Thursday, June 22, 2017

Grand-Daddy of Posts (Mo, Norman, Joe, Frances, Robert, and Dorothy)

Since Fathers' Day had just recently passed, I decided to devote this post to the fathers and grandfathers of Best Day; and their fathers and grandfathers.
Mo McCooper
The City

When I could walk even a little bit, my Dad would take me all kinds of places to meet all kinds of people.  People who worked at auto factories, truck manufacturers, railroad car plants elected my Dad to represent them to the owners of the companies through managers and other non-union workers.

As soon as I went to school, I would add union comic strips and books to the Batman and Red Rider comics I could trade. Dad did not push the information, but it was an interesting part of my early education.

There would always be a movie, circus, fair, sportsmen show, rodeo, auto show, or church fundraiser during that day.  I loved the city.

Some of my mother’s aunts and uncles lived in West Philadelphia, where many white families had moved out to the suburbs.  It opened up a whole bunch of new kids to play tennis, baseball, touch football and games I forget.  Their families were wonderful.

My Dad’s brothers and sisters were in the northern districts of the city.  Grandpop bought some farmland in Bucks County on a beautiful creek, but he lost the property to prohibition.  More to follow…

Norman Cain
Baseball, My Father and Action Speaks Louder than Words

My father was a quiet reserved man who never missed a days work. Before we awoke in the morning he would be at his job. He was a custodian at 30th Street Station. He would return in the evening, eat and immediately go to bed. While there was definitely love between us there was little interaction.

Sometimes actions speak louder than words. There were two small events that occurred between myself and my father that I will forever contain within my mind.

The first event occurred when I was around twelve. My father came home with two baseball gloves and took me to a nearby lot where we engaged in an extended lively game of catch. I never knew my father could play baseball. He was good. Each time the ball thudded against our glove it echoed love.

The second action between my father and I that spoke louder than words also had to do with baseball. This event took place when I was around 14 years old. One day we were both practicing with our respective teams at Belmont Plateau in Fairmont Park. I was with a youth baseball team and he played for a Penna Railroad  Team.

We did not know that our practices were at the same time. When we noticed each other we left our teams, walked towards one another and shook hands without uttering a word. Two events involving baseball between us spoke a multitude of words.

So actions do speak louder than words, especially when love is involved.

Joe Garrison

I guess I really started enjoying summers when I was 6 years old. And it was the first time I had ever heard of Memorial Day. I went to a special boarding school for the blind where we went home on weekends. Sometimes I stayed in on weekends and one day I was listening to a song on the radio called “Cruising Down the River” on A Sunday Afternoon. Also, it was the 1st Father’s Day I remember and that stood out because it was the first cake I remember my mom making. It was a coconut and pineapple cake and she said it was a special Father’s Day cake for my dad.

Usually my summers were spent eating watermelon, playing with the neighborhood kids and going to Vacation Bible School for 2-3 weeks at the Community Center. Sometimes, on the 4th of July we’d either visit my grandmother (my grandfather’s birthday was on July the 5th) or going to the park for a picnic.

My teenage summers weren’t that memorable. The most memorable summers after that was when I was 20 and 21, volunteering at a work camp to remodel the community center. I even painted a house. And there were activities for all the kids there, like lawn games and basketball, baseball and badminton. Even though some of my summers weren’t especially memorable, summer is my favorite time of the year.

Summers are always beautiful to me.
Frances Bryce

In 1965, I was living in Phila, Pa and went to visit my father who lived in a small town in South Carolina. I accompanied my father for his annual checkup to his doctor’s office. Two waiting rooms were still in use; one had been used excessively for white patients – the other for colored people. The outlines for the signs were still visible over the doors.

The large room was paneled with checkered red and mint green. Baskets of flowers and plants aligned the tables and the cabinets. A beautiful fern plant cascaded over the receptionist’s desk. The latest editions of Life, Family, Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents’ Magazines were neatly lined on a table. Bright lights illuminated the room. There were plenty of comfortable seats. This room was formally available to white patients only.

The other waiting room was small and windowless, dimly lit, and painted a drab gray. Ten dog-eared copies of Life and Ebony magazines sprawled out on the table. Draught-backed chairs lined the wall. This room had been the waiting room for the colored patients.

I entered the cheerful room, my father hesitated, and then reluctantly followed. I was not too surprised to see that most of the colored patients gravitated to the room that they had been required to use before desegregation.

