What Are We Without Our Memories?

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Prize winning photo in Rick Steve’s photo contest!

In pondering this question I wish to ask my friends, but soon I realize I must answer it myself first. So here comes another ponder. First of all, my first thought in answering my own question is that without my memories, I would be perfect. I will have not have made any mistakes. Everyone in my life would be perfect, too.

I would perhaps have been a straight A+ student. Ha, my memories crash that idea. I would have had a perfectly perfect face, body, coloring, and I would have been the dancer I was meant to be. With no memories it can be true. If I have no memories, I can do things that delight me over an over again with no recollection that I have done them before.

In looking back, I have sacrificed many golden moments and have been hindered when I let my mind wander to what might have been and or what might come. Terror lives in what will be, not as much as what has been. Therefore, if there is no memory of either what has been or what is yet to come we will have no worries. How many of us have achieved not to worry? Raise your hands if you do not worry. I squint and see no hands.

Perhaps I would not worry about having a panic attack because I would not remember that I had any. I also would not remember anything I should panic over.If it should happen to descend upon me, it is what is in the present and will be gone for the future. Now in achieving this concept, I will be able to raise my hand. Do not hold your breath, any of you. I will not hold mine for you.

When something marvelous occurs, it to is here today and forever gone as you adopt living in the present.

If you do not dwell on past accomplishments or future responses,

you will work hard today and be in a realm of or a state of mastery.

In all of this conjuring up all of these memories vs. no memories, I come to realize that this is just an old tried and true concept. Living in the moment, living in the absolute present. Not dwelling on past failures and or accomplishments gives you the freedom to start your living in the present. You positively would not dream and plan for the future, but you would enjoy the moment you are living. You would be smiling because you will not be worrying about the future and or thinking about the past. You are living where your life is happening.

All of your past and your future are like illusions; they are not real and do not exist or live in an unsatisfactory life. You remain further and further into the present, which is merciful and kind.

As we age, the little by little of cognitive decline is a good and merciful status.

Now that is all said and done about living in the present and how good it is for you and me, I need my memories. All of them circle around constantly in a conscious or unconscious way and I need them to build my days. Yes, once in awhile for a bit of each day, I can consciously live in the moment and that to me becomes stagnant and I have to pull myself to the tasks at hand. I know you are going to think I am wishy-washy. Well, why not? What do you think? I probably deserve some slings and arrows. Hopefully you are not a good shot! Thanking you in advance.

My Uncle Max Levin

My Uncle Max Arnold Levin was born on February 12, 1927 and died July 24, 2012 in Millbrae California at age 85. Max was born to my Grandmother Dora and My Grandfather Joseph Levin in San Francisco. He was known as one of the twins.  He was a true sports fan and was loyal to the S.F. Giants, 49ers and a Warrior fan for his entire life.

I knew little about his life and his growing up years. I was not even born for some of it and then, he lived in San Francisco and I lived in Los Angeles.  I would visit my family in San Francisco and got to know Uncle Max.  It wasn’t until I was grown did I really understand my Uncle Max’s talents. He was quiet until he spoke and when he spoke everyone within range heard his booming statements. He thought for a long time before he made a statement.  Everyone did not agree with him all of the time, but all of the time he was right. I realized that those that did not agree did not understand his well thought out truths.

My Uncle Max had many bosses in his life that told him what to do and he did it.  When he got to be his own boss, he was happy and satisfied that he did a wonderful job.  Now that he was the boss, he made decisions he had made all of his life, but this time he made them and carried them out to fruition in his own time and in his own way, the right way.

Later in his life, a painter put a paintbrush into my Uncle Max’s hands. He dipped and stroked the paper with great and true abandonment.  His works of art dripped and strode across the page.

He created masterpieces with remnants of his life story. They were the simple truths of his reality. They told of his struggles and his gradual coming through to the light. They are few, but they are brilliant statements he alone could have made. They stand unaided in all of their beauty. The artist born in my Uncle Max marked him and enlightened the world.

When Uncle Max told you some thing, it was something he had been thinking about for a long time.  If he asked you something he wanted to know the truth. If he was quiet, he was thinking. He was always thinking and then sharing. Uncle Max was a caring man, but he didn’t care if you believed him or understood him, but if he liked you, he wanted you to like him.

When Uncle Max’s parents became ill one by one, he took great care of them. He made promises to them that he carried out to the letter until the day he died. He was a man who if he made a promise, always followed through.  Knowing this about my Uncle Max has led me never, ever if possible to make a promise for fear I might not keep it.  Uncle Max never worried because he had always kept his promises and knew he always would. He was so diligent, conscientious and attentive to all of his tasks.

