Memoir Writers - Current Work in Progress
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Current work of members of the Memoir Writers Group at the Bloomfield Township Public Library - Spring, 2013
Memoirs are written by the older generation to remind or inform children and grand children of family history and events. But that is not always the case. On Mothers’ Day my son Chris called to tell me he had a present for me but had some work to do on it before he could send it, In August a digital photo frame arrived. He had scanned 200 pictures onto it. All were dated; some were titled. There was a picture of my mother among her sheep and goats. There was a picture of Tante Clotilde and cousin Uta on a visit from Germany, another one of my brother Kim and his wife also visiting mother. A picture of an attractive fairly slender young woman turned out to be me. One of Chris about 3 or 4 years old was marked Chandler Street. Chandler Street? What is Chandler Street?
I sent an e-mail: ”Chris, What is Chandler Street?”
: “Mother, Chandler Street is the street we lived on in Adrian”
Chandler Street? Chandler Street! Memories helter skeltered into my mind:
Chandler Street - where we had a real ice box with big chunks of ice delivered three or
four times a week.
Chandler Street - where I did my laundry every Monday using my electric washer and
hand operated wringer and looked out the window into the back yard before
hanging out the clothes to be sure my neighbor was not hanging hers out so that
we would not end up leaning over the back fence gossiping for an hour.
Chandler Street - where I began baking bread for my family using my mother-in-law’s recipe
and deciding one day to make doughnuts broke off what I thought was a reasonably
sized chunk of dough and wound up sharing a large bag full of extra doughnuts with
my neighbors up and down the street.
I call Chris’s gift my reverse memoirs. Thank you, Chris.
"My Mission, Their Legacy"
(A Mother's Perspective)
The offsprings were born to me,
Not by my decision, rather of their volition.
They freely selected my body to dwell in,
My bosom to find sustenance,
My soul to nurture their mind,
My heart to keep them safe.
To them I offer every opportunity to thrive, evolve and grow.
both by learning the ways of the world and spiritually.
To become self-reliant,
autonomous, respectable, purposeful and benevolent.
Once fully-grown, I provide them with security of being loved,
Then endow them with the greatest gift of all:
The only essential requirement for "JOIE D'VIVRE" (zest for life):
The blessing of absolute, unlimited freedom,
Total release from all obligation to me,
Complete relief from any expectation,
Utter deliverance from demands and duties,
Full liberation from societal dictates of
"Returning the favor"!
Their time, energy and attention solely belong to them
to dispense with as they please.
Blessed with the good fortune of the healthy body and sound mind,
Each is to seek fulfillment through enrichment of every precious moment.
Needless of repayment,
They are asked to bestow all they can to their progeny,
The best reward in knowing
The endless sacrifices of time and effort
Are well utilized and properly expended,
Therefore put to good use.
One offer of advice:
Be wise in noticing simple pleasures,
Realize your potential to be joyful
While benefitting the world with kindness to serve humanity.
Cruel and Unusual
by John Conley
Lets start with the fact that I am Irish. I am more or less compelled to like the color green. After all, it's the primary color of our people, as in the "Emerald Isle", its on our flag, its in our DNA.
On a personal level my bedroom is forest green, I have a bathroom that is lime green and one wall of my family room is green. That's why it is with some reluctance that I state I dislike the green in Lima beans.
Actually it is the Lima bean itself - and not its color - that I detest. I discovered this problem at an early age when I was visiting my grandmother.
Dining at her house was a major event. Grandma was nicknamed "the Duchess" for good reason. She had a dining room that was extremely formal. A large oblong table that was very ornate, completed with a large silver centerpiece and silver candlesticks. There was a large well-lit cabinet with china on display.
An additional side cabinet contained the glassware. There were two large leather chairs at either end of the table with beautiful appointed side chairs to complete the setting.
Before dining there was a set of bells that rang. When dinner was served there was a buzzer with a button to cal "the help" when grandmother need assistance.
Everyone was very formal at dinner time. In general I observed the golden rule, "Don't speak unless spoken to." " Children should be seen and not heard."
