Thursday, May 22, 2014

In Memory of Mother and Daughter

We aren’t just dealing with stories here; we are dealing with life and death. And that’s ok. I am not scared.

Exactly seven days ago, just because of a gut feeling, I posted stories about how seniors have taught me to look through death and see the life within. Today, the husband of Gloria Washington (whom we all lovingly call “Daughter”) came to class to tell us the she had passed away seven days ago. Gloria was not a senior. She was the devoted daughter and caretaker to Aileen Jefferson (whom we all lovingly call “Mother”) who herself had passed away at the end of last year. Gloria discovered that she had lung cancer, only recently.

She told her husband Howard, “If anything happens to me, there are three or four things I’d like you to do for me. One of these things is to go to the writing class to tell everyone how much the group has meant to Mom and me.” When Howard told us that, he said with both tears and a smile, “If you knew Gloria, you know she didn’t ask me to come. She told me to come.” Howard promised Millie and the rest of the gang that he would be back to join the group, to share his own stories.

Here are some of the stories that Mother and Daughter had shared with us throughout the years, and a video of them in the group. After “Mother” passed, “Daughter” would look at all the silly videos that our group has made, to remember her mom at her happiest moments. This video was Gloria’s favorite.

Gloria Washington
People I Love

I love people who surprise me with kindness…

Humans who defy authority and challenge the status quo…These are my heroes, the ones who take on giant corporations and governments. I love people who bring me 6-packs of micro-beer because they know I love the creative product labels, especially. Healthy gourmands who feed my soul with soothing, spicy delicious proteins and vegetables, these are among the people I love. I love people who create art and music that stir my psych to dream and imagine and transport me to other galaxies and alternative realities. I especially love those daring souls that shatter stereotypes, to me the best people of all.

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.

Gloria Washington
The Fragile Tentative Steps to New Friendship

The body language and eye contact is reciprocal. Then, like a flower, the shared experiences, language, and habits are revealed.

The beginning steps to friendship are like a tender pas de deux, a polite yet inquisitive dance. Our hearts are aglow with a chance at establishing a new confidante, bosom buddy, comrade. The stakes are high. How much to reveal? How soon?

It’s like sorcery: the meeting of like minds, shared values. Kinship and parallel or sometimes opposite attractions. The trial period in the beginning is almost like a testing ground. Will there be ulterior motives? Will one have more to gain or profit or will it be a meeting of equals, shared language, experience, consciousness.

The rewards are priceless. I’ve met a new friend, perhaps a host of them in this sanctuary of an environment.

Gloria Washington
Magic Circle

Every time I sit at the oval table in our sun drenched, book laden room I am transported.

The myriad voices enthrall me.  Tales of history, pathos, and ingenuity…Nuggets of golden stories I would never know of otherwise. 

Secrets of the entertainment business, Philly’s diverse ethnic stories from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s are offered as well as true moments of accomplishment from my fellow literary travelers.  I am in awe and silenced.  I think about these stories often while traversing the city or in quiet moments alone.  They move me and make me think.  I am adding a new dimension to my “lens” on the cities multi-ethnic neighborhoods. 

Sometimes the using are quite cerebral, a nod to my fellow theatre member.  Other times they are funny, poignant, who knew these things about Atlantic City? Each voice carries weight.  Separately they are strong reminders of our past.  Together they are a unified crescendo of what makes this city and country great.

And hovering incandescently is the fairy that facilitates it all.  I am honored to be a part of this ritual of words.

Aileen Jefferson
The Awakening Scent

I am awake!  What have I heard, the twitter and lovely echoes of birds.  I was silent for a moment, I’ll hear them again.

A kitty cat’s sound-off, that she is awake.  But that’s not it, I remained silent, I’ll hear it again.  Patience. 

Oh there it is!  I believe that that‘s the echo of the morning robin.  I thought, of course, they are hungry. I better rise and shine and make myself useful in the kitchen.  My lovely pets are giving me knowledge that a new day is here.

As I glanced at my window I saw morning sunshine beckoning me to the kitchen.  They are hungry, let me remember that I do have pets and there is no lying here hoping for someone to fix breakfast.

Is that the whiff of bacon?  I sniff.  I hope out of bed and there is my husband fixing breakfast.  Waffles, “ooh” I say.  Waffles, I rush into the kitchen and there is my husband preparing my morning feast.

We sit down immediately and enjoy the breakfast that I did not have to prepare.

Aileen Jefferson
Unknown Pleasures

Here we are at last.

Lovely homes, terrific hostesses that produced them.
And we are delighted!
Just as we expected the best.

The children seemed to anticipate our every wish. And why not, they are our relatives.

They were socially adept as we had anticipated because of their background.
Hoorah for fine upbringing!
Good genes pay off.

The best colleges, the best schools and what about background?
Give each one a high score.

Southern hospitality at its best by the chosen few.

Entertaining us northerners seemed to delight them as they supplied us with society’s best forays into their territory.

The luncheons and dining experiences proved our point.

The lovely setting of our luncheons showed the truth of southern hospitality.
Friendly, charming, warm hospitality in the southern manner.
Anticipation brought to fruition. The entire trip surpassed expectations.

Aileen Jefferson
Joyous Days

I am approaching the room… What room?  The room where the gifts are kept.  We are not supposed to even peek, but I just can’t help it.

And now I’m in.  And as you can see, the bed is piled high with gifts.  I shut the door quickly.

They were different shapes, of course.  Some for brother, some for Uncle, some for Auntie.  You have to distinguish by the shapes of the gifts. 

Here are Mother’s, here are Daddy’s, Christmas gifts galore!

The fun deciding which gifts to open first.  Season’s joy galore in our family.

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.

Aileen Jefferson
New Friendships

The welcoming of new friends. There they are!  An entire class of friendships that are new.

And I’m thinking, they look familiar, then I realize this is my writing workshop, of course.

New friends here.  We all are from all over the city and we are congregated with various interests, mainly about improving our relations with each other and communicating with each other.

The fellowship of our peers is important to us.