Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ashamed to be an American

Today I am ashamed to be an American. I find my sense of shame comes in waves not unlike the way grieving for a lost loved one does. What brought on this latest depressing state of mind? It was a story I just viewed on "Sunday Morning," a show I watch regularly on Sunday mornings.

The story reported on the open and welcoming arms of our northern neighbors, Canada, for Syrian refugees. Thousands of volunteers and those with the means to help financially meet sponsored refugees at the airport and help them get established as Canadians with jobs; a place to live; and the necessities of life; until they can fend for themselves. It was the most heartwarming story I have come across in a long time and yes, it did result in my shame for my own country, the United States of America. Today I am ashamed to be an American.

I have always felt that I have a certain patriotism in my being, but today, no, it's not there. I still fly my flag on every good day but today I almost brought it in. I do not have a flag pole, so I cannot fly it at half mast. If I did I would do so. And you all know how long it would remain that way if you know me at all.

My shame is so intense today that I wonder why the Statue of Liberty which stands in New York Harbor and which stands as a beacon for those fleeing from war, depravation, and unjust regimes, is not shrouded in black drapery as a sign of mourning. Maybe we can at least fit her out with a blindfold so she won't have to watch what is happening to our country at this point in our history.

I just looked up the words to Emma Lazarus' poem, written in 1883, which is displayed on a plaque near the base of the statue. Did you ever see the complete words? Here they are:

The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus, 1883

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

At first, Emma refused to write the poem until her friend, Cary Harrison, convinced her that immigrants would be inspired by seeing the statue welcoming them ashore.

The poem refers to the Greek god of light, Helios. The Mother of Exiles, however, is more welcoming than conquering. She welcomes all those downcast who yearn for freedom.

Didn't "America" learn anything from the treatment we gave our Japanese-Americans during WWII and all the Jewish people who were also denied entry onto our shores during that same time?

I would  like to leave you with these two questions: "How long will it be before we as "Americans" become those same tempest-tost. And how long will it be before we become "Ugly Americans" and, as such, unwelcome in other countries in the world?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

For What It's Worth...

Evidently I don't have enough street cred or my readers would have listened in larger numbers to my earlier post, "A Political View from a Southender."  If you were one of the people who didn't read it at all, you will find it in the archives for December of 2016.

Let's recap a bit. I urged you all to read your history books, especially as to how the dreaded Hitler came to power. I was not the only one to make those comparisons during this election year, by the way. Well now that the damage has been done, let's move on in this discussion.

What the heck does "alternative facts" mean. These words recently came out of the mouth of chrump's White House spokeswoman and counselor, Kellyanne Conway, as she attempted to explain White House press secretary, Sean Spicer's comments about the crowds at the recent inauguration.  His estimate differed greatly from what the "evil" media reported.

I need a little help here from you English majors out there. Here's my interpretation as gleaned from my handy dandy Webster's.

alternative: The choice between possibilities; one of the possibilities to be chosen; allowing a choice; unconventional.

I vote for "unconventional"

or maybe misnomer: An inappropriate or wrong name

anomaly: Departure from the normal form, order, or rule. Something irregular or abnormal.

What do you think? All of these definitions would seem to apply here as his explanation of the size of the crowds were later found untrue. Therefore could we say that "alternative facts" is another way of saying "We have a good explanation here and damn it you better listen."


My observation of the activities in Washington and in fact around the whole world in the past two days are that this so-called president is necessarily always going to be on the defensive for the entire time he chooses to stay in office, at least for this term of four years. My question is, "How can anything get done in our Federal Government if he has to waste all his time twittering an answer to everyone who bruises his delicate ego?"  Are there not better things he could be doing?

Maybe you don't agree with me here. That's your right and privilege under our constitution. If we want to see our country go forward in its democracy we have to get more involved. I marched in the 60s to protest some of the very things the people in these marches are protesting. When does it end? I would like to live my life as a senior citizen in peace and without the fear of losing my rights, my Medicare, my Social Security, my marriage. I don't think that's too much to ask.

