Monday, December 21, 2015

Girlfriends celebrate my birthday - Three poems: Girlfriends, Standing, Donna

We met at Martha's house. Not only this table but the whole house has been fixed up for Christmas. 

Garlic bread to the right. Salad to the left. And lasagna right in the middle on my plate. I ate every last bite. Surprise ingredient:  Tarragon. I believe her husband David grows it.

 Martha is color-coordinated with her dishes as she pours tiny croutons into our salads.
 Donna Ellen Krause sneaks a look at the camera as if to say, Don't you dare take a bad picture of me!

I knew it! she's thinking. Carly what are YOU thinking.

Carly your cake was to die for. Angel Cake spruced up with icing and strawberries and blueberries.

 Martha made a collage for Brianna, whose real name is something else, but they call her Brianna. She also made one for her daughter Emily, an RN, who lives with her male partner. Her other two daughters and their families don't live nearby, but she'll see the one living in DC, when they go to the Big Apple for the holidays.
Was visiting my ailing mother today. You'll read about her in the below poem.

Guess what kind of piano Martha has? I asked Mom.

A Krakauer, she said. When we lived on Marlindale Road in Cleveland Heights, we had a Krakauer baby grand. They don't make em anymore.
Gifts from my friends at the party.

I have no idea what that card for 70 years old is doing in my house, do you?

Crafty Martha, who works PT at a preschool center, gave us each a bag, asked us to decorate them, and then everyone should sign one another's. Below are the front and back of mine.

 Will look again at these poems tomro. Exhausted now. My friend Greg Godfrey, one of our phone greeters, said to me, "Ruth, dyou take a nap every day?"

"Usually," I said.

"How long are they?"

"Ten or twenty minutes," I said. 


She doesn’t realize it
but she teaches us
with her nail polish.

We all want to be like her.
Like Donna.

Sorrow invaded her life early   
the onset of the misery-maker bipolar
the death of her sweet Mariel
the turning away of her husband
yet this beautiful Italian woman
persuaded him to have another
and Danielle was born

Years later, his sudden death
at the massage parlor, shook
her like a frightened rag doll. How she
wished she would die. But knew
she would never take her life.

All through the hardballs life
aimed her way, she never lost
her faith, and knew, though
her insides were hollow
she must make herself
presentable for the world
she so loved but could not feel.

On came the make-up around
her black onyx eyes, and the
nail polish, she dabbed on
her long nails of fingers that
had tousled the hair of her
childrenand of John, and now
this new man, Denny, that came to
live with her.

I am invited in. And feel
I’m at home. “I could live
in a place like this,” I think as
I stare at the rolling green
back yard, knowing the deer
will come to drink at the stream. 

My hands in hers
she paints my nails blue,
like hers, then my feet
resting in her lap, where my
freshly washed toenails
wait their turn to be colored
a shiny blue.

We have snacked on cashews
and an in-your-teeth Luna Coconut Bar
Why should I go home?

I pass her man in the living room
watching his shows
never in my life have I seen
such a look of love on the
face of a man.

This is the reward her God
has sent her. Only the
best for this long-suffering
woman. Only the best.
His name is Denny.
Denny Wilson.



At 93 my Mother of the Bad Legs
had a good legged day and
made supper. She wowed us –
and there were five –
my boyfriend Scott, Kamellia, her
husband Tyler and baby David
who chewed the meat like
a man – his smile shows little
chompers on the top and
bottom rows. Scott said it
was like eating at his mom’s,
these Jewish women could
have owned their own
restaurants – his bubby Yetta
did! – as we purred over the
lean brisket, plump golden
potatoes, seven layer salad
like a dobisch torte but made
with peas and onions and
romaine instead – and that
unique sauerkraut dish with
tomato soup and caraway
seeds – no biggie that she
forgot the seeds – and though
she cajoled Scott he refused to
eat dessert. Creamy pumpkin
pie with no crust – why detract
from the flavor with a useless
piece of dough – pizzelles from Hildegund,
garnished with powdered sugar
I blew onto the red tablecloth
and butter pecan ice cream,
Dad's favorite till his tumor took
away his flavor buds.

Although Mom was tired, like a
champion thoroughbred she
knew she could run a little more.
Scott and I led her, arm in arm, to our
car, the perfect night to view the
Christmas lights.

