The day’s hot-the wind like a convection oven
Blows hot air in our faces.
My cap and gown insulates me
Baking me like a potato wrapped in aluminum foil
I desperately fan myself and look around
My eyes search for my peers and see;
The bros that survived school with me;
The others who shouldn't have;
The girls with memories already wet in their eyes;
The people I never met and will never know;
All desperately fanning themselves
In silence and in waiting.
We all are waiting for the same thing-
What's next to come.
For some it will be their names
For another a trip to boot camp
For many including myself- college
A couple can't wait to forget the tortures of high school
And a few will already be planning our high school reunion
because it was the best years of their life.
As I bow my head, not out of sadness,
but out of sheer defeat by the sun,
I scuff up my dress shoes in the clumpy grass of the field-
that just finished another infamous drawn out lacrosse season,
I'll be thinking about the 4 plus years, 8 seasons,
worth of drilling and conditioning I did in that very field and on the surrounding track,
With a flash of ivory across my sweating face
I'll be thinking about
All the nooks and crannies
that I sanctioned for the intimate meetings of my girlfriends
The times caught and not,
All the heartbreaks and rejections,
The friends made, the best friends kept, and the many lost.
The drama, stupidity, and immaturity,
Everything that was and used to be.
And, all this time spent waiting-preparing
for this one moment
You can't help but remember it all
And with one, final sweet goodby-
On this day, I’m sitting in this empty dome, yet to be filled with graduands, reminiscing
Flipping through the images, of my trajectory, stored in my memory.
I remember back then when dad had no money for my school fees
His job was barely enough to keep food on the table; Mom was the breadwinner.
Dad and mom were always arguing; dad was always on the move
But mom kept breathing down his neck.
Dad was visited by a chronic illness and he embarked on that immortal journey
It seemed like everything had fallen apart, but mom kept grinding to ensure I never lacked; and I kept faith too that everything would be alright.
I started working hard to see my dreams through, with my eyes fixed on my goals.
There are many unending walls to be climbed; and tough rows to hoe
Many demons are out soaking up grease in my engine no matter how greasy I try.
Sometimes things don’t always play out the way we forecast
And we don’t make sense to people who always judge our moves
But everything happens for a reason, sometimes beyond our control
That’s what destiny is all about?
I know I’m befuddling your mind now?
Hush don’t worry too much, rest your brain!
When I see how much I’ve grown and what I’ve learnt
It trips me out, though I lay a guilt trip on myself for my aberrations
The destination is still far away, but surely not a cul-de-sac
I’ll keep my heads up, with dad’s words: never give up on yourself
Now I need a mockingbird to sing for my soul on this day.
I was a seventeen year old senior in a coed, catholic high school. Our gym classes however were still all boys and all girls. My senior year we had gym every other day and music every other day in the same time slot. The music classes, therefore, were also all boys or all girls.
She was a twenty-eight year old nun in her first teaching assignment. She was in way over her head. She was about five-foot-four and weighed practically nothing. The nuns in our school no longer wore habits and I remember thinking it was a good thing because she would probably fly away like Sally Fields. If you don’t know what I mean by that then you are too young to be reading my story.
The music class was a mad house. She could not control a room of twenty some boys bound and determined to make her life hell. I mean, music class? Really?
We never did the homework assigned; never answered her questions seriously; never believed her threats at discipline; wouldn’t accept the demerits she tried to hand out; and basically goofed off for the hour that was supposed to be dedicated to learning about music.
For some reason, she seemed too proud or too green or too determined to go to the principal or another teacher for help; and, sensing that, we knew we could get away with our childish behavior and so we did.
One day, a handful of us “got in trouble” and she said she wanted to talk to us after class. I was the only one that actually stayed. She tried to lecture me on my bad behavior but I guess my smirk was evidence it was not sinking in. Then, she started to cry, and for the first time I saw her as a person.
“What am I doing,” she cried. "I can’t do this. I am trying; I am really trying, but I am not cut out for this. Why are you boys so mean and hateful?”
I stood up in front of her not knowing what to do or what to say. I felt like a real jerk. I was a real jerk.
Tears poured down her face, which I finally recognized as being a pretty face. She bowed her head and just sobbed. In my awkward seventeen year old manner, I slowly opened my arms and allowed her to lean into me. And I hugged her while she wept.
At seventeen, I was no ladies’ man, and this crying nun was the first woman I had ever held so close to me. I could feel her breasts pressed against me; the heat emitting from her body; and, the delicate nature of her womanly form in my arms. I knew then that I was destined to go straight to hell for the thoughts that were going through my head and the feelings I felt between my legs.