Remember that Democracy understandably takes time sometimes. The wheels move slowly for a that rash decisions can be reined in; so that decency towards all citizens is the rule; that justice is given to all; that we are able to live with a roof over our heads, food in the refrigerator and hopefully find medical care when we need it.

I ask you to stay in touch with your representatives in this state and in Washington, D.C. to let them know your thoughts; what you want to see done. If you are able to, run for an office of some kind even if it is just the school board or city council. Work toward positive changes in your community, state and country. "Stronger Together" really is a good slogan to keep in mind.

If you want to see your words and thoughts in print in the hopes that someone out there will listen, write to the editor of your local newspaper. You can also reply to this blog below if you wish. Not to say that I will actually allow it to be seen here, as I am the owner and therefore the editor of this blog. Of course you are still allowed to start your own blog on the internet. Heaven forbid if the man manages to stifle free speech and free press. By all means, forward this blog to anyone you think might me interested if you wish. There is also a way to do that at the end here.

A shout out to our friend Emmet O'Meara who kept us all so well  informed during the election process via Facebook. Ya done good Emmet. Keep up the good work.

Thanks for listening.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Girl in the Red Velvet Coat

The last time Ruthie’s mother came home from a rummage sale she brought her a worn out Golden Book. Ruthie loved Golden Books. She could read these small hardcover picture books all by herself and the pictures carried her away to a world she’d never seen before. The rummage people just gave this book to her mother because it was unsaleable.

Not that the world Ruthie lived in was so different from those on the page of the Golden Books; it was just that the children she read about in these books did things she probably never would. Things as simple as riding a bike, for example. Other kids in Ruthie’s neighborhood had bikes, but her mom couldn’t afford to get one for her. You see her dad had been killed in the war when she was just a baby. She never knew him. He was buried somewhere far away overseas. It was just the two of them against the world since then.

Ruthie and her mother lived in a small apartment up over a small store in the South End. Money was something they had little of. When the sardines were running, Ruthie’s mom worked in the factory down at the end of the street cutting off heads and tails with very sharp scissors and packing the fish in tin cans. Sometimes pieces of her skin went into the cans along with the fish. It was a good day when Ruthie’s mom brought home a mackerel she’d saved in the bucket under her bench. When they came through on the belt along with the silver sardines, the packers could keep them. The factory had no use for them.

When the sardine season ended they existed on her Mom’s unemployment and by wheeling the small red rusty wagon Ruthie sometimes played with up to the church basement where foodstuffs, mostly canned, were collected and disseminated to the poor people in the community. Here she would load up with boxes of macaroni and cheese; canned beans; canned vegetables; and a plastic bag full of cheap cereal. She supplemented what she could get that day with what she could buy, hopefully some milk, American cheese and butter; coffee if she was lucky; a loaf of day old white bread; and whatever meat she could get which ended up being mostly hot dogs. The neighborhood bakery sometimes had day old stuff too, maybe even a big chunk of pound cake, which Ruthie’s mom bought when she could. It helped that a good friend of hers worked there and gave her a break when her boss’s back was turned. Her mom suspected that the boss sometimes turned her back on purpose.

During the school year Ruthie got free lunches at school because of their low income. So at least she got one good meal a day during that time. If worse came to worse during the winter, Ruthie’s mom would try to get on welfare once again. The government also gave school children a small can of orange juice every day as it was determined that children in that area of the country didn’t get enough vitamin C in their diet during the school year when it was cold. Citrus fruit was expensive and not all that available in those days during the winter. Goods were mostly delivered via trucks over the road and the weather often hindered the delivery of some necessary goods. Winters were longer then and snow hung around way into the spring.  By the time they got this far up on the coast citrus fruit was shriveled up and not fit to eat. Ruthie’s teacher, Miss Meredith, passed out graham crackers with the juice. She paid for them with money out of her own pocket. It was a welcome mid-afternoon treat for the kids before they went home for the day.

