Category Archives: Memoir Writing

MEMOIR FROM LARRY: THE DRAWER OF MISFIT TOYS

THE DRAWER OF MISFIT TOYS

By L. Schwirian

         In the mid 70’s to mid-80’s, when our sons were young, we typically traveled at least twice a year to visit both sets of grandparents–one set in Cleveland and the other set near Pittsburgh.  As the drive was nearly six hundred miles, we (mostly Caroline) had to invent things to do along the way so that the three of them wouldn’t do bodily harm to one another or rip the back seat to shreds.  We always brought plenty of books and a number of tapes, mostly Muppet songs, as we sped along the interstates of Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  I particularly remember all of us singing along with Kermit the Frog, Why are There So Many Songs about Rainbows? On more than one occasion, usually when we were at least a couple of hundred miles out, Caroline would wonder if she had turned the iron off.   After the second or third time, I started packing the iron in the trunk.

When we finally reached my parent’s home after twelve or more hours on the road (there were many pit stops along the way), all three sons would pile out of the car and head for “the drawer of misfit toys” in my mother’s kitchen. The drawer contained bits and pieces of old toys that had long since been lost or abandoned. There was a little ball with jacks, numerous marbles of various sizes and colors, a yoyo, a top, playing cards, toy soldiers, knights on plastic horses, a few Lincoln Logs (but not enough to build anything with), pieces of an erector set, a dart gun, a harmonica, commemorative coins, nuts and bolts, rubber bands, a mouth harp, as well as various and sundry other stuff.

But there were two things that seemed to be favorites. One was a hollow, woven cylindrical shaped object about six inches long and less than a half-inch in diameter with openings at both ends. One son would put his index finger in one end and ask his brother or cousin to put his or her finger in the other end. When he pulled back, the tube would stretch, reducing the diameter and trapping both fingers.

The most intriguing toy, however, was a large horseshoe magnet about five inches long, two inches wide, and about a quarter-inch thick.  It had not originally been a toy but must have been removed from some piece of machinery…it was a very strong magnet. There were also two small magnets in the form of black and white terrier dogs. The oldest son would get under the kitchen table with the big magnet while the other two sons would place the two little magnets on the tabletop; wherever the big magnet moved the little dogs would follow.  It was pure magic.

Many of these trips took place around the Christmas holiday which meant that there would be a tumultuous unwrapping of gifts on Christmas morning and an overabundance of new toys.  But as likely as not, after a couple days, all three sons would be back exploring the “drawer of misfit toys.”

BOLLI Matters feature writer and co-chair of the Writers Guild, 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 DENNIS: THE LUNCHEON GROUP

The Luncheon Group

by Dennis Greene

I retired four years ago and now appreciate, more and more each day, how lucky I was to have been part of the “luncheon group.” With no specific plan, this group evolved over the course of ten years at a large Boston law firm and resulted in five of us having lunch together two or three times a week for another 35. Though we spoke mostly about local sports, firm gossip, our respective families, and current events, it was, for me, a continuing opportunity to study how very smart and very decent people behave. It was a lifelong lesson in humility. Here is just one illustration of what I mean.

The group naturally took an interest in each other’s kids, attending their plays and sports events and celebrating their successes. So, when Andy’s son Tim, then in his early 20’s, managed to land a spot on “The Apprentice,” I temporarily waived my boycott of the show and watched it.  Donald Trump, the show’s host and resident ego-maniac, was apparently charmed and impressed by Timmy, often referring to him as “our Harvard Phi Bate.” I didn’t know Tim had achieved Phi Beta Kappa status, so I mentioned it at our next lunch.

“Andy, I didn’t know Tim was Phi Bate,” I said. “I knew he was smart, but my daughter Alex, whom I also consider very smart, told me her Phi Bate friends at Yale were so far above her academically, she could only see the bottoms of their feet. Except for Alex’s friend Adam, I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to a member of that prestigious group.”

