All posts by Teri

My Daughter Dream

As a young kid living
in Bridgeport in that
crummy tenement
on Huron Street,
I would play house
with my precious Barbies,
and dream of having a
beautiful baby girl one day.

She was going to be fiercely
courageous, and a fearless
female warrior, who
unlike me, would laugh off
all the scary stuff.

From the moment I held your tiny hands
on that wondrous 2/24 morning,
I thanked God for your beauty and
the warmth and security
you provided me.

But I also prayed that one day
those munchkin hands
would hold power and might.

And also, on that February day,
I must confess
I had it in my head
that I would mold you
into my image.

A mini-me.  A mini-Teri.

That’s how I pictured you
in my head, full of dreams.

You, the fierce one
who hated Barbies
and pulled their heads off
sometimes using and gluing
their cut-up hair as ground cover
for the Seven Dwarfs.

Snow White was
nowhere to be found.

Or the time you ate an entire week
of birth control pills at 6 am
and when I called Dr. Hain’s answering
service, the operator couldn’t stop laughing.

And when I yelled out your name
you hid behind that ginormous
breakfront in your bedroom,
after dangerously pulling it away
from the wall,
fish tank and all.

Dr. Hain called back to say it wasn’t
as serious as the time
you drank Calamine Lotion.

My rough-and-tumble baby girl,
dressed up like an angel in white lace,
barreling over Temple chairs;
your dress almost over your head,
exposing your diaper-wadded tights.

I rolled my eyes, but I felt love so big
it almost exploded my heart.

And speaking of diapers,
I was convinced that you would still
be sporting them in High School.

In pre-K, when I pulled out your
Monday, Wednesday, or Friday
underwear, you screamed out,

You were my little typhoon,
with your flyaway hair
sticking straight up
to the sky.

My badass peanut,
who picked up
a fleeing house mouse by the tail
and cradled a dead crow.

You weren’t anything
like I dreamed
you would be
back in my Barbie days
when I was holed up in
that squalid
railroad apartment.

Bridgeport would never
have scared you.

My tomboyish girl
who was afraid
of nothing.

You have far exceeded
my naïve myopic mini-Teri
molding dream I was working
so diligently to achieve.

The love I have for you is limitless,
and I am hands down
your biggest fan.

It is no surprise to me
that you,
who always thought
out of the box,
would take my work to a
whole other level.

I have never been so happy
to have my work undone
because you have
taken the dream
and smooshed it all up
Ariel style.

with strength,
and conviction.

You are no dream.
You are my everything.

A Vision Foretold


I knew you were running out of time,

and you knew it, too.

You always knew best.

You always knew everything.

The one who couldn’t read or write.

Your last words were well thought out.

A vision you foretold.

“Stay away from him.”

“He’s no good for you.”

“Walk away.”

Words of wisdom before

you closed your eyes

for the last time.

Should have, could have, would have.

But I didn’t.

Happy birthday, and RIP.

I’ll see you soon.

I See You

I see you in the majesty of the

star-dotted stratosphere.

And when the clouds darken

the ominous skies, I see you.

Amongst the trees

or the whispering wind,

or the fluttering of butterflies,

I see you.

When a young child flies by me on a bicycle

or chases after an errant ball;

I see you.

I once saw you on a train,

causing my broken heart to spasm

and spill out all over me.

I saw you just yesterday in the desert,

and in the bar having a cocktail.

And when that bucking Ibex

locked eyes with me,

yes, oh yes, it was you that I saw.

Every so often, I see you in the ocean.

Sometimes, the ocean is me—calm, and

tranquil until I see you, and then I am a

rip current, plunging under,

way, way out of reach.

I packed up the photos,

stored the first-place trophies,

and stashed away all that

would remind me.

But still, I see you.

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 23: She’s an Awkward Girl



January 1966

Since moving to Success Park, Mom was finally treating me like a human being again.

That was until she went to a New Year’s Eve party with Nick and saw Roberto there with another girl. Now we’re right back where we started with Mom accusing me of ruining her life.

