Thursday, November 8, 2018

Election Day (Ann)

The midterm elections happened two days ago, and we've all been getting letters, ads, and text messages about how important it is to vote. For a lot of us young, privileged folks, its easy to forget that the right to vote was hard won. Women's Suffrage in the United States of America only started in 1920. Black Men were legally granted the vote in 1863, but Jim Crow laws were soon put into place to keep them from voting. These practices weren't made explicitly illegal until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During World War II, several German and Japanese Americans were stripped of their citizenship and shipped to internment camps. Even the concept of people voting for an elected official is fairly modern, considering that was one of the first rules established in the United States' government after centuries of rule under the English Royal family. Voter suppression has become more overt over the past few years as well, and permanent residents--who cannot vote--are particularly vulnerable to the whims of our government.

You may disagree on how much influence one person's vote can have, but you must always remember how hard everyone fought to get that right, and how hard we fight now to maintain it. In honor of that, I'm posting this story about an older bud's fateful meeting with a future elected official.
 
Ann Von Dehsen
9.20.2018
The Summer of ‘69

In 1969, I had graduated from high school and my sister had graduated from college. My parents made the decision to downsize and move from our house to an apartment. We lived in Harrington Park, NJ, an upper middle class suburb of New York City. Harrington Park had a lot of trees, a lot of leaves, and a lot of white people. In fact, it had only white people. So the house was put on the market and sold in a matter of days. Hours after hearing the good news, my father got another call from the realtor who was close to tears. “I’m so sorry Mr. Von Dehsen,” she said, “but your house was actually sold to a black family!” She said she had told the family there had been a mistake and the house was sold.
Housing discrimination was at its worst in those days and people often worked with civil rights organizations and ACLU members. Often a white couple was sent in, to look at a house, representing a black family. This is apparently what had happened. My father was furious, but for all the right reasons. “First of all, call the family back and tell them the truth” – the house was not sold and he happily accepted their offer. At this point, he was screaming and said “Furthermore, you and your agency are fired!” I was always proud of my father but to me, that was his proudest moment.
My parents told our immediate neighbors who were supportive and looked forward to meeting them. However, word spread quickly through town and we started receiving horrible racist phone calls from unknown people. It got so bad that my sister and I were no longer allowed to answer the phone.
Meanwhile, my father invited the buyers over as well as the neighbors. They arrived with a baby and toddler in tow. Their last name was Booker and the baby’s name was Cory, the current senator of New Jersey.
Years later, my father proudly followed Cory’s career when he became Mayor of Newark and was able to right so many wrongs. At one point, my father said, “I predict Cory will be the first black president.” Of course we know that didn’t happen and my father is long gone, but I hope Cory Booker will become the next black president. When that happens, my sister and I plan on making a trip to the White House.


I hope everyone reading this went out and did their civic duty on Tuesday. And I hope you'll all continue to do so in every election to come.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Halloween and Día de Muertos (José and Ann)

Wednesday was Halloween and the start of Día de Meurtos, and this year we’re getting in the spirit of both. At last Thursday’s workshop, older bud Ann brought in fresh-baked Nestle Tollhouse Monster Mash Cookies. Originally, she was going to bring in Nestle Slice-and-Bake cookies because she wrote about how great they were for Halloween Parties on a time crunch. But the Monster Mash came pre-sliced, which saved her even more time!

This will probably be our first year celebrating Día de Muertos, since this is the first year we’ve had an older bud who celebrated it, José. In the spirit of the holiday, here’s are stories from our late older buds:



In Memory of Arthur 1
In Memory of Arthur 2
In Memory of Arthur 3
In Memory of Miss Mo
In Memory of Gloria and Aileen
In Memory of Gogo
In Memory of Bernice and Helen
In Memory of Hattie

And to close up the post, here are some stories from the land of the living.
José Dominguez
9.6.2018
Don’t Mess With Witches

