Welcome To Florida, Here’s Your Noodle

Published June 15, 2014 by WELCOME TO HEIDI

I  haven’t  seen  mine  yet, but apparently all Jews have a contract with God or Jesus or somebody really important that says when you hit 65, you must move to Florida. I have no idea how Florida became the Hebrew Beltway, but it is. Maybe the heat is similar to Israel – but  I’ve never been to the Holy Land. I  don’t  want  to  die   in a grocery store. People tell me every day how beautiful  Israel  is  and  how  I’m  an  idiot  for  not  going  but   I’m  sorry  – I’m  not  jumping  out  of  an  airplane  and  I’m   not going to a country that is in a constant state of war, where crazy people strap bombs to themselves as routinely as I wipe my ass.
What I do know about moving to Florida is that once you get there, time stands still. How else can I explain that   my   parents   still   don’t   have   “call waiting,” and I constantly get a busy signal when I call them? Who are they talking to anyway? They are so busy. My parents have a bigger social calendar than I do. It seems like there is a lot to do at their over 55 Floridian Complex in Delray Beach.    I’m  pretty  excited  for when I move there.
I lost about six hours of my life one day trying to get my parents on Facebook. I could have taught them how to build a rocket ship quicker. If you want to know the true meaning of guilt, yell at your parents. It’s  akin  to  screaming at a nun. I  know  we  didn’t   choose our parents, but seriously, how can you ever get angry at the people who gave you the gift of life? Now, I am as hard and cynical as they get, but I am so grateful just  to  be  breathing.    I  don’t  know  if  the  alternative is cloud dancing and cocktails, so I really truly do relish being here on the ground among the living.
I think my parents are here to remind me to be nice to old people. Oh, and to tell me gossip about the kids I grew up with. According to them, I am the only successful one. The other kids are massive fucktards and can’t  keep  a  job  or  a  woman or a house or a calendar. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to my parents, but I have no kids, no husband, the bank owns my house and quite frankly, my career could end tomorrow. But fiddle dee dee, why let them worry about reality? I have also come to realize that my parents are here to inform me of all  deaths  of  people  I  don’t  remember.  The conversation goes something like this:
Mom:  “Remember  Bobby  Feldersomethingwitz?”   Me:  “No.”   Mom:  “He  was  married  to  Jodie  Blahblahstein?”   Me:  “Sort  of.”  
Mom: “Well, he’s  dead.”     Me:  “Okay.  Thanks?”
My parents are British. My dad is from Leeds, England and my mother from Liverpool. If you think this makes them cool and hip and Beatle-like parents – you are wrong. They are still Jews after all, and that trumps “cool”   every   time.   My   parents   moved   to   America   when   they   first   got   married   back   in   the   ‘50s,   and   for some reason they thought it was a brilliant idea to move from England to Staten Island. This would later prove to be a horrible decision – unless you enjoy living on a landfill surrounded by Mafia – but   I’m   sure   it   seemed   like   a wonderful idea at the time. I hate telling people I was born in Staten Island and in fact, I tell people I was born in France. I believe that the Statue of Liberty – a gift from France that you can see from Staten Island – is our own little Isle de la Cite. It works for me.
The problem with having British parents is that the English are about as different from New Yorkers as you can  get.  They  don’t  emote  the  same  way  and in fact, they don’t   really   emote   at   all.   The British are refined and reserved and keep their feelings in check. This does not fly in America, and this is a really hard way to grow up in a city where all people do is to shout their emotions and stab you in the front with their feelings. The good thing about having British parents is their complete lack of knowledge of American children. I got away with murder as a kid. I started drinking at age 13 – and was smoking pot at about the same age. I dropped mescaline to go to school and tried pretty much every drug before I ever got to college. I even got high with my history teacher. My parents had zero idea. They just thought I sucked at school because I was stupid, which I may very well have been. (Have you ever met a smart 13-year- old?)
Everyone loved my parents. They dressed well and threw fabulous cocktail parties. But they were big believers  in  “Children  should  be  seen  and  not  heard,”  and   sitting around the dinner table in our house was SILENT. There was no shouting or arguing allowed. You would enjoy your Veal Cordon Bleu in silence, and you would eat everything on your plate even if it took until 2 am. I don’t  understand  this  concept  at  all.  If  my  child  wanted  to   only  eat  one  pea  at  dinner  I’d  be  fine  with  that.  She’d  be   thin.

