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
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
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
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 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 
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
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 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
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
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