All posts by Teri

Comfort

To feel his arms around me was
as healing as anything I have
ever felt.

He took me by surprise,
when he came behind me
as I sat reading a self-help
book and gently enveloped
me in all of his pubescence.

I held back tears as
my little guy held me
tightly and wrapped me
up in his loving innocence.

Somehow, he felt my sorrow,
and he knew just what to do
to take the pain away.

If I died in that moment,
it would have been the most
beautiful of endings.

My Stolen Diaries — Chapter 29: Naomi

CHAPTER 29

 NAOMI

November 1966

I haven’t written in a while, because I made a new friend, and we’ve been spending a lot of time together. She’s my first real girlfriend since Yolanda from Father Panik, who I haven’t seen since we left White Street.

A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us kids were hanging out in the Success Park playground near Court B when we noticed a plain, black-haired girl watching us from a distance. My friends said it was Naomi, a Jew girl, and chased after her, calling out, “Beat it, dirty Jew, Jesus killer.” One of them threw a rock that just missed her head.

Their hatred reminded me of the cruelty against Rebecca, the Jewish girl, in Ivanhoe, one of the books I just finished in Adam’s classic collection.

Naomi tried to run away, but she was slow, and when my friends caught up to her, they formed a circle around her and screamed, “Go back to your Jew house and never show your ugly Jew face around here again.”

I got into the middle of the circle with Naomi and loudly shouted that they were acting like horrible monsters. That stopped them long enough for me to take this poor whimpering girl by the arm.

Then Chris jumped in and ordered them all to leave. Ever since I plunged out of his dad’s car, we’ve become close. But I refuse to kiss him again until he breaks up with Juliette because I listened loud and clear to Mem’s words about “the chase.”

And just so you know, I’m still limping around from that horrible nosedive. And I still haven’t told my family about what happened — and probably never will.

“I’ll take you home,” I told Naomi while yelling at all my friends except Chris to “Get lost.” Chris moved everyone out of our way like he was a cattleman straight out of Gunsmoke. I was impressed.

A woman was running in our direction, terrified. As soon as she reached us, she hugged and thanked me for “my courage.” She also said that I must have extraordinary parents.

Extraordinary indeed.

Naomi asked if I wanted to come to their apartment for a snack. Her mom served up some delicious pastries called rugelach, which, by the way, is pronounced nothing like it’s spelled. I met her father and two brothers; they seemed kind and moral, just like the Jews in Ivanhoe.

I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I asked one of Naomi’s brothers if the Jews killed Jesus, as my friends said. He answered that Jesus was Jewish, which I didn’t know, and that Pontius Pilate ordered him crucified, which I did learn at St. Ambrose.

Naomi and I have become very close friends, and I have a ton of respect for her family, who are wonderful people. And since Jesus was Jewish, I’m sure God is okay that we’re friends, even though the rest of my gang refuses to speak to me when Naomi’s around.  Well, everyone except Chris, who I’m still playing “chase” with.

One of the girls accused me of being a Jew lover, and I put my fists up and yelled for her to come closer to me and say it to my face, but she didn’t dare. They all know I might be skinny and scrawny, but I’m tough as nails.

One of the best stories I can tell you about being friends with Naomi is that her father, Mr. Grulnik, took us to a place called McDonald’s on Main Street in Bridgeport, not far from where Mem used to work at Woolworths.

And in case you’re wondering, I stayed in the middle of the back seat, nowhere near the car doors. And I planted both feet firmly against the front seats just in case Mr. Grulnik made a sharp turn.

Everyone was talking about this burger joint with towering golden arches and delicious hamburgers and fries for hardly any money and served up in under one minute.

You could get a delicious and affordable all-American meal in this McDonald’s place for just 45 cents.

When we pulled up, there was a line, but it went fast — and all the food was waiting for us under hot lights. I had a vanilla milkshake, cheeseburger, and fries. From the first bite, I told Mr. Grulnik that I had never eaten anything so delicious and that McDonald’s was my new favorite place. He laughed and said, “You and every other American.”

Mr. Grulnik also told us not to tell her mother where we had eaten because it wasn’t kosher.

On the way home, Naomi told me all about what keeping kosher meant, what foods she could and couldn’t eat, and explained that being Jewish meant having to follow a whole lot of rules.

I felt horribly sorry for Naomi, not because she was Jewish, but because I could never survive in life without bacon, and I told her so.

