Saturday, April 29, 2017

Names: a collective list of nicknames and self-names

In all the writing circles this week I asked people to take a minute or two to jot down the names they have been called (by others) as well as the names they have called themselves. Here they are … all the names we have been known as:


Auntie Kim
Star of My Life
Olive Face
Baroness of Ballet
Deli Queen

Crazy Cat Lady
Broadway Buddy
Princess Grace
Flabby Gabby
Mrs. Cumberbatch

Your Highness
Grandma Sara

Grandma Sue
Shana Madela
Clare Wylie

My Dear
Mrs. Richards

The Horrible

Susan Jane
Shrimp Boat

Blue Jeans

Princes Potch-in-Tushy
Georgia Grey
The Big I
Hippie Chic
Miz Story Lady
That American
Z Z Top

Cinnamon Girl

The Scorpio



Speaker of the House
Mrs. Church



Yellow Rose of Texas

Little Joe

Tall Glass of Water
The Dancing Mailman
That Voice on the Radio





Long-legged Giraffe


Cerebral Sue

O & D

Baby Girl
Baby of the Family
Sweetie Pie

The Beast
Dr. Be
The Great One

Snappy Tomato
Dear One
Sister From Another Planet
Pseudo Aunt

Ms R
Honey Bun

Pitti Bird

Little Lou
Bobby Fairclough's Little Sister
Mama Z

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Things We Miss: a collective list by 65 contributors

I miss … riding in the back of Gramps' little yellow tractor and waving to neighbors on the slow ride to the water hole; the taste of a Yoo-hoo after walking two miles to Tetta's general store in the summer; the thickness of my youthful hair; the rush of being in love; the sound of bells as the Good Humor truck arrived; eating sugar with abandon; tooth #12; my father's laugh and my mother's scent; receiving unlimited hugs from my children

I miss . . . my hands in the earth, now that the gardens are covered with a blanket of snow; my grandfather playing "Swanee River" on his harmonica; the way my grandmother pronounced the word "girls," and the hand-knit hats and mittens she made me every year; the hot winds of Oklahoma; my grandfather pulling a quarter out of my ear; the smell of dad's pipe tobacco; unexpected paths that beckon during a walk in the woods; the smell of talcum powder on a newborn baby; the sense of belonging and safety that I felt when my born-into family was alive; sand from retreating ocean waves washing over my feet

I miss . . . running as fast as I can; the taste of my mother's fudge which was different from others but I'm not sure how; my cat stomping into the living room and sitting with his back to us because his food bowl was empty; the call to prayer coming from the mosque in the village; the excitement of opening a letter addressed to me when I was a child; the old maroon bike that my sister and I bought at the auction when the old hired man from the farm next door said it was too rich was for his blood; munching on fresh silver queen corn and okra from my father's old garden; reading Archie and Jughead comics in my treehouse; singing doo wop songs on the band bus, driving back from football games; old loves, dead now, who once filled my heart with joy; the wind in my hair when I biked by the ocean at dawn; innocence

I miss . . . those fearsome tug-of-war games with the dog, now toothless; the melting heat of North Carolina summers; the friends we left when we moved up north; talking about what we would name our children; being the audience as my grandmother practiced delivering the same jokes year after year; having a best friend; having the confidence that I could do anything; being nervous before a race and then finishing the race; bottles of milk with cream on top, left near my grandmother's door; writing six-page letters, by hand, to a distant lover; being able to do the lotus position in yoga; my childhood parakeet, Keeto, whose favorite phrase was "I love you what's your name?"

I miss . . . evenings spent with my grandma, drinking brandy; my father, strong and fit; a time without pain; rollerskating to disco music; being alone; days of being wild; conversations with my mother, who was a brilliant woman; summertime and the buzz of the bees as I collect blueberries; Brutus, the best dog-human I have ever known; not knowing mortality; the bright smiles and bright eyes of my twin granddaughters; the bakery in my hometown that sold big bags filled with less-than-perfect donuts, for $1; when going downtown on the bus to shop for school clothes was a major event; phones with party lines; my father singing along with Bing Crosby — "White Christmas"

I miss . . . taking the stairs two at a time; the old paperboy; getting foot rubs from my husband; day trips to the beach, and eating salt water taffy; Molly Ivins, Erma Bombeck, and Ann Richards; impromptu visits to the root beer stand; food counters in drug stores; the days before I had a carbon foot-print; birthdays, when receiving a small box of paints was pleasure enough; Raggedy Ann dolls and hand-made paper kites; watching tadpoles and ants and dragonflies; playing with string and making cat's cradles

I miss . . . eating Klondike ice cream bars and Cocoa Krispies; drinking a concoction of Hawaiian Punch and ginger ale; watching "The Walking Dead," which I had to give up when I started college; bringing the cows up to the barn for milking; my first car when it ran okay, which was not often; swinging off the rope into the creek in Colosse, New York; my 17-year-old son, who never got to be 18; the possibility that all four Beatles would record together again; shopping for the newest Harry Potter novel; card catalogues in libraries; the tip of Tommy's cigarette glowing at me from across the street; my mother's wedding ring, which was stolen from me

I miss . . . climbing the monkey bars at recess; my grandmother's rich alto voice singing the harmonies as she holds me close during the Christmas Eve candlelight service; his fingers hovering over my arm, giving me goosebumps from the electric energy between us; the scent of mignonette in mother's garden; chickens clucking in the yard; my brother's balsa wood airplanes hanging from the ceiling; the shortcut I used to take to get to my friends' houses; hearing my grandpa reciting rhymed verses that he created on the spot; my ability to climb tall tress and taste their fruit, or just look up, or down; Sunday nights, eating tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, watching Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom"

I miss . . . my mobility and my stamina;  the stuff that was left behind by the movers, in my last move; both of my grandsons, who lost their lives to mitochondrial disease; my hearing; windows that go all the way to the floor; my piano and my harpsichord; the smell of the ocean and the sound of a foghorn; twirling the coils of the phone cord on my finger during those long calls; a big armchair to curl up in; watching the New York Yankees with my mother-in-law; the South in the spring when the night air is filled with the scent of wisteria, honeysuckle, and jasmine

I miss …. taking bubble baths; the sound of my grandmother's voice calling me for supper; the heavy feel of a horse's breath on my neck; the scent of the first lilac; seeing the first snowdrops push their way through golden leaves; my father looking again at the blooming pelargonium; the days when being five years old felt grown up; when 10 p.m. seemed so very late; being entertained by a tiny green inchworm; the way the wind blew through our house in the summertime; the sound of mandolins playing in that South American church; my father's beard; having money in the bank; the way I became uninhibited after eating those special brownies

I miss . . . tromping through freshly plowed farm fields; wasting time; my old 240 Volvo with a stick shift and leather seats that smelled of sweet grass; believing that life would turn out to be everything I imagined; playing cowboys and moseying up to the bar; walking five miles to school in the snow; the stillness of a Rocky Mountain night in February; being in love; warm donuts at 3 a.m.; olallieberry pie with lard crust; the clear top of the hard mountain, looking out over mists and rocks; very late afternoon naps

I miss . . . the Rainbow Chorus I once sang with — our camaraderie, our victories, our performances; the Denver March Powwow — 90 drums strong, three days of dancing, being mesmerized by the music; big prairie thunderstorms crackling on the horizon; having a 32-inch waist; the bookstores and bars — the glorious stations of my coming out years; the early years when I could not even imagine death; those burgundy colored pants, when they fit me; sushi with fish, not just vegetables; the pink socks I got in the Hakaniemi market; the feeling of resolution

