Tag Archives: high school memories

Locking Up Candy Saves the Day!

2 Mar

The locked candy was kept on the bottom left side.

My Dad loved to eat candy.  He absolutely had a sweet tooth.  And he could not stop once he got started!  The only way my mother could stop him was to keep the candy locked up in the breakfront/curio cabinet in the dining room.  The key, which was beautiful and ornate, was kept it hidden from him.

To be honest, I think my brother and I knew where the key was from an early age. But we also knew not to take it or to eat the candy.  Mom had a strong knowledge of what was in the cabinet.  She had been keeping a strict eye on Dad and the candy ever since she had a mah jong game at our home, inviting four friends over to play, and when she went to put out the treats, almost all the candy was gone. She was so annoyed that she started locking up the candy in the bottom part of the breakfront, where you could not see what was inside.

Baked goods were not a problem. Our grandfather was a baker, so there was often cakes and bread in the house.  It was delicious and kept us filled with delights.  But I guess for my Dad it was not enough.  Candy was his downfall.  Thus, my Mom rarely purchased any and when she did, she locked it away.

The locked candy worked for us as well, especially when our home was robbed.  There was a rash of robberies in North Bergen that year along the Boulevard East corridor. The police had even put notices on the front doors of homes in the area.  We had been fine.  We really thought no one would enter our house, because our elderly landlady, who lived on the second floor, was often home.   But eventually the thieves came to our home.

My brother and I were students at North Bergen High School at the time.  Luckily, he arrived home before me and found the giant mess.  The police thought he interrupted the thieves as our stereo and television were left hanging, actually hanging from their wires.. The police also thought the thieves went out one door while my brother came in the other.  My parents  were less concerned about the burglary because the police were so happy that my brother was safe.  They felt we were lucky that my brother was not injured!  This left quite an impression on us.  We were  careful about opening the door and entering the house for years!

But the burglary was intense!  The thieves trampled through our home.  Searching through everything. Emptying out the closets and the drawers.  It was a disaster and took quite awhile to put back into order!  For me the idea that someone had rummaged through my clothes, my underwear,  horrified me.  I had to wash everything before I would wear it again.  What bothered me the most however, is that they stole my moon landing necklace.  I had a lovely round silver disc that showed Tranquility Base and spot where the lunar lander had settled, which my Dad bought me in 1969.  It was one of my prized possessions.  I only wish I had worn it to school that day in 1970, the spring of my sophomore year of high school.

My parents’ closet and dressers were totally emptied.   It was an enlightening moment for my younger sister.  In 1963, at the World’s Fair, my parents had purchased a 45 record of “It’s A Small World After All” for her.  My sister listened to it constantly.  Finally, my Mom could not take it anymore.  She hid the record in the closet and told my sister she accidentally broke it when she was cleaning.  Imagine my sister’s surprise when she spied the record, totally intact, on the floor.  That, at least, gave us all a moment of delight in the middle of cleaning and anguish.  Well maybe my sister was not delighted.  And perhaps my Mom felt a bit guilty.  But my father, brother and I had a great laugh.

However, the best of all was the locked candy, which actually saved the day.  The breakfront had two locked doors.  On one side was the candy.  On the other side was our Mom’s jewelry and some other important items.

The thieves did their best.  They pried open one door. Destroying the locks and damaging the door.  All they found were bags of candy that they emptied out on the floor.  I wish I could be there when they searched and found nothing but candy.  They must have thought we were crazy people locking up candy.

The good news is that they did not even attempt to open the other door. They left it locked.  Leaving all my mom’s valuables behind.  From that point on, locking up candy took on new meaning as it had saved us from losing many more important items.

It took a while to get the breakfront fixed.  No more locked candy.   My parents also found another place to keep the jewelry.   But we never forgot how that the locked up candy saved the day.  To be honest, whenever I go to visit my sister in New Jersey, I look at the breakfront and remember its importance in saving our valuables during a burglary.



What I Learned in My High School Typing Class Has Helped Throughout My Life

24 Sep

When I attended North Bergen High School in the 1970s, I took both a typing class and a short hand class. I did not want to. Typing and short hand classes were for the students who were not going on to college. And I knew that I would go to college. But my Mom made me take them.

“You never know when you might take a job that requires typing,” she said, and added: “These are good skills to learn.” I argued back, but obviously I lost.

My MOM insisted. So I took those two classes when I was a freshman in high school. I think one of the teachers was Miss Wirt. It was not the most exciting class for me, but by the end of the semester, I could touch type to the required words per minute without too many errors.  Being in class with good typists was a bit intimidating (As my friend Shashi reminded me). I will remind everyone that typing on a typewriter was much different than typing on a computer keyboard.  First there was the click clack of the keyboard.  You could tell how fast someone was typing by how quickly the clicks and clacks came together.

I did use these typing skills when I was on the staff of Paw Prints, the school’s newspaper. We had to type all of the stories into columns for them to be put into the layout and then copied and printed. I learned out to measure the space and fit the letters/words into the space correctly. A skill that came in handy much later in my life.

