Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Sign for the Times

When I returned to work three weeks ago, one of the first things I noticed as I drove my students to and from their private school were the signs planted on the front lawns of this well-integrated, well-to-do area, signs that express truth, and hope, and even joy. This is an area where “Black Lives Matter” and “Someone is Excited to be Entering Kindergarten” this Fall – even if the public schools had to open virtually.

Of course, there are political signs too, many for “Biden & Harris” and others for “Trump” - without Pence. In a park in a neighboring district, I found a sign telling people to walk only in a clockwise 



direction to maintain social distancing. Outside nursing homes and clinics there are signs honoring the heroes who work inside - although I hold to my belief that we are all heroes, some of us, at times, in more imminent danger than others.

But my favorite sign by far is one with pastel 

letters set against a black 

background that seems to 

cover everything: 


We believe, it says, that

 

Black Lives Matter

No Human is Illegal 

Women's Rights are Human Rights 

Science is Real

Water is Life 

Injustice Anywhere is Injustice Everywhere     




 

And, right in the middle of that sign is my 

favorite line of all: Love is Love!

 Is there any statement more profound?

 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

An Addendum




I was a stranger 
When I walked in 
And tried to take over your life. 
You held your hand up, 
Holding me back, 
But I, like a storm, 
Would not be deterred.


I pushed
You pushed back 
Until finally you conceded. 
“Hello, Friend,” you said. 
"Hello Friend,” I sighed. 
“Hello, Friend,” you decreed. 
“Hello, Friend,” I agreed.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Last Ever After - Or Not

Is there anything more amazing than the mind of a twelve-year-old? 


On her last visit to my house, my granddaughter Chloe and I again stopped to buy books. This time she chose a 600-page book called The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani, a story about two young girls, once friends, who decide to go their separate ways -  at least temporarily.

The other book she chose was Brother’s Keeper by Julia Lee, a story set in set 1950 North Korea, described by one critic as “so intense that, at times, it had me afraid to turn the pages.”       

During her week-long visit, Chloe seemed to be reading the two books alternately.

“I didn’t like Brother’s Keeper when I started it,” I heard her tell her mother during a Face Time call, “but now I do.”

“Well, hurry up and finish it while you still like it,” my daughter replied and my granddaughter laughed. 

Once she got into it, Chloe, despite what that critic wrote, kept turning the pages until she suddenly burst into tears.
“What’s wrong,” I asked.

“Someone died,” she said. 

"Who?" 

"This one," she said pointing to a character on the cover and, without stopping to lift her eves, she continued reading and crying all the way to the end of the book.

Then, undaunted, she picked up the other book, and before long, I heard her laughing again.
But Chloe is not just a reader, she is also a prolific writer who can sit for hours writing page after page of whatever story she is working on. I don’t know why but during this last visit I came up with an idea.
“Chloe, you should write a story about a little girl who wears a red hoodie while visiting her grandmother.”



Amazed, Chloe looked at me. "That's what I am writing," she said. It's a modern version of Little Riding Hood."

I laughed and wondered who Chloe would choose as her villain. Would it be a wolf? Or would it be a virus?  Knowing Chloe, whatever she chooses, her story will be filled with magic and mystery and will show that happily "ever after" stories will be written and read forevermore.
.


Friday, August 14, 2020

In the Midst of a Pandemic




Sometimes 
I try to look 
beyond this 
pandemic 
to see 
where 
I will be, 
and to see 
where 
you will be.

s
Sometimes 
I wonder 
if there is                    
a cure, 
or if this                   
pandemic 
will break 
my heart 
the way
it has
broken
so many
more.

And 
sometimes 
I wonder 
if it has  
already 
broken 
yours.






Sunday, August 9, 2020

Fairy Tales and Fantasies


My granddaughter Chloe is a voracious reader who is never happier than when she is comfortably sitting on the sofa with a good book in hand. Last month, after I bought her a book called The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley, I listened as she began laughing out loud time and again while reading it. (The Sisters Grimm is a story about two orphaned sisters who, after discovering they are descendants of the Brothers Grimm, must defeat a rampaging giant and discover who set him loose. Could it have been Mayor Charming {formerly Prince Charming}, the Three Not-So-Little Pigs, or a giant-killer named Jack who is currently working at a Big and Tall store?) 

So, when I learned the book was just the first volume in a series of nine, I decided to buy the entire set for Chloe’s twelfth birthday. After she finished reading the last book – in less than a week - Chloe turned to me and said, “I hate when I finish a book.”  
"I know," I agreed. "Doesn't it feel as though you'll never find another as good as the one you just finished?"