I miss . . . the plastic record player and the Bob Dylan records we played over and over and over, knowing all the words to every song; the fur mini-skirt with the cheap metal belt that my brother bought me; large brown bottles of peroxide, purchased at the pharmacy, then poured onto my hair to bleach it — age 16; spelling tests, when I knew all the answers; being called to dinner by the ringing of a brass bell; the smell of diesel in old European cities, on chilly, lonely mornings; my purple denim overalls, even though the straps always fell into the toilet; spinning like a dervish at Grateful Dead concerts; the sound of static-y fuzz on the in-between channels; hanging clothes out to dry on a line; setting up the annual sukkah; folk dancing; the owl who called at the end of the day "who cooks for you, who cooks for you"

I miss . . . riding a pinto pony across the kansas prairie; hearing a western meadowlark sing its heart out atop a fence post; Haiku, the lazy cat, purring loudly from her cushy bed on the windowsill; shucking peas with my grandma at her kitchen table; seeing my sister swing a golf club back when she still had her strength and mobility; the time when a quiet, efficient, old-fashioned broom was the tool of choice because leaf blowers had not been invented yet; the call of loons echoing across the lake in Canada; learning to groom and care for Grandma's dogs, and attending dog shows with her; sitting in Grandpa's chair, wrapped up in his hunting coat; cooking in coconut shells, then feeding the fern leaves and shredded blossoms to my dolls; listening to my mother chanting gatha under the bodhi tree while I made pagodas in the sand, for ants to climb

I miss . . . believing in Santa Clause; skinny-dipping in the Susquehanna; being newly in love; sitting on the back porch singing Hoagy Carmichael's "Buttermilk Skies" with my grandpap; my mother: calling her from the beach so she could hear the waves; hearing her say "that's wonderful" when I tell her about my day; the way she laughed at the funny poems I wrote about her; singing, dancing, and playing my tamboua for her, and hearing her gleeful reaction; the way she would laugh when I sang "Mamma Mia" to her; her gentleness; polite and caring doctors; calls from friends inviting me to meet up with them; being around people who know what they are doing; my husband saying how beautiful i am

I miss . . . my father, who was kind, gentle, and funny and who loved me unconditionally; my mother. who was not the perfect mother, but as I have realized in my later years, I was not the perfect daughter; my pink flannel skirt with the white poodle in a rhinestone collar with a rhinestone leash; my gold charm bracelet with charms from all the important events of my life until age 21 — which was stolen when my car broke down in rural Utah and I put my bag on the side of the road to hitch a ride and a car came by and grabbed the suitcase but didn't take me; deciphering my mom's crypto-clues that led to the big Easter basket; hunkering down to read books with a friend, under the quilt tent we'd built in the stairwell; dabbing on a little Evening in Paris perfume, sitting at mom's vanity, and feeling all grown up; the butterfly bush outside my bedroom window, full of fluttering wings

I miss . . . picking dandelions for dandelion wine; dancing "the stroll" with my girlfriends; the milk man delivering milk, especially in winter when the cream froze at the top of the bottle; helping my grandmother bobby pin her chignon to the back of the head; many family members, friends, and animal companions, now long gone; my hermit abode, tucked in, lonely as hell, free; the freedom to walk out the door and wander; the feeling that I have all the time in the world; ice caves burrowed out of 5 - 6 foot snow drifts in the corner of my yard; the comfort and warmth of four cats positioned around the house; going to Baskin-Robbins with my father to get Rocky Road ice cream cones; playing hopscotch; the maple tree in our front yard that was cut down and fell across Main Street with a loud thud

I miss . . . the pungent smell of ink from the mimeograph machine; the scent of lilacs when their blooming time is passed; "Weekly Reader," from elementary school days; Saturday morning cartoons, "Monster Movie Matinee, and Marvel Comics; speaking with God; playing "Rhapsody in Blue" on the piano; strapping metal roller skates over my shoes and skating down driveways and on sidewalks; running fleet-footed through the forest; a night of sound sleep in these post-menopausal times; eating too much bacon and feeling no guilt; phone calls from my parents on Sunday afternoons; dancing in bare feet to George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"

I miss . . . dunking hot popcorn into a dixie cup of red Hawaiian Punch; performing in a marching band and learning new color guard routines; being part of the silliness of a group of teenage girls and laughing until we cried; jumping rope, with freedom, confidence, and skill; the feeling that my whole life is ahead of me; living in Berkeley in 1969 and discovering a whole new life; wearing just one layer of clothes and being warm enough; banana splits divided among the whole family; telling lies at weekly confessional; talking on the phone for hours, even with people I didn't know very well; being anonymous; being able to walk long distances without tiring; wearing denim every day; the security of having a long wooden box filled with sharpened pencils; possessing the patience and time to start and finish a novel in one day

I miss . . .  today, when I worry about tomorrow

= = =

Thank you to all these wonderful contributors:

Adeena Dworkin
Alan Bern
Angelee Deodhar
Aniiyah Christina Klock
Annie Wexler
Barbara Kane Lewis
Barbara Tate
Brenda Roberts
Candace Mingins
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Chris McNamara
Christina Martin
Christina Sng
Claire Vogel Camargo
Daniel Cooper
Debbie Allen
Heather Boob
Jan Benson
Janie L. Nusser
Jayne Demakos
Jennifer Hambrick
Jo Balistreri
Joan McNerney
Joanna M. Weston
Kath Abela Wilson
Kathy Kramer
Katya Sabaroff Taylor
Kelly Hopson
Laughing waters
Laurie Peterson
Liz Burns
Louise Vignaux
Madeleine Cohen Oakley
Malintha Perera
Mara Alper
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Michele Sawyer
Mike Schaff
Pamela A. Babusci
Pat Geyer
Paula Marshall
Phyllis Lee
Pris Campbell
Rainbow Crow
Ray Petersen
Rob Sullivan
Rosa Clement
Ross Haarstad
Saskya van Nouhuys
Sharon Fellows
Stacey Murphy
Stacey K. Payette
Sue Crowley
Susan A. Currie
Susan Lang
Susan Lesser
Susanna Drbal
Theresa A. Cancro
Vibeke Laier
Yvonne Fisher
Zane Petersen
Zee Zahava

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A happiness poem written by 11 people

These moments of happiness were written by some of the members of the Thursday Morning Writing Circle, November 3, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Annie Wexler

happiness is when
i make squash soup
sauté ginger and curry
add a tart apple
finish with coconut milk

happiness is when
i wake up
in an alpine refuge
eat a baguette with butter
drink a cafe au lait
set out with my backpack

happiness is when
i start to paint
wetting the paper
brushing yellow and red
playing with color

happiness is when
i do morning meditation
no alarm clock
quiet rhythm
soothes my soul

Barbara Cartwright

happiness is when
the faster
the car goes
the more space i see
between the trees

happiness is when
i race through a book
never sensing myself for a second
and find another
in the series

happiness is when
i find the right words
to describe my feelings
and my listener feels that feeling
like an echo in their heart

happiness is when
a shaft of moonlight
makes a corridor across the water
a means to the other side
a gateway to the stars

Jayne Demakos

happiness is when
i feel cold
and lying there with my mother
i hold her hand
it is warm, fleshy, and comforting

happiness is when
i finally play piano
too many weeks have slipped by
my fingers are like lead
but still chopin nocturns are there

happiness is when
it's my birthday
and my friends come over
we sit around the living room
creating surprising and serendipitous writing

