All posts by Teri

My Coronavirus Dollhouse

Back in 1975, my baby sister got a dollhouse for Christmas.

It was a classic white clapboard house with a black shingled roof and black shutters. It had eight good size rooms and was a replica of the house she lived in, so I dubbed it “The Blind Brook House.”

I was a Delta flight attendant, living in Miami at the time, but thirteen hundred miles didn’t stop me from being obsessed with all things dollhouse. That Christmas, I spent a fortune on furniture for Blind Brook and spent countless hours helping my sister set it all up.

I loved that dollhouse more than she did, and for whatever reason, it never caught her attention. By the following Christmas, it was relegated to the attic, where it languished for sixteen years.

In 1991, when the attic got cleaned out, the house was rediscovered, and I became the proud owner of the Blind Brook homestead.

The dollhouse was dirty and cobwebby and needed a paint job.  My daughter was three years old at the time, and I figured she would love it. But like my sister, she didn’t have much of an interest in it at all.

Ironically, it was my seven-year-old son who loved Blind Brook. He helped me paint, carpet, and install stairs. We cleaned off all the furniture and set up the rooms according to his layout.

Soon after, my son lost interest in the dollhouse. So once again, it ended up in an attic—this time mine.

When we moved in 1996, the dollhouse was yet again rediscovered.

I wasn’t sure where we would put it, or if we even had room for it, but there was never a doubt in my mind that the Blind Brook house was coming with me.

At the time I dusted it off, and even though it needed a paint job, no one was interested in working on it with me, so I stuck it on a table in my daughter’s room with the front of the house facing forward, and we all forgot about it.

In 2017, my two granddaughters discovered the house and asked me what was behind the front door.

They were obsessed with it and wanted me to turn it around so they could see it from the back. I had all but forgotten that the house was full of furniture, and they loved it.

My oldest granddaughter wanted to know where the family was. Had they gone out? What did they look like? How many were there? Was there a cat?

Family? Cat?

I’m not sure why, but Blind Brook never had a family in it. Or any pets.

The strangest part is that I never even noticed the house was without a family, nor did anyone ever ask for one.

But my precious granddaughter wanted a family in that house, so I ordered one online—a mom, a dad, a little boy, a little girl, and a newborn baby.

The next time my granddaughter played with the house, she asked for a cat. So, I ordered a kitten. And a dog.

Fast forward to January 2020, when my husband and I bought her a dollhouse of her own. And she insisted that I buy her the exact family I had in my dollhouse. And of course, a cat of her own. And a kitty.

I was so looking forward to playing dollhouse with her. But then life changed, and all we could do was Zoom.

I began to look at Blind Brook from a whole other perspective. I was in quarantine, and so was my Blind Brook family.

As news of the virus got worse, I pulled out walls, and the staircase, to make larger rooms so that more people could fit into them.

While ordering corona supplies on Amazon, I threw in a miniature television and water cooler for my dollhouse. I wasn’t able to find real people toilet paper, so I ordered lots and lots of miniature toilet paper instead.

When the coronavirus death toll spiked and took my Aunt Mary, I bought another family—a husband, a wife, a little girl, and three more babies.

There were no ventilators, no masks, and no federal government leadership.

As I listened to the grimmest of grim reports day in and day out, I would take a daily reprieve from reality. With scissors, glue, and tape in hand, I went into fantasy mode.

I couldn’t do anything about the horrors outside my house, but I was in complete control of Blind Brook.

I added lighting and wallpaper, flooring, books, a dining room table, dishes, sandwiches, a menorah, bowls of tomato soup, and some beer on ice.

I tried to stay away from the news and binged on Dead To Me. By the time I finished Season Two, we were at 100,000 dead.

What could I do? What could I do?

I set my mini self up in the Blind Brook television room and invited my friend, Robin, and my sister G for some wine and cheese, and potato chips. I sat back with Robin and we watched Dead To Me together, side by side, while my animal-loving sis played with the kitten.

But the lonely would not go away.

so I went for a bike ride and wore a mask, but I couldn’t breathe.

Build a fire. Think happy thoughts.

And then came the murder of George Floyd. He couldn’t breathe either.

But not because of some stupid mask.

I shut down and drank too much wine.

I installed windows in every Blind Brook room to let in the light, and I bought a kitchen clock and a grandma and grandpa.

As the protests raged, I sat on the floor, staring at my therapeutical masterpiece.

I was then that I noticed that the clock on the wall was set for 8:18. Or was it 8:17?