The tradition in the Levin family was to keep in touch. The two business locations were in different cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  A designated person, family member and manager in one city would call a designated person, family member and manager in the other city on a certain day, at a certain time every week, week in and week out. When the managers and family members began to die off, the tradition continued, but the designees changed. Uncle Max, the last of the tradition called my father Martin, every week until Martin died, and I called Uncle Max until he could speak no more and soon died.

My Uncle Max was a successful businessman and enjoyed the fruits of his labor.  He was generous, big hearted and a loving man. If he loved you, he wanted you to love him back and we all did. We love you dear Uncle Max and thank you for being our Uncle Max!!!

Divinity Fudge and Lula Dora McKissack

 “MAMA LULA”

         February 13, 1903 – November 6, 1999

I am respectfully submitting the recipe for DIVINITY because not only is it the most delicious, melt in your mouth kind of candy, but it is also because divine providence brought the giver of this recipe into my life.  Lula McKissack hails originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi where she grew up on a small farm. She was given to her aunt when she was nine years old by her mother because she was strong and could do the work her childless aunt needed done. She left her aunt’s home at sixteen, married Mr. McKissack, and had two boys, Tommy and Bobby. Soon after Bobby was born Lula left Mr. McKissack and the hard life she lived with him. She moved to Louisiana where she built her own home with the help of her boys.

Lula’s boys left home early to join the navy and Lula was left alone with little means of supporting herself.  One of her friends, Nola, found out about two jobs in Huntington Park, California. They both decided to come for the California jobs. Nola came first and since my Aunt Bessie and Uncle Harold owned a jewelry store and needed someone to help with their children, Nola took the first job with them.

When Lula came to California, she went to work with our family.  I was nine, nearly ten years old when Lula came to us and she stayed with my family for twenty-nine years.  I remember calling Lula after being married for two weeks, crying that the house was dirty and everything was a mess.  I had no idea where to begin.  She told me to begin in one corner of the room and circle around until I was in the middle and the job would be done.  She was right and now, I always know how and where to begin my jobs.

Lula added unconditional love, forgiveness and a deep spirituality to our home and family. She worked miracles in our home and even though she has passed on, she continues to work miracles with our family.  Her philosophies of life have been handed down to the next generation like nuggets of gold and her Divinity candy will satisfy your hunger many things.  It will calm your nerves as you pause to enjoy it.  You will feel empowered with all of Mama Lula’s sweet charity and goodness.

Lula’s Divinity Recipe

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup of light corn syrup

1/2 cup of hot water

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 egg whites beaten stiff

1 teaspoon of vanilla

(Lula added 1/2 cup of chopped pecans)

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, hot water and salt.

Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil and cook to the hardball stage. (a little of the mixture is dropped in a cup of cold water and when it forms a little hard ball, it is ready)  Beat egg whites stiff. Pour hot syrup slowly over beaten egg whites, beating constantly at a high speed. Add vanilla and beat until mixture forms soft peaks.  Drop from a tablespoon onto waxed paper, lifting and twirling spoon to form a peak on top of each mound.

They Say You Can’t Go Home, but YOU CAN GO BACK: Huntington Park, California

I decided to make my workday consist of enjoying the sights and sounds of my hometown Huntington Park, California, USA. There are many others who call Huntington Park their hometown, so I am not alone. None of the people in my memories are here, only the physical structures on which I BASE MY MEMORIES still reside here.  I am sure what I remember is accurate.  I once remembered out loud, at a reunion,  something that occurred in a gym class at Huntington Park High School, and a former classmate informed me that I was under an illusion.  I pondered her comments, her recollections and her demands that I remember things as she does.  I came to the conclusions that my memory still stands as one of my strong suits and I do not want my memories to take a back seat to anyone else’s which, while they may be perfectly true for them, are not true for me.

Now, please join me on my journey down memory lane.

First, we drove to Huntington Park from our home in the San Fernando Valley over the hill from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

As you continue on the 101 Freeway, your off ramp is Soto Street. Continue on Soto Street and you will see the old Sears building. You are heading in the right direction (south)

Soon you will be approaching Farmer John’s located in Vernon just north of Huntington Park at Farmer John
3049 E. Vernon Avenue Vernon, CA 90058.  As you will see from the photos, there is a mural painted on the exterior of the Farmer John’s slaughterhouse and meat packing plant. This mural has been here since 1957 when Les Grimes began his work here. Since 2000, extensive restorations have been made. The animals have changed a bit from time to time as each new artist lends his or her hand to the work. This mural will certainly get your attention and I have photographed small portions of it for you to see.

Next as you travel down Soto Street, you will soon see the Huntington Park Water tower. I was fascinated with this tower most of my Huntington Park life. It is a symbol of leaving and of coming home.

