87 posts categorized "Readers' Stories"

A TGB READER STORY: Attachments

By Ann Burack-Weiss

Remember the Kubler-Ross stages of grief? Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance? We first heard of them in 1969. Did you know that the original five stages were later added to by Kubler-Ross herself? (shock before denial, testing after depression).

Since Kubler-Ross felt free to add to her model, I’m pretty sure that if she had lived 'til Covid-19, she might have added one more - attachments.

My inbox runneth over - sender’s names preceded by paper clips.

Clicking on the links, I find music, dance, theatre videos, solos and groups. Rooms at home, empty sidewalks, parks, rooftops. School children, amateurs, professionals playing, singing, dancing and acting their hearts out.

Cartoons, singly or in long threads. My favorite: a Seder plate (Passover on April 8th). In place of ceremonial objects to remind us of past sufferings are those that in years to come will remind us of today - rolls of toilet paper on one section, masks on another, gloves on another

Poems, stories, essays and quotes by published authors. Or written by the senders themselves.

Yoga and meditation mantras.

Netflix or Prime Time or Hulu programs I must watch, books and articles I must read.

Pleas for social action from academic, health care, social service, political and religious organizations.

HD and online offerings from arts organization (museums, operas, concert calls, theatre companies, lecture sites).

I am a serial offender, BCC my favorite address line.

Attachments reflect my life. The senders are members of my tribe. I imagine that if I were a bridge or chess player, I’d be receiving games to play. Gamblers surely receive lineup of odds in every race and lottery, as those interested in team sports must trade statistics and review potential trades.

Email attachments are virtual life lines reminding us of who we were before and may one day be again. They pull us up as we are about to drown in the swirling waters of fear and grief. Gripping tightly to our ends, we feel the answering pull that says “Just hang on. I’m still here. I won’t let you go.”

Attachments. Definitely an Eighth Stage. Projecting us into a future when we step out of our caves and into the arms of those emerging from theirs.

Our hugs will be tight and long. Then we’ll walk off together. For coffee or lunch at our favorite place, the one where the tables are so close that you can overhear every conversation.

Or to a concert where we turn our heads to shush the whisperers behind us.

Maybe walking and talking as we stroll through the park or along the river, find that bench under a tree where we can hear the music from the jazz trio, watch the parade of babies, lovers, old people, everyone in between.

“What a time that was!” we will say.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Not Here

By Carol Nadell

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
        - Encounter by Czeslaw Milosz

“Wonder” indeed. That is the feeling I experience more and more often now that I have reached the three-quarter century mark and find myself grappling with the inevitability of my own mortality.

It’s not a morbid thought – not, as this poet says, “sorrow.” It’s more like a childlike curiosity. What does it really mean to die, to end this life, to - in Shakespeare’s words - “shuffle off this mortal coil?”

I cannot seem to get my mind around this eventuality which will, of course, come to us all. After my husband died following years of ill health, I remember saying to my friends, “I was prepared for him to die. I wasn’t prepared for him to be dead.”

It was what I called the “non-hereness” that was the hardest reality to understand and accept. How was he not just in the next room, watching TV? How was it that we wouldn’t be sitting down to dinner together? How was it possible that after almost 40 years of sharing a bed, his side was now empty? Forever.

That was almost five years ago and still today something in me balks at the permanency of the loss. I’ll never see him again? How is that possible

These days, I am often brought up short by the recognition that someday I, too, will be gone. In those moments, I frequently envision my grandchildren – all young adults now – around a table regaling each other with stories about me.

“Remember the time Savta took us to the theater for the first time? Remember how she always made us linguini because we didn’t like the angel hair pasta we got at home? Remember how she always corrected our grammar?”

Because I have been blessed to share many sublime memories with my grandchildren, these imaginary conversations go on and on. They include the fun times together in New York City, the special 10th birthday trips out of town, the advice sought (and often heeded), the special secrets shared between grandchild and grandmother, the tears and the laughter.

I eavesdrop on these conversations and they make me smile. But what is most striking about these imagined family scenes is that I am not in them. Just as they have recounted memories of their grandfather, my husband, so lovingly and longingly since his death, so it will be with their thoughts of me.

There will be a time when I’ll be only a memory to those people in whose lives I am today a powerful and dependable source of love and strength. Perhaps my grandchildren will someday share their memories of me with their children, to whom I may well be no more than a name.

Will they roll their eyes as their parents try to tell them of their beloved Savta? Or will they yearn for more information about the woman they’ve heard so much about and have, perhaps, seen in photos their parents have managed to save on whatever futuristic digital devices their heads are buried in? Will they feel my presence and wonder at my “non-hereness?”

I read an essay recently by a newly-widowed woman who, in listing all the “facts” of her new existence, cited buying a car, donating to non-profit radio, and paying property taxes. “These are now the facts of my life, a few among many,” she continued, concluding with a simple, declarative statement: “Alan is not among those facts anymore.”

What will it look like when I am no longer “among the facts?” I wonder.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Word Puzzles

By Fritzy Dean

Why is the opposite of disheveled, “neat or orderly”? Shouldn’t it be “sheveled”?

How is it that one can be often overwhelmed, seldom underwhelmed, but never, ever “whelmed?” According to Merriam and Webster, they had to do an exhaustive search to find a record of “whelmed” in print. It had to do with a city whose bay had so much rain that the inlets were all ”whelmed.” Obviously the opposite of overwhelmed is unimpressed, not “whelmed.”

I bet everyone of us know someone who is utterly “ruthless.” Do you know anybody who is utterly “ruth”? Of course, you don’t. If we want to describe the opposite of ruthless, we would say that person is humane, warm-hearted or charitable. Isn’t English a strange language?

For example English has over a million words, but only ONE for love. Only ONE! The Inuit people have over 14 words for snow - to describe the various forms of snow they may encounter. But in English, we have only ONE for love.

