LINES FROM LYDIA: WALKIN’ IN SUNSHINE

WALKIN’ IN SUNSHINE

by Lydia Bogar

“When leaving Manhattan, be sure to walk along the right lane of the bridge.  Be sure to stay to the right at all times.”

The Brooklyn Bridge.

Star of the silver screen since the turn of the last century and the little screen at the hand of Dick Wolf since 1990.

Sunscreen.

Hat.

Camera.

Quick stop at the port-a-potties near the Ben Franklin statute at the corner of Spruce Street and Park Row. A moment to gaze at the neo-Gothic splendor of the Woolworth Building, over a hundred years old and still standing, just as the architects intended.

Some members of the tour are buying pretzels and lemon ices, as if there will not be food and drink on the other side of the East River.

Rick, our guide, answers questions at each photo stop where we focus on taking pictures – no video or audio allowed. We do have to be mindful of the hundreds of others who chose this perfect day in May to ramble across this historic overpass. There are little dips in the walkway, puddles near the Manhattan side, and distractions at every breath.  The number of bikers increases as the sun rises high in the sky.

Watermelon!  They are pricey chunks, but so tasty as we watch tugs and tour boats from where we stand in the shadow of the Bridge’s central tower.

We take in the solitary beauty of One World Trade Center.

The magnificence of Lady Liberty in the distance.

A dozen different languages, children and grandparents, strollers and wheelchairs.

Footwear and hats of every style and color.

The very best people watching.

The tour ends at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade at the beginning of Montague Street.  You might not be able to find it on a map, but you’ve seen it in every iteration of Law and Order.

The restaurants and little shops embracing Montague Street all the way to Brooklyn Borough Hall have also been seen in cop shows and films.

Bagels, hand dipped chocolates, cafes, silversmiths, bookstores, and an Oz-like venue called Insomnia Cookies – don’t go there. You have been warned.

Rick leads us another block to the famous front stoops of the living and the dead–Truman Capote, Arthur Miller, Thomas Wolfe, and Hart Crane.

The group disperses.  We gravitate to Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar and are not disappointed. The braised beef tacos are over the moon, and the margueritas are perfection.  The great advantage to a bus tour is being able to enjoy a really good drink or two before the long ride home.

Someday, we will walk the Bridge again and visit the celebrated Brooklyn Historical Society. It is an honor to have this picture of the past.

This day has compelled me to read The Great Bridge, a tome written by David McCullough. Your wrists will ache if you read this wonderful history book in bed.

It is worth every wince.

BOLLI feature writer and Writers Guild co-chair Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE WITH LARRY: CHECK, PLEASE

In response to the Writers Guild prompt, “Check, Please,” Larry took what we have come to think of as a Schwirian Turn.

Check, Please

  by Larry Schwirian

Three young eastern European men, educated in England, decided to take a holiday together in Germany before returning to their respective home countries. None of the three spoke the native language of the others; nor did they speak German; but they all spoke English. They wanted to see the Black Forest in southwest Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle (also known as Mad Ludwig’s Castle) in Hohenschwangau, the well preserved medieval old town of Rothenberg, the Rathaus-Glockenspeil in Munich, and they wanted to experience the dynamic economy of Germany to see how it compared to those of England and their home countries. They also hoped  to meet and party with some local Fraüleins before returning home.

All three of the young men could be considered attractive in that they were all physically fit and well-groomed, but there were distinct differences in their mannerisms and personalities. Andrei, from Russia, was taller and more muscular than the others and had a more outgoing personality. Mudrac, from Serbia, was somewhat smaller and thinner but was a keen observer and appeared to be the most introspective and learned of the three. Oldrich, from Prague, was the handsomest, was perfectly proportioned, carried himself like an aristocrat, and appeared to be from a family of some wealth.

