Friday, June 30, 2017

What We Are Nostalgic For

I recently watched a documentary called "If These Knishes Could Talk: The Story of the New York Accent." At one point an interviewer asked Pete Hamill what he was nostalgic for. I thought that was a great question so I posed it in the writing groups and we used that as our spark for a 5-minute warm-up on the last week of circles before summer break. Here is a sample of the responses:

the yellow T-shirt I had with the word "yellow" written across the front (in red); holding a warm dachshund on my lap while reading; running downhill as fast as I could; living with a total lack of self-consciousness; playing kickball in the middle of the road

cigarettes; wearing make-up (for stage characters); my thin body; meeting my parents half-way between Buffalo and Ithaca, to eat and talk and laugh and love; my cats, and how we all lived and slept together

looking at life through a clear, positive lens, and feeling easy about things; the comfortable feeling that each day is filled with possibilities for a peaceful time without anxiety or depression; living with less pressure to be perfect; my first romantic relationship

the Mr. Softee ice cream truck coming down the street, with that jingle playing, and the window so high up in the truck that the ice cream man had to lean way to down to collect our 25-cents and give us all a cone of sweet twirled ice cream in our favorite flavors

life on the road in a motor home; the excitement of the first day of school and also the anticipation of the last day of school; my dad's barbecue chicken; crabbing in the bay off Somers Point; the 4th of July family picnics at my grandparents' home; sailing on Skaneateles Lake; carmel corn

Amazons; real southern fried chicken, the way my mother made it; my father's favorite tractor; intelligent legislation; my sailor hat from 3rd grade

maple "sugaring off" parties; walks through an Austrian village, with the castle before me, the river behind me, and the glorious mountains on each side; making blanket houses with my sister on the porch railing; mom's chocolate pie; mom and dad singing duets; marching around the bandstand at concerts, a part of every summer Thursday evening; finding new paths through the woods on walks with my husband

purple popsicles; my shooter marbles that my mother gave away, along with the marble bag I'd made myself; my one-person pop-up tent; summer days at my grandparents' farm where we could wander in the woods as we pleased; kickball games and croquet tournaments with neighbor kids; the screened-in porch of our childhood home, which served as a summer living room

warm sunny summer days when I could take a nap under the white pine trees, on a soft bed of golden needles

the Beatles; my long hair; my father's laughter; my mother's hoe cake, fried chicken, and turnip greens (cooked with bacon); being a carefree child; my Annie Oakley costume; hot sex

my mother's voice when she read "Winnie the Pooh" to me; the Corner Bookstore's children's book section; being able to find shoes I liked, in a size that fit, in a real store; the farm where I lived as a child, for only three years, but being in that place remains one of my fondest memories

leaving the front door of the house open; riding my bike; holding a cat on my lap; receiving a paycheck; reading the Nancy Drew mysteries; my New York City apartment — a 5th floor walk-up in Little Italy, with the bathtub in the kitchen

Friday night dinners at my grandparents' apartment — roast chicken, peas & carrots out of a can, pineapple cheesecake for dessert — all the cousins coming together ever single week; wearing paisley; the ability to sleep through the night without waking up to go to the bathroom; small shops devoted to selling one single thing, like buttons

the enormous courtyard of our apartment building, filled with as many as a dozen kids, sometimes more: jumping rope, playing jacks, dressing our Barbies, drawing a new hopscotch court every day, bouncing a ball to the rhythm of A-My-Name-is-Alice

summer drives along a winding creek road with my best friends filling every seat in the car; all the fragrances in my grandmother's house; Neil Young playing on repeat through loud speakers; tube rides down the creek, giggling all the way

time spent in Zeno's Pub and also in The Gaff, where happy hour turned into 2 a.m., with no time in between — conversations, laughing, dancing, and beer-soaked optimism allowing this nightly time warp to occur

eating ice cream sandwiches at noon on a hot day, with the vanilla ice cream melting quickly between the chocolate wafers; the sound of the lonely loon, searching for its mate across the lake at night

McCall's sewing patterns; Jimmy Carter as president, airplane trips with no TSA pat-downs; dresses with smocking; rouge; pencil boxes; Crayola crayon colors that have since been retired; television with just 3 networks to choose from; roads without potholes; Chevy Novas

being too young to make decisions; the way Jell-o and Cool Whip tasted, together; an old-fashioned small town fair; having lots and lots of days with nothing to do; writing everything with a fountain pen; having a live Christmas tree, fully decorated, every year

revolution; free love; Be-Ins; dancing in the street; youthful idealism; passion, commitment, and hope

rampant flirtatiousness; instant arousal; constant eroticism — feeling it in the air, in the street, with anyone I met or came across; sexual tension; Marvin Gaye

new things to learn and discover; endless possibilities; that dreamy state of innocence and joy

telephone booths; strawberry ice cream sodas with whipped cream and a cherry, served in a ruffle-topped glass goblet at the soda fountain in the drug store

