Esmeralda’s Hair

Esmeralda always had trouble with her hair.  When she was two, her mother cut her hair for the first time.  It was so short her ears froze when she went outside.  It was so short it stuck straight up on her head.  It was so short people sometimes thought she was a boy.  Her mother tried to put bows in her hair with gel which looked very silly.  One day she walked up to her mother, put her hands on her hips and announced, “No more haircuts, never, never never”!

Her hair grew.  Soon it covered her ears.

A few weeks later Esmeralda was able to put bows in her hair without looking silly.

It reached her shoulders.  Esmeralda put barrettes in her hair, but they got lost, and she never removed them.  Her mother said, “You have to brush your hair and keep it neat if you want it long.”  Esmeralda just nodded and went back to playing.

As it grew, she liked to put her hair on top of her head, so Esmerelda pinned it up with chopsticks but never bothered to take them out.  They drooped and clacked as she moved.

Her hair grew so long her mother tried to braid it, but tangles got in the way.  Esmeralda never combed it, and it fell down her back in snarls and tangles.  Esmeralda’s teacher, Mrs. Cleanwick, spoke to the class about the importance of brushing their hair, pointing at the messy heap on top of Esmeralda’s head.

It grew so long it reached her waist.  Esmeralda liked to separate it in two and tie it into a bow at her neck.  One day Esmeralda and her friend had a fight.  They were so angry that they grabbed burdocks growing nearby and smashed them into each other’s hair.  Her friend took the burdocks out, Esmeralda didn’t.  Esmeralda’s mother just shook her head when she saw her.  The burdocks scratched her cheeks as she slept.

Soon she could sit on her hair.  She tried to brush her hair one day but the brush got stuck in the tangles, and she left just it there.

One night when she was sleeping, Teensy the mouse saw her hair dusting the floor and skittered up.  He made a home and each night brought back treasures he found during the day, jittering about his adventures in her ear as she dreamed.

When she was swinging at the playground, Esmeralda’s hair swept the ground, leaving the earth neat and her hair littered with twigs and clumps of dirt.

Her hair grew down to her knees.  One day Mama Bird flew by and decided her hair would be an excellent place to build a nest.  Pretty soon three chicks hatched.

Esmeralda sometimes liked having the birds but Mama Bird was always squawking, the chicks were always chirping and the worms Mama Bird brought back to her chicks that sometimes fell in her hair and squiggled down her neck.  Paying attention to school with all the noise was hard.

Jasper a little, brown chipmunk looking down from a tree thought her hair would make a wonderfully soft home to come to each day, jumped down and burrowed deep with his paws.

Esmeralda’s hair grew down on her toes.  She kept tripping as she walked.  Mama Bird squawked angrily at her because she scared the chicks. Jasper, the chipmunk, jittered at her to be careful.

One day her cat, Nubs, noticed the mouse, birds, and squirrel jumped on top of Esmeralda’s hair and stared at the smaller creatures.  It was a difficult load to carry.

The next door neighbor’s dog, Buster, saw Nubs in her hair and started jumping against Esmeralda. She had to run inside to hide.

Esmeralda went to school the next day to find her teacher, Mrs. Cleanwick had called Officer Brown from the Animal Control department.  Officer Brown gave a talk about the importance of not bringing animals to school unless the teacher was asked first.

The animals were making so much noise that Esmeralda had to sit in the school hall because the other kids in the class were so distracted.

When she and her friends climbed up a pine tree, Esmeralda’s hair got trapped in the branches leaving her hanging stuck in the air.  Sap from the tree clung to her hair. Little pine needles were everywhere, tickling and itching her.  She looked and felt like a fly trapped in a spider’s web.  It took a whole day and two of her best friend’s help to get her free.

In fits of frustration the animals skittered and chittered and slid down the tree, running off to find new homes.

That was it!  She ran home to her mother and cried “Cut my hair. PLEASE!!!”  Her mother started cutting . . . Out came a branch from a tree, twigs from the playground, the mouse’s treasures, the bird’s nest, the squirrels home, and clumps of dirt from the swings.  Next came the chopsticks, burdocks, barrettes and bows that had gotten lost, sap and pine needles from the tree she was stuck in, the brush that got stuck and hundreds and hundreds of snarls and tangles.

Esmeralda’s new haircut fell to her shoulders fell in soft waves.  Her mother brushed until it gleamed and put a bright bow in it.  She looked in the mirror and liked who she saw.  She promised herself she would always keep her hair neat and clean . . . And she did.

What Is The Church?

Within the building a musty odor clings to the air,
There are cracks on the ceiling,
The nave has been closed for years
because so much of it is unsafe.
Every penny we have goes to the roof
and all other repairs.

But I remember running through the balconies,
Sunday school lessons with many children
My father’s rich voice from the altar –
and others before and since,
the beautiful organ with all those pipes
and the music it stirred within the soul.

Couples have married here, babes baptized,
countless communions, church dinners,
fairs, thrift shops, and food pantry days.