There was an awkward pause, and I noticed that Andy was looking at his feet.

“Actually, I was Phi Beta Kappa at Dartmouth,” he said, almost apologetically.

I was astonished and glanced at Tom to see if he was as surprised as I was. But he also looked uncomfortable.

“Uh, I was a member at Trinity,” he admitted.

I turned to Joel, who also seemed to be ill at ease.

“Yup. Penn,” he acknowledged.

Feeling like a complete idiot, I turned at last to Stan, the fifth and youngest member of our little group. He was grinning at my discomfort.

“Dennis, it appears that you and I are not qualified to participate in these lunchtime discussions,” Stan suggested.  “Our place should be to sit quietly, listen, and soak up the surrounding wisdom.”

Thank goodness for Stan.

Now, the fact that my three close friends were members of Phi Beta Kappa didn’t really surprise me. I knew that they had attended prestigious colleges and graduated from ivy law schools.  I also knew that they were brilliantly accomplished lawyers who had, over the years, demonstrated their extraordinary intelligence again and again.

Joel was kind enough to note that I was the only member of our group who had managed (at a less prestigious college) to be placed on both academic and disciplinary probation in the same year.  We are all unique.

During a recent summer, I was on a safari in Botswana, bouncing through the savannah in an off-road vehicle, and spent several days with a lovely English couple named Charles and Elisabeth.  By day, we shared adventures observing magnificent wildlife.  And each evening, as we dined, we casually discussed science fiction literature, travel, the state of the world, and how to avoid snakes while discretely relieving oneself in the bush.

When we returned to Wellesley, I found several nice pictures of the couple and wanted to send them copies, so I looked Charles up on the internet.  He had failed to mention that he was the financial director of the Bank of England and had been knighted in 2014.

But he had never been a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

“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. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMOIR WRITING WITH DONNA JOHNS: THE GREAT ESCAPE

THE GREAT ESCAPE

By Donna Johns

John Donne leans leisurely against King Arthur. Arthur Rex snuggles soundly with Sweet Will Shakespeare. Towering above them is Fanny Farmer, sans covers, coated with stains from holiday feasts. My books and shelves are home from a long exile in the land of Public Storage. They will never know how challenging it was to rescue them.

The kingdom of Public Storage is ruled by a troll named Chuck. Long of beard and mostly bald, he sits behind a long expanse of counter on a black mesh desk chair with wheels. He never stands or walks. He rolls from side to side, trying mightily to be as unhelpful as possible while appearing to be helpful. King Chuck, like many rulers, is cursed. His computer is always down.

I take a deep breath and walk through the empty room to the counter of power. Chuck squints up at me. “Hello,” he says brightly. “How may I help you today?” He sounds sincere, but I know from previous encounters that he is not.

“I’m emptying my storage unit today. I’ve already done the online notification and canceled the autopay. They said I needed to notify the manager.” Snap! This should be easy.

“They said to notify me?” He looks puzzled and alarmed, as though I had just announced my intention to set fire to his counter.

“Yes.” I begin to sweat. I have deviated from the King Chuck playbook.

“Huh.” Chuck wheels his way to his computer and peers at the screen. He strokes his beard thoughtfully. “Gee, my computer is down.”

I say nothing. I checked when I came in. His wifi is up and running.

“Did you take your lock?” he barks into the silence. I hold up the padlock to prove I’ve obeyed orders. Then drop it on my big toe. A genuine Chuck smile emerges. He enjoys his customers’ pain.

“Well, when my computer is working I will email your receipt. I hope you have had a good experience with Public Storage. It’s been a pleasure serving you.” OK, so maybe I’ve been a little harsh.

I walk back through the parking lot to the loading dock.  My daughter and her boyfriend, who are the muscle behind the moving operation, are cramming a bed frame into the crowded UHaul. It doesn’t fit, so they break it up. It is not my bed. Unbeknownst to me, my daughter had thrown her old bed in my storage space. They head upstairs in the elevator to retrieve the last remaining occupant of my storage space: a mattress.