My father said, “This room is nice.”

“Dad, you have never been to this room before?”

“No, Baby, I just always used our waiting room.” He thought for a while and then spoke again. “You know I never thought about using this room.”

I reached out for his hand and patted it gently. I spoke to no one in particular. “The signs have been removed from the doors but they have yet to be removed from the mind.” We picked up a magazine to read and waited to see his doctor.

Robert Leung
Lucky Day

Today is my lucky day. My friend Mike and I came to visit this nice senior citizens center, and were fortunate enough to meet my new Chinese friend Benita on her birthday. She is a wonderful lady. She looks and speaks just like my daughter Dorothy.

I’m so very glad and happy to meet her, and all of our new senior center friends.

Forever friends,
Robert Leung
July 8, 2010

Dorothy Leung, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Copy Editor Insight

I used to receive at least two to three letters a week from my dad.  His notes became so frequent and predictable that I neither realized nor appreciated being the recipient of his kind words.  That is, until those letters stopped coming.  A couple of years ago, my dad stopped diligently taking care of himself, and I noticed a decline in his mental and physical health.  When I moved him from California to Philadelphia, my sister and I were worried that he may not have a community of friends, so it was a pleasant surprise when I learned he was attending a "writing club."

When I attended the writing workshop and presentation last year at the Philadelphia Free Library and learned of the depth and breadth of this wonderful class, I knew that I needed to support it in any way I could.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to be on the copy writing team.  I am able to read about and learn from some remarkable seniors whose stories are touching and honest and so funny!  I love having the chance to "listen" to the lessons from those who have lived through incredible challenges, those who still have little materially but whose hearts are richer than most.  And, I especially love when I am assigned my dad's stories, to know that he is once again lifting that pencil to the paper and expressing himself through words.  I don't think I will ever get him back to the vibrant way he once was, but I do see - through his slanted, all-caps writing - the spirit that still wants to shine.

I don't always know how my dad keeps busy on most days, but I never have to worry about where he is on Thursdays.  I love being able to log onto the blog and see his smiling face among the many people in the class.  It's exciting to see him excited about his friends and the wonderful volunteers who make this possible.  Although he doesn't write as frequently anymore, in many ways the weekly stories are even more meaningful than any letter of the past...and these stories are ones I will surely not take for granted.


Dorothy Leung, 29

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine,
Director, and New Mom

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Young Buds (Mo, Loretta, and Kyear)

The week before this one, Julie Nelson, the center manager, came to me with a request: start a correspondence between the older buds, and some students from the Dr. Tanner G. Duckrey Public School. Since Best Day is all about bridging generation gaps, I was more than happy to do this.

One week later, I met up with Julie and she gave me five letters decorated with crayons in every color of the rainbow. A few of them even had drawings on the back. Since we ended up with more than five older buds in our class today, a lot of these kids got letters from more than one senior!

Every single third grader wrote about their hobbies, favorite school subjects, and a detailed list of their favorite foods. And pretty much every senior responded with a list that was just as long! It's true what they say: Everyone loves to eat!

Here's a letter from one of the kids, and here's a few responses from our older buds:

Dear Senior Citizen

Dear Senior Citizen,
Hello my name is Kyear. I'm 9 years old.
My favorite school subject it Science.
My favorite book is Lion vs Tiger.
I like to watch TV and movies after school.
I would like to know old are you.
What do you like to do?
Please write me back!
Your friend,

Mo McCooper
Dear Kyear

Dear Kyear,
My name is Mo McCooper. My age is 81. My favorite school subject is History. My favorite book is Huckleberry Finn which I read in third grade. I like to play sports at the playground or on the street after school. I like to go to the movies with a lovely lady or have a meal with her or better both. Please write me back.
Your Pen Pal,
Mo McCooper

Loretta Dotson
Hello Kyear
Hello Kyear,
I am a senior at Phila. Senior Center 509 S. broad St. I am a member of the writing class "The Best Day of My Life So Far." We write about our adventures and experiences. I love the programs here. When I was in school my favorite subjects were English and Gym classes. I love reading Romance, and a good mystery was my choice.
I am in my 80's. I love to crochet. I taught members here how to make small items. I am mother of one, Grand-mother of one, and Great grandmom of six. We have lots of fun watching SpongeBob, Peppa Pig, Paw Patol, T-Rex also. Please keep in touch. I really enjoy writing to you. Be good, be careful, study hard. Make me proud of you.
Loretta Dotson
509 S. Broad St.