On this winter day in 1947 very close to Christmas when Ruthie was nearly seven, or six and a half as she put it, Ruthie curled up on the worn out mattress of the full-size iron bed and opened her new precious Golden Book. She pulled her jacket up around her neck and wrapped the ratty worn wool blanket around her feet. The bed was next to the radiator but the heat didn’t always make it up to their small studio apartment. The two scatter rugs they had didn’t help keep the wooden floors much warmer either. It was warmer during the day when the store was open and the heat generated by the machines in the store found its way up to them, but today was Saturday and the store closed at noon. The bed was the only real piece of furniture in the room and they were lucky to have it as it was given to them by some good friends who had no use for it anymore. They also had a small kitchen table with two wooden chairs. That was the extent of their furniture. Scavenged cardboard boxes held their clothes and whatever else they owned.

They had a small kitchen with a small icebox and a two-burner stove with an oven that worked when it wanted to. It sat on an uneven floor anyway which made anything, like a cake, tilted when it came out of the oven. Ruthie’s mom always attempted to make her a birthday cake in June anyway. Ruthie didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be tilted, so she was thrilled to get a cake just for her on her birthday.

The small bathroom wasn’t much bigger than a closet which held a big bathtub, a sink, and the toilet. At least the room stood on an inside wall so it didn’t get as cold as the rest of the place.

Ruthie’s mother was out on this Saturday doing a cleaning job for a family up in midtown where the most affluent folks in town lived. The area was full of old Victorian homes, some with round turrets on them. Town founders had established the area way back when Shoreville was a leader in the lime industry. They were mostly captains of the lime rock industry or captains of a sailing ship which plied the coast in those days.

This family was planning a big Christmas party for friends and business acquaintances and needed help sprucing up the place before the big event. Silver had to be polished; every expensive Chinese vase and knick knack had to be dusted; floors washed; rugs beaten; dinner linens washed, starched and ironed. It was a big job and Ruthie’s mom was one of five women working at the house that day.

The pay wasn’t much for ten hours of steady work most of which was performed on your knees scrubbing every corner of the place. But she would take what she could get. Christmas was coming and maybe this year she could get a real store-bought present for her precious Ruthie.

She left Ruthie a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and told her to just sit on the bed and read her story and don’t open the door to anyone. She didn’t have the money to pay for a babysitter for Ruthie and besides, what she got paid today would be seriously depleted if she had to pay someone to watch Ruthie.

Ruthie opened to the first page of her Golden Book and read the title of the story, “The Red Velvet Coat.” Ruthie was a good reader but sometimes big words stopped her. “Velvet” was a hard one but she sounded it out and could see by the picture that it was a coat and yes it was red and yes it must be velvet. Ruthie knew what velvet was because she had seen the material on some of the richer kids in town. One day when she was uptown at the First National grocery store with her mother, she ran a dirty hand over the sleeve of one little girl’s coat and the girl pulled back away from her and shouted, “Hey, get your dirty hands off my coat!”

The girl’s mother looked at Ruthie with pity and tugged on her child’s hand

“Let’s go,” she said. Under her breath she said, “You should not be so rude to those less fortunate than you are. I am ashamed of you.”

Ruthie ran back to her mother who was on the other side of the grocery store looking for a cheap loaf of bread.

Despite that retort, Ruthie remembered what that velvet felt like and thought it must be the softest thing she had ever touched. She remembered it now as she looked at the picture of the little girl in the most beautiful red velvet coat she ever saw. “What’s it like to own such a coat,” she thought. She had only a drab threadbare brown wool jacket that was missing a button in the middle. Her mother had not found the time to hunt up a new button for it nor the time to sew it on for her. The cold winter wind often blew up under it for that reason and Ruthie avoided going outside when it was real cold if she could.

She looked at the picture of the red velvet coat longingly. The little girl wearing it was named Susan. She figured that name out real easy. I bet people call her Susie, she thought.

Up at the mid-town house Ruthie’s mother, Eleanor, got a little break from scrubbing floors by volunteering to polish a silver tea set. She was able to sit down at the kitchen table to do this task. Her feet and knees welcomed the respite from hard labor.

