A DROP OF MIDNIGHT BY JASON DIAKITE   Leave a comment

I just finished reading this amazing memoir – moved to the point where I’m shaking. I’ll post this review on Amazon later, but I want to write it here on my blog before being influenced by what others have to say.

I chose this memoir when I was asked by Calumet Editions to list books similar to My Father’s House which will be published under my maiden name because it is so Swedish. Of course I headed to Diakrite’s book – in large measure a Swedish memoir – Swedish as in Sweden and of mixed racial heritage. “That will be an interesting contrast to mine,” I thought. “I so deeply cocooned in the nurturance of blonde, blue-eyed Swedish/American heritage compared to his clearly more complex life source.” Little did I know that his beautiful writing and powerful personal and historical story would break through the Scandinavian throat-level gasket that stops emotions somewhere around the throat level. I cried, not necessarily out of sadness.

Sure, I knew about slavery and poverty and brutality. Sure, I’ve said I can’t imagine how it would be to raise a black son – certainly not by allowing the kind of unabashed freedom available to my own child. Yes, I wrote high school essays in Connecticut about the cruelty and unfairness of racism. I remember being horrified by Senator Bilbo’s horrible attitudes. Sure, it aroused my anger and dismay. But no, I didn’t know. I couldn’t know. Diakrite’s book on the other hand won’t let me escape knowing. The facts, the effects, and the survival methods – including a reason for choosing Donald Trump. All wrapped in the beautifully honest family story.

I can’t say anything more about the book. I don’t have the words. Except to say I wish everyone – American, anyway — would read it, and break through the throat level barrier.

Of course I will give it five stars on amazon.

 

LIFE’S VICISSITUDES   12 comments

At 3:00 a.m. today my sister-in-law Velia Fusco (my former husband’s sister) died at the age of 93, a victim of COVID-19. Blessedly she was not aware of the ventilator, or its removal.  Never through all the years would we have imagined such a lonely end. But then, do we ever really imagine the end?

Today my son and I applied the funds from our cancelled May 2020 cruise to a Viking Mississippi River trip in October, 2022. The last day on board will be a celebration of my 93d birthday.

This afternoon a staff member called with a telephone inquiry into the state of my health. It will be a daily event for every resident from now on.

Today I heard that the editor of “My Father’s House” will be communicating details to me on Monday, April 6. I’m so anxious to be involved again.

The editor helping me with Nick’s book will be studying potential titles in preparation for giving me his opinion. Once we have the manuscript in decent order I’ll be using this blog to solicit people who’ll be willing to read the 70 or so pages and maybe write reviews.

Today I received notice that my grandson is now following my blog. Welcome, Erik.

In our private happy hour, my across-the-corridor neighbors and I sat in our doorways eight feet apart and enjoyed champagne that was originally intended for an anniversary celebration.

We agreed that our bodies – zinging – reveal more stress than our brains acknowledge.

And there is such gratitude that the geography of our locations allow us this human interaction.

A day in the life …

Stay safe and well

 

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS ON THE COVID-19 WAR   6 comments

AND I DO MEAN RANDOM 

MORNNG:  I woke up at 6:30 a.m. in my nice, cozy, safe bedroom. Leaving the embracing covers in a tangled mess, I headed for the bathroom. There I plugged in my cell phone, my lifeline to the outside world, not wondering if the power would work. Of course it would; It always does.

In my shower I didn’t worry whether the water would stay warm – almost hot – the way I like it. It always does. As I massaged my head with my favorite and diminishing shampoo I pondered whether my hair dresser would be able to deliver or ship the kind I always use. If not, I’d order on line and have it delivered.

I wondered about my hair dresser. Will she and her husband be OK with their business closed for the duration? How about the people who work for them? How about the friends who will have to postpone coloring their hair? I’m glad I went gray way back when I realized my artificial blonde left me looking yellow all over. I remembered my friend in Connecticut years ago who colored her hair a delightful almost white ash blonde. When she finally decided to go natural she discovered – guess what! – it came in exactly the color she’d been paying for.

WHAT WOULD NICK SPOONER BE DOING IF HE WERE STILL ALIVE? How would he be supporting himself. No people leaving restaurants and bars late at night needing a ride home in his limo. No one like me seeking rides to appointments in the daytime. I’m quite sure he’d be happy to shelter in place, appreciating nature and enjoying his cats. He would probably be tuning up his limo, trading off parts from relics. But how would he eat? Pay his rent?

Can it be that all I’m asked to do as my part in this war is stay in my apartment and enjoy the amenities of life? Including food delivery? And TV? And my computer? And my phone? And my books – even Kindle?

Like all I had to do back when I was a pre-teen and Pearl Harbor was attacked? Keep the black shades drawn at night. Wear rayon stockings instead of silk. Crush used aluminum cans for use in the war effort. Save to buy War Bonds. Help count ration stamps. Walk instead of ride.

