December 17, 2012
Had I written this a month ago, or even a week ago, it might have been cheerful. But after still another murderously deranged young man, it’s hard to write even a sentence that does not contain a scream. What kind of society breeds, even fosters, such behavior?
What kind of world allows the mother of a 20-year-old who did the killing to own three or four guns, at least one of them an automatic capable of shooting a roomful of people multiple times without reloading? What kind of world allows that mother not to know that her troubled son will seize these guns, kill her, and then go to a school and kill 20 young schoolchildren, a school principal, a psychologist, and several other teachers? My letter will go to many of you in Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, and Asia. You don’t have this problem, though some of you, as in Israel for example, do have many civilian gun owners. I ask you, in some desperation, What is wrong here?
And can it ever be fixed?
I will stop and get to my news. I and many friends spent the better part of the year working for and worrying about the reelection of President Barack Obama, and we were much relieved to be rid of the possibility of a Romney victory. I am still moderately optimistic about what President Obama can do in the four years ahead of us, though we have enormous problems, given the money that still funds such reactionary anti-labor legislation as was recently passed in Michigan. And though I vowed to give only one paragraph to the murders above, can the President do anything to tighten gun registration laws, as well as to ban automatic weapons from civilian use?
Some of you know already that I had a worrisome medical problem that needed immediate surgery, and that was delayed by Hurricane Sandy. Though many victims of Sandy are still homeless, I was declared free of cancer, six weeks ago. During the next six weeks, I hope to return to the gym and the swimming that has kept me moderately fit.
Family news: Daughter Alice has moved to Topeka, Kansas for six months to care for Jack and Maben’s baby Mina, now nearly six months old and sister to Kennedy, now three. And Jack and Maben have moved into a new house. Granddaughter Doctor Florence moved to New York in July to work as a resident in radiology/oncology at Mount Sinai Hospital. Son David, now Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times and daughter-in-law AnnJ have moved into their new home in Washington, D.C. Their daughter and my granddaughter Miriam will finish Yale in June and take up a lab job at NYU here in New York. Goddaughter Marietta, a tenured professor at Catholic University in D.C., is now on sabbatical and will be coming to live with me here in New York while she acts in a one-woman play being written for her. So, yes, I have a lot to be thankful for, including lots of company here in New York City. In the aftermath of Sandy and my surgery, Don Thomas, Jorge Cao, and Yoya, their Maltese, came to stay with me for four days, since they live in lower Manhattan where there was no electricity. For me, all joy and laughter, far better than pain killers.
|Kennedy, Alice, and Mira |
Travel news: In June, with daughter Alice, I took a Smith College trip to Turkey for two weeks, truly a holiday, though quite strenuous for me. And less than a month later, in July, I spoke at a fascinating conference of and on international women writers held in Taiwan. For 2013 I have few travel plans, but I continue to enjoy connecting people I know here in the U.S. with people in Vietnam, Kenya, or other places. I trust also that some of you will make your way to New York, and allow me the pleasure of a visit. Argentina’s Gloria Bonder will be here in January.
I thought I would end on a pleasant note, but it’s impossible for a news junkie like me to stop worrying about friends in Cairo, Alexandria, and Tel Aviv, as well as the fires burning in Syria and continuing to burn in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, not to mention areas of China including Tibet. What keeps me sane can be described briefly as history, especially of the last 60 years, since my memory is still sharply operative about what I thought in the 1960s and how my own ideas shifted. I remember when I first realized that laws alone were insufficient to make change, that education keen enough to change human consciousness was at least as essential. And how slowly does change occur? Yes, that’s what is so hard. I will be 84 next birthday. Will I live to see at least a year without multiple shootings like this one in Connecticut?
With affection to all of you from Florence
September 12, 2012
I am headed from the kitchen through the living room to the bedroom on a specific mission, but when I get there, I’ve forgotten why I came—just for a second—and then I remember that I want to pick up my iPhone which I had parked last night on its charger which rests atop a radio clock that stands on a table beside my bed. Is this occurrence ominous? (more…)
January 1, 2012
Lady Borton and I in Vietnam.
Apologies, apologies, apologies. I ought to fill the page, many pages, with that word. I’ve been silent since early October, perhaps mourning for the loss of that family who stayed with me for a week and then returned to their own life (see blog and photos just below). On November 1, I had to wake up to the realities of two weeks in Vietnam on a schedule that would have tired a teenager. But that’s the way my dear friends, Lady Borton and Nguyen Minh Ha, lead their lives. And I managed, though the journey back—14 hours (from Seoul to New York) sitting upright with leg cramps most of the way, after a five-hour layover and another four-hour flight—sent me to bed for a couple of weeks and the depression returned. (more…)
December 31, 2011
Rebecca Seawright, Grandma Alice Jackson holding Kennedy and her new stuffed dog, and Jack Wright, Kennedy's father
Yes, I know, I am weeks late with this end-of-the-year letter. What inspired me to write today was coming across last year’s plaintively optimistic letter. I hoped that President Obama would be able to do more, and I hoped that my book would do well and that I would quickly find new forms of productivity. (more…)
October 7, 2011
I’ve admitted to occasional bouts of depression, assuaged usually by a new mind-moving project, and on occasion by dog-sitting Yoya, a delightful Maltese, whose antics are irrepressibly comic, and whose cuddling warms my heart. Last week, I discovered another possibility—house guests who included a two-year old. Four visitors arrived for a week: daughter Alice, grandson Jack and his wife Maban, and their daughter Kennedy who is several months past two. Kennedy was not a nay-saying two-year-old. Her approach was “let me do it”—from feeding herself to feeding others. Fearless, she fed the largest animals in Central Park’s petting zoo, one food-pebble at a time. And fearless also, she fed Yoya small bits of cheese, and thus won her attention as well as her heart. (more…)
September 21, 2011
Four members of my chosen family are coming from Mississippi and Kansas to visit for a week: daughter Alice, grandson Jack, his wife, granddaughter Maban, and great-great-granddaughter Kennedy. To get ready, I cleaned closets and sent off to the Hunter College library three boxes of books. And then I turned to the boxes of overflow files for which there was no room in my huge filing cabinets, and which ran the gamut from the early 1960s to 2008—all in a heap. (more…)
September 1, 2011
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…)
August 2, 2011
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…)
July 18, 2011
I first began to read mysteries as a substitute for scotch which I was using to survive 12-hour days with my mother. Each evening at about seven, I’d flee from the Palm Beach nursing home to the nearest bar and drink two scotches in succession, giving myself a splitting headache and a reason to go to bed at once. So I’d drive the few blocks to my motel, and fall asleep in my clothes, only to wake in the middle of the night, head aching still, and in need of food. (more…)
March 17, 2011
It’s the day of my 82nd birthday and I feel privileged to have had so many good wishes from friends and from my constructed, chosen families. What does it feel like to be 82? Not much different from a score of years preceding this one. But physically I realize that I no longer have that light step with which I once walked—and danced. I can
step. I can walk long distances without pain or discomfort and usually my balance is decent. But as I look at young people walking, I try to remember what it was like not to think about the act itself, not to focus on the act itself to keep my balance from wandering. (more…)
March 6, 2011
Yes, it all felt wonderful the next morning, and I promised myself I would never get so “nervous” again. We’ll see, of course, but there was something about speaking on hallowed ground about the Dean who had saved me from my mother and the President who had changed my future despite my mother that was frightening, as though my mother was, herself, in the room. Silliness, I know. But I plan not to read those sections in California and Seattle. (more…)
January 13, 2011
I’m on JetBlue, flying east after a week in Los Angeles. Two hours out of L.A., the ground beneath the plane is snow-covered, seemingly flat, though in the distance, I can see small mountains and a river, frozen. I long for a map, but I will have to settle for a glance back at the week that opened a year of speaking about the memoir it’s taken so long to write. There it was, when I got to California, in my hands, the hefty volume I had been trying to write for 20 years. (The publication date is April 1, but books are available from www.feministpress.org
December 13, 2010
My daughter Alice has been here for nearly a week and I’ve been too busy to write, but here’s a very brief summary. And perhaps before I begin, I should say that we’ve been “mother” and “daughter” since 1965, though we have never signed legal papers. Then she was 17 and I was 36; you can do the arithmetic if you are curious about our current ages. The first thing we did together was drive from Mississippi’s coast north to Baltimore, which was where I was then living and teaching at Goucher College. Alice finished her last year of high school there, at Park School. (more…)
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