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  • Orah Zamir
    Posted September 8, 2021 at 11:53 am

    Here is my story. It is part of a longer story.

    Throughout my life, the most prominent sound has been music. There has been a variety of music. When I was six, I made a record of an Al Jolson song, “The Anniversary Waltz” and when I was seven, I participated in an ensemble number at a Jewish Y of another Jolson song, “April Showers.” I seemed to know songs from the 20s, 30s and 40s, possibly from hearing my mother sing them. 
               I started piano lessons when I was six. I had to stop because I was not practicing diligently, but then was allowed to start again. I sang in the chorus at school, but I wasn’t allowed to take singing lessons until I was 14. Then I sang in nursing homes with my teacher, but most important for my life, I sang in the Temple Choir. I decided to switch from a classical voice teacher to a popular one. I loved music from Broadway shows, most of which were written by Jewish composers like Jerome Kern and Rogers and Hammerstein. There was a story about Cole Porter in Richard Rogers’ biography. Rogers asked Porter what was the secret of his success. He answered, “I write Jewish music.” I liked songs from Oklahoma, Carousel, Showboat, and others shows like these. This was when I was in high school when everyone else was into Elvis Presley.
               My mother did not want me to sing. She had wanted to be a professional singer. She used to go to New York often. She told me she was engaged to a musician in one of the big time popular orchestras of that era. She said he would not allow her to travel with the musicians. I think, given that my mother was the child of an alcoholic and the musicians of that time were famous for drug use, that my mother was fortunate her fiancée protected her from the drug use. She didn’t realize that and wanted me not to choose any kind of life in music, so when I was seventeen, she started me smoking. Her voice had been destroyed by smoking so I think she knew that would happen to me. It did. She told me my voice teacher was in on it with her. She said I didn’t have any vices.
               When I broke away from my mother and moved to New York City, the first thing I did was buy a guitar and a folk song book and practice in my room at the Y. I soon joined a synagogue where a member was producing shows with Yiddish music. I started singing again and fell in love with Yiddish music. Also, that year, the year I moved to New York, the first woman was graduated from a Jewish seminary as a Cantor. I remembered that music and the synagogue were my most important interests in high school and decided that was something I could do. I started taking lessons again, hoping to rebuild my voice. I took music lessons at the Hebrew Arts School in New York and sang in a chorus there.
               I went to the Summer Program in Yiddish language and culture at Columbia University. I wanted to learn the language to sing the music. That led to being a graduate student in Performance Studies at NYU. I decided to write my MA thesis at NYU on the music of a contemporary Jewish prayer community and how it reflected the community’s spiritual values.
               Around that time, the Women Cantors Network came into being. I went to the first meeting as a journalist and then joined. I interviewed most of the members and wrote a report on the group that was part of a book on the American Cantorate.

    • Terry E Deer
      Posted September 11, 2021 at 4:35 pm

      Orah, what a fascinating glimpse into your life and the ways that music has led you. I did not grow up with the Yiddish tradition but I heard a great deal of music from the Big Band era by listening to my parents’ record collection. Your story brought back some good memories.

    • Kit Dwyer
      Posted September 20, 2021 at 5:27 pm

      Orah, I learned new things about your life and love of music in this story. I am glad to know more about you. Keep up the good writing!

  • Darlene Lamb
    Posted September 8, 2021 at 2:14 pm


    One of the best things on earth is to get the giggles. At least in our family. Today I’ll share a time that will forever be in my memory.

    My favourite aunt Melrose was only eleven years older than me and more like my sister than she was with my mother. She and I spent many times together over the years even though she lived in Saskatchewan and Arizona in the winters and I lived in Ontario. We travelled together on a cruise to Alaska following the death of my mother and another on a spiritual tour to Newfoundland among the more extensive times. All of our travels and times together had special events that we experienced.

    The story today takes place in Saskatchewan. Mel lived in Saskatoon and we made a plan to drive about an hour or so northwest to find the Crooked Trees of Saskatchewan., near Hafford. (You can google this and see for yourself). We travelled there before google or maps so we were on a magical mystery tour.  

    We followed country roads and my aunts memory of having been there before on a bus tour and we were happy when we found them. There were no signs and this bush was just off the road on the edge of a farmer’s field. There was a wagon trail separating two different parts of the same specimen of tree. They are aspens. On one side of the road the trees were tall and straight and on the other, they are bent, crooked and whacky.

