The List

“Hey Lady! Hey Lady! You got my name on the list? Hey Lady!”

I was 22 years old when I began my six month internship required for my Music Therapy degree. And those were the words that cheerfully-eerily greeted me yelled out through the air as I studiously strolled down the sidewalk to face my first day of work. Already somewhat dreary eyed from a first night’s  sleep interrupted by a woman’s blood curdling cries echoing into the eternity of souls that certainly lived behind my new chamber walls, the naivete and illusion of my youth began to shiver. It was the dawning of a new existence within an isolated culture of its own that rose with the sun that day. In an institution on “The Hill”  along the outskirts of a small Hudson Valley hamlet holding claim to it’s Guinness record for least amount of daylight settled a dark harbored world hidden from the mainstream. 

Every day it was music, music, music and if it was good, it was therapy. Behind closed doors, drums resounded, voices rang while melodies emerged from the piano as the Music Therapists introduced us to clients from their referral lists from which we would choose our caseloads. After notations of memorable features, responses and  well, “basic chemistry”, I made my list of names. Names on a list, my caseload. Weekly inservices trained us in Pentatonic, Fifties, Major 7ths, 12 bar Blues, Major key, Minor mode, and the list goes on for the chord progressions of the improvisational framework for our music making sessions. But it wasn’t just about making music.

With all the knowledge, skill and formulas…therapy brewed in what I would call mostly the intangible realm. Many times I tried to document progress by evidence of rhythm, memory in a song, keeping a beat despite a spasticity in the upswing. Success was measured in baby steps against a system that often expected great strides. 

Therapy, I discovered, was in a moment, suspended in time that gave glimpse to eternity. It was more than the music. It transcended the very vehicle from which it was born. My evaluation of success did not refer to a list with elements of music merely put down on paper.  No, success spoke to my heart. Did you see the smile of an angel? Or witness the crying of a soul? Did you hear a voice of love? Or the laughter of Joy? And in this musical moment did you enter a space together that could even be called holy? And when you looked in their eyes, did you see God?  And my heart skipped a beat to say, “Yes!”

Six months turned into 31 years. A scary institution turned into an incredible work place community. And eery voices…amazing people living in bodies and minds that betrayed them. 

So many names. So many lists.

“Hey lady. Hey lady. You got my name on the list?” 

Yes. Oh yes!  Your name is on the list.

“Hey Lady”

“Hey Dennis”

Standard

To Michaela on your wedding day~all my love, Mom


Michaela,

Today you are a Bride 

Tonight a Wife

Already a Mother

But always our Little Girl

Michaela June. From day one you filled our hearts with joy. I still hear Marcia’s 3 year old voice proclaiming “1994!” everytime I held up the camcorder to document another new day of your precious beginnings. I usually started by stating the day and date, and your proud big sister always right by your side interjected YOUR year “1994”. 

And, well, Madeline was only 2, but close by in tow. Whenever she “held” you, she would carefully poke you and give you wet kisses on your head in between sips from her juice bottle.

As you grew, both your sisters doted over you, but, I’m sure you probably remember that differently…I never let it get to torture. 

Mostly though, it’s images of you with them…cozied-up together in an old wingback chair that warms my heart. My three little sweet girls. 

My greatest loves. 

And you …the baby. 

But look at you today! 

A beautiful Bride beside her Groom. 

And your sisters still cozied by your side under your Dad’s on looking eye. We couldn’t love you more or be more proud of the woman you have become. 

From baby to now,

 from Miss to Mrs. 

and everything in between, 

you.have.dazzled.me! 

So without a doubt, I am confident that you will continue to make a life of happiness for yourself with Quentin & Everett. 

As your Mother, I couldn’t wish for anything more.  

So, from this day forward, may you my sweet Michaela nurture a love that your husband looks forward to coming home to at day’s end. And may you Quentin, my first son, in similar love, make your wife miss you every day. (Martin Luther, paraphrase)

