So close and yet so far …

Spring, where have you been for so long?

Today many folks wanted to rise from their beds and shake the cobwebs from their sleepy heads …  to peak through the blinds and see sun and flowers and saw more snow instead.

 

april showers

Graphic credit

For the life of me, I don’t remember anyone saying that April snows bring May flowers.

Officially, spring has been here long enough to melt snow … to tease kernels from branches … to bloom bright with azalea or forsythia … to bring out the purples, pinks, and sun-yellows we crave all winter long.

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Azalea photo

Looking back to move forward …

While our friends in the frozen tundra and in all parts north wait impatiently to dig out from under … I have been searching my archives.

I scrolled through all the April posts beginning with the first spring of my blog … April, 2010 looking for inspiration.

I often go back to find old posts I can copy and recycle. Sometimes I go back to find a topic I can revisit with a new twist.

April of 2010 … there was but one. April of 2011 … there were eight and April of 2012 … there were none.

April of 2013 I found the post where I asked my readers to send me one-sentence prompts for my flash fiction … Be careful what you wish for … posted on April 3rd.

That was the opener of my flash fiction.

April of 2014 … scrolling from the last to the first … there were two posts of Bleeps, Bloopers and Outtakes featuring my hapless character … poor little Gail.

Continuing with April of 2014 … I wrote one Flash Fiction using a sentence Patti sent:

Jenny (she) stared out the window at the rain drops spattering off the leaves of the willow tree, wondering how the hell her life had spun so out of control.

And the month began with Part Two and Three of a three part series on moving forward in honor of Laura Drake’s momentous move from Southern California to Texas.

Go figure.

Those are the posts that inspired me today.

Wisteria-Tunnel-Tochigi-Japan

Wisteria Road

The road we travel …

Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong

Take Me Home, Country Roads, by John Denver

 We travel many roads on this journey of our life. John Denver published that song in 1971. It was included in his break-out album Poems, Prayers and Promises.

In 1972, I hit the road alone for the first time, barefoot with two babes in tow, speeding down Route 35 along the Jersey Shore in an ancient Chevy Impala … singing that song.

I was naïve and frightened and determined that morning. I had never been to West Virginia and had only seen the section of the Blue Ridge Mountains that connects to the Pocono Mountains and looms over the landscape in a sleepy town in Pennsylvania.

 

blue ridge mountains

Blue mountain haze

It was the fall of my eleventh year. I remember waking before dawn and watching the sun rise over the mountains … the blue haze as the morning fog began to burn off in the new day’s sun.

I remember going out with my playmate’s father to a stable and the overwhelming sense of excitement as the stable owner hoisted me into a saddle for the first time.

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Mountain Lake

Oh, how I remember that first ride … along time-trodden trails into the higher elevations, in the snow, the horses knowing the way better than the kid from Brooklyn … surrounded in golds, yellows, bronze and orange, the colors of autumn under a light cover of snow … an artist’s palate … a young girl’s delight.

And I remember my breath hitch as we turned along the road and came upon a mountain lake, crystal clear, still and hushed. I could hear the sounds of the birds and little creatures, the whinny of the horses, the steam from their noses, the sense of power riding on a magnificent steed.

I did not grow up in rural America and only knew these small wonders of nature from vacations or visiting family.

What I did know, that chilly morning in October, and that day with my babes in tow … is that there are many roads to travel by. Which ones we select define us … mold and shape us.

If the road you have taken becomes hard to travel … be at peace … life will give you respite. You may come to a crossroad, turn a corner or climb over the next hill to see what new adventures wait beyond.

Mine have not been country roads. They have more often been concrete and asphalt sidewalks. I might have frolicked in a mountain stream or two as a girl, but mostly, I frolicked in the waves at Coney Island, rode along the Brooklyn Narrows, skipped along the avenues and played leap-frog over fire hydrants.

New beginnings …

Since I have a black thumb and have elected to enjoy nature in any way other than digging in dirt, my seeds are planted in the rich soil of my brain.

My garden blooms new this springtime as I wait for my internal sun to prod them from small, tight buds that open slowly to a garden of virtual delights.

Wherever you are on the continent on this first day … while pranksters prank and jokesters joke … celebrate yet another joyous beginning.

Happy April Fool’s Day.

What new beginnings do you face this spring?

Have you planted seeds that will bring forth a garden of delight?

fOIS In The City

 

 

Maxine.April Fool

Maxine on April Fool

 

 

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Coming of age …

does not happen but once in our life, but several times.

