The Nicest Gesture

Life Story Club Contributor

The most startling and most beautiful thing that happened to me…I have three sons. One lives in Rockville, Maryland, one lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and one lives near Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cambridge, Massachusetts has a habit of calling me around 9:30/10:00 in the morning. When he calls he always says he called me up so that we can have coffee together. So he’s in Cambridge, having coffee. I wander into the kitchen and make myself a cup of coffee and we sit and talk.

Last Saturday night, I got an email from him, and it said, tomorrow morning, at 10 o’clock, let’s have Mother’s Day brunch. That’s nice, he’s going to call me at 10 and talk to me on the phone. And then, just before I go to bed, around 11:30 at night, I get an email and it has a Zoom link. And it says, hit this at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning. So I think, big deal, I’m going to see his face while we’re having coffee. But I’m good for anything.

I hit it at 10 in the morning, and I can’t believe it. Just like we’re here now, I see myself (and I’m glad to say I got dressed), and there are my three sons and we talk for 1 hour. I thought, talk about how technology has entered our lives and what we can do with it while we’re sheltered in place.

The most startling and most beautiful thing that happened to me...I have three sons. One lives in Rockville, Maryland, one lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and one lives near Cambridge, Mas...

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Memorable First Date

Life Story Club Contributor

What happened on the first date…that is long ago, it was the night of my grade school…I wasn’t quite 13 yet. On that occasion we had our graduation prom, if you want to call it that. And of course, you went to it alone, but if what you were hoping for, it might be that when you were ready to leave, a boy someone, would offer to walk you home. And so it was with me. I left it and the boy someone, said, “Oh since I live right near you, I’ll walk you home.” I thought that indicated some level of personal interest. We walked together, we didn’t hold hands or anything, but occasionally we bumped into each other. Anyway, we finally got to my corner, it was only 2 and half blocks away. We got turn the corner, we got to my house, and slowly walked up the two steps and then the landing, and then the final three steps up to my front door. I put my hand out to turn the knob. And this boy someone turned around and put my his hand on top of mine.

Now, I want you to know, that I knew all about kissing. I’d had seen plenty of movies. Greer Garson did it this way and Lana Turner did it that way, I wasn’t sure there was a right way and a not so right way. Finally, one day it got to be really warm weather, spring weather, I could open the door and there I could practice on the screen door! I practiced a bit on that. So now I knew how you stand. Then one afternoon, I got to the real basics with my friend Barbara. This only lasted for about 20 or 30 seconds. We kissed because we wanted to figure out where you put your noses. A couple of seconds with Barbara. Now I had it down pat.

Well, when the Allan Gallay put his hand on mine and turned around, and reached toward me. Ah! It was a real kiss! It was a kiss on my lips! I was just figuring out where to put my hands. I think I had decided that sort of high up on the back of his shoulders, I had just shifted to do that, it was fine with him, and then…he farted!

I’m not kidding. It was loud. It was horrifying. I said goodnight. And he said goodnight. And we never, ever spoke to one another again. It’s amazing how one moment carried…yep, yep. I remember, I remember…

What happened on the first date...that is long ago, it was the night of my grade school...I wasn't quite 13 yet. On that occasion we had our graduation prom, if you want to call it that. A...

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I talk to strangers

Life Story Club Contributor

I know that I’m a competent writer. I enjoy talking to people, talking to absolute strangers. There’s no question that, if I’m on a bus, I’ll probably suddenly start talking to the person directly across from me, diagonally on the aisle. When I’m waiting for the light to turn on the street corner, I’m just as likely to talk to the person walking in front of me waiting for the light to turn.

They’ve woven together in my life, in ways that give me a great amount of pleasure. That’s why I write for so many different newspapers, four different ones, in totally different places in the country. It’s a nice blending together…at my age, at near 88, it’s great to know that, you can do what you’re good at, and it gives you pleasure. I know the people I write about, it gives them a tremendous amount of pleasure. But I would probably do it if it didn’t give them pleasure, because the doing of it gives me pleasure.