Many years ago in CO Juarez Chihuahua, a friend of mine asked me for a ride and I said "OK." When we were moving, I asked him, "Where are we going."
"To see Simonita, a witch. I need help. I can’t find work." Well, he did not like to work so I knew what the problem was.
So we arrived at a small house near the border of Texas in the top of one small hill. Simonita, the witch, asked to sit down and we did. Then she focused on me and asked "Carlitos. Do you believe in my job? Do you believe in me?"
I answered, "I respect you as a person, but I don’t believe in your powers." So she told me in a soft
but commanding voice, "Please wait outside." So I did.
After some minutes, Miguel, my friend came out smiling and told me: "Carlitos, Simonita wants to speak to you." Again, she invited me to sit and asked, "So you do not believe in me?" (I knew that my answer had to be short, cautious, and simple to not complicate the case.)
"No, I do not, but my respect to you is always present."
She stared firmly on me and with soft force told me: "Carlitos, I am going to do something to you so you will believe in me." (Oops, I thought, I don’t want any problems and she is offended.)
I answered, "Simonita, I respect you but there is no problem to believe that you are a different person and you can influence people."She did not say anything and I went out at last.
So if you don’t believe in witches, please don’t mess with them, it can be dangerous for your health.

Ann Von Dehsen
10.25.2018
A Halloween Story

When my children were in elementary school, we lived in a small town outside of Media, Halloween was a big deal in this area, capped off by a large parade through downtown Media.
In my neighborhood, there was a group of wealthy, stay-at-home moms. They spent their days decorating their perfect homes in Halloween splendor, sewing elaborate costumes for their perfect children and baking from scratch, perfect Halloween cookies and pies. We called them “the ladies who lunched club.” I, however, belonged to the smaller “ladies who worked club.” Our club soon discovered that black and orange paper chains looked just as good as fancy pumpkin lights, that Pillsbury slice and bake pumpkin cookies were a God send, and that Sara Lee made one hell of a good pumpkin pie!
We also became quite adept at turning cardboard boxes into imaginative costumes. My personal best was a haunted house with a hole at the top for my daughter’s head and two holes at the sides for her arms. The box was spray-painted black with cut-out open and shut windows and doors behind which were cotton ball cobwebs. My daughters arms were each covered with white socks – with a ghost face drawn on the top so ghost could come flying out of the side-windows at any time. One year, one of the ladies who lunched hosted a very nice family Halloween party. Both children and adults were to wear costumes. I went as the Bride of Frankenstein since it was easy and not much of a stretch during that time of my life.
I wore a long black dress, used green and black face paint, teased out my hair and used baby powder to turn it white. There was a little girl, Chiara, at the party who was a friend of my daughters. I think they were both about 8 years old. She was very interested in my make up so I told her about using baby powder and black eyeliner. It was a nice party and of course I went home and scrubbed my face and washed my hair. A few days later, Chiara came over to play with my daughter. I noticed she kept staring at me. Finally she said, “Mrs. Walls, you didn’t wash all the powder out of your hair.” Then she got closer and said, “And you still have black circles under your eyes!” That was the day that I bought my first box of hair color and tube concealer.

If you’re reading this on Facebook or Twitter, feel free to leave some virtual Monster Mash cookies in the comments for our digital ofrenda. Otherwise, send us your stories and comments at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. Happy Halloween, and Happy Día de Muertos.




Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Christmas Coming Early (Eugene and Ann)

We all love to joke about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and even Best Day isn't immune to the unseasonable season's greetings. Case in point, on October 3rd, Milestones newspaper asked us to send them some stories about the Christmas holidays. It was weird to get stories about Christmas and Las Posadas while it was still eighty degrees, but we had fun writing them and I brought in some sandwich cookies for everybody. Even while we were still thinking about December, we still had our Halloween tricks and treats.

I'm not posting those stories yet, because I want to wait and see which ones do and don't get published. So for the time being, enjoy some stories with nothing to do with Fall or Winter holidays.



