In Print!

The July/August issue of Spirit & Life, the magazine published by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, MO, contains my story, “My Oldest Friend”. That’s the piece that kicked off this writing blog earlier this year; scroll all the way down to the first entry, March 26. I am delighted and grateful.

“The Way It Was”

If Dad told me that the sun rose in the West, I would have found a way to believe him. (“What an imagination!”)

If Mom told me that the sun rose in the East, I would have found a way to gainsay her. (“Well, at this time of year, the sun’s position is actually more towards SSE …”) 

“School Bus”

First-grade me is standing next to the bus driver on the school bus.  I’m holding onto a pole.  We are at my stop, and some kids get off.  But I stay there, telling the bus driver, “I’ll show you where you go next.”

So he drives away, to numerous other stops around Queens before he comes back around to mine.  I climb down the steps of the bus, to begin walking as usual towards our apartment building.  That’s where my own memory ends.  Other people have told me the rest of the story.

Imagine the hysteria with which I am greeted — at the bus stop.  Mom is there, waiting, beyond agitated — understandably so, I now know, as a parent.  Where have I been?  Why didn’t I come through the front door at home when I was supposed to?  What happened?  

What had happened, apparently, is that the bus driver was new and did not know the route.  I did.  Don’t ask me why I knew what stops came after mine, but I did.  I was a smart little kid, even though I had skipped kindergarten and entered first grade earlier than usual and was a year younger than everyone else.  And I guess, even at my young age, I was allowed to walk home alone from the bus stop.  Even in Queens.  (It was a long time ago, and many things were different then.)

Family lore has it that Dad paid a very stern visit the next day to the principal.  Imagine that conversation.  I wonder if the bus driver lost his job.  I wonder if I ever took the school bus again.


What are you supposed to to when your



Acknowledged responsibility

All these years

Happily or not

Has been to put 3 meals a day on the table (or in the lunchbox)

60+ years x 3 x 365

Not only are they not there any more for those meals

(And even if they are, they graze instead)

(Sorry, Mom, I already ate)

You can’t remember how anyway

What are you supposed to do


I know it’s not the same

That a dog is not a person

But when my dog

(Elderly, diabetic, so diminished)

Unable once again to rise up from his bed

His legs spayed uselessly akimbo

Raised his eyes to mine

I knew what he was saying

And a few days later

On the last day

When he did rise and stagger to me

And laid his forehead against my leg

I knew what he was saying


There was a large statue of Mary, the Blessed Mother, in the main hallway, and smaller statues of Mary in all the classrooms.  It was the custom to keep offerings of fresh flowers in front of these shrines.  Not from the florist, but from people’s gardens.

Early in my second-grade career, I wanted to partake in this tribute.  As I waited at the school bus stop one day, I saw my chance.  There was an empty lot nearby that was abloom with what I thought were the most marvelous flowers.  My family having recently moved to this suburb from the city, I had no garden and had never seen flowers growing in such abandon — tiny, brilliant yellow, arrayed up-and-down on long bristly stems, looking like brooms that a witch in a fairy tale might use.  Witches held no negative meaning for me, so I meant no disrespect to Mary.  I now know such brooms are called “besoms”. 

Somehow — I wouldn’t have had scissors nor a knife — I pulled together an armload of flowers and hauled it onto the bus.  The theatrical shrieks from the other students began almost immediately.  Seems that my beautiful flowers were called “goldenrod” and no one liked them because they made you sneeze.  

In my mind’s eye, I see little-girl me, watching my teacher stick my offering — which had already begun to wilt — into a large vase.  She scurried out to the hallway statue and, over her shoulder, told me not to bring wildflowers to school anymore.

“I Love the Alphabet”

A truncated version of this, titled “The”, appeared on (“50 Words Give or Take”).

As a little child, I felt what I now know to be awe and excitement when the little shapes that clustered on the pages of the simple books my parents read aloud to me, began to fall into meaning.  The earliest word I recognized was “the”.  It seemed to float serenely amid a sea of angular and rounded shapes.  That realization was profound, and I was happy whenever and wherever I found my new word-friend.  I was fortunate that the world of reading, as well as writing, opened quickly for me.  When I entered first grade at age five, I already knew how to read.  

“Birthstones. Deathstones”

Writing class assignment for the prompt “gift”.

Many husbands like to buy gifts of jewelry for their wives.  Nothing remarkable about that, right?  I may be biased, but here’s a lovely story about my husband and two such gifts to me

The first gift took place when my son Alex was leaving for college.  That time is an emotionally fraught time for so many of us; it certainly was for me.  I was full of conflict that September so many years ago, and very sad.  I wanted to project confidence and enthusiasm and happiness.  I was not confident and enthusiastic and happy, and I have come to know that Alex was not either.  

But both of us put on a façade.  Unconsciously, I think now, we were modeling such qualities for each other, perhaps to convince ourselves, like that cliché of “whistling past the graveyard” that all would be well.  An additional factor for me (not for him, though) was that Alex’s 18th birthday would coincide with his departure.  The outside world, our culture, would see him as an adult, but he was still my little boy.  As I said, I was conflicted and sad.

Into this morass stepped my husband John.  For Alex’s birthday, John gave me a gift:  a pair of stud earrings, small textured balls of white gold imbedded with tiny tiny tiny sapphires — Alex’s September birthstone; nine in each earring.  

Need I say more?  I wear the earrings often.  I’m wearing them today!  See?  They are so discrete, yet they convey a powerful and very personal message.  They bring me back to a very tricky time, yet they free me to reflect on where I am now, where Alex is and where we are.  

As you see me wearing these earrings today, you can also see an additional earring — another stud featuring a precious stone, this time a small emerald.  And that’s the second gift.

When Dad died seven years ago, I was shipwrecked.  It was no surprise that he had died– age 90, so frail — but still, it was utterly shocking to me.  I grieved mightily.  One day, when I felt at rock-bottom in my loss, John gave me a gift … out of the blue … a very simple pair of emerald earrings, the emerald being Dad’s May birthstone.  The tears I wept over this gift were tears of joy.  They began to wash away the bitter tears that had been threatening to drown me. 

I often wear the sapphires and one emerald, or the two emeralds and one sapphire.  Having three ear piercings gives me a lot of freedom!  And it’s fun to have my son and my father with me.

And sometimes I go wild with one emerald and one sapphire and one amethyst, this last from the pair of studs that I bought as a gift to myself many years ago, at another very trying time in my life.  Not only is the amethyst my February birthstone, it’s Dad’s deathstone, if you know what I mean.  

Hmmmm.  What do you think about the concept of a deathstone?  


Published on (“50 Words Give or Take”).

I’m four years old.  Dad is scrubbing my face with a washcloth.  He keeps scrubbing just under my lower lip, just above my chin.  “It won’t come off,” he says.  I giggle because I know why.  “It’s a freckle, not a dirt spot!”  It’s still there, along with the memory.