    There was a sign nailed on one of the trees and it told us that a grandson of the farmer who owned this land had asked his grandfather why the trees were growing like that and this is the story that the grandfather told him.

    “He said that one day while he was plowing the field one afternoon a small space ship landed nearby. Little green men got out, began eating some flowers growing there and instead of putting them in their mouths they put them into an opening right where the stomach was. When they were finished eating, they  stood in a circle, peed, got back into the spaceship and flew away. It was after that that the trees that grew up there were all twisted and crooked and no one knows why. Many experts have investigated but no explanation has been found.”

    My aunt and I were the only people there that day walking through the bush on a dirt path and before we left we both felt the need to relieve ourselves. We agreed that if the little green men could pee here, we could too.

    I found a large trunk growing sideways and used it like a chair hanging my derriere over the edge and thought I was very smart. My aunt, who was about 75 years old went further up a slight hill and squatted. Upon trying to get back up, her foot slipped on the leaves and twigs on the ground and she fell over backwards and couldn’t get up.

    “Help!!”, she called. “I need you.”  

    I turned around, saw her perdicament and hurried over and pulled her up and back on her feet. We both were laughing as she pulled up her slacks and we were ready to leave,

    On the drive back home, I was driving and she got the giggles. I had to laugh too and soon the two of us were giggling until tears ran down our cheeks.  We would try to calm down but then out of the blue, another burst of giggles would overcome one of us and we were off again,  Once the giggles get you, it is hard to stop and we giggled outrageously all the way home. They are contagious too. 

    We were pretty much calmed down upon arrival at her home. She went to the bathroom.

    Then I heard her beckon me ….”Darlene, come here, you have to see this.”  

    Well, there she was, sitting on the toilet, with her underwear and slacks down at her ankles and she was brushing leaves and twigs from herself and another set of giggles broke out and filled the room.

    She made me promise not to tell anyone and I didn’t until after she passed away. I never understood why she didn’t want anyone to know what a good old belly laughing and giggling we had had that day. I guess she didn’t want anyone to know she had slipped while peeing in the Crooked Trees and couldn’t get back up. Now I’ll never know. She passed away last year. I miss her but I still smile when I remember our giggles.

    • Linda L. Peterson
      Posted September 9, 2021 at 6:49 pm


      • Linda L. Peterson
        Posted September 9, 2021 at 6:57 pm

        The above reply was meant for another post. Yours was hilarious. I cime from a large family of all girls. I can picture some of us having just such an adventure as you had with your aunt. What a memory!

    • Terry E Deer
      Posted September 11, 2021 at 4:42 pm

      Darlene, this is a great story. I could visualize the action clearly, and I was chuckling along as I read of your poor aunt’s adventure among the Crooked Trees. I looked them up! It’s apparently quite a tourist attraction now, and I was tickled to discover that they were featured in the Disney film “Perri”, which I remember was a favorite of my childhood. I’ll have to see if I can find it online, to get a look at the trees that were your aunt’s downfall. You are so right about giggles: a lovely sound, and very contagious!

    • Kit Dwyer
      Posted September 20, 2021 at 5:24 pm

      Hysterical! I know just what you mean by that kind of Giggles. You described it perfectly, in my opinion. Some of my best friends and family members are the ones with whom that has happened. Priceless memories.

  • Darlene Lamb
    Posted September 8, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    Hope my story got on here somewhere. Below I think…

  • Gail OMara
    Posted September 8, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    There it is again,that soft gurgling sound from the corner of a dimly lit room. It is an expression of calm contentment. It lasts only a few minutes sandwiched in between the comfort of a warm bottle, a fragrant bath or a clean soothing diaper and restful sleep.

    My sister, Leigh Ann, was born when I was 12 years old. Mixed with the 1960’s tunes blasting from my radio was the sound track of Leigh’s joy, energy and sweet vocal practice: coos, babbling, emerging words.This human music was a 
    soothing backdrop to my early teenage years. 

    These memories would echo in my thoughts as I began to study human language development in preparation for a career of teaching in Special Education. Her noises, sounds and words emerged seamlessly into sentences, information and communication to support and delight me. Leigh’s voice and laughter have been a welcome anchor in so many moments of my life. No longer lying alone in a bassinet or crib,she commands the attentive listener to choruses of positivity, possibly and human presence. Her enthusiastic bursts of joy are contagious and spread a spirit that lightens a moment.

