A Haunting

and a memory of my friend

Was it October of 1968? Possibly. I remember that it was cold outside as we were wearing our winter coats already. Damp, cold winds were blowing, but no snow yet. They blew with a force along the south side streets of this mill town, making it hard to climb the steep incline to my best friend’s house tucked into the hillside. Hers was one of many row houses where Union laborers, and their housewives lived alongside the campus of an elite, all-boys university where only the privileged could afford an education.

We were teenagers. Some people thought we looked alike but this was only because we were both short, with short hair, and olive skin tones. Frannie was the prettier one with her deep-brown, Portuguese eyes and softly-curved lips. We were at the age when a haunting can appear, or so we thought. I think it had something to do with high hormones and virginity; we had both, as good Catholic school girls should. 

On this, autumn evening with the wind to our backs, we opened the kitchen door with a force, waved “hello” to her parents, and raced up to the third floor of her house. Inside a small room used for storage, we cleared away boxes to sit on the soft pine floorboards. Using a half-empty box for a table we slowly opened up Frannie’s new Ouija board, lit a votive candle, and hunkered down for our very first communion with the spirits.  With fingertips placed ever so slightly on the triangle, we began to ask questions. Silly adolescent questions that only teenage girls in the throws of infatuation could ask. Answers came. I don’t remember either- the exact questions or the answers. It is all a blur now; so long ago.

Frannie looked up toward me but not at me, with her eyes widening like searchlights, she whispered,“There is a shadow behind you.” We screamed, also as teenage girls do sometimes, and clamored through the doorway oblivious to the glowing candlelight. Forgotten in our fear, we were lucky not to burn down the house.

One year later, not so lucky, Frannie was dead.

Dedicated to Francine Marie Ferriera (1952-1969). A well loved friend who brought much joy and laughter to all who knew her. She remains in this heart.

Tribute

Four Friends & Five Stages

FIVE STAGES

Always. 
There are the five stages of grief, regardless of how insignificant 
or monumental the loss. 
All this comes before acceptance: denial, anger, bargaining, 
and depression. 

During my years, [more than this, decades, to be honest] 
the transition from denial to acceptance comes more quickly. 
Am I more astute to grief? More agile with its process? 
I “shush” at bargaining and depression; sometimes, denial. 
Sometimes.

Yet, the death of four friends this year, a year of living among 
COVID spores when death is almost mundane, 
I spend my time waiting for this final stage - acceptance. 
I carry these deaths, these losses, daily. When I rest my eyes 
staring into the distance, when I  center 
on my breathing during the day’s lulls, 
and always at bedtime 
when I relax body and soul. Here, I can lie still with hands folded 
across my belly and eyes closed. Here, I can see, 
still, each and every one of these friends 
with their smiles, their animated gestures. 
I can hear, still, their laughs. 
I remain rooted in Stage One. 
For now.

Tina Hudak © 2020

Dedicated to Kay Treakle, Dennis P. Morgan, Mary B. Tewalt, and JeriLynn Stone

Kenyon, Jane. Let Evening Come. Graywolf Press; St. Paul, 1990. Print

Worn out

A Blue Bunny Studio


Today I completed a small piece of art I had been working on for months. I realized that I am worn out. Not from the art. No.

Worn out from living during this awful time of hate and narcissism and meanness to the degree it had risen in the last four years.

We are in the 21st century’s Dark Ages. What has happened to us? Why is it that the negativity seems to dominate over all the goodness there is in the world!

Today, I am worn out.

Anxiety and #reading4KIDS

In the “Health”* section of The Washington Post this week (September 13, 2020) the effects of the pandemic on kids in relation to anxiety is highlighted. Landau writes a well referenced piece quoting extremely credible sources along with specific anecdotes from a variety of kids and their parents: routines are altered significantly, fear is ever present, and the loss of control felt by both families and individual children takes it toll.

As a former school librarian for kids in grades 4 through 8, my immediate thought went to children’s literature and how it may help to alleviate some of the stress. These kids who struggle with change and the unknown; they are not alone and have never been. Through these stories I hope at least one child and his/her family finds some solace, laughter, and a respite from carrying this burden. Here are a few:

Hamilton, A. (Interviewer). (2017, February). Speaking of Psychology: Treating anxiety in children Episode 45 http://podcast. https://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/children-anxiety.
*Landau, Elizabeth. (September 13, 2020). Stress over pandemic makes OCD symptoms worse in some children. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com
———-. (September 17, 2020). PANDAS—Questions and Answers. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/pandas/index.shtml

A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian

A commentary & then some

BACKSTORY

This winter I signed up for a brief, poetry writing workshop through The Writer’s Center by Mathangi Subramanian, Ed.D. whose name was unknown to me. She was and is a gracious and knowledgeable teacher; my class was extremely helpful despite its brevity. Afterwards, noticing that she had written a novel, I downloaded it and began to read. Filled with drama and humor, the author also pours a dense history into the story seamlessly. For a summary, review, and author bio, I direct you to another WordPress site, Endless Chapters.

Commentary

As a former school librarian (let me add here…of boys), I am always interested in the workings of the publishing world. Subramanian is the author of several titles for children, but it is the non-fiction title (2014), Bullying: The Ultimate Teen Guide, which has garnered a solid review in School Library Journal by Susan Shaver, a Nebraska educator. (Although, why it is under FICTION, I have no idea!). Yet, I am hard pressed to find and I am still looking for a review of this novel which is geared toward teens covering a multitude of their issues regardless of culture or ethnicity. (Perhaps, it is under NON-FICTION?)

Kirkus Reviews, whose thoughts I have always respected, did not gain my respect with this one. While I agree that this is a crossover novel, adult to YA, there are some snarky comments which disparage adults and their reading choices and the author’s style of writing. This, from an unsigned review, is not terribly professional.

It is an interview and review by Hamsini Ravi in HuffPost (the India edition) that I find the most helpful as both librarian and reader.

As an outlier who is actively including voices of Indians often not represented in English language fiction in the country, Subramanian thinks Indian publishing has made strides in the right direction…

Strides toward inclusion of a wide variety of authors with their cultural, gender, race, and class experiences as they translate into fiction is how we teach both children and adults. I am hopeful that the new generation of school librarians, book reviewers, and publishers are improving upon the past.


Subramanian, Mathangi. A People’s History of Heaven: a novel. Algonquin Books: Chapel Hill, N.C.,2019. ebook.

Poetry from the porch #11

AUGUST

Barefoot, boisterous boys

grace our home with

laughter &

high-jinx!
Tina Hudak ©2020

When my sons were very young, it was a treat during the hot month of august to “run through the sprinkler.” we did not belong or go to a local pool. Instead we pretended. Summer beach towels were spread on the cement porch floor; snacks and drinks were nearby, and yelling and screaming ensued as the cold water hit their bodies. Back and forth they would run with joy. Endlessly.

Thank you to @thewriteprompt and #hangtenstories of this bit of inspiration and memory combined.