Doing Mass

I’m a native Californian, born and raised in paradise. The weather along our more than 3,000 miles of tidal coastline is spectacular practically every day. The Sierra Mountains are our border sentinels, over 14,000 feet at their peaks, stretching 400 miles long of pristine wilderness to world-class resorts. Ski after brunch and be tanning, running, biking on the beach by the afternoon—from mid-October through early June. Ask me my religion, and I’ll say I’m Californian. We are a culture all our own out here; active, progressive, wildly creative—fantastically separate from anywhere else, yet intricately connected to the world.

I was married a little over a year when my husband sold his software to a company in Concord, Massachusetts. A three year, onsite contract was part of the purchase deal. After the blood oath that we’d return to California when the three years were up, I agreed to leave my family, friends, and Bay that I loved, and move to one of the oldest towns in the U.S.

I’ve never been a fan of the east coast. The weather sucks most of the time. Even the young people look older than most old people in California. I’d visited Boston just once, ten years earlier. Mid-August, and it was hot and wet and sticky. The city was dirty, crowded, crumbling, aged, with an excessive number of churches. I don’t remember finding anything I actually liked about the place other than the dim sum in Chinatown. 

A decade later and Boston hadn’t changed much, at least from the plane’s view as we flew through the thick air over the dilapidated city into Logan Airport. The sweltering July heat came through the crack where the gangway met the plane and felt like a sizzling brick wall. I hesitated as I stepped onto the walkway, fighting the urge to run back on the plane and beg them to fly me home.

My husband waited for me at the end of the walkway, all smiles. I wanted to slug him. He’d come to Mass. a week before me and found us a rental in Concord, and the entire drive there he chatted it up—how beautiful the historic area was; the one-bedroom with studio house he’d found with its great location just blocks from town center. 

What I saw out the passenger window after passing through congested Boston and manicured Cambridge was swampland. Rivulets lined with oak, birch, and pines were all that broke up the tangled shrubs and thorny vines that covered the ground and wrapped the fallen trees. I half-expected to catch a glimpse of the Creature from the Black Lagoon moving through the dark, heavily forested rolling hills.

My mood went from bad to black as we came into Concord’s tiny town center. Culture shock wouldn’t touch what I felt. Graveyards were the front lawns of the churches that stood on every other corner. Old stone and brick buildings lined the main streets of the town. Old meaning 1600 and 1700’s. Art galleries, bakeries, bank branches and real estate offices occupied these crumbling two-story structures, which met at the town circle. Every person I saw was White.

The thick smell of mold and the cloying scent of decay hit me as I got out of the car in front of the ramshackle Colonial Inn, which was used as a hospital during the Revolutionary War, according to their bronze plaque. The air was stifling and still. I could barely breathe. People on the streets milled about as if in slow motion. Three years would be an eternity here.

The oppressive heat was suffocating. I had to find air. My husband suggested we go to the Concord River where he assured me there was always a breeze. We drove toMinuteman Park, walked to the end of a creaky wooden pier and looked out across the river to the old stone bridge where the first battle of our War for Independence was waged. I was immersed in the past and felt the weight of it upon me, but I didn’t feel any breeze. 

The screened porch of our rented one-bedroom house turned out to be a haven, shadowed from the heat and separate from the bugs, except for the hive of wasps in the dormer of the upstairs ‘studio’/attic we spent the afternoon eradicating.

Summer passed to Fall, and the brilliant colors of the foliage was only marred by the attack of the insect population as it moved indoors in search of food and shelter from the impending cold. Autumn lasted about three weeks until the first frost when everything died and became flat gray.

The only season in Massachusetts I looked forward to [back in California] was winter, anticipating the pristine beauty of snow. And its splendor can not be denied while it’s falling. But shoveling the drive, managing the icy roads, and freezing my ass off from early November until mid-April was harsh at best, and within hours of falling, the clean white blanket was speckled brown with road grim from the plows and street traffic.

