The Bus Stop

The Bus Stop

May was rocking back and forth at the bus stop.  The butterflies in her stomach smoothed out for a few seconds when one of the other girls admired her new, pink, canvas shoes with blue laces.  May loved how her shoes matched her dress and the ribbons in her hair.

No matter how bus 4many times she changed schools, the first day didn’t get any easier.  May was hoping she would be at Sterling Elementary for more than a few months.  May’s father moved her and her mother around when neighbors were too friendly or too nosy.  “It’s time for a change,” he would say.  She counted the schools on her fingers; five schools in two years.

May’s eyes welled up with tears as she climbed onto the bus, her head spinning with questions.  Would anyone sit next to her?  Would she find any friends at school?  Would the teacher be nice?  Would she be smart enough to keep up?  Turning back, looking at her mother, May pleaded with her eyes, Please don’t make me go.  Her mother, Ellen, waved and blew May a kiss.

As the bus pulled away, three mothers crossed the street, headed for home.  Kim suggested they get together for coffee since they lived so close to one another.

Nora said, “I have to get home.  My husband is watching the baby and waiting for me to get back so he can go to work.”
Ellen thanked Kim, and said in a voice, barely above a whisper, “My husband is waiting for his breakfast.” Ellen looked at her watch and started home.

* * *

Ellen was allowed outside the apartment, unescorted, twice a day.  She walked May to and from the bus stop.  Nick, Ellen’s husband, knew down to the minute how long the journey took.  If she was gone a minute longer, there would be hell to pay.

Those few minutes in the morning and afternoon were the only time Ellen was alone with May.  After school, May did her homework while Ellen prepared dinner.  After dinner, Ellen would check May’s work, give her a bath then read to May before tucking her in for the night.  With Ellen’s sleeves rolled up during bath time, May could tell when new bruises appeared.  The two never talked about the bruises or the shouting when her father thought May was asleep.

One day, on the way to the bus stop May said wistfully, “Momma, maybe someday we can both get on the bus and never come back.”

“We have nowhere to go honey, no one to stay with,” Ellen said in a small voice.  But May’s suggestion started Ellen thinking.

That evening, Ellen ripped a sheet of paper from May’s notebook when they were going over homework.  The next morning she walked onto the bus and slipped the driver a note whispering, “Please read this later.”

* * *

The next day, the bus driver motioned for Ellen to come onto the bus. He slipped her a piece of paper.  Ellen read the note, looked into the bus driver’s warm eyes. With the smallest of movements she nodded her head.  The driver put another note in her hand.  Ellen stepped off the bus and waved to May as usual.

During bath time, Ellen told May to pick a toy to take to school for show and tell the next day.  May started listing her stuffed animals.  “Which one should I take Momma?”

“Which is your favorite?” Ellen asked.

May smiled, “Bunny.”  Her smile was quickly replaced with a frown.  In a small, sad voice May asked her mother, “Is dad moving us again?”

“No Mbus 5ay, dad is not moving us again.”  Ellen didn’t want to lie to May, but she was afraid to tell her about the plan for the next day.  Nick might overhear them.  May might say something to give it away.

* * *

In the morning, Ellen left the note the bus driver had given her on the kitchen counter as she and May left for the bus stop.  The note was from May’s teacher “reminding” her to come to school the next day to help in the classroom.

Ellen and May hung back as all of the other kids hopped on the bus.  It was a different bus driver than usual.  Holding on to May’s shoulders to keep her hands from shaking, Ellen looked at him, pleading with her eyes.  Gesturing toward the first row, he said “Come.  Sit behind me.”

Heart racing, Ellen kept looking over her shoulder as the bus pulled away.  What if Nick read the note before she was expected back?  He would pull her and May off the bus.  They would be moved out of the apartment by dinner time.  Nick was always planning two moves ahead.

As the bus drove off, Nora and Kim looked at one another.  “I wonder what that’s all about,” Kim said.

“I don’t know,” Nora replied, “but don’t you think it’s odd that May had a stuffed animal, and they both looked like they had on too many clothes for such a nice day.”

“Wasn’t that a substitute bus driver?  I have never seen that man before,” Kim added.

* * *

The bus made a few more stops to pick up kids.  When the driver pulled into the bus lane at May’s school, he told Ellen and May to wait for the others to leave.  Once everyone else was gone, he said, “Slouch down so no one can see you.”

