Family

CoVID19 and War Stories

grandp
This is not meant to minimize any pain or isolation anxiety you may be experiencing

 

This is day eleven of my self imposed “Stay at Home,” routine and day five of the California Governor’s decree.

How are you all doing?

Amid the humorous and not so funny memes and photos, I came across the above message, which gave me pause to reflect.

My mother is in her 90’s. Practicing self-isolation, I don’t visit, but I phone and ask her how she’s doing.

“Oh, fine.” She then goes on to talk about her “normal for her” ailments of age.

I talk to my sister, who lives with Mom, and ask, “How’s Mom doing?”

“She’s like nothing’s different, no big deal.”

I realize Mom is in a different situation than most elderly. She has a family member living with her who takes care of cooking, cleaning, and her medication. The other family members live within the county and take care of appointments, excursions, and visiting.

Many other elderly are not as fortunate.

Mom and I got to talking about her experiences with difficult times. She was born during the depression and was a pre-teen during World War II, which she remembers clearly.

Orphaned a year before war broke out, Mom was one of five children, second to the last. The youngest nine and the oldest seventeen.

This is one of the stories Mom related:

In the post office, there were giant posters of an Army woman, with a finger to her lips, with the caption “Shhh, be careful what you say because it may cost a life,” and “Loose lips sink ships.” 

Newspaper headlines reported that a Japanese submarine fired on a boat off the coast of Santa Barbara.  Another paper headline said “LA Area Raided!” There were rumors that Los Angeles had come under Japanese attack with airplane fire and bombs.

Your Uncle Cata enlisted in the Army. He had quit school when he was in the 9th grade, so he could work to support us when our parents died.

Lute was fifteen, but he worked at two jobs, which kept him out at night. He tried to enlist, but he wasn’t accepted.  He had injuries from playing football and was called a 4-F.  He was so disappointed; he moped around the house for days, but I was glad he wasn’t going, because then who would take care of us?

Sometimes I was frightened, mostly in the evenings when Lute was gone to work. I had nightmares about the Japanese bombing Pomona, especially when the practice air-raid siren would blast its earsplitting alarm. 

Walking up and down the street, the neighborhood air raid warden moved his flashlight around our dark yard, the light darting across our rickety wood fence and up and down our fruit trees, like ghosts running back and forth.

Della and I would turn off the radio, the lights and cover the windows with blankets. We’d run through the darkness and hide under our bedcovers, hugging each other,  sweating in the summer heat, when the warning siren blasted into the night.

How I wanted to have my mother and father, to wrap their arms around us and tell us that everything would be okay; that we weren’t going to be bombed and that they would protect us and we would be safe, like before the war. 

But I knew that wouldn’t happen. They were dead. My dad for four years, my mom for one. 

So I held my tears in and tried to be brave for my little sister.  I told her everything was going to be okay, even though I didn’t feel like it was the truth. It was a very lonely and scary time.

This saddened me, because I know life can be so much worse. I thought about the kids in the same situation, those in detention centers, those without caring parents or siblings to protect them, and sad for any person who is isolated without anyone to help.

I think about what others are doing, the medical staff, first responders, educators, my son who stocks groceries and prepares food at a Brooklyn natural foods store, my daughter who works in a doctor’s office, and my other son whose factory is now making hand sanitizer.

I worry that they could catch the COVID19 virus by taking the subway to work, although it’s desolate now, or coming into contact with others at their worksites.

But Mom’s story also reminded me to continue to record all of her recollections. If you haven’t put your parent’s experiences onto the page, or computer, now’s a good time. Organize those old photos, tell their stories to your children, tell your stories to your kids. Now’s the time.

Thanks for reading. Now, I’ll return to the routine I’ve set up for myself. My “Artist in Residence” schedule.

Writer’s and Creatives

Prayer, meditation, writing, reading, exercise, gardening, meal preparation, phoning others, thirty minutes of news and social media, a couple of hours of T.V (you know I’m lying, it’s sometimes more) and back to prayer.

Be safe. Stay at home. Be Kind. Wash Your Hands.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Traditions, Family, Latino culture, Parenting

A 1932 Christmas

Once Upon A Time-Jose Chavarry, flickr.com
Once Upon A Time-Jose Chavarry, flickr.com

As we get older, we tend to appreciate things we took for granted, like stories from grandparents about their life and the childhood of our parents.

Family stories may be boring when we’re kids or when they’re repeated often, as can be the case when our parents enter their 80’s, but grandparents and parents who pass on their stories help children remember their heritage, their family strengths, and joyful times.

Mom shared her Christmas memories with us and through them, I relate back to the real reason for the season. This is one of her stories:

Christmas Treats
Christmas Treats

 

During the depression, if we received oranges and candy that was a great treat.

One Christmas Eve morning the firemen came to my barrio of Little Silao, in Pomona (CA). This Christmas was special, it was 1932 and the middle of the Great Depression. FDR was the president. 

Times were hard, but my family was lucky. My mother had a vegetable garden, and walnut trees in the backyard, rabbits and chickens too. We had enough to eat, barely enough for clothing, and no money for toys. I was four and wanted a doll more than anything.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree that year, but we did have a little table in the living room which mama decorated for the arrival of baby Jesus. She bent tree branches to form a small tent and added little green fans of pine over the branches to form a shelter. Tiny pinecones and red berries decorated the sides, pine needles were scattered at the entrance. An empty wooden manger sat in front of this small cave among the boughs. This looked very pretty and it smelled good too, fresh and woodsy.