    In those infant days long ago her loving voice came forth to me and found a home.

    • Terry E Deer
      Posted September 11, 2021 at 4:46 pm

      Gail, this is lovely. I learned about you and Leigh from reading your story, and can feel the strong bond between you from a few words. I especially like the sentence “Mixed with the 1960’s tunes blasting from my radio was the sound track of Leigh’s joy, energy and sweet vocal practice: coos, babbling, emerging words.” I was right there, enjoying the contrast.

    • Kit Dwyer
      Posted September 20, 2021 at 5:18 pm

      Gail, I enjoyed reading about your memories of your younger sister. I was 13 years younger than my oldest sister and your piece makes me wonder what she may have thought of me when I first arrived on her scene. Your theme of voice and language is clear. I like the expression, “a welcome anchor” and wonder why you chose it.

  • Terry E Deer
    Posted September 14, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    The dance of pen and paper
    Word count: 624

    It’s six in the morning and the world is mute. Sounds that accompany my daylight life have no place here. The phone is silent: no text pings, no email chirrup, no cheerful ringtone heralding the threat of an expired auto warranty. The quiet is peaceful and healing.
               I sit in my comfortable armchair, with one reading lamp casting its light over my shoulder. Beyond the curtains, night reigns. The sun has yet to rise. When it enters, driving the dark before it, my daylight life will begin. Cats will want to be fed. Texts will begin to fly. The phone will ring at least twice, friends who need my voice to get them safely to work.
               This hour before dawn belongs to me, not to the cats, the phone, the computer or the coffee maker. I take a deep breath and listen as the silence holds me in its arms. I listen for the voice of my inner self, the voice that coaxed me from a warm bed. The still, small, insistent voice that lights the spark within and reminds me, every morning, that the only way to be a writer is to write.
               In the tranquil house, the only sound is the subdued reunion between my pen and the sheet of blank paper in front of me. Nothing so harsh as a rasp or a scratching, it falls upon my ear as a series of encounters:  hands clasping across the line of an old-fashioned dance, or soft-soled ballet shoes gliding over a wooden floor. Some mornings, the dance tune is a double jig, and the pen takes rapid steps across the paper floor, skip-and-change, skip-and-change. Other mornings, the pen moves at a decorous, flowing pace, or stutters to a halt as the music dies away. It doesn’t matter, in this stolen hour, what I write. I’m not trying to craft a story. My hope, my prayer is that as the pen dances, the story will come. The only way to be a writer is to write.
               My ideas are as shy as wild deer. I don’t dare look at them directly, or they will step back and vanish into the shadow spaces of my mind, and I’ll have to lure them out again. I glance at them, sidelong. Drawn by the pen’s grace, they drift closer, ears alert, long legs braced to carry them out of reach. On my best days, they linger long enough for me to record a glimpse of them.
               The pen pauses at the bottom of the page, and I put my left hand out to flip to an empty sheet. The sound of paper is a crisp and confident rattle, too loud in this hallowed space. I glance outside, where the light has advanced by stealth. My time is nearly gone. The house is waking. A hungry cat winds past my shins, its purr a demand more felt than heard. In the kitchen, water runs in the sink, and the coffee grinder gnashes its teeth. My inner voice begins to give way before the onrushing day, but I have more to write. My pen races to keep up with music that only I can hear, outpacing the sun, transcribing one more line of choreography.
               My phone raises the seven o’clock alarm and I stretch and sigh. My fingers ache as they cap the pen and set it aside. Later, I will look at the words. Later, my daylight mind will evaluate and polish the steps of the dance. Not now. In this moment, my mind is still a twilight forest. It is enough to have written. Good or bad, it is enough. The only way to be a writer is to write.

    • Kit Dwyer
      Posted September 20, 2021 at 5:10 pm

      Oh Terry, I do love this piece – you have inspired me! By your stating what I am also thinking about scribing. Not yet a craft but a thing to be treasured in the silent early pre-dawn hours. The best time for putting words down on paper. Does it not matter what I write, or if it is a true “story”? Can it be valuable just to write, anything? You have inspired me to keep doing it. Even if I am not in the LW workshops for the next session, I will keep writing. Thank you for sharing your writings.

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