Wednesday, September 9, 2020
I remember stepping out of the shower
images on the television, a building engulfed in flames.
Thought it was coming attractions of “Collateral Damage”
a movie discussed earlier,
the screams of Katie Couric told me otherwise.
Wrapped in a towel, staring at the images, mind so filled with horror
no discernible words formed.
Dressing robotically, confused as to what I was seeing
the second plane confirmed the intent.
I remember radio voices,
Scott and Todd, reporting what they were hearing
and seeing – voices choked with shock –
in Dr.Uray’s office – the nurses were weeping and trembling
all with children somewhere in the city.
We listened to Todd, or maybe it was Scott, wail in disbelief as the first tower
fell to earth, Dr. Uray corralled her staff – saying they must do their job in times of war,
her face grave with past remembrance, her mouth set in a line of determination.
I remember calling the office to say I couldn’t possibly come in,
my boss Morgan said many were leaving anyway,
others sat silent in the conference room,
soundless except for whispered descriptions for those without sight,
of the unfolding results of incomprehensible acts.
Later would come the stories of Michael Hingson and his guide dog Roselle
– escaping from the dust, debris and chaos, but that day,
we saw nothing but death and destruction.
I remember going to my sister Theresa’s house
she hadn’t heard from her husband, a supervisor at UPS,
who often subbed for drivers on the World Trade Center Route.
The kids trickled home from school , we tried to shield the youngest, Robert,
Through many many anxious hours before his father walked in the door.
I remember going home to my house,
my daughter Annemarie and my son Roy Michael, on the deck
surrounded by football players and cheerleaders
silent and subdued they clung to each other powerlessly,
all knowing someone with someone in the city.
I worried about my oldest, Rosemarie, on campus at Montclair University,
no phone calls would connect.
The greatest fear of a mother is to be separated from her children in a calamity or disaster.
Without her home where I could see, her, touch her – unbearable, on a day where all was unbearable.
I remember from a high point in Monroe,
a place now covered with a gated community,
we saw the smoke pluming miles into the sky
– a sky devoid of air traffic of any kind – creating a deafening silence that seemed to
halt the Earth in its rotation, hold it motionless in orbit, rendering us unable to draw a breath.
I remember night fell, but it was only darkness; sleep wrenched from it,
leaving only nightmares behind.
© 2011 Noreen Braman
Friday, August 14, 2020
am old enough to remember too many times our nation has faced a time of
crisis. Born at a time when polio made people stay home, wear masks,
and shelter their children, I was a beneficiary of the polio vaccine,
and only understood the terror it caused through the stories of my
mother and grandmother.
I was only in second grade when JFK was assassinated, yet it was a crisis that left a deep mark on me. I was sure that the nuclear bombs were coming at any minute, and my fears were compounded by the fact it was the first time I had seen adults cry.
I was young and confused during the times of civil rights and war protests including the violence played on the nightly news. I could not understand why some people were being treated differently than others, and I did not understand why war existed at all. The killings of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy brought back to me the fear of a world spinning out of control.
I experienced 9-11 as a deep and personal horror - and like the assassination of JFK, think of it of a time from which we were all changed permanently.
And that is how I feel during summer 2020. I've grown from a baby to a grandmother, and I still do not understand how that no solutions have been reached.
We are dealing with a dangerous national health emergency coupled with the emotional and societal upheaval that is taking place as we face up to the painful institutionalized racism that is attached to very roots of the United States.
We are in a time of permanent change, at a crossroad where the direction we take as a country will determine the world our children and grandchildren inherit from us.
Each one of us has a responsibility to do what we can to help others heal, whether victims of COVID19 (and the inequality of healthcare that has been exposed by this pandemic) or victims of racism. I firmly believe that part of that responsibility is working for the common good, whether it is by wearing a mask in the grocery store, or standing up for equality.
For me, it means listening. Listening to the voices who are endeavoring to stop the deaths from both of the deadly infections at the forefront this summer - coronavirus and racism.
