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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Try to remember...



Dear Peter,

I never thanked you.

I wanted you to know that I remember.  I remember slow dancing in the bowling alley.  I remember having lunch in the college cafeteria.  In retrospect, I realize that perhaps you were encouraging me to be a better person, to fulfill my potential.  But, at that point, I was so very young and afraid. 

I also remember seeing “Funny Girl” with you and having dinner in a local restaurant.  I remember that you brought me a bouquet of flowers (my first!) when I had my wisdom teeth extracted.


  
And, of course, I remember your other gift.  My birthday gift.  The one you sent by mail.  Because, by that time, I was being courted by another young man.  And I fell for him.  He didn’t encourage me to go back to college.  He had a house and a sports car.  I was only seventeen…..and I wanted so desperately to get out of my mother’s house. He offered me the quick and easy solution.

But you were correct.  It was a huge mistake, the first of many that I would continue to make for years to come.  I wonder what I would have done if you had tried harder?

I remember the brown paper package.  Opening it to find a square box wrapped in pink and red rose printed wrapping paper.  Very pretty.  Rose is the flower of June.  How a propos.  I remember opening it and finding the stuffed toy animal – the donkey.  The jackass, to be more precise.  I was horrified.  You were such a nice, sweet young man.  How could you do such a thing?  I could feel my face burning.  

You can see that you left a lasting impression.  I never forgot it or you.  As I said before, I wonder if you might have swayed me if you had persisted just a bit more?  But it was so long ago……
I do thank you.  I knew, from your “comment,” that I was heading toward disaster, and yet I continued forging ahead.  Thank you for telling me what you really thought, albeit symbolically.  I wish some more people had said, one way or another, “June, you’re being an ass.”  No one did.

Somehow, eventually, I managed to land on my feet.
  
So, thank you, Peter.  I hope all worked out well for you. 

With (mostly) fond memories,
June

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

You and me against the world.....

Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world
And when others turn their backs and walk away
You can count on me to stay..... 

("You and Me Against the World" Ascher,K, Williams, P. 1974)


I chronicle the beginning of this journey in my memoire, "Astoria Story."  By the age of two, it was clear there was "something about" my child.  Those were the words of her pediatrician.  No one could put a finger on it.  We had her hearing checked. Twice. We went to far too many psychologists.  One neurologist told me she "just wanted attention."  ??????  She was and still is my only child.  Good one, Doc.  Not funny.

I was "too lenient."  I was "too strict."  Maybe it was the Coca-cola.  No, there was no soda in the house.

There were inexplicable tantrums of gigantic proportions.  I often had to leave a shopping cart half full of groceries in the store and give up and just take her home.  I could not find a babysitter willing to care for her.  I often wondered when the Social Services would show up at the door, for all the screaming and wailing that was heard emanating from our apartment.  I paraded her outside in her little bathing suits to show the world she had no bruises.

Finally, with school looming on the  horizon, I got smart and demanded to see a child psychiatrist.  No more psychologists with their bullshit ideas and useless advice.  After intensive 2 day testing and a 3 hour observation....and waiting and waiting for the results, I got the phone call.  "My conclusion is that she has autism."  My brain went into overdrive and denial.  I was advised to get books, lots and lots of books.

Autism used to be blamed on the uncaring, distant mother.  It was thought to be an emotional reaction.  More recent literature revealed it to be a neurological disorder.  It had/has a physical manifestation.  Still, the cause for its existence and the increasing incidence are still up for grabs.  Vaccines have been scientifically ruled out, though some still insist they are a cause.  Lack of proper diagnosis. Toxins in the environment.  Genetic factors.  Maybe all of the above.

Over the years we experienced terrible teachers and wonderful ones.  We had horrible neighbors and horrible children who were cruel and unforgiving.  We had run ins with the law.  Hospitalizations.  Mandatory school for children with "behavior problems."  It did not help that my child's father joined in the abuse.  We divorced.  I moved us back to my home, New York.

