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Bergen County Blogs

Special Mom to Mom Comic Strip: A Mother's Serenity Prayer

This comic strip was included in a special insert inside the Bergen News today. 

God grant me the serenity to accept the fact that there will always be another load of laundry


Courage to assist the dog’s evacuation process because both egg rolls and Polly Pocket are Chinese food to her


And the wisdom to know that my house will never, ever be as neat and clean as my mother’s. 

 

Help me to live one late payment at a time


Accept playdates as my ticket to heaven


Take motrin according to the dosage directions and not as I would have it—every half-hour


Trust that if I surrender to my inner screaming-mimi to get the kids in bed before midnight

 

A martini will make all things right

 

And may I be reasonably happy with a vodka martini if the bottle of Gin has kicked.

 

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Mid Life Waste Land

Ok all of you who are tired of dragging around everyone’s baggage including your own say – HEY !!!!

I understand all da shrink rules on how you have shaped your life based on your up bringing. How you are what you have eaten! Yikes.
How your fears and insecurities are not entirely your own but rather passed down. Like the last cannoli.
At times you think, “my childhood was pretty damn good!” Until you start seeing the patterns. Always choosing the wrong partner or settling.
I think you really don’t figure out that you may have some residual issues until you start dating. That’s when you hear yourself and see yourself doing things that you never thought you would.

So you do the right thing. You go to Da Shrink do the work, realize how you were affected, recognize your patterns and say BASTA!
Then just when you think you have them licked – you find you are either way to unavailable or way to available! MAN…….
So finally after the dance of finding the balance you are all fixed and good to go and then there is know one to see it or share it.

Ok, so you give it time. Even when you start dating someone new you realize that you can see red flags faster, you’re not making them turn into other colors just to get by.
You realize that you run faster rather then deal with it. You realize that you are really ready to let someone in now. I am not saying you are perfect! But you are ready! Once in blue someone may even push a button but it’s still OK..
That’s the good news! Now, the bad news - is that everyone you meet has issues, drama and madness. They have a past that is part of their day-to-day present. Like a dog with a bone they won’t let it go. They are on meds, they have a shrink, and they may even have 2 shrinks, a life coach, and a self-esteem coach. Minga!

But then you think and say, “well – you had shit, you needed time, you held back! Take a shot! Give it a whirl! 
Ok what I just said, NEVER DO !!!
It seems good at the time but then your screwed. 
First, I you think you can help because you had issues!
Next, now here is da twist ~ ~ you gotta be careful with these people because they are smart in a slick way! THEY HAVE HAD MORE HEAD PROBING THEN AN ALIEN ON THEIR FIRST TRIP TO KANAS.
What that means is they are good at manipulating and really good at blaming you! NOT THEM !!!
They have clear heads, no responsibility! I think because they have had all this headwork they feel exonerated. So what they do is turn it on you and all of a sudden it’s your baggage not theirs. You feel the way you do because of their shit. You see what I mean?
Oh Man – Run forest Run ~~~

But at some point you have to say – WHY AM I DOING THIS?
And then you think and say hummmmmm maybe I missed some sessions at DA SHRINK or maybe, just maybe you are a hopeful Romantic and believe that love conquers all. 
That when Love is part of the equation you would do anything to make things right. 

Ya know what? Never stop believing that because it’s true !! Never let anyone make you think that your perception of love is wrong or not real. Or part of some Fairytale 
I am so tired of hearing my friends tell me these horror story’s of these Men and Women that they meet. How they bend over backwards to make things right and try and try. If its that much work – IT AINT LOVE – it’s a friggin burden.
Let them live in the past - YOU , YOU move forward.

So hear we are all grown up still looking for love in all the wrong places and ending up in a wasteland of baggage.

Take a deep breath and figure out how to move on and pray that the next person you meet only has a clutch or a small pouch rather feeling like you standing at the luggage carousel at JFK.





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Tony & Tina Turn 40

 

 You know you’re at a great party when someone leaves in a body bag. But, I’m getting way ahead of myself.

