Last week, One Book, One Philadelphia joined a session of The Best Day of My Life So Far, which brings together older Philadelphians to write and share their stories. Younger folks are invited to listen, with the goal of getting conversation moving between generations.
At the session, participants talked a little about memory and Jacqueline Woodson’s striking novel and this year's One Book featured selection, Another Brooklyn. The stories the group members told were even more impactful; participants openly told difficult, beautiful, funny, and devastating memories from their lifetimes.
We have some of their stories to share here on the blog:
Eugene: “Green Chrysler”
My father drove a green Chrysler to work. Sometimes when I was waiting for him to come home, I’d cry when the wrong green car turned the corner. He was rather anti-clerical and indifferent to organized religion, so on Sundays, he didn’t accompany my mother to church.
Eugene Carrington is an award-winning poet and author of the anthology Messenger Blues. A line from one of his poems is, “musical echoes of trash can lids / bouncing off Brooklyn’s sidewalks.”
Nouria: “A Surprise I Was Given”
When I first came from Morocco with my daughter and was looking for English classes at the church, the pastor said they didn’t offer English. But he asked, do you want to have dinner with my family? I said yes! This was a normal thing in Morocco but I didn’t expect it from an American. At dinner he offered me a place to stay for two weeks, and we stayed. I asked him later, how did you trust me? You don’t know me. I’m not from here. I was so surprised by how nice these people were. How come we have this idea that American people are bad? They invade other countries, etc. But I found they’re nice.
Francis and Dolores
Francis: “Southern Reality”
One of my strongest memories of living in Lawrence, North Carolina was when my high school was leveled by fire. We were then housed in the black church, and went to class there. New uniforms were sent, but they went to the white high school, and we were given their old ones.
Dolores: “Why Books?”
With books, you absorb everything. With the computers, which we got when I worked at Temple in the '70s, all I learned how to do was meet standardized requirements. You don’t learn with computers the way you learn with books.
Norman: “Young Jailbirds”
In 1953, I was eleven years old. My friends and I did not ask what we’d done to be placed in police custody. We realized we were en route to the police district at 39th and Lancaster Avenue, and really did not want to be seen by those we knew in the neighborhood. We would have been unable to eliminate the stigma. The officers said we’d been taken to jail for being suspected of throwing milk bottles from the overpass. When they let us go, we vowed never to tell our scary adventure to anyone.
Dr. Mike: “Celebration Party at St. Joe’s”
I went to a party last year at St. Joe’s. I met Mary, who was 90 and looked no more than 60. She said to me, young man, you owe me a dance. I saw her walker and thought, how am I going to handle this? "Hold my walker," she said to someone, and I was dumbfounded by how fast she could move. Turns out she was a very famous singer in the 40s. She literally sang the floor down. I learned a lot from the party and wish to attend another next year.
The group meets every Thursday at the Philadelphia Senior Center at 509 S. Broad Street. Visitors welcome! If interested in listening in, email email@example.com.