May knew that something was happening.  She also knew not ask any questions.  She held tight to her mother’s hand clutching Bunny in the other.

“Remember how you wanted to get on the bus together and go away?  The bus driver is going to take us to a special place.  Somewhere safe,” Ellen whispered, trying to keep May from getting upset.  Several blocks away from the school, the driver let them know it was okay to sit up again.  bus 7

After a twenty minute ride from May’s school, the bus pulled into the parking lot of a plain looking building.  The driver turned to Ellen and May.  “My name is Dan.  I volunteer at The Haven.  It just so happens I used to drive a bus and I still have my license.  Once inside you will meet with an advocate who will ask you a lot of questions.  If anyone can help you, this is the place, these are the people.”

Hanging tightly onto May’s hand, Ellen entered the shelter.  “Welcome, my name is Tina; let’s go talk about how to make sure you two ladies are safe.”

bus 6

 

The Cone Zone

The Cone Zone

Summer Sojourn 2016, Part Two

Of the six states and two continents I have called home, Kentucky is byky roads far the plushest and greenest of them all.  The rolling hills, narrow country roads covered by a canopy of trees and lined with fences speak of a gentle life style.

Both Lexington, Kentucky and Gainesville, Florida claim to be the “horse capital of the world.”  I’m not sure about the rest of the world, but between the two, Lexington wins, hands down.

* * *

Heading north on I75, just before you cross the Ohio River, a spectacular view of Cincinnati appears on the horizon.  Take a good look.  It doesn’t last long and it beats the view from ground level as you drive through. Once out of the Greater Cincinnati Area, Ohio is basically flat.

Ohio – it should be named “The state of Perpetual Road Construction.”  Orange cones, barrels and signs of “road work ahead” abound.  I intentionally did the drive on a Sunday to avoid construction slowdowns.  For the most part, it was a good strategy.

I’ve been travelling this stretch of road for decades.  One of my favorite land marks used to be “Big Butter Jesus” until it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

If you have never seen this edifice, the best description can be found in the following song on YouTube:  Before the fire…  I apologize in advance if you find it sacrilegious.

After the fire, a new last verse was written to the song and can be viewed here:  After the fire…  Fast-forward to the end.  It is worth it!

* * *

Michigan, My Michigan!  The very minute you cross the state line it’s hard not to notice how much more aggressively people drive here.  Keep your wits about you, an eye on your side mirrors and another on the rearview mirror.

I suspect there are more cars than people in Michigan.  One person may own an everyday car to get to work, a vanity car, and an SUV or truck to pull a boat or RV.  One word of advice:  plan your north- and southbound trips to avoid the masses migrating “up north” to their cottage/cabin on Friday and returning home/south on Sunday.

Michigan is also known for the prevalence of construction zones lined with orange cones and barrels.  The local news report includes a “Cone Zone” advisory.  With all of the construction going on you would think the roads would be in better condition.  The hard winters and number of cars on the road do take their toll.

And so as Part Two of the Summer Sojourn unfolds, I leave you with this from the Mitten State.

Welcome to Michigan Sign at State Border
AJ7400 Welcome to Michigan Sign at State Border
The Slow Lane

The Slow Lane

On the first leg of my summer sojourn I witnessed many types of fearlessness.  So this is less of a story and more of a travel log of the first four states on my journey.

us 19I left my home in Florida, north bound traveling the back roads.  Once off U.S. 19, a four-lane divided highway, it was two-lane country roads into Georgia.  A road sign indicating a town was often followed by a blinking light, no commerce, no residential district in sight.  No sign of civilization as far as the eye could see.

Fearless are those who have chosen to live on the road less traveled.  Where do they shop for groceries?  How often do they make the trek?  Do they have large gardens and farm animals for food?  Are they lonely?  Why have they chosen such an isolated existence?

* * *

One consistent sight along north Florida and southern Georgia roads was the plethora of Baptist churches.  Most were small, white buildings with steeples, the kind ybaptist churchou see in movies, very picturesque.  No two of them were of the same denomination.

Fearless were the missionaries who blanketed the south propagating the faith.  What was their motivation?  What population were they targeting?  Could there have been enough money to keep so many congregations alive?  How do they all still survive?

