Tag Archives: Redwood Writers Club

On Valentine’s Day—Memories from the Heart

images-2 Valentine’s Day is almost over. Flowers have been delivered. Chocolate wrappers litter depleted candy boxes. For some it’s a time to celebrate their love. Others struggle with the letdown that goes with unrealistic expectations. As for me, I’ve been thinking of past loves. I thought of Charles who was my first love, and Armand who was my last. Today, I ‘m about to tell the story of the one who opened my heart, not the one who closed it.

His name was Charles. I met him when I was nine. You may call it puppy love, but it was important—a promise of things to come, a memory to be savored years later. It inspired the story I am about to share—a story as true as memory can recall.

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First Love

Charles Stroud was my first true love. Yes, I had cared for others…kid stuff. There was Buster with whom I shared a galvanized tub of cool water on hot days, licking condensed milk from oversized spoons. Buster brought me my first love offering, a popsicle delivered to my front door. My father had just forbidden me the coveted trip to the ice cream truck because I had picked at my dinner. Yet, when faced with the eyes of a love-struck three-year-old, it was my father who melted. The popsicle was mine!

In kindergarten I had a brief crush on Michael, the milkman’s son. It seems fitting that I shared milk and cookies with him at the snack table. However,  Damon Cooper was my true champion. After our kindergarten teacher announced to the class that Damon “uses his fists too freely,” no one teased me when he was around—not even Chucky Porter who hid my art projects, and grievously wounded my clay elephant. But that’s another story.
In first and second grade I gave my heart to Tommy Clark. We walked home together after school. Tommy lived on Water Street, aptly named because the street sometimes flooded. All the homes had been built to keep their main floors above the flood line, and  a long flight of stairs led up to Tommy’s front door. We often slipped under those stairs for a few stolen kisses before parting.
Sometimes David Marin chased me home from school. Over lunch, I announced to my mother that David liked me.

“How do you know,” she asked.

“Because he hit me,” was my reply. Any sensible little girl can recognize a love tap when she receives one.

There was also Clinton Dorn. He chased me on the playground and kissed me if he caught me. I never cared for Clinton. He picked his nose.

By the age of nine, I was no stranger to love. Still, all my past affections paled in comparison to my feelings for Charles Stroud. I saw him, for the first time, the day I entered the fifth grade.  In general, that was a dark year. Mr. Lydell, our elderly teacher, a religious fanatic in poor health, should have retired years earlier. His penchant for acting out the Old Testament convinced the whole class that Judgement Day loomed. We were surely facing Hell fire and damnation! Then, there, in the midst of it all was Charles.

Charles’s mother, Velma, was something very unique in a 1950’s Pennsylvania steel town. Divorce was almost unheard of and she had been divorced, not once, but twice. Following her most recent marital failure, she returned home to the welcoming arms of her own mother. Despite her reputation as a chain smoking, hard-drinking woman, Velma’s heart was in the right place and she loved her boy more than anything in God’s world.

Charles was more sophisticated than the local boys. Before his arrival in Birdsboro, he had lived in distant, exotic Florida, and even attended private school there. Although he was not a great scholar, Charles possessed a wry sense of humor. He was the best natured boy I ever met.
When I close my eyes, I can see him on that first day of school, standing tall, his blue eyes brimming with good humor and his blond hair surrounded by light…just like the light in the Jesus picture prominently displayed in my Sunday school class. That’s how he looked to my nine-year-old eyes, and that’s how I remember him now.

It was soon obvious that Charles reciprocated my feelings. We were the couple of the year. Many thought it more than a coincidence when, during the Christmas gift exchange, we received each other’s name. There was only one rule to follow; the gift we purchased could cost no more than one dollar. Being a stickler for rules, I agonized long and hard over the perfectly priced offering and settled on a pencil box with a built in ruler and pencil sharpener. What, I wondered, would my sweetheart find for me?

