About Laurie Pandorf

Randolph Twsp Schools - Teacher, K-5 Literacy Coach, Reader, Writer, Lover of the Arts, Wife, Mom, Lifelong Learner

Moon Shadow #SOL17

I found an old notebook from one of my summers at Teachers College. In it were notes from a keynote given in 2008 by Katherine Bomer – “Writing is a journey of discovery, to find what we didn’t know.” I wrote this poem today after an evening of anxiety followed by a morning of hope, uncovered through my daily writing. 

Moon Shadow
Light beams cast shadows of the moon.
An unearthly sight – soulful might,
early dusk on winter’s night.

Morning sun dawns a different hue.
Bold and bright – reverent and white,
daylight follows winter’s night.

TreesMoonShadowWhile I have been healing from foot wounds and maneuvering from a wheelchair, I am living and sleeping downstairs. At night, I have a full view of the yard and can observe its ever changing shadows. With the full moon currently waning, the views are spectacular, while the winds often unhinge the peace. Having received a bit of bad news yesterday, I fell asleep with a touch of anxiety. As always happens though, day follows night, and with it a renewed spirit, discovered during my morning writing.

I keep several notebooks. One to observe and capture life, one filled with notes and ideas for an upcoming talk, and one as a prayer journal. Right now, I am studying Luke’s gospel,ChildOfGod one chapter at a time. It’s one of my favorites as it chronicles Jesus’s birth and boyhood, as well as his compassion for outcasts, and his love for women and children. All topics near and dear to my heart. I  need that reassurance right now as my husband and I navigate the health issues of our son. A friend once shared her father’s wisdom, “As a parent, you are only as happy as your unhappiest child.” Nothing can be farther from the truth. Although Brian is healing physically, the rest of his being needs to heal as well. Today, I am focusing on the verse from Luke 4:10-11 “…He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and with their hands they will support you…” Having the faith to believe my son is being cared for, beyond his parents and family, brings me peace. Even moon shadows can be dispelled with the light of the word.

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In My Daughter’s Eyes #SOL17

On days I get stuck with my writing, I peruse my notebooks looking for entries to ignite an idea. In one of my notebooks I found a card from my dear friend, Amy. On the front there was this quote, “Letters have souls.” That quote coupled with Betsy Hubbard’s letter writing idea last year and a post from another slicer this year got me thinking more about this beautiful gift of writing.

Over the weekend, one of the SOLSC bloggers, shared that she and her niece exchange letters on a weekly basis. Wow – such a beautiful practice. She also regularly sends letters and birthday cards to friends and family, and is especially mindful of her older relatives who may not be tech savvy.

AuctionLettersSitting on my coffee table right now is a box of letters chronicling the life of a couple in northern New Jersey – from their courtship, education, his service in WWII, marriage, and the birth of their son. It showed up in at an auction along with some other miscellaneous items. Although I had planned on reading through and drafting their story, the letter writing is small, so I need to enlarge them in copy. Beyond the letters, there are other artifacts, from the woman’s job as a teacher, a graduate from the old Trenton State College, and his alumni information from Princeton. There’s even a dance card inside one of his Princeton fraternity dances. I get lost in the romanticism of their life, and in the art of letter writing itself.

Although my parents found it challenging to express their feelings verbally, they were comfortable to share their thoughts in writing. I saved all of the various birthday cards, capturing their love. My mother, a recovering alcoholic, wrote my brothers and me letters of gratitude, on the anniversary of her first year of sobriety, thanking us for saving her life. Each if us cherishes those words.