Jim and I were invited to our friends’ dual 40th birthday celebration at their house. Let’s call them Tony and Tina. Tony’s Greek, meaning that like the Italians, Irish, Jews…they throw an outstanding over-the-top, standing-room-only party that’s talked about for years.

There was a live ‘80’s band and a fully loaded bar equipped with bartenders. Guests giddily approached me--drink in one hand, finger wagging on the other saying, “I hope I don’t end up in your column!” Are you kidding me? With all this free-flowing booze, adults gone wild, and…did I say free-flowing booze? I was like a kid in a candy store…if that candy store served Jack Daniels shots. Lots and lots of Jack Daniels shots. And had its very own weekly column.

Most people our age can handle their liquor. Oh, who am I kidding? We were unchaperoned 40-somethings! And there were Jell-O shots expertly prepared by Tina’s mom! As fast as she could pull her jiggly-gelled culinary creations from the fridge, Tina’s friend, let’s call her “Foam Girl,” was serving them up. (Remember “Foam Girl”—she returns in paragraph six.) 

There were so many highlights to this party, but my favorite was that fabulous drunk party game “Are they her boobs or did she buy them for her birthday?” which (after a few drinks) morphs into, “Did she marry that boob she dated in high school?” and often ends with (right before the last guest leaves), “Did I just spend the last two hours talking to that boob with the toupee?” only to be informed that it was not a man in a toupee, but your husband’s divorced friend’s new trophy girlfriend wearing extensions that had been mangled from her hair-bending returns of the Jell-O shots to the porcelain Gods of war.

Re-enter “Foam Girl.” No party would be a success without a “Foam Girl.” She’s the first person to get the party started and the first person to “hit the floor.” Admittedly, I was “Foam Girl” at many, many Fort Lee Fire Department parties back in the ‘80’s. And 90’s. In fact, I reclaimed the title at Fort Lee’s 2008 Fire Department Inspection Dinner. (That bartender made one mean martini. The problem was I had five of them. Or was it six?)

Tony and Tina’s “Foam Girl” was K.O.’d by Jell-O shots. Now, when I’m not writing fabulous stories, or reading the bitter rejection letters from every major publishing house and magazine, I teach preschool. So it makes perfect sense that when “Foam Girl” was discovered in the fetal position it was moi that everyone called, and not the 58 certified EMT’s toasting each other with shots while Tony and his brother were flinging tropical fruit over the heads of the party guests with a bra-like contraption they called “The Flinger.”

When I arrived on the scene, “Foam Girl” was plastered to the ceramic tiles of Tony and Tina’s upstairs bathroom floor; her fingers were locked in a death-grip on those unexplainable plastic knobs on the base of every toilet bowl. I donned my “Don” and in my perfect Marlon Brando as the “Godfather” voice slapped her around like Johnny Fontane yelling, “You can act like a man!” She donned no response, but her cheeks now had a healthy rosy glow to them. Unable to find her pulse (my fingers were drunk) it was determined that 9-1-1 should be called. With the help of the lovely Maureen, and Tina’s mom (Cleopatra of the Jell-O shots) we cleaned her up so that she resembled a respectable corpse.

Unbeknownst to Maureen, Cleopatra, and me, there was 9-1-1 confusion. Two towns showed up. After Tony averted an “ambulatory” fist-fight “Foam Girl” was ready for transport. However, because of all the parked cars from the party they had to Hefty bag her to get her to the ambulance. We stood at attention as the EMT pallbearers hauled her ziplocked body down the road and over a block.

As we sent our fallen warrior off to battle dehydration, nausea, and the double bill her insurance company would undoubtedly send for the two ambulances, a lemon came hurling through the air just missing Foam Girl and sparking the conversation, “Guess what boob’s flinging the bra?”

 

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ALWAYS YOUR DAUGHTER

 

“I will never leave you; no matter what happens I will always be with you.” Unbeknownst to me at the time, those would be the last words that my father would ever speak to me. Those were the words that would carry me into my fatherless future, the road map that I would rely upon to navigate the sometimes perilous, sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious, always blessed journey of my life.

