More than ever before, I realize that life truly is fleeting. And that we must make the most of each day. I say this because within the space of a few months, several of my close relatives and friends have died. All, except Aunt Susie, were my age or younger.
Now, I get the news that another childhood friend has been given just a few months to live. Thoughts of us as children started to swirl in my head. Seems like only yesterday we were little girls, building “dolly houses” and making “bottle dolls” out of long weeds (I think somebody told me the weeds we used were called crab grass). I don’t know how, but we knew just how to select the perfect weed, the one with the longest roots for our dolls. When pulling the weed from the ground, we knew just how to gently tug at it, so as not to break off the grassy top.
Once the weed was out of the ground, we’d shake off the dirt from the roots and then wash them until they were white. We then pushed the grassy part of the weed into an empty soda bottle. The root of the weed was the “hair’ that we carefully combed and styled, making curls with a pencil or a nail, depending on hour big you wanted the curls.
We must have used up all the crab grass making bottle dolls, because just the other day as I walked around my yard, I looked for the familiar weed that we used to use for our dolls, I didn’t see one that was even similar to the weeds we used. I got to thinking that maybe we caused them to become extinct, because in the Liberty City neighborhood where I lived at the time, all my friends had bottle dolls.
Anyway, the memory of my childhood friend reminded me of the creative things we did to make our playtime enjoyable. Although there were “colored’ dolls when we were children back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, none of the colored dolls had hair — like the white dolls we saw in the department stores — that you could comb. I had a little colored doll, but it didn’t have hair. So when I was 8, my Christmas gift that year was a Shirley Temple doll, with curly blonde hair that I could comb.
Looking back, I don’t remember that any of us were angry because we had to create many of our own play things. None of our parents had much money, and the little they had went to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. Still, I can’t remember any of us ever thinking that we were poor. In fact, I am amazed at how little it took to make us happy back then.
As I grew into my teens, the bottle dolls became a thing of the past. Christmas no longer meant getting a doll with real hair. It now meant getting a pair of Union # 5 roller skates and a pair of dungarees or blue jeans. (Yes, my dear grandchildren, that’s what we called jeans back in the day.)
Then, all too soon, I was married with a very real “colored” baby to care for. And although he didn’t have hair at the time, he was the most beautiful baby in the world to me. Rick was my first-born son and when he made his transition from this life to his eternal home two years ago, his passing left me feeling so alone. But my family, along with many of my childhood friends, stepped in to help me through my bereavement.
The death of a childhood friend affects me differently. I grieve, but the memories of our childhood together, like making our dolly houses and bottle dolls, make me smile. I realize that, yes, life is fleeting. But life with all its memories, is also beautiful.
‘MY GRANDFATHER WOULD HAVE SHOT ME’
You are invited to hear Jennifer Teege tell the incredible story of how she learned that her biological grandfather was the brutal Nazi commandant Amon Goeth, the “butcher of Plaszow”. Teege will tell her story at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the Alper JCC Berrin Family Jewish Book Festival, which is in its 35th year. The Alper JCC is at 1155 SW 112th Ave.
Teege was born to a German mother and a Nigerian father and was given up for adoption. She chronicles her response to her life-changing discovery in her internationally bestselling memoir, My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me.
The festival will close 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at Temple Judea, 5500 Granada in Coral Gables with former NBC newsman and Meet the Press moderator David Gregory, who will discuss his spiritual autobiography in which he probes various religious traditions to better understand his own faith.
When he covered the White House as a news correspondent. Gregory was asked by President George W. Bush, “How’s your faith?” Although Gregory’s answer was just emerging, he said the president’s query reminded him that this might indeed be the most important question a person can be asked.
Tickets for each program is $10 at the door or you can purchase tickets in advance at, www.alperjcc.com
CHRISTMAS TREES ON SALE NOV. 23
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade will start selling Christmas trees on Nov. 23 at the club’s Hank Kline Club at 2805 SW 32nd Ave. The tree lot will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
The Boys and Girls Clubs have been selling Christmas trees for more than 35 years. All of proceeds from tree and wreath sales benefit the organization, which serves thousands of boys and girls in Miami-Dade with positive programs year-round.
The Fraser fir trees that were hand-selected in North Carolina by Alex Rodriguez-Roig, president of the organization. The trees stand 5 to 14 feet tall. Prices start at $55. Prices for plain and hand -decorated wreaths start at $35.
CALLING ALL MEN CONFERENCE
The Community Action and Human Services Department of Miami-Dade invites the community to the second Calling All Men Conference to be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, at Albizu University, 2173 NW 99th Ave.
The conference is free and open to the public. Its theme is “Calling All Men: Stand Up Against Violence.” Presenters will include Dr. Jackson Katz and Tony Porter, known for their work with masculinity and gender violence.
Call 305-285-5900 for more information.
AMONG US MEN AWARDS GALA
The Among Us Men awards gala will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 25 at the Moca Lounge, 738 NE 125th St. The event is hosted by Cristina Isabel Mas. The evening will include a special performance by opera singer Isaacson Buteau. Ivon Mesa will be the keynote speaker.
Among Us Men is a group of men who support the elimination of violence against women and girls.
Tickets to the gala are $65 per person for general admission and $150 for VIP admission.
Call 305-704-7161 for more information and tickets.
‘GENUS GENET’ AT MIAMI THEATER CENTER
The Miami Theater Center (MTC) is presenting the life of controversial French playwright Jean Genet in the SandBox Series performance Genus Genet at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 28 at the SandBox , a black-box theater next to theater’s main stage at 9806 NE Second Ave. in Miami Shores.
The play is written, produced and choreographed by the performing artists and is based on the true story and fascinating life of the playwright — from orphanages to the French Foreign Legion and prostitution — and is portrayed in gripping multi-media vignettes.
Tickets are $25 per person and may be purchased online at: www.mtcmiami.org or by calling 305-751-9550. Group, student and senior tickets are also available.
THANKSGIVING AT THE CAMPGROUNDS
Here’s good news for the happy campers: Starting Tuesday, Nov. 17, the Long Pine Key and Flamingo Campgrounds will be fully staffed to welcome you. The Buttonwood Cafe at Flamingo will open Sunday, Nov. 15.
Thanksgiving is historically one of the busiest camping weekends of the year, according to the National Park Service. At Long Pine Key Campgrounds, entrance is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Once Long Pine Key is full, there may be sites available at Flamingo.
Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos wants campers to know that for their convenience, the service has added showers as a new amenity at the Long Pine Key Campground.
To make reservations at Flamingo Campground, call 877-444-6777.
Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.