One day, in Munich, the young men decided to stop in a restaurant for lunch. As it was the middle of the afternoon, there were not many patrons present, so there were plenty of open tables and an abundance of wait staff.  Three young waitresses—Uda, Hilda, and Darissa—saw the young men come in and began to discuss which of them would wait on them. As all three wanted the opportunity to serve these young “hunks,” a somewhat heated discussion followed. Finally, they decided that, since there were three of them and there were three young men, each of them would serve one of the young patrons. They drew straws to see who would have the first pick.  Uda, whose name means “prosperous or rich,” drew the long straw.  She calmly looked at the other two, smiled, and exclaimed, “I’ll take the Czech, please.”

Frequent “BOLLI Matters” contributor and co-leader of the Writers Guild Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and, together, lead BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in  and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  

MARCH LINES FROM LYDIA: TALKING TO DANNY

TALKING TO DANNY

by Lydia Bogar

CRASH – blue truck meets red car

Oh, shit.

Are you okay?

I think so.

I was at the top of the hill.  I saw him hit you.

Son of a bitch.

Sit in the cruiser.

No, I’m good.

Son of a bitch.  Didn’t he see me?

Do you need EMS?

No, I’m good.

He’s not hurt, and, no, it doesn’t seem that he’s been drinking. His pizza landed on the floor.

Son of a bitch.

The tire mounted on the front of his truck saved you from a big hurt.

Here’s Worcester PD.

Sit in my …

I wish this damn phone took pictures.

Worcester will write him up and maybe take pictures.

Who are you calling …

I can’t be the reporting officer because I witnessed the accident.

He knocked me across three lanes of … how did he not hit anyone else?

You were lucky. This could’ve gone south in a dozen different ways. I can take you home as soon as the wrecker hooks up your car. Get your papers and stuff out of the …

He could have pushed me into that ditch. Damn!

Let’s get you home.

Thanks…

My friend State Trooper Daniel Duffy, USMC (Ret) died on March 25, 1993, seven years and one day after this accident.

BOLLI Matters feature writer and Writers Guild co-chair, Lydia Bogar

Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service.  She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”

MEDICAL MOMENTS FROM STEVE: I THINK…

I THINK…

by Steve Goldfinger

Everyone gets them.  Those brief twists of intestine, small pockets of gas, maybe a swallowed seed in a tight spot before it passes along.  For most, they are mild enough—maybe a 1 or 2 on the proverbial scale of 10 and virtually ignored. But for a few, gut pain can ring in at a resounding 9 or 10, last a day, and obliterate any chance of carrying on with life’s activities.

They come to see me for an explanation, a visit of last resort. In their minds, an answer will assuredly yield the clue to relief. I take a careful history, perform my physical exam, and review each of the many CT scan, MRI, and ultrasound studies as well as the notes of docs who have come before me. Nothing, as I suspected at the start, will ring a cheerful note.

In the end, all I can suggest is that they are cursed with “hyperalgesia,” meaning they are exceedingly sensitive and thus overeactive to minor stimuli that others barely perceive. I describe studies on irritable bowel patients. When deflated balloons are placed in their rectums and air is gently introduced, they feel pressure and pain long before their normal counterparts are perturbed. Do these IBS sufferers have more nerve endings in that nether region? Do their nerve endings release more or different neurotransmitters than they should? Who knows? It’s probably infinitely more complex than this. But whatever the case, we give their pain a name: hyperalgesia.  The name covers our ignorance of what is really going on.

I wish I truly understood this disorder. Without such knowledge, I feel I am little more than a shaman with impressive certificates and degrees on my office walls. I try to compensate for my ignorance by resorting to the usual standbys: showing compassion, suggesting some medicine that hasn’t already been tried, recommending an alternate approach such as meditation or hypnotism. And then, providing the false hope that soon we will really understand the precise biological pathways that cause hyperalgesia and then be able to cure it. “Fat chance,” I say to myself.

Those pathways. I have seen diagrams displaying hundreds of tiny arrows suggesting the incredibly complex interplay of nerves, their neurotransmitters and hormones to explain the so-called mind-gut connection. And then I am reminded of the most fundamental question of all, the mystery that continues to plague neuroscientists and philosophers alike. How does the ephemeral domain of thought arise from the physical world of the brain? Can one even postulate a connection?

