prescription bottles. Why we still had my late father-in-law’s expired medications is beyond me. I wound up taking them and some other ancient meds to the sheriff’s office for safe disposal.

The challenge starts off easy and gets progressively harder. On Day 6, for example, it was no big deal to grab a couple of things off my desk and four paperbacks I knew I’d never read again, and call it a day. But on Day 13, in search of 13 items to eliminate, I had to actually take the time to go through my scarf drawer. I love scarves and although I wouldn’t call myself a collector, exactly, I have accumulated quite a few. It was not hard to choose 28 to either throw away (ripped or stained scarves) or donate (scarves I haven’t worn in years). That heroic total got me off the hook on Day 14, since I had already met my quota, with one scarf to spare.

In this way, the challenge became actual work. I found that if I were to meet my totals, I had to zero in on a closet, cabinet or set of drawers, and methodically reorganize it. The effort couldn’t be random. Plucking an item here and an item there, as I had done the first week of the challenge, no longer worked when the day’s quota was in the double digits. Deliberate, thoughtful action was necessary.

“You have to look at everything and make decision after decision,” Stephanie advised.

The bookshelves were hard, since I love living with books all around me. They are like old friends. I have shelves in the family room, bedroom and office. On the other hand, was there really a reason to hang onto yellowing paperbacks I had bought 30 years ago and hadn’t reopened since? If I ever want to read Robertson Davies again, I’ll download an e-book.

Out they went, earmarked for our yard sale, along with a bunch of hardcovers that I discovered, upon reflection, weren’t terribly meaningful to me. I kept the ones that are. Indeed, that’s the point of the purge. You aren’t required to throw away things that hold value. This challenge helps you figure out what does.

The downside: It was harder than I expected. The upside: Weirdly, I feel better.

I’m enjoying my nice, neat underwear and scarf drawers, my organized closet and CD collection, my newly pristine bookshelves. I feel like I can breathe.

“The different mind-set is the idea, I think,” said Stephanie. “I wasn’t really expecting it, but I feel completely different about the things I bring into the house. Having gotten into the habit, I now throw or give away one thing every day—for example, a necklace to my niece, a fake fern to the thrift shop.”

I hope to do the same.

There are still a number of unexamined cupboards in my house that I vow to get to one day, not to mention the attic and the scary basement. And then, there’s my husband’s stuff. Assuming he agrees, that could be the springboard for another 30-day purge—once I’ve recovered from this one.

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Guess who’s not coming to dinner?

One summer when I was in my 20s and newly married, the idea took hold in my extended group of friends that it would be fun to stage a massive Italian meal for which everyone would contribute a dish—and by “everyone,” I mean the wives. This was the 1970s, and for the most part, the men didn’t cook.

In fact, this was the period when young women—God knows why—were buying fancy cookbooks and teaching ourselves the intricacies of world cuisines. I myself was a devotee of Julia Child. I never tried her more esoteric fare, like quenelles or aspic. But I could cook a mean beef bourguignon.

We arrived at the party on a superhot afternoon to find a flotilla of picnic tables outside, laden with platters of risotto, lasagna, ziti, meatballs and sausages. There were marinaras and Alfredos, pestos and clam sauces, eggplants, antipasti and salads. I put down my humble casserole of pasta e fagioli and elbowed my way through the throng of eaters to the house.

There, at the kitchen table, were the event’s masterminds—three or four weary women in tomato-stained aprons, bangs plastered to their foreheads with sweat. I especially remember the face of the hostess—the lady whose backyard we had invaded—as she sat behind a pasta machine garlanded with fresh fettucine. That Munch screamer comes to mind.

She and her husband later divorced, and the two events are linked in my memory, as if the Italian dinner party had caused the marriage to sour like a tiramisu left out in the blazing sun.

I used to hold dinner parties frequently when I first moved to Pennsylvania, after my own divorce. It was fun to fill my little cabin with high-spirited company—important when you live alone. Later, when I remarried, George and I became host and hostess, inviting people over at least once or twice a month.

But as the years wore on, the dinner parties began to dwindle. The most recent one was about six weeks ago, when a couple of girlfriends stopped by on a Saturday night, the three of us happily sharing prep duties for a scrumptious vegetarian meal.

It was fun, but I haven’t repeated it since. Am I just too lazy to do all that’s necessary—clean the house beforehand, shop, cook, serve and then clean up afterward? Just thinking about it makes me feel like that Italian dinner party hostess of long ago, felled in her own kitchen.