He was the one who taught me that in every seemingly bad moment there lies a great story. In the early ‘70’s Fort Lee went on this craze of turning many main thoroughfares into one-way streets. One night, while riding north on Center Avenue a fire engine, sirens a-blaring, was coming straight at us. My father, unfazed, just kept his hands on the wheel and foot on the gas. The fire engine slowed and swerved. The driver, thankfully, was a neighborhood boy, Jimmy Carney, who stopped and said, “Mr. Meyers! This is a one way street now!” to which my father replied in laughter, “Well then, you better turn around before you get killed,” knowing full well that he was the one traveling in the wrong direction.

Once, while driving my friend Judy home to Hasbrouck Heights, we ended up down the shore. In Fort Lee one road leads you to Routes 95, 80, 46, 4, 17… Needless to say, we ended up in Forked River that night.

How many times I wish he were here to turn to for a dose of wise counsel, or just to lean on to get through the sometimes interminable days. There was such an ease about him that I wish I possessed. It was impossible to be around him without his humor lifting you up.

One night when he was too weak to walk I carried him. I knew he was exhausted, out of breath, and in a great deal of pain, but he put all that aside to tell me, “Thanks for the ride, but next time I think I’ll take the bus.” It was more important for him to make me laugh than to succumb to the failings of his own body. He redeemed that moment with laughter because he refused to leave me to live with the memory of his weakness, and instead imparted to me his unquenchable strength. He died exactly one week later.

As year follows year, I find myself looking for him, and in moments when I really need him I follow his memory to the places he loved most—the cliffs of the Palisades, the banks of the Hudson River. But where he is always and ever present is here as I write.  Whenever someone tells me that something I wrote made them smile, or laugh out loud, or forget for one moment the pressure of the moment that came before, there he is. And when my column reaches out and touches the souls of people whose stories often remain unrecognized, as it seems my Mother’s Day column about mom’s who have lost a child, or have a child with special needs did, it’s the touch of his humanity calling out for the world to pay attention.

Every Father’s day I visit his grave to raise a flask, and pour a snifter of Irish whiskey upon his grave to honor the man who gave me life, good humor, and the gift for knowing that no moment is ever ordinary.  Most importantly, I toast him so I never forget all that he has given me and continues to give. I do it to remind myself that I have a father who is with me every day. After all, I came into this world his daughter; that did not stop with the beating of his heart; and it will not stop with the beating of mine. 

So, join me in the tradition of toasting my dear old Irish dad; and here’s to yours—whether their spirit dwells beside you or inside you…

“May the roads rise to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again may there be a generous bartender waiting to serve all us heathens in heaven.”  Thomas Francis Meyers, I hardly knew ye.

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MY GIRLFRIEND’S BIG TOW: PART 2

 

With the parked Prius missing from 22nd Street, Diane, Liz and I found ourselves guests of the NYPD Tow Yard. Liz was sent on a search and rescue mission for Diane’s teen-aged daughter Emily, and friend Kyle, who were roaming 168th Street having taken the wrong subway from Yankee Stadium. My beautifully dressed dark-skinned friend (a.k.a. “Prison Husband”) gave me an eerie sense of protection as I swam (in 4-inch trendy platforms!) with the bottom-feeders of civilization in the polluted undertow of the NYPD Tow Yard. 

Finally, it was our turn at the bullet-proof plexi-glass information window. “I’m trying to find out if my car was towed,” Diane said.

“Wrphhhh, yrmnnn, lrmny, nbuuuu,” the woman responded.

You’ve got to be kidding me! It was like standing on a subway platform when they make an announcement over the loudspeaker. Repeating what she said, we both squinted hard to read her lips. It was like a sick game of charades. WHAT’S. YOU…NO. YOUR. LIMIT…NO. LIGHTNING…NO. LICENSE! PLEAD…NO. PLAY…NO. PLATE. I GOT IT “WHAT’S YOUR LICENSE PLATE NUMBER!!!” We jumped up and down victoriously.