I wait outside the elevator doors for their return. Then my cell phone rings. I answer and a nasal voice demands, “Are you in the lobby?”

“Excuse me?” I answer. “Who is this?”

“It’s Chuck. Are you in the lobby?” I look around in confusion. As near as I can tell, this isn’t a lobby, it’s a loading dock. I was in the lobby when I last saw the demon Chuck.

“No. At least I don’t think I’m in the lobby. I’m….”

“I know you’re in the lobby. I can see you.” He chuckles, a rusty sound straight out of a Stephen King movie.

I resist the impulse to hide behind a pillar. I look around and realize there are security cameras pointed at me. “Well, OK then, I guess this is the lobby.”

“There is a mattress in your storage unit.” Contempt drips from every word. “Did you think you could just leave it behind? That’s against the rules.”

A pause while I resist the impulse to run for my life. “They’re picking it up now,” I blurt.  The phone goes dead. I never even get the chance to say goodbye.

The kids arrive right after the phone call. We quickly shove the mattress into the truck, and we speed out of the parking lot of Public Storage, never ever to return. Chuck waved as we passed his window. We didn’t wave back.

This morning, I fill the empty bookcases with my beloved books. As I dust each one, I promise, “You’ll never have to live in the land of Public Storage again.”

“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.

MEMOIR WRITING FROM MARGIE ARONS-BARRON

FISHING FOR A STORY…

By Margie Arons-Barron

They’re crammed into the glass jar, some gray or pinkish or maybe brown.  Some are inert, and others squirm.  All are slimy.  I force myself to reach into the jar and pull one out, holding it in my ten-year-old hand while, with the other, I force one end onto the hook, into the anus.  Or maybe it was the mouth.  I could never tell which.  I make sure the worm’s body covers the hook so the fish won’t know its dinner comes at a price.

I let the line out into Long Lake, dragging my “worm hand” in the water to wash off the slime.  I shiver with disgust, looking to my father for approval.  He knows everything about what the bass is thinking.  This inlet is rocky; he’ll hide in the vegetation.  A storm is coming; he’s more likely to bite.  Think like a bass, he tells me, and I nod as if I understand.

Sometimes the bass are not biting.  As the sun comes up, it’s pike that we entice.  We take them to our cabin to grill for breakfast.  Those shared times predate catch-and-release.

My father would face the bow, where I sat, his back to the motor, hand on the tiller.  Occasionally, our Johnson/Evinrude outboard would die, and I’d row the boat, stopping in one place or other depending on what my father believed the fish were thinking that day.

“Uh, Dad,” I said on one occasion.  “The motor is on fire.”

Swiveling on his seat, fearing conflagration, he loosened the clamps and dumped the engine into the lake.  “No point in going farther,” he shrugged, so I picked up the oars.  Blisters on my hands were a badge of our bonding.

Cynics dismiss bass fishing as a hobby, not a sport.  Bass fishing is hardly about reeling in a fifty-pound tuna.  It was my father’s sport, though, and I was grateful to share it with him.

Still, father-daughter bonding would go only so far.  Dad and his best fishing buddy were flying into Brown Paper Company property in northern Maine to fish for several days.  I longed to be included.  My hurt was extreme when he returned, sunburned and bearded, and revealed that the friend’s son, three years younger than I, had gone along.

Years later, when he lost his leg to diabetes, he couldn’t handle the instability of a small boat and settled for deep-sea excursions on charters.  The fishing was never the same for either of us.  Yet, on what would have been his hundredth birthday, my husband, sister, and I went deep-sea fishing out of Gloucester.  Post-hurricane, there were fifteen-foot swells.  Hearty men hung over the gunwhales, projectile vomiting.  Protected by pride and Bonine, I stayed the course and fished for six hours.

I owed it to my father.  My reward was fresh haddock for dinner—and a connection reaching well beyond the line cast over the water for some unsuspecting halibut with a big mouth.