At 1:12 scale, it was near impossible to decipher the exact time. I wanted it to be 8:18. For anyone who knows me, 18 is my go-to number.

When I messengered a friend about the systemic pandemic within a pandemic and my thoughts on 8:18 vs. 8:17, she quoted Luke 8:17:

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

That’s when I decided to pull myself together. I reminded myself that I had come out the other end of a lot of bad stuff.

I was a warrior.

Covid-19 wasn’t going to be the straw that broke my back.

So, I added another six women, two men, a dog, a birdhouse, and a teenage girl who’s still on backorder along with my real people toilet paper.

It finally felt like enough.

Blind Brook was full of family and friends. Lots of togetherness despite my fourteen weeks in isolated quarantine.

My sister Georgette thinks my dollhouse needs its own Instagram account.

I think my Blind Brook family needs a real life again.

A Time to Kill

The 1996 film A Time to Kill is about Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), a heartbroken black man whose ten-year-old daughter was brutally beaten and raped by two white supremacists.

As the two men arrive at court for their trial, Hailey takes the law into his own hands and shoots and kills them.

He hires Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), a white rookie lawyer to defend him, but getting him acquitted in the small segregated town of Canton, Mississippi seems unlikely.

The chain of events following the death of the two rapists and the subsequent trial of Hailey is fraught with racial tension and revenge by the Ku Klux Klan.

I will never forget Brigance’s closing argument because it profoundly affected me in a way I did not expect.

And it forever changed the way I thought about a lot of things.

You might be asking, how is that possible?

Here is what he said:

Now I want to tell you a story. I’m going to ask y’all to close your eyes while I tell you this story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves.

This is a story about a little girl walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this little girl.

Suddenly a truck races up. Two men jump out and grab her. They drag her into a nearby field, and they tie her up, and they rip her clothes from her body. Now they climb on her, first one then the other, raping her, shattering everything innocent and pure — vicious thrusts — in a fog of drunken breath and sweat. And when they’re done, after they killed her tiny womb, murdered any chance for her to bear children, to have life beyond her own, they decide to use her for target practice. So, they start throwing full beer cans at her. They throw them so hard that it tears the flesh all the way to her bones — and they urinate on her.

Now comes the hanging. They have a rope; they tie a noose. Imagine the noose pulling tight around her neck and a sudden blinding jerk. She’s pulled into the air, and her feet and legs go kicking, and they don’t find the ground. The hanging branch isn’t strong enough. It snaps, and she falls back to the earth. So, they pick her up, throw her in the back of the truck, and drive out to Foggy Creek Bridge and pitch her over the edge. And she drops some 30 feet down to the creek bottom below.

Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body, soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood — left to die.

Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl.

Now imagine she’s white.

The defense rests your honor.

60,000 Dead My “Friends”


I thought he was my friend

until on March 18

he spewed his hate

and labeled me

a New York liberal.

His snarky friends

from

nowheresville

were making fun of

Cuomo and Scarsdale

while my family

was in lockdown and

my Aunt Mary was dying.

It’s a blue state thing

they wrote.

Like if I live in a blue state

I deserve to die.

I told him off.

He unfriended me.

“I think it’s because you are too much

for the guy. And Teri, I’m saying that in a good way.”

That’s what a true friend said.

My Aunt gave her ventilator

to somebody else.

She was buried on my birthday

and by April 6

10,000 in the U.S.

were dead.

What do 10,000 people

look like?

I found a photo

and printed it.

I ran my fingers over the

tapestry of faces and flags.

No red or blue or

black or brown or

white demarcations.

Packed together,

because it was

before our world

changed.

April 11

was always a

sad day.

But this April 11

20,000 were dead

and my sad seemed

meaningless in comparison.

I printed a second copy

of the 10,000 photo

and glued it

next to the other one.

It felt wrong to glue them

together.

And then 10,000 more by

April 16.

So I printed another one

and this time it felt

right to glue

them together.

I wept because

the triptych was

beyond words.

Four days later

Another 10,000.

Up to 40,000 now.

I printed the photo.

But I refused to glue it.

And then there was that

imbecilic friend

who wrote that more

people die from

the flu than Coronavirus.

Dr. Nobody.

I wanted to cut

her down to size

with my words.

I won’t rest until

I do.

Maybe she’ll

read this

and dump me.

April 24, another 10,000.

It took me three days

to finally print the

photo out.

50,000 dead

in the U.S.

and the WHO says

the worst is yet

to come.

And now today

another 10,000.

60,438 dead

in the U.S.

I thought about how to

share this with you.

I asked myself if I should print it out

yet again.