She sat in the front, sunk down in
the seat like a child, as I cruised
slowly from one bejeweled house
to another. Lost in a labyrinth
of houses, Hoffman Lane
had flashing red and white
peppermint drops, running
up the driveway which
switched into greens and
then whites.
What gives? We had no
idea how they did it, just as Mom and I
have no idea if God exists
but we enjoyed the view
all the same.

At home, the perfect night
ended. The sight was
terrible! Say it in French
to make it more horrid.
We drove back to the
house. I’d gone in to
fetch Ellen to help Mom
into the house. When I
returned, she wasn’t there.

Suddenly I found her
in the pitch dark
on the black driveway,
lying face down like
a whooped boxer
without gloves. Scott
stood looking down

One hand was bloodied
trapped beneath her
warm coat. We wondered
with her terrible legs how
she’d ever stand up.

She took control. Stand me
up, she said and hold me.
Ellen and Scott lifted her
into my arms. I stood there
holding my mother, as if
she were a wife whose husband
had just come home from
the second World War.

The stars twinkled up above
and a sliver of moon gazed
upon our own nativity scene.

Ellen lugged the wheelchair
from the garage. We sat
her down. She never said
a mumbling word as we
pushed her, slowly, into
the living room, the loveliest
room in the house, and
lowered her onto the long
flowered couch that followed
us to Pennsylvania from Englewood Cliffs
New Jersey.

We blew kisses good night and I
stole into the kitchen for
one more of Hildegund’s pizzelles.
Our friend Mary Pasorini had
introduced them to us, came
over one afternoon, showed us
how to make them in her
pizzelle iron and said in her
high-pitched voice – she was
86 at the time – “Get one of
your own, Bernice. You have
enough money.”



Girlfriends talk about anything they
please with one another. Their con-
versation is smooth as cream cheese
on Triscuits. The four of us sit in the
third floor kitchen at Martha’s house.
A house filled with the echoes of
her dead ancestors. When she smells
lavender, her mother’s come to

Donna, with luxuriant black hair and
dark eyes, laughs and tells us what
her mother and aunties are doing
“up there.” Carlana at the other
end of the table has had spiritual
experiences, too.

Once, I was asked to fill out a
survey online to talk about
mystical experiences I’d had as
a bipolar woman. Quickly
with a pounding of my mouse,
I got rid of it. Meaning, you’re
no friend of mine. Why should I
trust you with my precious inner

We’ve consumed my birthday dinner,
lasagna that’s smooth, creamy and
tarragon-flavored, crunchy salad with
croutons the size of edible pebbles,
and that layered cake Carlana put
together. The white Angel cake
seemed to levitate on its crystal
cake plate, iced with white frosting
topped with blueberries and strawberries.

With girlfriends, no topic is off limits.
Kindness of husbands and boyfriends – once when
his girlfriend had the menses at college and didn’t
want to see him – he begged to make her tea. They
married later. The humor of men – Go sit on the third
step, said Denny and his Donna roared with laughter.

Hunks, Donna called our men. Have you ever
met with women who had no complaints
against their men?  

Bigelow’s Constant Comment tea – cinnamon
spice – swirled in our cups. I like mine hot.
Not too hot, mind you, or the bump on your tongue
won’t heal for days. I was careful.
Careful too when I drove home, past a house on Allison Road
I wanted to buy. How awful it looked now
with 7 steps to enter the front door. My mama
wouldn’t buy it for me.

Of the many perfect gifts they gave me –
tiny birdlike wind chimes, flowered cup no saucer,
blue menorah, jaunty cards, the one I liked best
was edible, a large tub of Maxwell House Coffee. That
deep blue color Goya would clothe a general in.

How I wanted to make it tonight. You will, said
Scott, I know you. And you’ll be up until dawn.
Girlfriends! You know me. You sing to me. You
hug me and tell me you love me. And call me
“Ruthie” as I look at the blue candelabra and
ask God to bless us all.


Carly and her husband Charlie are night managers at Gloria Dei Farms. She mentioned that one of the apartments is HUGE. She said it belonged to the founder of the Farms, who was also the pastor at Gloria Dei Church. 

Read about the late Pastor Ernie Schmidt here.

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