I have to say that my Mom was right. I will tell you that the skills I learned in the typing class have stayed with me forever. It is almost as if my Mom had telepathy and knew that eventually typing would be a much appreciated and required skill for college students.

Thanks to my typing classes, I excelled in my college and graduate school classes in the sense that my typed papers had very few typos and/or needed corrections. While I had friends who often had to hire someone to type their papers, I was set with my little typewriter.

In fact, only once in all of my undergraduate college career did someone type a paper for me. But there was a reason. My very last college paper at Drew University was due when I had an accident involving one of my eyes. After a long visit in an emergency room, I realized I could not type this paper since I had a large patch over my eye. Luckily for me, I had a great friend, Shari, who lived in the same dorm and was my savior. She typed the entire paper that evening in time for my morning class.

Later when I went on to graduate school, for journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, my parents bought me the most wonderful gift, a self-correcting typewriter. This was the best typewriter available with a second ribbon of white out, so you could just back up, lower the white-out ribbon, and then cover the error and then retype. Amazing what was wonderful in the days before word processors and computers.

My typing class made it possible for me to complete my master’s degree exam in plenty of time. We had to answer four questions and had one hour to write the answer essays. They had to be typed. So as we thought out our answer, we had to actually type instead of write. I came to the exam with my typewriter and ribbons and succeeded.

This typewriter was also an important part of my Master’s Thesis, as I could easily correct mistakes.     Writing a thesis before computers was a nightmare. You had to estimate how much space to leave for footnotes. Getting everything perfect took experience and spatial coordination. As I said earlier, many people had to hire someone to type their thesis. But not me, as I knew how to type and I knew how to make words fit. Thank you Miss Wirt! Thank you Mrs. Whitehouse and my Paw Prints work!

The short hand class taught me the basics of taking quick notes using some symbols. Knowing a few of these symbols came in handy when I did an interview. I could write quickly by not writing all the words and using short hand instead.   Thanks to my Mom insisting that I take this class, my interviews as a grad student in journalism were always accurate. Yes I had a tape recorder as well. But some people did not like to be recorded. So accurate note taking was important.

I will admit that I have forgotten most of these symbols. And when I look at short hand symbols today they look like hieroglyphics. But when I was in graduate school I was so happy that I had an advantage.

Although I do not use the short hand, my touch typing skills are something I use every day for work and for pleasure. I am using those skills as I type and write this blog!

With the advent of computers, everyone needs to know how to use a keyboard.   Today touch typing, or as it is now known – keyboarding — is a skill that children are taught in elementary school. If you cannot type, you cannot use a computer successfully. Although probably in a few years, people will just talk to their computers and to have their thoughts put down, just as we talk to our smart phones to type a short message to someone.

It is amazing what a good teacher can help a student learn. I went into my typing class with a chip on my shoulder, not wanting to take it. I came out with a skill that has been with me for over 40 years. What I learned in typing class has helped me throughout my life.

Happily Playing Stickball In the Middle of the Street

21 May

Today’s Moms tell their children constantly, “Don’t play in the street.” But where I grew up in North Bergen, New Jersey, in the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, we almost always played in the streets. It is not that our Moms said, “Go play in the street.” It was more, “Get outside and play!” And the street was the place to go.

It was a common event to see a group of children racing the bases in a heated game of stickball, running in the street. We often had ten or more involved in the game.

On our block, 78th Street between Boulevard East and Park Avenue, we had an upward battle to our game as we lived on a hill. So playing stickball was even more difficult. Hitting the ball and running uphill was a challenge. But we had fun.

I cannot tell you how many windows were broken over the years, but I remember at least two. When a window was smashed, we all went running. Eventually the truth came out.

But I can tell you that our mothers never told us to get out of the street. It was the cars that had to be careful, not the children. People expected the streets to be teeming with activity.

Stickball was played with a broomstick and a pink rubber ball (Spaulding High Flyer, my brother says), or whatever ball happened to be available. We had designated bases that changed each day we played depending on who parked where. A certain car, a telephone pole, a manhole cover, all of these could be named designated bases.

But besides stickball, the street was also the site of football, hide and seek, hopscotch, and any other game that needs a space to run.

I have to say that my favorite ‘street’ story of all concerns my brother. I know he was in high school, because he was already tall. He grew to about six feet. And that is what caused his problem. If he had been shorter, he probably would not have been hurt.

We were playing in the street My brother and his friend were playing football.  Tossing a ball back and forth across the street, in the street on the sidewalk.  But not just tossing, throwing it hard.   My brother caught the ball and turn to run, unbeknownst to him, a volkswagen had parked right where he turned to run.  Usually that car went into the garage, but this time it just was on the sidewalk.

My brother says, “So Jack throws me the ball and I spin to run, never expecting a car to be in the driveway and slam right into the car. Volkswagen’s at that time had a rain guard over the door that was steel. I hit my lip right into this and it split. Spilling lots of blood and needing two stitches.”

There was blood; lots of blood. I have since learned, as a parent, that the face bleeds much more that any part of the body. And my brother’s face was filled with blood, as was the street and the Volkswagen.

Luckily that day a parent was home. I do not say this sarcastically. We would come home from school by ourselves. Make a snack by ourselves and go out to play by ourselves. It was the same way for almost all the kids on the block.

Many other accidents occurred over the years.   I remember many of them, like when my brother’s friend got his hand caught in between a bunch of nails on a piece of wood.  Yes he did. It was a weird accident. My parents took him to the hospital, as his parents were not home.  He was holding the wood on his lap all the way and into the emergency room.

There was one grandma who lived on the block, and she was often the one to wipe away the blood and check to make sure the injured child would survive. She was there the day my sister’s front teeth were knocked out and took care of my sister till my Mom got home. We had some adult supervision. But with so many children on the block, any parent who was home took care of any issues that occurred…issues sometimes being arguments or sometimes being injuries! No one ever argued if a parent disciplined someone else’s children or took care of them.

But I digress. One this day, our parents were home. And my brother was taken to the emergency room at North Hudson Hospital. I was not there, but I have heard that the conversation went something like this:

“How did you get hurt?” The doctor asks.

“I ran into a car,” my brother responds.

“You mean a car ran into you. You got hit by a car,” the doctor says.

“NO, I mean I ran into a car playing stickball,” my brother was honest. “The car was parked. The car did not hit me. I hit the car.”

The doctor then had to laugh. I believe he even said something like, I have never had to stitch a kid who hit a car before.

My brother was fine. He had to get stitches in his face. But that was nothing new for him. He had had stitches before from when he played Superman off the front stoop when we lived on Third Avenue in North Bergen, and another time when a wooden train piece hit him in the head.

He came home with a great story to tell. We all heard about the doctor who thought he got hit by a car!

The next day my brother was back at playing stick ball and other games in the street. Games did not end because of one minor injury. We continued to happily play stickball in the middle of the street for years.


Having My Childhood Neighbor As My Physic Teacher Was a Challenge

5 Apr

In the Kansas City Star today there was an article about a man who has searched for some of his high school teachers to thank them for all they had done for him. This article made me think of one of my teachers. Not to thank him, but to ‘sort of’ apologize for a bit of misbehaving.   There was a reason! Imagine if your neighbor became your teacher!

My home from fourth gra

My home from fourth grade till I married.  Bobbie’s home is just past the parking area.

Growing up on 78th Street near Boulevard East, in North Bergen, we had wonderful neighbors. We knew all the children on the block, and we often played stickball in the street after school and on weekends. Everyone knew everyone else. It was a community.

Our next-door neighbor going up the hill was the DeSocio family. The son, Bobbie, was about six years older than I. So although he was part of the community, he really did not hang out with the kids on the street. But of course we all knew him.   And he was part of the teasing and kidding that went on daily.

When I was about 12, and he was 18, he helped my brother and his friend, Jack, put me upside down into a garbage can. Bobbie was raking leaves. And the three boys thought it would be funny to dump me in. I did not find it so amusing. From that point on, I saw Bobbie as an adversary instead of my friend. He had joined the boys!

The next fall Bobbie went on to college: Steven’s Institute of Technology, which was in Hoboken. Not far from home. I believe he earned both a BS and an MS in physics.

During these years, we really did not have much contact with him. My Dad and his Dad would talk. And we would hear about what he was doing at dinner. Sometimes he would come by and we would wave. My parents talked to him the most. I think my brother, who was a bit closer to his age, and two-years ahead of me in school also talked to him. My brother actually got his master’s at Steven’s Tech, years later.

But then life changed. I was a senior in North Bergen High School. I was a good student and active in many school activities but focusing on the school newspaper and yearbook. However I did take physics and I loved it.

When we returned from winter break something had changed. They had divided our physics class. Some of the students stayed with the original teacher and some of us were put into a class with a new teacher. Someone just starting out; someone named Mr. DeSocio. Yes BOBBIE! And guess whom he got in his first class? Yes, ME!

I cannot imagine how he felt when he saw me walk into his class. But I know how I felt. Bobbie is my teacher! Impossible. I really did not know what to do or how to act. So I acted with all the maturity of an 18 year old. I totally goofed off. I giggled. I laughed. I really could not take him seriously.

I do not know why he did not request that I be put into the other class. But he did not.

However, I do know what happened in my home. I think my Dad and his Dad had a little talk over the back yard fence. And I got the parental lecture. I was in BIG trouble.

I was to treat Bobbie with respect at school and I was to call him Mr. DeSocio. When he was over at the house, I could call him Bobbie. But at school I could not. I could not tell my friend’s any Bobbie stories. I had to treat him just like any other teacher.

The parent lecture worked. I started behaving. I listened in class. It took about a month for me to calm down. And yes, I believe I had an A in physics.

But years later, I taught high school journalism in a small private school. Although none of my students were my peers, many were the children of my friends. And later, some were friends of my daughter. It was a bit difficult. And I often thought back to North Bergen High School and Bobbie.

