Our Sinister New Reality

 

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I watched my tv screen in horror and amazement yesterday as the latest school shooting in the USA unfolded.  It all looked sickeningly familiar, but there was a new element to the coverage this time.  The victims had all practised for this moment as if knowing its inevitability.  Doors closed, halls emptied, locks snapped and everyone held their breath.  First responders knew their roles very well.  Help evacuate, identify the injured, Triage, send to hospital. Parents were quickly told where they could reunite with their children off campus.  Of course, they were the lucky ones who could reunite.

So this is our new reality. It’s actually political theatre. The politicians who got us here know their roles too.  Prayers for the victims, condolences for the families and heavy praise for each other, all the while looking very sombre and hugging nearby colleagues.    Absent in yesterday’s coverage was any mention of gun control. 

“We are here for you,” says Florida governor Rick Scott.  “We are here for you,” says President Trump.

Hell no, you are NOT and please don’t pretend to be. If your words were true, we would not be in this mess.

The politicians and their cronies have successfully erased these two words from the earlier scripts of similar crises.  Calls for gun control have become increasingly muted in recent years.  Now they are completely absent.  Unbelievable.

The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

I don’t give a damn about anyone’s so-called rights to carry a weapon.  What I care deeply about is the right of an American child to go to school in the morning and come home in one piece at the end of the school day to her family. It’s fundamental, isn’t it?

This, you have heard before: That meaningful gun reform is possible, must be possible, because Australia and the U.K. suffered a single mass shooting and decided it could never happen again. That a majority of Americans can agree that some degree of gun reform is needed right now. That 150,000 children and young adults went to school at some point in the last two decades and found themselves trapped in the midst of mass murder.

This, you’ve also heard: That there is a way, must be a way, to get ourselves out of this, because no developed and civil and educated nation can sit and watch as its citizens are slaughtered, brutally and repeatedly. Surely. Surely

Bustle, Jenny Hollander

Can we just agree to call it unacceptable for our country to have been so hijacked by the demands of those so wedded to their guns and rifles that they can’t see what they’ve lost by holding on so tightly?

I have pledged to myself that I will take action that feels meaningful. It’s too easy to just turn away. There are lots of fine gun control organizations out there toiling away.  I’m going to do my research and give support where I feel it can make a difference.  Just maybe, if enough of us takes some similar action, it might shake up the status quo and terrifying hold that the NRA now has on all of us.

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Memories of Turkeys Past

NOte: The couple pictured here in no way resembles my parents! My Dad would not have worn a suit to his table and my Mom would not be caught dead in an apron. Not to mention the hair style!

My mother had been up cooking for hours.  I could smell the turkey roasting as I slowly transformed from sleeping to a semi wakeful state.  Thanksgiving!  A Big Day in my childhood household.  Still today, in my mind, pretty much a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.  A day that we Jews could fully participate in without an ounce or a quarter ounce of guilt. We did it up. Probably more whole heartedly than most.

Dad would be off early with his brother Charlie to see the annual Holyoke High School football game against Chicopee.  It would be all over by noon.

As I remember it now, the sun was always shining brightly in the chilly late November air.  There could be chance of snow, always slim, but possible. So much the better.  Songs always came to mind.  I could always get my mother to sing along with We Gather Together and I always liked Over the River and Through the Snow which had a nice New England touch.  Our house sat above the Connecticut River, so I could sing this with some conviction, just overlooking the fact that neither was there snow on the ground, nor did we ride around in horse drawn sleighs!old fashioned thanksgiving

My Mother was a pro when it came to hosting..  The menu was delicious, if predictable. The centerpiece of course was the free range turkey from one of Dad’s local farms.  The Butterball turkey era was having its day, but not at our house. You could also always count on  Pepperidge Farm stuffing, French green beans (from frozen package) topped with Liptons onion soup package.  This could have worked at any meal, but for reasons only my Mother knew, it was saved for Thanksgiving only.  The main course was completed with cranberry sauce out of a can and our past cleaning woman Ella’s sweet potatoes,topped with miniature marshmallows more candy than veggie, but that it made it all the delicious.

It was my job to set the table and mom always waited patiently for me to do it. The best linens covered the table, purchased years past in Portugal for just such an occasion.  I always had a few choice autumn leaves reserved for decoration and my brother’s first grade construction paper colored  turkey always made the centerpiece.  Small antique cups of nuts and candies, etc. would be strategically placed on tables around the house and a cooked shrimp wonder impaled on a plastic tree with cocktail sauce, was placed in the room we called the back den. Here shown with gum drops.

