May Auld Acquaintance Please Be Forgot

Though born in raised in New York City, my family background is from the South. Or as I sometimes joke, I am from South Cackalaky (a colloquialism for South Carolina) via the South Bronx. My Yankee/Dixie mix is apparent in my daily life, but more so around the holidays where part of my Christmas Day meal this year consisted of Italian (baked ziti), Spanish (yellow rice) and Southern (pork shoulder) cuisines.

As we rapidly approach the very end of 2016 I am now reminded of a different tradition — how one must start off the very first day of each year. With variances for local and/or home preferences the checklist is as follows:

New Year’s Day Prep Southern Style:

  1. New mop and broom.
    — One does not bring last year’s dirt into a new year.
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house.
    (2a. That man must have money in his pocket.)
    — Usually, this was the man of the house, who would walk out the back door, if available, then enter through the front door.
  3. Everything must be clean. Your clothes, your linen, your home, you.
    — A continuation of not bringing in last year’s dirt into a new year – starting after Christmas, the home gets a scrub down.  For some homes, the parts of the house that would be seen by any company that may happen to come calling was enough. For others, the home is cleaned stem to stern within an inch of its inanimate life. Then once everything was cleaned, it was time for everyone to get clean. Hair washed, toe nails clipped, root-to-toot clean.
  4. Prepare the good luck meal of Pork, Black Eyed Peas, and Collard Greens.
    — Though generally a ham, it can be any kind of pork, but it must be pork. Black-eyed peas, on its own or mixed with rice. Collard/Kale/Mustard Greens, or any combination thereof, rounds out the holy trinity of culinary tradition.

All of the above, if followed properly, was presumed to be an assurance of a healthy and prosperous year ahead for you and your family.

So after all that – speaking solely from personal experience – considering the fucked-up, not even close to putting the fun in dysfunction people I was blessed to have to shape my young life, all I can say of all that is BULLLLLLL SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT!

After all, these traditions were ones passed down from families who lived in or were a part of private homes. As poor tenement dwellers, this premise was a glass cliff from the start.

  1. A new mop and broom: Unless it somehow was no longer usable during that week, my mother held on to mops or brooms until the last strands or straws fell off. Who could afford to waste money replacing perfectly good items?
  2. A man must be the first one to come into to house (and have money in his pocket). The only way this could occur is if my father went out for New Year’s Eve and drunkenly stumbled in the door first by happenstance. If there was something needed from the store we could not wait for him to get up first, for if he was home at midnight that meant he did not have any money to go anywhere the night before. So much for money in his pocket. Not to mention, we lived in a tenement, duh! There was no back door to go out of in order to come in a front one. And he damned sure was not getting out of bed and getting dressed to walk out of a door -only to walk back in again- just to satisfy some tradition/superstition. More often than not, I was usually the first person to cross the threshold on the first day of the year.
  3. Everything must be clean.  As an only child and a female, with a father who lifted nothing other than a fork or a liquor bottle, the totality of this cleanliness ritual fell to my mother and I. As I got older the brunt of it was on me.  The days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day were bloody torture for me. I do not exaggerate when I say bloody as my knuckles often became cracked and raw from the constant scrubbing with bleach, ammonia, Lestoil, Pine Sol and hot water as I cleaned. And don’t you dare ask whether I used gloves. Despite years of seeing others, yes white women, doing so on television and in movies, I was well into my teens before it even became a thought in my head as something I could do for myself. The one time I actually brought it up, my mother looked at me with much disdain. “What? You think you too precious to touch water?” The use of gloves was never brought up again.
  4. The good luck meal. Since ham was made for Christmas, in my mother’s kitchen the pork part of the tradition was almost always in the form of chitterlings and hog maw (the smaller intestines and stomach lining of a pig, respectively, cooked for food). If you have no idea whatsoever of what I speak, my God I how I envy you and wish I shared the wonderful bliss of your ignorance! Years after I left home, the smell of bleach and ammonia combined -something everyone knew you should not mix, yet everyone did exactly that back then- would immediately take me back to New Year’s Day when my mother’s kitchen was an olfactory assault of cleaning products and offal stench as my mother spent a good hour or so at the sink cleaning the -ahem- meat before cooking it. Once I was whipped and not allowed to eat anything if I did not eat everything was cooked for the house for New Year’s Day. I took the beating and went hungry for two days because I refused to let that nastiness cross my lips. The only reason I did not starve for three days was because winter break was over and school had started again where I ate breakfast and lunch. I still was not allowed to eat dinner at night. This stalemate lasted until all of the chitterlings was gone and something else was cooked that I was willing to eat.  This whipping and starving routine were repeated several times over a couple of years before I was taken seriously and allowed to eat only what I wanted. I just realized, I was only ten when I first defied my mother like that. That was truly the precursor to what was coming down the pike – but I digress.

