There Are Places I’ll Remember…


Earlier this week, a treasured friend sent me this flag. She had I have shared decades of holiday travels and experiences, and even more decades of being kindred spirits. We are truly sisters from different parents.

I was touched by her gesture, moved to tears remembering us as young, not-quite free spirits, willing to undertake any situation because it was an adventure. I think we are still pretty adventurous; I’m not so sure about the young part.

I can’t get these Beatles lyrics out of my head. Each time my mind plays that simple melody, those simple, but haunting, lyrics, I cry. It was written in 1965, and I’ve been thinking a lot about that time. Our hearts had been pierced by John Kennedy’s assassination – the astonishment that such a thing could happen in our country, and few of us could fathom where our involvement in Vietnam would lead. It was the mid-60s;  we still had dreams. A simpler time, when the excitement of a US visit from the Beatles made us shriek with joy. Remember joy? Or maybe we were just young.

I’m missing those days, those feelings. So perhaps it’s not just places we remember.

Here are those lovely lyrics – I wish you a day of fond remembrance.

In My Life
There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all
But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I love you more
In my life– I love you more
Songwriters: John Lennon / Paul Mccartney

On My Outrageous Friend…

Image result for image outrageous friend

My Outrageous Friend…

She didn’t know who I was the last time we talked, but she managed to carry on a conversation with this stranger who called to wish her a happy birthday. Now a phone conversation is beyond her grasp.

My friend, my outrageous friend. I may be lost to her; she will never be lost to me. Too many memories, experiences shared. And doesn’t every serious person need an outrageous friend, a window into thinking, behaving, as we thought we never would, but always, covertly, longed to.

Cookie was that for me. We laughed until our sides ached, doubled over with breathless delight. I accepted and cherished her idiosyncrasies that placed her family in paroxysms of fury and sometimes despair. She had a flair for the dramatic, all right, and no compunction about indulging it. Many times I stood beside her, figuratively if not literally, sometimes picking up the pieces. I was happy to do it.

She loved me, that I know. She thought I was wonderful, perfect, smart. Well, who wouldn’t want a friend like that? I confided in her like no other, and she always took my side. I can hear her pithy, salty responses, always delivered in that memorable Baltimore accent. “Well, you know he’s an asshole, don’t you?” “That fucking bitch. I knew it the minute I laid eyes on her. You know she’s just jealous. Can’t stand in your light.” “I can’t stand to be in the same room with him. He makes my skin crawl. I’ll tell him. You want me to tell him? I will. He won’t know what hit him.”

It didn’t matter if it were an affair of the heart, a work issue, or an in-law kerfuffle. She was there, always, and always on my side. As I was for her, throughout her scrapes and tussles with life. She liked living on the edge, and would do what she could to make sure situations turned out that way. I was close, yet far away, enough to look at them with a wry and loving indulgence, and, most times, help her figure out a logical, reasoned exodus even if she seldom took it.

For so many years we lived far apart, as I moved to Chicago and then to North Carolina. We did manage to meet in between every year. Now I wonder why we didn’t do that more often. Our last time together, when she was who she was, we spent hours in a bookstore, going up and down the aisles pointing out books we had read, wanted to read, a reader’s frenzy. We laughed, and I wonder if she knew it would be our last time when we were really together.

She called me when she first received the diagnosis. She cried; this time I had no words or plans that could make it right. I continued to call, not often, but I kept in touch as she became more and more out of touch.

Until this weekend, when the recording said that her phone had been disconnected. I contacted her daughter. “Mom is in a nursing home. She’s happy, well fed. She doesn’t know where she is.”

But, for me, she will always be in my heart.

On Grace and Frankie and Friendship



TV STILL — DO NOT PURGE — Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the Netflix Original Series “Grace and Frankie”. Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.§

On Grace and Frankie and Friendship 

I spent this week in a mist of season two of Grace and Frankie. It continues to be one of the best shows ever. How refreshing to see two women find a commonality that overrides differences in spirituality, politics and clothing styles (though I would give anything to have Frankie’s wardrobe).