She was hard at her task when the lady of the house, Mrs. Helen Heatherton, came into the kitchen.

“Ummm…I’m sorry, dear, I didn’t catch your name before.”

“It’s Eleanor, Eleanor Robinson, Mrs. Heatherton.”

“Oh yes, of course. Thank you so much for coming with the other girls today. We need all the help we can get. I’m expecting close to 100 people tomorrow. My, my, I didn’t even know we knew that many people. Well thank goodness it’s an open house and people will be coming and going. I think the ballroom can handle that.”

Eleanor didn’t reply to Helen’s statement. It wasn’t her place to do so. She knew when to stay quiet and mind her own business.

Helen went over to the wall phone, picked it up, and said to the operator, “Oh dear, if you would, could you get me the Birdall residence. I’d like to speak to Cynthia if she’s home…the number? Oh, I think the number is 4596. Don’t you know it? Well try that anyway.”

Eleanor heard this exchange but tried to keep an impassive look on her face. She could never understand these rich people when they assumed such things. It was like they expected everyone to know what they wanted instantly and simply stood by waiting for further instructions. She wondered what that operator went through in a day’s time with such demands. It hit on her sense of humor somehow and she hid her face so that Helen wouldn’t see her smirk. As long as she pays me at the end of the day, I don’t care what she does, she thought.

Eleanor also knew that despite their seemingly selfish ways, some of the rich people in town were very generous, especially to those less fortunate than they. There was many a project in town that saw its way to completion because of the outright monetary gifts given by these people, many times anonymously.

As Helen completed her call, when she did indeed reach Cynthia Birdall, she complimented Eleanor on her work as she left the kitchen, “You are doing a marvelous job with that tea set, Eleanor. Isn’t it beautiful? It was my grandmother’s.”

“Yes it is,” said Eleanor quietly.

 Helen stopped suddenly and backed into the kitchen again. “You have a little girl, don’t you, Eleanor? I think I’ve seen you downtown with her once in a while.”

“Yes, yes, Ruthie,” said Eleanor with much surprise in her voice. She couldn’t believe that Helen would even know she existed at all.

“Where is she today? It’s Saturday so there’s no school.”

“Ah…she’s with friends,” Eleanor lied. She couldn’t very well tell her she left a six-year-old home alone while she worked. She couldn’t tell if Helen believed her or not.

There was an awkward pause before Helen continued, “Do you think you could help us out here at the party itself. You know, help in the kitchen arranging finger food on plates, that sort of thing? I’d pay you a little more money than you are getting today. We could really use the help as one of the girls who was coming can’t make it. What do you say? Oh…if you can’t find anyone to sit with Ruthie why don’t you just bring her along. She can sit up on the stool over there and maybe even help you out a little. She’s such a cute little thing as I remember. And of course the house will all be decorated for Christmas, fires in the fireplaces, and music too. We’ve hired someone to play the piano for us in the drawing room, carols and that sort of thing. Ruthie might enjoy it. Please say you’ll bring her.”

Eleanor was flabbergasted. How could she say no. Ruthie was a good girl and was never a bother. And when would Ruthie ever get another chance like this. It would be like a living Christmas present for her. She knew it would be a memory Ruthie would always carry with her no matter what her lot in life might be.

“Well…Mrs. Heatherton, are you sure? I’m sure Ruthie would love it…”

“Say no more then,” Helen said. “I’ll expect you about 10:30 O.K..? And if it’s a stormy day I’ll see that someone comes to pick you both up. No, never mind, I’ll get someone to pick you up anyway and take you home too. It will be so much fun.”

“Sure. Sure, Mrs. Heatherton. 10:30. I…we’ll be here.”

“Good. Now I must go check on a few things. See you and Ruthie then.”

And Helen was gone.

Unaware of what was going on in mid-town at the Heatherton residence, Ruthie had fallen asleep on the big iron bed. She’d fallen asleep before finishing her sandwich and half of it lay next to her hand. She had the big quilt over her and her body was curled up into a ball against the cold of the room. She dreamed of a beautiful red velvet coat hanging on a hook in her own beautiful bedroom with pretty curtains on the windows like she’d seen in magazine pictures she sneaked a peek at in the grocery story magazine section. She wondered what it would be like to live in one of those fancy houses like the ones in mid-town Shoreville.

The dream featured a panorama of a room filled with dolls in pretty dresses and other toys all placed neatly on shelves. There was a thick plush rug on the floor and a small white shaggy dog sat beside her as she read a brand new Golden Book while sitting in her very own white rocking chair. It was a good dream and she was quite dismayed when she awoke to a dark room and her mother still absent. She shivered from the unease she felt. She found her way to the kitchen table so she could stand in the chair and put on the wall light switch. There. That was better.

Ruthie still couldn’t read a clock very well but she could see that the big hand was on five and since it was dark she assumed it was almost supper time. She could hear people walking on the sidewalk below the apartment window and vehicle traffic had picked up too so she figured people were headed home for their supper. Her belly growled and she walked over to the bed to get the rest of her sandwich. She looked in the icebox and saw there was maybe a small glass of milk left so she got a glass down from the kitchen shelf where they stored what dishes they had and poured it out.

She sat sullenly at the kitchen table swinging her legs and munching the rest of her sandwich. She hoped her mother would bring something good home for supper. She was tired of beans and hot dogs.

Soon after she was done she heard the key in the lock and her mother came into the room.

“Hey, sweetheart, I’m sorry I’m so late. You hungry?”

Ruthie spied the bags in her mother’s hands and got up from the chair excitedly.

“What did you bring? What’s in the bags? Ummm. Smells good. What did you bring me?”

Ruthie jumped up and down in her excitement.

“Hold on, sister. Yes, I have food and it smells good for a reason. Because it is. Look here.”

Ruthie watched in amazement as her mother pulled out one good smelling foodstuff after another from the bags. Everything was wrapped up or in containers to keep them warm. Out came some meat Ruthie had never seen before; gravy; stuffing and mashed potatoes; rolls; a big chunk of real butter; a container of mixed peas and carrots; four of the biggest oranges and two of the best grapefruits Ruthie had ever seen; and a big chunk of real angel food cake with frosting on it.

“Oh, Mumma,” Ruthie said as she jumped up and down clapping her hands. “Where did all this come from? Is this our Christmas dinner?”

She grabbed one of the oranges. It was so big.

“I never saw an orange this big. Can I have it for breakfast, please. Pleeeese?”

Eleanor patted Ruthie’s hand and chuckling at her enthusiasm she hugged her and pulled her onto her knee at the kitchen table.

“O.K., my love. I’ll tell you everything in a minute. Right now, I’m going to put a plate for both of us in the oven to warm up for our supper. There is enough here that we can save some for our Christmas dinner too.”

After Eleanor had put their dinner in the oven and stored the rest of the food for later use, she sat across from Ruthie and proceeded to tell her the story of her day. She came to the part where she was getting ready to leave the Heatherton’s house.

“And then do you know what? Mrs. Heatherton came to the kitchen door where we left from and handed each of us girls who helped her today all these bags you see here. Seems it was a tradition with her to share food with her help on the day before her annual Christmas party. We were all so surprised. On top of that she had a couple of young men load us and all our goodies into cars for the ride home. It was so nice of her, don’t you think?”

“I’ve never seen so much good food all at once in my life,” Ruthie said. “But where did those oranges and grapefruits come from. I never saw ones like that in the grocery stores.”

“Well I asked her the same thing and she said she has a relative who stays in Florida for the winter and she always sends up a few cases of nice citrus because she knows we can’t get them up here in the winter. She had so much this year that she wanted us to have some before they went bad. Wasn’t that nice of her again?”

As Eleanor passed a warmed-up plate to Ruthie she said, “Careful, the plate will be hot. Let’s eat, honey.”

The two sat down and Ruthie just sat and smiled at the food for a moment so she could take it all in. One thing troubled her though.

