1. Patti Hall says

    Broken Rules—Six months after my husband’s death, I ran away from home. Our former home was now a ransacked and pillaged shell that had once been the comfortable shelter of our love. Home was now held hostage in a gripping tug-of-war between lawyers and Paul’s adult children.

    For 6 months, the punitive damage against my very being, the onslaught of accusations and my impotent defenses beat me down. Every single day for six months, I was ruled by the next-shoe-drop theory. Grief was made to sit along the sidelines; impatiently awaiting it’s turn.

    It was down to flight or fight, and I had no armor for fighting. I could barely attempt even a weak defense against those enemies beating at the gates. The demanding, insensitive treatment that I received sent me running for cover: to the imagined imprint of my husband’s body in our bed.

    During those bed retreats my world became a flashback. Beach memories ran like film loops behind my swollen eyes; beach escapes from the medical world with Paul during his illness. On one excursion we climbed into Paul’s T-bird, I tied a silky scarf to my head, added big shades, and we became cosmopolitan beach tourists for the day. Other beach scenes circled my mind while in my bedroom retreat; times that I found sanctuary on the beach.

    As beach memories crowded my thoughts, it was automatic pilot that managed the details of the next episode of my life. And thank goodness for that autopilot, for without it I could never have abandoned that sacred (albeit de-sanctified) place of “us.” Autopilot shielded me from sinking into fear, thus absolved me from carrying the tag of bravery on my weary shoulders. Autopilot served up a pair of wings for my flight to the beach.

    Fun, no, but closer to content—Maggie is 216 square feet of all mine. We’ve been together over 3 years and Maggie holds no secret shadows. She’s a travel trailer who beats her chest with happiness when salty winds batter her metal skin. She sings along with the chimes that I hang, and apologizes unceasingly when her plumbing proves imperfect. Maggie is home, and only a short walk to the beach.

    • Debbie says

      Patti –
      Thank you for sharing such a vivid description of a difficult time. How rewarding to have found some contentment with Maggie and your beloved beach.

    • Dianne Brown says

      Patti–how beautifully told–I love your style, your words, your Maggie. I expect that from Maggie’s shell hatches forth the written fruits of your soul. It’s a magical combination. ” . . . who beats her chest with happiness when salty winds batter her metal skin.” I think you are a Maggie too!

      • Patti Hall says

        Yes, like Debbie said! Thank you, Dianne, I am so happy that my story inspired such a beautiful comment. This piece is something I condensed out of the memoir I’m working on.

        • cissy says

          What a moving piece of writing. I felt the sense of holding on and taking refuge in the bed and eventually Maggie. Though painful it’s also triumphant. I can hear the wind chimes ringing.

          • Patti Hall says

            Thank you, Cissy! I appreciate the read and the comment. You folks here are amazing.

    • Ilana says

      Patti- Thank you for sharing this portrait with us. I loved how you personified “Maggie”. The thread of Paul carried through. It was as if his spirit was there with you “just a short walk from the beach” but free of all the pain. Good read. IM

    • Judy says

      Debbie, What beautiful writing. This line really got to me “Grief was made to sit along the sidelines; impatiently awaiting it’s turn.” WOW.
      Then, the powerful image of you, Maggie and wind chimes near the beach. Nice read.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Patti, I find this story moving. I love that you are Maggie, she is an extension of you, and together you are a scrappy force against all that can intrude or harm. Thanks, Patti.

    • Jennie says

      It’s very sad when adult children of spouses behave this way and forget the relationship you two had. You eloquently describe the tug of war but mainly how you manage to come ahead. Good for you!

  2. Barbara Keller says

    Breaking the rules

    Long before such things were routinely diagnosed, I grew up dyslexic and “autistic like”. Often I couldn’t figure out what the rules were. I got in trouble and didn’t know why. I broke a lot of rules through confusion and rebellion. I can’t say I had much fun.

    So, I spent a lot of time considering the rules and discovered this. It depends on who’s making the rules, and how serious the consequences are whether it’s a good idea to break them or not.

    For instance, if it’s the government and it’s a felony, probably a bad idea to ignore that rule. If it’s your nosy neighbor and her rules for taking out the garbage, it probably doesn’t matter at all if you pay attention.

    I apologize for tooting an old horn, but for me, fun came and rebellion for it’s own sake dropped way down when I figured out that it’s not about the rules. When I got it that the only one whose rules really matter is God and He loves me and isn’t about rules at all. He’s about truth, and growth and right, but not rules. That was a big relief.

    Also I started looking at the person who’s speaking instead of just the words. I love Katherine Hepburn as an actor, but as a real woman she chose to live her life in a way that would have made me real sad. So I weigh her advice carefully.

    • Patti Hall says

      Yes, Barbara, I love that this got us all thinking about the different aspects of rule breaking, and even what is fun? Glad you shared.

    • Ilana says

      Barbara- Such wisdom. You really made me think and I think you’re right. Which rules we break and why is very important. I’m going to give your point more thought and see how it applies to my life. Thanks for posting this. IM

    • Judy says

      Barbara, Ah, yes ‘growing up dyslexic.’ No, it isn’t/wasn’t fun, as you so descriptively write. And, figuring out which rules are okay to either ignore or break can bring much relief. Thank you for sharing and be well.

  3. Debbie says

    Barbara –
    You bring a key point up for consideration – whose rules are you breaking? Thanks for adding your insight to this week’s topic.

    • Barbara Keller says

      thank you all for your kind comments. I really appreciate that you read and pay attention to what I wrote. It’s been a hard week and I was pleased and surprised to find such nice comments.

  4. Ritch Brinkley says

    When I was a young vagabond, a friend and I drove to the Aztec pyramids in central Mexico during an “On the Road” adventure. The trip from Pueblo took longer than we expected, and when we pulled up beside the huge monumernts it was pitch dark. Undeterred, we jumped out of my VW bug and climbed over the barbwire fence at their base. I wondered why they would make access so difficult for such an attraction. As we started up the stone face of the antiquity, I heard a voice that sounded remarkably like that of Charlton Heston. Puzzled as to why the Hollywood actor’s voice would be heard bellowing English here in the Mexican heartland, we looked in the direction of the biblical icon’s pontification and spotted a dim light. Curious, we got back in the car and headed towards the familiar baritone oratory. Suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of a huge parking lot filled with cars. Making our way to the front, we encountered a ticket booth where a bored attendant demanded a few pesos to pass. To our stunned surprise we encountered a kind of amphitheater of stone bleachers filled with hundreds of awed gringos. The pyramids were directly before us and a number of colorful spotlights were dancing up and down the structures. There Msr. Moses’ booming voice filled the night air with a conjectured story of the Aztecs’ interpretation of their impressive site. I found this peculiar since (barring cinematic spectacles) nobody knows with any certainty the how and why of the monoliths. Obviously we had joined a rapt audience who would have seen us crawl into the light show from the pyramids’ back side were it not for the crackling rhetoric of Hollywood’s biblical spokesman. Nevertheless, I think we had more fun than all the mesmerized tourists gathered for the commercialized presentation. I expect were it not for the hoaky interpretation by the SAG president we would have found ourselves lost in the bowels of a Mexican jail, completely disappearing from our friends and families back in Texas.

    • Debbie says

      Ritch –

      So you were “saved” by the Voice?

      I loved the sense of adventure and daring in your story. I, too, have seen those impressive Mayan ruins – but, alas, only in the daylight.

    • Patti Hall says

      That was another twist; breaking a rule without knowing it, and having fun anyway. Great adventure writing.
      I’m going to those ruins some day…

    • Judy says

      Rich, this is fantastic! What a wonderful telling–I can see that VW bug, hear that booming voice, your last sentence gave me a huge belly laugh. Thank you so much for your On the Road story—Kerouac must be smiling.