Rene Descartes thought he had the answer to the mind-body question with his famous iteration, cogito ergo sum.  “I think, therefore I am.”

Really? Years ago, quick witted philosophers added a playful tag line to dispel Descartes’ facile solution. I remember it from philosophy 101. Cogito ergo sum…cogito.  “I think, therefore I am….I think.”

“This new drug I am prescribing will surely reduce almost all your pain…I think.”

BOLLI Matters feature writer Steve Goldfinger

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

 

 

 

MEDICAL MOMENTS WITH STEVE: THE FIRST CPR AT MGH

THE FIRST CPR AT MGH

by Steve Goldfinger

The year was 1960, and an astounding report from Johns Hopkins had just appeared in a major medical journal. The authors described reviving patients who had died before their eyes by starting external chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, so-called cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Prior to this, the only maneuver that ever worked was to cut open the chest, reach in between ribs, grab the dying patient’s heart and start squeezing it. A ghastly way to usher out a life, as was usually the case. But now, there was something new.

An intern, working alone on a floor upstairs, I was called from the emergency room by a resident. And he sounded totally different from his usually unflappable self.

“You won’t believe this,” he began. “A woman was brought in by her children a few minutes ago. We took her to a back room and, just as we began to take a history, she died. Right in front of us. No pulse. No heartbeat. Eyes rolled up. So we began to push on her chest and breathe into her mouth. Like we read about.  And we got a pulse back! She actually looked at us! Seemed not to know what was going on.  Lots of moaning. I know we broke a few ribs when we were pounding on her chest, but we couldn’t help that. She’s very old, pretty frail, sick looking, but her vital signs are stable, and we’re sending her up to your floor. She’ll be there in a few minutes. Wow…we saved her! This is a first at MGH!”

She was indeed frail, very frail, I noted as she was wheeled into our open ward, her son and daughter-in-law trailing close behind. As the attendants began to transfer her into a bed, I took the two aside to tell them about the miracle that had just happened and to take a history. Tears came to their eyes as I explained the new maneuver and how it had brought her back to life.

But they were not tears of joy.

“You don’t understand, doctor,” the woman’s son said. “ She has end stage cancer. It’s all through her body, and it has moved into her bones. We brought her here to die.  We wanted her to be comfortable at the end.”

 

BOLLI Matters feature writer Steve Goldfinger

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

 

MEDICAL MOMENTS WITH STEVE: IT WORKED!

IT WORKED!

by Steve Goldfinger

On a sweltering August morning in 1944, I sat outside the door of Camp Kee Wah Kee’s infirmary.  I remember the rough wooden bench, the buzzing of horse flies, and—above all—the excruciating headache and fever that had brought me there.

Hours later, my Uncle Dick arrived to put me in his car and take me home. On the way, I asked what was happening.

“Well, there’s a polio epidemic,” he said, “and the camp is closing.”

Just the word polio provided a major scare at that time, but I honestly do not remember how frightened I was during that ride home. I may not have realized that my headache was caused by the polio virus, which I associated only with life-long paralysis.  Later, I learned that three of the seven other kids in my bunk had been so afflicted.  As I later learned, fewer than 1% of infections cause paralytic polio.

*

On a cool evening in the summer of 1955, a long line of dad’s patients—children and adults—filed from the front door of our house, down the flagstone path, and onto a stretch of sidewalk beyond. They were all healthy and were there in order to remain that way. Once they entered the house, they would go through the waiting room and into the office. Dad then inoculated each of them with a dose of the just-released vaccine pioneered by the decade’s hero, Jonas Salk. Inoculation programs were underway all over the city.

*

One day in the 1980s, I was nabbed by a young doctor in training who was perplexed by one of the questions on the national board examination he had just taken. It described a young man who developed fever, then muscle pains, and, later, progressive weakness of both legs. There had been no loss of sensation in the legs. My trainee said he had never seen or been taught about such a case, and he couldn’t imagine what the correct answer was.

That’s how effective that vaccination program had been.