OhThePlacesCapI do my best to keep up this tradtion whenever I can. For example, when my daughter was four or five, I bought her the Dr Seuss classic, Oh the Places You’ll Go. Throughout her life, I wrote inside of it, documenting all the major events leading up to college. When she graduated, she decorated her cap to emulate the cover. When she was deciding on colleges, and ultimately ended up at the University of New Hampshire, there were two times we heard the Martina McBride song, “In My Daughter’s Eyes.” I used the lyrics to write her notes when we dropped her off and when she graduated. This past Christmas, I revisited that song in a letter I put in her stocking. I decided to share it here…

GirlOnSledDear Dana,

I stumbled upon this ornament back in November, and it immediately reminded me of you… and that almost-fateful day years ago when you bravely took to that massive hill in Schooleys Mountain Park… I will never forget that moment as long as I live, because it was the day you taught me to embrace my responsibilities as a mom.

It’s been quite a year, Dana. And although there has been a great deal of emphasis on your brother, the highlights of your year have not gone unnoticed. Your loyalty as a friend was apparent with two more weddings and your role as maid-of-honor (again)… Your commitment to your health has taken center stage as you are in the best “kick-ass” shape of your life… and although your heart was broken, it’s better to have loved than not…

In keeping with my tradition of reflecting on the song, “In my Daughter’s Eyes,” I am going to add another verse…

“… I realize what life is all about,
It’s hanging on when your heart has had enough,
It’s giving more when you feel like giving up,
I’ve seen the light,
It’s in my daughter’s eyes”

Your loyalty, commitment and brave heart have remained an example to me as I’ve navigated my way through the challenges of these past few months. I don’t know what I would have done without you, Dana…

“In my daughter’s eyes,
I can see the future,
A reflection of who I am and what will be,”

As we turn the corner and enter into 2017, my wish for you is to remember that day on the hill, grab those reigns once again, and take the plunge into a new educational or career change. You have many gifts and talents, Dana, to be rediscovered… take some time to reflect, so you can be reminded of those passions and embrace a new path…

Love always,
Mom, your biggest fan

DanaMomUNH

After UNH graduation

I am happy to share that my daughter is making a change out of business and into health and nutrition. She is in the process of completing certifications as a personal trainer and in nutrition. She is also planning on heading back to school to become a registered dietician. I am so proud of her. As an aside, she also has a way with words. Last year, when I was on a retreat, she sent me the most beautiful letter, sharing thoughts and feelings that touched my heart and made my cry – tears of joy, very moving. Hopefully, she will also keep up this tradition with her own children some day, and remember …”but the truth is plain to see, she was sent to rescue me, I see who I want to be, in my daughter’s eyes.”

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At my niece’s wedding with my sister-cousin, Judy

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A Grand Aunt #SOL17


This morning I read a post from Fran McVeigh, where she shared the news of loss in her family. I was touched by her words and with the visual she shared on her role as an aunt. That picture prompted me to write a post about my niece, and our special relationship.

AuntQuoteWhen my niece was born, the first grandchild on our side of the family, my life changed. Not having my own children yet, she became mine in every sense of the word – I could never get enough of her. My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, and I visited her every single weekend to live through all the many milestones of her infancy and toddler years. Our closeness was legendary in our circle, with the two of use receiving invites to birthday parties of friends, who were beginning to have children.

The truth is, we share the same sense of humor and cleverness, which was apparent from the start. One time she was in her crib ready for the night, when she heard Bart Simpson on TV. Never wanting to miss out, she kept calling out, “Bart!”, “Bart!”, “I want to see him!” until her mother caved in and let her join us.

NailPolish

Her fingers were a mess, but you get the picture!

Another time she was spending the weekend with me and wanted to paint her finger nails. I asked her if her mother let her do it at home. She smirked, and nodded, “Ah Uh.” So this rookie aunt gave her the bottle and she went to town! Another time she was watching me and my sister-in-law wallpaper my dining room. Sitting in the playpen, she was not happy and wanted to be with us, in the midst of the action. At one point, after awaking from a nap, and not forgetting her goal to escape, she stood up and defiantly pulled over the side of her diaper to pee, all the while looking right at her mother with that wise-guy look. Cindy told her, “you better not do that mister.” But, she’s my niece, so of course she completed the deed and got her way.