  5. Missy says

    After my father died at the age of 86 and my mother was declining into alzheimers, I had started living by MY rules, doing what made ME happy, no longer trying to please my parents and going on a path and a lifestyle they themselves and expected me to follow. Now that my mother is two years gone (she passed at 87), I am living my life completely as I want on my terms.

  6. Patti Hall says

    Amazing the way hard times can sometimes lead to new discoveries, and even freedom, as in your post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Deb Mansell says

    Breaking the rules

    I broke all the rules
    I told!
    I didn’t keep that silence
    That gave you all the power.

    I broke all the rules
    I yelled!
    I let the whole world know
    Just what you’d done to me.

    I broke all the rules
    I cried!
    I let the grief pour out
    Spilling on the floor.

    I broke all the rules

    • Debbie says

      Deb –
      I really enjoyed the rhythm and cadence to what you wrote. Thanks for following your muse and posting in this form. It is amazing just how much a few well chosen words can convey.

      • Deb Mansell says


        Thank you for hearing me. I feel so much pain right now it is all bubbling to the surface.

    • Ilana says

      Wow Deb- This is powerful. I wondered what the result of your breaking the rules was but by the end I realized it didn’t matter. You did it! Great piece. IM

      • Deb Mansell says

        You are so right Ilana, breaking the rules and breaking the silence was the important thing here. The out come was not as I wanted, so the telling was oh so very important.

    • Judy says

      Deb, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your powerful poem. And, as others have said, love the form.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Deb, this poem gave me chills. I feel the power behind it, the ‘plates breaking in the kitchen,’ so to speak. By the end, I was on my feet cheering for you and all of us who find the strength (or are safe enough) to risk it, to yell it, however quietly. Thanks Deb!

    • Bobbie Anne says


      What a powerful poem! I applaud you for your strength and ability to take your power back. You are telling everyone what happened and that is what matters. I had an experience where I was sexually abused. I broke the rules too, as he was a retired police officer in the one of the health professions. I told on him! While the outcome wasn’t what I expected on the legal side either, I am pleased to announce and tell everyone that he lost his license to practice in NYS. He surrendered his license in lieu of facing rape charges. You’d be surprised how I was treated by female counselors…

      • Deb Mansell says

        Thank you for sharing that with me Bobbie Anne, I’m glad you had the strength to break the rules, well done you 🙂

    • Polly says

      Deb, your courage shines through in this piece. I’m sorry the outcome wasn’t what you wanted, but I’m also so glad you spoke up. I haven’t gotten there yet. Thank you.

  8. Tony del Zompo says

    1980 was an iconic year for hard rock and roll fans. AC/DC had released their “Back in Black” album, and the band embarked on a no-holds barred tour.

    I had been a fan since middle school. Immediately following the release of their “Highway to Hell” album, their lead singer, Bon Scott, died a horrific alcohol related death. My friends and I thought it was the end of the band, but, undaunted, the Young brothers, Angus and Malcolm, auditioned singers and hired Brian Johnson as the new front man. When they announced a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, I knew I had to be there.

    I was a high school freshman, and my mother had unambiguously forbidden me from going to the show. Thank God for my best friend, Matt. Matt was the kid nobody’s parents wanted their kids hanging out with. Whenever I was engaged in illegal or antisocial behavior, Matt was at the helm.

    I told him my mom didn’t want me to go. He had the solution. Just tell her you’re staying at my house. It’s not like you’re lying. You just don’t have to tell her that you are going to the show. At the time, I was totally unaware of “sins of omission.”

    I know now why my mom didn’t want me to go. Armed with half pints of Jack Daniel’s, Bacardi, and a few grams of weed, my friends and I took the bus to one of the seediest parts of the city where the Cow Palace was located. We were fifteen at the time, and we were loaded. And we were psyched.

    I don’t remember the opening band, but I have not forgotten the moment the stadium went black, and we heard the gong of the bell. “BONG.” “BONG.” “BONG.” “BONG.” An enormous church bell descended from the ceiling, the concert call had begun, and “Hell’s Bells” was the opening song. To this day, I get goose bumps when I recall that moment. Brian Johnson ran out on stage with a mallet in his hand and struck the bell three more times as Angus Young followed with the opening riff. The audience went manic.

    This wasn’t a make or break moment for me. My troubles with substance abuse wouldn’t really begin until years later. To this day, I have no regret about my decision to defy my mother and see the show. It’s still a great memory…

  9. Tony del Zompo says

    1980 was an iconic year for hard rock and roll fans. AC/DC had released their “Back in Black” album, and the band embarked on a no-holds barred tour.

    I had been a fan since middle school. Immediately following the release of their “Highway to Hell” album, their lead singer, Bon Scott, died a horrific alcohol related death. My friends and I thought it was the end of the band, but, undaunted, the Young brothers, Angus and Malcolm, auditioned singers and hired Brian Johnson as the new front man. When they announced a concert at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, I knew I had to be there.

    I was a high school freshman, and my mother had unambiguously forbidden me from going to the show. Thank God for my best friend, Matt. Matt was the kid nobody’s parents wanted their kids hanging out with. Whenever I was engaged in illegal or antisocial behavior, Matt was at the helm.

    I told him my mom didn’t want me to go. He had the solution. Just tell her you’re staying at my house. It’s not like you’re lying. You just don’t have to tell her that you are going to the show. At the time, I was totally unaware of “sins of omission.”

    I know now why my mom didn’t want me to go. Armed with half pints of Jack Daniel’s, Bacardi, and a few grams of weed, my friends and I took the bus to one of the seediest parts of the city where the Cow Palace was located. We were fifteen at the time, and we were loaded. And we were psyched.

    I don’t remember the opening band, but I have not forgotten the moment the stadium went black, and we heard the gong of the bell. “BONG.” “BONG.” “BONG.” “BONG.” An enormous church bell descended from the ceiling, the concert call had begun, and “Hell’s Bells” was the opening song. To this day, I get goose bumps when I recall that moment. Brian Johnson ran out on stage with a mallet in his hand and struck the bell three more times as Angus Young followed with the opening riff. The audience went manic.

    This wasn’t a make or break moment for me. My troubles with substance abuse wouldn’t really begin until years later. To this day, I have no regret about my decision to defy my mother and see the show. It’s still a great memory…

    • Hazel says

      Yeah, Tony, I think we have all had at least one of those moments in our lives. That one sounds like it was worth it.

      Your description of the stadium going black is just great!

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      Tony, Oh yes, that old saw…..’I’m just spending the night at so-and-so’s house, mom…….’ For years I let my sons think they invented that line, only to reveal recently how I’d said the same to their grandparents! Can you hear the response? Mooooooommm!

    • Ilana says

      Wow Tony- It sounds like a great memory and I can imagine still hearing those “Bong”s all these years later. Great description. IM

    • Debbie says

      Tony – what fun this was to read! It reminded of a nearly forgotten Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert I went to at about the same age. Really enjoyed the clear imagery of the bell descending and the way you conveyed it resounding BONG.

    • Diana says

      As an AC/DC fan I lived vicariously through you in this piece. I also relived some of my crazy partying rock and roll days. Thanks for taking me back to my youth!

    • Patti Hall says

      Good writing, Tony. It is cool how a certain topic, written well, can bring up similar memories for others… Thank you.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I love that this memory is so riveting to you, Tony. I find it that way as well. It made me smile. Thanks!

    • Polly says

      Tony, I’m not an AC/DC fan and you still made this sound fun! It definitely brought me back to other rebellious times in my life. Thanks for posting.