Last week I happened to run into my friend Joann. She and her husband have been to dinner at our house and we at theirs—though not in a while. When I saw David one day recently at the post office, I vaguely spoke about having them over again. I mentioned this to Joann, adding apologetically, “I just never seem to get to it.”

“Actually,” she smiled, “let’s just meet at a restaurant. It’s easier.”

Now, there’s a dinner party plan I can get behind.

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Getting cozy with Dave, my GPS

We recently caught up with the movie “Her” on Netflix. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s about a guy who falls in love with a Siri-like digital assistant endowed with a sexy voice (Scarlett Johansson’s) and the ability to learn and adapt, thanks to artificial intelligence.

The setting was futuristic, but only a little bit, because let’s face it, our devices are getting smarter all the time and many of us feel an emotional attachment to them. Just try to wrestle the iPad out of my cold, dead hands. I may ask to be buried with it so that I can play Candy Crush Saga in the afterlife.

I also have a thing for our GPS system. We call him Dave, after the Cheech & Chong routine with the punch line “Dave’s not here, man.” Indeed, Dave isn’t here, not really. And yet I have a relationship with him just the same.

Dave is a freestanding GPS box that we bought about five years ago. We’ve talked about replacing him with a newer model, but I’d miss him too much to let him go.

We use Dave in both of our vehicles. The newer car has its own built-in GPS, but we don’t trust it. On a couple of trips it sent us on Escher-like twists and turns, making the route needlessly complex. When we tried to override the algorithm by going a different way, in hopes the GPS would reset, the system hiccupped, snorted, harrumphed and began repeating itself, like a deranged person.

Dave, by contrast, is unflappable. In a situation like that he just says “Recalculating route” in his warm baritone, and then calmly issues new directions. If Dave were a movie, Morgan Freeman could voice him.

Dave went to Las Vegas with us early this year, plugging cheerfully into our rental car. He traveled to Rhode Island on two recent trips without complaint, and he’s been to Ohio, Masssachusetts, Florida and Vermont as well as more local trips.

He has his foibles. For example, he gets confused in parking lots, so we know to ignore him when pulling out of a hotel or strip mall. His pronunciation is eccentric. He murders “Matamoras,” the name of the next town from ours, for example. Anything multisyllabic is a problem. And then, he can’t figure out where we live—he thinks the Queen Anne up the block is home.

One time we were on a country road going to a friend’s house. Dave tried to send us across open fields and a golf course. And there’s a certain point on the trip to Columbus when he instructs us verbally to take the right fork in the highway while showing the left with huge blinking arrows on his screen. Perhaps Dave needs a software update.

Still, I appreciate Dave’s sangfroid. He never gets upset, even when you make a blunder. He just coolly tells you to “Make a U-turn” or “Turn around when you can.”

No matter what the situation, I know that Dave is on my side. He has my best interests at heart. He may not be real, but he’s got my back just the same.

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Reunion offers peek into people’s lives

If, like the narrator of “Tangled Up in Blue,” you feel that your oldest friends are “an illusion to me now,” I have a simple Rx for you: Go to your class reunion. You will quickly discover that all the people you used to know are just as real as they ever were, and it’s only your illusions about them that are insubstantial.

I’m just back from my high school reunion, where I encountered a mathematician, just like in the Dylan song, and maybe some carpenters’ wives too. We also had teachers, bankers, entrepreneurs and electricians, farmers, artists, librarians, military men and a guy in the movie industry.

Many had retired from their careers but still worked. A retail manager is now a caregiver in a group home. An educator is hostessing for the summer at a seaside restaurant. An athlete who used to be a national gymnastics coach is now a life coach. And those were just the folks at my table.

The care and feeding of kids and grandkids is a major preoccupation for those who have them. Not all of us do, and I stand in awe of what some of my old friends have gone through with their offspring. The degree of love and commitment that it takes to raise a family is humbling.

Some say life is easier when they’re away from the kids, at their second homes in Florida, which many of my classmates seemed to have. But then, someone who lives in Florida has a second home in Utah, while another friend is building her dream house in (no kidding) Nebraska.

It would have been interesting, in fact, to poll the attendees about these and other details of their lives. I’m only sorry I didn’t think of the idea in time to suggest it to the reunion committee. Who, for example, stayed in our home state and who moved away? How many are still married to their original spouses? Which women were kept from pursuing their dreams by parents who refused to send their daughters to college? A couple of classmates mentioned that experience, a reminder of why it was our generation who founded the modern women’s movement.

