What’s in a Name?

Lillian Mae Gruenwald. My full name before marriage. Lillian after my maternal grandmother, and by happenstance, my father’s twin sister. Mae after a beloved great-aunt. I hated it. The name; not my relatives. Cousins called me Lilly Mae or Little Mae. To everyone else I was Lillian.

In high school I was the skinny girl on the cheerleader squad. The only one chosen because of acrobatic abilities. I was also the only girl on the debate team. I dared to carry long metal boxes of index cards filled with researched “evidence.” I argued aggressively with boys, at tournaments all over the state of Illinois. To me, Lillian Gruenwald was a never-would-vote-for-homecoming-queen kind of name. And I was right. At homecoming, I was left leading the crowd in cheers for our Bulldogs while the Gail Shorts and Kay Savels left to change clothes. I watched as they sedately rode around the field at half-time, draped over new-model convertibles, donated for the occasion by the local Oldsmobile dealer.

So when my folks readied to leave me at college on that fateful day in early Autumn 1965, a crisp, cool, fresh day, I fidgeted. I willed them to leave before anyone came up to greet us. They finally did, after dutifully giving their Lillian lots of parental advice and enough hugs to smother me. I stood on the curb by the dorm, finally alone. Poised for a new life. On the brink of a new beginning. And then some newbie freshmen came up to greet me. I don’t remember who they were. Or how many there were. But I distinctly remember grinning, holding out my hand to shake their hands, and saying confidently, “Hi, I’m Lill.

sugar maple tree
dwarfed in surrounding green leaves
claims fall glory with crimson red

IMG_2938

Toni is hosting Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. The theme today is KOMOREEI…a Japanese terms that literally means the light filtered between leaves, usually occurring in spring and fall…that in-between season. We’re asked to write about something that has occurred in between seasons.  Haibun: 2 or 3 tightly written paragraphs of prose, not fiction; followed by a haiku. In true Japanese form, the haiku is not beholden to the syllabic count, rather must be about nature and include a “season” word. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Photo in Boston’s Public Garden, Fall 2016. PS:  I’m happy being called Lill or Lillian these days….with age comes a knowledge that we are who we are, regardless of the name.

The Process

Mindful verbosity
irridescent gems within my mind,
words shiver flutter, push for prominence.
Ideas flow through synapses
sometimes like scattered leaves
rearranged by sudden gusts.
Poetic musing wrestles reality.
Cacophonous silent noise
atonal at times,
until the coda appears.
photo-8

Helen

Unpredictable.
Lightning flashes,
hot licks that seared your soul.
Rosary beads tucked in drawer
near lace-edged handkerchiefs
and candy wrappers.
Pinochle, canasta
she held the deck,
played war occasionally.
A one-man woman she
danced to big band sounds.
Buried sister, son
two birthdays apart,
hers not theirs.
Gone these many years,
she still pops in and out
unpredictably.

mom

Walt is hosting dVerse Poets’ Pub today, asking us to write about a character.
She was indeed.

Sweet Times

Fourth grade mimic,
knee socks rolled down to puffy anklets
like sophisticated high school girls.
Three nickels clink and plunk,
bus fare to my Saturday dream.
Past Neisner’s Five and Dime
where the mynah bird sqwaks at little fingers,
guards balls and jacks in the wooden cubby.
One aisle over from ladies cotton underpants.
Past Durkin and Durkins, that grown-up place
where daddy buys one suit, every other year.
And there it is, bakery supreme.
Plastic number thirty-four, I wait and wait.
One chocolate éclair please.
Deep, yellow, cold, smooth custard
slathered between puffy sweet dough,
cut in uneven halves. Lips first lick
dark chocolate swirled on top.
Nothing ever tasted so good,
standing on linoleum floor
in black and white saddle shoes,
knee socks rolled down.

choux-paste-ii-1516587

Photo Credit: Daniel West. Day 3 Winter Poetry Challenge: Write about a candy or something sweet that you loved as a child.

Florence Frazier – revised and revisited on the occasion of Veterans’ Day

Red and white stripes unfurled
Old Glory flaps in the wind,
her grommets clank
straining against steel pole.

You loved the flag, its simple beauty.
You lived the flag, patriotism in your soul.
The greatest generation, and you a woman,
a Naval Commander among them all.

People should know your name.
Short in stature, you stood tall
turned boys back into men
healed so many, traveled so far.

Directed nurses, ran the floor,
turned painful rehab into hope.
War time compassion
in the midst of blood and missing limbs.

So many times we sat at your table
ate lemon meringue pie
and rolled the Yahtze dice,
treasured photo above our heads.

You and Admiral Nimitz, side by side.
One hero, honored, known by many.
The other, slipped through time
a silver haired, kind old woman.

Behind one door in a hall of many,
skill and will still intact
you urged your aging friends
Use it or lose it! You’re not dead yet.

You gave again, feet matched spirit
oxford shoes on dirt floors
eighty years old, cross and caring
African clinic, ignored by many.

You can do it, lean on me.
One foot at a time. Move!
And you did
and they did too.

The wind stops, clanking hushed.
Flag quiet. I stand still, missing you.
Commander Frazier, our Aunt Flo.
I remember that faded photo,
just one moment in your glory days.

IMG_2892

Photo:  U.S. Naval Commander Florence M. Frazier, 1915–2010. On the occasion of her 90th birthday, touring a ship in Charlestown Navy Yard wearing military cap. She was saluted by many that day.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Naval Fleet in World War II.


Aunt Flo

Old Glory flaps in the breeze
red and white stripes unfurled,
grommets clank against steel pole
as I walk by in a rush.

You loved the beauty of our flag.
You actually lived the flag.
The greatest generation, and you a woman,
a Naval Commander among them all.

Young girls should know your name.
Short in stature, you stood tall
saluted boys and turned them back into men
healed so many, traveled so far.

So many times we sat at your table
ate lemon meringue pie
and rolled the Yahtze dice
the infamous photo above our heads.

You and Admiral Nimitz, side by side.
One honored hero, known by many.
The other, slipped through time
a silver haired, kind old woman.

The wind stops, the clanking too
and I stand still remembering you
in that faded black and white photo
of your glory days.

IMG_2892

Florence M. Frazier,  1915 – 2010. Former Commander in the U.S. Navy. Photo is from Aunt Flo’s visit to us in Boston, celebrating her 90th birthday. At our urging, she brought one of her military caps. We took her to the nearby Charlestown Navy Yard and visited this ship.  As she boarded and as she walked on deck, every military personnel we met saluted her.  It was an absolutely magical day!
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was Commander in Chief of the U.S. Naval Fleet in World War II.