Thursday, October 8, 2015

Love, Unhidden

We've been enjoying some fabulous weather, the kind that we should be during the month of October. It makes me feel renewed, ready for so many of the life experiences the summer, with its humidity, allowed me to ignore.  Days that are bright with sunshine, a tiny chill in the air, beg me to get outside and running around in my car, doing errands without the dreaded return to a sticky seat in an overheated vehicle.

So, this morning, I ticked a few things off my list, made a few stops in between shopping for my father, visiting him for some inane conversation, spending an hour and a half in a class led by the
most irreverent, left-wing liberal, smartest man I've ever met and daydreaming of my great gal-pal, LH, ripping his lungs out after gauging his eyeballs from their sockets. And then on to Whole Foods before returning home.

It's days like this that keep me going.  I love the variety, the challenge of not having to decide exactly who I am or who I will be in the future.  Let it ride, enjoy the view (points), write essays in my head, pat myself on the shoulder for being able to put it all into perspective and to seek more and more information about what makes people keep going.

Oh, did I mention that my morning also included a trip to my beloved thrift shop?  Why, yes it did. And, as I was walking back to my car, I saw the most beautiful sight.  An older man, embracing a younger man as they were parting.  And I heard the words, "I love you.  It was so great just spending some time with you son".  Naturally, I had to but in.  "Is that your father?" "Yes, he's come thirteen hundred miles down the street to meet me for breakfast".  My words of wisdom, "Remember this moment.  You are very lucky because so few fathers say what yours is saying. Treasure this".  I could not help myself from the outburst of pleasure that their behavior induced.  It as such a treat.  A father and a son, neither of them looking particularly well-to-do, the son was a bit scruffy, and looked as if he might have had some personal challenges.  He just had that appearance.  You see it a lot around here. I can't be sure - I'm reading the book by its cover and could be off-target by miles but one thing I did know, they loved and cared for each other and they made me happy.

Hours later, after exiting the Whole Foods market and returning to my car with just a handful of groceries for which I paid a lot of money, I came across another couple.  (was it the weather?).  This time, it was a young man and woman, both dressed in chic black, black and black. They looked "smart" she wore short shorts over her black stockings. They hugged awkwardly and kissed as if they were leaving each going to go their separate ways.  And then I noticed the cause of the awkward hug. She held a lit cigarette in the arm that dangled at her side during the embrace.  This time, I thought it best to keep my mouth shut, my words, I'm sure would not be as appreciated as they were by the pony-tailed son in the tie-dyed shirt earlier in the day. I mentally spoke,hoping that maybe it is possible to read minds.

If you love her so much, why do you let her smoke?  Ugh. Go figure.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Just a brief note here.

I'm all pooped out, or shall I join the millions who probably professed that they were all "Poped" out by last night.

I amazed myself at how much viewing time I invested.  I'm not one to sit and watch CNN for any length of time, ever. But I was very much engaged and I don't know, maybe I was being "vigilant" as if I were part of the Secret Service, watching the crowds, waiting for a gun shot.  What would I do? Call the president?? Anyway, by the time he flew off last night, I was ready for him to leave but also very glad that he had come in the first place.

I was over joyed when he was elected, thrilled to say bye bye to Benedict.  I felt for the new guy, he obviously didn't want the job. But, the decision was not his.  It was HIS and turns out, it was one very good decision.  He's just what the doctor ordered, an incredible driving force for all humanity at a time when forces can't be driven fast enough.  Everybody loves him, evidenced by the millions and millions who turned out to see even the tail end of the tail end of his plane as it flew off into the sky or down onto a tarmac.  Momentous is the word that comes to mind.  Occasion is the other.  Opportunity joins them. So, now comes the bad part.

Where were the women???

Talk about "missed" opportunities. Biggest celebrations of Mass ever.  One million faithful attended in Philadelphia alone.  Could have called it the Final Judgement and saved a lot of angst for anyone who was ever born. Madison Square Garden in New York.  Huge. Lots of room for everyone but....

Not one woman on the altar.  Not one woman acting as Eucharistic Minister, at least not that I was able to find and I did look. The only women I spotted doing anything other than singing in a choir were those who carried the yellow and white umbrellas, accompanying the men who distributed Holy Communion, some three hundred and fifty-strong in Philadelphia.  Why weren't there any "altar women"?  God forbid that there might have been a female priest up there (they do exist....again....the Vatican thought they had killed them off centuries ago when they were important in the Roman Catholic church).  Pope Francis talked about women, alluded to their importance in the family but unless I seriously missed it, I didn't hear him say too much about their importance beyond that. Damn. What amazing statements could have come out of his mouth.  Think of the impact.  Think of how many people would have heard him. This would have been the time but.....

Instead, I honestly was embarrassed about the fact that the bishops all got dressed up in their fancy clothes, told jokes to the Pontiff, and filled the altars with men.  It made me feel as if women did not even exist, affirmed the total lack of acknowledgement that has gone on since the silly Canon Laws were altered to take remove them from any position of power or authority in the church.  In one of the last commentaries, a female journalist finally raised the question.  It could have been me.  She voiced my concerns beautifully, her voice strong with reason and authority, but I don't think she got an answer. Where were the women?  Holding umbrellas.

Missed opportunities, big time.  Come on Francis. Get with the program.  You can do it if anyone can. Just remember that  your namesake had one best friend back there in Assisi. One pretty great friend and she was, indeed, a woman.  Her name was Clare. He loved her and together, well, you know the story. So, Holy Father, when you ask me to pray for you, you better deliver because I'm expecting big things from YOU!! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

That Day, Again.....

I was going to allow myself some time this morning to write a fun piece, to recount a great little set of moments shared by three very old and faithful friends last weekend in New York.  I have written and re-written that little account in my head, several times since and almost found myself ready to share but then I found myself doing what I have done for the past fourteen years, thinking about another day in New York,one that need not be written to be shared.

I, like so many others, have written and spoken volumes on our personal experiences surrounding September eleventh. I, like so many others, need not read, write or speak of such memories for them to be just as fresh as they were by noon of that particular day.  As the day went on, more memories, many of them, horrific, became part of who we would become and I am left with finding new ways to keep my personal promise to never forget and today, as I reflect, I want to spend time remembering those things that, when I close my eyes and look backwards, I recall most vividly. Faces. Expressions of courage that surmounted those of panic, horror, shock and disbelief.

Soot-covered fellow train passengers come to mind.  They looked like statues as they joined us, the hundreds of other commuters as we traveled to the safety of our homes in utter and complete, bone-dense silence.  Alone in our thoughts but joined in our fear and our total lack of knowledge of the next steps as our world spun quickly into a new and very different place.  We didn't know at the time that we had changed planets, that fourteen years later, we would still be trying to get back to Earth. We didn't know that we never would, never can, ever. Can we?

In all of my New York City-Post-9/11 memories, the one that is most alive is that of the city the days after.  The order to restore order came from our commander, our mayor, who implored us to go on living, to not allow this act of terrorism to terrorize us. He asked that we carry on and that we do all of those things we had planned to if nothing ever happened.  Looking back now, I wonder if he also was in shock and grieving, and if he had entered the denial phase, attempting to recruit the millions so as to validate what he did not want to believe as true.

I had theater tickets for the Sunday following the attack, not quite one week later.
 The show was"Contact" and I went with a friend.  We followed the mayor's orders.  It wasn't my first time back in the city.  I had returned to work a few days before, when it was deemed "safe" to re-enter the zone, when the all-clear had resounded through the boroughs and we honestly thought it was over and we need not carry gas-masks in place of happy little purses.  At least that was what was expected of those of us who had to soothe and calm those in our charges.  I was not allowed to show signs of doubt or fear lest the people who looked to the company's healthcare professional lose confidence. So, I needed to be strong and resilient and I stepped up to the plate and wiped up tears and tears and tears, but not mine.  My office became a hallowed ground for so many who needed to run away from the reality of their losses.  Thursday and Friday of that week were two of the most challenging of my entire career.  Stay calm, Smile, Comfort and care. The worst is yet to come but for now, be soothed.

