“For Sidney Poitier, Today”

A blog I wrote some time ago, more pertinent than ever today.

I watched “A Raisin in the Sun” yesterday.   I don’t think anyone could watch that movie and not be riveted by the performances…..the actors were stellar.   Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil as the wise mother.  I thought to myself, who wouldn’t be affected by this; couldn’t this be used as a teaching tool to make students see a piece of life some may still associate as their own, or at least recognize it in our nation today.

School curriculums have changed in recent years.   The classics, the Dickens, the Brontes, the Robert Louis Stevensons…..fallen by the wayside.   Much as it stabs my heart to write these words…..I understand.   I understand how a kid in an inner city has nothing in common with Mr. Darcy’s English estate and lady friends.   Dickens writes of the impoverished, the struggles ……..but Victorian London might as well be the Lunar surface for some who care not to open a page and look inside that time in history.

But Sidney Poitier, lamenting over his shriveled dreams might sound closer to home than the moon.

Kids who hear their parents speak of the short end of the stick might identify and want to sit and listen……maybe, just maybe……..even read the original play.

Let kids watch Gregory Peck in “To Kill a Mockingbird”………… don’t ban these books from the shelves of school libraries, bring in the DVD’s to classrooms, put the pages to prominent library shelves.   Kids today want instant visual gratification, let that visual be riveting and they might just soak up more than you would imagine.

Today, our youth is not attending balls to find their own Mr. Darcy……they might be dodging bullets in a dance of survival on the streets.   Their fathers might be struggling to obtain their own seemingly unreachable dreams…….just to get a little bit ahead in this world.

If we want our youths to move ahead in this world, we have to keep their desire for learning nurtured.   Some schools now opt for students to choose their curriculum.   This is wrong.   Some schools keep teachers’ hands bound tightly to what is the accepted schedule each term.   This is wrong.   Entrust a teacher to determine what is best for his or her class;  yes there must be some boundaries to respect.   Most entered this field with dreams of their own……which are becoming more and more illusive in this troubled world.   I come from a long line of educators, teachers, principals, professors.   Many taught in the toughest inner city neighborhoods.   An uncle of mine became Godparent to one of his pupils,  the lines of color disintegrating.

This nation is disintegrating…….literally……………………

Parents are too busy working, grandparents live across the country…….who, then, is left to sculpt the minds of our children……..A sculptor works best when given the right tools, the perfect piece of marble, a place where his mind can imagine.   Give that to our teachers,  give them good classrooms, truthful textbooks; let them carve the path for every other profession in our world.

Peace,

Shirl

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“Empty Chairs”

Today, 1941……….Pearl Harbor.

My dad visited Pearl Harbor on board his Navy ship during the war.  He didn’t speak much about the war; regretfully, I didn’t prod him for more, although I would have liked to hear it all.  He didn’t like Hawaii…..maybe the island paradise doesn’t seem so heavenly when the threat of being killed looms over your head each day.

Before he left for duty, my dad sold his beloved car.  He told me he didn’t think he would be returning home again; he wanted to leave the money for his wife and baby.  Girls remember first loves, guys remember first cars.  My dad did come home, and his face filled with sadness as he told me how he wished his car was still waiting for him.

A lot of guys didn’t come home…..a lot of first car seats remained empty until sold.  A lot chairs at the dinner table were never filled again.

My dad always remembered the empty space in the garage of the first home they rented. But nothing like the empty space in his heart from a brother who never returned home. A brother who had just turned nineteen and probably only got to drive his father’s car a few precious times around the block.

So today……….

for each one of those guys who did make it home again after bravely serving their country to drive their first cars again, share a laugh with a brother again, and give life to a daughter who writes this blog.I wish you peace with your memories of war……….memories that few still carry from WWII. My father passed over a decade ago……I hope his favorite car was waiting; his brother Ralphie at the wheel

And eternal peace for those who never made it home again………I wish all those wandering spirits who still carry the torment of war, whether roaming the battlefield or roaming a watery grave at sea find their way home at last.

Namaste,

Shirl

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“One Little Thing” (My Uninvited Farmhouse Guest)

My farmhouse had a guest the other evening. He was quite a vociferous houseguest, in fact, he wouldn’t stop talking for hours……..

Somewhere, in my chimney, a little cricket had decided to set up his radio broadcast. At first, before we retired for the evening, it was charming.

Then, with the fireplace location perfectly situated below my bed on the above floor, his chirps began to lose their charm. He was quite chatty, his chirps were endless, only taking a brief second of respite before his symphony continued.

The acoustics of my fireplace rivaled the Cathedral of Notre Dame; it was like a retelling of Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart,” only this time the principle player was green.

It wasn’t excessively warm, but I decided to mask his song with the air conditioner. Bad idea.

I had visions of a cricket pilot engineering a jet engine across my bedroom.

What could I do?

My husband was now downstairs investigating the chimney. The chirping stopped.

“You didn’t kill him, did you?………Even though he was a pain in the butt, I wanted his little green butt to live. I knew my husband would attempt to carry him outside, not harm him; but I was worried what activity ensued downstairs.