FiveOfUs

Kristin is an only child, but Dana and Brian were her siblings.

After my daughter was born, sibling rivalry ensued. Kristin did not want to share me with anyone. One time we were taking a picture at Easter to send to my mother. We placed Dana, who was six months old, onto Kristin’s lap, who was three and a half. Once the shot was over, she immediately threw Dana off her lap! My husband freaked out, while I couldn’t stop laughing. She was fine. When my children were in 2nd and 3rd grade, we moved to the same town as my brother, so our kids grew even closer, attending the same schools. In those years, we vacationed up in Maine in the Moosehead and Rangeley Lakes regions, kayaking and tubing in the summer along with skiing and snowmobiling in the winter. Great times – great stories.

The first time we went snowmobiling, Kristin wanted to ride

MaineBoating

The girls on the boat with Dad/Uncle Dennis, the real fisherman

with me. Dana was with her dad, and Brian was with our nephew. Even though Kristin’s parents were there as well, she hopped on with me. With a five minute lesson in the parking lot, we started out of the lot across the street onto the trail. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but there was a pile of snow I was trying to manuver, but instead I went up the makeshift ramp, tilting on the left blade only! Bam! We fell over, the two of us hitting the ground with the snow-machine on top of us! My sister-in-law was flailing her arms, screaming, my son and nephew were staring in disbelief, and my husband, unsurprised, marched over saying under his breath, “Well, that didn’t take long, did it!. We, on the other hand, were laughing hysterically. Just another adventure – just another memory.

FlowerGirl

My little flower girl.

When I got married, Kristin was my flower girl. As the Ethel to my Lucy, she had to be there. During the ceremony, I placed a bouquet of roses at the feet of the Blessed Mother; Kristin joined me. Sensing the special moment, she quietly kneeled by my side, her hands in pretend prayer.

Dana&Kristin

Sister-Cousins

In November of 2015, Kristin got married; this time with my daughter at her side as her maid-of-honor… sister-cousins I like to say. She is a teacher, the same as her aunt, and is also in the process of completing her masters as a reading specialist; another passion we share. I am so proud of her.

 

Baby3Months

Baby Mansey

In February, she stopped by to share the greatest news of all… she is pregnant and due with her first child in September! Unable to contain herself until the customary twelve weeks, she and Matt, presented me with the classic, Goodnight Moon, in a gift bag filled with pink and blue tissue paper. I sobbed… overwhelmed with pride and joy for this new life on its way – made even more special as we’ve recently experienced many health issues, and need this “over the top” blessing. Since my brother is going to be a grandfather, I guess that means, I’ll be a grand aunt! I am looking forward to watching Kristin grow into motherhood. For better or worse, I know she’ll carry a piece of my influence with her as she raises Baby Mansey!

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The Cookie Caper #SOL17

In this slice, I share another story from my elementary years involving my friends, Diane and Colleen. As mentioned in an earlier post, we often found ourselves in ridiculous situations where uncontrollable laughter ensued.

ZoomColleen, one of my friends in elementary school, had a wild imagination. Although we both loved creative writing, my stories were largely realistic fiction, while hers were fantasies, dark and ominous. She was also crafty, reimagining and repurposing materials long before it came in vogue. In fact, her creativity even landed her a guest spot on the show Zoom, a kid-run show on public television back in the early 70’s.

