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Archive for November, 2012

picture from tinytestkitchen.com (visit them for great recipes)

Although I am not the baker in the house and I won’t be spending time this holiday in the kitchen baking up Christmas cookies, I was struck by baking being an apt metaphor for life, especially after seeing some holiday baking commercials on television. The commercials talk about home-made cookies made from a box (filled with dry ingredients).

Is that the new definition of home-made on the YBR? Is the only difference between store-bought and home-made the fact that to call it homemade you simply empty the contents of a box in a bowl and add eggs, oil and water? Or is it a matter of cutting slices off a roll of prepared cookie dough?

I think we are further deluding ourselves by thinking that today’s version of home-made is actually home-made. To me home-made means taking out all of the ingredients, sifting, measuring, mixing, etc.

But then I got to thinking. As home-made as that process might be, it too, is not really home-made. For that to occur you’d actually have to plant the wheat (and turn it into flour), raise the chickens that lay the eggs, grow and refine the sugar, etc.

I don’t think it’s necessary to go to that extreme because in the “baking” of ourselves, we have been gifted with the ingredients that go into us…keeping in mind that all of us are not the same and therefore we all don’t include the same ingredients.

When Dorothy landed in Oz she was given all the ingredients she would need to “bake” herself. She wasn’t handed a box with all the dry ingredients measured to perfection. She had to gather, sift and measure. She had to follow her own unique recipe. In the end she was home-made.

Today we are like a box. Instead of having to follow our own recipe we settle for taking pre-measured ingredients…and then we go around proudly proclaiming we are “home-made.”

Not true. We have become cookie cutter people.  And that scares me because more and more people aren’t even willing to go to that much trouble, settling instead for something they take off the shelf. It makes us half-baked human beings.

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Neil Simon had us lost in Yonkers and L. Frank Baum had us lost in Oz. As a kid I was often lost in Seaford. And while getting lost, either in the physical or spiritual sense is no picnic in the park, letting ourselves get lost in memories can sometimes open floodgates that are the wellspring of the stories of our lives. For some reason, and I don’t know why, I liked language. I not only liked learning the definition of new words, I loved discovering the myriad meaning of words.
I was struck by how often the meaning we associate with a word is not the intended meaning. That was the case in my childhood when people who populated the adult world used “comfortable” words instead of using the “real” words that already existed. For example, when I was growing up, women did not get pregnant. They were in the family way.
One word my parent’s generation used confused me to the max. One day I overheard my father say to my mother that “Mrs. Clarke lost her husband last night.” My mother started crying.
I knew Mr. Clarke. He was a very nice man and I thought he was a smart man. So how did he get lost? Little kids got lost, I remember thinking, but an adult? Yeah, sometimes my father would announce while we were in the car that we were lost. But he’d stop at a gas station and ask for directions.
The first thing I wanted to do was go out and look for Mr. Clarke. I asked my father if Mrs. Clarke was looking for Mr. Clarke. He told me it wasn’t that kind of lost. He didn’t tell me that there were different kinds of lost.
I was very confused. I had lost things. In fact I used to lose lots of things. Just the week before I had lost my baseball glove.
How did Mrs. Clarke lose her husband for God’s sake? Were they out walking when she turned to look at something and when she looked back, Mr. Clarke was gone?
Maybe he was playing a trick on Mrs. Clarke. Maybe he wasn’t lost.  Maybe he was just hiding.
And then I remember my father saying, “This has been a bad year. George Marshall lost his wife in March, Bob McGreevy lost his mother in May, and you lost a cousin in June.”
It was an epidemic! I had never realized it before but adults were getting lost all over the place.  I took it upon myself to do something about it.  I got some construction paper and made some signs that said: Lost: Mr. Clarke. If found, please return to Mrs. Clarke.”
Imagine my dismay when a day or two later I overheard a neighbor say to my father it was so sad that Bill Clarke died.
“Poor Mrs. Clarke. First she loses her husband and then he goes and dies.”
You see, I knew what it meant to die. I just didn’t know what it meant when someone was “lost.”

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Read between the lines of my original Christmas stories (1972-2011) and you will see visions of Oz and the Emerald City. (Cover design by Jeremy Begley)

Available on

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