Yes, show them.

I didn’t want to,

but I felt compelled to

print and glue

them all next to

each other.

To show you

60,000.


The Passover Story During Coronavirus

My husband and I zoomed the first night of Passover with some of the kids and grandkids last night, and I have to say that I enjoyed it, but I held back the tears as best I could. I quietly ate brisket and broccoli souffle with my husband and tried to think positive thoughts.

This morning, I got a Passover story in my inbox, and amidst all of my angst, I got a good laugh out of it.

I decided to create my own Passover story. I hope it makes you laugh.

THE SEDER

The Seder is a ritual dinner that marks the start of Passover.

During the Seder, we Jews eat brisket, matzah, all things potato, and other uber-rich fattening foods, retell the story of the exodus from Egypt, and drink four cups of very sweet wine.

THE SEDER PLATE

The centerpiece of the Passover table is the Seder plate, which holds a shank bone, parsley, lettuce, horseradish, a roasted egg, and haroset, a mixture of apples, walnuts, and wine.

But my in-store grocery shopper couldn’t find any of that. So, deep-six the plate.

THE FIRST CUP OF WINE

Nobody likes Manischewitz, but it’s all we got, okay? So, hold your nose and bottoms up.

THE WASHING OF THE HANDS

Near the beginning of the Seder, we perform a ritual washing of the hands.  A splash of water from a bowl, and that’s it. Seriously? Not this year. Don’t just splash them. And get rid of the bowl. Get up and wash your hands at the sink with soap. Scrub a dub and sing the ABC’s twice.

How is this night different from all other nights?

Well, the two of us have been holed up in this house for the last three weeks, so this night is pretty much the same as every other night.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS 

  1. On all other nights, we eat leavened bread. Why on this night, only matzah?

Tradition. Plus, everyone’s out of bread. And don’t even ask how much I had to pay for one measly box of matzah.

  1. On all other nights, we eat a variety of vegetables. Why on this night, only bitter herbs?

Look, the store has been out of veggies for weeks, so I grabbed some leftover rosemary from last year’s garden. That’s all we have. Deal with it.

  1. On all other nights, we don’t dip even once. Why on this night do we dip our parsley twice?

First off, we don’t have any parsley. And second, because salt water is a disinfectant or something like that. So change it up and gargle instead of dipping.

4. On all other nights, we eat either sitting upright or reclining. Why on this night do we recline?

Because, seriously, I can’t even keep my head up with all this anxiety and mishegas.

THE FOUR SONS

In telling the Passover story, we use our imagination and tailor our questions and answers.

The wise child asks: How can I help flatten the curve?

To him, we say, listen to the scientists, stay at home, and wash your hands. And ignore the ignoramus politicians shaking hands and crowding together on the podium.

The wicked child asks: I’m too young to worry about staying in, washing my hands, and all the boring stuff.  Screw quarantine. Can’t grandma take one for the team?   

To him we say, there’s always one like you in the family.

The simple child asks: Are we going to be okay?

To him, we say, not if the wicked child has anything to do with it.

And to the child who does not even know how to ask:

To him, we say, don’t worry, Governor Cuomo will speak on your behalf.

THE PASSOVER STORY

Pharaoh was an ignorant and vengeful man who cared nothing for science or the welfare of his people. He dismissed the White House Pandemic team, cut funding to the CDC, cared only about lining his own pockets, and getting a mail-in voting ballot.

Even God lost his patience and visited a terrible plague upon Pharaoh’s land.

Pharaoh sort of heard his people’s cries, and said, “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.”

Moses shook his head in amazement and said, “I think we should shut down all non-essential businesses.”

The people’s cries grew louder, but Pharaoh said, “It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.”

The Israelites washed their hands and started to stock up on toilet paper.

The people asked Pharaoh for masks and ventilators. Pharaoh said, “In April, supposedly, it dies with the hotter weather. And that’s a beautiful date to look forward to.”

And Moses said unto the Israelites, “It’s time to close our schools.”

The people begged Pharaoh for coronavirus tests, and the media questioned him about when they would be available for everyone. Pharaoh threw a hissy fit and told reporters, “You should say congratulations—great job, instead of being so horrid in the way you ask a question. Everyone who wants a test can get one,” he shouted and then hurried off to get tested for the coronavirus.

Moses’ jaw dropped and he made an emergency call to New York’s Governor Cuomo.

The people began to die. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” Pharaoh sniped. “We can’t let the cure be worse than the disease,” Pharaoh insisted.

More people died, and nurses and doctors began to plead to Pharaoh for protective gear.  Pharaoh said, “We’ll be raring to go by Easter. I’d love to have it open by Easter, okay?”

The nurses and doctors went back to saving lives, and the Israelites helped their little ones with their homework.

“No one could have seen this coming,” Pharaoh whined. “We’ve done a great job,” he repeated time and time again.

Moses and the Israelites maintained their social distancing, stayed hunkered down at home, and listened to Gov. Cuomo’s daily updates.

The people again begged Pharaoh for tests. “We’re the federal government. We’re not supposed to stand on street corners doing testing,” the Pharoah loudly proclaimed. Then he scurried off to get a second test for the coronavirus.

The nurses and doctors continued to beseech Pharaoh for masks. Pharaoh had a theory that masks were going out the back door and ordered reporters to look into it.

When Moses reminded him that death and unemployment were through the roof, Pharaoh asked him if he had seen his daily briefing ratings. Pharaoh said that what was through the roof were his television ratings—better than Monday Night Football and even better than The Bachelor finale.

THE SECOND CUP OF WINE

All this talk of Pharaoh is stressing me out. I’ll drink anything at this point.

SECOND WASHING OF THE HANDS

Go and wash your hands again with loads of soap, and cap it off with a Clorox wipe.

TIME TO EAT!

(Albeit only two of us.)

THE SEARCH FOR THE AFIKOMAN

Seriously? Two dollars for finding the Afikoman? I spent the last two days cooking and sanitizing.

THE THIRD CUP OF WINE

Three cupsh down. I hasen’t felt thish good in weeksh.

OPENING THE DOOR FOR ELIJAH

Are you crazy? Keep the door shut. Don’t you dare let him into this house. Unless he has toilet paper.

DAYENU (Which means it would have sufficed)

If He had given us doctors and nurses, it would have been enough. DAYENU!

If He had given us sanitation workers, grocery store clerks, UPS, and Fed-Ex drivers, it would have been enough. DAYENU!

If He had given us Zoom, and Instacart and food delivery, it would have been enough. DAYENU!

If He had given us paper towels, toilet paper, and napkins, it would have been enough. DAYENU!

If He had given us Birks and Fauci, it would have been enough. DAYENU

If He had given us Inslee, Whitmer, Newsom, and Cuomo, it would have been enough. DAYENU

THE FOURTH CUP OF WINE

I’zve read a fairuy tale aboupt ma prince wit a maks cnad ha froxg, lasht nights.

CONCLUSION

Next year in Jerusalem. Hmmm. I don’t think so.

My Corona Birthday Wish

Before the coronavirus, I didn’t want my birthday to come.

I was not looking forward to turning 67, and my thoughts kept going back to my younger days when I had a lifetime of living left.

For weeks before my birthday, I kept asking myself: How the hell did I get here so fast? To be sure, those 67 years flew by.

But my pre-corona outlook on everything has changed.

Now, I’m looking at my birthday, my life, my loves, and my future so very differently.

Going forward, I keep promising myself that I’m going to make significant changes.

I’m planning on working less and playing harder.

I’m going to spend more time with family and friends.

And I want to visit all of those states I haven’t yet had the opportunity to experience, although not so united these days.

And I’m not gonna lie, a ton of dark thoughts about what I won’t be doing crept into my psyche as well, because…

Well, if you know me, you know why.

I will never again shake someone’s hand without thinking ew, and will probably never hug a stranger.

And I’m reasonably sure I will never again venture into a crowded anything.

But I don’t want to dwell on the corona negatives right now.

I’m trying to focus on the good that can come from the virus.

Something good has to come out of all this misery, right?

Going forward, I refuse to wait out the rest of my life.

While in quarantine, I’ve been watching way too much news, but I can’t help myself.

The countless thousands of innocent people dying so painfully and senselessly make me sad mad.

And I feel compelled to watch the news all day and all night, wishing and praying for good news, or maybe even a miracle.

All those poor souls suffering, most without their family with them, and then dying, just like that.

I force myself to ward off the need to turn on the television by reading.

On my birthday, I read that the Egyptians believed that a person died, not once—but twice.

The first death was their final breath.

And the second death was the last time someone uttered their name.

The concept was profound and gave me some peace. Although I couldn’t help but wonder who that last person would be for me.

That night I blew out my candle, and I made a birthday wish like no other before it.

And I know I’m not supposed to tell you my wish for fear that it won’t come true.

But these are trying times, so here’s what it was:

Please stop dying, and damn it, I want to live. But if I die, please let it be twice.

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 rat 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