Rainy Day Writing

Writing, Reading, Inspirations and Aspirations

In Search of The Lost Blog Post

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Photo: Ilona Elliott

Last night I dreamed about a perfect blog post. In my dream, I was thinking to myself what a wonderful blog post! Surely, it will be one of my best. It made perfect sense. It was witty. It was timely. It was so good.

Then I woke up. I remembered that I was dreaming of the perfect blog post. What was it about again?

Now, maybe it was the perfect post, but more likely it was just some three A.M. gobbledygook slipping in and out of various open and closed doors in my sub conscious mind as I slept. That’s the thing about dreams. They make sense while you’re in them, until you leave. They’re a lot like relationships that way.

If it was like most of my dreams, it might have investigated the parallels between the grocery shopping habits of soviet born octogenarians and the dietary preferences of Sumatran orangutans . My dreaming mind would consider this an absolutely genius idea for an essay.

But for some reason, I think the dream blog post had something to do with machinery of some sort. The only visual memory I have is of a metal framework– small, residential sized, painted red. Just an empty frame, like the ghost of an MST 3000 Bot.

Perhaps my perfect dream blog post explored the dating lives of a Steam Suction Carpet Cleaner and a Generation 2000 Kirby Vacuum. That would be interesting. It could include some serious discussion about dating etiquette for house hold appliances, maybe even an online survey about who picks up the crumbs on the first date.

Whatever that super genius blog post was, it’s lost to me now. All I had left upon waking were these hypothetical thoughts that I’ve just recorded, which were keeping me awake and which sounded so good to me at three A.M. this morning I had to sneak out of the master bedroom in the dark, shuffle blindly around the kitchen for a pencil, retrieve a torn envelope out of the recyclables, and sit on the toilet in the guest bathroom to write this shit down before it was lost forever. It was dark in there and I had no glasses. But I was determined. The truly amazing thing to me when I got up today was that I could actually read what I had written.  I took my time forming the letters and I must say, the penmanship is quite impressive considering the circumstances. The content is another matter. I’m not sure it’s holding up in the light of day. But I’ll let you be the judge of that.

As I sat on the toilet in the dark bathroom, writing, it occurred to me that in certain circles my behavior might be considered cause for concern. I prayed my husband wouldn’t wake up and find me there, blindly scratching words on an envelope cradled in the Street Rodder Magazine in my lap. I especially prayed he wouldn’t read them.  I wondered, ever so briefly, if I might indeed be succumbing to the same late onset mental disorder a close relative of mine developed at about my age. It may be something to bring up with their spouse next time we converse. That is, if my spouse doesn’t beat me to it.

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

What’s Your Name, Little Girl? or An Ode to Ilo

I learned early in life to answer to anything that vaguely resembled my name.

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Autonomy, Monogamy, The Tree and Me: An Analogy of Love and Marriage

Where the touch of the lover ends
And the soul of the friend begins
There’s a need to be separate and a need to be one
And a struggle neither wins 

©From the song Sky Blue and Black by Jackson Browne 

The old man flew away recently to visit family for a week. It was a week of autonomy for me, something quite unusual. He’s been my mate since we met in 1973. We’ve been married now over 38 years. Yeah, I know, forever.

I dropped him at the airport Tuesday afternoon. After channel surfing for an hour Tuesday night I turned the TV off and forgot about it. I listened to music on You Tube: John Coltrane, Greg Lake, Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne–any damn thing I felt like. I ate lot’s of almond butter sandwiches. For three days in a row, I ate waffles with extra bran in the batter for breakfast. I ate scrambled eggs for dinner. Sometimes I sat at the kitchen island and shoveled romaine into my pie hole like a stoned hamster. It was great.

I sat in bed at night with the laptop listening to music and scrolling through HOUZZ photos.  I painted the spare bedroom and hung new curtains, and re-arranged the furniture. I even bought two pairs of shoes on clearance at Big Five, and no one asked me why I needed another pair of shoes, since I already have like a dozen pairs in the closet! Say it isn’t so Imelda! Sneaky sneaky me.

