Purple socks

My dreidel earrings are turquoise and gold plastic with a purple stone in the middle. Bought years ago when my children were students and I was a teacher at the Hebrew School, they had survived my ten-year absence from teaching. I was dressing for class on the first day of Hanukkah and, after some searching, I had found my dreidel earrings. However, my Hanukkah sweatshirts, also from my teaching/principal days, were not options. One was too small and the other featured a menorah comprised of Disney characters, with Mickey Mouse as the Shamash, or center, candle. Too cute, way too cute, for my 59-year old body.
I selected a new purple sweater to wear with my jeans. Simple, comfortable and it coordinated with my earrings. My only pair of Hanukkah socks was blue and gold, so I shoved them back in the sock drawer. What a mess! I thought as I sorted through pairs and mismatched singles looking for my black socks, since I was wearing black suede flats. I was trying to dress it up a little for the Temple Hanukkah Party that would follow Hebrew School that day. I need to sort through all these, get rid of the old stuff and see what I need.
Socks would be a good, inexpensive gift to put on my Hanukkah list. The only people who would see my Hanukkah list would be my children and their budgets were too tight to afford an iPad, diamond tennis bracelet or new microwave oven. Better to list socks, shower gel and emery boards that I could always use and would not break their banks. I sighed, thinking back briefly of better, more prosperous days.
My fingers tugged on a peeping piece of purple, wedged against the side of the drawer. A pair of faded amethyst cable-knit cotton socks popped into my hand. Tears welled up in my eyes as memories of better days flooded my mind.
Our first year in our four-bedroom Colonial in Clifton Park and I was newly pregnant with our second child. Our careers as lawyers were moving along, we were making more money than we had imagined in our law school days, but mortgage, car and school loan payments plus the costs of one child and one on the way ate up most of our income. There were, therefore, no big-ticket items on the Hanukkah list in 1984, because we were saving for living room furniture and a decent dining room set. And our three-year old daughter needed dolls and books and pretty outfits.
I don’t really remember what my husband and I had mentioned to each other as possible presents for the holiday. There were probably books and CD’s. I am pretty sure my husband had wistfully requested a drill or power screwdriver or staple gun; he so wanted to be handy with tools (he never was). But I do recall one thing I lusted for: a purple, turtleneck, cable-knit sweater from The Gap. I don’t remember why I wanted that sweater. Purple was not one of my usual colors, but I thought the sweater was luscious and beautiful and would look good with the reddish hair color I sported in those days. My husband, Mitch, was pretty good about following lists so I was looking forward to that sweater. Then I spied a Gap bag in the back of the closet one afternoon and, thinking it was some gift I had bought, I opened it. Inside was a purple sweater but not the one I wanted. It was some boucle-like material and had a cowl neck.
The next night over dinner, I asked Mitch if he had finished all his shopping.
“Yes, I’m pretty much done. Just a few little things to still get, I think.”
“Oh, well, you know I was at the mall at lunchtime and I was walking by The Gap and that sweater I have on my list… the purple, cotton, cable-knit, turtleneck one…is 40 % off this week.” I smiled guilelessly at him.
“Turtleneck, cable knit…is a turtle neck the tight neck or the drapey neck?” He was such a fashion maven.
“It is the tight neck that you fold over and the sweater is really heavy,” I innocently replied.
The next day, the bag was gone from our closet.
On the first night of Hanukkah, I opened a large box from The Gap. Nestled inside was the very sweater I had wanted. Underneath the sweater, was a pair of purple, cotton, cable-knit socks. I looked up at my husband.
“The sweater was so on sale that I got the socks for you, too. It was still less than the sweater I bought…I mean… than the sweater was when I first looked at it.” I was the one with the innocent smile now.
“You’re so good to me. Thank you. I love you.” And I did.
And I still do, I realized as I held the faded purple socks in my hand. Twenty-eight years later, the socks have endured almost three decades of wear and tear. As has my love for the bargain-seeking man I married.
Both socks and man were, as he would say, “good value.”


Hanukkah Cards for Sale



Hanukkah Card

Hanukkah Card

Card, 4 1/2″ x 6″, with envelope.  Greeting: “Believe.”  Individual card with envelope $3.50 or package of five cards with envelopes for $15.00. May be ordered at dsabinart@gmail.com, shipping costs extra, or purchased at For Art’s Sake, Main Street, Malone, NY 12953. From my original watercolor painting “Snowy Jerusalem 2008.”

Hanukkamas Cards for Sale

Christmas/Hanukkah combined greeting card. 4 1/2" x 6", with envelope. Greeting" "Happy Hanukkamas." From original my watercolor painting "Holiday Chickadees." Cards are $3.50 each or five for $15.00. May be ordered by e-mail to dsabinartist@gmail.com or purchased at For Art's Sake, Main Street, Malone, NY 12953.

Christmas/Hanukkah combined greeting card. 4 1/2″ x 6″, with envelope. Greeting” “Happy Hanukkamas.” From original watercolor painting “Holiday Chickadees.” Cards are $3.50 each or five for $15.00. May be ordered by e-mail to dsabinart@gmail.com or purchased at For Art’s Sake, Main Street, Malone, NY 12953.

