Dollar Snow-Cone

The August summer heat would not relent as she defiantly arched her elderly frame to rise from the cracking concrete stoop in this ignored part of the city.

I walked up the block with a crumpled dollar bill for the ice – without the syrup.  Sweat scattered from my hairline.  My face and neck burned scarlet.

The makeshift plastic table was wobbly-arranged for quick sales anticipated from the two buses of people who visited for a mere afternoon, scheduled in to clean up the neighborhood through a service agency.  All in the name of peace and solidarity.

A battered aluminum urn, dented from years of use, held ice that would shave pieces into a forbidden Styrofoam cup – a cheap fix.  A neat row of glass bottles with plastic pumps each waited with their blaring color of sugar syrup attentively for its snow-cone debut – chartreuse mint, tangerine orange, bright violet grape – nothing known to Nature.  My only wish was the frosty shavings to melt my dusty, gritty throat.

She rose from the stoop as I smiled deeply breathing in front of a torn plastic umbrella, offering some shade.  Her cocoa-colored skin clenched hard onto muscles whose strength was all but gone from years of sacrifice.  Her knotted, ebony hands buckled from years of toil…fields, factories, mills?  I couldn’t imagine.  This heat would not stop her today.  Nope.  No way.

“Just ice please.”  I handed her the dollar bill.

She pulled the black plastic lever to shave the ice into slivers of cool relief.   Gently she extended her arm giving me a cup filled with ice shavings and started to count out change – one worn quarter, one dime and three nickels.  Her hand trembled as she counted and then my eyes rested on her wedding ring encircling the on her left hand.

The simple band was of thin gold, but the worn beveled edges reflected the mysteries of a previous life filled with more joy than today brought.   The pattern of the bevel was exactly the same as the wedding ring belonging to my grandfather which I wore in the middle of my right hand.  I had asked for it and wore it every day without fail since his death.   Nonu’s hands were the worker’s hands of a turn-of-the-century Italian immigrant – massive, skilled and unfaltering.  They could crush rock, melt brass or graft five different apples on to one tree for autumn pies Noni would make each year.

I reached for her left hand with my right so she would see my ring as I touched hers.    She slowly lifted her eyes to meet mine.  Her heavy blink under sagging eyelids gave way to a weakened smile as time and space held us united in some unexpected enigma made for this day.

“No change”, I said, “and God bless.”

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Hold on tight….


As time often does, just when you feel you’re out of the woods and on a secure path to somewhere, something happens that leaves you scrambling for higher ground. The system that is in place is radically changing – they tell us for the better, but my doubts still nag somewhere deep inside. So, as we are still part of the system, we continue to be counted as a playing participant. When prices rise, we pay them. When leaders sell out their constituents for their own stash of the cash, we demonstrate, write letters and the laws still pass. When standards change, we grumble and have to accommodate them at work and in schools. When leaders talk about “hard work” and the dreams, I wonder why then much of the 99% invest, making their money work for them instead while they jet off to tropical islands, golfing tournaments or polo grounds for their “entertainment”. (Keeps them busy.) When experts rattle on, we listen and either turn off or argue with the television. We tell kids in school the same – work hard, play by the rules – but they see much too much contradiction in money buying innocence, and poverty securing guilt in a broken legal system.
In all of this experience of fraying ends, I find the squirrel in my backyard, immobile, clutching onto an immense tree as he’s contemplating which way to head next – straight up, sure, but which branch?
Take a moment’s pause, hold on, say a little prayer…and help will be on its way! Cliche’? Maybe full of them, but as you’re grasping for dear life with every shaking nerve, it helps to know that this too shall pass!

Last week

Last week

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After All

After All

is said and done, there is no college degree or expensive continuing education course mandated by money-making state standards, fancy printed parchment or staged self-accolades that can substitute the appreciative whisper of ” I love you” from a student to … Continue reading

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