For a week, I lived an autonomous life. I did my own thing. It was liberating. It was easy. It was exhilarating. It was a little lonely.

Not moping around the house lonely, just a kind of “Wow, this is weird” lonely. When you’ve been with someone as long as I’ve been with the old man, the pattern of your life becomes inextricably woven in with theirs. Two lives, two threads integrate into one–your food choices, entertainment preferences, habitual activities, hinge on those of the other person. You don’t even realize it. It just happens. You make natural and necessary accommodations for one another.

Looking out my window searching for an analogy for our relationship made me think of this: a couple of tree seedlings that germinated close to each other, which, as they grew, took on the appearance of a single multi-trunked tree.

We’ve been fortunate because the two trunks grew easily together without one overtaking the other or without each rubbing the other raw. Not that there wasn’t any friction,  or that the trunks no longer moved independently of each other. Both trunks maintained their autonomy, even as the roots weaved together to create an underground network that supported and fed the organism over it’s long life span. Eventually roots, trunks and canopies became one living system.

Just like a tree, our marriage required energy. We applied our energies to our relationship. We worked hard at this. We committed ourselves to it. We didn’t talk love, we lived it. Makes for a non-event every Valentines Day, but that’s okay. Sappy cards make me nauseous. Ditto for too much chocolate.

It’s pretty intense, this life long monogamous commitment to another human being. It doesn’t work for everyone. It takes a lot of flexibility, negotiation, sacrifice… and it really really helps to like the other person. I love my old man. He’s very smart. He’s funny and self deprecating. And he has a good heart. Sure he’s a pain in the ass sometimes. But I’ve been around long enough to know everybody is. Even me. Sometimes, especially me. Just come by some Sunday while he’s trying to watch NASCAR, and I’m not. GRRRR GRRRR goes the Kirby, cha-chugga, cha- chugga, cha-chugga goes the washing machine, $onofBi!ch why can’t I find that receipt?!! goes the old lady. I’m a PIA sometimes. Definitely.

And that’s why it’s expedient to create some space between us once in a while. Some breathing room. And now that he’s retired and we spend almost all of our time together, it’s an especially good idea. So good that he decided to get on a plane and go visit his sister. He had to deal with some anxiety demons to do it. He had not flown in twenty years. But he had a great time. And he wants to go again next year! Will wonders never cease?

So, it was weird when he was gone, but it was also nice.  It it was nice to listen to my music without headphones. I didn’t almost drag the laptop off the counter once because I started to walk away with them on. And it was nice to eat what I wanted, or actually what I could scrounge up quickly, and when I wanted. A little autonomy for a little while, and NO TV FOR A WEEK. Very, very nice.

But it was also nice to have him come home again too and fill that space that he occupies in our lives. It was nice to lean into that trunk I’ve grown up against all these years. It was nice to walk the dog together with my hand in his pocket again.  It’s all good. It’s all nice.

(And no, there wasn’t meant to be any double meaning in these last few lines. Unless you want there to be. But that’s your bad, not mine. For my part, let  me just say, I’m glad he’s back.)

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

Intelligent But Lacks Motivation: The Story of a Bad Student

I was a straight A student and completely enamored with learning when I started elementary school. My first grade teacher, Miss Grey, was a peach. I loved her, which was a relief because my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Becker, was kind of a bitch. She made me sit in the corner during nap time once for cutting up with a friend. I was alone, seemingly miles away from the rest of the kids, and scared, sitting in the dark hoping there was no bogey man waiting to accost five year old girls hiding in the coat room alongside me. And she was brutal with the boys, especially if they had dirty nails or ears. We had to line up for inspection everyday, and if you didn’t pass muster, you were ordered to the restroom to get clean. I remember her pulling one of the kids by the ear one day to illustrate how frustrated she was with him for having dirty ears again. It didn’t help that she had a croaky voice too,  like the wicked witch of the west. But then in first grade Miss Grey was all softness and light, with pretty blue eyes, a sweet voice and gentle demeanor. I could tell she liked me and appreciated that I worked at learning and enjoyed doing so, and I was rewarded with a perfect report card. I was off to a good start.

