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Poke-Nook, the Lost Glove, and My Cousin Isly by
(154 Stories)

/ Stories

(After drafting this story,  I learned of the sudden death of our friend Arnie.  May his memory be a blessing.)

Our poet and filmmaker friend Arnie Reisman was a regular panelist on Says You,  a witty NPR radio show about words.  Over the years learned a lot from Arnie and his literate pals.   For example,  did you know that the dark,  cavernous inside of a woman’s handbag is called a poke-nook?   Remember that word while I tell you about my lost glove.

A few years ago I bought a lovely green winter coat and I found a pair of gloves just the right shade of green to go with it.   I was wearing my new green ensemble while walking downtown one day when my cell phone rang.

As you may know,  you can’t hit the talk button with a glove on,  apparently the human touch is needed which is actually rather sweet.   So I pulled off one glove,  answered the call and chatted away,  but when the call was over I couldn’t find the glove.

Thinking I may have dropped it,  I retraced my steps for several blocks – but no dice.   So over the next few days I searched the stores for another pair,   but it seems the fashionistas had decreed that green wasn’t “in” that year and many of the shops had no green gloves at all.

Then I tried Lord and Taylor,   and luckily found a pair in green that even had a tag attached that read,   “Keep your hands warm while you stay in touch!   Use with Apple iPod and iPhone mobile digital devices and other touch sensitive accessories!”.   How perfect!

A few days later I met my young cousin Isly for lunch.   Coming out of the restaurant afterwards I realized I was missing one of my brand new green gloves,   but this time I didn’t fret.   I knew the gloves could be replaced,   but the precious time I just had with my sweet cousin Isly was irreplaceable!


Later that night when I was cleaning out my handbag,  guess what –  I found the lost glove in my poke-nook!   Thanks Arnie!

Dana Susan Lehrman

ARNIE REISMAN  May 1, 1942 – Oct 4, 2021

Tennis Woes by
(154 Stories)

Prompted By Hobbies

/ Stories

I’ve written recently about my pickleball addiction and also about my long,  and rather lackluster tennis career and my parents’ unforgivable role in it.   (See Pickled)

Here’s more about that disappointing chapter in my sporting life.

My parents were both athletic,  in facf my father was a really good tennis player in his youth,  although he didn’t pursue it in later life.   But after he died we found his old Wilson racket at the back of his closet,  still in its wooden press.

My mother played basketball in high school,  and was an excellent swimmer.   Growing up in the Rockaways,  she said,  you learned to swim – really swim – in the ocean,  not by paddling around in some swimming pool.

Like most kids in our Bronx neighborhood,  my sister and I had bikes and roller skates,  and sleds and ice skates,  but back then we played sports for fun,  we weren’t training to be star athletes or Olympic prospects.   And our after-school hours weren’t programmed by over-zealous parents as they are today.

When I’d come home from school I’d strap my roller skates over my shoes,  and with my skate key on a rope around my neck I’d skate down the block to call for my friend Susy.   Then I’d ring her doorbell and wait impatiently while her mother yelled,  “Susy,  Dana’s here and she says put on your skates.”   (See Skate Key)

But one thing most parents foisted upon their kids in those days was music lessons,   and my parents were no different.  Yet,  as I’ve admitted before,  after years of piano lessons,   and the expenditure of time,  effort,  and their hard-earned money,  all I can play now are a few bars of Beethoven’s Fur Elise.

Perhaps had they given me tennis lessons instead,  after all these years I wouldn’t still be stuck in the women’s B clinic.

So don’t blame me for my tennis woes,  blame those negligent two!.

Dana Susan Lehrman

Ferdinand by
(154 Stories)

Prompted By Children's Books

/ Stories

“Once upon a time in Spain there was a little bull and his name was Ferdinand.”  So begins one of the most cherished children’s books of our time,  and my own childhood favorite.

The Story of Ferdinand,  written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson,   was published in 1936 while across the Atlantic the Spanish Civil War was raging.

But as a child I was oblivious to the book’s anti-Fascist,  anti-violence polemic,  nor attuned to it’s message of acceptance for children with differences.

And I certainly didn’t know that Hitler had ordered the book burned as degenerate literature,  or that in Franco’s Spain it was banned as anti-Fascist propaganda until the death of the dictator decades later.

And I don’t think I was bothered at the time by the concept of bullfighting,   perhaps I was too naive to realize that the bull always loses.   I simply loved the book for it’s sweet,  funny story,  and it’s delightful illustrations.  (Decades later on a trip to Seville,  and against my better judgment,   I went to a bullfight that haunts me to this day.)

Of course you may know the story –   unlike the other young bulls who love to run and buck,  Ferdinand is content to sit under a “cork tree”  and smell the flowers.    And when by a serendipitous and humorous twist of fate he’s taken to Madrid to fight in the bullring,  he catches the scent of the flowers in the hair of the lovely senoritas.   He sits down in the middle of the ring to enjoy the smell,   ignores the provocations of the disgruntled matadors,   and as he won’t fight,   he’s sent back home.

Ferdinand’s mother worries about her unusual progeny,  but she sees he’s neither lonely nor unhappy,   and so leaves him to his peaceful pursuit because – as Munro Leaf so wisely tells us –   “she was an understanding mother,  even though she was a cow.”

What a better world it would be if we all stopped to smell the flowers,  like that little Spanish bull named Ferdinand.

Dana Susan Lehrman

Art Imitates Life by
(154 Stories)

Prompted By Lemons to Lemonade

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I don’t remember my mother Jessie saying  “When life gives you lemons,  make lemonade”,   but it certainly was her modus vivendi.  (See My Game Mother)

Coming of age during the depression in New York’s Far Rockaway,  my mother’s parents were necessarily frugal.   But although money was tight,  her lawyer-father was able to send her older brother,  my uncle Milt,  to a private,  out-of-state college.  (See Rosie and Milt, the Literary Lady and the Second-Story Man)

But one private school tuition was all the family could afford,  and so Jessie went to the public Hunter College,  traveling on the Long Island Railroad several hours each way between Rockaway and midtown Manhattan.

Then Mayor LaGuardia appointed my grandfather as a city magistrate,  and with his larger salary,   he asked my mother if she’d like to transfer to a private college.   But by then she’d met my father,   they married in June of her sophomore year,   and she was happy staying at Hunter.

Early in their marriage my parents took jobs at a summer camp – she as arts and crafts counselor,  and he,  just out of med school,  as camp doctor.   She had to borrow clothes from friends,   she once told me,  so she’d have enough of a summer wardrobe to take with her.

My folks went on to lead a financially comfortable life,  but like many of their generation,  they never completely shed their Depression mentality.   Both were handy with their hands and with tools,  and repaired things in their house that I would’ve paid a handyman to do without hesitation.   And before sending anything to the dry cleaners,  my mother would attack it with a rag and a little soap and water which usually did the trick.  (See Elbow Grease)

And my mother sewed,  not all her clothes,  but some.   A whiz with a sewing machine, she could even make curtains and slipcovers,  and was known to patch carpets and rugs with a big curved carpet needle.

A high school art teacher by vocation,  Jessie was a talented artist and painted wonderful landscapes,  still lifes,  and portraits in charcoal,  watercolor,  and oil.   (See Still Life)

“Never regret an accidental line you’ve drawn,  or an unintentional brush stroke you’ve made,”   she told us,  “and never abandon your canvas.   Accept your mistakes,  incorporate them into the design,  and make it a beautiful picture!”

Dana Susan Lehrman


Distracted by
(154 Stories)

Prompted By Attention Span

/ Stories

I’m a big reader –  or at least I was.    (See Book Slut, or Why I’m in Six Book Clubs)

Actually a therapist once questioned whether I had an attention deficit because I told him I was easily distracted. –  I invariably forget pots on the stove,  and my son is not the only one in the family who’s forgotten to turn off the taps when drawing a bath.  (See Tracing Our Roots)

And,  I confessed to the therapist,  I often make half the bed and then remember something else that needs doing,  or I leave the dishwasher half loaded when distracted by another task.

Then he asked if I had trouble finishing a book,  and I said no,  and there went his neat ADHD diagnosis.

But since Covid I don’t seem to have the same concentration or sitzfleisch I had,  and I’m surely reading much less.    But then again I think I’m writing much more.

So thanks for small blessings,  and thanks Retrospect!

Dana Susan Lehrman

Never Forget by
(154 Stories)

/ Stories

Some of the things I witnessed 20 years ago during that awful September week in New York are seared in my memory and I’ll never forget. (See  9/11)

The disbelief and horror as we watched TV news clips of a plane hitting the south tower of the World Trade Center,   then the tower in flames,  and then another plane hitting the north tower.

And a friend’s brother who worked blocks from the towers telling us later that he saw the jumpers with his own eyes.

And a man selling American flags from the back of a pickup truck on an eerily quiet East 86th Street.

And the smell of smoke that lingered in the air for days,  even in my uptown neighborhood 10 miles from Ground Zero.

And the prayer meeting at our synagogue when a sobbing friend rose to speak about his childhood friend who died on the hijacked plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

And days later when the games resumed at Yankee Stadium,  pledging to the flag from the stands,  and watching President Bush throw out the first ball.

And later in the week when Lincoln Center reopened,  the City Opera conductor asking the audience to rise and then leading us in God Bless America.   And all of us singing a cappella through our tears along with the costumed cast standing up on the stage in front of the curtain.

Then the orchestra started playing the overture,   the curtain went up,   and the opera began.

Dana Susan Lehrman

The Parking Lot Seniority List by
(154 Stories)

Prompted By Parking

/ Stories

For many years until I retired I worked as the librarian at Jane Addams,   a small,  inner-city vocational high school in the infamous south Bronx.   True,  the neighborhood was sketchy,   and the local bank where many of us cashed our monthly paychecks was robbed a couple of times,  but our school was an oasis in the asphalt jungle.   We had a wonderful and dedicated faculty,  and in general our students were good kids who wanted nothing more than to succeed.  (See Magazines for the Principal,  The Diary of a Young Girl,  Mr October,  Going Back to Work)

Street parking near the school was hard to find,  so at some point,  well before my time,  the schoolyard was designated as the faculty parking lot.   Lines were painted,  spaces were numbered,  and because there were always more drivers than allotted spaces,  a seniority list was created.

Faculty and staff were listed chronologically by the date they began working at the school,  with a formula to adjust for leaves of absence.   And administrators and deans who had to be at school early,  and basketball coaches and counselors who had to stay late,  were given preference.   And assigning spaces to folks in carpools required another special formula.

The teachers union rep even got involved to vet the constitutionality of the whole thing,  and so you can see it was a very important school-wide issue.

Our faculty was close-knit,  many life-long friendships were forged there,  and we usually shared each other’s joys and sorrows.   And so when one of us retired,  there was sure to be a grand celebration.

And when an upcoming retirement was announced the word spread quickly so that even before congratulations were given,  or party-planning begun,   the newer faculty members would high-tail it to the principal’s office.

Then the school secretary would take out that very important Parking Lot Seniority List so they could see who was the lucky one next in line for that about-to-be available,  highly coveted parking space!

Dana Susan Lehrman

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