Spring in Mass. brought allergies from hell. I felt like I had the flu for a straight month when everything was blooming. Then summer set in, and there was no air in the air again. There were excessively heavy rain storms though, that invariably flooded the basement numerous times from mid-July through late-August.

I’d left paradise for purgatory.

There were times of spectacular beauty in MA—those few weeks of fall, or a couple weeks in the spring when gray gave way to vibrant greens and crystal blue skies. But the days of sunlight and life were few and far between. At least through the summer months, every night at sunset was Attack of the Monster Mosquitoes! The other eight months everything was frozen or dead, and it was too snowy and/or cold to go anywhere.

For two and a half years I endured Concord. It got, if not easier, more routine serving my time there. I learned to dress for the weather, especially in layers because restaurants, theaters and clubs were usually blazing hot inside for some unfathomable reason. Other than a few affable store clerks and a couple of business associates, I never made any real friends there. Most of the people were as cold as the place, and prided themselves on their rudeness. By late fall of my third year, after totaling my car while nine months pregnant when a snowplow on the other side of the road dumped fresh snow on my side, I’d had more than enough of Massachusetts.

Two months after our son was born, and four months before his contract with the Concord based company expired, my husband accepted a job offer from a tech startup back in California.

We drove through several blizzards across the northern U.S. in mid-winter because it was the quickest route to get home. The February afternoon we drove onto Alameda Island in the San Francisco Bay it was 70 degrees and sunny. Across the sparkling blue water the sun was setting behind the city. The air was crisp, almost sweet with the fragrance of fog, the wind whipping around with the windows rolled down as we cruised along Shoreline Drive. People were walking, running and cycling along the strand. A few die-hard wind surfers were out on the bay doing their last sail for the day. And I said a silent prayer to hope that we were home to stay.

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What is ADDICTION?

On Prozac? ? daily? 2 sleep? Then tell Urself, Ur not ? DISCONNECTED:

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“Vivid. Sharp. Strong. Realistic.” 
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“Engrossing! Thoroughly enjoyable read.” 
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“Driven, like the Hollywood fwy at midnight–fast, engaging and peppered with many poignant insights.”

Brittney, Writer’s Cafe Reviewer

“Beautifully told. Voice and movement are excellent.” 
Cherokee Scribe, award-winning editor/columnist, WDC Reviewer

disconnected j cafesin

The Return of Hitler

My mom kept telling me, “They’re coming back. Make no mistake about it. Doesn’t matter what you THINK you are, they are coming back for you. You are a JEW.

I’m not. I’m an atheist. At 5, I told her so, thus putting a divisor between us that went unresolved, even with our last goodbye, when she died of lymphoma 14 years ago.

Thing is, she turned out to be right.

Not about coming back. In my family, then, and now, the Nazi’s never left.

They were with us all the years I was growing up, with my mother’s constant warnings. Her fear was warranted. She’d lived through WW2, saw the rise of fascism allow the murders of 6 million of her family and faith. She was old enough to witness Hitler’s speeches ignite the ignorant German underclass to hate, and blame everyone but themselves for their poverty. She saw the world forever changed by our ability to destroy it, with the advent of the atomic bomb.

I didn’t feel afraid the Nazi’s would return. I argued, “We’ve learned, mom. That’s the best thing about us. When we’re standing on the precipices of disaster, we DO change!”

I was so confident in our uniquely human ability to ‘rise above’ ourselves and our misfortunes, I married the son of a Holocaust survivor. My father-in-law was 13 when his family was forcibly removed from their suburban home in Poland, and imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto. He was there for eight months when his father, mother, and two younger sisters were murdered in front of him, and he was put on a train to Auschwitz. A prisoner for five years, his teens were spent as a slave, watching people murdered, and committing suicide daily, until the concentration camp was ‘liberated’ by the Soviets in 1945.

My father-in-law came to the States as an immigrant several years later. He settled in New Jersey, close to his remaining family reunited after the WW2, started his own business, and then married. My husband was born a year later, his sister, three years on that.

