WPC – Symbol – Irish Worry Stone

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A tribute to my friend Joe whose memory I keep always. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.

I am not superstitious by nature, but this lovely, simple symbol of my Irish heritage is never far from my side. In fact, I keep it tucked in a small zippered compartment of my purse.  Made from Connemara marble, the Irish Worry Stone so smooth and cool to the touch, is reputed to keep worries at bay and bring a sense of comfort to those who hold it.   My mother loved these worry stones and often brought them back to friends as souvenirs when she visited her homeland of Ireland.  My close friend Joe, who was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 32 years of age was the recipient of one of my mother’s worry stones.  When he died, I visited his apartment where his mother was staying temporarily.   As we comforted each other with memories of her youngest son, she asked if she could show me something. Entering his bedroom she gestured toward his night table.  On the corner closest to his bed, lay the worry stone. I like to think that it brought him comfort.

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The simple, seasonal pleasure of ice skating

“Winter is here, best time of year, come on along sing a skating song…”

One of my fondest childhood memories was ice-skating on a small rink my best friend’s dad built for us in her backyard.  Round and round we would soar feeling the chill of the air on our cheeks.  Not an iPhone or computer in sight.   This year, to kick off the holiday season, I took my two sons to an ice rink near to us which overlooks the Long Island sound.  They enjoyed two hours of skating until they could stand no more. Finally in physical defeat rather than want,  they staggered off the ice with tired smiles and wobbly legs proclaiming “That was SO much fun…”

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WPC – Harmony – a boy and his dog

“You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings, because they know but do not tell.”  Emily Dickinson

Harmony

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Summertime in Sepia

I love this dreamy throwback photograph, taken on the outer banks of North Carolina circa 1960.  My beautiful mother in law Mary (on the right), adored this summer refuge where her parents owned a home.  She is pictured here with her best friend Dottie.  When I look at their carefree expressions I can almost feel the warm breeze and the lazy days of summers past.  I love her retro swimsuit too which she sewed by hand. She left us two years ago after a brief illness.  At her memorial service, I met a lovely older couple who spoke of Mary (as we all did) with love and adoration. As we reminisced I couldn’t stop staring at the elegantly dressed woman who seemed so hauntingly familiar. As I held out my hand, she introduced herself as Dottie…

 

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MY BEAUTIFUL MOTHER IN LAW (LEFT) AND BEST FRIEND. SUMMER LONG GONE 1956.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Sepia Tones Only

A picture paints a thousand words


men

I discovered this image taken over fifteen years ago in a small town on the Amalfi Coast, while going through a shoebox filled with old photos.  As I strolled past a beautiful old church I was struck by these four men sitting together on a Sunday afternoon, the middle two deep in conversation, the bookends, content in their own thoughts. Each gentleman bore a unique expression though their emotions are difficult to interpret.  As only in Italy, the fashion sense impressed, particularly the vivid blue socks and old style fedoras.  The fellow on the far left sported a more casual but equally dapper attire with his jaunty tweed cap and stylish sneakers.

WPC – Symbol – Irish Worry Stone

stone1  I am not superstitious by nature, but this lovely, simple symbol of my Irish heritage is never far from my side. In fact, I keep it tucked in a small zippered compartment of my purse.  Made from Connemara marble, the Irish Worry Stone so smooth and cool to the touch, is reputed to keep worries at bay and bring a sense of comfort to those who hold it.   My mother loved these worry stones and often brought them back to friends as souvenirs when she visited her homeland of Ireland.  My close friend Joe, who was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 32 years of age was the recipient of one of my mother’s worry stones.  When he died, I visited his apartment where his mother was staying temporarily.   As we comforted each other with memories of her wonderful son she asked if she could show me something. Entering his bedroom she gestured toward his night table.  On the corner closest to his bed, lay the worry stone. I like to think that it brought him comfort.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/symbol/

Screwdriver Parties

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Pulling into my driveway late one afternoon, my eyes fell upon a dark sedan sitting idly.  Unable to recognize a face through the tinted windows and noting a New Jersey plate, a state from which I knew no one, a slight feeling of unease ensued. And then as if in slow motion, a window went down and a familiar voice I had not heard in over ten years bellowed, “Kathy, it’s me, Jim Cappello!” I drove all the way from NJ to visit you.  Look in the trunk!”

My old boss Jim Cappello whom I had worked with for over ten years at a publishing company in midtown Manhattan. Now eighty three years old and long retired, he had driven over two hours, on a whim to visit me at my home in Connecticut.  It was the pretzels, he said. The pretzels made him do it.

He explained he was at his supermarket in New Jersey saw a bag of pretzels which reminded him of me and, the screwdriver parties.  Every Friday at 5:30PM, in our small office on the 12th floor of the Chanin Building, we had a screwdriver party. Jim and I who sold the display advertising and Barbara and Irene the Classified Department.

I can still hear his voice now,  “Irene, get the ice, Barbara open the pretzels, Kathy go down and buy the O.J!” and Jim, well Jim always was in charge of the vodka. He was the perennial salesman. Outgoing, tenacious, social and charming.  He loved a party. Our own little madmen ritual in that tiny office on the twelfth floor.