Mara Alper

happiness is when
you laugh and
even happier
when it's at
my joke

happiness is when
my heart is clear
and my mind
into peace

happiness is when
sun streams on the
bike path
and the wetlands
radiate light

happiness is when
my wave of sighs
and i yield to complexity,
let change change me

Marcy Little

happiness is when
the car won't start
but then i realize
i've simply forgotten
my key

happiness is when
the onions, garlic,
tomatoes, and basil
all ripen
at the same time

happiness is when
the snow starts
with earnest at 3 a.m.
and i awake to the notice
"school closed today"

happiness is when
i return home late
to the gentle hum
of jazz
and a hot pot of tea

Mike Schaff

happiness is when
after 108 years of struggle
the chicago cubs
win the
world series

happiness is when
i have this to look forward to:
my son-in-law reading his poems
this saturday, 1:30, at buffalo books

happiness is when
i have this to look forward to as well:
my daughter reading from her book of short stories
"Say Something Nice About Me"
next saturday, 1 p.m., also at buffalo books

Rob Sullivan

happiness is when
a child smiles back
giggling at the game
entranced by their power
to enchant and endear

happiness is when
music pulls me back
to embrace all
i have forgotten to love,
cherish, and honor

happiness is when
a new day dawns
to find me
once again
above ground

Stacey Murphy

happiness is when
it's breakfast for supper
and next morning
the house holds the scent
of bacon and syrup

happiness is when
the music is loud
and there are friends
to dance with
and time flies too fast

happiness is when
i feel known
and understood
just by looking into
a dear one's eyes

happiness is when
my wiggly 10-year-old
forgets himself
and climbs onto my lap
after dinner

Sue Crowley

happiness is when
the waters of the clyde river
reflect the sky like a mirror
and the bow of my little boat
cleaves through the clouds in silence

happiness is when
an old favorite song
arrives unexpectedly on the radio
and i sing with abandon
alone in my car

happiness is when
i catch sight of four young deer
three does and a yearling buck
grazing in the high grass
before they turn, white tails disappearing

Yvonne Fisher

happiness is when
i go to the movies
i buy the popcorn
and the previews

happiness is when
i sit at my computer
and make a plan
to go
somewhere else

happiness is when
i stay home cozy
the wood fire burning
i'm petting
the cat

happiness is when
i step into the shower
the hot water
runs over
my body

Zee Zahava

happiness is when
a friend sends an email
that says TY TY TY
and i don't know what it means
but then i figure it out: Thank You Thank You Thank You

happiness is when
i buy a new box of 10 pens
all different colored inks
and feel secure
for at least one month

happiness is when
everyone who is expected arrives
the circle is complete
a grey wet thursday morning

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A happiness poem written by 9 people

These moments of happiness were written by some of the members of the Wednesday Morning Writing Circle, November 2, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Chris Sanchirico

happiness is when
i call my cat
and he comes home
and i give him
a salmon treat

happiness is when
i am walking on the bike path
on a crisp fall morning
the sun sparkling on the leaves
and i smile

happiness is when
i make a cup of ceylon tea
and smell it before
adding the milk
the cup warm in my hands

happiness is when
i think of each of my children
picture them when young
think of what they are doing now

happiness is when
i wake up in the morning
and slowly come alive to the realization
that there are no plans
i am retired

Fran Helmstadter

happiness is when
i see my dog jump up
on the bed ... turn three times
and lie down ... her head on two blue pillows
her warm presence

happiness is when
i sink back into a lounge chair
on the deck
and smell the salty ocean
along penobscot bay

happiness is when
i remember the first news of
my grandson's birth
at home in his father's arms
in santa fe

happiness is when
i release great anger
after keeping it company
and emerging slowly
from it

Janie Nusser

happiness is when
i awaken without the sound of an alarm
stretch my fingers and legs and arms and
snuggle into the warmth one last time
before my day begins

happiness is when
i begin the day with a long difficult hike
take a break
retrieve the rake from the shed
and end the day with the last leaf

happiness is when
i have put the gardens to bed for the winter
snow shovels at the ready
long underwear traded back into the dresser
and the geranims snuggly asleep in the cellar

Liz Burns

happiness is when
i eat a cupcake
with chocolate frosting
and rainbow

happiness is when
i take a hot bubble bath
and sink
into the water
up to my nose

happiness is when
i start my computer
and don't have to call
the geek squad and chat with an agent
for an hour and a half

happiness is when
i read
that resonate
in my life

Mary Louise Church

happiness is when
i look up from my knitting
and see my friend
who always has some interesting comment
either about what i'm doing or what he is doing

happiness is when
i pull all the left-overs out of the fridge
put them together in a creative way
and my husband says "this is really good
we'll never have it again, will we"

happiness is when
my dearest friend suggests some adventure
and we have time together
to chat and laugh
and plan on doing it again soon

happiness is when
i'm working on a very difficult acrostic puzzle
where i not only don't know the word that fits the definition
i don't even know the words in the definition itself
but through working the puzzle i get the anwer to both


Rainbow Crow

happiness is when
i walk a path
of dying or dead plants
and grass
and find a purple violet staring at me

happiness is when
i am struggling
to find a comfortable
way to sleep
and my cat curls up
behind my knees

happiness is when
i find worms
and toads
and snakes
after putting the garden to bed

happiness is when
i see my physical therapist
and she flashes her dazzling smile
along with a little cleavage

Ross Haarstad

happiness is when
the sodden wrap
dripping with gloom
breaks off
in the brisk autumn wind

happiness is when
i write of it
in a circle
of friends
writing of happiness

happiness is when
the town fills up
with wizards
wands flying
through young enchantments

happiness is when
i am not unhappy
or stressed
or panicking
or many other things

Susanna Drbal

happiness is when
i look up at the stars
and at my feet
fireflies gather
and spark

happiness is when
i write
and the words flow
and i feel

happiness is when
i cross that bridge
from to-do
finally done

happiness is when
i hear the creak
in jerry garcia's voice
and i feel the
careless joy of youth

happiness is when
i hear thunder
followed by bulbous
plops of rain
and feel washed anew

Zee Zahava

happiness is when
i feel a bit drab
and then remind myself that
i can put on mis-matched socks
and i do

happiness is when
i decide i just don't care
and i let the leaves blow in
and i don't
vacuum them up

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A happiness poem written by 14 women

These moments of happiness were written at the start of the Tuesday Morning Writing Circle, November 1, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Gabrielle Vehar

happiness is when
i'm lying all curled up
huddled in bed against the cold
and i realize that i'm toasty warm
because my two cats are lying with me

happiness is when
i go to a play
and i'm dreading seeing it
but then all of a sudden
it turns out to be soul-saving

happiness is when
i wake up on that special day
and realize that i actually did get enough sleep
to be all ready
to write with my friends

happiness is when
i get out of a cold swimming pool
on a cold day
and give myself permission
to take a long hot shower

Grace Celeste

happiness is when
i resist leaving home
but i do
and then i am delighted
that i did

happiness is when
i hear my children and grandchildren
sharing memories
and laughing
at family holiday gatherings

happiness is when
i listen
to the silence
of the first

happiness is when
i sit
in front of
my crackling

Kim Falstick

happiness is when
i give one cat a tummy rub
the other cat a chin-chuckle
then commune with my rabbits
and cook dinner for maureen

