I Want February Back

February 2020. It seems like light years ago.

I celebrated my daughter’s birthday at Peter Luger in Brooklyn, and I was living the life. I was living the dream.

Until I wasn’t.

March is my new reality. March madness.

I want February back.

Hell, I’ll take last week back.

Last week my dear friend Ann was still alive, and my Aunt Mary didn’t have coronavirus.

What a difference a week makes.

After listening to Governor Cuomo’s daily news briefing today, I went online like I do every day.

I frantically clicked around from website to website. I scoured Home Depot, Walmart, Staples, Bed Bath, anywhere, for paper products.

$59.91 for a box of 125 tissues?

OUT OF STOCK. DELIVERY UNAVAILABLE.

My mind goes back and forth. My mind goes forth and back.

IN-STORE PURCHASE ONLY.

I weigh the options: Go to the grocery store and risk my life, on the one hand, skip the grocery store and save my life, and run out of toilet paper on the other.

I count my rolls of toilet paper and tissue boxes. I’m running dangerously low.

I ask myself what to do, as I sip my almost black coffee, afraid to use too much milk, lest I run out of it, and milk goes the way of toilet paper, and paper towel, and tissues, and spaghetti sauce.

Last Wednesday, I spoke to a BFF on the phone for an hour or so. This week she’s dead.

My Aunt is sick, and who knows when or if I’ll ever see her again.

I miss my kids and my grandkids. I miss my daughter’s dog and my friends and my consulting gigs.

I wonder who will be next, and pray that all this ends soon.

I can’t sleep and finally pass out at 3:30 am if I’m lucky. I wake up close to noon because my time clock is off.

I go to bed to the news, and I wake up to the news.

And it’s all bad. And inside, I rage at the nutjobs who say it’s all fake.

How many are dead today? Did those ventilators get delivered? Will I be needing one soon?

I take my temperature and hold my breath for ten seconds.

I want February back.

Detox Your Lungs to Reduce Mucus Congestion

Okay, I am going to be honest with you (and myself).

I am a germaphobe and a slight hypochondriac. (I don’t think I’m that much of a hypo, but if you ask my family, they would disagree.)

The germaphobe thing goes way back, and I admit that I go overboard with germs, and as a result, I drive my family and friends nuts.

Most people (okay most normal people) love to hug, shake hands, go to the movies, and generally surround themselves with friends.

Me? Not so much.

Hotels make me crazy, especially the remote. Well, to be clear, ANY remote makes me crazy. And my phone—really anyone’s phone. Don’t ask.

I cover my hands with my shirt when coming into contact with phones, tablets, keys, faucets, steering wheels, or doorknobs.

Bathrooms drive me insane. It takes a village for me to navigate my way through public toilets and sinks.

And I detest planes, and trains and subways.

I don’t like carpet, I don’t like curtains, and I refuse to use a kitchen towel more than once, so I can’t even tell you how many rolls of paper towel I go through in a week.

And if you’re wondering, NO, I have not been buying up unreasonable amounts of paper products.

Primarily because I already had a shitload of it in my house.

And despite a plethora of products, I’m still manically worried that I will run out.

I change my bath towel, washcloth, and hair turban two times a week, I strip my beds every seven days, including the mattress cover, and spend a vast majority of my free time cleaning.

Heck, I wash down my furnace and water heater on a bi-monthly basis.

So, you get the picture.

Now, I’m sure I’m overblowing my situation, but for the past few days, I have been waking up congested.

Under normal circumstances, I would be alarmed, so now, with coronavirus looming over all of us, I have become obsessed with every clearing of my throat. And okay, I have the sniffles and sneezed twice this morning.

Of course, I went online and googled “Foods that reduce mucus.”

The first thing I came across was the quote from Dr. Sebi, who believed that mucus was the cause of every disease. OKAY.

Dr. Sebi was a Honduran herbalist and healer, although many thought he was a nutjob. In 2016, he was arrested in Honduras for carrying around too much cash. After several weeks in jail, he contracted pneumonia and died.

After reading about Dr. Sabi, I went to mucus-research town. After reading umpteen articles, I was on a mucus-free tangent.