“Mumma, what kind of meat is this. Have I ever had it before?”

“Oh, no, Ruthie, I don’t think you have. It’s pork chops. Here let me cut yours up for you. You’ll like it, I’m sure. Put some of this gravy on it and on your potatoes and stuffing.”

Ruthie tried everything eagerly.

“Yum, this is delicious, Mumma. And we have more for later too. Yippee.”

When Eleanor was telling Ruthie the story of her day at the Heatherton’s, she left out the best part. As they ate, she told her about the party the next day.

When Eleanor told her about her part in the festivities for the next day, Ruthie sat in quiet contemplation.

“But what will I wear?” she said finally.

Eleanor laughed, thinking to herself, how old is this girl that she’s already worried about what she’s going to wear.

“Don’t worry, honey. When we get cleaned up from supper, we’ll look at your clothes and find something, maybe the dress you wear to church and your good patent leather shoes I found for you at the rummage sale a while ago. I think you have a pair of nice white socks too. You’ll look just fine I’m sure. We have to get everything ready to go though, because they’ll be here at about ten to pick us up and I don’t want our driver to have to wait for us. We both need to take a bath too in the morning and I need to fix your hair.

Ruthie had beautiful blond hair that curled naturally around her mother’s finger. Eleanor would find a ribbon somewhere in one of their clothes boxes to accent her curls. She made a mental note to be sure Ruthie’s hands and nails were clean too. Children as a rule always had dirty hands at the wrong time she thought.

As promised, Helen Heatherton had a car waiting for Ruthie and her mom at around ten the next morning. It would be a day indeed that Ruthie would never forget, just as Eleanor suspected it would. She’d found a nice apron that was kind of Christmas like with red and green trim on it that she’d picked up somewhere along the way. She dressed in her best housedress and put the newly starched apron on over it and off they went.

The driver left them off at the back door and they went in through the kitchen. The house had two kitchens and Eleanor suspected they were in what was called, “The Winter Kitchen.” Eleanor didn’t see Mrs. Heatherton but expected someone would tell her what to do shortly. She lifted Ruthie up onto the kitchen stool and told her to stay put until she knew what was expected of them.

Ruthie looked around trying to contain her excitement as she took in all the delicious smells in this beautiful kitchen. This room is bigger than our whole apartment, she thought.

Soon activity in the kitchen picked up as the woman in charge of refreshments came in and instructed Eleanor how to place hors d’oeuvres on a glass plate that was trimmed in silver. She was shown how to place them in a pleasing pattern. Soon other women helpers arrived and the kitchen became a beehive of activity. Ruthie watched them all work with great interest and awe. Most of the food was unfamiliar to her and the serving trays, plates, and glasses she was sure came from a castle somewhere because they were so pretty and shone so bright.

A few minutes later, the swinging door that led from the kitchen to the great room beyond opened and Helen Heatherton entered. She spied Ruthie sitting quietly on the stool in the corner. Helen came up to Eleanor and said, “Hi, Eleanor, I’m so glad you are here and I see you brought your lovely daughter with you. Ruthie, right?”

“Hello, Mrs. Heatherton. Yes, this is my Ruthie. She won’t be any trouble I promise you.”

“Oh dear, don’t you worry about a thing. I’m sure she is very well behaved if she is your daughter. I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve asked my daughter, whenever she gets home that is, to show Ruthie around the place and make sure she has some fun while she is here. She went to a party with her Girl Scout friends, but should be home soon. They are supposed to stop at the Knox Home to sing carols for the old folks and give them each a small present. She should be home soon.”

She looked over at Ruthie. “I’ll let you know when she gets here, dear. O.K.?”

Mrs. Heatherton disappeared again and Eleanor glanced over at Ruthie. “You doing O.K. over there, honey? Just a little while longer and you can get down…when her daughter comes…O.K.”

