Mama Wasn’t Happy



This morning I taped a segment for Fox 61’s “Hidden History” series. It was about my mother, Ann Petry, that pharmacist, clothing designer, chef, and oh, yes, bestselling author. She didn’t want me to do it. Here’s what happened:

  • I had planned to wear a pair of seaglass earrings that would complement the necklace I had chosen. I put them on and the stone fell off the wire.
  • I wore the necklace, one of Mother’s, the night before. With pale green jade in a silver filigree setting, I thought it would be perfect to enliven a black sweater. When I looked for it in the morning, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Not on the dresser, not in the jewelry box, not on the reading table in the bedroom. I subbed a turquoise and silver pendant, not nearly as dramatic as my first choice.
  • Then I couldn’t find the black sweater. I had worn it perhaps a week ago and was sure I returned it to its normal space in the closet. After tossing the wardrobe about, I found it lurking under a jacket that I’ve never worn.
  • The drive down Route 9 to the Old Saybrook Historical Society featured a pea soup level of fog that slowed me from 75 to about 60 in a couple of places.
  • Things went well as Mike Townsend set up for the taping. We were about to start when there was a crash. Mother’s pharmacy license, which had been resting securely on the top shelf of the display case, crashed and landed face down. No one was anywhere near it.

At that point I said, “I don’t think she wants this to happen.” I had a little silent conversation with her, promising I wouldn’t embarrass the family. The taping went extremely well. When I hopped in the car to leave, there was the necklace, wedged in next to the seatbelt holder. Am I forgiven?

Night Sounds


The veterans’ writing workshop is exploring the theme of sound. Here’s my contribution

  • A car – engine noise, swish of tires on wet pavement, “thunk” as it hits the crater too big to be called a pothole
  • Faint hum of the fridge – it seems to run all the time
  • Clink/clunk of a dish and silverware hitting the counter
  • Plop, plop of big rain drops, seconds apart. What happened to “heavy at times”?
  • Glottis slides up and down on a sip of water
  • Silver chime of bracelets. A friend gave me a new one. Do other people hear them?
  • Raspy breath – this cold will not quit
  • A cough from Larry – his won’t, either
  • Blues riff on the cell phone
  • Rumble, putt-putt of the neighbor’s Mitsubishi. (Lancer, I think). Midasize?
  • Jet roar, followed by a two-tone whine on the descent to BDL
  • Tick/click of keys on the laptop
  • Temple bell on iPhone email
  • The shhhh of slippered feet on hardwood floors
  • Grandfather clock chimes the quarter hour at 8:24
  • And just the other night for the first time this season, peep-peep-peepers.

The birth of spring.

Miscellaneous Observations


Snippets from an afternoon:

  • A woman and daughter in search of shoes. They tell the clerk they want adult sizes, not kid. Girl says size 7 is too small. They go for 7.5. Those are too big. They find another pair. The clerk asks where they found them. The mother says in the kids’ section. Since she’s sitting in front of the entire bank of shoes in my size, I leave.
  • Elsewhere, two women are having an intense conversation in Spanish as the younger one tries on one right shoe after another and heaves them into a cart full of dresses and tops. No sign of the left ones.
  • At a sushi place, three young women order California and other standard rolls. One whips out her phone and says, “#FridayinLent” as she snaps away. She’s drinking a 20-ounce bottle of beer so I guess the fast is limited to meat.
  • Two more women enter. One sits at the end of the bench where I’m seated and nearly up-ends me into my soup as she pulls the padding askew. The other, somewhat younger, says she’d love to be a spy but she can’t because she fat. Her companion objects. The would-be spy says she couldn’t crawl through air conditioning ducts. The other says that’s not necessary. They have a long conversation about the rudeness of a co-worker as they talk with their mouths full and slurp their water.


What I’m Reading Now


Another in the series. This time it includes two books, one I’ve finished and another that I’ve just started. . What I finished was a re-read of To Kill a Mockingbird. What I started was  Go Set a Watchman. I’m regretting that I didn’t read them in reverse order.

These books came up  in anticipation of my talk at the Russell Library. The title: “NOT Liberty and Justice for all: the Criminal Case of To Kill a Mockingbird.” 

The classic holds its magic after all these years. There were places where I felt that Harper Lee was channeling William Faulkner, but that’s probably because they share a sense of place and the knowledge of many odd-ball characters. With the meandering pace with frequent ambles down byways, enlivened by acid humor, it felt like I was sitting in the shade of a tree on a hot southern day listening to a really good storyteller.

One fascinating game I played was looking for places where  the voice of the adult Jean Louise came through Scout. And it did show, frequently. The adult should have stayed in the pages of TKAM.

I’m just a few pages in GSAW, and it’s going to be a long, tough slog. The characters don’t make me care. Everything is surface. And that slow southern thing — it’s not working. Ms. Lee demonstrates occasional flashes of the lyricism that survived to appear on the pages of TKAM. I’m so glad the editor pressured her to rewrite. Her handlers should not have published this MS.



Blog has been on a brief hiatus because of an avalanche of upcoming events:

  • March 15. taping a news segment about Mother for Fox 61-TV for broadcast on March 17
  • March 16. 4:15 p.m. “An African American Family in Connecticut: From Slavery to Triumph,” Wasch Center, 51 Lawn Avenue, Middletown
  • March 19. “Listening to the Voice Within,” The HeArt of Inner Peace, Mercy By the Sea, 167 Neck Rd., Madison
  • April 8. taping radio program about the James Family Letters documentary
  • May 9. 7 p.m., presentation for Russell’s Library’s One Book program, To Kill a Mockingbird. Stay tuned for details.

On going:

  • “We Were There,” the veterans’ writing workshop, which meets Thursday 7 p.m. meeting Room 2, Russell Library. If you are a veteran, we would love to meet you.
  • Reiki and training Reiki volunteers. If you are Reiki certified and would like to have rewards beyond imagining, call Director of Volunteer Services Kate Kearns during business hours at 860-358-6735.

Oh, and I’m still striving to write my own material and to edit for others.

What I’m Reading Now


Another in the series and another that I finished some time ago. The Devil Wears Prada may have been a huge seller and a smash movie, but its flaws outweigh its virtues. It left not much of an impression, so these observations are based on notes I took a month ago.

Perhaps most discouraging, Devil does not deliver the promised level of humor.

The flaws include predictability. One anticipates the boyfriend problems, the Bridget Jones style feelings of inferiority, the standoff between Andrea and Miranda Priestly. The number and variety of clichés diminish the narrative. Language, characters, and plot twists, we’ve read them all before. There’s nothing that hasn’t appeared elsewhere except here it comes garbed in Chanel, shod in Manolo, and accessorized by Hermès.

To be fair, I was reading it at the same time as Emma. Why eat pollock when lobster and caviar await? Just because the books happened to land on my nightstand at the same time.

The cover gives an accurate image of Andrea’s view of Miranda, but I prefer the cover on the edition I read. It shows just the rear portion of a red spike, with the heel in the shape of a pitchfork.

Devil did, however, serve to distract me from thinking about Uncle Willard’s illness, and for that I am grateful.