The Sunday Paper

I love Sundays now that I am retired. During the week I get my daily news briefing online, but on Sundays I spend a leisurely day poring over the New York Times. I even read the Sports section, which I never do during the week. On Sunday, I also scan the obituaries. It’s not that I’m morbidly curious; often they contain words of wisdom from the departed. My favorite line from the 1980’s, one that others have stolen over the years contained the line, “In lieu of flowers, the deceased asks that you vote Democratic in the next election.”  Always, the obituaries pique my interest as I imagine lives lived in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. I think about native New Yorkers who retired to Boca Raton and “Lois” from Michigan who requested that her family post her obituary in the Times. Why was that important to her? Why did her family think it fitting that her request be part of the narrative of her life?

Yesterday’s page contained the story of a recently deceased wife who met her husband “on vacation in Nantucket on August 1, 1960, became engaged on August 7, 1960, and  married on August 27, 1960.” The marriage lasted nearly 57 years. “Isn’t that something?” I said to my husband. When our daughter became engaged at Christmas 22 years ago, after having dated her future husband for only three months, she told us they planned to be married that summer. “Why, you won’t even have known each other for a year before you get married. Are you sure about this?” We were concerned. Imagine if their courtship had been less than a month in length!

Parents worry about their children. That’s what we do. But we have to trust that we have tried our best to make them independent, confident adults. Then, we let them go, just as the parents of the couple of 1960 whose tale was told in yesterday’s Times obituary section, did.

A chance encounter/a memory

Yesterday, as Lynn and I were leaving Shippensburg,  I saw a young girl march across a parking lot with her dad. Her swinging arms and direct stride reminded me of my granddaughter when she was a toddler. I wrote Maddie a poem for her for her second birthday. That young girl yesterday reminded me to dig that poem out. Today, I’m sharing it as my slice.


Madelyn at Two

Words cannot tell your walk:

How your elbows swing back and forth

To your little heel and toe movements.

How your curls bounce

Like soft cotton clouds

Over your sweet smile.

Words cannot tell my joy:

When you wrap your arms

Around my neck and say, “My Mom-Mom.”

When you sit on my lap

As I read to you and you turn the pages.

Words cannot tell the peace I feel

As I watch you sleep

Thumb in mouth,

“Doggie” by your side.

You are two.

Words cannot tell my love.


That’s the way it goes

“Oh no!” I forgot my phone.

Lynne and I are driving to Shippensburg for a presentation.
“I can’t believe it. I must have left my phone on the kitchen table. Please call Ralph and ask him to tell Joe that I’m without my phone in case he tries to call me.”

Don’t you hate it when you are without your phone? How did we manage without cell phones? Remember the l-o-n-g  phone cords (usually in the kitchen) that let your move around and do chores while chatting? Remember when portable phones came with an antenna you had to lift up to connect? Remember “car phones” that came in a bag? Seems like a lifetime ago.  Yet, when I catch an old Seinfeld (series ended 1999, I think), I see all these old technologies.

I’m in the market for a new phone, but I hesitate to buy one. As Lynne says, “It’s a learning curve when you get anything new.”  I say, “The scariest word in the English language is ‘update’.”

Our conversation is interrupted by my car blue tooth ringing. “It’s me. You do have your phone. I can see that you’re at the Lawn exit of the turnpike. Anyway, I’m calling you.”

Much laughter and relief. This is the world we live in now. Good? I guess so.


Zip into a poem

Thanks to Rose Cappelli, who sliced about using her phone number as a springboard for a poem, I’ve used my zip code to come up with today’s slice.


I used my zip code as a structure for this slice.


Gerry, Marie, Naomi, Cynthia, Charlene, Lynne, Gini, Nancy, Jane.

Sharing our laughter,

Sharing our tears,

Strong women who really listen.


Years may pass with no physical contact,

I know they are present.

In my “mind’s eye” I hear them.

Help from the dictionary

Heir presumptive-person who will be heir unless a nearer relative is born.

