Weekly Writing Challenge: A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? Prove it! This week’s challenge couldn’t be simpler: tell a story based on this picture. You can take this in whatever direction you’d like. Write some fiction. Who are these people? What’s their backstory? What’s going on in this picture? What happens next? Construct a history for us. Write from your own experience. Do one of these people remind you of someone you know, or of something that’s happened to you? Connect the dots for us. Go on a flight of fancy. Who knows what pops into your head when you take a look? Grab the first thing and go with it! We’ll tell you the truth behind the photo in next week’s challenge post, but we’re sure it won’t be nearly as interesting as what you come up with!”

Greg, Dad and Me circa 1951

Yes, that’s our dad holding our hands. My mom took this photo. I’m three. My brother’s five. Greg. I’m Anne. My neck was sweating between the coat collar and the bonnet. Itchy, really. Greg’s cap is hiding a bad, homemade haircut that my mom gave him. What? Oh no, we weren’t angry, just serious. We were a loving serious family that day about to go to church. Mom’s wearing a lovely royal blue dress with light pink trim around the collar and long cuffs, a matching trapeze coat and low black heels. She was, as my dad used to say, “a real looker.” She had to put her pocketbook down because it was making her arm shake and interfering with the photograph she was trying to take. Then she and my dad switched places, and he took one of her, me and Greg. I don’t know what happened to it. Too bad. It pains me. I ought to have both photos.

If photographs reflected reality, not just as a snapshot of a moment, but as ongoing reality, I would be the only one in the photo. An absurd take on Dorian Gray.

What happened.

What happened?

Well… Continue reading

Have a Franken-Fabulous Witchy-Wonderful Halloween

Our minds and our memories — two of life’s mysteries. The memory of last month can get lost in a fog, yet thirty, forty or even fifty years ago can remain with us with so much clarity. Marcel Proust (“Remembrance of Things Past,” is also known in English and in French as “In Search of Lost Time“) had his cookie, and with that petite madeleine, Proust illustrates how pieces of our past can emerge before us and give birth to a string of memories. In Proust’s case, the prompt is a taste.  In my case it’s an internal clock with a double alarm setting, one for the beginning of school of the school year (which I’ll save for another post) and Halloween. Continue reading

Zora the Beautiful

Her soulful look

She was half-feline, half-spirit, and on June 25, 2012, a Monday, she left her body behind and entered the realm of pure spirit. She answered to Zozo, Zorita, and Pretty Face. Near the end I thought of her as Zora the Beautiful. And she was. Even at sixteen, I thought she looked half her age. Continue reading

Precious: Her Earthly Biography

On Monday afternoon, December 1, 2009, a year to the day that we moved into our current apartment, my sweet, beautiful little cat, Precious, shook off her transient identity, as we Buddhists say, left her useless body behind, and merged with the universe. Once again. On Halloween she was diagnosed with a tumor growing in her chest cavity and obscured views of her heart on the X-rays. I had not expected such news, though I knew something accounted for the subtle change in her breathing that I detected. She was a modest, uncomplaining little creature, but believe me, she wouldn’t mind one bit that I write a cyberspace memorial to her. Memorial, right, because she would not warm to the word obituary. Continue reading

WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Down Memory Lane

Lesson I: Memories & Illusions

for Tina & Ronnie in memory of our mother;


Listen to me:

This is the blouse she wore on the merry-go-round

lemon and cherry lovebirds beaking the other

I am smoothing the wrinkles against our chests

it is the motion of pressing time backwards

The sandals that never wore the feet that

touched the pavement with you to school

acorns and berries on straw antique weave

round red toes were her statements on life.

We called these her kangaroo clothes

room enough for us to raise the world

ma ma mu mu  me me  mo

literary songs from kangaroo babies.

Listen to me:

Do you remember the color of her arms

the exact shade of black I mean

And how her reds bled into her browns

or how her nipples wet your searching mouths

when she was a leaf tarnished in autumn

or roses and the color of her anger

and vanilla oxydol and her wintertime smell

the wind would part around her

and return for a second try.

Listen to me:

This woman was the sea roaring our scars

She was the sea rocking our fears

and gushing our dreams to shore

Then she became the day dying in her own hair

and the night trying to resurrect herself.

Art: “The Persistence of Memory” by Salvador Dali; “Light My Fire” by Lena Karpinsky; “Winter” by Robert Lacy

The Teacher and the Tattoo

Girl with full arm tattoosAbout five nights ago I was talking to two neighborhood young people, a guy and his girlfriend. I hadn’t seen them in a while and they spotted me outside, so we stood in the cold and caught up on things. The conversation soon turned to tattoos – her father had spotted tats that he didn’t know she had. The parents didn’t like it one bit. I told her that her parents, being Jewish, had a completely different take on and experience with tats. She went on to explain that they were from a different era and that things had changed. She also added that sometimes people disparage those who are tattooed, not knowing that each tattoo has a story behind it. That got me to thinking about an upsetting incident that I witnessed many years ago in high school. I must have been in the ninth grade.

Mr. Harry Siegal was not only my English teacher but the editor of “The Triangle,” the school newspaper on which we worked. The paper’s name was a reference to the shape of our school, Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Aerial view of Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Then, as now, I thought he was the finest teacher that ever inhabited a classroom. Mr. Siegal taught English and literature with freshness and sometimes excitement, especially if it was an author that he especially loved, like Charles Dickens or the poet John Donne. He was generous with praise and just as generous with criticism.  Around 5 feet tall, if that, he had a large presence in the classroom. He wore his hair parted on the side and combed away from his face. He was always dressed in a dark suit and always with white, starched, long-sleeved shirts, even during the hotter months as the school year drew to a close. The one thing I remember about him was his shoes. He had the longest, shiniest, highly-polished pointiest-toed shoes I’d ever seen on anyone’s, especially on a man of his height. The toes on those shoes could have picked locks, or cleaned ears. We didn’t know much else about him except that he was single and lived with his mother. We thought that was a hoot, for even in the ninth grade many of us dreamed of the day when we could move out of the house and leave our mothers (and fathers and siblings) behind. But Mr. Siegel was my favorite teacher, and even today, whenever I hear of teachers’ awards and recognition, Mr. Siegel’s name, voice, and form come to mind. Continue reading