The season is a celebration of sexuality at any age, complete with yam jam and ergonomic vibrators, and the sad, and wondrous, reality of helping a beloved friend leave this world on her own terms.

It is a salute to friendship in its highest form – two very distinct souls discovering an appreciation for the other, complete with humor, and, more importantly, with honesty. Honesty about who each of them is, acceptance of their differences, with just the right touch of sarcasm and knowledge that, for each, “her” way is actually best.

It is about caring enough to tell the truth. In one scene, Frankie says, “I call bullshit.” What a great friendship — one that risks anger, misunderstanding. A friendship where “calling bullshit” is done with compassion, not censure or condemnation. In a world where, for many of us, friendship is defined as always being there, always being supportive, how refreshing it is to see support, real sustenance, to be able to disagree with your friend, not always to feel you have to say “yes, you’re right, the rest of the world is wrong.”

And it took me back to my Chicago years, where in the midst of a soul-wrenching work situation, I sat by a coworker’s desk to bemoan the horrors and dreadfulness of my new boss. After weeks of this, and I was becoming tiresome even to myself, he looked at me and said, “Cynthia, you’re acting like a real asshole.”

I was shocked; I was hurt; I was angry. Mainly I was hurt. How could he pour mercurochrome on the wound in my heart. I returned to my office, to stew, to lick my even-more-abraised wounds. How could he? How could my friend say this to me? And I thought. And then I thought some more. What if he were right? Could it actually be that I was wrong? And, for the first time, I tried to see the situation from my boss’s point of view.

And I got it. I saw how I appeared to him, and I was embarrassed for myself. I changed my behavior, and to my boss’s credit, he accepted my apology without words. We went on to become best work buddies. The situation turned around on a dime. All because a friend told me the truth, as painful as that was to hear. He told me what he honestly thought I needed to hear. He also taught me what it meant to be a friend. And I have tried to pass that on.

So, Leon Ward, wherever you are, thanks. I’ll never forget you.

Another Sunday,



On Giving Up


On Why I Stopped Following


Oh, my heart beat fast when I first discovered this site. This was even better than walking through my neighborhood at night peering, albeit indirectly, at what I could see in opened-curtained windows. A spectator’s delight.

If you don’t know about, it is a website that provides detailed descriptions, pictures, and directions to local estate sales, tag sales, and auctions. You plug in the zip code that you’d like to follow and the site provides everything, and more than, you need to know.

I was enraptured. Pictures of clothes in closets, hats still in Lily Dache hatboxes, oil paintings, bread boxes, Aunt Jemima salt-and-pepper shakers, all there in jpeg display. But after a few weeks, a part of me felt a bit sullied. I wasn’t there as a customer; I wasn’t there to buy. What I was was a voyeur, eavesdropping on (eaveslooking at?) people’s possessions, judging their sometimes tacky taste, critiquing items that they at one time had cared about and loved.

And this is not to denigrate the people whose business it is to run these sales. They do a service, certainly, and one hopes that the beloved objects of their clients will find appreciative owners who just might one day cherish those items again.

Rather, it is the poignancy of life moving on, of being aware of what these things once represented, symbols of lives, of memories past. To me it spoke of loss,  an ache of leaving. And I look around my (minimalist) house, and wonder who will love the things that I love, and know that, even if  I write it down, no one will know, or understand, just what these objects meant to me.

Perhaps that is what makes me sad about these sites. The objects remain; the context has disappeared. I wonder, besides the tenderness of losing its owners, if something remains, palpable to the new owners, if only they will touch, will listen to, the voice of memory.

And I discovered, or re-discovered, something about myself while discussing this with a friend. She, in seeing hats and mink stoles from a bygone age immediately thought of the good times they represented. I saw wistful memories.  And it underscored what we decided were our “default” perspectives – hers, basically cheery and optimistic, mine, more melancholy and contemplative. Perhaps that is why we are pals, each providing a balancing way of seeing the world.  And all this from a website…

Cynthia Strauff, author of Another Sunday,