Current work of members of the Memoir Writers Group at the Bloomfield Township Public Library - Winter 2014
By Liz Mulligan
As I sit here freezing during this cold winter day, I think back to times when June promised months of warmer weather. To get more specific, I remember my youth, my teenage years, and the years of my young adulthood when I would leave the mainland behind. The first step to my journey included eating Manhattan clam chowder at Porky’s Clam bar and then heading across the asphalt parking lot to the dock. I associated the heat of the tar with the mainland.
Ducks swam around the ferry named the Sea Mist. Sea gulls flew overhead. I boarded the water craft that would take me from everyday life to beach life.
Getting on the boat brought with it a flood of memories. The grey floor and white sides of the ship were familiar sights that welcomed me back. The ferry’s engine would gurgle and hum, waiting for other passengers to embark. At the scheduled time, the boat would take off toward the island, traversing the Great South Bay.
There is an old saying about the beach: once you get the sand in your shoes you can’t get it out. Some people fall in love with island life and keep going back. It’s a ritual that passes from one generation to the next. That explains why traditions remain.
Looking up I would often see the same things: folks with their large L.L. Bean totes faded by the sun, people reading the latest bestseller, heads covered with floppy hats, and comfortable sandals that looked so unfashionable they must have been expensive. The beach has a timeless dress code --topsiders, polo shirts, and Bermuda shorts. Other than that, dressing down is dressing up.
Noticing fashion is one thing. Observing people as I cross the bay is another. Often I have been so engrossed in my own thoughts that the people blended in with the roar of the engine. Every now and then I would peek up and notice a mother and a child interact with such gentleness that I could tell the breeze from the bay was weaving its mystical charm. The change from the mainland to the island was starting to take place.
It’s not that the mother was suddenly nicer to her child. It’s that I started to notice the behavior. The transition came within me. As the waves lapped on the side of the boat, I unwound. Away went the blare of car horns. I could see a buoy bobbing in the ferry’s wake. Stress was all but forgotten.
I looked up and could see the lighthouse with its predictable frequent flash of light. It had become a symbol of the island.
The magic of the transition continued as the ferry crossed the Great South Bay. With every clam boat the Sea Mist passed, with every Boston Whaler, with every sailboat, with every other ferry, summer drew nearer. I was filled with thoughts of longtime friendships and lighthearted events.
The twenty to thirty minute ride atop the deck of the ferry transported me from one world to another.
And now I am back home looking out the window at the continuous snowfall and longing for those golden summer days.
2013 in Review from a Writer’s Viewpoint
January seems like a good time to take inventory of the happenings of the past year. Most people seem to take stock of their accomplishments in their jobs, in their personal lives or in their academic achievements. In my case, I decided to reflect on some of my writings and the direction these writings have taken me in the last 12 months.
2013 saw my brother Michael’s deteriorating physical health and his subsequent move to a long term facility become an almost all consuming project for me. Having to empty his clutter ridden apartment for seven grueling days in the hottest week in New York City history last July prompted me to write about these experiences as a way of coping with this ordeal.
His sudden and unexpected death less than two months after his admission to a facility was a huge loss to me. His funeral preparations were yet another writing challenge for me. Now as I look back, I think I found some peace and solace in writing about these events. I even found some consolation in writing and giving his eulogy at his funeral service. Later, after I returned to Michigan from New York, I felt the need to express his support for my writings and his contributions as my mentor. He was indeed my “listening ear”.
During the fall of 2013, I found myself pouring through some old family photos and reminiscing about events in my past; trips to the Hamptons in New York, my imaginary cruise down the mighty Mississippi River, a train trip to Chicago, and visits to old friends in Long island, New York. I shared my ghostly tale about the famous Whitney Mansion in Detroit, Michigan where I had the pleasure of partaking in one of their delicious brunches and learning of some of the inhabitants of that house.