And on being selfless…there’s nothing like 3 kids, all under the age of 5, and their father dies, and hey you have no choices. You do what you have to do, and practice makes perfect, and you do it well. Wherever we land…I’m sure if there’s anyone who doesn’t know how to swim, and they just found that the raft that they were sitting in sprung a leak. If they had 3 kids on the shore, no question…you’ll damn well get there somehow.

I remember a woman who had been walking in front of me for half a block, an older woman, my age, and when she stopped for red light. I turned to her and said, “I so enjoyed walking behind you! You looked so beautiful walking and swinging your head.” She turned around and looked at me, and suddenly burst into tears. And I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you!” And she said, “My husband has been dead for 5 years. You are the first person who’s ever told me that I looked beautiful. He used to tell me that every day.” Yep, I talk to total strangers…

I know that I'm a competent writer. I enjoy talking to people, talking to absolute strangers. There's no question that, if I'm on a bus, I'll probably suddenly start talking to the person ...

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An Extraordinary Day at Work

Life Story Club Contributor

I was living in Guyana. I knew all about overseas volunteers because Guyana was filled with lots of VOAs, which were the Volunteer Association. It was a British one. I used to meet them all over. Suddenly it came to me while we were living there, that Jimmy Carter was president. Jimmy Carter’s mother joined the Peace Corps. I said, “Damn it, if Carter’s mother can join the Peace Corps then I can too.” The thing about the Peace Corps was, if you had a child, you needed to be at least 18. My youngest child was off in the mainland USA in college. He was eighteen and I said that’s it. So I joined the Peace Corps.

My husband always laughed because if I had known anything about geography, I would not have done that because when you join the Peace Corps, it’s a very complicated process. You had to get letters written by a number of people, and they’re very complicated letters. I remember someone calling me and saying, “Are you serious? Because I’ll be damned if I’m going to write that long of a letter if this isn’t what you want.” Of course, it was what I wanted.

They ask you what areas of the world I’d be interested in serving in and I said anywhere in South America, Africa, or Asia. I probably listed every place except it could not be cold. I got my first placement and my husband who knows all about geography sort of laughed a little bit because we had been living in Africa for two years. We were living there because he had a full-ride fellowship. He was there to establish a western study program for the University of Guyana. I wasn’t there for the entire two years.

Actually, I was working full time back in Puerto Rico, but they did fly me down, all expenses paid, for Christmas, for school holidays, for summer. While I was there, Guyana asked me if I would set up a teacher training school. A school for training teachers at the university. It sounded like a great idea so I got a leave of absence from the university. It was that time that I decided to join the Peace Corps.

My placement was in a country in Africa. I said, “Great.” That’s when my husband laughed himself sick. He said, “Did you notice where in Africa it was?” I mentioned the place and he said, “Mhm. Did you know that’s a mountain?” I said, “Oh big deal, a mountain. I know about mountains. We have them in the United States.” That’s when I realized that it was high up in one of the highest mountains in the world and that in the warm weather, it possibly reached as high as 37 degrees. That’s how I switched to Vista Volunteer that landed me back, of all places, in New York City.

I only came back to New York City and remarkable Penn South because I was a Vista Volunteer. Volunteer was a very clear thing for me. You don’t get paid to volunteer. Was I shocked to find out that Vista Volunteer had really good federal health insurance and it pays you enough to live in the spot where you’re to be located. To make that affordable for you, which sounded crazy because I had been on the waiting list for Penn South for 17 years, and they had just offered me an apartment. I said, “I don’t believe it.” I had been assigned to Fortune Society, which is an organization that deals with the incarcerated and there I was.

I was living in Guyana. I knew all about overseas volunteers because Guyana was filled with lots of VOAs, which were the Volunteer Association. It was a British one. I used to meet them al...

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Greatest Spectacle

Life Story Club Contributor

Driving snake back roads in Western Colorado scared the shit out of me. Snake back means if you can imagine you’re going along a curling snake and you look down to the right, you’d be falling off a cliff, and if you look to the left, you’ve got a mountain rising up there so you know you can’t pull off that way.

I had no idea of what it was going to be. It goes up and down, up and down, it doesn’t matter. It’s like a snake. It’s one car wide.

I was going to another town. I have no sense of geography so I wasn’t meant to be there. I was not conscious of whatever my heart was doing. I was just sort of mentally paralyzed.

