Archive for March 2020

YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE   6 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.



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.”



Yesterday life was quite sweet

Living the rule of six feet

Today at the Waters

We have tighter quarters

Connecting by phone and by tweet


First of all let me say I am still enjoying this vacation from a busy, scheduled life. “My Father’s House” is in the hands of Calumet Publishing and there’s nothing I can do at the moment. That’s true too of Nick’s book which is in the hands of the guy who is helping me self- publish it. The poetry class is on hold, as is Pastor Aaron’s popular session once a week, and the limit in size requires signing up ahead of time for the morning exercise class. It was nicer when I could just decide if I wanted to go. So far the book club meeting is on as scheduled – in the café – sitting six feet apart and using a mike. There are movies, and old Carol Burnett performances, as well as Johnny Carson. I think Bingo is also still on, with six-foot distances maintained and a mike used to announce the numbers.

As for personal plans, Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Guthrie performances are all cancelled for now, as are church events. I guess the funeral for a member I knew was held on Monday, but I changed my plans about going – hard to maintain a distance of six feet. Needless to say Doug and I expect our May cruise will be cancelled.

The furniture in the public areas has all been rearranged so occupants are six feet apart. It does make the theater seem cozier – soft chairs not in a line but scattered sort of like a living room.

The dining room is no longer crowded — or even occupied at all — as meals are delivered directly to the apartment door. No entry by staff into the apartment itself.

The latter fact means there is no housekeeping service. Unfortunately I have no vacuum cleaner. But then, dust seems reluctant to enter my bright and sunny southeast oriented three- room apartment (or four if you count the bathroom – maybe even five if you include the laundry room.) So far so good.

We are, of course, free to wander and sit around in the public areas, but it’s surprising how few people seem to be there. Not like the groups that used to gather for happy hour on Thursday afternoons. Apparently many of the residents are choosing to shelter in their own place – except for a daily trip to the mailbox.

We are not prisoners, though as of today we have been requested not to leave except for medical reasons. Quite reasonably we are asked to stop at the concierge desk for a temperature check and questionnaire response when we return.

The staff is working well beyond their official job descriptions, including, as one might expect, constant disinfecting of public areas. Those of us who use the exercise equipment have been expected – ever since the beginning of flu season—to wipe things down after we use them.

On Saturday Doug delivered some groceries from Trader Joe’s, and on Sunday he delivered something from Lisa.  He gets to leave deliveries in the vestibule. We wave to each other and I pick it up from the vestibule after he leaves. That’s become standard practice for lots of people.

On Friday at the exercise class, Lori, our activities director, arranged so the grandsons of one of the participants could join us via the web, and on Sunday afternoon it was fun watching the grandchildren of another resident writing chalk messages on the sidewalk. The daughter of one of my friends carefully wiped down her delivery of wine before leaving it in the vestibule for her mother.

As for buying groceries, the staff has offered a list of places that deliver. That includes “Seth’s Snacks,” a business set up early on in which a local young entrepreneur takes orders, fills then at Cub Foods, and delivers them. Originally he delivered them to the separate apartments. Now he leaves them in the atrium and the staff distributes them. The Waters is paying his delivery fees for the duration.

Oh yes, The Concierge desk had large tables placed around it assuring no one creeps past the six foot limit to converse with her.

And then there are the weekly flowers from Trader Joe’s – still healthy but taken off their sales floor. That’s been going on since I moved in (over a year ago). Added to that were plants from Bachman’s delivered after a (cancelled?) flower show. Plus the cancelled roses ordered from Rotary that were donated for our pleasure – the influence of one of our active Rotary members.

I guess that’s enough to give you a picture. O yes, I attended a Zoom BYOB party the other night with some friends. And Lori will be giving instructions on how to play games with friends and family on our cell phones. She also has a contest going where we can solve puzzles provided and winners will be drawn for grab bag prizes. She never ceases to come up with creative ideas.

Life is very good at the Excelsior Waters. I am very fortunate. Of course, if you know me, you know I am hurting for all those who are living in terrible situations right now. I’m hoping we’ll find a way that we here as a group can do something to help – with money contributions maybe.