Linda Keeler

happiness is when
i wake up
and realize
my cold
is gone

happiness is when
our two bags
of halloween candy
all night

happiness is when
the day is cool
and the wind is at my back
as i ride my bicycle
around keuka lake

happiness is when
the storm windows are down
the garden pots
are stored away
and i am ready for winter

happiness is when
i put my thoughts
on paper
and the reaction that i get
is what i wished for

Lottie Sweeney

happiness is when
i have more time
than i realize
to read a favorite book

happiness is when
i feel clean —
clean laundry
clean bedding
and showered

happiness is when
i am trying to get to sleep and
my cat leaps up
to sleep beside me

Margaret Dennis

happiness is when
i discover a pound of coffee
way in the back of the cupboard
when i thought
i was out

happiness is when
i go into the library
and find
three new mystery novels

happiness is when
i look out my window
and see that the rain
has left a carpet of
glistening gold leaves on the ground

happiness is when
i open my computer and find
pictures of the new twins
looking like darling little
wrinkled elves in pointy caps

happiness is when
i walk to writing group
worrying that i have
no new ideas
and then i discover that i do

Marty Blue Waters

happiness is when
after 25 years of sitting empty on a shelf
or waiting in a closet of the house
a beautiful bamboo box suddenly finds a job
in the trunk of my car, bringing chaos into order

Nancy Osborn

happiness is when
i come up the steps
into harvard square
and see
that the bookstore is still there

happiness is when
i sit at the table
with my two sisters
laughing with
our newly-discovered cousin

happiness is when
my sister's cat
does not hiss at me
and i do not
step in his water bowl

happiness is when
i arrive at the end of my journey
and discover it is raining
and i have wisely brought my umbrella

happiness is when
i visit my mother
who savors her coffee
and smiles across the table at me
even though she doesn't know who i am

Nina Miller

happiness is when
i hear the voices
of my children
on the

happiness is when
i go to the cemetery
and talk to george
even though i don't believe for a second
that he can hear me

happiness is when
i find the handicapped parking meter
and discover that
i  have enough quarters to pay for it

happiness is when
i cook
a soup
and it lasts
all week

happiness is when
my granddaughter runs up the gangplank
from the boat in provincetown
her arms open
for a hug

Paula Culver

happiness is when
my 13-year-old daughter
who is now becoming a young woman
calls me into her room
and wants to snuggle

happiness is when
a friend posts a recipe on facebook
for caramel shortbread bars . . .
i check all the cupboards
and find everything to make them

happiness is when
the tea meets my lips
soothing lemon and ginger
sure to cure all
that ails me

happiness is when
my foot searches for yours
the first cold night —
a beacon of warmth
and comfort

Sara Robbins

happiness is when
i hold my grandson
and breathe in his sweetness
and he melts into me
and holds me right back

happiness is when
the wood stove is full
and more wood stacked
right near the stove
on a cold raw night

happiness is when
a friend gives me a new coat
and it fits
and it's warm
and i look just fine, not shabby as usual

happiness is when
i have a pot luck
and all my neighbors come
bringing treats
and laughter and sharing

happiness is when
i sit in a circle
breathing deeply
surrounded by friends
anticipating hearing their words

Sue Norvell

happiness is when
my demanding
lets me sleep
another hour

happiness is when
i find
the only remaining
fall crocus

happiness is when
the missing gardening glove
in last winter's
coat pocket

happiness is when
the red-bellied woodpecker
lands on the seed feeder
and shows his really
red belly

happiness is when
i am sitting
in a circle
alone but together

Sue Perlgut

happiness is when
i wake up
to the sound of
my granddaughter's
knock on my bedroom door

happiness is when
my former students
come to ithaca
to visit me
bringing love

happiness is when
i have a shelf
of murder mysteries
just waiting
to be read

happiness is when
i'm tired and achy
and my husband
makes the very best
chicken soup

Zee Zahava

happiness is when
i wake up with music in my head
it could be a sanskrit chant
or maybe aretha or martha and the vandellas
and it stays with me all day

happiness is when
my mother sends me an email
that contains only symbols
hearts, stars, fruit, silly animals, red exclamation marks
and i know she's been having fun with her smartie phone

happiness is when
i ride in the car with the love of my life
and we come to an open stretch of road
just as thousands of leaves
come dancing by  — right to left and back again

Monday, September 5, 2016

WORK: a collective list

Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 2016

With this collective list we honor ourselves, and all the different kinds of work we have done over the years . . . . and we honor all workers, everywhere

singing telegram deliverer, massage therapist, hair stylist, singer in a band, landlord, flower shop worker, after school program director, caregiver in a family care home for people with AIDS

gas station attendant in 1967, social worker, graphic artist, fundraiser, insurance agent, director of Head Start program, filmmaker, bookstore owner, member of two street theatre troupes

study hall monitor, washed pots and pans in a sorority house, assisted people who were looking for jobs, real estate agent

lemonade stand manager in my family's front yard, attendance monitor, arts and crafts teacher, assistant Girl Scout leader, crossing guard

legal assistant for prisoners' rights organization, instructor in one of the first Women's Studies programs, host for a French-Canadian folk song program on my college radio station, farm manager for a food co-op

crew member and navigator on my father's sailboat, family documentarian

dance teacher, choreographer, costume shop assistant and costume designer, stage manager,
librettist, cheerleader for deer, cat sitter
actor in children's theater, musicals, and Shakespeare plays

baker in a hippie bakery on a hippie farm, cake decorator at a Carvel store, menu planner and co-author of cookbooks at Moosewood Restaurant for over four decades

sewing machine salesperson, bank teller, plant sitter, book maker, restaurant hostess

worked at the jewelry counter at Rothschild's Department Store in Ithaca, New York

ballet studio owner/Artistic Director

owner and operator of Clean Sweep, a business that helps people with gentle (re)organizing

taught home and career skills in middle school, built houses with Habitat for Humanity all around the U.S.A., worked in a bank before computers were used

dandelion picker earning a nickel per basketful, dishwasher and fry cook at my family's truck stop, picture framer, bartender, night shift donut maker, go-go dancer, typesetter at a small alternative press

folded boxes in my family's bakery, made recordings for the blind, leader of a Camp Fire group, repaired books and typed catalog cards for an elementary school library

registered dental hygienist, abstract artist

registered nurse in various specialties including: intensive care, pediatrics, medical-surgical care, cardiac care, school nurse, home care nurse

wife, mother, grandmother of four

teacher of creative writing, blogger, gardener, herbalist, sailor, photographer

fed rats for a university experiment, taught five-year-olds in a Brooklyn summer program, teaching assistant in graduate school, part-time college professor, therapist

shoe store clerk even though I knew nothing about sizing shoes

data input in the early days of computer programming, potter, seamstress, errand runner, house painter, apprentice carpenter, fixer of broken toys, green bean picker for a large farm where I was one of two non-immigrant workers, generous listener

camp counselor at a camp for kids with cerebral palsy — my favorite job of all

entertainment director for a nursing home — I got to wander from floor to floor with a portable organ singing old classics and watching the elderly faces come alive again

receptionist for a demented flasher — I lasted one day

house cleaner, dog walker

taught non-violent conflict resolution to 5th and 6th  graders, using games, role plays, and discussions

copy editor for my college newspaper, facilitator for consciousness raising groups on Long Island and Manhattan

mail deliverer, dorm counselor, catering assistant, usher for the Cleveland orchestra, artist's model, puppet demonstrator at a toy store