I threw out my cup of coffee and filled up my cup with hot water and fresh lemon juice. Then I threw back a Mucinex and ate a mango. (I eventually came upon an article that said I could have black coffee, but no more than two cups a day. Whew.)

Now I’m writing this blog post.

Some stuff I learned:

To reduce mucus, you can include in your daily food and drink intake, things like:

(In alphabetical order because I’m also slightly OCD)

Agar

Apples

Apricots

Bell Peppers

Blackberries

Blueberries

Broccoli

Broth (Clear and low to no sodium)

Cantaloupe

Carrots

Cayenne Pepper

Celery

Chamomile

Chicken

Chili Peppers

Cider Vinegar (Don’t go crazy on this one, cuz you can get an ulcer. But you can add a teaspoon to your herbal tea or make a salad dressing.)

Cinnamon

Cranberry Juice (Unsweetened)

Cucumber

Cumin

Decaffeinated Tea

Flax Seeds

Flounder

Garlic

Ginger

Guava

Ginseng

Grapefruit

Herring

Honey

Kiwi

Lemons

Licorice Root

Limes

Olive Oil

Onion

Oranges

Oregano

Parsley

Peppermint

Pickles

Pineapple

Pomegranate

Pumpkin

Pumpkin Seeds

Raspberries

Sage

Salmon

Sardines

Spinach

Spearmint

Squash

Strawberries

Sweet potatoes

Thyme

Tomatoes

Trout (Lake)

Tuna

Turmeric

Walnuts

Watercress

I will be avoiding (also in alphabetical order):

Alcohol, bananas, bread, butter, cabbage, caffeinated beverages (except for my single cup of black coffee) cereal, cheese, corn and corn products, eggs, ice cream, milk, pasta, potatoes (white), processed foods, red meat, soda, soy and soy products, sugar, yogurt,

While I am trying to be humorous and not spend too much time watching the news (especially Trump), I hope and pray you are all safe and sound and look forward to better days.

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter Six: Tit

[Catch up on earlier Chapters: Disclaimer, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four, Chapter Five]

Chapter Six

TIT

It was August 1960, and I was getting ready for first grade.

I was excited but also nervous. Mem was even more nervous than me because I was going to be walking to school by myself. The walk wasn’t a long one, but I still had to do it alone.

Both Mem and Mom worked a 7 am-3 pm shift, and because we didn’t have a car, they both had to take early buses in the morning. And Mere Germaine was living too far away to help out, so I was on my own.

Mom said that moving Mere Germaine back in with us so she could help out was yet another reason why we had to get out of our White Street apartment.

After church, for three Sundays straight, Mem walked with me to the school, warning me about cars, strangers, and stray dogs.

The walk was pretty straight forward. From White Street, we made a right at the corner, then walked up a long hill, and then made another right, and then down a steep hill, where the school was at the bottom, and across the street on the left.

On day one, Mem packed me a paper bag with a jelly sandwich, and a chocolate doughnut from the batch she had made fresh the day before.  She wrote “R R” on my right hand in pen so I wouldn’t get lost.

My walk was uneventful until I started down the second hill. There was a group of girls slightly ahead of me. The biggest one turned around and yelled: “Whatchu lookin at?”

I looked behind me to see who she was speaking to, but there wasn’t anyone else there but me. When I turned back around, she was in my face. “I aksed chu a question.”

I looked down at my lunch bag, too afraid to answer. “Watchu got in the bag?” She grabbed my lunch and ran off to catch up with her friends.

Later that day in the playground, I was hungry and didn’t feel much like playing. Plus, every time I looked over at the mean girl, she gave me the finger. When I asked some of the other kids who she was, one girl told me that her name was Tit.

“Who would name a kid, Tit?” I asked, and the girl told me that her real name was Barbara Titone, and she was a bully to everyone, even her friends.

Oh, she was a bully, all right. And husky. And since she was in the third grade, she towered over scrawny me.

After school, I ran all the way home, terrified that Tit was going to come after me.  And those hills were a killer.

When I got to the apartment, it was empty. Mem and Mom’s shifts were over at 3 pm, but it took time for Mem to get back by bus. And Mom had a second job as a dance instructor for a local Arthur Murray Dance Studio, so it was me myself and I, until at least 5 pm.