It was a difficult time and looking back, I wonder how I managed such a gargantuan feat.  Two dogs, 4 cats and a fish, plus a disabled child.  You do what you have to do.

There were more hospitalizations.  There were more terrible teachers and worse schools.  There was betrayal by the entire educational system.  There were lawyers.  And, there were times when I feared for her future and wondered if she would even have one.  There was the night she damned near died.

Eventually, I met a man to whom I was attracted and to whom I could talk.  In time, we were a couple.  He was willing, for me, to take on a teenager with autism.  He provided stability, a home, a safe haven.  Still, problems persisted. In the throes of hormonal changes, a system with no justice or caring, medications she did not need, there were outbursts, screaming matches, tears and yet more law enforcement and more hospitalizations.

Somehow, with the help of the New Jersey Board of Education and the fine staff at Hackensack High School, we were able to help her finish high school with an accredited diploma.  We found a college that was nearby, had a good reputation and accepted her with her art portfolio.  To everyone's surprise, within the first year of college, she dropped art and fell in love with science.  I will make a long story short here.

My strong and beautiful daughter is a scientist.  She is getting her PhD in neuroscience.  She lives on her own and has a cute studio apartment.  She has many friends.  She just spent a week visiting us and then we drove her back and spent a couple of days with her.  It was the best time ever.  When I think of that dark time when I wondered if she might have to be institutionalized, or that night she barely survived, it is nothing short of a miracle.  But, it is her strength and innate intelligence that made it possible.  When she finally found something she loved and when she finally accepted her disability and addressed it, that was when she blossomed.

Best of all, she and I have collaborated on 3 children's books - she was the illustrator.  So, she is still an artist, as well as a scientist.  Of all outcomes of what might have been, this is surely the best and beyond my wildest dreams.

So, I say to those parents of children with autism spectrum disorders, persevere.  Fight for them.  Fight for yourselves.  Don't give up and don't give in.  You must be their advocate until they can be their own. It may feel like the world is against you.  Have courage.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Keep on truckin'

The next project has begun.  Unless I get some fabulous new idea, this will be the last of the books aimed at children.  But I was able to smoothly flow through 7 pages worth the other day - a very productive day.

I'm hoping to employ the talents of another artist I met by happenstance.  I think her style would be just perfect for this.  I love my daughter and her artwork - but this piece has a different feel and I know what I want it to look like.  I hope the young lady is willing to work with me. 

The other imperative on the agenda is to have a video made.  I must push myself to get up early one day and head to the computer club.  There must be someone there willing to make a little money to do a one to two minute clip for me.  I hope.

We are also actively seeking new venues - I've started seeing the same people at the state park we frequent.  I have to get busy calling local town halls and business associations - not my favorite passtime, but, that is the way it is.

Nose to the grindstone........



Friday, April 1, 2016

Oh, hey, just look at me, wow!

I proofed.  I proofed again.  I tweaked.  I proofed.  I reformatted (note to self:  FORMAT FIRST!) and added page numbers.  I had a headache. Proofed again.  Voila!  It's done.

"The Amazing Canine Adventures of Harry Spotter" now has volume two, "The Everyday Adventures of Harry Spotter." 

Each sale helps to support Almost Home Dog Rescue of New Jersey.  If I am contacted directly, I can offer discount pricing, free shipping, a bookmark and a magnet!  (junivolz@gmail.com) I can offer both books together for $18.

While aimed primarily at kids aged 8 and up, I have been told that adults enjoy it, too.


 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

And my china doll back in old Hong Kong....



The China Man

It was always there, from my earliest memory.  My mother’s taste at the time ran to “Oriental.” That is what they called it, back in the 1950s.  We had a round coffee table and end tables finished in black lacquer.  Like Michelangelo, I used lie on my back underneath the coffee table and draw on the unfinished underside of it.  There was a mural on one wall, a scene on sepia colored wallpaper that appeared to be sketched in pen and ink.  A delicate, arched bridge over a stream with cherry blossom trees in the background.  On a low bench sat a porcelain doll in satin clothing.  The walls of the living room were gray, the carpet green and sculpted.  Looking back, it seems the colors were rather somber.  I didn’t think about it at the time.  One end table held a lamp and beside the lamp was the China Man, made of ceramic. 

