Saturday, July 31, 2010

Linda (I am a Senior Citizen)

Sometimes, a new member would walk into our classroom for the first time, and coyly tell the group that she is just going to listen… but then as the minutes slip by and the trust intensifies around the table, she would spontaneously start to tell a story. It’s unbelievable really, to witness these personal breakthroughs take place over the course of a mere hour. I love it every time. It makes me want to stand up and cheer out loud. Linda’s story here is so… what’s the word… naked.  And in its nakedness so intense. I really couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it. This story marked a special moment for her. Yay! Go, Linda!

(And yes, Linda has been coming to class regularly since. Her smile is bigger week after week. This past Thursday she wrote a full page about being happy for the first time since April. Can’t wait to share that story soon.)

Linda Carr
I am a Senior Citizen

Today, being here in this class, I am realizing for the first time that: I AM a senior now. 

I have two kids – a son and a daughter – and 9 grandchildren.  They are concerned that I am always hanging around at home.  Today I decided to get out of my bed and come here.  I heard this was a jumping place.  Everyone in this class has made me feel so welcome. I am just starting to adjust to the fact that I am a senior citizen.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bernice (Fabulous Samaritan)

Want to hear a few more stories about our seniors helping others? I didn’t even realize how incredibly similar Bernice’s two experiences were – spread 30 years apart – until I started preparing for this blog post right now. Coincidence? I don’t know. A Fabulous Samaritan? Without a doubt. She goes with what she knows is right and doesn’t worry about what people think, and that makes her a total rockstar in my book. That dictionary I was mentioning in the last blog post? Yeah, next to the word, Rockstar, I’d put Bernice’s picture.

Bernice Moore
June 24, 2010
Meeting New Friends

Walking down Margaret Street this morning, I saw that a lady had fallen. A lot of people passed by and did not help her. I helped her up and get across the street. I was glad to know she was alright. The weather here has been really hot, but it is good to be able to go places. The buses are always crowded. Some people are really nice. A lady dropped her purse and I picked it up and gave it to her. She had a lot of money in it. Another lady was sad because her daughter would not go with her to the doctor. I walked with her to the doctor’s office and made sure she was okay.

Bernice Moore
May 20, 2010
Fallen Lady
My story is about thirty years ago at night time. I was walking home from the movie on Market Street at 16th when I hear someone crying.  An older woman had fallen in a hole.  I first thought it was a cat.  She kept crying for help.  I took her out of the hole and took her to a hotel across the street.  I was lucky to have a bag of clothing that was given to me at my other job.  She was happy to get in warm clothing.  I said goodbye and went on my way.  Until this day, I hope she made out alright.  It is good to help other people.  These days there are a lot of people who need help and I am glad they have places for them.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mr. Gordon (You Never Know)

If I were to make a dictionary and I got to the word, Wisdom, I’d put Mr. Gordon’s picture right there. I’m not exaggerating, for every three sentences he utters, there’s another life lesson. And he speaks ever so gently, so modestly, and always with a slight smile. Like he’s listening to the sounds of his own words and shaping them, mulling over their subtleties, even as they leave his lips. Well, this story is no exception. A few moments across the years, when told by Mr. Gordon, become a giant, heavyweight, capital-letter-T, glorious-soundtack-deserving Thought on the circle of life. His stories take my breath away.

Arline Gordon
July 15, 2010
You Never Know

In the hospital the week of July 4, my sugar level was out of control , my heart was acting up.  It was a tough day.

I had worked for the school district for 30 years.  Sometimes I would see children that I came to know well and a few of them I was sure just wouldn’t make it in life.  One girl in particular must have really made an impression on me.  Her name even stuck in my mind.

In the hospital room I heard someone calling my name.  I didn’t  know who it was saying: “You don’t remember me, do you?  I’m Carol, your ‘Headache’, the one you said would not make it.  I want to thank you.  Because of you, I’m working as a nurse. And today I am here to take care of you”. 

In my head I laughingly wondered how I had treated this person, hoping that I was not deserving of a pinch or a kick.  Of all the people I wouldn’t expect to see, there was Carol tending to me at the hospital. Carol had achieved a great deal.  To hear her say that it was all because of me, was really something.