My house was also very, very neat, and there were a few   rooms   we   weren’t   even   allowed   in   unless   we   were   serving guests at a dinner party or performing for them. I once played a song I wrote on the guitar for a bunch of my parents’   party   guests.   It   was   about   a   hooker.   My   mother was not pleased. When we were very small, our parents took us into the dining room to teach us manners. We   spent   the   whole   meal   saying,   “Please   pass   the   salt”   and learning to use our knives and forks correctly. I am super- grateful for this, actually. I find the way some people eat akin to watching monkeys throw their own poo at the zoo.
If   you’d   walked   into   my   childhood   bedroom,   you   would have thought I had just moved in that morning. We were not allowed to hang pictures or have any kind of mess. All I wanted to do was hang posters of Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, but that was not allowed. It would ruin the paint. I shared a room with my sister Alison, who lived in the upper part of the room that was separated from mine by one step. If I ever stepped on her “part,”   I   would   be   beaten   to   a   pulp.   All   the   dressers   and   closets   were   on   my   “part,”   so   she   had   full   access.   This   was   how   I   learned   the   concept   of   “unfair.”   I   was   the   baby. Everything in my life was unfair. Everything was monitored, even our phone conversations. We had one of those little telephone tables that sat in the hallway between  the  two  upstairs  bedrooms,  and  that’s  where  you   had to have your conversations with your friends. When no one was paying attention, I would try to drag that phone into my room. You could JUST get it inside behind the door and barely shut it – but it was better than being out in the open. You kids with your cell phones today have no idea how hard it was to be attached to a land line—a rotary phone land line. Our phone number started   with   “Gibraltar   8.”   That’s   how   old   I   am.   I   might   as well have been making calls from my covered wagon.
I was not allowed out of the house at all during the week until I went to college, and the first night there I went completely mental and partied like an animal. It has taken me 30 years to reign myself back in. My parents told me nothing about sex. In fact, they told me nothing about everything. I freaked out the first time I got my period. I had no idea what it was. I figured my vagina had died. My mother shoved a tampon at me like I was an idiot. How could I not know these things? This was not the conversation a refined British woman was supposed to be having with some sweaty 13-year-old. Even if that 13-year-old was her kid. I most definitely did not grow up in some real-life version of “Sex and The City.”  Back  in  the  ‘70s, girls  didn’t  talk  about  that  kind of stuff. No one was walking around Susan Wagner High School shouting,  “Hey,  you  bleeding  yet?”  I  miss   the  ‘70s.
I went to visit my parents recently after I was reminded   that   it   had   been   a   while   since   I’d   been   to   Florida – about 10 years. The idea of spending time in my   parents’   condo   was   not   exactly   number   one   on   my   “to-do”   list.   It   was,   however,   number   one   on   my   “to- don’t”  list.  I  booked  my  ticket  and  emailed  my  flight  info   to  my  Dad.  He  wrote  back:  “Can’t  wait  to  see  you.  Even   if  only  for  a  day.”  What? A day? I looked at my itinerary and yes, I had in fact booked a trip for just 24 hours. Oops. I told my folks it was an oversight and rebooked my   flight.   I   figured   I’d   go   for   three   days,   but   I   don’t   know how to tell time and thought that a flight that leaves at 12:05 pm on Wednesday meant that you leave Wednesday night and not five minutes after midnight on Tuesday. Now I was going to Florida for four whole days, and what the hell was I going to do for four whole days? Ohmigod, I should rebook this but then  they’ll  get   upset! Breathe. I broke out in hives.
“I’m   so   happy   you’re   here!”   my   mother   cried   as   she   hugged   me   moments   after   I   landed   in   Florida.   “I   made you a home-cooked meal tonight in honor of your trip.   Brisket   and   chicken   soup!”   I   then informed my mother that I had been a vegan for the past four months and   hadn’t   had   meat   in   about   a   year.   Her   face   fell.   I   ate   the brisket. It was going to be a long four days.
Delray Beach is like a giant summer camp for old people.  My  Mom  and  Dad’s  complex had everything I had back at Camp Indian Head. There was a pool and a clubhouse, and there was a constant variety of things for them to do. My first day there, we stopped at the clubhouse and I met a bunch of ladies playing bridge, Mahjong, and even canasta. I thought all of these games died  years  ago,  and  now  I’m  worried  that  I’m  running  out   of   time   to   learn   them   and   won’t   be   allowed   in   some   of   these  communities  when  it’s  my  time  to  check  in  because   I am Mahjong-illiterate.