HEY FOLKS.C’MON. IF THAT’S ALL WE’RE ASKED TO DO, JUST STAY HOME AND, WHEN WE ABSOLUTELY MUST GO OUT, STAY SIX FEET APART. IS THAT ASKING TOO MUCH?

YEAH, RIGHT! EASY FOR ME TO SAY. And that’s just my point. Think of the people who can’t –the people who don’t have the home, the electricity, the heat, the warm shower, even maybe the clean water. Think of the folks on the front lines, not even sure from day to day if they’ve been shot with that invisible weapon, and, if they have, whether they’re taking the weapon home with them to attack their family. Think of the warriors with insufficient weaponry to fight the enemy – and insufficient armor with which to protect themselves.

AND ALL I’M ASKED TO DO IS STAY HOME AND KEEP MY DISTANCE?

NOT LIKE WWII. The fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor and overnight the “home front” converged to create the weaponry, people power, and protections that were needed. What’s holding us back now? I guess we’re slowly learning that war has changed. Now it’s invisible attackers sent from no particular enemy in no particular location with no particular ax to grind.

Maybe the old fight or flight response to the attacking tiger won’t work. Maybe the survival of the fittest doesn’t need a war stance against someone. Maybe it needs mobilizing our energies for cooperation to save us all. Maybe the energy should be geared to keeping HUMANITY, not just me and my loved ones, alive and functioning. Ironically, we’re all in this together, so we need to stay far apart. No wonder we’re confused.

WE WHO ARE NOT ON THE FRONT LINES ARE ASKED SO LITTLE. STAY IN AND, WHEN YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST GO OUT, STAY SIX FEET APART. IS THAT ASKING TOO MUCH?

 

 

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YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE   4 comments

When I was eleven years old or so my best friend Hallie and I must have driven my mother crazy at Bay View Beach in Milford Connecticut repeatedly harmonizing to “You are my Sunshine.”

What goes around comes around. Here we are, Rhoda Blake and I keeping six feet of distance on a borrowed balcony at the Waters of Excelsior — harmonizing to “You are my Sunshine.” (Mona on the right)

Definitely not stir crazy — yet.

I’m loving this sequestered opportunity to do what I want to do when I want to do it without external demands. I have to be patient with some things, though. I’m waiting, for example, to hear some word from the editor working on “My Father’s House,” and I need a little more input before I can escort the Nick Spooner book out the door.

But there’s the opportunity to join my across-the-hall neighbors for cocktail (wine) hour from our doorways eight feet apart. And fun surprises like the visit today from a tall and walking pink balloon rabbit delivering a cup of creamy ice cream.

Then, too, I’ve been mastering the art of hosting Zoom meetings so my writers group can get back together.

My life is good. I wish that were true for everyone.

THE WORLD WAR II FEELING        10 comments

I’m pretty sure a piece of me is going to feel embarrassed after I post this, but here goes. I think my father would have approved with that look of “oops. There she goes again.” Anyway …

This morning it suddenly washed over me – that WWII feeling – a warm safe feeling, believe it or not. No, I don’t love war. Yes, I’m ridiculously a pacifist, at least as far as I’ve been tested. But I am old enough to remember my Aunt Esther and Uncle Frank arriving unexpectedly at our kitchen door on a Sunday in December, 1941, to announce that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor? Where’s that? It wasn’t the memory of that mysterious and scary announcement that warmed me this morning. Or the worry about my brother and brother-in-law and cousins or fellow church members off to war. It wasn’t the nighttime trips around the neighborhood with my best friend Hallie to make sure all windows were blackened to the light within, or the ridiculous recollection of us two on a building roof spotting for enemy planes. I couldn’t tell an airplane from a mosquito in flight to say nothing of distinguishing an enemy plane.

It wasn’t the image of gathering by the radio on our nook table – the one that looked like a church front, or maybe by the floor-standing unit in our living room, ingesting the daily news. It wasn’t the careful accounting and saving of ration stamps or storing our weekly purchase of canned foods in the pantry my father built in the basement. It wasn’t the memory of crushing the emptied and cleaned aluminum cans to contribute to the war effort.

No. I can’t verbalize the feeling, but it brings me close to tears. That sense of coming together. Almost a visual image of lots of scattered pieces of metal rushing together to the magnetized center of energy. Do I dare call it love? Togetherness is such a weak word. A rush to join on the same metaphorical path with the whole country. Sure, I was pretty young, and memory is a constantly changing creative process. But the feeling was real. I think it’s happening.

That’s the felling that crept up on me this morning. I have been sure for a long time that out of our current stresses and struggles there is going to emerge a better country, a better world. These are birth pangs, I know. But today I felt it, maybe because of the coming together of those of us who live here at the Waters of Excelsior – isolated in our own apartments, separated physically from each other, joined by so much creative caring, and buttressed by staff and so many outside our walls.  (I confess; my eyes are tearing. Some one of these days I’ll tell the story of how my friend Milt Turbiner helped me overcome that tight-throated Swedish stoicism that once was a virtue.)

That’s it. My confession. So corny, but I feel the love.