“No, I sprayed your lemon oil mosquito spray up the fireplace.”

I was still worried. Then, I heard it………the chirps were back….this time a little quieter. I guess our houseguest had changed bedrooms, a bit away from the lemon scented candle his host provided.

All was well………………….

Sometimes, it’s those little things that have huge impact on our day, or night. That tiny paper cut, or splinter, or the hornet sting my husband got in the garden………Those tiny things or beings……….

Like the little tiny things we do each day……….and realizing how important those little things can be to our lives.

Shirl

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“Twenty years…….Memories”

I was close by that day…….at Liberty State Park, by the Statue of Liberty, just a short distance across the water from the Towers.

I saw the gaping hole…….the minute I saw it, I knew that Tower would never stand. It was like the mouth of a volcano opened in the side of that steel.

My daughter was with me; I was about the same age then that she is now. I still remember the clothes I wore, the words of those around me, the entire sky filled with black smoke.

We were lucky.

The wind direction was in our favor or that smoke would have been over us. There must have been a tour group that day. So many Asian tourists around us, snapping picture after picture. I have only the pictures in my mind.

I saw the first Tower crumble into a cloud of dust, then, a short time after, I watched the second Tower’s antenna give a slight sway………I knew.

The second crumble of dust………..and all that remained was that cloud of blackness

Somehow, my mind didn’t register that thousands were inside. My brain thought somehow that everyone got out…..I didn’t know I was watching so many perish, only much later did that thought reach its intensity.

I remember holding my head in my hands as we heard that the Pentagon had been attacked. At that moment, I said, this is war. I remember the police yelling, GET OUT, GET OUT. I worried we wouldn’t make it home that day, so many others didn’t.

We were lucky.

We drove back to our home in Jersey, passing Holy Cross Cemetery ………It is a very large cemetery with a view of NYC, just across the river. Hundreds of people stood among the cemetery stones and Angels, watching the smoke in the sky. The living, among the dead, watching those now dead spirits, mingling in the smoke.

It was surreal. I will never forget it.

My other daughter was away college. I remember telling her if we were attacked to stay at college, not to come home. Stay away, be safe. I remember telling her those words; I remember the flags draped across the Garden State Parkway, people waving them from the overpasses, I remember each home adorned with patriotism. We feared a nuclear bomb, my house is only ten miles from NYC…….there was no hope of escape.

It took a long time for me to look up at an airplane in the sky and not feel that memory. It took a long time to not be encompassed by that fear, that zombie like addiction to watching the scenes of horror day after day after day, in front of the television screen.

And those of us in front of those screens, were the lucky ones. Watching a horror, not living inside of it. Those holding up posters with loved ones’ faces, those searching hospital rosters for a name, those hoping against hope that they might be a lucky one.

I wish I could write that all fear, all danger, were in the past. I wish we could be so lucky.

Blessings,

Shirl

The picture used for the blog was taken much later, but it always reminds me of those two Towers….

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“Back to School”

It’s August 29th…….some districts have started school already, others will commence in a couple of weeks.

For the first time since the pandemic, both my grandchildren will attend school in the physical sense.

I wonder how this will work. Years ago, I worked as a teacher’s aide with young children. I think I had a perpetual cold or sore throat. Before I fully recovered from the first bout, the second one was upon me.

Think of it. Have you ever set foot in a room with kids and encountered not one of them sniffling, sneezing, wiping a runny nose?

Poor teachers, what are they going to do……..send each “sneeze” down to the nurse’s office? Will they fear being blamed if they don’t react fast enough to remove that child away from the others?

The stress of teaching is bad enough without being a diagnostician as well.

What about the school nurse? Instead of bandaging knees, will she be conducting covid tests each day?

How about parents? The day of a busy conference meeting, your child wakes up and tells you he isn’t feeling well. No temperature, but not himself. Do you send him to school and miss that important meeting? Do you put your own parents at risk and ask grandma or grandpa to stay with him? Do you send him to school anyway and wait for that call from the nurse about your sneezing child?

I don’t know. I had hopes we had reached the summit. But sometimes, the walk downhill is harder on your legs than the climb.

Hoping we reach flat ground again……….nice, flat, ordinary ground. Like the plains of Kansas……..except, there is always that tornado signal with which to contend. 😦

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“When that last doorbell rings”

These past days have had me remembering things, not forgotten, but pushed to the shadows of my mind decades ago.

One such memory has crept back to linger.

I was in my teens, probably driving to my first job. I remember so clearly driving down the neighboring block.

I saw a very smartly dressed military man and with him, a chaplain, leave their car and walk up the steps to a house on the block.

I drove by before the door opened, before the sound of that doorbell solidified the fear into reality for a family whose son would not be ringing that doorbell again.

No Welcome Home flags would hang from that door….no wedding celebration, no grandchild birth would ever come to this door, no more life from this child born into this world with so much expectation and joy for the future.

Decades before it was a telegram. My grandparents received one; it destroyed my grandmother’s heart and took her too not long after.