The list of those conspicuously absent has grown since the only other reunion I attended, 20 years ago. People pored over the roster of the deceased in much the same way that many of us routinely read the obits in our local papers, glad our name is not among them (yet).

Others were missing by choice. “I didn’t like all those people back then,” one absentee candidly told a committee member. “Why would I want to get together with them now?”

Good point, I suppose. But if shared history isn’t enough of a reason, how about simple curiosity?

We got handed our diplomas together and then separated to start our lives. Now, we’ve had them. The graduation and the reunion are like bookends. It’s what’s in the middle that’s so interesting.

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The urge to purge

The start of my 30-day purge was a zero-sum day. To be sure, I got rid of one item, as per the rules of the challenge—a Paul Bowles novel that I kept intending to read but just couldn’t get into. The tattered paperback wasn’t in good enough condition to donate. Into the single-stream recycle bin it went.

But later in the day I made the mistake of going past the thrift store, one of my favorite haunts. There, on the 50-cent table, was a Looney Tunes drinking glass issued by Pepsi in 1973, adorned with a picture of Foghorn Leghorn. My husband and I have a small collection of these glasses, having nabbed Sylvester, Bugs Bunny, Road Runner and a couple of others (alas, we broke the Elmer Fudd). But we didn’t have Foghorn. I had to buy it.

And therein lies the dilemma at the heart of this cleanout. It’s good to discard things and bring order to my overstuffed closets, drawers and shelves. But my husband and I are collectors, and the inclination to acquire seems antithetical to the urge to purge.

The instigator was my friend Stephanie in California. The idea is to throw out or give away one item on Day 1, two on Day 2, three on Day 3 and so on for 30 days, at which point you will have jettisoned 465 items. Steph was on Day 20 of her own purge when she invited me to join her, propelled by reasons both philosophical and practical: She foresees downsizing one day, plus she’s drawn to the Minimalist movement, which is all about simplicity and decluttering.

“It’s the detritus I’m after,” she said. “The stuff that’s lurking in the spice cabinet, back of fridge, back of underwear drawer. Socks you never wear, photos you don’t care to ever see again, half-burned candles… How many vases do we need? Drinking glasses? Cups and mugs that don’t match?”

Oops. I wish she hadn’t mentioned drinking glasses. The Foghorn Leghorn was a necessity. Really.

My husband and I can’t help it. We just seem to accumulate things, and there’s pleasure in it when it involves interesting objects, art and antiques. Yet, after almost 20 years the house is pretty full, no matter how many yard sales we have to offload the overflow. Indeed, I wonder if deep-sixing 465 items will be enough. Will it even show?

Five days into the purge and counting, I’ve put four blouses, five books, a box of fancy pencils and a day planner that I bought as a present but never gave into a box earmarked for the thrift store. Two packages of chai mix are set aside for the food pantry. The eliminations will get more difficult later, I’m sure, as the daily dump quota moves into the double digits.

Meanwhile, I’m expecting a package from California. Stephanie is sending a pair of Uggs she never wears and that are just my size. The Uggs will be part of her purge. But on my end, what will I have to deep-six to accommodate them?

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A Hard Day’s Night Revisited

Somewhere into the last half of “A Hard Day’s Night,” Paul’s rascal grandfather—inevitably referred to as “a clean old man” throughout the film—urges rebellion on Ringo. Don’t stick around here with your nose in a book, he advises. Go to Tahiti and sip palm wine “before you’re too old, like me.”

“I never thought,” Ringo muses, “but being middle-aged and all takes up most of your time, doesn’t it?”

Ah, Ringo! That line is truer than you could have guessed when you uttered it at the age of 24.

The movie, newly restored for its 50th anniversary, is full of those kinds of unexpected little moments. “A Hard Day’s Night” holds up wonderfully as a film, not just an artifact of Beatlemania. It may even be a comic masterpiece, comparable to the best Marx Brothers romps or Peter Sellers vehicles. It’s also, of course, full of music—songs that are fresh and thrilling half a century on.

You can never be too rich, too thin or have too much of the Beatles. So even though I had already seen the restored version a month ago on TCM, I was excited to discover the Black Bear Film Festival was bringing the new cut of “A Hard Day’s Night” to the Milford Theater last weekend. My husband and I caught the matinee on Sunday, 50 years to the day after the movie’s premiere in London on July 6, 1964.

