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Baby Boomer

Making Memories

Making Memories

Those lovely, insightful words came in response to birthday wishes I posted on Facebook to my friend of fifty-six years, Karen Pearlman, on her 66th Birthday. She and I became fast friends our fifth grade year at Jefferson Elementary School, in our hometown of Muscatine, Iowa.

From the very beginning, everything about Karen captivated me.

Karen was Jewish. I had no more idea of what a Jewish person was than a Catholic or a Presbyterian or a Lutheran. Labels. Like different brands of cereal you liked equally well. I knew she believed in God and said prayers. Her family was kind to me… and Karen liked me for a best friend. In my small world, that’s all that mattered.

She and her family—her dad, mom, three sisters, and grandmother—lived in a white, two-story house on West Eighth Street. My mom and I lived directly across the alley in a two-story, three-room, upstairs apartment on West Seventh Street. We literally could hop, skip and jump to one another’s houses.

I remember three distinct features about Karen’s lovely, old home: the large, screened-in front porch; the huge, black, grand piano positioned in the right corner of the living room; and the four portraits of Karen and her three sisters, hung on the wall near the piano. Until my first visit to Karen’s house, I’d never seen or plunked the keys of a real grand piano, nor observed a real portrait of someone I actually knew.

Karen’s dad—Doc Pearlman—was a dentist. Dentists terrified me. My mom couldn’t afford dental trips, so the only time I went was to have a tooth pulled. That pattern changed, when my friend’s dad became my dentist. His kind smile, and reassuring voice lessened my fears. Maybe he worked out some sort of payment schedule with my mom, or maybe he did the work for free. I never knew.

I liked Karen’s mom, Bessie, too. She wore her long, dark, graying hair pulled back in a bun. I liked coming home with Karen after school because her mom was there. She asked about our day, my day, and had snacks waiting. I enjoyed both the snacks and the interest. Bessie always seemed to be knitting something fuzzy and beautiful. She gave me my first set of knitting needles and taught me the basics… how to cast on, knit, and pearl.

One memorable afternoon, Karen and I came home to an empty house. This never happened. We rummaged through the cupboards, looking for a snack—something to tide us over—and found a box of Jell-O instant, butterscotch pudding. We followed the directions on the box. Measured and poured the milk and pudding mix into a big, plastic bowl. Stirred until thick. Then selected two, large spoons and began scooping pudding into our mouths until the big, plastic bowl was empty. When Karen’s mom came home, she found two very, sick girls, sitting side-by-side on the couch. A pudding overdose. To this day, I never pass a box of Jell-O Instant Butterscotch Pudding without thinking of Karen. I doubt she does either.

I don’t remember much about Karen’s sisters, other than Francine was the oldest, and Nancy, was referred to as the baby. Her sisters were either going somewhere or coming home from somewhere.

Making MemoriesKaren’s Grandma Lena lived upstairs in a separate apartment from the girls’ bedrooms. Quiet and gentle, she, too, wore her long, gray hair pulled back in a bun. We weren’t supposed to bother her or go inside her apartment unless invited. One afternoon, Grandma Lena, Karen, and I all happened to meet on the upstairs landing. Karen introduced her grandma and asked her to show me her tattoo. She pushed the left sleeve of her dress up over her elbow. And there it was. A long, tattooed number on her left fore arm. In a thick accent, she explained how she’d gotten the tattoo in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. She survived while so many others died. I never forgot the tattoo, and never forgot Grandma Lena.

Each day of each season that year, Karen and I walked to and from school together… talking and laughing as best friends do. One snowy, wintry day we stopped to slide on the Ninth Street hill sidewalk, a favorite sledding hill, often closed to traffic in the winter. Unlike the treaded bottoms of my boots, Karen’s were smooth and slick, and allowed for optimum sliding. She flew down the slippery sidewalk, while I watched. After a couple of speedy trips to the bottom, she shared her boots with me. Swapped so I could enjoy sliding, too. It’s what best friends do.