BOLLI Matters Writer Margie Arons-Barron

After a long career in broadcast journalism, Margie has turned to writing memoir and fiction at BOLLI.  She has been a member of the Writers’ Guild and serves on the Journal committee.  She is also an avid and successful blogger.  You can read and subscribe to her blog at:  https://marjoriearonsbarron.com/

MEMOIR BY LARRY SCHWIRIAN: AUDREY

AUDREY

By Larry Schwirian

Her name was Audrey,  and she was the new girl in school in the fall of 1952.  She had long, black, wavy hair, big brown eyes, and blemish-free olive skin.  Wearing a sleeveless, bright colored dress, she wasn’t built like Sophia Loren or Gina Lollobridida, but, then, she was only eight years old.  I was instantly smitten, and she hadn’t yet spoken a word or looked my way.

Audrey was anxious to make new friends, and I was anxious to be the first in line.  Soon after, she invited me to have dinner with her and her parents at her home.  One of the most unforgettable experiences of my youth was playing spin-the-bottle with her in her living room while her mother prepared an exotic Italian meal.  I used the word “exotic” because my familiarity with Italian food was limited to spaghetti.  I had no idea what her mother was cooking, but it smelled great, and I wasn’t really there for the dinner anyway, even though I did enjoy the food.  Altogether, it was a very memorable afternoon.  I got my first kiss from Audrey and will never forget the aromas emanating from that kitchen.

My budding romance with Audrey came to an abrupt halt only a few weeks later when my teacher caught in the coat room hiding a love note in Audrey’s coat pocket.  Miss Weigle (which was, of course, pronounced “wiggle” by most) made me stand in front of the class and read the note out loud.  Needless to say, it was an earth-shattering experience for me, and I am sure Audrey was equally embarrassed.  It didn’t kill my ardor for her, but it definitely put a damper on our evolving relationship.  It would be another five years before I had the courage to admit to others that I had romantic feelings for a member of the opposite sex.  In our senior year of high school, she was selected by her peers to be homecoming queen and the most popular female in our class.

I have since learned never to write anything down that I would be embarrassed to have read out loud in front of other people.

BOLLI “Matters” contributor and co-chair 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.  

 

MEMOIR WRITING: MY FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

MY FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS

by Steve Goldfinger

My parents were aghast when I strode home from school wearing a large, gold helmet, bowl-sized shoulder pads, and a huge purple shirt bearing the number 34.  It hanged to my shins.   At nine years old in Brownwood, Texas (population 12,000 or so), I was on Miss Wilson’s football team.

My dad was a doctor in the 13th Armored tank division, training here to join General Patton’s final push. We had come from Brooklyn to be with him. Miss Wilson was the principal of the grade school. She was also spelling teacher, math teacher, librarian, baseball and football coach.

I was in the 3rd grade when I arrived. After appearing in a class and answering a few simple questions about Africa, the topic of the week, I was promoted to the 4th.  In short order, the 5th. And a few days later, the 6th.  Was I really that bright?

Anyway, in the 6th grade, the guys automatically became Miss Wilson’s football team. Me included, shrimp that I was, who knew nothing about football. When I was playing line during practice scrimmages, I couldn’t understand why the kid across from me sometimes took a running jump over me when the ball was snapped and, at other times, just stood there looking down. I dIdn’t even know the difference between offense and defense.

I made it into one play during the season. It was a game played under the lights on a Friday night–yes, in 1944, this was a Texas tradition even for grade schools–and my dad brought a few of his fellow officers to join him in the stands. We were losing 35 to 0 and had the ball when Miss Wilson pushed me onto the field. “Tell them to pass, pass, and keep passing.”  It took me a while to get out there. I repeated her words to our quarterback in a tremulous voice and got up to the line. I don’t remember what happened immediately after, but my father told me I appeared exceedingly brave after receiving smelling salts on the sidelines.