We must use the same word to declare “I love you” and “I just love horror movies”. Even the ancient Greeks had three words for love. There was eros for romantic love, phileo for brotherly love and agape for Godly love. English? Nope, just one.

And how about a plural for the pronoun “you”. Oh, I know the linguists will tell us the “you” is both singular and plural. So is sheep, but in real speech we KNOW that we should have a word to determine more than one person. That is why in the South we say “Y’all” and the New Jersey natives will say “youse guys” and in Appalachia, we might hear “you’ens”.

With over a million words available, shouldn’t we have a plural for “YOU”?

In 1976 I worked in downtown Houston with a young man whose first language was Arabic. I believe he was from Lebanon. We became friends I think because he knew he could ask me questions without being laughed at.

There were a number of young guys in the same department, but Kumail learned not to ask them questions because he would NOT get a straight answer, ever. When one of them mentioned that our boss was on his “high horse”, Kumail thought the boss owned a very tall pony. They let him think so.

One day Kumail asked me to explain the word “make-up”. I explained first that it is a compound word. ”Make” is a word, ”up” is a word and together they make a new word. That it is a term used for cosmetics, such as lipstick, face powder and mascara, collectively known as “make-up”. He looked even more puzzled and said he didn’t understand.

Oh, maybe the person meant to “kiss and make-up.” That means to resolve any differences between you and get back on positive footing. It could actually be taken literally if the speaker had a tiff with his girlfriend and wanted to make amends.

Kumail is looking more and more confused. Oh, maybe it was used to say, “We need to make up for lost time“. That just means we must hurry, we were too slow at the task.

He shakes his head wearily. No, no. Then I thought of one more way Americans use “make up.” Maybe the person said something like we need to make up a story and stick with it.

He brightened. “That’s it! What does this mean?” It means one or more people fabricate a story - “make it up.” And “stick with it” means don’t ever admit it was a made-up story.

Kumail thanked me profusely and exclaimed over again what a weird language English is and how difficult to learn. He said the whole conversation had given him a hang-around.

Now, it’s my turn to look puzzled. He said, “You know, when you go out drinking with your friends and the next day your head hurts so bad? A big “hang-around”.

Are you talking about a “hang-over”? Yeah, your language gives me a bad hang-around.

Me, too, Kumail. Me, too.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Structure in a Time of Pandemic

By Adele Frances

After three weeks in self-quarantine, I have learned, along with billions of others, that adding structure to your day is a necessary bulwark against inertia leading to boredom leading to depression leading to insanity. So I have created a schedule that I generally follow each day, unless some new exciting thing comes barging into my life (like picking up cheap toilet paper at a neighbor’s porch.)

First, I make my tea, write in my journal and check the morning news on my iPad. This usually makes me want to call everyone I’ve ever known and loved and say good-bye, but I wisely restrain the impulse.

Next I call my friend trapped in her small room in an assisted living home and check to see that she: a) is still alive; b) remembers who and where she is; and c) still laughs at my jokes.

So far, so good. If I am clever, I do my leg exercises while talking to her from my bed. If I forget, (four out of five calls), I have to add this later, but before I dress or my exercise routine is lost for the day.

Next I try to remember if it is shower day (every other day—I live in dry New Mexico) and then act accordingly. Unless I can’t remember and I shower anyhow. (Remind me to buy stock in Nivea lotion.)

Then I eat my breakfast between 10 and 11. I’ve been cutting down the amount of food consumed and am eating three meals between 10 and 5, leaving my body to digest and outsmart my GRD (acid reflux) for roughly 15 hours. Works most of the time. (If not, I stay awake from 2AM to 5AM and watch movies.)

Now comes the big decisions: what do with my day? Today I will finish the simple cloth masks I started yesterday and give them to friends. Then I will Zoom with my siblings (which I taught to them - Zoom, that is. I am 75 and they are in their 80’s, a clear example of how the younger generation needs to lead the old. Don't tell them I said that.)

I will also spend time in my small garden, admiring the plants I’ve recently potted (the only reason for going food-shopping) and talking to the goldfinches, sparrows and white-winged doves that are feeding a few feet from my patio table. I’m assigning them names now, but that’s only normal, right?

After lunch, I may sit and read awhile or even watch the latest on Netflix. Having devoured Tiger King, Unorthodox and Caliphate, I’m now searching for the Next Best Thing. I think I dated Joe Exotic once, but perhaps that was a dream.

Then the neighbor across the fence plays his car music way too loud, the bass reverberating throughout my home, and I call his apartment manager while my neighbor calls the police. Again. This takes up a good half-hour that is well-spent. Do we need noise in this pandemic of silence?

At dinner I turn on TV to catch the evening catastrophic news and then quickly go onto lighter fare, like Jeopardy, where they are showing earlier shows and Alex Trebeck doesn’t know pancreatic cancer is in his future. Happier times.

As I watch, I am sewing a million running stitches of embroidery thread onto a red Eileen Fisher jacket that a friend recently gave me. I don’t wear red, so I decorated it with various colored circles around which I am sewing stitches into infinity. Or until I run out of embroidery thread. Again, I consider this a normal activity, but you may disagree.

Sounds fairly orderly. Right? But remember, all throughout the day I am sending and answering phone calls, emails and texts. A constant but necessary interruption for staying in touch. At this point I have no idea what I’ve told whom. “Did I send you the pix of the 2000-piece puzzle on my table? Or my stitched red jacket? Oh well, enjoy and don’t ask why I sent it. Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Okay, it’s almost time for my shower. Or is it? What day is it? How dry is my skin? Perhaps I should write my schedule on the shower curtain.

How are you coping with your structure-setting?

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Dinner for an 82nd Birthday

By Diane Darrow of Another Year in Recipes

My very dear husband of 50 years was about to reach his 82nd birthday. How to celebrate it? We’re in blessedly good health for our ages (I’m 77), but we can hardly bear to go to New York City restaurants any more, no matter how fine. Can’t stand the cramped spaces, the noisy crowds, the loud music and especially the cost of the wines.

We both love wine and Tom has been stashing away special bottles for many years in a closet at home: now-well-aged French and Italian wines that – in any restaurant that would carry such older bottles – would cost more than a month’s grocery bill.

The solution was clear, and the choice was easy: We’d dine at home. I’d make him a really lovely dinner and he’d open a bottle of...what? After much agonizing, he chose his prized 1977 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino.

Wine

He’d been saving this single bottle of the esteemed Tuscan wine for more than 30 years and it was time to be practical about it. How much longer are we going to live? How long are our taste buds going to be functioning? Do we really want this wine to be left to our heirs who may not even drink wine, or sold off to strangers in an estate sale? No! We’ll have it now.

We did, and it was wonderful. I made us a dish from Italy’s rich regional cuisine: duck legs braised with porcini mushrooms, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, white wine and tomato paste.

Alongside we had plain green beans and a big baked potato – and the Brunello. Once opened, the wine (like ourselves) was quite fragile because of its age but it simply blossomed with that good food – as did we.

Dinner was long and leisurely. We finished the bottle while nibbling on pieces of Grayson, a flavorful farmstead cheese from Virginia. It and the Brunello appreciated each other just as Tom and I do, even after all these years.

It was a fine birthday celebration, both down-home and elegant, with all participants properly mature.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Not Giving Up

By Steven J. Rubin

I am 76 years old, soon to be 77. I have had two hip replacements, two back surgeries, a recent broken shoulder, two arthroscopic knee surgeries, numerous spinal injections, the usual broken bones, pulled muscles, sprained ankles, etc.

In the trunk of my car you will presently find the following: a tennis racket, tennis shoes, hiking poles, hiking shoes, biking shoes, biking helmet, biking gloves, a gym bag containing necessary workout apparel (shorts, tee-shirt, sneakers) and swimming gear (a towel, swim suit, goggles, etc.), golf clubs, golf shoes.

In the winter you will find skis (both downhill and cross-country), two sets of ski poles, two pair of ski boots, skiing helmet, winter hiking boots and poles, the aforementioned workout and swim apparel, and the detritus left over from summer.

I am, to put it mildly, in total denial.

And there is more! I pay monthly dues to - not one - but two fitness centers. I have a personal trainer. I joined a hiking club called “The Monday Mountain Boys.”

Truth be told, the mountain boys have yet to see my face. And I haven’t seen my personal trainer in months. Most cruelly, I have been unceremonious kicked out of my tennis group. This, the result of a broken shoulder incurred while attempting to run down a drop shot, deviously and deftly placed sent by my opponent.

“Stay home,” I was told, once I had recovered. “Don’t try to do something you can’t.” Or more depressingly, something you can no longer do.

I have a season’s pass (a “senior” season’s pass!) to the local ski mountain. I am among the first to renew that pass every year. Oh, I manage to drag myself up there every once in awhile and make my way down the bunny slope.

Riding up the chairlift, I have visions of past ski runs. Was I that young man who competed in NASTAR races in places such as Aspen, Snowmass, and Breckenridge? Alas, no longer. Now, it’s two hours on the slope and home in time for my afternoon nap.

I still bike, but at such a pace that I struggle to keep vertical. I avoid hills or walk when I can no longer pedal. I understand e-bikes are now the fashion for the senior set and I intend to check that.

I have my skis tuned every fall. I have my tennis racket re-strung every spring in the hope I will be welcomed back into the tennis fold. I take the occasional spinning class, work out as best I can, lifting a few weights, staggering through a slow trot on the treadmill. But these days, the class I regularly attend is my senior exercise class - alternately dubbed the “lift and lunch bunch” or the “crunch and brunch gang,” depending on the time of day we meet.

Do I decry this fast evolving decrepitude? Of course I do! But what is to be done? “An old man is a paltry thing,” W. B. Yeats intoned. And I fear he was correct.

You would think I would give up this foolishness, this self-delusion. I tune my skis for what? The half-dozen runs a season down the bunny slope? I let my former tennis partners know I’m ready. I wait in vain.

My wife tells me it’s time to take up a life of the mind. Friends urge me to join their book clubs. They worry about me. “Nobody ever got hurt,” they remind me, “sitting on the couch reading a book!” But I demur.

Is this really what I want? I know I’m deceiving myself, thinking I’m the athlete I once was, or even close to that. But so what? I’m here. I’m playing on this side of the grass, as one of my golf buddies intoned one day after he managed (as I often do) to take 10 shots to reach the green.

The poet Dylan Thomas tells us to “not go gentle into that good night.” And I won’t. At least as long as my knees hold out - and my shoulder and my back and my hips. I’m good for another season. Or so I tell myself. So what if I’m living in a fantasy. Given today’s headlines, it beats the real world!

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Marilyn of My Young Dreams

By Barrie N. Levine who blogs at Into the 70s – 72 is the New 72

When I was a preteen in the 1950s, my cousin and I were fervent Marilyn Monroe fans. We subscribed to movie magazine - Photoplay and Modern Screen - with a feature on our favorite movie star in most every issue.

We made up scrapbooks and pasted in every possible picture and article we could find. When I visited my cousin in Philly, I always brought my updated scrapbook. We reviewed our new insertions immediately, and most seriously.

I also loved Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, the beautiful celebrity power couple of the time. In the spirit of today’s media name couplings, maybe they would have been known as “CurtLeigh.”

But Marilyn was my idol, bar none. I followed her life story and career faithfully. I can’t tell you how many times I saw her on the silver screen in the 1950s, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Jane Russell, How to Marry a Millionaire with Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall, The Seven Year Itch where she stood over a subway grate with her white skirt blowing, and with Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in the perpetually hysterical Some Like it Hot.

The vibrant Technicolor productions brought the Hollywood experience to the Plaza Theater in my small New Jersey downtown. My allowance covered both the 50 cents admission and a box of Raisinets, the movie treat in those days along with Good & Plenty and Bonomo Turkish Taffy.

I decided to write to Marilyn Monroe herself at the Twentieth Century Fox movie studio to let her know I was a loyal fan and request an autographed picture.

On a day I will always remember, I arrived home from school to open a large envelope with a matte finish 8x10 black and white photo of Marilyn wearing a sparkling diamond necklace and leaning against a beautifully draped satin background. The personalized inscription in bright red ink read, “To Barrie, Warmest Regards, Marilyn Monroe.”

MarilynofmyYoungDreamsBarrieLevine

My mom gave me permission to place a long-distance telephone call to my cousin to share this amazing news. She could not wait for my next visit.

Fast forward to my adult life and an episode on Antiques Roadshow in 1999. A woman brought in the same exact photo of MM with the handwriting in red ink. The ephemera expert flipped out and said that Marilyn herself had used red ink, whereas the secretaries had used blue or black ink.

The appraiser estimated the value of the signed photo at $5,000!

I screeched, and then danced around the living room. I had saved the photo for more than 40 years, protected in a brushed gold wood frame worthy of the famous star.

Several years later, my internet research turned up information that the appraiser was mistaken. It was determined through archival research and handwriting analysis that the studio secretaries also signed for Marilyn in red.

Comparing my sample to verified signatures, I saw that the autograph on my photo came up short (it does have some value as a studio-signed fan photo, but only at a small fraction of an original).

My hopes to sell it to help pay a substantial portion of my daughter’s first year college tuition were dashed. But now I get to keep and treasure the photo - and the memory - of the sweet, sad and talented movie star I adored.

Rest in peace, Marilyn of my young dreams (1926—1962).

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: The Morning Has Past

By Nancy Rubuliak

A number and a name were written on the backside of a receipt for lumber bought over 30 years ago to build the deck at the rear of my house. Seeing the writing in his hand, I felt a stab and realized I had little in my possession written by him.

Words left as evidence that he once was, once had existed. Words given time. It was 12 years since I had returned from the last trip to Paris. Two weeks after my return my father would die in a hospital bed with my mother sleeping beside him on a cot.

I remember the phone ringing that morning early and going there before dawn. I had long since laid to rest the notion that the man from Paris would bring true love but at that time I had not yet come to that fact.

My father’s death created an empty space which now remained as the permanent artifact of loss. The sensation of vacancy in a place where once was felt warmth, security and unconditional acceptance. He had helped build the deck that still stood, although some parts were now in need of repair.

He had departed slowly, over time, incrementally like eroding rock outcrops. Weather and time slowly chiseling away at the weakest points. At first one does not notice such an invisible assault but over time forces play like in the great canyons of the Southwest to etch away massive stretches of land leaving open space.

I kept thinking about this landscape since my return. How the past was layered, dense and buried or pouring out, dissipated, transformed and dispersed. Some of it scattered to the four directions, some flowing away with torrential rains or running out like from a broken hourglass spilling from great standing stones and spires.

He eroded over time until he was uncertain of where he was and what had been his life. I was never forgotten but in the last months he lived in a dream state, an endless stream of scenarios rose to plague him, onerous tasks to be done with too few hands, calamities great and small besetting him alone, always the perpetual themes of trouble and responsibility.

His handwriting was unmistakable. Even now the memory of seeing it makes me sad. How much more I would have asked him, wanted to do with him. It had never been easy. My mother had claimed him and only when he was dying and she was exhausted was there space for me.

There had been times, too, I had also been mortified by him like in my teens seeing him in the shopping mall in his rubber boots looking like the farmer he was. His honesty had been an embarrassment to me. I had been ashamed of him. All this now under layers of living, sedimentary, compacted with time and passing years.

What becomes of us? Do we, too, scatter into the four directions? Flow away to join the great oceans?

The sun was low and I noticed the shadows falling through the day on the west and later the east walls of the living room. Shadows that only came at this time of the year, forgotten once the sun turned around and began to grow again. Turning, churning, time was always rearranging the world around us, and in the end we too would reenter those same sands.

I wondered if that was why the dawn and the setting sun so moved us? Perhaps at these times we see transmuted what is both incomprehensible and unrefutable. I am remembering the sun setting at Church Wells and the light the next morning at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and the two of us.

[Note: Written after travel with Susan to the Colorado Plateau Sept 2018.]

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Doggerel About COVID-19

By Henry Lowenstein

Love Letter
I'm fond of you with all my heart,
but need to keep six feet apart,
for the duration
of the corona situation.
We can keep in touch, just as before,
but rather than by hugging,
by internet or semaphore.

Prophylaxis
The hundreds of hands I have not shaken,
the thousands of hand washings I have taken,
the embraces I've eschewed
the social distancing I've pursued
should make the corona virus aware
that I'm not ever to go there.

Help Needed
Our great technologies astound,
our rockets fly the moon around.
But, now we need,
with urgent speed,
technologies to inspire us
to subdue the corona virus
that threatens strife
to our way of life.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Sometimes I Forget

By Ann Burack-Weiss

Sometimes I forget. Especially when the weather takes a turn toward chill and the store windows are filled with fall fashions. I see a well-cut plaid skirt in beige and black, note it would look smashing with a turtleneck in either color, and think, “Just what I need.”

I imagine that I will leave the shop with both the skirt and a beautiful beaded sweater that caught my eye. That although there is no gala occasion to wear the sweater coming up, there is sure to be one before long. And won’t I be pleased with myself for having thought ahead.

Sometimes I forget. Especially on a crisp October day like today. I imagine that I will get up tomorrow morning and decide what clothes best suit where I’m headed. A teaching day? A library day? Field visits to social agencies? Lunch with colleagues? Department meetings? A play or concert in the evening? That I’ll ponder the chance of rain before tugging on suede boots – taking my chances because they go so well with what I have on.