Quick Note: We here at Best Day prefer to use the term "older buds" than "senior citizens" when writing and blogging...but the kids didn't know that. ;) 

 Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Forever Young (Joe)

This past week was the First Thursday of the month, which meant we all went to the computer room to read our stories from our website. Sometimes there are still other people lingering in the room right up until the workshop starts. When we have the room, I invite them to stay and hang out with the rest of the older buds, in the hopes pf introducing them to our workshop. One such senior, Bill Wittmer, got to listen to us reading stories and poems and got inspired to read a poem himself: the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Forever Young."

If you've been reading this blog as long as I have, then you know that Joe is our resident Bob Dylan fanatic. And you know he was tickled pink when he heard those lyrics. For the rest of the workshop, in between stories, they were both talking about Dylan, the Beatles, Rock and Roll, and all their musical tastes. I told Bill about our usual workshop and he sounded interested. I know not all the people I find in the computer room become members of Best Day, but if nothing else Joe's found a new music buddy.
Joe Garrison

National companies – every city in the country. Sirius Radio, every time something goes wrong, if they had an office in Philadelphia, it’d be easier. Settle on sports or something on Phila radio. I also like classical music. And 60’s rock. The Beatles are my favorite. I heard about Bob Dylan in 1963 before I even heard him sing. I heard Gene Shepherd before The Christmas Story came out. He was a humanist and satirist but got serious. After he died, a woman claimed to be his daughter and bad things, but I never paid attention, maybe because I liked him.

I read a few books before they became popular movies. Live and Let Die, Lonesome Dove, I’m Cold Blood, and monifictor, Lyndon B Johnson, Joseph McCarthy. Sugar Rae Leonard, the prizefighter. Ray Arabe Robinson was Ray Charles real name.

Funniest thing ever is Bob Dylan’s new album singing shoe tunes. I couldn’t picture it all. He didn’t sing off key on anything.
A friend of mine and me used to think of unlikely people singing unlikely songs like an opera singer singing "Twist and Shout."

The only opera I sat through was The Flying Dutchman. Richard Wagner. I can listen to that and still love the BeeGees. I even like country. Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. I even give Elvis Presley credit – he could sing. I didn’t like what he sang about. I liked, "I’m the Ghetto." I like social commentary.

I wanna commend Frances for her story, for her comment on the cavalier way we celebrate Thanksgiving. Do people sit down and give thanks? I agree we take it as a gateway to shopping. If I were king of the world, I’d make Thanksgiving no where near November. 2015 hasn’t been a good year but I give thanks to my family for getting me through
my little problem.

My gripe against Thanksgiving is we’ve made it too much about food, it should be a
time where we all can reflect on the year. NYE should also be a day of Thanksgiving,
but since we do have a Thanksgiving Day…

One of the reasons I was against MLK is mercantile communities would take over.

However, I want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday and give thanks for the group itself which gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Storytime (Linda)

Our class usually writes in Room B of the Philadelphia Senior Center, or we meet up in their computer room for First Thursday, but this week the Center was having a party in Room B. We moved to the art room and found a new bud, Linda Berry, painting a tropical island with watercolors. Fortunately, our class wasn't disturbing her painting, so we were more than happy to let her paint.

A little later Linda told us she was painting illustrations for a children's book set in Puerto Rico, since there weren't enough books for kids about Puerto Ricans or their culture. She was a retired teacher who was asked to illustrate, and the author was a librarian. She summarized the story for us and showed us page after page of beautiful illustrations.