So, now that we are in Huntington Park, where to go first is the question. Actually, it is not a question; you go home. The house where I used to call home is as beautiful as it was years ago, only it is not home. Memories of my room with its window off to the right hand side of the house, second level and the sights I used to see from it come flooding back. I saw all the neighbors walking by. I saw the Jacaranda tree in full bloom and watched as it transitioned into a purple carpet of fallen blossoms. I loved that tree and now it is gone. My mother had roses lining the walkway to the front door and now there are roses lining the entire yard. Some of the old bushes are still there, but gone are the Camellia bushes. My mother would send bushels of Camellias to my teachers and I was popular on Camellia day.

The little window top right of the house is my bedroom window, my window on the world..

Gone, in reality, are Mom, Dad, Lula, Michael, Ron,  Clarke, John, Carolyn, Anita, Allegra, Helga, Johnny  Wake, and all the other people I remember in reality, but they are still there in my mind, so fresh, that I can see the spittle as they smile and the snot coming out of their noses, the pretty faces, long hair, their strength, their intelligence, and their bright eyes.  Gone is the Apricot and Fig tree. The building on the corner of California and Florence that was once the poultry farm and market is still there, but the squawking and the slaughtering and the poultry are gone. Again, what remains are memories. Once my brothers got a hold of a chicken foot and put it at the end of my bed.  To this day, I check the end of my bed to make sure there is nothing hidden there.

My Elementary school: State Street School

Next we drove down State Street to my elementary school where more than a million memories bombarded my senses. I remember buying 5 ice creams a day for lunch until they caught me and even after they caught me I tried to do it again.  I figured you got 25 cents a day for lunch a rather nasty lunch that smelled like the garbage can.  But you could wisely spend your 25 cents in an abundant way.  Each ice cream was a nickel and even though I did not excel in math, 25 cents bought 5 ice creams a much better deal than lunch. It was hard to stop me, but involving my parents did the trick. Where are you Abby Gratz, Sydney Michel, Sheryl Wriggle, Winnie Mae Miller, Gordon Outhier, Johnny Wilheilm, Terry Cunningham?

Here is the church where I was saved.  I was in the 3rd grade and talked too much in class. The teacher got very angry, dug her nails into my arms and threw me out into the hallway. I was too independent to take that so I ran away down the street. I was running so fast, I tripped and fell right in front of the church. Knee skinned, bleeding and crying I needed help.  The folks in the church came out and helped me inside, washed up my knee and asked me if I wanted to go to heaven.  Who doesn’t? So I answered, “Yes, I do.” After saying a few prayers and reading from the Bible, they drizzled droplets of water on my forehead. I thought it was raining and the roof leaked, but someone just said, “You are saved and you are going to go to heaven.” They are right, I was and I am.  The little lady with the pretty hair and powder blue suit walked me back to the entrance of the schoolyard and I walked back to the hallway in front of my classroom. The teacher came out and invited me back into the classroom.  So you see, major lifetime of experiences can occur between being thrown out of your classroom and being invited back in.


Gage Jr. High.

The years I spent in Gage Jr. High School are a blur except for deciding to wear lipstick and losing an important election.

Lots of things happened in Huntington Park HIgh School.  I remember way too many things I’d rather forget, plus this place was not good for my self-esteem. I never gave up, but I gave in.

One more church that played an important part in my life was the St.Matthias Church on Florence Avenue. I was looking for a sign. My boyfriend at the time wanted me to attend mass at his church so I did. As I entered and took my seat a coolness came over me and I was enveloped in a strong semi-vortex of spiraling spiritual energy.  I remember asking God for a sign.  I told him I was in a difficult place and I needed a sign if I was EVER, EVER going to be a believer. The mass was over and my boyfriend and I headed out of the large double doors to the parking lot where I left my car. My car had moved. I was a relatively new driver and must not have put my car in gear, so it rolled into a tree at the edge of the parking lot. If not for the tree, my car would have rolled into the middle of the street.  I asked for a sign and got a big one. Thanks be to God.

The temple: Huntington Park Hebrew Congregation which is now the Seventh Day Adventist Church, is flanked by a new motel on one side and a bakery on the other.  When this was the temple, it was my salvation. My life revolved around the activities here and this is the place I received a healthy dose of strong self-worth, until Doomsday. Doomsday for me happened in my 12th year when, the Rabbi called me into his office and told me that I would not be confirmed with the other girls in my Hebrew class. Was he kidding?  No, he was not. I begged, pleaded and then, asked why?  He complimented me on being a very good student, but calmly stated that my birthdate fell 19 days after the cut off for the confirmation exercises and that I would have to come another year for studies.  When I realized that anything I had to say was not being heard, I said, “Shit on you, Rabbi.” I then turned and ran from the temple, never to return. Years and years later, the same Rabbi must have suffered a bit of guilt. My parents told of him of our large family and that I was doing the Seder for the first time. He asked that a package be delivered to me. The gift package contained 20 beautiful brand new sparkling Haggadahs that I have used every year since I received them. Thank You Rabbi Hyman, may you rest in peace.

