Thursday, December 6, 2018

Site Visit (Eleanor)

Last Thursday was a special day for us because we got a visit from Fred, a representative of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund. The funny thing was, we knew each other before from Philly Young Playwrights, and he remembered seeing one of the plays I wrote for it. As soon as he mentioned that, the older buds told him how my theatre career was going now.
While we were writing, I told Fred about the other activities in the Senior Center, including the Coffee Cup and its mahjong games. Then Eleanor and Fred reminisced about playing mahjong, or “mahj” as Eleanor called it, with all the other Jewish families back in the day. And Norman announced that The Head and the Hand is publishing his work! The best part of Fred’s visit was that he said he would have to leave at 1:45, but he stayed until 2 and listened to all our stories. He slipped out before we could include him in our senior selfie, but I’m glad he enjoyed his visit.



Eleanor Kazdan
10.25.2018
The Seder Plate

When my grandparents died, my mother asked me if I would like a memento. I looked through the few faded old things she showed me before choosing a chipped and well-used metal Seder plate, dark turquoise and faded gold. This Seder plate brought me back to my childhood and memories of my grandparents. The were Polish Jewish Yiddish-speaking immigrants who settled in Montreal in the 1920s after escaping anti-Semitism and pogroms in eastern Europe.


My earliest childhood memories are of a dusty, small apartment, filled with the smells of Jewish cooking – brisket with prunes and apricots, potato latkes, homemade applesauce, honey cake. My grandparents, Moses and Anna, had thick Yiddish accents.

Back to the Seder plate – The most exciting event of the year was the large family gathering that my grandparents had on Passover. My mother, her four brothers and their families would all descend on the small apartment. A long folding table took up the entire living and dining room with room for me and my three brothers and myriad aunts, uncles and cousins.

The Seder seemed to last for hours as my grandfather read the story of Passover. The Seder plate held the symbols of the Jews’ oppression and hardships in their 40-year exile in Egypt. Bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Even the children drank sweet red wine.

My Seder plate conjures up these sweet memories as I do my own, much shorter version of a Seder every year.

You can check out Norman's publisher, Head and Hand, by clicking here. For more information about the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, click here. And wish us luck!
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 29, 2018

In Memory of Mei

Two weeks ago, we lost one of our most influential older buds: Mei Chiu.
Some of you already know about Mei, but if you’re new to Best Day then Mei was the grandmother of our fearless leader Benita. She was also the reason why Best Day was founded in the first place. Over a decade ago, Benita and Mei had a long and in-depth phone conversation all about Mei’s childhood. One story in particular was about a widowed friend of Mei’s mother became so obsessed with Mei that she took her to raise as her own. When Benita asked how Mei’s own children reacted to that story, Mei said, "No one knows any of this. No one knows because no one asks."


"I realized it was my responsibility to record her stories,” Benita said, “Somehow. No matter how imperfectly."



Benita had more and more conversations, and that led Benita to wonder about all the other seniors of Philadelphia. That inspired her to start a small six-week workshop in the basement of the Philadelphia Senior Center that exploded into a nation-wide storytelling phenomenon.


I only got to meet Mei once over Skype, and she was just as vibrant as her stories. I also remember her giving Benita some crafts from China to share with the people of Best Day. Unfortunately, she lived in Seattle and I never had the opportunity to go there, so that was the only time I got to talk to her.

Benita and her friends wrote some lovely posts about Mei’s passing, which you can read here:
 And you can read all the stories about Mei—as well as stories written by Mei—here:


 

We’ll miss you, Mei. You really embodied the spirit of The Best Day of My Life (So Far), or as you called it in Cantonese, Day Day Good.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Taking Thanksgiving Day Off

Just a heads up, I’m taking the day off fir Thanksgiving. I will put up a Thanksgivung related post in the future, though.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Return of Former Storytellers (Carolyn, Barbara, Rochelle)

As I thought about Veteran's Day, I realized that while we do have plenty of former members of the armed forces in our group, I had been seeing plenty of other kinds of veterans at Best Day. I'm talking about veteran storytellers, as in those who had been with our group for a while. Some of them had only been able to come sporadically, while others were regulars returning from years of absence. The reality of working with older buds in that their bodies break down with age. Older buds will often take extended breaks from Best Day to recover from a medical procedure, a prolonged illness or a surprise injury. I'm always grateful to see an older bud returning after these breaks, because I know their stories are nowhere near finished, and they have plenty more Best Days in store.

C. Boston 
7.19.2018 
Aging 

The challenges of aging are many more than imagined. The body displays its long usage with age spots, wrinkles, varicose veins, hair loss and a myriad of other unwanted signs. One looks in the mirror and says, “who is that?” of course YOU know its you, but you question who is this new aged person reflected in the mirror. One has to adjust to still muscles, arthritis, malfunctioning knees, slower physical movement of hips, legs and feet. Your eyebrows have gray hairs and you can no longer lift a 20 lb. bag of kitty litter and put it in the shopping cart.
You’re assigned a new title – old lady, grandmom, mom, lady or man with the cane. It’s a new time in living as the years progress.
There is an upside to aging. I’ve found a few things but they don’t surpass the aches and pains. Yet, there’s an opportunity to re-invent yourself. There’s this new older you. New talents emerge and there’s discovering of new places and abilities. You dress the way you like, learn how to say “no” with joy. Wisdom adopts you and if you don’t want to do it, you don’t. Aging is cerebral – you are as old as you think and as young as you embrace life. 
I don’t want to go back and relive my life – I’ve discovered a new hidden me that I never knew existed. Aging is humbling, exhausting, challenging – it may start out as a butterfly – with all its stages, at the end, this beautiful butterfly emerges from the cocoon bearing exquisite colors, gracing the environment with its beauty.


Barbara Griffin 
4.23.2015 
Changes 

This story is about change. 
In 2010, I made the decision to sell my home that I had lived in for 41 years and move to a Senior Living facility. It was a big change. Living in your own home is very different than living in a facility that has other people. You have to make decisions about things you never did before. But the good part is that you don’t have the responsibilities that you used to have. I also feel safer because we have 24 hour security.
Can you imagine how I felt the first time the fire alarm went off at 2:30 a.m. and I had to get up and move to the fire escape? I also do not like elevators, but I learned to deal with them. I have come to the conclusion – change is good for you.

Rochelle R. Tynes 
6.14.2018 
My Tubing Trip 

While attending college, I completed my courses to obtain my Bachelors and Teachers degree and wrote so many papers. As students, we were told to write, write, write, and rewrite, until our papers were great, we wanted the world to see them. Well, after you get your initial teaching credentials, you must then obtain 24 more credits in order to receive your permanent teaching certificate. Well, I took quite a few classes at the University of the Arts at Broad and Spruce. They had weeklong cram courses, which I had to pay for. Also, the Board of Education also had courses, which were free. I decided to take a course in stress management. The course was very relaxing, non-stressful. I enjoyed the class very much until I learned that the choices you choose to pass the course. One option was to do a presentation, write a paper, or go tubing on the Delaware. 
Since I had written so much for the college courses which resulted in my having corns on my index and my middle finger, I thought that I’d make it easy on myself and just go tubing. I asked one of my classmates who was 6-foot-two and said that she could swim if she’d be my partner – she declined saying she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go. I then asked my ex if he’d go with me – he said yes.
So off we went. On the day of the trip, first we got a tube and were told where we were to go as we floated down the river. When my ex got on the tube, he fell, he still had the pipe that he always smoked in his mouth. I was trying not to panic when he didn’t immediately come up out of the water. My classmates came over to see what was going on. We talked to them for a while, then proceeded on our journey. There were shrubs and bushes along the paths of the river a few feet and there was no shrubs or bushes and we were drifting further away into the river. I kept going back to the banks of the river because I had become afraid of going out too far. Finally, we both said, let’s get out of this water – we did. I wrote about the trip, got three credits, told myself don’t do this again.