Thanks to all.

JULY 14, 1914 AFTER THE PARADE   2 comments

I try to keep things brief, suspecting that many of you may be like me, preferring the short and quick. So I’ve divided the July 14, 1914 outtake into two. I hope you will enjoy this end of the perfect day that began yesterday with the parade.

Like an animal’s tail, the crowd of observers and proud parents, most holding picnic baskets, hustled along behind the end of the parade to the cemetery. In the distance could be heard the last strains of the marching band as they headed straight to Forestville center and the waiting trolleys to move on and perform at the Bristol parade.

As the parade came to an end before the dais at the cemetery, the elementary school band broke into “God Bless America.” It was the rare person who didn’t sing along. Carl did.

Long-time residents sought out their family’s burial sites. The rest found inviting grassy spots to spread their blankets and distribute the contents of their picnic baskets. Carl, scooting into a sitting position, looked around, hoping to see the Andersons — Jennie, if truth be told.

He spotted her. Had he been looking in a mirror, he would have seen his smile pop open while his cheeks turned pink. Jennie was as good as a looking glass as her face did the same thing. He’d sit with her after courteously enjoying Hilda’s food.

But first, the speeches were starting. Forestville’s “mayor,” chosen by the businessmen primarily for his popularity and contribution to the welfare of the village, spoke first, lauding the patriotism of everyone he could think of. Some people listened, especially parents trying to set a good example of courtesy for their children.

The second speech, delivered by a patriot of apparent importance, made no lasting impression on Carl whose senses were all focused on his plan to join Jennie after finishing lunch:  goat cheese sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, pieces of cold korv, carrot sticks, thumb print cookies, milk in its original glass bottle and coffee in a cleaned milk bottle.

Later, he sat cross legged by Jennie’s side, ignoring clouds closing in occasionally, bringing darkness. Always they opened again, revealing more sunlight.

 

OUTTAKE: FOURTH OF JULY PARADE, 1914   2 comments

Back to posting outtakes from MY FATHER’S HOUSE

You do realize, of course, that I wasn’t actually there in 1914, but I had fun researching the possibilities. I think this is about as accurate a picture as I could come up with. I even had fun sitting at lunch with friends imagining what it might have been like.

And I hope I’m not repeating myself here. Anyway, this is it. July 4, 1914

On June 28, only a month after Carl’s graduation from Upsala College, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated. At first it raised little alarm in Forestville. This side of the Atlantic seemed so far away from European stress. Carl reminded himself how happy he was to be at such a distance from European wars and rumors of wars.

What seemed really important to him was the celebration of America on Saturday, July 4. 1914. The weather was chilly in Forestville, and rain threatened, but nothing could spoil the brightness of spirits. Emil, Hilda, and Carl set chairs out on the corner of Church and Washington Streets, a perfect spot for watching the Independence Day parade. Paul and Eddie, now enjoying the freedom of ages 12 and 14, joined the ride- by of bicycles whose wheel spokes were strung with red, white, and blue streamers.

By 9:45 a.m. there was a sea of patriotic color, even dogs had special scarves around their necks. Not a house in sight was without a flag hanging, sometimes blowing a little heavily in the damp and mild breeze.  Children darted back and forth despite the efforts of their grown-ups to restrain them while babies in arms squealed, cried, or just wiggled with excitement.

At 10:15, the restless crowd hushed to the distant sound of the Bristol High School band, bringing their performances of “The Liberty Bell March” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” into view as parents beamed with pride and Carl’s eyes teared. Close behind came the flag with its thirteen stripes and forty-eight stars proudly borne by the boy with the highest academic average from Sarah E. Reynolds followed by the representative from Greene Hills School struggling to keep the Connecticut State flag off the ground.

Polite applause greeted the titular mayor of Forestville waving from the passenger seat of a red, white, and blue draped automobile displaying a “C.V. Mason & Company Motors” sign as it turned east onto Washington Street, thence south on Central Street toward the cemetery on Circle Street.

Enthusiastic applause and shouts greeted Miss Liberty and her entourage coming next, wrapped in white sheets and crocheted red, white and blue shawls, the winner and runners up of the essay contest, “Why I want to be Miss Liberty in the Independence Day Parade.” Uncle Sam followed, having won the honor by writing the best seventh grade essay on “Why I want to represent Uncle Sam in the Independence Day Parade.”

At a respectful distance, sitting tall in the saddle, appeared the chief of the volunteer fire department, trying to convince his recalcitrant horse that marching in a parade was an honor to be enjoyed. Following in proud contrast was the newly acquired, enthusiastically cheered steam-driven firetruck. Civil War veterans were next, proud and victorious as they received the cheers and applause of the crowd, followed by the local chapter of the recently created and uniformed members of the Boy Scouts of America.

A few hay wagon floats straggled through, giving Carl a chance to return the chairs to the house and fetch the picnic baskets. He returned in time to see two uniformed members of the Bristol Police Department carrying a large sign. “The End.”

 

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