Tag Archive | memory

Ma the Matchless


Oh, I had the mother of all mothers, had I. A truly brilliant, complex, and often exasperating woman of a mother. Glory in my novel PERSEPHONE IN HELL fared no differently. How did we get such compellingly different and difficult mothers?

Certainly it wasn’t of our choosing. What girl would pick a mother who never cleaned the house, who stayed in bed all day reading sci-fi and smoking? Who sat in the kitchen on a hot summer’s afternoon in her underwear reading the New York Times? Who could argue you into the ground on Vietnam, Richard Nixon, and most other subjects? That was my mother. The Ma who would be Cleopatra, floating down the Nile on her barge, purposely all alone, with no kids to drive her crazy. Here she is in her bedroom looking for something to read while Glory is humiliated at the thought of her messy home.

“Joyce wasn’t exactly what you’d call a good homemaker. She felt above it; that cleaning was perhaps meant for someone else but not her. She was comfortable in her mess and didn’t care what anyone else thought about it. She wasn’t bothered that her children were too ashamed of their home to bring friends to it. She’d say, “If they’re really your friends, they won’t care what your house looks like.”

Though technically I have to admit that you have a point, Ma, it’s mortifying to live in such filth. The pits. Really, hell on earth. I rarely bring a friend home. Not even Camille. Why don’t you notice?

Joyce stretched and spotted a neglected title. She dug it out of the pile. Ah, she discovered, “Le Morte d’ Arthur” – how did that get in here? She much preferred the future to the past. Joyce didn’t believe in chivalry, knights in shining armor, silly legends like King Arthur, or a holy grail. Hell, she thought, there’s absolutely nothing holy about this world.”

Ma the Matchless has been gone almost 25 years now. Just this past Mother’s Day, I realized how much I miss her. I miss arguing with her. I miss the woman that I as an adult was only beginning to know when she up and died. Teenage Glory doesn’t know it yet, but someday she’ll remember Ma with love. She will forgive her mother’s transgressions. She’ll take pride in having a mother who was anything but common.



Mirror of the Past


Mirror, mirror on the wall  e5d7d-mein1969
Why can’t I look
Like I did when I was 16?

We women prefer the mirror of the past, I was told today by a friend on Facebook. We become insecure as we grow older. Men age gracefully. Or, we accept that men grow older. Their seasoned faces show signs of character. We women show wrinkles and sagging skin. We are jowly old crones over time, maturing into bosomy, flabby, ample fullness.

The person who commented that we women prefer the mirror of the past was not being unkind. He was trying to tell me that there is no need to hide behind a profile picture taken when I was 16. He thinks I look better now in photos of my mature fullness than in those of my girlhood. At least that’s what he said. He’s a person of great depth, so I have to believe that he means what he says.

What do I think? Am I better now – me, fully ripened fruit? I look at my photo here, taken when I was 16. How could I possibly believe that I have improved? I, who am hurtling frantically and relentlessly toward old age.

I look again, and remember. I remember the truth. Back then, I believed I was hideous. I was a mess, a nightmare of insecurity. I wasn’t tall enough; my thighs were too fat, my hair was frizzy; I wanted a model’s cheekbones and found none at all in my face. My lips were too thin, my mouth too small, my upper arms bulgy, my nose enormous, my waist too large, my calves manlike, my limbs too short. I am not making up any of this. These are the thoughts that I had about myself then, at age 16. These are the thoughts that I have about myself now, only amplified over more than 40 additional years and many more pounds.

I remember thinking back then – why can’t I look like anyone else, anyone but me? Why can’t I be anyone but me?

No, I haven’t improved. My perception of myself hasn’t changed. I will forever dislike the present that is me. I think my friend is correct in one regard though. I do prefer the mirror of the past, because the alternative, this real aging woman, is so difficult to face. Whether all women feel the same, I can’t say. I am aware of a few who are more confident about themselves than I’ve ever been. But I would guess that most of us look to our pasts when thinking of our beauty. Perhaps there are even some men who wish the reflection in their own mirrors could record an earlier, more fit time. Perhaps we would all readily hide in the shadows of our past.

Dedicated to the memory of my old friend


Once upon a time in a long forgotten land, I had one phone number and an email address, both of which I shared with my entire immediate family…

A couple of amazing things happened to me over the past weeks. First, under pressure from a well-meaning sibling and my daughter, who both insisted that I MUST open a Facebook account or be forever excluded from all communication with them, I started a #%!!#! account. I struggled my way through the setup, which included having to delete several mistakes (you don’t want to know how many) then added a fan page for my book, PERSEPHONE IN HELL. You can find a link to my Facebook page on this site – please take a look at it, it was so much work – I’m begging you! Several hundred grey hairs later, I now have three email accounts, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and this blog. Plus a smartphone that bleeps and buzzes and texts me all day long. I now have to bring my cell into the can with me so I won’t miss the latest blinking green light that indicates an important contact is attempting to be made. Did I forget anything? Today a so-called friend told me that I should set up an Instagram account too. I officially have no time for any other occupation or avocation, such is my preoccupation with this social media world.

But on to the good news. I’ve been discovered! No, not by Houghton Mifflin or Harper Collins or a Hollywood agent. Discovered by an entity far more significant than a mere publisher or movie producer. I’ve been discovered by my high school class reunion committee!

They found me on Facebook. And here, I’d successfully hidden from them for all these many (too many to count or admit to) years. Somehow, they hunted me down. They found me out. They called my name and surprise (this is the other amazing thing), I am pleased. Every emotion in the world has run through me since a nice woman named Alice found me out. I am humbled and shocked by the attention they’ve shown me. I’m amazed they remember me, that some think fondly of me; that some even like me. Who knew? I didn’t. I spent many years being scared of my past. I blocked out as much as I could until the emotions of my teenage years came screaming back in my writing.

In this passage from my novel, Ancient Glory returns after 40 years to end the story. Glory the teenager has had a rough time of it. She believes that everyone hates her. She’s lost all her friends and the love of her older sister, and thinks that even Mother Nature is out to get her. She despises herself. She needs the comfort and support of knowing that she will somehow survive. She gets it from Ancient Glory…

“And scars will lighten, they’ll pale unless you keep rubbing at them. Best to let them be, let them fade away in their own good time, in their own difficult and savage, cruelly dissonant way. Wait long enough, they’ll fade – it’s the law of nature.”

That’s what I did. I let enough time pass from my troubled youth for my scars to fade. They have lightened, so much so that when I got the call from that nice woman named Alice, I could answer with a hesitant but happy heart.

With many thanks to my old chums.

This posting is dedicated to the memory of my old friend Tom, who tragically could not find the strength to let enough time pass for his own wounds to heal. Tom, if only we could go back in time…

Are Teachers Human?



Something strange happened to me when I hit the high school years. Maybe it happened to you, too.

When I was a little girl, I loved school. I mean, I LOVED school. By age 3, I was playing school at home. I’d get out my chalk board, crayons, paper, and books, and pretend I was a big girl going off to school with my older sister. My town didn’t have kindergarten (tells you how old I am – though, yes, kindergarten had been invented!) And my birthday was such that I missed the cut off date for first grade by a month. By the time I finally arrived at first grade, I was almost 7 and had been reading for years.

My teacher was in heaven listening to me read. She sent me up to the principal with my book that was clearly 5th grade level or higher. I was a bit scared to walk into her office, but I read to her with all the passion that I hold for reading to this day. After I was done, the principal hugged me! This is the woman that I had been told put red hot peppers on kids’ tongues if they’d been bad.

Over the early years, I experienced good and not so great teachers, interesting subjects and not. But I managed to hold onto my positive thoughts about school through 8th grade.

So what makes a straight A student from grades 1 through 8 turn into a teenager who hates school? That’s a mystery that is at the core of my novel PERSEPHONE IN HELL.

“The teachers were always catching Glory in a day dream or staring out the classroom window. Mrs. Hansen, her history teacher, seemed to make a game of writing up detention slips. I suppose it makes my sadistic, twisted, inhuman teacher happy. Today, Mrs. Hansen was drilling the class on the succession of English monarchs. Even though everyone knows that memorizing lists of long dead kings is an exercise that could make even the best student want to vomit. Worse even than studying the names and dates of battles and wars. Well, maybe it’s a tie between the two for deadliest.”

Was it the content of the class, or the teacher teaching it that made high school so fatally boring? Were my teachers really human? Did they have first names, families, lives outside the classroom? I thought of them as inhuman, or less than human, or simply so uninteresting that I didn’t think of them at all. Was it true, or was it me? Perhaps I had just turned some corner in life, never to look back. For the sake of consistency, ignoring that long ago hug that acknowledged me as a special person, perhaps a cut above the average, a person of note. Forgetting that I was a queen in my own right.

Ask Not



January 20th is Inauguration Day, the day an elected U.S. president is sworn into duty. This year was the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address. I don’t remember this speech, considering I was eight years old when he delivered it. I do recall very well the day he was assassinated. I was ten years old by that time and more cognizant of the world. I remember my teacher crying as the principal of the school announced over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot. I walked home after school as always, and saw my older sister crying as she caught up with me on the sidewalk. I remember saying, ‘we didn’t even know him, why are you crying?’ and her reply ‘you are too young to understand.’

It was clearly the end of an era, the end of Camelot, the end of innocence for an entire generation. JFK wasn’t a perfect president. In fact, with the Cuban missile crisis, we almost went to war. But his most important words live on, and instruct us well if we care to listen and learn. “Ask not what your country can do for you,” he said. “Ask what you can do for your country.” Our new era of individual liberties, self obsessions, and demands for instant gratification overshadow any sense that the common good should even be considered. His words sound almost quaint in today’s context.

But there was a time when individuals put aside their parochial concerns and turned their minds to greater ideals. This passage from my novel PERSEPHONE IN HELL brings back Glory’s memories of the moon landing.

“…it was the event of a lifetime, of a hundred thousand lifetimes. It was July 20th in the year 1969 – the first time ever in the history of humankind that a man would walk on the moon.

The Apollo 11 lunar module. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins. They were the talk of every conversation, the images behind every thought, everybody’s greatest heroes. The Eagle has landed, Armstrong said. That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. A human footprint on the surface of the moon, an inconceivable fete. Of course no one could think of anything else.

Perhaps it was the end of an era, the end of time as we know it, of a time when people had limits and old ways and weights placed on them so they could barely move forward. So even the brightest and best could only inch ahead.

Or maybe it was the beginning of time, a time of anti gravity, of breaking free from the old constraints, of leaping lightness, of acceptance and tolerance for new ideas.”

Though I was only a child when President Kennedy lived, I remember the pride and passion that he inspired people to feel for their country. Not in a bullying ‘we are the greatest’ way. Not in a phony ‘love it or leave it’ way. But with respect and pride for the incredible accomplishments of the day, and hope for a better future. That is the legacy that President Kennedy left us. That is the part about him that I will always remember.