“Look in the trunk!” He said again. I gazed down at two brown paper bags, one filled with a giant bag of pretzels and a container of orange juice, the other, a bottle of vodka.  “Let’s have a screwdriver!  For old times.”

We sat in my kitchen, Jim and I, and talked of our lives since the magazine closed. He shared how his beloved wife of fifty years had died three months before and how lost he felt in the weeks that followed.  I told him of the difficulty I experience in leaving my life in New York City behind for a small CT town in the suburbs.

We telephoned the classified girls, Barbara and Irene, who as luck with have it were both home.  As each picked up the phone I would announce “Do you recognize this voice?” And then hand the phone to Jim who would bellow “Irene! Barbara! It’s Jim Cappello!  I am at Kathy’s house. We’re having a screwdriver party! For old times.”

But it was not those Friday parties that bound the four of us together but rather the cadence of life, the highs and the lows as we worked side by side in that tiny office as the years ticked past.

The last thing we did together before he left was to walk down to the bus stop where my two sons, whom he had never met, were due home from school. As we walked back up to the house I wondered…was it the pretzels he had seen in the supermarket that prompted his visit or rather the need for comfort often found in days past?  The reason was unimportant.  It was a great day.

Gregory’s Goodbye

Featured Image -- 293 He left us yesterday.  My twelve-year-old son’s best friend.  It was not unexpected, yet we were not really ready to say goodbye as we stood in his driveway that balmy September afternoon.

He was to attend a therapeutic boarding school in the rocky mountains of Colorado, for the next two years.  A school that specialized in the emotional as well as the intellectual needs of boys who were struggling.  He had battled anxiety and ADHD for as long as we knew him but lately a more sinister villain called depression was taking over.  Public school was not working for him and his daily trips to the counselor left him dejected and angry.  He hated school, he told us again and again.

He took refuge in nature. Whenever upset, he would flee to the solace of the woods, headlamp in place along with a survival kit he had purchased on the internet. Gregory loved the forest which seemed to hold for him, its own therapeutic powers.  As a going away gift we gave him a lithograph night-light with a forest of trees etched within, the golden hue soothing and calm.

He is a beautiful boy with deep red hair, fine features and porcelain skin.  His face reflects an impishness that is infectious. He is highly intelligent and intuitive.  My son and he became fast friends three years ago and enjoy a special bond as best friends do. We both knew this path was the best thing for Gregory but it did not make his leaving any easier as he had become a fixture in both our lives and home.

All contact at his new school was to be via letter, no social media of any sort, so I made it a point that we would write to him, at least once a month.  I have a book of postcards, each one a different flower fairy illustrated by the brilliant Cicely Mary Barker, an English artist known for her life-like depictions of fairies in nature.  I chose for Gregory a red-headed mischievous faced boy fairy and penned in the margin “this reminded us of you!” I then enclosed a second self-addressed card already stamped for him to return to us.

The next card we sent to him contained a dried wishbone from our previous night’s roast chicken. Growing up my father would always save the wishbone for me and my sisters. I thought it was just the type of ritual Gregory would enjoy.  “Find someone you like at your new school and break the wishbone!” I scrawled.  “We miss you.”  But then, a week later thinking again about the wishbone, I was filled with dread.  What if gets the long end and his wish is to come home? What had I done? In trying to comfort him I could possibly have made him feel worse.

One afternoon several weeks later, I paused at my son’s bedroom door after hearing him talking on the phone to what sounded like Gregory.  He was clearly upset, distraught and his words a hurried jumble of emotion.  “I want to come home.  I hate it here. I miss you so much!”  He had sneaked his mother’s phone while she was visiting to make the call. After several moments, my son replied in a calm voice “You have to push through…”  I had never before heard the expression nor my son use it. When I asked him what he meant by “push through,” he explained that his middle school track coach always told the boys to push through the pain no matter how hard and they may just find they were stronger than they thought.

I worried about how he felt losing his best friend “Do you miss Gregory?”  His response was always the same. “It’s fine mom.”  And then I realized, perhaps the strain of seeing his friend in so much pain was harder than letting him go.

The last thing we sent him was a care package right before Halloween. It contained fake fangs, a calendar book with different photos of forest scenes, two packages of his favorite gummy bears and a small stuffed owl that had strangely beckoned to me from high on a store shelf. I imagined the little owl sitting on his night table. I also included a pre-stamped fairy card he could send back to us with ease.  When I called his mother to review what I was sending, she paused when I had mentioned the stuffed owl.  “He asked me if he could have a real one last week for a pet!”

Several weeks later, we received the fairy card by return mail.  Gregory’s familiar hurried scrawl contained the following sentiments:   “I loved the red-headed fairy card — I am learning to play the banjo! — Thank you for the owl, I keep him in my backpack.”  But it was the last line that remains with me.  “I still don’t like it here” he confided, “but I am going to push through…”  And those simple words were all I needed.