joshwriting: (Default)
I don't do regret, as a general rule. It doesn't mean that there are not things that I wish I had done differently, 'merely' that I try to learn from them and move on, aiming to do better next time.

Sometimes, though, even that is not quite enough.

My mother wrote. She wrote children's books, novels, poetry, and various bits of non-fiction. The novels were not particularly good, I suppose. The children's books were pleasant enough, if not stuff that will live in the literature forever. The poetry was pretty good, but it is a tough field in which to be merely pretty good. Some of the non-fiction is still kicking about - if nothing else, as testimony she gave concerning parental leave.

She knew that I wrote, though what she saw of my writing was the non-fiction about gifted education, underachievement, and Dabrowski. I did not start writing fiction until she was in her last years, mostly past ability to appreciate it. She did not get to see Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter - a work she would have enjoyed quite a bit. With the exception of the beginning Tales of the Teddy Bear Forest, my fairy tale writing came after her passing.

And I wish, from time to time, that I could share them with her, both for her editing and her pleasure. I think it would have tickled her that I've become a writer, if not yet either persistent or prolific.

It tickles me.

That will have to do.
joshwriting: (Default)
My father sold the house.

That's a saga all its own and not one that I will write about now. But a side effect of his having sold the house is that it needs emptying of (most of (don't ask)) his stuff and the family's accumulated stuff over the nearly 50 years that we were in it.

Up in the attic, today, Susan and I found a number of pictures of family - most especially of my mother.

Not a small number of pictures, at least by my (nuclear) family's standards. Portraits from when she was 1, 2, 3, 4. A variety of pictures with her mother, with her friend, etc. A couple pics from a couple years with her on a pony. Family outings - not scads, but a few. Looks of intense concentration, looks of joy. Very familiar expressions to me, even though they came to me in an older face, decades down the road.

We found her baby scrap book, with a picture of my late great uncle Sam looking dapper and gay, indeed. Her "first business correspondence," a letter from American Telephone & Telegraph congratulating her on her acquisition of stock and encouragement to keep her address updated - along with her father's response to them, noting her relative youth and her hopes that the company will send her dividend checks regularly.

This is stuff I've never seen. Never ever heard discussion of.

Her father died when she was very young - but there are pics of her step-father, as well as of her father.

Was there a birth scrap book of me? Of my siblings? I know that there were pics aplenty of my brother at one point. A few of us - not lots, by any means - odd enough in a family that had camera after camera come into the house.

There's no real direction to this post. I will probably scan a bunch of the photos into the computer at some point, to share with those who care - and there are a few. Meanwhile, though, I am enjoying the look backward, if not so much the questions that twin with it --> Why did my mother's father's family not stay in touch after their son's untimely death? Why was there such a difference in upbringings? My sense has been from other families with whom I deal that there is some degree of consistency in those regards.

*shrugs* these are not questions I have any expectation to have answered - they just wander into and out of my consciousness.
joshwriting: (Default)
The story behind the lyrics below can be found here:

This song brings tears to my eyes pretty much every time I hear it. Sometimes more than others.

Kilkelly, Ireland

Kilkelly Ireland, eighteen and sixty, my dear and lovin' son john
Your good friend the Schoolmaster Pat McNamara, so good as to write these words down.
Your brothers have all gone to find work in England, the house is so empty and sad,
The crop of potatoes is sorely affected, a third to a half of them bad.
And your sister Bridget and Patrick O'Donnell, are going' to be married in June,
Your mother says not to work on the railroad, and be sure to come on home soon.

Kilkelly Ireland, eighteen and seventy, my dear and lovin' son John
Hello to your misses and to your four children, that they may grow healthy and strong
Michael has got in a wee bit of trouble, I suppose he never will learn
Because of the dampness there's no turf to speak of and now we have nothing to burn.
And Bridget is happy you named the child for her, although she got six of her own
You say you've found work, but you don't say what kind, or when you'll be comin' home.

Kilkelly Ireland, eighteen and eighty, dear Michael and John and sons
I'm sorry to give you the very sad news that your dear old mother has gone.
We buried her down at the church in Kilkelly, your brothers and Bridget were there,
You don't have to worry, she died very quickly, remember her in your prayers.
And it's so good to hear that Michael's returning with money he's sure to buy land
For the crop has been poor and the people are selling, for any price that they can.

Kilkelly Ireland, eighteen and ninety,my dear and lovin' son John
I suppose that I must be close to eighty, its thirty years since you've gone
Because of all of the money you sent me, Im still living' out of my own
Michael has built himself a fine house, and Bridget's daughters have grown
And thank you for sending' your family picture, they're lovely young women and men
You say you might even come for a visit, what a joy to see you again.

