Category Archives: QUARANTINE TALES



Author’s note: I began to collect the opening lines from all the emails I have been receiving from companies during the pandemic. I thought it would be fun to put them together like a poem. So, here it is…

 For the one who does it all, handles it all, and helps you out, too.

 Compiled by Donna Johns

Hey, smarty-pants,

We’re Grateful For You.

You make us … us!

And we’re here for you.


Say goodbye to boredom.

Party at home with playlists.

This One Yoga Pose Could Calm Your Nerves.

To-do list: Organize.

Make a great meal.

Relax and sleep well.


Every day feels like Saturday now.

Go ahead… stay in your jammies!

Make yourself at home.


Is Your Diet Weakening Your Immune System?

Head to the pantry.

Espresso yourself!

Cinnamon-Date Sticky Buns!!

$16.99 SPANX power panties!!!


Now HERE’S something to look forward to…

Say goodbye to boredom.

Let’s Stay Connected: Stronger Together


Ready, Set…Zoom 

BOLLI MATTERS “After Dark” feature writer, Writers Guild and Scene-iors Member

DONNA is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member.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.




By Katherine Wangh

I am waiting to pick up some boxes of food at Russo’s. It is raining.  I have been in my car for over an hour, so I have had time to get in touch with my feelings.

I think about not being able to pick out the avocadoes or the bouquet of flowers I like. I think about not being able to debate which vegetables to buy depending on what looks good this week. I think about not being able to look at, touch, and smell all these beautiful fruits, vegetables, plants, and flowers.

I have placed my order.  Not only are spontaneous choices not possible, but it is also not possible to have spontaneous encounters with other shoppers who come from all parts of the world to buy the fruits and vegetables from their native countries.  Conversations between customers usually start with “What is this? How do you eat it or cook it?” No more indulging my curiosity about foods and people in those narrow aisles filled with produce. Instead, I wait patiently in my car for a woman younger than me, wearing a face mask and rubber gloves, to wheel my boxes out in the rain.

Before she reaches my car, I see her throw a huge planter of purple and white pansies onto the cart. I figure this is not my order as I did not order pansies. I am feeling a bit downcast with all the waiting. Then she taps on my window! It is my order! I open the back with the automatic door opener, and she places the boxes inside saying, “I threw in some pansies for you! I hope you like flowers!”  Overcome, I say, “Thank you! Thank you so much! Yes, I love flowers!”

Once home, I put on a mask and rubber gloves and unpack the boxes on the deck, washing everything in soapy water. In the background, I seem to hear the soundtrack of anxiety and the fear of death which seems to be playing all day and all night. Admittedly, I have found some ways to distract myself from this music, but I could never have imagined that the best interruption would come today, from a complete stranger, in the form of a spontaneous and cheerful gift of purple and white pansies!

BOLLI Member and Writers Guild writer Kathy Wangh

My interests?  Music. Art, language, psychology, nature, science, travel.  My professions?  Teaching preschool and working with children/young adults as a psycho-analytically trained therapist. Married to scientist Larry for over 50 years and now enjoying grandchildren, singing in the Concord Women’s Chorus, curating my father’s artistic legacy, writing, and gardening!




                                       TREES AND GRILLS

By Martin Kafka

During these times of global and local threat from an invisible enemy, I seek out ways to calm myself and maintain a positive attitude. This is one of them.                                                                             

I have been called a tree-hugger. I am humbled by trees.  Where I grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, we had the pleasure of having a London Plane Tree,  an upland variation of the Sycamore, that stood proudly across from our front stairs and shed its joyous leaves in the fall. Brooklyn had more than a few trees, you know, but let’s face it, the “Garden City” of Newton is a hell of a lot more arboreal.

On this early evening, as I sit at the picnic table, grilling herbed chicken and nursing a gin with tonic and lime, I am surrounded by mature trees, really tall ones, at the boundary edge of my back yard.  These days, I consider them my protectors. I recently learned that our home is nearly one hundred years old, so some of the mighty trees that look up to the evening blue sky from our front and back yards could be pretty old.  I’m sure they have witnessed a lot of barbecues, birds, wild turkeys, rabbits, mice, deer, and especially, noisy joyful children. Like the Liberty Mutual commercial jingle, my trees “have seen a thing or two.”