The best part of my visit home was to witness that Huntington Park is a vital, bustling beautiful vibrant city full of activity and remains an important commercial and industrial area southeast of Los Angeles City Center.

You can never go home, but you can go back, visit, and get your memories in high gear. Isn’t Huntington Park a beautiful city?  May she have continued success and continue to serve her community well.

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Visiting my Mother and her Friends

Left to right: Merriam, Sofie, Rose, and Violet

Give me a moment so we can visit my mother and her friends. This photo was taken a long time ago. How long ago, I do not exactly know, but definitely in another century.  I bring this to your attention because perhaps you have photos of your mother and her friends, or just a lovely little photo of your mother, father, brother, sister, maybe one of you with someone you love. Find them and spend some time reminiscing. It is a positive thing to do. Do be aware that emotions run high when visiting memories.

I began to focus on the photo of my mother and her friends. I do not have permission to write about these women, so I will just call them by their first names. Left to right: Merriam, Sophie, Rose, (my mother) and Violet. They met in their early school years and maintained their friendships into very old age.  At this writing, Merriam is still alive, living in West Los Angeles in a retirement home. I wish I knew much more about each woman, but remember I was very young when I would meet up with them and true to form, young people do not know what to ask or say to grown ups; they just stand in awe, and grown ups forget to tell the little ones things they might treasure.

From my limited knowledge and memory of my mother’s friends:

Merriam was married to the most handsome man I had ever seen. She is a woman of valor. There is boldness in her as well as a strength and courage that has not diminished with age.

Sophie was a woman who possessed spunk and a zest for living. She was married to a lovely, handsome man with a huge handlebar mustache. He was dashing. She was adorable. Sophie was an honest, forthright, up font person.

Violet was spunky and was a family centered person. She remembered everything that was ever in her life. Violet will go down in my mind as the most brilliant woman of her time. She always had a smile and a personal note of recognition for everyone she knew. She had a special vibrancy and LOVED chocolate.

Rose, my mother, was diligent and fierce about the success of her children. She was moral, true and honest. She loved and adored my father, and her children. She was constantly trying to improve herself. She possessed a brave spirit and was dedicated to her family and friends. My mother was a best friend to everyone.

Take some time off of your busy life and grab a stack of old photos. They don’t have to be ancient, just older than today. Be prepared for a journey into yourself and enjoy it!

ANOTHER DEAR GRANDDAUGHTER # 1

Dear Granddaughter #1

At the birthday party you said, “When I was little everyone loved me and then, I grew up.” Well, for your information, everyone still loves you only you won’t let us show you. Really? Really.  Start thinking about the people who love you and count them. Probably, you should just look at your Facebook page. There you will find people who are listening. I hope you are listening and reading. I write to let you know I am thinking of you and I love you. I loved you when you were little and I love you just as much and even more now.

I was and still am a sort of wallflower. Do you know what a wallflower is: well, as I remember it and as it was explained to me when I went to a dance and no one asked me for a dance, I was considered a wallflower. Someone who hugs the wall and hopes someone else will ask them to dance. I was thinking last night that I was a perpetual wallflower and I only remember someone asking me to dance after he had been refused by 6 others. I remember that dance so well. I even got sort of popular over it and people talked about how I was such a good dancer.  I guess that time was part of my 15 minutes of fame. I am still sort of a wallflower.

Here is what the urban dictionary says about wallflowers. And I do like these definitions.

-A type of loner. seemingly shy folks who no one really knows. Actually these are some of the most interesting people if one actually talks to them.

Or

“Someone, usually in high school, who sees everything, knows everything, but does not say a word; they are not loners; they are introverted, meaning they are shy and have a social disease; they cannot handle having someone pay attention to them even though they crave it as much as everyone else; wallflowers are just phased in, and faded into the background.”

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Dear Granddaughter #1,

Dear Granddaughter #1,

I think it is time for another Grandma letter.  This is an important one to me because I have so many ideas to tell. I hope you are well and comfortable with all that is going on in your world and the worlds around you.

First of all, when I call you, please sound a little joyful. Even if you do not think I am the greatest, make me think you think I am and make me think you are glad to hear from me. Why not? What does a little cheerful sound and a lovely lilt to your voice cost you? Nothing. It is also good practice.  Sounding cheerful always gives the person on the other end of your conversation a good, happy, feeling. I know you are not responsible for the way others feel, but you are responsible to be cheerful as much of the time as humanly possible. It is good for your electrolytes. It is something good.
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