* * *

Once I joined fellow travelers on I 75 no words can describe the antics of fearless drivers on the road.  They seem to have no value for their own life or the lives of anyone around them.  What is waiting for them at the end of their trip?  It must be something special to risk everything to get there a few minutes sooner.

i 75
They send me to the slow lane, fearful I might be caught in bumper to bumper traffic crawling past them, their car crushed on the side of the road.  Hopefully no one will be injured.

* * *

Tcowswo fearless cows, one brown and one white, pushed their noses out the trailer window.  Traveling 70 mph, face in the wind must have been exhilarating for them.  Or maybe they just wanted some fresh air.  It was a comical sight I wish I could have caught on camera.

 

* * *

Are animals that try to cross a major interstate fearless or merely unaware of the danger they are in?  When they don’t make it, the fearless carrion birds show up, risking their lives for a fresh meal

* * *

Fearless were the crews thatt road 2 blasted through mountains to build the roads in Tennessee.  Not to be outdone by man, Mother Nature shows her fearless side in the plants and trees growing out of the rocks bordering the interstate.

 

* * *

On a respite in Kentucky, I am once again struck by the fearless beauty of the horse farms; miles and miles of fences.  Pastures glow sporting thirty shades of green.  Horses strut and gallop with fearless grace and glee.

horse farm

* * *

If you are fearless enough to leave home and bask in the beauty of this great country we live in, your efforts will be rewarded may times over.  You don’t have to go far.  Just look around you.  See the beauty you have driven by so many times before.  Look for the unexpected in the ordinary.

Go fearlessly on your journey.  I recommend the slow lane.

 

The End of the Line

Father’s Day always brings to mind one of the most fearless people I know, Raymond F Barry, my dad.  He was proud of his service as a Staff Sergeant in the Army during World War II.  Originally stationed at Clark Field on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, he spent thirty-four months as a prisoner of war.  He didn’t talk about it very often.  He did however save articles, books, photos and letters.

raymond barry

I would like to share two excerpts from a memory book about his service.  This first piece is taken from “History of Cabanatuan Prison Camp 1942-1945” written by Maj. Gen. Chester L. Johnson, US Army.

On April 9, 1942, some 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers and prisoners of the Japanese, captured on Bataan began the infamous “Death March” out of the Bataan Peninsula to central Luzon.

After being forced to march the 85 miles to San Fernando, under the most inhuman conditions, the prisoners were forced into small freight cars and hauled to the town of Capas, which was 45 miles away, in the hot sun with the doors to the freight car closed.  From Capas they were forced to march the final 8 miles to the Camp O’Donnell POW camp.

Weakened from four months of continuous combat, living on starvation rations and minimal or no medical attention, thousands of men died on the death march, in the freight cars and at Camp O’Donnell.

After the fall of Corregidor and the Manilla Bay Fortress islands on May 6, 1942, 16,000 Filipinos and American servicemen were ferried to Manilla.

The American POW’s were marched through the streets of Manilla…as a show for the Filipino civilians.  The American POW’s were shipped by train to Cabanatuan where the Japanese had established an American POW compound.

American POW’s in Cabanatuan were assigned to work on a farm…all the work performed was hard labor…the results were that in a 30-month period, 3,000 died at Cabanatuan alone.

These POW’s died from disease, executions, beatings and starvations.  It should be noted that more Americans died at Cabanatuan than any other prison camp since Andersonville in the Civil War.

In October and November of 1944, the Japanese moved able bodied POW’s to Manilla…Only about 500 American POW’s judged too ill or too crippled to work were left behind in Cabanatuan.

On January 30th, 1945 at 7:45 p.m. An American team of 100 Rangers…along with two small Alamo Scout teams (22 men in all)…in a totally successful surprise attack liberated the camp.

* * *

In Dad’s own words:

freight car

After walking five days without food, this (boxcar) is what is waiting for us at San Fernando.  We were squeezed into these small cars and hauled to a town called Cabas which was about forty-five miles away, in the hot sun with the doors closed.  The trip lasted five hours.  Some prisoners succeeded in opening holes in the sides of the car to let in fresh air.  We were weak, tired and sick.  I can’t describe the feeling, to be treated worse than cattle by a stranger who does not know you, and hates you bitterly.  From Capas it was about an eight mile walk to Camp O’Donnell.  Another Death Trap.  This surely was the end of the line.