BOLLI Matters feature writer Steve Goldfinger

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

 

STORIES FROM STEVE: A FANTASY DINNER PARTY

THE MORE EXOTIC THE BETTER

by Steve Goldfinger

I like food—the more exotic the better.  So, who would I invite to a fantasy dinner party?

Marcus Gavius Apicius, Emperor Elagabalus, and William Buckland—only if they brought their chefs along to prepare their meals.  And Mahatma Gandhi, so I could see his face as he watched the others feast.

Apicius, a first century Roman, is renowned for his imaginative delectables. He brought culinary artistry to new realms, feeding his guests lark tongue pie, flamingo tongue, dolphin meatballs, jellyfish omelets, and boiled parrot. Homage to the chef!

Elagabalus, the depraved boy emperor, lived but 21 years. After his guests enjoyed such savories as camel heels, parrot heads, nightingale tongue, peacock brains, and mice baked in poppies and honey, they would disgorge themselves in order to have a second round of the same. Elagapalus liked surprise endings.  At the end of one food orgy, several of the gourmands remarked on how pleasant it would be if they could then be smothered under the scent of roses. Elagabalus obliged. At the end of their very next feast, he had them suffocated to death by tons of rose petals. He was known for concluding other banquets by unleashing wild animals on his thoroughly stuffed guests.

Second thoughts about inviting this lad.

William Buckland, Vicar and Professor of Geology at Oxford University in the 19th century, was also a man of dietary oddities: rodents, crocodiles, hedgehogs, moles, roast joint of bear, puppy, and his most historic swallowed morsel—the embalmed heart of King Louis XIV that had  been stolen from the king’s tomb and eventually came his way. When asked how the king’s heart tasted, Buckland replied that it would have gone a bit better with gravy prepared from the blood of a marmoset. Although he claimed he would eat anything organic, the vicar once admitted he could not be tempted to have a second helping of stewed housefly.

So I’m looking at Gandhi, seated in front of his goat milk, orange, nuts, stewed vegetables and concoction of ginger, lemons, strained butter, and aloe juice.

He is looking at me.

Shall I offer him a spoonful of my matzoh ball soup?

God, if I do, he might want me to try his concoction.

Better lie low.

BOLLI Matters feature writer Steve Goldfinger 

After a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  At BOLLI, he has taken writing courses, been active in the Writers Guild, and even tried CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) where his imagination made him a singular player!

POP CULTURE WITH DENNIS GREENE: STRANGER THINGS…

Stranger Things: 80s Films Redux

 by Dennis Greene

The enormous number of big-budget, high quality original TV series being produced by HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others makes it tough for even committed pop culture junkies to keep up.  I didn’t become aware of Netflix’s science fiction-horror thriller Stranger Things until more than a year after Season 2 was released in October, 2017.  But the story is so compelling that it was easy for an old retired guy like me, after golf season, to binge watch all 17 one-hour episodes in a week or two.

The first season, set in the early 1980s, focuses on the unexplained disappearance of Will Byers, a young boy in fictional Hawkins, Indiana.  Will’s hysterical mother Joyce, played by Winona Ryder, and her high school friend Jim Hopper, now the local Police Chief played by David Harbour, organize a search for the missing boy.  But the main focus of the series is on Will’s small group of geeky, Dungeons and Dragons playing middle school age friends Michael, Lucas and Dustin, who are joined by a mysterious young girl with strange powers. Together, they begin their own investigation into their friend’s disappearance.

The relationships among this group of science and fantasy-oriented sleuths reminded me of Elliot and his friends in E.T. or the boys in Stand By Me. In many ways, the group was also similar to the young Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts.  While facing unspeakable and overpowering evil and observing occurrences beyond the scope of human understanding, the boys also worry about who has a crush on whom, what Halloween costume to wear, who will be Dr. Venkman, and if they have packed enough snack food as they set off to battle monsters from a parallel dimension. The story includes the usual secret and sinister government project, the complex social life of the boys’ older siblings, dysfunctional family relationships, lots of slimy and repulsive monsters in dark and forbidding places, a wonderful science teacher, several deaths and enough references to Newtonian and theoretical physics, telekinesis, and psychology to keep the story grounded in reality.   The series is so well written and directed, and the cast is so talented, that I found myself really caring about a score of characters.

