Thursday, June 29, 2017

Birthday Surprise (Kathleen, Sean, Aidan, Liam, Patrice)

Mo had told me he was expecting his daughters to pay him a visit this past week. But what I wasn't expecting was that they would also be bringing his four grandsons! So Kathleen, Patrice, Aidan, Liam, Sean and Ian met the seniors and they all wrote stories together. Eugene was delighted by them, Frances was joking about the kids having to write even after school ended, Mike regaled them with a Japanese folktale about a farmer trading a bag of onions for a bag of gold, and Mo was introducing everyone to everyone and being his sweet self with his kids and grandkids. One of the kids was a little shy about sharing his story, so here's what the rest of Mo's family has to show off.

There were five kids, a Mom, a Dad, and a dog named Muffins, packed into the car heading north to the Pococnos on a warm summer day.
Back then, there were no cell phones, iPads, or laptops - so the radio or our own voices were our only way to pass the time on road trips. My Dad liked to sing, all the time, so the radio rarely came on. On thses trips, we all took a turn snging our song. Irish folk songs, pop songs, Johnny Cash - you never knew what was coming! My favorites when I as young were "I've Been Working on the Railroad" or "Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" - I never knew which one to choose but we usually got to sing more than once so it was never a problem!
My Dad's voice was always the loudest, the boldest and the most colorful - but we were learning from him as we winded around every curve, through every tunnerl and past every mountain peak we passed.
The Pennsylvania countryside was alive with song - as the Mawhinneys made their way north. 


The date is the 22nd of June, 2017, and earlier today (1 AM) I flew into Philly. I was there to visit family and have a fun time. The moment I got to my grandma's house I went upstairs and fell nto my bed. I slept until 10:00 AM and when I got up I was happy to see a familiar dog sitting on my legs, Allison. After walking downstairs and seeing my grandma, I was startled by my cousin who was standing right behind me. We all went to the local Wawa to get breakfast sandwiches which we would eat on the train to downtown Philly. After getting off the train we were greeted by the loud city sounds and mesmerizing sights. We walked for ten minutes to meet my grandpop at the Philadelphia senior center. After my grandpop we went into the center to write a story about something exciting. And now I am just writing to fill up space on this paper so that's the end of the story.


The City

I think I'll write about today. We had flown out to Philadelphia from California the night before. Our flight was quiet and uneventful, but our cousins were delayed eight hours. We arrived and were picked up by our gradnmother I wanted to stay up and wait for our cousins to arrive, but I dozed off in minutes. I was woken by my cousin talking downstairs and I crept down and surprised him. After everyone woke up, we went to Wawa, which we don't have in California and all of us got hoagies and donuts for tomorrow's drive to the shore. We got home, and were rushed to the train station to get to grandpop's writing group. As we stepped off the train we were greeted by the sights and sounds of the city.
The amount of people was mesmerizing, and the art was beautiful, leaving the station, it only got better, the building styles of the past 200 years loomed on either side. We walked down the streets and arrived at the building and met Grandpop. As we walked in I admired the art covering the walls. And entered the class.


It was a bright sunny day in the summer of 2013 as a gust of wind rustled a pile of leaves and a child's laughter filled the air. A second later, the laughter stopped and the back wheel or a bke disappeared behind a bump seperating a cliff from the road where there had previously been a child on his bike. A few moments later a frowning mother emerged from the top of the road and began to call for their child. Then as if in answer the child's face poked over the previously mentioned bump, climbed up and ran to his mohter, the child explained what had happened to him. He explained how he had flown over the cliff, dropped his bike and run back to his mother. Unfortunately, that child was me.

Mo's M.O.

I am over the moon to be here at Best Day of My Life So Far. I have been wanting to come visit for years. Why? Because my dad is Mo McCooper and I live in Los Angeles and this group does just what Benita wanted - it inspires my dad to shae his stories with us, and with his grandchildren. We read stories on the blog and we have a copy of the book on our coffee table.
Perhaps just as important, my dad has made SO many great friends at Best Day. And since he's often been called "the happiest man in the world," The Best Day of My Life So Far has been Mo's M.O. for a very long time.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

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