The Beginning of Desire

I first fell in love when I was seven, with a nurse at East Orange General Hospital when I was there for a hernia operation. In those days a hernia required a five-day hospital stay, more than enough time for me to fall in love with Miss Whitman. Today I don’t remember anything about her except her name, and that she had brown hair and a beautiful smile. But I will never forget my feelings for her.

 Then there was Sylvia. Sylvia etched herself indelibly into my heart in the summer when I was eight. She was a junior counselor at Brook Lake Farms Day camp that I attended that summer The only two things about the experience (other than that I enjoyed it) that I remember were the camp song: “Rah, rah for Brook Lake Farms we love to cheer! Always good campers year after year … “ and Sylvia!

 She must have been about seventeen and drop dead gorgeous. She smiled at me like she would smile at everyone, but that didn’t matter I was in love! Toward the end of that summer, I believe I experienced my first miracle. Our family—Dad, Mom, my sister Rochelle and I—went “down the shore” for a day. The beach was crowded, as you would expect on a hot, sunny, summer Sunday. And suddenly, somehow, out of the mass of people–like magic–Sylvia appeared. Wow! She smiled, gave me a hug, chatted a bit with my parents and then my dad took a photo of the two of us sitting in the sand with her arm around me. I have long since lost the print, but the pose is forever engraved on my brain. Sitting in the sand—if only for a few seconds—with Sylvia’s arm touching my bare skin was my definition of paradise.

 Sometimes I wonder if my first two loves—Miss Whitman (never knew her first name) who must be in her 80’s and Sylvia in her upper 70’s—are still alive. If so I wonder what they are doing now and of course, what they look like.

 Since then I have fallen in and out of love many times! I admit I maintain curiosity about where these women are today and what they are doing. One of the advantages of Facebook is that it has unlocked many of these mysteries.

 Of course, the one true and enduring love of my life has been Vickie with whom I share 40 and counting wonderful (most of the time) years of marriage! Because of her my life has been blessed beyond measure.

 But still, I confess, my mind occasionally transports me back to places like East Orange General Hospital, that sandy beach down the shore, and to other stops along my life’s journey.

 Many of the memories are very pleasant; some not so much, but they are all there. Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about these flights of fantasy. When I do, I remind myself that all of these experiences have made me who I am. I have learned from all of them, so why should I deny them a place in my memory bank or a peek now and then on social media?

Yes, I think that is OK, as long as I know the difference between that which is real and enduring in my life and that which was fleeting and vain.

A Pain in the Back

“Hey, Kid, wanna get ahead and make the big bucks? Become a chiropractor or orthopedic surgeon!”

I have said those words half jokingly to many a student over the years. Though the impetus  is serious,  those words incite anger and sadness in my heart.

And it rekindles every time I pass an elementary or middle school. Kids are slumped over, carrying backpacks that are almost bigger than the kids, themselves. From what I see, they are setting themselves up for serious back problems down the road.

I went to school, obviously, and was a pretty good student. At the most, I carried two or three books worth of homework in my arms every afternoon.

Nobody carried a backpack.

My, how times have changed!

Speaking of change, whatever happened to childhood?

The erstwhile Bill Watterson, comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes was not only a masterpiece of the genre of cartoon art, it was a stinging protest against what we as a society are doing to our kids: robbing them of free time and using negative reinforcement to rein-in imaginations.

Rabbi Stephen Fuchs







As a kid, I loved baseball, and could name by rote, the uniform numbers of almost every player on the 50’s rosters of the NY Yankees, Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers. I played ball with my friends almost every day in the HS annex across the street from our apartment.

Yes, I also did my homework.

My most precious childhood memories are of playing stickball, baseball and football with whomever was “at the lot” at the time. I dreamed of the day I would play on a real team with real uniforms which finally happened at age 11. I’d earned a spot as the starting third baseman or left fielder (depending on which of our two pitchers was on them mound that day) for our city champion Little League team, the East Orange Firemen. It was great reward for all the of practice I had put in and all the imaginary games I played.

In contrast, I don’t see kids just going out and playing ball across the street. Their introduction to baseball comes when their parents sign them up at five or so for tee ball. But before they even take the field there is a significant outlay for uniforms and fees.

Free play? There is no time for that. Baseball is carefully plugged in to an already hectic schedule. They don’t watch baseball. They just play it in their uniforms from 10 to 12 on Sunday mornings.
The rest of the time is filled with many other structured activities and, yes, weighed down by so much homework that childhood becomes a literal pain in the back.

Future chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons, on the other hand, will be very rich!