Thursday, September 28, 2017

Looking Back, Looking Forward (Ernestyne)

It's been eight years since the first Best Day workshop, where Benita met her first four older buds in the basement of the Philadelphia Senior center. Though it started as a 6-week personal project, The Best Day Of My Life (So Far) has blossomed into a national storytelling network and a staple program for the senior center in which it started. Recently, our founder and fearless leader Benita Cooper hosted a regional storytelling event in Erie, for the NW Pennsylvania region, sponsored by LIFE-NWPA. Not only did she get to share video footage of our original group and meet with Erie's storytellers, she was also interviewed for news stories in CBS and NBC.

It's only appropriate that last week's session involved a little reminiscing. Our older bud Norman brought in some photos for a prompt for his other storytelling workshop. He passed the photos around, which included one from a much earlier Best Day workshop, a few black and white ones of his grandmother and first cousin, and a modern one of his mother with lasers in the background. And of course there was one of Young Norman himself, dressed up in his best Sunday suit.

In honor of Best Day's 8th Anniversary, here's a story from one of our first ever older buds, Ernestyne.

Ernestyne Whiteside Bush
Good afternoon everyone: welcome to the inner chamber of my life.
My name is Ernestyne Whiteside Bush, and I am not related to our ex-President, George Bush.
(Benita: That is what she wrote. In paranthesis. She showed me. When she showed me, she wasn't smiling. She waited till I smiled, and then she beamed.)
However, I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee near Lookout Mountain, which is noted for three mountains easily obtained from a short distance.
This area is my mother's area where her family lived. 

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Upcoming Events (Norman)

To all the loyal readers of this blog, take note! The Best Day of My Life So Far has lots of fun events coming up for the people of Philadelphia.

September 22nd, 2PM is our NW Pennsylvania Storytelling Day and Networking Event at Zem Zem Conference Hall in Erie, PA. (2525 W 38th St.)
October 29th, 3:15 PM is our South Jersey Storytelling Workshop at "Before I Die" in the Perkins Center for the Arts, Collingswood, NJ. Featuring a presentation from Best Day founder and president, Benita Cooper!
November 9th, 6PM is our Center City Philadelphia Happy Hour at City Tap House. (2 Logan Square.) I've been there for a Christmas party before and it was a great place to hang out and swap stories.

Here's hoping you readers can make all three events and see all of what our nation-wide non-profit has to offer. For now, here's a contribution from a local older bud.

Normain Cain  
Fantasies That Became Reality 
As a child, I was self-conscious, suffered from an acute case of low self-esteem, and had a learning disability. While I was not unkempt, I, nonetheless, had to wear hand-me-downs: pants that were outdated and either too large or small. My shoes were not in vogue and often had to have the hole in the soles covered by cardboard, a situation that caused problems when it rained. Since I was always the tallest student in the class, it meant that I was always the last in line, a situation that had me feeling isolated and different. Why was I so tall? Why were my clothes inferior to the other students in the class? I rarely spoke, was extremely shy, constantly harassed by bullies, and was withdrawn. While I excelled in reading and had a poem that I had written displayed on the bulletin board in the main hallway of the school and always received outstanding on my report card for reading, I failed all my other subjects. My teacher, on three occasions, tried to have me placed in a special education school. Each time my mother protested; as a result of her actions, I remained in her class for four years – the first through the fourth grade. One of the reasons why I enjoyed reading so much was because it gave me an outlet for my unhappiness and enabled me to find solace in fantasizing. The text that we read, Dick and Jane Time and Places was full of vivid images that provided fuel for the land of fantasy that occupied my inner existence. I immersed myself in the pictures of white picket fences, and the manicured lawn hosting brilliantly-hued daffodil images that were in contrast to the wall of cold concreted that bordered the steps that led to the scantily-furnished (well kept) row house, where I dwelled with my father, mother, two sisters and brother. Dick and Jane had ample room in their home, where they were able to move about effortlessly. They had separate bedrooms and meals that were fit for a king. They were always well dressed. They had a dog: Spot. My fantasies played themselves out in my art work which always contained pictures of modes of transportation: airplanes floating across baby blue skies, which always hosted a deep yellow, radiating sun; cruise ships occupied by stick figures smiling from its deck at the blue rollicking waves; automobiles, manned by smiling men in baseball caps driving down roadways bordered by magnificent houses set behind fully-leaved trees that a fluffy-eared, wide-eyed dog – that looked like Dick and Jane’s Spot – stared at. But in reflection, my fantasies manifested during the summers, when my sister and I left the swift-paced city for the tranquility that the South afforded. It was there that I was able – for a full 10-week period – to live in my grandparents’ home, which was undoubtedly the most magnificent house for miles. It was prettier than the homes of area white folk. While there was no white picket fence in front of the huge yard that lay in front of the house, there were two trees on either side of the yard. A lemon tree and a Chinaberry tree. It was there that at least six dogs resided: beagles, bulldogs and a little black and white dog – that looked like Dick and Jane’s Spot – which was a replica of the dog forever present in my drawings, who followed me everywhere I went on the farm. He followed me when I went to the well for water, to the barnyard when I poured buckets of slop into the trough for squealing-in-anticipation hogs. He followed me when I tossed handfuls of hardened corn kernels to clucking chickens, ever mindful of their position in the pecking order. He was with me stride-for-stride when I dashed down the red clay road in front of the house.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Share This With the World (Dolores)

