Announcing the Express Window!

It takes a good friend to tell you the truth, even if she knows it might sting. One morning Anne said to me “I love your blog and reading your stories, but the problem is I often open them and begin to read, only to realize I don’t have time to finish. They are a little long.” She has a full life – kids, job, dogs, home, pet rats – you know, the usual.

So, because I don’t just write to humor myself, I decided to take the challenge: write shorter posts (some of the time) so that readers dealing with lives interrupted (like most of us do…) might read them too.

Short & Sweet II

I am happy to announce the opening of The Viking Jewess “Express Window” – a place to stop by for a quicker read; curiosities from an ex-pat’s observations in life with the same wit, edge and insight you enjoy in the longer stories, but here they’re short and sweet.

Those who know me, appreciate how revolutionary it will be for me to execute the less is more dictum; it may breed some renegade and subversive writing, which could be an adventure onto itself.

Hemingway’s Four Famous Tips on Writing will come in handy here:

1. Use short sentences. (Ha ha!!!)

2. Use short first paragraphs. (Check.)

3. Use vigorous English. (A work in progress, eternally…)

4. Be positive, not negative. (Shit, really!?)

In 1934, he also confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,…I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

Just keeping things in perspective here.

So, next time you’re online, stop by the Express Window for 300 words or less.

I promise.

Who knows, maybe I’ll graduate to Twitter next?

Short-and-Sweet

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The King is Dead. Long Live the King!

I believe in miracles, do you?

Miracles do happen. Every day. Some big, some small, and some matter more to us than others. Last night it was announced that my town’s only family owned kosher market, The Crown, will be saved by the valiant efforts of local investors with a heart. This means that my friend who’s moving back north from Florida will be able to have her much craved for famous Crown tuna salad again, my boys can still have their yummy bagels, and I can still kibbetz (chat) with some of my all-time favorite store folks. Phew.

Once I got over the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) – which all happened within a turbulent period of a couple of days – I was exhausted, but I had a feeling something good was going to come of this. It was too good of a place, too meaningful of a thing, to just vanish into thin air.

As they used to say in France when they still had monarchy:

“The king is dead. Long live the king!”

We’ll just replace king with The Crown. Totally works.

Crown

So, now that this roller coaster ride is over, or at least that part of it, let’s board the radio-car ride, because it’s time for the ideas to be bounced around to find the best operating solution for the Crown to move forward in good, robust health.

I raise my cup of tea with honey to The Crown’s future health!

L’chaim l’Crown! – To the Crown’s life!

On this lovely occasion, some might get nostalgic with this one: “If only you believe in miracles, like I believe, we’d get by…”

Comfort Food à la Norvégienne

Over the weekend I busted my vocal cords from hollering and yelling so much at my son’s wrestling tournament, I lost my voice. While I’m slightly aware this is just one of those subtle messages from I don’t know where telling me to shut up, talk less and instead sit my butt down and write more, I’m feeling sick – and therefore de facto homesick. So, before I go to take a nap, what does any self respecting Norwegian ex-pat do but rummage the fridge and pantry for some Norwegian food, any Norwegian food. And here’s what I found:
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My childhood favorite: Mill’s Kaviar. When schmeared on some crackers, or, ideally, on the crispy Wasa bread, paired with a crisp, full-bodied glass of…milk, it hits the spot. This caviar is basically a mix of smoked cod roe with mayo that you squeeze out of a tube, and about as glamorous in Norwegian culture as the PB&J is in the US.

It was fun when the kids were young and at play dates would request a sandwich with “some caviar, please!” for lunch, to the baffled look and raised eyebrows of the host mom. That’s right, serve my kid up some CAVIAR! Or not. The quickly learned the difference of what to ask for away and what they might find at home.

Now, when they come home from a bad day and need some comfort food, they ask if we can have risengrynsgrøt (hot rice porridge) for dinner. As the obliging Viking mamma that I am, I make sure the pantry is well stocked, but these days it’s their turn to do the cooking.