Now the congregation as dwindled
so many being in their elder years
members for thirty or more years
wanting to die here as they lived here but
the organ is silenced – no money for repairs

What is a church really?
A place of worship
or a place to be worshipped?
A place for the few
or a place where the few
give to many – spreading the faith
that has brought them such comfort.

We may be the few now –
but God and his grand plan
are calling us – asking us to listen
to the depths of our hearts.

To know that just as Jesus died on the cross,
disciples were executed and exiled,
and even today, some Christians have to hide
in the woods, basements, away from prying eyes,
to practice the religion- without books or other paraphernalia
– we have been privileged to have this building.

A church need not be a fortress
holding people in, keeping people out.
Imposing, Magnificent, Intimidating.

Jesus authorized his disciples to go forth
with just the clothes on their backs,
taking nothing with them as they
proclaimed his message to the world.

But we would not get far
with these boards and mortar on our backs
our voices would be crushed by the stones.
Jesus said take nothing.

But a church is not a building, it is the people
and what those people are doing
to strengthen their faith
and to make the hard decisions.

What would Christ have us do?
That is where Christianity lies.

Prime Time

Sometimes words need to be spoken.
Not for posterity or fame
but to be one voice in the vast wilderness
of the cacophony of noise.

Perhaps I’m so shell-shocked
because of my traumatic brain injury
and bipolar issues . . .
the need for silence, surcease of pain.

Still, I need to be with people,
ones who understand,
who don’t question me
or condemn my behavior.
Perhaps in limited doses –
but it is essential to me.

Prime Time gives me that.
No judgment, no shame.
Friends and guides . . .
ones to help me down my path
to remind me there is one
and I have a necessary place on it.

Saying Goodbye

As I stand here today, I can’t reconcile the fact that my  Mom
has died against the woman I knew. She was a force to be
reckoned with, a force of Nature, and the quintessential
matriarch. I hurtled myself at her thousands of times yet
she stayed strong, unwavering. A mother. I didn’t realize
how much I would miss her until now when its too late.
The woman I saw on Monday evening was not the woman
I knew in this life. Her spirit was gone and we all knew
how much a woman she was.

She gave me many things in this life – helped me when I
needed, definitely more than she should have. She encour-
aged me to be a strong woman . . something that was an
inside job for me but not often an outside one. There was
no way I could fill her shoes – One sister is the mirror
of her and fit to walk in her shoes. My other sisters and I
were either more like my father or fierce individuals.
I was her antithesis.  

But even in this I defined myself by her measure.

 My sisters and  aunt and I stood around her hospital
bed and solemnly swore we wouldn’t followed the
same health choices she did. We agreed we would be
closer to each other. Some of that has come true,
some not.

 After she died, I moved to California to be close to my
children. I just didn’t realize they would not feel the same
about me.

My medical issues soon made a burden to my son.  My daughter
was out of the country.  Finally, I realized I had to go back to Con-
necticut  to be where family could help me out when needed and
where I was wanted.

In the course of looking for a new apartment, I had the opportunity
to stay in my  mom’s bedroom for two months. I saw her life and
the things  that comprised it. My anger slowly dissipated, as I
could feel hers do and we made peace.

Our relationship had always been a tough one. A reason
I moved to California was to put as much distance between
us as possible or I didn’t think I would survive.  She was a
remarkable, powerful woman and I had just been too
angry to  see all the remarkable things about her.

I miss her, I have grown and I think she would  be proud
of me now.

Family Relations


Looking back from this not so distant future,
The bed and its occupants glow –
All anger and distrust and hurt gone –
for now, this period of time;
gentle voices, soft laughter and tears mingle freely.
washing away old animosities at this time of parting.

In the face of the task –
to ease this frail, overused body
to relinquish its claim on the radiant soul within
all else fades

Caught up in the normalcy of daily living,
time rushes past and we fail to hear
the heart’s true message from one to another.

It is only in this parting, so full of pain and sorrow,
that such pettiness can be lifted.
His life was dedicated to healing hearts –
and in his final hours, he defies expectations,
and created a surcease of souls’ angst
intertwining embittered hearts and bringing peace.


When as little children,
we received those admonitions,
shaming reproaches, spankings,
picking our own switches for crimes committed
do our unborn young
still recessed in inner cavities
flinch from that wounding?
At which point is the DNA encoded,
decreeing that one child be victim
to another’s aggressor?
Such fools are we to believe
our actions are harmless
when our unborn
carry our legacies
before they are even conceived!

Battle of the Bulge and 9/11

Winter During the Battle of the Bulge (1944-1945)

,This poem was written by Frank Whitmarsh. It, and the one following seemed particularly appropriate to today.

After a day’s combat
I still see these scattered bodies in the snow
Lifeless wax statues
Newly cast Venus de Milos
Expressions frozen for eternity
With their nascent moments of fear and panic
Or maybe love
All to be stored in Death’s locker room
Like unaccompanied baggage.
Could these be models for
Some future Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Paris
To be gawked at by the hordes
Of indifferent tourists?

