Mag #231

Magpie Tales is a blog “dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.” Each week, it offers an image as a writing prompt.

Go here to read what others have written.

wild women

Wild Women

Wild Women wear
tight jeans, western boots,
dance in bars
’til bras melt to skin
and wolves howl the hillsides.
Wild Women step hard
enough to warp the wood,
set the blues on fire —
all the better to
eye the eyes,
rope one or not,
sing full-moon songs
until dawn.

when I was 20

I am looking through my pages of poetry, some written when I was in grade school, but I’ll spare you those. I wrote this when I had just turned twenty and was home from college during a part of the summer. It’s not great poetry, but it’s a great thought, I think.

on the boatbwhen I am old
I will not care for
rock ‘n roll
and jazz
bongos drums
beat poetry and
Jake Trussell and
lifeguards with
sea-burnished hair
and convertibles.
but now I am young
and I know that all of these
will one day be
the cushions
on the couch of memories
on which I will repose
when I am old.

The Slop was a dance from the fifties. I had to google Jake Trussell and I still don’t remember why he was important to me back then. But I still like rock ‘n roll. And convertibles. And I’m still known to ogle lifeguards.

Remembering Bronislawa

My mother’s name was really Bronislawa, which doesn’t have an English equivalent. So they called her Blanche.

Her dementia took over all of our lives for the past decade. Now that she is gone, my mind has cleared enough to remember her as she was before.

She was born in America but spent 8 years in Poland with her mother and siblings between the World Wars, when she was a pre-teen. Her father stayed behind to keep earning money, and the rest of the family went to live on the family farm in Poland. She was bi-lingual. She was the oldest of three sisters. She never graduated from high school. She had two brothers. None of her siblings is alive.

This is her and her mother and sisters when they returned from Poland to live in Yonkers.

At the age of 16, she went to work in the Alexander Smith and Sons carpet factory. Her family struggled financially, so they all had jobs. She often recalled that her father had to wrap her arms with ace-type bandages because they would be so sore after a day of work. Until the day she died, she had an indentation in her right forefinger, which she said was caused by the thread she had to wind around her finger day after day.

She was always slim and petite. And pretty. Not beautiful or striking. Pretty. He was handsome. “All the girls were after him,” she often said, “but he picked me.”

This is her and my dad when they got engaged.

She also was a great social dancer and, of course, loved to polka. For many years she danced in a local Polish dance troupe. That’s her, on the left, and one of her best friends, who is still alive and who attended her funeral.

Even toward the end of her life, when she pretty much stopped speaking and walking, my mom would follow my lead in the fox trot and waltz if I held her close to me. She loved music. Loved to dance.

She also liked to sew. When I was a child, before every Christmas, all of my dolls would disappear for a day or two and then show up on Christmas Day all decked out in new dresses that my mother made for them. She liked her clothes to fit well, and she was always sewing them in, letting them out, hemming and correcting. I have that same tendency. She taught me to knit, crochet, and embroider, although she never really spent much time doing those things. Mostly, she was the full-time wife and mother and much-loved member of a group of Polish/American women who played Canasta once a week and socialized, family-style, other times.

I lost count of the visitors at her wake who said to me “She was a real lady.” Proper behavior and stylish clothes were important, and she bought the most fashionable shoes, which for many years had very pointy toes. She liked pumps and bought them narrow so that they would stay on her feet. Her toes suffered for that vanity, and when she got older, it was hard to find shoes that were comfortable.

She chose the suit and blouse that she wanted to be buried in more than a decade before the event — and with pearls around her neck and in her ears, she looked like a VIP, which, to many, she was.

Her portrait, for which she posed to have painted in the 1950s at my father’s request, still hangs in my brother’s house.

singing mom to sleep

My mom lives more than 160 miles from me. She is 94 with severe dementia.

When I go and stay with her (about once a month) I sing to her, old songs that she might recognize — “Over the Rainbow,” “My Favorite Things,” “Try to Remember,” “When the red red robin comes bob bob bobbin along…..” I have a below average singing voice, but my singing seems to calm her down.