That I will brush out my long hair - pulled back straight from my forehead – before settling on chignon, French braid, or round bun. That V-neck sweaters worn with large hoop earrings (silver one day, gold the next) still look good on me.

So easy it is to forget – on this day that shouts “back to work ” - that the life I once had, the body I once dressed for that life, is no longer mine.

So hard to remember that a changed hairline dictates a curly, no- nonsense bob. That a shorter shape and diminishing waistline precludes many clothing choices and a reduced round of outside activities takes care of the rest. That yoga outfits, black pants, black skirt, and a few tops, are all the clothes I will need for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, I just forget.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: A Pandemic in the Time of Pay Phones

By Trudi Kappel

In the fall of 1957, my senior year in high school, the Hong Kong flu became pandemic. At the small boarding school I attended, the infirmary was overwhelmed with sick students. Satellite infirmary rooms were set up in the dorms.

Healthy students ferried supplies between buildings. Nobody used masks or any other protective gear. More students got sick.

Then the school was quarantined - on MY BIRTHDAY!!! Bummer! In previous years, my parents would visit and take me out for a celebratory restaurant meal. This year, I was not allowed to leave campus.

As consolation, Mom baked me a big double-decker birthday cake and they delivered it in the afternoon. We lived 30 country road miles away from the school. My parents decided to take advantage of the trip so before returning home they went out for dinner (boo-hoo, without me) and then saw a movie.

At dinner that evening, school officials announced a meeting of all healthy students at 7PM. School would close for two weeks and everybody should go home as quickly as possible. Do-at-home assignments were handed out.

I raced to the pay phone hoping to locate my parents before they left the area. No luck. There was a long line behind me at the phone so I went to share out my cake.

The theater had paged my parents but mangled the pronunciation of our name so badly that they didn't respond. After the movie, Dad asked at the box office if anybody had responded to that page. No. And the girl who was calling seemed anxious.

Dad thought, could it be? With difficulty he managed to get a call through to that very busy pay phone, and said he would pick me up in an hour.

It was a very busy hour. I distributed the cake and packed books and clothes for two weeks and left. I spent those two weeks at home without so much as a sniffle.

One of my assignments was to read the Russian novel, The Brothers Karamazov. I put it off and put it off. Long Russian novels were and are not my thing.

The day before we were to return, I skimmed the first 50 pages. I figured when my English teacher started discussing the book, I would be able to keep ahead of her.

Ahem. I never read another page. She didn't mentioned it when classes resumed. I didn't ask.

Life returned to normal as I hope that it will soon for us now. Current status: I am not so bored to resume reading the Brothers but it could happen.


A TGB READER STORY: Petal Memory

By Nancy R.

The petals I picked in the summer
come to life in the cup.

I drink the morning
I first picked these blossoms with her along the road near the creek
I had to cross to reach her house.

I drink the afternoon last summer
with a mantle of blue covering me and
the summer breeze tousling my hair.

Pink, delicate and faint,
Bright and rosy.
I pick carefully, slowly in the mid afternoon
as the bees rush from bush to bush
also harvesting.
Sun still high and hot.

I drink the rose colour of flowers.
Familiar, too the cerulean sky and towering poplars
my first friends.
On a blanket
the sound of rustling leaves overhead
my mother nearby working in the garden.

She wrote that there were several doors
and death was no different than in life.
We pass through a doorway.
Is this the way home?

This morning I choose wild rose petals because I wanted to be near Baba who was a wise, kind and good woman who loved me. I drink this assurance and continue my day.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Annual Checkup Time

By Barrie N. Levine who blogs at Into the 70s

I customarily schedule my annual physical for January. I take my blood tests a week ahead for my doctor to review, the usual routine. But for this exam, Doctor M. didn’t even take out his stethoscope.

My husband had died on December 4th, after a struggle with a dementia illness that took him down in two years. I felt physically exhausted deep in my bones from caregiving. I reeled from the loss itself.

I had just completed the 30-day period in Jewish tradition in which the mourning family refrains from entertainment and business involvements.

I had no idea where to go from there after 41 years of a beautiful marriage from my twenties to my sixties.

When the doctor asked if I had any concerns, I burst into tears and could barely talk. “My heart is broken...my husband, he’s gone...” The nurse looked in to make herself available for blood pressure, but Doctor M. motioned her to leave and closed the door.

We spoke quietly for nearly an hour, both sitting in chairs, the examination table unused. I don’t remember exactly what he said, or what I said, just the quiet tones of our conversation.

Everywhere I went, even here, grief pursued me. I had to be in shock, still. I remember those unrelenting dark days, and this was one of them.

The doctor listened closely, witnessed my tears and placed his hand briefly over mine in a gesture of warmth. I spoke of my pain, how it burned, how it stayed with me day and night, inside or outside, alone or with others. I went on about how my husband rototilled our vegetable garden and built stone walls with his tractor, performing acts of service for his family as his life’s purpose.

Doctor M.’s compassionate observations comforted me. He spared me a physical examination that would have felt irrelevant, disrespectful - my body was not hurting, just every other part of my being, mind and spirit. My heart was shattered, but not in a way that a medical procedure could detect and set aright. He tended to me, the whole broken me.

He listened intently, expressing his faith in me, in my powers of resilience, in my ability to take in the support so many had generously offered. He advised me in ways that felt important and life-affirming - walk each day in the fresh winter air, be sure to eat nourishing food, seek restorative sleep.

Not able to make sense of my life in ruins, I simply followed his admonitions. That was all I could manage at the time.

The winter moved along, as did the sharply demarcated seasons we experience in New England. A year like no other.

The following January, I again reported for my physical. Before he began, Doctor M. asked how my year had been and how was I now?