“But, of course, you will,” I said. “It just takes a little while to get into a new story. At first, I really disliked the book I’m reading now,” (which is Deacon King Kong - a story that can also make you laugh out loud - by James McBride, who wrote The Color of Water). “But I stuck with it and now I find I’m really enjoying it.”

But it is true. Finishing a book is a little like falling off a horse. You just have to get back up and start reading again. Which is why, after that conversation, Chloe and I headed for a local bookstore where she found three new books to her liking.

There is not a better feeling, I think, than spending a day with my granddaughter, each of us with a book we wish would go on forever.   



Dear Elvis, a story about love and loss, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE



Monday, June 29, 2020

A Book and A Break

Although I normally write memoir, I thought I would try something different today:



Anna slid into a booth across from her friend and started talking. “I’m reading the best book,” she said because that was the way the two of them often started. “It’s called Olive, Again and it’s about a rather cantankerous old woman, a former schoolteacher, who lives in a fictional town somewhere along the coast of Maine.”


“I picture lobsters and fishermen wearing rain gear,” her friend said.


“I do, too,” said Anna, “But it’s not just about the woman. It’s also about her neighbors. There’s a different chapter devoted to each person, with Olive in the center or rotating somewhere along the edges.


“One chapter is about a woman named Cindy, who’s on chemo with a fifty percent chance of survival, although her husband won’t admit it or come to terms with it. And neither can the woman.” Anna stopped for a moment before continuing. “I mean, the woman knows she’s dying, and she’s scared.


“Olive, who always says what she feels and often catches people off guard, is sympathetic, telling the woman that she’s scared of dying, too. And that everyone is, and that, in fact, everyone is ‘just a few steps behind her. Just twenty minutes behind her.’"


Anna stopped talking and looked around her. “I used to work at a restaurant just like this one.  During breakfast, I used to serve the same bunch of men every day. My regulars. Most of whom were service workers – linemen from the telephone company. And men from the electric and water companies. They all took their break at the same time and it was a real challenge serving them all at once. But I enjoyed it.


Again, Anna stopped talking. She looked out the window and then back at her friend. “Lunch was different though. Most of the time I had a different group of people every day. Except for the undertakers. There were two of them and they came in early – just after eleven – and always sat in my section. I’d take their order and, because no one else was around, I used to sit with them while their order was being prepared.


“And they were funny. Lord, were they funny,” Anna said as she tucked a lock of grey hair behind her ear. “The older of the two, Harry, wasn’t much to look at but he had a great, big personality – one that was probably wasted in his line of work - and an even bigger laugh,” Anna said, remembering his laughter.


“Anyway, one day they came in later than usual. Probably because they had a funeral that ran overtime. And there was a third man with them who was also an undertaker. I was busy when they arrived so I couldn’t sit with them. Harry introduced me to the third man, and I was about to take their order when the man looked at me and said. ‘I’m happy to meet you and I’m dying.’


“I was flabbergasted. I was taken aback and speechless. I wasn’t like Olive. It didn’t occur to me to say what she would have said – that we are all twenty minutes behind you. At that moment, I was overwhelmed, trying to keep everyone's order in my head. So I didn’t speak. I didn't use the sarcastic tone I use to use back then, rolling my eyes, and saying something like 'I’m twenty minutes behind' or something that would have made everyone laugh. I didn’t say anything.  


"The next day when the undertakers came back, I asked about him and why he said what he did.


“‘He was told by a therapist to do that,' the younger one said.


“But it made me so uncomfortable,” Anna told her friend now.


“Of course, it did,” her friend responded. “We’re all uncomfortable when faced with our own mortality.”


“You’re right,” Anna said. "I felt uncomfortable because he reminded me that I’m dying, too, and that I could be just twenty minutes – or even just twenty seconds - behind him.” 




Dear Elvis, my story about love and loss written as a series of letters to Elvis, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE




Friday, May 8, 2020

I Went to Work Today


I went to work today.
I work for a school district.
I drive a school bus,
But I went to work today
To see if this were a joke, a prank.
To see if everyone else 
Had returned and 
Forgotten to tell me.
I went as though 
Awakening from a dream.
I went, but no one was there.
So I turned and went back
To my real life, and
Away from the dream.


Dear Elvis, my story about love and loss written as a series of letters to Elvis, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE