I wake these mornings without the daily dread of a deadline. Like the dog that sleeps in the bed with you, I sigh and turn onto one side for ten minutes to look out the window. Then I sigh again and turn to my other side. I think about Time. Then I shift to my back, take up my phone and read about the daily horrors as recounted on the various news sites. After that, I really sigh, and as antidote, read my book for ten minutes, which right now is The Boys in the Boat.

I read this book both because a young person to whom I am deeply committed recommended it and because as a lover of old things – see awesome photo – I delight in being transported back to a long-ago time like the 1930s, when the action in that true story occurs.

old house

You wonder who once sat on these porches of a summer night, with the dews descending and the fireflies winking.

Speaking of summer nights, this summer just ending has been a strange one for me, because for the first time since the years when gals wore poufy hair like this…


…I have not been filing a weekly column. And as it stands I’m not going to be filing any, until October at the soonest.

I both chose this non-writing path and had it chosen for me in that the parent company that owns most of the papers I appear in announced in July it had no budget for freelancers at least until then. I know I could have done a Gandhi and kept writing for free but to do so would break solidarity with my brothers and sisters in the scribbling game. For about six hours after hearing the news though, I did feel I should go on sending a fresh column to the other papers that subscribe to me column and are not part of this giant chain. But then, sitting outside the dry cleaners at around 4 that afternoon, it dawned on me that this could be the universe sending me a message.

I asked the editors of these independent papers if they‘d mind my taking a break and they couldn’t have been nicer. “Take it!“ they said. “Take it by all means and we’ll be glad to have you back in October.”

And so I decided, I would take the time, and wouldn’t I have scads of it!

I didn’t have scads of it, of course. For one thing, our span of time is brief and swiftly passing no matter what we are doing. And for another, there were some family events, some joyful in the extreme and some that same degree of terrifying and to them I turned all my attention.

But over these weeks I did learn this, I did learn this: I learned that I feel at my happiest when I write, and that I feel most lost and somehow lonely when I don’t.

So, I’m back, ready to catch more small moments of Time in my little net and tell of them here.

Of course we writers never know who is reading what we write, if indeed anyone reads any more, but that’s fine. It’s the writing that counts, the saying what we saw. I have always felt my purpose in life was to do just that. Just as it says in that early-days Elton John song with its lyrics by the great Bernie Taupin, “My gift is my song and this one’s for you.”



I Pahked the Cah in Hahvahd Yahd

100_0707I went to Harvard’s Commencement exercises last week to see my girl Annie get her Master’s and was amazed to find myself steeped in the same resentments I feel every time I step into that famous Yard.

First I think about how when I was applying to colleges they didn’t take my kind at the Ivies – meaning women. I remember looking at my future husband’s  Freshman Classbook from this place and thinking “I must be as smart as at least some of these jokers, yet I couldn’t even apply here!”

Then I think about the snooty guys who turned away Uncle Ed 60 years ago when he applied to the Medical School, he an Armenian-American, small  and ‘swarthy,’ a code word for  ‘not of our pure northern races.’  They rejected him and when he asked for an appointment to find out why, the man across the desk lifted an eyebrow and said “Tell me,  Mr. Haidostian, where did your father go to college?” His father, a man born in the 1880s when even here in the States the average young man never even finished high school!

“My father is a graduate of the University of Tarsus,” said Uncle Ed simply. “In Asia Minor,” he added when the guy seemed unable to answer, and maybe he really was speechless but it  didn’t get  Uncle Ed any closer to his dream of being a doctor.

So when I first walked into that Yard last Thursday all I could think of was grievance.

And then I looked around – and saw among the graduates and family members as many people of color as you would  see in any of our larger cities.

Of those accepted into this class of ’09, as I have since read. a record 10.5 percent were African American, 17.8 percent were Asian American, 8.2 percent were Latino, and slightly more than 1 percent was Native American. And fully two-thirds of them received some form of financial aid, with an average total student aid package approaching $30,000.

So I ponder all this. And then I remember something else too: My own husband, a Harvard grad himself, is the son of a man whose father was a tailor from a little village north of Naples. My youngest child, a very recent Harvard graduate, is, on his mother’s side, the great-grandchild and namesake of  a man who grew up dirt-poor on a farm with a mother able to read and write in Gaelic only, but who yet became a lawyer AND a judge AND such a tireless worker for the public good that fancy-pants Harvard itself once gave him an honorary degree.

So let me chose thanks over resentment here, because don’t we all believe that here in America the best can rise and rise?

Anyway Annie rose, she who once thought she was the dumb one and her sister Carrie the smart one. Phi Beta Kappa in college Annie, you whose infinitesimal penciled numbers used to float like wee party balloons to the tops of all your math papers, making your primary school teachers cry Eyestrain!  and also Intervention!  Master of Arts, Annie Marotta, and isn’t your sister Carrie as proud as she can be of you, even as you pull her hair here in this picture?

We are all proud of our graduates and humbly remember why our own parents sent us to school when it was our time as the young ones. They sent us to make things better. They sent us to learn to serve.June 2009 048

June 2009 047