Linda Berry
The Bird of Seven Colors

So this story is based on a traditional Puerto Rican fairy tale called "The Bird of Seven Colors," and it starts with a little girl named Mariela who lives alone with her mother. And Mariela is always having to do lots of work. Her mother is very much of a task-master. So the opening of the story is her doing the work with her three best friends, the hen, the pig and the cat.
This is them walking home, and her mother is just an angry kind of a nasty woman. And I have the text here now, we're linking up the text with the pictures. At one point, the mother gets very very angry--I have to un-angry her a bit--and throws all the wash up in the air. She didn't like the way the wash was done, so here's the wash all coming down. She's yelling "Dirty, dirty, dirty" in Spanish. And the daughter--this was thrown in there also, one of her jobs was to go look for eggs. Free-range eggs, back in those days. This is a fairy tale, so we're retelling the fairy tales.
So she goes out to get water in the pitcher, which hasn't been drawn yet. She falls and breaks the pitcher, and her mother yells "You have to go to the Bird of Seven Colors, and the bird will fix the broken pitcher." So here she's sneaking down the steps--I'm not sure if we'll be suing this since it's kind of hard to understand it. And so she finds the abuelas, the grandmothers who are so sweet, and we wanted to make sure the abuelas have very dark skin, very light skin and in between; because the Puerto Rican population is everything, like us. So we wanted to make sure we had that, some are thin, some are fat, that sort of thing. And the abuela tells her to go behind the hibiscus tree, so she goes, she gets to the beach (this is not the right face, I have to change that.) Because she's looking for the Bird of Seven Colors, the wave says, "Well when you get to the Bird of Seven Colors, (It's kind of like the Wizard of Oz) ask the Bird why I have no fish in my ocean." 
And then she gets to the tree, the mango tree, and the tree says "When you get to the Bird of Seven Colors, ask the Bird why I have no mangos in my tree." And here she is talking to the tree, and pretty much going to run out of illustrations now.
And she gets to a very wealthy home of a plantation, and she says to the three girls who are living there--and the girls say "Ask the Bird why we don't have any children." So finally she gets to the Bird's house and this is the Bird's mother. The Bird's mother has the colors of the Bird, and one of her hairs has the wing or the tail of him. And so she's talking to the mother and the mother says "I will help you, but you have to stay away from my son. He's very very mean." Ultimately, they get all the answers.
The funniest answer I think is, um--The ocean doesn't have any fish because, I can't remember why. The tree has no fruit because there's gold buried underneath its roots. And the women don't have any children, and the Bird says "You have to stop staying outside and staring at the Moon." In other words "You need to go in and sleep with your husbands." But we don't say it that way to the kids!
We made sure that Mariela was a strong little girl, we didn't want her to be just a victim. So she's out there looking for her answer. And of course, it's not the Bird that gives her the answers, it's the journey that gives her the answers, pretty much, for herself. She goes back and ultimately the mother is swallowed up by the wave and she lives--we think--happily ever after with one of the abuelas.
It's a picture book mostly for young, young, young, kindergartner and first grade kids. But the older kids will read it too. So we're dedicating it, I had worked, I had taught school in Lancaster City, so we're dedicating it to all the children of Lancaster City. So anyway, I hope I didn't interrupt and thank you.

We can't wait until the book comes out, so I've decided to spread the word early. You can contact the illustrator Linda Berry at The author Jill Bateman, can be reached at
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Day (Mo and Norman)

Originally founded shortly after the end of the Civil War Memorial Day is a day to remember all who died for their country. We have had so many young men and women fighting to defend us, risking life and limb throughout the 20th and 21st Centuries. But as we honored those who died in our wars, we must not forget the soldiers and armed forces members who are still alive.

These men and women have been through all sorts of bizarre situations and danger. Many of them have had to completely change their way of thinking just to survive in the field. Even if they've never been injured or had to see someone die, it can be difficult for them to adjust to civilian life. So these stories are in honor of all those who served and deserve to be seen, heard, and known.
Mo McCooper
Civil Rights

Growing up in an all white neighborhood with all white nuns teaching me, I only knew a few people of a darker color who worked in the stores or cleaned the bars. In a wealthy town next door there was a farmer with a few acres of vegetables and at least one horse but I never got to meet him. He was black.

