Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
Special time - Personal Essay
Six minutes of driving separate our houses. And, at age three, Kevin asked me for special time.
Settled in a padded rocking chair, I read aloud. His favorite books were “Milk and Cookies” plus “Grandma and Me”. He memorized the stories so as soon as I recited ‘milk’, he’d say ‘cookies’ with a musical rise. Giggles followed. Often just these two books would be repeated for a full hour, then I’d begin “Pinocchio” about the puppet’s growing nose after telling lies. I’d ask Kevin to make up different endings.
I cut a potato in half so he could make dents in the flesh of it before he dunked in stamp-pad ink and pressed the inky side against a tee shirt I’d have flat on a table. The potato-painted shirt had his design permanently etched.
By age six, I padded his knees, elbows, shins, put a helmet on his head, then roller skates on his feet. In my enormous basement, in the unfinished section, he’d try and glide, catching each supporting beam for his personal aid. It often took longer to get him ready then his actual time on metal wheels.
We walked park trails that were comfort zones for birds. Holding food bits in outstretched palms, birds would gently alight and lift the seed food before flying upwards again. He was noticing shapes of tree leaves, textures of bark, sensation of soft trails or hard pebbles underfoot.
A local college had a children’s theatre production, and Kevin was enthusiastic about a different experience, until he sat waiting for the curtain to rise. He whispered that he wanted to go home, and I said ‘absolutely’ and we’d leave as soon as he felt less frightened, so he climbed into my arms. The show began. I stroked his hair, asked if he were ready to leave, and he said ‘in a few minutes’. In the security of my lap, he watched the entire performance, got excited when the lights went on, and wanted to tell his parents about the good show. In my mind, I pictured my younger son and his wife smiling with their son’s pleasure.
Miniature golf and then eating ice cream from the same dish, learning to play checkers in the Sesame Street exhibit of The Strong Museum in downtown Rochester, NY, rolling snowballs were just parts of growing hours with me. Gradually, regular golf, Scrabble boards, ping pong, became activities, and he began explaining his school learning telling me why a piece of wood floats in water while a rock sinks. He liked the planetarium, and appreciated live theatre.
Calendars continued to change numbers, as did our ages, and I waited for special time to cease. When it didn’t, I thought of a more permanent way for the teen to remember our relationship once I’m no longer alive. “Grandma and Me” was going to become a personal story he didn’t know I was keeping.
In 2005, using e-mail instead of the telephone, I asked if he’d really want what wished for as we discussed "The Monkey's Paw" and "Flowers for Algernon" readings for an English assignment. The next year in Biology, with stem cell being taught, Kevin and I spoke of “Flowers for Algernon” again as a parallel to using humans for research experiments that have consequences, the right/wrong based on one’s religious beliefs, and how a story read for one class spills over into another subject.
“Romeo and Juliet” had us e-mailing the power of names. I, the English teacher, took Shakespeare’s difficult poetry and simplified the meaning when possible. After all, the famous line "O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?" --From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 33) is crying out ‘why’ are you Romeo Montague. Had he been Romeo Stone, rather than the last name of the family Juliet’s parents despised, an immediate barrier wouldn’t have been set up. Then the childhood book, “Bambi”, came into our conversation as Bambi sounds feminine yet the animal was male. We moved back and forth. I was watching the mind expand, and he was permitting me to share the development.
I moved each e-mail into a Word Perfect file of letters knowing that I’d give him these tangible papers and he’d have a type of diary of his teen life.
E-mails from college, fall 2010, came with details of his freshmen-week activities, credit-hour studies for first semester, sports events. He continued to examine his courses and commented on my responses. A professor’s Philosophy lecture posed: what makes us human, how do we know that we aren't just brains in a vat, also do we have complete control over everything we do and think? My response covered half a typed page.
The printed word is seldom done with pen and ink, but e-mails do not have to be eradicated with the pressure on the delete key. I’ve complied years of our back and forth discussion of feelings, studies, even our grandma-grandson sense-of-humor about how his school’s team loses when I watch the televised games. I have a gift for him to re-read when he, himself, is old. Before the precious exchanges were deleted from the Inbox, they were transferred to the ‘special time’ file I created, for time with any loved one is special, and the recording of specific events or thoughts are markers in life.
published Oct. 29, 2011 ©2011 The Jewish Press
reprinted: Shemom winter 2012-2013 issue
reprinted: Clear Mt. Dec. 2011
reprinted: go60.us (online) January 2013