Thursday, April 26, 2018

Seniors for Seniors (Elliot and Brenda)

Last Friday, I had the honor of being invited to the Philadelphia Senior Center’s Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. I didn’t work for the senior center proper, so I took this as an opportunity to get a better feel for the senior center. The first thing I learned is that all the meals at the center are cooked on the premises; an incredible feat!

The second thing I learned is that most of the volunteers at the senior center are seniors themselves. I know the older buds of Best Day are self-sufficient enough to run a session on their own, but I was floored by the scope of volunteers. One of them was older bud Brenda, who runs another workshop at another senior center. Another older bud gave a speech about how she learned English as a second language as a child and decided to pay it forward by teaching ESL to the Coffee Cup members. There was even a cafeteria worker, Lepy, belting out “My Girl” by The Temptations; he had the most beautiful voice.

As a non-senior myself, I’m left in an odd position. On one hand, it’s a bit sad that seniors were the ones who usually volunteered at the center. I’m afraid people will assume the older buds have it all handled and use that as an excuse to ignore them. On the other hand, I don’t want to rob them of their agency. The older buds are grown ups, not children, and they don’t need anyone to cut their meat for them, so to speak.* The reality of old age is that there are things you can do, and things you can’t do; and most non-seniors can’t tell the difference.

Elliot Doomes 
(Don’t) Trust Your Doctor 
I’m just fighting this battle to not lose confidence in doctors. One time I told my doctor I was allergic to penicillin so he gave me ampicillin. And I took it because I didn’t know it was a mixture with penicillin. I was young and I was almost 21 and you didn’t question doctors. It was unheard of. We didn’t question doctors because we didn’t seem them that often. We got sick we usually just got well. We usually just had some remedies. Some neighbors would see something’s wrong with you and they’d give you all sorts of home remedies and old wives tales. Eventually, one of them worked. So I took it and then I went to work. A half hour later I was wet all over sweating from head to toe. My boss told me to go home because he didn’t want me dying in the station. 
Then I went to another doctor and I told him about this. So he asked me what he gave me and I said, “Ampicillin.” And then he asked if my other doctor knew I was allergic to penicillin and I said “Yes.” Then he said, “Your doctor didn’t prescribe this to you!” And he dropped it in the trash can. Yes, he did.

Brenda A. Scantlebury
The Great Snowball Battle

I grew up in Harlem on West 117th Street. I lived right down the street from my elementary school; P.S. 184.
I remember the Snow Days when school was closed. Sometimes there was at least (24) twenty-four inches of snow. My friends and I would meet in the schoolyard and divide up into teams…we had a big snowball fight. There were lots of snowballs made and stockpiled so that we could beat the opposing team. Sometimes, we would look for trashcans and use the covers for shields. We also shoveled the snow to make embankments for protection! Sometimes hours would pas before we would tire.
At the end of the battle, the losing team had to cough up $ money to buy candy for everyone!
Ah… Ah! Those were the days. The times I remember, when we were young and carefree. 
The important thing about working with any group is that every single member of the group is an individual person. You can’t use the same practices on every single person. Some people need transcription for their stories, and some can take dictation. Don’t disrespect them by following a script and refusing to make changes.
*There are a small number of blind people at the senior center, and volunteers do offer to organize their food for them. The point is, the older buds don’t need to be babied.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rush (Elliot and Delores)

Everything’s in full swing at the Philadelphia Senior Center. Everybody’s coming back with the warmer weather, Norman’s working on his W.E.B Du Bois symposium, and I’ll be going to a volunteer appreciation luncheon on Friday. Last week, we were asked by the Milestones newspaper for short essays by seniors about the topic “Diversity in Philly.” The only hiccup was I only heard about this opportunity last Wednesday, and the deadline was that Friday! We only had Thursday to write a 300-500 word essay, but you know how good we are at writing substantial stories in a time crunch. Suffice to say, we made that deadline.

I won’t put the stories on this site yet, since I know newspapers can be stingy about where else their stories get published. But we do have some selections from some of the older buds who did submit their works.
Elliot Doomes 

Today is the anniversary of the day my birth, February 16. Today, I am 79 years old. 
And I have no living, immediate relatives. Everyone would have been order than I that passed on. 
These years have been very good to me. I have experienced the love of my father, mother, brother. I have even known the love of my dearly beloved grandmother. I have experienced the joy of experiencing the seed of my sperm come forth from the walls of a woman’s womb. I have never been wealth. I have never possessed silver or gold. But I have had a very rich life. I look back upon the years. I have had some grit, but I wouldn’t change a thing. For the experiences I’ve had made me who I am today. 

