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I Wanted to Leave More Than a Stone!

Updated: Jan 18, 2022

They say you don’t know, what you don’t know.

And it’s hard to argue with that logic!

I knew this transitional time I’m experiencing now would be one of great reflection; it has been! What I didn't expect were some of the emotions I would be forced to deal with.

I’m writing a lot these days. Nightly, I find myself alone on the front porch with just a cigar and an iPhone: and a lot on my mind. It’s getting cooler here in the Northeast. A Yankee hoodie and a good lighter are needed to make the night comfortible. During the summer, the neighborhood kids playing were the soundtrack of my front porch. Homework and fall’s early darkness brings only the sounds of the crickets!

I’m not blogging daily but I am writing enough that I could be! Sorry, I can't share it ALL with you! I’m allowed a few secrets I hope? But I do plan on adding a few extra blogs over these next few weeks while I have so much going on! They help me and it seems you guys are reading along.

On my porch at this moment I am eight days from closing on the sale of my stores. though as you read this, I may be closer! My friends and family are calling and texting often, expressing their excitement and sharing stories of Lipton’s past! I am no longer free to rag about my family and friends because they’re all reading along now, shit! I’m getting a lot of email and texts from readers I don’t know. It’s a whirlwind (and I love it so please keep writing and texting and telling me how I'm doing here)!

Excitement though gets mixed with doubt as I ponder the wisdom of disconnecting myself from one of the strongest connections of my life.

Selling a paint store or two is a hassle. Logistically, there are a lot of issues: cars, trucks, leases, paint, employees, machines (valueless but still they have to be listed) and even the cash in the till has to be accounted for.

I've got post-it's EVERYWHERE!

I’ve got an outside inspection job ending. I wonder if I’ll be able to continue to do these next year? I’ve made some very big commitments for that time already.

But I love the outdoor work and I worry.

I’ve started to fill my time during the week getting to know my new crew: the Montvale-based employees of Benjamin Moore! It must be going well because I already have a nickname: THE Diva!

I like it!

I put the “THE” in there myself. To pay proper homage to my Buckeyes of course, but also to mark the territory: keep other diva's away!

I’ve started introducing myself around the building, with a lot more of that to come in the coming weeks! I’m thrilled with the reception I’m getting. Everyone has a hand to shake and a quick smile. They all seem to want to hear the stories of my family's history as one of the longest tenured Benjamin Moore dealers, EVER.

A building full of paint-geeks? Be still my heart!

I’ll admit it though, THE Diva in me is wondering where are all the balloons and streamers?

It's a big place, I'm sure someone has something planned!

Within the Montvale headquarters of Benjamin Moore, I’m thinking and speaking a lot about what plans we have for the projects I am working on. I’m getting great feedback from those I’m meeting and I walk from meeting to meeting (they DO love meetings) excited to do my work and meet the people I'll be doing it with.

I'm still getting lost a lot. Daily in-fact. Everyone keeps saying "It's a circle, you can't get lost!"

While technically true, it's not a very efficient use of time to walk around a circle all day thinking "I've seen this Muresco sign before" and so I'm going to have to get this figured out!

For those wanting more details of what I'll be up to: Good food takes time to prepare, please be patient! I promise many more details on that work to come soon. I'm just getting my feet wet at the moment, and dealing with my details and emotions.

I’m still spending most of my brain time thinking about my stores, Tremont Paint. I wish I could share this moment with my grandparents, Jack and Sara Lipton: Gramps and Nana to me, my sister Marci and cousins Todd and Glenn! Gramps was retired before I was 8 so I don’t have many memories of him in the store (though Glenn does and he's shared many with me lately). I would love to add one more conversation to the countless memories I have of sitting with Gramps and my father Billy, talking paint.

After 112 years is all that’s left the two checkbooks, seven boxes of tax documents and a few knives and flashlights left over from the swag pile?

We always had a good swag pile as I’m sure you can imagine!

Oddly, I woke up today wanting to go visit the grave of my great-grandparents. At age 56 that would be a first for me. It’s in Queens, NY. Less than an hour from my house. I told Guy I wanted to go and she insisted on joining me.

She's been crying a lot too!

I knew at some point I would want to go go visit them. About six months ago I almost jumped out of my stores fast for a different business opportunity than the one I’m always rambling on about now. I remember at that time, how strongly I wanted to go and visit them and was expecting those feelings to return.

Their accomplishment still astounds me!

I am not a particularly observant Jew. I don’t generally practice any religion actually. THE scientist in me won’t be able to pass judgment on God’s existence until I get a chance to meet him.

You won’t get to hear how that goes.

But I was raised Jewish and some of the traditions of the Jewish people are beautiful. (Don’t worry....this will not become a religious blog. I’m far too irreverent!) I have always felt that one of the most beautiful of those traditions was the leaving of a stone on the grave when you have visited a loved one.

Eternal earth placed as proof that you are not forgotten.

Recall the scene at the end of “Schindler’s List?” It’s a moving tradition.

I lifted the next three paragraphs from a website called Saved me doing the research:

“The origin of this custom began long ago, when the deceased was not placed in a casket, but rather the body was prepared, washed, and wrapped in a burial shroud, or for a male, in his tallis (prayer shawl). Then the body would be placed in the ground, covered with dirt and then large stones would be placed atop the gravesite, preventing wild animals from digging up the remains.

Over time, individuals would go back to the gravesite and continue to place stones, ensuring the security of the site and as a way to build up the “memory” of the loved one.

As time passed on, and carved monuments became the preferred memorial, the custom of leaving a visitation stone became a symbolic gesture–a way for the visitor to say to the loved one, “I remember you…..”.”

But I always wondered (it’s me again) from the time I was young: “how do they know it was ME?

No rock could ever represent MY presence. Only pieces of ME could tell the past that it was ME who came to visit.

Before we left the house, I grabbed a few “rocks.”

The cemetery and graves were easier to find than I expected! I googled my great-grandfather's name and found the place in about 15 seconds (with an assist from mom)! The cemetery had a search bar and in less than a minute I knew exactly where they were!

We got in the car.

One phone call to Emily in the office and I was standing in front of my name. I would have liked the story better if we had walked for hours searching in the New York Indian summer. I could have really made that narrative work here! But it was like Emily in the office had been waiting for my call.

I had put little thought into what I was going to do or say once I was there. The man who walks around with blogs, presentations, letters and books fully written in his head at all times wanted to shoot from the hip. In the days leading up to today, I refused to allow myself to think about what I would say when I met them this way.

There they were!

The words came fast and needed little thought.

I have had the most incredible experience as an independent retailer. Its through my career that I have experienced my most treasured relationships. I have fulfilled several lifelong dreams, made possible by this incredible small business: I never missed a moment of my daughters entire existence until it was time for her to push me away and I was able to serve six years in elected office while still earning a living. Neither of those could be done had I been in a corporate life.

I did that and many other things that I'm proud of, standing on the shoulders of an incredible family. Starting with these two in front of me.

Actually, three!

Also there was my great-uncle Conrad. Kearney to the family. He was killed in a plane crash in 1950 at the age of 36. My grandfather never stopped talking about him. Those words for his brother, lost too young were HIS rocks, left as memory.

I placed the “rocks” I had brought on the headstone: a Tremont Paint Nike pullover and a Tremont engraved Zippo lighter. Looking back, I should have asked Guy to fold the shirt for me: her clothing folding skills are legendary! It would have made a better picture. But hey, this isn't Instagram!

Why the Zippo? I don’t know how many of those Tremont Paint Zippo lighters we gave away in 112 years, but I suspect that number would be in the many thousands! The gold one with the black engraved “Tremont Paint” was a staple of my youth; we were a family of smokers!

I took a step back.

The words that I have just shared with you in the last seven minutes were in my head. I could have said them all: Esther and Isaac weren't going anywhere! But I remember my great-grandmother. She was a no-nonsense eastern European immigrant who would not have appreciated a long speech. So I kept my thoughts to myself and shared the only words that seem to fit after you allow a family to stand on your shoulders for over a century:

“Thank You!”

1 Comment

Truly lovely story. Poetic. It's been an amazing family business journey for you and it's got to be a total shock to the system to see it come to a conclusion now. I know your dad is proud of you, and all your past relatives are smiling down on you now. Interesting we enough, it looks like this will all transpire just as Jewish New Year starts to take flight right after Yom Kippur! To me, this is all pretty poignant. L'shana a great year and years ahead in all your endeavors...

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