The title of this story? If I had to give it a title, I’d say, “You Never Know.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cosby Time

Yup, I meant the one and only Bill Cosby.

Believe it or not, today we stepped out of our basement classroom. Not only that, we traveled up north to a small theater, for our very first class field trip. Not only that. We were invited to be part of a small, private audience for a filming session starring Bill Cosby himself. GASP.

(Yes, the producer visited our class a couple of times and personally invited us, but I wasn’t allowed to announce the field trip on the blog until after it’s happened. Sorry! Been wanting to tell you!)

Essentially, we watched Mr. Cosby interview different people, including kids from a local YMCA, in the style of the old Art Linkletter show, "Kids Say the Darnest Things".  The seniors had a lot of fun. They sang camp songs on the minibus on the way there, and laughed out loud throughout our whole time in the theater. They also promised to write up some nice stories about the day next week when we meet, to compare experiences and also to fill YOU GUYS in here on the blog ;) Joining us for our big trip was my new friend Tyreek, or “Tea”, who you may remember is one of our new Teen Interns, and whose letter to Arthur was posted here on the blog last week. Tyreek even showed up to the senior center early, before the trip, to hang out with the seniors - when I showed up, he was already chatting like old pals with Arthur! It made me so happy.

Stay tuned for stories from the day – as soon as they get written and typed, I’ll share!

(Cosby Photo Credits: Erinn Cosby)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hazel (Coach)

Got more laughs for you today! Here’s Hazel telling about her great-granddaughter’s “vocal” abilities. BTW, want to know something my friends find ridiculous? I'm a preschool-humor-fanatic. I've got kids' jokes and riddles bookmarked on my Blackberry to whip out at any given moment - yup, embarrassing but true!

Hazel Nurse
May 6, 2010

Maybe my great-grand three year old had become very vocal from living in childcare for two and a half years.  Always happy to enjoy her visits with me, I felt obliged to go out of my way to assure her health and safety.  When climbing the stairs, she was told to hold on to the banister.  Also, precautions were taken near the cook stove and certainly stepping in and out of the bathtub.

This particular evening in pajamas she yelled, “What are we going to do next, Coach??” Thinking about her doll, Coach, I squinted and questioned her.  She explained that I told her to do this and do that all of the time, so she called me “Coach”.

Next morning, I was awakened in the next room by “Granny, granny!! Do you know what you did?”  Sleepily, I answered, “What have I done wrong now?”  She replied, “You were breathing very, very loud.”  In other words, my snoring woke her up.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brenda (I Was the Original 50 Cent)

It’s Friday afternoon. Let’s do a funny post to start the weekend out right. No need to head to the movies! I’ve got the perfect weekend warmer-upper for you right here. Let’s say it’s part romantic-comedy, part gangsta rap. No, I’m serious. I never thought I’d say gangta rap on this blog, but there you go.

Ok, for those of you who have outgrown your hiphop years (not me, and not Brenda apparently!) you gotta look up who 50 Cent (yup, “fitty cent”, not “fifty cents”) is before reading this story, to really get why it’s so funny. And it’s Brenda – the embodiment of grace and etiquette and tact – writing this. I don’t have to tell you – I’m sure you can guess what nickname Brenda has earned herself in our class…

Brenda Bailey
I Was the Original 50 Cent

I was not allowed to take company until I was 16, and the days leading up to my birthday I had someone waiting in the wings, and his name was Buddy. He lived four doors down from me. We could only sit on my porch or his, walk to the corner store the long way, or attend school events, and then it was straight to home. Believe me, eyes and ears were every where (his parents or mine).

After several months of talking, walking, and a few stolen kisses, Buddy gave me a shock. He told me he had been saving a year to buy the girl of his dreams a special gift and I was that girl- so he gave me a diamond ring. I said, “What! Are you crazy? My mother will kill me. Wow.”

When I got into the house I called my best friend Linda and she screamed with excitement. I hid the ring and only wore it when I wanted to show off.