The kids knew vaguely of their father’s plight. Each was given a brief explanation when they awoke, frightened by the “horrific screams,” of their dad’s nightmares. As my husband described it, “My dad talked about when he was “in camp,” and I had a problem with that, as I had gone to summer camp, and I knew that this was not the same thing.”

My husband was in his last year of college when my sister-in-law gathered her family, and recorded their father’s experience in Auschwitz for a history assignment. The ‘kids’ were both adults when they discover the details of their father’s youth, during this singular interview. They never spoke of it again.

The Holocaust was not discussed in my husband’s household. Growing up, he didn’t dare drill down on the details, though his father’s nightmares woke him many late nights during his formative years. His father’s screaming frightened him, especially as he grew, studied the Holocaust in school, and learned, even in the abstract, what may have happened to his dad. His parents had made it clear by their silence— in almost all things of relevance— they were not open to discuss virtually anything beyond the day-to-day logistics of living.

My father-in-law learned young that the only way to survive was to avoid conflict at all costs. His wife, my-mother-in-law, having experienced her own traumatic youth, had adopted the same position on the safety of stoic silence, likely long before they met and married. Over 50 years together before he passed, they did not discuss their life experiences with their children, or with each other. Neither went to counseling, ever. They ran a small business, raised their kids in their loving, yet separate way, never really letting anyone in, too afraid to get intimate.

Understandable, with where they came from. But, oh, so very costly.

Feelings don’t just GO AWAY when we don’t talk about them. More often than not, when buried— hurt, frustration, sadness, fear will resurface, and manifest as unwarranted aggression, especially towards the people we love, since it’s likely they’ll still love us, regardless of the slight.

These powerful feelings of anger and fear, buried deep in my mother and father-in-law, prevented them from validating their children’s feelings, forcing their kids to bury their own feelings under the suffocating weight of shame associated with having any. For the 20+ years I’ve known her, my husband’s sister won’t watch a sad movie, read a sad book, and has never admitted to feeling sad, even through her son’s ADHD hardships, or during her very contentious divorce.

Hitler is still powerful, present, and residing in our house, the hate he ignited still reverberating almost a century— three generations later, embodied in my husband every time he shuts down to avoid conflict, dismisses or ignores his feelings, or mine, or our kids, as his parents taught him to do. The fear the Nazi’s instilled in so many has been passed through the generations like a genetic disease.

My mother carried this fear with her to her grave. As a matter of course, she made me afraid, of all people— our ability to abandon our humanity, and turn our backs on neighbors we once held dear, in response to fear. I got lucky, though. My mom felt passionately about so much, and shamelessly displayed feelings of joy, anger, fear, and sadness at times, gifting me the opportunity to acknowledge and express mine.

My husband works hard to connect with me, and our kids, continually battling his pervasive feelings of isolation, separation, and auto-response of self-protection, well known among the ‘Survivor’ community. In moments, when he wins the war with himself and surrenders with me, we touch intimacy. And in those moments, which, gladly, are more and more these days, we stop Hitler’s legacy at our doorstep.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 1991, Hollywood Memoir

WOMEN, are you cooking Thanksgiving tonight, while the men watch football? Are you doing the dishes, and serving dessert, while the men sit around talking? #WOMEN, HOW FAR HAVE WE COME? #LeanIn and relive #Thanksgiving, with typical American family, in the 1990s L.A. #Memoir DISCONNECTED: http://amazon.com/dp/B00LNMXZQU

Disconnected j. cafesin

Fractured Fairy Tales of the Twilight Zone is here…

Fractured Fairy tales meets The Twilight Zone in this short story collection of four uniquely captivating, dark, fantastical tales, each with a powerful message that lingers long after the reads…
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LNTOHOM

FFTTZ

Ever Fall For Someone You Knew You Shouldn’t…

20 yrs to write, and 20 rewrites to get it right–Disconnected is the evolution of today’s modern women…

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