It’s been a blessing having Mere Germaine back living with us, and I love Success Park, but I wish Mom would get over Roberto.

I also wish I could see Yolanda and Steve because I miss them like crazy. But Mem says that part of our life is over, so I don’t think I’ll ever see them again.

If I wanted to, I could easily walk to Steve’s Market and Father Panik after school and see both of them, and Mem wouldn’t have a clue.

But if Mem says that part of our life is over, I need to respect her wishes. The last thing I need is for Mem to be mad at me too.

Nick is still hanging in there, but knowing Mom loves someone else can’t be easy for him. I know she’s trying, but Mom isn’t interested in Nick. And Mom seeing Roberto on New Year’s Eve didn’t help things with Nick at all.

I don’t blame Mom for being mad at me. I’d be mad at me too. But the way I see it, I’m not sure Mom will ever forgive me. I’m not sure Mom even likes me.

Last night I heard Mom say to Mem, “She’s an awkward girl.” “She needs to grow into herself, that’s all,” replied Mem.

Telling Mem I’m awkward is Mom’s new thing. Maybe that’s her way of getting back at me, although I know Mom doesn’t think I’m much to look at.

I looked up the word “awkward” in the dictionary, and the definition hurt me badly.

In the wrong direction, lacking skill, turned the wrong way, causing embarrassment—that’s what the dictionary said.

Is that what I am to Mom—an embarrassment? Or is she saying mean things because she’s still mad at me?

I once heard her tell Nick on the telephone that I’m awkward and need help in the looks department. Of course, I don’t know what he said, but it must have been something about being shy because Mom answered, “No, she’s not shy. Not even close. She’s got a big mouth. You haven’t seen that side of her yet. She’s mouthy, she’s lanky, and she’s awkward.”

My dark frizzy hair is pretty awful—I’ll be the first to admit it. And my nose is bigger than I would like. And okay, my skin is darker than any of my friends, except for Yolanda, because, of course, her skin is black.

Mem says that as I get older, my nose will fit nicely on my face, but I don’t think I’ll ever grow into myself like she keeps telling me.

Mere Germaine thought she was making me feel better by telling me that I have a “Roman” nose, whatever that means. Yeah, “roamin” all over my face!

Mom’s probably right—I’m awkward. But I still don’t think it’s nice to say hurtful things about me. So, to get even with her, I told Mem about Mom’s conversation with Nick about me being awkward and needing help in the looks department.

I milked it for all it was worth and told Mem I could do nothing about being ugly. I knew she felt sorry for me because she gave me a tight hug. Then she reminded me about the ugly duckling.

“The ugly duckling wasn’t a duck at all—it turned out to be a swan—a beautiful, graceful swan. And all the ducks were jealous. You’re a swan, my little Tony. I see it right here in your face—and in those serious dark eyes of yours. And soon enough, everyone will see you as the swan that you are.”

I thought hard about what she said. “What are you thinking, mon petit choux?” Mem asked. “Why doesn’t Mom see that I’m a swan?” I answered.

“I see. That’s all that matters,” Mem replied. “Now you wipe those tears away, d’accord?”

Later that night, Mem had a huge fight with Mom about her calling me names. Mom was angry that I was snooping on her and Nick. “She’s a tattle tale and a little snitch. That’s what she gets for putting her nose where it doesn’t belong.”

Mem’s mouth was hanging open, but at least Mom didn’t say my big nose!

“You’re her mother, for Christ’s sake,” Mem screamed out. And then she sucked in a great big breath because she had used God’s name in vain. She took out her rosary beads from her housedress pocket and ran out of the kitchen and up into our bedroom.

I gave Mem a few minutes, and then I went upstairs, where she was on her knees praying next to our bed. “Holy Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

She motioned for me to kneel beside her so we could pray together. Mem prayed out loud and asked God to forgive her for losing her temper.

I prayed silently and asked God to make my nose smaller and turn me into a swan as soon as conveniently possible.

Stay tuned for Chapter 24: He’s Baack!

To Know Me Is to Know My Favorite Music

In the dark of that sleepless night,
we listened for hours to my
classical and film score playlist—the
music I most love and cherish.

And to my delight, you loved
them all, although we never got
one wink of sleep!

You kept asking me the names of
the songs, but many I had long ago

Thanks to you, my sweet
and curious granddaughter,
I have collected all the titles
and videos of my favorites in this
blog post, so next time you ask,
I won’t forget.

To understand me is to
listen to the music that takes
my breath away and moves
me to my very soul.

But to know me,
and I mean
to really know me,
is to appreciate what
the music awakens
in my senses, my memories,
and my thought patterns.

I hope that through my
interpretation of my favorite
music, you will gain a
forever picture of what
moves me, and why.

I can only hope that one day,
all my grandchildren will
read this blog post, and then
listen to every song while
keeping Grandma Teri in
their minds and hearts.

And I hope that if they
read this post,
it will help expand on what
they already know and feel
about Grandma Teri,
who will adore them
beyond the end of time.

And to the rest of you,
I can only say
that if you care to
know the real me,
and I don’t mean
that superficial
nonsense, perhaps
you will also take
some time to read
and listen below.

A Sparrow Alighted upon our Shoulder
Jóhann Jóhannsson (1969-2018)

I am fascinated with sparrows, so years ago, when I first heard this piece and then the title, I instantly connected with it. Those shy, vulnerable, but resilient sparrows are my kind of birds. They don’t fly south in the winter but weather the storms and cold in the north, just like me. And while their plumage won’t sweep you off your feet, they have a beauty all of their own. Oh, how I wish one would alight upon my shoulder just once.

Listening to Jóhannsson’s powerfully delicate piece lifts me out of the doldrums and confines of winter. His melancholia speaks to me much like the song of the sparrows burrowed in my Leyland cypress trees. They harmonize every fading day, oblivious to the dank and cold. And I revel in the simple song of my sparrows, a series of flawless, sweet-sounding notes.

Adagio in G Minor
Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751)

Unlike us mere mortals, Albinoni’s music is immortal and will live to the end of the world’s time. His notes are some of the most poetic and haunting I have ever heard, and the lead violin is heaven-sent. And does anyone remember when the Doors used it as an overlay to the late Jim Morrison’s poetry on their album An American Prayer?

Adagio for Strings, Op.11
Samuel Barber (1910-1981)

Barber’s ethereal composition is simply the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard. It expresses grief in a peaceful, loving, living, and breathing way. All my untold love stories are wrapped up in this one melodiously moving treasure. If this resplendent piece isn’t played at my funeral, I’m not going.

Theme from Schindler’s List
John Williams (1932-)

Williams wrote and conducted the original score for Schindler’s List, a feature film about the Holocaust. In the soundtrack, Williams brilliantly incorporates melodies from European Jewish traditions. The violin is the focus of this piece and brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. I hope it will touch you in much the same way. I only watched the movie one time because one time was all that I could bear, but the soundtrack is a perfect example of the power of music—incredible, moving, emotive, and timeless.

My favorite version of this piece is with Davida Scheffers on the oboe. She had the honor of playing with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra as a result of winning a contest.

Ms.Scheffers was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which is an excruciatingly painful neuromuscular condition that all but derailed her career—her professional dreams coming to an end before it even got started. When you watch her performance, the admiring young blond in the audience is her beautiful daughter, who turned 18 on the day of her mother’s brilliant debut.

Ms. Scheffers’ brilliant performance is a reminder that life is tough—nobody ever said it would be easy. And John Williams’ haunting song reminds me to never, ever let the ugly parts of history repeat themselves. And above all, to be kind.

Chad Lawson (1975-)

On May 1, 2022, Chad Lawson released Irreplaceable to mark Mental Health Awareness Month. Lawson had me at mental health, and I have listened to Irreplaceable hundreds of times. The best way to describe Lawson’s piece is to use his own words:

“Take a deep breath and appreciate those irreplaceables in your life: that person that will always hold a place in your heart, that favorite spot to sit and pass the time, or that most cherished memory that always brings a smile.”

Letting Go
Chad Lawson (1975-)

Lawson’s soothing piece takes me to a place where I feel that maybe—just maybe—letting go is possible. I have always said that I am a work in progress, so yes, I am working on it. Letting go. That’s the dream.

Richter Summer 2
Max Richter (1966-)

Max Richter is one of my favorite contemporary classical composers. It’s hard to imagine that anyone could recompose and reinterpret Antonio Vivaldi’s four violin concertos titled The Four Seasons, but Richter recomposed them brilliantly. Richter’s recomposed version of Summer is simply out of this world.

Max Richter (1966-)

This Richter piece makes me feel emotions and brings back memories I had long ago forgotten and perhaps didn’t even know were there.

November has always been my clarion call for the cold winter to come. And yet it also reminds me that true warmth comes not from the spring and summer but from the littlest ones, my treasured grandchildren. Some might describe this piece as sad, but I find it ever-promising of the things to come.

On the Nature of Daylight
Max Richter (1966-)

This song is another Richter masterpiece and helps me conjure up some inner peace.

The memory it evokes every time I hear the violin, for whatever random reason, is my grandmother working into the wee morning hours on her sewing machine. The violin soothes me like the soft whirring her machine used to; over 65 years ago.

No matter how many hours she worked during the day, she always took to the sewing machine in the dead of night, when everyone else was asleep, to create something she envisioned would look beautiful on me. She couldn’t read or write in English, but her sewing artistry was masterful.

Or perhaps it was masterful because her love for me was so pure. This piece warms my heart and reminds me of the blessedness of unconditional love.

The Departure
Max Richter (1966-)

Okay, so by now, you must know that I love Max Richter, and I think he is the greatest composer of our era. I see myself in Richter’s music—perhaps because it’s clear to me that he knows a thing or two about pain. And yes, I feel pain when I listen to his music, but it also gives me hope.

This Richter piece was composed entirely on piano and takes me to a place I can’t even begin to describe. Departure reminds me that I’m never too old, and it’s never too late—for anything.

Air on the G String 
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Air, over 300 years old, is my favorite piece of baroque music. There is pure simplicity in its genius, and any rendition of this piece captivates and inspires me. Every time I hear it, I can actually feel the air surrounding and lifting me to the highest of heights.

Sonata # 14 “Moonlight” Op. 27 No. 2
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

This sonata is one of the first pieces I ever perfected on the piano—as perfectly as I could play it, that is. Beethoven’s hearing was already seriously deteriorating when he wrote this piece—a reminder that nothing is impossible.

Beethoven is my favorite classical composer, primarily because not even his deafness could stop his otherworldly genius.  Despite his difficult childhood, Beethoven created music for the ages—and many of his most beautiful creations came well after he could not hear.

For the last 31 years of Beethoven’s life, he taught himself to listen to his music using his imagination, memory, and piano vibrations. How sad that he composed many of his greatest works without ever having the ability to listen to the glory of his miraculous accomplishments.

Beethoven’s Silence
Ernesto Cortazar (1940-2004)

Speaking of Beethoven, Ernesto Cortazar, a Mexican composer, wrote this stirring song in 1999 as part of a ten-song album titled Just for You—a spectacularly moving album about love and heartbreak.

The piece starts uncannily as if Beethoven was asking, “Why me?” The angst in Cortazar’s composition is heartbreakingly poignant. The ending is a chilling, agonizing resignation and reluctant acceptance of the answer—a musical genius, now deaf.

Just for You
Ernesto Cortazar (1940-2004)

I highly recommend you listen to Cortazar’s entire album. Every song on it is a wonder, and I listen to it often. As a writer, his touching compositions in Just for You prompted me to conjure up a love story—maybe his. It seems to me that the entire album is for and about someone Cortazar was in love with. How Beethoven’s Silence got into the album, I still haven’t written into the story, but I’m sure there was a reason for it.

Here is my interpretation of the remaining nine songs on the album:

Just For You (Cortazar’s beautifully composed dedication to his significant other.)

Judith (Whomever this Judith was, she meant the world to him. Cortazar’s poetic composition speaks for itself—you can hear the love.)

Let Me Kiss You (A light and airy ode of pure joy and lifelong bliss.)

Let’s Take a Walk (My favorite piece on the album. I envision the loveliest walkway leading to a garden overflowing with pink roses, baby’s breath, and forget-me-nots.)

The Moon Is Watching Us (The moon’s beams light and protect their way. They walk hand and hand—their future full of hope.)

Love Hurts (I feel the anger and the pain in every piano keystroke. The hope is gone, but I still feel the love.)

River of Dreams (Cortazar wrote this piece when he was 18. I can almost see the dream—a powerful rushing river, spilling over with opportunity and possibilities. But that was way back when, and Judith is now.)

L’adieu (Farewell in French. Alas, it’s time to say goodbye, and the loss is immeasurable.)

What Happened Between Us (I envision the confusion, the back and forth of the why of it all, the loss, the what ifs.)

Gabriel’s Oboe
Ennio Morricone (1928-2020)

Morricone wrote this brilliant theme song for the film The Mission. Gabriel’s Oboe is stunningly peaceful and transcendent. This heavenly and exquisite piece makes me wish I had tried my hand at the Oboe.

The Mirror
Alexandre Desplat (1961-)

This song, written for the film Danish Girl, gives me chill bumps every time I hear it. The beauty of its crescendo moves me beyond words. Desplat’s magical piece reminds me that although the mirror might reflect an almost perfect image, it is superficial in that it can never reveal the mysteries of our hearts or what endures deep inside of us, which of course, is what matters the most.

Ludovico Einaudi (1955-)

I’m unsure why, but this piece reminds me of one of my favorite books, The Little Prince—a tender tale of friendship, loneliness, love, and loss. I can see myself in a desert, gazing up at the infinite sky and stars. The buildup of the orchestra is God-sent and an unforgettable and phenomenal musical experience.

Meggie’s Theme/Anywhere the Heart Goes
Henry Mancini (1924-1994)

Henry Mancini perfectly captured the searing pain of forbidden love in this theme song he composed for the television miniseries The Thorn Birds. For me, this song reminds me of the emotional rollercoaster that is life, as well as the heartbreaking realization that the deepest of love can be devastatingly elusive.

River Flows in You
Yiruma (1978-)

Yiruma is a South Korean composer and pianist. The piano keys in this piece indeed flow like a river and leave me feeling tranquil, hopeful, and at peace. A river’s progression is much like our own. It doesn’t flow to serve others; it charts its own path, determined to free-flow, outwardly calm and contained, but beware of its mighty force. Never underestimate the might and strength of a river or a woman.

Kiss the Rain
Yiruma (1978-)

This piece is yet another Yiruma masterpiece. It reminds me of the beauty in simplicity. I adore the rain and have been known to run outside and drench myself in it. I love the way it speaks to me—the way it feels on my skin and hair. Most people check the weather reports in hopes of a sunny day. Not me. And if I could kiss the rain, I surely would.

Prelude #1 in C Major, From the Well-Tempered Clavier
Sebastian Bach (1685-1703)

In Bach’s time, clavier meant any stringed keyboard. At only 600 or so soothing notes, I still get goosebumps whenever I hear it. It pushes me to rise. It pushes me to fly. And the trill at the end, oh my.

Hans Zimmer (1957-)

Hans Zimmer wrote this moving and unforgettable song for the film Inception. Zimmer, a gifted and self-taught pianist, only had two weeks of piano lessons.

For me, classical music is a wordless language, and this Zimmer piece is the perfect example of telling a story without using a single word. The buildup of the quiet start of this piece to the all-encompassing crescendo and then back to the quiet transcends the written word.

I envision this piece as a four-chapter book. Perhaps even the book of me. From birth to turbulent teenager, to struggling adult, to life’s twilight. The ending of this piece—as in death—is so definitively final and yet divinely euphoric.

A side note to my beautiful granddaughter: I’m sure you do not recall, but this was the piece you finally fell asleep to on that night when we held your weeping homesick baby sister tight between us.

You may not recall the song, but I am sure you vividly remember that we were all “wide awake.” Yes, we got less than one hour of sleep and were exhausted the next day, but oh, what I wouldn’t give to go back in time to that sleep-deprived night.

Prelude in C minor, Opus 28, Number 20
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)

When first learning to play Chopin’s Prelude on the piano, I initially thought it would be easy to master. Boy, was I wrong. The difficulty came not in the playing of the keys and chords themselves but in the control and intensity of the tempo and balance combined with the ability to withstand the weight and pressure on the hands and lower arm muscles.

What brought this piece to life was the strength and endurance of my pinkies and wrists. If my fingers weren’t throbbing in pain after playing it, I knew I hadn’t given it my all.

Chopin’s Prelude in C minor also inspired Barry Manilow’s hit song, Could It Be Magic. And for the record, I disco-danced to Donna Summer’s rendition of Manilow’s song at Studio 54 uncountable times—although, in my opinion, her awkward oohs and ahhs were completely unnecessary.

All Things Must Fall
Dustin O’Halloran (1971-)

O’Halloran’s brilliant piece is a stark reminder of the circle of life. The tenderness each note emotes is breathtakingly peaceful. I envision myself sitting atop a towering mountain, taking in the glory of a sunset.

To add this piece to my playlist is to acknowledge that at 70, I recognize that, indeed, all things must fall. Not in a morbid or depressed way, but more of a celebratory life-well-lived way.

An Ending, A Beginning
Dustin O’Halloran (1971-)

I have always said that endings might just be more beautiful than beginnings, so this song has a special meaning for me. And a most fitting end to this blog post.

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 22: O Holy Night



December 1965

I have never seen Mem so happy and so relaxed. She’s been sewing secret gifts for all of us while playing holiday music nonstop. Her favorite song is O Holy Night by Nat King Cole, and she plays it on our record player over and over and over again.

Mem says that after what Adam did for us, the song has even more meaning to her than before.

Her favorite part of the song is:

♪ ♪ A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices. ♪ ♪

Life has indeed been glorious since moving to Success Park. Mere Germaine and Mom share a room with twin beds, and I sleep with Mem in the bed Adam gave us.

Mem says that Adam was our guardian angel and our Christmas miracle, and we all agree.

Speaking of miracles, surviving seven years of St. Ambrose Catholic School is also a miracle because all the nuns except Sister Regina Mary are beastly and mean!

Mom says it’s because they never “get any” and calls them frustrated old bitties, but only when Mem and Mere Germaine aren’t around.

When I ask Mom what the nuns never get, she tells me I’m too young to understand.

I used to think it was sacrilegious for her to say bad things about the nuns, but now I agree. The nuns have a terrifying way of humiliating us girls.

They put their fingers together in a point and pound them into the top of our heads. Ouch is right. The constant digging of their fingers into our skulls can’t be good for us.

The boys have it worse, though. The Sisters grab both their ears and yank them hard, causing their heads to bobble back and forth, which I’m sure rattles up their brains.

They also torture us in other ways, like stalking and roaming around with a wood pointer and whacking it on our hands whenever they feel like it.

Once, when Mother Superior caught me chewing gum, she made me walk around with it stuck on my nose all day, including recess, which was tricky because it kept falling off. By the time school was out, the wad of gum was filthy and speckled with who knows what.

Another time, she read a note I sent to my best school friend Vicki about a boy I had a crush on—over the load speaker to the entire school!

The good news, though, is that I am still one of the most popular girls in my class, and now that we don’t live on White Street, things have never been better.

However, there is some bad news—my friends are still not allowed to come to our apartment because I’m still from a broken family.

But at least I don’t feel ashamed of where I live, just sorry that people think my life with Mem, Mom, and Mere Germaine is broken.

Click here for Chapter 23: She’s an Awkward Girl

Thinking of You Today

My grandmother Mammy

taught me

that men and women

are not created equal.

She believed that women

were superior to men,

created by God

to endure

and withstand

both emotional

and physical pain.

She knew a thing or two

about pain.

I can still hear her today:

“Two weeks a month, we are

reminded by God

that our bodies

are divine vessels.

As His vessel, God has

tasked us

with a week of pain

leading up to our

sacrifice — a week of blood flow.”

Those were her words of wisdom.

The pain we live with as women

is why we are superior to men.

A week of pain followed by

a week of blood flow.

Thanks be to God.

“I would love to see a man try

to carry and deliver a baby.”

Yes, Mammy, I would love to see that too.

Speaking of babies, my grandmother

always promised me that she would

take care of mine, but she

died before they were born.

If I had to describe my grandmother

in a word, it would be:


At 70

[My self-portrait with the help of AI]

From birth to age 12, my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother were my heroes. In my teens through 21, my heroes were my friends. Then came the boss heroes who guided me through the corporate ladder climb. Once I reached my 40s, my husband morphed into my hero. And in my 50s, I looked for the hero in my kids. Then I went heroless for a while.

And now, at 70, I see that the hero I spent a lifetime searching for was inside me the whole time.

Here are my notes to self on the arrival of my 70th birthday:

At 70…

I am not too old.

I will plant another butterfly bush, so more will come.

I can spend the time I have left in any way I choose.

The clock is of no import to me now.

I’m still a work in progress.

Endings might just be more beautiful than beginnings.

I can finally focus on what I want to do and not what I need to do.

The most tragic and regretful goodbye is the one that was never said.

Money is not the answer to everything, but it helps.

The family I have isn’t all the family I need, but I have hope.

I’m not at peace. But I’m working on it.

I now know that to exist is to survive.

Friends come and go, but some surprise you and stay forever.

For the first time in my life, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.

I am more than the sum of my Bridgeport parts, but I will never forget where I came from.

The adage “You get what you give” is not always true.

I don’t want anything I don’t already have.

Sometimes goodbye, not sorry, is the hardest word.

My hard work actually did pay off.

I will say his name. But not yet.

It is never too late.

My Stolen Diaries – Chapter 21: Building 55, Success Park



October 1965

Two weeks after the meeting with Adam’s lawyer, Mem got a big fat check and the keys to his car.

Soon after, Mem put a down payment on a two-bedroom unit in Success Park, which is in Bridgeport but closer to the Stratford side, which Mem says is the safer section of town.

It’s no surprise that Mom disagrees with Mem and says there is nothing safe about Bridgeport, mainly because she despises everything about it. And she’s still blaming me for ruining her chances of getting out of Bridgeport for good.

According to Mom, Success Park is a housing complex that the U.S. Government built to accommodate the massive number of workers coming to Bridgeport in hopes of getting good-paying jobs during the war effort.

Success Park sounds to me like it’s mostly for low-income working-class people like Mem and Mom, and lucky for us, it’s far from any bullet-flying, street-knifing areas like Father Panik and a huge step up from White Street.

Mem agrees that the people who live in Success Park are a lot like her — hard-working, honest, decent people who struggle to make ends meet and, most importantly, are devout church-going people.

Success Park sounds like everything Mem has ever wished for, but the best part for me is that Mere Germaine is moving back in with us.

Adam left us his furniture, dishes, and Frigidaire, so Mem says he not only saved us financially but also set us up with everything we needed to live our best lives.

I’m happy Adam saved us, but Mem treats him like a saint, so now I know she’ll never get back with Steve. It seems to me that Mem is in love with a dead man, and nobody can ever live up to that — not even Steve.

Mom is relieved that we are getting out of our rat trap White Street apartment and moving to Success Park, but she still thinks we deserve better and need to get out of Bridgeport to make a name for ourselves. I hate that she always says “we” because I don’t know who “we” is, and I don’t want to be part of her dream. I have dreams of my own.

Mom always says she wants money, a rich husband, famous friends, a beautiful house, and everything else wealth brings. No one can disagree that Success Park is way better than White Street, but it’s not even close to the rich and famous stuff Mom keeps wishing for.

Mom’s definition of making a name for herself is marrying someone rich, but that’s not how I plan to make a name for myself. I have no plans to marry someone rich because Mem always tells me I can only depend on one person and one person only for what I need — that person being me, myself, and I. But now, I’m not sure she’s right because Adam turned out to be a very dependable person to Mem.

Now that I’m the proud owner of a beautiful piano, I would love to be a famous pianist and travel the world playing my music, but Mem says I need to learn how to play the piano first.

Roberto is still not talking to Mom, and she told Mem she’s worried that he won’t be able to find her once we move and change our phone number. Mem answered that if Roberto wanted to find her, he’d figure out a way. Otherwise, it’s his loss and too bad for him. I keep my Roberto thoughts to myself, but I pray to God every night that he never finds her.

Our moving day was exciting but also really sad. I took my chances and ran through the Panik to say goodbye to Yolanda. We both cried our eyes out because we knew we would never see each other again. Yolanda convinced me to stop by Steve’s Market to say goodbye. I didn’t want to go alone, so Yolanda went with me.

As soon as Steve saw me, I could tell he was happy but also unhappy. I hugged him and told him we were moving, but he already knew. I told him I would never forget him and thanked him for teaching me all about meat, which made him smile.

Then Steve said that he expects to read about me in the papers because he’s sure I will do great things and to always believe in myself. I could see Steve getting misty-eyed, especially when Yolanda told us we were the only white people she ever loved.

I hugged Steve again, and he whispered in my ear to run off and have a beautiful life. I squeezed them both one last time and then ran back to White Street, bawling but excited.

Mem drove Mom to Success Park in Adam’s car, and Mere Germaine, Rib, and I went with the moving guy in his truck. Poor Rib threw up brown bits all over my shirt and pants.

When we pulled up to the parking lot in front of Building 55, a bunch of kids were playing in a cement lot next to it. They all stopped what they were doing to watch us get out of the truck. I felt like a movie star with all their staring, although I hoped they couldn’t see the chunks of Rib’s vomit dripping down the front of me.

Building 55 was a brick two-story townhouse with ten units attached in one long row. As we walked up to the front door, there was a tiny fenced-in patch of yard that I let Rib run around in.

When we opened the front door, the apartment was sunny and smelled of fresh paint. The kitchen and living room were one giant room with a patterned wood floor, which Mom said was parquet.

Adam’s piano will surely take up half the living room, but Mem said it would serve as a constant reminder that Adam saved us.

We now have a front and back yard with our very own clothesline. And both the front and rear doors open properly, so we finally have two ways to escape in an emergency.

Mem is thrilled that we don’t have to share a clothesline with our neighbors any longer, but she is worried about who will mow the front and back lawns since we never had grass before.

There are two bedrooms and a bath upstairs, and the whole place is spick and span. The best part about our new home is no bugs, rodents, peeling paint, or moldy walls. And each bedroom has a door, which we didn’t have on White Street, although Mem says there’s no good reason to close them. Since I never had a bedroom door before, I disagree with Mem and can’t wait to close it for privacy, although I have to sleep in a bed with her. Mom and Mere Germaine will share the other bedroom and are lucky to have twin beds.

Mom might have dreams of leaving Bridgeport, but I would consider myself the luckiest girl in the world if I could spend the rest of my life in Building 55, Success Park.

Click here for Chapter 22: O Holy Night