Stay tuned for Chapter 30: Mom’s Engagement

The Best and Worst of the Teri Tome in 2023

I have been beyond thankful that over 15,000 people per month come to my blog, The Teri Tome, to read what I have to say.

Since launching The Teri Tome on 3/18/15, I’ve had over 1.4 million readers and over 3.2 million page views.

And I suspect some of those readers are deeply unhappy or nervously afraid about my postings or what I might post next.

But frankly, my dear…

Writing helps me make sense of life’s stuff. It’s like talking to myself but in written form.

Anyway, the marked increase in traffic to The Teri Tome has me writing like a crazy person. And for every written post I publish, you should know that I also write a post that is most definitely unpublishable — at least for now.

I’ve put all those unpublished posts in a safe place on my computer, so to my family, if you’re reading this: When the time comes that I am no longer, please carefully and thoroughly comb through my computer files. There is a treasure trove of everything you mostly didn’t know about Teri because you never asked. I can only hope that when I reach the other side, you will honor me and my memory by reading every word.

In 2023, I wrote 38 blog posts, resulting in over 200,000 collected page views for those posts alone. Additionally, The Teri Tome garnered close to another 200,000 page views for posts written before 2023.  And please don’t think I’m bragging, but that’s a whopping 400,000+ page views in one year.

Of the 38 posts, fifteen were chapters of my novel-on-a-blog, primarily written decades ago, titled: “My Stolen Diaries.” Speaking of my novel, I first started posting it on The Teri Tome on 1/12/20. To date, I have posted 97 of my book’s total 159 written pages. However, I will tell you a little secret: I still haven’t figured out the ending.

According to the writing assistant Grammarly, I’ve achieved grammar greatness — the cloud-based program has already analyzed over 63.2 million of my words since the 2015 launch of my blog. Per Grammarly, I was more productive than 96% of their users, 93% more accurate, 96% more unique words, and my top mistake? Missing commas.

And now for the big reveal.

My LEAST VIEWED POST IN 2023


MY DELTA WINGS: I’m constantly trying to figure out why some of my blog posts garner thousands of page views and others in the hundreds. Maybe it’s the title, maybe it’s the content, and maybe it’s both. Whatever the reason, this poem was my least-trafficked post in 2023, but I hope you give it a read because it’s very near and dear to me, mostly because at 20 years old, Delta Airlines freed me from my MeToo nightmare.

#1 HIT IN 2023


MY STOLEN DIARIES — CHAPTER 16: IN OVER MY HEAD: I was pleasantly surprised to see that Chapter 16 was the #1 post of 2023. How many of us have been in over our heads? For years, I’ve asked myself, “What if this?” or “What if that?” which is what I was thinking about when I sat down to write this Chapter.

#2 HIT IN 2023


MY STOLEN DIARIES — CHAPTER 23: SHE’S AN AWKWARD GIRL: The #2 spot honors another chapter of my novel-on-my blog. My Stolen Diaries is a work of fiction, but I know a thing or two about being awkward and being bullied for it. I’ve come to accept that were it not for my awkwardness and the bullies, I would not have had the empathy to write Chapter 23. My lead character, Tony, is shy but unafraid to speak the truth. And as of late, don’t think me crazy, but she often talks to me. Many readers have asked me if there is any truth to the fiction I write. I can only answer by saying that there is no fiction without truth.

#3 HIT IN 2023


MY DAUGHTER DREAM: The popularity of this #3 blog post didn’t surprise me at all because my unicorn daughter was the inspiration. When my daughter was around five, she often told me she was my guardian angel,  and oh yes, she is.

#4 HIT IN 2023


MY STOLEN DIARIES —  CHAPTER 22: O HOLY NIGHT: I channeled the female solidarity of growing up in an all-women household when I wrote this chapter, so I’m happy to see it’s the #4 post of 2023. Those precious women taught me strength through adversity, and I will forever be grateful for their grit and resolve.

#5 HIT IN 2023


THINKING OF YOU TODAY: I was more introspective than happy about the popularity of this #5 post. And I was also a bit anxious because rereading it touched something raw in me. It also made me question if I should continue writing about my house of glass, pane by pain.

#6 HIT IN 2023


I SEE YOU: Just so you know, I’ve been second-guessing my writing purpose for a while now, so the popularity of this #6 post of 2023 left me nostalgic and longing for what was. And yet, I know deep inside that what was will never be again.

#7 HIT IN 2023


MY STOLEN DIARIES — CHAPTER 25: THE TONY TELLING:
I wrote Chapter 25 in the late 80s while undergoing intense life-altering events. The fact that it made it to #7 and garnered so many page views in 2023 lifted my spirits and gave me the impetus to continue posting my novel no matter what or despite who.

#8 HIT IN 2023


MY STOLEN DIARIES — CHAPTER 20: HELP!: Chapter 20 made it to the #8 spot and reminded me that I’ve been adept at helping but have never been one to ask for it. And yet, I still believe what is meant for someone will never pass them by.

#9 HIT IN 2023


MY STOLEN DIARIES — CHAPTER 15: ROBERTO, ROBERTO, ROBERTO: Although I wrote this chapter decades ago, I gave it a written facelift in 2023. I did so because I felt the need to expand the concept that our choices and decisions are often our undoing. We make our choices, and then our choices take over and make us. And then there are the choices made for us by someone else — a life shaped by decisions made by other people. How many of our lives are the consequences of a series of decisions made for us instead of by us? That’s how Chapter 15, my #9 hit in 2023, came to be.

#10 HIT IN 2023


I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS: It was no surprise that this post made it to #10. In many belief systems, ten signifies completion — the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. Soon to enter my 71st year here on earth, I can’t help but wonder, “Will this be the year my nightmare chapter ends?” So that you know, I can take a verbal hit better than most. And I’ve heartbreakingly closed life chapters I never wanted to end and will never forget. But I still haven’t figured out how to close that one ugly chapter I’ve spent fifty-six years trying to erase.

THE NUMBER ONE VIEWED POST OF ALL TERI TOME TIME (2015-2023):


WEDDING CENTERPIECES THAT CAN SAVE THE WORLD: From 2015 to 2020, my all-time most-viewed post was about bullies and bullying behavior. I sadly equated it with the 2014 election and that certain powerful someone who, through his own ugly and hate-filled words, permitted bullies to crawl out of their holes. At the end of 2021, and at first analysis, I thought my blog post about brides beating out bullies was a positive outcome — a possible new world order. Mostly because I naively thought that fewer people needed to read about bullies — because perhaps fewer people were being bullied. But I have come to the sad realization that since 2020, it has become way more commonplace to bully and to be bullied. People no longer need to research or understand bullies and bullying, mainly because so many of us have been experiencing the hatefulness of it in real-time — day in and day out, with no one able or willing to stop it. So, for the past three years, weddings have far surpassed bullies as my number one most-viewed blog post, garnering hundreds of thousands of page views. Although it took me a while, I now sadly get the fact that weddings come and go, while hate only begets more hate.

And just like that, another year was over and done.

As I said goodbye to 2023, I also said goodbye to a childhood friend in mid-December. My dear friend was a particularly tough loss and the culmination of a sh*tstorm of a year.

2023 has often felt like a movie trailer to me. And while there was no spoiler alert, the preview and glimpse of the plot, characters, and tone, combined with nonstop political and anti-Semitic horrors, have done a relatively good job of keeping me up until the wee hours of the morning.

Like I needed anything more to add to my sleepless, restless nights.

I can only wish that 2024 brings all of us the plot twists we’re hoping for, although there is no doubt that some of us will be apoplectic.

I sure hope it’s not me.

I’ll Never Forget the Way We Were

It’s been a tough week.

First off, the holidays over the past twenty-plus years have created a lot of angst for me. I’ve lost a lot of people, and as the years grow on, I keep losing more and more.

And then, to make holiday matters more dire, there was the loss last week of a dear friend who fought a dignified and courageous fight against cancer to the bitter end — mostly on his own.

Much like my grandmother, Mammy, who silently and stoically fought what she called “The Cancer.”

The one constant when times get tough is the memory of my grandmother. And even though times were tough back then as well, we always had each other until “the cancer” took her away from me way too soon.

So, around this time of year, I often find myself reaching out to her, asking her for advice, courage, a sign — anything.

Can you hear me, Mammy?

And yesterday, even though I was suffering, for whatever reason, I didn’t reach out to her.

But apparently, she wasn’t having that because as soon as I got into the car and turned on the radio, there it was:

Liberace was on some random radio station playing “The Way We Were.”

Yeah, Liberace.

My grandmother adored everything about Liberace.

Me? Not so much.

But back in the late 50s and early 60s, we watched his television shows together all the time.

And Liberace began and ended each show by singing “I’ll Be Seeing You,” which became his theme song.