Eugene Charrington
5.24.2018
Piercing, Skin branding and Tattoos

Skin art has become very popular in the United States. When I lived in New York, I noticed with the younger folks under 40: Tattoos of all kinds have become a craze. Religions, symbols, names, drawings of animals, even babies are common. With skin branding in NY after brandees wear a two to five inch mark on their chest, upper arms and other places. Branding seemed to take hold in NY around 2008, when I began to notice it. Piercing took hold in NYC around the year 2000 and became a craze.

In Philadelphia, where I currently reside, tattoos are extremely popular, so people wear them from head to toe. Skin branding in Philly is not popular. During the summertime, when people wear less clothing, one rarely notices a brand. Piercings, yes, along with tattoos are very visible in Philadelphia, perhaps in 3 or 6 years, branding will also pick up.


Ann Von Dehsen
8.9.2018
Grandma Christine


I never knew my grandmother, Christine, but wish I had because she was quite a character.

Christine married my grandfather James Buinlon, who had immigrated from Scotland with his colorful group of brothers. They married young and had my mother, Jean, when they were barely 20. They settled in the Bronx where my grandfather was hired to do the plastering on several old apartment buildings. Unfortunately, my grandfather died after falling off a ladder at work, leaving my grandmother with a two-year-old daughter. Although they had very little money themselves, his brothers tried to help when they could. However, my grandmother decided to live life as though she did have money, setting off a series of adventures for her and my mother. 

They lived in several nice apartments in the Bronx until they were evicted. Apparently, she and my mom were experts in packing and unpacking, and even took it in stride. At one point, my mother fell in love with a white bedroom set and my grandmother bought it for her. She enjoyed it for several months until it was repossessed. Both she and Christine had the philosophy of “well at least we had it for awhile.” My grandmother made friends with the manager of a movie theater and he would sneak them in the side door after the “moving picture” had started. A friend at the diner saved them homemade soups. 


Christine went out with a man named “Bernie” for several years. Both she and my mom adored him. He was starting his own business and promised them a house once he got the business going. My mom happily remembers sitting in the rumble seat of his car as she accompanied them on their dates. He always brought her little presents and taught her several dance steps. Yet one day, Bernie just stopped coming and they never saw or heard from him again. 


Christine had many jobs. Once she was hired as the pie maker at a small neighborhood restaurant. She had no idea how to bake pies, but with the help of a good friend and a new cookbook, she taught herself over one weekend. She did OK but had a problem knowing when the crust was done, and after burning many pies, she was asked to leave. She also was hired by a local seamstress to do some finishing work at home. She could hardly sew at all, but enlisted her neighbor to hare the work and split the small salary. 


Eventually, Christine was hired as a nanny by a wealthy family in Manhattan. When summer came, they wanted her to join them at their beach house on Long Island. When she reminded them she had a 16 year old daughter that she could not leave alone, they said she and my mom could live in the small cottage behind their house. So for one very short month, Christine and my mother had a taste of the high life and enjoyed every minute. I hate ending stories sadly, but tragically, my grandmother died in her sleep on the 4th of July. She was only 46. 




Pictured here in the pink hoodie is guest transcriber Chrystie. She wrote a story for our new older bud Carol.




Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 18, 2018

In Memory of Gwendolyn Anderson (Elliot)

I got some sad news last week from our older bud Elliot. His niece, Gwendolyn Anderson was shot and killed a few weeks ago. He wasn’t as close to her as he was to his daughters, but her death had a huge impact on him. Especially because Elliot’s had experience with gun violence before. I’ve included his story about Gwendolyn below.
Elliot Doomes
10.11.2018
Gwendolyn Anderson, My Niece

Mostly what's been on my mind was gun violence. I had a niece who was murdered and I'm real sorry she passed. She was murdered sometime this month, and the funeral was this Saturday. She was a well-liked young lady. She was a beautiful, well-like young lady. She was raised by a loving family and a host of friends. On the 26th of this month she would've had her 30th birthday. She was a bartender, it was in the news. All of them, all over TV. Her name was Gwendolyn. I don't know how you spell it. She spelled it with a G, I know, and there was a "lyn" on the end.
I didn't know her very well. I got to know her through what her siblings and friends had to say about her. And the poem her tow small boys wrote about their mom. I knew her mother and her momma's parents and her father. her mother and father's parents, because she was named after her momma, so I knew her parents very well. I can remember when my daughter was an infant and I went to her mother's parents house and we were welcomed until our heat was restored. They didn't charge me, either. She was descended from a kind and loving family, I'm sure that when she gets to her final home, she will be welcomed with open, loving arms. Because I know her mother, her father, and their parents, they were good people and they'll be there too. I never knew her personally, but I got to know her from the people at her funeral and that's how I got to know her as a person, and how well loved she was.

