Sunday, August 28, 2011

Marci (A Simple Question)

Just after Ellis read his letter for Watson (cheek out the previous blog post), his sister Marci read this story out loud to the group. Hearing this story made the simple sight of these two siblings – sitting just across the table from me, side by side, elbow to elbow – extraordinary.

Marci Zelmanoff
A Simple Question

I was a patient at Catch-Penrose AI. When the psychiatrist asked me in a soft tone, “Do you by chance have a brother?” I said, “Yes – named Ellis?” I hadn’t seen nor heard from Ellis in over a year. She thought of contacting and getting in contact with my brother. Last summer was joyous. We are developing a fondness for each other a day at a time. If not for this MD, we might have never re-met. We would never learn that we lived 3 blocks from each other. I may not be too fond of this MD or any MD, but I am grateful to him for asking me a simple question.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ellis (Dear Watson)

Do you guys remember how not long along, Ellis’ former student (who now lives in Africa!) found him through this blog and wrote us to ask about him? Click Here to check out that blog post again. A couple weeks ago, we read Watson’s note out loud to the class and Ellis was moved to speechlessless. Watson! This letter goes out to you from Your Favorite Teacher describing his fond memories of your1971 6th grade class. Write more – and ask your former classmates to do the same. You’ve made Ellis’ “entire summer”… now it’s time to make his entire fall!

Ellis Zelmanoff
Dear Watson

Dear Watson,

I am extremely happy to receive your email at my creative writing class at the Philadelphia Senior Center (main one in Philadelphia, PA, on August 11, 2011). 

How are you and what are you doing in West Africa?  I have retired from Public School Teaching in 2008 and spent my last year in it as a teacher of English as a Second Language in North and Southwest Philadelphia mainly with students ages 4 – 9 from Africa, South America and Puerto Rico.  The classes went well.  I was sorry to say goodbye to each class I had.  After I taught your Sixth Grade Class in Camden, I went to Lakewood, NJ, and Philly again in my public school teaching.  After I was done teaching public elementary school, I went into Computer Programming – teaching young adults in Princeton, NJ, for the Attone Institute, a computer programming school for first year students in Computer Science.  I was also privileged to teach and work as a Computer Programmer for Campbell Soup’s in Camden, Bellcore in Piscatarbay, NJ, and Reece in Bordentown, NJ.  I even had a 5 year stint as a Computer Programming Contractor in NYC where I commuted faithfully from New Brunswick, NJ, every morning for about 5 years.

I think a lot about your 6th grade class in Camden, NJ, and mostly have fond memories of the way we ended the last few months of the school year.

I remember you and your mom and Joe Sikorsky and his mom. Brian Holden was another mostly fond memory, Sharon Ray, Sharon Clifford, Debbie Molleneany, Sarah, and Wanda Cooper and her friend Jackie were also fond memories.  We had some trouble in the beginning of the school year in Sept ‘71 but got our act together by June ’72 “that our year together was a good learning year,” I felt honored and elated by his remark and others from you, Wanda, Jackie and Arlisha.

Please reply to my email.  I would like to find out more about you and any other students in my class as you guys were my first teaching experience and overall.  I rate the class as a dynamic success – especially the peaceful way you guys came in to see me the last day in June of the class and let me know that I did at least some things you liked. 

Please write more
Ellis Zelmanoff

God bless you.  You have made my entire summer.  Keep writing!

If you know any of the other students still, feel free to pass this email on to them.

Maybe we could have a class reunion someday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Facebook: every LIKE counts!

Can't get enough of our 6-year-old honorary member? Below are drawings that Joseph made and showed our seniors when he visited the group a couple weeks ago. Thank you Renee (Joseph's grandmother and Beatrice's daughter) for your sweet words on Facebook just now:

Hi, Benita and everyone. I'm sorry that it took me such a long to get back to you but I had the most beautiful time with you when I was in Philly. My grandson had such a wonderful time. He loves to read and write stories too. I love to write too. Hopefully next time I will read some of my stories. God bless you all and keep on writing.
Hi, Renee - So good to hear from you. Made my day! I know Beatrice loved seeing you guys there, so yes you have to come out to Philly and visit us again soon - bring more family... we know you have a gigantic bunch, bring 'em all!

And hi, Readers - We know you live all over the world and may not be able to visit physically, but you can still let our seniors know you are out there listening to their stories. How? Facebook! Simply click HERE to see our Facebook page, then press the LIKE button, and ask your friends to do the same. It would just take you a second but would mean the world to us. Every LIKE counts. Your support on Facebook directly fuels our seniors' confidence and keeps them writing week after week. Thank you.

Friday, August 19, 2011

6-year-old Joseph (Train Ride)

Around here – on this blog and in our class – words are worth more than pure gold. Then I realized that in the hands of a six-year-old, that’s when they become infinitely priceless. Below is what Joseph – Beatrice’s GREAT GRANDSON (!!!) wrote when he came to visit our class. Yes, literally, he was sitting at the table with all the rest of us, blending right in with the seniors, looking quite tough and adult and invincible with his nice hat, with his mom and grandma also there cheering him on. Oh and you know what they say about pictures being worth more than words. I’d say Joseph’s pictures make his already priceless words, even more impossibly unbelievably out-of-this-world.  Joseph sitting at the table with us, writing and reading his story out loud to a roomful of seniors, counting for us how many people he drew on the train and the bus. I’d put all that on my top ten list of unforgettable moments from this project… no doubt about it. His being there just meant so much.
Joseph Rey
Train Ride

We went to the underground mall. 
We went to the mall on the train.  We rode the bus also.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brendan (Sweet Tooth)

Think the last blog post is as sweet as things get around here? Think again. Here’s Brendan, one of our incredible Satellite Class co-leaders, showing us all how to treat a lady just right… honor her with an all-out sugar poem of course!!

Can’t get enough of Brendan? You’re in luck! Hang out with him tomorrow at our summer satellite class, which meets every Wednesday 4-5:30pm at the Free Library of Philadelphia Room 108. Tomorrow is session 6 of 8 - can you believe how fast summertime has flown by? Check out how much that class has grown in the past 5 weeks by visiting I can’t be more proud of Brendan and our satellite crew- you guys are doing a fantastic job!

And now, back to the romance. Ready, set, blush!

Brendan O’Hara
Sweet Tooth

My sweet heart
gave me my sweet tooth
you see
before I met her
my favorite dessert was
maybe a dinner roll
or some warm pumpernickel
perhaps a piece of toasted rye
or grandma’s famous cinnamon loaf.
I spent my childhood quenching my palate
with grains and wheats.
But then she came along,
my sweet tooth, my sweetheart, my
Emily Jean,
with her perfect row of teeth
and her predilection for
cavitied food.
you see she loves
and tarts
and pies.
And so she proceeded to win over
my enamels with
boston crèmes and
lemon meringues,
rhubarb bars and
apple tarts.
I couldn’t finish an
evening without a scoop of
something with butter or sugar
or heavy cream.
But I have never regretted a moment of our 2.5 year
or the twenty pound that I have put on
in the process.
and she loves the new fat on my body
so much so that
she recently got me my very own
membership at the

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hazel (Uptown Trash) and Joe (Remembrance)

Well well well I looked at today’s date and what do you know… it’s 6 months till my favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day. Silly I know but I am always looking for a good excuse for romantic stories! So ok, are you ready for a mini emotional roller coaster? In the next minute, you may burst into an uncontrollable giggle and go on to drop a slight tear. We are talking serious romance today: not for the faint of heart ;) !

Hazel Nurse
Uptown Trash

Several years ago in the Atlantic City High School lunch room, my friend, Dorris introduced me to a young man who needed a date for his senior prom.  At fourteen years of age, I heartedly accepted his invitation eagerly anticipating this new experience.