Each January 1st this plague of tradition fell on our apartment with the hopes of a better new year. I presume as we did not follow the rules to the letter, three hundred and sixty-five/six days later, the January 1st of the new year found us just as miserable and poor as it found us January 1st of the previous one.  So what was the point? Suffice it to say, when I became the matriarch of my own household, things went a lot differently for New Year’s Day. At least I thought so.

As I look back on it now, it really was not all that different. I have enough south in me that each time I have moved I purchased new mops and brooms to not bring old dirt into a new place. Yet, like my mother, I do not purchase new cleaning implements each year. With two sons to run to the store if necessary, plus my late-husband –having a man being first to come through the front door, with money in his pocket, was almost a given. If someone non-male somehow cross the threshold first – whatever. Granted, while whatever place we called home was not always white-glove spotless, it was clean – except perhaps for my younger son’s room, depending on his mood, that is. And as I was the one in the kitchen, I cooked any damned meal I felt like cooking that day. As I am now a single woman whose adult sons are out on their own, even that much of the tradition is just a memory. Yet, I am living better and happier than I ever have in spite of it.

The closest I come to preparing for the new year is in my spirit. I fully believe how I find my heart at the stroke of midnight is what guides the rest of my year. The years I started off depressed, pretty much remained so. The years I started off on a good foot, stepped on accordingly.  As for this year, I admit my bank account needs some serious replenishing, but I can keep a roof over my head, pay my bills, not starve and still have something of a life on my own. It’s going to be a long while before I can globe hop again the way I did last year, but I will be able to travel a little this year.  Yet all of those things are material. Most important is that I am content. I am happy with myself. I am happy within myself. I am prepared for some new craziness/challenges with this new year, but I am also looking forward to seeing what new joy/beauty/happiness 2017 will bring.

What better way to start?

Writing Our Lives #52essays2017 challenge.
A year-long weekly personal essay/memoir/creative nonfiction writing challenge. To learn more about this challenge or to participate, check out Vanessa Martir’s website and learn about it.


And let’s see how others are slicing this first week of 2017:
Slice of Life Writing Challenge|Two Writing Teachers

As Long As You Believe…

So this happened …

I am sitting on the train on my way to work, listening to my iPod, when a little hand pats me on the arm getting my attention.  I look to the adorable tyke standing in front me. I am bad at children’s ages because they are all so big now, but I was guessing about six years old. Colorful red and white barrettes peeking out from under a snow-white and purple knit hat that coordinated with the purple parka she wore.  The mother, fussing with a little boy in her lap -clearly her son- hadn’t realized her daughter had moved until the child in all her wide, pretty half-moon, long lashed, wonder filled brown eyes looks up at me and asks:

“Hi. Do you know Santa Claus? Is he real?”

I’ll take this moment to explain that, as I do each year the week or so before Christmas, weather permitting, I am wearing my bright red, double-breasted ¾ length wool coat with a wide black leather belt. I’m also wearing an off-white scarf wrapped around my neck and a bright red wool hat, with a nice snowy white fluffy pompom on top.  My nod to the holiday season as it were. Thus why she felt she could come to me with such a question.  The mother smiles apologetically, getting ready to tell her not to bother me, but I speak right over her in that voice we adults reserve for little children as I remove my ear buds.

“What in the candy canes makes you ask a question like that, sweetie?”  I smile.

Hey, dressed as I am, it does kind of require I toe the party line – don’t judge!

“Patty in my class says there’s no Santa Claus.” And I can see the plea in her eyes still wanting to believe.

“Oh honey, Santa Claus is magical. He’s only real to those who really believe he is. Someone mean probably told Patty that Santa isn’t real and she believes them.  And now because she really believes them, there is no Santa Claus for her anymore.  That doesn’t mean Santa won’t be there for you. And what do you believe?”