Then Diane somberly answered, “I don’t know it, but it’s a champagne-colored Prius.” The bubble over the woman’s head read, “Good for you, college girl, knowing the fancy color! But it’s still lost, you damn idiot.” But she must have felt sorry for us because she slipped Diane a note with the number of the Police Precinct that covers 22nd Street.

The Desk Sergeant told Diane that cars are routinely towed at 11pm; he was sure her car was, too. Diane took my phone to call her husband, Glenn, while I entertained the Desk Sergeant on hers.

When Glenn answered she laughed, “Sorry I missed your 25 calls. What’s the Prius’s license plate number?” I could almost hear his head detach from his body. I imagined Glenn’s response bouncing from cellular tower to cellular tower causing them to angrily ignite like the lightning-rods in Frankenstein’s laboratory. The Desk Sergeant, having grown attached to Diane, inquired, “Is she okay? Should I talk to her husband? Does she date?”

At this point Emily charged into the Tow Pound bursting with energy and excitement followed by a very mellow Kyle.

“MOM, THIS IS, LIKE, I DON’T KNOW; JUST THE BEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE!!!!! LOST IN NYC! NO CAR! DAD’s FURIOUS! 168th STREET ROCKS!!!!! OOH ANNIE I LOVE YOUR SHOES!”

Diane had hives thinking about Glenn; I was cringing because my husband, Jim, was threatening to send his father to find me because I’m clearly an irresponsible child, but Liz was cool as a cucumber. Her husband, Hector, was at a friend’s playing Scrabble. I couldn’t help but taunt her, “Hey Liz, what’s a seven-letter word beginning with a “D” for where my marriage is heading? What’s an eight-letter expletive beginning with “f” ending in “up” to describe tonight?”  Liz cast me a look that said, “five-letter word for ‘shut the hell up.”    

Diane was given a pass to search the garage for her car. We were allowed to accompany her into the garage, but we had to remain under the watch of two big intimidating prison matrons who read us the rules: “Don’t Move and Don’t Talk” before turning away. Diane was led away by another intimidating woman in uniform. I felt like she was leaving general population and being transported to solitary confinement. Meanwhile, Emily took cellphone pictures to commemorate this evening. She even took a picture of the sign that read, “No Pictures! Violators Subject to Prison!” I wish she would have gotten a picture of Diane driving towards us in THE PRIUS with the 350 pound prison matron in the passenger seat. That one would have made a terrific Father’s Day present.

Diane paid the ransom and called Glenn. He advised her to check for dents. I eyed the phalanx of prison matrons surrounding us guessing that if we dared to check for dents they would be more than happy to give us some.

Piled safely into the car, Diane drove out of the Tow Pound failing to see the red light. Like a seasoned pro she expertly avoided a collision with a NYC Sanitation Truck. We all broke out laughing. Imagine telling Glenn, “Good news: the Prius isn’t dented! Bad news: it’s totaled.”

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BETWIXED ~ BOTHERED & BEWILDERED

Lately I think the Moon & Stars are all out of whack! So many friends have been sharing with me their relationships issues or saga’s or patterns.

What the hell is wrong with people? Look if ya wanna get laid just say so. But don’t do the relationship dance and then 3 months later turn into Da Mook you always were.

 

A friend told me after a year into her relationship they were talking about their future, marriage. Then he tells her I am not sure I want to get married. I was married before and I don’t like being told what to do and when I can do it!  Hummmm. So she says, so what does that mean for us?

He says, well we can still be together, I have friends that live separately in other parts of the world and are married.

Really she says, they why have I never met them?

Look its pretty clear that this Mook wants you when he wants you and dats, Dat !