That was my football career.

When the baseball season came around, I was first up in the batting order–a cinch to draw a walk because of my measly size, even without crouching.  And walk I did at the begining of our first game. The next pitch was thrown for a ball as I stood there when, all of a sudden, there was Miss Wilson charging at me.

“Why didn’t you steal?” she shouted.

“What do you mean?”

“You gotta steal on the first pitch!”

Really? I didn’t know that, but, on the next one, I followed her command. The ball beat me to the bag by about ten steps.  The shortstop held it out at me, waist high, and I slid right under it into the base….safe!

There she was, charging again.

“What was that?!”

They had never heard of a slide inTexas!  So this pipsqueak from the north had something to teach them.

When we returned to Brooklyn, it took a fair amount of persuasion by my mother to convince the principal of P.S. 234 to allow me to move ahead.  He wanted to discount my Texas education altogether and send me back to the third grade where I belonged.

Memoir Writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI two years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.  

MEMOIR WRITING: DINNER DATING

The Writers’ Guild prompt was:  “A Memorable Dinner Date,” which I chose to approach in a somewhat different way.

by Sue Wurster

For some, uranium dating marks time.  For others, it’s tree rings.  For us, it was dinner.  Not long after we started dating, Kathy chose to prepare our first home-cooked meal in my ridiculously tiny New York City efficiency apartment.

“So, where are your spices?” she asked me, turning from what constituted the kitchen (a grown-up version of the kid unit) to the den (the desk right behind her).

“Up there on the left above the sink,” I pointed.  Where else would they be?  I thought.  I’ve got all of three cupboards.

“I see salt, pepper, and a jar of Lawry’s,” she returned, “—but no spices.”

From that moment, the cultivation of my Midwestern palate was underway.

Two years later, we took it as tacit endorsement of our relationship when Kathy’s mom Betty added a bowl of sage stuffing to her Thanksgiving fare. (And I thought I’d been subtle about not having developed a taste for her renowned oyster variety.)  Kathy’s grandmother Caroline and the New Orleans family retainer Ella had passed their gourmet secrets to Betty who, in turn, gave them to her daughter.  Ten years later, after Betty died, Kathy placed her mom’s large, red recipe box on a shelf in our pantry and made her famous brisket and kugel for dinner.

Now, Kathy never actually used recipes, her own or anybody else’s.  I, however, follow them religiously, and what I cook ends up coming out just fine.  Kathy, though, could read a recipe, toss it aside, and do her own thing—always resulting in something … extra fine.

After Kathy died, I thought I’d try to carry on some of their best traditions myself—not Betty’s oyster stuffing, of course, but her brisket and kugel, for sure.  I went to that red box in the pantry and discovered that it contained no recipes at all.  On card after card, Betty described her dishes and made notes—hints, reminders, directives.  I could actually hear her voice:  If you forgot to get shallots, add a little garlic.

The one ingredient our spice rack eventually lacked when it came to home-cooked dinners was time.  Not t-h-y-m-e time but, rather, the minutes and hours that gourmet cooking entails.  As teacher parents with papers to grade and picky eaters to feed, we ended up resorting to the quick and easy.  My gastronome’s array of gourmet cooking paraphernalia gathered dust in the pantry.  There never seemed to be enough grown-up time for the espresso machine.  Panini press.  Crepe maker.  Sushi shaping tubes.  Or the bread machine.  All ended up waiting, as were we, for our picky eaters to develop their more sophisticated palates.

It’s been almost seven years now.  About two years ago,  Cara pulled out the fancy steamer for her experimental veggie concoctions.  And a few months later, after a shopping jaunt in Natick that somehow ended up with her buying yeast, of all things, Dani commandeered the bread machine.  Both have dipped into that recipe box to create their own versions of both Grandma Betty and Mommy’s perennial favorites.

From that first dinner in my city shoebox to the last dish of Thanksgiving oyster stuffing, what Kathy gave all of us–every day, in every way–was the very best in true “soul food.”  Complete with spices.