Not at those frequent crossroads … but at the turn of our internal clock … our life moving inexorably forward to a new … although perhaps … frightening new time.

Hormones spill over into our psyche and cause chaos or what the parent of a teenager might see as temporary insanity. Other bouts of insanity might occur during pregnancy or at the mid-life when hormones and other things are drying up.

maxine on getting old.03

Graphic credit

For today, I will concentrate on the first major female change of life … the first time girls realize their internal clocks are moving to midnight of a new day … the on-set of puberty. For each female this is different. And no one can predict how anyone will react.

For our little Antoinette, that new day came early.

Sunset Park-The summer of 1954 …

Carmela tossed and turned at night, grumbled throughout the day in two languages and could not stop the march of time and the effects it was having on her two younger children. More than ever they began to mirror each other in looks and actions, more than ever she was convinced she had given birth to Joseph’s twin when she delivered Antoinette.

Joey had passed his fourteenth birthday and in six months changed sizes two times. His “baby” fat was melting and for the first time in years he was one inch taller than his baby sister.

He was gone from the apartment for longer hours, defied his mother’s rule about being home before the streetlights came on and on three occasions Andrew woke in the middle of the night to find he was gone.

Carmela worried more than ever that he’d find a new brand of mischief; girls. The girls in the neighborhood and the girls in his new school started to swoon and each night calls came in at the candy store.

Five months short of her tenth birthday, Carmella began to notice changes in Antoinette. Subtle at first, her extroverted personality became melancholy. She brooded around the house, only leaving to go to school, begging Joey or Michael to do her errands. She cried for no reason, refused to eat and lost all interest in her skates, in her choir practice and even caused Mother Superior to have the school nurse take her temperature.

Andrew was on the phone at the candy store. “I got your message Mother, is there a problem with Antoinette?”

“Yes there’s a problem. She hardly participates in her classes. She’s lost all interest in her choir practice and not once in the last two weeks has she been on punishment for talking too much. I would say that’s a problem.”

The first week she ditched choir practice, Antoinette roamed down the long hills, listening to the sounds of the factories, the tugs, the foghorns, or traffic on the streets behind her. Factory machinery continued clicking off the hours until another day ended. Inside this cocoon she sat quietly for hours, watching and listening to her world.

When it was almost dusk, she’d head down to the docks walking past the Big Ben on the corner of Second Avenue, in front of the Brooklyn Savings and Loan. She’d wait to hear the long whine of the work whistles, announcing the end of day. Workers rushed from the factories, scurried towards the trolley stop and began the long walk up the hill to home or the Third Avenue Bus.

Other days she’d walk up to Sunset Park and sit on the brick wall at the highest spot watching the soft pastels of the sunset stretch their arms across the horizon.

Carmela and Angelina were sitting in the Gallucci front parlor. “I don’t understand what’s wrong. First she refuses to leave the house. Now she refuses to get home on time for supper.”

“You know what’s wrong.” Angelina smiled. “You have to talk to her about this.”

“I can take it with Joseph. He is fourteen and he’s a boy. But Antoinette doesn’t even turn ten until September.”

Angelina pointed to the window. “Call her up while there is no one else in the house.”

Antoinette was busy listening to Mr. Tafozzoli explain how his pigeons were going to compete the following weekend. “We’re going to get first prize this time.”

Then she heard the voice of her mother calling her. She walked through the French doors.  “Hi mom, did you call me?”

“Several times I believe.”

Angelina put her arm over Antoinette’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek. “My you are heads above me child. You do grow like a wild flower.”

Antoinette blushed. Angelina didn’t call her a “weed” like so many of the adults in her world. And in her mind, she thought wild flower was a better fit.

Antoinette looked around. “What’s up?”

Carmela perched on the edge of the wing back chair and shook her head. Of course she knew her friend was right. It was time to have that talk. But how could such a thing be happening to her little girl? “I just can’t Angelina.”

“Oh fiddlesticks … of course you can.” Angelina took Antoinette’s hand. “Come and sit here on the sofa with me.”

Antoinette hesitated. What if one of the women saw her taking the trolley, something she was still forbidden to do without an adult or one of her brothers. What if Sister called and told Andrew she had skipped out on choir practice twice in one week?

“Is something wrong?” Antoinette asked.

“No dear … nothing’s wrong.” Angelina patted the sofa. “Your mom and I want to talk to you about something.”

She sat and asked, “Did something happen to Michael?”

