FLORENCE HOWE

activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press




Florence in Words

Birthday Blog: Quite Late, Too

April 30, 2014

Tags: Don and Jorge, Helene, depression, family, poem

My dear website manager, Jeannette Petras, wondered that I had written nothing about or for my 85th birthday, since that marker was not likely to come around again. I was too depressed to write. Yes, it was the knee, or the meds I have been forced to take in order to deal with the knee—and it does no good to place the blame. But I did eventually write a small poem, and that’s the present I have for the small but exceedingly faithful readers I have to believe exist. And I do believe, for now and then one of you does write to me. And writing is the only defense I have against depression. I have never said that before, but I do believe it’s true. When I write, when I have written, when I am pleased with the result, I feel good.

So why don’t I write every day? Good question, for which I have no answer. I write often, more often than my blog would indicate. But what I write often is a “journal,” usually describing the day’s events, often reporting on the quality of the depression I am feeling, and in general too “boring” for a blog. At least that is my way of discriminating between the journal I write very often and the blog I write only now and then, and sometimes with large lapses between blogs.

I used to think of the blog as “public” and the journal as “private,” and perhaps there’s some truth in that, but if so, then this is an exception to the rule. And so I will tell you about the small but lovely celebration that occurred two days before the 17th of March, in a private room of a restaurant called The Leopard.

The arrangements were made by Don Thomas, Helene Goldfarb, and Jorge Cao. Invited were my daughter Alice, who traveled from Mississippi, and her daughter Dr. Florence, who works in New York; my stepson David, and my daughter-in-law AnnJ, who traveled from Washington, D.C., and their daughter Miriam, who works in New York; and my dear friend Alida Brill. So there were ten of us seated around a round table, the centerpiece of which was an arrangement of succulent plants I could take home and care for. The six-course lunch was elegant, varied, and memorable, and concluded with a purple and blue birthday carrot cake. The details were typical of the care with which especially dear Don and Jorge do things. And Helene, my oldest friend, was not about to heed my plea about no celebration. So this was a compromise, and a surprise in its own way. Yes, it was perfect in many ways, and I was pleased. And perhaps I was too quiet, still under the influence of the post-op meds and without much appetite. I filled up after the first two courses and decided I would take the rest home to eat the next day. I remember wishing I could be funny or witty, and worrying that I was too quiet. But others were lively and witty and at the end I blew out a single candle, thanking everyone and too choked up to speak.

I’ve said nothing of my feelings, but perhaps only a poem can do that. So here it is, the first poem I have allowed to enter the blog.

At 85

It’s the kind of number that doesn’t come up
readily. I mean in conversation, who would
say, I’m only 85 minutes late or early? Or who
would want 85 more of anything, even at a
shop that sells cookies or birthday candles?
But here I am, at 85, trying to face what facts I can
muster—a word that makes no sense but seems
appropriate today—when I must think about being
85.

Perhaps an image would help me begin. Not the grey,
white-sky afternoon filling my window, clouded today—I’ve just
noticed—by plastic sheets, perhaps taped on by workmen
on scaffolds, searching for worn-out bricks they must mend.
I can’t see the workmen or the mended bricks
but perhaps they are both there,
like the left knee on which, after four months of those 85 years,
I can now stand and sit without pain.

Hurricane, only two days after, and then a few days more…

September 1, 2011

Tags: Don and Jorge, family, Alice, Florence (granddaughter)

It’s a blue-sky day as I look out my window and remember the pouring rain and the fear. I couldn’t move the large pots of trees and shrubs into my apartment. And I worried that they might become missiles aimed at my own windows or at my neighbor’s. Don, Jorge, and Jeannette, who happened to be in my apartment , turned the table on my deck upside down and pushed some of the large pots close to the building wall. I took in the light chairs and the empty flower pots. We left the three wooden planters where they were, against the northernmost railings. (more…)

Wedding Day

August 2, 2011

Tags: Don and Jorge, family

Jorge Cao and Don Thomas on their wedding day.
The special Sunday, July 24, 2011, was blistering hot, even before seven in the morning. We stood, near the front of a very long line, for an hour and a half before the doors opened to a loud countdown. Joanne Hanley and I were there as witnesses to the marriage of Don Thomas and Jorge Cao, our friends. While on line, they filled out forms requesting a waiver of the usual waiting period. Reporters and photographers—as numerous as the applicants—helped make the time pass quickly. Their favorite question, “How long have you been together?” Don and Jorge’s “thirty-three years” became their mantra, though they were shy about talking about their courtship beyond Jorge’s saying that “both our families were very supportive.” We were probably 16th or 17th in line, behind a diverse group of women and men of various hues and in various styles of dress, including the comfortable shirts and trousers that Don and Jorge were wearing. Flowers ranged from carnations and roses to lilies and orchids. Several male couples were spectacular in cutaways or formal black suits. I saw several white-gowned woman. Photographers who stopped to speak with Don and Jorge, could not resist photographing two young Asian women, their shining long hair falling down their backs almost to their arms clasped behind them. (more…)

Dogsitting Yoya

November 25, 2010

Tags: Don and Jorge, Yoya, visiting

It’s Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, November 25, 2010, and I’m smiling because I have a visitor who is consistently amusing—and demanding. She’s a small five-year old Maltese named Yoya, who belongs to Don Thomas and Jorge Cao, and who comes to live with me whenever they travel. So she’s here for a long weekend, and I am smiling, and occasionally even laughing at her antics. (more…)

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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