Eleanor wasn’t sure about the prospect of her daughter spending time with Helen’s daughter. They came from different worlds and it could be uncomfortable for Ruthie. Ruthie, as all small children do, sensed her mother’s hesitancy and squirmed a little. A naturally shy little girl, Ruthie wasn’t sure she wanted to spend time with a little rich girl. What if she said something wrong and the rich girl laughed at her? Suddenly the day ahead of her loomed darker than she had expected it to be.

However, she sat up straight and vowed to be brave no matter what lie ahead. As it happened, it didn’t turn out all that bad.

In about an hour after her mother had left the kitchen to help serve in the big room, Mrs. Heatherton bustled into the kitchen with her daughter in hand. She came directly over to Ruthie and Ruthie saw her tug on her daughter’s hand to bring her up closer to Ruthie.

“Ruthie, this is my daughter, Judith Rose. She is going to see to it that you have a good time while you are here. Right, Judith,” she said as she turned her back to Ruthie and glared at her daughter.

“Sure, Mother,” Judith said, “I’ll be sure to do that.”

“Well then, I’ll leave you two to explore and have fun. Be sure to have some food too while you are here, Ruthie. Consider yourself as one of my guests. Now run along you two.”

The word, “guest” flabbergasted Ruthie for a minute. She could never in a million years imagine herself as a guest in this grand house. Why when she first arrived it had looked like a real castle to her what with the turrets on either side of the front of the house. She had never had much chance to see the houses at this end of town and the experience was almost overwhelming for a child of the South End.

As the day progressed Ruthie hardly heard what Judith was saying because she was too busy staring at everything. From the gold-framed pictures on the walls; to the fancy newel post on the winding staircase; to the three fireplaces with marble mantels all ablaze with big logs glowing at her. It was almost more than a six-year-old South End girl could take in.

Finally disgusted with having to escort and babysit this South End kid, Judith took Ruthie’s hand and pulled her towards a chair next to the fireplace.

“Hey, why don’t you sit down and I’ll get a plate of food for you. O.K. You are getting in everyone’s way. Just sit here and I’ll be right back.”

It seemed to Ruthie like a long time before Judith returned, but she sat and listened to the music and smiled as her mother came in and out of the room. The guests were mostly older people. They were all well-dressed and a few of them came over and said hello to her. Knowing Helen Heatherton, they soon realized that this little girl was a project of some kind for Helen and therefore accepted the little girl with the obviously hand-me-down dress for who she was.

Helen, meanwhile, had no such project in mind for Ruthie and her mother. She simply was a good person at heart and had found out that Eleanor was a war widow and struggled as such bringing up this beautiful little girl. If she could lighten her load if even for a day she vowed to do it. In fact, since she’d met Eleanor she started thinking of ways she might help her beyond the limits of just working for her.

As the party was winding down she looked over at the two girls now both sitting by the fire. Judith looked perfectly bored, but it looked like she was at least trying to be cordial to Ruthie. As it happened, Judith was wearing a blue velvet dress today with a big white bow in back. The velvet was so irresistible to Ruthie that she reached over and ran her hand over the sleeve.

Judith turned her head and glared at Ruthie. She opened her mouth to protest, but Helen quickly came over and stood next to Ruthie. Suddenly, she had a déjà vu moment. She drew in a quick breath but let it out quickly so as not to alarm the girls.

My God, she thought, this is the same little girl that Judith was so rude to that day when she brushed her hand over her red velvet coat. She could see that Judith didn’t even recognize Ruthie. She herself had only had a glimpse of Ruthie, but somehow that faced clicked in her consciousness. She had to do something to make it right.

She knelt down next to Ruthie and said, “Do you like Judith’s dress, Ruthie. It’s velvet. Do you like velvet?”

Ruthie looked at Helen but didn’t recognize her as the woman with the bad girl that day. She did remember what that velvet felt like, however.

“Oh yes,” she said to Helen. “It’s the softest thing I’ve ever felt.”

“It is very soft isn’t it, Ruthie.”

Helen rose and walked determinedly out of the great room. She had a mission and was in a hurry to complete it. On the way, the tears welled up in her eyes. I must make this right, she thought.