The Best Day of My Life So Far is no stranger to loss; not even of other relatives. Loretta G.’s daughter Michelle, the one she reunited with, died a few years ago. We don’t always get the opportunity to meet the wonderful parents, children, and loved ones of the older buds. What we can do is be there for the older buds should they ever lose anyone in their lives, and share the stories of those they loved. If you've lost someone in your life, feel free to reach out through info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. If you want to talk, then we'll be listening.


Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Indigenous People Day (Joan and José)

Last Monday was Columbus Day, or Indigenous People Day as people call it now. The people of Best Day are always looking for senior storytellers of all backgrounds, but getting the Native American perspective can be difficult. Due to the forced relocation of several tribes of Native Americans, to say nothing of our country’s genocide against them, it’s hard to find Native Americans the way you can find African-Americans, Asians, Whites, Lantix, Middle Easterners. And speaking of Latinx, there’s some debate over whether or not they should be included under the Native American umbrella as well. More so due to the ambiguity of “America.” Is it just the 50 states, or do we include Mexico and Canada too?


However, we do have some Native American influence in our little section of Best Day. Joan had a Native-American foster mother, and José’s teacher was all about pre-Conquistador Mexico. So in honor of Indigenous People Day, I’m reposting those stories for you.

Joan Bunting 
6.14.2018 
Foster Care 

I was one of eight children. I look back at my life and see it as an interesting adventure. 
All eight of us were placed in foster homes. Three years old was I when we were separated from our parents, five girls and three boys. 
Our oldest sibling, Phoebe, two middle siblings, Bernice, Eugene and the baby of the family, Paul was immediately placed with their foster parent, Ms. Jackson. 
My sister next to the oldest, Bertha, my oldest brother, Theodore, another middle sibling, Doris and I was placed in the home of an American-Indian woman and her Afro-American husband, the Walters. 
My adventure started when I experienced eating foods that I was not familiar with. I believed to be Indian dishes. There were other meals we had that were familiar. We were given slices of bread according to our age. My sister, Bertha, would sometimes eat some of my food so that I would not get in trouble. 
We only stayed with the Walkers for two years because they weren’t as attentive to us as they should have been especially when Bertha and Theodore would go to my mothers house and Theodore would go to my father. Mother and Daddy were separated. Mother lived in South Philly and Daddy lived in Southwest, Philadelphia. 
Next we were placed in the care of Ms. Chamberlain. We didn’t live far from our mother and Bertha would send Doris and me to see our mother. 
Theodore kept running away, he was placed on a farm called Pomeroy until they let him go. Bertha left and was soon married to her boyfriend Monroe. 
Ms. Chamberlain was well educated and she instructed Doris to read to me. I still remember a lot of the nursery rhymes she read. Doris also had the job of combing my hair. 
By the time I started school, I knew my alphabets and how to actually write (not 
print) my name. By the time I reached the second grade (the first half) I was promoted to the first half of the third grade. Back then, it was one A, one B, two A, two B, etc… I was a very good reader and I learned math quickly. 
Doris and I stayed with Ms. Chamberlain for four years. We were removed from her residence because she sent my sister Doris to school with lettuce sandwiches. One of Doris’ girlfriends convinced her to report it to the school counselor.
We were then placed with Ms. Jackson and with Bernice, Eugene, and Paul. For me, that was a very happy adventure because being that I was the youngest (eight years old by then) of the girls, I was ale to play with the other children in the neighborhood. With Ms. Chamberlain, we were not allowed to run, jump rope, or join the other children in our block. 
Out of all eight children, I was the only one to graduate from twelfth grade. 