There were in general a number of rules to be observed, but the foremost rule was to eat or at least try to eat every thing you were served. In general I tried to observe all the rules. However, my grandmother lover her Lima beans and I had an intense disdain for them.
Hence , I refused to eat the Lima beans. I was told I could not leave the table until I ate the Lima beans. I refused. It seemed like an hour (though in reality probably only ten minutes) before I was excused - only to have the same dish with the Lima beans return at breakfast.
To get on with my day, I would eat some. Needless to say, I felt this was cruel and unusual punishment.
To this day, I refuse to eat Lima beans.
To my chagrin, I found out there is a Lima bean festival in North Carolina where they extol the virtues of the Lima bean. They even go so far as to serve Lima bean ice cream (horrors!)
When I was raising my children I often chided them when they stated that they hated this or that, explaining that they shouldn't hate anyone or anything.
Upon careful reflection, I hate Lima beans!
How hard it is to let go of expectations. I don’t know when I started to think about what the future would bring.
As a teenager I remember romantic expectations. Day dreaming about the boy next door or the date on Saturday night... Ooooh, the expectation.
Later, in college, as an idealistic young women I planned and hoped for my place in the future. I had expectations.
When I met my future husband we had dreams for our life together. He told me that he would take me places I had never seen before. He has.
When we started our family or actually as soon as we started to think about starting a family, we had expectations for our future children. Today when couples want to know the gender of their newborn before birth, the expectations must be even greater.
Our children now have their own families. Our expectations have become less ambitious. Perhaps there have been some disappointments along the way.
Now it is time for us to let go. How freeing it would be, to be grateful for what we have and what we receive. To no longer have expectations for them,
or more importantly, from them.
We need to try and let go.
Friday Night Spaghetti Dinner
During my second year of high school, I decided to take a job at a small hospital just a few blocks from where my school was located. The year was 1953 and the place was Brooklyn, New York. It seemed like a good way to earn money and leave time to get my homework done later in the evening. As time went on, I found that I was enjoying the work and making new friends, particularly among the nursing students. I wanted to learn as much as I could about nursing, particularly since I was leaning toward a career in health care after graduation.
The nursing students came from a variety of cultures and nationalities and never hesitated to share stories about their family traditions, particularly concerning the holidays. The predominant nationalities of students were Irish and Italian. While I was quite familiar with the Irish culture, being second generation Irish, I had less knowledge of other family traditions.
Having been raised in an Irish-American family environment, I had little exposure to other ethnic foods except for an occasional dinner at my classmate’s house on a Friday evening. His name was Salvatore Fisher. Salvatore Fisher’s mom, an Italian, was a great cook and she invited me to join their family for some of their Italian meals. Salvatore’s dad was Jewish, and adored his wife’s cooking. On several occasions, I helped my friend Sal with his homework and his mom wanted to repay me for getting his grades up to snuff. Aside from this, I was limited to my own mom’s serving of macaroni and cheese or Franco-American spaghetti in the can. In our household, that represented Italian cooking at its finest.
Little wonder then at my sheer delight when I saw a notice posted on our nursing unit’s bulletin board one Monday afternoon. I read and reread the invitation in disbelief. “Come one. Come all. Everyone is invited to our annual spaghetti and meatball dinner this Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the Prospect Heights Nursing Hall in our Community Room. Join us for a spaghetti and meatball dinner and help us raise funds to support nursing scholarships.”
I could hardly wait for that Friday to roll around. Imagine, eating side by side with the nursing students with whom I worked as a nursing assistant. I would be rubbing elbows with some of my favorite role models. For just seven dollars per head, it was a bargain I could not pass up.
The event turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more. The pasta was excellent, unlike anything I had tasted before. When I found out during the supper that it had been prepared by the nursing students themselves, I was quite impressed. Nurses do more than make patients better. They can make food taste better.
I ate to my heart’s content, stuffed myself with plenty of pasta and topped it off with a huge salad. The piece de resistance was the mound of finger licking meatballs in sauce piled on my plate. To this day, I do not know how I made all that food disappear, but I remember riding home that night on the Flatbush Avenue bus with a very full belly and lots of wonderful memories. I also wondered if I could learn to cook as well as they as I continued in my endeavors to become a nursing student.