On prom night he appeared in a rented tuxedo with a corsage of red roses in hand. After attaching it to my older sister’s full length gown, I was excited.  He ushered me to the back seat of a long jitney chauffeured by a friend of his family. After a farewell from “mom” and a lecture from “dad” insuring my return before midnight, we were off to an enjoyable evening.

Through the years we corresponded and after one heated discussion I decided to end our friendship and called him, “Uptown Trash”.  However, although I cut him off of a photo, we were married eight years later.

Joe Garrison
Day of Remembrance

This day has two meanings for me.  It’s my sister’s wedding anniversary and also the birthdate of someone very close to me.  If Debra was still here, today would be her 58th birthday.  I remember on this day 4 years ago she came to visit me and we went out for lunch that day.  Any visit from her was special but this was a milestone in our relationship.  After we enjoyed lunch, we came back to my apartment and I placed a gold ring on her finger.  At that moment I felt as though I was king of the world because I felt so deeply in love with her, and her with me.  We shared a long embrace and a meaningful kiss.

It is a coincidence that the song, “You Light Up My Life” was written by a man named Joseph and it was for a girl named Debbie.  It was a hit record.

Even though she is no longer with us, I will do my best and keep Debbie’s name and her memory alive.  I’ll never get over her.  She was a beautiful, sweet girl.  That’s what she’ll always be for me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Josie (Changes)

The news about today’s stock market plummet has made me pretty queasy. That was the feeling in my stomach when I toggled my screen away from and popped open my “stories” folder looking for something to post here for you. Browsing through our seniors’ latest stories – all of which are amazing in their own ways, I found myself pausing at Josie’s, and rereading them several times. They seem even more calming today than when I had first heard them in class.

… the old heavy black Singer sewing machine with engraved golden print that sang smoothly like a locomotive as grandmother guides fabric beneath the needle that rose and fell to create a stitch…

Rereading these words, I swear I am just watching Josies’ grandmother at the sewing machine, watching - and listening - as the needle makes that single stitch. She’s right. “Life is moving so fast,” but at the same time, life is simple, life is ok, when we take the time to appreciate the way a simple needle rises and falls. Today’s still the best day of my life so far.

Josie A Miller

Today is the beginning of a new phase in my life.  I am 72 years old and today, for the first time, I joined a senior citizen center.  Before now I had resisted joining a group of “old” people because I want to keep up with the present and the future.  Life is moving so fast.  New technology, new types of art, especially music.  New people with new languages, food and dress.  The faster I ran the faster things changed. Now I embrace my own time, my own age and realize little has changed.

Josie Miller

Images of fabrics of numerous textures, prints and colors; my grandmother’s hands as she held the scissors and cut into the clothes; the old heavy black Singer sewing machine with engraved golden print that sang smoothly like a locomotive as grandmother guides fabric beneath the needle that rose and fell to create a stitch.

I had never owned a store bought dress.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

10 of a Million Reasons

So many reasons why today's class was unforgettable:

10. We surprised Dee with birthday cupcakes! Yay! It was fun to see Dee so happy.

9. Brendan, one of the leaders from our Wednesday library satellite class, came to cheer Dee on.

8. Brendan wrote a loving story about his wife of 2-1/2 years... stay tuned for a blog post of that!

7. Madi, our teen intern who helps to lead our satellite class, gave a great recap of how that class has been blossoming. Click Here to read the satellite blog which Madi narrates.

6. We had a big, happy class with big-hearted stories.

5. The weather was nice and not too hot, so seniors could travel to class easily.

4. We took a lot of fun photos. (Click Here to see today's album! To see photos as they are posted, please Like us on Facebook. Thanks!)

3. Beatrice's daughter, granddaughter and great-grandson visited from North Carolina and Delaware!

2. Joseph is six ;)

1. My mom and sister who are visiting from Seattle came to class. I think they loved it.