In every situation, Colleen was always the first one to either think “outside the box,” or just add her imagination to every day happenings. For example, her family had an Alaskan malamute, named Sonu. When he howled, Colleen said she imagined little O’s coming out of his mouth. And when a visiting nun, a novice, came to our school to recruit for the vocation, and I asked her about “the calling,” Colleen quickly began whispering, “Laurie… be a nun…”

One time, in the 8th grade, she convinced us to write and produce a play. Her inspiration came from a song she heard in Miss Rosemarie’s School of Dance, from a younger group who practiced before her class time. Here’s a glimpse into some of the lyrics, which I can’t believe I still remember:

  We’re cookies on parade
So crisp and freshly made
We are so yummy 
In your tummy
We’re cookies on parade

SOMPuppetShowColleen insisted that we make our puppets out of actual cookies, which sounded like a good idea at the time. I decided to use a Vienna Finger, the thin oval shaped cream filled cookie. With the marionettes from the Sound of Music in mind, I dressed my puppet in a European costume – pale blue and yellow. We stretched out wire hangers to make the body form, glued both sides of the cookie to the hook part for the face, and then added the fabric to make the dresses. We also designed the stage, backdrops and curtains for the puppet theater. Engagement was high as we had ownership over this self-directed project.

We practiced on Saturdays, until we were ready to perform it for the children in our school. We received such outstanding reviews, that the parents asked us to come back to perform it for the PTA. That’s when everything went terribly wrong. We started out okay, until Diane either missed her line, or was using her “Edith Anne” voice from Laugh In. In trying to suppress our chuckling, somebody snorted, and that was it. The contagion spread. Laughter flew through the air attacking everyone in its path. The puppet theater tilted, the backdrop slipped, cookies splattered to the floor – and we were we were unable to finish the performance. There were no encores or standing ovations that night for our little cookie caper… only another humorous memory to mark our adolescence!

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Curb Your Laughter #SOL17

Last night my husband and I were binge watching Curb Your Enthusiasm on-demand. It was one of those “laugh out loud” episodes – funny from start to finish. Although I know Larry David’s humor is not for everyone, I love it. It’s bold, quirky, and often inappropriate. “Rolling Stone” magazine once wrote, “Some comedians say the things that everyone else is thinking; Larry David says the things that nobody realizes they’re allowed to think.”

CurbIn the opening scene of this particular episode, Larry and his manager/friend, Jeff are commiserating about not having tickets for an upcoming Dodgers game. They want to ask their friend, Marty Funkhouser, a season ticket holder, but Marty’s dad just died, so they aren’t sure what they would say. “Hey, Marty, I know your father just died, but what are you going to do with that extra ticket?” Out of context, it’s not funny, but if you share in Larry David’s humor, it is. ChuckesIt’s sort of like the Mary Tyler Moore classic episode, “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” when Mary finds herself hysterical – with laughter at the funeral home. Both scenes reminded me about a situation I was in at a friend’s relative’s wake.

“I know you’re laughing, Laurie Ann,” a voice far too familiar was standing behind me.

“Diane, don’t get me started,” I pleaded, the corners of my mouth already beginning to turn. I was at her grandmother’s wake; a lovely woman who lived well into her nineties. Although it certainly wasn’t the place to get the giggles, they were on the brink of erupting -for no apparent reason, but what else was new?

Shoulders shaking, which conveniently mimicked sobbing from behind, I told her to step away, knowing I would need to collect myself before facing her father, whose mother lay before me. I stood up to share my condolences with her dad, a serious man. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Mr. Dillon.” I started, struggling to contain myself, “My thoughts and prayers are with you.” It was easier to stick to the standard script, rather than improv.

“She was a special soul.” he responded. Then added, “They broke the mold after she was born.” I went on to tell him about the time Diane and I visited her in the nursing home. Two teenagers out shopping for the day, making that stop was not in our plans, but of course we popped in. LaughSoul“Grandma,” Diane shouted, “This is Laurie Ann.” After she introduced me, I looked at her and said, “Hello, Mrs. Dillon. How are you? I met you once before.” She looked at Diane, confused and answered, “She said she met me in a store?” Finally, I was able to release the laughter stuck in my throat!

That’s the way it was for us – always laughing inappropriately. Our mothers were the same, so we blame it on genetics. I don’t know what it is that makes me laugh, but I’m glad I’m not alone!