As is still the case, there were always some disputes as to when the turkey could be called “done!” One fine year, my Dad pulled out an electric carving knife to do the honors at the table.

This was the year’s latest gadget and all of the about to be eaters paid close attention. Dad made the most of it, but didn’t seem impressed with this newfangled invention.

My mother always collected a few useless aging batchelors to join our group.  Uncle Sam was not an uncle of ours, but a fixture at every gathering.  My father enjoyed needling him and he managed to tolerate Dad’s humor at his own expense.  He was no match for Dad’s sharp wit.  He didn’t even try.

Mudgie, the alcoholic butcher of the Elmwood Market might join us if he was sober. My mother’s sister Anne and family were regulars.  My uncle would always bring a precious bottle of Chateau Yquem wine he’d purchased by the case on a trip to France years earlier.  We weren’t a wine -with -dinner family, so I have no idea when or where it was consumed, but it was always presented as if it were the palace jewels.chateau yquem

Dinner was a jovial affair.  I cannot say I remember deserts which is unusual for me. I think the pies were probably from the Yankee Pedlar, an old fashioned New England restaurant in town, that had it’s own bakery. Their best pie as far as I was concerned, was their lemon chiffon.  My guess is that probably what was served.

These were the years before my daughter Susanna kept us supplied with her home baked pecan and apple pies.  They are always unforgettable. Family feuds have broken out over who gets to take the extras home.

Following dinner, the women automatically retired to the kitchen to tackle the mountain of dirty dishes; the men bundled up and went for a brief walk around the neighborhood to walk off some of the excess.

And so it was life long memories were made and now treasured.  This year’s gathering is constrained by covid. We all decided it was best that our NYC contingent not travel.  No added guests either.

My mind is busy at work planning a centerpiece.  We just were given two outdoor heat lamps which will make  separation of guests possible.    No previously frozen green beans, but I guarantee a generous slice of pecan and/or apple pie.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Go Joe Go!!

 

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When I finally heard the news I’d been waiting so long to hear, it barely registered as a little blip in my emotional response. It was as if I’d stepped on a small acorn and let out an equally small ouch! Not at all what I’d expected.

In truth, coping with the presidency of Donal Trump and cohorts took a lot of psychic energy.  What a strange and needy man he is. A tragedy, really.  He is so unfit for the office, and is capable of  creating such chaos and damage.

His win forced me back to bed, where I hoped my brain would assimilate the significance of this event, left to its own devices.  Ding dong the witch is dead did get off the soundtrack of my tired mind. While in the shower, Biden’s victory became more real.  I began to feel some buoyancy!  Maybe water was cleansing my damaged self.  God Bless America actually came to mind.  I toyed with the idea of recording a  video of myself howling all the patriotic songs I know which is to say most of them!  So far, I’ve restrained that impulse!  Yankee Doodle Dandy was a great musical number worth recalling that brings the right amount of light hearted pleasure..

Now,  I just want to shout out halleluyah!! Trump’s tenure has made me realize how much I care about our country.  Thanks for that, Donny boy.To watch our nation and all it stands for be systematically dismantled for years, was almost more than I could take.

So now I say, go joe, go!  Your work is going to be grueling and I’m sure disheartening at times.  Let us know what we can do to help you out.  We will recover and hopefully be smarter for the experience. I think you’re a good match for these times.

Of course, I’m with those who’ve wondered how this happened here?  I now know it can happen here and it did.  The pundits will be assessing the finer meanings of Trump’s  nasty tenure for years to come. Unfortunately, I’m sure that Team Trump will make life difficult for those trying to uphold the laws and traditions.

But at this moment, join me in a collective exhale. Break out the bunting. champagne too!!  We did dodge a bullet. May the wind be at our backs and our resolve be strong.  May we remember the importance of the Greater Good.  And, may I say with conviction,at this moment  I’m proud to be an American.  (that’s a song too albeit, not a good one).

I don’t know how long I’ll feel this way, however, I think if I had an American flag to fly right now, I’d hoist it up! At least for a day or so!

The Blouse

ONe fine day, as if out of nowhere, when I was about 9 or 10ish, there appeared in my closet a most exotic looking blouse. It caused the other blouses, hanging silently, to suddenly lose their self confidence in their own ability to attract my attention. They were simply outshone.