  10. Hazel says

    Boots, jeans, leather jacket, helmet . . . hands on handle bars, right hand racing the engine, I was ready to take them on. The big boys with their big Triumphs, five of them. Could I do it? Good question.

    Here I sat astride my Honda 305 Dream. Not only was I a girl, actually a 27 year old woman with two kids whom society at that time said should be a home making Sunday breakfast, but I had that Japanese made bike. Jeez, what was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that I was a good motorcycle rider and that it would be fun to ride the back roads around Santa Cruz, California with my cousin and a bunch of guys that rode every Sunday morning from 6 a.m. to noon. Everyone else I knew was still asleep or had a hangover so I told the guys I was coming along.

    They were mean. They tried to get me to take some corners too fast and maybe take a spill; they tried to lose me, thinking I couldn’t keep up; they thought I couldn’t “waggle” and would disrupt their line dance on the road. But, I did keep up, I didn’t spill, and I had a beautiful “waggle.”

    We took off up Soquel Road passed the winery and on up into the mountains. We twisted and turned our way up and across the hills until we ended up at Cloud Nine on Highway 9. (For those of you who are not familiar with that area, Cloud Nine was a restaurant at the summit of Highway 9 from Santa Cruz to San Jose in the 1960’s.) What a beautiful sight as I looked out toward the ocean. I put my feet down on the gravel, swung my right leg over as I dismounted my “steed” and almost in the same motion pulled down the kick-stand leaning my bike onto it. I pulled off my helmet and shook out my long brunette hair that fell into loose curls onto my shoulders and down my back. Just like the boys, I pulled off my gloves and put them in my helmet which I then placed on the seat and unzipped my jacket. The coffee smelled better than ever after all that fresh air. The warm Danish was especially tasty. My hands tingled from the vibration of the handle bars of my bike and inside I was a little shaky from all the things I had to do to not appear to be a sissy in the eyes of my companions.

    “You rode real good,” said on of the bigger guys.

    “Yeah, for a girl,” chimed in another.

    “What do you mean, for a girl? Did I or did I not ride with you and go everywhere you did and do all the things you did?” I asked indignantly.

    “Well . . . guys, you have to give her credit, she did ride real good for her first time out with us.” That was my cousin standing up for me. He damn well better, if he didn’t want a ration of trouble from me later.

    “Okay, okay” they went on. In my head I knew I had made the grade. I had defied the rules that said, “Ladies don’t ride motorcycles,” “mother’s should be home or taking their children to church on Sunday morning,” and “a nice girl wouldn’t ride by herself with a bunch of biker guys.”

    We glided down the mountains on Highway 9 into Santa Cruz and as each one left the pack as their exit came up we waved until I was the last one. What a satisfying morning that was. “Put that in your pipe and smoke it” stuffy society. I’m going to do it again.

    I parked the bike in it’s place beside the station wagon, took off my helmet and gloves, tucked them under my arm and climbed the stairs to my apartment with my husband and two children who were just getting up. “Hi guys!” (Like I had never been gone.)

    • Ilana says

      Great story, Hazel- Thanks for taking me along for the ride. Your descriptions made me feel like I was right there and I really enjoyed it. Love the ending too. “Hi guys.” Like I had never been gone. Nice! IM

    • Debbie says

      Hazel – what I enjoyed most about this story was getting to enjoy the pride of “proving” yourself to a group of doubters and break stereotypes at the same time! To someone that is still terrified of motorcycles to this day – this seems such a daring adventure. And the ending image of the motorcycle next to the stationwagon – love it!

      • Hazel says

        Thank you all for your comments. This story was fun to write. It is from a time when I was young, pretty, strong and wild.

        I have not been on a motorcycle since 1980 when I almost became rode kill but that is another book.

  11. Judy says

    Hazel, WOW. What a fantastic telling of breaking the rules. Love this line ‘But, I did keep up, I didn’t spill, and I had a beautiful “waggle.” ‘ Funny. Thank you so much for the delightful read and insight to you. Here’s to more waggles in your life!

    • Hazel says


      I must admit that my waggle these days looks more like a duck walk than anything else but I have memories!

      • Judy says

        Yup, my hips talk to me in ways they never did never before! And, I often wonder when I see the dates of my post whether I’m living in the past way too much. Think I’ll go take a tango class.

  12. Judy says

    Breaking Rules—or, Pepsi, Xerox and The Artist Known as Prince

    Spring, 1987………“Welcome to the International Meetings Department, you and your team will be in Munich in six weeks”

    Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be stage manager, script and program book writer for an international service origination with members in over 160 countries. The position was newly created—there was no job description. I was well out of my depth. Add to that: I’m not a fast writer, I need quiet to write, can’t think on my feet, and I have dyslexia.

    All the while, Lou Grant’s voice was spinning in my head, hearing him say to Mary Richards, “You know, you got spunk.” If there was more, I didn’t hear it.

    Kissing my husband good-bye and calling my adult children before boarding the plane, I was off for Germany.

    Arriving at the Olympic Stadium with Leslie, Tracy, and Bud, a talented, young, enthusiastic team, Leslie channeled Bette Davis and said, “Fasten your seatbelts, kids, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.”

    The convention offices were in the bowels of the stadium. We had three weeks to ‘kinda-sorta’ finalize this production for an estimated audience of 40,000 as we moved upwards of 2,500 people on and off the stage over the five days of the plenary sessions. (Steady, said my dyslexic brain: stage right, stage left—piece of cake.) Turns out, there were many fast changes!

    Days away from the opening three hour ‘show,’ the program books finally arrived. The production company handled lights/sound and loaded in slides for rear-screen projection as Anita Baker’s record, Giving You the Best That I’ve Got, apropos to my maiden voyage, blasted throughout the entire stadium. She wasn’t performing live, but unbeknownst to me, something else was in the wind.

    Heading out to the stadium floor, I noticed Leslie, laughing with some of the German stagehands. They kept pointing to our Pepsi cans and high-powered Xerox copy machine. My focus changed abruptly as my boss, Herb, casually informed me that Prince, the rock star, was opening his Sign o’ the Times Tour. “He’ll be on YOUR stage tomorrow, Judy, with a second performance the next night.”

    “What?” I shouted over Baker’s record. “I can’t hear you.”

    “Yeah, Prince, the rock star,” Herb continued, “his crew’s setting up rehearsal later today, so you and your team should vacate the stadium to comply with high security. Go see Munich or something.”

    It took a few minutes for the conversation to sink in. Prince? I’d heard his song Purple Rain; that he was fast becoming a rock icon from Minneapolis and considered eccentric; had adroit guitar work compared to the legendary Jimmy Hendrix; but, oh my, wasn’t Prince a toddler when I graduated from high school?

    What the heck, the boss just said take a hike so without hesitation I called a ‘team meeting’ and said, “Let’s make a deal with the Prince stagehands: they can crush OUR Pepsi cans and use of OUR copy machine for whatever, IF they give us backstage passes for Prince’s opening night. Bingo! With the agreement made, we closed the stage manager office and complied with the security issues.

    What happened next was totally in the moment.

    A small door, next to my office, led directly onto the stadium floor. Opening it gently, we entered quietly on our hands and knees to the sound of that classic Prince guitar fret. OMG, I’m going to a rock concert, I whispered.

    Laughing, we crawled along the foot platform just below the bleachers. My heart was in my mouth as I poked my head between the spaces to scan the stadium. There he was: Prince, the small, skinny man/child, center stage, playing a purple guitar with lightning agility. Then, he put the guitar on a holder, jumped to the piano and played a boogie-woogie reminiscent of Fats Waller! It was mesmerizing! Then it halted momentarily—holding us in suspense.

    Who can say what possessed me, maybe the over-excitement of my first rock concert, but watching Prince ready for his first note, I let out a, “ Yawzer!”

    Huge guards, stationed near entrances, on the bleachers with arms crossed, feet slightly apart, were now scurrying everywhere. There were shouts, lots of movement that muffled our laughter as we backed out of the stadium on bended knees to return to the little door and scurry out into the hallway. We went undiscovered. Breathlessly, we formed a group hug, let out another “Yawzer” and headed out for dinner.

    Four hours later, we were backstage at the concert—walkie-talkies in hand with badges that said “Crew.” We were THIS close to Prince (note my thumb and first finger about an inch apart) as he walked past us to center stage. Amazing!

    The next day, one German paper reported, “This show is more funk-oriented, and we got to hear all the classic hits.”

    Yup, we were there and it was delicious. Did we break rules? Doubtful. And those ‘kinda-sorta-fast-changes’ to the convention script mentioned earlier? Well, we learned the true meaning of funk—that of strong dance rhythms—yes, we quickly became a formidable and persuasive team with some excellent funky beats of our own. But, that’s for another telling.

    • Debbie says

      Judy – Oh my gosh, what an exciting story! My heart was thumping as you crawled along the foot platform below the bleachers. And then to add your spontaneous outburst with the ensuing scramble. Totally enjoyed reading about your adventure.

      • Judy says

        Debbie, thank you so much–it really was an adventure. Much of my writing here is really a ‘test drive’ for my kids and family, so your comments are greatly appreciated.

      • Judy says

        As I said above, Prince was never really on my radar screen but it just happened to be there during my convention assignment- and I’m glad for the experience.

    • Ilana says

      Judy- Great story. You may or may not have broken any actual rules but if I had done that it certainly would have broken some of my shy, quiet rules. What an exhilarating experience! IM

    • Hazel says

      This is a WOW story with a “gottcha'” but “you didn’t get me.” Never been a Prince fan but to do that in Germany . . . Honey, your dyslexia had nothing to do with that, that is just a case of “do we dare?” I’m sure your family would enjoy this story also.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • Judy says

        Hazel, Prince was never really on my radar screen either but hey there her was. I didn’t know one song but Purple Rain during that concert. It all just happened and I’m so glad it did. My grandson Tim once looked at me and said, ‘Nana, you are so eccentric but I like it!’ Joy of my life.

  13. Liz says

    Ethel sat in the mausoleum pretending she was Jewish. Why? Because she always wanted to be Jewish. Surrounded by all those lovely names — Betty Rabinowitz. Nathan Klein. Hugh Scholl. Celia Zolot. Mary Baker. Sade Desky Cohen. Sophie Zerman Harris. Gertrude Roberts. Ida Pearl Henry (À Bientot, Ma Chère) — she felt at home somehow, surrounded by all those loving mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers gone by.

    Ethel, though she was in her fifties, was about to undergo an adult adoption. Even the words caught her by surprise. Ethel, the adult, was adopting a child? No, Ethel, the adult, was about to be adopted by her “step-father” — correction: her father. Better late than never. Her father, Harry, was Jewish. His Jackie Mason imitation was so funny. Ethel imagined herself in the Poconos where all the great comics trained before trying out their stuff in the City. Or so Harry always told her. “Ya do it like ‘dis, ok?” Ok. “A Jew walks into a restaurant and shouts ‘I’m a part-nuh. Where are my eggs? Not too much salt. And a little bacon. Crispy on the one end…'” All delivered in a Yiddish New York accent. Ethel wondered, “Did he really get this from Jackie Mason?” and went searching through YouTube to find the original rendition. Yep, it’s true!

    The mausoleum is filled with the bright afternoon sunlight. The sound of rushing cars from the endless highway are waves of water. The chirping of the birds echoes through the hallways. How kind of someone to set up this table and these chairs here. She looks out through the large picture window and the dogwood tree with its dark green leaves and red berries wave back, so friendly, “Hello, Ethel, daughter of Harry Goldstein.”

    • Debbie says

      Liz – this is a new concept to me – adult adoption. Thanks for sharing this touching story of something outside the “norm”.

      • Judy says

        Liz, this is absolutely wonderful! Every word perfectly placed. What a fantastic telling. Thank you so much. My brother-in-law, Jack, whose grandparents (of the Borscht Belt) would regale us with glorious similar stories on summer evenings. Love love this telling. Thank you.

    • Deb Mansell says

      This is lovely, Liz, I love the concept of adult adoption.

      I was denied God parents as a baby as my parents didn’t get my baptized, so as an adult my “God-mother” and I chose each other, and now she is more of a mother than my original one. (does that make sense?)

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing this simply, quietly wonderful story. The last line is particularly good, binding the whole story together.

    • Terry Gibson says

      This story is amazing. I love the adult adoption. It’s an unexpected treat here. A truly life-affirming piece. Thanks.

  14. Fran Stekoll says

    I was 23, recovering from a hysterectomy. My two daughters were 2 and 4. I’d
    lost our son between them. I felt like a freak. My libido was missing. My husband opted not to be attentive. At work there was fulfillment. He opened the door, shared lunch, made me feel whole and loved again. It was a one night stand; but I returned to myself. I broke my rules, I told my husband. He bolted.
    Many affairs transpired through his anger and resentment getting even with my one and it went down hill from there. Tradition reared it’s ugly head, I moved out. Then I met my second husband who treated me perfectly just for me.
    After his death I broke the rules again. I fell in love totally and completely ,
    In today’s world they call it friends with benefits. I don’t have any more rules to break. I’ve never been happier.

    • Debbie says

      Fran – when I read this, I kept thinking of the question raised earlier this week: Whose rules? Thank you for sharing your story of breaking the rules, and how it has contributed to your greater happiness.

    • Ilana says

      AWESOME!! I love how you did what was right for you! And the last line “I don’t have any more rules to break. I’ve never been happier.” was a beautiful crescendo that both glorified and tied the piece up perfectly. Made me want to stand up and cheer. I think I will. Yay! IM

    • Hazel says

      Back in our day that was a big break with the rules. Your line “I don’t have any more rules to break.” is just great. I don’t think that younger people know how very many rules there were to be broken in the late 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s. It is wonder full that, “I’ve never been happier.” Way to go Fran!

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Patti Hall says

      Wow, a whole lifetime of information, and so few words! I imagine with the surgery and grieving your lost son you were a bundle of unfulfilled need. I’m happy to read your content words today. Thank you.

  15. Adrienne Drake says

    The bright yellow banana slug wrapped its long fat body around the lady’s head like a turban. Its grotesquely green antennae waved at me as she slowly made her way down the aisle to the front of the room. I couldn’t help admiring the woman’s bravery for making such a glaring fashion statement, and I thought, “When I am an old woman, I shall wear banana slugs in my hair, and people will think me crazy.”

    This was the last day of art class. Throughout the semester we had been mastering composition and design, contrasting values and temperatures, using variety in line and form, and my favorite of all, finding positive aspects of negative space. With all of these rules running around in our heads, our left brains were asserting their dominance. Our wise art teacher knew she had to nip this trend in the bud so she concocted a fashion show. The only stipulation when dressing for the occasion was that our outfits must “Break all the rules!”

    On the day of the fashion show we were like playful children. There were plaids mixed with stripes, sandals matched with boots, leopard skins worn next to feathers, and diamonds paired with junk. Make up was applied with abandon. One woman drew long black hairs on her long slender legs with a jet black eyebrow pencil. This was creativity gone wild.