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The Red Lights & the Radio

Haven’t you also had that uncanny experience when all the red lights turn red, as you drive through town from point A to point B, and you can’t help but wonder, “is this for real? Why is it that I am getting ALL the red lights on this brief, innocent journey of mine?” Of course, this usually will happen if you are short on time and that annoyingly predictable and rhythmic wave of green-orange-red tries to patronizingly remind you if its importance and social standing (much higher than yours, and with the law in its back), while you might feel your heart rate accelerate inversely proportionate to your car decelerating, and you hear yourself quietly mumble obscenities under your breath. Or perhaps that’s just me.

This morning, however, I had a delightful red light experience. I’m out driving at the ungodly hour of 6:20am, taking my youngest son and his car pool to their high school to catch the team bus for their all day State’s wrestling tournament. This is the kind of serfdom parents of high school athletes are reduced to, but ok, it was a beautiful morning…and I love my son, and I have even come to be fond of his teammates too. A lovely bunch, really. The roads are peaceful and almost empty of cars, and as the sun is just rising in the east, peeking up through the buildings of downtown Hartford spreading a soft pink light in our direction to the west, the boys silently greet each other while settling in the back seat as they are sleepily recovering from last night’s first round at the tourney, anxious about the day’s next round of eliminations, but already dreaming of the end of the season when they can again resume what teenage boys do best: sleep past noon, eat junk and have time to chase girls.

A quick drive ahead is expected, once all the four boys are collected. While we stop on the way at the local bagel shop where they want to stock up on snacks for the day, I put my head back on the headrest and reach for the radio dial and turn on NPR, the public radio station. I am happy to discover that the Irish author Roddy Doyle is being interviewed about his latest novel The Guts, which I had just bought a couple of weeks ago, and had already giddily made my way into the first couple of chapters. The reason I had ordered the book in the first place, was because when I recently heard it reviewed on the same radio station, the critic had been quite impressed by Doyle’s knack at writing dynamic dialogue, and this is something I am curious learning more about. So I thought, why not learn from a current champ. I didn’t care that the youthful wrestlers took their good old time getting their chow orders filled inside, because I was in no rush and more than happy to quietly sit like this, seat warmers up and running, my ears being graced by the charming Irish accent of Mr. Doyle elaborating on his artistic choices, character development and authorship.

To the boys’ dismay I am not willing to switch to their iPhone music once they re-enter the vehicle in order to listen to their choice of hip and pulsating EDM (Electronic Dance Music), because I don’t want to miss any of the literary goodies. After all, a driving serf has to stand up for her rights, for this job has no union. Boys safely deposited at the school grounds, I pull back out onto Main Street, and begin what is normally a quick cruise home. I’m guessing about 8-10 lights between the end of the school driveway and my house, and when things go smoothly, when the stars are aligned, it’s a trip completed lickedy-split. But not this morning: oh, no. Every single light at each intersection turned red as I approached. By the third or fourth light, I began to notice; by the sixth or seventh, I was smiling incredulously; and by the ninth or tenth I had a sense of divine intervention, or a beshert or something meant to be. Because this delicious early morning string of delays, which under normal circumstances would have made me antsy and cynical, was instead creating a space where I could unhurriedly enjoy the treat of listening to the fascinating radio program.

The wave of turning lights was like a symphony played under the direction of the most ingenious maestro; or a film sequence where the carefully directed domino effect of a beautiful action scene is shown in slow motion, perfectly timed, and filmed with an eye for the poetic evocative powers of cinema well done; it was like reeds bending and rolling in the wind reminding man about the importance of flexibility and movement in a life where if we remain static and rigid we might break. Absent were the normal distractions of other cars, buses, pedestrians, and noises of your typical busy day, and with just myself, the red lights and the radio it was as if I existed in a tunnel of delight; my own private universe somehow created just for my enjoyment and my noticing at this particular point in time. I relished the realization that I probably would not reach home before the program came to an end, and sure enough, just as I turned onto my street, Bob Edwards wrapped up his interview, while the sun, now shedding a more golden warm light a bit higher over the horizon than it did half an hour ago when this morning’s journey had begun, seemed to remind me that with each new day comes new possibilities: perhaps the option of seeing the sometimes inevitable wave of green-orange-red in a new light.