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Doorway of Hope #SOL17

“I have placed a door between you and me, and I have empowered you to open or close that door. There are many ways to open it, but a grateful attitude is one of the most effective” (Sarah Young)

PurpleDoor

Like many people who are addicted to HGTV, I love Chip and Joanna from Fixer Upper. Between his construction know-how and her outstanding design, together they transform unloved or outdated houses into gorgeous homes, ready for new life. Watching their show today, I remembered a notebook entry from last year. Doorways…

Last week, we changed the wreath on our front door, from pine and berries to flowers and twigs. The groundhog may have predicted more winter, and there’s snow on the ground, but I’m certain global warming will come through and bring us some early blooms. It didn’t take long for a pair of finches to begin building their nest in this familiar spot. I’m honored, really, that despite our crazy lab Lucy, and the constant comings and goings of our family, the finches continue to build. I’ve been worried about the birds flying into the house, since the door opens inward without the safety of a screen or storm door. So I wasn’t surprised when that’s exactly what happened.

DoorWreathWe had just gotten home from dinner, a feat in and of itself, as I am temporarily using a knee-scooter, healing from recent surgery, so entering and exiting the house is challenging. Although we were making a racket gliding up the walkway, the finch remained inside the wreath – until we opened the door, and she flew inside. She was frantic at first, flying in circles, until she rested atop the branch of another wreath! Luckily my husband was able to catch her with a fish-friendly net, made with materials specially to keep animals safe.

After a few attempts, he was able to catch and release her outside through the back door. I was worried she would be disoriented and forget her way back home, but she flew directly back to the wreath and nestled in. I love that little bird – so tiny, so vulnerable, yet resilient with a feisty spirit… driven to build her nest and nurture a life. That’s what motherhood is – a constant cycle of building, nurturing, releasing, receiving, fly-bys, fly-aways, fly-backs… sticks, twigs, leaves and stems – love, joy, heartbreak and forgiveness.

In honor of Motherhood
Grey shadow
     hiding in the light –
fluttering about
     on streams of breeze
Singing her melodious tune
Weaving new life
into our home

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The Eyes of my Heart #SOL17

In yesterday’s post, I reflected on the practice of living through the lens of One Little Word. Since “believe” was my original word, it led me down the path of faith and spirituality, which brought me to today’s thinking. This slice is a reflection on my current role as a retreat leader, and the power of story. 

Every so often, I catch the show, “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” hosted by James Lipton. OneFilmMaking of my favorite guests is director, Martin Scorsese, who regularly shares powerful insights on filmmaking and storytelling. In one particular clip, he talked about the importance of perspective which involves training both the “eye and the heart” to reflect on people, ideas and experiences through film. As a filmmaker he uses the art of the visual to access the truth of the emotional in order to move and touch his audience. This art form is truly a production, which is not dissimilar from my current role in leading, organizing and presenting a retreat.

WriteSoulOur work begins during the Team Formation stage, when potential team members meet regularly to reflect on scripture, pray, and listen to inspirational music, all focused on a particular spiritual theme. The purpose of the Team Formation stage, also known as Continuing the Journey, is to help us gain insight to one another while simultaneously exploring our interest level and role on the team. In order to help with this process, each woman prepares and presents a true-life story about her faith walk.

As you can imagine, there is usually some reluctance in putting pen to paper. It’s far easier to verbally share our stories in bits and pieces as we respond to reflection questions, then to think back on our lives and uncover the experiences that shaped us. Despite that initial hesitancy, the results are empowering, and often aid in healing, especially if the journey was painful.

HKQuoteJust as in filmmaking, the scope of our stories varies, which helps to transcend our beliefs and understanding of one another. Some women choose to provide a wide-angle view of their spiritual journey by taking us through the stages of their growth, while others choose a close-up experience by sharing a specific turning point that deepened their faith. Through craft and language, these writers strive to convey their unique story and communicate their authenticity. These shared experiences, prompt us to “open the eyes of our heart,” and calls us to awaken the presence and knowledge of God in our lives. That’s what writing can do – Amen!

