Friday, February 24, 2006

Right on Target

Are you familiar with the Yiddish word, mekhiah? Adapted from the Hebrew word for life-giving, the Yiddish version has a more pragmatic connotation: pleasure-giving. The proper use of the word mekhiah (meh-chai-eh) is demonstrated by the following paragraph:

"Shopping at Target is such a mekhiah! The store is so clean and well-laid out and the staff is so helpful and the prices are simply unbeatable! Since they opened the Target near my house, I've stopped going to W#$%^rt, which is a filthy, depressing store that showcases Christian right-wing books, exploits its workers and has refused to carry the morning-after pill. Plus, if you've ever been there at, say, 2 in the morning, you're bound to meet up with one of America's Most Wanted in the power tool aisle. Target sensibly closes its doors before these characters are on the loose."

If you are an American citizen, visitor or resident, chances are that you know all about Target (, even if you have never visited one of its gajillion locations. Its clever ads and commercials, its simple yet riveting logo, its genius strategy of snagging high-profile designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, Philippe Starck, Luella Bartley and other seriously-cool names, its ubiquitous sponsorship of programs in the arts, education and social services, its amazingly affordable merchandise...coupled with its well-organized, well-stocked, airy and brightly-lit stores make it truly one of the most pleasurable shopping emporia I have ever experienced.

(Other shopping venues that win Bungalow Babe in the Big City A-list billing include IKEA (; Trader Joe's ( and Whole Foods (, especially the branches located in Cambridge, Mass.)

I am moved to kvell about Target because earlier today I patronized the location in Central Valley, NY, about five miles from my summer dwelling at Rosmarin's Bungalows in Monroe, NY, the foothill of the Catskill Mountains. Piling Little Babe and Alfie the Pomeranian into our red Dodge Caravan mid-afternoon, we set off along the Palisades Parkway to visit our summer kuchalein (Yiddish for a small cottage, usually with a bed in the kitchen) -- and incidentally, return the stepping stool and unnaturally-shaped red bra I had bought a week ago at the Target in the Bronx.

Because it is such a mekhiah to shop at Target, Little Babe and I ended up making many spontaneous purchases in addition to returning the stepping stool and the unnaturally-shaped red bra. (Nothing frivolous. Mostly stuff on the order of Garnier Fructis shampoo; Bounty dinner napkins; Pria power bars; Yu-Gi-Oh cards; tons of stuff from the dollar section -- great for housegifts!; a Janis Joplin t-shirt for Middle Babe and an excellent Luella black miniskirt for me with strategically-placed zippers and crinoline.)

Following the mekhiah-inducing Target expedition, we headed over to our beloved bungalow at Rosmarin's, on School Road in Monroe, where we've been spending our summers since 1995, when Little Babe was born. Bereft of its canopy of leafy green, the cacophony of voices hailing from all five boroughs of New York (plus Miami) and the bungaleers who inhabit the 100 kuchaleins, the property looked downright dejected. Beneath our feet, the ground was cold and soggy and one could see through the branches of the trees of the mighty forest nearly all the way down to Walton Lake.

It is one of my favorite rituals to visit our summer cabin during the winter with Big, Middle and/or Little Babe, marking the visit on a piece of paper attached to the dead fridge by magnet. I usually scribble something like, "Feb. 23rd. Freezing yet beautiful. We cannot wait until summer!!" and when summer finally does arrive, the refrigerator notes seem like messages from the distant past, appearing as if by magic.

Today, Little Babe, Alfie and I fairly ran to our bungalow, marveling to find the electricity still flowing. "See? If we needed to escape Manhattan because of a terrorist attack or something, we could come up here and live, even during the winter!" I triumphantly told my ten-year-old son, detailing how, with the help of, oh, about 5 spaceheaters, we could keep the uninsulated shack toasty warm in the winter.

There is no rational reason to visit an unwinterized bungalow in the dead of winter. Everything is boxed up, the drawers are filled with mothballs and softener sheets (anti-mouse measures), the toilet and faucets are drained, the mattresses are standing on their sides, and the static cold makes it particularly uncomfortable to endure. Still, being inside our bungalow fills me with a speechless joy. It connects me to the past 11 summers and to my older children's childhood, but there is something more. It reminds me of my distant past and offers me a preview of the future.

I once told HOBB that when the time comes (at the age of 120-plus) I should like to be placed on a cushioned chaise lounge right in front of my Rosmarin's bungalow and be allowed to die with the memories of the best summers of my life surrounding me.

Don't pay attention to the time of the posting at the bottom of this entry. It is actually 3:35 am right now. I am up at this hour because I went to a literary event at the JCC of Manhattan ( that lasted until nearly 10 pm and then was about to head out to NJ to pick up Middle Babe from a hockey game when I learned that BOMB (boyfriend of Middle Babe and star of the evening's hockey game) offered to drive my daughter back to NYC.

Naturally, I was relieved, chiefly because I didn't want to miss the Colbert Report (, which is an essential part of my daily life. And while Middle Babe assured me that BOMB was imminently about to drive her over the GW bridge, she in fact returned home at 1:30 pm, which was no problem except that we got into a conversation that lasted over an hour and here I am one hour beyond that, still blogging away.

Which might mean that my half-serious plan to take off by myself to Boston for the weekend via the Fung Wah bus ( might not materialize.

Still, it was worth it. All of it. The trip to Target and the trip to our bungalow and the literary event and the almost-trip to NJ and the Colbert Report and the conversation with my daughter. Especially the conversation with my daughter. A poignant sadness dwells between us at the prospect of her graduating from high school and leaving home at the end of the summer. Also, there is the highly-charged relationship of a mother and a daughter. Raising a girl has been a far more humbling experience than raising sons, I have found. I entered into the enterprise thinking that as long as I didn't duplicate the errors of my own upbringing, I would be blameless.

I have found out otherwise in ways that have stunned me.

As the hour approaches four, I consider the merits of grabbing three hours of sleep to bouy me through the upcoming day, then again, if I wait an hour, I can go work out at the JCC gym! Hmmm. Sleep...exercise...sleep...exercise. It's a tough call.

At this hour, Little Babe and HOBB have been asleep for centuries, and Middle Babe is only a recent inductee into slumber. The intermittent Amsterdam Avenue traffic outside my living room window creates a comforting aural backdrop; it is too early, or late, for honking horns or screeching brakes. Alfie is nowhere to be found, having sought refuge in some warm place, most likely the pile of laundry-bound shirts at the bottom on HOBB's closet. In his dorm room one block away, Big Babe (aka Adam) is probably awake.

Once upon a time, I used to wake up at this hour one day a week to write a column on the life of my family and I know at least one novelist who routinely wakes up to write every morning at 4. I can no longer imagine being able to work at such an hour! Still, it is a rare and marvelous feeling to be awake at this moment, to be alone with my thoughts, to move away from global concerns and focus, if only fleetingly, on such a momentous and bittersweet passage as my only daughter preparing to leave home.

It is, as they say in Yiddish, a mekhiah.

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