radio shows that my parents listened to but if I crept quietly out of my room and stood in the hall I could hear them too: The Great Gildersleeve, Dragnet, Inner Sanctum, Meet Corliss Archer

all the kids playing stick ball on my block, gathering in the middle of the street to pick sides — Bruce's driveway was home base, first base was the Lombardi's, and across the street was my driveway — second base

the first kayak trip on the Bog River in the Adirondacks; an old-fashioned doctor's visit and the friendly nurse whose name I knew and whose uniform was always clean and crisp; when people had jobs pumping your gas for you; the clacking sound of typewriter keys

my vast expert knowledge of the New York City subway routes, especially the trains running from the Bronx to Manhattan, and back again; The Shari Lewis Show, with Charlie Horse, Hush Puppy, and Lamb Chop; rowing a boat on a clean lake, my sister and I sitting beside each other, one oar apiece, singing "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" until we become hoarse

a kind of general innocence among us that is now difficult even to name

Thank you to all these contributors:

Barbara Anger
Barbara Cartwright
Chris McNamara
Gabrielle Vehar
Grace Celeste
Heather Boob
Kim Falstick
Linda Keeler
Liz Burns
Marcy Little
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Nancy Osborn
Patti Witten
Sara Robbins
Stacey Murphy
Sue Crowley
Sue Norvell
Sue Perlgut
Susan Lesser
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava

Friday, June 2, 2017

What Makes You Happy?

This collective list was gathered over many months, by Zee Zahava, the 2017 Tompkins County Poet Laureate. The "Happiness Project" was designed to be featured during the weekend of Ithaca Festival (June 2, 3, 4) — a time of celebration! We hope you will enjoy reading what makes other people happy. And perhaps you will feel inspired to think about the things that make YOU happy!

Happiness is . . . .
seeing the sky change from night to day — the way light and color come through the darkness; rocking on a sailboat; holding my granddaughter in my arms; feeling free, feeling respected, feeling connected; being calm, being one with nature; all my people liking each other; feeling my dog resting his chin on my knee; imagining what animal I was before I was me; throwing away the alarm clock because it no longer matters what time I wake up; being lost in the creation of a painting

Happiness is . . . .
realizing that my lingering cough has packed up and moved on; learning a new way to hear an old song; my daughter's smile, different now that she is a new mother; being alive in the world; the aroma of baking bread; hiking the Cascadilla Gorge with friends; looking upon the complexity of Ithaca and seeing some sort of order; spring flowers, cardinals, and bright yellow rubber boots; eating bean soup on a cold day; eating ice cream in the heat; feeling close to a dear friend — having good conversation and knowing I am totally accepted

Happiness is . . . .
a well-cooked meal, spiced with stimulating conversation, and good laughs for dessert; being surrounded by loved ones, humans and others; a summer day, sitting on the porch, feeling a gentle breeze; winter sunshine, warm enough to melt icicles; keeping balloons up in the air to entertain my two-year-old granddaughter; sitting under blankets on the porch, with my family, which includes rats, pigs, dogs, and cats … as well as people; warm-hearted times with good friends, laughing, loving, and living; sitting in my green corduroy chair, a warm dog on my lap, reading a really good book; feeling the sun on my face as I walk with a friend on the waterfront trail; swimming and floating in a pond on a beautiful summer day

Happiness is . . . .
a cascading waterfall of bliss; sitting with my 13-pound, 13-year-old tiger-cat; tossing a piece of your heart to a friend and knowing that it has been caught; bringing a smile to others; a warm enveloping hug from any one of my special friends; catching the scent of lilacs after dusk; the rush of wings and the cry of a black, white, and red beauty — a pileated woodpecker is flying by; discovering that your checkbook balance exactly matches your bank statement balance; walking in nature with a pack of joyous dogs; figuring out what the story was, when you see tracks in the snow

Happiness is . . . .
spring flowers blooming in February; when you feel completely free from the fear of misjudgment from other people; Tic Tacs, in a 12-pack; the first medicinal cup of coffee; waking up in the morning and not having any place I have to go; sleeping on the screened-in porch in the summer; bright sunshine extending to a far horizon; eating ice cream on a winter day; the moment after you finish writing a new song; when my head hits the pillow at the end of the day; accepting what is, and what might be; knowing that my mother loved me

Happiness is . . . .
self-respect; setting a boundary that doesn't harm another person; finding just the right place to sit, in a delicious patch of sun; walking slowly, bowing deeply, feet planted on the earth; a new friendship that you know will cause you to ask important questions about how to be happy; a slight change in the day that I notice but don't cling to; waking before dawn, reading and writing before the day begins; tossing a blue frisbee; having multiple unabridged dictionaries in my room; eating a succulent mango and avocado-on-toast; knowing that my children have found what they are looking for; looking out the window the same second a woodpecker appears