She pulled away and whispered, “I am so sorry, I should not have done that. You may go.”
I simply said, “You know, you are doing fine, you just have a class of a bunch of butt holes”, and walked out of the room. It was that night that she started coming to see me in my dreams. To hell I go, for sure.
I wish I could tell you I had the moxie and the influence to whip that class into shape, but I did not. The mad house continued with one less student joining in the fun. I tried my best to behave, answer her questions, pay attention and feign interest in the topic of the day – but I was just one in a sea of monsters. I stayed after class and after school a few times to talk with her, ask her how she was doing, and see if I could help in any way. She was actually starting to get the hang of things and was able to focus on the few classes that were willing to learn.
At the end of the school year, I was one of the few students who had not enrolled in a college for the coming year. Because I was one of the better students, it caused a little bit of a fuss and a number of teachers talked to me about the huge mistake I was making taking some time off before going to college. It seems they were all convinced that if I did not start into college in the fall, I was doomed to never go to college. I challenged them by saying what they were really worried about was their statistics of percentage of students who went on to further their education.
During the last day of classes, the music teacher asked me to stay after class. It appears, it was her turn to try to talk some sense into me.
“So, I hear you are not going to college,” she said.
“No, I’m going to college … some day, just not this fall.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know yet. Take some time off. Work. Nothing. I don’t know. Why is it so important to everyone? When the time is right, I’ll go to college.”
“They just care about you.”
“Bull loney,” I said, only it was another word.
She smiled at me. I had been dreaming about her now for six months. I changed the topic.
“Have you ever kissed a boy?”
She laughed, “You know, I grew up the same as every girl in this high school. I did have boyfriends.”
“Yeah, but have you ever kissed a boy,” I challenged.
“No. Not the way you mean.”
“Do you ever wonder what it would be like?”
“No. Never,” she lied.
“If I told you I will register for college if you kiss me, will you?”
“No. I believe you when you say you just need some time off. I think that is a good idea.”
Then she walked up close to me and stopped a heartbeat away. Suddenly, she reached down between my legs, grabbed the crouch of my pants and said, “Just don’t let this thing get you in trouble.”
She abruptly turned and walked out of the classroom while I tried to catch my breath.
During the graduation ceremony I saw her sitting with the other teachers and shared a private smile with her while walking back to my seat after being handed my diploma. I would never see her again … outside of my dreams.
I often think about my high school music teacher and my ticket straight to hell. Unfortunately, I never heeded her advice. That body part of mine she grabbed ahold of for a fleeting second those many years ago, has gotten me in trouble time and time again.
If, for instance.......you might imagine it all...
Do try,... if you can.......
Pretending, perhaps, that it was long ago....
And let's say,...that you were on the brink of discovery,
16 years old, and thinking the world lay at your feet.
It is the last week of your sophomore year,
and we would find you at a graduation party,
mingling with friends, in the dwindling twilight
Let us make it a sparkling, warm evening in June.
Try to imagine, if you can, that over the yard and trees
are strings of little lights, criss-crossed streams of light-beams
twinkling like fireflies, over the patio, over the yard
just as the swarm of summer stars
are waiting to complete the scene...
Someone may have even set up an old phonograph, so there could be dancing....
Say, for instance,..Johnny Mathis was singing "Chances Are"..
And you are entranced, listening,...sipping a coke or something..
Now, imagine this great looking senior boy,...
(whom you had seen around school, but had never met)
..walks over to stand by you..,.... can you picture it...?
And let's just say, your heart is pounding nervously,
and just when you thought you might faint... he asks you to dance!
Of course you'll say yes!!,....Just imagine!!....
Imagine then, you are tongue tied....can hardly catch your breath!
And when the song ends,...he doesn't let go of your hand?!
And just about then, .more music fills the air...
something rare, something beautiful...
Something makes you swoon, it's "Moonglow"...just think about it!
And the rhythm fits the mood..and your feet seem to move on air
And let's say he begins humming softly, and his breath ruffles your hair....
and you close your eyes, he pulls you close, with your head resting with a sigh.....
Then another song, another dance, the phonograph plays on..
And the music blends, and the night is long, and you hope the moment never ends
And let's just say, it is very late
and your parents will be waiting,....
So he asks to walk you home...and you say, ...well..of course you'll say yes!....
And finally....we might have to say..
......well,.......what if..., what if from then on...
he has been the only one who ever,......ever again, walked you home?
We might just say that,......if only,.... if only you can imagine......
True story :)
My daughter was 9 yrs old when my wife and I first separated. I tried to get custody; was
granted joint custody, but the children would physically remain living with their mother.