Jose Dominguez
8.23.2018 
The Real Education
At 22, I was studying law at the University of Chihuahua. At the beginning, it was easy, but now the courses were really complicated. This story is about one turning point in my life as a law student. 
It was my fourth year and at the end of the period, the final exams came as a course. This time, it was a course “Mexican Agrarian Law” and I had to study 800 pages. The book consisted of 28 chapters and the biggest was chapter 8 with 220 pages long. 
We had 7 days to prepare so I decided not to study chapter 8. The test was oral and the professor and two other faculty members were the jury, it was impressive. 
When my turn came, they randomly selected 2 chapters and there it goes – chapter 8. Oh my god – the only thing I did was take some time to decide as if there were something to decide. After a few seconds, I told the jury I prefer chapter 11 if you please, but my professor told me 8. “Oh no, Jose, that chapter has been explained all day long, please explain chapter 8.” Oof, I said to myself, there are 2 options: I run from here or I fake my explanation. So I began reading the topic of the chapter. It was on the history of the Agrarian Law in Mexico. My professor was a communist and I knew he did not like the destruction of our cultures by the Spaniards and so on. So I began praising the primitive laws and taking the law from Spain. The professor was happy I noticed. The 2 other teachers were so bored that they decided to go out to smoke a cigarette and that was it. I was in charge. I finished the test, embraced by my professor who told me I came in 6th and continue studying, you have a great future. Conclusion: The school teaches us on how to solve exams, test, ect. But many times they do not teach the real life. 


If you have any stories by or about older Native Americans, send them our way at info@bestdayofmylifesofar.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Moth (José and Ann)

Many of the older buds of Best Day have a talent for both writing stories and reciting them to an audience. I’ve seen this before at our La Salle event, but every so often an older bud will tell a story that’s so funny, unique or powerful that I want to hear them tell it on The Moth. If you don’t know what The Moth is, it’s a live stage show where participants are given a theme and asked to tell a five-minute story from their own lives that fits the theme. You can listen to it on public radio, or any podcast streaming site, or you can watch their videos here.

After hearing José’s story about the time he passed his oral exam on a subject he didn’t study, I knew it would be absolutely perfect for the Moth. I told José about the story slams, and he seemed interested. So I went to the World Cafe where The Moth was being hosted a few hours early to guarantee tickets. I waited for José to come, and not only did he come, but so did Ann! She didn’t go onstage that night. José did, and even though he was a little nervous, he killed it. He fleshed out the story, he got everybody in the audience laughing, and he got some of the highest scores of the night! People came up to him afterward to tell him how much they loved his story, and even the host referred it later that night.



The Moth is such a great outlet for people to share their stories, and since they've teamed up with the AARP (just like us!) it only feels right to get as many older buds involved in this show as I can. I'll keep you all updated the next time one of our regular writers goes on stage. Wish us luck!
Jose Dominguez
8.9.2018
The Day Mary Came Into My Life

To meet girls when I was a bachelor was very important, so I accepted an invitation of a friend of mine. She was hosting a little party in her house, so I went. Not too many people were present and I scanned the girls in the room. I decided to dance with Maria. From the beginning, she surprised me because of her uniqueness. She was so full of energy and her will of power, simplicity, and joy of life. So I spent the rest of the party with her and at the end, before leaving, I said to my friend, the owner of the house, if I see that girl again, I will marry her. And I saw her again.


Ann Von Dehsen
8.30.2018
Special Children

I taught a preschool class for children with various disabilities. Though it was a while ago, there are many children I will never forget. Here are a couple of those stories.

Darren Stokes – Darren was a very tiny 3-year old who suffered from various developmental delays. What he lacked in stature, he made up for with a booming voice. We would do a morning circle and the kids would all take a turn to say their names. When we got to Darren, he would say, “Call me Mr. Stokes!” The other kids did in fact call him “Mr. Stokes.” On the first day of spring, I brought in some pussy willows. Mr. Stokes insisted on calling them duke-a-das. I told him I was pretty sure they’re called pussy willows to which Darren replied, “You can call them pussy willows, but I call them duke-a-das.” And to this day, whenever I see pussy willows, I always think of Mr. Stokes and the duke-a-das!