As I admire the wonderful late afternoon’s yellowed-green light shimmering through the leaves on my favorite oak, white birch, and linden trees, I have to admit that I am nearly in awe at the myriad of dappled tones of their wonderful leaves. This is a very peaceful spot for me. I am safe here.

Whenever I am out here grilling, admiring my back yard, and relaxing, I also find myself reminiscing about my dad. He relaxed on the fairways and greens of the golf course, and he loved to charcoal grill chicken after a day at the links. Dad was the family Grill King on our small back porch in Brooklyn while Mom was the undisputed Queen of our Kitchen Cuisine. But as far as grilling, the times have not changed that much.  For me, outdoor grilling is still a man’s domain.

My dad loved his chicken, and he loved cooking it, turning the legs and breasts with long grilling tongs.  It was one of the times he could be quiet, almost meditative. He also loved his Dewar’s Scotch on the rocks which he always had while grilling.  That time on our modest back yard elevated porch was the heyday for charcoal briquette grilling, with none of this contemporary gas grill-heat ’em- right-up kind of thing.  When I did my residency training in psychiatry in Ann Arbor, I used to do charcoal grilling on my tiny back porch and still did so when I first moved to Newton.  The cooking process took too long once I had a family, though, so I finally capitulated to the gas grill for its convenience.  But I sure miss that charcoal flavor and all those aromatic carcinogens!

As my father’s son, I have inherited his fondness for food, grilling, and, especially, herbed chicken.  I will admit that a bit of alcohol helps as well.  Dad would wait for those charcoal briquettes to be just right before adding the chicken to the grill-top, enjoying the sizzle as he nursed his Dewar’s. When it comes to grilling chicken, like father, like son. No worries now–just good food!

BOLLI Member, SGL, and Writers Guild Writer 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.



Quarantine Days

by Lois Sockol

The morning sun streams through my bedroom window. Definitely, I will walk outdoors today. But what day is it? Silly how the days have lost their individuality. Wait, I know. Yesterday I had a BOLLI class, so today must be Tuesday.

BOLLI and other streaming sites help define my calendar, and Zoom is the engine that drives my days. No need to fight the Rt. 128 traffic or search out a parking space. Just steps from the comfort of my bed, through the breakfast eating area to my office, I sit in front of my computer screen, click my mouse, and grin as the world opens before me.

Each day, there are courses, or lectures, or both, as well as family meetings and chats with friends. Although not as gratifying as the warmth of human touch, seeing welcoming faces and animated gestures is far more satisfying than merely hearing voices through the telephone line. Funny how Zoom, an impersonal innovation, can so successfully enable a sense of intimacy. Never would I have anticipated it penetrating the wilderness of my quarantine.

Now that I know it’s Tuesday, I can plan to take my walk after the Rotary meeting, which runs from noon to 1:30. I have set a goal that, for each hour I sit at my desk, I will walk for either 15 or 20 minutes.

With each passing day of isolation, it seems that more and more people are leaving the confines of their homes to walk along a sidewalk that borders a once heavily trafficked street, the thoroughfare to Rt.128. Whether it be families, couples, or individuals, walkers and joggers stream by my window, some wearing masks, all appropriately distanced. Perhaps this healthy, social activity will continue even after the hovering cloud of COVID- 19 is lifted.

I have always enjoyed walking, but, these days, it feels even more pleasurable. The trees are definitely greener and more vibrant, the pink azaleas and red rhododendrons are more dynamic. And the birds. Never have I seen so many red robins hip-hopping across my lawn, not flying but walking and pecking. And yesterday, a most unusual experience.

As I walked along the street, a sudden shadow hovered over me. I lifted my eyes and gazed at the wings of a huge hawk. The sight startled me! Hawks in Needham!  That wonder was followed by a quick flash of scarlet as I caught sight of a brilliant red cardinal in flight.

Can it be that the reduction in carbon is encouraging the natural wildlife to leave their hideaways? Now that’s a consequence I can happily live with.

BOLLI member, SGL, writer, and friend Lois Sockol

“I’ve been blessed with a 65 year marriage.  We raised four boys we are proud of and  enjoy the reward of 9 grandchildren.  I taught public school for 25 years, published an instructional manual to aid teachers in teaching children who are high risk for learning to read, and conducted seminars on the teaching of reading. I have been active in Needham for 36 years as a Library Trustee and a Town Meeting member.  And now, I have the joy of being a member of BOLLI!”