Sunday, September 20, 2020


These are emotional times. Lately I feel like I am either laughing or crying at the drop of a hat, and yes – in case people are wondering – I’ve been through menopause. 

There are far too many feelings to get into – and many of us are probably experiencing a similar reality – but suffice it to say that on the one end there’s the infinite joy of grandchildren and on the other is all the matter that darkens up the sky.

Every now and then, extra tears creep in, surprising even myself at how close to the surface they must be to roll down my face when they don’t seem warranted.  

Friday’s tears caught me off guard and were kind of embarrassing, especially when David turned to me and asked in an incredulous tone, “Are you crying?”

We were sitting side-by-side watching the Italian Open Tennis Championship in Rome, and he could hear me sniffing.

I’m sure to him there would be no reason to be emotional, especially because I wasn’t attached to either of the two players like I’ve been to Naomi Osaka, who opted out of this tournament with a nagging hamstring injury. 

The match on at the time was between Daria Kasatkina and Victoria “Vika” Azarenka.

This was the third-round match for them and, unlike the U.S. Open on a hard court, this was on clay.  They had just played the first set of two or three (best of three) and were engaged in a very close battle – the score was 6-6 – and they were in the midst of the tiebreak. 

Vika had been on a hot streak; she had made an awe-inspiring comeback after years of missed tournaments due to a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend over their son, an issue that I mentioned in last week’s blog post called Game, Set, Match.

I wasn’t familiar with Daria before that match, but David told me that she had been moving up the rankings several years ago but then leveled off; recently, she upped her game but then was injured on the court and had to take a hiatus.

So here the two women were during the tiebreak, when Daria slid toward a ball that dropped right over the net, her right ankle turned in, and she rolled over it. She fell to the ground and laid there – not moving – and clearly in pain.

Within seconds, Vika rushed to her opponent with an ice bag to keep Daria’s ankle from swelling, took off Daria’s shoe to place the ice on her ankle and wiped the clay off her back and legs…just like a mom would do with her daughter.

Vika and the sports trainer helped to get Daria off the court and to her seat. Once the trainer assessed the situation, Daria had to retire from the match. 

For a couple of minutes more, viewers could see Vika bending down to the same height as Daria on her chair, and the two women were face-to-face sharing a private moment (overheard by the courtside microphone). When Vika stood up, she kissed Daria on her head.

As Vika was getting ready to walk away, Daria reached out for her hand and then said something to Vika, which was later shared by media outlets. 

Daria told Vika that her (Vika’s) “game in America inspired me,” referring to the recently completed U.S. Open.

Then Vika said to Daria, “Just keep going. Don’t ever think it’s over. You can always try harder. Just do the best out of the situation.”

This is great advice that can be applied to almost anything, given by a tennis champion and, equally as important, a mom.

Seeing Vika mother her opponent brought me to tears. I don’t know if it’s because Daria is only 23 years old, and when I saw her age, I thought to myself She could be my daughter. I then felt so sad knowing how heartbroken she must have felt when she realized she couldn’t continue to play.      

Then – kind of unnervingly – I realized that Vika at 31-years-old could also be my daughter and, in that case, I was so very proud of her. Not only did she demonstrate admirable sportsmanship but to witness her motherly instincts coupled with enormous compassion was incredibly touching.     

Looking at all that transpired and the exchange between the two was more riveting than the set itself. It would’ve been so easy – and expected – for Vika to attend to Daria briefly, wish her well and then within a minute or two bask in her own glory of winning the match (albeit by default) and move on to the next round.

I’m not really sure what’s causing my emotions to be on high alert. Perhaps having three grandchildren born within 3.5 months during COVID has done it to me. Perhaps because I feel more love and connection than ever before. Perhaps because there’s a scary and divisive virus going around with no end in sight. Perhaps because the election is right around the corner. Perhaps because I have way too much time to reflect on things. 

On to the French Open.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Game, Set, Match

I wish I were a sports fan.

David watched a football game earlier today and boy was he pumped. As usual he spent a lot of his time texting like-minded souls. Others tuned in with friends or family – outside or virtually – and nibbled on lots of fun appetizer-type snacks while never taking their eyes off the screen. If they witnessed a historic game of any kind, they will talk about it forever. I know I’m missing out.     

I’ve tried. I just don’t appreciate seeing grown men run around chasing a ball or a puck and, as added entertainment for the viewer, potentially fighting over it. 

If invited to join a game day gathering, I would consider it so that I’m not seen as antisocial, but I’d rather do almost anything else. Would I rather…try on a bathing suit? Well…No. I’d choose the event. How about clean out the bottom shelf of my linen closet?  I could pick this. Go out for ice cream? Definitely.        

Make the athletes women, however, playing a sport that demonstrates individual skill and mental fortitude, throw in a story or two about overcoming a personal and/or professional struggle, tell the tale of two siblings or rivals, or demonstrate how a player uses her position in the limelight to take a stand (that I agree with), and I’m all in.

For the past 2 weeks, I was spellbound by the Women’s U.S. Open Tennis Championship. David and I watched all the women’s singles matches and some of the men’s. The fact that No. 1 ranked Novak Djokovic was thrown out in the quarter finals because he got angry and hit a ball that injured a line judge was just another reminder to me that if this sport was male dominated, I wouldn’t be interested.  

The women participating from the get-go were awesome. In the mix was a variety of individuals who made me proud:  9 moms, 1 social activist, 1 woman making a comeback, 1 underdog, 1 tennis icon, and lots more.  

The final was between Naomi Osaka, a mixed-race 22-year-old – her mom is Japanese and her dad is Haitian – and Victoria Azarenka, a 31-year-old Belarusian mom with a 3-year-old son, Leo.

I was rooting for Osaka; David was rooting for Azarenka.

He was surprised that I wasn’t cheering for a mom who had been stuck in a custody battle with her ex-boyfriend and therefore couldn’t participate in many tournaments over a few-year period because she wasn’t legally allowed to leave the country with her son.

While I felt badly for Azarenka, she was able to make up for lost time. She had been penalized unfairly – no doubt about it – but I was so inspired by Osaka and felt great pride that such a young woman would stand alone in the tennis world as a minority herself and speak out about racism and police brutality.

She brought to the U.S. Open 7 masks, each one bearing the name of one of the Black victims of racial violence, hoping to raise awareness and “to make people start talking.” She honored Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando Castile and Tamir Rice.

She also spoke about the battle she often encounters with her inner self about maintaining a positive attitude and not getting caught up in bad moments when things start to go against her on the court.

When she won the championship, Osaka thanked runner-up Azarenka for being an inspiration ever since she (Osaka) was a little girl and for teaching her so much along the way. 

Osaka then said what I’d be thinking but probably wouldn’t have verbalized – although maybe 40 years ago, I would have – and that is, “I don’t want to play you in any more finals. I really didn’t enjoy that…it was a really tough match for me.”

David, on the other hand, supported Azarenka’s comeback and the unwavering confidence she demonstrated in herself. She shared her belief that if she’s in the match, she can win the match. I’m sure that having followed her over the last decade influenced his interest in seeing her become the winner.

She was asked by reporters what she felt about moms being so prominent at the U.S. Open. 

“That’s not the only thing that we are...We are also women who have dreams and goals and passions.”

All these women are why I love tennis.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Threading the Needle

Before COVID, I was a hospice volunteer at Spring Oak Assisted Living in Berlin. One of the women I enjoyed spending time with was named Marie Bonfiglio. The first couple of times I went to see her, she was glued to a religious television show, so I sat with her quietly to not disturb her while she watched.   

One day before I left, I complimented her on a beautifully beaded purple pillow that was sitting on the foot of her bed. “I made that,” she said, turning to look at me for the very first time.   

“You did?” I asked.

‘Yes,” Marie said proudly.

“When I was a little girl, about 2 years old, I sat at my mother’s sewing machine table and asked her to show me how to use it," she added.

Her mom agreed to do it, and Marie became quite proficient, but the warnings continued: “Marie, don’t hurt your fingers.”

Marie was 95 years young at Spring Oak, so she was recalling memories that were over 90 years old.    

For decades, her kids, neighbors and friends brought her their clothing or other items that needed to be mended, and they also purchased material for her to make curtains, bedspreads and pillows.

She said she was known as the woman who could fix anything…because she did. 

“I could fix things better than my husband,” she said with a smile and added that she climbed ladders and painted the house and made lots of home repairs, "more than he did," too.  

Every time I saw Marie from that time forward, she shared a new layer of her story, such as the kind of outfits she designed, the material she chose for clothing, and all the home improvements she made while her husband was at work. 

A few months after I had last seen Marie, my 27-year-old daughter Amy told me she ripped her comforter and was upset about it, because she liked the design and didn’t want to buy a new one. I suggested that she take it to a local dry cleaning store post COVID because there might be someone in-house to take care of it.     

She said she did not want to wait because she feared the tear would grow.

I could feel it coming, and I was dreading it…and then I heard it: “Mom, will you do it for me?”   

I immediately thought…Who does she think I am, Marie Bonfiglio?

Attempting to remedy this problem was the last thing I wanted to do or felt I’d do well, and I was annoyed with myself that I hadn’t taught Amy to sew. What kind of mom doesn’t teach her daughter to Marie’s mom did for my own mom did for me too?!?!  I remember sitting with my mama while she sewed holes in our socks. I was her needle threader, as she had a hard time seeing where to slide the thread in. Now I would need a needle threader.

Some 35 years ago, I loved to sew. I had a pair of jeans that I sewed 100 patches on to, primarily from my brother’s old shirts – it was a work of art – and I also made denim handbags and pillows too, like Marie 😊.

But I botched a sewing project from my junior high home economics class which left me in tears – thank goodness for my sweet Aunt Fran who completed the jumper for me – so I was kind of nervous about working on something Amy felt was so valuable. What if I ended up ruining it?  

She assured me that I wouldn’t mess it up; the damage was on the underside, so it didn’t matter what the fabric looked like, as long as she could use it. I was proud that she was being so practical, and she wasn’t asking me to do something crazy for goodness sake, just do some magic with needle and thread…something that a mom should be able to do…so I said OK.

Over the next few days, I strategized about how to tackle the 1-foot-long rip.  I ended up doing what I thought was a good job; I utilized part of an unused white pillowcase to create a patch to cover the area. When I returned it to Amy and told her about all the steps I took to save her beloved comforter, I could tell she was v e r y impressed (although she is a teacher so maybe that’s the positive reinforcement tone I heard).   

She even asked if I could teach her how to sew, because had she known how to do it, she would’ve taken care of it herself. I believe she would have, too, because she is always pleased to make her own repairs with the toolbox David gave her when she moved out. 

We decided that once we can sit close together again – after COVID – we will have a sewing date.  

A couple days later, she told me she was snuggling with her comforter when, all of a sudden, something sharp poked her. As she tried to feel around to see what it was, she realized it was coming from the area under the pillowcase patch.

Turns out that I left a needle and thread in there.

Marie would not have been happy.