First thing, I reminded him of our meeting the year before, when we had a long meeting in which he knew instinctively what would start the healing process for me, his grief-stricken patient.

This new appointment was much shorter than the last one. I climbed onto the examination table without hesitation. The nurse took my blood pressure and the doctor took out his stethoscope. I was ready to resume the annual ritual, a small victory that I recognized as a sign that it was safe to move forward.

No matter how I start my year, I will always include an expression of gratitude to my doctor for being so much more than just a health care provider. He had played a part in my life that I wanted to acknowledge - and praise - with all my heart.

First, he did no harm, his sacred oath. And after that, he honored my humanity.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: What Have They Done to the Dictionary?

By Elizabeth Megyesi

I used to think I had a fairly good understanding of the English language. After all, English is the language I spoke as a child, adding words and their meanings steadily as I grew, first at home, then at school.

Throughout the years the words got longer and meanings more complex, but I kept adding them to my vocabulary. Upon hearing a new word, there was always the dictionary to look up the meaning and probably the definition made sense.

But all of a sudden, as if overnight, someone added dozens of new pages to the dictionary with hundreds of brand new words. When you start looking up their meanings, most of the definitions consist of other brand new words.

OK, It didn’t really happen overnight and I should have paid more attention at the beginning of the computer age. At first I learned enough to get by but apparently that wasn’t enough. Sort of like knowing how to drive a car but without understanding how it works. When something goes wrong you are in big trouble.

So now I am at the bottom of the class when it comes to my technical vocabulary words. Not just computers but phones, TV’s, and even cars are becoming a puzzle.

Calling a help desk only works when you know enough to ask the right questions to get your answer. You are advised to click this button or open that file. At some point you have to admit you haven’t got a clue.

Thank goodness for grandkids who seem to have been born with electronic devices in their hands and these words in their vocabulary.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Sleeping With The Enemy

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By Fritzy Dean

His voice is by turns harsh, commanding, demanding - then smooth, silky, seductive. I am held motionless, captivated, not wanting to miss a word or even a syllable. He voice is close, intimate - next to my ear.

I gently adjust the pillow, not wanting to disturb him or the story he is telling. Oh, good, he didn’t notice my small movement. He continues as I relax more and more into what I have come to think of as “our” bed.

It has taken me some time to get comfortable having this voice, and I admit it, other voices in bed with me. As a book lover, I read myself to sleep for as long as I can remember. Then with age came one of what Shakespeare called “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” I developed macular degeneration and can no longer read in bed. I can barely read at all.

I resisted getting an e-reader for a long time. As a senior citizen, I was slow to embrace technology. I felt fearful and inadequate, but missed reading SO much, I gave in and got a Kindle. While it is not the same as reading an actual book, it keeps me from feeling so deprived of my first and strongest love - reading.

With the Kindle mastered (sort of), I was finally brave enough to get an audio book reader and subscribe to Audible. A tech savvy friend set it up for me.

So now, here I am - in bed with my electronic device and my latest book.

This particular book is being read by an actor, a good one, too. He is able to sound like the different characters do, changing his voice appropriately. He is able to project the changing moods of the plot. He is a superb teller of tales.

Unfortunately, not all of the readers are. Especially disappointing is to learn that some of my favorite writers are AWFUL readers. The first book I downloaded read by the author almost turned me against him. His “writing” voice (the one I heard in my head, was deep and melodious. The voice coming from the device was high pitched and nasal, like a hillbilly with a bad cold.

Oh, PLEASE hire an actor next time!

Of course, some authors ARE good readers and what a treat that is. I remember, in particular, Barbara Kingsolver reading Unsheltered. She knew EXACTLY where to put emphasis, where to pause, where to glide along. She wrote it, after all, and she was a wonderful guide for the listener.

There have been other such lovely surprises. Pride and Prejudice read by NO, NOT Jane Austen, but by a full cast of actors. I smiled the whole way through. Such a lovely bedtime story.

I called this little essay, Sleeping With The Enemy because of my fear of, and reluctance to embrace technology. However, recently I began to encounter a word that must have been coined by the millennials – frenemy.

From the way it is used I assume it means someone or something you love in spite of yourself. Something you would love to hate, but just can’t - so perhaps I should rename this, because I certainly intend to continue sleeping with the frenemy.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: The White Cotillion

By Tim Hay

I was not pleased with my “Sidehill Gouger” comeuppance delivered by “This Betsy” - the freshman in my back seat occupying my rear-view mirror. Not wishing to receive another dose of her unnervingly-accurate analysis, I zipped my lip for the remaining two hours of our Christmas break trip to Spokane.

After I'd dropped all four girls off at their homes, my mother met me at our door with the revelation that I was going to the White Cotillion. In 10 days. For which she'd purchased two expensive tickets.

Because I had recently been a recipient of a Dear John letter, I was now without a date to this over-the-top shindig. Three phone calls afforded me no replacement date. Hoping to net a little consolation from my mother, I described my Sidehill Gouger encounter with This Betsy.

Mom just snickered! Then looked me in the eye, meaningfully, and said, “Tim, why don't you call “This Betsy” for the White Cotillion?

Ten days later, carrying a slender sense of dread, clad in tux, cufflinks, cummerbund and carrying her corsage, I stood in her entry. Her mother called upstairs to Betsy. Their stairs creaked a bit in anticipation, and -

There she was! In a white formal, flared-out by (most likely) multiple petticoats. All set atop white high heels and slender legs.

Betsy's sparkling eyes and almost-shy smile provided proof of the boy-girl impact she possessed. If anybody can over-grin, I know that I was doing so as I watched This Betsy pin her orchid corsage onto her 'formal'.

I opened her door to my Dad's big Buick and we departed back to my home, where my parents were hosting some friends for dinner. Betsy and I talked all the way there. Hard liquor was pervasive in the 1950's, so Betsy and I were hardly inside before Dad had poured scotch-and-sodas for us.