And I will continue to share my message of well-being, and yes, even laughter, because laughter is a survival skill that has been with humanity since long before language existed. Dr. Madan Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, has, from the beginning, encouraged the idea of laughter for world peace. And I will continue to share it with you, not because of jokes or comedy, but for social bonding and well-being.
I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can. — Linda Ellerbee
I have not seen anyone dying of laughter, but I know millions who are dying because they are not laughing. – Dr. Madan Kataria
I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable. — Viktor Frankl
Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Born on the 4th of July, Mario DeCarolis would have been 95 years old today. He would be amazed to know his name and legacy live on in the students he mentored and taught, down to music students some of his students would teach, or those who still perform for fun or professionally. For me, I spent some time satisfying my desire to sing with years of community theater with my children, who all spent years celebrating music through dance. I now watch my grandchildren as their own interests develop, watching to see who has inherited a musical or performance gene.
As some of "Chic's" students remembered his birthday online, I pulled this story from my book. After his death, some of us got together and performed a memorial concert to start a scholarship fund in his name. I included this story in the program at that time, but just wanted to share it again, in his memory.
|The "I Love My Clarinet" photo|
Sunday, July 5, 2020
|Even better, may we mend our flaws ourselves. ©2020 Noreen Braman|
He describes what the celebration of American Independence "meant" to slaves, especially in light of the Fugitive Slave laws. Much of what he talks about can still be heard echoing today in actions taken after emancipation to deliberately deprive African Americans of jobs, education, housing —Jim Crow — denial of GI benefits, redlining of neighborhoods ... all of which contributed to what is now called white privilege.
Most middle class white people would say they have not been actively complicit in this, (although I can remember feuding neighbors declaring revenge on each other by threatening to sell their home to a black family) however, that does not mean we were not the beneficiaries of the results.
The ongoing harm is not because of some one-time, "ancient history," that no longer affects current society, but has been reinforced over and over in attitude and policy to the present day.
We forget that George Wallace declared "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" not 150 years ago, but in the 70s — with lots of people still alive who listened and believed him. And carry his divisive racism in their hearts.
But, one must ask, "Who benefits by keeping American citizens divided? Who has continued to earn, succeed and increase their wealth no matter what is happening in American society?" The more "us vs. them" talk I hear, the more I realize how threatened this very small group of rich and powerful people must feel — to the point that they equate their own survival to the survival of the United States.
Therefore they push the idea that one group must be victorious over another group — inflaming fear of "the other." This is very evident by the need to categorize people into groups by race, political party, religion, and by using pejorative names and descriptions. I am equally horrified to see violence and destruction, as well as hear some declare "time for another Civil War." Look around the world and see what civil wars are doing. Count how many years countries have been torn apart, how many millions of people displaced.
The founders of the US were not gods, but imperfect humans, who, at times, acted in their own interests. Yet, they ultimately risked death by committing treason against England to form a new nation. They envisioned their new form of government would pass power peacefully, provide citizens with a system of legal redress, a process to introduce or change laws, and the right to hold their government accountable to the people. It wasn't perfect, in fact, despite writing of "inalienable rights" we have yet to assure those rights on an equal basis.
With our own Civil War as a painful reminder of how quickly a country can splinter and how long the damage remains in a torn nation's bloodstream, we, all of us, have a duty to resist the voices that seek to keep us divided: but rather find the ways to take the necessary steps to heal, improve, and unite.
To do this, it is our duty as a nation to constantly, and honestly, review our historical narrative (including painful issues), redefine our perception of "being American," work together for the greater good, and constantly ask ourselves if the United States is truly living up to the vision and ideals it was founded on.
"A house divided against itself, cannot stand."
Monday, June 8, 2020
|©2020 Noreen Braman|
In every election, (not just for President, but down to the mayor of my town) I try to critically think beyond just the candidate, but also to what they will bring to the table. For President in particular:
- Who will put qualified, knowledgeable and experienced people in cabinet, agency, and advisor positions who will work toward goals that benefit all Americans?