“I think he’s real, but now I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you know?”

Because we are on the train, I didn’t want her to be in the way as people enter and exit, so I look at the mother and ask if it’s okay, before I pick the child up and put her on my knee.

I know. I know. But really, where else was I going to put her?

“Well, Patty says I don’t have to be good for Santa because there ain’t one…”

“Say there isn’t one, not there ain’t one” I interrupt, correcting her without thinking.

“That’s what Miss Jackson says, too! But I keep forgetting.” She smiles, the veracity of her teacher now confirmed, as she keeps on going. “Patty says there isn’t one.  She says I have to be good and nice only because Mama won’t get me nothing if I don’t.”

I bite my lip, from correcting her again, but she’s a smart little cookie and sees my face.

“Oops! Mama won’t get me anything?”  She corrects herself unsure.  I grin giving her an approving squeeze.

“Well I can’t speak for your Mama. Mamas have their own rules separate from Santa’s that you should to listen to. I will say that you should be good, not just for Christmas or around your birthday, because you think you’re going to get a present.  You should try to be good always because it’s the right thing to do.  It makes everyone around feel nice when you do and don’t you feel nice when you do good things even when you know you’re not going to get a present for it?”


“Well there you go!”

“But even nice to Nicky?” She whines, pointing at her younger brother still squirming in her mother’s lap.  I laugh.

“Nicky is going to get on your nerves a lot while you’re little, and you’re going to get on his. That’s what happens sometimes with siblings. I am sure he won’t seem quite so bad to you when you’re both much older.  Not even Santa expects kids to be perfect all the time. Still, you should do your very best to be good always, and be nice, even to him, okay? ”

“Okay,” She sighs reluctantly, “I’ll try.”

“Claudia, we have to go.” Her mother stands with Nicky, who starts whining loudly.

As she slides from my lap, Claudia looks at me as if to say See?

“I know little brothers can be such doo-doo heads sometimes, right?” I whisper making her giggle in surprise, winking as she returns to her mother.

“Say Merry Christmas to the nice lady, Claudia.” The mother also mouths a grateful thank you to me.

Claudia runs to back to me with her arms open, so I lean forward for the hug.

“Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas, Claudia.”  I give her a quick squeeze and send her to her mother.

Ladies and gentlemen that is my last good deed of this crazy year. I now aim to misbehave and reserve the right to be as much of a pain in the ass as I want to be for these last few days of 2016.

Merry! Happy! Joyous!


Let’s see how others are slicing it up as we race toward Christmas and Hanukkah.


Slice of Life Challenge – Two Writing Teachers

Decked Out

After eight years of living with a roommate I am under my own roof again. It was a long hard climb to get myself back into a solid enough financial stability to do so and I am so happy! It was almost like Christmas as I unearthed the things from storage that I had not seen in all that time.

Some of it was bittersweet: The clock with the traditional wedding vows and our wedding date – a wedding gift from my best-friend. The shadow box containing last flowers and card he sent me, that were received after he was gone (you can read that story here). My late-husband’s folded flag in its wood case. Of those three items, only the flag is out to be seen. I decided other than a picture, it was the only other physical reminder of him that was needed – even the kitchen magnets agreed.

My eldest was placing kitchen magnets of our astrological signs on the new refrigerator the way they were on the old one. When he placed Aquarius, Bill’s sign, on the door it fell to the floor and broke. He looked crestfallen showing it to me, worried about my reaction. I shrugged and explained, it’s been ten years and this is a new space. He was not supposed to be here prominently like this. My sign and my sons’ respective signs were the only ones needed.

Most of the unpacking was long, but happy: getting my king-sized bed back after years of sleeping on a full-size. My barely used pots & pans before everything happened just soap and water away from use again. Seeing my favorite books back on shelves and seeing the artwork I loved displayed again – squeeeee! What brought a huge smile to my face was uncovering all of my holiday decorations. I now have a closet that is full of nothing but holiday cheer. I was determined that my place would be free of any unnecessary boxes by Thanksgiving so I can spread that cheer.