Red LIghts hanging

Oh, No Please, Please Don’t Go!

I am not liking the news I’m reading on Facebook and in the newspaper, and hoping it’s a bad dream. Please don’t tell me The Crown Market – our one and only old time family owned kosher grocery store – has decided to close the doors for good without reaching out to the community, without going with a fanfare; with the same gusto, love and attention to our community and the long relationships we have build over generations…

Please tell me that all that – all our history and the meaningfulness and importance of it – was not just an illusion? We all know it’s been difficult for the Crown these past few years, with the increasingly tough and heartless competition from corporate America creeping closer and closer for each year; I admit I personally loathe the chirpiness of those in our community who were excitedly running to the Wal-Mart “Neighborhood Market” (what a farce!) to buy “cheaper kosher cheese and meat” – yeah! to your blind support of corporate America at the cost of supporting our local treasures. Morons.

But dear Crown: don’t forget all the hundreds of families who have stubbornly stood by our favorite market, even if we knew it might mean we paid a few cents or dollars extra for this or for that. It was our pleasure. And we would continue to do it. Because you have been our hands down favorite grocer, and your professional, wonderful, caring, warm and endearing Market staff, from the bottom and all the way up the ladder, feels like an extended family, no wait a minute, part of MY REAL community. “How are the boys, Nina?” “How’s your dad, doing?” “When is your mom coming for a visit next?” My Norwegian parents loved to come along for a shop at the Crown, becasue this was what they knew the old time America was supposed to be like. Charming, friendly, service minded. Try taking them to Wal-Mart for that experience. Bevakasha – you’re welcome. Yuck.

It seems we all – the long time Crown employees, as well as all the Crown’s faithful customers – deserve to be able to say thank you and good bye to each other in a dignified and positive manner. Would it not be a great thing to be able to reminisce about a memorable and worthy closing event? Even though the recent heads up has felt shocking to most people who are not insiders at the Crown (unfortunately, I’ve heard that even for some employees, this is a surprise), if it’s not an outright surprise, it IS very, very sad. All day yesterday I felt as if I heard the news somebody I loved and cared for was dying. But for real. And what’s up with that? I drank wine again in the middle of week, even though I haven’t for a long time, in a concerted effort to lose weight and be healthier. But last night, I felt the unstoppable urge of a looming depression. Sadness and powerlessness over an impending cloud of inevitable loss.

The Crown leadership, and we, should seize AND create an opportunity for a community outpouring, and if there really is no way to SAVE THE CROWN (see Colin McEnroe’s clever idea here: How to Save the Crown) they all deserve a chance for kind farewells from all the people for whom the Crown has been a meeting point of our daily lives, shared stories, from the casual or hurried “how are yous,” to those sometimes unavoidable longer lingerings in the isles or over the meat counter, where one could hear, perhaps, the whispered secrets of a neighbor’s relationship advice, or reminders of the critical ingredient in that unforgettable chicken soup you had last month at the Feinbergs. And sometimes even of tears of joy or of sadness.

I try to imagine getting ready for Shabbat, this coming Shabbat, and the one after, and for the rest of my life in West Hartford, without a run to the Crown. It will be like re-training my muscle memory, much like it was so difficult to change my habits of thinking and planning and caring when my dogs died after 14 years of life together, or after I got divorced, after 22 years. I imagine empty nesters go through the same emotional re-training. New thinking patterns, new habits. It will take time to not have the Crown “right there” in the frontal lobe. I try to imagine not seeing the employees anymore that I enjoy running into and bantering with. I shiver at the idea of having to one day see the Crown store as an empty, cavernous space, as the inventory is plucked away and the eventual “refurbishing” begins…

In the meantime, I’m going to make every effort to do some squatting there in the days to come, so that I can say thank you for your service, for your smiles, for caring if my eggs are broken or if you have gotten the specific brand of sauce I requested. Thank you for being a store that reinforced my feeling of being Jewish, by being closed when all the other stores refuse to set boundaries between that which is sanctified and that which is not. 24-7, come on. Who needs it. I hope everyone will join me in the opportunity to gratefully and gracefully be part of, in a way, the closing of the Crown, so dignified as it is in its long and memorable existence in and service to our community. Here in MY Jewish American life.

Let’s create our own “sanctified space” in the next few precious days or weeks that the Crown’s doors remain open, to be thankful, show our appreciation in any way we can, and celebrate the future; because we must keep believing in good things and in a process of change, and in the eventual need of moving on when the time has come.

Crown

The Old Man and the Porn Movie: A Love Story

Love Story

Prologue:

She asked him what he wanted to do with the time they had left the rest of the afternoon, now that they were done with the errands at the bank and grocery store. “To tell you the truth,” he said hesitatingly looking at her sideways with the beginnings of a shy smile, “I’d like to go see a dirty movie.”

Part I:

The Man

Tiny Marty Finder was a gentle and friendly octogenarian who had a lot more going for him than met the eye. He was a guy you might say was the embodiment of the saying that one should not judge a book by its cover. Or perhaps he was a reminder that what most people think of as “normal” for a guy his age is simply an arbitrary and random, not to mention false supposition that grandfathers don’t want sex and intimacy, aren’t easily aroused, and don’t wake up with the same aching erection and desires as do younger men.

Marty lived comfortably in a suburb of Boston in a subsidized senior living facility, where most of his needs were met. What he required extra in terms of logistical assistance, such as getting to and from his seemingly endless doctors’ appointments, he had hired a driver, a lovely Russian woman named Alina.

Marty was a Holocaust survivor, and had arrived to Ellis Island from Poland via Germany in 1948. Although he had lived a good life in America by all standards, he now spent three days a week at the dialysis outpatient clinic in Waltham, took about 18 different meds a day, and had diabetes. He did what is not uncommon among survivors: he kept meticulous records and minutes of all his medical and personal hygiene needs and events, in a hand written journal complete with columns and rows, additions and averages. This included notes on the size, consistency and number of his daily bowel movements.

Once married to an American Jewish anthropologist with a penchant for art, he had two adult kids who lived far away, and although they loved their dad dearly, they had their own full lives more than a flight away. Once his wife became a Buddhist and divorced Marty, he lived for his kids and the small but solid business he had built, a printing shop in a then bustling downtown neighborhood filled with mom and pop shops, delis and local urban old world flair, the kind he liked, as the ambiance would some times, on good days, remind him of a happy life in Poland before the war. Everyone knew Marty in the old Boston neighborhood where his print shop had been, for he was quick to befriend people, was pleasant tempered, and with his sweet smile and animated face gladly offered details about his fascinating life in hiding during the war. Even if people didn’t need to have anything printed or copied, they would stop by just to have a cup of coffee or chat for a few moments about the weather or the latest Red Sox results. Marty made people feel good, and having people around to talk to made Marty feel good in return.

He was also genuinely interested in hearing about other people’s stories. He had a sense of humor, despite all the horror he had experienced as young boy; the Nazis had wiped out his entire family. And Marty knew how to love. After his divorce, in the second part of his adult life, he had had two long lasting meaningful relationships; one with a Christian woman his age, whose sultry manner would make him grab her from behind as soon as she came through the door. God how he loved to reminisce about those crazy and delicious years they had shared, when they would go with the flow and enjoy the freedom of the empty nest, good health and decent income – life had been good then. They had talked about getting married, but the trouble was, she wanted him to convert to Catholicism. He begged her to leave things as they were; they were so happy, things were so good. But she wanted their partnership blessed by the church. Marty was a Jew, and had no inclination to change. So, it came to an end.

The other relationship he had was with a Jewish woman, also a survivor, with whom he shared a more balanced and less passionate life. But they spoke the same language – through their shared history – and this made room for such pleasant lightness of being, a sort of beautiful synergy that emanated a serenity he might have bottled and saved some up for rainy days. It surely made up for the lack of fun and raunchy sex, and he felt blessed to have met such a good “shidduch” in his older days. Where he and the Christian girlfriend had fulfilled each other physically in a dreamlike way, he and the Jewish girlfriend completed one another emotionally. Sadly, she died of cancer after they had 14 years together. Since then, he had been single, but remained amorously enthusiastic about women whenever he would meet one he found attractive. This happened often. The older he got, the younger the women would be. His imagination was roaring and his body was telling him he had still much to give in the way of love.

The Woman

The driver he had hired was by his standards a young woman – she was in her forties – and he had fallen in love with her after a few weeks. Alina was a Russian Jewish immigrant who had come to the States in the early 90s with her abusive, former world champion wrestler husband Slava, and their only daughter Sofia. They had gotten special help to come to the States, because Slava was a possible victim from Chernobyl, and showed early signs of Parkinson’s as well as a mysterious blood disorder that was progressively debilitating. She had wanted to divorce him for a long time, but once his illness was a fact, she could not find the courage. She nursed him to the end, and he died ten years after they had immigrated, to Alina’s great but secret relief. The day after his funeral she threw his trophies out in the trash container in the back of her apartment building, together with all the gaudily framed photos of him on top of winner’s stands at tournaments back in his heyday in Russia. Good riddance. She kept one picture of the two of them holding their daughter as a toddler, sitting on a park bench on a beautiful spring day, blossoming trees surrounding their smiling faces. There had once been happy times, and she wanted her daughter to know she had been conceived and nurtured in love.

Alina was tall, had high cheek bones and long, light brown hair that she usually kept away from her face with a comb in the back. Her kind warm eyes would always look straight at Marty, and she was quick to laughter and seemed courageous and brave, something he found sexy. There was something about her confidence that he thought was attractive, but most of all it was the way that she was so cheerful, funny and freely expressed herself that made his heart skip a beat. Like a breath of fresh air in his life. Marty could not help but notice the strong, soft lines of her neck, the round curves of her hips, and he particularly loved to watch her soft hands work as she would do whatever she had to do to help him get ready for their outings. He noticed he began to anticipate the days of her working for him, although the dialysis on those days was not at all anything he looked forward to. Maybe it was God’s way of finally giving him a small reward for all his suffering, by making that whole sickening ordeal tolerable. He couldn’t wait for her to come in the morning.

Three days a week she would show up at Marty’s apartment and help him get dressed, and while she carried his bag to the car, he would do his best to gingerly push his walker next to her, he really only needed it for a little support with balance, asking her how her daughter was doing in school, or how her pottery studio was going. Alina was an artist, and was part of a potters’ coop in Brookline. When she was not working for Marty, or helping her college bound daughter who had just been accepted to the Boston Conservatory with a scholarship to their dance program, she was at the studio, throwing clay, burning or painting, so full of ideas and inspiration she sometimes would forget to go home at night. Sofia would call her mother to ask what was for dinner, or to tell her she would be late because of a social commitment, not knowing her mother didn’t sit at home waiting for her, but instead was at the studio, lost in her own imagination, which together with the endless possibilities of the wet, soft clay was taking her to places expressing the deep creative desires she had repressed for all the years before her husband died.

A-Love-Story-Could-Begin-Anywhere

Yes, a love story could being anywhere.

And it could go anywhere.

And it could be anything.

So, stay tuned for Part II.

Permission to be Free

Seeking permission to shed a role

I somehow ended up with, despite it all.

Yearning for a sign from this life or beyond

Telling me I can and must and will in time

Courageously peel the mask, the scars and the skin

Away in favor of a splendid metamorphosis.

***

But perhaps the permission must come from within

If I listen close to the voice of my intuition

The one imprinted on every fiber of my core –

Not the voice of my mother, lover, or friend

But rather that of the woman I have become,

True to herself, fully, honestly, even brutally.

***

A writer once called out to her sisters near and far:

“To write is to try to understand…to repeat the unrepeatable,

to write is also to bless a life that has not been blessed.”

And I say: you draw, she acts, he dances, I write; together we shall sing:

I give myself permission to heed my calling and find true beauty,

Dedicating this one life of mine to the joy of being free.

Free

(Inspired from an African folk tale as told by Sara DeBeer)

It’s All in the Name

Reading the “About Me” part of my blog, my youngest son asked, “Aren’t you going to give them your name?” He has a point.

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I know that I like to know the name of people I engage with, especially because even if I don’t know them personally I like to envision them, and for some reason, when I know their name, it helps me somehow have an idea about them, at least in my imagination. Which is of course kind of absurd, since Bubba does not have to be a big, jolly fella, nor Hildegard necessarily a rosy cheeked blond farm frau from Germany. But let’s be real, a name helps create a connection of sorts.

The story of how we get our names, or how we choose or change them, should we so be inclined, or lucky, or both, can add a layer to the complexity (read: interesting narrative) of who we are, and allow us to imagine or understand others in a more “contextual” way. For everyone has many layers of (con)texts embedded in their identity; a multitude of fibers, threads and colors contributing to the unique fabric of their being. In the end, a name tells a story of its own. When I have a new group of students, I usually give them an assignment the first day of class to post a short paragraph about their first name on our course blog. This is actually just a trick to help me remember 38 new names and faces with greater ease, since I tend to build stories around most things and humans I encounter. And if the student doesn’t know about how or why they were given their unique name (most are bearers of fascinating small tales about how names are bestowed in their families, and happy for the opportunity to share this piece of family tidbit with their new peers), I invite them to share anything they may have on their mind, about their name. This too, can be quite telling and entertaining, and it creates a connection.

So my name is Nina Boug Lichtenstein, née Boug Kristiansen.

When I grew up I used to dislike my common first name, and fantasized about a more exotic name like Anastasia or Isabelle. There were four Ninas in my school alone and it was definitely a popular name in the 1960s Oslo. Had I known then what I know now about my first name, I might have felt differently. Some of the meanings for Nina in various cultures are: “God was gracious or God has shown favor”(Hebrew), “nice” (Persian), “beautiful eyes”(Hindi), “mother” (Swahili), “strong or mighty”(Native American), “friend” (Arabic), “flower” (Old Greek) and “fire” (Quechua – the people and culture of the Central Andes in South America). Wow. I never knew that until recently.

And I feel better already. Talk about a name with good vibes! I wonder if my parents knew these meanings for my name when they chose it for me. Had they intended these strong attributes for me, as they gave me that first “selective” piece of personal identity? I really do believe in the power of intentions…

In the middle of my identity nomenclature there is Boug (my mother’s maiden name) which I decided to keep when I got married. Boug apparently is a derivative of the French bourg meaning “town” – you may recognize a term such as “bourgmeister” which is German for the mayor of the town. If my parentage hailed from a venerable mayoral family or were just simply “townsfolk” vs. farmers I have yet to find out, but what is clear here, is that the pure blood viking-idea is not in my gene pool (not that there ever was one, or that it was important). Explorers! Travelers and boarder crossers going way back and in all ways. Yup; that’s the genetics I’m carrying. That sounds more like it.