At the playground one of the older basketball players who taught us better skill between games had been a player on the Lower Merion High School State Championship Teams, which had included players from my hometown. We called him Mr. Draper or Mr. D and I had great respect for him.
In hitching rides between West Philadelphia and the western suburbs we walked every day the rough neighborhoods which had recently changed from mostly white to mostly black but we were not afraid or even nervous in the experience.
Only a few of my classmates at the small Roman Catholic high school were black. I didn’t get to know any of them well but I liked my one teammate on the freshman basketball team and admired a senior, Willie Charity, on the varsity team. The coach let me, at 4’ 11” and about 100 pounds, guard Willie, at about 6’ and 170 pounds, at the end of practice scrimmage to add a little humor to the situation. I took it very seriously.
When my father died during my senior year in high school, my mother received social security for about six months until my 18th birthday, in June, after high school graduation. A retired Naval Officer arranged a job for me shoveling cement on the PA Turnpike, which I needed to pay the mortgage on the house my parents had purchased a few months before my father died. I was the only white laborer on the cement and I was exhausted in the first half hours. The other laborers taught me how to use the shovel with the cement and saved my job.
Paying cash for doctor and hospital bills gave me a draft exemption during the Korean War but led to a bleak financial future. Good advice from the draft board representative led to waiving my exemption and enlisting for the draft into the U.S. Army.
The Sergeant at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was a great instructor, teacher, and leader. He was black. When I was offered a course to be an intelligence agent at Fort Holabird, Maryland, both Sergeant Sutton and our Captain recommended I attend.  
After six weeks of basic training our platoon won a physical training competition and a weekend pass to the City of Columbia, S.C. We were advised in the first bar we entered that we had to drink in different sections of town.  
The soldier joints in the white section were disgusting. My fellow soldiers treated the waitresses like pigs. They even ripped one girl’s dress as she served pitchers of beer to the booth.  After a few beers I left. So this was RACISM!! After a short, walk around the soldiers (WHITE ONLY) sections of town, I went to my hotel room and slept late.

Norman Cain  
The Wedding 
When I arrived at Fort Davis, Panama in November 1965, to begin my tour of duty as Military Policeman, I was greeted by Specialist 4th Class Brooks who took me under his wing. He told me what to expect from the personnel of my new company. He took me throughout the military post and neighboring Canal Panama. He told me what to avoid and where it was safe to go. One piece of information that he related to me was hard to swallow. 
He said that if a soldier visited a girl in Rainbow City Panama, sat on a swing that embraced her porch, and accepted a cold glass of water would become married to the girl. To me, the story sounded like a folk tale. I asked him where Rainbow City was located and what was so special about the young females that lived there.
He said that the housing area was located in the Canal Zone, an area controlled by America and occupied by its civil servants of the Panama Canal. He explained that the Panamanians living in the Canal Zone attended American schools, had better housing, access to better food, and occupied a suburban type environment. He said that the girls who lived in Rainbow City were no different than those that lived in the Republic of Panama, but if I had no intentions of getting married, I should stay away from the area.
After I had been in Panama for a year, I was invited to a wedding reception. Guess where? Rainbow City. I guess the groom, who I did not know, had drunk a glass of water while sitting on a swing on the porch of the house where his wedding reception was taking pace. During the reception, I became engaged in a prolonged conversation with a young lady. I walked her home. We dated for a year.
Her father, who was employed as an engineer for the Panama Canal, didn't care for Americans. So I was not allowed in her house for several months. Finally, her mother told me to come inside. While the home in which my soul mate, Elaina, resided did not have a porch, let alone a swing. I guess the story that I initially heard when I arrived in Panama: "If you sat on a swing and drink a glass of cold water while visiting a girl in Rainbow City, Panama, you will marry her" was true.
We divided to get married. When I asked the father for his approval, he told me to ask his wife. Elaina's mother gave her approval. Military law stipulated that a soldier who intended to get married must notify his superiors months in advance of his intended wedding date. The military needed to conduct an investigation of the couple in question, administer a blood test, and conduct marriage counseling, document the procedure, and perhaps facilitate the marriage ceremony. 
Because I only had a month before being discharged from the military, we decided to forgo military regulations. We had to get married by means of the underground route, which was a clandestine procedure, one that could have landed me in the stockade.
First I had to contact a law clerk, who sent me to have a blood test. The blood test was administered (would you believe it) by a botanist. Next, we were given physical examinations by a doctor. It rained hard during the day of our wedding. We caught a ciba bus to the courthouse where we were to be married by a judge. The bus driver who knew asked us if we were going to get married. So much for the secret.
Since we did not have a witness, we had to pay a clerk $10.00. The ceremony was swift. I kissed the bride. I couldn't believe I was married. I was ready to leave because it was the last day of the month, the day when our company had to be dressed and information at 6 pm to give respect to our nation's flag. If one were late for this ceremony (revelry) restriction to the barracks for at least two weeks would be the penalty.
Before, we could leave, the judge told me that if we wanted our marriage license to be delivered to the court by express, I would have to pay $20.00. I was under the impression that I had already paid for the marriage license and that it would be available at the end of the marriage ceremony. I paid the money without protesting. What could I do? I had to get back to the post as soon as possible. I took my new wife home and headed back to the post.
When I arrived at the post, I was late for revelry. The entire company was in formation and ready to salute the flag. I ran to my room, hurriedly dressed and joined the formation in record speed. Just as I found by place in line, the captain began the revelry ceremony.
Looking back on the incident, I realized that my company commanders were aware of my intention to get married but decided to overlook my breaking the rules. I am certainly happy about that, because I could have been in big trouble.
When I arrived back at Rainbow City, all of my wives neighbors and friends were at her house. No one was dressed up. There was run, Calypso music from the record machine, rice and peas, a homemade wedding cake and loud singing and vigorous dancing. I have been in five expensive and formal weddings but none could touch my special day.
A week after my wedding, I returned to the United States. My wife joined me three weeks later. My family, who was apprehensive about my marriage, instantaneously adored my bride. My friends in Philadelphia, met my wife, liked her immediately, gave us a reception, and apologized for doubting my decision to marry a foreigner.
While we were divorced after 20 years of marriage, me and my ex wife have remained friends. From our union there were two boys and a girl, who have all done well. We have seven grandchildren. Getting married in the Republic of Panama was one of the best decisions/adventures that I have ever had.
 Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Motherlode (Gloria, Aileen, Loretta G, Mei Chiu, and Norman)