Between being afraid of the refrigerator, the scary hallway, the shoebox cabinet, and the vermin, I sat at the table in the kitchen until Mem got home, even though I had to pee. Since the only way to get to the bathroom was via the hallway, there was no chance I was doing that, so the only choice I had was to hold it in.

I didn’t mention anything to Mem about Tit, but the next morning I told her I had a stomach ache and didn’t want to go to school. Mem told me she wasn’t having any of my nonsense and to pack up.

For the next few weeks, Tit made my life miserable. Back then, I didn’t know what a butch was, but if ever there was a butch, Tit was it.

And her name might make you laugh, but there was nothing funny about being taunted day in and day out.

In the morning, she would torture me and take my lunch, and in the afternoon, she would just torture me.

One day on my way to school, Tit was particularly aggressive and shoved me so hard that when I fell, I hit my head on the pavement and wet myself.

As I sat in a puddle of urine, Tit laughed with her friends, singing ♪ Tony needs a diaper, Tony needs a diaper ♪

I didn’t want to say anything to my teacher about what happened, so I had to stay wet until my clothes air-dried. Tit told everyone at school I pissed myself, and I was humiliated. Plus, my clothes dried all smelly and crusty, and the back of my head was throbbing. That’s when I started to fantasize about how I was going to get back at Tit.

Even though I knew it was hopeless, I needed to take some kind of action because running away from Tit every day was both mentally and physically killing me.

The next day, on what I knew was going to be yet another torturous walk to school, I was feeling brave.

That was until I caught sight of Tit. And like a coward, and before Tit could even grab it, I handed her my lunch. So much for bravery.

But when Tit turned her back to me and began singing, ♪ Tony needs a diaper; Tony needs a diaper ♪, an uncontrollable storm of fury invaded my body.

I let out a guttural sound, and in a fit of rage, I pounced on Tit from behind.  Tit fell on her knees, and when she rolled over, writhing in pain, I jumped on her stomach and straddled her. Then I punched Tit hard in the face, once with my right fist and then with my left. Tit was holding her hands up to her face and crying. I yanked her hands away and slapped her in the face a couple of times while repeatedly calling her shitty titty.

Then I grabbed my lunch bag, winked at Tit, gave her friends an evil grin, and asked if anybody else wanted what Tit got. While they all looked down at the sidewalk, I roughly elbowed my way through the girls and strutted the rest of the way to school.

We both got called into the Principal’s office, and when nobody but Tit was looking, I imitated one of those nasty rats from our shoebox, and put my two hands up like claws and gave her a creepy bucktooth face. And from what I could tell, Tit was scared titless.

When Mem came to get me at school, she wanted an explanation for why I beat up “Barbara.” I told her all about the Tit taunts, and how I was going to shove her tits down her titty mouth. My dirty words mortified Mem, so we stopped at the church on the way home, where she ordered me to recite the Lord’s Prayer five times. I knew Mem was more worried than mad, though, because she didn’t threaten to wash my mouth out with soap.

That night Mem and Mom spoke together in French to figure out what the hell they were going to do. I knew they used the swear word because Mem said in French, “enfer.”

Mem told Mom she was horrified at my violent actions and words. And Mom told Mem she was worried I was going to take after my father’s side of the family, and that was yet another reason why we had to get Mere Germaine back.

That night, as I laid in Mem’s bed, I wasn’t obsessing about the rats or the mice or the cockroaches. I was happily and busily conjuring up all sorts of ideas for how I was going to torture Tit.

STAY TUNED FOR CHAPTER SEVEN: A NEW SCHOOL WITH A SIDE OF BAPTISM

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter Five: My First Diary

[Catch up on earlier Chapters: Disclaimer, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four]

Chapter Five

MY FIRST DIARY

3/4/60

My seventh birthday had finally arrived. Mem and Mom went back and forth as to whether we should have a party or not. I didn’t have many friends, so it would be mostly family, which seemed weird to me since I didn’t have many of those either. But in the end, they decided that a small party was better than no party at all.

On the day of, while I was blowing up the balloons, Mom was whispering to Mem in French about how unhappy she was that Mick’s two sisters were coming.

I didn’t know I had two aunts, and I was curious although I was hoping that they wouldn’t come to the party with guns.

“I want them all out of her life,” Mom told Mem.  “It’s not that easy,” Mem responded. “With Mere Germaine living rent-free from Samir right now.” Mom reminded Mem that Mere Germaine didn’t want any of them in my life either. Rats and all, Mere Germaine wanted to come back and live with us. I wanted her to live with us too.

I was worried about Mere Germaine being around that side of my so-called family. And I had to agree with Mom that it might be best if they were all out of our lives.

The first and last time I saw my father, Mick was with that woman, and if I never saw either one of them again, that was fine with me. Nobody offered for me to see him again anyway.

I never told Mem and Mom about the cow’s head in Samir’s refrigerator, because I knew if I did, Mom would never let me go back to visit.

Who opens a refrigerator expecting to find a cow’s head? For a long time after that, I added our refrigerator to the already long list of things on White Street that terrified me.

And if I kept the cow’s head a secret from Mem and Mom, you know I never told them about Uncle Luke and the bloody yellow kitchen table.

Anyway, when my Aunt Mona showed up for the party, Mem and Mom pretended to be happy about it.

And then my Aunt Sara showed up — with who else, but Uncle Luke! My eyes were rounder than saucers, but Luke never let on that we had ever met, and neither did I.

Every time I took a glance at Uncle Luke, he was also looking back at me. At some point during the party, he came over to me and told me that when I was first born, he used to babysit for me and that he used to walk me to nursery school. He asked if I remembered him at all, and I shook my head no.

The only thing I remembered about him was his bloody face and swollen winking eye.

I don’t recall any of the other presents I got that year except for the pink diary from Aunt Mona.

The inscription read:

Dear Tony, Happy Birthday.  I have always loved you. Aunt Mona

While I was reading what she wrote, she was smiling at me and patting me ever so gently on my head.

And I was thinking; you’re such a liar. If you loved me so much, you would never allow me to live like this.

STAY TUNED FOR CHAPTER SIX: TIT

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter Four: The Yellow Kitchen Table

[Catch up on earlier Chapters: Disclaimer, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three]

Chapter Four

THE YELLOW KITCHEN TABLE

It was a Sunday morning in February of 1960.

“Mere Germaine deserves better than this hell hole,” Mom told Mem that morning, after a particularly harrowing night full of the snap, snap, snapping of traps.

Mem agreed, but where would she go? Mom mentioned someone I had never heard of before — Samir. Whoever this Samir was, he owned apartments, and Mom said that if she had to get on her hands and knees and beg him to find a clean and safe place for Mere Germaine to live, she would do it.

Mem spoke back to Mom in French, but I understood everything. Mem was telling Mom that if Samir found a place for Mere Germaine, he would want something in return. “Nobody gives anything for nothing.” And Mem warned Mom that seeing me would surely be part of the arrangement.

Me? What did I have to do with any of it? Mom asked Mem if she had any other ideas, and Mem said no. All in French.

I sat quietly, eating my butter and strawberry jam sandwich. “Well, then it’s settled,” Mom said and picked up the phone.

“Samir? It’s Natalie. Yes, I’m fine. Yeah, she’s a big girl already.” I assumed they were talking about me.

“I need your help Samir, but hold on.” She then kicked me out of the kitchen and told me to go to Mem’s room.

Since Mem’s room was at the other end of the apartment, there was no way I could hear the rest of the conversation.

The following Sunday, I helped Mom and Mem move Mere Germaine to the other side of Bridgetown. It wasn’t the best neighborhood but it was way better than White Street.

As I ran around Mere Germaine’s new apartment, there was a knock at the door. When Mem opened it, a grey-haired man stood smiling at me.

“Look at you,” he said, arms outstretched. I was frightened and looked at Mem, who introduced me to Samir as my grandfather.

He lifted me off my feet and kissed me twice on each cheek. I was confused, but I liked the attention.

Then he put me down, and the two of us walked hand in hand to his house, which was a few blocks away.