Intimacy issues – Run Forest run !~~~

 

Then I meet one of my niece’s new Boy toys at one of my shows. The second I met him I knew something wasn’t right! It was like I saw a hat on his head that said “someum aint right!”. We say hello, she says Nada, then she says, he looks kinda Guido like, huh! I looked at him and said yea, you do but I will reserve what I really feel about you after 2 months.. Thank God I did not have to have that conversation, he is already dust!

 

Then another friend was telling me about her bi-polar and manic Honey. Two days off and 4 days on. That’s like datin a Mormon. Why, why , why !! DO YOU REALLY NEED THIS!

You’re a fun person, spontaneous and loving – do u need a bat to make u see this!

Look if the meds aint workin and the Shrink aint helping – RUNNNNNNNNNNNN, Now.

 

Why do we do this? We do this for -Connection! Love, Romance and the need to partner.

Some peeps are lucky, they get it right!! God Bless.

But some peeps keep choosing the wrong people and that just plain sucks!

They don’t do it on purpose it just happens or perhaps we believe so much in romance that we think we can make it happen.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “Tis better to have loved and lost. 
Than never to have loved at all.”

This I believe to be true! I keep telling my friends to chant this so that they do not get tainted or bitter, ewwwww there is nothing worse than bitter.

I know when you are a believer it is hard to let go but there comes a point where you just have to.

I know, how many more lessons are there to learn.!

Hey, don’t ask me I sucked in school!

All I know is that you need to Love you, let go and move forward. I believe there is a reason for everything and a reason to believe.

I am going to share with you not only a little secret but a statistic as well. If you wanna give yourself 6 months with Jimmy 2 times, fine! HOWEVER, here be da Stats – When it comes to behavior peeps can do anything for 6 months after that they will turn into the friggin Mook they always were and then you are trapped because u let go and let love in. The short of this is you are now screwed across the board.

So hold back a tad and watch and observe because when someone shows you their true colors the first time, believe them- cuz that what they are.

So trust your instincts and if they really suck, just get laid and go home!

But trust me – it will come when you least expect it!

Worse case marry da Mook if he has money then find a boy toy and then 2 years later, DIVORSE HIS ASS!

AHHHH – RECIPROCITY !!

 

 

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MY GIRLFRIEND’S BIG TOW & MY ACHING FEET

 

“Just don’t panic,” I kept repeating to Diane and Liz, as we stood in the middle of the now deserted 22nd Street. “The Prius has to be here somewhere.” Before I could complete that sentence both Diane and Liz were doing jumping jacks in the middle of 6th Avenue trying to hail a cab.

Occupied taxi’s whipped past us until, finally, a private black car service cut across four lanes of traffic and screeched to a stop in front of our outstretched cab-hailing arms.

“I think my car was towed,” Diane explained, “and I don’t know what to do.”

“Get in,” the young Middle-Eastern driver commanded. I asked how much. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “My car’s been towed before. Let me help you.”  

          As soon as we jumped in I pulled out $20. Liz lowered her eyes, shaking her head in a disapproving “no.” “Here’s a five,” she mouthed.

Our kind chauffer told us all about his life. Every time he told another story Liz pulled a five from her wallet. “Oh how awful, let’s give him another five.” Story about his mother, “Give him another five.” Story about his siblings, “Anyone got a ten?” By the time we arrived at the Tow Pound we had to keep Liz from writing him a check and naming him as beneficiary for her 401-k.

Add into this mix the fact that we were supposed to pick-up Diane’s teen-aged daughter, Emily, and her friend, Kyle, from a Yankee game that ended thirty minutes ago. Which brings me to Diane’s phone. Por qua? She was avoiding every one of her husband’s numerous phone calls. By now he had left so many messages that the pinging “message-waiting” alerts made it sound like Vegas Night inside her purse. Also, Emily’s phone had no service. Diane was stalling informing her husband that she had temporarily misplaced both his new car and his only daughter.