After a few successful, downhill runs in Karen’s boots, we sat next to each other in the snow to exchange back. My larger boots easily slipped off her smaller shoes, but my larger shoes, wouldn’t budge from inside her smaller boots. After several futile minutes, pulling and tugging, we knew we’d be late for school. Being tardy for school, back in the day, was a serious offense and could mean a trip to the Principal’s office. She slipped my boots back on, and we trudged through the deep snow as quickly as possible, arriving at school a few minutes late. Luckily, our teachers, Mr. Brace and Miss Loving, understood our predicament. Together, they patiently pried Karen’s stuck boots from my shoes, watched as we switched back, and overlooked our tardiness that long ago winter day.

For one, brief year—before my mother and I moved again—I felt safe in the upstairs apartment just a hop, skip, and a jump across the alley from my friend. I felt secure at Jefferson Elementary, with the same teacher, same classmates… same best friend.

For one, wonderful year, Karen and I trick-or-treated, shared cake and ice cream on our birthdays, and whispered and giggled late into the night during a couple of sleepovers. I learned to knit, read the Diary of Ann Frank because of her Grandma’s tattoo, tasted wine-filled candy she sneaked on Hanukkah. And my sweet, Jewish friend, Karen Pearlman, let me borrow her new, one-size-too-small, beginner heels for the mandatory Good Friday Christian Easter service held at the First Presbyterian Church. I’m certain I prayed to be Jewish on that particular Good Friday.

But the sweetest memory of all? Getting stuck in Karen’s boots one snowy, wintry day on the way to school.

Without realizing it, Karen and I created more than friendship that year. We created lovely, recollections from a shared place in time called childhood, and all that word evokes… innocence, wonder, trust, fairness, acceptance, and love. We created best memories for one another.

All of us have past memories in common, many from childhood… some are best memories, some are not. Nevertheless, we collectively share them. As a writer, I use my creativity and imagination to tap into our common memories—both physical and emotional—whenever I write a poem, a story, a novel.

For me, beginning any written work is like beginning a new friendship… a friendship between author and reader. As the author, I tap into and establish common memories—thoughts, feelings, experiences—with you, the reader. I do this through setting, character development, and story line. By the end of the writing process, you know something about me through the words.

You get it. You understand. You’ve been there.

And now you know, I’ve been there, too.

You (the reader) have now shared time with a new friend, (the author) who gave you some of your best memories while reading the words of a poem, a story, or a novel.

Now isn’t that amazing?

* * * * * * *

Making Memories is the first in an 8-part series called Bits & Pieces … Behind the Scenes with C.L. Gillmore

Making Memories

Thanks to The Boomer and the Babe for an awesome opportunity today! I was a guest on their talk radio network!

Listen to the full broadcast here!

 

Listen to internet radio with Boomer and The Babe on Blog Talk Radio

One Final Season



“There are many ways of breaking a heart. Stories are full of hearts broken by love, but what really breaks a heart is taking away its dream—whatever that dream might be.”

– Pearl S. Buck

One Final Season

Lay me down and let your love wash gently over me.
Soothe me softly with that low, steady voice of reason.
Strip all the craziness away and let me just float free.
Heart to heart, soul to soul…if only for one final season.

You rocked me once in innocence with young, trembling hands,
And gave me a reason to trust again by making no demands.
Now let me sink slowly under your soul… warm, close and tight.
Hold me within your arms through this long, wondrous night.

You once said I had saved you, but the truth is you saved me,
By waking me up from years on end of details and complacency.
You found that girl who once was filled with dreams and desires.
Gave her the strength to strike the match that finally lit the fire.

So lay me down and let your love wash gently over me.
And soothe me softly with that low, steady voice of reason.
Strip all the craziness away and let me just float free.
Heart to heart, soul to soul…if only for one final season.

 

C. L. Gillmore, Copyright 2011

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson

 


My First Book Signing Was AWESOME!

I wanted to thank the more than 65+ family, friends & fans who came to the Book Signing and Artist’s Reception last evening. It was an absolutely beautiful night and a joy to be a part of. An author has only ONE “first book signing” and each of you made that evening one that I will treasure in my heart forever. Thank you so much!

Remembrance