Congratulations my baby girl♡

Love, Mom


Standard

4th of July and a Shopping Cart

​I miss July 4th. Remember the one day, on the day celebration of Independence Day? So many great memories. Now it’s a weekend of constant booms and fireworks. Four nights of hours of noise…but I hear no laughter, no song, no “God Bless America”, no ooohs or ahhhhs. The most patriotic display I saw this day was the poor soul, probably a vet, with his bottle and cans collection in his cart as he strolled upon our yard. His hair was long, white and shiny clean pulled back in a ponytail. A white beard dignified his face. But, best of all was the what looked like a brand new outfit he sported. Stars and Stripes! Red, White and Blue! Shorts and Jersey. Standing at the end of my driveway. I went to my kitchen to meet him outback with our bottle container. I left him alone to pick through. After a few minutes, I returned to retrieve the wastecan. Returning to my porch, I couldn’t help but stare and melt with compassion.  He situated his wares in his shopping cart loaded with bags. He offered a sincere thank you. We wished him well. As he walked away I wanted to salute him, not because he looked like a flag, but because he celebratrated this day, this July 4th Independence Day with Remembrance on his brow, Sincerity in his manner and Honor on his sleeve. He wore Honor. And he made me feel proud to be an American. Thank you Mr. Bottleman. And Happy 4th of July.

Standard

We Rode the Bus

It has been 2 years since my last entry. What happened to my plans for daily writing and creativity, especially in my new found place in life called Retirement.  Don’t get me wrong, not going to work is great, a childhood dream come true, but there has been an uncomfortable transition period for sure. But, that is a discussion I will save for another time. What somehow entered my brain surges enough to open my laptop today were thoughts that streamed my subconscious entry to sleep last night.  The statement went something like this “We are the first generation whose children will not make more in earned wages than their parents.”  Yeah, I’m the one holding that corner of the world in our nighttime darkness.

In my mind’s eye I traveled the years back to my childhood. Images scrolled by.  Hmm, funny. When I was a child images would have “flashed” through my mind. The small town I grew up in had a population of less than 800 people! I pictured myself with my siblings waiting for the one school bus that carried all elementary and high school students.  The big kids sat in the back of the bus sleepy and grumpy in the morning, happy and free at 3:00. They were our big brothers and sisters.  Some even wore the belt of bus patrol, helping us littler ones to cross the road upon boarding and departure. There was never fear of the Bully on the bus. Honestly, that was a word that had little dealings with back then, not because it never happened, but it was never allowed to fester.  Bullies’ behaviors were not pointed out but snuffed out, not held up as poor examples but dealt with at the quick before they materialized. The only time I heard the word punctuated was on Leave It To Beaver. And just like with the Beaver, we were taught that the other kids, our friends or even ourselves, could act sleepy and grumpy but we didn’t mean to be mean. And so, we all rode the bus.

Kickball, Kick the Can, Statue, Baseball Cards, Hitsies, Jump rope, Hopscotch, Swing sets & Playgrounds. These were the days before town leagues for our little village.  We played in the yard, in the road, in the brook but almost never in each others’ homes. It was always an adventure to enter in…for a chocolate milk and a snack or better yet to go to the bathroom! The marvel of another families living space fascinated me but before questions could come, we would skirt out as Mr or Mrs arrived home from work. Back outside to our hide and seek until the setting sun or Dad’s whistle from the porch step. “See ya later. Yeah see ya tomorrow.”  We didn’t have Play Dates. We Played!  No Moms, no Dads, no electronics, no money, no guns, no fights…just our laughter, imagination and the outdoors.  And so, we all rode the merry-go-round.

School shootings, guns in school, should teachers carry guns?  Bullied in school, bullied to death, death by the bully.  I want your sneakers. Bang Bang. I want your jacket. Bang Bang. I want. Bang Bang.  You can’t. Bang Bang. Look at my Dad’s gun. Bang Bang.  I ‘ll kill you.  Bang Bang.  Stop. Bang Bang. Put your hands up.  Bang Bang.  I have a gun. Bang Bang. Guns? Yes, we had them.  Shooting them was a family recreational event.  I remember the ceremonious unlocking of the little gun closet where they hid.  My father carried them all the way outside to the well where my older siblings and I stood…always behind the well.  The target, a peeled Cambell’s soup tin can, hung way across the field from a limb of the little old apple tree. We kept score. Before we counted shells, we would pick them up from the grass and try to make a “whistle” by blowing across the empty casing.  Other than that, the only guns we had were sticks. How did we go from this to Riding in Cars with Guns?

My youngest daughter has a $30,000 school loan debt from a 15 month program where she recently received her certification. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree and a $10,000 debt back in 1982. Upon receipt of my first paycheck from the one and only career job I ever had, I remember my mother’s look of grief carefully covered with her pride as she stated, “I just retired with this salary.” At that moment, I knew I had been given a gift of promise. Promise, where a kid who just graduated from college readily got an above average salaried job in her field, with health benefits, a retirement plan and longevity. Thanks to our parents, our government, our veterans and our economy, we had been given a ride Back to the Future.

