Daughter of a wealthy Florentine banker, Ginevra de’ Benci captivated my friend Saul. I’d not heard about her until he mentioned her in an ICQ conversation years ago and encouraged me to visit her in Washington, DC. I finally did and understood why he was so entranced by her. She’s the other woman I visit whenever I can.
Ginevra de’ Benci
Marie first told me about Joanna Hiffernan when we both lived in Pittsburgh. Marie said she first saw her in Washington, DC and couldn’t stop thinking about her. I didn’t understand until I saw Joanna myself. She’s one woman I visit whenever I can and I often introduce her to people who visit me.
Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl
I have been spending my evenings, mornings, parts of my days and sometimes the wee hours of the morning with Alexander Rostov. He’s a gentleman through and through. He’s kind, a father figure to some. He’s smart. He’s adaptable — he has to be. I don’t want it to end, but end it must. I’m 70% the way through A Gentleman in Moscow.
David‘s so many other things than an apartment building super: he’s an author, an artist, a filmmaker, a radio healer, a Christmas poet, a human rights activist and so much more. He always remembers me and has something funny to say when I visit Clare. I feel that he keeps her safe.
When Juan walked to the waiting Uber the driver seemed wary until I explained the situation. He shook his head and expressed his dismay about people living in the US who don’t speak English. I complimented his English, and then said that Juan’s English was far better than my Spanish or Hindi. He smiled and said I was a good person.
“Missus, can you help?” called a voice from the dark as I walked home from Catherine‘s house. A Latino worker’d lost the keys to his truck and couldn’t find his cell phone. I called the phone, with no luck. I called him an Uber to get home to Virginia. He called to thank me this morning on his, found, cell.
Nearly every weekend I shop for groceries at the Fresh Market in Rockville. I try to get into the line of the same cashier: a tall, slender man in his early twenties with long dreadlocks and an easy smile. He once made a sympathetic noise similar to one my son, Andrew, makes. I think of him as Andrew’s African American doppelganger.
I know V.Q. from an online forum I joined in 1998. I didn’t know her well and the only interaction I ever had was to “host” some stuffed animals she sent from Australia. We’re Facebook friends, but her completely random chatter is disconcerting. Others rarely interact with her, but she posts daily, often paranoid, ramblings about a variety of topics including spankingbdsm.
I didn’t write about Cindy’s mom eleven years ago when I wrote about Cindy and her dad. My memories of Ellen are vivid, but few. She owned a bookstore in Elgin, had prematurely white hair, was a Buddhist Unitarian Universalist and vegetarian. I think of her when I smell wood smoke. She named her home in the woods “Walden Oaks.” RIP.
I met Catherine ten years ago but it feels like I’ve known her much longer. We’re of similar age, but different backgrounds. We quickly became fast friends and it is rare that we don’t see each other regularly. The fact that she lives about seven houses east of me helps, but so do our common interests: reading, wine, talking, each other.
Petite, powerful, smart, beautiful, Jeanette greeted me my first day in the office with a big smile and slight drawl. As my supervisor she was an active listener and always had sage advice. Although cancer took her five years ago Outlook still suggests her name when I type “jeanette” into the address field. I’m always tempted to send her an email.
Aunt Ginny developed many health issues after retirement. Rheumatoid arthritis; mysterious infections in her arm that required heavy antibiotics and draining tubes; and finally diabetes. Despite being in constant pain she remained outwardly cheerful to me when we spoke. We’d not spoken in months when Uncle Jack called to tell me she was gone. Her leg amputation was not a success.
Several years ago Dennis contacted me for permission to reference a YouTube video I’d uploaded in a book he was writing about time-traveling heroes in my home town. We became Facebook friends and have met for lunch twice. We disagree on some things (Google, pro-choice) but agree that Elgin is a good town and time-travel is the best genre in fiction.
I finally got to know Mary O’Brien after my friend Catherine started having morning coffees for the neighbors. I learned she was more than her bumper stickers and quite funny. Driving the Beltway, Mary had the foresight, during a massive heart attack, to pull the car over and tell her sister to call 911. Sadly Mary died, but saved others that day.
Of all the caretakers Mom had during her last year, Tameka was by far the best. She was caring, smart and always took the initiative. Unfortunately care-giving is not a lucrative profession and she had two girls to feed. Last I heard from her she was going to college to become a social worker. I know she’ll make a great one.
A little more than eleven years ago I asked the question “Will she ever get a chance?” She didn’t. Shortly after Dad died, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She succumbed to it a few years later. Currently she resides at my brother’s house on the lower shelf of the china cabinet she protected from Dad’s unexpected, violent tantrums.
It’s so unfair.
Gone is that often volatile child and in his place is a most charming, kind and generous man. He’s a feminist, an anti-racist activist, an avid supporter of LGBTQ+ persons. He loves music of all kinds (except maybe classical), dances often, laughs a lot, cries sometimes. He’s a strong empath, a reader, a loving partner. We see him often.
Eleven and-a-half years later Clare and I are still close, even though she lives on the other side of the country. She’s smart, talented, a brilliant writer, an avid reader and a roof-top urban-gardener. She graduates in June. After that, who knows? Olympia is home, but she’ll need to follow opportunities. I miss her every day; we talk often.
Keith didn’t start out wanting to follow his father’s footsteps as a clergyman, but after a career in publishing he chose to attend a Lutheran seminary and landed his first ministry at Mom’s church. He’s kind and smart and helped me through the deaths of my parents. His partner (and former cop) dyes the Chicago River green on Saint Patrick’s Day.
I know next to nothing about Frank. He emigrated to the US from Germany in 1900. He married my great-grandmother Jessie and apparently really loved her. Family legend is that he took his own life after Jessie died. Official records show he died 9 years after Jessie did and that seems like a long time to mourn.
Frank (left) and a friend.
Albert Emanuel Green was born in Chicago on February 25, 1891 to Swedish immigrants. His father died of typhoid fever when Albert was eight so his mother moved the family to Elgin where he eventually met and married Jessie Tyler. Not long after their only child, my grandfather, was born they divorced. Albert was killed by a train in South Elgin on October 19, 1921.
Jessie Tyler Green Harris grew up on Highland Avenue, the daughter of a veterinarian and Scottish housewife. She married young, gave birth to my Grandpa Green, divorced the father then married Frank Harris. She posed for several photos. She was struck by a vehicle in the 1940s and perished. Mom remembered her as unhappy. The old photographs tell a different story.
I know nothing about Clayton and Cassandra except that they were recently married*, follow the Cubs*, and moments ago became the owners of the house in which I grew up. I wish them happiness in their new home. And if they see a petulant teenager in a mirror, I hope they wave to her**.
*Facebook stalking by brother
**The mirror conveyed
Like Larry, Richard was one of Mom’s former classmates. After Dad died Richard became Mom’s knight-in-shining-armor. He took her on dates, drove her to doctor appointments and other errands. He knew about the Alzheimer’s diagnosis long before I did. He took care of her, hiding the worst of her symptoms from my brother and me until he couldn’t do it alone.
I did not see The English Beat at The Barns of Wolf Trap tonight. I did not sit in the front row. I did not dance to almost every song. I did not pose for a photo with the most energetic member of the band. I do not dance. I do not pose with band members.
My three bathrooms house liars. Sure, their labels proclaim Burt’s Bees® Citrus and Ginger Hand Soap or Everyone™ Meyer Lemon & Mandarin Hand Soap but they’re deceivingly filled with cheap Softsoap® from Costco®.
A recent young guest told me she loved my Meyer Lemon & Mandarin Hand Soap. I shook my head and said, sorry, it’s a lie.
Under the smaller built-in dresser in the attic bedroom was a secret hiding place. I used it for my diaries and journals. My brother used it for his cigarettes and alcohol. Someone later used it for pornographic magazines. Mom denied knowing about the magazines and said Dad wasn’t into that sort of thing. Someone was lying.
It wasn’t until I read The Little Stranger that I really understood what unreliable narrator meant. Now I see them all the time. In literature I can usually forgive the narrator: they’re young, they’re old, they’re suffering from mental illness. In real life I am not as forgiving. They are just liars in my humble opinion.
Of my hobbies, one that has been part of myself since third grade is reading. I was a voracious reader of books until I discovered social media. After that, reading more than a handful of books a year was rare and I felt like a liar when I listed reading as a hobby. That’s changing though.
I was held back in 3rd grade because Miss Meyer thought I was educationally immature for my age. She was right but at the time I was full of shame. It took me until at least my thirties to tell anyone about it. If she hadn’t kept me back, I may never have finished high school.