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2005-07-18 - 12:45 p.m.

Last Friday evening the girls and I all enjoyed a brief visit with Soren and Katerina. We picked them up at Grandmom's and went to Delaware Park where the kids played on a playground.

I think all the kids enjoyed this time, although Sadie was upset it was so short! I wanted to get back at a REASONABLE hour. It ended up it was 10:30 pm by the time we did get home.

I do hope to make it back in a few weeks with the girls to see SOREN in his summer theater school preformance! He is enjoying that experience and is proud he is the MC for his class' show.

Katerina is taking her summer classes through Buffalo Prep HERE :

Nichols is undoubtedly one of the best of all the private schools in the Buffalo area. (Nardin the all girls school is up there as a competitor for girls... but nothing else really compares.)

I remember THEO the GARDENER who was this funny character of a stay at home DAD in Buffalo who had jobs of doing lawn care in the neighborhood. I remember his pride when his daughter got into Nichols on scholarship! HE wore that school shirt constanty as he took care of everyone's lawns. He also had a greenhouse in his attic which provided a MAIN source of his personal income. I was baffled at the observations of the paradox. Here he was a supplier of illicit substances and both feeding addictions and at the same time he was the singlemost source of pride in the impoversed neighborhood which had one of the few streets on which almost all the houses REALLY HAD curb appeal. For $15 or $20 a month Theo would fertilize and de-weed (ironic..... that is get rid of UNWANTED weeds...), and then he would surprise folks with flowers and shrubs appearing. He really was a gifted gardener! I however wes too cheap to pay the minimal fee for his services... and also didn't really feel comfortable hiring him knowing of the OTHER business he ran-- I mean it seemed wiser to not be involved! So we had one of the few NON THEO influenced front yards on the block, and it looked sad in comparison to the array of colorfol flowers of the others. Another nice thing about that house we had was a Community GARDEN which was actually not on our street, but directly BEHIND our house on the parallel street. It was run at a commuinity center and abutted our back yard. WE had a lovely upstairs porch which overlooked it. I have to say that it was a decent qualtiy of life living there... as long as you don't mind the traffic visiting what I am sure was a CRACK house a few blocks away (NOT THEOs-- he wasn't involved in that stuff! ) The house was within walking distance to the college neighborhood where we all graduated from CANISIUS. It was near the bus line I used to get to my job at AUTISTIC SERVICES, and that one roommate used to get to the restaraunt downtown she waitressed at. IT was on the cusp of a BEAUTIFUL nice neighborhood with Mansions one block from us, and on the other side of our street it was fairly called THE HOOD. Everything that side over was downright SCARY. The house was an old typically upstate NY one full of beautiful architectural features like incredible wood work on moldings, and built in cabinets, lovely fireplace with georgous tile, and stunning STAINED GLASS windows! It had been a turn of the century charmer that was in such disrepair and so filthy when we moved in at the insanely low price of $360 a month for the whole thing. But with six post college grads and lots of friend's labor as well we SCRUBBED and PAINTED and transformed it within a month or so. ( I remember my EX at the time - the hot Latino came and helped me paint my bedroom. I was PROUD of my restraint and thankful for his continued friendship ...)Our one friend Johnno the LI plumber did some work for the wealthy KNOX Buffalo family and brought back for us an incredibly thick Brown Wool carpet that he was hired to take out and replace. He helped us install the KNOX's old still beautiful carpet in our living room So I have to say we enjoyed out time there-- that is until the Rodney KING incident which incited some local kids to commit ARSON, with us, the house of White folk in the otherwise Black neighborhood as targets. (Beith the only caucasians that is with the exception of the one old Italian couple who talked of the white flight that had occurred with saddness, and the one other white guy who I guess was accepted as his boyfriend was a black dude and that couple lived there for a while as well. Somehow it angered folks if a white girl dated a black man, but they didn't seem to mind if a white guy did so! I guess since the said guy certainly wasn't taking away a decent man from some more deserving black gal.... It was incredible to discover such irrational and prejudiced thinking!) It really was a nice street overall. It really made the neighbors sad when we were victimized by some kids who clearly didn't live there and who were taught to hate. It was eye opening the way the cops took over two hours to get to our house in response to the call then apologized saying they didn't know it was OUR house. (The station was about two blocks away!) That whole summe was EYE OPENING and quite an education in the realitys of our world. But today I thought of Theo when I realized now my daughter is in the program he was SO PROUD his daughter was in. I wonder how his daughter has grown. I am sure that program gave her opportunities she wouldn't have otherwise had. While its fantastic for Katerina to have that program now, I wonder about what other kid would be in her place there. What does that other kids home life look like? What opportunitys would they have? It just makes me wonder. And it makes me think about how in the end most parent want the same things for their kids. Most parents hold the same dreams of their kids doing better than they have. I, like Theo , would be proud to wear that Nichols T Shirt and proclaim "My daughter is going there." I too value education. But I also see that people ARE people regardless of education. Education can give outstanding opportunity. Education can open one's mind to learn and grow. Eduation can make a big difference in income potential. But ironically my daughter now has an opportunity she wouldn't have likely had UNLESS she were in the lowest income bracket- which she now falls into. My daughter likely WOULDN'T have the specific opportunity she now has BUT FOR the fact she is a legal minority as an African American. The irony there is striking. Particularlly as the town we are now living in here in NY was ranked as one of the TOP 100 communities to live in and boasts of some of the best schools in NY State. Yet economics DON't ensure life will be easier. Having money doesn't make one above the trials of HUMANITY. We all fall ... we all suffer the pain of pride, that self imposed sin which was Lucifer's demise. We all universally share a human condition. So I don't see that much difference between Theo and I when I REALLY think about it. For that matter the similarities between he and Katerina's father are obvious. ITs somewhat humbling to recognize that Katerina indeed has had to face as intense issues in her family as any other kid. Black, white, rich , poor, LIFE HAPPENS TO ALL, and LIFE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE. It seems a part of this path of life to have to bear heartbreak, to learn to forgive, to grow, to sin, to hurt others, and ultimately to seek forgiveness. It seems like that is all universal. In handling issues of life it also seems universal that we each stive for the best and do our best to achieve it within the parameters of the opportunity and vision we have. Its that HOPE and belief in self, coupled with a belief in highter power as well that distinguishes those who SUCCEED and those who are overcome and bogged down by life. Theo, in his imperfection, had the ability to bring out the beauty in a neighborhood starving for community, connectedness and an identity. What made that street SPECIAL was this sense of SELF WORTH and HOPE. It was Pride which was not all consuming, not overdone, but healing and motivating. It was evident in the way the neighbors cared for each others children, the way LUCY and her husband sat offering their Italian cookies and coffee to anyone who was strolling by. It was evident in the way AFTER the fire they rallies around us. And those qualities are what carry anyone out of their own self absorption away from a state of grace, and can lead to real healing. They are the qualities that are needed most to be instilled in our children, infused in our communities and nurtured in our culture. I am proud my daughter, like Theo's daughter, holds her head high and has that sense of who she is with pride. I am proud she believes in herself and thus achieves so incredibly because of that belief. And as I think of Theo in his imperfection, I can't help but think of Graham Greene's whisky priest in THE POWER AND THE GLORY. There is something both sad and inspiring in both men. And I think Westley too could be looked at similarly, as well as my EX who attends AA nightly and now is involved with his kids daily as a FATHER, and I think we can ALL find our own flaws and falls and end up in a similar analogy. I imagine one could look at my life and find both beauty and tragedy. This is indeed the human condition. Its the Heart of the MAtter that I think the court system loses. In the legal artifacts created, the system become sterile reason which taken to its extreme becomes the antithesis of humanity. Without that human condition of FORGIVENESS , that it is indeed GRACE - likely a gift bestowed we can't control, can't compell, and don't always even recognize nor understand, the connectedness of the fabric of society is torn. Yet we still, in our human nature, then begin to quilt it back together from the remnants and scraps we gather. And in the end, what we create won't be what we expected or planned, but it will still be beautiful. YEARS AGO, when I heard Theo boast of his daughter, I never imagined I would have a daughter walking a path so similar and close to hers. YET I am still joyful in that path she is walking, despite it isn't the one I would have chosen for her.

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