So hand me downs turned into Designer Labels only. Manicures and Pedicures taken by storm by teenage girls who under the pressure were just trying to keep up with the norm.   Kissing booths to laying in bed. Computer cards, keypunching and gigantic machines entered our homes like what now seems a lightening strike in devices so small we can hold them in our hands. Technology so advanced, we can access the world and beyond. No more black and white but a colorized screen display.  And channels in the thousands instead of ten and thirteen.  So quickly things came and went, not keeping up with the money we spent.  The dollar lost its value. Everything was fast obsolete and thrown away.  Then came the day, that even the disposal of others became okay. Daycares, Preschools, Mothers at work, Dads behind strollers, Stranger Danger, Parent Taxied kids everywhere, T-ball, Soccer, and the Soccer Mom.  How did we get the idea that we could all live like we were Rockefeller strong? Society told us so. Media dumbed us down. Money in politics. Corruption abound. Competition turned inward.  We collapsed in on ourselves from the winners on top. Greed and Separation defined the wall. I am the most important to myself. Me not We. I have the right. I will sue. I am Entitled. You owe me. You don’t deserve. I am right. You are wrong. And by the way, there is no more take it or leave it…I will make the rules. You will obey. You have no say. What happened on our ride in the Freedom Train?

So, given the odds, yes, I am afraid it is true.  Our children will not make the earned wages we were blessed with. But, have we no greater legacy to leave behind? Can we not offer a promise too? Will our children only see grief in our face? We are in the midst of an historic election year.  With the hype, the lies, the farce utilized as tools of divisiveness rather than unification, the last man or woman left standing has  a most frightening task ahead. Because, unless We the People each realize and live with pride our great American pledge of allegiance to the flag, red, white and blue, this powerful Republic of Democracy will continue to suffer and crumble.  And it will be an even harder time ahead yet to come for our children’s children.  We must return. We have to believe again. There was a time when.  And at our age, we know its the simple things in life.  I do. I dream of that America, where a kid can be a kid. We must give that to them. Let them ride the school bus again.

Standard

Kitchen Chairs, Tea Kettles & Wallpaper

I sat down at my kitchen table this morning for my yogurt & nuts breakfast boosted with a warm morning cappuccino concoction. It was a familiar act, but these days of such full lives have not allowed the comfort of this routine. So as I looked up from my bowl, I realized the enormity of what had just occurred. I felt the sturdiness of the chair supporting me, my slippered feet each wrapped snuggly behind the chair’s front legs. Almost instantly, visitations of memories filled the other empty chairs. Images of children tilting their chairs to their back legs to rock in motion or to simply lean in its rest against the wall. For all the years of such “abuse”, the craftsmanship of these old pieces withstood time. As I smiled, I saw my hand touch the neighboring chair, rubbing its cool smoothness of the colorful paint I had covered it with years ago for my own small family of three delightful little girls. Yellow, green and blues kept my company now. I remembered the gray slathering of paint of my childhood years hidden underneath those colors which was finished over again with a glossy turquoise as we entered our later teens in Dad’s attempt to extend their lives from the wear and tear. Grandchildren, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, cousins and more; we all gathered round, doubling up in those chairs to partake in the laughter, silliness, games, conversations, prayers and meals set upon that “grand” table. The slapping sound of a loose strip of formica from the table’s edge caught my mind. How we use to peel the rough dried yellow glue from under its surface! Yes, another “facelift” for that table of life when Dad applied that formica. I thought about the years. So many years of gatherings. So many years of cribbage, old maid, yahtzee, slap jack and spoons. So many years of Whist among the adults and chips ‘n dips for the kids. A childhood. A lifetime. The only kitchen table I remember. And now, all these years later, it sits in my kitchen. The legs sanded to their original cherry. It was during that process that I realized how small that frame was and that I did not remember any original tabletop. How did my parents make it so big? Today, a thin cherry slab finishes the setting among the colorful chairs. It is quiet in my apartment but I can still see the vintage country village of the old dining room wallpaper and I hear in the kitchen, the tea kettle’s whistle announcing another gathering at the family table.