We are living in interesting times – as did the family in My Father’s House. The meaning and effects of the events in that story are clearer in retrospect. I’m pushing the envelope if I think I’ll be around long enough to see what this period was all about, but who knows …

If you are on Facebook. look for the Waters of Excelsior. You might even find photos of me.




Posted March 23, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized


Before you call out the morality police on this one, remember we’re talking about two very little girls.


While Jennie and Carl were gone, Hallie and Mona had engaged in a new activity. In the privacy of the playhouse they played what they called “show naked.” No sooner had they gone on to something else than the guilt attacked them. They just knew it was wrong.

Guilt hurts. At least it hurt Mona, so badly that she retreated to the privacy of the bathroom where she could moan without anyone noticing. That night she slept tight – I mean, her body was tight. It was as if she were stiffening herself two inches above the mattress. As the sleep-disturbed nights went on, the days were worse and worse. Nothing was fun.

“I think we should tell our mothers,” she pleaded with Hallie.”

“Oh no, I’ll never tell my mother.” Hallie thought of the switch her mother used as punishment.

The worst punishment Mona had ever suffered was when Jennie washed her mouth out with Lux soap for swearing. That really burned, she remembered. But she’d rather have that than the awful pain of guilt.

So, on the day Jennie went to fetch the fur coat and visit the milliner to design the hat, Mona decided she couldn’t stand the pain any more. When her mother got home she gave her time to hang the coat on the light fixture in the upstairs hall where she always put her new things. Then Mona choked her confession through her tightened throat.

“Thank you for telling me,” Jennie said. “Don’t ever do it again.”

All they did was watch each other urinate, she thought. I guess it’s good they felt guilty. They’re not likely to do worse things.

Mona had been feeling so bad that the relief was almost as good as Christmas. She floated across the back yard to tell Hallie.

Hallie never did tell her mother.

The fur on that coat always had a special sweet feel.


Posted March 21, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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I’d really like to be ranting about the disastrous failure to provide health workers with the protections and treatment materials they need in dealing with COVID-19. I can’t help remembering how quickly things got rolling when WWII hit us… how the whole country swung into action with energetic leadership from the top.

But sometimes it feels good to retreat to the remembered “old days,” which are probably distorted in my memory anyway.

Or maybe I’d like to talk about the full body laugh I enjoyed all by myself yesterday watching some old Carol Burnett performances.

But there is something reassuring about “the old days.” So here’s another outtake from “My Father’s House.”

Carl and Jennie drove to Hartford to pick out a fur coat.

 “We hope to find a nice one for well under $100.00” Carl told the furrier who studied Jennie a bit. “A nice little lady. We don’t want anything too heavy,” he said as he draped a golden brown muskrat on the carpet.

 It would be hard to tell who was more excited. What they could tell was the furrier’s expertise. Just because it was such a huge expenditure they insisted on trying several coats, but they ended up with the first one he had shown them. And the price was well under $100.00.

 “I’ll adjust the sleeve length,” he said. It will be ready in a week.

 “Will there be enough cut off to make a hat?” Jennie asked.

 “I’ll see that you have enough,” he responded.

Posted March 20, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized


Yesterday we who live at The Waters received notice that meals would from now on — until the end of COVID-19’s rule over our lives –be delivered directly to our apartments. It was also St. Patrick’s day. So I decided to celebrate our last supper in the dining room with a shot of aquavit and my hallowe’en hat.

However you are sheltering in place, or whatever, enjoy the opportunity. We live in interesting and life-changing times. I just want to be around long enough to understand what’s really going on. (Not likely) I know whatever it is, it’s as significant as the Industrial Revolution.

Let’s keep each other company on the journey. Skol


Posted March 18, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized


My poetry class this week had us writing limericks. Here are a couple of my silly products. As I learned in the webinar I completed today, “Nothing about aging requires maturity.”

The first two do sort of relate to “My Father’s House.”

There once was a baby named Mona

Whose beginning was really a boner

She grew pretty fat

Wore glasses at that

But her mother bestowed a corona


And then there’s:

There once was a lady named Jennie

Who shone like a bright copper penny

Her body was slim

Her demeanor quite prim

But her naughty thoughts really were many

And finally, an end to this silliness

There once was a house full of people

atop of which there was a steeple

Waiting in side

A rather shy bride

whose groom looked at her though a peephole

Posted March 13, 2020 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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