While Samir was in the bathroom, I opened his refrigerator. There on the top shelf was a huge cow’s head with its tongue hanging out. I let out a scream and slammed the door. Samir flew out of the bathroom, and I pointed to the refrigerator. He laughed and told me I shouldn’t put my nose where it doesn’t belong.

Then Samir turned on the radio and was singing along to a song I had never heard before: ♪ …you can kiss me on a Wednesday, a Thursday, a Friday and Saturday is best. But never, never on a Sunday, a Sunday, a Sunday, ’cause that’s my day of rest…  ♪ It was a catchy tune, and I hummed along as Samir prepared us something to eat. When he opened the refrigerator door, I squeezed my eyes tightly shut.

As we sat at his kitchen table, a boy in his early teens stopped by.  I was sitting on Samir’s lap, spooning a bowl of coffee filled with ripped-up toasted bread into my mouth like it was soup.

Samir called the boy Luke, and I could see right away that there was going to be trouble. I wanted to jump off Samir’s lap and make a run for it, but I was incapable of moving.

Luke was boiling mad and pulled out a gun. I had never seen a real gun before, and I was shaking.

Samir told Luke that I was Tony, Mick’s kid — and his niece, and warned him to think carefully about his next move.

Samir then told Luke to calm down and slowly took me off his lap. I bolted for the closest room, which was the bathroom. I knelt on the cold tile floor and kept the door slightly ajar so I could see what was happening.

Luke called Samir a thief, and Samir calmly told him to put down the gun so they could talk.

Luke put the gun on the table, and when Samir stood up, it seemed like he was going to hug him. But instead, he punched Luke in the face — first with his right fist and then with his left. Blood from Luke’s nose splattered all over Samir and the yellow kitchen table.

I will never forget the look on Luke’s face. It wasn’t pain or anger — it was more of sadness and misery. I can still see his eyes today, brimming with tears.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t scared — I felt pity for Luke. As he backed away from Samir, he called him a shit father.

Then he turned in my direction — one side of his bloody face was already starting to swell.

As I continued to peek out through the crack in the bathroom door, Luke gave me a wink before he left.

Click here for Chapter Five: MY FIRST DIARY

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter Three: White Street

[Catch up on earlier Chapters: Disclaimer, Chapter One, Chapter Two]

Chapter Three

WHITE STREET

It was January 1960, and Mem and Mom were always talking about the big news of the time: Elvis was in the army, Senator Kennedy was running for President and Mem got a Saturday job working at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on Main Street.

But I cared little about any of that. I was in my own little world, in my own little life.

We lived in Bridgetown, Connecticut in a tenement on White Street, although there weren’t too many white people.

Our top-floor railroad apartment was laid out in a single long line of rooms: from the kitchen to the living room, to the bedroom that Mom shared with Mere Germaine, to my grandmother’s bedroom at the end. I slept with Mem.

The kitchen was large and had plenty of cupboards. There was one extra-large cupboard to the left of the sink, filled to capacity with empty shoe boxes. I hated that cupboard. I hated the shoe boxes even more.

The tiny bathroom was directly off the kitchen to the left and lined up with a long creepy hallway that ran from the bathroom all along the length of the entire apartment and ended up at a dark, steep, and narrow stairwell that led down twenty steps or so to the front door.

We never used that door, because it was padlocked — sealed shut and unusable. So the only way in and out of the apartment was to climb the several rows of steep stairs in the back of the house and enter through the kitchen. Only one way in and one way out. A real fire trap.

Our apartment was run down, but Mem kept it spotless, which unfortunately didn’t stop the cockroaches and rodents from invading.

I hated the roaches. Big bad cockroaches. They came out fast and furious.  And they were bold. I would stamp my foot next to them to scare them, but they wouldn’t budge. The roach brigade usually made their debut anytime it went from dark to light.

When we would enter the kitchen at night – and turn on the lights, all the cockroaches would frantically scurry around the walls, trying to flee from the brightness. Hundreds of cockroaches would cover the walls of our kitchen. They came in droves. Welcome home.

The roach activity was horrifying.  But it was just the way it was.  Mom would carry on and throw a fit, but not me – and never Mem.

But I was most petrified of the rodents. They were probably rats, but I don’t think I could have survived living there, thinking they were rats.