* * *

It wasn’t the end of the line.  He was moved to Cabanatuan, worked on the farm, buried the dead, and eventually was left behind with those too ill to work.

Dad returned home legally blind from malnutrition and suffered other health issues throughout his life.

He was married to the same woman for 58 years, raised four relatively normal children and lived to be 86.  Along the way he earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Michigan and taught school for 24 years.

As a side note:  Near the end of Dad’s life, while in the Veterans’ Hospital, one of the Rangers on the team that liberated Cabanatuan was in the same facility.  He would stop by dad’s room every day to ask he needed anything.  He felt responsible for the life he saved.

And so on this Father’s Day, I salute you Staff Sergeant Raymond F Barry for your fearless determination to survive, your fearless dedication to your family and friends, your fearless insistence on the importance of getting an education, and your fearless guidance that serves me still.

Happy Father’s Day from Your Favorite (and only) Daughter

Gone Fishing

Gone Fishing

Seven-year old James opened the door on the bungalow-style home, a teddy bear with one eye dangling from his hand.  “Granny, a lady’s here for you,” he shouted.

A tall, stately woman, shoulders heavy with the burden she carried, walked toward the open door, “Can I help you miss?”

“Hello.  Mrs. Singer?  My name is Honor Williams, the Hospice volunteer you asked for.”

“Come in.  James, go play in your room.  Granny’s  got a visitor.”

Honor followed Mrs. Singer into the living room and sat on the sofa next to a mound of laundry waiting to be folded and put away.

“Why are you here?” Mrs. Singer asked impatiently.  Dark circles framed her eyes.  Heartbreak and sadness hung heavy in the dimly lit room.

“My Hospice supervisor, Sister Anne, asked me to visit you.  She said you requested a volunteer.  I thought she told you I would be here today.”

“What you can do?” Mrs. Singer sighed.  “So many people been coming and going, I can’t keep straight who does what.”

“I can help in a number of ways depending on what’s need.  I can visit with the patient, read to her and keep her company.  I can stay with her while you go out to shop, run errands, take care of James, or whatever you want to do.  I can grocery shop for you, do laundry, cook, anything to help out.”

“I didn’t ask for help.  Maybe Etta did.  She’s the one who’s sick.”

Steadying herself on the arm of the chair, Mrs. Singer stood up and gestured, “Follow me.”  She opened a bedroom door at the back of the house and stood to the side while Honor entered, “Etta, your visitor is here.”

The temperature in the small room registered ten degrees higher than the hallway. Etta sat propped up in bed, eyes closed, waif-like body barely visible beneath the sheet.

Etta waited for the door to close and the sound of her mother’s footsteps to fade away before opening her eyes to speak.  “Sit,” she said, pointing to the straight back chair across from the hospital bed.

“Hello Etta, my name is Honor, a volunteer with Hospice.  What can I do for you today?”

“Can you read to me?  My vision seems to be going,” Etta mumbled.

“Sure, anything in particular you want me to read?”

“You’ll find some prayer books on the dresser. Bring em to me.”  Etta picked out a favorite.  The book fell open to a well-worn page, stained finger prints on the ragged corners.  “Start here.  Read real slow, the sound of the words gives me some peace.”

As Hope read, Etta’s breathing took on an easier rhythm, her body relaxed and she closed her eyes.  Hope sensed Etta was listening to the words as her head nodded and the corners of her mouth turned up. Fifteen minutes later Etta fell asleep, one hand over her heart.

Hope found Mrs. Singer in the kitchen.  “Etta’s sleeping and seems to be resting peacefully.  Anything I can do for you while I’m here?”

“No.  When do you think you’ll be back?”

“That’s up to you and Etta. How about I visit again in a couple of days.”

“Fine. I have to take James to a doctor’s appointment on Thursday.  Can you be here by nine thirty?”

“Nine thirty on Thursday it is.  See you then.”

* * *

Hope visited Etta three times a week.  As they got used to one another, the two talked about places they had been, movies they had seen, favorite hymns and former boyfriends.  With each visit Hope watched Etta slip away, weak from lying in bed, her appetite all but disappeared, her skin ashen, and her breathing labored.

Conversation became too much for Etta. Hope went back to reading from prayer books.  One Friday Etta reached out placing a hand on Hope’s arm, her eyes watering, expressing emotions too deep to put into words.