“BOLL Matters” editor Sue Wurster

This blog has been such a highlight for me at BOLLI, and I hope to see more members choose to write and share thoughts, favorite books/movies/tv shows, local recommendations for restaurants and/or other establishments, memories–or take your camera for a walk and send us the results!

 

Send submissions to:  susanlwurster@gmail.com

MEMOIR WRITING: THE END OF THE BEGINNING

THE END OF THE BEGINNING

by Larry Schwirian

It was the last week of May, and I was driving to McKeesport to pick up my tux for the Senior Prom.  This was probably the last time I would ever need to go to McKeesport for anything.   Graduation was only a few weeks away, and then there would be only three short months before I left the only home I’d ever known for college in another state.  I was anxious to get away, to begin to make my way in the world on my own terms, to be independent of my family…but I was also a little apprehensive.  I was, it could be said, more or less at the top of the heap, both academically and socially, in the small town where I grew up, but I knew the competition was going to be a lot tougher in the city at the selective engineering school I was going to attend.

As I parked the car to go into the store to pick up my tux, my train of thought shifted to the girl who was my date for the prom.  Her name was Ginny.  She was not my girlfriend or even someone I occasionally dated…but just a friend.  Her longtime boyfriend and future husband was a couple of years older and away at college;  she very much wanted to go to the prom, so she asked me to be her escort. I couldn’t very well refuse as I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time and there was no one I would be happier to spend a special evening with. She was quite attractive and a very personable girl, or should I say young woman?  I was never sure, at that age, what the difference was between the two.

Ginny was unlike most of the other girls in our class. She dressed more conservatively and seemed to be more introspective. She lived with her grandmother and never shared anything about her parents or siblings. I sensed a self-consciousness about her situation, so I never pushed for details.  Most of the “in-crowd” girls always seemed to hang around together, but Ginny didn’t seem to need the support of her peers.

On the evening of the prom, I drove to her grandmother’s to pick her up.  When she came down the stairs in a cream colored, spaghetti-strap, bare-shouldered gown, I was gob-smacked. I had brought her a corsage but was unnerved as to how and where I was going to fasten it to her gown. Fortunately, Grandma rigged-up something so she could wear it on her wrist.

The prom itself was fairly uneventful except that I got a small cut on my nose from Ginny’s hair…she used some kind of hairspray that made her hair that stiff. Afterward, I took her home, and we sat on her porch swing for a couple of hours, talking about our futures. As I was about to leave, she gave me a hug, kissed me on the cheek, and thanked me for being a good friend…and benign escort.

Except for the graduation ceremony, that was the last I saw or heard from Ginny until our forty-fifth high school reunion. That prom and that graduation ceremony were, in a very real sense, The End of My Beginning.

BOLLI Matters writer and co-chair 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.  Since joining BOLLI, Larry has dived into writing.  He has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  

 

 

JULY “BOOK NOOK” : A LITERARY MEMORY FROM ABBY PINARD

THE BOOK THAT MATTERED

Brooklyn Public Library

by Abby Pinard

When I turned 13, in the mid-1950s, having long since exhausted the children’s section of the Brooklyn Public Library, I was finally granted an adult card. Oh, the wonders that were now available to me! Not just the books but the soaring, sunlit space, the hush, and the certainty that important grown-up people were doing important grown-up reading there.

Early on, I read a book called (I thought) A Small Rain. I remember no other single book from that time, but that one stuck with me. There was a scene in which a young girl who plays the piano is asked if she plays well. “Yes,” she says. I was thrilled and appalled! Who could be so immodest? I played the piano, pretty well for 13, but I would never have said so! I was a gawky, nerdy, shy kid, and boasting — or even believing I had anything to boast about — just wasn’t in my repertoire.