Kilkelly Ireland, eighteen and ninety two, my dear brother John,
I'm sorry I didn't write sooner, to tell you that father has gone.
He was living with Brigid, she said he was cheerful and healthy right down to the end
And you should have seen him play with the grandchildren, of Pat McNamara your friend.
And we buried him alongside of mother, down at Kilkelly churchyard
He was a stone and a feisty old man, considering that life is so hard.
And it's funny the way he kept talkin' about you, he called for you at the end
And why don't you think about comin' to visit, we'd all love to see you again.
joshwriting: (Default)
The sun has set this flaming day.
(That verse was penned by E. Millay.)
The snow fall's soft; the pony's lost.
(That stanza's famous: Robert Frost.)

When I would plumb the Soul's dim core,
It's Henley's, glimpsed from foreign shore.
And when the seas my thoughts immersed,
I find that Masefield got there first.

England fair or murder foul?
I'm shrouded deep in Shakespeare's cowl.
And Love's warm whisper, sweet and clear?
Then Barrett-Brownings' voice I hear.

I know no single verse unversed,
No ode uncoded, curse uncursed.
There's just one realm whose bard I be:
The expert's I; the subject's me.

Frances Shaine
1929 - 2008
joshwriting: (Default)
News is under here, just to be less jarring. )
joshwriting: (alone)

As I have noted before, I do not have a lot of memories. Madeleine L'Engle fills a higher percentage of the memories of the less recent past than almost anybody else I have only met once, and more than (almost?) any other author at all.

The starting point for me, as with so many others, was A Wrinkle in Time. I had no problem with the story. I had no problem with the morality. I had no problem with the characters. I only had one problem, really... I wanted Meg to be my big sister. I've read on a couple other LJs that some boys connected with none of those characters - that to them, Calvin seemed scarcely male and Meg seemed alien. Charles Wallace? Less even than alien.

I got some of how Meg felt. I got her frustrations. But it was Charles Wallace with whom I identified. Charles Wallace felt loved, and while I think I would not have thought to put those words on it at the time, I think that was the feeling I was missing, myself. There was no doubt in Charles Wallace's head or heart about how his sister felt about him.

As years passed, I read each of the novels that came out. Arm of the Starfish was next - and realizing that Dr. O'Keefe was Calvin was quite the eye-opener for me. People grow up, I guess - some lesson of that sort - and their worlds change. I was always a fan of Poly. The Young Unicorns, Dragons in the Waters, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet... and going backwards, too, to Camilla, And Both Were Young, and finally finding The Small Rain after I had already read A Severed Wasp. I love and loved the ways her worlds crossed, the fact that time did not work all that well...

In the Spring of '77 or maybe '78, I got involved with the "Amber Society," a group of Zelazny fans who adopted the characters from his Amber Chronicles. They were not the most formal of groups, but they were together enough to put out an occasional APA (Amateur Publishing Association) magazine, by the name of Kolvir. The editor decided to do a series of reviews: Men writing about female authors' treatments of male characters, and women writing about male authors' treatments of female characters.

I chose Madeleine L'Engle.

At the same time that this was happening, I was also prepping to teach a Children's Lit class at the MIT High School Studies Program. These two activities gave me the impetus to call Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, who were L'Engle's publishers (for her hardcovers), to seek an interview. I got bounced around a bit, as is often the case with such things, but finally landed somebody who listened to my request and my reasoning. He called L'Engle, and she agreed to grant me a one hour interview at Crosswicks, her home in Connecticut.

I and my mini-tape recorder made the drive down and, after a couple of missed turns, made my way to Crosswicks, where she greeted me and made me welcome. And we talked. She showed me the stone wall where Louise the Larger lived, and Meg's attic room. And we talked. And we played ping pong, and talked some more. We discussed giftedness and connectedness and girls and boys and the impact of books on lives. We talked about music and fantasy and the intersection of them.

We talked about family.

We talked about four hours. She had to change gears, I had to go.

But to the extent that it was possible, I had Meg for a big sister.
joshwriting: (Default)
This was originally sent as a post to an e-mail list to which I was then a member. The content has been reviewed - and if my inclusions offend anyone, I am sorry. It was not my intention - my intention was merely to leave the writing intact. I have added one word, in parentheses, because the distribution is to people less familiar with the topic amended than the former audience. I have added an e here and taken one from there. But this is mostly as it was first written, on November 10, 2001. Please feel free to share this as you like, remembering to share also, that it, as with Uncle Eddie, was and is very much mine.

(This is just a sharing. No advice, no request for help... Not even needing sympathy. Purely reflection.)

Some of you know me, know my love for your children, though I have none of my own. Some of you know my sister, also on list, though just a little quieter than I. We are bright capable individuals - not dissimilar to many of the parents or other professionals on the list.

A few of you have met my parents, at either Hollingworth or Beyond IQ (conferences). You may have even known that they were my parents. They, too, obviously fit in - sufficiently that one of PG's favorite speakers asked them if they would adopt (him/her)! - Much to my amusement.

My grandmother graduated from law school at 21, in 1917. Her dad was a 'typical' American dream success story - coming from the homeland to America with next to nothing and eventually owning and running a business
that employed a lot of other folks, and making a comfortable home for his family.

These are merely examples from a family tree - examples of a certain type. Eddie was not of that type.

