A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What If You Gave a Party and Nobody Came?

Our friends 29th birthday complete with pass t...Image via Wikipedia

         Birthday parties were the norm for me when I was a kid.  Then, after I started junior high school things changed.

          My mother would whip together those classic parties with games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey and Drop the Clothespin in the Bottle.  We'd have cake and ice cream and party horns and foil hats.  The frenzy of fun and noisy children would end up with the opening of presents.  The parties were the tradition and I came to expect them.

          Then from thirteen years and on, those childhood parties were done and the concept of party took on a different meaning.  For me they also essentially stopped.

         At that time my family had moved from San Diego, California to Northern Indiana--a real extreme in many ways.  The days of walking to the neighborhood elementary school and being in one class with the same teacher and students all day made for bonding and having more friends.  Junior high meant riding a bus to a big school where students changed classes with different teachers and I attended alongside students who came from other neighborhoods--places that I didn't even know where they were.

         Not being particularly outgoing, I did not make many friends.  Most of my friends were the kids that lived in my neighborhood and even at that I wasn't very close to many of them.  Junior high school was in many ways a time of alienation for me.  It was also a time when I began reading, writing, and watching more television and movies.

         Ever the caring parent, my mother always threw together something special for my birthdays, but no longer did I have the festive affairs that I had when I was younger.  Then one year as my birthday approached I let it be known that I would like to have a surprise party for my special day.   I wanted a party like I'd seen in the movies, where I would enter a darkened room and then suddenly the lights would turn on and everyone would jump out of hiding and yell, "Surprise!".   That is what I wanted more than anything.

        So, absurdity of absurdities, I provided my sister a list of the kids that I considered my friends at school. I pretended like I didn't know what was going on and she pretended like she was secretly delivering invitations to all the kids I wanted to see come to my party.  I envisioned a gala affair where I would have many friends in attendance and I would be the center of attention--an important guy.

        It was not to be so.  I felt a bit foolish when not a single one of those friends showed up on the big night. There were a few of my close friends from my neighborhood, but we were a meager group.  If it had not been for my sister inviting some of her friends it would have been a truly sad affair.

        As it turned out we were able to turn the lights low and play the popular songs of the era on the stereo.  At least we were able to awkwardly dance with girls about our age and have a small young teen party.  It was not the event that I had imagined, but it was my birthday party--the last one that I would have until I became an adult.

       What's the point of my telling you this story now?  Well, we're giving a party of sorts in April and I wanted to invite all of the readers of this blog to join us.  In case you haven't heard the buzz, I'm talking about The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.

         We're not concerned about no one showing up for this--currently we have over 700 signed up for this Challenge.  But we'd like for you to join us if you haven't signed up already.  It's great fun and such an excellent opportunity to discover new blogs, gain more followers, and become a better blogger.  This will be the third year and nearly everyone who has participated in the past has raved about this event and most are returning for another year.  How about you?

          Our current sign-up goal is to reach 1000 by Thursday March 1st.   Last year we had nearly 1300 participants and this year we'd like to increase that number.  This is an amazing blog event that is sure to create a buzz for the rest of the year as bloggers look forward to the 2013 Challenge.  Yes, we keep looking forward.  If you are going to participate in any blog events, this one is a must.

          Check out the links for the A to Z story, the sign-up list, and even a Twitter news feed.

           There's also a Blogging from A to Z Video Contest that you can enter.  Check out this entry from Kathleen at Living 2012:



         Don't miss this party!  You'll have plenty of dancing partners and fun galore.  Are you signed up yet?    If not, is there anything that is keeping you from doing this?








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Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Convocation of Hearts and Candy

English: A photograph of a heap of candy heart...Image via Wikipedia
I always loved these candy hearts!  I still do.


         Valentine's Day during the elementary school days was always a big favorite with me.  For one thing there was always a pretty decent party with homemade cupcakes and fruity drinks.

          We'd spend the morning and perhaps part of the previous day decorating white paper bags with red construction paper hearts, white paper lace doilies. and Valentine Day themed stickers provided by the teacher. The night before the big day we students would prepare the cards that would be distributed to those paper bags.

         I always added a few carefully chosen candy conversation hearts to the card, which had also been carefully matched to the recipients.  The most intimate and mushiest were prepared for the girls I liked the best, while the ones that conveyed just nice friendly messages went to the boys, and to the girls who weren't my favorites.

