Tuesday, August 28, 2018

I remember joy

On a recent road trip, I had the chance to see my first childhood friend, my first best friend.  Memories began to flow, as did laughter.  At one point, she commented that my recollections of childhood were better than hers. I probably countered with a joke of some time, but the remark lingered long after our time together. It was a wonderful visit, a golden memory in itself, that I shall cherish the rest of my own remembering. Our time together sparked a flood that hasn't stopped yet. I've sent those following thoughts on to her, but this is the original  piece. It's not polished, but I've decided to let it stand as it is. It was important to me for her to read it as soon as possible. She now has, and while she may have been better than me in swim meets and on the monkey bars, I apparently rock memory recall. (And also in looking up stuff-- the Cape Cod location we stayed in 1959 was Nobscussett Beach, Dennis MA.)

I remember joy
Our childhood filled with exploration
With the freedom we found
as we pumped our legs harder and faster
letting our swings carry us high in the air,
as our imaginations soared even higher
We flew, like the robins we watched for in the spring.

I remember lying on our bellies, tiny girls,  
watching the train circle the Christmas village at Mrs Piper's.
My mother told me once that we met through Mrs Piper, 
before we both could walk.
I secretly thought she was Mrs Claus, and had given me the gift of a best friend.
Plus, she always had cookies, more proof of magic.

I remember the playground behind my house at Oakview
Tumbling about on the tunnels and see-saw, riding the merry-go-round 
Graduating to the jungle gym and monkey bars,
on which you were faster.
Whenever I see two little blonde headed girls on a playground
I wonder if that's how we looked

I remember when your mother brought you to visit me 
when our families each were at Cape Cod.
We would turn 3 that September
We made sand castles, and played in shallow waves while my brothers 
dove the bigger ones.
My mother later took me to the town on the Cape where your family was staying,
So that in a two week vacation, our first apart from each other,
we saw each other twice.

I remember the magic in our own back yards
Where we climbed the mimosa tree in mine,
dug in the sandbox at yours,
Playing that ever wonderful game of "let's pretend"
building adventures far larger than the yard we were in.

I remember driving home from a cross country trip in 1962 with my family.
We'd been away for 3 months, while my father was at Stanford University.
We pulled up to our house at almost 9 pm.
I was inconsolable that I couldn't go see you.
My mother called yours, who said that you were awake, waiting for me to come home
You'd refused to even get in bed until we could see each other.
So, my mother walked me down the hill. 
Once we saw each other, it was ok. We didn't need to stay up-- just to check in.
Then we could sleep. Full reunions would come the next day.

I remember my father coming home from work,
pretending he couldn't tell the two of us apart;
calling you Ambo, and me Ab-the-Rab,
Eventually coining a mixture of our full names to call us both:
AbAm MarLiz HeNa.
And suddenly we were a club of two, giving new dimensions to our play,
hiding amidst the table legs, spying on mothers sipping tea or cleaning kitchens,
whispering, convinced we were invisible.
My mother swore she never read our minutes, and I almost believe her.

I remember the "what if's" about becoming sisters
The only problem was we each didn't want to give up our parents 
thinking the other should move in with our family.
We never worked that one out.

I remember hide and seek
How the best hiding place ever was when you curled behind your father
as he watched TV. 
You covered yourself with pillows.
I searched everywhere, finally when I called "ally ally oxen free",
you crawled out from behind him.
It was better than the time you folded yourself into the hamper, 
and had Nancy put towels on top of it, to trick me from looking inside.

I remember your cats. I remember Harry the parakeet. 
I remember playing in your basement, which was much nicer than ours.
I remember my mother being mildly insulted when I'd ask her to make tuna fish or
lamb chops like Mrs Herson did. 
I remember walking to Packets Pharmacy, Bernstein's Bakery, and Woolworths,
or going to visit your grandma with your mom. 
(She let us stand up in the back seat, which my mother never did.)

I remember Daleview and the swimteam. You were better at that, too, than I was
but I cheered so loudly for you in your first race that I lost my voice.
Summer was filled with those days at the pool, the mixed scents of baby oil and chlorine, 
while the jingle of the Good Humor man's Ice Cream truck played.