I was forbidden from touching him.  Little figurine, all of five inches tall, of an Asian man carrying a basket of laundry. It was white, his clothes were white –loose appearing pants and a jacket with a Mandarin collar.  A little hat on his head, and a long, dark pony tail.  I thought that was very strange.  The “laundry” was carried in a box that had a removable lid and was topped by a golden elephant.  I touched him anyway, whenever I thought I could get away with it.  I would take that laundry lid off to see if anything was inside.  Nothing ever was.  Poor, little man, always and forever toiling with a load of laundry
. 
When we moved to Long Island, the black lacquer was stripped from the tables so the natural wood grain came through.  Walls were white and carpet a soft, light lavender. The “Oriental” theme had been abandoned, but the little China Man continued to stand on an end table, nevertheless.
As I got older, I lost my fascination with him.  He was just another thing that my mother had.  Another thing among many things that I did not find attractive or intriguing.  My tastes and occupations veered off in different directions.

We aged.  Life and people changed.  We weathered marriages and divorces, births and deaths, arguments and estrangements, long distance moves, illness, adversity, all the shocks that time and life have to offer.  Before my mother died we were exchanging letters.  I lived in another state.  She never met my child.  She never told me she was sick.  Ours was always a difficult relationship, the kind I had to steel myself from over thinking, lest I fall into despair.  My mother, the enigma.

Years later, decades, in fact, a package arrived at my door.  It was from my niece who had started communicating with me after my many years in familial “exile.”  The package was shaped like a shoebox and wrapped in brown paper.  It was rather badly beat up, so I feared for whatever might be inside.  There were pictures from the distant past, they survived the obviously bumpy ride to my stoop.  With only newspaper to protect it, I uncovered the other inhabitant of the package…the little China Man.  There he was, after all these years and accompanying heartaches.  At first I thought the lid to the laundry basket was gone or broken, but it, too, was wrapped in newspaper and miraculously entirely intact, including the golden elephant.  I was instantly back in my mother’s “Oriental” living room, surreptitiously sneaking a peek inside his basket.  My eyes blurred with uncontrollable tears.  Why was this trinket so important to her?  Had it been a gift?  Was it entwined with a sentimental memory?  He is a mystery, much like my mother herself. 

He stands safely in a china closet now.  I can’t stand him, but I love him.  Imagine that?  If I feel that I can handle it, I look at him.  No need to dare a forbidden touch anymore.  It is he that touches me.


June Volz 2016





Wednesday, January 6, 2016

All my lovin'



Love From Hallmark


They come wrapped in envelopes of bright tones and pastel hues
Reds, greens, pinks and orange and many shades of blue.
They come with ribbons, others with lace and some with plastic gems
Paper pictures, paper worlds, fantastical flowers with exotic stems.

I get my love four times a year as prescribed by calendar dates
Holiday cards, birthday wishes, the obligatory Valentine awaits.
Last, but not least, or maybe it is, comes the anniversary duty
Obsequious sentiment tied up so neatly in rhyme and meter, you see.

Once upon a time the words were said out loud. 
Once upon a time to hear them and say them made me proud
And happy and gave me a sense of calm and peace
I did not note the day or time when they ceased.

They left the room, deserted the scene, they scurried all away
Along with hugs, kisses, kind words and compliments…not one of them would stay.
Just this sad vestige of what we once felt, these costly bits of stationery
Destined for the garbage bin be it June, July or February.

A stranger sends me sentiments from a stranger’s mind and pen
Saccharin phrases meant to please, but of a trite and repetitious bent
A stranger who each day to work embarks
To send me all the love I get.  All my love, from Hallmark.

June Volz - 2016