March 15, 2015
Inspired by my experience during the Battle of the Bulge in
the Ardennes – Winter 1944-1945

Reflections on Where I was on 9/11

9/11 was one of those cataclysmic moments when
time seemed to stand on is head. In years to come,
we would ask each other where were you on 9/11 – or as
an earlier generation might ask – where were you on
12/7/41 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and
WWII was about to begin for the U.S.

As for myself on 9/11, I was leisurely walking down
the streets of Paris when I heard the news on television.
We raced to the television on time to see the second
tower collapsing with our first thoughts naturally being
the safety of our loved ones.

Who, why, where, when became our collective
stunned amazement.

One of the things that struck me was the outpouring
of affection that the French had for the Americans. We
were all together and the spirit of Lafayette prevailed.

Frank Whitmarsh

As for me, living in Connecticut, with young children, I saw the entire
horrific nightmare again and again and again.  My family and friends
would point out details the others might not have seen.  There was a
shock that rippled through the entire country.  No one really felt safe.
We, in our insular, isolated country found out yet again how easy it
really was to touch us.  The fervor of patriotism stirred and all I could
do was feel grateful my children were too young to engage in the
battles about to ensue.  I wanted to volunteer, to give my best, but
respiratory issues kept me away from Ground Zero. And increasingly we are finding the enemy is within – we need look no further than out our doors.
God must be shedding huge tears watching the nightmare below.
I honor those that lost their lives that fateful day. And tremble for
the days to come.


A friend once said
he is a creature of raw abandon,
exuding sexual pheromones
like an animal marking his territory,
making her want to grab him by the hair,
pull him into an alley
and do it to him, raw and hard.

I laughed but lacked understanding,
refined tastes had I
no primitive animal
was going to pound his way into me.
Give me the esoteric, the spiritual,
the “nice” guys who grovel,
always asking first before taking,
like children before the candy jar.

He offered soft whispers of desire,
I turned him down,
politely saying I was not
of that mind.
A massage said he,
to soothe raw nerves, undo your knots,

Well . . . . . . . . .
undid the knots did he,
one moment coolly professional,
the next changing in rhythm,
leaning over to kiss sacred places
others usually need to be led to,
in raw flesh games.
and offered a slave bracelet,
made himself – a beautiful, expensive trinket,
no matter, I’ll just make more.

My knots untied, no said I –
offer again when it is not payment
for services rendered,
in dark rooms, atop tables, in primeval
urgings and lustful moans.
And dressing before it might begin again,
I scurried to my car, breathed a sigh of relief
as I drove away,
his guitar serenading
the roar of my engine.

Confusion and Hope

I , watch their faces, see their broken bodies, hear the rambling
of their minds . . . Terrified as I am of developing dementia I see
the souls of these people still shining – maybe only a flutter or ,
or occasional blink. Its still there until the end.

When my father died, he had lost that light long before.  A
singer at heart, he would spend his days rolling out one song
after another.  Slowly the number of songs shrank.  Then the
words . . . until all that was left was a wavering hum. It was a
sorrow more than any other. For all his flaws and mistakes,
and the many goodness’ he gave, loosing the voice of his
wisdom, his ability to listen, really listen . . . and his gentle
spirit – his fathering and ability to be a good husband, left huge
holes in my life.

I had dementia myself for a year due to medication conflicts.  It
scared the hell out of me and my children. I still have cognitive
conflicts due to brain trauma. I’ve made it clear I want to die if it
increases.  I do not want to be a burden to my family and need my

Yet some of these people are funny, many are so full of knowledge
if you can just tap into it. They have their personalities and some led
amazing and powerful lives. They are caring in the midst of their own

There’s Carol – trying to clean dishes and tables even though she
has a broken arm and hip. She wanders the hallways, notes when
others need help or are lonely. And she follows the aides and nurses
around like a lost puppy, babbling away.

But Rose is also here. Horribly confused, miserable, tears dripping
down her face as she cries for help to go to the bathroom 10 or more
nightly while I drag myself out of bed to press her call button and try to
calm her down. She doesn’t know herself anymore, how she appears
to others, what her life is like. Others near her are pushes to the edge.

I’ve know people who were the Director of the Board of the Metropolitan
Opera House, the couple who originated Pocket Parks in New York and
throughout cities in the US. I’ve taken care of the female Trailblazer on
Wall Street who is now deeply damaged by Alzheimer’s, the Corporate
President of highly successful businesses.  There are authors, including
one who has written over 30 books as a Professor of History. I know an
opera singer who doesn’t talk anymore. Its crushing.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease. For a long time, they know they are
loosing the best of themselves and are scared, paranoid.  They reach
a point where they may get aggressive. They will look in the mirror and
not know who that person is.  And in the end, it can reach a point when
there is no motion no recognition of others much less themselves.

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