It all went kind of wonky around the fifth grade for various reasons¹ and I never really recovered. By sixth, seventh and eighth grades, I was a problem student. I disrespected the teachers. I cut up in class. I wasn’t that intimidated when they sent me to the principals office. I frustrated a lot of teachers. Some of them were good teachers too. I was just a bad student. Consequently,  I was going home with awful report cards with notations like: Ilona is intelligent but lacks motivation. My parents weren’t happy but they were also trying to reign in my four older brothers, who were old enough by then to be tempted by drugs, alcohol and the ravages of teenage testosterone, so I wasn’t a front burner issue for them. I was happy being a class clown and an under achiever. I was okay with just getting along.

When it was time for high school, it got more challenging. There were two high schools in our town, and the year before I started, they changed the boundaries for the school districts. The high school my four older brothers and everyone I knew went to, was now out of bounds for me. The other school, my new destination, was off my radar. It was alien to me and when I got there, it was chaos. There was a contingency of super jock upper class men at this school who were intent on intimidating the newcomers, especially the long haired freaky people, like my ex-boyfriend Steve, who was sweet, played the guitar in a band, and got thrown into the duck pond across the street from school the first day. He somehow managed to transfer to the other school shortly after that. Those jocks also liked throwing the freaky guys into the dumpsters or the bushes, and just basically terrorized people with their ridiculous strong man tactics. It sucked. And then they punched  my brother Dana in the face one day when he drove up with a bunch of freaks from the “other” school to pick up his girlfriend. Did I mention it sucked? Yeah, big suck.

I spent four years feeling like an outsider at that school. It got a little better after Freshman year. A lot of those super jocks graduated or moved on to a new school they built on the east edge of town and the remaining jocks and freaks all kind of melded together at some point and managed to get along, but I never really gelled at that high school. I was truant much of the time thanks to Mom being at work all day and a pretty phlegmatic school secretary who was satisfied as long as I was home to answer the phone when she called to check up on me. And there was often a party at my house hosted by one of my older brothers and it was fun hanging out with them and getting high, listening to music or playing cards. I never got ahead in those years, but I never really aspired to, I just wanted to get along with people. I was a “smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another” teenager.  I made friends with the freaks who were just passing time, like me, and hung out with my old friends from grammar school. Looking back now, it seems like a lot of wasted time. I graduated, barely, and I eventually got in two years at a community college, maintained a 3.8 GPA and graduated with high honors. I really did love the learning. It was just all the other bull shit I didn’t tolerate well.

In spite of my years of ambiguity towards schooling, I am still just as enamored with learning today as I was in Miss Grey’s first grade class room, when I had just begun to learn. It’s why I’ve always been a reader, a documentary junkie, and a frequent student in continuing education and on-line classrooms. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate, so much, the value of good teachers. I’ve had good and bad, from start to finish, and the good ones are a gift. They are the motivators and the innovators and the ones who make it so damn compelling you want to be a good student and soak it all in. They can make a bad student, like me, into a good student, like me.

So to all the good teachers out there dealing with bad students, take heart. Keep sowing those good seeds. You never know when those babies will sprout and grow and bear fruit. Oh, and Miss Kenny, wherever you are, I am so sorry.

¹See https://gielliott.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/girlfriends-omnivores-and-tossed-salads/

²From the song Get Together by American songwriter Chet Powers

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

The Virgin Mary, Good Drugs, and the “C” Word

Next year I will turn sixty. Which pisses me off a little. When you turn sixty people start to treat you differently. Especially your health insurance provider and doctors, who start sending you reminders to get a flu shot, a Hep C test, a shingles shot, blah, blah, blah. Obviously you are approaching a turning point in life that will take you down the long dark tunnel to your imminent demise, and no one is going to let you forget it until you reach your destination. Happy fu©%ing birthday.