Now, let me just say that the NYC Tow Pound is the closest I hope to ever come to the holding pen of Riker’s Island. I don’t know which scared me the most: the strong smell of fresh urine; people wearing “team” colors with thick chains attached to something heavy in the deep pockets of low-hanging jeans; or the Gangstresses hanging possessively onto the arms of their Baby Daddy’s giving everyone the “hairy eyeball.” I stood on line with Diane and my tribe of new BFF’s to belly-up to the bullet-proof confessional and patiently wait our turn to be extorted.   

Standing single-file in a line that did not move, I began to lose all sensation in my feet. Unlike Diane and Liz who wore low-heeled sensible shoes, I was sporting trendy four-inch strappy platforms and the straps had now turned into flesh-eating fiends. Just as I was about to abandon Diane to sit on a newly vacant mustard-colored plastic chair shackled to the wall, a muscle-ripping beautifully dressed dark-skinned man entered the room. I watched in awe as everyone cast their eyes toward the floor and stepped out of his way. He paused by me, bent his head to my ear and whispered, “Killer heels.” Thank God! My prison husband had arrived.

Diane’s phone rang again, but this time it was Emily. “Hey Mom! Me and Kyle took the wrong subway; we’re on 168th Street! This is SO GREAT!”

Giving Diane room to allow her head to explode, I went outside to call my husband, Jim. Unable now to walk, I wobbled arthritically down the makeshift plywood ramp.

“I’m waking the kids and we’re coming to get you, Baby!” he cried semi-hysterically into the phone.

“You’re not waking the kids!” I yelled in reply.

 “Then I’ll call my father; he’ll come and get you!”

I put the phone in front of my face and screamed, “Your father hasn’t driven into Manhattan since 1962! He doesn’t know that the El is gone! Unless he’s driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or his name is Sully, he might have a little problem when his car lands in the Hudson!”

Suddenly, my dark-skinned friend appeared and without moving his lips asked, “Everything okay, Baby?”

“Who’s that?” Jim cried in a jealous panic.

“I gotta go. My prison husband’s here.”

 

To Be Continued…

 

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THE SUMMER MY PARENTS RUINED MY LIFE… Part 2: MY THREE JOBS

 

(Mike DeGidio and John Litterini at Bernie's Deli in Fort Lee)

Update: I’m still grounded for the entire summer. So, rather than stay home, I set out to get as many jobs as possible.

The first job I got by walking unannounced into Mayor Corbiscello’s office. His secretary, amused by my story, escorted me into his office. Having no blessed idea who I was, and humored by my chutzpah, he made a phone call and got me a job as a summer camp counselor. That was definitely the first, and perhaps the last, time I ever saw government in action!

          I scored my second job at the newly opened Haagen Dazs in Cardinale Square. Scooping frozen ice cream is undoubtedly one of the most labor-intensive jobs out there; by the end of the summer I was sporting Popeye arms. However, working with so many other high-schoolers was hands-down the most fun I ever had at a job. There was a sixteen-year-old boy, whom I christened Cheech, I was always partnered with. He was notorious for smoking in the freezer…and I don’t mean cigarettes; ergo the nickname Cheech. Whenever I had to go into the humongous walk-in freezer to fetch a new barrel of ice-cream, I was lost in a plume of herbal essence.

One particularly slow night, Cheech decided to hand-make one of his smokes on the counter in front of the ice cream case. My cry of “In-Coming” when a customer walked in freaked him out so much that he tossed his herbs into the ice cream case and ran. Unable to leave the register unattended, I took a scoop and mixed the “special toppings” into the ice cream. After handing the customer her scoop of rum raisin, she sat at a table, ate it, and then came back for more.  

          “I don’t know what’s in this batch of rum raisin, but it’s absolutely delicious!” she exclaimed. “Give me another scoop and a gallon to go! Make that two gallons.”

          Then there was Bernie’s Deli on the corner of Main and Anderson in Fort Lee where I learned the art of telling a good story from the Master himself, Bernie Jensen. On my first day, while demonstrating the safe and proper way to use the slicer, the tip of Bernie’s thumb went flying past my left year and I watched in horror as blood squirted all over everything. Bernie jocularly laughed it off and told me, before driving himself to the emergency room, that if I found his thumb I should just toss it into the trash can.