“Mom and Dad, I'd like to introduce This Betsy”.

Mom, in recognition, smiled warmly. Dad looked impressed. And Betsy blushed.

I'd pushed it a bit far. As usual. Chatting with the family guests, I had one eye on my watch and two eyes on Betsy. No one, including myself, had thought to ask Betsy her age. Later she told me that, not only had she just turned 17, but that her scotch-and-soda had been her first real drink. Ever.

When I sprung that little gem of information on my Mother the next day, Mom was mortified.

Spokane's social event of 1956 was the achingly-formal White Cotillion Ball, marking the presentation of 18-year-old daughters of the Spokane Club members to Spokane's society.

The Spokane Club building is an architectural confection. Its red brick, white stone, fancy moldings and shiny-clean beveled-glass windows combining with multiple Christmas trees had the effect of approaching a Disney magic castle. Betsy's eyes glistened in response.

Once inside, she marveled at the luxury, the elaborate holiday decorations, the almost ankle-deep carpeting, the white moldings and especially the cut-glass wall sconces and the dozen layered chandeliers pouring their sparkles of delight onto the 200 formally clad party goers.

At first we circulated, sipping punchbowl nectar from our long-stemmed, cut-glass, champagne glasses, talking and talking. Huge round tables, friends, the four-course dinner served by uniformed waiters.

We ate, barely appreciating our meal, eyes on one another, talking and talking.

We watched the grand ceremony welcoming club daughters to Spokane society. Then we danced. A bit more closely than the others were dancing. We drifted to a small table in an obscure corner. Talking and talking. Later, we became aware that most of the Cotillion dancers had left. We followed, hand-in-hand.

The Buick would not go as slowly as I wished. Betsy slid over next to me. My entire being had become a smile. All too soon we were back at her home. I turned the lights off. And we sat. Next to each other. And talked. And talked even more. My watch too-soon showed after midnight, and she had to leave. It was unavoidable.

I leaned in. Betsy turned her head toward mine. The memory of that one single oh-so-sweet kiss remains with me today. For we have been “we” for 60-plus years. And This Betsy is still calling my bluff.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Off to Buy Vitamins

By Deborah Cavel-Greant who blogs at Simple Not Easy

I'm on Facebook, it's how I keep up with my friends and family members. But the "targeted" ads I am served are a hoot and some days are more entertaining than the FB posts.

My favourite is the one about a 50-year-old woman whose dermatologist hates her for her age-defying beauty secret which makes her look 25 (and which she is willing to sell me).

I’m not interested because if I looked 25 people would expect me to act 25 and if there's one thing I love about being old it's that you don't have to apologize for being slow anymore.

Another frequent ad thrown at me is from a dating service that laments the fact that their "senior men" can't find "faithful senior women like you Deborah".

Since I’ve been married to the same old fella for almost 55 years, if I answered that ad I'd not be the "faithful" woman they're looking for would I? Besides their "senior men" (hunky bare-chested models dressed as policemen and firemen and doctors) - are all about 35! My sons are older!

Still hoping they have a merry and potentially wealthy widow on their hands (I gave Facebook NO information other than my name, age and hometown I left at age 11), they offer to move me into a high-end retirement home, then try to entice me to join a single-seniors-only cruise. I sense frustration as they try to find something, anything that I might buy.

An interior designer will come to my home and make sure it doesn't have that "granny vibe" we all fear. Sadly, I do not care for their recommended $12,000 sofa that looks like three metal ironing boards welded together into an isosceles triangle and covered with shiny fuchsia-coloured Naugahyde.

They are flummoxed. Abandoning the hope that I am a high-rolling, world-cruising-cougar, they test the theory that I am a crippled-up, penny-pinching old party pooper and offer to sell me the secret of how to get $35,000 of free money from the government because I am infirm.

When I don't even want to know how to get $35,000 of free-for-the-taking-money, desperation sets in.

It's well known if you are over 65, you are either decrepit or an elderly Olympian so they abandon all semblance of targeting and simply go with alternating stereotypes. They begin rotating advertisements for medical aids with those for hair-raising experiences.

Do I need a new electric wheelchair? No? Do I want to go sky-diving? No? How about standing out in the geezer crowd with a hand-carved cane from Borneo? No?

Surely I'd enjoy a life-changing (I read this as "life-ending") sledding adventure down the North Face of the Matterhorn? NO? Perhaps I need a medical lift or a potty chair to sit beside my bed? NO?

An all-inclusive travel package to Mozambique to run in a marathon? NO???

When I don't pitch my credit card at the screen, I visualize them hunched over their keyboards with knit brows, shuffling ads like a deck of solitaire cards. One, gnawing his thumb knuckle, says tensely, "Pull back a little, offer her (long pause) square-dancing lessons."

They watch with nervous expectation as the ad comes and goes, all Madison Avenue ad agency sweat under the armpits as FB stock ticks lower by the second. A vein in a temple pulses visibly. One swears, and spits out, “The old dame is holding out. She's still not buying ANYTHING!”

In rapid succession they promise to hide my varicose veins, cure my diabetes, lift my sagging bosom, reduce my dewlap and “turkey-neck”, ease my painful gout. This gives me pause. I don’t have any of these problems; perhaps Facebook has a "Coming Afflictions" application I have inadvertently signed up for? Should I worry about this?

But I crumbled when I got a message from my cousin Mack this morning. Facebook has apparently developed an app that does what no other web application has ever done before; transcended that final curtain which we have never peered beyond.

My dearly loved cousin Mack passed away last December. However, I got a message on Facebook from him today recommending a well-known brand of senior's vitamins.

They finally have me. I'm off to buy some. If those vitamins can make Mack feel well enough to post to FB from where he's gone, they might finally make a square-dancer out of me.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: The Last Time

By Kay Richard

In the grainy black-and-white film of Aunt Evelyn’s home movie camera, Maureen and I are doing our version of the hippy hippy shake. I’m wearing cut-offs and a button-down collared blouse, along with the ever present headband.

