Monthly Archives: April 2017

April 14 – Every Year in Passover

by Ariela Zucker

This is a straightforward event. We read a condensed version of the traditional Hagadah: slaves in Egypt, deliverance, forty years in the desert, four cups of wine (fifth one for Elijah), some strange yet symbolic foods and we are ready for the best part. This is the part when each one of us brings their offering, our take on the ancient story, on breaking out of slavery into freedom, on the snow finally receding and spring pressing on in the form of green buds. The first lone peepers, those who preceed the crowd, sing their monotonous song, the full moon, the abundance of food, the bursts of laughter alternating with the somber moments when I insist on reading something serious.

This is the culmination of preparations that start a week, sometimes few weeks before the big night. Inviting people, planning the menu, finding an insightful piece of reading. Then comes the day itself and from early in the morning I am on it.

Passover is a yearly gathering that brings together not only my daughters but a close group of friends, a loyal group that has been following us for the past fifteen years since we arrived in the U.S and introduced our unique way of conducting it. Once a year we get together for few hours, a varied group of people of all ages; the youngest this year, my newest granddaughter, a year old, the oldest one of my daughter’s friend, eighty-five years old grandmother. Every year we welcome some fresh faces, with only one steady request, bring something to read, anything that connects you to this holiday.

I often reflect on the traditional event, while still in my parents’ home, how I couldn’t wait for it to end. Then I look at my daughters who will not miss it for anything, who proudly invite their friends of all religions. I take a deep breath, I know that what have started as a seed, is now a resilient tree, that hopefully will endure.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband  left sixteen years ago and now reside Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel.

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April 11 – A Mindful Meditation of our Women’s Life-Writing Circle

by Mary Jo Doig

© creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

We gather in our quiet, secluded space at the recently constructed, variegated-beige stone Crozet Library, bringing the life-story we have written in preparation at home. We greet each other warmly as each woman arrives, and ask how things have been since we last gathered. “We missed you last time,” or “How is your arthritis/pneumonia/or other recent ailment healing?” or “Here’s the book I promised to bring you last time,” are some recent observations I’ve heard. When we have caught up with everyone’s well-being, we transition to preparation to share our stories, written from thematic prompts given at our previous gathering two weeks earlier.

I feel a change within myself then—a melting away of all the information that flows like a river through my mind nearly all day, every day—sort of like turning off a news broadcast that leaves blessed silence in its place. A woman volunteers to read her story to begin our shared two-hour gathering. I take a deep breath and exhale any stray interior distraction that might be lingering and prepare to fully listen to her words. She speaks her first sentence and everything else evaporates except her voice and what I hear in the words of this story of her life. She reads through it all and when finished we spontaneously affirm whatever the story has stirred within us. “I’ve been in that place, too,” or “What a powerful story you’ve written,” or “My favorite part of the story was when you said, ‘this’ or ‘that.’”

I listen closely to my heart’s response to the story and then share those thoughts with the writer, as does each of our seven members. When I look around the circle at each woman, I see we are as diverse as apples on a tree. After we’ve read and heard and discussed all our stories, we plan our topic for the next gathering. When we leave this place, we go home to different communities, different churches, and varied lifestyles; we have different ethnic backgrounds and hold dissimilar political ideals; we live alone or with family members or with pets. Although we seem at first to be so different, each time we share stories from our lives—and share laughter, sadness or tears, or other emotions–comfort or celebration–we form a richer bond. We discover we are not so different, after all.

Recently, we each shared “The Story I Don’t Want to Write.” When we met two weeks afterward, we agreed that was the moment in time when we opened a clearer, deeper bond with each other. We had known from previous gatherings that when we shared difficult stories, we were in a space filled with trust, respect, and confidentiality.

I pondered our time together that afternoon while driving home, those stories that had been heard and responded to with such honor, support, and compassion. Some women had also shared their own connecting threads with a particular story. And I wondered—avid, life-long mystery reader that I am—what was that silent, deeper layer that circled between us? After all, women have been sharing their stories for centuries.

When the answer came to my heart, I knew it was absolutely right.

Our time together was not only nurturing, it was sacred.

(This piece was first published on Mary Jo’s blog, Musings From a Patchwork Quilt Life at https://maryjod.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/a-mindful-meditation-of-our-womens-life-writing-circle/)

Mary Jo Doig, a Story Circle Network member for fifteen years, is an avid reader, writer, quilter, knitter, gardener, cook, editor, and blogger. She lives in a small, eclectic town in Albemarle County, Virginia where she has an exquisite mountain view from her writing room window.

April 10 – Saying Goodbye to Mother

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

Public Domain Image: Human Crossed Hands While Sitting © creativecommonsstockphotos | Dreamstime Stock Photos

“We have to go down to Bridgewater tomorrow,” I told my husband on Saturday, April 1st.

This was not an April Fool’s joke. You see, my 103 year old mother’s health had been declining rapidly the past few weeks. I felt no urgency to be by her side as I knew that my nieces were with her day and night and I had visited her just weeks prior. During that visit she had enjoyed listening to me play some of her favorite hymns on the piano. Her mind was sharp. Her 96-year-old male friend sang a love song for her.

After her husband of 69 years died in 2001 she reluctantly left their home place to live in a Retirement Village in Bridgewater, Virginia. Oh, how she missed gardening, picking up sticks on the wood lot, and making grape juice from her grape arbor. This grape juice was served at the reenactment of the Last Supper that was held in the Church of the Brethren where she and my father had served as deacons.

A wink at Roger during a church service in her youth is how she met my Dad. This was a brazen move for a woman of that era. After several years of courting by horse and buggy they married in 1932. Both had been raised on farms so it was no surprise that they took up this way of life; a way of life that all three of their daughters remember with fondness despite recalling the odors that wafted from the barn.

After World War II my parents donated their farm as the gathering place for what was known then as Heifer Project. From 1944 to 1948, 3,600 head of heifers lived on our farm before being shipped to war-torn Europe. This is now known as Heifer International, and is located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mom served meals to the men that brought heifers to our farm all hours of the day or night. Guests never left her home with hunger pangs.

Even though her own college education came to an abrupt end with the depression she made sure that her children and grandchildren had reading material. That time and money was spent for piano lessons and activities related to 4-H. Each daughter and grandchild has their own unique memory of time spent with her. I marvel upon reflection how she made that time in light of all being a farmer’s wife entailed.

When we arrived at her room on Sunday, April 2nd her breathing was labored. I stroked her hands and face as I softly told her it was okay for her to go meet Roger, her daughter Elaine and grandson Michael. Tears welled up in my eyes. Her labored breathing was more than I could bear. Two of her grandchildren had been by her side day and night for the past week. We hugged and cried.

The call came the following morning that she had died–news that brought both sadness and relief.

Patricia Roop Hollinger is a retired Pastoral Counselor/Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor after having served for twenty-three years in a mental health setting. She and her husband, who dated in their youth, married in 2010. They reside in a retirement community with their cat, Spunky. Pat enjoys reading and writing.

April 6 – Hidden Gems

by Debra Dolan

On a rainy winter afternoon, feeling particularly unenergetic and alone, I flicked the TV remote in search of company, discovering When Harry Met Sally was about to begin.   Even though I had viewed this movie gem many-many times I was about to experience valued insight.  A month previous I had received the huge collection of the writer’s work, compiled by her son Jacob after her death, The Most of Nora Ephron, as a birthday gift from Mike. He knew that Nora’s writing resonated with me; the brilliant takes on life with humor and raw emotional honesty intertwined.  Knowing that the screenplay had been included in the publication I convinced myself to read along with the actors on-screen.  After a significant amount of hunting on many shelves I found the hefty volume, opening its cover to the first page, and discovered the inscription.  It was from my lover; the man who rarely has purchased me a card in all our years together.

Suddenly, with every fibre of my being, I realized what an immature, unrealistic partner I had been for feeling utterly disappointed that he wouldn’t visit Hallmark and write sentiments of love at special occasions.  I had spent angst filled evenings with friends uttering my disbelief and sadness over this romantic condition that I had imposed onto our relationship.  “I don’t do cards on demand,” he would say.   I would sob.

That day I realized that love language comes in many forms and I had blinded myself by only accepting my contrasting desired expression.  Each partner needs to be able to comfortably share their feelings in their own authentic natural way for love not to be blocked.  Given I had always thought that there was simply nothing sexier, or more joyful, than reading with ‘your darling’ he had indeed been expressing love and friendship by honouring our shared experiences since 2002, with books.  As I moved through my apartment it was revealed each one had been intimately inscribed with a hand-written message that often was a narrative of their own.  I discovered, together sequentially, they are a love letter.

Debra Dolan lives on the west coast of Canada, is a long time (45+ years) private journal writer, and an avid reader of women’s memoir. She has been a member of Story Circle Network since 2009.