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.