Author Archives: MsSopia
There are times when having a guest drop in on you can be a delight. You’ve had some forewarning that they were coming. There was some time to prepare your home for company, and you looked forward to the visit with eager anticipation. The guest arrives. Together you spend some stimulating and interesting hours. Perhaps you share a meal and a glass of wine. Then, as all good guests eventually do, they leave before they’ve worn out their welcome.
Such was not the case with Irene.
No one wanted her to come. She was not invited to our home. A most rude guest, she sent an advanced team hours before her arrival to be certain we were well aware of her intended visit. Even before the advance team began pelting us with hints of what was to come, we made extensive changes to our daily lives in order to make her appearance as palatable as humanly possible.
Our best outdoor furniture was secured. Flags of our allegiance certainly were removed from the standard holders by the front door, to be stored lest Irene snatch them away. She had already established a reputation of doing things like that. In fact, we had a relation of Irene’s storm on by two years ago. She had robbed a floral seat pillow from one of our wicker chairs. This left us with only three out of four, essentially ruining the set. I still haven’t gotten over it.
In case Irene might take it literally we removed the welcome plaque, which decorated one of the porch pillars, and hid it in the garage. We checked, then checked again all around the yard assuring ourselves that Irene didn’t find anything outside that she could toss around during a gusty temper tantrum. She could be such a bitch.
We had been forewarned that she might hang around for more than a day, but that didn’t diminish my anxiety. If she must come I was hoping on a short uneventful stop by.
And so she came. With all the promised bluster and roar. We tried to wait out her visit with good humor and an assist from alcohol. She did her best to disrupt our lives, but apparently we were ready for her. After a good long time and a few declarations of a possible return Irene finally bounded away. Good riddance.
While cleaning up her mess we realized she hadn’t come empty handed. Up in the sky was a promise. An exquisite double rainbow left by our uninvited guest. Stay happy, stay heathy. Wait until you meet my brother!
A few weeks ago my granddaughter, Emily, hit a milestone, thirteen. She is a teenager. It’s a time of life that brings the highest highs and the lowest lows. There is very little we can do to buffer either of these points except pray. We all had to go through them, boys and girls alike. Fortunately for Emily, and her brothers and sister, they are blessed with a Mom and Dad who are aware of the politics of teens and preteens. While that may help some, there are still many hills and valleys that kids must traverse to get to the other side of teen hood. But I digress.
Emily’s birthday brought to mind myself at about that age, actually fourteen to be exact. I came from East Harlem on Manhattan’s upper East side. It was a poor neighborhood filled with tenements and immigrants. Not a ghetto yet, but still what was considered a slum. Growing up there you didn’t know what the neighborhood was classified. People lived in their little apartments and scrubbed their linoleum floors, polished the windows clean, often at great peril, and took Saturday night baths. Money was scarce and the was no time for frivolous clothes or time to give thought with the raising of children aside from feeding them and keeping them warm at night.
I went to Our Lady of Mount Carmel elementary school which instructed students from first to eighth grade. The teachers were sisters of Charity, a tough bunch of women to be sure. During eighth grade you were required to take exams and apply to at least four high schools. You were accepted by ability not by your grades, which was a good thing for me because about that time I was caught up in the rougher side of city life, rock and roll, gangs and boys. Needless to say my grades were awful. I hadn’t picked up a book since the fifth grade and got by.
Surprise, surprise, when the acceptance or rejection letters filled the little brass mailbox I was accepted by all of the four schools I had applied to. One was Immaculata located in downtown Manhattan. For some unknown reason I decided to go there. None of my friends would be there, but I liked the uniforms and was somewhat aware that it was prestigious as it only accepted 34 boys and 34 girls from all of the five boroughs.
I am not telling this tale to boast about my accomplishment. It only took them two years to figure out I wasn’t going to put any effort in, but to bring to life how different the world was for kids living in Harlem, and those who came from downtown. Also, how a complete act of selfless kindness still resonates with me over fifty years later.
In the fifties there was a custom that I knew nothing about until I attended Immaculata. Young girls would celebrate each other’s birthdays by making or buying corsages for the honoree. To the best of my recollection it was a corsage of ribbons, bows and bubblegum for thirteen, dog biscuits for fourteen, lifesavers for fifteen, and it culminated in, of course, sugar cubes for sweet sixteen. No one that I knew followed this custom. In Harlem you marked passage of teenage years with other events.
On the day of my fourteenth birthday I attended school expecting nothing. By then I was aware of this custom having seen other girls with corsages, sometimes three and four, but I had not gotten very friendly with others who attended the school. I didn’t even think about it. It was a complete shock when a cherry, cheeked, fair-haired, blonde, presented me with a beautiful, blue satin, beribboned, and dog biscuit corsage. She pinned it on my blazer, kissed me on the cheek and wished me happy birthday. It was astounding.
To this day I can picture that young girl. I don’t remember her name. We had never hung out and I don’t know how she knew it was my birthday. Perhaps she did this for everyone, but that corsage of kindness was the sweetest thing. I often think of her and always I wish that life was at least that sweet for my flaxen birthday angel. You can be sure that when I was still welcomed at Immaculata I found out when it was her birthday and made her a life saver corsage.
I believe it would very much surprise many of the people who know me to discover what my secret passion is. They could take guesses, but most times they would be wrong. Even those friends who know me well.
Of course, there are many sides to my personality and over the years different aspects of who I am forges forward to dominate. When these distinct and different urges rumble, I give them the lead and allow them to show themselves to the world, be it painting, writing, fashion, music or whatever want rises forth for recognition.
When something is a secret passion it is usually not known by others, or acknowledged by even ourselves. Hence the word secret. As a matter of fact, there are times when even we ourselves don’t know that it is a true passion until something triggers the awareness. Today that happened to me.
I was speaking with my husband, Jim, about Thanksgiving. My daughter and her husband generously invited us to her house for the day and the Thanksgiving day feast. We accepted and look forward to the day with the family, however, something nagged at me. It dawned on me, I would not be cooking a turkey, she would. That takes something out of the holiday for me. It leaves it almost two-dimensional.
Not that I love doing all the work it takes to putting together a holiday dinner. Believe me over some 50 years I have cooked and orchestrated more than three hundred holiday meals for small or large crowds. I know what it takes, and its exhausting to do it with a flair. But I realized, and here is where I divulge the secret passion, I love cooking big. Oh, not all the sides and salads, but a huge turkey, ham, pasta, gravy (sauce for American born), or anything that weighs a ton.
I love cooking a thirty pound ham or turkey that will feed a crowd, even when I need a strong person to help me pick it up. My passion is that I loveeeee to cook big. Put that fresh ham on a low heat and bake for six hours. Baste that turkey every half hour all day and watch it go from a sickly white to a beautiful golden brown.
I am not going to try to psychoanalyze this passion. I am just going to own it, enjoy it and find a reason to cook a humongous roast.
Since first viewing Dracula ala Bela Lugosi I have had a love affair with Vampires and the concept thereof. I’ve read everything Anne Rice chronicled in addition to other noted writers. I’ve watched almost every movie about the subject, although I must admit the twilight series did not fit into my vision.
True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and The Originals, reinforce my fantasies. If you haven’t seen any of these I suggest you take a peek. The Originals offers an authentic New Orleans flavor, one of my favorite cities after New York.
I am not enamoured with blood lust and the vicious attack of the jugular, but rather the thought of immortality, the end of aging, and the deterioration of our human bodies that comes with the process. Wow, what I could do with a thirty-five year old body, and one hundred year old wisdom. Look out world, here I come. Think of the wealth that could be accumulated over centuries of existence, traveling the world, learning from every culture, knowing always when to make the right moves because you have learned the lessons of time.
Physical pain would be a non issue. All senses would be enhanced. Music could be enjoyed in a way that every musical strain would be heard purely, or as pure as your iPod will allow. Colors seen without distortion, and flight, omg, imagine never to stand on another airport security line. In a blink of an eye you would be from New York to Rome, and after shopping, another blink and back home again.
Of course, I am aware of the downside of Vampirism, outliving everyone you ever loved or ever knew. That pain could never be erased. However, since I believe in reincarnation, I will find them again over and over in their new lives. The plus side is that since a Vampire never ages I could be there for my loved ones all through their mortal lives to help and love them at every turn. Since mortal life is so fleeting it is reasonable to think that death is as well.
Yes, I have it all figured out except how to be turned into a Vampire. When I learn that, I’ll blog it!
Memories are funny things. They are not always made up of ocean breezes or the strains of romantic music. They don’t necessarily bring visions of young love on a beautiful summer day.
Sometimes memories are made from the by gone vision of an eleven year old girl scurrying through tall, Black, White, and Hispanic, teenage boys as they flowed out of Benjamin Franklin High School.
The teens were racing across the street as to be first in line for a pepper and egg sandwich, or potato and egg sandwich, or perhaps a combo of same on a foot long loaf of Italian bread. A tiny corner restaurant with a window and counter facing the sidewalk was where these delights were sold from. I wove my way through them totally ignored, as it should be.
The smells and sounds of peppers frying bring me back to my childhood. Everyday I walked through this noisy crowd to get back to my elementary school after lunch. First to eighth grade, we all were dismissed for lunch, and expected to return on time for the afternoon classes. Didn’t matter that you lived in a sixth floor walk up. You needed to be back to line up in the street before the bell rang.
These old memories are always so pleasant to me. Not because of the pepper and eggs I made today for lunch, which were yummy, but for the true age of respect and innocence when a young girl could rush her way through a gang of teenage boys without fear. No guns, knives, or verbal assaults. Aw those were the days!
Quite some time ago I was a young child living with my parents in a four room apartment, on the sixth floor of a tenement in East Harlem. I was perhaps four or five years of age, but I remember clearly the excitement on the day we got our first telephone.,
For a short period of time we had what was called a party line, meaning two, three, or four families shared one line even though the phones were in different homes. I don’t know why the phone company offered this service. Perhaps they didn’t have the equipment to issue each home their own line, or it was a cheaper for the consumer. In any case it was a source of many hours of entertainment, and not a few arguments among strangers.
In today’s world where everyone, even children, has one, two, three or more phones, or other means of communication, it’s difficult to imagine people having a party line.
You didn’t need to watch soap operas in order to learn about the dramatics of others. All you needed to do was lift that receiver very quietly and listen in. On occasion you might even offer advice on a difficulty being discussed, if you didn’t mind getting found out that you were eavesdropping. There was an art to listening in. Depending on who was sharing your line they might be thankful or really, really mad for your joining in their conversation and tell you off in spades.
Sometimes people were not considerate and would not monitor the time they were using the phone. They would visit and gossip with friends for long periods and tie up the line so that others who shared could not receive or make a call. I am reminded of one time when my mother was good and fed up. She blasted the people using the phone because she could not make a call for several hours. Naturally, this is an emergency, was an excuse you could only use once or perhaps twice. Remember, the other party could always pick up and listen in.
Shortly after this episode we got a single line. My mother didn’t let any grass grow under her feet. We got that private line as soon as it was made available. Now she was able to call Her girlfriend, Mary Amondo, and gossip to her heart’s content. What luxury!
While in some ways I would like to revisit a simpler life, going back to the days of a party line is not one of them.
Happy Mother’s Day In Heaven, Mom. Call me in my dreams. Its a private line.