Category Archives: Sharon Lippincott

June 5 – Double Milestone

by Sharon Lippincott

I woke filled with eager anticipation on June 5, 1962 recognizing it as a milestone day. I hurriedly pulled curlers from my hair and took extra care teasing and spraying my bouffant hairdo, then dressed quickly in a simple dress and high heels. I wanted to look my best as I began my first full-time job a week after high school graduation. True, it was only a summer job, but I wanted to make a good first impression on the staff of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory technical library. I’d been hired sight-unseen based on my written application.

After breakfast, I slid into the car next to my father as I would do each morning for the rest of the summer. He dropped me off in front of the administration building on his way to work at a site further out the mesa and picked me up each afternoon.

Full of anticipation mixed with a tinge of uncertainty, I followed dozens of classmates and strangers into the Ad Building auditorium for security indoctrination. “Don’t ever tell strangers you work at the Lab,” we were cautioned. “Even if you don’t have access to classified information, they may not believe you. You could be tortured….” My heart froze at a mental image of fingernails slowly ripped loose.
Half an hour later, I was greeted by Barbara Hendrie, Director of Circulation Services. She introduced me to Vera and Bertha who showed me the procedural ropes and immersed me in office gossip.

The day passed in a blur as I eagerly drank in procedures and reveled in my new status as a wage-earning adult in a real office. At noon I found my way to the cafeteria and was thrilled at a beckoning invitation to sit at a table filled with male grad students working on various Lab projects for the summer. My heart beat faster as I wondered if I might find a summer romance among them. Romance was my next goal.

On the way home I could hardly wait to head to the Recreation Hall for folk dancing, my customary Tuesday evening pastime. Most of my friends had also begun summer jobs at the lab that day, and older friends would be home from college. Tonight dancing would be secondary to conversational buzz.

About twenty minutes after I arrived, I noticed a cluster of male strangers saunter through in. I instantly recognized grad students and sped off to greet them, beating the pack of other eligible gals by seconds.

One tall, skinny guy gazed at me with a shy smile that warmed my heart and lit a fire of imagined possibilities. We danced and talked. He offered me a ride home, but I had driven myself. I found my summer romance that night. We were married a year later.

That job was a milestone, but a small one compared to meeting that tall skinny guy who has been part of my life for fifty years today.

Sharon Lippincott lives to write about life and lead others down the life writing path. She is collaborating with the Allegheny County Library Association to start life story writing groups for all county library patrons and is thrilled to see this project spreading rapidly across the country and beyond.

September 26 – Never More Than a Thought Away

by Sharon Lippincott

I sprint through the house, finding the wireless handset on the third ring.

“Hello,” I answer, trying not to sound breathless. There is no response, yet I sense someone there. I tense, flooded with apprehension.

“Your mama died a few minutes ago.” Daddy’s voice breaks.

“Oh…” I pause, choosing words carefully. I’ve waited over two years for this call, rehearsing it mentally a thousand times, but the reality deals a staggering blow.

“Well, how are you?” I finally ask.

“I’m okay. A little unsteady, but, I’m okay.” He pauses. “You’ll tell your kids?”

“Yes. I’ll call them.”

“I’ll talk to you later.” His voice quavers again.

“Okay,” I answer, a little shaky myself. “I love you.”

I take a deep breath. So this is it. Mother is finally gone in the ultimate sense. She is no longer bent, shriveled, and imprisoned in that unresponsive shell. She is free. Even knowing this bright side, I convulse in a sob. My voice breaks as I tell my husband, “It’s over. We’re done.”

“What? What’s over?”

“Mother just died.” He wordlessly pulls me into his arms holds me close. I sink into his shoulder, soaking his shirt with tears.

“I’ve got to call the kids,” I finally say, pulling away, my voice a little steadier.

They’re all out of their offices, so I leave messages to call, then dial my brother, not realizing he’s in Russia.

His wife tells me that she went to the LifeCare Center with Daddy to help take care of things. “I talked to the aide who was with her when she died. She told me that when she went to wheel your mom into the lunch room, she looked more animated than usual. She looked aware for a change, looking around. She seemed interested in eating for the first time in months and ate a few bites. Then, suddenly she looked up toward the ceiling, and her face lit up with the most radiant smile. She lifted both hands, and … just …left!”

More tears flow down my face as I listen. Mother has not been able to lift her right hand for a couple of years, and we can’t remember what she looked like with a smile on her face.

This is the most beautiful exit scenario I could imagine for her. It is profoundly reassuring. I am grateful beyond words that this aide was able to witness her transformation and eager to pass the story along to us. What an incredible gift Mother gave us, selecting a time when no family members were there, so nobody could feel left out, and arranging to let us know that it was okay, that she left in a cloud of joy.

My grief fades to relief. I suddenly feel her presence and joy and realize that she’ll never be more than a thought away.

Sharon Lippincott lives in a cottage in the woods near Pittsburgh where she teaches lifestory writing and other fun writing classes. She is the author of THE HEART AND CRAFT OF LIFESTORY WRITING along with piles of blog posts and shorter works. Sharon’s mother died on September 26, 2000.

March 20 – Spring Surprise

by Sharon Lippincott

Today I’m making my annual pilgrimage to greet the coltsfoot. Regardless of what the calendar says, in spite of three-inch daffodils with swelling buds, bursting forsythia buds, sprouting tiger lilies, and red buds on trees across the landscape, spring is not official until coltsfoot blossoms dot the banks of our winding, wooded road. Every year the first flowers celebrate the vernal equinox by raising their faces to the sun on one specific bend, a third of a mile down the way. These blossoms are swallows with roots.

I stretch as I begin my walk, working out winter kinks. My body lengthens. A spring enters my step, and I breathe deeply, noting a hint of wild garlic on the gentle breeze. About 800 feet down the way I scan the barren hillside meadow, foreseeing fragrant blackberry and wild rose blossoms across the top in six more weeks. Just past the grassy slope, a golden gleam catches my eye. Coltsfoot! And I’m only halfway to the site of its traditional debut.

My heart floods with joyful delight as I pull out my camera and shoot a couple of pictures. Then a slight movement to the side startles me. When I see what it is, I kneel down in fascination for a closer look. A tiny garter snake solemnly stares back. It’s thinner than my finger and perhaps a foot long. Dark spots adorn a dull rusty-brown back and creamy yellow belly. I remain transfixed for half a minute before I slowly move my camera into place. The snake pays no heed, curiously flicking its miniscule red tongue. I snap several shots, then pause.

On a whim I reach cautiously down with my left index finger, stroking its back ever so gently. It remains perfectly still. It feels like a snake–cool and dry to the touch, smoothly beady. I briefly consider picking it up, but I’m still holding my camera and besides, I don’t think I’d like to be handled by some huge monster. I stroke its back a few more times and spend several more minutes with the camera before I capture the red tongue.

Finally I stand up and finish the half mile walk to the stop sign, floating on the magic of stroking the wild baby snake. Signs of spring abound. I see more coltsfoot. Tiny plantain leaves and beady sedum peek up from between dead leaves, and wild garlic is everywhere. The emerging wonders of spring shove aside the horror of recent catastrophes across the Pacific and remind me that life springs eternal, that to everything there is a time and place, and light follows darkness.

As I walk back to the house I feel rejuvenated, freed from the grip of ice and snow, ready to skip and play, rejoice in the freedom of light clothing and warm temperatures, and write of faith, hope and love. I come in the house, press my white pants, and polish my sandals. Any day now I shall wear them.

Sharon Lippincott looks forward to spring in Pittsburgh where she teaches lifestory writing and Writing for the Health of It.

January 7 – Stranded in Iceburgh

by Sharon Lippincott

Today began ordinarily enough. I slipped into my chocolate plush robe and headed for the coffee pot. I’m participating in Amber Starfire’s keyboard vs. paper journaling experiment, so I by-passed my lap desk and journal and headed into my cold cave to tap out a few thoughts.

The rest of the morning flew as I continued preparing materials for the Story Circle Writing for the Health of It class and my winter lifestory class at Carnegie Mellon scheduled to begin this afternoon. Just before noon I left for class. When the car started up, I felt a strange surge of relief, with a vague thought about the battery. Now why would I worry about that? I wondered.

Fifteen minutes later, traffic on the Parkway ground to halt. Obviously there was an accident inside the Squirrel Hill Tunnel and we would be sitting for at least ten minutes. Thank heavens I allowed plenty of extra time, I thought, turning off the car. Seventeen minutes later the light turned green on the tunnel entrance, and I reached for the key. The engine struggled twice, then went dead. My heart nearly stopped. The battery! I thought, recalling my premonition. Am I psychic?

I ran to the truck behind me, explaining my dilemma. In short order, he and another man pushed me onto the shoulder, then an emergency vehicle stopped and told me they’d alert the tunnel crew. Another man quickly showed up and pushed me across to a holding area in front of the tunnel. He gave me numbers to call a tow truck that arrived in minutes.

My dilemma was compounded by the fact that my Honey is on some tropical isle, leaving me stranded in Iceburgh to handle things on my own. After some thought, I called my ex-mechanic son in San Francisco–mostly because I could! I’ve had a cell phone for only a couple of years and never use it. He confirmed my decision.

The tow truck hauled me to our customary garage a mile from the house. The friendly fellow there promised to look at the car ASAP and gave me a ride up the hill.

Shortly after I walked in the door, the assistant class leader called. One of the fellows who has taken the class half a dozen times led a group discussion, and those who had brought stories read them. I was relieved, and they were glad to hear I was okay. All is well.

In spite what could seem like a terrible, horrible, awfully bad day, I feel richly blessed. Help arrived with near miraculous speed. I made strong decisions, and a tiny piece of plastic made everything easy. My “just in case” cell phone worked like a charm. I’m thrilled at the confirmation I’m not indispensable, that my students will carry on without me. The house is nice and warm again, and I just opened a fresh container of coffee. Life is good.

Sharon Lippincott survives icy winters in Pittsburgh where she teaches lifestory writing and Writing for the Health of It.