Eddie was my favorite relative when I was growing up - my mother's uncle. We'd talk sports together in a way that nobody else could, he shared his stash of early baseball magazines and stories of this athlete or that
manager that he had gotten to know. They were wild stories told in a ranging manner with frequent interruptions for other stories that may or may not have any bearing on the story he had started with, but he usually finished that first story as well...

By the time I consciously knew Eddie, he had been married, had two children, a fair bit older than I, and divorced. I eventually became aware of them - but not interactively. Eddie was my pal.

I never saw him in his own place. When we got together, he was visiting my grandmother (his older sister), either at her home in Rhode Island or in her summer place in Maine. On a rare occasion, he would come by our place in NH or meet in the middle somewhere.

He had a room at Nana Jen's house. It was always his room, whether he was there when we visited or not. If I was there with my parents or my sister, I would stay in Eddie's room. Otherwise, I might stay in my mother's old room. (OZ books and Patty Fairfield books and other
treasures - but that's another story!)

In Eddie's room were little statuettes of Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson, programs from events at the Boston Garden or Madison Square Garden. Bio's of athletes, and just all kinds of stuff to look at and paw over. Staying in Eddie's room was more than a little like being with him. You couldn't start looking at one thing without another thing catching your attention
and pulling you away until, usually, you would get back around to that first thing.

Eddie was not a neat man. His room was not too bad, until you realized that my grandmother had a maid who would clean it regularly and that it was STILL a mess. He would never have his entire shirt tucked into his
trousers, no matter how he tried. He was a big man, barrel chested and barrel waisted. He sauntered and he ambled. He strolled and swayed. He ranged. He never walked or ran. He never hurried - never. "We'll get
there, me bucko! We'll get there. They wouldn't start without us." Time was magic around Uncle Eddie. He was never on time, and yet they never did seem to start anything without him. Not family events, but neither
the public events. If we were running late for a sporting event (which I would only know from hearing my parents comment upon it when he picked me up - **I** certainly had no time sense), inevitably there would be some pregame activity, and the game would not have started, though we arrived a half hour later than the event was advertised for.

His car was not neat either. He almost always drove a station wagon, and it was filled and more, almost every time I saw it. It had many of the same sorts of gems that his room did, but they were harder to find for the
debris scattered throughout. I guess that maid had something going for her. ;-) But he would toss whatever was in the front seat into the back, and I would climb on in.

He was a pretty safe driver, and certainly a calm one. Neither slow nor fast traffic seemed to do much to change his approach to the driving. "We'll get there, me bucko!" That may well have been what he said to
himself when he was going from point A to point B.

Uncle Eddie didn't have a job. Ever? I don't know. But during my life time of consciousness, he never had a job. A trust fund was established for him by his father and maintained by his siblings. I remember, when he turned 65, he showed a rarely seen awareness of himself and the world around him. "You suppose I should get a job now?!"

I'm told that he was 'normal' until after a bout of viral meningitis or some other disease - when he was still a teen... That the adults of that time and all the ones since had no idea what the problem was or why he was like this.

I also knew that (though they would say otherwise) my parents were afraid that in some way I might grow up to be like Uncle Eddie.

Eddie was known around Boston Garden. It was clear, as I grew older, that many of his stories were fabrications - but that many of them either had roots in the truth or were absolutely true - and that the craziness of the story was not the dividing line.

Eddie was, by some descriptions, a gambler. I don't think that this was true.

Eddie almost never won. And I think that this was intentional. Uncle Eddie had next to no use for money. It had one redeeming quality. He could use it to make others happy. And he did.

He would not stint, whether for seats or food. He wouldn't tell you that something "wasn't in the budget" - if that phrase had even made it into
the vernacular at that point... And if you asked him for a loan, he would not say "What do you need it for?" "When will you pay it back?" "You still haven't repaid the last one."

He would say "How much do you need?" "How soon do you need it?" "Can it wait until Wednesday?"

He introduced me to his friends and to those he thought were his friends. But even among the professional chiselers and touts, there was a warmth for Uncle Eddie. It wasn't, as some would say, that they just saw an easy mark, though they most certainly did, at that. They all had many more chances to take advantage of him then they did.

He was a favorite - and I believe that part of it was that he did not bear umbrage against those who thought they were taking from him. That he knew better than they did, and that he was giving to them in the only way they could accept - had he offered the money outright, they would have been hurt, and declined. But bad bets?! That was fine, and they would smile all the way to the bookie. I mean bank.

Uncle Eddie wrote music. He created a game. He co-invented the 24-second rule in Basketball (this from newspapers of the time, not from him).

And he gave things away.

Uncle Eddie died a few weeks ago, now - though in reality, he died quite a while before that... He was 92.

At his graveside service, the rabbi related snippets told him by his younger daughter. And part of that, in the short form, with no embellishments, included the time that he gave away a livingroom set and the time that he gave away a car.

Nobody knows now why he did those things. They put it down to his having been crazy, touched, not altogether there...

The world could use a little more of that sort of craziness. Maybe not a lot, but at least some...

And maybe I should not be so impatient.

"We'll get there, me bucko!"


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