          All the most important people I would meet in my life I first met at Bernie’s that summer. My counter partner, Mike DeGidio, although no Cheech, ended up being one of those people who would forever remain in my life. We’ve been through it all —bad relationships, bad choices, bad hair. He introduced me to my husband, and stood by me throughout all the years I’ve been married to the fire department. He also gave me material for some of my best columns. I thought I lost him the morning of 9/11 in the World Trade Center. I didn’t. For that I give eternal thanks. There are very few people who know all my secrets—Mike is one of them. Thankfully he survived to tell his story; I just hope to God he never tells mine!

          That summer set me on the path that landed me where I am today. Thanks to a librarian who turned me into a great reader, a pretty good writer, and an avid Times Crossword Puzzle fan; thanks to Mayor Corbiscello who gave his time and attention (and a job) to an anonymous young girl whose confidence I wish I still had; thanks to Haagen Daz for filling my summer with ice cream, laughter, and no trace of a criminal record; and thanks especially to Bernie Jensen who taught me the art of telling a good story…I strive to return the favor every single week.

          My parents set out to teach me a valuable lesson that summer of 1980, and I learned more than I ever dreamed I wanted to. But maybe they knew that all along. In the midst of my greatest confinement, I grew my wings; I found my voice.

 

 

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THE SUMMER MY PARENTS RUINED MY LIFE…AND HOW ONE LIBRARIAN, A MAYOR, BERNIE’S & HAAGEN DAZS SAVED IT

 

 

On June 11th, 1980, at approximately 10:00 p.m. (with the voices of Channel 11’s Action News Team, Bill Jorgensen and Pat Harper, chatting in the background) just one day into my summer vacation from Paramus Catholic Girls Regional High School, my parents grounded me for the summer. The Whole Entire Summer!    

In retrospect, leading your friends past your house while one of them (Wally W., are you reading this?) is swinging a six-pack of Michelob Light in each hand and E.L.O.’s Greatest Hits is blasting from Sue’s boom box was probably a really boneheaded thing to do. I tried to convince my parents that I was only months away from the legal drinking age—albeit, 36 months, but still, come on! I even fessed up that the primary reason attendance was high for Holy Trinity’s evening Teen mass was because wine was offered with communion, turning mass into an under-aged Holy Happy Hour. We stood, chaperone-less, encircling Father Donald on the altar as the golden chalice of wine was passed hand-to-eager-hand and liberally refilled by the altar boys because Father Donald could never quite remember where the circle began or ended.

          I was confident that I could successfully grieve my situation to my union president father. After all, he was a fair man who had a great deal of respect for, and knowledge of, the process of law. However, in my case, the legal process was suspended and all petitions for writs of Habeas Corpus were denied—my parents were in full “possession of the body.” Yet, there was a stipulation to the ruling; I was eligible for work-release and, when not working, I had full library privileges.

          By the next day I had secured three jobs, and settled myself into the Fort Lee Library. I never thought of not following my parent’s rules. Remember, there was no DYFUS back then; fear had a lot of mileage because every threat had follow-through attached to it.

I walked through the double doors of the library and meandered down the ordered rows as the sound of boys pitching coins against the wall outside floated in through the windows. I occasionally paused to inhale the musty mélange of glue, leather and the indelible scent of the passage of time. All was quiet and peaceful until my senses were abruptly disturbed by the compositioned floral powders of Chanel No. 5. Walking towards me was the blond coutured Reference Librarian. She pointedly inquired what I was looking for.

“My old life,” I replied. I explained that I was going to spend my summer honing my writing skills at the library because I was going to be a great writer.

          She let her designer bifocals slip down the bridge of her nose and replied, “If you want to be a great writer you must first be a great reader. Follow me. Take notes.” She handed me her pad of yellow-lined paper and a pencil and guided me on a literary tour of every aisle in the library.