    Dressing for the fashion show brought up some unexpected memories. As I fastened a small jade pin to my magenta coat, I was reminded of the frail little spinster who had given it to me. One day I had complemented her on it. She came to the office frequently for dizzy spells. She often brought me violets, and always had an embroidered lace hanky tucked in the breast pocket of her navy blue suits. When I would walk into the exam room, I often found her talking to my other plants, and checking to make sure they were adequately watered. I came to suspect that her frequent office visits were often more social than medical. Over the many years she came to us, my staff and I had became dear to her. When I retired she handed me a small box, a “good bye” gift she said. I opened the box slowly. In it was the small jade pin. Over time I have come to realize that family comes in many forms, people touch our lives in many ways, and all of our relationships bear gifts.

    As I pinned a fake mauve corsage onto my purple paisley yoga shirt, I thought of the man who had given it to me. It had come glued to the top of a massive heart-shaped box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. The man was my patient and he handed it to me while lying on his death bed. This was a man so passionate about living that his dying stunned us all. In his final days a portrait of his life cut short revealed itself to me. A seasoned trucker, and a man’s man, he cared deeply for everyone, and extended that love to total strangers. He drew his last breath surrounded by his wife, his ex-wife, his children and his step-children. In that very darkest of hours, the acknowledgement of their mutual loss, and the sheer power of his abiding love united them all.

    In medicine we are taught to not become too emotionally involved with our patients, in order to maintain the “Doctor–Patient” relationship. Try as I might, I simply could not help the tender feelings I had developed for each of these individuals who could not have been more different. Their grace had simply penetrated my façade, breaking all the rules.

    As I took my turn walking before the class in my own outrageous outfit I had to smile at how different this was from the days of wearing my symbolic white lab jacket. Needless to say the lady with the banana slug carried the day. Hands down, she had broken all the rules!

    • Ilana says

      Adrienne- Once again you have opened the door to show me inside a world I know so little about. This is beautiful. From the descriptions of the fashion outfits to the stories of patients who showed you kindness, this piece had it all. Thank you for posting it. IM

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Ilana,
        You are such a careful reader of all of our postings. I am flattered by your thoughtful comments!

    • Debbie says

      Adrienne – you delicately portrayed these two people who had become so dear to you – and you to them. In my training I had been schooled to never cry when with a patient or their family. For a while I struggled to comply. But the day a lone tear slipped from the corner of my eye. I realized then that an honest, though controlled, expression of emotion – and a warm hug if desired – often contributed more to healing than any words I could share. Thank you for this touching story.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        I couldn’t agree with you more, and thank you for sharing this with me. It is so validating.

    • Patti Hall says

      This one made me cry, but here’s what I heard loudest:
      “Over time I have come to realize that family comes in many forms, people touch our lives in many ways, and all of our relationships bear gifts.” Thank you.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Dear Patti,
        It is wonderful to be able to touch others through our sharing on this site. Thanks for letting me know!

    • Judy says

      Adrienne, I love how you crafted this beautiful piece. Every detail of the fashion show came alive. The loving tenderness between you, the frail elderly woman, the trucker illustrates what a wonderful physician and healer you are. If more doctors broke the rules as you did, well, just imagine…..’patient centered care.’ What a novel idea.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Judy, I am so honored that you called me a healer. Even though I am reitred, I hope that is something I can still be, perhaps this time through the power of the writen word.

          • Adrienne Drake says

            I love that writing is prayer and healing. I had never heard that. More validation. Thank you again!!!

  16. Ilana says

    Breaking the Rules, With no Remorse

    Since I was a little girl Jewish law was law and God was always watching. Lightening would split the house in two if I used a spoon meant for dairy in a bowl of chicken soup. Writing in the synagogue on Shabbos would cause the pen to burst into flames and burn my hand and if I failed to fast on Yom Kippur the world would most certainly come to an end. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement and one of the two holiest days of the year. The other is Rosh Hashanah, new years. It is ten days before Yom Kippur and those two together are called the “High Holidays.” All Jewish Holidays begin at sunset the night before. Yom Kippur is observed with a twenty five hour fast that begins at sunset the night before or “Erev Yom Kippur”. Children begin fasting at age 13 but frightened I would not be able to do it, I tried myself out at 12 for practice. For sixteen years I had followed the law to the letter. You cannot fast if you are sick, pregnant or nursing; otherwise, no food for at least the 25 hours. Those were the rules and I never broke them.

    That is, not until Erev Yom Kippur of the year 5772. That would be Friday, October 7, 2011. I had just begun my journey to healing from the incest, physical and psychological abuse from my childhood. I was in my emergency phase, barely breathing and fighting a constant desire to hurt myself. Another thing I was struggling with was in God. I hated God, felt abandoned by Him. Had He watched while Andrew had tortured me all those years? While my parents did nothing to stop it but blame me? Maybe He just had better, more important things to do. It felt to me like God was the one who had sinned, who needed to be fasting, not me.

    It was not only Erev Yom Kippur but it was also Friday. That made it Shabbos, the Sabbath. I made a nice dinner for my family, filling the kitchen with a terrific mess. My husband asked me to put our three young children to bed because he was too tired. Exhausted, myself, I did the best I could. It took me longer than usual. When I was finally finished I went downstairs expecting to find Zander sitting on the couch. I readied myself to beg him to help me wash the dishes from dinner. When I got downstairs, though, my husband was nowhere to be found. Maybe he was in the bathroom. I started to clear the table but Zander did not appear. Finally, I went looking for him. After looking all over I was surprised to find my husband fast asleep in bed. So, he’d asked me to put the children to bed and then walked out on the huge mess in the kitchen, from the meal I had cooked for him and the children, and went to sleep. Talk about feeling abandoned!

    Resigning myself, I went back to the kitchen to confront the mess alone. But as I looked at it my anger grew. I did not want to clean it up by myself. I did not want to fast for my sins. I did not want to follow the rules and do what I was supposed to do. Then and there I made a decision. I was NOT going to follow the rules. The first thing I did was pour myself a very large glass of wine. Rule number one broken, I was supposed to be fasting already. Then I put on my favorite Billy Joel CD and went to work. I turned it so loud that I felt the need to check on Zander and the kids. Everyone was asleep and oblivious. It took me two hours to clean up the kitchen, during which time I continued to break rule number one. Yep, I kept drinking. Rule number two fits in there too because I had been taught NEVER to drink alone because that makes you an alcoholic. When I was finally done cleaning it was around 9:00. The perfect opportunity to break rules number three and four. I started mixing the dough for fresh, from scratch, homemade challa. That’s the braided bread we used for Shabbos and yes, I taste the raw dough. Another rule broken. Don’t you know that is sure to give you salmonella. Besides, I’m not supposed to be eating at all. Not only that but it’s Shabbos. Very religious Jews don’t even turn lights on on Shabbos, much less cook. And they NEVER eat at restaurants or patronize businesses that are open on Shabbos. That would make my challa the exact opposite of kosher. Oh, yeah and Billy? As a Jew it’s a little unshabistic to have the use the electricity on once Shabbos has begun. As a mother it’s probably a good rule not to blast it while your kids are supposed to be sleeping. How many rules is that now? I wasn’t even sure if I was going to fast the next day when people would see me.

    I went to sleep with a satisfied feeling in my heart and eight beautiful loaves of, technically unkosher, challa in my freezer. I served one of them to my incest survivors support group as I told them the whole story. They applauded me and enjoyed the treat. To this day I remember the experience joyfully and have absolutely no remorse for breaking all those rules. Zander, however, had plenty of remorse. When I told him about the mess he had left me with he apologized and promised never to do it again. I, on the other hand, will not make the same promise.

    • Debbie says

      Ilana –
      Good for you! I was cheering as you took on one rule after another, exercising your freedom of choice. The result life-affirming for you. Terrific – thank you for this story of empowerment regarding all of the rules we are taught.

    • Patti Hall says

      Wonderful story and another great last line! I love the spark in this group we have here. Thank you.

    • Judy says

      This piece has a wonderful bounce and humor to it, Ilana. Did you feel lighter making the challa? Or dancing around your kitchen to Billy Joel? You are brave and full of courage. It takes real strength and grit to challenge authority. I’m cheering for you and your dear family. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Ilana, I just loved the rebellious flavor of this colorful piece. I think that shows a lot of strengh which will no doubt propel you along your healing journey.

    • Terry Gibson says

      I have always loved your spunk and I love this example of it! I’m imagining you with the music blaring, baking challa and cleaning up. One cool story! And, please don’t take this as disrespect–because it isn’t–but I am happy there was no lightning that night.

  17. Debbie says

    As I dialed the phone, I noticed my fingers were shaking ever so slightly. “How ridiculous!” I thought to myself. I am a grown woman in my mid-thirties. “Hello” said the familiar voice. “Hi Mom” I said with false enthusiasm. “how are you?”

    We then spent a few minutes in superficial chit chat about weather, family foibles and the weekly grocery store specials. Finally I mustered up the courage, “Mom, I need to tell you something. I have decided to leave my job. I am going back to college, after all these years. I want to study to be a nurse.” Once started, the words just exploded from my throat. All of the well rehearsed rationale and logic forgotten in the torrent.

    There was the anticipated silence on the other end of the line… Then, the questioning. “Are you sure you should do that? After all, you have had lots of great ideas over the years that you never really, well, you never followed through on. I mean, do you realize what this will do to your career? Debbie, you can’t just throw away your future, your security” Wincing, I waited for her to take a breath.

    “Mom, security is an illusion” I responded with words more prophetic than I could ever have predicted. “What is real is how I feel everyday. I go to work hoping I will live long enough to retire and finally get to enjoy life. Well, I am changing the rules. I am going to start doing something every day that I enjoy and brings meaning into my life.”

    I could almost hear her familiar prayer; I wish your father was still alive so we could hear what he would have to say about this. Actually, I was wishing Dad was still alive as well. I desperately wanted some encouragement and reassurance that I could really pull this off. But that was not to be. At least not from my family. They were all sure I was completely nuts to abandon my well paying corporate role, for nursing school?

    That was over twenty years ago now. I made my goal of becoming a nurse by the age of 40. And along the way proved to my family, and me, that I had perseverance for the first time in my life. I now have a career that sustains me emotionally, spiritually and financially.

    But just the other morning I noticed the shadows of a thought playing around the edges of my mind. Maybe it is time to shake things up again. Maybe it is time to head back to school. Makes me smile to think of calling my now much older mother to have nearly the same conversation we had twenty years ago.

    “But Debbie, what about your future, your security……”

    Security is an illusion. What is real is how you feel every day. Break all the damn rules!

    • Patti Hall says

      You are so brave! I loved reading your story and watching you plow through, despite having no support or encouragement. Good writing. Thank you.

    • Judy says

      Debbie, You had me hooked immediately. Stories of career changes are always of interest and thank you for such a heart felt, well crafted piece. Love your concluding line!

    • Ilana says

      Debbie- Thank you for this heartening look into how you became what you are today. Having read it I feel inspired. Awesome job and again, a great last line! IM

  18. Deb Mansell says

    I broke the rules when I spoke out loud about what had happened to me, I broke the rules when I told, when I broke the silence.

    I tried to tell when I was being abused, when I really small, through temper tantrum and night terrors. When I was older I tried to talk about it, I told a woman I babysat for, told her I didn’t like what was happening and she told me as long as it wasn’t her husband she didn’t want to know!

    Whilst I was still being abused ,aged 15, I went for youth counselling but couldn’t tell, sat in silence through every session then cried at the end because I hadn’t managed to speak.

    I eventually managed to break the silence and started to talk about the pain.

    Then I told my mother. I told her that my uncle had abused me. She screamed back at me, “Why didn’t you tell someone? “ “Why did you let him?” “Why didn’t you stop him?” I knew then that whatever else I decided to do I was on my own, that she would never understand how I felt or what had happened to me. So I broke the rules again and found myself a new mum, someone who would listen to me.

    Christine was the wife of our minister I chose her to be my mum, she already cared for me, made me endless cups of tea, wiped away my tears. We went on long dogs walks through the woods stopping on the way for a chat, a tear and a hug. The hugs I remember so well, I was so cuddle starved and Christine’s hugs are endless. She took me into her life and made me a part of her family; I know had 2 new brothers and 2 new sisters! Aunts and uncles even new grandparents, all who cared about me.

    And now for two weeks of every summer break I take my family to stay with Grandma Christine and Granddad Michael in their home in Hastings, which is by the sea, and stock up on all those hugs I’ve missed for the year. The best one is when we step of the train and there she is open armed waiting for us.

    • Debbie says

      Deb – your post is a touching portrait of a journey that, unfortunately, too many have traveled. Thanks for continuing to speak your truth.

    • Patti Hall says

      Thank you for telling us. That family is just as lucky to have you as you are to have them. Your writing conveyed your story so well.

    • Judy says

      Thank you Deb for sharing so deeply and honestly. Your well written piece touched my heart. Happy hug scooping–and have a great summer!

      • Deb Mansell says

        I have 7 weeks until I step from that train into Christine’s hug, boy that can’t come soon enough I’m in a real tough place at the moment.

    • Ilana says

      Deb- This is a courageous and beautiful story. I am so honored that you shared it with us. I’m so glad you found a family where you felt you fit in. Nice job. IM

    • Terry Gibson says

      Deb, this story hits on so many things for me: telling and being blamed for it; feeling emotionally bereft and needing an anchor of some sort; craving a genuine connection; and crying after a therapy appointment because I couldn’t say anything (and that was all the human contact I’d have for weeks on end). I am so happy you found your Mum! You deserved that all along–as well as proper intervention with the blame put firmly where it belonged. Thank you for posting this.

      • Deb Mansell says

        Thank you your comment and care mean alot to me. I am going through more counselling now, uncovering things from before this time, a difficult and scary time.

  19. Sheila McGinley says

    Perhaps it is hard to picture a person living in Berkeley in the radical 70’s and yet feeling drab and boring, but drab was what I had been feeling when I met Deb. I lived in a brown-shingled house on the south end of the campus, the street tree-lined and filled with students and ex-student hangers-on. Everyone on our street fit into that latter category: we had finished college but just couldn’t leave that Berkeley life. There were the political radicals, the passionate ecology folks, in-your-face gays and lesbians and women at last freed by the pill to be as wild and unreasonably stupid in our sex choices as men had ever been. It seemed that no one worked unless at a very cool part-time job and yet the flats we lived in were outrageously expensive in their chic coolness. I knew my time there, until I must become a working stiff, was very limited.

    I lived in a two bedroom downstairs flat with three of us jammed in. We had many late-night dinners that summer, during which we drank and laughed and had just as many fights over whose turn it was to halfheartedly do the endless chores. For our long and dreamlike first summer, no one worked more than a few hours and it seemed like we might be able to continue on like this forever. My friend Pat was learning massage techniques while she subbed as a barista and Marsha dragged out her senior thesis, trying to hold on to the student life until its last dying breath in her. Upstairs were a gypsy tarot reader and her transexual boyfriend, a dancer at a gay bar. I had just completed my year of teacher training but was still living on the grants attached to my credential program, finding the time to read and cook in between going out to the local bars and sleeping occasionally with a poet who lived inside an old water tower in North Oakland. I kept trying to be reckless and adventurous but couldn’t shake the feeling that I was doing exactly what was expected of me in living this fantasy.