I scanned the street in front of my house while perched on the wooden chair against the living room window. A shiny red fire truck turned into Newman Street, my street. Firemen, in their uniforms, rode on the running boards of the truck. They stopped five houses away from our place.

One of them climbed up to the top of the truck and handed blue, gold, and red boxes to another fireman and he handed them to another one who stood on the sidewalk.

“Here they come, here they come! Papá, mamá, Catarino, Jose, Concha, they’re coming.” I almost fell off the rickety chair.

I had to tell the others about the firemen and the Christmas gifts. I ran from room to room shouting their arrival. My brothers and sister ran out of the bedroom, my mother with baby Adela walked out of the kitchen.

“Maria, no grites. Sientense por favor.”

She didn’t like me yelling and told me to sit down.

Catarino was the oldest at 10 years, Jose was eight, Concha six, and the baby was one-year-old. Everyone sat down, except me. I ran back to my chair at the window.

“Here they come!” I shrieked and ran out the front door onto the sidewalk and everyone followed.

My cousins, across the street, were already outside jumping up and down shouting, “They’re here, they’re here.”

Maybe I would get a ball and jacks, real ones. Concha and I were tired of playing jacks with washed apricot pits and an old rubber ball. Maybe I’d get a real doll, one of my very own. That would be better than the paper dolls I cut out from the Sears Catalogue.

The big truck rolled to a stop right in front of my house. The fireman began calling out names, “Concha, Maria, Jose, and Catarina.”

Catarina? That’s a girls name. My brother was “Catarino.” He unwrapped the box and his smile disappeared. It was a doll! He held up the box to give it back to the fireman, but I ran towards him shouting “I want it, I want it.” I got to it before Concha did and ran back into my house.

The doll had on a beautiful red dress with black shoes and fluffy hair. I was so happy, I carried my doll the way mamá carried baby Adela.

For the life of me, I can’t remember if Catarino took the present meant for me or if the firemen gave him another gift. All I remember was that beautiful doll.

Now remember to share your family holiday stories with your kids and encourage your parents or grandparents to talk about Christmases past so you keep your family narrative strong and alive.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you and yours.

poetry, Writing

Why I Write

Langston Hughes quote on Journal-VickieHallmark, flickr.com
Journal-VickieHallmark, flickr.com

 

I cannot NOT write.

I write to tell stories about people and issues that matter, 

to me,

with experiences which may be different than your own,

or the same.

I write about the ugly & the beautiful

the abandoned & abused

the loved & unloved

the saved & the unsaved.

I write because I’m fascinated

by the hope and faith broken people

can show

in the middle of their pain

something that pushes them on.

I write because I know that

no hay rosas sin espinas

there are no roses without thorns 

I write to feel, to stay alive, 

to have hope, and because I’m grateful 

Why do you write or create?

Books, Writing

Continue #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign

 

Cute photo for a serious matter.

www.navdeepsinghdhillon.com
http://www.navdeepsinghdhillon.com

After BookCon, a major NY event for readers, listed their author’s lineup: 31 white males with one cat (Grumpy Cat), an article “Readers Deserve Better Than BookCon,”  made the headlines. 

The article inspired a grassroots effort, #WeNeedDiverseBooks (#WNDB), to call attention to the continuing lack of diversity in children’s and young adult literature. I can identify with this effort.

Nothing I read in my first 18 years, and I was/am a prolific reader, reflected my own experiences, setting, or ethnicity. I found a couple when I was in college but those were Mexican or South American authors, all male.

A few years later, I discovered Sandra Cisneros, and everything changed for me. That’s when I believed that my experiences had value and that they mattered.

The #WNDB campaign, initiated by a group of 22 authors, bloggers, and publisher Lew and Low, hoped to “raise [their] voices into a roar that can’t be ignored”. The NY Times, CNN, Guardian, Huffington Post, among others, picked up this issue. 

The social media campaign was launched on May 1-3, 2014. On Thursday, the campaigners set up the Tumblr We Need Diverse Books website – asking readers to take a photo holding a sign that says “We need diverse books because … ”

There are some thought provoking, inspiring, words from kids to adults. 

Father and child-Minorities are more than stereotypes #WNDB
Father and child-Minorities are more than stereotypes #WNDB

inhabit the soul

On Friday, a Twitter chat about the issue and why it matters using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks stimulated lots of conversation.

There were over 107,000 tweets and retweets during the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. 

On Saturday, the “Diversify Your Shelves initiative encouraged people to buy diverse books and take photos of them. 

Today, Patrick Flores-Scott, author and public school teacher, wrote, “Let’s All Make the #WeNeedDIverseBooks An Ongoing Movement.” His suggestions,

Members of The Movement need to request diverse books at their bookstores and libraries… post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and library websites…advise book bloggers and to follow and support blogs like this one. We need to give diverse books as birthday presents and to talk about our favorites on the bus, at work, in line at the bookstore…” 

He makes several good points that anyone can take to enrich our life and those we care about.

The biggest reason we need to continue the #WNDB campaign is to change these statistics:

And to make this happen:

Multicultural, Diverse Books, Stories, #WNDB
Multicultural, Diverse Books, Stories, #WNDB

Finally, we need to cultivate globally knowledgeable, compassionate, literary children and adults.

For a great list of children and YA books, go to independent publisher, Lew and Low’s book list.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks facts and figures are compiled here.