What is it about the Beatles? Why were they the ones who caused such fervor and not, say, the Temptations, Beach Boys or Four Seasons? (We saw “Jersey Boys” earlier in the weekend; Frankie Valli and company made great music too.)

At the theater, I asked a 15-year-old friend what it was she so loved about the band, but she couldn’t articulate a reason. “Everything!” she said. “Everything!”

I’m no closer to an answer than Katya is, except to note that the music is sublimely happy. You can’t be depressed while listening to the Fab Four. There’s magic in the melodies and lyrics, in Ringo’s backbeat and George’s lead guitar. And those harmonies! Cue up “This Boy.”

Back in ‘64, my best friend and I couldn’t wait to see “A Hard Day’s Night.” Not long afterward, we took the train from Providence to Boston, an hour away. Early scenes of the movie are set on a train. That was inspiration enough for the two us to affect what we believed to be Liverpool accents and try them out on another passenger—as it happened, an old man not unlike Paul’s grandfather.

We were ridiculous, and later my mother chastised us for trying to trick a nice old gent. Did we actually fool him? I wonder. If he did see through us, he never let on. Maybe, in the middle of those long years of middle age that Ringo spoke about, he found it entertaining to converse with a couple of English girls—even phony ones.

It’s not palm wine in Tahiti, but it’s something.

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A book club just for two

I’ve always loved to read, just like my mother and father and brother. We had lots of books in the house when I was growing up, along with magazines and a couple of daily newspapers.

As a housewife with young children Mom joined a Great Books group, making her way through the Western canon from Aeschylus to Zola. We had a set of novels in fine bindings to which I turned after outgrowing our set of Junior Classics. There were library books galore and a scattering of paperbacks, including “Catch-22,” purchased when it first came out in the 1960s. Mom had it signed by Joseph Heller many years later when the author made a local appearance. That prized volume went missing during one of her moves, but we found it months later and it’s still on her shelves today.

When Mom first came to Milford, the two of us began sharing books—things we got from the library or volumes from our own collections. Our tastes differed, as I soon discovered when she started returning the books I loaned her with little notes inside containing thumbnail reviews. Of Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon Days” she said, “Much like ‘Seinfeld,’ this is a story about nothing.”

One thing we agreed on, however, was Stephanie Plum. We had separately discovered the comic mysteries by Janet Evanovich in the early 1990s and we had both read every numbered volume beginning with “One for the Money.” We were at No. 6 or 7 by the time Mom moved here. Since then we’ve read each release in tandem, gossiping about the characters afterward as if Stephanie and crew were friends of ours—which in a way, I suppose, they are.

Stephanie is a Jersey girl with big hair and great metabolism (she’s fond of donuts and fried chicken but only ever gained weight in one book) who works as a bond enforcement agent, aka bounty hunter, for her weasly cousin Vinny in Trenton. She’s somewhat inept. Her cars inevitably explode, she gets battered and handcuffed regularly, but somehow she always gets her man. There’s a sidekick named Lula, a pet hamster named Rex, an eccentric grandma and not one, but two, love interests.

At the threshold of 90, Mom has memory issues. But when I told her I would buy her the latest novel in the series, she immediately said, “That’s number 21.” Indeed, “Top-Secret Twenty-One” just came out. I devoured it and sent it off to Mom last week. I’ll be interested to hear what she thinks.

The one place where Mom and I disagree is about which man is right for Stephanie. When Mom asked my opinion, I thought for a moment and said Morelli, the handsome Trenton cop that Stephanie has been off-and-on with since high school. He seems like a solid choice for the long haul. Mom, on the other hand, picked Ranger, a buff Latino security specialist with a mysterious background that’s amplified just a bit in this latest book (think Special Ops). He’s more exciting.

The things you learn about your mother by reading!

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Nostalgia in the garden

Just as it did last year, rain has pummeled the peonies. Why do we have to get a downpour the very week they open?

We have two rows of them, red, pink and white blooms lining the walkway to the front porch. I planted them right after we moved into this house, hoping to re-create the magic of my grandparents’ back garden, where peonies spilled in luxurious abundance from a double row of bushes. My grandmother pronounced the word with an emphasis on the second syllable: pe-OH-nies.