I had a job afterschool at HUP serving dinner trays to patients. One night while waiting for the bus to go home, I looked down to admire the ring. I had just shown it to my co-workers. To my horror, the stone was gone. What was I going to tell Buddy? As soon as I got in the house I called Linda. She said, “Buddy is going to have your head.”

The next morning on the way to school Linda came up with a plan. We would go to the jewelry store on 40th and Market Streets and see how much another stone would cost. I explained to the jeweler how Buddy had saved for years to buy this ring and if he could replace the stone. I would pay on it every week from my pay check and he said he could replace the stone.

Linda was standing next to me holding my hand while I was waiting for the cost when the jeweler said, “50 cents.” Linda fell to the floor laughing her head off and I stood there in shock. When I came to my senses, I gave the jeweler fifty cents and he glued in the stone. It looked just like the original. He told me to leave the ring in the box for several days and then return the ring to Buddy, which I did.

When I married Linda was my Maid of Honor and she leaned over to me at my wedding and asked, “Is that a 50 cent ring? And when I had my first child Linda said to name him “50 Cents.” Of course I didn’t. But for Linda, my nick name for years was “50 Cents.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Say YAY to Interns

In the last blog post, I left you with a little cliff-hanger. I told you that this blog post is a must-read... and that's because it's true! Here are some of the beautiful application letters we received from Philadelphia teenagers, in response to our Call for Interns. Our teen interns will visit our weekly writing class at the senior center starting this month - no idea what kind of conversations and stories will unfold. But I'm getting ready to be blown away. This is going to be really fun.

Dear Beatrice Newkirk

My name is Jyqueen Galloway. I am currently attending Arise Academy Charter School. I am a sophomore and I have great grades. I respect my elders and I am a very respectable person. I follow the rules the adults give me.

I think what you said (about laughter and friends) was so true. I believe that’s true me and my  best friend laugh all the time by the way his name Tyreek, there was one day when we didn’t see each other for 3 days and we were both miserable with out each other.

When I am there I will promise to help and love everyone, treat everyone with respect,      like they’re my family. While I am here I will help you and other elderly people who need it. With no problem or questions asked I love helping people. So I just hope you will let me help you.

Thank you, Beatrice Newkirk.

Sincerely, Jyqueen Galloway

Dear Linda,

Hi how are you? My name is Jamila. I am 17 years old and I read your first date story. It was just too adorable. As unfortunate as it may be I have yet to go on an actual date, well not the clich├ęs dates. I really don’t like spending money when it isn’t necessary. So the movies and dinner are out of the question. I enjoy cooking so I would rather whip up something I have at home already. Plus I have tons of movies. Besides that I think those kinds of dates take away form getting to know each other. I rather take a long walk in the park with you or sit outside on the steps and eat ice cream on a hot day. I know that probably sounds a little cheesy but that’s my kind of date. Now that kissing thing is a whole other story. My first kiss was something like yours. And I also thought I could get pregnant if I French kissed a boy but than again I thought you could get pregnant by doing anything with a boy. Well anyway I hope to read more of your stories because I really enjoy them.

A New Fan, Jamila

Hello Madam,

My name is Tyreek Malachi and I’m a current senior at Simon Gratz High School. I heard about the connecting with seniors community service events though one of my teachers Stephanie Oliver at the Achieving Independence Center, and I  think that it would be a great opportunity to hear about the older generation’s experiences and see what I could learn from them.

I recently read the story on titled Arthur (singing) and I feel that in the years that he has been living he has accomplished a whole lot from being in many band/ choirs such as Little Joe and the Thrillers, McFadden and the White Heads, and The Soul Brothers Of Germany, London, France, Copenhagen, and Denmark to being a supporter of our country by participation in the army.

I can relate to Arthur because I also like to sing and I feel as if I can learn from him. Also I’m from Georgia and he was in Georgia for a month. I like to meet new people and so does Arthur and because of that I feel there would be a good bond. We both are travelers and we have that in common too.

I feel this would be a great experience for me and that I can learn and benefit form your program. Hopefully we can work together. It would be a great pleasure to work with you and the elderly.

Sincerely, Tyreek Malachi

Monday, July 12, 2010

November 14 is Seniors' Storytelling Day!

Well, well, well, I’ve teased you with the anticipation of this long enough, haven’t I? So here it is. THE official announcement:

2010 SENIORS' STORYTELLING DAY IS ON... and YOU are invited!

Presented by The Best Day of My Life (So Far)
Sunday, November 14, 2010
2:00PM - 3:00PM
Montgomery Auditorium
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street, 19103
Event details can be found on the Library’s Author Events Calendar, and in the Events Section of our Facebook page. And yes, bring a friend! Invite your friends easily by “sharing” the event via Facebook.

As you know, our seniors won’t be the only ones on stage (and on the screen) that day. You will also get to meet our teen interns and assistants. Want to see how awesome they are? Stay tuned for the next blog post. We'll be sharing some of the letters that they have written in response to the stories on this blog.You'll melt, guaranteed.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Birthday Post

Hope this doesn’t come across as self-indulgent, but I just want to use this blog post as an opportunity to thank my senior buddies, volunteers, friends and of course my earth-shatteringly sweet husband for throwing me the most surprising surprise party ever on Thursday. It’s my birthday today: the mini three-O! I am happy for so many reasons but one is that I feel like I am at peace – even a little thrilled – with growing older. I am pretty sure hanging out with my senior buddies has a lil’ somethin’ to do with that ;)

Check out photos from the day on Facebook, and check out some of the birthday gifts I got from the seniors, yup, you guessed it, in the form of stories and notes:
Hattie Lee Ellerbe
July 8, 2010
A Surprise for Benita

Today in spite of the 90 degree weather was a very happy day. At about 12:45pm we learned from Benita’s husband, Jason, that her birthday would be on Saturday, July 10th. He had a special cake from her favorite pastry chef Monica and he invited some of her close friends to celebrate. You can imagine how shocked Benita was when she entered the room and of course she cried. We ate cake and listened to letters sent via email from some of the young people who tune into our stories via computer.

Dear Benita

Congratulations on your Birthday!

May your birthday bring more happiness to you and your family, and the members of the Senior Center Writing Class. God bless you!

Michael Chan
July 8, 2010

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bernice (My Twin Sister)

One of the most gracious gestures I’ve ever witnessed was when Bernice read this story out loud.

Beatrice, her twin sister, was sitting across from Bernice, hearing these words for the first time along with the rest of the class. I wish you could all be at the table. I think my mouth was open in awe for the entire minute. It’s the kind of moment that defines life itself because it contains nothing but pure love.

Bernice Moore
June 17 , 2010
My Twin Sister

Me and my twin sister were born the same day. We've had a lot of fun meeting people here in class and I love my sister very much. She knows a lot of things. She is the mother of 12 children and I am the mother of 11. We have a lot of fun with our children and grand and great children. She is a great dancer. She writes beautiful poems. We will both be 77 tomorrow and I am thankful that God let us live as we have.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Helen, Michael and Hattie (Nice Days)

For those of you in the U.S., hope you had a nice July 4th weekend! I had fun with my husband and mother-in-law in upstate New York, barbecuing, overloading ice-cream cones, lighting sparklers, taking long walks, drinking lemonade on the porch. No giant feast or fireworks show for me this year, but sometimes a little quiet time with a little family is just right. Simple pleasures. Quality time. There are pretty words for this kind of thing. But I guess I just think of it as a sigh of relief. Because it takes the pressure off of us "grown kids" - it doesn’t take fancy gifts and dinner plans, sometimes just hanging out is enough to make a weekend nice or a day memorable. 

Helen H. Lahr
May 20, 2010
A Wonderful Day

It’s always a pleasure when members of my family and I get together, so you can imagine how happy I was, when Shannon, my daughter-in-law called on the phone and asked if I had a commitment on the coming Friday. I was free, but had I not been I would have canceled.

I could barely wait until Friday. I had gotten up very early when it did come. Finally the bell rang and there stood Shannon smiling.

I asked if she would like something to eat or drink. She didn’t care to have anything at the moment.