          After the school day was over my sister Joy and I would examine our haul for the day as we sat in the middle of the living room floor.  Secretly I would see what messages I could decipher in my cards and candy.  Dreams of romance warmed my head as I happily consumed sweet chalky candy conversations.

           Eventually Joy and I would start playing with the cards.  Some of them would be carefully arranged as scenic background while others became characters in the stories we played.  When dinnertime came the cards were put away and eventually forgotten.

            I suppose the cards were thrown away fairly quickly.  I don't remember seeing them over the years.  I think some of my daughters' old valentine cards are still around, but I'm certain that none of mine survived.  It would be fun to find some of those old cards to see what the different girls had to say--what messages they had conveyed to me.  Girls like Phyllis, Barbara, Annette, Kandy, and Grace.  I wonder where they are now and what they did in their lives.  One thing I do know is that if they managed to make it this far in life then they're the same age as me.

           They were little girls the last time I saw them.  And I was just a boy of 9, 10, or 11.   A lot has happened since that time; a lot has changed.   Valentine isn't a favorite holiday anymore for me.  But I still like the candy.  I'm always a sucker for candy.  And I really shouldn't be.



       
         
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alexia E Fraser's Memoir Experience

            My guest today is Alexia E. Fraser.  Recently she has been busy promoting her well-received memoir of her mother.



 Memories of Mom
"Memories of Mom" (M.O.M) is a poignant story about an extraordinary mother, written by a daughter who loved and cared for her during her last lap of life. This story is written from the heart, and will inspire love and affection in millions of daughters and sons who will someday be caring for their elderly parents or loved ones.


MY MEMOIR EXPERIENCE

       My two guiding principles in writing my mother’s story was to write about a subject matter that I knew and writing in my own voice. I definitely knew the subject. I was very close to my mother and very observant as a child, still am, and watched my mother’s every move. I choose to keep the prose straight forward because that’s the way I speak. I didn’t want too many fancy words detracting from her story.

      The memories were basically mine which I then corroborated with siblings, uncles and aunts, and family friends. Of course they gave me their own memories, unique to them, that further developed the story and sometimes filled in the blanks. Also for some reason, I had every doctor’s visit and everything about Mom’s illness logged in daily in my yearly calendars. I realized why I did that when I started writing. Unbelievable!

      Writing about and sharing the difficult memories was therapeutic for me. I was fearful at first that purposefully recalling the memories would be too painful to bear, but that proved not to be the case. Somehow writing them down on paper gave me a great sense of release. A peace that is still with me to this day.

      My mother’s story will be of great interest to some because of the role reversal involved. Of a daughter lovingly caring for her mother as her life’s journey draws to a close. A journey most children will have to take with their aging and increasingly frail parents. Others will be appalled to read first hand of the sometimes callousness and incompetence of our health care providers. My mother suffered greatly and eventually succumbed to internal injuries caused, though not purposely, by the health care professionals charged with her care.

        A good memoir allows its readers to relate. To relate to the main character in a way that makes the story personal for them. To relate to events that we share as human beings traversing this life’s journey. Told from the vantage point of a person who was there to witness the events as they unfolded. Most of us have parents that we cherish and we shudder at the thought of losing them. It is my hope that this story will be a source of encouragement to those along the way.

      I felt this was something I had to do. I was compelled to write my story after my mom passed. I could feel my mom’s guiding hands on every page I wrote. It was just amazing!


Alexia Fraser
Author, Memories of Mom



Author’s Biography


Alexia Elizabeth Smart-Fraser was born in the beautiful island of Jamaica. After marrying her high school sweetheart Edward, she migrated to the United States. She is the proud and loving mother of two children, son Sean and daughter Paige. She now resides with her family in New York City.

Alexia Fraser studied acting at H.B. Studio.  She worked as an extra on the set of “Cosby Mysteries” with Bill Cosby, “New York Undercover” with Malik Yubo, “Central Park West” with Lauren Hutton, and the series “Prince Street” with Mariska Hargitay.

As well, Alexia Fraser has written and produced three original non-fiction one act plays both off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway. “The Ryans,” “Dope the Endeavor” and “Blind Trust.”  Her fourth play “Our God is Awesome” is not yet produced, but will be in the near future.  Alexia is the original founder and partner of her production company, Paige Unlimited, LLC (www.paigeunlimitedllc) of which she is the Creative Arts VP.