Many of our older buds are both mothers and grandmothers, and many more have had mothers and grandmothers. It's only right to devote this post to the mothers and grandmothers who made Best Day what it is today.
Gloria Washington
Chance Encounters

I knew it was dicey doing this. Chancy. The man came up to my mother and forcefully hurled a bag at her. We were sitting quietly minding our own business.

“Here.” He shoved it.

She said: “Get away from here!” snarling with venom.

I sized the guy up while looking around.  He looked like a mid-level line-backer who played amateur football, but his eyes held a tinge of sadness. His clothes were clean, no torn edges or signs of vagrancy, but I could smell the cheap whiskey oozing from his pores.

He said: “I’ll sell it to you for ten bucks.” We were in an enclosed public place. I scanned and assessed like a military drone. Assessing for danger. Assessing for pitfalls. Assessing for prying eyes or a set up. Hidden cameras were just that, hidden. Cool, grey cylinders secreted in the ceiling. There were commuters, foot traffic and police.  I took the leap . . .
 “I’ll give you five.” We haggled for a few minutes, the daughter in jeans, the mother in knits and the beseeching, semi-aggressive stranger.

Was anyone looking? Who was watching us? The unknown stranger wobbled slightly on his feet while standing at an awkward stance. His imperfect gait was shaky as he attempted to make the sale. I looked at the merchandise, good quality, perfect size, brand new. I dashed to the newsstand to break a ten, looking over my shoulder at my mother the whole time... watching the man.

Single bills in hand I made the transaction and took the wares.  He said: “I love your mother.” Hustling furtively I grabbed my mother’s arm quickly away from prying eyes and a weepy, sentimental, and inebriated stranger. I congratulated myself for this sheer luck. Not out of the woods yet we escaped to our train and headed home. Once there I unwrapped it…

A designer jacket, pure silk in brilliant fuschia.

God is good.  

Aileen Jefferson
10 Year Old Breaks Record

And that’s exactly true.
Are you interested?
“Mother I want to learn how to swim.”
“You have the rest of your life dear.”
“Mother, I want to learn how to swim, now!”
And before I knew it, not the swimming teacher, but her father had accomplished the job.
The next day at the swimming pool as I yelled, “Stay out of the deep end!” my daughter continued swimming across the entire pool.
I was startled.
I held my breath.
She did the impossible, not only across the pool, but the deep end of the pool.
What happened next, I don’t know.  I fainted.

