The thing about being a teacher-librarian is that your students are always in your thoughts. Regardless of where you are. Regardless of the calendar. Whether it reads “closed for Spring vacation” or not, there they are. Front and slightly off-center.
A brief drive to Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to “get away” proves no exception to my pronouncement. At the sight of artists’ hastily scribbled lyrics, notes, and even report cards, the only two words that popped into my head – visually I will add – are “primary documents.” Of course, the next hyperlinking thought went directly to my students – those lovable Bulldogs at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.
This is for you, my Bulldogs, young and even younger! Rock on.
Some visits are quiet ones. The day is routine. Walking in any weather. Walking along the streets of a small town or the wide alleyways behind historic homes where even the garage curtains speak of a gentility. Big plates of pasta balanced on the laps of the three sisters, sitting on chairs and sofas. We are tucked in snugly on this chilly night. Mystery hour. It is about relationships. It is a slow story. One that takes time and nuance. So too, with my sisters and me. It is about relationship. Slowly moving through decades, through years of upheaval and years of the steady, almost imperceptible changes in each of us. It is a quiet visit. It is a visit that is full.
I return home, here, with sunny skies and warm breezes. Shy windflowers at my garden gate wave their greetings, faces filled with light. I am filled with thoughts of family as my key unlocks all that is before me.
Assaulted by tone
The guise of caring Read the rest of this entry »
The onion gives tears.
Crying for only the joy
you bring me each day.
While tartness of the cherries
seduces me as you smile.
Tina Hudak ©2016
This is my attempt writing a Tanka poem which I dedicate to my students at St. Alban’s School in Washington, D.C. They inspire me. They are my onions and my cherries. I expect & hope for them to supass me in 2017.
Not in the gutteral fragments
of the broken words,
But in the singing of the birds,
in the whispering of the leaves
Where life speaks, and the
soul find rest.
Tina Hudak 1995©
Watercolor by Sam Graul 1996©
Moments when exhaustion meets human nature puts me back in touch with my animal nature. And so it begins. Each evening, after a ten-hour work day at school, I curl up on the sofa with cat in lap to groom him. Running my fingers through his fur, up and down his back, stopping to feel bumps on his head, I am a ruthless mama searching for fleas to kill. This is a generous season for insects. Fall brings dry, hot weather when it should be damp and cool. Eggs hatch. Gnats fly. Fleas are carried in on the back of my wild feline.
Now, confined until the first freeze, we both have lost our ways. We strain against confinement, routine; we mourn the loss of the unexpected. There is no balance, for neither feels the joy of feral surge. We are tethered to room after room after room.
Damn this weather. Damn these fleas.
During the 1960s, I grow up under the constant threat of nuclear war. As an elementary student, I practice “duck and cover” regularly in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA. A booming steel town where everyone is certain we would be a first target; in the 1970s this fear haunts my dreams; the 1980s, the fear of nuclear war surfaces again. Non-profit organizations rally our generation to action resulting in strong advocacy for peace by women of my generation*. I play my small part through art – “duck and cover” long gone as real response. Now, it is back. In today’s Washington Post Op-Ed section appears a piece – “Why is Trump suddenly talking about World War III?“.
A coincidence. There is this, dear reader. I participate in a wonderful online writing group – Juncture – with Philadelphia writer Beth Kephart. She sends out a “new” writing prompt – not about war, not about childhood – but this is my response.
She seems so tall, my mother, as I look up at her sideways. Her profile, shoulder-length hair, dark and thick, falls in gentle waves. The white shirtwaist dress worn with a large leather belt around her slim waist. She is beautiful, my mother. She is worried. I can tell this easily, as our neighbor barges in through our front door. I see her face change – softened to furrowed brow, relaxed to taut jawline, ruby red lips at the edge of a smile to one that is frowning.
I pull at her hand, the one where her arm rests against her side while the other holds her waist tightly. She turns her head slowly, tilted so she can meet my questions. It is only then I see the fear. Her eyes are filled up with fear. I know this is bad. I know not to ask, but I will. I need to know what news walked in so boldly without a second thought to us. Yes, right through that door – the one that is always open, always welcoming. She speaks softly – not to me, not to anyone but herself. Perhaps she needs hearing this said aloud. Her voice needing to carry the weight of the words. “Kennedy is sending ships toward Cuba. This is World War III.”
Truth told. I do not believe in coincidence.
“…value dignity in the face of battering conditions.” Beth Kephart
The ritual of faith in my childhood taught me to look at death. Directly. Unflinchingly. At seven years of age, I sang in our school’s children’s choir for every funeral. Hidden away in the great ceiling, a small loft for even smaller children.The great organ dwarfing our statures. Both beloved and severe, the choir mistress stands erect, in black, baton in hand. Cold eyes piercing through the young’s urge to giggle – to fend off sorrow. A Gregorian chant of “Requiem aeternam” begins. We are consumed by solemnity. Only our voices echoing within the high walls to greet the slow procession for the dead. The bowed heads covered in black lace. The straight backs of men in dark suits, like soldiers. Stepping carefully to muffle the clipped sounds of their wingtips against the hard tiled floors echoing against the monophonic repetition. The mantra of children – of innocence – to greet death. To relieve the sorrowful burdens from the shoulders of the unknown. Of the adults.
An initiation for the loss in my future. So many deaths, it seems, that every one is personal. The prayers rise up for love incarnate – my mother, my father, my sister-in-law, my childhood friend to those splashed across the newspapers. The drown Syrian child on Greece’s rocky coast, the African-American father lying dead on the street in Charleston, the babes and their teachers in Newton, the street carnage of Paris’s les jeunesses… on and on.
Far from my childhood in months and years, the “Requiem aeternam” resonates. Now, it is my head bowed, my back that is straight. Faith remains the constant.
This post is dedicated to the choristers, past and present, of St. Alban’s School for Boys, where their voices fill me with longing.
The Christmas season. On our table standing proudly are these basic ingredients: Pillsbury flour, Land O’Lakes butter, Philadelphia brand cream cheese and Rumford’s baking powder – the one in the small, red can. Next to this are her utensils: a large stoneware bowl to mix the pastry, glass measuring cups and inexpensive aluminum measuring spoons, a knife from our everyday set, and a well-worn, wooden rolling-pin. My Aunt Agnes Check’s recipe – a blending of Slovak family heritage with Italian sensibilities. A new heritage.
Pounds of Diamond’s unshelled walnuts wait for my mother and me on this winter evening – a school night. We sit at the white porcelain kitchen table-top that my parents purchased when they were newlyweds. Metal nutcrackers in hand, we sit together in a comfortable silence and begin to squeeze and crack. It is tough work for a ten-year old. Repetitive. Detailed. Inexperienced, I laboriously pick out the bits and pieces of meat left behind in the inner shells – spaces dark and convoluted in nature. My mother’s pile is substantive while mine – quite a pitiful showing for the attention I am dedicating to this task – fill only a cup. Our conversations alleviate the tediousness; our banter brightens the evening hours. We talk of the nuns, my teachers; the friends and the cliques to which I belong and those where I am shunned, already at a tender age. Back to family, she carefully guides the talk, of Christmas gifts, wrappings, of course, eating. Ham or turkey? Both kinds of potatoes? My hands begin to hurt, but I am loathe to leave. Feeling as if I am caught in some dark fairy-tale with the impossible task, I persevere not for my survival, but for my mother’s love.
My son, plugged in, and baking kiffles for the holidays. Same recipe; different generation.