It was a year packed with travel plans, some which came to fruition and others which had to be put on hold until next summer. Such plans included visits to Mackinac City and Mackinaw Island including a memorable visit to the Grand Hotel. It was even more nostalgic since I had finally seen the movie “A Place In Time” and had the opportunity to walk through the same rooms visited by the actors many years ago. I availed myself of bus tours through Detroit where I visited and shopped at the Eastern Markets and spent a luxurious evening and night at Detroit’s Motor City Casino. I even had the good fortune to triple my investment there.. I actually left the casino with $90 of their money, not shabby by my standards. These are some of the stories I have yet to write down, but hopefully will do so in the coming year.
Now, with the New Year upon me, I shall try to reflect on other stories that have affected me in my life. I will try to make a concerted effort to write more frequently and more consistently. I know I will enjoy writing about these adventures. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the members of my Tuesday afternoon Memoir Writers Group at the Bloomfield Public Library. They have been supportive and kind in their constructive criticisms. Their encouragement has helped motivate me to continue writing. One day, I shall publish these stories as a way of sharing and preserving them. I know we all have a story to tell. Hopefully, mine is worth writing about.
Memories of my Mom
When I think of all the people
for whom I am most grateful
giving me life and all it holds for me
you have been so selfless
so caring and kind to those around you
when I think of the memories
you have left behind
carved into my heart forever
I only wish I could be half the person
you were in the years I knew you.
Today is a particularly poignant day for me
as I sit and reflect on my memories of you
for today is the day of your birth
a day that will be etched in my heart forever
Happy Birthday to a most precious human being
and thanks again Mom for the gift of “You.”
(written on your birthday, November 26, 2013.)
By Carol Foster
Did you know that when ESL (English as a Second Language) students learn English they sometimes learn sounds that do not appear in their native language? There is no “j” sound in Spanish and the “f”and “v” sounds are very difficult for the Japanese to reproduce.
The only way for them to really learn these sounds is by drilling that information into them with repetition. This can become very tedious. Since a person learns more quickly if they are enjoying what they are doing, the challenge is to make the lesson interesting for the student.
Which do you think is more enjoyable?
Telling your student to say “fff-rrr-eee-zzz, fr-ez, freeze” over and over again or
Telling your student to say five fat French fleas freeze.
My students really enjoy using tongue twisters because after they learn a tongue twister well, they find it fun to repeat them, and their mouth and throat muscles have adjusted to make the new sounds with ease.
The Japanese also have trouble with the “wo” sound. Very often the word “woman” is pronounced “ooman”. Keiko, a Japanese ESL student, told me she loved to eat Whoppers from the Burger King. She said when she went to order a Whopper; they would always ask her what she was talking about. I told her she could eliminate that problem by learning the tongue twister “How much would could a would chuck chuck if a would chuck could chuck wood?”
She went home and practiced the tongue twister. Shortly after that, she came to a session with a big grin. She said, “I ordered a Whopper, and they didn’t even ask me what I was talking about!”
Tongue twisters can have other purposes too. I once knew a reporter who used a tongue twister to warm up with before he gave his on-the-air report. He figured if he could say this particular one, he was ready to say anything.
One smart fellah, he felt smart.
Two smart fellahs, they felt smart
Three smart fellahs, they all felt smart.
There was a drawback to that tongue twister though. It happened when my six-year-old son Sander overheard my husband saying it to me. Sander repeated it for Show and Tell at school. When his teacher tried it, she kept mixing the words up. When the words came out “smelt fart” instead of “felt smart”, she asked him “Where did you ever hear that?”
The next time you want to learn a difficult sound:
pick a particularly prudent phrase to pronounce properly.
The Great Equalizer
Walking on a snowy day.
draping the drowsy city with dazzling whiteness,
silently sifting, shrouding streets, sidewalks, and shingles,
evening the uneven.
Drifting snow tosses lacey flakes
on ladies’ fur collars, men’s cashmere coats,
and shivering street-wanderers’ ragged clothes,
equalizing the unequal.
Theresa Shen 12/10/2013