MEMOIR WRITING: KENNEBUNKPORT by Maxine Weintraub

KENNEBUNKPORT

by Maxine Weintraub

My husband and I lived in southern Maine for almost fifteen years – in the shingle-style cottage we built across from the ocean in Kennebunkport in the early 1990s.  He worked at Southern Maine Medical Center, and I ended up doing the advertising for a start-up internet company.

Over the years, we shared this home with friends and family, an ex-President and his family, famous authors and local bridge players, foxes and their families, carpenters and realtors and writers and well known historians, governors, moose,  bobcats, snakes, deer.  and chipmunks.  Friends and acquaintances in pick-up trucks and limousines, “heat packing” secret service agents and rifle carrying hunters.  Gracious first ladies and the owner of the local super market.  Our children and their friends and then our children and their children.  Weddings.  Deaths.  Republicans and Democrats and the generally disgruntled.  Jews–not so many–and Catholics, Protestants, non-believers, card-carrying communists, born-agains and Bible thumping believers.  Gays and straights,  New Yorkers, Texans, and everything in between. Habitat for Humanity liberals and diamond dripping conservatives.  Ministers and Rabbis and agnostics.  All friends.  And all in a small resort town in southern Maine.

We fell asleep at night to the sound of the surf  and woke to the call of the gulls.  The air was fragrant with the smell of the sea, hot tar, beach plum roses, and pine.  On clear nights, the moon lit up the sea.  The ocean sparkled.

I can still hear it and see it and smell it.  Still.

BOLLI Matters contributor Maxine Weintraub

Maxine, one of the founders of the current BOLLI Writers Guild, has frequently been published in the “Goose River Anthology.”  She has self-published short story collections and is currently working on both a set of short stories to be published this year as well as a memoir focused on her life in Kennebunkport.

BLACK LIVES MATTER: White on Black in Black and White by Marty Kafka

White on Black in Black and White

By Martin P. Kafka

 Who knew that Amos Jones and Andrew Brown (a.k.a.) Amos n’ Andy were conceived, written, and voice-dubbed by two white-skinned black-face actors, Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll who first conceived their distinctive characters while producing a radio drama series.

Having thrived by learning to mimic American negroes’ distinctive jargon, their very successful minstrel show performances groomed Amos n’ Andy to reach an ever-expanding radio audience and became the first radio program to be nationally syndicated.

With the advent of black and white television in 1936, the successful radio drama series eventually morphed into the Amos n’ Andy Show, a half-hour weekly comedy series.  White voices were replaced by black actors and black voices, of course, whose humorous, folksy, but sometimes denigrating depiction of black culture and racial stereotyping was eventually censured by the NAACP. Eventually, social pressures forced the show to leave the air waves in 1966.

As a kid, I was studious and not much of a television watcher, but I fell in love with Amos n’ Andy, Kingfish, Sapphire, and Momma. Their humor–and especially Kingfish’s outlandish money-making schemes–consistently kept my attention. I especially recall Kingfish because of his enthusiastic naivete, his persistent entrepreneurial spirit, and his legacy expression, “Holy Mackerel!” These TV characters were sentimentalists, and I adored them. The show’s brand of “black” humor memorably tickled my white-kid funny bone. When they bungled, I giggled, and that was the way it was in Flatbush during the early and middle fifties.

In the all-white neighborhood I grew up in, “racially mixed” translated to ethnically mixed which further translated to Catholics, Protestants, and Jews all mixed on the same street in private homes. When we kids played stickball, stoop-ball, or the Three-Steps-to-Germany variant of street curb tag, we cared about ‘athleti-city,’ not ethnicity. During the winter holiday season, in my parents’ generation, menorahs were prominently displayed in front facing windows on my block. Some houses had Christmas lights and real Xmas trees. For their generation, the racial issue wasn’t black and white–it was the Jew, the Gentile, and the long shadow of the Holocaust. Both my mother and her mother frequently spoke of “the Goyim” as if they were some “other” or alien race to be wary of. I recall really disliking it when they spoke that way, but in retrospect, it was their ethnically-tinged way of saying “Jewish Lives Matter.”  My grandmother had barely survived Cossack progroms in Russia, and both my mom and dad served during World War Two.

So, Amos, Andy, Kingfish, and the rest of your heartwarming crew, although you are all long gone now, your African American legacy has evolved into today’s Black Lives Matter movement. I know that you would all be proud marchers for racial justice in today’s America. And I hope that, in coming days, our culture will become less white on black in black and white.

BOLLI Matters contributor and Writers Guild member, Marty Kafka
Marty Kafka is a retired psychiatrist whose passions include his wife Karen and their family, international travel, and jazz piano. 
In addition, Marty has found a retirement career taking BOLLI classes, writing memoir, and being active in the Photography special interest group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s On Your Mind? Mental Health and Living through a Pandemic by Sandy Miller-Jacobs

Mental Health and Living through this Pandemic

by Sandy Miller-Jacobs

There’s no question that we have slowed down and perhaps even eased up a bit on the stay-at-home directions from Dr. Fauci.  And as a result, we have adopted our newest piece of clothing–a mask that’s supposed to keep us safe from others while keeping others from safe from us.

In the beginning, we thought the quarantine would be for a few weeks, but weeks turned into months, and now we think it may turn into years. When the pandemic reached Massachusetts, it seemed relatively easy for us to combat it. We got our directives, not only from Dr. Fauci and NY Gov. Cuomo but also from our adult “kids” who called daily with one question: “How are you?” and one request: “Don’t even think about going to a store. Use Instacart, or I’ll bring groceries to you and leave them outside the door.” We don’t expect them to come into our home or invite us into theirs.  How did we suddenly switch roles with them becoming the adults checking up on us?

But now that things are opening up, the risk factor is also going up. Going to an outdoor restaurant – they may seat us 6 feet apart, but how do we know what’s happening in the kitchen? Are the wait staff really quarantining after work, or are they hanging out with friends? Is it okay to walk with a friend if we both wear masks, and if we are far apart, is it okay to take off the masks?

People with anxiety disorders feel tense all the time. When will an alarm go off? What if I can’t open the door? What if I have a nightmare tonight? Did my friend forget to call, or did s/he decide not to be my friend anymore? Today, we all know a bit more about what it’s like to have such anxiety and fears.

Life throws us many twists and turns. We have to learn to remain calm and be resilient. But what does it really mean to be resilient?  Psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves ‘bouncing back’ from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”  https://www.apa.org/topics/resilience

It’s our resilience that lets us move on and enables us to continue to function. We need to remember to be in touch with family and friends so that we don’t feel alone. We need to take advantage of online courses and Zoom meetings. And we need to reach out to others. Being quarantined isn’t the same as being locked up. Luckily, it’s summer, and we can go outside and spend time in nature. We can walk and hike, read and write, talk and see others who live far away.

Look at the bright side. We have slowed down and now appreciate the outdoors, family, and friends even more. We are also even more grateful, of course, for our health and our lives. As we approach a new academic year, we all hope for continued health and a time in which we can return to seeing others in person and giving hugs and kisses to those we love.

BOLLI Matters contributor, SGL and SIG leader, Sandy Miller-Jacobs

Sandy finally retired after nearly 50 years in Special Education.  Along the way, she married, completed her doctorate, raised two daughters, married them off, and became a grandmother.  She says that BOLLI is the key to maintaining brain function through teaching and learning while meeting new friends. Her hobbies now include photography, memoir writing, and aging.  (She was instrumental in creating the SIG on Aging with Enthusiasm and Resilience.) Sometimes she takes the risk and shares her hobbies and ideas with BOLLI members!