We decided to go outside. Outside, we sat facing each other. We talked about the past, how we first met and how happy we were during the early years when the children were born. There were two, Tracy and Eric. Now Tracy and her husband have two children of their own and are expecting another in July. Eric has just become engaged.

Most of our conversations centered about the children.  Well, we talked and laughed and embraced each other.  The time passed so fast we were surprised when my daughter came in from work.

Soon after, Sharon took us to a restaurant for dinner where we had a long, lingering meal. Finally, it was time to go home and, reluctantly, we went our separate ways.  When Sharon arrived at her home, she called to say that she had no problems on the long ride home.

When Mother’s Day approached, I received a beautiful card.  Written at the bottom were these words;  “Our Friday visit was wonderful.”

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
May 20, 2010
Mommy’s Secret

I cannot beat around the bush…as I write from week to week, all of you know that my children are my achievements. I could not be more proud of any three people in the whole world. They are my best friends….”The wings beneath my wings.”

In case they read this note, the secret is out, you are all ‘mommy’s favorites.” The guessing game is over. Now don’t fight over me…who want’s me this weekend?

Michael Chan
June 10, 2010
A Trip to New York

Last week my daughter drove a van of 10 of us to New York. To see friends over there. We saw family, talked all day, talked about recent changes and things. We left Philadelphia at 8am, arrived to New York at 2 to 3 hours later. We stayed and left after dinner, came home at 11pm. Very tired. The good kind. In between meals, we went to see the President’s House in Mount Vernon.  I bought a small souvenir to remember the day by.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hattie and Mo (We heart P.A.)

It’s official. We HEART P.A.! Just found out we are on the front page of another local paper: Milestones Newspaper July issue. If you live in town, pick up a free copy at your sidewalk newsstand anytime this month – and pick up an extra one to share with a friend!

Pennsylvania oh Pennsylvania, how can we thank you enough… except with stories? Here are Hattie and Mo talking about how the streets of our fantastic state have transformed over the years. Consider this blog post our mini token of appreciation for all of your support.

(And to all our out-of-town readers, by now I hope you know: You Rock. You’re like one giant worldwide cheering squad that keeps our seniors writing. They write because you are reading. Cheer on! Rock on!)

Hattie Lee Ellerbe
June 10, 2010
Patton Street Village           

As a young married couple, my husband and I moved to the 1900 block of North Patton Street.  We were among the first to integrate this block and were not very welcomed by our “other” neighbors.

It was October 1956 and we were in our early to mid twenties and had one three year old daughter, Karen.

As the years went by more young families had moved in and by the mid 1960s, we were all of “the darker persuasion”.  There were many, many children and everyone seemed happy and interested in each other’s welfare.
Our children played together and went to school and in some cases went to church together.

Parents didn’t just take their children on trips.  They would ask permission and take some of the neighbor’s children with them.

It wasn’t unusual for us to count an extra head or two at the dinner table because the children knew they were welcomed.  We even had the responsibility of taking neighbors’ children to and from school.

Now, we have at least four generations of children on our block and they have renamed our street “Patton Street Village”.

Our street is just one block long but the surrounding blocks love to participate in all the activities that we have.

I am so proud of Patton Street Village.

Mo McCooper   
May 20, 2010
69th Street

The town bus went to 69th Street Terminal which we later learned was in Upper Darby, Delaware County, Pa.  There were five movies we could walk to.  We usually went to two.  One high school boy tried to see all five many days. 

There was a White Tower with little hamburgers, soup cups of baked beans and French fries.  Nobody wasted money on sodas when we could see a movie or have a meal.  We kept the bus fare in our secret pockets or rings. 

No adults ever came with us and there was never any trouble I can remember. 

When we were 16 or so we went to Irish dances on top of some stores between the movie theaters.  Some of my older friends met their wives at those dances.  Tom Connell, one of my idols - a few years older, brought his shy, Jewish friend.  At least five of my Italian friends came with me.  The Irish girls loved them.  Anthony E. Horre met his wife there.  Most of us just liked to pound our feet on the thin floor during the “Irish Sets” which were like square dances.