Angelina laughed. “No, it’s about you. You complained to your mom about feeling sore near your underarm?”

She hunched forward, her arms holding her chest. In the bath she saw her chest looking like she had hives and her arms hurt. Too embarrassed to talk about her hives, she quickly commented, “Oh, that’s because I fell off my bike last week.”

Angelina smiled, “Don’t be afraid, sweetheart. I’m going to check. The three of us are alone.”

Angelina put her hands delicately over Antoinette’s chest, moving the palms up and down and then around and around on her thin summer T-shirt. She moved her hand to Antoinette’s underarm. “Does it hurt when I push on them?”

“Not that much.”

“Have any of the little girls in your school or your playmates talked about the ‘period?’”

“Well we have a free period on Tuesday to do our special projects. That’s when we’re allowed to go and borrow from the library.”

Angelina smiled. “No dear … not that type of period.”

“Oh Angelina, I can’t. She’s a baby.”

“Carmela, grow up. She’s a baby with boobs.”

Antoinette jumped off the sofa. “I don’t have those.” She pointed to her mother’s abundant breasts.

“They’re called breasts dear.” Angelina smiled pointing to her rather small breasts. “And yours are more like mine. You know, small?”

Carmela finally spoke, “It means you’re becoming a woman.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. “My little baby girl.”

Antoinette and Joey loved puzzles. In her mind she was now connecting the pieces of this puzzle and she didn’t like the picture.

Angelina patted the sofa once again. “Sit down dear and let me tell you about your period.”

Three hours later, Joey found his sister sitting on the fieldstone wall in Sunset Park and called to her, “Waiting for another sunset?”

She turned her face away. “Go away Joey.”

He sat next to her and brushed a wisp of hair off her face. “Mom has sent the Calvary to bring you back.”

“I said go away.” She pushed his hand aside. “Tell her you didn’t find me.”

“You’re upset because Angelina told you about—”

“Don’t say it.”

He shrugged. “You are kinda young, though it sure explains a lot.”

“It’s rotten.”

She started to get off and he pulled her back. “It’s not something to feel rotten about. A little scared or confused … but not rotten.”

She turned to him. “Then why is mom crying like that?”

“Because she doesn’t want you to grow up. She wants you to stay a baby for a while longer. Like they mentally push on the top of your head, thinking they can stop you from growing.”

She looked down at her chest. “I don’t want to grow there.”

“Here, there … you’ll grow all over. And you’ll be dynamite. Aw …”

She was crying. He pulled his sister to him and held her tight. “Mom didn’t mean to make you upset. It’s not what you think. Something wonderful is going to happen to you and … well … it’s the type of thing that makes mothers cry.”

Joey pulled her off the wall. “Let’s go to Fifth Avenue and get an ice-cream soda. That should cheer you up.”

“Joey, it’s not funny.”

“Oh come on, we’ll talk while we walk to the ice-cream parlor.”

“Angelina thinks it’s wonderful too.”

“Well it is.”

By the afternoon of the next day, Antoinette had forgotten where or if she was growing and remembered it was that time of year. Time to do what she did each summer since she was born … go to the beach at Coney Island.

Facebook Photo

Girls to women … women to girls …

Our little girl will adjust and continue to grow in Sunset Park.

What women do as they continue to grow is incorporate all the changes from without and within and use them to shape their world. Antoinette grows up to do this with her cameras … others do it with a paint brush and then there are those of us who do it with words.

As writers or mothers … as story-tellers or wives … as sisters and daughters … we use those words to carry a new day to others who can’t express what they are feeling.

The major gift of the misunderstood genre of women’s fiction … is women speaking to and for women. Women using their unique perception to tell the stories no one else can tell.

We are the care-takers and the nurturers of our world … and when we can mold and shape who we are into a story to comfort or entertain or to reach out to give a gal a hug … we are fulfilling our destiny.

What change in your life was most significant?

Did it carry you and someone else to a new day?

fOIS In The City

maxine on getting old.04

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The colors of our world …

Where did that come from, you say?

I left a note last week that I’d be doing another sad tale. Oh, but the sun is out and spring is in the air. It makes me want to dance, to fly, to throw my hands up and shout … Hallelujah !

Doing the backstroke in the pool today , my eyes went skyward seeing a pallet of fluffy white set against a canvas of azure blue … lit by a huge yellow ball and warmed with bright green prongs swaying in a warm breeze.

Colors describe our universe. They are the white heat of anger … the red flash of passion … a pink blush of shy … the green-eyed monster of envy.

