My Mother’s Jewelry Box

IMG_0005As I was growing up, the most magical thing in my life was my mother’s jewelry box. Sometimes she would invite me into her bedroom and allow me free rein to look at all its treasures. It was full of beautiful pieces my father had given her. But my favorites was the sparkly, gaudy junk jewelry that came from the local drugstore or were hand-me-downs from my grandmother who was known for her glamour including a most fashionable side-ways-perched hat with a turkey feather extending a foot.  During those precious times going through her gems, I begged and cajoled her to give me this or that – all the junk stuff – and often she would relent, but just as often she would say, “Someday it will all be yours,” and I would leave her room with a tear in my eye.

It was Christmas Day and my family and I did what we always did – go to my parents for Christmas gift opening and Christmas feast, prepared by my father who always did all the cooking. That year it was roast beef – my favorite. Mom wasn’t feeling well that day, so after a sip or two of my wine, she took to her bed, dragging her oxygen cord behind her. We all devoured our meal and after, my kids went down to the basement for their annual ping pong tournament and my father and I sat under the twinkle of the Christmas tree finishing our wine.

“Let’s go check on your mother,” he said after a serene and meditative silence.

Together, wine glasses in hand, we entered the bedroom. The air was different. Like there wasn’t any. My mother’s oxygen thing had slipped out of her nose and her head was cocked off to the side. But most truly miraculous was the look on her face! After the pain and darkness that trapped her features earlier in the evening, now her face was bright and shining and a peaceful smile told us what her ending had been like.

After a whirlwind of 911 calls, and a houseful of police, ambulance EMS workers and firefighters, my mother’s body was taken to the hospital where she was officially pronounced dead. We went into the bare sterile room where they had put her body to say our goodbyes and were struck by how much different she looked. The beautiful peaceful face was gone and in its place was one dominated by a grimace and haunted look. We later learned that in their efforts to revive a person, EMS workers end up distorting the appearance as it was when the person’s soul left the body.

The day after my mother died, December 26th, my father appeared at my door and in his arms was my mother’s very hefty jewelry box. When I opened the door he reached out and handed me the box.

“She wanted you to have this,” he said, tears streaming down his face. He turned away and left. I cried , but I wasn’t really sure exactly why. Was it for  my father driving away, alone? My mother’s death? Or all the memories that were encapsulated within the box in my arms—memories of time with my mother as I begged and cajoled her to give me something of  the gold, the silver, the diamonds and other precious gems. But the things I valued most, and still do, are the things she also loved: the glittery, schmaltzy pieces of costume jewelry.

Merry Christmas Mom!

103 Comma Kings

I am a member of several Linkedin groups. These groups are virtual ‘clubs’ where individuals gather based on professional or personal interests. Typically, one group member brings up a topic or asks a question and thus begins a discussion thread. At times the threads are interesting to their conclusion, but lately I am finding that too many deteriorate into sheer and utter nonsense where  loquacious individuals must comment on every single post and some even start fights with mean-spirited criticisms and replies. Then there are the never-ending story threads like the one that prompts me to write now.

Imagine: 103 mostly self-righteous comments on correct comma placement in a couple sentences presented by one poor soul who must rue the moment he asked this group for advice. What’s more, these 103 comments occurred in 2 days – significant both for LI groups and certainly for a topic such as this. As they comment on the commas, everyone speaks with great authority whether they think the example was correct or not. And these comments are punctuated by statements about credentials: “I am a certified high school English teacher,” “I am a professional editor,” “I have written 10-million books,” and on it goes. I am incredulous: how can these folks have the time (and energy) to create tomes on comma correctness?

Ergo, to assuage my growing agida, I think I will send everyone on the LI list a copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.

Weekly Photo

Moon in Cloud Shroud

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The Perils of Fountain Pens

003I love fountain pens. In fact, I have some obscene number of them as I continue my never-ending quest for the perfect one. Admittedly there are some issues related to fountain pens and I ran into every one during my second to last class of the semester this week. The last week of class is a typically manic time for both professors and students, and my classes are no exception. Even though I am in the audience this week while my students experience the angst of delivering  their final presentations, I am still stressed for many reasons, not the least of which is because they are stressed. (Stress breeds stress. Right?) Anyway, as I was making notes on the presentations,  I noticed that my hand was coated in purple ink, the color I especially love and often use in my pens. As I frantically looked for the source of the leak, a student asked me a question and would you believe – I stabbed myself with the nib!!  Of course it would have to be an ultrafine point pen. Then I noticed red mixing with the purple ink. Not only had I stabbed myself, but I drew blood! I was determined not to be a spectacle with this kaleidoscope of colors on my hand, and I succeeded in keeping my predicament under wraps. All I can say was thank God I had put some toilet paper (as Kleenex, of course), in my purse that morning.

As a result of my trauma, I’ve decided to relegate the fountain pens to journal-writing duty here at home, keeping them safely out of the classroom henceforth.

Nick DiChario

Reader, writer, life-long mistake-maker

Judith Shenouda

Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications

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