It’s night before O’s third birthday and I have spent the day baking a cake and wrapping presents. I’m not cooking, I declare. We head out to the italian restaurant at the corner. The guy in the obligatory big square glasses at the table next to us is holding a wineglass full of the orangey-champagne drink that’s like an adult lollypop. I want one of those, says M. Moments later it arrives on a tray along with a platter of antipasti and spaghetti for the children. The sun is setting, we watch people walking by on the sidewalk. This is great, M says, why don’t we do this more often? Then the guy with the greasy hair and the suspenders comes around the corner. He’s a face we know from the neighborhood; we’ve lived here 19 years, he’s probably lived here all his life, but we’ve all been here longer than the guy in the big square glasses. Spare some change, he asks with his dirty hand out. M gives him a two-euro coin. And that piece of salami, he says, his long yellow fingernail nearly touching the hunk of meat. We all look at each other, not quite knowing what to say or do. No, M says, this is my dinner, you can buy something with the money I gave you. He shuffles off and R bursts into tears, angry with her callous father. I feel guilty that we have so much and others so little, she cries. We spend the rest of the evening talking about the line between a cold heart and a bleeding heart. The next day at the street festival R is planning to sell old toys and junk from our basement and donate the proceeds to charity. After she’s in bed, I go through the boxes of stuff she’s weeded out for the sale and pick out the rings: just because I really want them.



Whatever you’re saving – the strapless dress, the king crab in a can, the frequent flyer miles – don’t. Everything has an experation date, including you. And while the wish to wait and find the right occasion can be overwhelming, it is born only of the fear of squandering that precious item. More often than not you will miss the perfect moment and find yourself hurtling towards death clutching something outdated, spoiled and useless. Which may or may not be a green sequined belt.



Another Thanksgiving. Food it took two days to prepare is devoured in two hours. It always tastes the same, which is the point, I guess: ritual, family, leftovers. What remains: a wishbone. What I wish for: world peace, longer legs, another wishbone.




In the pre-holiday, post-meltdown doldrums, I find myself in need of motivation. The only answer is to keep busy: sign-painting meets self-help. This truth was revealed to me in a fortune cookie. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.