I wondered if Bobbie continued teaching. I know he did for a while because my younger sister attended North Bergen High School until 1976, and he was still there. In fact she also had him as her physic teacher. But since she was so much younger, there was not the same issues that I had faced. I also found a yearbook listing on line that showed he was still there in 1978. Did that semester having me in his class toughen him up for anything?

In reality, I was really not that bad. (Although my sister disagrees, she says I was terrible. ) In 1973 there was a decorum that had to be followed. I loved high school and I loved learning. I did learn physics from Bobbie. So in the end, I guess we worked it out to everyone’s advantage…. I hope. But I will say that having my neighbor as my physics teacher was a challenge!

Is Lassana Bathily, The French Hero, a Lamed Vovnik?

16 Jan

Since I was a teen, I hoped that I could be a Lamed Vovnik, one of the 36 righteous or just people who keep balance to the world. Of course in Jewish mysticism, the 36 are men. But in my modern mind, I believe that a woman has just as much chance of being one of these 36 special people as any one else.

I first learned of the Lamed Vovnik legend when I read the Holocaust novel, The Last of the Just, by Andre Schwarz-Bart. This book had a tremendous impact on my life. As I read about these two just men and the trials they suffered, I felt a kinship. I felt a need to bring good into the world.

The important belief about the Lamed Vovnik is that these righteous people do not know they are part of this elite group. So I thought, “What if everyone acted as if they were one of the Lamed Vovnik? What if we all practice looking for the good? What if we all do good deeds?”

And that is how I live my life. I try to find something good in everything that happens. Every event is a learning experience. Every one I meet teaches me something.

I focus on the positive, just as I think a righteous person should. I focus on the spark of God that is inside each one of us. I try to do gemulat chasidem, good deeds. I try to work on tikun olam, repairing the world. Just as I think a Righteous Lamed Vovnik would work.

That there are 36 righteous people is important. Each Hebrew letter has a number attached to it. The letters for the number 18 are Het and Yod. These two letters together form the word, Chai, or Life. So many Jewish people present gifts to someone in multiples of 18. There are 36 righteous Lamed Vovnik, which is twice Chai, twice life.

As I watched the events unfolding in France; when I heard of the wonderful deeds of Lassana Bathily, the Muslim worker in the Kosher market, I thought “Could he be a Lamed Vovnik? Could he be bringing balance to the world?”

Think: upstairs in the grocery as Black Muslim man was shooting and killing Jews just because they were Jewish.   He killed four. But two stories below a Black Muslim man was saving Jewish people, hiding them in a freezer. Balance!

Upstairs and man was hiding from the police. Downstairs, a man made the decision to go to the police to tell them about the Jews hiding downstairs. Balance!

He left the building. It took time for the police to believe. And thanks be to God, they did.

With him was a key to the metal gate, as well as in his mind a key to the layout of the store.

Lassana Bathily brought balance, love and righteousness to a horrible situation.

To me he is a Lamed Vovnik, a righteous man. A guttah neshumah, a good soul. And a mensch, a man of high standing.

Baruch Dayan haEmet . May the names of those who perished always be for a blessing. But the name of Lassana Bathily is also a blessing because he provided safety for those who lived. The spark of God within him shines!

A Night in the Hospital Used To Be a Nightmare for Children

26 Oct


My actual Candy Striper Hat from the early 1970s.  I had to wear it at the hospital.

My actual Candy Striper Hat from the early 1970s. I had to wear it at the hospital.

When I was a sophomore at North Bergen High School I volunteered as a Candy Striper at North Hudson Hospital on Park Avenue, in Weehawken, New Jersey. For about a year I went once or twice a week after school or on the weekend to work mainly in the children’s wing, doing whatever the nursing staff requested. I also made origami animals for the children in the wards.

In those days there were strict visiting hours. Parents could not spend the day, much less the night with their children. And children were often lonely and scared. Since I was allowed there at times other than visiting hours, I could visit with the children. Making the origami figures cheered them up. I always gave my creations to the children when I was done. I worked enough hours to earn my 100-hour pin and more.

My volunteering came about because of my sister and my own experience in the hospital. When I was six, I had tonsillitis. For months I had tests and blood tests. They told my parents I had leukemia, which then was a death sentence. It turned out that I only had tonsillitis. What a relief! But I needed my tonsils out!

I remember my Dad taking me to the hospital in the morning and promising to be with me all the way. But after the nurses took me on the gurney to the elevator, my Dad was left behind when the elevator doors closed. I remember screaming for him all the way to the operating room.

I was traumatized. So was my Dad. He told me years later that he would hear the sound of my screaming in his dreams.

Because of this horrible experience, when my own daughter needed surgery when she was six, I looked for options.   Things had changed over the years, but most important I am married to a pediatrician.   We knew the surgeon and the anesthesiologist. My husband was allowed to scrub in and go with our daughter into the operating room. Once she was under the anesthesia he had to leave. But at least she was not alone, like I was so many years before.