did the family laundry in the bath tub, hung it all on the line to dry, then did the ironing

taught archery and, in another place and time, taught knitting

taught school in Sungai Gernong, Indonesia and in Oran, Algeria

chambermaid, chicken salad maker at a restaurant called "Food," abortion counselor, HIV counselor, razor blade factory worker in Amsterdam

drama therapist, extra in a TV movie about Japanese samurai, extra in a commercial for Suntory Whiskey

wedding harpist, church organist

sold Christmas cards door to door to win a transistor radio when I was 10, Sunrise Movie Theatre counter girl after my mom taught me how to make change correctly, Winn Dixie grocery store cashier, elementary school teacher for 18 years

small press publisher

groomed show dogs, bailiff in civil court

cashier and girl-Friday for an auto parts store, Tupperware dealer, haiku poet

owner of a commercial and residential cleaning service

analytical aide for the Department of Defense

homeroom mother while all four of my children were going through elementary and junior high school (15 years)

cashier at Walmart, problem solver

director of a literacy council, reading tutor for adults, children’s and young adult books author

temporary office worker: my typing skills were abysmal but I was an excellent envelope stuffer

washing huge pots and pans behind the scenes at my college cafeteria

bookkeeping, buying books, reading books, selling books, collecting books

writing about things that have made me curious

switchboard operator (it was necessary to cut off obscene calls), secretary to a cheap corporate lawyer who expected me to pay for his coffee, museum guide for curious children visiting the "mummies" exhibit

vegetable picker for Marian's Roadside Stand, delivery person for the Ithaca Journal, bicycle repair person at Big Wheel Bike Shop, liquor store clerk, student janitor and mail room office person

volunteer with Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, library staff at Mann Library at Cornell University

mind reader, heart healer, animal rescuer, true-love believer

being my own best friend, which has sometimes been hard work

au pair for the family of a famous London writer — I lasted two days and was fired for being inept with the vacuum cleaner

cleaned the rabbit hutches from the age of six onward, picked beetles off roses for a penny a beetle, picked up nails and screws from Grandpa's workshop and was paid a penny a jar

piano teacher, leaf raker

read to my blind grandmother every day for one year

paralegal, mediator, toy seller, organizer for a youth soccer league, firewood chopper

bobcat tracker in Florida, fossil curator, dictionary writer, judge at a pie contest, docent for an animatronic dinosaur exhibit, bird enumerator

assistant in an art gallery on Madison Avenue — my office was the bathroom

sales clerk at a button shop, seller of raffle tickets, casting director, family's travel agent, video effects editor

cultural affairs officer for the Canadian consulate in New York City

milked goats, worked in a Jewish deli, telemarketer for a bogus product (unbeknownst to me)

taught English as a second language in Russia, Vietnam, and Mongolia

worked at the 92nd Street Y, interviewed homeless people living on the street in New York City, read the slush pile (genre fiction) for a publishing company, did voice-over acting for a Russian company that needed an English voice

restaurant busboy earning $7.50 a night, cocktail pianist (or was that lounge lizard?), cub reporter, lawn and pool boy, coat-check attendant, hat-band paster, conductor, fundraiser, assistant to a university president

intern for the Chinese textile collection at the Smithsonian Institution, Balinese music and dance student/dance instructor, teaching assistant for tai chi and qi gong classes 

seal lion pool cleaner at the National Zoo, fed hummingbirds by hand and handled a tame kestrel on a falconer's glove for Tri-State Bird Rescue

birthday party planner, kitchen and living room sweeper, TV commercial critic, peacemaker, entertainer of younger cousins and siblings, worrier, protector, creative thinker

filler of cat food dish, changer of cat's water bowl, cat cuddler

grilled cheese with tomato and basil maker, confidante, origami artist, assistant dance teacher, volunteer at the annual Star Search camp at the Community School of Music and Arts

ski instructor, ice cream scooper, re-upholsterer, candlemaker, playwright, chauffeur, interior decorator, swan feeder, fish feeder, proofreader, library page


Thank you to all these hard-working contributors:

Alan Heath
Aniiyah Klock
Anne Killian-Russo
Audrey Jordan Gray
Barbara Cartwright
Barbara Hay
Barbara Kaufmann
Barbara Tate
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Debbi Antebi
Gabrielle Vehar
Grace Celeste
Helen Lang
Jim Mazza
Jo Balistreri
Joan McNerney
Joyce L Stillman
Kim Falstick
Linda Keeler
Liz Burns
Margaret Dennis
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Meryl Young
Nancy Osborn
Pamela A. Babusci
Paula Culver
Pris Campbell
Sara Robbins
Sharon K. Yntema
Sue Perlgut
Susan Norvell
Susanna Drbal
Theresa A. Cancro
Tom Clausen
Victoria Jordan
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Keys: Short Pieces on a Theme

I am not a sentimental person. When something is lost from my life I try to let go and accept it without holding on to relics from the past. My husband is the opposite. Being half French, he has spent many years of his life in France. He has a whole dresser drawer full of mementos. Half the drawer is filled with old keys. The key to his beloved grandfather's house outside of Paris. "Grandpere" has been dead for 60 years and the house has been torn down, only the cherry tree from his childhood remains. The key to his aunt's chateau in Bordeaux, long since gone from the family, along with the last bottle of wine, which we recently drank to celebrate our anniversary. The key to his late cousin's 300-year-old manor house by the sea in Normandy. Summers spent there from the age of 5 with large family dinners under an umbrella in the garden. All long gone now, but how wonderful to just open a drawer and have the sweet scent of long ago envelop you with love.
    - Annie Wexler

"You're grounded," Mom yelled. "Don't think I don't know about you sneaking out Monday night and I don't like those kids you're running around with." I wondered how she knew everything I did, every thought I had, but chalked it up to things mothers know about their 13-year-old and maybe, just maybe, I'd been saddled with a mother who was psychic. Oh, great. I stomped up the stairs to my room, pulled the diary from under the mattress, retrieved the key from behind my favorite stuffed animal and began to write. "Dear Diary — I don't know how she knew I snuck out but she did. Now I'm grounded. Well, I'll show her. There's a party at Glenda's next Friday night, I'll tell her I'm spending the night at Sue's (she won't tell, she's too afraid of losing a 'friend') then I'll go to Glenda's. By that time I won't be grounded and she'll never know." Closing the diary, I locked it, put it under the mattress and hid the key behind my little blue bear. "Nope, she'll never know."
    - Barbara Tate

The only key to the house is on a ring identified with a miniature light green plastic scuba diver flipper. It resides behind a flat rock under the hose mount. A damp spot. Reaching for it once I grabbed a toad. I'm sure we both shrieked. Little red newts have been seen to scatter from behind the shale. And one dark night something much larger moved. Black, with white spots, holy crap, a giant lizard. My brave friend picked it up and said "Dragon Newt." It's the green flipper. It beckons to the webbed and reptilian like a neon sign. Always open. They go there to get a couple drinks before going home. We actually never lock our door.
    - Camilla S.