Tonight, 160 miles away, she wouldn’t calm down, and my brother was at his wit’s end. So I started singing to her over the telephone, and it worked. Now I have to figure out how to record some of those songs and burn them on a disk or get them onto an mp3 player so that I can send them to her — a medley of old songs to ease the demented mind.

Hey, whatever works.

Woodstock, tonight

Not Bethel, where the original Woodstock festival was held, but rather the town of Woodstock, where the planning for the original festival took place and where, for decades, the town served as a magnet for the most talented artists and musicians..

That’s where my brother is tonight, to hear and rendezvous with his old pals from the original Blues Magoos, who are performing tonight at the Bearsville Theater.

Forty years ago, when the original Woodstock was happening, I was the mother of a 6 year old and 7 months pregnant with the son who has become theonetruebix. The Woodstock Festival was a far cry from my interests at the time.

Family lore has it that my cousins (then teenagers) all piled into a car to drive up to Woodstock Festival from where they lived in lower New York State. They never made it, having got stuck in the long line of cars heading for Bethel who never made it either.

I never missed missing Woodstock. I don’t miss missing the Roots of Woodstock concert tonight.

Tonight I am missing my home in Massachusetts and I will miss going to the beach with everyone there tomorrow.

Vaya Con Dios

It was 1953. I was thirteen and feeling my burgeoning hormones. I would tell my folks that I was going to confession and, instead, meet my friends at a soda shop with a juke box, located a few blocks away, where the owner let us get together in a back room. We closed the door and played “spin the bottle.” That was where I got my first kiss from a boy — to the music of Les Paul and Mary Ford.

Mary Ford passed away in 1977, and by then I was listening to the Moody Blues and Judy Collins. Mary Ford and Les Paul were divorced long before then. I don’t remember hearing anything about her passing, but

Les Paul died today.

Moody Blues and Judy Collins. Here no longer young, but, like Les Paul did until age 94, they can still move an audience.

first we take Manhattan
then we take Berlin

Those are words in a Leonard Cohen song that keep running through my head as I read about the religious right in Texas trying to make fundamentalist changes to the state’s Social Studies curriculum. There are terrorists and then there are terrorists.

A press release from the Texas Freedom Network examines the situation, providing

…. the names of “experts” appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists will guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. They include David Barton of the fundamentalist, Texas-based group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality.

The Texas Freedom Network is a nonprofit, grassroots organization of faith and community leaders who support public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.

taking the long way home

This blog is still under construction, as is my life.   Physically, I have finished moving into my new home; but I haven’t yet moved the rest of me.

Over on Facebook, David Rogers posts a note about the music albums that changed his life, and he challenges the rest of us to list our own.  It occurs to me that, while there are no albums that actually changed my life, there are albums that are very clear audio markers for significant parts of my life.

As I’m putting together that list (it’s not finished yet), what I come to realize is that the songs from my childhood were not on albums; they were on 78  or 45 vinyl records.  The first two popular songs I remember were played by my Aunt Helen on a crank-up phonograph:

Nature Boy by Nat King Cole

and Paper Doll by the Mills Brothers

Of course, then there were the crazy lyrics song, like (as close as I can remember)

Chickory Chick chala chala chekerloroni anifilanika folicka wollika can’t you see chickory chick is me.

Meanwhile, in the background as I blog this, my almost-seven year old grandson is listening to Vampire Weekend.

I guess home is where the music is.

stuff and responsibility

Today was supposed to be my official move day, but I’m bogged down by stuff and responsibility.
So, instead, the move has become a slow one as I sort and pack and dispose of. At the moment, my car out in the driveway is packed with household stuff that I will take to the Salvation Army tomorrow. And then, next week, I will pack the car with another load that I will drive out to my new space at my daughter’s.
Actually the slow move is working out OK because I just can’t shake my responsibilities to my mother, especially since she has suddenly become very weak and wants to sleep a lot. And so I spend a week here taking care of her and then drive out with my packed car to spend several days setting up my space and playing with my grandson. The drive out is like a mini-vacation in and of itself — I have several hours all to myself to think and surf between NPR and country western music stations. Sometimes, I even sing out loud, moving my shoulders to the steady beat while cruise control takes over.
Stuff and responsibility. I’m carrying a lot of baggage.