Loretta Gaither
For Michelle Gaither

I lost my baby January 25th and she was buried on January 29th. As you might remember, she found me on the Internet through Best Day and I'm still trying to cope with it. I know she's up in Heaven with the angels. I went to another center for a while, but I liked this one better so I'm glad I came back. When I found my daughter again after so many years, I found out she was a Muslim. I was a Catholic, she was raised as a Catholic, so I had to get used to her being a Muslim. The first time I saw her, I recognized her behind her veil, and she took
me in and consoled me like I was her Mother. She treated me like a saint and in all honestly, she was a saint. And that made me feel better about her passing because I actually did get to connect with her again and I found an apartment that I've been living in for a year now. I want to thank the Best Day workshop for helping me and taking me back in. I really missed it and I'm glad to be back. God bless Best Day and God bless the readers of this website.

Loretta, signing off.
(Read the epic story of Loretta's reunion with her daughter here)

Mei Chiu
Bound Feet

My grandma had bound feet – did you know? She also lived in Guang Zhou in the same house with Old Li and me. Oh no, not my real grandma. My real grandma, I didn’t meet until I went back to the village and by then she was very old. When I was young, I didn’t know her; when I went back, she was already blind, so she never knew me. Gou Ma visited her and brought her food, and brought me along. Gou Ma was already sixty herself when she took me back from Old Li, and living by herself by that point. I never met her hushand, who had passed away by then.

And so, to be clear, the one I call “Grandma” was actually Old Li’s late husband’s mom. I can see how that could sound a little confusing, and am glad you asked! She and I spent many hours together in the house, most of which I spent watching her feet.

Sad for me – no school to go to and stuck inside. I wanted so badly to go to school.

Old Li was out a lot, and her mom was a nurse, or training to be a nurse, so she was out of the house too.

Grandma wouldn’t let anyone see her bare feet, so I had to use my imagination. It was pitiful, painful to imagine. Her four small toes were bent backwards under her feet. Her big toe was really the only shape in her cloth shoe you can see. She wore these shoes that had holes just for the big toes. I don’t know how she took a bath. I don’t know. Maybe she didn’t wash her body? But what I could observe was that she tipped her weight to the front of her feet when she walked.

Traditionally, the ladies had bound feet; poorer people had normal feet. But it was just going out of fashion by my time. Good thing!

I will show you a photo of my grandma next time you visit. I will find it. Back then, there weren’t many photos taken, so ones showing bound feet are very rare. It is they kind of picture they make many copies of and sell in Chinese arts and crafts shops – Americans like to buy pictures like that to decorate their houses. They must think the way Chinese people dressed is cute or special.

You know, rumor had it that Grandma was the first woman with bound feet who came to America. But how she hated it here! Because Americans wouldn’t stop gawking at her. She got here all the way by boat and rode all the way home by boat. The rides must have been unbearable, so the ridicule must have been even worse.

Grandma’s feet are really the main thing I remember about her. And I remember he singing. She sang to herself, staring into a book. You can listen if you want but it was intended for herself. Besides that, she spent her time reading the paper, listening to the radio (which had been invented by then and was pretty popular), and sang along to Chinese opera songs.

The Li family had a live-in maid. They had enough money. So Grandma just sat at home. And I was told to just sit at home. With no books to read. They said to me, “Girls go to school for what? You tell me?! Not like you will make money any way.” That is what Old Li said to me. I was very mad at for saying that but what could I do?

Meanwhile, Grandma would try to convince me to be a Chinese opera singer so she could go to shows for free. But I didn’t want to. I couldn’t tell if she was just trying to be funny, because she mentioned the idea often. If so, I didn’t think it was funny. I didn’t even like Chinese opera. I just couldn’t get into it.

What I loved was movies because they are about real life. In Chinese opera, you wave a flag around which symbolizes this or that, but it is not true. I didn’t understand. And besides, I was too short. I couldn’t see past people’s heads. They built low temporary scaffolds out of bamboo and threw wood planks across them. That was it – simple way of making many rows of benches, wasn’t it? The problem for me was that they were all the same height.

When I was twelve, Gou Ma brought me back to the village, where I finally got my wish – to go to school! Can you imagine my happiness? The sad part was, it did not even last a whole year. The teacher was old, and taught all the same classes in the same room. She tried to teach everything, but really only knew a little of everything. Now one good thing was, after I got out of classes in the afternoon, I sometimes went with other girls to the movies. Not too many times, but every time the movies gave me a mixture of real feelings, and I liked that.

Years later, when the Japanese came to fight in Hong Kong during the war, I went to movies a lot. There was nothing to do during wartime. And because of the war, movies got very cheap, only five cents. Your grandpa had a steady income so we had enough to eat and a little extra to spend. You ask why I had this kind of  freedom during the war, why I didn’t have to hide? You see, the Japanese kids were dropping bombs, yes, but just once in a while. You were as safe in the movie theater as you would be at home. We were ok, so why sit at home and be scared? You need entertainment to have a meaningful life. And for me, movies were very exhilarating. Of course, when peacetime came, life was easier in a sense. At that point the family grew, and sometimes we brought all the kids to the movies including you mom when she was little.

A lot to tell. A lot happened. As I start to think back, one thing blends into another, probably hard for you to understand, right? But you are patient. You ask me. You are very thoughtful. You want to know. This kind of deep, deep memory doesn’t usually come up when you are just talking about daily routines. 


Norman Cain
Things My Mother Said To Me

My mother was a short giant of an "absolutely no nonsense" women whose self proclaimed position of boss was never challenged. She would tell anyone (no matter the time and place) to do something, and what she demanded was done without resistance. For instance, I've seen her break up many corner crap games; likewise, I can recall several instances when she actually went into the streets' gambling den and told the hardened card players to curtail the vile noise that the entire street could hear. And they complied.

She did not waste words on idle gossip, trivial matters or to hear herself talk; to the contrary, when she spoke it was for a relevant reason, and those who were within hearing range definitely listened. Including myself. I listened to her – partly, because I did not want to encounter her anger, but mainly because of my respect for her and her information, advise guidance, dictates, etc. that she dispensed.

Over the years, in her discussions that she has conducted with me, she has issued mandatory mandates, rendered perceptions, engaged in serious discussions and has given me tons of well needed counseling. I will never forget those sessions. She could be quite the disciplinarian. I can remember coming into the house after a pleasant day of playing and immediately being the recipient of the whipping that I was promised earlier, a whipping that I had escaped my mind.

Between the painful licks from the belt and my pronouncements of I-ain't-gonna-do-it-no-more, my mother would say didn't I tell you not to? Those whippings hurt, but there was something called a "Good Talking To" that would have me sobbing from the soul, boo-hooing with pain. The "Good Talking To" would consist of phrases like "I'm ashamed of you" and "You know better."

I remember my mother religiously lining each of my four siblings up and staying in a stern voice "What do you say when you speak to a grown person?" We would chime "Yes Sir" "Yes Ma'am." And during the holidays when children were required to say poems (which were called pieces) in church, she would line us up (my four siblings) and urge us to use our hands, eyes, hesitation, pronunciation and enunciation for the best presentation effect.

My mother also had a humorous side. When I received the award for being the top student in my sixth grade special education class, she said "If Norman is the smartest kid in the class, God help the rest." Before breaking out into a prolongued uncontrollable laugh. Whenever she had to inform me about something she knew would be disappointing news for me, she used a love filled gently voice. "Sissy's house caught fire last night. Sissy is dead." Sissy was the first girl that I had ever been romantically interested in. I have never forgotten her untimely death; however, there were more romantic interests.

Once, when I was a teenager, she looked me in the eyes and said, "I know what your problem is – girls." And she was correct. A few years later, when a serious heart break had me in a state of depression, she said to me, "There will be other girls." She was right. When I became older and seemingly a veteran of heartbreaks and homeless separations, my mother adamantly said "Get your own place." She was right.

When I left my parents' home on the morning of July 5, 1965 to report to the army, she urged me to hold my head up and a year and a half later when I came home on leave, she touched me and said with a tone of relief in her voice, "You came home." During what I surmise was my mid-life crisis era, my mom constantly told me to not throw away my gifts.

And when I told her about a dream I had about her father, mother, and uncle, she said that they were urging me to keep the faith. During a period in my life when nothing was going right and I was making wrong decisions, my mother would constantly tell me to not discard my gifts. When I told her that I had had a dream about her parents and her father's brother, she said "They are telling you that you can do it." If one did a wonderful deed, my mother would not necessarily congratulate them, as she felt that they were doing what was expected of them.

So whenever she told me "You did a good job," it meant a lot to me and encourages me to strive as hard as I possibly could. There are of course many other things that my mother said to me, and everything she said to me was in love, and if the tone of her delivers were sometimes harsh, it was merely to display "Tough Love" and to leave an everlasting message.

Happy Belated Mothers' Day from The Best Day of My Life So Far!

Curated by Caitlin Cieri