Speaking of returning older buds, I hope everyone here has made Thanksgiving plans with the older buds in their lives. And I hope you've made plans to be as large a part of their lives as possible. After all, nothing beats the feeling of a former friend coming back and becoming a welcome part of your regular routine.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Election Day (Ann)

The midterm elections happened two days ago, and we've all been getting letters, ads, and text messages about how important it is to vote. For a lot of us young, privileged folks, its easy to forget that the right to vote was hard won. Women's Suffrage in the United States of America only started in 1920. Black Men were legally granted the vote in 1863, but Jim Crow laws were soon put into place to keep them from voting. These practices weren't made explicitly illegal until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During World War II, several German and Japanese Americans were stripped of their citizenship and shipped to internment camps. Even the concept of people voting for an elected official is fairly modern, considering that was one of the first rules established in the United States' government after centuries of rule under the English Royal family. Voter suppression has become more overt over the past few years as well, and permanent residents--who cannot vote--are particularly vulnerable to the whims of our government.

You may disagree on how much influence one person's vote can have, but you must always remember how hard everyone fought to get that right, and how hard we fight now to maintain it. In honor of that, I'm posting this story about an older bud's fateful meeting with a future elected official.
 
Ann Von Dehsen
9.20.2018
The Summer of ‘69

In 1969, I had graduated from high school and my sister had graduated from college. My parents made the decision to downsize and move from our house to an apartment. We lived in Harrington Park, NJ, an upper middle class suburb of New York City. Harrington Park had a lot of trees, a lot of leaves, and a lot of white people. In fact, it had only white people. So the house was put on the market and sold in a matter of days. Hours after hearing the good news, my father got another call from the realtor who was close to tears. “I’m so sorry Mr. Von Dehsen,” she said, “but your house was actually sold to a black family!” She said she had told the family there had been a mistake and the house was sold.
Housing discrimination was at its worst in those days and people often worked with civil rights organizations and ACLU members. Often a white couple was sent in, to look at a house, representing a black family. This is apparently what had happened. My father was furious, but for all the right reasons. “First of all, call the family back and tell them the truth” – the house was not sold and he happily accepted their offer. At this point, he was screaming and said “Furthermore, you and your agency are fired!” I was always proud of my father but to me, that was his proudest moment.
My parents told our immediate neighbors who were supportive and looked forward to meeting them. However, word spread quickly through town and we started receiving horrible racist phone calls from unknown people. It got so bad that my sister and I were no longer allowed to answer the phone.
Meanwhile, my father invited the buyers over as well as the neighbors. They arrived with a baby and toddler in tow. Their last name was Booker and the baby’s name was Cory, the current senator of New Jersey.
Years later, my father proudly followed Cory’s career when he became Mayor of Newark and was able to right so many wrongs. At one point, my father said, “I predict Cory will be the first black president.” Of course we know that didn’t happen and my father is long gone, but I hope Cory Booker will become the next black president. When that happens, my sister and I plan on making a trip to the White House.


I hope everyone reading this went out and did their civic duty on Tuesday. And I hope you'll all continue to do so in every election to come.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Halloween and Día de Muertos (José and Ann)

Wednesday was Halloween and the start of Día de Meurtos, and this year we’re getting in the spirit of both. At last Thursday’s workshop, older bud Ann brought in fresh-baked Nestle Tollhouse Monster Mash Cookies. Originally, she was going to bring in Nestle Slice-and-Bake cookies because she wrote about how great they were for Halloween Parties on a time crunch. But the Monster Mash came pre-sliced, which saved her even more time!