Holiday Cards for Sale

Christmas or Season's Greetings Card with envelope

Christmas or Season’s Greetings Card with envelope

Card, 4 1/2″ x 6″, with enevelope.  Greeting: “Wishing you the warmth of friendship this snowy season and through the year. Individual cards $3.50 each or package of five cards with envelopes for $15.00. May be ordered here, shipping costs extra, or purchased at For Art’s Sake, Main Street, Malone,NY 12953. Adapted from my watercolor painting “Susan’s Snowman.”


I had nothing to say to her.
I turned to look into the face of the woman I had known longer than any other woman alive and I felt absolutely nothing. I completed my 360° spin and told the cashier waiting at the counter,
“I’d really like to try some of those sweet potato fries.”
My voice didn’t quiver and my hands did not shake as I paid for my tuna salad sub and the mixed Italian sub that my brother Jon had ordered seconds before he noticed our sister standing silently behind me in line.
“Mary, I didn’t see you standing there.” My brother’s voice sounded like thunder in the confined area.
“That’s because I move very quietly, Jon.” My sister still had that vapid, sickly sweet voice she had used to convince almost everyone in Malone she was the rightful successor to Mother Teresa.
It was bound to happen. In none of my infrequent forays into Malone, my hometown, to drop off prints and cards at my friend Stuart’s art gallery or to check on court papers in the now closed and almost complete mess that was my late mother’s estate, had our paths crossed. It was only a matter of time, I reasoned, before the odds would turn against me and I would see her again. I had not looked into her face in almost a year.
I heard her order two chicken and something subs to go as I collected the tray with my sandwich and bottle of water. I walked to a booth in the back. I sat facing the counter. My crisp, hot, sweet potato fries with chipotle mayonnaise were almost immediately delivered to me. Jon stopped at the beverage dispenser to fill his cup with iced tea then sat down across from me.
“What the fuck….” He shook his head, a half smile playing about his lips.
“What the fuck.” I responded in a whisper, my eyes glued on the half wall that hid her from view as she paid for her order.
I just wanted her to be gone. From the day we buried my mother, December 1, 2006, I had not wanted to ever see her face or hear her voice again. Unfortunately, the settlement of my mother’s estate dragged on for six years, due to my sister’s insistence that everything in my mother’s house and bank account belonged to her. It ended with me, as attorney for my three brothers, engaging in a cross-examination of my sister at the trial in Surrogate’s Court which could only be described as a farce. We obtained a few items of my mother’s that we had to buy from the estate, a few hundred dollars each and a virtually unenforceable judgment against my sister for the rent she owed the estate for all the years she squatted in my mother’s house. A search of records in the County Clerk’s Office was one of the reasons we had come to Malone that day in the middle of our Thanksgiving vacation in Lake Placid. The other had been to visit my parents’ grave, to lay flowers and a few stones and to say The Lord’s Prayer, a compromise to my family’s Catholic faith and my Jewish faith. Jon and I had pulled a few weeds, shared some family updates with the silent black headstone and hugged before we left to drive by the shambles that had once been our family home.
My eyes flew open as I saw her advancing toward me, two white Jreck subs bags clutched in her hands. She still wore glasses, the style out of date by at least a decade. Her hair was dyed an unnatural reddish brown and fell in poodle-like curls from a center part that revealed her natural grey hair color. It was the same hairstyle I had sported in the 1980’s. I recognized the navy blue quilted jacket that she had been wearing for 20 years. She looked every day of 64 and then some.
She stopped directly in front of me. Oh, shit.
“I just wanted to ask if your mother-in-law, Aileen, was still alive.”
What?! I wanted to ignore her but the women in the other booth were leaning in to hear our conversation. Her weapon against me had always been that I did not want to upset the status quo, draw attention to our family intrigues or hurt my mother. She had wielded that sword expertly for most of her life.
“Yes, she’s alive,
“So she survived the hurricane and everything is all right?”
“She is safe but she lost her house.”
“Oh, that’s terrible. Well, I’m glad she’s safe. I think about her all the time and I hoped she was okay.” She smiled that Mary smile, thin-lipped, ingratiating and false.
I said nothing. I picked up my sandwich. She turned and walked away. I looked at my brother and let out the breath I had not realized I was holding. I put my sandwich down. My hands were shaking. What the fuck.
We analyzed the conversation during our drive back to Lake Placid. We repeated the story endlessly to our brothers and our children. It was the topic of some discussion as we gathered for Thanksgiving. The interesting postscript was the encounter my nephew Adam had in Lake Placid on Saturday with my sister’s oldest son. I wondered if she had told him that we were in the area and he had come looking for us. He seemed happy to have the opportunity to speak with my nephew and meet his wife and children and to ask about my children.
It took me a few more days to realize that I felt some regret about losing contact with her children, some remorse that my mother would blame me for not keeping the family together. And I felt sorry for the life the woman who had been my sister had made for herself. Oh, well.

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