Then there is my maiden name Kristiansen, which I have thought about taking back now that I am divorced, to honor my father who recently died. Kristiansen. I’m The Viking Jewess. I hope you see the irony here. That is Kristiansen as in “son of Kristian” or rather, “of the Christian” (as opposed to “the heathen,” I suppose) according to the Scandinavian tradition of naming. While I did not undergo gender-reassignment surgery (as it is now called) and was never anybody’s son, I did shed my initially State imposed Christian religious belonging. My father, a self-proclaimed agnostic who had withdrawn his membership from the Norwegian State Church (and who took care of the paperwork for me when I decided to do the same) was born into this very common last name, and my grandmother once told me she had wanted to change it, but found the bureaucratic paper-mill overwhelming and so resigned her dreams of a more distinctive last name.

I have now carried the last name Lichtenstein for over 25 years, and I must say it has until recently been a pleasure. I did not mind changing my last name when I married at 23, since just before exchanging vows I had made another significant commitment: to be a Jew and live a life according to Jewish traditions. Somehow, that didn’t seem to fit so well with the last name I imported from Norway. This was engraved in my experience every time I met a new Jewish person and introduced myself – hyper-sensitive as I was about my difference –  culminating on the very day of my conversion, when three stern faced orthodox rabbis sat facing me and my Christian name came up, again and again, like lashes in an inquisition. Morbid exaggeration and reversed imagery aside, it just felt so humiliating, and I somehow imagine it would have been different if my maiden name had been Hansen or Arnesen.

I came to know and love the long-winded Lichtenstein name along with my ever evolving new identity. Spelling it out in almost a melodic manner for every clerk, salesperson or professor who looked like a question mark when I said my name, I adapted quickly. And how many times have perfect strangers not loudly associated my married last name with an entire country, or tiny principality if they are savvy enough to know the difference, and how many times have I answered “No, not quite like the country” or “Yes, like the country” depending on my mood and energy. At times it felt regal, especially in Norway, where it’s pronounced in a way that on a good day can give it an aura of lost grandeur and princely mystique. Not to mention the occasional association with the artist Roy Lichtenstein here in the States. People actually would ask me if we were related. I wish.

Deconstructing Lich

Deconstructing Nina Lichtenstein

About 20 years into my marriage, the Mr. and Mrs. Lichtenstein that we were became Mr. and Dr. Lichtenstein. Joining the two other doctors in the family, my father in law, a DDS specializing in oral surgery, and a sister in law with a PH.D in anthropology, this new, tiny, appendage to my name was hard earned. Eventually came my divorce, and swiftly enter from stage left a new Mrs. Lichtenstein, and here we are.

While enjoying a hike in the woods of Norway with my three sons last summer, I again brought up the topic of me thinking about changing my last name, something they had not been too receptive to last time I tried to air the possibility, and so I had just dropped it. “But why, mamma? You are a Lichtenstein!” they seemed to exclaim in emphatic unison. Yes, I said, it’s true I’ve been a Lichtenstein since the day I married your pappa and decided to take his name for that reason, but now we are not married anymore, and there is a new Mrs. Lichtenstein. Silence. Until the oldest, about to be a freshman in college reasonably offered: “That’s a good point” and the other two mumbled their acquiescence.

As much as divorce can be about loss and things ending, it is also about new beginnings. So, rather than answering the question, “what’s my name?” I sip my coffee and ponder: “what will my name be?” Or even more deeply: “What can my story become?” Being and becoming. As French philosopher Gilles Deleuze posited (as he, in turn was elaborating on Nietzsche’s philosophy), human reality is more about a constant becoming, not a static being. Being in a process, then, seems to at once welcome the idea of “I am” (“I exist” – a concept I like to admit and enjoy for now) to include the more open ended notion of “I am becoming.”

Perhaps all the empty spaces don’t have to filled in right away…

Hello Name