This exercise: Close your eyes, open the dictionary, and put your finger on a word. Use that word as a springboard, and begin writing.

Well. What have I done? Heir presumptive? How in the world am I going to write about that? The first thing I think of is Downton Abbey—how a family with three daughters with no male heir was hoping that the eldest girl would marry the heir presumptive before he went down in the Titanic. The new heir presumptive was a commoner, son of a (gasp) doctor.

Then, of course, there are the British novels of the Georgian and Victorian eras, Austen particularly—Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion—where because females cannot inherit, their estates and their futures are in peril.

I think about the real women of the age who, when they married, forfeited their inheritances to their husbands who were totally in charge, and, sometimes, bankrupted them. Jenny Jerome, an American heiress who married Winston Churchill’s father and became Lady Randolph Churchill, lost her fortune to her husband’s profligate spending. Some women decided it was better to remain unmarried than to cede their independence. They were in the minority.

I think about women who were teachers and had to give up their jobs when they married. I, myself, was forced to resign in 1969 when I became pregnant with my first child. 1969!. Recently I read two books involving teachers—one set in WWI “The Summer Before the War” by Helen Simonson, and one set in WWII “Everyone Brave is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave. In both cases, women were “allowed” to be teachers only in special circumstances. I marched in the Women’s March with my daughter and granddaughter because I fear a return to the paternalistic days of yore.

I think about “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and wonder about those who believe the slogan to be strident and divisive. I wonder how it would be if there were more women in congress and in state houses. Would there be more compromise? I don’t know. I think there would be.

I wonder how “heir presumptive” got me here today.









Ice Cream Memories

Lynne Dorfman’s “your turn” lesson yesterday inspired me to write this poem.


Walking to the grand opening of

Mattise’s Ice Cream Shoppe.

My first cone.

5 cents.

One lick and

Splat! The scoop of vanilla

On the sidewalk.


My sister

Marching into the store

Demanding my scoop be replaced.


In my neighbor’s stations wagon,

Five kids, two adults,

Grand opening of


Free cones!

I choose vanilla with chocolate sprinkles.

My friend orders chocolate with rainbow sprinkles.

We switch half eaten cones.

Best friends will do that.


Running after the Mr. Softee truck.

S-O-F-T-double E, Mr. Softee.

A mixed vanilla/chocolate cone

10 cents.

Line up

At the window.

Drop my dime in the gutter.


My friend

Digging into her pocket

Finds another dime.

“You can pay me later.”


Driving with the top down

In Sammy’s Studebaker.

Montdale Dairy ice cream

Cones 25 cents.

My love affair with banana ice cream


My love affair with Sammy


He “doesn’t like” ice cream. Well!


Love and struggle

In “The Devil’s Dictionary” Ambrose Bierce defined love as “temporary insanity cured by marriage.”

Poor cynical Ambrose Bierce.  He never met my relatives. Take my Aunt Bessie, who became the bride of Francesco Cappella in an arranged marriage. I’m told they met the morning before their wedding, raised a family of 6 boys and 6 girls, and were married for 55 years. My Uncle Giulio and Aunt Helen, introduced by my father, brought up 2 girls and 5 boys, and were married for 62 years. My own parents had been married for 49 years when my father died unexpectedly of a heart attack. Did marriage “cure” their love? These couples were kind to each other, worked hard every day, sometimes quarreled, often bickered, but were always constant. We kids knew they would be Ma and Daddy forever.

Those who read Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s moving column two weeks ago in the Sunday New York Times appreciated that Ms. Rosenthal knew about love. If you are lucky enough to experience that kind of bonding—that recognition of completeness that comes from true partnership, Bierce’s definition may make you chuckle, but you don’t buy it. Romantic love may change with the passage of time, but after 50 plus years of marriage, I can tell you that my heart still beats a little faster when I see my husband smile at me from across the room.

I’ll close with something from Mr. Rogers, whose birthday was yesterday: “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Not always easy, but always worth the effort.