What I Learned Of Love from Patsy Gilbert

By Edgar Weinstock

A quite chubby, preteen, clumsy, girl child in pain taught me more about loving or nourishing a kid than even the grown ups I palled out with. I wasn’t much older than she was. Her name was Patsy Gilbert. She showed me all I needed to know.

All I have to do to become 10 years old again is close my eyes. And so: I once again see across from where I live on East 28th Street in Paterson. YEAH NEW JERSEY SO WHAT? I lived there with the others: Two parents. One or two brothers. A family of true friends named Norton. Sometimes a pet. Always surrounded by yapping or scowling neighbors, some of whom were also good stickball players. By evening, I was always indoors doing homework or imagining what the radio was conjuring or even trying to find a good channel on the XRay box in these, the late 1940s .

So it must be daylight now since I can almost see the Hernandez garage and house, where on the second floor lives the Gilbert family. Papa Gilbert is calm. Black wavy hair. Good build. Nothing showy. Just good shape and movie star handsome as the day is long. His wife must have at one time been really classically to the nth degree pretty. But now she has the worst set of purple circles surrounding her eyes and radiating further out more each month and the sides of her mouth pulling the rest of her down as she sporadically screams to one member of her family or another. Somehow from that wretched mother has come three daughters. The oldest is Anita. A few years older than I. This is more than 60 years ago but still I see as pretty a face as I have ever seen; yeah: combining the best of an uncentered version of Ann Harding plus a calmer version of Ida Lupino and a version of Carole Lombard? Hmpf; whenever she smiled. The only fly on the paper is that I never saw Anita Gilbert smile also with her eyes. Other than that, destroy any real photos of these movie dames the way they actually were at 13 or 14. Remember them in their prime then imagine what the mixture would be if they each dove into it at 13 or 14 years of age and you’ll have a good image of what Anita Gilbert looked like. Continue reading

Cotton

By Maggy Sears

The softness of cotton, the fine and coarse weaves. The washing and ironing of cotton, the starching, the stroking with hand and iron, warmed by the heat.

Doll clothes for my Madame Alexander doll, itsy bitsy stitches on tiny cotton outfits , taking them off and putting them on over and over again. At 14, wearing a dark green, handblocked Indian print, wrap-around skirt, adorning my neck with a large, intricate Celtic cross, wandering through the spring woods in my imagined Hobbit world, sunlight flitering through the early green; finding and greeting the return of my woodland flowerfriends: violets, bloodroot, trillium, trout lilly.

Quebec nuns in elaborate dress – black, white or gray cotton, each unique according to the order, long crosses swinging down the front – crisp white head dresses shaped like bird wings, cardboard stiff wimples framing faces, starched bibs, flowing habits whipping around bodies, sisters struggling across the blustery square. From Hobbits to nuns – shifting fantasies.

Before the steam iron, learning from my grandmother, Bama, how to dampen the clothes. Take one shirt, dip hands in water and flick droplets on shirt, roll shirt up, patting the fabric with damp hands and soft thumps. Take another shirt, begin to roll it- up and over the first one – holding bundle to chest, folding each side in as you go, sprinkling, patting, rolling. When the bundle is large and damp, leave it for a while, then iron. Placing cotton clothes on the ironing board, seeing threads flatten under the burning iron, shifting the ironed part over the side, arranging the unironed part onto the board, flattening the wrinkles with gentle strokes soothing my hands, then fading warmth from the iron. Continue reading

Georgia, Section 2

By Liz Mellen

Georgia, Section 2, April 17. 2015

Weekends we were en famille.  That was a relief from the somewhat alien world of schooling in Georgia.  Every other week, there was the church service across the street, my father up front conducting the service, preaching and afterwards connecting to people, along with my mother.  I loved that.  We had returned now to a situation which, while I had no distinct memories, I knew well up to when I was 3 ½.   A house, a church just across the way, a father very present, a public figure, as well, in the weekly services and us a family of interest.  I had known such a coherent settledness, however dimly remembered, before torn from it when the long period of un-settledness began–of going to China/not going to China and of living in too many places.  There was relief for me in the return in this Georgia setting to a condition, a family and home status quo after so many years.  I relaxed into it, coming to a realization in later years of the reason for this wounded child’s sense of relief and satisfaction.

I recall my 10-year old judgment of the music we sang in that church sanctuary–southern hymns often in sentimental three quarter waltz time–different fare from words and music in the regular Methodist Hymnal drawn knowledgeably from church music through the ages to which I was accustomed, and understood to be the standard.  I was judgmental about it, today thinking I may have picked up some superciliousness about it from my mother and older brother.  But no, I really got weary of those tunes and simple words, longing for some complexity, however meaningful this music, sung in community, can be. Continue reading