Over the years, the book would periodically penetrate my consciousness, and I would think that I should re-read it to figure out why it had been important to me. Was it just that one scene? I had a vague sense that the girl was growing up in New York City but that her city was very unlike mine, and I didn’t remember anything else about her. I couldn’t remember the author’s name, but I clearly remembered that the physical space in which I’d found the book was in the section for authors from J-M. We were a long way from the Internet, and although any librarian could’ve helped me, life intervened; there were lots more books to read, and I never tried to identify the book.

Until twenty or so years ago when I read an article about Madeleine L’Engle that mentioned her first book. The title varied from my recollection only by the difference between “a” and “the,” and her name fit alphabetically. When I read a synopsis, I was certain I had found it, and I bought the book. I re-read it closely but had no clear insight as to why it was meaningful to the 13-year-old me. It’s a coming-of-age story, originally published in 1945, featuring the lonely daughter of mostly absent parents. Maybe I was as shocked by the sixteen-year-old’s relationships with grown men as I was by her immodesty, or perhaps I was fascinated by the glamorous bohemianism of her life in Greenwich Village and Paris. Or maybe it was just that one scene that was so startling that I never forgot it.

The Small Rain sits on a shelf where I can see it from where I now sit. I no longer think it has anything to tell me about who I was at 13, but I may read it once more just to be sure.

BOLLI Matters “Book Nook” Feature Writer, Abby Pinard

A lifelong book nut, Abby retired from a forty-year computer software career and ticked an item off her bucket list by going to work in a bookstore.  A native New Yorker, she moved to Boston to be among her people:  family and Red Sox fans.  A music lover, crossword puzzler, baseball fan, and political junkie, she flunked Halloween costumes but can debug her daughter’s wifi.

 

 

MEMOIR WRITING FROM MITCH FISCHMAN: HOME RUN!

HOME RUN!

by Mitch Fischman

“Did you get to second base last night?” my buddy Marty asked.  He motioned how he barely slid into third and hoped to round the bases next Saturday…maybe even hit a home run, if he was lucky. Sure I knew about the Red Sox, but I wondered why he was playing baseball on Saturday night.  He was talkative and was always the spokesman for our group of kids when events of the day needed interpretation.  So, when he took off his belt, leaving with his pants partially open, I wondered why anyone would play a game without a belt.  But Marty was a schemer, and he was so energized with the details of how he would steal home from third next week, it sounded possible.

Growing up, I knew that Marty behaved differently than our other friends. He always climbed trees or played tricks on us.  Mostly, they were harmless like trying to lock us out of our own homes or starting fires with his ever-present lighter.  He said he carried it to be able to light cigarettes he would bum from his older brother.  I never believed that.   I assumed he used it to play tricks or burn someone’s house down.  Whenever I heard sirens, I always thought that Marty had done it again.

I was particularly intrigued as to how Marty was going to hit a home run next Saturday, and he didn’t disappoint me with his answer.  “I will stand at the plate with a guitar,” he said, “and sing a love song while holding a dozen roses.”  I appreciated his care for detail but wondered how he could hit a home run out of the park while holding all that stuff and, I assumed, a bat. He was confident, though, that he would succeed.

A week later, when I asked whether or not he had hit a home run, he said, “No–only a triple.”  And he was disappointed that he was rejected at third after spending $250 on a limousine which didn’t make any friggin’ sense.  I told him that all I wanted to hit was a single and that I needed him to come help me to buy a good bat.

“You don’t need a bat,” he said.  “Just some good after-shave lotion and mouthwash.”  I was confused.  What the heck did any of that have to do with baseball?   So far, Marty hasn’t explained anything to me.  I guess it’s our little secret,  but maybe someday I will know more.

BOLLI Matters Memoir Writer, Mitch Fischman

Mitch Fischman is a baseball fan and a city planner, working for the Boston Redevelopment Authority for 15 years and for developers for 30 years. As a kid he went to Red Sox games with his Dad and always kept a running score of hits and outs by player. This blog entry grew out of that life experience.