Driving snake back roads in Western Colorado scared the shit out of me. Snake back means if you can imagine you’re going along a curling snake and you look down to the right, you’d be fall...

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What Makes Us Different

Life Story Club Contributor

I left home when I was still in high school. I went to a high school where if you were absent or late that day, they’d call your home. They called my home and my father answered the phone and they asked why I was out and my father said, “Why don’t you ask her?” and they said, “Well, what do you mean ask her? Isn’t she there with you?” My parents weren’t big on parenting but my father was gung-ho on civil rights. They said, there’s no way she can go to a public high school in New York if she doesn’t live with her parents and my father said, “Show me where it says that in the law. Are her grades falling? Is she ever late?” They said no, her grades are fine and she’s never late. He was big on civil rights. So they left me alone and I finished high school, then I moved to the city.

I got married when I was about twenty one or so. And I had three children very close together. I had three boys. One set are twenty months apart and the other set are twenty-two months apart. By the time the oldest one was four, their father died. It was a bad year in the United States. It was the years that Martin Luther King had been killed, that Kennedy had been killed. I didn’t want my children to grow up in America. I decided that was it.

They were looking for teachers in the Virgin Islands and I figured that would be a good idea, so I headed to the Virgin Islands. Years passed and when my oldest child was about ten, I married again. I married Don Hogue. I remember my oldest son, as an adult, said to me, “Mom, what kind of crazy person would marry you? What man in his right mind would marry someone with three kids? He must’ve been either insane or he loved you.” I pointed out that he found them quite appealing too. So it led to a different kind of life.

Don Hogue was a wonderful woodworker. He was also a sculptor. He sculpted in metal. He became well-known for sculpting and welding metal. As a matter of fact, PBS keeps running this thing on him, this thing that runs for less than three minutes. I keep seeing it come up all over the place.

So it made for a very different life and I’m not at all like the family I grew up in. I had a different kind of experience. Even how I came back to New York is a different kind of experience and it proves that if I knew anything about geography I wouldn’t have landed back in New York.

I left home when I was still in high school. I went to a high school where if you were absent or late that day, they’d call your home. They called my home and my father answered the phone ...

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A Life of Travel

Life Story Club Contributor

For 40 years, I lived out of mainland US, so depending on where I was at the time, I guess it depended on which country we were in at what time of the year. Most of my time was spent living on a small sailboat. My husband was a research anthropologist. We mostly went to islands that were so small, they couldn’t be accessed by anything but small boat. And in that case, it was sailboat, and we had a sailboat.

I guess one thing that sailors do whenever they pull in, they look around and see how many other sailboats there are there. And usually you’re flying the flag from whatever country you come from, from the stern. So we were always flying a US flag. Boats usually just hook up and talk to one another. They’d like to share whatever they were doing. If they were drinking something different, they’d say, “Do you want some of this?” Or if they were eating something different or if they just caught something from the sea, it was that sort of thing.

Once my kids grew up, by the time they had gone to the mainland and passed university level, wherever we were, any time there was a school break, they were anxious to fly down to join us. It would depend on where we were and how many people they were bringing with them because of course they would bring anyone with them who could afford to fly there. It was a different life.

Unfortunately, I always think of Giana as an island, but it’s not an island. We spent two years in Giana. And then, all of the other islands from the northern coast of South America, all the way up to Puerto Rico. We would spend sometimes a month, sometimes three months there. It depended on if a country asked me to come up there to teach, I possibly would spend three or four months there.

If it was during the school year, we were probably anchored in Puerto Rico. My husband was chair of the anthropology department at the University of Puerto Rico. At a time when they were most anxious to have people from the US to come down. And since he had just gotten his PhD at Yale, they were very anxious to have people from that part of the country to come down.

We spent three months living at an island called Bequia, when I was invited to teach there or design curriculum for them. And unfortunately, all the times you think of is the hurricane season. Thanksgiving is the 30th of November, that was the day we give thanks that we weren’t hit by a hurricane. And hurricane season is on right now throughout the Caribbean.

For 40 years, I lived out of mainland US, so depending on where I was at the time, I guess it depended on which country we were in at what time of the year. Most of my time was spent living on...

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