My whole garden is infused with nostalgia; each plant makes me think of someone. Our irises came from neighbors in Dingmans Ferry and Milford, while the columbines and evening primrose originated in Rita’s garden. A painted fern comes from my friend Patricia’s next-door neighbor in Connecticut, while my brother supplied dahlias he got from folks he knows in Michigan.

And the lilacs are from my mother’s yard in Rhode Island, where my paternal grandfather planted shoots from his own bushes many years ago. By the time Mom dug some up for us, those shoots were 7 feet tall. My sister-in-law suggested planting one beside our porch, because wouldn’t it be nice to smell lilacs when you sit out there in the spring? Every year, I silently thank her for the idea.

I come from a family of gardeners. My grandparents on both sides tended huge plots of flowers and vegetables, and my mother had extensive gardens in her suburban backyard that she expanded every year, with an artist’s eye for color and texture.

Mom is a painter, and her gardens were another art form. She spent countless hours in them, planting, pruning, weeding, digging and fertilizing, and was justifiably proud of the results. She took photographs every year to document the garden’s evolution, and did watercolor still-lifes of the cut flowers she brought inside.

I counted on Mom’s gardening expertise as a major advantage when she moved next door to us. But to my dismay, she suddenly lost interest in planting. That first fall she made a halfhearted attempt to improve the small foundation gardens already in existence by means of a “yellow collection” she bought from a bulb catalog—though why she chose yellow is a mystery, since I knew she never liked that color.

We watched them sprout the next spring, but after that Mom didn’t do much more than buy the occasional hanging basket, which—by her final years here—she invariably forgot to water. “That’s over for me now,” she said about gardening, and to this day I’m not sure if the reason was age and illness, or anomie. Mom hated leaving Rhode Island and never really warmed up to Milford. Things just didn’t flower for her here.

Even so, an unusual iris from that yellow collection has taken root and spread, brightening the little garden in front of the house where she used to live. In some small way, it seems, Mom did leave her mark on the landscape.

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Four weddings and a funeral

I’ve often said the only good thing about aging is that everyone else your age is getting older, too. But I’ve never felt the truth of that remark as much as I did last weekend, when I went to Rhode Island for the funeral of one of my oldest friends.

Roberta and I grew up in the same neighborhood of modest postwar ranch houses—“the plat,” as we all called it. We rode bikes together, went to school together, graduated together. We began freshman year together at URI, but here is where our paths diverged. She dropped out, went to work and got married a year or two later (I was her maid of honor). She soon had a couple of kids.

Roberta built a life for herself right in our hometown, whereas I couldn’t wait to get out. I moved to Providence when I graduated from college and went to work at a big newspaper. I married a fellow reporter, spent a year in Europe and briefly returned to Rhode Island before leaving for Illinois (an advanced degree for my husband) and then New York (career opportunities for us both).

At some point, Roberta and I lost touch. But I knew she had gotten divorced—and then, so did I. Sometime later, she remarried, and in a number of years—after moving again, this time to northeastern Pennsylvania—I did too. Two women, four weddings.

We reconnected in our 40s at a high school reunion—the only one I ever attended—and have been friends again ever since, despite living 200 miles apart. We’ve seen each other a number of times, but the most recent attempts to get together—such as a plan to meet at my aunt’s in Massachusetts for an Italian cooking lesson—always fell apart at the last minute.

We’ve been looking forward to really catching up in July. There’s another class reunion scheduled, with a house party afterwards at the shore.

Instead—this funeral.

So many classmates attended that it felt like a perverse kind of reunion in itself. Some are friends. Some I’m in touch with on Facebook. Some I didn’t recognize, and others I didn’t really know even back in the day.

Never mind. We fell into one another’s arms and together mourned our loss. I seem to have more high school friends now than I had in high school.

When old classmates say you “haven’t changed,” what they mean, I think, is that you’re still recognizably yourself. That’s not the case for everyone. A man who was heavy in high school is now dapper and svelte. Another who was shy is now a hearty extrovert. Go figure.

All funerals are difficult. But there’s something about the passing of a peer that really gets you. As I said to my friend Joyce, also a classmate, this is going to be our life from now on. We went through the other life stages together—marriages and divorces, births and illnesses. Now we bear witness to the deaths.


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    Jacqueline Damian

    Jacqueline Damian is a writer and editor living in Milford, PA. The author of "Sasha’s Tail: Lessons from a Life with Cats" (W.W. Norton), she has worked in newspapers, magazines and book publishing. She currently edits Xcell Journal, a technical ... Read Full
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