Rules be damned! Velma marched her boy right down to the local jewelry store. When I opened my gift in class, I beheld a heart shaped, gold locket that contained a smiling photo of Charles. The box also held a matching bracelet. Both pieces boasted a small garnet, my birthstone. Despite the fact that my offering paled in comparison, ever the gentleman, Charles managed to look genuinely pleased when he opened his package. I’d gotten him just what he wanted, or so he said. Once the gold locket circled my neck, I forgot about that pencil box.  All eyes were on me. Surely, only love could offer up a gift of such magnificence.

Even his ardor couldn’t stop Charles from having a bit of a laugh at my expense. It was nothing mean spirited and, in retrospect, it was funny. In those days, no little girl wore slacks to school, dresses only. During the cold winter months, my mother insisted that I wear leggings under my dress…bright red wool, itchy and absolutely mortifying! I hoped Charles wouldn’t notice. Of course, he did. Who could miss them? Picking me up and upending me on the playground, he sang, “She’ll be wearing red pajamas when she comes… scratch, scratch.” My flushed face matched my flailing, woolen leggings. Embarrassed but flattered, my heart raced. What a thrill to be in Charles’s arms…even upside down.

That was the year I decided to make an original Valentine for every boy and girl in my class. An ambitious undertaking, the cards were completed on time and deposited into the makeshift classroom mailbox, all except the one I made for Charles. To show my devotion, and perhaps to make up for the discrepancy in our Christmas gifts, his was one of grandiose proportions. Since it was too large to fit into the mailbox, I had to place it underneath to await delivery on Valentine’s Day. Seeing whose name was prominently displayed on the envelope, several boys began shouting “Oh, Charles!” The recipient of all the attention turned an alarming shade of fuchsia; however, I could tell he was pleased.

Although I made close to thirty cards that year,  I only remember the one I made for Charles. Its front featured a draft horse with a yoke around its neck and a funny hat on its head. The head actually moved back and forth thanks to an artfully placed tab. Inside, it said, “No horsing around. I go for you.”

Our romance lasted through the sixth grade; it didn’t survive junior high. I earned a spot in the accelerated class. Charles did not. New friends vied for my time and attention. I can’t even remember seeing him in the hallways or the gymnasium.  It was as if he simply disappeared. To be honest, I rarely thought of him back then. Youth is fickle. What’s more, I had problems of my own.

Within the year, my father lost his job and our family embarked on a series of moves that left me emotionally overwhelmed. As I struggled to survive socially at one new school after another, I longed for that little town in Pennsylvania where I had been happy.
My parents moved back to Pennsylvania many years later. On occasional visits I received news of Charles, none of it good. The funny, easy-going boy died on the killing fields of Viet Nam. An angry man came home, depressed and drinking heavily. His marriage crumbled, but he had a little girl whom he adored. Unfortunately, he never sat at her graduation ceremony or walked her down the aisle. Instead, cancer took him at the age of forty-two. His broken-hearted mother blamed it on Agent Orange.

While Charles’s life unraveled on the East Coast, San Francisco seduced me with her charms. After years of moving from place to place, I finally found a home.
Every summer, I returned to Pennsylvania to visit my widowed mother. It was my habit to run in the morning, and I frequently stopped at the local cemetery to visit my father’s grave. It was a tranquil place, part of the geography of my heart.  Surrounding me, old friends slumbered beneath marble markers: the shopkeeper who’d sold me penny candies, the old ladies who fussed over me at church, the teachers who tried to mold my mind, the neighbors who watched me grow.

Then, one day, I stumbled over a simple stone lying almost flush with the earth itself. Its inscription read…”Charles Stroud, Born – 1948, Died – 1990, Rest In Peace.”Seeing that marker, old feelings rushed back, feelings I had buried for more than twenty years. Surprised, I found myself on my knees, my face wet with tears. Were they for the boy who never returned? For a lost love, long gone, but never really forgotten? Or, perhaps, they mourned an innocence we both had lost. I only know that, without warning, memories of a childhood love opened my heart, like my long lost locket, to reveal a laughing boy with golden hair. Oh, Charles, you were there all along.

From Journeys: On the Road & Off the MapCopyright © 2015 by Redwood Writers

Valentine’s Day comes once a year. Make every day a special day. Tell someone, “I love you.”