“Memories of Mom” is Alexia Fraser’s first published book.  She was driven to share her story after seeing her mom suffered unacceptable nursing home and hospital care.   Her second book is already partially scripted. “Write what you know” is what she believes.

Website:





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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Susan Clow on the Phone--Telephonists That Is

          Today's post comes to us from Susan Clow.  Her blog is Getting a Word In.


All the lines are engaged at the moment

So many jobs exist only in the memories of people and in the stories they tell to future generations. This blog takes us back to 1942 and the North Wales seaside town of Rhyl. Fourteen year old Eve had moved there at the start of World War Two2 with her family when her father was relocated with his government post and it was time to find a job.

Eve’s  domestic science teacher recommended Eve to her sister who was a supervisor in Post Office Telegraphs and she went along for two interviews to secure the job ... first to see the Postmaster and then she had to go back on the following Monday to be told that there were concerns about her height as she would be finally working in a telephone exchange at 16 and she needed to be 5 foot tall to reach the various plugs and holes on the switchboard. Eve told him that her brother had had a growth spurt at 14 and he was normal size for a man and they decided to take a chance. They tested her memory on both interviews for telephone numbers. Bear in mind that Eve had never used a phone up until then and knew no one who had one. It was all strange.

At the start Eve was a GP or Girl Probationer, in charge of the messenger boys – allocating telegrams as they came in on the teleprinter. Eve earned 11/6 for a week's work [about £23 at today’s rate]. The only concession to the under 16s was the compulsory drink called NAMCO a national milk cocoa drink that was fortified with vitamins, at break times. Gradually Eve moved to using the little switchboard that took incoming calls from subscribers who wanted to send a telegram to someone without a phone.
Telegram


                                                                           
At this time the army was very much a presence in the town – signals and tank corps - and one day a telegram came without a name to deliver it to and a message “Sergeant Jones arriving 2.30 please meet” .Assuming they had made a mistake she had it delivered to another  Sergeant Jones’ pigeon hole and of course he was not met!  They took pity on her when they saw how young she was.

At 16, now fully grown Eve was given the choice of becoming a counter clerk in the Post Office or work in the telephone exchange but she loved the phone work and hated dealing with money and so she moved to a proper telephone exchange, albeit quite a small one. 12 girls sat in a row all talking at once to people at the other end of their phones. Here they had what were called dolls eyes due the way they seemed to blink like the early china dolls, when connections were made. This is a small version of the equipment now in a museum.
Doll’s eye switchboard


Eve was aware of some of the men around her being called up and some having to go in the North Wales mines. She learnt quite a lot about life and of course there was always lots of intrigue with relationships.

In 1946 Eve’s father was recalled to London and the whole family moved back. Eve managed to transfer her job to Faraday House quite close to St Paul's Cathedral. This was completely different – it felt like starting again. She started out in “Trunks” - long distance calls that had to be obtained via an operator. This six storey building had 100 girls on every floor all vying for spots that were available for them to connect their calls. Eve was on Northampton delay and could have at least six people waiting for their connection...”all the lines are engaged at the moment”.  A year later Eve moved into what was essentially an elite, closed unit. The “International Exchange” connected with every country outside Europe. Women applied for this in large numbers as it was more money and more kudos and only Eve and one other got through. The work was much more complex – and they had to have an additional training course and sit in with someone else to see how it worked. After three weeks they started the new recruits on a quieter country– somewhere like Egypt. Some of the girls had pen pals from some of their connections. Most calls were about £1 a minute [equivalent to a massive £32 now] with a minimum three minute length. A lot of calls involved girls who had moved to the USA with a soldier. The big boss was an absolute matriarch and everyone was terrified of her. If there was anything at all amiss she would come along and find something to pick them up on in their work box. Sometimes she would swoop on someone just on the off chance – she ran the place like clockwork. This could be her in this evocative picture painted in 1937 which captures the scene very well if not the fashions a decade later.
©John Cooper 1937 Telephone Exchange


When Eve was about 21 the Exchange moved to Wood St off Cheapside in the city of London in an area surrounded by bombed out buildings. This photo was taken for the Daily Star and related to charitable table tennis team the telephonists set up to play severely injured servicemen.

Telephonists – Eve is right back row


          Thank you Susan Clow for this look back to a past that many younger people find strange.  The was something nice about getting a live person on the phone and not a series of recorded messages.  Don't forget to drop by Susan's blog Getting a word in and let her know you saw her post.






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