The second you start meeting  your  parents’  friends,   you find out what your parents really think about you and lucky for me, my parents seemed to think I was pretty great. In fact, some of the people I was meeting thought I was probably too great to be true and when they met me they kind of rolled their eyes at how much they had been forced  to  hear  about  me:  “Your  mother  can’t  stop  talking   about   you   and   that   show   you   write.   What’s   it   called   again?”  I  thought,  “I  know  you  know  what  it’s  called,  you   smug  old  people.” Every day we  would  go  to  the  pool,  because  that’s   where the action is in a Florida condo development. I could have sat at that pool and listened to people all day long, which is a good thing because old people know how to talk. All the women would gather in the pool with their  noodles.  If  you  don’t  know  what  these  are,  they  are   long Styrofoam things that help you float. Apparently when  you  check  in  to  my  parents’  community,  they  give   you a noodle. (I hope I get to choose my color. I want pink.) I met a woman named Pearl who I instantly fell in love with. She floated out to the pool area like Jackie O. She has short white cropped hair and wore big black round sunglasses. She had on a one-shoulder navy blue swimsuit and was pin thin. I get the feeling people tell Pearl  she’s  too  skinny  and  should  eat  more.    To  me  – she was perfection. She was beyond chic. Pearl walked up to me   and   said,   “I’ve   heard   so   much   about   you,   and   I   just   want you to know that I appreciate celebrities and your mother  doesn’t.    You  should  have  been my child. I want to hear everything you know about the stars. I should have   been   a   star.     Either   that   or   a   princess.”     I   couldn’t   agree more. I thought – “I  want  to  be  Pearl  when  I  grow   up.” Pearl’s  husband  Hank  takes  her  to  the  pool  each  day   to make sure she gets her exercise. It seems Pearl can be a   bit   petulant   when   it   comes   to   doing   things   she   doesn’t   want to do. This made me love her more.
On   my   second   day   in   Delray,   I   met   “Mr.   Turkey Timer.”     This   was   the   nickname   I   gave   to   the   man   who   came to the pool every day and began a ritual that I instantly knew had been years in the making. The pool area  at  my  parents’  place  is  fairly  large.  There  are  plenty   of places to sit without being on top of anyone else, and yet this minute man would always sit right next to me.
He would arrive in shorts, a T-shirt, and those hideous Velcro mandals men wear that should be outlawed. He would spread two towels out on a chair, one for the top half and one for the bottom. He would apply lotion and then get out the kitchen timer, set it, and lie down. Then for the next 20 minutes, the sound of that dammed timer would drive me insane. TicK. TiCK. TICK. I wanted to scream,  “How  about  a  watch?  Has  this  age-old system failed   you   in   some   way,   sir?”   He   once   spoke   the   word   “hello”   to   my   dad.   I   detected   a   slight   accent,   and   my   brain decided it was German and then that brain went off on   an   entire   “Timer=Oven=Jews=Death   Camp”   rant.   What can I say – that’s  how  all  Jews  think. Every time I hear Heidi Klum say anything, the translation in my head is,  “Get  in  the  oven.  Get  in  the  shower.”  I  can’t  even  step   foot   in   Germany.     It’s   a   whole   thing.   Something   must   have   gone   terribly   wrong   in   “Mr.   Turkey   Timer’s”   past   tanning days that led him to this system. It worked for him. I decided to keep my mouth shut and my headphones on.
One day, I overheard this conversation.
Man: “You   know   what   I’m   gonna   do   today?   I’m   gonna go out and get myself some of that – what’s  it   called – that smelly stuff – Faberge? Yeah, Faberge.  I’m   gonna get some of that  Faberge.  I’m  gonna  light  a  Cohiba and  I’m  gonna  pour  myself  some  wodka  (he  actually  said   “wodka”)   and   then   I’m   gonna   smoke   the   cohiba   and   drink   the   wodka   and   then   I’m   gonna   spray   the   place down   so   she   don’t   know   nothing   about   anything.” (He was referring to Febreeze and how he could have a moment of happiness in his home without his wife finding out.) I thought, “Eighty-something, and still hiding things from a spouse? Color me permanently single.”  
The most amazing thing I saw, however, was while driving down the highway to dinner one night. Suddenly there  was  an  electronic  sign  for  a  “Silver  Alert.” I asked my dad what that meant.