Arriving at the train station on my way to the theater that Sunday catapulted me into a new and surreal experience.  One that I can taste to this day.  Quietly, small hands-full of people moved about on their way to wherever they needed to be.  Everyone seemed to be best friends with everyone else, something that is rarely seen in New York City and certainly not at Grand Central Station where everyone is invisible most of the time.  It was a feeling that penetrated my body, my soul and, alone, I was able to finally feel the emotion that was trapped inside of my head for days, sorrow and a tremendous sense of not only loss but inadequacy.  I wanted to put my arms around the city, to embrace it and soothe it as I did the people who visited me during the prior days when, in my professional capacity, I was not helpless.  But now, my friend was hurting and there was nothing I could do to help. I found a phone, called my daughter and shared my grief before joining my friend and a full-house of others at the show.

Needless to say, extraordinary things happened during that time period, so many unexpected and filled with emotion.  For weeks, we took such good care of each other, still going through the phases of grief before we came to the acceptance phase, where we all would agree that things were different and would never be the same.  And, I finally allowed myself to cry, in public, without fear of the consequences, when the cast of the show, in lieu of a curtain call, held hands and led the audience in singing, "God Bless America". We all cried. I knew though, at that moment, that we could carry on and that we would eventually be okay again if never the same.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

School Days

It's Back To School time.  What a lousy weather pattern for this.  Hot, humid, dreadful days, tough to get through, to feel productive at home, no less in a hot, stuffy school building.  Is it me or has the climate changed so drastically since my school days?  I remember so well, the first days of the new year as a big fashion occasion.  We shed our shorts and traded them in for knee socks, corduroy jumpers, plaid skirts and Peter Pan collared blouses.  High school years found us back in our uniforms, a lighter weight version that we were to wear until the cooler days of late Fall arrived. But, back to school shopping was an annual event to which we looked forward.  I'm sure this brought tears of joy to the eyes of our parents who welcomed the return of the big yellow bus.  We had grown bored, tired of the lack of structure, and we were accidents about to happen.  Then, magically, we were transformed into obedient school children who went off, thinking that Seventeen magazine had nothing on us, and all of the creativity that we used in entertaining ourselves during July and August, got stripped away into what we learned most during our school days......conformity.

I detested school.  Hated every minute.  Dreaded the first day.  Dreamed about the very last day of the very last year of my education.  I remember that so well.  It wasn't until I reached high school that I had acquired a bit of tolerance for the whole thing and that had so much to do with the friends who I knew would be there, greeting each other on that first day and tearfully hugging each other, clinging to the last vestiges of our school years, our days of innocence, as we seized our diplomas and made our way onto the bigger picture.

I met my best friend in high school.  When we were fifteen.  On a bus.  Together, we made those four years into the finest of our lives.  And, creativity?  Well, I became president of my freshman class, a Student Council member, and a delegate to a special meeting of high school students at the United Nations.  The new idea that we brainstormed......."Pacem in Terris", the Papal encyclical of the sixties.  I also captured the prize for "Religion" that year.  It's one that I am most proud of.  I didn't get it because I knew the Bible or the Catechism so well. I didn't get it because I was pious or "holy" or leafing through "Do You Have a Vocation?" brochures.

I got it because I was bold and outspoken, ready to defend the rights of all people.  I was creative and I stuck to my guns, never one to hide behind the cloak of my faith.  My rewards were many and still are, to this day.  I still have my faith, I've passed it on to others, I still consider myself to be creative and I still have my best friend backing me up whenever I doubt any of the above.

And that woman in Kentucky, the one who works at the Registry Office?  Back to school woman!!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ode to Mrs. Young

 Writing in a hurry.  Sometimes it works.Using my little laptop,  notebook computer to write in a hurry, not so much but it is part of the whole area of change and I am still adapting, making changes in my home environment and eventually, I will learn to save what I have written every few sentences so that I will not do what I usually do, lose it all, never to be retrieved.