When I asked my mom about the blouse she simply said, one of their customers brought it in for us. My parents owned a neighborhood grocery store and all the customers were well known to us. My mom worked at the register and in the chatter that went between the customer and the register clerk, they got to know each other pretty well. She was told the blouse was from Russia.

Halloween was approaching. My mind excitedly put together the makings of this year’s costume. I would be a gypsy! That meant I would be laden with jewelry, golden earrings and whatever else I could add to look fabulous as I tricked or treated in my working class Western Mass. neighborhood. It was a given that I could wear as much makeup as I could slather on. The images of myself in this outfit were very appealing, hinting at an exotic , dazzling, wild far away world that I could inhabit, if only for a night.


Hanging on a hook in the closet was a perfect prop; a tambourine I’d used for a dance I’d done a few years past. It was covered with dozens of narrow pastel silk ribbons tied around the wooden rim. Their flutter was very satisfying.  Add it to the tingle of the metal jingles and you had a very satisfying instrument in your hands that required little technique to play.

So it began that I was a gypsy for Halloween for several years to come. To tell the truth, I don’t recall any of my neighbors commenting on my great beauty as they opened their doors to offer me candy. I was slightly saddened by that lack of recognition, but nevertheless I persisted each year and remained the eternal gypsy. The blouse remained in my closet for many years as a reminder of the possibility of transformation. from quiet schoolgirl to smart ass slut wannabe.

Then a few days ago as I was casually perusing the internet in the midst of covid boredom/fatigue, I spotted Ukranian blouses for sale.  Lot of them!  Mostly all, embroidered to the hilt.  I found myself wondering if I could still wear such a fabulous blouse as I now approach my 8th decade?  What would I wear it with?  I ruled out carrying a tambourine.I haven’t placed an order.Yet!

 

Aha!

One of the earliest lessons I was inadvertently taught was that the truth can be flexible.  I learned it in the first grade when I was unceremoniously plucked from the line of first graders walking home for lunch from school.   I was made  to walk home with the kindergarteners line.  I remember crying from humiliation and shame.

It was my parents’ fault because they lied about my age to get me into kindergarten.  They decided I was ready. I was ready.  Unfortunately,  another parent let the truth about me be known and the powers that be set me back where I belonged age-wise.   My parents fought the ruling to no avail, but ultimately changed townships so that I would not be set back. My easy going father even had a stiff drink or two before he went to argue my case to the school’s principal. The bureaucracy wouldn’t budge.

I was always the youngest in my class when I moved back to school in my hometown. It was never a problem for me. Following that incident, the city decided to require birth certificates before a child could enter kindergarten. A wise move.

Fast forward 7.5 decades and my old school friends are now turning 80 this summer and fall, if they hadn’t already.  My Big Day doesn’t arrive until mid January.  I think most of us are a little shell shocked.  It’s given me lots of time to prepare for my own celebration or non celebration.  Covid has cast some confusion about making a decision .

A few days ago, as I was looking for inspiration, Rabbi Ted Falcon of Seattle, during his streaming Rosh Hashonah service, talked about Aha! moments in daily life.  He got my attention immediately as he suggested that a wise response to the world during these difficult times is to mark the Aha!’s we encounter during the average day. The key is to pay attention and be present to life and its wonders.  The times have been so chaotic and dismal it’s been very easy to overlook the still miraculous  faces of life on our planet.

I interpreted his suggestion to use the Aha moments as a mantra.  It can bring our addled minds back to the present and the miraculous.  I discovered that the miraculous has not gone away. JUst still patiently doing it’s thing on the sidelines of a more publicized show.

So today, I began to pay attention to things that were aha’s and were often right in front of me, largely unnoticed..  It wasn’t difficult.Covid and election concerns left the spotlight easily.

On the cusp of autumn I discovered the first bit of color showing on the buds of my camelia tree, planted by my front door. Winter in waiting.The caps of a few acorns were left as a reminder that the squirrels had most likely gotten to the nuts themselves, courtesy of our old giant oak trees in the yard. The bark, sensually curled around the branches of some eucalyptus shrubs in our front yard. unable or unwilling to cut loose just yet. The newly revealed branch looked as if someone had spent hours just sanding and buffing it down for our appreciation. Peek-a-boo.