Thus … this candy-coated-color detour to City Scapes.

The colors of my world … 

I came from a place called Brooklyn, with its wide-sandy beaches, skirting the blue-gray slate of the Atlantic Ocean. I came from a place of winding rivers and churning waters of the harbor, from small inlets and fishing communities; a salt marsh and natural springs.

I grew up in a factory district with thousands of workers making millions of multi-colored garments, watched hundreds of freight cars and tug boats … flashing kaleidoscopes of signs and logos and world flags.

I played in famous parks and frolicked at one of the most famous beaches in the world … with its amusements and arcades, an artist’s vision of a merry-go-round and a dazzling wonder wheel with bright crayola-crayon-colored cars.

As a girl and a teenager, I took the subway to Manhattan. The City … connected to the other four boroughs by train and bus, car and ferry-boat. As a single mom I settled in one of the most scenic and amazing sights in New York … Washington Heights and Inwood.

I never tired of the patch-work quilt of people and places when I ventured to the parts of the city I loved.

The Great White Way … the New York Broadway Theater District …

Anyone who grew up within decent travel time of Broadway can surely remember their first play … the first time you were dazzled by a live performance. For most, that was probably a musical. And if you didn’t grow up within a decent travel time … you might want to visit one day. No matter what type of play you enjoy, whether you are a tourist of a nature … you would love taking the New York Guided Walking Tour of the theater district.

 broadwayTake a walking tour

 The Technicolor lights of the new Times Square…

Times Square is a major commercial intersection and a neighborhood in midtown Manhattan … located at the junction of Broadway (which has now been converted into a pedestrian plaza) and Seventh Avenue. It stretches from West 42nd to West 47th Streets.

Times Square in New York City.

The new Times Square

Adorned with brightly-colored billboards and flashing marquis, Times Square is often referred to as the crossroads of the world, the center of the universe or The Great White Way.

It is one of the busiest pedestrian intersections and the hub of the Broadway Theater District. It is one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions, drawing over 39 million visitors annually … approximately 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, both tourists and people who work in the area.

Times Square in the 50’s …

I think of the dozens of times our parents took us to mid-town … to show one of our wide-eyed-country-bumpkin-cousins the sights of Times Square.

copacabana

Copa

Roseland, The Paladium, the Copacabana … and of course … everyone loved to stand across from the famous “smoking” Camel sign

 Camel2The old smoking Camel

Tourists with sandals and white socks with their ever-ready cameras … small children with their mouths agape … men hawking main attractions at clubs and dance halls … and though Times Square seems to have changed … it has not.

It was then and is today … a man-made-cotton-candy-colored-marvel.

A happily-ever-after view …

If you are going to make it that year … the Romance Writers of America National Conference will once again be housed at the Broadway Marriot Hotel … The Marriot Marquis

Times square marriot

Times Square Marriott Marquis

A treat for visiting tourists or romance-loving-type writers is the New York City Circle line.

Take a two and a half ride around the entire island of Manhattan … from Battery Park up the Hudson … under the George Washington Bridge and around the tip of the island passed the giant Columbia C.

columbia C

 A view from Inwood Park

In the foreground is the Washington Bridge, which carries six lanes of traffic, as well as sidewalks on both sides, over the Harlem River in NYC between the boroughs of Manhattan and the Bronx; connecting 181st Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights to University Avenue in The Morris Heights neihborhood of the Bronx.

circle line

Circle Line Cruise

 Or take the evening cruise, a magical-carpet-like ride to see parts of the island from water … the sunset cruise of the Circle Line … Harbor Lights Cruise:

For something a bit more romantic, set sail on the same route as the Semi-Circle Cruise as the sun sets and the skyline comes alive at night. Cruise down the Hudson, around the Battery, up the East River, and back to the 42nd Street Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises pier. Along the way, witness the world’s premier skyline and a close-up view of Lady Liberty, and a host of sights.

cruise

It’s not all concrete and steel …

Detective stories on television and in the movies often highlight the shades of gray (and more than 50 I might add) of The City. It depicts what I tell people is not the sum total of what you find when you visit New York.

Fool. New York is not all grime and pollution in charcoal smudges. It is  five fabulous boroughs of gleaming-glittering fun .

If you venture through the dozens of neighborhoods of the island of Manhattan, you will visit hundreds of places of language and culture, of rich tradition and amazing sights and sounds … and of course … there are always the ten thousand restaurants on the east side.

 How about you reader …

How do you color your world?

fOIS In The City

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