Happiness is . . . .
having no particular place to go but still going anyway; watching a muted football game while listening to a Verdi opera; rain, just enough, followed by sun; knowing there is enough yummy leftover casserole for tonight's supper; finding a parking spot right where I need it; feeling arms around my legs — a surprise hug from my five-year-old grandson; riding my bike downtown, no parking worries; plowing through dozens of cookbooks, food magazines, and recipe cards and stumbling upon something unexpected; going to the mailbox and seeing a handwritten letter from my sister; seeing the tulip buds in the garden and knowing I'll be there tomorrow to see them bloom

Happiness is . . . .
seeing deer hopping over a fallen log; having a breakthrough in my thoughts and then sharing that with someone who really understands; realizing that it doesn't matter why something makes me happy, it's enough that it just does; drawing stick figures on the sidewalk with egg-shaped chalk; having at least four murder mysteries sitting on my shelf, waiting for me; greeting strangers with a smile and a few friendly words, during my morning walk, and realizing that this is a good trait I've inherited from my father; knowing I won't have to wear heavy wool socks again for at least six months; rehearsing a play; a good hair day; rain on the roof, a cat in your lap, a new notebook, and a working pen

Happiness is . . . .
walking across the grass and realizing that I'm no longer sinking in mud; listening to Brazilian music and watching children dancing; not something I take for granted; finishing a project I've been working on for months and discovering that I like the way it turned out; eating a wonderful piece of Swiss chocolate that has a surprise filling of raspberry jelly; being the favorite uncle; knowing that everyone who should be home, and asleep in bed, is; when the oatmeal turns out just right and I find a ripe banana in the fruit bowl; my dog, always at my feet wanting a treat, but I believe it's really love she wants; she can't fool me

Happiness is . . . .
when my brother calls on the telephone and we laugh all the way to our childhood; seeing a chipmunk and a sparrow drinking together at the bird bath; finding my car in the parking lot at Wegmans; watching a mother robin bring long blades of grass to add to the nest she's building; is the slightly downhill part of a path toward the end of my seven-mile run, where I feel fast and invincible; laughing with friends over shared mistakes; going for a morning walk without feeling any back pain; seeing a smile on a stranger's face; making plans to go on a trip and have an adventure

Happiness is . . . .
simplicity, acceptance, joy, gratitude; repeating my daily mantra; watching my skittish dog, stretched out in the middle of a king size bed, sleeping; growing emotionally and spiritually; watching the spring flowers as they smile toward the sun; coming close to accomplishing my biggest goals; feeling the love of my parents, supporting me; returning to Ithaca after 6 months away and hearing a good friend call out my name; a literary festival, where I get to go to 3 readings, 1 theatre performance, 1 demonstration, and 1 workshop; going to the Friends of the Tompkins County Book Sale, after hearing a reading given by an old friend

Happiness is . . . .
the thrilling colors of ranunculus; feeling my grandma's soft, aged hand in mine; having access to arts, and to artists, in Ithaca, New York; listening to evocative language and having glimpses into the past; always learning something new; going into Rite Aide and having a clerk lead you to exactly what you are looking for, with a cheery voice and smile; seeing the first blooms, peonies; feeling a cool ocean breeze after the rain; wrapping up in the coziest blanket just when I need it most; having a bowl of popcorn all to myself; returning home during a damp, cool May after many  months of hot, dry, drought in South Africa; thinking about a person you love and knowing that she is thinking about you at the very same moment


Ailish Mckeever
Amy Callahan
Annie Carter
Annie Wexler
Antoinette Powell
Ari Wunderlich
Barbara Anger
Barbara Kane Lewis
Beth Brunelle
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Cheryl Gallien
Christine Sanchirico
Connie Zehr
Daniel Cooper
Debbie Allen
Diana Ozolins
Diane Ferriss
Edna Brown
Emma Abbey
Fran Helmstadter
Frances Fawcett
Gabrielle Vehar
Gerri Jones
Ginny Rukmini Miller
Gwen Daniels
Howard Chong
Ileen Maxwell-Kaplan
Jane Dennis
Janet Byer Sherman
Janet Steiner
Jannie Lee Lewis
Jean McPheeters
Kim Falstick
Larry Roberts
Liam Lawson
Linda Keeler
Liz Burns
M J Richmond
Maimouna Phelan
Mara Alper
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Matthew McDonald
Michelle Kornreich
Nancy Osborn
Nancy Spero
Olivia Jasinski
Patricia Longoria
Patty Porter
Peggy Stevens
Peter Ladley
Rob Sullivan
Ross Haarstad
Ruth O'Lill
Saskya vanNouhuys
Sharon K. Yntema
Shirley Hogg
Stacey Murphy
Sue Crowley
Sue Henninger
Sue Norvell
Sue Perlgut
Susan Austern
Susan Koon
Susan Lesser
Tara Kane
Tina Wright
Trish Schaap
Veronica D. Pillar
Zee Zahava