    My life turned when we all arrived back from a weekend trip to LA at 5 a.m. one Monday. A half hour after I fell into bed, having not slept for 36 hours, the phone rang. I answered and heard a very wide-awake and stern voice asking me if I would accept my very first teaching assignment as a substitute teacher, to begin at 7:45 that morning in one of East Oakland’s very iffy neighborhoods. Suddenly aware that the time had come for me to wake up and earn a living and to prove that I could teach, I reluctantly said yes, looking longingly at my bed. Three cups of coffee and a long cold shower later, I was making my way to my first day as an adult.

    Thus began two years of teaching elementary school, two years of getting up at 6 a.m. to dress up in the most conservative skirts, pants and tights that I could find, my hair back and braided into a knot at the top of my head. I left the school at 4 and made my way through traffic back to the house I had loved, exhausted and filled with unnamed feelings of confusion, hatred and love for these kids who needed more from me than I could ever give them, needed more from life than life was willing to give. As I pulled up to the house, wanting nothing more than to get out of my clothes and lie quietly on the couch, perhaps telling one of the heartbreaking stories circling in my head, I was greeted by everyone from the neighborhood stretched on the front lawn, throwing I Ching, drinking wine and laughing raucously. At first, they begged me to join them, but after I crankily refused, they took to telling me that I had become too dull, too serious. not myself. I felt that way: dull, grey, not at all like Berkeley, more like my parents and their friends. And I felt confused at how angry I was. My house no longer seemed so wild and romantic, which made me feel that I had stepped on some kind of treadmill toward being respectably predictable.

    That was when Deb moved in down the street. Her best friend taught at a school near mine and somehow we connected. Debbie was a photographer and film editor who stayed up for many nights working on films. Yet she was as blue collar as they come and drove a bus for disabled young adults during the day. Deb had a half-buried sexuality oozing from her, and men and women alike responded to her as if electrified, either hating or desiring her within days of meeting her. And yet she turned her eyes to me. I had never thought of being attracted to a woman, and never had felt at all attractive, yet Deb’s desire of me pulsed through me as if I had never lived in my body before. I could not understand the feeling and did not really think I cared at all about women, but the aliveness in me was beyond anything I had ever known. It was not me. It was not what I wanted to do in my life. It was not how I was raised. It was not what I had trained myself to do with feelings of desire. And I wanted more.

    The first evening that Deb walked past our house and took in the drunk crowd tossing I Ching sticks, her eyes wandered across the crowd and a slight look of disgust crossed her face. Her eyes found mine and I shrugged. She leaned against the wall that ran along the sidewalk and took some photos, then turned to take some of me, still dressed in my dowdy teacher’s clothes. Her eyes lingered and I felt her desire but wanted it to leave me. I turned and left, going into the house and closing my door behind me. I had a life to lead, I had a job to do. And none of this was part of it. I knew what to do. I needed to settle down inside of myself, to do my job, to lead a life that wouldn’t awaken the fear in me.

    The next evening, after I had returned from work and was changing into jeans and a t-shirt, I heard a bus horn blowing out front and then heard a chorus of my name. The gang was calling me, laughing and shouting out to the small bus parked in front of our house, asking what in the world it was doing there, hopeless normalcy in this very hip world. Sitting in the back of the bus were four developmentally disabled adults, staring unabashedly at the unruly crowd. In the driver’s seat was Deb.

    I ran down the steps and asked her what she wanted. “Get in,” she said, “You don’t need this stupidity.” I hesitated for a moment, turning toward everyone staring at me open-mouthed, and Deb snorted. “You want their approval?” I said the only thing I could think of: “It’s illegal for me to ride!” She shrugged and gestured toward the passengers. “You can’t act like them if you need to? Seriously? Have you never broken the law before?”

    I was ashamed to say that I hadn’t, ever, if you didn’t count smoking pot and having sex. I protested that it would be her who would lose her job. “There will always be another” she said. She turned to the young adults behind her. “Hey, guys, do you mind if my friend comes along?” A chorus of stuttering no’s filled the air and they reached to shake my hand. One moment passed and a lifetime of being a good Catholic girl slipped right out of me as she reached for my hand. “Here,” she said, “I’ll pull you up.” And we were gone.

    After that, every day Deb would stop and pick me up before her last drop-off round. I watched the hippies, radicals and tarot readers disappear out of sight in my side mirror. We laughed and talked to the kids about their day as we drove through the seedy parts of town to deliver them home. We were alive, they were alive and I didn’t feel dowdy anymore. I found myself rushing home after work to change and be ready when the bus lumbered down the street, and my housemates soon learned to ignore my departure.

    The day finally arrived when an inspector stopped our bus. As she approached, Debbie mumbled to me to look as if I was disabled. I drooped my face and stuck my tongue out like Rosie was doing as she sat behind me. On impulse, I stuck my finger in my mouth and loosened my jaw, staring at the inspector with a steady gaze. “Hi, girlie!” she said, and told Debbie she was running five minutes behind, that she needed to improve her time. She asked for the mileage and a look of puzzlement crossed her face before she shrugged. “Have a good evening”, she said and turned away.

    We drove away in silence until we were safely away and then we began to laugh. We laughed until tears ran down our faces and soon the others on the bus were laughing with us. They were still laughing as we dropped them off and we were helpless in our laughter even as the parents gave us puzzled looks. They had become used to me “assisting” Deb and so just shook their heads at the two of us, waving us away. I turned to Deb and told her that this was really the first real law I had ever broken. “You’re kidding!” she shouted, and started laughing again.

    Suddenly, the bus empty, she swerved and headed up the hill to the huge park that sat on top, saying that she was keeping the bus tonight for an early run tomorrow, so why not go on a photography binge? We ran through the park and up the hills, finding perfect photos of the oak trees at sunset. Until Deb sat her camera down and pulled me down toward her, hidden behind the largest tree. She opened my shirt and then she began to kiss me, opening in me a desire that I would have preferred to leave unknown. And yet I kissed her back, over and over again.

    After that, we often ended our law-breaking ride at that tree, with the sound and feel and touch, the laughter and wanting that for me was the greatest breaking of rules I had ever known. Everything in me told me that I didn’t belong there and yet everything in me brought me back to soak up being desired, and desiring, once again. I felt wild and free and lost all at the same time, but I also knew that there was no longer a drab predictability in me. Mostly I felt that I was yanked out of my wall of protection by Deb’s desire and that I felt alive. My fear was alive,my body was alive and I gave in to desire. Until the weight of the rules and the fear in my head finally broke me open and the exhilaration was gone. I became more frightened, ashamed and anxious, and Deb began to tire of it, began to find other things to do with her evenings, her excuse being that she couldn’t keep risking her job. I began to see her out at night with an old friend of mine, and I could not understand the total devastation I felt every time they bumped against each other while walking down the street in front of me.

    At the end of the school year, I packed up my things and left that cool little Berkeley house, finding a small, lonely and boring studio of my own. It was a year before the pain and fear ebbed away and much longer before I felt desire course through me again. I look back now and realize that something inside of me both opened forever and also closed forever while breaking rules that I didn’t even know I had. Now, so many years later, I sometimes think I see Deb on the street and I take a sharp breath. Who knows if I would have ever learned to risk and desire, to leave behind for even a moment my careful world, if I hadn’t climbed into that bus and broken every rule that held me together?

    • Ilana says

      Wow Sheila. This is a great piece. It felt to me like a beautiful story to tuck in your pocket. There was a lot you learned and a lot you took away from it but it had to end. Thanks for posting it. IM

      • Sheila McGinley says

        Thank you. It surprised the hell out of me when it poured out at 1 a.m.! Felt good to write it. Thanks to both of you.