I have owned a great many different sorts of key over the years. One that still fascinates me is what I knew as a bubble key. Traditionally, most keys have notches cut into them, such that the profile of the key is changed. My bubble key was made by taking a series of tiny scoops from each surface of the blank. The scoops looked like lunar craters on a very small scale. My key was a high security key which gave me access through special perimeter gates. I used to think of the scoops on the key's surface as bubbles of a strange gas which could pass through it. Curiously, that idea of permeability of metal was echoed in the way the key allowed me access through the campus perimeter. I found that link very satisfying. Some years later I discovered that my key was more properly called a dimple key. But that name works too . . . it made me smile.
    - David J. Kelly

I never leave my keys at home. So why that night? The one I assumed you'd have no part of until I looked up from dancing and there you were, whiskey in your hand, laughing. That night you asked me to dance salsa. Everyone watched. I was drunk and fucking up the steps, but damn . . . you did that thing where you slid your hand behind my neck and pulled my face towards yours and everyone hooted and hollered. We tore it up, all hips and hair. At 1 a.m. I realize I don't have my keys, and my roommate sleeps like the dead. You tell me I can sleep at your place. More drinking, more dancing, and the way your hands hold my hips, I don't know if it's the alcohol or you that I'm drunk on. But the night ends, and something shifts in you. I smell regret. We walk to your apartment arm-in-arm; there's a war in your mind but you're not looking for an ally to make peace there. You offer me your bed, saying you'll sleep on your chair in the living room. I fall asleep crying, painfully aware of the impossibility of unlocking you.
    - DeanalĂ­s Resto

Mark is about to run a five-mile race, his first in several years. At 60, coming back from a blocked coronary artery and severe ankle injury, finishing the distance will be a challenge and a triumph. Just before the race starts, I realize that I've locked both of our keys and wallets in the car, but I don't tell Mark. He doesn't need distractions. I see him off at the start of the race without a word. Knowing that Mark will be exhausted at the end of five miles, I have to get the car unlocked before he finishes. But how? We let our AAA membership lapse two weeks ago. Our insurance company provides roadside assistance, but their emergency number is locked in the car with our keys. I borrow someone's cell phone and AAA card, dial the emergency phone number. When the dispatcher notices our expired membership, I ask her to look at their records. "We've been members forever. Of course we've renewed," I lie. "You just haven't received the payment yet." Somehow this works. The locksmith arrives in record time and opens the car. Keys in hand, I am at the finish line to take Mark's picture, as I do after every race.
    - Deirdre Silverman

I have a dear friend in Pennsylvania who loves musicals just as much as I, and who is almost as critical of them as I. Well, she heard this song,  "Ring of Keys,"  on the Tony Awards last year, and she just knew right then and there that she just had to see "Fun Home" (the show the song is from). So she plays it for me, and I say . . . "meh." And when I ask her what the show's about, she says it's narrated by a lesbian looking back on her childhood with her closeted gay father, who ends up killing himself. Well, then I'm really thinking . . . "Forget about it." So then — and here's the kicker — my conservative, straight-laced, very narrow friend accuses me of being anti-gay! Me, the one who's been so close to gay men that it sometimes turned carnal (yes, that's just how much I loved them). And me, who has surrounded herself with lesbian couples all over the country, at whose tables I often sup (yes, I'm close enough to actually break bread with them). And, as for my friend — well, she in her suburban home, with her computer husband and 2 little girls — she thought that the song was about the little lesbian girl being excited by her father's ring of keys. Oh, no, no, no, I had to explain to her . . . not so much at all. Anyway, now, anytime my friend calls, she asks — at least once in the conversation — "and have you finally changed your stance on gay rights?"
    - Gabrielle Vehar

Keys were not part of my world growing up. Doors in our neighborhood were left open and I was always welcome anyplace. Of course I knocked before entering. I came and went from school and home, never losing keys or searching for them. Cars were unlocked and ready for a trip at a moment's notice. My world was safe from intruders then.
    - Grace Celeste

My father's key ring was loud and large as a custodian's. It bulged out of the pockets of his slacks, and where he walked the sound of jangling preceded him. If he asked you to hold his keys, it almost took both hands. Maybe those keys anchored him to a purpose, a bunch of purposes. Maybe those keys meant he knew the way in somewhere, or the way out, or just gave him gatekeeper's authority. When he got older there were just a few keys on his ring, resting motionless on the top of the tallboy. I guess he'd stopped bothering to announce his presence.
    - H. Fraser

My sister taught me to skate on the sidewalk, in front of our house. They were the old skates requiring the use of a key. It all seemed pretty complicated to a five-year-old, but I finally got the hang of it. It was great fun rolling down the sidewalk, although you had to watch out for holes and cracks or else you could go flying through the air, which was exhilarating, but also terrifying, because you always knew a crash landing would follow. One time, I must have hit a crack just right, because I fell straight onto both knees, and scooted along a bit before coming to a stop. Scraped knees, really bad. Time to go in. I was the last in line for a bath, so by the time I got there the water was cold. I couldn't understand how my mother could be so cruel as to have me bathe those sore knees in cold water. I let her know it, too, as I howled the entire time.
    - Janie Nusser

It was one week before Thanksgiving. I was a single parent with three small children, and I had decided we'd have an adventure by taking the bus for our grocery shopping. My secret motive was saving gas for later in the day when we'd feed the ducks at the nearby lake. Later, at home, the children helped in their way, shelving cans or putting things in the fridge as I lifted the turkey to the freezer. After naps, I went to get the house keys from my purse.They weren't there. I dumped the contents on the counter — wallet, tissue, extra pacifier, comb, the usual — but no ring containing house, car, mailbox keys. With children screaming and crying, I called the grocery store — no lost keys. There was no choice but to call their dad. Though he was most unhappy, he had duplicates made and brought them over later that night. Then three days before the big event, I lifted the turkey onto the counter from the brown paper shopping bag — something clunked on the counter   the frozen keys, and now I vaguely remembered trying to unlock the door, carrying the turkey, the three kids all over me, and throwing the keys in the bag I carried. We laughed and laughed at how I froze the keys, and to this day, someone always says, Remember when . . . .
    - Jo Balistreri

I lived in a very lovely apartment in Brooklyn with parquet floors, high molded ceilings, and a small chandelier in the hallway. My next door neighbor was from Canada and she found it difficult to remember that we had an automatic lock on the door. If you closed the door incorrectly, it locked. Ironically, the only local grocery store was called Key Food. She would say to me KEY Food, emphasized in her beautiful accent. Don't know how or why I never forgot my keys there but I certainly was sympathetic to her anxiety.
    - Joan McNerney

The first key is Largo. I drive by the shell sand overgrown with pine, palms and mangrove. Ankle deep coral sits barely offshore; a rainbow of fish perform for tourists wearing the masks of exploration. The next keys run together: Plantation, Windley, Upper Matecumbe, Tea Table, Indian, Lignumvitae, each raised above the sea a few lonely feet. Lower Matecumbe Key, my destination reached, I am half-way home. In my camp near the Long Key Bridge salt-heavy air presses bones weary of travel. I fall asleep to the lullaby of cicada and waves of water and mosquitoes. A week of hikes, swims, and snorkel trips and even I am jaded by gorgeous sunsets and sated by beauty. I return to the calm of ordinary, relax in the hectic chores holding a string of keys in a pocket of memory.
    - Joann Grisetti

Graduation Day and I was to bring our son, the Graduate, in the truck, up to the highway, meet Husband there. We would go with him in his car. Husband told me the keys were in the truck. But I couldn't find them: not in the ignition, on the dashboard, in the glove compartment, or on the floor. I sent Graduate to check the keyboard in the house: not there either. I was frantic, and so was Graduate. Searched the truck again. Husband arrived home. I yelled out the truck window, "We can't find the keys." Husband had left them on the driver's seat: I was sitting on them.
     - Joanna M. Weston

The key to understanding the map is to understand that it isn't about the specific destination but rather it is about the journey itself. On the map, you'll find a legend that indicates mountains, rivers, lakes, and many other sights of wonder and natural areas. As you traverse this map, the schema of your life, take the time necessary to enjoy the beauty, the rugged terrain, the hills and valleys. As you journey, know that you have within you all that you need. You are enough. You are the expression of the underlying reality of all that is. That is the key to the map of life.
    - Katherine May

I don't remember his exact words, but I can still remember the rising pitch of my husband's voice on that Wednesday evening in February, the last one before we became parents, as he spoke into the phone and said something like, "Yes. Her water's broken, she's having contractions, and I've accidentally locked everything . . . her luggage, the car keys, the house keys, everything she needs, in our bedroom. Can you come?"  When the locksmith arrived, he didn't look at me. He ducked his head as he hurriedly followed my husband down the long hall to our bedroom. He worked quickly, and had the door open in minutes. Though we tried to insist, he refused payment. He said, "Have a great baby!" as he raced out the front door, leaving us to retrieve our carefully packed bags and head off to the birthing center. The baby didn't show up for six more hours, but we weren't to know we had so much time. We didn't know anything, really, when it came to that next phase of our lives.
    - Laura Gates-Lupton

Twice since I have lived at my house, I have had Ace Security come out and change the locks on all my doors because I gave a key to my sweetheart, who lives just up the road from me . . . and then we had a falling out and I did not want him coming in any time he pleased. Most recently, just within the last nine months, was the last time I had the locks changed and got all new keys. Then my sweetheart and I reconciled, as we often do, and yes, you guessed it, I gave him a new key. What was I thinking? But now, on this roller coaster relationship, we are once again estranged, and he has a key. I wish he did not, but I don't want to have the locks changed again and I don't want to get yet another set of keys. Ace Security will certainly think I am crazy. Perhaps I am.
    - Leslie Howe

Keys are a symbol of anxiety and worry. Everything must always be locked up tight. The front door, the back door, the shed, the bike. What if, what if, what if? Well, what if someone walks in? What would they take? Would it be replaceable? I mean no one's going to take our family photo albums, or the paintings off our walls. We can buy another iPad, another TV, another bike. Let's throw away all the keys — be open and inviting. Let the world in.
    - Linda Keeler

My father had a key ring with lots of keys, which puzzled me because I never saw him use any of them, except for the car key. The key ring was a simple round piece of metal. He always put it in his pants pocket when he left the house, but he seldom locked the door. We lived in a small town and in those days we often left the doors unlocked. When he wrecked our '57 Chevy, by driving through a yellow light and hitting a utility truck, his keys sat on the shelf for a few weeks, next to the spot usually occupied by his lunch pail.
    - Liz Burns

A hostile little rusty thing, stern and forbidding. Not you. Not in there. Find myself getting furious. The key to everything? Who would write such a sentence, the arrogance! Keys everywhere even invisible. Pianos for sisters and mothers, woodwinds for fathers. Strings for brothers. What key are you in? Who the hell knows, you can't see it. And silent unmusical you, you had a pencil. Weeks after Helen died, a key fell from the ceiling of the tack room landing at my feet. Helen's, on a keychain with a skull. Why now? How did it get in the ceiling? The horse she rode had died a week after she died. His name was Wave, and Helen's name was Hell-on-Wheels. Her key came to me after they both had died. And. Once I found the key to the junked DeLodge that my father had towed home from Detroit. I found it (I never found anything he sent me after) in the gathered blue leather side pocket of the rear seat, along with some francs. We had a car that came from France, barely alive, but still! And I found the key to it. How a word can lead you back to yourself.
    - Lou Robinson

Oh, which one is it? Which one is it? The keys were looped together with a thin strip of leather. They were old keys, not ones from BEST or Yale. Holy shoot, I jammed one in the key hole, turned, and heard the tumbler screech and then give up its "treasure." We were in the boathouse. I inhaled the familiar smells of gasoline, mustiness, and rotting wood. And there was Carmen's skiff — still broken, still sad. We stroked the hull, said a quick Hail Mary for Carmen, and ran out — using the key to lock the door and Carmen's memory.
    - Louise Vignaux

O.K. I'll confess. I googled a list of Nancy Drew books, assuring myself that there had to be several with the word "key" in the title. To my surprise, I could only find one: "The Mystery of the Black Keys."  And to my further surprise, I couldn't remember reading it. Oh, no matter — the real beauty of the Nancy Drew stories for me was not in the specific title or the plot. It was a given that among the characters there would be the dashing, widowed lawyer/father; the fretting housekeeper, Hannah; Nancy's faithful followers — the gentle Beth and the boy-like George; and of course a few nefarious characters who were usually thieves or pretenders of some sort. All the tales were, thankfully, free of real violence. As Nancy swam, hiked, or drove her sedan down perilous cliff roads, I thrilled to each adventure. And they were instructive. After all, how often do we come across the wonderful words "sleuth" or "sinister" today? No, it was never the specific plot that captured my imagination. It was, for this shy, socially inept eleven-year-old girl, an entry into a vivid, romantic, and mysterious world, in which a strong young girl seemed capable of anything. It wasn't even the fact that Nancy was female, although I had more in common with her than with Joe or Frank Hardy. It was that she was young, independent, and so very brave. I needed some bravery then, as much as I do today. In fact, I think I'll wander over to the library and look for "The Mystery of the Black Keys." Don't try to call or text me. I will be busy.
    - Margaret Dennis

I like to keep my keys hanging right by the door. One day when I was in NYC, browsing through the MOMA gift shop, I came upon a white plaster sculpture of a human hand. It is life sized, with outstretched, cupped fingers, and it is designed to hang palm up against the wall. My various keychains each slide down one of the fingers and dangle artfully against each other. Some people might find this ghoulish. I find it hilarious that my keys are actually handed to me each time I go to the door on my way out of the house. It has been a long time since I've lost my keys and can't remember where I left them. They seem to be happy to rest there and I'm happy to have this common, but modernly artful, place to hang them.
    - Marty Blue Waters

The large bronze key that hangs by the mantle in my kitchen has made a very long journey. Its original lock is in the door of the wall around an ancient city in Algeria. The city is now in ruins and the key found its way into a basket of assorted keys in an old man's shop in an oasis in the Sahara. My husband, who is drawn to antiques, discovered it and knew he had to own it, so he bargained diligently and effectively and brought it back to our home in Oran. Our little daughter thought it was wonderful and used it to lock up all her treasures. She called it Goldy. Then it made its way to our home in Ovid, New York, and has taken up residence beside our mantle since 1983.
    - Mary Louise Church

When I was five years old my favorite band was "The Heartbeats," a local group out of Trumansburg, New York. Four women vocalists, playing fiddle, guitar, and bass on the Big Stage at the GrassRoots Festival. Tara Nevins, June, Rose, and someone whose name I can't remember now. They had a song that went: "Whole lot of keys, whole lot of keys in this town. Not enough keys, not enough keys to go around." I loved that band so much and I remember going up to Rose with my parents, after a show, and telling her what a big fan I was.
    - Mary Roberts

On my way to work, heading for Owego, I stopped at a gas station, having run low on gas. For some reason I locked the door as I left the car to fill the tank. Suddenly I realized that I had left my car keys in the ignition. Panic. I worried that I would be late for work. I called AAA and moments later they arrived. It wasn't a disaster after all.
    - Mike Schaff