“If you want to learn point-of-view read Henry James; if you want to learn irony read Jane Austen; if you want to learn what Hell smells like read John Milton; if you want to understand the importance of using punctuation read Virginia Woolf—she wouldn’t know a period if it got up and introduced itself to her; if you want to live among the wealthy in old Manhattan read Edith Wharton; if you want to learn how timeless are the problems we mortals face read Shakespeare; if you want adventure read The Odyssey; if you want to write history, read history.  The New York Times Book Review will make you a master of all subjects; The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly will introduce you to the best living writers; and mastering the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle will give you a near perfect SAT score.  

“What if I want to learn about sex?” I queried in an effort to crack her composition.

“How about starting with Moby Dick?” she offered without effect.

“Call me Ishmael,” I replied. And with that, my sentence began.

 

 

Part Two: My Three Jobs (Spoiler Alert:  I’m still grounded.)

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In My Daughter's Eyes


IN MY DAUGHTER’S EYES

By Ann Piccirillo

 

          I wrote this on Mother’s Day, 2006.  

“Getting my daughter to love me is the hardest job interview I’ve ever been on. I think I possess the right qualifications, but I’m years away from knowing if I got the job. You see, I wasn’t graced with a daughter who came into this world armed with unconditional love for the woman who gave birth to her, fed her, cleaned her, changed her, and rocked her. At 16-months old my daughter was diagnosed with autism and, for her, love is a learned task.

There is a great deal of heartbreak in this; imagine having to teach a child to love you. However, there is also an incredible lesson to be learned. How do you teach someone how to give love? How to receive love? How do you even teach a child what love is? Does love reveal itself in the tone of your voice? Is it embodied in physical representations? My daughter rebuffs most physical contact so to lather her with hugs and kisses can prove to be rather traumatic. Can she feel my love in those moments when I remit to her silent, yet willful resistance to everything? Or does it linger in the steady repetition of structured days and nights? And while most parents struggle with trying to keep their children well behaved, I struggle to teach my daughter basic behavior. For those of you who have ever been a part of the world of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) you’re all too familiar with the mantras, “This is sitting,” “This is walking,” and “This is standing.”  Nothing comes naturally except frustration.

          I used to lay awake nights wondering why this has happened to our family. Now I have ceased asking “why,” and have surrendered to the fear. The fear of where the future will find my child. The fear of thinking, “Who can give her the care and attention that I do if something should happen to me?” The pulsating panic I feel when I realize that my life, my future, is as uncertain and unplanned as hers.

In moments of strength I gain great comfort in the realization that this journey that I’m on is preordained, and that the lessons derived from it will not only make me a better human being, but will take me to a place that I know I would never have arrived at if this awful pervasive disease had not come into my home. In moments of weakness I fall to my knees and weep.

          Currently there is a popular song that plays repeatedly on the radio called In My Daughter’s Eyes. I sob every time I hear it because reflected in my daughter’s eyes is a deep emptiness that mirrors exactly how I feel. Until last week when for the first time our eyes connected. For the very first time she looked at me with purpose and intent. My heart soared with unimaginable joy. In that moment her eyes revealed to me that there is a lifetime of knowledge hidden behind the perceived emptiness. Her eyes emitted the promise that over the long course of days she will reveal to me who I really am; who I am meant to be. But the lesson takes time, and in the interim I must let her teach me how to believe in hope.”   

 

          Kathleen has journeyed so far over the course of the last four years; she now has the language to tell me daily that she loves me. I am blessed.

          To my darling daughter, Kathleen; thank you for giving me the strength I never knew I had, and for bringing me to a place in my life I would never have had the courage to arrive at were it not for you.

Please take a moment this Mother’s Day to say a prayer for those mothers who untiringly journey beside me day after day after day who will wake up to no hugs, no kisses, no homemade cards or breakfasts in bed; mothers who will spend yet another day in a hospital room; yet another day administering therapy; yet another day laying flowers upon the grave of their child; yet another day soldiering on through their grief, never letting the world see them cry. 

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