Another child, Matty, was quite autistic with limited language and would often withdraw from the group. The staff all worked on brining him back to the group and encouraged participation. One day, it was snowing, and there was Matty with his head against the window vacantly staring out. I went over and took his hand trying to pull him back to the group. He stopped dead, squeezed my hand and pulled me back to the window – pushing me to sit down. Then he tapped on the window, whispered the word “snow” and put his head on my shoulder. Needless to say, I stayed until he was ready to get up. Thank you Matty for teaching me to stop and see the snowflakes!

Until next time, to quote The Moth, we hope you have a story-worthy week.




Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Nine Years (Frances)

Last Monday was the ninth anniversary of The Best Day of My Life So Far, which means we’re just 361 days away from the big one-oh! A whole decade’s worth of writing came from the Philadelphia Senior Center, along with several six-week programs in five states, several lectures, and our own book. To celebrate our years of progress, I thought we could look back at some of our finest moments.

Founding 

Northwest Regional Honors Council Conference at La Salle University
Happy Hour at City Tap House
Our Book 
Press and Awards

And you know I wouldn’t leave you without a brand new story.

Frances H. Bryce
8.23.2018
Carless In The City
The story of my car continues, last week I was talking about seeing the car at the body shop, waiting for the adjuster from my insurance agency. The damage was on the rear of the driver side. The back panel, wheel and bumper were the only thing I could see that was damaged. I wanted to see when I would get a call that my car would be fixed and I again would be in the driver seat, as faith would have it. The adjuster said the damage was more serious than my eyes could see. Hence, they were going to not fix the car (totaled). I was not pleased with the fact that they were not going to operate on my visual observation.
I decided that I was not going to buy another car. I had planned to send my car to California before the accident, now I will use public transportation , Lyft, and then maybe a little more planning when I want to go out of the city or other places that I had used my car. A nine year old car with 24,000 miles attests to the fact that I had not driven the car very much.
The good news, I no longer have to find a parking place near my home, no insurance and gas payments. So you give a little and sometimes you in a little. I have to wait a while to see if I miss having my own transportation.

Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Surprises (Jose)

A couple weeks ago, Norman asked when Benita would be coming back to visit the Philadelphia Senior Center. I was curious too, since her kids were old enough to be in school. Maybe she’d have enough time on her hands to stop by. When I asked Benita, she said she’s come to the next session to catch up. That was surprise number one!
Last week, Benita came in to a class full of older buds. She caught up with Frances, Joan, Eugene, Elliot, and Rochelle, and I introduced her to Jose and Delores. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t introduce her to Anne, Kant or Nouria, and I was worried Norman wouldn’t make it. Norman’s been a busy bee lately, so he’ll often call to say he won’t make one of the workshops. So I decided to give him a call.
Norman picked up and asked if we’d be in our usual room or the computer lab. I told him that we’d be in our room, and that I wanted to make sure he could make it because Benita came to visit. I heard him laugh on the phone and say, “Well, if Benita’s gonna be there...”
Then I saw him walk into the room and say, “I’d better come.” Benita ran over to him and gave him a great big hug, and we all had a great big laugh.
 


 

Jose Dominguez
8.23.2018 
The Real Education
 
At 22, I was studying law at the University of Chihuahua. At the beginning, it was easy, but now the courses were really complicated. This story is about one turning point in my life as a law student. 
It was my fourth year and at the end of the period, the final exams came as a course. This time, it was a course “Mexican Agrarian Law” and I had to study 800 pages. The book consisted of 28 chapters and the biggest was chapter 8 with 220 pages long. 
We had 7 days to prepare so I decided not to study chapter 8. The test was oral and the professor and two other faculty members were the jury, it was impressive. 
When my turn came, they randomly selected 2 chapters and there it goes – chapter 8. Oh my god – the only thing I did was take some time to decide as if there were something to decide. After a few seconds, I told the jury I prefer chapter 11 if you please, but my professor told me 8. “Oh no, Jose, that chapter has been explained all day long, please explain chapter 8.” Oof, I said to myself, there are 2 options: I run from here or I fake my explanation. So I began reading the topic of the chapter. It was on the history of the Agrarian Law in Mexico. My professor was a communist and I knew he did not like the destruction of our cultures by the Spaniards and so on. So I began praising the primitive laws and taking the law from Spain. The professor was happy I noticed. The 2 other teachers were so bored that they decided to go out to smoke a cigarette and that was it. I was in charge. I finished the test, embraced by my professor who told me I came in 6th and continue studying, you have a great future. Conclusion: The school teaches us on how to solve exams, test, ect. But many times they do not teach the real life. 


Life is full of surprises, you know.
 
 
 
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Public and Private (Kant, Mo, and Delores)

A few of the older buds have been reluctant to post their stories online, due to concerns about being traced or watched by dangerous forces. This is understandable, between Cambridge Analytica, Edward Snowden, and all the myriad ways apps and websites can collect your information with its users none the wiser. However, they were more than willing to post stories under pseudonyms and noms de plume. Some of you might be surprised to learn that Mo McCooper's real name isn't Mo McCooper. He actually took the last name in honor of our fearless leader Benita.

On the other hand, there are plenty of older buds who are more than happy to share their lives outside of the workshop and website. Delores took time out of her weeknight to see a play I had produced back in March, and she brought a friend with her who had no problem with her picture being put on the website. I even saw her walk past the window when I was having lunch and gave her a quick call to ask if it was her.
 

The most important thing for me as a Best Day Facilitator is to make sure the seniors are comfortable enough to share their stories, under their real name or otherwise. Many of them come from places of hardship, and I never ask them to divulge something so intimate until they're absolutely ready. That is why I always feel so grateful that they do, that they trust me with their lives...along with the world.

Kant Spel
8.30.2018
The Best Thing You’ve Learned In your Life to Differ Judgment 


I always want to be right or at least have people think that what I’m saying is valid, correct, accurate. I have needed this affirmation. Being somewhat wobbly about most important things. The things my parents did were full of contradictions and didn’t make sense for me so I had to forge my own path.
I was somewhat desperate for clarify and a moral path, goals, with integrity. I read, I listened, I consulted. I compared my discomfort with other girls my age. Very few were as lost or discouraged as I was. They saw their parents as role models. I did not. I judged them because of my extreme discomfort. I had a grueling path to adulthood. Whatever my other efforts were – schooling, relationship, artist stimulation, my primary effort was to stabilize myself.
I held on to a few things that helped. Shakespeare’s words “to thine own self be true” came up frequently.


Mo McCooper
10.20.2016
Debates

The only debates I remember when I was going to school were in games where you or a guy on the other team were out of bounds. There were no referees at those playground games, but we got by with some unwritten rules. If you called fouls on defenders, that seemed excuses for missing a shot – we would all foul you harder to discourage the habit.
Baseball and football had fewer disagreements, but they were sometimes harder to agree on.
The younger players would learn from the older or the new players from the regulars.
For it all to work, we had to learn how the games were more worth playing and winning more rewarding if a playground rules were followed by all.
As far as the classrooms from first grade to 12th grade, I don’t remember any debates at all.
More to follow.


Delores Wilson
6.14.2018
Taste of Nostalgia

Our family was one of the first to have a television on the block.
The neighbors were welcome in our house to watch television until they could afford their own.
The programs were very original and children, friendly. They taught a lot of object lessons.
Did we have a favorite? Yes, Sunday for me was “Lassie.”
We were encouraged to pay attention to the local and national news.
The adults understood how to engage us children in current events of those days.
I recalled one time, it was a commercial on televisions. Mr. Lynch shared with me, “that the commercial paid for the shows.” After hearing that, I
Ed Sullivan Show was a variety show that aired on Sundays. Featuring movie stars that are still alive and performing today such as Gladys Night, etc.
The Uptown Theatre was “the place.” All who was who came from there. The Apollo Theater in New york held that same standard.
To be an “Artist” at that time, rather acting, singing, dancing, writing behind the scenes or in front. The enclaves demand the best and they, the “artist” gave their best.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Labor Day (Norman)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve wished people Happy Labor Days, and several of them said “I don’t have Labor Day off.” That got me to thinking how much of our work schedule we take for granted. We expect most people to go to school, go to college, get a job, get all the holidays off, save up a nest egg, then have a long, comfortable retirement. This lifestyle is getting harder and harder to maintain, especially for seniors. It’s easy to rely on Social Security when you retire, but it’s only a recent invention, and it might die out by 2035. Besides that, seniors who go on Social Security are forced to cut back a lot to make sure it lasts their entire retirement. Some of them have family who can pay for a retirement home, but not necessarily the exact services needed. Others are forced to continue working, many in physically dangerous jobs outside their area in expertise. 


Point being, there are a lot of seniors who don’t get the comfortable retirement they worked for all their lives. And if you yourself can’t support them financially, then support them emotionally. Buy the older bud in your life a nice lunch, take them on a trip somewhere fun, help them look up homes and services, invite them over for a barbecue. And above all, listen.

Norman Cain 
7.12.2018 
Working in Tobacco 

According to Deloris, our cousin who was raised by my grandparents, who was four years older than me and six years older than my sister Gwendolyn (whose beauty earned her the nickname “Baby Doll”), each summer during the 50s and 60s, my sister and I were sent to South Carolina to visit my maternal grandparents. We worked on their tobacco farm, a plowed plot of land boarded by linen covered a rectangular wooded bed in which tobacco seeds were encased. In April, the small emerging plants were removed from the bed, planted in rows, spaced several inches apart. This process was accomplished by three workers. The first worker made a whole in the ground with a pole; the second worker placed the small plants in the hole; and the third worker would place water and fertilizer in the hole. By mid-summer the tobacco plants would have bloomed.   

Our job would be topping: breaking small flower-like plants from the stalks, suckering/removing miniature tobacco plants from within larger leaves and worming, pulling green horned tobacco worms from the plants so that they would not devour the profits. Near the middle of July, the tobacco would be ready to harvest. Men in the fields would strip the leaves from the stalks and when they acquired a sufficient bundle, they would place them in a rectangular mule driven vehicle known as a drag whose sides were covered in burlap. 

Generally, young boys would drive the drags to the tobacco barn, where the ladies worked. Their job would be to tie the tobacco to sticks. Young girls would hand several leaves to the ladies who would tie them to the sticks. The sticks would be taken into the barn and hung on rafters. Then, the curing process begun. 

For at least a week, both day and night, my grandfather would have to check the temperature emitting from the oil heaters. When the tobacco was cured, it was taken to the pack house. The tobacco was unstrung and graded by quality – excellent, normal, and trash – and tied. The latter was accomplished by the tips of a bundle of leaves being aligned and tied together by a leave folded in quarters and tightly wrapped around the tips.  

The bundles would be parted and slid on polished hickory sticks. The first row bundle of sticks would be placed on burlap-covered floor. Sticks of tobacco would be placed on top of one another and when the process was completed, the tobacco was completely covered with burlap. Each day, the burlap would be removed and the tobacco would be sprinkled with water by means of a straw broom so that the tobacco would not dry out. 

Finally, the tobacco would be loaded on a wagon, driven to town to the warehouse. There, workers would remove the tobacco from sticks and geometrically be placed in wicker baskets according to grade. Auctioneers, followed by a clerk, and a line of farmers swiftly moved down rows rapidly calling out what his company was willing to pay for each basket. The farmers were given slips indicating upon which was written the amount the auctioneer was willing to pay for each basket of wares. 

The farmer was given a voucher, which he turned into a caged cashier. 
And here's this week's senior selfie, a labor of love by José and his trusty selfie stick.

 
 Curated by Caitlin Cieri