I love being a member of a writing group.  Keeps me on my toes, er, makes me "write" something, at least every two weeks.  In a few weeks, that will change again, and I will adapt again, to the practice of writing more often if only to be prepared for a weekly writing class.  Writing to a prompt, not an easy task.  I want to offer the next suggestion.  Mine would be "write about absolutely nothing".  Worked for Seinfeld. But, alas, today it won't work.  Today, I am prompted by another group member to write about a perfect day, one that can be realized, not one that would be only in one's mind, far from reality.  So, I have spent the past two weeks thinking about this, almost penning that a perfect day would be any day that was free of the humidity that has become an unwelcomed guest for the past weeks and weeks and weeks.  Or so, it would seem.   But, this morning, one that is clear and breezy and dry, oh I love you, dry, I am able to see through the trees, once shrouded in billows of moisturized air, and write on prompt.

It's fairly simple.  A perfect day?  One that would start and end without me having to clean or organize one, single thing.  I don't need Tahiti or Bali.  I just need to get up and not feel compelled.  I just need to get out of bed,  stare out the window and resist the temptation to pick anything other than a cup of coffee. It would be utter perfection, starting with that hour of the day, the day on which I do not wipe the counter and mentally start to list everything I've ever seen on Pinterest for cleaning granite.  I'd revel in the morning sun if only I could keep my hands off a sponge or paper towel.  If I could be so fortunate as to leave the damned broom in its place and not sweep the floor.  Oh, what a day if I could refrain from looking at the sun without thinking, "this would be a killer day to hang out the wash".  My life would be complete on this day if I could leave the bottle of Windex under the sink, the dust cloth in it's tidy holder, the soap dish in the tub, filled with the water it caught underneath it's little rubber thingee that prevents the soap from getting mushy.  Oh, what a day!

This compulsion, to be always at the ready, to be forever the cleanest gal on the block?  Ask Mrs. Young, the grade school nurse at Hawthorne Public School.  I actually have a lot to thank her for.
Were it not for her, I might never have become a nurse, determined to use my profession to never, ever make anyone feel dirty or unworthy.  I may never have been as aware of the need for good self-esteem and championed it as I believe I have done in my lifetime.  Without her, I  may have had hundreds of perfect days, really perfect days.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Italian Playing Cards.jpg

There is an Italian card game, one of the two most popular in the country, known as "Scopa".  The word translates as "Sweep" and the game, one that makes almost no sense, involves sweeping cards away from the deck as it gradually gets laid out in the center of the playing surface.  When I think of the word "Scopa", I wander over to another word, one with which I was much more familiar in my post-graduate nursing days, "Scopolomine", the drug that was combined with others to medicate totally unaware and unprepared women as they went through hours of labor.  It was part of a trio of drugs and it was the one responsible for preventing the nausea caused by its partners.  So sweeping and preventing nausea or "side effects" seem to go together.

When we were house hunting last Spring, our realtor found a key phrase for us.  It probably was her way of guiding us down the right path and it did very well to keep us in check as we had a tendency to wander off, switching our objectives rather often.  God bless that woman, for patience was one of her distinct virtues.  Her mantra?  "Five Year Plan".  She reminded us, over and over again, that we probably were not going to be in our current lifestyle for more than five years so when viewing homes, we were to keep that in mind. I only hope she was correct in thinking that we haven't yet begun to live exactly as we wish, that we are in a holding pattern, courtesy of our elder parents.  And so, we bought our condo with that wisdom and knowledge and with the idea that maybe it would survive the plan and would serve us for the happily-ever-after.  We're closing in on seventy.....who are we kidding?  But, I refuse to believe that we'll be anywhere near here forever.  I'm not that kinda gal.  I'm always looking over the rainbow.

So, back to Scopa and drugs and wise realtors.  

I didn't do too much "downsizing" before our move.  Honestly, I had already done a lot of that earlier, due to circumstances that pushed us into smaller and smaller spaces.  The thought of large rooms, big expanses of house, really do terrify me.  I can only trust my decorating skills and budgets so far. But, we haven't had the pleasure of a basement, all to ourselves, for a very long time and now that we do have one, we have lots of room to spread it all out.  Which brings me back to the Five Year Plan.  I don't want to move it ALL again in five years.  So much of it is "stuff", memorabilia, things I thought I HAD to hold on to.  Heavy burdens.  Responsibility for keeping things that nobody else in the entire family wanted or expressed a need for.  And now, as I look ahead to the rest of those five years, I'm feeling a sense of liberation.  I'm finally ready to part with Aunt Mae's dishes and her over-sized lamp, neither of them my taste. I'm going to toss out picture frames, old photos of police cars that my adorable husband thought important as memories of our trips.  Who uses CD's any more?  They're going bye-bye.  Books, they better be relevant and interesting or they don't make the cut.  

As I sift through the vestiges of our former lives, I keep the mental broom at the ready.  Sweep it all aside. Memories do not reside in "stuff".  And, some memories, well, I can live without them, trust me. I'm Italian. I keep hearing about the past, over and over, every time I meet a person who shares my heritage and I want to scream sometimes.  "Yes, I remember the holidays at Grandma's!" but I also remember Grandma telling me that she grew up in a house with dirt floors and maybe she did not want to remember that in the same way that I don't want to remember parts of my childhood or that my babies have grown up and moved away or that we are approaching our seventies.  But I will keep in mind my determination to not move as much out as we moved in.

So, on to the big soon as the damned humidity moves out.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

At the Show

There's a recurring thought that goes through my head, an image, as clear as any could be and it's from a very long time ago. For some reason, I reflect back to a childhood memory and see my grandmother.  She's alone. She's sitting in the dark.  She's swept away, into a world that is so beyond her front door and it's not the first time.  She practices a ritual, one that I have come to find out was not all that unique for her time and place. Her eyes are wide as large images are projected in front of her, allowing her imagination to soar and her heart to be filled with love, perhaps even pure lust at times. Once in a while, she invites me to join her, to accompany her on the short journey, and we board the elevated train together, filled with anticipation as we head toward her afternoon delight, and together, we enter her world of darkness and silence as we wait for the screen to light up and the "coming attractions" which will usher in the new matinee. In Winter, I nestle my head on the sleeve or her muskrat coat. In Summer, we sit up straight, both sleeveless in cotton.  We're at "the show" and for as long as I shall live, I will remember those times.

It wasn't always clear to me, why Grandma went to the show, all by herself, or why she never referred to her forays as "going to the movies". Nor did I always understand the plots and scenes but I will tell you, that watching Lawrence of Arabia with her was a most amazing experience.  I loved every minute and I'm sure she ate it with a spoon.  Wow. Talk about a gorgeous man with an exciting life and the scenery, the desert, the longing......for water of course.  I could not have been more than twelve years old and she was a happily married house wife after all. Worlds apart from the projections on the screen, miles from her home which, coincidentally, was located on Hollywood Avenue in the Bronx.

I often think of my grandparents and the world in which they lived as young people.  I know they came from lives of poverty, from towns in Italy that offered them very little hope for their futures, sending them across the sea after parting with their loved ones, in search of the better life that they eventually did find.  My grandmother made that trip when she was a beautiful fourteen-year-old. Her fate was sealed when she met my grandfather and married as a very young woman.  For the rest of her seventy three years, she lived her life in accordance with his wishes and they took good care of each other. They never relocated from Hollywood Avenue, the home in which they raised their children.  They returned to their birthplaces in Italy only once during that life time and kissed the ground when they returned to the states.

My grandmother's world was a small one, her education incomplete.  Her wisdom, amazing, making me only imagine what kind of a life she might have had were she able to attend school beyond the day she left her home for America, fully developed as a woman.  Self-satisfied and fulfilled.

And, as I grow older, I think more and more about those who went before me, about their lives and wonder what they might have thought about today's world, about technology and the many things we take for granted.  And I wonder if my grandmother was alive today, would she need the weekly escape to "the show" or would she have found a life of her own. Would she have saddled up her camel and ridden off into the desert or would she have returned home, washing Grandpa's socks in the sink, just as she did every morning?  I wish I could sit in the dark with her just one more time, to press my head against her fur sleeve and spend two precious hours with my wonderfully wise grandmother, together, at the show.