Dad:  “Old  people  missing.”    
I laughed for a full five minutes. And dinner itself is a whole thing in Florida. The most popular time to go is about 5:30 which is when NO ONE is hungry and the portions you get are the size of your head. No one can eat the size of the meals they give you, and so everyone gets a doggie bag. This makes the diners extremely happy.     Basically,   if   they   don’t   get   two   meals   out   of   the   one meal – the  place  is  shit  and  they’re  never  going  there   again.
My   parents   are   now   in   their   80’s,   and   I   have   to   say,  I’m  thrilled  with  their  aging  progress – it bodes well for me. They both have their minds completely intact. No one is drooling and mumbling things incoherently – at least not without the aid of vodka. The only real problem is loss of hearing. My Dad wears a hearing aid, which does not stop me from having to scream everything. When you say things like I say on a regular basis, screaming  anything  should  not  be  an  option.  My  Mom’s   hearing is also on a slippery slope to non- existence, but she  refuses  to  wear  a  hearing  aid.  I  get  it.  They’re not at all   sexy.   I’m   terrified   of   losing   my   hearing.   My   Mom   says you basically just hear the sound of your own voice in your head. Uh-oh. I already have that problem, and it led to some severe drinking. At the beginning of my trip I thought,  “How  am  I  going  to  survive  four  days  here?”, and by the end of it, I was thinking, “I’m  so  glad  I  spent  this  time  with  my  parents” – well, that and, “I’ve  got  to   start  a  retirement  fund  immediately.”  
I studied Kabbalah for a couple of years.    It’s  some   4,000-year old-mystical side of Judaism, and they believe in reincarnation and that we actually choose our parents. They say that when we are souls in heaven, we decide which people will raise us in our next lives based on things  we  need  to  learn.  I’m  not  sure  what I needed to learn other than the obvious – Jewish guilt – but  I’m  so   glad I chose my parents. I may not understand why they did what they did when it comes to how they raised me, but I think I turned out okay. When I was young I wished my parents were more  like  my  friends’  parents.    The  girls   were all really close with their Moms and did things together and gossiped about boys and clothes and how to frost-tip   their   hair.   But   as   I’ve   grown,   I’ve   realized   you   can’t  change  people,  and  you  have  to  just  accept them for who they are. So I accept my parents for who they are – the wonderful people who breathed life into me and love me unconditionally. And they accept me for who I am – the loud-mouthed  weirdo  who  can’t  seem  to  find  a  man   and  didn’t  give  them  grand kids. My Mom may not have spent nights braiding my hair and showing me how to scrapbook   and   whispering   to   me   all   of   life’s   secrets,   but   before I left Florida she told me she was glad I was leaving my sneakers in the guest closet so she could look at them and  think  of  me  when  I  wasn’t  there.  It  broke  my   heart.
I’m   not   as   scared   about   getting   old   since   my   visit.   I   may  even  check  in  to  my  parent’s  complex  when  I  hit  60.   I’ll   be   the   spring   chicken   in   the   group.     I   even   have   my   eye on one single old geezer who  was  pretty  sexy.  I’ve  
got   my   fingers   crossed   he   doesn’t   bite   it   before   I   get   there.     Together   we’ll   swim   with   our   noodles   and   he’ll   think   I’m   the   sexiest   young   thing   in   Del   Ray   Beach.   Finally,   I’ll   be   able   to   start   eating   again.       I   can   almost   taste the cake now.

More stories like this can be found inside the pages of Welcome To Heidi.

7 comments on “Welcome To Florida, Here’s Your Noodle

  • I have to admit that I really REALLY enjoyed this piece. Your parents live about a half hour from me. I grew up in Kansas City, and my parents reacted to my trips home pretty much like yours did to your trip to visit them. Mine are gone now, and I got a few twinges reading about your experiences in Delray (especially your mom’s comment about your sneakers). My dad discovered email in his seventies and forwarded everything his fellow geezers sent to him. I used to get frustrated with this, but would give anything to still be getting that crap in my inbox. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t let another ten years pass before coming back down.

    I think this is my favorite of all your blogs … and I’ve read them all.

  • Busted. I had gotten sidetracked in chapter 4 and then got busy with work. But, I have a whole Sunday with nothing to do … except “Welcome to Heidi.” By the way, nice segue from chapter four into five.

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