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Hidden Gifts #SOL17

In this slice, I reflect on the last three years of living through the lens of One Little Word. I wrote a poem, which is not part of my writing routine, but in this month long challenge, I am trying to stretch myself.

Hidden Gifts

Believe, the word that led the way
     held my hand intent to stay.
Formed my action, word and thought
     overviewed the things I taught.

Journey, the word next in line
     traveled with me to refine,
Expression, practices and my faith
     stronger, solid – losing wraith.

Persevere, my latest word
     struggles daily to be heard.
Knowledge, purpose, spiritual pursuit
     hidden gifts now taking root.

Believe StoneIn December, 2014, I decided to join the writing community in the practice of living and reflecting on One Little Word. Like many have shared, my word found me by popping up on my phone while I was composing a text message. I am uncertain how it happened, but @believe appeared bold face, so I embraced it. During 2015, I spent a great deal of time reflecting on my personal, professional and spiritual beliefs. I started by studying the list of thirteen beliefs from the text, The Teacher You Want to Be, based on a group of literacy leaders observations at the famous Reggio Emilia schools in Italy. In the field of literacy there are many diverse philosophies, so it was important for me to explore, identify and embrace my beliefs.

HeartJourneyThe following year, I reflected on the word journey. Once my beliefs were more focused and solidified, it was time to put them into practice. From a spiritual perspective, I decided to return to my Catholic roots and study its core. After joining a prayer group and studying scripture more closely, my journey took me on the path to Cornerstone, a week-end retreat in the fellowship of women to share our faith stories. Although this is a journey of a lifetime, I am grateful to continue it daily and share in its many blessings.

PersevereVerbThis year I selected the word persevere, which seemed like a logical transition. Once I identified my beliefs, and put them into action, I felt a responsibility to maintain those practices, despite the obstacles. On a personal level, I have struggled with health issues with my feet. Due to an injury I sustained from tripping over my black lab, Lucy, I’ve had three surgeries on my left foot to fuse the joint and reconstruct the arch. My right foot stood in bravely, over the last three years, withstanding the brunt of walking, causing a foot ulcer to develop. This required a fourth surgery, which is currently healing. Instead of spending time binge viewing popular series, this time I viewed my rest as an opportunity to read more and to develop a writing routine. Thank you  Two Writing Teachers for this incredible gift. My confidence is growing with every piece I draft. Now let’s hope I can persevere and finish the challenge!

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Circus Stampede #SOL17

I’m a big fan of the History channel’s show, American Pickers. I appreciate their passion in uncovering artifacts from our past, and weaving them into our stories. Beyond their love of bikes, motorcycles and classic automobiles, they also have a passion for circus memorabilia, which I watched on a recent episode. That clip coupled with the fact that the Greatest Show on Earth is coming to a close, has me waxing nostalgic on the end of this era.

CircusIn my childhood, we were fortunate to attend the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus along with “pop-up” carnivals in neighboring towns. The rides were exhilarating, the food was tantalizing, and the side-shows were fascinating. One year the company my father worked for sponsored a traveling circus. Although the tickets were made available to the public, families and friends of employees were given first dibs. Since my dad and two other neighbors worked for the Kearfott Corporation, one whole section was filled with neighborhood kids. There must have been thirty of us squeezed into together eating peanuts, popcorn, and cotton candy, while taking in the sights and sounds of the three-ring entertainment.