September 11th rolled around a few days ago. It was one of those days that changed the course of American history. I don't just say that because of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers and the war that followed. I say that because of the immediate increases in airport security measures, the swelling Islamophobia, and all the people who lost friends and loved ones and are still recovering from that. We stopped taking our safety for granted: both terrorists and our own government could sneak in and destroy our lives. Sixteen years hasn't eased our fears; only gave us more reasons to be afraid.

I want Best Day to be a safe space, so I encourage our older buds to write about anything that's on their mind; especially the scary stuff. I want them to know that we are here, we are listening, and we want to help. So I want you, dear reader, to do something for me. If you found this on my Twitter or Facebook, please share this with one other friend in your network. If you went straight to our website, go to your social networking and share this link. I want the whole world to read these stories, but more importantly I want the world to say "These stories deserve to be read."
Dolores Wilson
Unseen Heroes

After watching the documentary "City of Ghosts" I reflected on the freedom of speech that we have in America. When Isis invaded Aleppo, Syria, and took over they killed anyone that was a threat to them. The journalist of that century was forced to leave and go into hiding. They left their friends that would keep them informed from the inside of the country. They provided them with films and pictures. The members of their family were persecuted and killed. In the film they show the journalists grieving for their loved ones. They felt compelled to continue to get the truth out there.
Now let not the people of America allow the power to be kill our freedom of speech here in America.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Open Hearts (Liz)

A few weeks ago, Liz had read a story about her time working at a children's hospital. She had mentioned that some of the children were some of the very first patients to receive open-heart surgery before it became a mainstream medical practice. I remembered learning in school during Black History Month about Daniel Hale Williams and how he was one of the first to perform a successful open-heart surgery. I've always been grateful to him because his work added nine years to my Gigi's (grandmother) life. This story's a bit sad, especially if you've had kids who had to be hospitalized, but we don't shy away from the heavy stuff at Best Day. Sometimes the best day of your life is when you can talk about one of the worst days of your life.

Liz Abrams
My First Job
After high school graduation - A Children's Hospital hired me as a ward clerk in 1959. Never had experience with small children, not even as a babysitter.
The hospital, small, halls dark, even during the day beds filled with children in critical + alarming situations.
My first shocking encounter with a boy of 5, walking the halls with a swagger in a bathrobe, loosely knotted, a mustache and a deep voice, coughing with a smoker's cough and approaching me for a cigar. Another beautiful little boy of 3 crying in his crib, crying for food, I couldn't help but go to him, and pick him up in my arms, rang for the nurse and ask her to feed him. She snapped at me and said - He had his meal.
Later, that evening, the child still crying for food, I went into the utility room + prepared cookies and P-nut butter. He inhaled, the food. The child's stomach was distended but his body was extremely thin, giving the experience of starvation - his brain never told him he had enough to eat, therefore he was always hungry.
On the ICU floor, there were child patients, with burned out stomachs from - drinking cleaning fluids, child physically abused.
Some patients appearing to be OK, they looked OK, but had bad severe heart problems.
Oh yes, I became very attached to the children - True I would depart, leaving my shift, returning the next day. Some had departed, learning that "open heart surgery," brand new procedure, that in 1959 had not been perfected. These angels who perished open the door to the saving of lives of future heart patients who survived.
My experience with the unsung heroes of the open heart surgery, perfected in 1965 with minimal fatalities.

Shortly after she finished reading this story, Liz had made sure to clarify that there children were not guinea pigs in medical experiments. These were kids and parents who had run out of other options and met doctors who would try anything to save a life. I'm grateful that these children were willing to give this new procedure a try, and their doctors cared enough about their patients to pay attention to what went wrong and turn open-heart surgery into the life-saver it is today.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri