“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the young woman. “It will be poetry, verses about love and longing and the angst of being twenty.” That Christmas she received a suede-covered volume from her beau inscribed ‘Kate’s Scribbles.’ After he left her, she filled the parchment pages with poems and stories of love and heartbreak which were splattered with her tears. When she graduated from college, she clutched her teaching degree to her heart. Her mother’s advice echoed in her ears.
“Teaching is a good profession for a woman. You’ll be home when your children are—and you can always write in the summers when you’re off,” her mother advised.
The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank. ***
“I think I’ll write a book,” said the woman.
Her husband laughed. “When will you have time for that?” he asked archly. “We have a child to raise. We can’t take chances like that, not with a mortgage and bills and obligations. Maybe someday—but not now.”
The woman nodded.
Yes, maybe someday she would take a pen in hand and write. She’d tell the story of a young couple, only in their thirties, with a child, finding their way in a sometimes hostile world.
The suede-covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.
“I think I’ll write a book someday,” said the forty–something matron. Life’s lessons had etched fine lines around her mouth and eyes, and added streaks of gray to her dark hair. Children were her main concern—her own child who was struggling to find her way and the ones she taught every day. Her marriage was in tatters from the battering of life’s realities: finances, personal problems and dreams that might never be realized. The woman could not remember the last time she had written anything other than a grocery list or a note to a parent. Sometimes, she would pick up a pen and hold it in her hand, hoping that words would flow onto paper. Once in a while they did, but the words spoke of anger and frustration and mostly of lost opportunity. So she hid those words from herself.
Her mother, now dead, had advised her well. Teaching was, after all, a steady, predictable job with an income she could rely on.
The suede -covered book stayed on a shelf and the parchment pages remained blank.
“I think I’ll write a book someday,” the woman said to her friends as they toasted her fiftieth birthday. She thought back to the earlier years, when the desire to write flamed in her heart. Searching everywhere, she finally found the suede bound book with poems so full of young love and loss and promise. Taking it reverently from its shelf, she blew the dust away. That night, she sat and read until her eyes grew heavy and a single tear traced its way down her cheek. And she felt like a part of her was dead.
“I think I’ll write a book,” said the widow, now in her sixties with hair that was more silver than black. Sadness was her daily companion. “I’ll write about loss and loneliness, and trying to make my life new.”
Her career as a teacher was a memory—one that over time had become more distant.
The woman’s child, now grown, lived in the great northwest forest with her beloved. Days were empty and the woman wanted—no—needed to tell her stories.
So, she picked up a pen, and began to write. Words flowed like water breeching a dam. And the woman wrote a book, and another book and another book. The pages were filled with the story of her life: of the things she had put aside, the sacrifices she had made, and the joys and dreams that had been realized. She wrote of the sorrow and the searing pain of loss. As she wrote tears and sometimes even laughter were her companions.
Surveying the shelf crowded now with the suede-covered volume and many others like it, she smiled.
With words as soft as a prayer, she whispered, “Finally, I wrote my book.”
I just returned from one of two visits to my hometown of Buffalo, New York this summer—the first to attend my brother-in-law’s funeral and the second, to celebrate a family reunion. I reworked this blog post from four years ago. I hope you enjoy it.
Buffalo, my home town. Name by French trappers, according to legend, after the river that flows through it. The Queen City of the Great Lakes, famous for snow storms, chicken wings and the Buffalo Bills and the Sabres Hockey team.
Buffalo is becoming an “It” city–with a newly revived waterfront that includes busy Canalside ( a terminus point for the Erie Canal), and the Inner Harbor. The lakefront is crowded all the time, as is Larkin Square, another historic area that is jammed with concert-goers, food truck aficionados and people enjoying the lovely summer evenings Buffalo offers. Travel through the Elmwood Village and admire the wonderful gardens that are lovingly tended, making Buffalo’s Garden Walk in July a highlight of the summer for garden enthusiasts from all over.
Buffalo is the place where I was born, attended grade school, learned about the world, came of age and earned two college degrees. The place where I made my first communion and was confirmed. The place where I fell in love, married and raised a child. The place I spent my happiest days and some of my saddest days. It is where my parents and one of my brothers are buried, and where two of my seven siblings live now.
It is also a city of uncommon beauty—wide boulevards lined with mature trees that are crimson and gold in fall, elegant public buildings—some designed by the most famous of American architects. Situated on Lake Erie—one of a chain of inland seas—cooled by breezes from Canada, it is circled by a necklace of Olmstead parks—green oases for the working class. Populated by the children of immigrants who came here to find the Promised Land and by the descendants of slaves who found refuge at the last stop on the Underground Railway.
I ran away from its harsh winters fifteen years ago looking for endless summer which I found here in Florida.
And now I wonder if I am called back to that place I never stopped loving.
I see a city rich with opportunity, full of the promise of intellectual and spiritual growth. A city where I can attend theater, concerts, and visit art galleries easily. (There is a saying in Buffalo that everything in the city is twenty minutes away…and it’s true.)
I can sit in bistros and watch the bustle of the world go by—and eat wonderful food and not have to mortgage the house to do so. I can drive through neighborhoods and admire Arts and Crafts style homes next to Frank Lloyd Wright houses.
I can be soothed by the rhythm of waves rolling into the marina, enjoy a sandy beach or drive to the undulating hills south of the city.
And I can be among those I share a history with—who have known me all of my life—who love me for who I was and am now. People whose memories I share, who loved the same people I loved. I can be among the next generation in our family, and revel in their beauty, intelligence and goodness. I can see our family’s heritage and the future in their eager faces.
Buffalo is aptly named. It’s is an earthy name—unpretentious, it isn’t a beautiful sounding word, rather one that jars a little. The same way we are jarred by the real thing—by reality. It is a genuine place filled with people who feel authentic.
The moment I arrive in this city—my city—I feel the joy of arriving home, like returning to the warmth of a mother’s embrace.
Image of Buffalo skyline at night courtesy of city-data.com
Some friends and I had a wonderful day out today. We went to nearby Winter Park, a chi-chi destination in the Orlando area. We took the iconic Winter Park Boat Ride—an attraction (for want of a better word) that has been around for decades.
An open boat powered by an outboard motor cruises through three of the Winter Park-Maitland chain of lakes. It’s a pleasant ride featuring views of beautiful homes, scenery, and parts of Rollins College.
The tour guide was a man who probably helped launch the business 40+ years ago. He pointed out all of the historic sights, and commented on the beautiful homes that ringed the lakes. I don’t need to tell you that the homes were enormous—some as large as 20,000 square feet! He also entertained us by telling us that purchasing a lot on the lake would cost at least a million dollars.
When I lived in Western New York, my husband and his brother co-owned an outboard motor boat. We loved to go out on Lake Erie and ogle the mansions that lined the lake shore.
We’ve also been to Ft. Lauderdale where there is a boat ride that travels through the canals that crisscross that city. And, needless to say, part of the cruise takes you past big, expensive mansions, and yachts that have their own swimming pools and helicopter pads!
It occurred to me at one time that these cruises had one odd thing in common—taking middle class folks past homes they could never afford to own. It’s almost like a tease—“See what rich folks have—that you will NEVER have!” It reminds me of a song from Camelot, “What Do the Simple Folk Do?,” only in reverse.
There I was again today, ogling the unattainable real estate—and loving every minute of it!
Picture courtesy of Pixabay
I finally got to Hawai’i. Three tries, three cancellations, and finally—I made it! Hawai’i was all I hoped and dreamed it would be. The weather was nearly perfect: warm and sunny with a lovely breeze that kept the bugs and humidity away—and wrecked havoc on my hair. The beaches were stunning with crashing waves and…
Valentine’s Day—a day devoted to purchasing flowers, candy and jewelry and maybe something a little naughty for your significant other. Many folks feel it’s overrated as a holiday. It’s too commercialized, and benefits only the florists and candy makers, and of course, Hallmark and American Greetings.
I disagree. To me Valentine’s Day is a day set aside to celebrate love and all that means in our lives. It’s really not about cards, candy and flowers, although there’s nothing wrong with any of that! To me Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to stop and think about all of the people we love. It’s the perfect opportunity to tell others that we love them, appreciate them, and that they make our lives better.
Does that require flowers, candy or trinkets? Not really. It does require extending good wishes for a happy day to the special people in our lives.
All of our holidays are over commercialized, in my opinion. So using that as a reason to shun Valentine’s Day seems quite lame.
Think of how much better our lives would be if we celebrated Valentine’s Day every month; if we took the time to appreciate, love and cherish others.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Picture credit: www.2littlehooligans.com
I had extensive dental work done recently.
My dentist is a very kind, gentle woman who makes the experience as easy as possible. So instead of being tense and alert, worrying about whether or not something would hurt, I was able to let my mind wander.
While I was ensconced in the dental chair, unable to go anywhere while two people worked on my mouth, I started to think about several things.
I wondered about the first people and what they thought happened when a child was born. Were they surprised? Did they know what it was? Did they nurture the child?
After ruminating about this for a while, I began to think about the Universe and the existence of God. I concluded that, for me at least, that there must be a God.
Then I thought about death and the afterlife. I wondered what death was like—do we just go to sleep and lose consciousness? Are we reunited with those we loved in life who went before us? Is there really a place or state of being called heaven?
Finally, I decided that it didn’t matter because if there is a heaven, living a moral life would certainly merit that reward. And if there isn’t an afterlife, well, we lose nothing by being moral.
I found it amusing that I used to wonder how much longer the procedure would take, and if and when it was going to hurt…
Ah, the marvels of modern and pain free dentistry!
Image source myteeth.co.za
I have had a love affair with the beach since –well, my earliest memory.
The sound of the surf as it rolls onto the shore is a comfort to me. The sand between my toes and the fresh, salt air are sensory delights.
To me, the beach is an ever-changing scene: boats drift or seem to fly by, with sails that can invoke the colors of the rainbow or resemble white sheets drying in the breeze. Some bob out far enough that I wonder what they are doing—fishing, or are they out for a cool day on the water? The cruise ships appear to be stationary out in the deep sea, especially at night when their festive lights outline them.
Seashells are the souvenirs of a beach visit. I enjoy walking along the shoreline, stooped over, hunting for a uniquely colored shell or one that is a different shape. I take a few each time, so that I can remember that day at the beach.
When I was a kid, my family went for picnics to a favorite place called Miller’s Beach several times a week. My Dad would arrive home from a steaming hot day at the steel plant. Mom would literally wrap the dinner she had on the stove up in a blanket and we would head off to the freshening breezes of Lake Erie.
We could hardly wait to run to the sand and surf as soon as we arrived. Dinner outdoors was delicious—no matter what was served.
I especially loved to watch the sun go down over Lake Erie—sometimes the sunsets were the proverbial blaze of color. Other times, the sky would turn the color of liquid silver and the water would reflect that back, the orange setting sun a burst of light that made it all even more magical.
I still long for the beach…and feel that same child-like delight at my first glimpse of the ocean.
I turned around and my daughter was leaving home for college. She was eighteen, a pretty, raven haired girl.
We packed her stuff (there was a lot of it) into her red car and our car, too, and drove to the Southern Tier of New York State.
Dan bought walkie-talkies so we could communicate. From time to time, he made her call me to tell me that I was driving too fast. I was aggravated then, but now this memory makes me smile.
I turned around, and it was time to say goodbye. In a cavernous dining hall in Binghamton, we embraced our lovely daughter whose tears mingled with ours.
We drove back home, a four hour trip, alternately crying and driving. Dan kept saying, “Just keep busy. It’s like a death…” I was annoyed by these words, but now I know he was right.
I turned around and my daughter was living on the other side of the continent. Our visits were happy occasions, but too far apart. Dan said, “At least she didn’t move to Alaska.” And that was our comfort.
I turned around and she became a professor at a University and found her soul mate and life partner.
I turned around, and Dan and I left our friends and family and moved to the land of “always summer.” We made a new life for ourselves and basked in the sunshine and warmth of friendships. Visits home were joyous and nostalgic.
I turned around and Dan was seriously ill with a life threatening disease. He recovered and we adjusted to our “new normal.”
I turned around and the unwanted visitor came to our door again. He forced his way in and sent our lives into a tailspin.
I turned around, and Dan was a man old before his time, emaciated, lying on his death bed in Hospice House. At first, he knew his life was ebbing away. There came a time when he no longer seemed to understand that, mercifully. But he clung to life like a baby to his mother. His days became a living death.
I turned around, and he was gone. And I was alone.
I turned around, and my life changed in ways I could not have foreseen.
There was a wedding in my family this past weekend—a celebration of and an affirmation that love does exist.
It was a wonderful weekend, bringing together family from both coasts and points south and west.
The bride and groom (my nephew) glowed with excitement and joy. It was obvious that they entered this marriage because they love one another and are committed to making a life together.
The wedding was distinctly theirs—it was held at a farm, outdoors, on a truly glorious day filled with soft breezes and sunshine. The guests gathered around the young couple in an arc to witness their vows and their love and connection. The presider at the wedding, an uncle of the groom, spoke wisely of the nature of marriage and the responsibility the family and friends bear in supporting the newly married couple.
Afterwards, there was delicious food, music and dancing. Like all really great weddings, people sang and dance, hugged and kissed, took photos of themselves and others and basked in the warmth of the marriage of two people who have melded their lives together. The young children who were welcomed at the celebration played together (even though they didn’t know one another) and added a lively note to the evening.
I like weddings because they are usually happy occasions with the essentials that make a great party: good food, dancing and an event to celebrate. They are an opportunity for all generations of a family to spend time together.
My family has had a rather difficult two years filled with loss— my husband and brother in addition to friends and a mother in-law and a sister in-law.
We delighted in the opportunity to be together to celebrate a joy filled occasion.
Thank God for weddings—and especially this one that was a celebration of life and allowed us to share memories, happy and sad, to be together free to laugh, sing, dance and love.
My daughter had a milestone birthday recently, she turned forty. What a wake –up call that was!
It made me wonder how I could have a forty year-old child. Can you even call a forty year old a child? And how did my kid get to be almost as old as me?
There’s something about becoming forty—it signals the start of a new stage in life. You’re still youthful, maybe even in some people’s minds, young. But you are (or should be) more mature and hopefully more established. Forty year old people are probably married or in a significant relationship, hopefully launched in a career, and able to look back on life experiences to aid in making decisions.
My forties were a great time in my life: my career was blooming and I think I may have looked my best, and my family was thriving.
I celebrated my fortieth birthday by having a big birthday party—by that point in my life I had dealt with several difficult situations, and I felt like I was finally truly an adult.
My daughter said that she was excited to be forty—and I was pleased to hear that. Instead of fighting it every inch of the way, she embraced it and was excited about celebrating this milestone.
Isn’t that what maturing should be? Looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead while celebrating the victories and accomplishments in the years leading up to the birthday you’re observing?
Why not go for the gusto?
So, I wish my daughter many more happy years.
And I hope that every future birthday is a celebration.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art