Delores Wilson 
Think about Someone Else 

There was a period in my life when everything was black and white. All about me. I thank God I have grown past that. 
My mom would say to me and my siblings “Think about someone than yourself.”
During the duration of the Vietnam War, I was critical of the soldiers would that were fighting in the War. 
The climate was very intense between the soldiers and the civilians in this country. 
When there was a release from arms forces, it was done at 12 midnight to avoid the protestors. 
My brother was a marine, did an extra 4 or so that my younger brother would not be drafted. 
When they finally had a parade for the Vietnam vets, I was an attendee to thank my brother and all who served the country. 
I am now grateful to God and for those who have served service in armed forces of the United States of America. 
Hate war, love the people who have fought for this country.
We promise that our older buds won’t forget all you readers and rebloggers out there when they get their big break.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spontaneity (Elliot)

One of the things I like about Best Day is how hearing other people read their stories can spark an engaging, workshop-wide conversation! After everybody read their stories, one of the older buds, just remembered something from her own life. Frances, Joan, Delores, Eugene and I got to talking, and before we knew it we were talking about the controversy with Facebook, school shooters, screen time, subliminal suggestion, changing standards of safety, parties they didn’t go to as kids, parties they wouldn’t let their kids go to...and out of that came three brand-new stories from Joan and Delores.
I didn’t get the chance to write them down or record them, because I was that engaged in the conversation. But next time I’ll ask them to write them down for us to put online.

Elliot Doomes 
Making Money in the Old Days 

(Note: This story changes in tone halfway through, since it was written over the course of two weeks.) 

I was working twelve hours a day and four hours a day on weekends. I’d be so tired that I’d come straight home and fall asleep. Sometimes, I’d have fallen asleep in the bath tub and my wife would have to put me in bed. Rich people don’t know about that. Sure, they lose money, but they’ve got friends to take them in and raise them up. But when I got out of school I had to go straight to work. And I worked before I even got in middle school. I was shining shoes and working the paper stand. And then, wouldn’t you believe the conditions where I was living in 7th and Lombard. It’s called Society Hill, but when I lived there, we had one room and a kitchen. We had a cot in the kitchen, we would have to flip up to go to sleep.
You see, these rich people that have no idea what it was like to have real hardship, to live like that. But I don’t regret it because it thought me how to fight. Not physically, but mentally, to grab what I needed.
I used to carry coal and wood. I worked in the wood cellar, and that was an after-school job going around selling baskets of coal and wood. Because back in the day, people had what I used to call coal ovens. And the coal and wood were for the ovens at night. And people had to do what I call “baking it off.” First, they’d light up the stove with wood, then they’d add coal and overnight they would “bank it off” by turning the damper so the coal burnt slower; so it would burn all night and keep the house warm. And that way, you could heat up water in a pot over the stove overnight, so you could wash up before school with warm water. Nowadays, you can get warm water straight from the faucet, but back then, that was the only way to get warm water.
I also sold shopping bags for a nickel to shoppers at the Italian Market. On a weekend, I could make two dollars and I could even get tips by carrying shoppers bags to their cars. And two dollars wasn’t nothing to sneeze at! You could go to the movies for just ten cents. Nowadays, everything got more expensive. There’s no such thing as penny candy anymore. And the bags I sold used to be just paper bags. There were no plastic bags then, but there’s only plastic bags now. Everything’s plastic nowadays, even the bottles. They used to be glass and that was another way I made money back then. I would collect empty bottles and return them to the corner store or any store where those products were sold. There were deposits on those bottles back then. The stores who sold those products would pay you 2 cents for each empty bottle. And beer bottles! I sold a lot of beer bottles! Five cents for a quart bottle and 12 ounces was 2 cents. They didn’t have 16 ounces back then.
Back in the day, any kid who was inclined to could make enough money to buy tickets to the movies or sneakers. Like I said, movies only cost a dime and I could buy a new pair of sneakers for $4.95. You could actually get a new suit for $27.95. I don’t know why they always put up sold things for something – ninety-five or something ninety-nine, but everyone was doing it back then. And a new haircut was 25 cents and if you went to Barb Devine, it would be 10 or 15 cents.
And that’s about it.
It’s true what they say, You can learn a lot by listening.
Curated by Caitlin Cieri

Thursday, April 5, 2018

April Fools (Joan)

This past Sunday was both Easter and April Fools Day. A celebration of spring and new beginnings, but also of false-starts and spring loaded snakes in peanut cans. And few things can make a better joke than random twists of fate. April 1st was a beautiful, warm, sunny day, the kind of day you associate with Spring in the month that Americans typically associate with Spring. The morning afterward, it snowed. It snowed enough for it to accumulate on roads and trees; just when we thought we were done with snow. Then it stopped just a few hours later, and the sun was shining once again. April Fools, people of Earth!
Joan Bunting
4. 9.2015
Celebrating Easter

My Easter celebration began on Palm Sunday by attending church. First we have Sunday school, then praise and worship, and immediately after we hear a dynamic sermon which usually consists of the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. After the service palms are given to those who want it.
What really excites me is Holy Week. From Monday to Friday a number of Baptist Churches have a different pastor preach a sermon leading up to Good Friday. On Good Friday, all the participating churches come together. Seven preachers are chosen to give the last seven words that Jesus spoke while hanging on the cross.

1. Father forgive them for they know not what they do.
2. I thirst.
3. Woman

4. Son
5. My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?
6. It is finished
7. Into your hands I commend my spirit.

After all said and done you feel revived.

On Easter Sunday I would attend another dynamic sermon.
I hope you had a Happy Easter yourselves, filled with eggs, chocolates, ham, and feelings as warm and fuzzy as the Easter Bunny itself! If you or your loved ones have any cool holiday stories, please send them to info@bestdayofmylifesofar.orgWe’d love to hear from you!

Curated Caitlin Cieri