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Florence in Words

Cleaning Up

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.

Yes, you are wondering, yes, I did find lost treasures: letters from Tillie Olsen, and from my African friend, Marjorie O. Macgoye; my own publications I had forgotten about; a precious trove of documents from the years I was a student at Hunter College. I also found yellowed clippings, mainly obits, including one about Otto Kraushar, the president of Goucher when I first taught there, and my first Baltimore periodontist, Dr. D.B. Eskow, whom I saw until he died in 1986.

Very precious also, I found a section of an editorial page from the New York Times, December 25, 1999, with the headline “Poems for a Millennial Year.” I had clipped “Prayer (12.31.99)” by Jorie Graham, one of my favorite poets. The poet is watching minnows “over a dock railing.” Her lines, midway through the poem, are perfect for the whole of my memoir, A Life in Motion:

. . .motion that forces change—
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
to be pure. What you get is to be changed. . . .
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