For being back on my own meant I could return to doing what I could not do for eight years. My annual tradition of putting up the Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving was back and I could not wait! I have a lot of decor. Enough that I can do color various themes. Oh, what to choose! I literally opened boxes and whatever three colors captured my eyes first were what went up.

Now, I am not going to lie, 2016 has been one doozey of year. Still, with journeys to Dubai & Abu Dhabi, Cuba and Italy now under my belt, I cannot claim it was all bad when I can walk in MY door and for the next few weeks I get see this:




!! Happy Holidays !!



Slice of Life Tuesday Writing Challenge  – Two Writing Teachers

Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler!

Happy Mardi Gras!

When most of the world thinks of Mardi Gras they are rightfully only thinking of the very last day big party day and night for which it is named, the ever popular Fat Tuesday. Those last hours of enjoying ones vices before the 40 days of self-sacrifice that is Lent beginning with Ash Wednesday, the very next day.

When I think of Mardi Gras it is always New Orleans 2001. I have yet had the pleasure to attend any of the balls, but I have enjoyed many of the local community parades that flow through the streets. There were the family friendly local fetes held by smaller Krewes in various parishes and of course the big parades held by the major Krewes along Charles and Canal Streets. My very first parade was the Bacchus Parade always held the Sunday night before Mardi Gras. The streets were as packed as any in New York City on a major parade route. So many people all crowded together, I felt right at home. I pushed my way towards the front and had a blast watching the colorful floats, the amazing costumes and high school / college bands. There were even gaily decorated Clydesdales prancing in tune to the joyful music. Naturally, there were the drunk and rowdy young and old. One poor child – okay college kid –had far too much alcohol and was not-so-quietly being up held by his friends as he gave back the liquor consumed.  Yup, just like being home on St. Patricks’ Day, yet not.

This is Bacchus, so yes, there were brightly colored beads a plenty casually tossed out to parade watchers. I quickly noted those were beads that could be purchased by the dozen for a dollar at any given store in the Quarter.  However, they were very selective in which revelers were tossed the pretty beads, the “Bacchus Beads” with flashing lights and better decorations.  And you guessed it; the young women upholding the infamous tradition of flashing their breasts to “earn” beads were generally the major recipients of these.  I planted myself next to one such young lady sitting on the shoulders of what I presume is her boyfriend. As the beads were flying down, I would snatch them in mid-air if they looked interesting. If I liked the beads I kept it, if I already had that design or did not want it I tossed it back to her. Suffice it to say she and her boyfriend were not initially happy, but they got over it as I partially shared. Hey, it was not my fault she was too drunk to figure out how to flash with one hand and reach out with the other and he could not hold on to her with one hand as she squirmed about trying to grasp beads. I simply took advantage of the opportunity.

That year the Bacchus Parade, known for having popular celebrities as its King, had chosen Nicholas Cage. We could hear the approach of the float he was on before we could see it. The noise level surrounding it was that intense. It took a good twenty minutes from when I first noticed his float until the monster was directly in front of us. Each step of the way the noise level increased. Between the bands, the revelers and those on the float itself, by the time it was before us, it was just deafening wall of sound and it was wonderful!

And all of that was nothing compared to the day of Mardi Gras itself. Getting up hung-over and groggy from partying that Monday night, it was pretty much a literal, was, rinse and repeat as we showered, ate, shopped, watched other parades and yes drank. There was this current in the air, this excitement, this tangible thing that my late-husband and I felt as the day grew on.

And then the sun set and we hit Bourbon Street in the French Quarter and…


It made the crowds at the parade look paltry for the sheer amount of bodies per capita. The closest thing that can come to it is Times Square in New York City on New Year’s Eve and really that doesn’t capture it. There just aren’t enough and yet far too many words to describe the throng of bodies on the streets, in the side alleys and hanging from the wrought iron balconies of the beautiful French Quarter. The various states of sobriety, questionably legal substances and dress, or rather undress, especially from those in the balconies. Yeah, I’m leaving those in the purview of my mind’s eye. Like Vegas, some things will indeed stay in New Orleans.

Today I wear the traditional purple, green and gold colors of Mardi Gras in honor of the day and the memory of the wonderful times I had there. A couple of people have commented on the beads adorning my neck knowing what they are and where they are from. I will not confirm nor deny whether or not I have engaged in such technically illegal activities as earning them the traditional way or not. I will say that I have collected a vast assortment of beautiful beads in my visits and leave it at that.

I haven’t been to New Orleans since 2007 or Mardi Gras since 2005 and I wistfully gaze at my New York City skyline knowing it is definitely a too late for this year’s Carnival. Oh, but something tells me my Tuesday, February 16, 2015 Slice of Life may contain a post direct from N’awlins. Oh yeah….

I’m putting out the siren call of Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler right now.
Who’s with me?


Check out more of today’s slices of life at Two Writing Teachers.

Slice of Life - Two Writing Teachers

Carol’s Day / Carol’s Night

Blizzard came from nowhere – darned blizzard
But am I a fan of snow? Of course not! But
Not that anyone asked me – of course not!

Happy? Of course, my children were happy
Snow day – no school – too much snow
Shot my plans for the day – totally shot

To finish the Harbor Memorial Feast, to
Do all the things I needed to do
Stuck at home just as I was stuck

Too late for to call a babysitter too
Take them all was more than I could take
Suck! Did all this simply suck!

Past noon, cabin fever claimed by noon’s past
Comfort of home is no longer a comfort
Fried ketchup? No, ketchup can’t be fried!

Nuts are in the DVD?!! ARE YOU NUTS?!?!
Kids – my darling, usually, well- behaved kids
Tried my patience, like it has never been tried

Parcel left at the curb, not even my parcel
Cussing inside instead of verbally cussing
Tongue hurt ‘cause I bit my tongue

Shoveled whatever needed to be shoveled
Salt got in my eyes – hydrochloride rock salt
Stung like the devil, how it stung!

Entertain? Tonight he wants to entertain?
Insane! My husband is freaking insane!
Oh migraine! I’m getting a migraine – oh!

Rang in the evening, my doorbell rang
Worsening a mood, way past worsening
Things I can’t be bothered by, nonsense things

Carolers, candle-holding carolers
Singers they wanted more singers
Sing they wanted me to sing

Spying eyes behind the curtains spying
Great – my husband actually said great!
Go ahead honey. You know you want to go!

Hymns, well I could sing the opus hymns
Joy – yes, it would bring back my lost joy
Go yes go! Hey lets all go!

Out we went and sang our voices out
Bells we rang singing Silver Bells
Praise flow from voices, joyous praise

Songs, how we sang those songs!
Grew friendships as carolers grew
Raised spirits with opus raised

So the stars – how they twinkle so!
Smiling with my kids just smiling
Right perfect, weather just right

Drifts of snow in piling drifts
Pains of day, now forgotten pains
Night divine O Holy Night

Heat, we savor the cocoa’s heat
Sweet comforts of my home sweet
Complete peace to a day complete


Giving the Serpentine Verse a holiday whirl!

dVerse ~ Poets Pub | OpenLinkNight – Week 76 – Holiday Edition

At All

I go through the motions, put a smile on my face
Oh I’m just fine to those who call
Only one could pull me from this dark space
But you’re gone,
So I don’t care at all

Every time I think I’m doing better
The pain holds me in tighter thrall
And I know you’d hate that I’m like this
But you’re gone,
And I don’t care at all

I know I should be better off than I am
But I also know I just don’t give a damn

When it’s all about “Tis the season”
I still hang garland from doors and walls
I once loved the holidays without reason
But you’re gone,
So I don’t care at all

El Sol churns out yet another day,
The flowers bloom, then leaves fall
Luna glows oh so marvelous they say
But you’re gone,
And I don’t care at all

dVerse ~ Poets Pub | OpenLinkNight – Week 76 – Holiday Edition

Day of the Longest Night

Some lament this day, others find nothing amiss
The cold darkness fills with bittersweet bliss
Whether Hanukkah or Kwanzaa lights
Or a Christmas tree making spirits bright
On this day of the Longest Night

Saturnalia calls for yet another repast
Luna beams knowing this feast will last
Comets pirouette in bacchanal delight
Old Man Winter smiles and takes flight
On this day of the Longest Night

I heed the nightingale, not the lark
A natural nocturnal, night give my soul spark
Yes, the months lie ahead to feel winter’s blight
And tomorrow marks the slow fall of the dark’s might
But today is Winter solstice and I’m bundled tight
On this day of the Longest Night