I can easily admit that my almost 80 year old memory for words and names  is not ready for primetime.  But, with some patience, the words find their way to the surface.  It can be frustrating, but I can live with it, as long as I give my own brain a little retrieval space.

A few months ago, if I was seated on the floor,I found it almost impossible  to rise to a standing position. It was demoralizing.  I quickly told myself, ” This just the beginning of the end of a useful body.”  Not so fast, Dianne.  With the help of a personal trainer, I got that ability back fairly quickly. It’s the old  use it or lose it theory.

I’ve also improved my ability to tolerate unbusyness.  Thank you, covid.  It’s now ok not to be doing something 100% of the time. I cannot say to myself or others  anymore, “I”m too busy to do that.”  The truth is, I am most decidedly NOT busy and enjoying it as well.  At least some of the time.

I can say to options, I’m too old to want to do that.  That includes getting into a bathing suit and shaving my legs on a regular basis.  It also includes getting as tan as I can, because I now know it’s not much fun to have skin growths removed.

So welcome, Autumn.  If I’m lucky I’ll be able to give this 8th decade some direction.Let’s see how far we can take it.  Since I learned at an early age that lying is a risky business, I’ll do my best to tell the truth and paint a realistic picture of coming to terms with advancing age.

Each day, until I grow sick of it, I will look for an inspiring Aha! moment to share.  Please consider sharing yours as well.  Stay well and stay sane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Downfall of the Bright Red Petticoat

I can see it still as if it’s hanging in my closet.  The cherry red taffeta petticoat, trimmed with narrow black lace at the hem and hips.  The single button at the waist.  The way the petticoat  made my princess styled dress stand out perfectly from the waist.  It accentuated what nature provided to a 13 year old, a slim tiny waist, not yet trashed by four pregnancies. One long zipper hugged my young body from the neckline to mid-hips.  I thought I looked adorable. In fact, I knew I looked adorable.  Was I going to a dance or party?  No, just on my way to High Holiday services at our temple.

My mother upped the ante for the high holidays and their importance.  Observation of them by attending religious services was a given.  As was a new dress.  If you were a grown woman, put a new hat in the mix. The fancier the better.   Remember this was the 1950’s. Any idea that I might not want to attend services was kept to myself.

There were separate really dull services for children downstairs in the social hall.  The synagogue itself was reserved for adults.

The best things about the synagogue interior were the stained glass windows which I liked to look at. It felt a lot more spiritual than the downstairs generic social hall.The services themselves were boring for me.I did like the moments when the congregation rose together to sing the shema prayer.  the Shema is recited aloud as: Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD is our God, the LORD is One.” The literal word meanings are roughly as follows: Sh’ma: literally means listen, heed, or hear and do.

The little bit of Hebrew I understood allowed me to put my whole self into this short prayer, feeling as if I were a real Jew. I always sang out lustily. It always moved me to the point of getting tears in my eyes.  That’s one of life’s mysteries.

a window at Sons of Zion synagogue in Holyoke, Mass.

Half of the congregation walked out of the sanctuary to take a break after the Rabbi’s sermon. The adult women strolled out with all their holiday finery of display, a few flaunting mink stoles, nodding and waving to everyone they knew who was still seated.

Strategically, to miss the crowd, I decided to walk out a little sooner than everyone else. I guess I wanted the stage for myself.  I was the only moving thing in the one main aisle.  Feeling pretty good about myself, I began the fairly long trek to the back door of the sanctuary.  About ⅓ of the way, I sneezed loudly.  I immediately felt the single button at the waist pop off! Many eyes turned to look.  The red petticoat began to slide down my legs immediately with nothing to stop it.  I grasped at my dress as it slid lower and lower. No matter how hard I clutched my dress,  I couldn’t stop the petticoat’s  ultimate descent.

By the time the petticoat reached my ankles, I was compelled to face reality, or trip on the damn thing and fall on my face.  Nearing the end of the aisle, I stopped, let the petticoat drop, bent over, stepped out of it  and swept it up over my arm to carry it out the door as if that’s what I’d intended all along.   I dare not look at the parishioners to see if anyone was watching. I remember being horrified, but quickly thought it was funny. For the remainder of the morning service, the petticoat was over my arm.

There were no cameras to record the incident, but I’ve never forgotten it.  Maybe an early lesson on the foolishness of vanity?

Each year, when the High Holidays roll around, I remember the bright red petticoat. It was only worn once.

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