Name That Baby by Carol Iberger

Editor’s note: The following writing by North Shore resident Carol Iberger is the latest installment from the 2016 Marblehead Seniors Memoir Project: To Write a Life, held at the JCC. Please check back for future workshops and opportunities to connect with other fellow writers. 

What do you name a baby who is about to die in your arms? We watched as the last few pink bubbles protruded from her perfect rosebud lips, as she was slipping away on a cold January Sunday morning.

The hospital chaplain leaned in closer to us and gently asked as to the name we had chosen for our baby girl. We hadn’t. This was so unexpected. Why couldn’t I think of a name for our almost 7-month premature, perfectly formed baby girl with ten fingers and ten toes? Sadly, her little lungs did not arrive fully developed, and so here we were.

Think. Think, I begged my foggy heartbroken self. I glanced at my husband who was nervously stroking her tiny forehead with his pinky. His wet tear-streaked face looked back at me as he mouthed the words, “Whatever name you chose for her is OK with me.”

What DO you name a baby girl who is slowly leaving this earth? Does naming her right now make her go more quickly? Do we choose the name we had picked out a few months ago that we really loved? But of course, that meant we could not use our favorite name again for another baby. Do we choose a name just for this baby, so we can save our “chosen” name for perhaps another baby–is that a macabre/perverse thought?

My little angel was ready to go, but she needed me this one last and only time in her short life!

We had a name that was still a working contender behind our first choice. So we agreed on that name.  Her middle name was more of a struggle now–we hadn’t thought that far ahead. Unbelievably, I chose a classmate’s name who sat next to me all four years of high school over 20 years ago. She was kind and gentle and it felt like a safe name. Time was of the essence. Now she had her name. Just for her.

Alyssa Jill left on a cloud shortly thereafter. I love saying her name, the name I chose!

–Carol Iberger

BIO: Carol Iberger spent the first half of her career in corporate sales selling East Coast displays to Fortune 500 Companies and now works as an interior designer, for which she was featured on Channel 7’s Room for Improvement. She has been married for 36 years, has three adult children, and just became a first-time grandmother.

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Saturdays With My Grandfather by F. Marshall Bauer

My grandfather was building superintendent of Philadelphia’s Franklin Science Museum. He worked a six-day week, so every Saturday—from the ages of seven to sixteen—I hopped into his gray Chrysler and went to what he called “the place” (why, I’ll never know).

The museum’s tag line was, “Science is Fun,” and that’s exactly what these Saturday holidays were. In the Hall of Chemistry, you pushed a button and peered into a glass enclosure where oxygen and hydrogen were mixed—and with a gentle popping sound, a few drops of water appeared.

A kid (or grownup) could learn physics by sitting on a revolving stool while holding two hinged handles, which expanded and pulled his or her arms outward by centrifugal force.

In the aviation room, you looked up at the airplane that Amelia Earhart flew across the Atlantic, sat in the open cockpit of an ancient canvas-covered biplane, and got the feel of flying at the controls of a WWII Link trainer.

The Fels Planetarium contained a giant dumbbell-shaped instrument studded with lenses, which re-created the night skies of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. As you watched, an astronomer wove legends of the universe and named the stars within projected pictures of a bull, a lion, and a hunter with his arm upraised.

You entered through the front door, which opened on the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial: a twenty-foot marble statue of Ben seated in an armchair, greeting visitors with a kind of paternal placidity. Standing in this sixty-foot domed rotunda, I literally grew up in the shadow of the man, which is why he became my mentor and role model.

–F. Marshall Bauer

Bio: Marshall Bauer has been writing for most of his life. He began as an advertising copywriter, then writer/producer of computerized training programs and coauthor of Fearless Flying.  His current book is Marblehead’s Pygmalion.

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A Thanksgiving Prayer for the Kindness of Strangers

A Thanksgiving Prayer for the Kindness of Strangers

by Nancy Carey

 

I heard the snap before landing on slippery wet grass. After ankle surgery, I lay on my back–helpless–my cast elevated and iced 24 hours a day. It was then that my friends and family turned that summer into one of the best I can remember.

Bearing my injury stoically with the help of my husband on whom I depended for everything–hygiene, nourishment and fellowship–seemed possible. But my friends had a different idea that turned out to be better. And so their flowers, garden produce, cooked meals and baked goodies began arriving. All for me?! I was embarrassed that I needed them and surprised and touched. Cards, calls, emails and church prayers kept my spirits high. Worried about the long recovery ahead and whether I would ever run or travel again, I shall remember always friends who sat by my bedside and shared my healing journey on hot summer afternoons. Their faith in my recovery became mine. The ice packed around my swollen ankle melted steadily during those hot summer days and so did my fear.

There was no more masterminding my future. Instead I experienced the kindness of my husband, the sweetness of friendship, the beat of my own heart, the shimmer moving across Broad Sound of landing lights approaching Logan, the steady thump of lobster boats at sunrise headed out to sea. I had been missing a lot! I began hearing friends’ dreams in stories about their children and grandchildren. I escaped to their gardens, porches, boats and beaches. I read their favorite books. And I learned about their young selves as family memories were recalled. Still, I was surprised every day by their support and unquestioning confidence in my healing bones. Their faith in me surprised me, gave me courage and hope, and allowed dreaming time for my future. I had not really known these friends, until now.