    • Debbie says

      Sheila – This was a gripping story, intricately interfacing the exterior events and your interior feelings. You portrayed so well those pivotal moments that crack us open to new thoughts, feelings and desires. Thanks for sharing this well-written post with us.

      • Sheila McGinley says

        Thank you. It surprised the hell out of me when it poured out at 1 a.m.! Felt good to write it.

    • Judy says

      Shelia, Thank you for sharing with such an open heart and rich wordings. What a emotional roller coaster. Let there be great peace around you in your choices—-always. Who knows, another Deb may walk through your life again. And remember, the heart knows what the heart knows.

  20. Bobbie Anne says

    I’m in the middle and one of seven children. I wore hand-me-down clothes and my sisters and kids at school bullied me from time to time. There are four girls, eighteen months apart. You can imagine what that was like!

    While the rules were broken from time to time, it wasn’t fun. It got so bad and I was hit for not doing anything wrong. In fact, I was a good kid and didn’t cause much trouble. But I wasn’t perfect. Who is? There was one younger girl two younger brothers. My younger brother decided to run away one day. I was supposed to mind him, and I was only two years older, so I decided we would run away together. I wasn’t so happy either. We took an old blanket, some other stuff, including my Dad’s secret stash of his favorite pastries. Guess who got hit when my brother cried and I took him home? It was not fun. It was a horrible memory.

    Wait, there was a fun memory. When I was about four or five, my older sister, at 8 or 9 year’s old, decided that all four of us would strip down to our underware, and swim in the public fountain in NY. Now that beats a water park any time. There weren’t any signs visible that said you couldn’t swim in the fountain then, although there might be signs now. And yes, at that time, I was a child and thought that was fun. Yes, I got hit when I got home.Go figure. But it was still fun at the time.

    • Debbie says

      Bobbie Anne – I appreciate your effort to sort through the memories of consequences when you broke the rules, to find a piece of fun that came from the unknowing rebellion of swimming in a public fountain. Fascinating how a smile and a tear can exist side by side in our memories. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Ilana says

      Bobbie Anne- I can imagine how hard it must have been to be in the middle of all those kids. Thank you for this full and rich vignette. You showed us both the good and the bad of breaking rules. IM

    • Patti Hall says

      I was 3 of 7, along with other similarities. I read your struggle to find the fun, and applaud you for finding it. Writing is great medicine for the heart. Thank you for sharing this.

  21. Diana says

    When it comes to rule breaking, I turned in a royal flush.

    My entire childhood I played it close to the chest. I was quiet, obedient, small and invisible. The gawky, puny kid in the front row, far right of your 5th grade class picture – that’s me. The kid’s name you can’t remember and point to as the “New Kid” that year. I promptly disappeared from your 6th grade class picture to appear in someone else’s.

    I stayed meek and outwardly compliant through high school. My parents divorced as I started 7th grade. My mother moved into a trailer park with an alcoholic truck driver. My dad moved back home with his mother. I opted to live with my dad. Living in a conservative, rural Southern town was not what I had envisioned for my high school experience.

    My subtle rule breaking of pot smoking, sleeping with my preacher’s son boyfriend, drinking at sleepovers with girlfriends; all went unnoticed by my dad and grandmother.

    I headed to college confused and lost. I finished my first year with a 1.89 GPA and changed my major three times. I dropped out of college. I still felt small, alone and invisible. My rage grew and still nobody listened.

    The day came when I held the winning hand.
    “Nanny”, I said. “I’m moving to California. David has asked me to come live with him in San Francisco.”
    There it was; my royal flush. I was going to move 1500 miles away to live in sin with an agnostic Jew from New York.

    Would they listen now?

  22. Debbie says

    Diana – your post reminds us that those who are outwardly quiet can be filled with intense and contradictory emotions. When you move around a lot, and are always “the new kid” – it makes it even harder. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

  23. Deb Mansell says

    The biggest rule break was telling the cops. Now that was the one that really blew the family apart; because they all found out what he’d done to me.

    My uncle had abused me sexually between the ages of 9 and 19. Starting with the tickling me till I couldn’t breathe and touching me, through to rape.

    When I was 29 I was so concerned for his daughter, my cousin , that I rang the NSPCC, I told them what had happened to me and my concern for my cousin, and they said if I had support that I should seriously think about going to the police and telling them what he’d done to me. I talked to my social worker and she said that she would come with me. So on February 10th 1992 I walked into the police station and had a female officer take my statement of 11 sides of A4 paper, which took most of the day to tell. And this was only part of it I told as I thought that the rape and the things that happened after I was 16 were my fault, because I didn’t stop him.

    I didn’t allow myself to feel what I was doing at the time, I can hardly remember the police station inside as I crept inside myself and waited till it was safe to come out.

    The following day both his daughters were interviewed and both denied anything had happened to them, but I remember how difficult it was for me to speak out. The next day they interviewed his wife and went to his work and arrested him.

    He denied everything, so was locked in the cells until he started to shout and say he wanted to talk. He was then told to sit in the cell and think about it a bit longer. He was eventually interviewed and admitted to all I said, thinking back he really must have thought his luck was in, he knew it was worse than I’d said. He was charged with indecent assault.

    The case went to court 5 months later and because of his guilty plea I wasn’t even told the date. I just read about it in the paper the next day. He got a slap on the wrist, good old British justice. 200 hours community service and a £250 fine. And the judge summed up that I was to be held partly responsible because I, as a child, had gone to the house when I knew he’d be alone.

    I think that’s what my family feel, that it was my own fault, they haven’t supported me, I get the feeling I’m a bit of a liability who refuses to shut up! There was a huge row with my sister about how I’d torn the family apart, yet I couldn’t see how it had ever been together.

    • Patti Hall says

      I’m sorry. I’m trying to stick with commenting on your writing…okay, your writing is very good. Brave words that flow into our hearts.
      Thank you.

      • Deb Mansell says

        I am sorry if this is too much, but it’s where I am at the moment in the middle of all this raw emotional memories. I don’t wish or mean to hurt anyone or cause anyone pain.

    • Debbie says

      Deb – your write with the voice of the observer about a difficult time. This is a safe place to share your observations, memories and feelings. It takes courage to find your voice. Keep writing.

      • Deb Mansell says

        Thank you Debbie I so very much need that validation at the moment. Am writing and observing on these bits whilst going to therapy and talking about more hidden bits!!

  24. Terry Gibson says

    She is tender and warm.
    Arrives on a morning fresh
    Without light knock or bell
    Like a whiff of tea and toast
    Upon a hot summer breeze.

    She is tender and warm.
    We perch on auburn-dabbed
    cliffs, shoulder against shoulder
    Study each other sideways
    Relax, with breath abated,
    An odd-looking pair, yet
    Somehow finely matched.

    She is tender and warm.
    Our bodies crumple in a fit of laughs
    With our heels, we plough small
    Rocks along and off the dusty edge.
    Languish in and read saucy prose
    Savour a bookish kind of bliss.

    She is tender and warm.
    Inside, I feel a love so wide, I float
    Awash, like starfish on the tide
    So magically real—I am never more
    Sure of myself than at this very moment.

    We are tender and warm.

    • Debbie says

      Terry – your poetry is evocative, and leaves us to wonder what rule is being broken. Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Debbie. Depending on who the protagonist is, it could be an adult child reconciling with an estranged mother, friend, sister or girlfriend. Something considered taboo or ill- advised by those close to her/him. It could also be the choice of a new love–or even a reconciling and integration of combative selves.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *