Labor Day Present

My mother is a great grandmother too.

My mother’s mother was in labor on Labor Day, an ironic coincidence if I’ve ever seen one. I never met my mother’s mother, but I hear she was a fascinating woman. It’s rare, of course, that my mother’s birthday actually falls on a Labor Day, since it’s one of those shifting holidays, but it’s still interesting to note. I remember trotting out the “in labor on Labor Day” joke nearly every time my mother’s birthday would come around, and everyone sighing because they’d all heard it one time too many. That, of course, didn’t matter to me, so I would regale them several more times with it until they stopped coming around. I’m sure that was one big coincidence too.

When I was little, the idea that my mother had her own actual birth day was incomprehensible to my puny brain. I didn’t even try to wrap my mind around it because to me it existed in the same realm as actors on my favorite television programs. I knew they were real people, but I still believed firmly in only the characters because they were the only ones I came in contact with. So, the idea was a far-fetched one because I only came in contact with my mother as my mother, not as somebody else’s child. It would take me a long time to reconcile that she could be both at the same time, and that there was a time when she only existed as a dream, and nothing before that.

Once I had made peace with my mother being born on a certain day I realized perhaps I should do something to commemorate the occasion. The problem was figuring out what I would do. I had no money of my own, and I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to ask my mother for money to buy her a gift, for whatever reason. So, I did what I felt was the next best thing; I went through the melange of items that lay¬† haphazardly all around my bedroom, and I found the best thing I felt I owned, wrapped it in Christmas paper, and gave it to her. Luckily I was seven years old, and she thought my re-gifting of my broken camera was cute, or I would have been in serious trouble.

Later on, I got a lot more creative, and having some money from various odd jobs helped too. More recently I bought my mother an iPod for her birthday, a rather thoughtful gift that got me a free $15 Target gift card for being that thoughtful. She was so touched that she almost cried… before making me hook it up and get her signed into iTunes so she could get some music to fill it. But somewhere between the broken camera and the iPod, I learned the true value that my mother placed on her birthday. It had absolutely nothing to do with getting those material things. It was about the thought, that we, her children, cared to honor her entry into this world. And that’s amazing for me to think about.

Now, as we once again approach the anniversary of my mother’s birth, I want to pay her homage for being a wonderful mother, a good friend, and the best Labor Day present ever. Happy birthday, Mom! (in a few days, when it actually is your birthday. Read this then. Thanks).


Memories From Home

philadelphia_skylineThis city has always held a fascination for me, a kind of pull that comes from being the place of my birth.

Indeed, I recall the day of my nephew’s introduction to this world in vivid detail. It was raining, and I was surprised my sister let me into the room. And I remember my graduation day like it was yesterday, when I was almost late because I had to take the bus in my graduation gown.

And I think back on Friday nights hanging out on South Street with Anthony and Ken, two other inquisitive souls who will always share with me those nights spent wandering. It is all still so clear to me, although it has been fifteen years since I’ve lived here. Continue reading “Memories From Home”

A Morose Vignette

The young man sat in the corner of the bar, drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, with a frown on his pockmarked face, at one thirty-five of a Thursday afternoon. He had been sitting there for well over an hour, nursing the one bottle. In fact, that bottle still contained two-thirds of the thick liquid. He hated drinking the stuff, but he loved to inhale the aroma. It reminded him of his mom, may she rest in peace.

It was his 18th birthday, and he should have been celebrating with his oldest friend in the world, but they had argued the night before and she wasn’t speaking to him. She hadn’t texted him a birthday greeting, not even a generic one. At that moment he hated her. He could feel it deep in his gut, but just in that moment. He knew it would pass, but in that moment he savored it like a kid with a lollipop.

The minute hand of the clock over the bar slid from thirty-five to thirty-six, but he was paying it no mind. He took a small, absentminded sip of his beer, and he didn’t even taste it, he was so caught up in his problems. Outside it started to rain, thick fat drops that landed with muted thuds on the ground below.

He had no right to, but he felt sorry for himself. The events of the past few days had left him broken in a way he felt could never be repaired. And he had no more tears to shed over the girl who would never know. Leaving a small tip in the condensation left by his bottle on the tabletop, he shuffled out of the bar, taking the bottle with him.


Because I Said So

What a smart guy!

I dreaded those four words. Separately they weren’t so bad. I could adjust to them if they were attached to other words, but when they were put together, back to back, they inspired a sense of helplessness, of uncertainty, and mostly of frustration. And, ironically, I heard them more often than not the older I got, whenever I asked my mother a question. Because I said so.

You’ve heard it before. You’ve probably even used it before. Believe me, I have. But have you ever really stopped and wondered why parents tend to rely on this classic gem when answering their children’s fervent questions?

“Mom, how come I have to take my shoes off in the house?” Continue reading “Because I Said So”

To List is Human

People now feel time accelerating. Lists allow them to feel some sense of accomplishment.” – David Viscott

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love lists. Love love love them. I think it’s something about being able to categorize items, no matter what they are. It places them in nice neat little boxes that I can package up and place nice bows on. That’s also why I’m such a playlist fanatic, figuring out exactly where to place each song for maximum effect. It’s why I created a Top 5 on Fridays. And it’s why I downloaded the ColorNote app for my phone (believe me, I color-code just about everything). Even Most Wanted lists are interesting. Check them out at your local post office. But what makes a good list? Continue reading “To List is Human”

Welcome to Holland Patent: My Photographic Journey

It’s funny how we can pass a particular place all the time but not really think of it as somewhere to BE, only thinking of it as a means to get somewhere else. Then, one day, we realize that people actually live and work there, that this place is to them what our village is to us, a source of sustenance, of community pride, and of history. One such place for me was Holland Patent, New York, population 464. I had passed by the village numerous times on my way to bigger and better things, until today, when I stopped and took a personal walking tour of Holland Patent… with my camera. So, come along with me to explore this lovely place.

More than a village. This sign adorns the north corner of the school.

Continue reading “Welcome to Holland Patent: My Photographic Journey”