Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Tangels

Mrs Tangel was a neighbor lady who lived next door to me when I was growing up on Long Island. She was glamorous, friendly and strict with her four boys. I admired her, so any attention made me feel special.

Mr Tangel was a tall, gangly man who chased me and my sisters around the front yard, asking for kisses. It was our silly game- he would chase us, we would scream, he'd gave up and we'd all laugh. Wait- we weren't like, teenagers. We were little. You got that, right?

I used to play with their dog, Snoopy, through the fence until I was given permission to go in the yard any time I wanted to play fetch with her. Snoopy appreciated it so much that she left a thank you gift for me one day.

Through the years our two families became more than neighbors. Mrs Tangel was with my mom the day my grandmother died. My mother was Nana's caregiver- tending to her in our back bedroom while Nana disappeared into cancer. The day Nana stopped breathing, Mrs Tangel came over and said a prayer with my mom. Then she offered support while they waited for my dad to come home.

My father and Mr Tangel had an ongoing friendly feud over the Mets vs The Yankees. We were a Yankee household all the way even though my Dad was the only one who actually watched the games. Still, I was impressed when I heard that Mrs. Tangel was a Lady Met! No, I still don't have a clue what that is.

Eventually I moved away and married. One year me, my parents and The Tangels happened to all be in Florida at the same time, albeit in different towns. Mom and I drove over to our neighbors' winter condo for lunch.

We got a tour of the place, finishing up on the balcony, sitting and sipping iced tea. As we looked out at the water, Mrs Tangel told us this story:

Mr and Mrs T had two social invitations one night. They got dressed up and went to the first party. Mrs Tangel had forgotten something at the condo, so they ran by to pick it up. They could hear music coming from a nearby restaurant and paused to listen. A momentary pause turned into a glass of wine on the balcony where they could see the band down below. One glass became two until they found themselves dancing alone together in the condo, all dressed up. Mrs T said they never made it to the second party.

I love that story. The Tangels were like an aunt and uncle to me. It was nice to know that they still had evenings where all they wanted to do was be alone and dance. And now that they're gone, I see them twirling in the heavens, Mrs Tangles' skirt swinging, their faces beaming, happy just to be together.

Friday, July 22, 2016


Last month I found myself sleeping in the attic of the oldest structure in Maine on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. "Say what??" you ask.  "Hang on, I'll tell ya," I reply. Or maybe I'll say, "No one says, 'Say what,' anymore! Update your exclamations!"

Well, now you made me forget what we were talking about. Oh yeah, scary places to sleep. Anyway, my sister, Nancy, and her husband, Dick, have been working and playing on a group of small islands off the coast of New Hampshire for many years now. They are The Isles of Shoals and are located 6 miles out to sea.

Star Island is the biggest among the islands and is where conferences are held.

It was originally settled in the 1600s, so naturally ghost stories abound. Ghost Hunters did a show out there, in fact,  but that's a blog post for another day.

My scary attic was on Smuttynose Island, which sits across the water from Star Island. Nancy and Dick volunteered to be caretakers out there for a week and invited us to visit.

There is no electricity or plumbing on the island. But there is sweet peace, blowing through the grassy fields, rolling down the rocky shore, and sweeping the hair off my face as we approached by boat. And there are seagulls. Lots and lots of seagulls.

And all the seagulls had baby seagulls.

Anyone who knows me well knows that- despite my age, intelligence and common sense- I'm a big ole baby when it comes to ghosts. I have no idea if they exist but I ain't sleeping alone if there's the slightest possibility one may be skulking around. Hey! There's a cemetery out there, man. Don't judge me.

You can imagine how I felt about sleeping upstairs on this lonely island without the distraction of The Real Housewives or  Dateline. OMG, Dateline! Glad I couldn't watch a murder mystery on Smuttynose. The island was the scene of a couple of murders in the 1800s. Thanks for reminding me.

I made my son sleep nearby that night and we kept a lantern on. We had the screened windows open, allowing a cool breeze in. The moon provided more light than I would have expected, so I turned the lantern off. I laid back and listened to the odd sounds seagulls make: a caw you could swear was a cat and a cry that sounds like a baby. The next thing I knew it was 8:00 in the morning.

Coffee was ready on the propane stove. Jamie was off fishing, Dick was out being an island caretaker and Nancy was checking for news on her phone. (We picked up wifi from Star.) I had my coffee my favorite way: outside.

We spent the day island-hopping. Nan and Dick had permission to visit a private island to pick strawberries so we started there.

Next stop was Star Island where we were able to buy a snack and use a real bathroom.

Hold on- Smuttynose has one of the nicest outhouses I've ever seen, but you know. Outhouse.

The afternoon was spent on Appledore Island where brainy college kids study the sea and its creatures.

Back on our breezy chunk of land, we dined on grilled steak and a pot of mussels Jamie collected on the shore. Delish.

What mussels we didn't finish, we gave to the seagulls. We moved inside for a game of scrabble while the sun took it's sweet time sliding down into the ocean.

Lanterns were lit, wine was poured and scrabble words were challenged.

At the end of the game Nancy claimed she couldn't read our scores in the dim light and decided she must have won. With a little help from her flashlight-welding husband, I was declared the winner. Quite a feat since Nancy's a brainiac and Jamie's a game-aholic. Yay, me!

I slept heavily and long once again. We packed up later in the morning and waited for our ride down at the...lagoon? If Gilligan can call it that, I guess I can, too.

Thirty minutes later we were back at our car. I'm still thinking about our quick trip to The Isles of Shoals and how all that quiet and all that nature somehow got inside me. I feel calmer. I'm sleeping better. Ghosts? phsaw! I ain't scared of no ghost. But if, in a quiet, contemplative moment I should suddenly screech like a seagull who sounds like a cat, don't call 911. I'm just reliving a peaceful memory.

On a side note, The shootings at Pulse nightclub happened right before we arrived on Smuttynose. Even out there, on that isolated island, the flag was raised at half-mast.

What a world.

What a beautiful world.