One thing I do need to take care of this year is the C word. No, not that one you dirty peeps, the other C word, the senior version…the colonoscopy. I’ve had a couple in my long and exciting life, but it’s been over ten years and I know Regence is going to get hysterical on me if I don’t do it by my sixtieth birthday. They’ve been harassing me about it for a number of years. The last one I had I was self insured and they have no record of it on file, even though they provided my private insurance at the time and I haven’t changed my name, SSN or other pertinent information in the interim. Can you say National Health Data Base Congress? No, I didn’t think so.

Colonoscopies are not fun. The prep sucks, like literally. You feel like someone pumped you full of salt water and then attached a fire house stuck in reverse up your arse. It’s always a shock when you realize the vile stuff you are expelling was inside your body, apparently some of it for several years, especially if  you thought you were eating a relatively clean diet. You spend all night on the toilet and then have to get up early the next day for the big event, and even though you used the softest TP  possible for your hygiene, it feels like you used Brillo pads soaked in ammonia exclusively.

So you get to the facility, and they know you had a shitty night, so they put you to bed wrapped in warm blankets, and you would suck your thumb if it weren’t for the memory of the night before and your fear of germs and all. Then they wheel you in to the “procedure” room and everyone is smiling and dressed in sky blue like the garments worn by our Virgin Mary, and they ask you what kind of music you like and give you awesome drugs and that’s it. You wake up feeling a little gassy and drooling some, but you feel positively groovy and don’t remember anything at all, which is good, because I’m sure that they have some wicked conversations while they are working on you that you would never, ever want to recall. They let you rest for a while, and eventually you are aware enough to know that you can’t stay here forever in this violet blue mind haze, although you wouldn’t really mind that at all except that you have a life to attend to and a significant other patiently waiting to drive you home. And if you are lucky, everything was fine and there was nothing frightening rearing it’s ugly head up your butt, and you can come back in ten years.

So, there it is, the good and bad of the “C” word. The night before you feel like you died and went to hell and are hanging with the demons, who are even more demented than you every imagined in your wildest nightmares and then the next day you are gently ministered to by a host of very clean, very hygienic angels who are actually doing demented things to you also but the drugs they give you are so good you have no idea what’s going on and you wake up and think you are in love with the anesthesiologist. I guess it could be worse.

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

The Gifts

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Paradise Valley, Mt. Rainier National Park  

 

 

 

It’s the  industry of  robins poking in the grass

It’s the  playfulness of flickers circling the tree

It’s the hip hop of  the blue jays ravaging the feeder

It’s the flutter and the chatter of the chickadees.

 

It’s the somersaults of otters rolling in the river

It’s the glide of the eagle with the golden eye

It’s the intention of the seals studying the shoreline

It’s the hissing of the stones being sifted by the tide.

 

It’s the silence of the owl sweeping through the cedars

It’s the red tailed hawk hunting on the wing

It’s the speed of the Orcas racing with the ferry

It’s the night wind making the shore pines sing.

 

It’s the moonbeams winking through the racing clouds

It’s the branches in the trees casting shadows on the ground

It’s the one legged heron that is hunting in the marsh

It’s the song of the tree frog hidden in the bark.

 

It’s the night fog descending and softening the treeline

It’s the glitter of the waves in the bright morning light

It’s the  blue and white mountains that dominate the scenery

It’s the crescendo of the geese as they rise into flight.

 

It’s coyotes bathed in moonlight in the orchard as they sing

It’s the evergreen valleys as they shimmer in the spring

It’s the reflection of the sunbeams painting rainbows in the clouds

It’s the mountain tops emerging from the thick and misty shroud.