Certainly Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Will, and their new friend El (for “Eleven”) are at the top of that list.  Each heroic in his or her own way.  Most of these kids are new faces, but Dustin, played by Gaten Matarazzo, will probably look familiar.  He is a younger version of the curly haired, precocious  boy who now preaches the benefits of Fios in Verizon’s current TV ads. This ensemble won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance in a Drama Series in 2016. The series also received 31 Emmy Award  and four Golden Globe nominations.

The series was created and written by twins Matt and Ross Duffer, known as the Duffer Brothers. They pitched the script to about fifteen cable networks who all rejected it because the plot centered around children as leading characters and would not appeal to older viewers.  Suggestions were made to make it a children’s series or drop the kids and concentrate on the sheriff’s investigation of the paranormal.  But the Duffers, believing in what they had created, teamed with Shawn Levy and successfully sold it to Netflix for an undisclosed amount.

The series has been greatly influenced by, and pays homage to, the great science fiction and horror films of the 1980s. To pitch the film, the Duffer Brothers showcased images, footage, and music from films like E.T, Close Encounters, Poltergeist, Stand By Me,  Nightmare on Elm StreetJaws, and Alien.  It offers both a riveting and charming story in its own right, but it also provides nostalgic reminders of those captivating sci-fi and horror films we have enjoyed over the past three decades.  The Duffers have clearly paid homage to Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter, Steven King, and Wes Craven.  And I consider that a good thing.

I suspect this show isn’t for everyone. It’s best if you are a fifteen-year-old science fiction or fantasy fan or can still suspend your disbelief to think and feel like one. If you enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer, A Wrinkle in Time, Stand By Me or The Golden Compass, or if you are a Steven King fan, you will probably enjoy Stranger Things. If you read all of The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series and Game of Thrones, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

We are presented with so many rich characters in this story that everyone should be able to identify with at least a few of the central characters and hopefully experience the adventure with them. That’s what makes speculative fiction fun.

The character I most identified with was Dustin. In Episode 6 of the first season, Lucas leaves the group in anger after a fight with Mike, and Dustin attempts to convince Mike to find Lucas and reconcile:

Dustin: “This is weird without Lucas.”

Mike:    “He should have shaken my hand.”

Dustin: “He’s just jealous.”

Mike:     “What are you talking about?”

Dustin:  “Sometimes your total obliviousness blows my mind. He’s your best  friend, right?”

Mike:     “Yeah, I mean, I don’t know.”

Dustin:   “It’s fine. I get it. I didn’t get here until fourth grade. He had the advantage of living next door. But none of that matters. What matters is, he is your best friend, and then this girl shows up and starts living in your basement, and all you want to do is pay attention to her.”

Mike:     “That’s not true.”

Dustin:   “Yes it is. And you know it, and he knows it. But no one says anything until you two start punching and yelling at each other like goblins with intelligence scores of zero. Now everything is weird.”

Mike:     “He is not my best friend.”

Dustin:   “Yeah, right.”

Mike:      “He is, but so are you, and so is Will.”

Dustin:    “You can’t have more than one best friend.”

Mike:        “Says who?”

Dustin:      “Says logic.”

Mike:         “Blow your logic, because you are my best friend too.”

Dustin:       “O. K.”

I was the new kid who moved to town in the middle of third grade after all the “best friend” slots were filled.   After 60 years, it still bothers me a little. This passage made me both admire Dustin and also feel sorry for him.

Season 4 has already been filmed and is expected to be released some time next summer, so you have plenty of time to catch up on the first three seasons before then.

Welcome to Hawkins, Indiana–if you dare!

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Dennis Greene

Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie.  He saw “The Day the Earth Stood Still” in 1951 when he was seven and has been hooked on speculative fiction ever since. 

