love, Memories, Tibor Gergely and Me, Writing

2017 Wishes

tiborgergely-newyear

Hi there,

Children’s book illustrator Tibor Gergely, our dear family friend, drew this image for a magazine cover in 1942.

Newly an immigrant fleeing the Nazis he poured his love for the beating heart of small-town America into every moment here.

We send this to you with fond wishes for peace and joy in the coming year.

Linda
family, Memories, Writing

My Grandmother’s Dishes

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orange green purple
italian country dishes
with roosters
and rabbits
and carrots and dots
cheerful, hand-painted
seeing them, i feel uplifted and
joyful and home.
white porcelain with
royal blue and gold
rims, my grandmother’s
dishes, fragile like her
a woman i never met
the woman my mother mourned
for as long as i knew her.
elegant and simple,
like my grandmother,
these heirloom dishes
will stay in my keeping
until i, too, die
like my grandmother,
her life cut short
in auschwitz
concentration camp
img_2761
concentration camp dishes
white blue gold
fragile but heavy
with memories and
guilt.
my mother’s
guilt for leaving
her mother behind
at the train station in vienna
when she left with my father
who saved her life
long ago
eighty years ago
and the dishes
always remind me
of what we
all lost. What i
lost and find again when
i place the
white blue gold
dishes on my table
used again
by living breathing
people. my grandmother
smiling gently sweetly
my mother grateful
i always grandmotherless
and now motherless
travel through time
and reclaim my legacy.
family, Memories

Baby Cries A Lot

babycrying
My mother didn’t approve of tears. So she held hers in while her eyes got redder and redder and her face paled. But she didn’t cry real tears. Not if she could help it. Not like Baby Cries A Lot, the doll I wanted badly and finally got for my fifth birthday. The one who drank water from a tiny baby bottle then cried real tears, the baby-bottle-water magically coming out of her eyes and flowing down to her pursed pink mouth that had taken in the water that started this whole gorgeous flood. My mother laughed a lot at Baby Cries A Lot. But I was filled with wonder at her waterworks. There she was, a girl like me, with real tears cascading down her plastic cheeks.
 
Making Baby cry a lot became my secret passion. At least there was one female in my house who cried easily, plentifully and on cue. Not like my mother, whose soft cheeks detested salt water. Not like me, who knew better than to cry real tears. Because I didn’t cry, either. At least not in front of anyone. If I cried at all, it was when I was alone in my room with the door closed or in the bathroom. 
 
Crying was forbidden in our house – I’d been taught that by my older brother when I was four. “Don’t ask Mommy about her parents.” “Why?” “Because she’ll cry.” It was an order and I took it seriously. Making her cry was the worst thing I could do, I decided. And it looked like it was the worst thing she could do.
Time after time, I saw the struggle on my mother’s face as emotion threatened to overcome her. I watched her wrestle the runaway emotion to the ground until she got control over it. Her eyes reddening but not filling with tears. Her mouth clenching. I hated to see her like that so I would look away. I would make some excuse and leave the room. Leave her alone. So I didn’t have to see her at her weakest. Didn’t have to witness the melting of that ice-mountain she’d built around herself. Because I knew. Somewhere inside that mountain there was dangerous red-hot lava, threatening to erupt.
 
My mother’s daughter, I built my very own ice-mountain. Piled it on, slab upon slab until I had a personal igloo in which I could hide, safe and unknown. My feelings of grief hidden to all, including myself. 
Memories

Mean Girls

meangirls

Mean Girls. I knew them well…

I was an underdeveloped twelve-year old when my parents sent me to Calhoun for junior high, a small private all-girls school on the Upper West Side, that defined ‘mean girls’ before that became an urban phrase. My birthday was April 20, which made me a year younger than almost everyone. I looked it. I acted it. I was killed for it.

Calhoun was located in a brownstone in the 80’s near Riverside Drive. The head mistresses, Miss Parmalee and Miss Cosmee, resembled Mutt and Jeff and acted like characters out of Dickens. They never cracked a smile and would wait by the front door with a yardstick to measure the length of your skirt every morning when you walked into school and would rap your knuckles if it was too short. Every day, as I headed up the wooden stairs of the narrow brownstone to the seventh grade classroom I felt dread in the pit of my stomach.

At the top floor there were two homeroom classes of eleven girls each. Every day, the game was to gang up on one particular girl, at random.  (It probably wasn’t as random as it felt but I wasn’t one of the ringleaders.) I would wait in the coatroom for as long as I could before going into homeroom, where the torture would begin. Gone was the safety of the public school I’d attended for elementary school. Gone were kids I could trust. Gone was a sense of a moral center.

At Calhoun, being smart was a no-no and to be popular you had to be dumb. I worked on that. Plus, most of the other girls had chauffeurs and used their parents’ credit cards at Saks Fifth Avenue or Lord & Taylor. Those weren’t my European-born parents’ values. I was in way over my head.

By the time eighth grade rolled around I’d learned how to be a ‘bad girl’ who got C’s and D’s. I’d learned how to shoplift. Thankfully, my mother managed to get me tested by an academic tester who proclaimed me a very intelligent underachiever (she must have bribed him) and, armed with that letter I was interviewed by Fieldston, a terrific prep school, where I was accepted.

On the first day I wore what had made me popular at Calhoun – a purple pleated miniskirt, hot pink sweater, purple shoes and purple eye shadow.  I never lived that slutty outfit down. At Fieldston, you had to be smart to be popular. You had to wear Pappagallo loafers, twin sweater sets and circle pins on the Peter Pan collars of your oxford shirts.

oxfordshirts

I was desperate to be popular and learned to fit in, even when I had to shoplift to get the right wardrobe. Because the girls at Fieldston could be just as mean if you wore the wrong clothes.

– Linda Schreyer

family, Greta Schreyer, love, Memories

Sacher Torte for Breakfast

I don’t remember a lot about our family traditions. I think that’s because we didn’t have a lot of them. But there is one that I remember with love and excitement and a feeling that it was done just right — birthdays.

The night before my brother’s or my birthday, we’d go to sleep as usual. When we woke up the next morning there would be a card table set up next to our bed, piled with colorful wrapped presents and a birthday cake. And it had all happened when we were sleeping. When I was little, I suppose I must have thought that gnomes or elves or birthday fairies had crept in and done it. But when I was older, I’d lie awake in bed waiting till my parents came in, willing myself not to fall asleep. Usually that didn’t work. But there was one time that it did.

It was late when my door opened quietly and a sliver of light from the hall shone in my room. I shut my eyes tightly as I heard my parents comes in, heard the creak of the metal legs of the card table as they unfolded it and the rustle of paper as they covered it with a paper tablecloth. I heard the sound of their tiptoed footsteps as they crept back out. Then nothing.

Through my eyelids I could feel the slant of light in my room. That meant they hadn’t closed my door yet. Did I dare open my eyes? Good thing I decided to keep them tightly closed, because in a minute they were back.

More rustling of paper as they put things on the table. Not “things,” I thought. Presents. My presents. I was tingling with excitement and dying to open my eyes. But hard as it was, I kept my eyes shut until I heard a strange noise. I could have sworn I heard giggling. I listened carefully. This wasn’t a sound I’d heard a lot from my parents. They were not gigglers. But there it was again, definitely giggling.

I wanted to open my eyes but I kept them closed, scrunching them up tightly as a rich smell began to waft my way. I knew what that meant and fought the tug of the smile at my lips.

There were some whispered words in German and more rustling of paper. WHAT were they doing? Finally, when I couldn’t stand it for one more minute, I had to open my eyes, the door closed behind them and they were gone. Silence. Behind my eyelids I felt the darkness settle back into my room. I waited a minute then opened my eyes.

In the darkness, I saw colorful wrapped presents of different shapes on the card table covered with a pink paper tablecloth; cards in white envelopes shone in the darkness; there was a vase of flowers that I couldn’t quite see, (often tulips because it was April) and, best of all, a chocolate Sacher Torte, decorated with pink roses and unlit birthday candles.

I sat up and peered at them all in the darkness as I fought with myself, wanting to unwrap the presents, read the envelopes and see who they were from, taste the cake. But I really didn’t want to spoil my surprise. So I forced myself to close my eyes again and fell asleep to the warm, rich smell of chocolate.

When I woke up the next morning, my parents and my brother came in, said Happy Birthday, watched me open presents and lit the birthday cake candles. Then, as always, we all had Sacher Torte for breakfast.

family, Friends, Memories

Labor Day Memories

One year ago I spent Labor Day weekend proofreading Jeanne Goen’s manuscript. It was published two weeks before she died, feeling complete that her book, priceless stories of her life, was out in the world. Today I’m remembering fearless and effervescent Jeanne with love and the fondest of memories. We are with you.

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Memories, Writing

Living on the Land

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Once upon a time I lived in Fishkill, NY, up a half mile dirt road in a white house with green shutters on 250 acres of rolling meadows, pine forests and a peach orchard. We planted a 40 x 40 ft garden that I grew from seeds I started in flats like these on the windowsill. I canned and froze all our veggies for the year. We kept bees and harvested 60 lbs of peach honey. We tapped our sugar maple trees and boiled the clear maple sap for a week until it turned into golden maple syrup. And the ceiling in the kitchen buckled from all that boiling. We heated our house with wood stoves and I taught at a Summerhill school before writing music for movies. Oh, and I grew a blue-eyed baby named Evan Sugerman, seen here in 1977, the baby bump in my overalls. My once upon a time life. Oh, how I loved it. #hippiestyle#evansugerman #onceuponatime #livingontheland

Interview, Memories, Writers, Writing

Reflecting on a Wonderful Interview

I had the immense privilege to interview Elaine Mansfield- we talked about the many things we have in common- grief, living in the country, spiritual paths, the power of ritual after the death of a loved one, and more.

Elaine Mansfield is an author and hospice bereavement workshop leader. Her memoir, Leaning Into Love: A Spiritual Journey Through Grief, captures the heart–from the extraordinary closeness of Elaine’s marriage to how she and her husband Vic transform their struggle with cancer and despair into a conscious relationship with mortality. After Vic’s death, Elaine leans into her ongoing love as grief leads her through emotional and spiritual depths on a journey into her new life.

 For more information and to listen to this wonderful interview, click here.
& Retreats, Classes, events, Memories, Writers, Writing

Thinking About Last Week

The Fourth Annual February Writing Retreat (this year in Cambria) was the most terrific of all. Out of respect for the Cambria 6, some of whom are Facebook-averse writers, here they are, backs to me, watching the sun go down. Bonded by stories and laughter and tears, great meals, writing sessions, shopping! and a final caper that sent us all home with a huge grin. Thank you, my writers. You know who you are. What a glorious time we had together.

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