 

It’s the salmon as they migrate from the oceans to the streams

It’s the mountains and the meadows, it’s the rivers and the trees

It’s the snow fall on the cedars and white blossoms in the Spring

It’s the contentment, it’s the joy, it’s the gifts…

It’s all these things.

 

©2017 by Ilona Elliott

 

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Never Suffered

I fell down.

I didn’t break.

I got lost and ran wild.

I found my way.

I often bled.

I always healed.

 

I always had a home.

I never missed a meal.

 

I never had to run.

I never had to hide.

I had my country on my side.

I had family.

I had friends.

I had love again and again.

I never wanted.

I never starved.

I never knew famine.

I never knew war.

I never huddled in the cold and dark.

I never prayed out loud for the bombs to stop.

I never smelled my village burn.

I never listened to my baby’s stomach churn.

I never watched my young son’s eyes go cold.

I never saw my husband’s back bowed low.

I never mourned the loss of my children’s smiles.

I never had to walk a thousand miles.

I never feared the violent seas.

I never felt the world abandon me.

I was never a refugee.

I was never abandoned.

I was never unwanted.

I was never feared

I was never hated…

I never suffered.

 

 

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©2017 by Ilona Elliott

 

 

 

Girlfriends, Omnivores and Tossed Salads

Sometimes I suspect I have been cultivating degrees of separation all my life. Usually I blame it on my natural inclinations, being something of a loner who can mimic an extrovert fairly convincingly when the occasion dictates. I’m either an introverted extrovert or an extroverted introvert. It’s too complex to figure out and it’s really just a question of semantics, isn’t it?

At twenty one, after I left my large loud family behind, I had to learn to live a more isolated life. I made friends at work or school or church. I developed some very close ties to numerous people over the years. But the nature of things being as they are in our mobile world, people would come and go in and out of my life. It was so easy to lose touch with them once they had gone. Attempts to maintain contact would fade into the background and I would realize they had new lives and new interests and little time for long distance communications.

Sometimes I was left feeling like I had the summer I was ten and my two best friends, then thirteen, ghosted me and  made it clear, by ignoring my existence, that I wasn’t old enough to hang out with them anymore. It took a few days, but I got the message. It was a painful experience for a ten year old. Thirteen year old girls can be pretty brutal. I went through a similar mean girl stage myself a few years later, so I get it, now. Damn hormones. They were older, more mature girls and didn’t want a kid hanging around while they discussed adolescent topics like periods and boys. But they were still just kids too, really, lacking the social skills to let me down easy. So at the time I felt lost, not fitting in with the boys in the neighborhood anymore, who were my age, but not quite grown up enough to fit in with the older girls either. An outsider and a misfit. I lost my equilibrium. I had been playing with the same neighbor girls since I was a small child. Now they didn’t want me around. I didn’t know how to make new friends since they had always been there, available for me. And then they weren’t.

Then when summer was over I also ended up in the hospital, early in the school year, with appendicitis. I  missed several weeks of school. I actually milked as much time away from school as I could out of my concerned Mother. I was perfectly happy staying home alone with her all day until my siblings got home from school and she went to her night job. It was a treat to have my mother to myself for a change. We watched her shows and ate lunch together everyday. I took long naps in a quiet, empty house. The sound of a small plane flying low overhead still instantly transports me back to that bedroom and those peaceful naps. But of course I eventually had to go back to school. After my parents explained the concept of truancy to me, I grudgingly returned to the fifth grade. I felt disconnected from everyone and everything there. I was behind in the lessons, my teacher was something of a bitch, and the kids had formed alliances without me while I was gone. UGH!

I eventually made some friends that year. Friendships that I still cherish and love and make a point to maintain over the many miles that exist now between us. They were the friends I shared my adolescent and teenage years with. We stuck to each other like glue to keep from falling apart as we learned to negotiate life out of the nest we were all so anxious to fly away from. They know me and know secrets about me that I share with no one else. And they love me. I love them. What a blessing.