Liberace’s song choice was the perfect ending and beginning to every one of his shows, capturing the hearts of so many, including Mammy, reminding his viewers of love, hope, and, ultimately, the pain of separation.

I was never a fan of Liberace. But I endured hours and hours of his flamboyance because it gave Mammy such joy, which she usually didn’t have much of.

And his “Specials” were the Liberace highlight of her year. Urgh. It seemed like every month Liberace had another special — Valentine’s, Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Las Vegas, Hawaii, London…

You name any Liberace show; I probably watched it with Mammy.

Perhaps you could say that tuning into Liberace on the radio yesterday was a mere coincidence.

But I don’t think so.

I turned up the radio super loud and belted out the words as Liberace played the piano:

♪ ♪ ♪ MemoriesLight the corners of my mindMisty watercolor memories
Of the way we were ♪ ♪ ♪

♪ ♪ ♪ So it’s the laughterWe will rememberWhenever we rememberThe way we were ♪ ♪ ♪

Thank you, Mammy. And rest assured, I’ll be seeing you.

December

[In memory of Peter Tomasulo January 20, 1953 – December 17, 2023]

(Peter T & Me, Staples 35th Reunion, 2006)

On December 8,

I gently held your hand

and I’m sure you knew

it was me.

On the long drive

home all I could

think about

was that horrific

December 14.

Your heartbreak day

embedded in my brain.

The Christmas shopping,

her head in your lap,

the senseless devastation.

Four years later, at our 35th

High School Reunion

you were still in such pain,

and yet you drove with me

to drag my despondent

cousin Pam out of her house

when I told you that she lost

her husband and her son.

You took her out of the depths

of despair for a few hours.

You did what no one was able

to do, and I never forgot your

kindness and empathy. And until

Pam died; she never

forgot you either.

That’s who you were.

And you were never going to

recover from that

December 14, but you were

getting stronger,

until ten years to the day,

when December 14 came

for Sandy Hook Elementary,

in your home town.

It was like your December 14

happened all over again.

And now this.

I keep asking myself,

why? Why you?

On this December 14,

it was jammed in my brain

that your sweet

Kathleen was patiently

waiting. And then came

the devastating news

that on December 17,

you were gone.

I am grief-stricken,

but confident that

if there is another

side, I will see

you there one day,

my unforgettable

Peter T.


(Peter T & Me, Staples 45th Reunion, 2016)

My Stolen Diaries — Chapter 28: Hiding in Plain Sight

CHAPTER 28

 HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

 May 17, 1966

It’s been a rough few days, and I’ve been in terrible physical and mental pain. But there is a happy ending to the story I’m about to tell you.

It all started this past Saturday when I got a ride home from the roller rink. Mem dropped me off but couldn’t pick me up, so I hitched a ride with anyone I could find who had room in their car for me. This kid, Chris Santoro, who lives in Success Park and goes to St. Ambrose, asked his dad if he would drive me home, and he said yes.

Chris is the most popular boy in our grade and is dating Juliette, the most beautiful girl in school, so I was super excited to be in a car with him.

There were six of us, so we squeezed into the car as best we could — two kids in the front and four of us in the back. I was squashed against the right-hand side door.

We left Park City Skateland, which is on State Street, and as we speedily turned onto Park Avenue, my car door flew open, and I fell out, landing hard on my right side. I crawled on both knees toward the curb in excruciating pain — my entire body was convulsing in fear and panic because a car in the right lane barely missed hitting me.

I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless shirt, so my knees, legs, and elbows were covered in blood and dirt, and tiny pebbles were stuck deep into my skin.

Park Avenue is a busy two-lane street with tons of cars moving in the same direction. And then, on the other side, there are another two lanes going in the opposite direction with a grassy divider in the middle, separating the four lanes. So Chris’s dad had to drive past me on our side and then come back around from the other side to pick me up, which took him a while.

I sat on the sidewalk and held my knees close to my chest, rocking back and forth in shock and stabbing pain.

When Chris’s dad finally found me, he was non-stop apologizing and wouldn’t stop asking me if I was okay. I kept lying and saying “yes” because he was so scared and nervous and uncontrollably shaking like he was the one who fell out of the car.

Then he asked me if he should take me to the hospital, and I loudly yelled out, “NO,” and begged him to take me home.

As soon as I got to our apartment, I tortuously made my way upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom, fearing Mere Germaine would see me. Mom and Mem weren’t home, so I didn’t have to worry about them. Not yet, anyway.

I took my bloody clothes off and ran warm water in the bathtub while trying to pick out the grit and gravel from my skin. I took a look in the mirror, and lucky for me; I didn’t have any visible cuts on my face, knowing full well that this accident was something I needed to hide from my family. My mirrored image reflected such agony I almost didn’t recognize myself.

I opened the medicine cabinet, took out the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and poured it all over my cuts and scrapes. The pain was so bad I thought I might faint, so I didn’t get into the tub for a while.

Once I soaked in the tub, I grabbed a box of bandaids, covered my wounds as best I could, and scrubbed the sink and tub meticulously. Then I wadded up my ripped-up, blood-stained clothes and ran into my bedroom, where I put on long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

I was still whimpering from the pain, but once I dressed, the only visible evidence of my accident were the cuts and scrapes on the palms of both hands, which I vowed to hide.

I tried to ignore the non-stop throbbing and took my wad of clothes outside and across Success Avenue, where I shoved them into the trash can in front of the supermarket. Then I hobbled back to the apartment and up the stairs to the bedroom, where I curled up in a ball on the bed and tried to calm myself down.

I’m not sure how long I was laying there, but at some point, Mere Germaine came into the room to ask if everything was all right. I told her I had a splitting headache, which wasn’t a lie.

When I heard Mem come home, I willed myself out of bed and agonizingly staggered downstairs. She asked me to help her unload the groceries out of the car, which I did without so much as a wince for fear she would notice my discomfort.

That night, I wore my long-sleeved flannel nightgown even though it was boiling in our bedroom. Mem kept spooning me, which caused excruciating pain, and I barely got a wink of sleep.

The next day, black and blues covered my swollen body, and I was sore from head to toe, but I was hopeful that nothing was broken.

Way more important than broken bones, though, was that I had to make sure that absolutely no one would ever know what happened to me — which meant I had to have a conversation with Chris Santoro ASAP.

Mem, Mom, and Mere Germaine went about their business for the rest of the weekend, and I went about mine. I felt a mixture of anger and fear.

I was angry that none of them noticed anything about the slow-going way I was limp-walking or the occasional involuntary moan when helping them with the chores.

But I was also afraid that if they found out that I fell out of a moving car, they would somehow blame me and find a way to be angry at me. Or worse, they wouldn’t allow me to go skating with my friends ever again.

I should be able to tell the women I love that I’m in pain, but I’m all mixed up. I’m overcome with doubt and fear, so I think the best thing I can do is heal myself as best I can and go it alone.

I can’t help but feel incredible despair and pity for myself because, as always, I’m unseen. Only I can see the scabs and scrapes all over me. My body is in excruciating pain, and so is my heart, but as usual, I am the only one who sees me.

I don’t want to tell my family that something happened to me. I want them to see that something happened to me for themselves.

Getting ready for school on Monday was tricky because my knees were a scabby, swollen mess. Luckily, between my uniform and knee socks, they were mostly covered.

I saw Chris right before the first bell rang, and he had a look of pure terror on his face. I tried to make him feel better, although it should have been the other way around.

“Don’t worry, Chris, I didn’t tell anyone what happened. And I don’t plan on it.” He was visibly relieved and told me he would catch up with me later.

As I shuffled my way home from school, Chris rode up to me on his bicycle and asked me if I wanted a ride. “The last time I took a ride from you, it didn’t work out so well,” I said, half joking.

I thought I was being funny, and I figured Chris would laugh, but instead, the terrified look on his face just about broke my heart.

“You okay?” I asked him, even though he should have been the one asking me if I was okay. And that’s when Chris told me that his dad was out of work and had been in a lot of trouble with the law recently.

I told Chris that I knew a thing or two about fathers getting into trouble with the law. And I asked him to make sure his friends in the car with us didn’t open their big mouths and tell anyone. Chris answered that they wouldn’t dare because they knew his dad would probably go to jail if they did.

I was confused. “Why would your dad go to jail? It wasn’t his fault I didn’t shut the car door all the way.” That’s when Chris told me that his dad had been drinking at a local bar before picking us up at the rink. “Both my parents are drunks,” he said matter-of-factly.

When I doubled down on my promise not to say a word to anyone about falling out of his dad’s car, he leaned over the handlebars of his bike and kissed me on my cheek. My very first kiss!

And today, Chris stopped by our apartment with a bag full of candy and told me that he owes me one and will forever be grateful to me.

When he asked to see some of my bruises, I pulled my pant leg up and showed him my right leg. He drew in a breath, grimaced, and then looked down at the floor, his voice so soft I barely heard what he said: “You’re pretty brave, you know?”

“Because I tumbled out of a speeding car and kept my mouth shut about it, kind of brave?”

His response was sweet. “Something like that.” Then, while still not making eye contact, Chris told me I was the toughest girl he’d ever met.

I’m sorry I had to nosedive out of a moving car for someone to finally see me. But I’ll take it.

Click here for Chapter 29: Naomi

My Stolen Diaries — Chapter 27: A Gift From Heaven

CHAPTER 27

 A GIFT FROM HEAVEN

April 3, 1966

As soon as I opened my eyes this morning, Mem was hovering close to my face from above, which scared the bejesus out of me. “Happy Birthday, Mon Petit Chou! You’re a teenager now!”

I think Mem was more excited about my birthday than I was. She made me fresh chocolate glazed doughnuts but said we couldn’t eat them until after church and that she also had a special birthday present she couldn’t wait for me to open.

I begged Mem to let me stay home and skip church just this one time, but she insisted I go, saying that I needed to receive the body of Christ and rejoice in God’s birthday blessing.

I doubted that God or His Son knew it was my birthday, but I vowed to go with Mem and Mere Germaine without any complaints. Mom was sound asleep, which I thought was terribly unfair. Mem never made her go to church because it always caused a hateful fight first thing in the morning of God’s day.

Before leaving for church, Mere Germaine asked me to play a song for her on Adam’s piano. I played Climb Every Mountain from the Sound of Music while she sat beside me on the piano stool and softly hummed. I played it at least three more times until Mom yelled from upstairs, “Enough with Climb Every Mountain, already! Is that the only song you know how to play? And oh, Happy Birthday, my little monkey.”

I wish Mom would call me her little angel or the love of her life like Mem calls me. But monkey? I yelled upstairs to Mom to find another pet name because calling me a little monkey made me fuming mad. She laughed and called me little monkey three more times before Mere Germaine ordered her to hush.

I told Mere Germaine that when I have a daughter, I would call her precious and sweetheart, but never a little monkey. Plus, I’m way taller than Mom, so she’s the little one.

Mere Germaine asked me two questions: “Would you rather she call you a big monkey? And what if you have a son?” I looked at Mere Germaine like she had three heads. “A son? How would that work?”

Then I proudly told Mere Germaine, “We’re all girls in this family, and that’s how it’s going to stay.” And she replied, “Then get ready to fight for her your entire life because it’s not easy raising a girl.”

After church and before doughnut time, Mem dragged a large, beautifully wrapped heavy box from the downstairs closet between the kitchen and the living room. The only thing in that closet is a folding chair where Mom sits while talking on the phone. It’s Mom’s favorite spot, so Mem leaves it empty to give her privacy.

I sat on the living room floor and carefully opened the box, saving the wrapping paper and bow for another time. My first impression was the tickle in my throat from the mustiness of the contents, followed by terrible disappointment when I realized that the box was full of old books.

I looked at Mem, puzzled and slightly annoyed. A bunch of old, smelly books? Really? Happy thirteenth birthday to me.

Mem hardly noticed my disappointment as she explained the books were leather classics Adam had asked her to pack up as a gift for me right before he passed.

She went on to say that Adam was impressed that I was reading my way through the library and wanted me to have his family’s treasured collection, but he died before he had the chance to give them to me himself.

Then she said that getting a gift from heaven is a blessing with a hidden message and was Adam’s way of speaking to me from above.

After her explanation, I didn’t have the heart to tell Mem that at thirteen, I was hoping for my very own record player and a couple of 45s.

Mem helped me pull the books from the box and place them on Adam’s long wooden dresser in our bedroom. Once they were all lined up, Mem went downstairs to fix us some birthday doughnuts.

I leaned against the dresser, ran my fingers across the colorful leather books, and decided maybe it wasn’t such a lame gift after all.

And sure, the books had a musty smell to them, but they also smelled of fine leather, which I liked.

Each book was soft to the touch and beautifully stitched. When I opened the deep purple book titled “Vanity Fair,” there was a black and white sketch of a young girl by the name of Jos flying through the air. I had a feeling I was going to like Jos.

I was immediately drawn to the pale blue cover of “The Portrait of a Lady” — especially the drawing of a beautiful young girl called Isabel — and then on to the emerald green book of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” which was full of spectacular illustrations.

But for whatever reason, my hand stopped at a ruby-red book titled “Fathers & Sons” written by Ivan Turgenev. I pulled it out of the line-up and brought it downstairs with me.

As soon as Mom saw the title, she asked, “Please explain why you want to read a book about fathers and sons?” I answered her that maybe it was because I didn’t know any. Mom rolled her eyes in exasperation.

From the first moment I opened the book, it drew me in. I didn’t dare tell Mem that the book was about Russians because she thinks they’re all evil communists.

I think the hidden message Adam is trying to send me from heaven is that I might be poor, but I can never let that stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming a successful writer and maybe even a poet.

Mem works her fingers to the bone to give me a better life, but she can’t read or write, so I owe it to her to be great at both. Mem’s the one I need to honor. And Adam.

My lay teacher, Miss Pontiac, has often told me how impressed she is with my use of four and five-syllable words. She believes empathy and kindness should be taught, but can often be learned through reading.

She also pointed out that someone can be down and out, with seemingly nothing to live for because they have lost everything or never had anything to begin with, but they can never lose their knowledge.

When Miss Pontiac asked me if I had any questions about the power of books, I didn’t dare ask the number one question on my mind, which was, “Why do Catholic Schools call non-nuns lay teachers?”

I may not have gotten the record player I so desperately wanted, but even in death, Adam is working hard up there in heaven to smarten me up.

Click here for Chapter 28: Hiding in Plain Sight

Pro-Hamas Takeover at Cornell University

Students belonging to a pro-Palestinian coalition at Cornell University occupied two buildings on campus over the course of this past weekend, demanding, among other things, that the university revise its definition of antisemitism. I find it hard to believe that these well-educated students actually believe that anti-Zionism is not anti-Jews.

They proudly taped posters on the hallowed walls of Willard Straight, Cornell’s Student Union, which is supposed to be available to all students, that said, “From the river to the sea,” which, as Ivy League students, they know full well that the phrase calls for the genocidal elimination of the Jewish state. But their callous racist selves could care less.

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the stately 98-year-old building was the stench of rotting food and body odor.

The posters stunned and crushed my heart. But what hurt the most was that I noticed many people of a particular minority group that I truly believed cared about the Jews, primarily because the Jews always had their backs. But the only feeling I got as I walked around snapping photos was willful and ignorant hatred of everyone and everything Jewish.

I guess Jewish lives don’t matter.

Poster after poster, these occupiers displayed frightening and hateful words about Jews, with not one negative thing to say about Hamas.

Not one.

I can only come to one conclusion to explain their actions and lack of clarity: They are Pro-Hamas.

Moreover, free speech is a two-way street. And when does Free Speech cross over into Hate Speech? School administrators are responsible for protecting their students and should loudly and forcefully condemn and counter all hatred. But where are they?

F the IDF police? What about Hamas terrorists raping young girls to death? Gang rape is not resistance. It’s animalistic torture perpetrated by sick and twisted sexual deviants. Some of the women were raped so brutally that their pelvic bones were broken.

I guess the Me Too movement doesn’t apply to Jewish women.

The hate speech I saw scrawled on every piece of paper on those hallowed walls made me want to tear down the posters or, at the very least, yell out something in defense of Jews, but I forced myself to exercise restraint. Only because my husband asked me to.

The word “Intifada” constitutes the call for violence against Jews, and is associated with suicide bombings, and the wonton murder of innocent Jewish lives.

Violence and murder of Jews from Ithaca to Gaza? This is what you’re calling for?

Where was your outcry when innocent Palestinians were beheaded by Hamas because they were gay?

Where was your “intifada” outcry when more than 4,000 Palestinians were slaughtered by the Syrian regime forces?

Where were your posters when 39 health Centers were destroyed in Yemen by Saudi-led rebels?

And where were your Palestinian flags when the Russians targeted hospitals and schools in Syria killing scores of patients, medical staff, teachers, and young children?

I can only presume that when Arabs kill Arabs, including Palestinians, that’s okay with you.

Yesterday, when I checked the internet to see what Cornell was going to do about this outrageous takeover of a public building, I noticed that the coalition’s demand to protect academic speech in support of “Palestinian self-determination and criticizing the state of Israel” as described on the coalition’s Instagram story, was “100% met.”

It seems to me that Cornell has enabled and allowed anti-semites to shamefully, and yet successfully, exploit the schools’ commitment to free speech, cloaking their hateful and despicable propaganda in the guise of academic freedom.

My Stolen Diaries — Chapter 26: The Tony Show

CHAPTER 26

 THE TONY SHOW

 March 20, 1966

Well, I met Roberto’s family today, and let’s just say that the Tony show was full of drama.

His older sister refused to attend the Tony reveal, so as soon as we arrived, Roberto made a huge stink about Babs not showing up — loudly yelling at his mother and father and making quite a scene.

Mom was trying to calm him down, and I was awkwardly standing in the hallway with Mem and Mere Germaine, not knowing what to do. Mem had her hand on my shoulder, and Mere Germaine held me tightly at my waist so I felt safe and protected.

Roberto’s mom was nothing like I had imagined. Bella was a tiny little thing, her mouth perfectly lined with bright red lipstick, wearing way too much caked-on makeup, overly high heels, and white hair dramatically piled high on her head in an elaborate braided updo.

Between her hair and her sky-high shoes, she added at least four to five inches to her height. I was still way taller than her, although I made sure to pull my shoulders back and stand as straight as possible to loom over her even higher. I wanted her to have to look up at me.

After Roberto’s hysterical fit, Bella walked over to us and, without introducing herself, went into an uncomfortable speech about how the Russo family was against divorce, which is why Babs would not be coming.

Then, to make matters worse — while still in the hallway — Bella went on to say that the Russo family never knew any other Catholic whom the church excommunicated and that it would take quite some time for them to come to terms with all the associated issues.

I assumed that one of the “associated issues” was me.  I also assumed Roberto told Bella that Mom was excommunicated but not Mem — another lie.

Once Bella finally led us away from the front door, things got better — for Mem and Mere Germaine, anyway. The three of them had cooking in common, so, thank God, they had something to talk about besides me, divorce, and Mom’s excommunication.

I also met Roberto’s sister, Gia, who lives next door to Bella. She was loud and boisterous but hilarious and went out of her way to make me feel comfortable and accepted. Her daughter Patrice, who was incredibly beautiful, with her long, silky, straight chestnut brown hair and tiny nose, helped to relieve some of my anxiety with her kindness.

While Patrice and Gia helped to reduce my uneasiness, I couldn’t help but feel highly self-conscious because everyone kept staring at me.

Roberto’s father, Carlo, who was short and fat, barely spoke English, so he didn’t have much to say, although I thought his leering at me was creepy and uncalled for. When I mentioned it to Patrice, she told me not to take it personally, that “Poppy” leers at all the family girls. Ew.

At the end of the dinner, I was feeling a lot better about the Tony Show until Bella walked up to me and told me that whatever happens between Mom and her “only son,” I was to call her “Aunt Bella” and not Nonna like her grandchildren because our relationship would not be like that.

I’m not going to lie; even though I have no intention of calling her anything at this point, her words stung.

Before dessert, Patrice took me to the house next door to show me her room. She opened her bedroom window, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and offered me one.

I shook my head no, but she convinced me to take a few drags. The first two times I inhaled, I choked like crazy, but then I got used to it.

As we shared our second Marlboro, Patrice told me not to be bothered by anything Nonna had to say because “She’s always sticking her spiked-heel foot into her big red lipstick mouth.”

The two of us laughed, but I was thinking that in a million years, I would never say anything mean like that about Mem.

Then Patrice gave me some mouthwash to gargle with, followed by a long hug. I got a little misty-eyed and broke the awkward silence by saying, “I hope we can be good friends. I need someone in this family to like me.”

Patrice tenderly wiped the tear slipping down my left cheek. “Friends? Oh, Tony, we will be so much more than that, you’ll see.”

Then she lovingly wrapped her arm through my arm, laid her head on my shoulder, and together we walked back to “Aunt Bella’s” house.

Click here for Chapter 27: A Gift From Heaven

My Delta Wings


The sunset

was in

front of me,

the airport

runway

to the left.

The wind blew

through my tightly

coiffed bun

as I drove with

the top down in

my electric blue

Karman Ghia.

I adored the car

but I hated that

it was his

absolution payoff

ensuring that I

would keep

my mouth shut.

At twenty, it was

the happiest day

of my life.

Free from all that

weighed me down.

Emancipated.

Liberated.

Extricated.

Free from him

at long last.