 

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Sonoma County, California: Hotbed of Culture

 

a-street-copy“When I retire, I’m going to move to an art community.” That’s what I used to tell myself. I actually looked into the artists’ colony in Sand City, California, as well as a number of other locations that attract the art minded. Then, one morning, I woke up and asked myself, “Where would you go that has more artists per capita than Sonoma County?” The answer was, “Nowhere.” So, this year I’ll be blogging about all the art opportunities here in Sonoma County—for artists and supporters of the arts. We have amazing galleries and museums, art enclaves (think A Street and The Barracks to name a few), plus many venues that offer art classes in every area imaginable. I’ll be featuring various galleries and events from time to time, and spotlighting local artists. This week, check below for Art Walks throughout the County…

8tgb9ng7cMaybe visual the visual arts aren’t your thing, but you love theater. Or, better yet, you love art and theater. Rest assured, theater is alive and well in Sonoma County. You’ll find Main Stage West in Sebastopol, Spreckles Performing Arts Center in Rohnert Park, and Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma. Santa Rosa has the Sixth Street Playhouse, Shakespeare at the Cannery (summers) and a great repertory theater at Santa Rosa Junior College. The Luther Burbank Center for the Arts boasts three resident theater companies: North Bay Stage Company, Roustabout Theater and Left Edge Theater. The Raven Performing Arts Theater offers great performances in Healdsburg. Up and coming Cloverdale has a Performing Arts Center too. If you are interested in honing your theater skills, check out Windsor’s Performing Arts Academy. WPAA provides musical drama experiences for public schools in Windsor K-8 and mentors many students each year at Windsor High School—all at no cost to the schools. The nomadic Pegasus Theater Company has its roots in the River Area but makes theatrical appearances throughout the County. One county away is the annual  Mountain Play at the top of Mount Tamalpais. Even though this event takes place in Marin County, it’s too special not to mention, and well worth the trip up the mountain in a big yellow school bus. I’ve been attending for the past six years and have no plans to stop until they cart me away. Mid May to mid June only.

untitledmusicCalling all music lovers! Sonoma County has a fine symphony housed in the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. It features the 1,400 seat Weill Hall, one of the most acoustically perfect performance centers in the world. In addition to the symphony, the Center also presents guest artists in a variety of musical styles. You don’t have to look very far to find live music throughout Sonoma County: hip hop, jazz, folk, blues, hard rock, Cajun and classical—something for every taste. Most of the performance centers listed under theater, above, also host a wide array of musical events.

writingIf you love to write and/or attend book events and readings. Sonoma County has that covered too. Yes, we still have some great bookstores that sponsor events. I’m especially grateful to Copperfield Books. I’m saving most of my information on the writing community for another blog. But I will mention that Santa Rosa hosts the largest chapter of the California Writers Club. Early honorary members included Jack London, George Sterling, John Muir, Joaquin Miller, and the first California poet laureate, Ina Coolbrith. Our local chapter, the Redwood Writers Club, meets monthly at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa. The Club motto is, “Writers helping writers.”  As a grateful active member, I recommend looking into this organization if you write or aspire to write.

There’s still more! Sonoma County has many opportunities for dancers. That’s another rich topic to be explored later. Looks like there’s a lot of information to be covered as 2017 unfolds. In the meantime, Thank you Jean Shepherd for collecting information on Art Walks in Sonoma County. Some of these dates and times can change depending on the season, so calling ahead might be good idea. Where available, Jean has provided phone numbers and emails. Also, a few additional events. (From OLLI Art Club – December 2016)

COME ON! TAKE AN ART WALK…

artwalk-logoArt Walks can include exhibits, music, food, and wine and are always fun. Each is a bit different, but all are worth the walk!