I insisted on sleeping with the bedroom light on even though Mem preferred the light out. No way I was sleeping in the dark. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that on White Street, everything scary came out in the dead of night.

Despite the rats and the bugs, I never imagined that there was a better way to live. I didn’t realize at the time that we were poor and living in squalor conditions. It was just home to me.

At night I would help Mem set up the rodent traps. I hated it, but the thought of having hungry mice – or worse – roaming around our apartment was even scarier. So, our routine before going to bed was to lay traps all over the apartment. And if Mere Germaine weren’t already asleep, she would cut up the cheese.  Mom refused to help us.

Poor Mom. She would yelp every time she heard a trap snap. Snap, snap, snap. All night long.

Early every morning, Mem would grab a shoebox from the dreaded cupboard, and roam around our apartment, throwing the successful traps into it. The shoebox would be full of rodents with broken necks. Mem would then calmly throw them into a garbage bag and then into the garbage can on our porch, and place the shoebox back in the cupboard next to the sink.

I was a curious child, so I asked Mem a lot of questions about our routine. I wouldn’t call Mem a mouse or rat expert, but she knew a ton of stuff about both.

My math skills weren’t the best, but I knew that where there was one rodent, there were many more. Mem told me that rats have large families—up to forty or fifty. And since rats rarely walk more than a few hundred feet from their birthplace, if I saw one, the other forty or so were probably close by.

The good news from Mem: Rats had a one-year life span, so they didn’t last long.

The bad news from Mem: Rats multiply like rabbits.

And more bad news from Mem: Rats eat mice, so they rarely cohabitate.

Which, for me, meant that the mouse jig was probably up.

As you can imagine (or not), I was obsessed with our uninvited guests. So was Mem, but not in a scared way like me.

Mem would methodically and carefully inspect all of the lower parts of our walls — particularly in the bedrooms, at about one inch from the floor.

According to Mem, rats hugged walls so they would leave behind dark oil marks from their hair. Rat hair oil.

I was frightened. But nothing compared to Mom. She was horrified and disgusted and regularly cried and cried out in fear.

All Mom would ever say was, “We have to get out of here.” But I don’t remember ever thinking that we had to get out.

Click here for Chapter Four: THE YELLOW KITCHEN TABLE

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter Two: To Know Yourself Is to Know Your Family

[Catch up on earlier Entries: Disclaimer, Chapter One]

Chapter Two

TO KNOW YOURSELF IS TO KNOW YOUR FAMILY

        Maternal vs Paternal

For most of my life, I didn’t know much about my family on either side.

My very first memory took place on December 25, 1957, and was of my grandmother.

[Maternal: Relating to, belonging to, or like that of a mother.]

It was late Christmas night, and Mem and I were sitting on the couch, admiring what I thought was a truly magnificent Christmas tree.

Back then, I was known as Tony Michaels and lived with my grandmother, mother, and great grandmother on the wrong side of an already lousy town.

Mem was my grandmother — my surrogate mother. My mom got pregnant, then married, then divorced, at a very young age, so Mem was raising us both.

I knew very little about my father, but what I did know left me afraid. Fear played a significant role in my early years.

Mem had a theory that when I was a baby, I was confused and couldn’t figure out who was the mom. For a while, I called them both Mom. And then after some time, I bestowed upon her the name of Mem.

According to Mem, at ten or so months old, I had brilliantly managed to come up with the French-Canadian name all on my genius own.

Mem was also divorced, and I never met my grandfather. Mere Germaine, my great grandmother, was a widow and lived with us too. And like all the other men in my family, I never knew my great-grandfather either.

Mere Germaine was sleeping that Christmas night and Mom was on a date.

Mem was busily crocheting an afghan. Almost sixty years later, I still curl up with it while watching television and wrap myself up in Mem.

But let’s get back to Christmas night in 1957.

I was four years old, and my head rested on Mem’s shoulder. Mem was preoccupied with her crocheting, and I was trying to be exceptionally quiet because I was hoping that if she forgot that I was there, I could stay up late and wait for Mom.

I closed my eyes and started to drift off when Mem began to poke my arm softly.

When I looked up at Mem, she had a mischievous look on her face as she put her finger up to her mouth to shush me. She then took her finger off her lips and pointed toward the tree.

I took Mem’s cue and gazed at our sparsely decorated tree, adorned with a few strands of blinking lights, some tinsel, and a few ornaments — most of them home-made.

Underneath the tree sat my treasured present from Santa Claus.  She was the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. I named her China because she had a flawless porcelain face and the silkiest long, shiny black hair. China must have been an expensive doll — much more than Mem or Mom could afford.

Anyway, China was sitting under the tree, wearing a red velvet dress that Mem sewed for her, which to my delight, perfectly matched the red Christmas dress she had designed for me.

As I sat looking curiously at the doll under the tree, wondering why Mem was pointing and shushing, I noticed a tiny mouse sniffing around China.

I remember thinking that maybe it was a mouse, or maybe it was something way worse. Our crummy railroad apartment was chock full of all kinds of vermin.

I looked up at Mem, terrified, my heart pounding. But she was smiling ever so softly, still shushing me with her pursed lips.

So I looked back at what I hoped was a mouse from Mem’s perspective.

As a child, I was molded entirely by the three unforgettable women in my life. What they saw I saw. What they felt, I felt. It was me and my alpha female trio.

So if Mem didn’t have a problem with the baby whatever, I was okay with it sniffing around my doll and then snuggling in its lap.

I looked at Mem’s bright and smiling face, as she lightly kissed her index finger and then playfully touched the tip of my nose with it.

Taking my cue from Mem, I laid my head back on her shoulder and fearlessly watched the baby rodent until I drifted away.

My second memory was of meeting my father, back in 1959, when I was six.

[Paternal: Of or relating to, or like that of a father.]

Here’s how the meeting went down:

I was sitting on a stoop, waiting for my father, Mick Michaels, to arrive. I didn’t know him and didn’t know what to expect. As usual, I was full of angst.

A black vehicle rolled up, and a young man jumped out of the car. He was dark-haired with swarthy skin — not light-skinned like Mom or Mem or Mere Germaine.

I stared intently at him as he came around the back of the car to greet me. He had dark, piercing eyes.

It was then that I noticed a young woman sitting in the front passenger seat, her scowling face pressed against the car window.

He roughly tweaked my cheek, which broke me out of my spell. He had an etch-a-sketch in his hand, and as he thrust it into mine, the woman rolled down the window.

My father turned his back to me and spoke to the woman. “Get in the back.”

“Fuck you. Put the kid in the back.”

He shrugged his shoulders and turned to face me. I was shaking and screaming inside.

He opened the back door, and I miserably got into the car behind the woman.

Click here for Chapter Three: WHITE STREET

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter One: In The Beginning

[Catch up on earlier Entries: Disclaimer]

Chapter One

IN THE BEGINNING

It all started with diary number one. When I was seven years old, my Aunt Mona gave me a pink diary for my birthday. I wrote in it every day, and when it filled up, I got another, and another, and another.

Too young to know better, I believed those chintzy locks and keys kept my diaries safe from the outside world. All of my thoughts, fears, dreams, and schemes were packed into those volumes for me and me alone to write, read, and reread. And in so doing, to never forget. Or so I thought.

I stored them under whatever bed I was sleeping in. A collection of heartwarming, terrifying, funny, and not so funny words. I took those twenty-six letters in the alphabet and created a magnum opus out of them.

In my naiveté, it never occurred to me that anyone could be so deceitful as to read them. And I never thought anyone else would have a faint interest in what I felt or thought anyway.  And yet I kept those diaries safe and sound under locks and keys just in case. At last count, I had over forty of them and a President Kennedy key ring full of tiny diary keys.

I have been keeping a written recording of my life since elementary school. I still keep a diary although now I call them journals.

My treasured Kennedy key ring is gone. And with it all the keys, and yes, the older diaries are gone too.

Stolen, read and interpreted. Or I should say misinterpreted.

And that’s what this story is about. In the pages to follow I will try to remember the entries, the momentous and not so momentous times in my life.

But the diaries are gone, so I can’t recreate the voluminous entries spanning a lifetime in a Dear Diary format.

But what I can do, is recreate the diary entries from the volumes seared in my memories.

And to the thief, and you know who you are:

You might have been able to dispose of the diaries, but you can never do away with my memories, my words, or what’s in my mind.

Click here for Chapter Two: To Know Yourself Is to Know Your Family

My Stolen Diaries: A Novelog

I have decided to go for it and start blogging my novel titled My Stolen Diaries.

In doing so, I first needed to create a blog category, so after much thought, I finally settled on:  Teri’s Novelog

The only way as a reader, that you will be able to keep up with my novelog, is to read from top to bottom. If you want to catch up with whatever I have added, you’ll need to remember where you left off.

Sorry about that.

One day I’ll turn it into an actual book, but I’ve been saying that for the past fifteen years, so in the meantime, here it is.

First things first.

My disclaimer:

My Stolen Dairies is a work of fiction. F-I-C-T-I-O-N.

Although its format is based on a personal diary, it’s not real.

It’s made up.

Places and time have been moved around to accommodate the book, and except the mentioning of some public figures, any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

The events expressed in My Stolen Diaries are those of the characters and should not be confused with the views and opinions of the author (me).

The author will not be held responsible or liable for any perceived or actual loss or damage to any person or entity, directly or indirectly caused by or alleged to have been caused by anything in My Stolen Diaries.

If anyone happens to see themselves in any of the characters, that’s on them and a figment of their overly imaginative imagination.

Click here for Chapter One: In The Beginning

Chiaroscuro

I was cleaning out some old files today and found Chiaroscuro, my Brevard College literary magazine from 1972-1973.

I barely remembered the magazine, so imagine my shock when I opened it up and discovered that I was the Editor-in-Chief!

I also forgot about the stuff I wrote in it.

Yikes, it felt surreal reading through my 1972-1973 self.

Of the five things I wrote in Chiaroscuro, one screamed out from the rest:

Joanne

Individuals are peculiar. They say and do things that they don’t mean and regret later. We are all like that some time or another.

This is how I remember her. Twelve-year-old Joanne was about four feet eight inches, forty-five pounds, with hollow, pitiful blue eyes. Due to her unnatural thinness, her face was sunken and homely. She was one of a family of twelve, her father deceased. Her clothes were tattered and worn and extremely old-fashioned. You’d think this tiny forlorn youth would be understood by her classmates. Instead, she was our victim, marked for ridicule and laughter. I recall that she always appeared to be carrying the world’s grief upon her shoulders.

I never saw her smile.   Not once.    Not ever.

My classmates and I would swarm around her during recess, like bees after honey, and make her cry. One dreary afternoon she shyly approached me and asked if I’d hopscotch with her. I indignantly pushed her down on the playground cement and stalked away, feeling somehow insulted. She didn’t cry, though, for I suppose she was used to it. For the remainder of the school year, we constantly annoyed, ridiculed, and hurt her. And she would attempt nothing, but frown at us and walk with her head down to a secluded corner of the playground where alone, she would sit and stare into some unknown space, and cry sometimes.

Then summer came, and the homely little girl was pushed out of my mind until opening a local newspaper I fell upon her picture. She had died of leukemia, a disease she had known she had for years.

And as I stared at the photograph of the homely little girl with her large hollow eyes and her sunken face, I cried…

                                                for she was smiling…

Jesus. Was I a bully? I don’t even remember Joanne.

Did she even exist?

What was twelve-year-old Theresa trying to say?

Or maybe it was 1972-1973 Teri speaking.

I can’t imagine that I would bully, but then, if Joanne wasn’t real, who was I writing about?

And her clothes couldn’t have been tattered, worn and old-fashioned because we all wore uniforms.

Or maybe I saw Joanne outside of school in crummy old clothing.

But back in the day, I wore used clothes and shoes from Goodwill, so who was I to judge?

And why would I make fun of a homely scrawny kid who appeared to be carrying the world’s grief, when I was similar to Joanne in so many ways.

This also got me thinking about all kinds of places and times and events — triggers be damned.

I shoved Chiaroscuro back into my filing cabinet, depressed, not only by the thought that I might have been a bully but also at the possibility that I was Joanne.