I have that telegram. It is tucked away in a drawer, telling her my Uncle would not be home again.

I can’t help replaying that walk up the steps to the doorbell I witnessed. I can’t help thinking of those mothers and fathers, thinking the time for their children in peril across the world was so close to being over; they were coming home.

I can hope the last doorbells will be rung with this war, but my sense tells me this isn’t so. Wars will become fierce, boots on the ground, replaced by missiles and drones and bioweapons.

I fear whole blocks will be obliterated, not just the hearts behind one doorbell.

I truly believe war is endless until there is no one left to fight anymore…….no doorbells to ring with good news or bad on this earth.

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“Sometimes, Ghosts Bring Bananas”

I saw a meme on Facebook this morning, a hot dog bun with a banana inside…..the caption, “Banana Bread.”

This triggered a hidden memory, encapsulated somewhere in the recesses of my mind. Growing up, my dad would make banana sandwiches. He would wrap a piece of white bread around a banana…Voila…….banana sandwich.

I ate a few of them myself …… but hadn’t thought of them in decades.

My dad would have been 100 years old yesterday. He has been gone for over a decade now. But perhaps, he thought it a nice idea to share a banana sandwich today.

So that was my lunch. It lost something without the smushy white bread of my youth. The whole wheat slice just didn’t mush as well. But, it was a familiar lunch, just the same.

Such memories in a banana. My mom’s dad was a “banana man,” a fruit peddler on the streets of Northern NJ.

I had lunch with both sides of my family today. Such memories, such ancestral connection with each bite.

Whoever made that meme has no idea what power a funny picture might conjure……..Perhaps a ghost, bearing a banana for a long awaited lunch date. 🙂

Shirl

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“Who Knows Where the Time Goes”

You’d have to be of a certain age to remember that song……..”Who Knows Where the Time Goes.”

My dogwood tree’s leaves are turning a shade or “orangey” red. Marcia Brady (Maureen McCormick) turns 65 today.

Sixty five…….wasn’t it just yesterday when a football hurled at her nose?

Time……stops for no one………..not even a pandemic virus.

We have all stood still, but time has moved quickly around us…..like a thief in the night.

We emerge from hibernation now…….a little wider across the waist, a little bit more achy in joints, a little more creases around our eyes.

Those eyes didn’t smile at friends and loved ones as often……..We hoped it was soon behind us, but news reports bring the worries back again.

But time wrinkled those eyes just the same……..the way a person in a deep coma must age, even though the body does not run with life as it once did.

Time runs……….it keeps running………turning the years. Turning teen age girls into women of senior years.

Blessings for Health and Time,

Shirl

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“Rosalie’s First Birthday……Cinderella found her Shoe”

Today is my granddaughter’s first birthday. She has endured two open heart surgeries, one after her birth and the second, just days ago.

We held a birthday party a few days before the second surgery, just to give her the happiness of the day. Now, I will attend a second party. She is still recovering and we cannot get close to her; so she will be held in the yard a few moments as we sing and wish her blessings for today.

I write fairy tales; she is the fairy tale I have prayed and wished for since before she was born and we first learned of the defects in her heart.

I have a porcelain Cinderella doll. For years now, she has been without one shoe. Well, appropriate for my Cinderella, I rationalized, after searching all over the floor and worrying my vacuum swept up her glass slipper.

Today, I decided to empty out a sock basket in my bedroom……….Lo and behold, at the bottom, was Cinderella’s glass slipper……..

The fairy tale has ended happily……..Cinderella found her shoe, on Rosalie’s birthday….

.Coincidence…..maybe……….A fairy tale for a fairy tale writer……….I like to believe so.

The surgeon at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital doesn’t know it, but he will always be the finest Prince this author could ever conjure up in one of her fairy tales.

One day, when she is older, I will give her this doll and tell her the story of her own fairy tale.

Cinderella reunited with her glass slipper.

Blessings,

Shirl

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60,000 in the Park……..

New York City is planning a mega concert in the park…….estimates of 60,000 attendees to celebrate her re-emergence…..

I ask you, is a huge concert in the park the answer………….

Perhaps the answer to re-emergence is safety for the mother who fears her child will be struck by a bullet in the doorway of his home.

Perhaps emergence is riding the subway without fearing for your money or your life.

Perhaps emergence is paying attention to the thousands of people sleeping on the concrete ……

It’s ironic that most of these concert revelers probably weren’t touched directly by Corona……..I imagine a lot of those young people will have congregated long before emergence was sanctified.

I think of those families with an empty place at the sofa. The concert will be televised, but I don’t think those empty sofa families will garner much joy from it.

I think of the weddings where grandpa won’t be able to see the bride walk down the aisle, the babies many grandmas will never have the chance to embrace…….

I don’t think going to a concert will heal those wounds……..

In Gettysburg, each year, we place luminaries to remember the dead. I think a park site filled with luminaries would be beautiful in NYC………much more beautiful than the strobe lights of a concert stage……..

Just my musings,

Shirl

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