Feb 282011
 

The night before the burial of my mother’s ashes, I slept very badly. The animals were restive also. I woke up depressed. I was sure that I would lose control of my emotions at Tecla’s grave.

I reached into my drawer for pantyhose and picked a pair that did not look familiar to me. They went on easily, too easily.

The plan was to meet my cousin Linda at her office on Market and Van Ness, the Bank of America. My dog Lola was with me and we found Linda waiting for us on the street outside the 1455 Market.

By the time we got to the garage of her building the pantyhose were sifting down to my buttocks. I had to hitch them up several times by the time we reached her car in the garage. As we got to the door of her car I actually had to pull up my skirt and rearrange them over my nether parts.

I realized that they must have been mamma’s pantyhose that I took when I cleaned out her nightstand the day she died.

We drove to the office of the Italian Cemetery in Colma and found cousin Stanley and Bob waiting for us. Before we walked out to the cemetery grounds I had to duck into the office’s ladies room so I could pull the hose back up my body.

Italian Cemetery is a lovely place with broad paths, expressive statuary and dignified mausoleums. The sun was shining, a welcome event after several days of cold weather. The trees that line the path are sculpted into halos so the sun casts an interesting shadow of the branches onto the ground below.

Linda, Stanley, Bob, the dog and I walked towards the lot where my grandparents’ crypt is. I was extremely uncomfortable with these damned hose wiggling around my behind. I told Bob and Stanley what I was dealing with and they roared. Linda said, “Why don’t you just take them off?”

” I don’t wear panties underneath,” I explained. One of them yelled out, “Too much information!”

What could’ve been and perhaps should have been a solemn occasion devolved into slapstick. Every few steps I gripped my skirt and pulled my hose up under them, staggering all the while like Dr. Frankenstein’s Igor or the hunchback of Notre Dame.

When we arrived at my grandparents grave it is open. JoAnn the admin at the cemetery explained the interior to us. We looked down a deep shaft, perhaps 6 to 8 feet down to see a flat surface. Under that were the caskets of my grand parents and their two infant children, Albertina and Albertino. But you would never know it because their remains were completely sealed under a false floor. Mamma’s ashes had been placed in a white plastic container about the size of a microwave oven. Andy Canepa at the cemetery office had explained to me that the container of ashes was really quite small but he had packed it in bubble wrap so that it wouldn’t wobble in the white plastic box.

A worker standing by at the grave descended the ladder took mamma’s remains down to the floor of the crypt. Stanley and Bob had brought a bouquet of flowers — something I hadn’t thought of — and Stanley extracted the one red rose — we remembered that Tecla’s favorite color was red. He threw it down into the crypt and it landed right on mother’s box of ashes.

“Tecla is running the show today,” Stanley said — what with her pantyhose causing hilarity and the red rose falling straight to her ashes.

After that I had Andy identify for me the address of my aunt and uncle’s grave. It was just a couple of rows away from the Puccetti site. A very modest affair which kind of surprised me.

And that was the end of our day at the cemetery on January 20, 2011.

Feb 282011
 

For weeks I worked with my coach Nina Price to fashion a workshop teaching people to write their own memoir or their family history.
Finally February 19, 2011 I launched this workshop, “Forever Remembered”, with six students at the Fior d’Italia restaurant in North Beach.
Marilyn and Suzy have been friends of mine since grammar school. They graciously agreed to join to assure I would have at least two people in my first workshop.

But then I made another contact when I spoke at the Calvary Presbyterian Church in January were I met Nienke who signed up also. Former colleague at the Oakland Tribune Barbara Grady seemed happy to participate. My friend Clara referred a woman named Alfie to me who had been thinking about writing a family memoir. My friends Sandie and her sister Karen are also participating.
All these women have compelling stories. All, except Nienke who is writing a personal memoir, are writing about their family histories. Suzy, Barbara and Sandie are concentrating on their mothers.

I feel there is a good esprit de corps in the class. Getting over our shyness with each other, we are sharing our stories, sometimes painful, always engaging.

I feel very good that I can impart some guidance and it is fulfilling to me. I’m very happy in this class even though there are times when I cannot find my next spot in my notes. Still, the response has been generally positive. I would like to start a midweek afternoon class as soon as I find enough interest.

 Posted by at 2:26 pm
Feb 192011
 

For weeks I worked with my coach Nina Price to fashion a workshop teaching people to write their own memoir or their family history.

Finally February 19, 2011 I launched this workshop with six students at the Fior d’Italia restaurant in North Beach. The owner, Bob Larive, generously set aside one of the banquet rooms for us.

Marilyn and Suzy were friends of mine since grammar school. They graciously agreed to join to help me have at least two people in my first workshop. But then I made another contact when I spoke at the Calvary Presbyterian Church in January were I met Nienke who signed up also. Former colleague at the Oakland Tribune Barbara Grady seemed happy to participate. My friend Clara Chorley referred Alfie Adona who had been thinking about writing a family memoir. My friends Sandie Wernick and her sister Karen Rothstein also participate.

All these are writing about their family histories, except Nienke who is concentrating on her own biography. Suzy, Barbara and Sandie are concentrating on their mothers. They each have a compelling stories.

I feel there is a good esprit de corps in the class. We are getting over our shyness with each other. We are sharing our stories, sometimes painful, frequently electrifying.

I feel very good that I can impart some guidance and it is fulfilling to me. I’m very happy in this class even though there are times when I run dry or cannot find my next spot in my notes. Still, the response has been positive. They obviously enjoy coming to class and receiving my encouraging e-mails between class sessions.

Also present is audio technician Eric Johnson who is helping each session so that I can sell them ultimately as a set.

I would like to start a midweek afternoon class sometime in May.

 Posted by at 8:38 pm
Feb 112011
 

On February 11 my friend Lynn Ruth Miller invited about 20 women to her adorable home in Pacifica.

Lynn Ruth is a standup comic and writer in these women were also equally talented and accomplished.

Sandie Wernick joined me and drove us all the way down and we got lost. Almost an hour late people waiting for us before all of the activity began.

Everybody got a chance to introduce herself and explain what she does for a living. Most all of us were self-employed — entertainers, writers, or entrepreneurs of a different stripe.

When it was my turn I told them, “I want to help you all make money.” Audible sighs and cheers greeted my announcement.

I explained how I wanted to help them teach write a book about their business.

“Imagine when you meet a new prospect you hand them a business card or a brochure. What kind of impression would make if you handed them a book with your name on it? It would certainly show you as the expert in your field,” I intoned. They were impressed. I made good contacts that I am going to follow up on.

Lynn Ruth’s home was crowded with books and her remarkable artwork which she paints in what would be her kitchen. Her two Pomeranians and two toy poodles were allowed to join us at the very end.

I can’t wait for the next get together on April 18 when we all get to tell a story.

 Posted by at 8:35 pm
Feb 112011
 

Writing Regularly,

All writers and writing teachers tell you to write a little bit every day. They urge you set aside a time daily that is your religiously kept ritual for writing, whether it’s 15 minutes or half an hour or longer.

Lord knows when I start teaching writing very soon I am going to exhort my students to do likewise.

So now I have to start myself!

There was a time, a long time ago, when I wrote for 15 minutes first thing every morning. Today it’s such a struggle to get out of bed (;/) that I can’t really say there’s any one moment when I actually wake up. It’s more like I achieve certain levels of consciousness very gradually while I’m still ensconced in my duvet next to my dog and my cat. And then I stretch and I stagger as I try to recall what phase of existence I am currently experiencing.

Here is the difference. The period when I was rising to write I had no creatures accompanying my slumber. It’s their fault — the dog and the cat induce me to lethargy and procrastination. I’m sure they’ll be pleased to hear this.

 Posted by at 12:04 pm