I have to confess that as an adult woman, making friends hasn’t been my forte′. I have woman friends from my years of volunteer involvement in the arts when I lived in the West Puget Sound, and then some from my years of living in a remote and rural town in Eastern Oregon, where women gravitate to each other for comfort and entertainment in a world seemingly made for manly men, but I’m separated from all of them by miles of freeway, or miles and miles of lonely winding roads. It’s not very practical to visit with them face to face. I communicate with some of them on Facebook, but it’s a fairly superficial connection at best.

Now that my old man is retired, he is here, all the time. I’m glad we get along so well and that we know how to make each other laugh. We enjoy our walks with the dog everyday and have our pet places we frequent together. But while he is fine with our extremely low key social life, sometimes I need a little more than him and the dog 24/7. I plan on making a trip up north soon to visit with a friend who recently lost her mother. I’m looking forward to some quality girlfriend time and I hope I can be a comfort to her if she needs a supportive friend. There is just something about girlfriends that can’t be duplicated with your old man. When it comes to friendship, women are the omnivores and men are the vegans. Women chew the fat and gnaw on the bones of things when we really get together. We feast on the savory and the sweet. Men are more like a tossed salad when it comes to friendship…and a brew if they’re best mates.  So while I am very comfortable around men and really like them, probably because my first friends were my brothers, I need that women to women contact from time to time to ground me. The way a man needs a good steak once in a while or a dog needs a ham-bone.

A couple months ago, around the holidays, I was pretty miserably lonely. I have gotten used to not fussing over Christmas and spending a solitary day cooking and eating with the old man and giving the dog an extra milk bone or two. But after growing up in a big family with sociable parents and extended family and neighbors as friends, sometimes, even after almost forty years, it feels more like an extended sick day than the holidays around here. So I had a small melt down and confessed to my loving husband that I needed more. It was hard. I didn’t want to make him feel inadequate. I don’t think he did, and I’m not sure he understood. But he did agree that I could travel more often to visit my sister and my east coast peeps if I thought that would help. I do. And I will. Life is too short to worry about the cost of an airline ticket when you need to be with your loved ones. To chew the fat and gnaw on the bones. I’ll be doing that with my sister again this summer. And my friend Diane. And hopefully Donna. Two of those fifth grade friends.  And yes, there will be plenty of wine to wash it all down with. And chocolate. And a cannoli or two. Omnivorous friendship. The best there is.

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My sister and I getting silly last June!

©2016 by Ilona Elliott

 

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)

My Immigration Story

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Photo: Ilona Elliott

My mother’s father was an immigrant from Sicily, as were her maternal grandparents. I never met them. They existed for me in imagination only, stimulated by the sepia photographs, postcards and letters, some written in a language I could not decipher, that my mother kept in a big cardboard box in her closet. They lived in the stories Mom told about growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut with her two sisters, her parents and her large extended Italian American family. I loved those stories. They brought the dead to life for me. I suspect they did the same for her. Sometimes I flip through the postcards still, dozens of them, dating back to 1904, and realize that people living in the same city often posted cards to one another to communicate. I guess a lot of people didn’t have phones back then. So many worlds away from how we live today.

Mom’s stories painted a picture of another life for me–a life that was a true American story. A story that included the struggles of big-hearted people trying to survive in a world where the language and culture were foreign, but the ideals were inspiring. Mom was born in 1921, the same year Mussolini became prime minister of Italy. Her father hated Mussolini and what he represented. He loved his new country, and believed in it’s democracy, even though living here was a struggle for him. It was a struggle to learn the language and to become a US citizen. He worked at menial jobs for years, but eventually saved enough money to open a small neighborhood store, which he lost during the depression. According to Mom, he couldn’t bring himself to deny people credit to feed their families, even when he knew they could not ever pay him. He struggled with physical disability, when as a passenger in a car driven by his brother Louie, he was hit by a train in a railroad crossing. He suffered with the pain of his shattered bones for years before losing his arm to amputation. Then he lost his wife to an aneurysm when she was just forty years old. Grandpa died five years later, Mom said of a broken heart.

My grandpa’s life in America was short and sad in so many ways. It was an immigrants life, a hard life, not very different from an immigrants life today. The struggles of immigrants are still formidable–barriers of language, of culture, and of alienation of newcomers by the entrenched populations.  During World War II un-naturalized Italian immigrants were treated as enemy aliens, subjected to curfews and searches of their homes, confiscation of properties, and even interments¹, something we are leaning towards again in our country with certain populations of people, people who came here with the same hopes and dreams my grandfather had, and perhaps yours also.

My mother’s stories of family and community remained with me on an October Sunday afternoon I spent in the small Umbrian hill town of Orvieto, watching the people come out–well dressed elderly women and pretty mothers pushing children in strollers, old men in wool suits and fedoras, young men in leather coats walking dogs–everyone out, strolling, shopping, chatting on narrow street corners and lunching in outdoor cafes. The sense of community felt familiar and safe. Walking by the tiny butcher shops and patisseries I caught snippets of friendly banter between customers and shop keepers that, despite the unfamiliar language, spoke of the relationships that still thrive here.  I was reminded of my mother’s family and the strong ties she had to it throughout her life. I thought about the numerous photos she left us of her family life growing up just an hour’s drive from NYC, and Ellis Island, and the port that received my grandfather’s ship full of Sicilian immigrants in 1904. These are the photos of people who lived for family–photos of relatives picnicking together at Beardsley Park and posing on the steps of the First Baptist Church on Easter, celebrating birthdays, weddings and graduations, and cooking Thanksgiving dinner together in Aunt Libby’s kitchen.

I once had an Argentinian friend, an organizational psychologist, who told me she didn’t relate to the large Italian population in her home country because the women were only interested in family. They lived for their families, and weren’t prone to pursue careers outside of the home. I knew exactly what she was saying. My Mom was that way. And in my own way, so am I.

What held immigrant families together were the traditions of their home country that they carried across the oceans with them in their hearts. The traditions of family and community, nurtured by their close relationships with each other and with fellow immigrants–their neighbors and friends. These were the ties that kept the country together through the difficult years of the depression and the second world war. These were immigrant ties, woven together to create the multi-dimensional fabric that is America. A strong and enduring fabric. But not indestructible. It is fraying beneath the weight of our collective fear and I worry that in time it might fail. But I’m only one American, so this is what I will do in the face of fear: Resist.

In honor of my immigrant family ties, today I will choose not to fear the immigrant or the refugee. I will choose not to be the citizen who rejects the unknown face, the cultural or religious difference, the unfamiliar tradition. I will choose instead to be the friend and neighbor of those who come to my country seeking refuge from destructive forces and unfortunate circumstances beyond their control.

I do it for my grandfather. I do it for my conscience. And I do it for my country. America. My country of immigrants.

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Photo: Ilona Elliott

¹http://www.sfgate.com/magazine/article/A-SECRET-HISTORY-The-harassment-of-Italians-2866287.php

But Before I Let That Steam Drill Beat Me Down, I’d Die With a Hammer in My Hand

THIS is a REBLOG of a wonderful post about the state of our united states from the wordpress blog An American Song. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did!

An American Song

In his inauguration speech, the new president insisted that America is becoming a wasteland. “American carnage,” he termed it. A place where gangs run amuck and crime is rampant. Where poverty is endemic. Where children are denied a basic education. Where economic blight is displayed in abandoned factories, and hopelessness and fear rule the day in an unsafe landscape.

Well, I’ve traveled across wide swaths of America, and met a wide range of people. And what I saw does not correspond to this bleak vision.

To be certain, we have problems. Our school system needs to be fortified and its teachers need better pay, and the erosion of university standards needs to be reversed. Too many people live in a cyclical poverty that economic and social policies perpetuate. Though statistically Americans are safer now than they ever have been in our nation’s history, still crime is an issue. The economy…

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