“Sally’s Song”

from he second free site as I was still floundering – and foundering – through WordPress…must blame Christina Hollerbach-Simmons for getting me this far


My mother was a witch, she’d say,

catching me at play with her behind eyes

at a breakfast feast for one.

“Which witch?” would I reply.

Red shoes or none, Dorothy’s Done,

and run with the sun.

It rained the night my mother died.

’twas well Heaven cried.

(revised October 8 & 9, 2013, from rewrites and edits of 2005, 2001 and July 7, 1995).

Copyright (c) 2015 by J Kirk Richards

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7 thoughts on ““Sally’s Song”

    • Most graciously delivered and gratefully accepted, Shehanne. My regret: I never had the chance to tell her how much those “Behind Eyes” meant – and still mean – to me. She once said after Dad retired and she resigned as Chief Cook & Bottle Washer, that while “Hating” all three of her boys Equally, she was most proud: none of us has spent time in jail, none of us ever was divorced and none of os ever told on each other. I protested, citing local, state, national – and in a couple of cases international awards, honors or acclaim and she grinned, shook her head softly and said: “I knew what I was working with, dear…the rest was not unexpected. if not surprising.” I still wonder what that means. Again, thanks, Shehanne.

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      • Actually, Shehanne, I believe she did not know that tennis stroke: always fore-handed, she. Feisty as long as I can recall: and both my brothers – at their wives’ prompting I am sure – implore me NOT to tell the family secrets. Mom was convinced her own mother had sex with the piano salesman so her daughter could have her own instrument and the instructor could give lessons in their Bronx, New York City apartment; that she said she never had a climax until after my older brother was born, but that she and dad were determined to keep practicing until they “got it right,” (although her math was off…they were married in 1944 and had Glenn in ’47, so it was not six long years of drought but three!); and, lastly, I told all four of my living “our generation” family members the shocking truth of why we three boys “had” to go downtown Sanford – then about 6,000-strong – each Saturday, rain or shine, if dad was home: “I’m a screamer!” she finally confessed through laughs between blushing cheeks. “And six days of quiet” after lights out which almost always was between eight and nine for almost all my childhood-through-teen years…and then her words finally painted themselves a picture which put me in serious oxygen-debt as I guffawed and whooped and hollered into various stages of struggling laughter. The brothers and sisters-in-law were not amused with the retelling. I think all three tales illuminating and worthy of passing on to their progeny so as not to lose the flavor of their mutual family. Mom’s mother actually took summer jobs in The Adirondacks (northern upstate New York, actually a “bridge” piece of The Appalachian Mountains which appears the same on your side of The Pond in Scotland as well. The Jewish community’s famous Catskills resorts hired competent-to-chefquality cooks each Summer and that was how mom got to get her exercise to recover from infantile paralysis is a youngster. Grandma’s husband was a Fashion District runway tailor whose sometimes friends wore three-piece suits in The Summer and almost always had a pair or more of overcoated, similarly suited (though oddly rarely fully buttoned suits or overcoats) associates nearby. That and the biennial visits to the neighbors and school teachers by Federal Bureau of Investigation questioners about the family and us boys in particular in schools…dad was a bombadier/navigator on the Navy’s first twin-jetengined, carrier-capable nuclear and thermo-nuclear bomber. My older brother is grateful I never called him “spy” in public; my younger brother just shakes his head when I mention his playing with primate poop in Central America led to an offer “to man a desk” down there for a three-letter agency – which honor he declined, possibly because no one had told him a Swiss Army knife had a fingernail-cleaning blade standard. But that’s to be expected of a future PhD, no? Me? Glad you asked. The Marine Corps declined the honor to make me spook, but decades later when Storm and I were working on a threatened-and-endangered species enumeration project at the local international airport and it was decided I needed a “clearance” ID card, the airport director – long an acquaintance of mine from newspaper days (me) and politics (he) suggested it might take three or four weeks or more to get all the paperwork approved so I would require a “minder” when inside the fences. Took four days for the approval and in 10 I had to go back to the admin office for a photo session for my new badge. No one was happy. Officious prigs pee green when someone splashes on their priority parade I have found. Now, I must go and decant. Later, Your Shehanne-ness.

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  1. Well now, this is brilliant. You should well keep all these stories alive. You speak to the granddaughter of a woman who kept the family a certain way in the depression… She had a sugar daddy. So these stories are great. As is your bomber story. My son-in-law’s grandfather was a spy. (Oops did I just say that?) All part of life’s rich tapestry I think.

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    • You see, Sheanne, that was just mom’s suspicion: never proven. She really did not understand until much later how much influence her tailor father had…apparently he was so good at last-second alterations on the models’ runway attire – and that in the 1930s and onward the Fashion District was almost completely under Mob – Mafia – control that keeping everything running smoothly was of paramount importance that a skilled craftsman was honored. Grandpa tried many times to retire…but they just kept upping his pay. His son, mom’s older brother, was sent to pharmacist’s school after having completed what apparently was routine training as a “bag man” young boy trusted to “run” daily betting or other receipts from collection points to counting houses in nearby neighborhoods, so deeply entrenched was The Mob in both pre- and post-prohibition New York that some joked the difference in Government and Mob control was that The Mob got you what you wanted cheaper and faster and better than what the government did. Whe we went to Grandpa’s headstone unveiling some year or so after his death there was a stereotypical man in the three-piece suit (it was in July and roastingly swelteringly hot in White Plains, N. Y., and he had two overcoat-wearing besuited men just behind him, and he came to dad and held out an envelope (which latere I learned had box-seat tickets to us boys and himself and mom to the New York Yankees’ baseball games the coming weekend. Dad declined saying we had a tight schedule and would not be able to make the games, and profusely thanked the man for his kind offer. Uncle Henry was not involved at all. I later asked dad what had happened. He told me. I nearly exploded – we were back at grandma’s place by then. “But, Dad, The Yankees…” I began. He smiled that tolerant one I had seen only a few times before. “From people like that you never can accept a gift. They all come with a price. A price I will not – nor will any of my children – can not afford to pay. They are Mafia, J,” he said. So I went the next time we were downtown to the New York Public Library and asked what Mafia was. I learned. Nice thing about libraries. No fear. Just facts. Though here in Sanford, Small Town South, the book, was held under the shelf at the librarian’s counter. Some truths require shielding, especially if it a truth told to the residents of a town about their town’s elite. I think I worte about that guy. Sam Byrd? Became a broadway author/director and I think actor after WW II where he was highly decorated as a Beachmaster during the Normandy invasion.

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  2. You did indeed write about him. Very interesting re the Mafia. I mean you read in books like the Godfather that saying about how they got things done faster but there now you’ve just totally backed that up and there’s you going off to ask in the library..

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