The most important key when I was in elementary school was my roller skate key. If you were smart you wore it on a string around your neck. But if you also used it for playing hopscotch then you just had to keep it in your pocket and hope that it didn't fall out in the grass. Who remembers these keys, used to tighten the clamps of metal skates onto your shoes, almost to the point of discomfort? They were held in place by stiff leather ankle straps and metal clamps around the toes of your shoes. And long after you took them off you could still feel the sidewalk vibrations that had run through your feet when you skated and could still, unmistakably, feel the pressure of the clamps on your toes, tightened as tight as possible by your skate key.
    - Nancy Osborn

Feats of will or obstinacy occurred in the weeks before my aunt came to live with me, when her husband left her for his lover. Dividing their things, packing up the house, putting down the ancient dog, finding the lost car keys, and driving 600 miles to my town, an hour from the house where he would die of cancer weeks later. My aunt's strength went with him to his lover's house, folded up inside his sweaters, slipped inside LP jackets, snapped shut between the pages of books, a fine dust on the lenses of his eyeglasses. Her ability to pilot life safely was boxed with things to be looted by his lover, who took possession of his body, decided which letters to burn, which to concede to his cast-off wife, who refused to divide his ashes. We are all frail in rejection, depression, grief, but sometimes strong, persistent, and fearless before death, humiliation, desertion. Maybe it's a kind of denial — not knowing what terrible shape we are in lets us find the keys and stolen reserves, drive the distance and insist we be given the ashes — or, in the end, decide that ashes are not worth having.
    - Patti Witten

I have so many keys on my key ring and really only use three. As I looked through all of them I realized that I don't know what the others are for. All unlabeled, basically the same. Where did they come from and where do they go? I'm afraid to throw them out — what if I need them to unlock something; something important? So, I took them off the ring and put them away in an envelope. There if I need them.
    - Paula Culver

My first apartment was on sidewalk level in an old green shuttered building on St. Phillip Street, the French Quarter, New Orleans. 1966. The rent was $60 a month. A green double door guarded the entryway to the courtyard. A key was required. Once, in the early morning hours, I was coming home — altered in a wildly inebriated state — and discovered that I did not have my keys. I panicked. How would I get inside? Along came a young man dressed in jeans and leather jacket and I asked if he could help me. He responded and in some way, I don't remember how, he opened both the entry door and my apartment. He came inside and I freaked out. Suddenly frightened that a stranger was in my apartment, I rushed to the kitchen, got a knife, returned to where he stood with his back to me, and I stabbed him in the back. I heard the leather of his jacket tear. He ran for his life.   
    - Priscilla Walker

My relationship with keys changed eighteen months ago when I moved from Ithaca, New York to Cape Town, South Africa. For many years, the tidiness, safety, and orderliness of my life were reflected in the quantity and quality of the keys I carried. For more than two decades, my key ring contained 5 keys of uniform size and shape, except for the slightly larger car key. Front and back door keys to my home and office. Tidy. In South Africa, everything is locked and, therefore, everything has a key. Burglar bars, security gates, and padlocks exist on every door and window. Even the inside French and sliding glass doors that open onto lovely indoor courtyards in many houses are louvered and locked. Most keys are the big, old-fashioned variety, commonly found in Europe, not the smaller type found in the U.S. South African key rings are heavy and dangle with dozens of keys of varying sizes and shapes. These key rings don't slide easily into pockets and even overpower many purses. It didn't take long for my new, increased key ring to tear a hole in the pocket of my favorite sweatshirt. My life in South Africa is not nearly as tidy, safe, or orderly as I'm used to and this is reflected in the quality and quantity of the keys I now carry.
    - Rukmini Miller

The key to my heart is kindness. And humor. And chocolate, dogs, gardens, and spring breezes. I think I'm easy, so many ways to open my heart.
    - Sara Robbins

I bought a new used car two weeks ago and the same thing happened that always happens. When I changed the keys out, I discovered at least two that no longer belong anywhere. Or anywhere I can currently remember. This is the recurrent problem of random key accumulation. I imagine that keys will go the way of the typewriter sometime in the near future. So, fifty years from now, assuming we're still here, some people will no doubt enjoy the hobby of antique key collecting.
    - Sue Crowley

Last summer, on a warm and sunny day, Mike was off to volunteer for the Cancer Resource Center and needed his car, which was parked in front of mine in our narrow driveway. I was working on the computer, but needed a break, so I grabbed my car keys and backed my car out of the driveway and waved as he drove down the street. I reached for the front door knob to discover I was locked out! No house keys, no cell phone, wearing my slippers and no book to keep me occupied for the two hours he was supposed to be gone. I did have my car keys and knew the general direction he was headed so I got in my car and tried to find him, to no avail. Returning home, I told my neighbors my plight. Just as we were planning a break in —  much to the delight of a ten-year-old — Mike returned home early. Whew!
    - Sue Perlgut

Your key broke in the lock. That key with the imprinted photo of penguins in Antarctica, in the lock that doesn’t lock very well, in the door the police had to break down. One of the doors the police had to break down. The broken part of the key you were able to pry out, the door you were able to sand and reset and bring back into working order. The second door shows cracks and missing veneer and the handle rattles a little. The third door, they could’ve just turned the handle, but by then, I suppose, they were amped up, ready to tackle you and break some furniture. Now you have a new key. Another new key. It’s shiny and silver and hasn’t got stuck anywhere. It turns smoothly in the lock, provides entrance to our home, jingles in your pockets, and gets lost in your mess. It’s not broken, the doors aren’t broken, and I don’t care about the furniture. The key bites into my hand as I warm it, at home, waiting to let you in.
    - Susanna Drbal

As I prepare to go out, I gather up my keys, keys to lock the house, car doors, mailboxes, to keep things safe, closed off, away from prying eyes. The keys of my childhood opened things. I loved playing with a big pewter key that I imagined opened doors in the woods where fairies frolicked among toadstools and fireflies, or unlatched pirates' treasure chests, like the ones printed on the bottom of our backyard pool. My mother opened her jewelry box with an ornate key to give me beads from broken necklaces that I'd restring for dress-up. I remember one day my grandmother took me by the hand, then used a rusty key to open the door to a corner room that had once been my father's, overlooking the din of Manhattan. In first grade, a boy who walked home with me each day gave me a necklace and bracelet set; it had "key-to-my-heart" charms — a tiny pink heart hung next to a gold key. I still have the necklace, but that pewter key got lost somehow as I moved from place to place.
    - Theresa A. Cancro

These were the status symbols for girls in my sixth grade class, 1961: black patent leather Mary Jane shoes with sling-back straps; nylon stockings; a training bra; a pink Princess phone of your very own. I had none of these things. These were the status symbols for the boys: a huge collection of baseball cards to trade; a real leather wallet that could be crammed into the back pocket of a pair of pants; the ability to curse without blushing. I had none of these, either. But what I did have was a small silver key that opened the front door of our apartment at 2004 Vyse Avenue. My mother presented it to me with a flourish, then immediately took it back and zipped it into a small compartment in my pocketbook. "You are mature enough to have this," she said "but I want you to know you will never have to use it. Grandma or I will always be here when you get home from school. You will never have to use the key. But you should have it, in case of an emergency, which there will never be. But still. It's good to be prepared. Don't worry. And don't tell anyone about this." I never used the key. I never told anyone. I was always very worried.
    - Zee Zahava