It was not only this event that made me want to be a Candy Striper. I was hospitalized several times as a child for bronchitis, which I found out later in my life, was asthma. Those few days alone in the hospital without my parents, except for short visits were horrible. Scared and alone, I would often cry.

But the worst was my sister. When she was in elementary school she had an emergency appendectomy.   The surgery went fine, but they put her in a room with other children and she developed all sorts of diseases: strep throat, a staph infection and more. She was in the hospital for over two weeks.

It was a horrible time for my family. I remember my parents crying and worrying. They were only allowed in the hospital for a short period two or three times a day. Traveling back and forth was difficult. My parents were both working. My brother and I were not allowed to see her, as children were not allowed in the hospital.   I remember going there one time and sitting in the car in the parking lot. My Mom went upstairs and my sister waved to us from the window, we got out of the car and waved back.

My sister finally came home. But she was home from school for another two weeks. We were a totally stressed out family by this point. Everyone was on edge and scared. That two-week period is nothing compared to what other families faced. Not being able to be there made it so much worse!

Life is so much better now that parents able to visit their sick child in the hospital whenever they like, even to spend the night with them. Not that anyone should get sick. But at least if they are sick, parents are allowed all the access they need and want. Children’s hospitals do all they can to make hospitalizations as easy as possible. Bright colors and decorations make the hospital look cheerful. The scary old look of hospitals is eliminated as much as possible in today’s children’s hospitals.

Another change is the limited time spent in the hospital. When I had my tonsils out in 1961, I spent two nights in the hospital. When my daughter had her surgery she was sent home that evening, partly because my husband would be home in case of an emergency. But even if she stayed, it would have been for less than 24 hours. (I will admit that I spent the night on the floor of our daughter’s bedroom.)

Part of the reason for the limited hospital stay is exactly what happened to my sister. Patients in the hospital have infectious and contagious diseases. It is best not to be around them. Now children have private rooms with space for the parents to stay. Then my sister was in a room with at least one other child at all times. There was no room for parents. And the other occupant could spread disease.

So with this history, as soon as I was of the right age, I volunteered at the North Hudson Hospital to help children. I had a great time for about a year. Then something happened. All I knew is that I was in the office of the head of volunteering and my Dad came to get me.   I honestly did not remember what happened, except that I was sick to my stomach.

I never went back to the hospital after that. And I decided I never wanted to be a nurse or a doctor. (I still think it is strange that I married a doctor.) But I kept my Candy Striper hat because I was proud of what I had done.

Years later, I was telling my daughter about being a Candy Striper and how I loved being with the children. She asked why I stopped. I told her I really did not know. My Dad happened to be with us during this conversation. He said, “You don’t remember? You went into the wrong room. A man had, who had been in a car accident, died, and you passed out.”

No wonder why I have always hated the sight of blood and disliked going to the hospital. It all made sense. But I am glad I volunteered for the time I did.

Luckily for me, my children never had to spend the night at a hospital. But over the years, many of my friends’ children have had surgeries or have had to spend a night. I am so glad their experiences are so much better than they were in the 1960s! I am so glad that parents and family can visit and give the children the love and support that they need. I am glad that it no longer is a nightmare for children who are sick to spend the night in the hospital.

The Ghost In The Basement: A True Ghost Story

23 Oct

When I was 9, my family moved from one side of North Bergen to the other side, to a house on 78th Street and Boulevard East. It was a great house with a wonderful backyard on a street with lots of children and fine neighbors.

Next door, our neighbor grew peaches and when they ripened he would give us some. There were two other girls my age, plus children for my brother and sister to play with. Up the hill at the other corner lived James Braddock, yes Cinderella Man, the great boxer.  We were one block from the park and could easily look across the Hudson River to New York City. There was so much to do and so many places to explore!

I loved my street. We had great games of stickball, played at each other’s homes, and wandered over to the park. And we even had the Grandma of one of my friends watch over us when our Mom was still at school; Mom was a teacher. It was a wonderful community.

As for my house, I loved it sort of…well…. except for the ghost in the basement. From the moment we moved in, I knew he was there. I would see him or feel him in certain areas of the basement. But my parents did not believe there was actually a ghost. They thought I just wanted to avoid chores. When we first moved there, I was really scared. I would confront my parents and cry to them, “There is a ghost in the basement! Really. There is really a ghost. I am not making it up!!”

But nothing ever changed their mind. I still had to go help with the laundry and do chores. I eventually just came to accept the ghost. He never hurt me or really did anything spooky. He was just there, in the basement and on the back stairs. He just became part of my life. I stopped talking about him.

I set up a little house in the basement for my dolls, doll furniture and me. And I would often play there. I put down scraps of linoleum to mark the outlines of my house. I felt safe there, within my ‘house.’ I always felt a sense of warmth when I sat in my area. But at night, when it was dark, or on rainy days, I would get a different vibe from our basement dweller. And I did not want to go down the basement then.

When I got older, I dreamt about the ghost. I knew, in my heart, that he was from the Revolutionary War, and I knew he died in battle. But it did not make sense because even though my area of New Jersey was part of the original settlements. The battles around Ft. Lee were several miles from my home. I could not understand how a dying soldier could make it that far along the Hudson River and the cliffs of the Palisades. But I knew he was a soldier. I just did not know about any battles close to home.

Then recently, on the “Town of North Bergen” Facebook page, some one posted a link to a booklet: “North Bergen Yesterday” by Michael K. Kruglinski and others, published in 1997. And right on the cover it says “May 27, 1780, Patriots Attack British Blockhouse at the Top of Bull’s Ferry Road.” Oh My Goodness! Bull’s Ferry Road, the scariest road in North Bergen, is easy walking distance from my childhood home!!! There was a Revolutionary War battle right where I walked many times. So close to my home!

This was it! I remembered back to my childhood haunting, and thought, The Ghost is explained!”

Now before you think I am totally crazy, I am really not the only one who saw the ghost. He never came into to our kitchen. He haunted the basement and would come up the basement stairs to the landing to the back door off the kitchen and stand there. He never went outside. He never entered our living areas. He just liked standing in the entranceway, watching.

One day, when I was a freshman or sophomore at North Bergen High School, I had some friends over. We were sitting in the kitchen having a snack, when one of them started to scream. “There is a man standing there.”   She was looking behind me towards the steps. I knew exactly what she saw.

“No,” I said, “Don’t worry, that is just the ghost from the basement..”

My statement did not go over very well.

My two friends started screaming and headed for the front door to run out. Oh no! My brother had just arrived home. He was coming in the front door and popped his head into the window on the door to look in before he entered. He startled them! My friends really started screaming then. As he opened the front door, they ran out!!!

A high school senior, my brother thought we were all insane. I really never was scared of the ghost once I got older. But when my friends started screaming, I did as well. They did not want to go back into my house, so instead we walked around the corner to one friend’s apartment. Once we got there, and they had calmed down, I told them all about the ghost in the basement.

We all saw the same thing.   A young man standing against the wall in the doorway. He had long brownish hair in a ponytail and was wearing a dark/black ‘turtleneck’ type shirt…or so it seemed, and a long jacket. He always wore the same thing.

I told them that he was safe. Not to worry.

That evening at dinner my brother told my parents the story of my crazy friends running out of the house. None of them believed that the ghost existed.   My Dad said my friends were being ridiculous that I probably told them about it, so they thought they saw him. It was just a matter of suggestion!

“But Dad, “ I insisted. “I never told them about the ghost. I never told anyone about him. They saw something and mentioned it first; they started screaming, before I told them.”

He did not really believe me. But it was the truth.

My sister was home during the great ghost sighting, although she did not see him. She actually never saw him, although she admits that “the basement was creepy!”

However, I believe other friends saw my ghost over the years. He would just stand there, always watching. I never spoke about him outside of the house, except with friends who had seen him.

In fact over the years, I stopped thinking about him. Once in a while I would remember the day my friends got so scared, but that was secondary to my ghost.

So seeing this book and this sentence about a Revolutionary War battle so close to my home brought it all back, just in time for Halloween. I hope he has found peace and is no longer haunting my childhood basement and stairs. It has been 234 years. I think he deserves some peace.

But I do wonder if the people who live in my childhood home ever feel the presence of the ghost in the basement?

A Summer Recharging In New Jersey

6 Aug
Double rainbow over the George Washington Bridge, view from my parent's apartment.

Double rainbow over the George Washington Bridge, view from my parent’s apartment.

Another visit to New Jersey begins. A cat is rubbing her head up against my computer and me. She really wants to sit on my lap. My sister’s cat, Tilda, wants some attention. And that is part of what makes my visits to New Jersey now somewhat strange. I am at my sister’s home, not at my parent’s home.

When my parents passed away within nine months of each other, I thought I might not travel to New Jersey each summer as I had for the previous 30 years I was married and lived in Kansas. But that turned out not to happen.   In fact, I continue to visit my family in New Jersey for a week each summer, staying with my sister. Visiting with my brother. Seeing my cousins. Going into the City for a show or to go to a museum. Then spending a wonderful weekend in the Catskills at our family home.

It is almost the same. I have a room to stay in. I have a great place to stay. But it is not the same. My parents are not here. My home away from home is a different place. It is still New Jersey, but I no longer have the magnificent view of Manhattan right out the window. I am not staying in an apartment, but instead a house. And I have cats here that want love and attention, just as my cats do.

I love my time here. For some reason I need a week on the East Coast each year. It is like an energy pack! I return to Kansas with my Jersey accent much stronger and a sense of well being. There is nothing like Jersey for the Jersey girl in me.

When I stroll the malls or take the ferry to New York City, I am in my element. I have visions of my childhood underneath the current events.   In Kansas I do not have that double vision. When I am in Kansas, I see the changes in the last 35 years, but they are adult years. When I am in New Jersey, I see the sights of my childhood changed and reinvented in my adult eyes.

Last summer my brother drove me to the two homes I lived in when we lived in North Bergen. It was remarkable to see how much they had stayed the same, and what had changed.   I plan to ask my sister to drive past my grandparent’s bakery in West New York this time. I wonder what it is now. After they sold the building, it became a restaurant. But I have not driven past it in a long time.

Of course part of the excitement of coming back East, is to travel to our home in Kauneonga Lake, NY. We visit with our cousins. Sit by the lake, go out on the boat, and just enjoy the time together. Pizza on the beach is a tradition! When we sit there, I also see my parents and aunt and uncle. They loved to sit under the tree and watch the grandchildren grow into adults, seeing the changes that came each summer.

Another generation comes to the Lake. My two of my cousin’s are grandparents now. The fourth generation to come to Kauneonga Lake and enjoy the beauty and peace, as well as the fun! We were so blessed to have this oasis from the City.

A trip to New Jersey and New York in the summer is a welcome relief to me. It brings me back to my self. I will eat at a diner; I will see a show on Broadway; I will take the ferry to the City; I will travel up 17 to the Catskills and get off at exit 104 in Monticello. My journey on 17 B and then 55 will lead me to Kauneonga Lake.

I might live in Kansas for over 30 years. But when I close my eyes I am sitting in New Jersey. The house might be different. There might be a cat on my lap.   My parents might not be physically here. But my soul resonates with the love and joy of my childhood and I become rejuvenated.

I love my summer week back East.

Learning Infinity and Beyond Makes Me Insane

2 Aug
A note from Mr. "Mean" Thoens to me in my senior yearbook.   We never did agree on infinite numbers.

A note from Mr. “Mean” Thoens to me in my senior yearbook. We never did agree on infinite numbers.

My disdain for infinity and infinite numbers started when I was a senior in high school. My North Bergen High School calculus teacher, Mr. Ray Thoens, (who I called “Mean” Thoens) was teaching us about infinity and the infinite number of points in a line. Okay, I could get that. But then he told us that two lines of unequal lengths would have the same number of infinite points. What!!

I argued with him.

How can a line this long ___________, have the same number of points as a line this long _________________? The lines have a definite beginning and an end. How can they have the same infinite number of points! For my logical mind, one must have more points than the other.

Mr. Thoens and I argued about this all year. Whenever I was upset about something I would just say, “Yes just like those lines and infinite number of points. It just doesn’t make sense.” And I would sometimes add while shaking my head, “that is just wrong.” Other students in my class perhaps agreed with Mr. Thoens, but that did not change my mind.

Senior year, basically the calculus class.  I had a lot of hair, but not as much as the boy next to me.

Senior year, basically the calculus class. I had a lot of hair, but not as much as the boy next to me.

Over the years, the long years, since I graduated high school, I still felt that the information about infinity and lines and infinite numbers of points was a crazy thing and just could not be right. But I kept my point of view to myself all these years. I never took another math class (except statistics), so I did not have to worry about these numbers. And even though my husband studied math and physics for the first two years of his college career, infinite numbers just did not come up.

Until now, when my nephew, my sister’s son, came to stay with us for a few days.

My nephew just earned his master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Kansas. He taught calculus to college freshman for the past few years, and he is staying with me before he leaves for Florida to study for his PhD in math at a university there.

And we got into a math debate.

I am not a hundred percent sure how it started, but we got on to the topic of calculus. I could not help myself, I had to tell him about my disdain for infinite numbers and points in lines.

He said something like, “I will explain it to you. Many people have this problem.”

I said, “You are not going to change my mind. It is not right! I have held this view for 40 years!”

He told me that Mr. Thoens, my high school math teacher was right! Can you imagine that! He told me that my high school teacher was probably trying not to use more advanced math language when he tried to exlain it all those years ago. But he, my nephew had explained this to many students, and he could explain it to me.

The diagrams in my nephew and my debate over infinite points in lines of two different lengths.

The diagrams in my nephew and my debate over infinite points in lines of two different lengths.

He started talking about ‘cardinality’ and how to match numbers. He showed me two sets of numbers, one with three dots and one with five. We could agree that these did not match. Then he added two more dots to make them equal sets. And we could agree that they were now equal.

He made graphs and wrote equation-like things. Who cares? When you look at two lines of unequal length it is intuitive and logical to realize that they do not have the same number of infinite points. ( I spoke to my daughter about this, and she totally agreed! So I must be right.)

I showed him two equal lines, A to B. We agreed that they had the same number of infinite points. Then I added a segment that doubled the size of one line to C. And I said, “This line has more points. It is a longer line.”

And he said, “NO!”

What! How can you say no?

He then told me that “The same way of matching is not going to work.”

Of course it will not. You cannot match the same way because they are different lengths.

And then he went into a silly math concept that showed matching using x/2 (x over 2). In this way the numbers in the longer line matched numbers in the shorter line like this: .3 went with .15 and so on. So! Yes you can make pairs of numbers, but there are always other numbers. He agreed and said something like, “But you never actually get to zero so your cardinality is okay as long as you can keep matching.”

Yes, Mr. Thoens had tried that same trick on me when I was 17. It did not work then and it will not work now.

I appreciate my nephew’s passion for math. I hope he has great success and continues to teach and learn. But I am not changing my mind. Two lines of unequal length and size cannot have the same number of infinite points even if both have an infinite number of points.

And do not tell me that an infinite number of points is an infinite number of points.   I know that. But it is something that does not make sense in my mind, and probably will never make sense.

I think I will just go another 40 years believing that learning about infinity and beyond just makes me insane!

A Wonderful Weekend in Arkansas, Visiting Friends and A Wildlife Refuge

26 Jul
Beaver Lake

A view of the long and winding Beaver Lake.

Who knew that I would meet up with my North Bergen childhood next door neighbor in Bentonville, Arkansas? We lived next to each other on Third Avenue for eight years, but remained friends even when I moved to 78th Street and Blvd.East. Strange that the two of us ended up just three hours away from each other. Even stranger, is that I have another North Bergen High School friend who also lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, whom I have met up with a few times.

Three North Bergen High School alumni living in Kansas and Arkansas. Seems strange. But in the world we live in I should not be surprised.   We found each other on Facebook. Amazing what social media can do for friendships! I know others who moved to the Midwest, but for me it is always special to see one of these two women who share my childhood memories.

Looking down at the Crystal Bridges Art Museum.  A lovely spot

Looking down at the Crystal Bridges Art Museum. A lovely spot

My husband and I were recently in the Beaver Lake area visiting our Kansas neighbors who have moved to their new home near Eureka Springs. Among our plans were to go to Bentonville and see the beautiful Crystal Bridges Art Museum. Another goal was to introduce my childhood neighbor to my adult neighbors because they now live just 45 minutes from each other. I had a great time making the introductions and combining two segments of my life.

We spent part the day walking the grounds of the museum and seeing the exhibits. I was amazed to find a large collection of paintings of George Washington, as well as six portraits depicting the Levy-Franks family. A Jewish family from New York City in Arkansas, besides me! Well, they have been deceased for a long time. But it surprised me that these six works of art were in Arkansas. However, my favorite paintings were by John Singleton Copley. His ability to capture life is amazing!

We at lunch at the museum and enjoyed all the sites, before deciding to go into Bentonville. We still had one more museum to see. But when my husband and neighbors went into town for an ice cream treat, my childhood friend and I went to see her 88-year-old mother. It is so strange to see someone I have not seen in over 25years; someone who was like a second mother, who had the right to yell at me if I misbehaved, but not to have my Mom with us as well. Seeing her made me happy, but also made me miss my Mom even more.

My friend’s mother knew who I was most of the time. At first she thought I was my mother. And at times she thought I was my sister. But we had a good visit, and she remembered so many things. Her daughter and I were amazed.

Actually she spoke most about my brother. “He was a buster!” She said. She remembered how my brother used to tease us when we played with our dolls.   We would try hiding on the outdoor staircase, but he would climb over the garbage house to get to us. “Mommy, he is bothering us!” She said as she remembered my brother, who is now such a respectable man, but then quite the active child.

We had a special time together, and I am glad we were able to get together.

Besides traveling to Bentonville and seeing my old friend, we also went to the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge for rescued tigers, lions, cougars, panthers and bears. It seems, and I did not know this, that many states allow people to have wild animals as house pets. (To me this is a really ridiculous idea.)  Not only that, even in states where it is illegal, there are people who take on these animals as pets. They see a tiger cub as a good pet, until it grows into an adult and eats 1000 pounds of food and weighs up to 800 pounds. Then they do not want that pet any more.

One of the tigers that still has to be moved into his own habitat.

One of the tigers that still has to be moved into his own habitat.

What they do to these ‘pets’ is really sad. Sometimes they declaw them. For a house cat it is bad, but for a big cat it is really bad. Once the claws and first digits are removed, then the large cat cannot walk because their weight is too much, basically crippling the animal.

Sometimes people just abandon the cats in the wild. They cannot survive. So this sanctuary in Arkansas, rescues them. If someone brings them one of these ‘pets,’ the sanctuary does not press charges. They just want to protect and keep the once wild animal for the rest of its life. They are in the process of developing special habitats for each of the animals so they have room to roam.

Bam Bam the Grizzly Bear has his own pond and habitat at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Bam Bam the Grizzly Bear has his own pond and habitat at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Part of their mission is educating the public about these animals. Visitors can tour the site with a docent/game keeper and learn about these animals in particular and what happened and happens to them. For me it was an eye-opening experience. And I plan to add the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge to my list of charities to support.

Finally we spent time on Beaver Lake, riding around in our friends’ boat and seeing the sites. It was not the same as riding around Kauneonga Lake in New York, where I spent my childhood summers. This is a much bigger lake created by the Corps of Engineers when they put in a hydro-electric plant and dammed a river, unlike Kauneonga Lake which is a smaller, natural spring-feed lake.

But being in a boat on a lake is always a wonderful time for me.   Having a long weekend; staying near the Lake was wonderful for so many reasons: spending time with friends, going to a museum, visiting an animal haven.