I remember how our parents put us in Nursery School together, 
my mother switching me from the one my brothers had attended because I got in on legacy, but they didn't have space for you;
how Mrs Alderton thought we needed to be separated in elementary, which we were until 6th grade.
I remember when my family moved away that summer, you gave me a surprise party.
I kept that pen with a huge feather, which you gave me, though two more moves, 
then it flew off.

I remember Greek Dodge on the blacktop, and kick the can on at the corner 
of Walden and Schyler
the kids our age we'd play with, 
or how my mother took a school picture every year of Abby, Amy, and Judy.
Only a few of those are left, but probably that's ok- none of us were at our best then.

I remember other stuff too:
being at your home when my mother was in the hospital,
or the day Kennedy died,
or the time you cut your hand when it when thought the glass door.
Or the Beatles were taking over the music scene, and we couldn't decide
which one we liked best. (though maybe that was me, and you knew all along.)

I remember going off to sleep-away camp with you (you didn't like the lack of plumbing).
Or you coming to visit me in St Louis after we moved, and me coming back to see you.
And when we moved to Charleston, you and your mom got tickled because there was a case of Elephantitis in the news and the person was from Charleston
Then later, discovering friends in college who knew you at Blair.
Or visiting you at Emory.

I remember how we kept in touch over all these years.
I came to your wedding. Your parents walked hand in hand. It was wonderful.
You didn't make mine, but only because your first child decided to be born within a few hours of the ceremony. 
Your pearl earrings were my "something borrowed"; 
I danced with Lenny at the reception.

I remember hearing a woman laugh, just a few years ago,
and thinking it was you.
It wasn't, but she and I have become good friends.
When she laughs, I hear two people--
her, plus that bubble in your voice when you're amused.
I can almost see that sparkle in your eyes.

Maybe we didn't see each other frequently,
but we've talked and written-- never missed a birthday, though once or twice the wishes might have been a little belated (probably me, late, but I always came through.)
We've helped each other through loss, and celebrated the good stuff
I wish I knew your family better, but revel in the bits that I've heard from you.
I have gained other friends, but hold the inaugural best friend spot entirely for you.
Seeing you this summer has been one of the most precious memories, 
not only of Abby and Amy, but of my life.
Your courage awes me, your spirit inspires me.
And I still love talking to you, like we did long after lights out on our sleepovers.

Quite simply, I cannot remember a time when you weren't in my world,
which is a better place for having you in it.
I have so many more memories of our childhood, 
as well as the years that followed.

One thing is clear, though:
I think I owe Mrs Piper a huge debt of gratitude.
Best Christmas present EVER.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Calculating the Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

I absolutely adored the The Lady Astronaut  of Mars byMary Robinette Kowal, featuring the same lead character as this book. I kept waiting for this Elma to grow into that one-- and undoubtedly she will, though it will be in the period between the end of this book and the beginning of the novella. Either way, there still was a lot to enjoy about this story, and the premise has given me lots to think about-- a meteorite strikes the east coast of the US in 1952, wiping out cities and lives, setting the world up for drastic climate change. It also causes drastic changes in the timeline for the US Space program.

Things I liked about this book: the relationship the two Drs York have, both the playfulness, and the support they give each other, how Elma's eyes are slowly opened to the inequality to those Americans not fortunate enough to be born white or male, the friendships that existed and the strength many of the characters showed. Yes, this is an alternative history, and the science behind that "what if" is fascinating, but like Kowal's other books, it is the relationships between the characters that drives the story.

I did listen to the audio version, read by the author, and I admit to willing suspension of disbelief when she tried to do what she thought would be a Charleston accent speaking Yiddish or Hebrew.

From the publisher:
A meteor decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for a much larger share of humanity to take part.

One of these new entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too—aside from some pesky barriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations about the proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may not stand a chance.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Childhood treasures

Amy and Abby, 1959. Is it weird that I still remember that hat?
My three best friends, when I was a girl, were Abby, Morgan, and Cindy. Abby lived on the next block from my family. I was born 12 hours ahead of her, almost to the exact minute, but as my birth time was in the evening and hers in the morning, our birthdays fell on different days. Childhood memories are filled with adventures with Abby, everything from swing sets, snow days, swimming, and secret clubs. We stayed friends even as we grew older. I moved away, and we still kept in touch. I was at her wedding, but she wasn't at mine. Her excuse was pretty good, though. She'd given birth the night before to her eldest child. After my mother and brother died, Abby has been one of the only people who still calls me the Yiddish affectionate version of my name: Amele (pronounced Aim-a-la). She is still one of the people in that "best friends" group for me.