WHAT’S ON LARRY’S MIND? DIGITALLY ARRANGED DINNER DATING

DIGITALLY ARRANGED DINNER DATING

by Larry Schwirian

Writers Guild Prompt:  Dinner Date

I have never had occasion to go on a romantic dinner date with anyone other than my wife.  She and I were classmates and friends for three years before we started dating, so we already knew each other pretty well.  I never had to worry about what I could or couldn’t say with her because I already knew many of her likes and dislikes.  Plus, while we were still in school, there wasn’t a lot of money for going out to dinner anyway. Going out for pizza, taking a trip to the art museum, or going to an occasional movie were more typical of our dates. As I had a full class load and drove a cab part time while in school, I didn’t have a lot of time for dating anyway.

I’ve never given a great deal of thought to what it must be like, as a full-fledged adult, to sit down for a nice dinner with an unfamiliar female companion just for the sake of getting to know one-another…it must really be awkward.

Imagining what it might be like for a young adult in today’s digital world, all kinds of questions come to mind…

Who wrote the algorithm that paired the two of us as compatible, and what were the primary traits or answers to questions that resulted in this pairing?  Did she research me on the web and find out what a dweeb I really am…I hope she at least learned that I’m not a direct descendent of Jack the Ripper.  I Googled her, but my search gave me dozens of women with the same name. Why did she pick me instead of dozens of others…or was it the algorithm? Should I be my normal, boring self, or should I pretend to be what I’d really like to be?  Was the photo she sent really of her?  Was it current,  or was it ten years old?  Should I let her start the conversation, or should I be bold and jump right in with both feet? Is she looking for a significant other, or is she just looking for a good time?  And what am I looking for?

Maybe we should begin the conversation by agreeing on a “safe word” that will allow either of us to bail-out if questions become too personal.

Why am I doing this?

I don’t envy young people.  Dating–along with everything else these days–has just become too complicated.

BOLLI Matters feature writer and Writers Guild co-chair, Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and have led BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  

MEMOIR FROM DONNA: THE BACK PORCH

THE BACK PORCH

by Donna Johns

I used to have a back porch.

The house on Sycamore Street was rickety around the edges, full of horsehair plaster and faded midcentury wallpaper. The plumbing rattled, the old gas stove belched, the lights flickered. Spindles on the front staircases were frequently kicked out by active children racing up and down. The old house swayed in high winds but never broke.

Off the kitchen, with its decaying tile, was my back porch. It was long and narrow with a wide plank floor and four large windows. It was on the second floor, so the view out the windows was at tree level. In the spring, dogwood blossoms spread out like a quilt of pale green and white and pink. In the summer, lush green branches sang in soft breezes. Autumn was gaudy with scarlets and yellows. Winter’s bare branches, encased in ice, scraped against the windows and sent me inside for a month or two.

I had a phone on the porch. With it I negotiated with my dentist to pay over time for the children’s dental care, prevailed upon the electric company to accept a partial payment, begged the oil company for a small delivery to tide us over until pay day. I had a computer on the porch so I could work a second and third job, using my research skills to bring in much needed money.

The proximity of the porch to the kitchen came in handy when little thieves would grab the refrigerator door handle in search of lunch meat, bread, fruit.  I guarded the food fiercely, for there was no money for more. They were well fed only because my parents or my favorite uncle would drop by every week or so with grocery bags brimming with healthy basics and decadent treats.

My coffee pot was close by for frequent refills. I would drink from my mug, smoke a cigarette, and steer the family ship past one obstacle, then another, and another.  New shoes (three sizes in one year?), highwater pants (can I let the hem down?), field trips (you need how much money by tomorrow?).

But my porch was also a place for me to read, to write, to dream. One child or another would escape the noise that permeated the house to sit on the porch with me, confide a sorrow or a triumph, or just enjoy companionable silence among the trees. Cats stretched out on the window sill, chattering at birds.

I don’t have a porch any more. Just a utilitarian step to the sidewalk. The children are all gone to their own lives. But I have the memory of that porch and a challenging life well lived.

BOLLI Matters feature writer Donna Johns

Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.