Standard

On a Road with No Name

RFD#1, (before 911), the first house on the left where walking around the “block” turned into a 3 1/2 mile trek from the dirt “back” road to the paved “main” road: We lived on a road with no name. But it was the Jobins, the Hammers and Cloughs’ names that lined the way to the bridge where the troll lived under its rusted steel. And the thousands of twigs dropped over the one rail greeted us at the other side in the water’s swirling “rapids” over the smooth rocks as we leaned hard over the rail to catch our breath from our mad dash race in this childhood ritual.

At the close of an afternoon of play, Dad’s two-tone finger whistle or Mom’s yoohoo-ing song like call lured us back inside with the fragrance of the outdoors following us in. But, it was the smell of a warm modest dinner that delighted us. Meatloaf, baked potatoes and corn! Spaghetti, Shepherd’s Pie, Tacos, Chili or Chicken, Macaroni & Cheese, the staples for our young bellies. Milk poured from a cold quart glass bottle. White bread or…white bread. And maybe, just maybe, a treat in the breadbox…gingersnaps, lemon cookies, maple creams, or even mallowsmars!

It was the only childhood home I knew, spanning the years to my own adulthood and independent living.  But no apartment or house has ever replaced the comfortable familiarity and sense of family, however simple or complex, as this ol’ house on the road with no name.  It was home.

“A Million Dollar View”, my father use to always tout as we sat on our porch in a summer breeze. With Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Siblings, Grandchildren and more, the screened door banged the rhythm to all the shenanigans. Kick the Can…”Alli-alli-um-come-free”, Tag…”You’re it!”, “I’ll be right back, I gotta go the bathroom!”, “I gotta getta drink!”, “Wait for Meeee!”. But, when the breeze became still and the last laughing roll down the hill turned into eyes breathing in the sky, my Dad was right. It was a million dollar view. Green Mountains to the East, the Berkshires and Taconics circled round to the West, so close they nearly kissed the fields and stream across from our door. Allen’s Peak, The Hairpin Turn and Mt. Greylock distinguished those surrounding hills. With pride, I remember nearly staking claim as we pointed out the landmarks to each other. “No bare feet with snow on Allen’s Peak”, Uncle Don use to say when we couldn’t wait for the full warmth of Spring to come. Or a cold dark night’s flashing lights way off on a hill loomed of possible tragedy on an icy hair pin turn. How many rambles or drives we made up the winding mountainside to the great Beacon of Light in the tower atop Greylock. The narrow spiral stairs and the cool dampness within encased a history, a mystery, of a time before.

From the lookout, we finally found our house …miles away, a little speck to the eye. We named it, “There it is! There’s OUR house!”. “Look”. “See?”. With pride, I remember nearly staking claim as we pointed out the landmarks leading to our “grand” speck hidden in the surrounding trees ..and again, Dad was right. It was a million dollar view, a million dollar view indeed…our house on a road with no name.

Standard

Upon Waking…Where Is The Sunshine?

The sun rises and sets everyday.  It is there, even on the cloudiest day.  I am amazed at its brilliance, size and warmth: the center of the universe, the sustainer of life.  But, how is it then, that such power can be completely blocked by vaporous particles of cloud masses to darken our days?  On this foggy damp cool morning, I beg for its presence.

…and on my inside, I feel foggy, clouded and dim.

All the small “particles” of stuff getting in the way.

anxiety over money

concern over other’s actions

choices that are not mine

the behavior of another that I cannot condone

self pity glooming over my ineffectiveness

resentment for past mistreatments

anger for not getting my way

…and the list goes on

…and on

…until

DARKNESS

Darkness and silence and all that is real and important remains.  Afraid of the dark?  Don’t be. Listen to the whisper of its Wisdom.  It is in the grimness of this inevitable condition of life that speaks to my soul. And, I am always surprised how just one little glimmer…of hope…of truth…of reality…of insight…of calm… can light up the inner rooms of my heart and mind.  Have you ever noticed that?  Much like one little candle can break all darkness!  Light strikes out darkness!

…and on my inside I feel foggy, clouded and dim.

All the “particles” of stuff getting out of the way.

lack for nothing today

self evaluation, my concern

discernment is mine

my best performance today

gratitude for all I am able to do

forgiveness for you…and me

acceptance for the things I cannot change is within my reach

…and the list goes on

…and on

…until

LIGHTNESS!

And the sun rises and sets everyday.

Standard