- Who will enact policies and procedures that are important to me today and my grandchildren tomorrow? (Which I understand may lead to "compromise" or "interim" solutions that find common ground between diametrically opposed views of topics too important to ignore)
- Who will best follow all the precepts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, including the need and obligation to amend?
- Who will work with other world leaders on problems that transcend borders, such as the environment, human rights?
- Who will understand better the difference between public service and self service?
I agree that no one candidate will be "perfect." I've worked with perfectionists, and sometimes have been a perfectionist myself. It is a path that leads eventually to paralysis of thought and actions. In the case of elections it leads to huge swaths of people not voting. And that perpetuates the disconnect between the small group of elected officials and the huge, diverse population they are supposed to represent.
Set aside rhetoric. Stop seeking that slogan or meme that "sounds right." Open yourself to possible changes of mind, and changes of heart.
Your life depends on it.
Sunday, June 7, 2020
|Image by John Hain from Pixabay|
talk without speaking
listen without hearing
work without producing
rule without leading
words without meaning
sound processed without understanding
jobs done without purpose
orders given without conscience Leads to
©2020 Noreen Braman
Tuesday, May 19, 2020
|Not an actual photo of sunlight penetrating my house. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. |
Image by stokpic from Pixabay
Most of the year, I rise in darkness, get ready for work, spend most of the day in a mostly windowless office, and return home after dark. During that too-brief time of year when my day actually has daylight on both ends, I revel in the light and warmth, and take every advantage to be outside, including using a speed cleaning process on weekends to tidy my house. But the reality is, for much of my life, I have been a career vampire, living and working in the shadows.
Now comes the pandemic-required time of working from home, and spending long days in a domicile bathed in daylight. It has been an eye-opening experience.
At first I was fascinated by the play of light and shadow between sunrise and sunset. I had never before witnessed the golden shafts of sunlight moving from window to window, acting as spotlights throughout my house. I congratulated myself on the placement of a garden window, seeing for myself why my plants were thriving.
But the spotlights moving through my indoor space were not so welcome in other areas. For example, something disturbing was revealed at my salon-style art wall, full of floor to ceiling photos and artwork. There was not only a fine layer of dust, but in some places the frames looked as if they had been hanging, untouched, for many years. Some even had thready cobwebs hanging from them. How could this be? I even had a special duster I ran over the frames while cleaning!
And the frames were just the start. Daylight revealed a disgustingly grimy laptop keyboard, lint and other bits of detritus in the carpet, hairs and crumbs and dust bunnies on floors and under furniture. And what were those spots on the ceiling in the kitchen?
I became aware that my heat ducts probably needed to be cleaned out, my kitchen cabinets scrubbed, my furniture vacuumed, and my bathroom — which I swear I clean every week — required a Haz-Mat team. My cute, quirky decorating style is looking more and more like an episode of “Hoarders” the longer I spend daylight time here. I've found myself sweeping the kitchen floor several times a day, and running the dishwasher and the washing machine more often as I discover all sorts of not-quite-clean-in-the-light-of-day objects around the house.
|The magazine photo version. ©2020 Noreen Braman|
At the same time, I am tackling a general house cleanout, having finally realized that my grown children have really left the nest, as evidenced by their house purchases, moves to distant states, and giving me 6 grandchildren. Time for the toys, books, trophies and other souvenirs packed away for 20 years in the shed to go.
As open shed doors, closets, cabinets and file drawers and view their contents bathed in sunlight (or even filtered cloudy daylight, to be honest) I really understand why light was such a powerful enemy of the Undead. Unfortunately, unlike the bloodsuckers who either burst into flame or turn to dust when exposed to light, my possessions and collections just sit there. Collecting dust.
In his landmark vampire tale, "Dracula," Bram Stoker created the legend that vampires need to have their "native soil" nearby in order to survive. Apparently, as a career vampire I have been accumulating my own version of that dirt all around me. And I know I’m not alone. Go ahead, run your finger along the tops of your picture frames. Pull up those couch cushions. Then pull down the shades.
©2020 Noreen Braman