The day had a happy ending and it was indeed one that Ruthie never forgot in her lifetime, because the most amazing thing, even more than all the amazing things that happened that day, was what happened as Ruthie and her mother got ready to leave the party and the Heatherton house.

Helen drew the two of them aside and said, “Please, dear ladies, won’t you come into the parlor and sit with me a minute. I have something for you.”

Ruthie and her mother looked at each other and followed Mrs. Heatherton. Helen drew out a bag from behind the chair and sat down holding it. She looked at Eleanor and Ruthie and said sincerely, “Eleanor, my daughter and I need to apologize to your daughter.”

“Oh,” said Eleanor, “Whatever for. You have given her such a good time today. What should you ever have to apologize for?”

Eleanor proceeded to tell her the story of the day that Ruthie had patted Judith’s red velvet coat. She then turned to Judith and said, “Judith?”

Judith turned reluctantly towards Ruthie and said softly, “Ruthie, I’m sorry about what I said to you. Please accept my apology.”

“And please accept my apology, Ruthie, for my rudeness that day too. I am truly ashamed for my daughter and myself.”

Eleanor protested at once. “Oh no. Mrs. Heatherton. This is all so unnecessary. Ruthie knows better than to touch something that belongs to someone else. Please. It’s O.K. Honestly.”

Helen reached out and patted Eleanor’s hand. “However, the apology stands and besides that…”

Helen reached into the bag and drew out the red velvet coat Ruthie had touched that day. “This coat is too small for Judith anymore and I thought it might be just the right size for Ruthie now. Stand up Ruthie and let’s see how it fits.”

Ruthie gasped and put her hand over her mouth and thought she must be living in a fairy tale where dreams really do come true.

The coat fit perfectly and both Eleanor and Ruthie were completely overwhelmed. Eleanor had tears in her eyes too and Ruthie thought this must be the best day of her life.

Eleanor choked out a thank you and said, “What do you say, Ruthie?”

“Oh, thank you Mrs. Heather….er…thank you.”

“That’s O.K., honey,” Helen chuckled. You wear it in good health my dear.”

As they went out the door at the Heatherton house, Helen whispered into Eleanor’s ear, “I’ll be in touch with you and Ruthie, Eleanor. There may be some more things I’ll want to talk to you about, especially about your current circumstances. Take care.

That night as Ruthie and her mom climbed into the big bed in their South End apartment up over the store, Ruthie clutched the red velvet coat to her face. She had never felt anything so soft.

“Merry Christmas, Mom,” she said.

A Political View from a Southender

I try not to get involved in politics with my friends, but this election year I must make an exception. I do not wish to debate with anyone on the subject. I will just display my opinion here while I still have such a right and let you take my words as you like. Thank God we still all have the right to speak our minds in this country.

First of all, I do not believe in inciting riots to further my views. All of you people out there who like to fight, please don't. Take your fight to the polls and VOTE!

As for Donald Trump I don't even like to type his name here in fear I will further his cause. You can't open any site on the net without seeing his demented face.

Yes I said demented. I see so many parallels with this man and Hitler, it is downright frightening. As an amateur historian, I shiver to think what could happen if this man ever made 16 Pennsylvania Avenue his home.

You want just one parallel. Ok. How about blaming one ethnic group for all the ills of our country. Sound familiar? If you don't think such a holocaust couldn't happen here, think again.

God forbid he gets control of this country. How long would it take before our constitution and our rights as American citizens are attacked? How long would it take to take control of the legislature, the supreme court? Impossible?  Maybe. Maybe not. Do you want to take the chance that the bully of all bullies will take control of this country come election day?

Read your history books, people. I beg you. I don't care what political party you may affiliate with. Thank God we still have that diversity too. All I ask is that you vote for anyone as long as it's not that demented delusional potential dictator with serious ego issues called for the last time, Donald Trump. Whew. I got through this by mentioning his name only twice. It's like the Harry Potter books and the name that shall not be mentioned i.e. Voldemore, lest all the evils of the world descend upon us.

That's my opinion for what it's worth to you. See you at the polls!