Thanksgiving Prayer: Thank you for summer-hot days when I breathed into the future, for sleepless nights when I lived one moment at a time, for stillness when I heard my own heart beat and believed in its resilience. And thank you God for the kindness of strangers.

 

Bio: After completing her undergraduate degree in English Composition at Mount Holyoke College, Nancy Carey spent a career in the telecommunications industry. As an attorney at the Federal Communications Commission doing appellate litigation and later as President/COO of MRC Telecommunications and of Weather Services Corporation, she completed many writing assignments. But Nancy only recently began writing creatively again as a participant in To Write a Life: Seniors Memoir Project at the JCC in Marblehead. Nancy and her husband DeWitt live in Nahant.

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To Write A Life: Marblehead Seniors Memoir Project

We  are all connected.

What do we really mean when we say this? I suspect it means something different to each of us. As a writing instructor, I am reminded each time I teach how closely connected we are through the emotional landscape. Through the recording of our life experiences, shared on the page and, if we choose, aloud, we see that we are joined through pain, loss, fear, grief, joy and, of course, love. We may experience each differently, but through sharing our unique stories, we are immediately bonded to others in the human family. In these fraught political times, how refreshing it is to forge connections rather than divisions.

To this end, local seniors joined me this fall for a three-week memoir intensive, resulting in lively conversation, heartfelt writing, and some serious bonding. Some came to writing afresh; others were published authors but new to the memoir form. Wonderful connections were made among old friends and acquaintances, and new friendships were born that have continued. Once again I was reminded of the power of writing together as a means of reinforcing the human bond.

Older adults in particular have lived through significant personal and cultural shifts. As a result, they have the unique ability to inform younger generations of the past in order to better understand the present. Through the act of writing memoir, we tell the human side of history, from the challenges of wartime to the shifting roles of men and women in public and domestic life.

Of the dozen participants in the workshop, some have agreed to share their stories here: from the childhood memory of weekly visits to a science museum to the recollection of the kindness of friends in the aftermath of surgery. The stories are as unique as the individuals. As an instructor, I am consistently amazed at how the same prompt will generate such a diversity of writings. Please take a moment to enjoy just a few of them here.

Many thanks to the Marblehead Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council for funding support and to the JCC of the North Shore for their in-kind donation of our meeting space–a room with a spectacular view, with plenty of hot coffee to keep those pens moving.

In connection,

Julianna

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To Write or Not to Write: Is That the Question?

So you want to take a writing class. Or… maybe you’re not sure? What drives someone to take that step, to move forward from thought to intention to action? When it comes to writing, whether it involves taking a class or not, there are a multitude of possibilities.

Perhaps you have an idea you’ve nurtured or tossed around for some time, years even. That story your grandfather told you about his tour of duty on a merchant marine ship in WWII, or your own adventures in the Peace Corps, helping to construct homes for villagers. Or maybe you’ve always had this somewhat romantic notion of “writing”—picturing yourself in a coffee shop, beret tilted over one ear as you ruminate over the keyboard—or better yet, dip your quill into an inkpot and write longhand. Whatever the impetus, however the dream manifests itself in your mind, what compels you to take that first proverbial dip into the inkpot?

For me, it was a love of reading. As a child I took solace in stories. As it turns out, this love of reading was the first thing I’m on record as having written about. Well, it wasn’t exactly mass publication; it was one of those “All About Me” books you write in grade school (doesn’t everyone write those?). In mine, penned in second grade, I wrote my first literary confession: “I love it when I get into trouble because then I can go to my room and read.” There are days I still wish I would get sent to my room, but that’s another story.

IMG_1742Fast-forward to today, and I’m now living back in Massachusetts after more than three decades in the Midwest. Soon after our move a year ago last summer, I began to ask myself, how do I build a community of writers, find like-minded souls who have the same passion for writing as I do? Of course I wanted to teach again: That’s what I did back in Indianapolis for the past several years, sharing my love of writing with other creative explorers who were inspired to take that step for all kinds of reasons: from processing their experiences as caregivers to making sense out of a messy childhood.

So here I am living on the North Shore of Massachusetts, trying to recreate what I love most: a community with which I can share my love of writing as a means of self-discovery, of creative agency, of communication.

Through this new venture, Marblehead Writers’ Workshop, my wish is not only to continue to teach and grow my teaching, but to bring in other writer-teachers who also have the desire to share their enthusiasm and knowledge with other curious minds who are ready to explore creative writing for the first time, to rediscover a passion that has lain dormant, or to further their work and build some momentum at a more committed level.

I’m hopeful you’ll be one of them—teacher, student, or maybe even both. Drop me a line and let me know what classes you’d like to see, what you’d most like to explore as a writer—and what drives you to write.

–Julianna

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