Amy and Morgan 1959
Morgan came to me even before Abby, but not by much. Morgan is a plush toy dog, that I only recently discovered has some sort of connection with the Gary Moore show.  Apparently, he was the perfect gift for a newborn girl in 1956, because I received two. The story is that my mother was delighted, because when the first one wore out, she pitched it and gave me the second one. She couldn't understand why I wept inconsolably for several days at the loss of my stuffed dog, and refused to give any notice to the pretender. But eventually, the new Morgan dog became the pillow that caught my tears, and we bonded. Morgan had a nose that squeaked, soft satiny ears, button eyes, and my deep love.

Amy and Cindy at YellowStone 1963

 Cindy came to me the year I started Kindergarten. A baby doll, with a soft body, and blond hair, she accompanied me on a trip across the country that my family took in 1962. Unfortunately for Cindy, by 1963, Pebbles Flintstone had been born and I took to putting her hair up in a barrette to imitate the  cartoon baby. Cindy (like the first Morgan) got rather battered from constant loving, so my mother decided to replace her. Rather than suffer the indignities of a wailing child for several weeks, she thought that involving me in the replacement process would be a good idea. So, my parents and I went off to Toys R Us and wandered the aisle until we found an updated Cindy doll to be a replacement. I promptly named her Daisy, and much to my mother's chagrin, refused to give up Cindy, because now, with the addition of Daisy, Abby had a doll to play with at our house, too. My mother embraced the idea, and that year, for holiday gifts, presented both dolls with handmade gowns, embroidered with their names. The girls have them still and wear them proudly.

Elanor, Amy, and a whole lotta well loved toys
Sadly, the younger generation in my family has shown little interest in my old toys. But recently, Cindy, Daisy, and Morgan, as well as my whole collection of "foreign dolls" (foreign in quotes because included in the collection are Native American, Hawaiian, Amish, and unspecified American dolls as well as ones from Holland, Japan, China, Greece, Italy, Germany, France, Denmark, and some other places in between) have come to find a new heart to love them all. The daughter of a dear friend, she's a strong girl: bright, compassionate, artistic, and lively. Her favorite song is It's a small world. When asked if she was interested in the dolls, learning that they were well loved and old, she said it doesn’t matter if dolls are older or newer, it only matters what their personality is. This large hunk of my childhood  (including Daisy, with Abby's blessing),  now resides in the childhood of another girl, blossoming and growing into new experiences. Thank you Elanor; I know these beloved companions will bloom in the garden of your love. 

(Botton picture is Elanor with Morgan and Raggity Ann, another childhood treasure, and me with Cindy and Daisy. Foreign doll collection is on the table in front of us.)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank

Sometimes Dottie Frank has me laughing so hard I fear I may have to change my panties, other times are a total miss. Luckily for me, this time was a winner. I had the good fortune to hear the author the week before the book was officially out, when she co-hosted and spoke at the spring Books and Authors luncheon, sponsored by the Post Courier. One of the authors had to bow out at the last minute, so  Ms Frank filled in. As usual, she was warm, engaging, and downright hilarious. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, regardless of if you like her books or not (or like me, like some of them, but are not fond of others) go hear her. For her fabulous ability to engage an audience while speaking, she is one of my favorite authors, let alone for her ability to catch elements of the lowcountry in her writing. She's got a way with words, and an eye for what makes entertaining reading (as evidenced by this book, inspired by her two children each getting married, and by the birth of her first grandchild.)

For the record, DBF had a magic way with the rules of publishing and was able to swing copies her book for the luncheon, the week before the actual publishing date. I didn't complain!

From the publishers:
In this thoughtful, timely, humorous, and bighearted tale, perennial New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank examines what happens when a young sophisticated Chicagoan falls for the owner of a farm on Johns Island, a lush Lowcountry paradise off the coast of South Carolina-trading the bustle of a cosmopolitan city for the vagaries of a small southern town.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lies That Bind US by Andrew Hart

Despite the fact it's taken me a few weeks to sit down at the computer and write my thoughts, it's not the fault of the book or the author. I broke my patella a month or so back, and my computer sits in a location at my home quite inconvenient to wiggling in with ambulation aids. I am loathe to do much on my iPad or phone, because I make so many typos anyway, and that number multiplies on those devices. It's really vanity speaking, because I like Andrew Hart and enjoy the few conversations I've had with him when he's used his other name, so don't want him believing me to be a total dullard. Ah vanity...
As to the book, I truly enjoyed it. A good suspense novel engages the mind and grabs the attention. This also seemed to grab my fingernails, because several are now mere nubs, when I am sure I had a full set at the start of the book. I loved the weaving of mythology and location into the story.  Mr Hart blended a intriguing tale of friendship, betrayal, and regaining of trust, along with the additional element of danger. The tension ramps up pretty quickly, especially after the fatal flaw of the main character is revealed.
Bottom line? Read the book. You'll get a good yarn, and might just learn something in the process.

From the publisher:
From a prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author comes a chilling novel of deception under the sun…

Jan needs this. She’s flying to Crete to reunite with friends she met there five years ago and relive an idyllic vacation. Basking in the warmth of the sun, the azure sea, and the aura of antiquity, she can once again pretend—for a little while—that she belongs. Her ex-boyfriend Marcus will be among them, but even he doesn’t know the secrets she keeps hidden behind a veil of lies. None of them really know her, and that’s only part of the problem.

Then again, how well does she know them?

When Jan awakens in utter darkness, chained to a wall, a manacle around her wrist, her echoing screams only give her a sense of how small her cell is. As she desperately tries to reconstruct what happened and determine who is holding her prisoner, dread covers despair like a hand clamped over her mouth. Because, like the Minotaur in the labyrinth in Greek myth, her captor will be coming back for her, and all the lies will catch up to her…

Monday, May 14, 2018

Immediate Dead by Blue Cole

love the premise of this story: Young cop gets transferred Homicide and is paired with the notorious detective nicknamed The Reaper, who has closed out far more cases than everyone else. His secret (and it is a secret from everyone he works with) is that he's able to converse with the recently dead. His prime witness is the person just knocked off. Pretty cool, huh? But even his plucky, organized, and smart new partner doesn't know his secret. Will his surly introverted nature run her off, or will they go on to become a team made in heaven (or hell, depending on how you view things)? And remember, she's plucky, organized, and smart, and intent on finding out what's driving him.

This was my first Blue Cole book, and an early one of his. The premise, as I said, wowed me. I'm looking forward to following the characters, and also watching the author evolve in his craft. Also, it was fun to see characters named after folks Blue and I both know through the ever wonderful JordanCon, a yearly fantasy con dedicated to the memory of Robert Jordan, which is fast turning into a celebration of fantasy literature and art, while remaining a heck of a good time.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cold Bath Street by A.J. Hartley

I will be honest: stories that dip into horror are not my thing, but AJ Hartley is one of my favorite authors, so I decided to read this. It wasn't easy getting a copy. When I first tried, the book was not even listed on amazon (now listed, but currently sold out, as the book has gone into a second printing.), and unheard of by other booksellers. I finally tracked a copy down through Book Depository (fantastic service and free shipping to the US from UK). Was it worth it? You betcha!

Preston Oldcort's nightmare returned. The Bannister Doll, with all its ghostly horror had come after him, and he finds himself flat out on the sidewalk, waking from the terror-- only to find that it is true, and he is dead, trapped in an in-between place, where the all the horrors of the ghost world  are real.

AJ Hartley set this book in his hometown, and uses the setting, including the local legends and stories to full advantage. AS I said, horror isn't my genre of choice, but a well-told ghost story is terrific. And this is a good tale. (Plus the cover is maybe one of my all-time favorites. You have to see it in person to understand the true nature of it, though I did put up a video over at Instagram.

2018-read, a-favorite-author, great-cover, made-me-look-something-up, met-or-know-the-author, not-my-usual-read, read, ya-lit

Publisher blurb:
Preston Oldcorn is in a desolate void between life and death. In order to save his soul he must brave his greatest fear - Cold Bath Street. A gothic thriller - think Hunger Games crossed with Artemis Fowl - that will keep you gripped to the end. Stunning black and white illustrations throughout.