The camera pans over to the kitchen table where Georgette, still wearing her white Henri’s School of Hair Design uniform, is teasing mom’s hair into a beehive French roll while mom plucks her eyebrows.

When her transformation is over, Aunt Evelyn asks me to stand behind mom for a family shot. I’m blowing bubbles with my wad of pink Bazooka and giving mom rabbit ears with my fingers.

They left for their night out on the town to celebrate mom’s 35th birthday. Soon the camera is spanning the club and the musicians are mouthing words to songs we can’t hear. There’s mom, crossing the dance floor with her drink and settling into one of the booths along the side wall. Cigarette smoke rises from ashtrays on every table.

I hear the front door open and close and get up to ask Mom if she had a good time. She is lying on the sofa, her left arm elevated on the back, her right hand in a fist sitting on her chest, creases between her eyebrows.

I asked her if she was alright and she told me to go back to bed. Kissing her on the cheek, I told her I loved her and returned to my room.

When I woke the next morning, Aunt Evelyn was sitting at the table. She’d been there for awhile, waiting to tell me that mom had been taken to the hospital during the night. She’d had a heart attack, but was stable in the newly constructed ICU.

A few days later, Aunt Evelyn drove me to Heywood Hospital. I wasn’t allowed to see mom because the age requirement was 14 and up, so we stood in the parking lot outside her room and she waved to me from her window. I blew her a kiss and we headed home. It was the last time I saw her alive.

If I could ask her any question, it would be, “Were you glad that you kept me”? An unwed pregnancy doesn’t elicit so much as a blink of an eye these days, but in the 1950’s she must have faced shame and ostracism.

We never had the opportunity to have the conversations that would answer so many questions about the circumstances of my birth but I like to think that beyond the fear, she felt that maternal love that made her carry me out the hospital door and into the large French-Canadian family that I grew to love.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Rings and Things

By Kay Richard

A couple of months after sidling through the doors of the local junior high school, I was still trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. My locker was side-by-side with Brenda, an eighth grader known mostly for her sarcasm and lack of empathy.

Always trying to fit it with my peers, I begged for sling back loafers to replace my Buster Brown lace ups, headbands instead of barrettes and pierced ears (no!).

For Christmas that year, I was given a white, three-ring binder with the profiles of the Fab Four on the cover. Suddenly, I was the envy of all the girls including Brassy Brenda. I sashayed the halls in my fabulousness.

It was short-lived, however, when I made a rookie faux pas. I’d been noticing that many of the cool girls were suddenly sporting a tie clip on their blouses. Ever wanting to join their ranks, I stopped at my Aunt Evelyn’s house on the way home from school and asked if my uncle might have an old tie clip I could have.

The next morning I arrived at my locker wearing Uncle Nere’s gold and rhinestone tie clip on my Peter Pan collar. Brassy Brenda was on me like a magnet to the North Pole.

“Whose tie clip is that”?

I turned and smugly replied, “I got it from my uncle”.

She crowed, turned to Cruel Candy on her right and said, “She’s going steady with her uncle”! They walked off in hysterics as I tore the tip clip off and ran to the bathroom where I spent homeroom period getting my tears under control.

The following spring, the school hosted a Friday evening dance in the cafeteria. Patty and I were sitting on the sidelines when the cutest boy in all of the junior high schools in central Massachusetts asked me to dance to the Beatles song, If I Fell.

I saw Brenda’s jaw drop into her glass of punch as Joey and I swayed to the music and when school convened on Monday, I was sporting his black onyx ring on a chain around my neck.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


A TGB READER STORY: Christmas Elves

By DJan Stewart of Djan-ity

One year when I was home visiting my parents and siblings for the holidays, my sister Norma Jean and I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I think I had been married for some time and away from home for awhile, but I really don't remember when it was for sure.

My parents had two distinct families, and the youngest three children were all six or under at this time, while Norma Jean and I were adults.

When we went out the door, Mama and Daddy had begun the Christmas Eve preparations for the young ones in the house (my brother and sisters) who had finally gone to bed. Daddy had begun to assemble a bicycle for our brother Buz, while Mama had to finish wrapping and putting Santa's gifts under the tree. It was a warm and happy scene. Off we went to Midnight Mass.

When we returned, the scene was anything but happy. The entire living room was scattered with glasses half-covered in salt (from partially consumed margaritas), and the bike was still only half assembled in the living room. The entire scene was, in a word, a nightmare. And our parents had stumbled into their bedroom and crawled into bed.

Apparently in the midst of their tasks, some friends had come over to visit and our parents had gotten quite drunk and forgotten what tonight meant to their young children.

We were aghast. For a few minutes we wandered through the living room and kitchen and wondered what to do. We decided that we would be Christmas elves and fix things.

Norma Jean set to the task of reading directions on how to assemble the bicycle and I began to clean things up. We toiled for several hours before inspecting our work and calling it good.

Norma Jean had learned how to follow arcane directions and actually put the bike together! (I was more impressed by this than I let on at the time.)

Well, in the morning the kids came downstairs to find that Santa had indeed come during the night and that his elves had done their work quite well.

It is one of the more satisfying Christmas memories that I share with my sister. We still smile about it. I had to write to Norma Jean to see if my memory of the event matched hers, and it pretty much did. She said,

”Maybe that's where I got the start of loving the feeling of accomplishment when I read directions and put things together...We cleaned up and set up the living room to be a real Christmas when everyone got up the next morning. It was certainly memorable.”

Over the years, Christmas has lost much of its magic for me. I don't like what I see happening to Christmas these days, but I am sure that there are still many parents, and Santas, and elves, making things happen for others.

(Oh, and by the way, I have forgotten what our parents' reaction to all this was, even though I am sure they appreciated the visit from the elves.)

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]