“You’re welcome,” Hope whispered and kissed Etta on the forehead.

As Etta drifted off to sleep, Hope tip-toed from the room to find Mrs. Singer.  “She’s resting now, so I’m going to leave.  Call me if you need anything.  I’ll be back Monday.”

“I think shfishing 5e will pass soon,” Etta’s mother said, hands grasping the kitchen counter, her knuckles white.  “Last night I dreamt Etta’s daddy came for her.  She loved that man.  He spoiled her something awful.  They would go fishing before dawn and come back after dark.  Not once did they bring any fish home.  Never could figure out what they did all day.  He passed five years ago.  I think he misses his fishing buddy.”

Sister Anne called Hope that evening to tell her Etta died in her sleep clutching a picture of her and her father fishing off the pier on her seventh birthday.

“Mrs. Singer wanted me to tell you Etta’s ‘gone fishing’.  She said you would understand.”

fishing 2

 

 

Eight Daring Women

Eight Daring Women

I spent last weekend in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with seven of my new best friends.  Our purpose:  explore and respond to our soul’s whisper and heart’s desire.  The journey within can be more fearful than traveling to the most remote corners of the world.  Here is my ode to my fellow travelers.

Eight daring women step into the arena.

Four stalwart horses stand at attention, electric with anticipation.

Eight daring heartbeats racing, pulsing through the sultry, arid ether.

Eight daring women eye-to-eye with one-thousand pound sentient beings.

Eight daring women exposed and vulnerable.

Eight daring women open to the possibilities.

Eight daring women supporting one another through tears and laughter.

Eight daring women forever changed.

horses 2

 

Thank you Beth Bryce, my fellow travelers and my two equine teachers, Dandi and Lilly, for helping me understand the importance of stillness and letting my bright light shine.

Red Red Robin

Red Red Robin

“Good morning Zelda.  How are you feeling today?”

“Blue skies and sunshine.  Today is going to be a good day Marcie.”  Zelda gazed over the memory garden outside her window.

“Six American Robins are in the garden, or as I like to say, eating off the breakfast buffet.  Earthworms are on the menu, as usual.  Later they will be all over the berry bushes.  I wish I had half their appetite.”

“If it’s worms you want, I can ask the gardener dig some up for you,” Marcie said as she adjusted the pillows propping Zelda in her day-chair.  “Anything you want, name it.”

“A cup of tea is all for now,” Zelda uttered.

Marcie straightened the sheets on Zelda’s bed, cleaned the nightstand and poured fresh water in Zelda’s cup, no ice.

Marcie touched Zelda on the arm to pull her attention back to the present moment.  “I’ll prepare your tea now; you sure I can’t tempt you with a biscuit or some fruit?”

Zelda moved her head from side to side.  “I might try some fruit later, when the robins come back for their afternoon meal.”

robin 3

Marcie set the delicate china teacup on the table next to Zelda.  “I brought you a couple of crackers if your appetite returns .  They’re probably not as tasty as earthworms, but I wish you would put a little something in you tummy.  Why the fascination with robins?” Marcie asked scanning the room.

“I was born in 1926, the year Al Jolson recorded When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along.  My momma said I acted like a baby robin from the very beginning.  My head would bob up and down any time someone payed me any attention.  One time momma told me she wished she had named me Robin instead of Zelda for her grandmother.  Momma called me Robin until day she passed.  I knew I was in trouble or something important was happening if she called me Zelda.”

Marcie sat in the visitors’ chair and placed her hands on Zelda’s face, “I like the name Zelda.  It suits you.   Zelda comes from the Yiddish name Selig, meaning blessed or happy.  You light up the room with your smile.   Anyone who visits knows how blessed you are.  Look at all the family photos around the room.  And so many pictures of robins.  Where did they all come from?”

“I taught second grade for thirty years.  My granddaughter put something on Facebook about my being in Hospice.  Seems she asked anyone who passed through my classroom to send a note or something to cheer me up.  My class put on a skit and sang When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobin’ Along for the school talent show every year.  We painted bird houses for art class and observed baby robins hatch and learn to fly.  Anyway, ever since, not a day goes by without picture or something in the mail from one of my students.”

* * *

“Up for some visitors Zelda?”

Marcie ushered in a dozen second graders and a teacher from the elementary school down the street.

“Hello Mrs. Schmidt.  I’m Sue Thompson, I teach second grade at Pierson Elementary.  I don’t know if you remember me.  You were my second grade teacher.  I wanted to grow up to be just like you.  I got my love of nature and birds from you.  My students would like to perform their piece for the school talent show if that’s alright with you.”

Happy tears streamed down Zelda’s cheeks as the students sang When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobin’ Along.  Mrs. Thompson set out a tray of fruit for the kids to share with Zelda and Hospice staff.

Zelda turned her gaze to the window.   She smiled, watching the robin family chowing down at the berry buffet in the garden.  Zelda picked up a piece of watermelon and took a bite.


Two versions of When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along for your pleasure

Al Jolson – When the Red red Robn Comes Bob Bob Bobin’ Along

Children’s Chorus – When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobin’ Along


robin 4

For those interested in learning a little about robins, here you go…

Source:  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin

The quintessential early bird, American Robins are common sights on lawns across North America, where you often see them tugging earthworms out of the ground. Robins are popular birds for their warm orange breast, cheery song, and early appearance at the end of winter. Though they’re familiar town and city birds, American Robins are at home in wilder areas, too, including mountain forests and Alaskan wilderness.

American Robins are fairly large songbirds with a large, round body, long legs, and fairly long tail. Robins are the largest North American thrushes, and their profile offers a good chance to learn the basic shape of most thrushes.

American Robins are industrious and authoritarian birds that bound across lawns or stand erect, beak tilted upward, to survey their environs. When alighting they habitually flick their tails downward several times. In fall and winter they form large flocks and gather in trees to roost or eat berries.

American Robins are common across the continent in gardens, parks, yards, golf courses, fields, pastures, tundra, as well as deciduous woodlands, pine forests, shrublands, and forests regenerating after fires or logging.

Look for American Robins running across lawns or stalking earthworms in your yard or a nearby park. Since robins sing frequently, you can find them by listening for their clear, lilting musical whistles. In winter they may disappear from your lawn but could still be around. Look for flocks of them in treetops and around fruiting trees, and listen for their low cuck notes.

Cool Facts

An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.

Although robins are considered harbingers of spring, many American Robins spend the whole winter in their breeding range. But because they spend more time roosting in trees and less time in your yard, you’re much less likely to see them. The number of robins present in the northern parts of the range varies each year with the local conditions.

Robins eat a lot of fruit in fall and winter. When they eat honeysuckle berries exclusively, they sometimes become intoxicated.

Robin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a quarter-million birds during winter. In summer, females sleep at their nests and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults go to the roosts only after they have finished nesting.

Exit Stage Left

Exit Stage Left

I walked out from behind the curtain, found my mark on stage and delivered my line.  As I turned to take my exit, the audience broke out in laughter.  I was paralyzed. It was the first time performing for a live audience.  I wasn’t prepared for their reaction.

I played the maid in George Washington Slept Here, the basis for the television show Green Acres.  I was comic relief inside a comedy.

Summer Theater was a six credit course at Central Michigan University.  Two directors were staging three productions.  They required every student to work on two shows.  We submitted our credits and read some lines.

I loved my backstage experiences, making sets, sewing costumes, calling light cues from the booth, and changing sets between scenes.  I had no desire to perform on stage.

stage 2

Assignments were posted on the bulletin board.  Stage Manager for Our Town, that makes sense.  (Jeff Daniels played the lead.)  But my name next to a stage role, surely it was a mistake.  My eyes flew open, I held my breath.  Dr. Smith, the Director, can fix this, he must fix this.  I begged, pleaded, bargained.  It was not optional.  He wanted me for that role.

In George Washington Slept Here I had maybe two lines.  No big deal, until the audience reacted.  I knew then, for certain, that the theater was not calling to me.  It was my first last and only acting experience, or was it.

In my career(s) as a trainer, consultant, yoga teacher, fundraiser, and community development speaker I put myself in front of one audience after another for decades.  It may not qualify as acting, but I was most certainly always performing a role.

stage 3

 

Nana’s Magic Canning Jars

Nana’s Magic Canning Jars

After a brisk opening day at The Magic Canning Jar Diner, I barely felt my tired feet and achy back when I turned the sign on the door to Closed.  A reporter from the local paper remained in a booth at the back waiting for an interview. I poured us both a cup of coffee and let out a long sigh as I sat down.