This will probably be our first year celebrating Día de Muertos, since this is the first year we’ve had an older bud who celebrated it, José. In the spirit of the holiday, here’s are stories from our late older buds:



In Memory of Arthur 1
In Memory of Arthur 2
In Memory of Arthur 3
In Memory of Miss Mo
In Memory of Gloria and Aileen
In Memory of Gogo
In Memory of Bernice and Helen
In Memory of Hattie

And to close up the post, here are some stories from the land of the living.
José Dominguez
9.6.2018
Don’t Mess With Witches

Many years ago in CO Juarez Chihuahua, a friend of mine asked me for a ride and I said "OK." When we were moving, I asked him, "Where are we going."
"To see Simonita, a witch. I need help. I can’t find work." Well, he did not like to work so I knew what the problem was.
So we arrived at a small house near the border of Texas in the top of one small hill. Simonita, the witch, asked to sit down and we did. Then she focused on me and asked "Carlitos. Do you believe in my job? Do you believe in me?"
I answered, "I respect you as a person, but I don’t believe in your powers." So she told me in a soft
but commanding voice, "Please wait outside." So I did.
After some minutes, Miguel, my friend came out smiling and told me: "Carlitos, Simonita wants to speak to you." Again, she invited me to sit and asked, "So you do not believe in me?" (I knew that my answer had to be short, cautious, and simple to not complicate the case.)
"No, I do not, but my respect to you is always present."
She stared firmly on me and with soft force told me: "Carlitos, I am going to do something to you so you will believe in me." (Oops, I thought, I don’t want any problems and she is offended.)
I answered, "Simonita, I respect you but there is no problem to believe that you are a different person and you can influence people."She did not say anything and I went out at last.
So if you don’t believe in witches, please don’t mess with them, it can be dangerous for your health.

Ann Von Dehsen
10.25.2018
A Halloween Story

When my children were in elementary school, we lived in a small town outside of Media, Halloween was a big deal in this area, capped off by a large parade through downtown Media.
In my neighborhood, there was a group of wealthy, stay-at-home moms. They spent their days decorating their perfect homes in Halloween splendor, sewing elaborate costumes for their perfect children and baking from scratch, perfect Halloween cookies and pies. We called them “the ladies who lunched club.” I, however, belonged to the smaller “ladies who worked club.” Our club soon discovered that black and orange paper chains looked just as good as fancy pumpkin lights, that Pillsbury slice and bake pumpkin cookies were a God send, and that Sara Lee made one hell of a good pumpkin pie!
We also became quite adept at turning cardboard boxes into imaginative costumes. My personal best was a haunted house with a hole at the top for my daughter’s head and two holes at the sides for her arms. The box was spray-painted black with cut-out open and shut windows and doors behind which were cotton ball cobwebs. My daughters arms were each covered with white socks – with a ghost face drawn on the top so ghost could come flying out of the side-windows at any time. One year, one of the ladies who lunched hosted a very nice family Halloween party. Both children and adults were to wear costumes. I went as the Bride of Frankenstein since it was easy and not much of a stretch during that time of my life.
I wore a long black dress, used green and black face paint, teased out my hair and used baby powder to turn it white. There was a little girl, Chiara, at the party who was a friend of my daughters. I think they were both about 8 years old. She was very interested in my make up so I told her about using baby powder and black eyeliner. It was a nice party and of course I went home and scrubbed my face and washed my hair. A few days later, Chiara came over to play with my daughter. I noticed she kept staring at me. Finally she said, “Mrs. Walls, you didn’t wash all the powder out of your hair.” Then she got closer and said, “And you still have black circles under your eyes!” That was the day that I bought my first box of hair color and tube concealer.

If you’re reading this on Facebook or Twitter, feel free to leave some virtual Monster Mash cookies in the comments for our digital ofrenda. Otherwise, send us your stories and comments at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. Happy Halloween, and Happy Día de Muertos.




Curated by Caitlin Cieri