March 1, 2000

The February assignment for On Display is to write about Influences.

I have been mulling over February's topic over since, well, the beginning of February. I wasn't sure how to address it.

I don't think there's one person or one thing that makes me what I am today. Then as I was playing Scrabble, or as we call it here "Squabble," with my hubby tonight, I came to the realization that I am the sum of my parts.

Why would playing Scrabble make me think about influences? I know. It's kind of a stretch... but come with me Sherman, into the Wayback Machine...

It was approximately 1967. Summers were spent in upstate New York. My father's parents would come and spend at least a part of the summer with us at the bungalow. My Aunt Sheila, Uncle Norman and their kids, and my dad's first cousin Joyce, her husband Harold and their kids and Joyce's mom, Aunt Rose, all went to the same bungalow colony. Aunt Rose was my grandfather's sister.

My grandmother, Aunt Sheila, my mom, Joyce and Aunt Rose would play Scrabble. For hours. At the kitchen table of our bungalow. My grandmother was a mean old bat, but she was a kick-ass Scrabble player. She had an enormous vocabulary. She did the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle every single week. In pen. And she finished it.

To Grandma Anne, there was probably no single sin bigger than playing Scrabble poorly. To waste a triple word score on an otherwise three point word was sacrilege. To use a Q, Z, J, or X on a spot that did not offer at the very minimum a double letter score was an equally egregious sin.

So, when I sit down to play Scrabble with my husband I have generations of my family's women sitting on my side of the table with me. I look at my letters and can almost hear my Grandma Anne coaching me. Advising me. Admonishing me when I "waste" points or letters.

My Grandpa Ruby (Grandma Anne's husband). could fit a 25 pound turkey into a refrigerator that was already crammed to overflowing. I learned a thing or two from him--just take a look at my pantry. (OK, maybe you shouldn't, but take my word for it, it's a work of art.)

From my father's ex-wife I learned to forgive. She was often the calm in the storm that was a lot of my relationship with my father. I know that both my sisters had very different relationships with her than I do. Though she and my dad have been divorced for almost 20 years now, we still have a close relationship. When things get tough I know that she's the one I can call. She knows all the players, the personalities, my weak spots, my stubborn spots. She can offer me guidance.

Then there's my husband. He contends that I don't write about him nearly enough. While my husband could rightly be called someone who does not play well with others, particularly lately, he has had a few things to offer me. The thing though that I think I've most learned from him and my relationship with him is to love. To love someone who will love you back. That love is safe, warm, and enveloping, even if sometimes frantic or tense.

And my daughter. Zoe. I've learned that there is no greater love than that of a mother for a child. And a child for her mother. But most important, I think I've learned from her that it's not so much where you're going but enjoying every single minute of getting there.

Until next time...