While the acrobats were somersaulting in the air, tumbling down into the safety net on aCircusFood final bow, there was a loud commotion coming from another ring. A deafening roar emerged from one of the caged wagons, wailing louder and louder as the trainer spun it around, intentionally aggravating its confined tenant. A minute later, the lights dimmed slightly, and the ringmaster made an announcement. Although I don’t remember his exact words, he did mention something about an anxious gorilla eager to get out of his cage, and warned us to pay attention as he was known to be a bit feisty.

gorillaThe pavilion was silent. The gorilla emerged. He stared at the trainer, and began circling around the ring. Snap! The trainer sounded his whip defining his authority, but the gorilla would not comply. Instead, he stood up and began pounding his chest, Kong-like. Collective gasps resounded around the arena. In an instant, the gorilla  began climbing the acrobatic ropes near the side of the pavilion, directly in front of our section.

I was frozen with fear – along with the entire audience. Kids and adults started screaming, and leaving their seats. It didn’t take me long to join the crowd, eyes straight ahead, stampeding toward the exit. Imagining the hot breath of that gorilla breathing on my back, I wouldn’t dare turn my head. As you may have figured out, the whole thing was a hoax. After the gorilla reached the top of the railing, the imposter pulled off his mask revealing his true identity.

Digging up memories uncovers emotions. Although today I can laugh out loud over that hysteria, I’m still surprised at how overwhelmed I feel reliving that moment. And, as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” ends its reign, another chapter of my childhood goes with it. Suddenly I feel the urge to watch good ole Soupy Sales!

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Monkeying Around #SOL17

In this slice, I reminisce on a time when my mother went back to work, leaving my brothers and I on our own for a short while until she came home. Although fighting was inevitable, more often than not, we surprised ourselves with ingenious solutions, even after monkeying around.

When I was in the 2nd grade, my mother started a part-time job. Because we were outgrowing our two-bedroom Cape Cod home, my parents decided to add a dormer and convert the attic into bedrooms. GirlFridayHer resume of life experience was extensive, candy store sales, money management for her father’s bookie business, President of the Mother’s Guild, school secretary, school librarian, and school gym teacher – Pall Mall cigarettes and all, while her professional experience was slim and only included her role as a Girl Friday for the Colgate Corporation. Wanting a job with flexible hours, she became a banquet waitress for the Bethwood Restaurant. Although she would be home with us in the morning, we would be on our own for about an hour after school. At eight, ten and twelve years old, apparently we were ready for the responsibility.

Despite the usual in-fighting that occurs with siblings, for the most part, we policed ourselves. Every day, we followed the same routine – we came home, disposed our uniforms, changed into play clothes, and headed out the door to catch up with friends. Once the street lights came on, or my father whistled, we headed back. If we were beyond earshot of his dinner signal, somebody familiar with the sound, would pass along the message, mindful of the consequences.

Although we would fight with one another, as mentioned, more often than not, we wereKidsFight thick as thieves, united together and ready to defend one other. Like the time one of the Walker kids got into a scuffle on the bus with my brother Michael, Joey and I joined the rumble taking on the other two siblings. And even though Michael and I intentionally held the storm door closed one day, causing Joey to barrel through the glass, we cleaned up the mess and stood together to take the blame.

One rainy day when we couldn’t play outside, we decided to attach the chin up bar from theMonkeyBars bedroom doorway upstairs to one of the doorways downstairs. The boys wanted to test their strength and show off, and I wanted to practice my gymnastics. They went first, and then lowered it for me. Hanging from the back of my knees, I started pumping, swinging faster and faster. Getting ready to dismount, I swung up in one final push, when all of a sudden, the bar detached from the sides, causing it and me to drop to the floor. In shock, with the wind knocked out of me, my brothers got worried and told me not to move. Knowing a back or neck injury could be dangerous, they understood I needed to be still. With quick thinking, they found a piece of plywood in the basement, slipped it underneath, and lifted me up to my parent’s bed.

I think my dad was home earlier than my mother that night. As it turned out, all was well. My parents agreed that my brothers did the right thing. The three primates stood tall –  nothing like a near fatal accident to stir up emotional pride, rather than anger on our monkeying around!

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