BODEGA
1st Sat ~ Art in Action ~ learn about various arts – up front and personal. 11-5, Artisans’ Co-Op, 17135-A Bodega Hwy, Bodega ~ 876-9830 ~ artisansco-op.com

CLOVERDALE & GEYSERVILLE
Thru May 2017 ~ Sculpture Trail Exhibit ~ The Sculpture Trail, produced by the Cloverdale Arts Alliance and the Geyserville Community Foundation, is a year-round, outdoor exhibit with sculptures changing every May.  9 new sculptures in Cloverdale and 8 new sculptures in Geyserville will be added to the sculptures already on display.  sculwww.101sculpturetrail.com

Cloverdale Arts Alliance Gallery –  MIX –  January 21 through March 17, 2017                          Artists’ Reception: Saturday, January 21 from 5 to 7:30 pm — 204 N. Cloverdale Blvd. Cloverdale Featured resident artist, Terry Holleman. Guest artists, Michael Coy – painting – and Aaron Poovey – sculpture.

FULTON CROSSING
Fulton Crossing is an industrial artisan center in Sonoma County providing workshop space to local artists, crafters and makers of visual and functional art.
Open Studio at Fulton Crossing – third Friday of every month. This month – January 20, 2017, 5:00-8:00 pm

GUERNEVILLE
1st Friday Art Walk Guerneville – the HeART of the Russian River. Year-Round.
Artist Receptions, Art Exhibits, Music, Food & Wine Pairings! Art Galleries, Open Studios, Merchants open til 8:00.  INFO: Russian River Art Gallery 
16357 Main St., Guerneville, (707) 869-9099

Exhibit: thru Apr 2017 ~ Russian River Glory Days ~ A Tribute to Clare Harris. The Russian River Historical Society announces its latest exhibit regarding the heydays of the Russian River and the town of Rio Nido as exhibited by the efforts and contributions of the Harris family who purchased and developed Rio Nido into a tourist destination in the 30’s and 40’s. This exhibit also focuses upon Clare Harris, one of two brothers, who ran the world famous dance hall at
RIO NIDO which featured some of the country’s great Big Bands.
Guerneville Bank Club, 16209Main St, Guerneville.  www.russianriverhistory.org

HEALDSBURG
2nd Sat ~ Healdsburg Art Walk  ~ Music, art, food, wine. May-Dec, 5:00-8:00 pm,
Downtown Healdsburg ~ 433-6935 ~ healdsburg.com

OCCIDENTAL
Nov 18 – Jan 15 – “Art and Gifts: Toute Petite” presented by Occidental Center for the Arts.
Unique exhibit and sale  Open Fridays through Sundays.
FREE – Gallery hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The gallery is located at 3850 Doris Murphy Ct, Occidental, off of Bohemian Highway near the intersection with Graton Road.  (707) 874-9392.

PETALUMA
Art Walk – 2nd Saturday, 5-8pm (Winter hours Nov – Feb)
petalumadowntown.com/petalumaart.aspx

Petaluma Art Center
Gallery Hours: Thursday through Monday from 11am-5pm
Center hours: Thurs. through Mon., 11 am to 5 pm – 4th Monday Free Admission
230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma – 762-5600 x100.  Visit Events page at www.PetalumaArtsCenter.org Fourth Mondays Free!

Riverfront Art Gallery, 132 Petaluma Blvd. N. – 707-775-4278                                                             New Show – January 11th to March 5th – Altered Reality: Photoshopped or Not? Photographs by Lance Kuehne.

SANTA ROSA
First Friday Art Walk  ~ Year-round – Santa Rosa art galleries and studios open for monthly First Friday event. Participating galleries include (Open 5-7pm): The Art Trails Gallery at Corricks, and Annex Gallery. Open 5-8pm: Chroma Gallery, Christie Marks Gallery, Studios at 312 S. A and Backstreet Studios.  707-836-3099 – Email: melissa@ancientoakcellars.com

Barracks Artists – Now Open 1st Saturday of every month. Cutting-edge work.
Located in the Old Finley Barracks.
The Studio Santa Rosa, 3840 Finley Ave, Santa Rosa, California
https://www.facebook.com/baraart/info

SOFA (South of A Street)
1st Friday Art Walk 5-7:00pm; sofasantarosa.com/