Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2009

There Was This Priest and This Rabbi

The fact that Sharon was Catholic and I was Jewish was never really an issue  ... until Nikki attended a Jewish preschool.

Don't get me wrong ... The school was great. We were both excited to find a preschool that had such a stellar reputation ... and Nikki was very happy there.  She didn't even mind the fact that there was a limited lunch selection. The preschool  had a Kosher kitchen so we could only give her peanut butter sandwiches every day. That was the only food that was allowed from the "outside".

Note: For those not familiar with Kosher kitchens, the simplified explanation is that meat and milk can never touch each other (apparently they had a nasty divorce a long time ago ... meat must have wandered outside the marriage). No other food from outside can come close to either one. Why peanut butter is allowed is a mystery. I guess it's not interested in a relationship with either meat or milk.
Anyway ... where was I? Oh yes ... The real dilemma was really n…

What Do YOU feed Your Babies?

When he was born, my father-in-law took one look and said to me,"Put a visor on this kid and give him a cigar and you've got a helluva blackjack dealer."

That was Josh.

His voice turned raspy at a young age ... so he always told stories just like he was an old man. Speaking of stories ... his would go on forever because he competed for "stage time" with his sisters. Alissa would tell her favorite story "The Wide Mouth Frog" (about a frog who met other animals and asked "What do you feed your babies?")

When his turn came around, he would combine details from every story he'd ever heard ... "Once upon a time there were three bears ... who asked Mrs Alligator, What do you feed your baby ... and then Goldilocks told the wolf that .... um ... there were  ... um ..."
Alissa ... "Josh ... that is not a real story ...."
Josh ... " DAD .... LISSA IS DISTURRRVING ME!"

Josh's room was a typical boy's room ... …

Dress Up

Lissy loved to dress up in costumes.

It didn't have to be a special holiday for her to break out the Genie outfit or ballerina get-up or some funky combination of moccassins, socks, sweaters and wild looking pants. The Genie pants were the family favorite because Lissy wore the cartoon character underwear underneath. We eventually had to pry those pink plastic shoes off her feet.

I think Halloween started this tradition. Not so much for her sister Nikki. Nikki was glad when Halloween was over since her mother insisted on creating the costumes herself. They always consisted of three rolls of aluminum foil, black leotards, black and gold face paint, black socks and eye makeup.



We used to name Nikki's outfits.

The "Medusa" look was interesting ... leotard, makeup, scarves and the ever present aluminum foil crimped strategically around clumps of hair sticking straight out in different angles. I remember getting nasty phone calls from the neighbors that night as Alissa a…

The Perfect Child

Alissa arrived on September 19th and was immediately dubbed "the perfect child" by the relatives. This ... of course ... was NOT music to her sister's ears. Alissa had a calm disposition, slept through the night from the first day and had the kind of face that everyone had to kiss whenever they met her.

Nikki was really a great sister to her. She was her protector ... and she always spoke up for her. She spoke up for her SO MUCH that Alissa didn't speak for herself until she was about 4 (except for some cute sounds that might have been words).

A typical conversation between an adult and Alissa via Nikki (her translator) would be:

Adult: "So your name is Alissa?"
Alissa starts to nod her head ... Nikki pipes in: "Yes ... actually it's Alissa Michelle Momberg."
Adult: "What a pretty name ... I love your dress."
Nikki: "Our mom got matching dresses for us. I have one just like it."
Adult: "That's nice. How old are yo…

Sibling Training

There's a six year age difference between Nikki and her sister Alissa.

When Alissa's birth was imminent, we thought it was a good idea to get "professional sibling training".
We figured Nikki would instinctively know what to do with her sister .. like pull her hair, "borrow" her clothes, throw her under the bus (she was very literal) ... but it probably wouldn't hurt for her to hear the happier side of sibling rivalry as well.

So we enrolled her in the Bayfront Medical sibling program.

The classroom setup was a family affair. The future brothers and sisters were assembled on the floor of a small circular auditorium and the parents were seated above. It was kind of like watching a mini version of Spartacus ... there were even a few tiny gladiator fights that broke out spontaneously. Nikki ... to her credit ... sat attentively and even counselled some of the smaller children on the proper etiquette of sibling classroom behavior. She was about 3 years ol…

What Is Love?

I must have taken thousands of pictures of Nikki. First borns are always the ones with the fat photo albums ... and the ones who are talked about ad nauseum when they take their first poops or finish their first sentences.

Everything they do is unique ... no child in history has ever done it that way before and you expect your friends to share in your excitement.

Nikki had an incredible memory. She repeated jokes she heard verbatim. Unfortunately, some of those jokes my dad told her  ... and probably didn't understand himself. There was one about Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy that I'm still embarrassed to repeat today. Nikki retold it for weeks.


She was a natural performer. Usually it was a complex dance routine with costumes and ballet slippers ... in the middle of a party. Years later she "trained" her sister to perform with her ... well ... I should say she tried to train her. Alissa was content to do her "bobbing head" routine. No other part of her bod…

Everybody's Fine

Saw a great movie yesterday ... Everybody's Fine with Robert DeNiro. It's very well written and very well acted. For those of you who have adult children, bring big boxes of kleenex. For those who have little children, bring big boxes of kleenex. Actually ... even if you have no kids or HATE the ones you have, bring big boxes of kleenex.

In the movie, DeNiro still dreams of his kids as youngsters ... even in adult situations.

I do the same thing. My oldest is in medical school and, at 31, is still only 4 years old in my dreams ... frozen forever. It's exactly the same with my middle daughter who is 26 and who lives and works in DC and my son, 23, who lives and works here in St. Pete.

Nikki, the oldest, was born while I was still teaching at Canterbury.


She started talking right away. I think she might have even told the doctor how she wanted to be delivered. First borns seem to be the most independent (until they need money later in life).

As a baby, Nikki was restless an…

Esther Returns ... Once More

Esther stories apparently have reader appeal. Thank you for all the requests ... and thanks for the wonderful messages many of you have sent me over the last couple of weeks. Here's my personal favorite:

I mentioned that Esther and Sam had adjoining rooms at Menorah Manor ... separated by only a curtain. You also might remember that Sam is very hard of hearing ( deaf, by human standards) ... and over the last few months, Esther's voice was barely a whisper. It was a match made in heaven ... she couldn't speak and he couldn't hear.

About 6 months ago, I got a call from Sam.

"Your mother wants to talk to you about something, Joel."
"What is it?"
"I don't know ... she won't talk to me."
"Okay ... I'll come ...."
"Hold on ... here she is."
"Wait ... Dad ... "
Too late. He gave the phone to Esther.
"Mom?"
There was barely a whisper on the phone.
"Mom. I can't hear you. Is Dad right th…

The Salad Story

Okay ... one more Esther story. It's my wife's favorite.

When Debbie visited my parents in New Orleans early in our relationship, we met them at a great little place in Metairie called Foodies. Foodies carried all the best New Orleans restaurant dishes "to go" and had a wide selection of salads and meats and breads that you could eat right there. Food selection will be important later in the story.

We ordered our meals and took them out to the patio to eat. As we started our lunch, I noticed that Sam had a pretty big piece of lettuce sitting on the bridge of his nose UNDER his glasses. Of course, the logical question going through my mind was ... how the hell did he get a piece of lettuce under his glasses and on his nose ... AND how did he not see or feel it. But then I remembered that this was Sam ... and not an ordinary human. 

So I decided to mention the obvious ... "Dad, you've got a piece of lettuce on your nose."
Sam looked at me blankly and aske…

A Couple of Esther Tales

Indulge me. I've been thinking this week about my two favorite Esther stories:

1. THE CLOSET. (Note: Those of you who have heard this ... about 357 of you ... feel free to skip to number two) Esther's closet was literally half the size of Esther's house on Melody Drive and was legendary in New Orleans.What made this even more interesting was that Esther was not wealthy (not even close) ... just a little crazy. The house was small ... but the closet .... was MASSIVE.  One year, I made a sizable income selling tickets to view THE CLOSET. It was every little girl's ... and big girl's dream. For starters, there were eight 30 foot racks of clothing all individually wrapped and hung by color, season and type. Many were duplicates and triplicates of the same item. (Remember Esther was "obsessive" and didn't want to ever run the risk of something going out of style). I think we once also counted more than 300 pairs of panty hose ... some never out of the pack…

The Preteen Blues (played in B)

Middle school years are the hardest ... the students feel disconnected from the "little kids" in elementary grades and unacceptable to the "big kids" in high school.

Interestingly enough, that was my favorite group of kids to teach. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because they were still young enough to enjoy cartoons and old enough to be a little more sophisticated intellectually. I related to that ... at 25 years old (okay, emotionally and mentally I was 13 years old). So ... we understood each other. Now that I have reached well beyond the AARP threshold ... I'm about at the senior high school level.


One thing I always remembered about being in school myself was that I continually questioned the relevance of what was taught. Why did I need to study about frog reflexes or isoceles triangles or Custer's Last Stand? Would I need the frog reflex fact or have to draw a triangle when I applied for a job? I don't think so. Now, the Custer thing ... that w…

I Love You Mom

I have tried to keep this blog light and funny .... not too heavy ... but enjoyable. I think all of us need to laugh at ourselves now and then. But today is different and I hope you'll forgive me for talking about a subject that is anything but humorous. Today I wanted to share some thoughts about my mom.

She passed away last night.

It was the end of a two year decline. She weighed only 70 pounds and barely had a pulse when she was transported to the hospital. Her systems were shutting down as I watched her try to breathe through the oxygen mask. It was hard to watch as I remembered how beautiful she was ... how bright and immacculate she kept herself over the years.

As fate would have it, my two daughters were visiting her earlier in the day at the nursing home when she started to crash. My son and my wife, Debbie met me at the hospital when the ER staff was trying to stabilize her.  I stepped out to speak to the doctor and left Josh, my son, with my mom for a few minutes.

When…

The Truly Beautiful People

There are so many wonderful stories I could tell about my students at Canterbury ... also a few that I can't tell, either (those little angels!). Every now and then I run into one of my former students and find out all the wonderful things that they have done with their lives. At least two (that I know of) are regular readers of I Was Born Very Young ... Wendy and Ellie ... and I love hearing from them from time to time. I can't understand why they would want to read my stuff anymore ... I was sure they would have been tired of listening to me by now ... but I love them for it.

I'll share two other stories about my former students:

About ten years ago, I ran into Christina, who was touring All Children's Hospital (my subsequent employer) with the Junior League. I hadn't seen her in more than 20 years but recognized her immediately.

"Christina? Is that you?"
"Yes, Mr. Momberg. It's great to see you." She kept her eyes averted shyly.
"…

Other Duties As Assigned

There's more to teaching at a small private school than most people realize. Lunch duty, detention, coffee breaks, baby sitting, countless hours talking trash about people in the teachers' lounge, coffee breaks, taking naps ( ... oh wait ... that was just Karl ...). There were "other duties as assigned". Mine were Yearbook Advisor, Soccer Coach, Editor of the newsletter and ... in later years ... Admissions Director.

The first Admissions Director was Bob Bradshaw. He came to Canterbury the year after I arrived. Bright guy ... the product of Northeast prep schools, graduated from Yale ... set to follow in his father's footsteps as a Philadelphia attorney ... but he headed south to St. Pete instead. Turned out he was much happier teaching school and coaching basketball for about $4000 a year. Go and figure. Bob was a voracious writer too ... his class notes were the size of a James Michener novel. I remember when he first came, I did a piece on him to introduce him…

Who's Watching the Kids?

Looking back at my old Canterbury pictures, my hair was pretty long. Actually ... looking back ... I'm happy I HAD hair.

I wasn't alone. Alot of my fellow teachers had long hair: Sarah, Jan, Candy (well, my hair was longer than hers). Even some of the guys. There were always more female teachers than male teachers in the lower school. Karl was the rare exception as a kindergarten teacher. But then Karl was a rare exception in life.

Sarah Lonquist taught first grade. She has a southern accent right out of "Steel Magnolias". In fact, she could have starred in that movie. The students adored her ... so did the rest of us. Her name had 37 syllables: Sayyyyrraaahhhlooowwwiiinquiiiiissssst. Sarah's own kids had 37 syllables in each of their names, as well, and were always referred to as Carollonquist and Jimmylonquist ... as in ... "Well, I just had the nicest day shopping with my Carollonquist ... she just has such wonderful taste ... must take after her mother.…

God's Waiting Room

" How would you like to teach in St. Petersburg, Florida?" Candy asked me that at the end of the school year and the end of my contract with AIS in Vienna.
" St. Petersburg, Florida?" I asked.
" Yeah. I accepted the position of Lower School Head for The Canterbury School of Florida."
" There are actual children in St. Petersburg?"

Up until that point, I had heard that Florida was God's Waiting Room. Actually, in those days, St. Pete was known as the home of the newly wed and the nearly dead. I figured that once you gave birth, you were banished to Georgia or Alabama or had to go back to where you came from (New York mostly).


But I soon found out there were at least 15 sixth graders who lived there. They were my first honest to goodness class that I could call my own. I had taken Candy's offer and had become a sixth grade teacher in St. Pete ... living on St. Pete Beach and loving life.

Crazy Karl came too. He was the new Kindergarten te…

I Gotta Go Home

I was starting to worry that the United States was changing at the speed of light while I was living in Europe in 1973 and 1974. Here are a few of the things that I read ... from the pages of European newspapers:


- The Watergate Scandal ... you remember that? Nixon's criminal bunch CREEP (Committee to Re-elect the President) caught breaking into the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel? Conspirators Mc Cord, Liddy, Haldeman, et al ... sounded like a disfunctional law firm.

- Nixon resigns. BIG surprise.

- Roe v Wade ... Supreme Court overturns the state bans on abortion. To this day ... it's one of the most controvertial split issues ever.


- Streaking ... naked guy running across the screen at the Academy Awards during David Niven's presentation. Following that ... streakers showed up everywhere there were cameras.

- Secretariat became the first Triple Crown winner since 1948. He's a horse by the way for those of you that thought that it was an illegal electio…

What Do You Get When You Mix a Sumo With a Strudel?

I called Candy. She was the lower school principal at AIS in Vienna who said ... "if you ever want a permanent position, call me." I needed a position ... any position. I guess I could have gone back to the states but I wanted to stay around Western Europe a little longer.

Candy lined up a job for me.

A week earlier, one of the high school history teachers was in a tragic automobile accident. There was suddenly a need for a substitute to teach her classes for the remaining school year. There was only one catch: the substitute had to teach Japanese history.

" Can you teach Japanese history?" the head of the history department asked me.
" Of course." I said without hesitation.
" Have you ever taught it?"
" Um ... no ... but I have a good knowlege base of ... what did you say it was again?"
" Japanese history."
" Yeah ... THAT."
" Okay ... it's yours."


He was obviously desperate. I didn't have a clue …

Roma Coma: The Final Chapter

Other than the nights on the Via Veneto, my life was not working out well. My money was running out, my boss at Readak was pressuring me to start the course and apparently everyone in Italy except for me wore the same size pants.

I loved the school ... Marymount International Academy. It was a very exclusive Catholic school, located on the outskirts of Rome ... on the Via di Villa Lauchli. (How I remember that street name is beyond me ... I can't even remember what I had for breakfast ... I must be a "useless fact savant"). I remember having regular meetings with the headmistress. She was a Dutch nun who "kicked the habit" years ago. Try as I might ... I couldn't salvage the course. And in the end I had to refund the money and apologize. My luggage was still missing more than a month after I arrived and I had no teaching materials (books, tests, equipment, etc).


My Readak days were over. We parted ways over this last experience. They didn't want me to re…

Roma Coma Part 2

There I was in the middle of the train station in Rome. I had no luggage ... which meant no clothes and no classroom materials ... and was told by the "officials" that it could take weeks before they found my bags. I was due to start teaching classes in less than a week.

The more upset I got with the customs officers ... the more laid back and nonchalant they became.

Fortunately, I had not lost my traveler's cheques ... which I carried in my pocket. For those of you too young to remember ... travelers' cheques were critical travelling currency ...  as there were no ATMs in those days. American Express backed these if they were lost or stolen. Mine were neither, thank heaven.

I needed clothes so ...  I asked a taxi driver to take me to a nice clothing store. He took me to one located right off of the Via Veneto (at the time one of the most famous streets in the world ... filled with a unique blend of outdoor cafes and frequented by celebrities). I wasted no time pic…