“Are you sure you want to do this now?  I can come back later in the week,” the reporter said.

Let’s do this now. I don’t think business is going to slow down anytime soon, at least I hope not.

The reporter began the interview by turning on her recorder and asked permission to tape our conversation.

“Start with how you came up with the name of the restaurant and the unusual menu.”

I give my grandmother credit for the name and the menu.  Friday was always Nana Day.  She would pick me up from school for an afternoon of no rules and special treats ending in a sleep over.

Mom would say watching the two of us giggle, heads together, “I can’t tell the adult from the child.”

Nana lined the top shelf in her pantry with canning jars filled with everything from homemade jam to pickled eggs.  All the jars were numbered and Nana moved the numbers around every few weeks.

I had two favorite jars.  Nana kept one filled with chocolate.  She liked to buy candy on sale so you might find Easter candy in October and Halloween candy in April.  The wrapper didn’t matter; the treat inside delighted no matter the season.

My other favorite jar we filled with activities to do together. We each wrote ideas on slips of paper and put them in the jar. On a cold, rainy Friday in November, I reached into the activity jar and pulled out a slip in Nana’s handwriting.

“Camp-in. Don’t you mean camp-out Nana?”

“No, a Camp-in is perfect for a day like today, follow me,” Nana said with a tilt of her head.

Nana opened the linen closet in the hallway and started pulling down blankets and sheets.  We hauled them into the living room to build a fort over the furniture. We filled our fort with pillows, stuffed animals, flashlights, games and my favorite books.

After a couple of hours reading, singing and playing games I asked Nana, “What’s for dinner?”

With a lift her eyebrows and a twinkle in her eyes she asked, “How about a canning jar mystery meal?”

I’m sure I made my pickle-puss face, “Oh no.  Remember what happened last time Nana?  We ate those nasty beets, sauerkraut and pickles.”

Nana smiled, “Pick three numbers between one and thirty.  I’ll go to the pantry and bring back our feast.”

I crossed my fingers, trying to remember the number on the chocolate jar.  “Sixteen, twenty seven and thirty.”

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Nana went to the pantry and came back with the jars I selected.

“Pizza sauce, brussel sprouts and banana peppers,” I groaned.

Nana always made the best of things. That night we made pizza bagels and used the brussel sprouts and banana peppers as toppings.

Nana days and the magic canning jars taught me to eat all kinds of food.  I learned how to combine foods that don’t seem like they belong together.  And that’s how the diner got its name.

Grinning, I added, “If you select three magic numbers I’ll whip up something memorable.”

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear

Retro-Fear.  I made that up, I think. Naiveté often looks like fearlessness. Or, “If I knew then what I know now, I might not have (insert act of fearlessness.)”

It all began with a lie, the decision to leave Atlantic City and move to New York City (NYC).

My boss sat on the other side of his desk and lied to my face. Unaware I knew the truth about the possibility of moving from the training department to the marketing department, he told me the job was a demotion and paid less money.

I’d met with the Vice-President of Merchandising beforehand to work out the details. Writing marketing copy seemed much more interesting than writing training manuals.

My boss lied to me.  I was sick to my stomach.  I pressed my lips together and took a deep breath.

Asking my boss to inquire about the job opening was a courtesy and the politically correct thing to do. Calling him on his lie would have been political suicide for me and put others in harm’s way. So I held my tongue.

Back at my desk, fuming on the inside, steam coming out my ears, I vowed to be gone in thirty days.

My college roommate lived in NYC. I called to find out if she knew anyone needing a roommate. She was looking for a new apartment and needed a roommate.  We hatched a plan.

I used vacation time and weekends to look for an apartment and look for a job. At the end of the month I had both. I borrowed the company van and moved my belongings to New York.

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Three important bits of self-knowledge came from that move.

  1. Personal integrity is important to me and a vital quality in the people I surround myself with.
  2. Like Frank Sinatra sang so eloquently, “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.” New York offers a lot, but is not an easy place to live. After that, nothing scares me, much.
  3.  Big cities are not for me.  I am a small-town girl through and through.

I wouldn’t even consider moving to NYC today. Is it retro-fear or knowledge and experience?

Every decision takes us down one path instead of another. No telling where I might be today if I had stayed in my job and not taken the path to the Big Apple.

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