My career took me to New Jersey. My ex took the children back home with her to Ohio.
Over the next few years my daughter started getting into more and more trouble. Her
school grades were very poor; she was not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities
until they improved; her attendance record was poor; she was spending school nights over at
friends’ houses and skipping school the next day; and, who knows exactly what else?
The reports I received from the teachers, the school councilor, from her mother and from
her siblings had me very concerned. I shared my concerns with my daughter through a
series of long, verbose letters pleading with her to get control of her life before it was too
late. She was smart, talented and a beautiful person but was not applying herself and falling
into bad habits that could ruin a young girls’ life.
After three years I once again sued for custody. This time, it was much more obvious that
the children belonged with their father; I was awarded full custody of all three children.
In high school, my daughter started to excel. Her artistic talents were shining through and
she graduated in the top ten of her Senior class. This father was very proud to send her off
to college knowing she was a bright, mature, well-adjusted young woman.
Four years later, at her college graduation party, after she had opened all her presents, my
daughter announced she had a present for me. She pulled out a stack of well worn papers
and told me that they were the letters I had sent her so many years ago.
She told me she had been saving these letters and constantly rereading them throughout the
years determined to return them to me showing me she could right herself and not go down
the paths I feared. She admitted that she was headed there and probably would have ended
up in the trouble I foresaw had I not fought once more to gain custody.
She thanked me for caring enough to write those letters. She thanked me for caring enough
to not give up on her. She thanked me for continuing my efforts to get custody of her and
her two brothers.
I cannot thank her enough for such a wonderful graduation present.
Grandma's dresser was a testament to time. Elegant in it's curves. Sturdy in it's
A thick piece of plate glass lay atop, to protect the wood surface. Under that glass,
sealed away, yet there to be seen, were pictures and announcements. Mile stones
important to Grandma.
There was a picture of each one of us grand kids when we lost our two front teeth.
Big, gap toothed grins on our young faces. Taken years a part. Yet placed side by
side, under the glass.
Positioned below them was a poem. Written by my Grandfather while they were first
dating. Lovingly kept to be read each day.
Over on the other side of the dresser top, was placed a short newspaper article. The
obituary of her mothers death. next to it lay the program from her funeral. Grandma's
tears, still evident on the parchment.
Towards the middle, was my brothers Certificate Of Graduation from The School For
The Deaf, at the age of five. There had been a newspaper article done on him by the
local daily paper. That picture of him with mother was next to the certificate. He was
proudly wearing his first hearing aids.
A bit of lace from Grandma's wedding dress.
A napkin from a fancy restaurant Grandpa took her to, once.
A flower drawn on brown paper. Given to her on Mother's Day by my mom at the age
Other little photos and bits of life kept to be enjoyed and shared...under that plate
The fear of Public Speaking has been with me always
but never like it was on that June evening so many years ago.
I still get gut wrenching panic when I think about that time,
it really seems like only yesterday....
A late bloomer, extremely shy, it was a horror to be
selected as Valedictorian of my high school class. For weeks
I had trouble sleeping and could barely eat. I knew
disaster was close at hand..
The day of graduation I prayed for a quick death, thought
seriously of faking a terminal illness, and cried all afternoon.
And you know what? It was just a bad as I thought it
My throat closed, I whispered and croaked and didn't say
one coherent thing. Dead silence. Then clapping,
led by my frantic parents. No one ever mentioned the debacle..
but at our ten year reunion I was nominated as the girl
who had changed the most. Oh, that little victory was sweet.
but, dear God, I still remember......
For John Heck's contest..
We met for poetry, found a lively group
occupying our space; Herculaneum
High School Reunion Committee.
They introduced themselves,
offered to move. "No," we said.
"We can use the other end of the room."
Distracted by their excited chatter,
we asked, "What year did you graduate?
1961 . . . your 50th reunion . . . wow."
"You're too young for this," she said.
"No, I graduated in 1953," I said.
"1953! Hey, she graduated in 1953,"
she said. They were astonished.
"You graduated when you were five?"
I thanked them and moved on
to the poetry meeting, floating on air.
cfa © 12/9/2010
Walking across a well-lit stage
I command my sequined graduation cap
stay perched up there!
I instruct my feet,
Gripping my Bachelor’s Degree
I recall the gruff,
Bronx-accented voice of my dad
Forty years ago I received
his high school graduation directive
“daughters ‘ain’t fer college,
‘git a husband, ‘git children.”
Today my father stands on the edge
of a Heavenly cloud,
hands on hips,
grinning at me
I done it anyway dad.
What you ‘tink ‘bout ‘dat?