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our family of hammers

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

My little sis turned 26 last week. It was a glorious celebration.

After she moved to NYC, about six months after me (?), I made an executive decision to make her birthday a sister date Christmas celebration galore. It was just too easy and too much fun.

Last year, I surprised her with The Rockettes ~ because I knew that she was pretty much the only who would go see them with me, and vice versa. It was corny, it was ridiculous, and it was amazing.

This year, I had to top that, but still wanted to keep it simple, as we often do. So, I got us reservations at Rolf's. This place is legendary in NYC, as it's virtually impossible to get in...unless you go in person on a Tuesday at 1pm in mid-November and get your name on the reservation list. It's insanity.

Anyway, we did "all the Christmas things": Rockefeller (learning a lot by chatting up one of the police tree guards, who, ironically, is "not really into Christmas"), the Holiday Train Show at Grand Central Station, 6th avenue decor, and a final flaming rosemary cocktail at the also-festive Lillie's Victorian Establishment.

She kept saying, "I'm just so happy..."

To know Leah, or really, to know any of us Wolffs, is to know that it doesn't take much. All in all, our parents nailed it.


When Leah was young, she had a family of hammers. She used to go in Papa’s studio and ask him for a bunch of different hammers of different sizes. He even had a teeny tiny mallet, God knows why, otherwise known as the Baby Hammer. Leah would then carry her family back into the house to play with.

She recalled this story recently, and our mom had a rather horror-stricken expression: “I mean...I don’t know if that was a good idea. A young tyke walking around with a bunch of hammers?”

The story also makes it sound like we never had real toys growing up.

But we did! We just lived in a simpler time!

Okay, really, this was the early 90s. I can’t even say that we lived a sheltered existence, because, in contrast to most of our classmates, we actually did things like eat Ethiopian food in Boston and see fine art at the Met. Granted, this didn’t make us the Rockefellers, but, you know. The point is that Leah didn’t play with hammers out of desperation.

She played with them because they were fun. Just like walking around the backyard and pretending an incense stick was one of those fancy cigarettes that Cruella de Ville smoked was fun. Just like making seaweed sandwiches out of big rocks and random green plant life and serving them to all of the moms at the lake was fun.

We got a kick out of almost anything.

And, I have to say, I am eternally grateful to still be easily entertained. It really doesn’t take much.

In an age when, in my opinion, we tend to take ourselves way too seriously and live led by fear rather than love, why not choose to get your kicks where you can? Why not choose to take things a little more lightly? Why not take yourself more lightly?

Why not find joy in a bunch of hammers?!

That sounds like pretty great parenting to me.

Granted, Leah and I were bizarre children. What child approaches Christmas without acting like a raging maniac, at least for a few formative years?! Us children, that's who.

I think it’s about what we knew. We knew gratitude. We knew that you don’t need much to be happy. And we knew that life is a whole lot more fun if you can entertain yourself and appreciate the little things. Like hammers.


I spent this past Thanksgiving at the beach. For the first time in my life, I swam in the ocean right before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. I had to buy sunglasses when I arrived, because never in a million years would it have crossed my mind to pack them in November. Though I did pack a bathing suit – a perfect example of my mind struggling with cognitive dissonance.

Seaside is like a Playmobile town. In fact, you know that movie The Truman Show, where they live in a picture-perfect bubble of a town? That was filmed in Seaside. And it feels like being on that movie set.

The post office pretty much sums it up.

The people here are exactly what you would expect them to be: Perfect blonde families, dads in polos and khakis and visors and Oakleys with straps, dolled-up moms with tanned calves hauling around perfect babes with perfect little shoes on their feet.

Does this sound judgmental? I don’t mean it to be. It was just one of those uncanny experiences when the stereotype you paint in your mind ends up nailing it to a T.

I couldn’t help but think of little Leah with her hammer family and feel waves of gratitude for that childhood: A childhood where nothing was taken for granted, and where a night out to dinner was a rare and cherished occasion. A childhood where your dad called you frantically to show you the blooming moon lily, and where your mom still mails you homemade holiday treats.

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a childhood at Seaside. It’s just peachy keen lovely there, and I sat on the World’s Coziest Couch looking out at the ocean as I typed these paragraphs above. It’s Heaven.

But I know that I appreciate it more after growing up with simple joys in our family of hammers.


I told Leah that I'm not sure how I'll step up my game next year...It's either "We're going on the Polar Express!" or "We're having dinner with Santa in his Macy's workshop!"

Whatever we do, it will include constant smiling that makes our faces hurt. It will be another glorious celebration...almost as good as a family of hammers.


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