Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bernice's Party Revisited

Three generations meet in Lodi, N.J. -- Casey, Joyce and Bernice

Another word about Sister Bernice’s 90th birthday party in Lodi, N.J.

A few days after the party, I came home from a late night of editing the February edition of Home Channel News magazine. I turned on the dining room light (see posting: Home Improvement) and found a note on the table. Immediately I recognized the clear cursive handwriting of Sister Bernice Marie.

Imagine, the loving swirls of her pen, the gentle crossings of her t’s, and the charming migration of her story from the right side of the card to the left side of the card, and you will then have a better understanding of the remarkable sweetness of the letter, and why it affected me dearly.

I reproduce the note here.

Dear Casey and Margie, Theo and Natalie Rose,

Joy, oh Joy! What a totally joyful, loving Birthday Party was mine this Jan. 21, 2007. To turn 90 is quite a milestone and a good many years to be serving our Lord. I must be doing a good job. Though retirement will be quite an adjustment, I am confident that our Lord will find ways to keep my life fulfilling. I found little Natalie so beautifully dressed, very amusing, a great change in her. She fell in at times with the other children enjoying herself. I was happy that she came close to me – allowing to be touched and not crying. She was adorable. Theo was seen only from a distance – sitting at the table near the sidewall with the other children. That was his spot this time to enjoy whatever he was doing. However, before leaving he did say a few words to me, which gave me great joy. I understand he is quite an artist with all the details involved. I am just wondering what that little mind will produce. May God bless and keep in His loving care and embrace each and every one of you. So gratefully, Cioc, Sister Bernice Marie.

Upon seeing the letter, here was Theo’s comment: “Why are there so many words?”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bernice's Bountiful Birthday Bash

Assorted relatives gathered to celebrate Bernice's birthday. Does anyone above look 90 years old? We don't think so either.

What happened in 1917? The Russian Revolution shook the world. The Danish West Indies was sold to the United States for $25 million and became the U.S. Virgin Islands. And in Portugal, three peasant children spread the word that they saw the Virgin Mary above an Oak tree in the city of Fatima.

And, also of historical significance—particularly for the Clarks of New Jersey – was the birth on Jan. 6 of Bernice Haduch. a.k.a. Sister Bernice Marie. Let us fast forward 90 years.

Bernice celebrated her 90th birthday at the Felician College in Lodi, N.J., this past weekend. The Clarks of New Jersey were there. So, too, were the Clarks of Pennsylvania, the Davidians of New Jersey, the Mizeraks of Bethleham, and assorted others. (See photo.)

Sandwiches, delicious cake, and charming well-behaved children combined to create an atmosphere conducive to pleasure and laughter. Following the party, Sister Bernice spoke with the author.

“I didn’t know so many relatives would come,” said Bernice. “Thanks for coming. Everybody, thank you!”

Bernice, who doesn't look a day older than 55, was asked to explain her youthful appearance.

“Clean living,” she said.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Big Game

Theo (left) and Natalie, at Metuchen High School’s gym.

As soon as we found our seats behind the Edison team, the referee called a technical foul on one of the Edison players, who displayed poor sportsmanship. He went to his bench and was threatened with expulsion by his coach if he said “one more word.” He said several more words, but he did not appear to be expelled.

It was one of many problems for the Edison team, and one of the many exciting highlights of our trip to Metuchen High School on Saturday for an enjoyable afternoon of high school basketball. (By the way: It was the warmest Jan. 6 in recorded history, 72 degrees.)

Metuchen trounced Edison. Doubled their score, in fact. I was very impressed when one of the Metuchen players grabbed a long rebound, took a dribble into the lane and dunked the ball in traffic. The Edison basketball program appears to be a complete mess. In the spirit of generosity, I will drop the subject.

Margie, Theo, Natalie and Casey snuck into the game for the very-low-price of $4 – the ticket taker gave us a break because it was almost half-time when we arrived at the gym. Theo and Natalie seemed to have a good time. They both sat in the bleachers in such a way that the seating area became a desktop for their drawing and coloring activities.


When Mimi and Poppy, the official Clarks of Pennsylvania, visited us on New Years Day, Poppy saw the “West Side Story” CD on the table and made an offhand comment – “Oh, I like West Side Story.”

This CD has never been a favorite of the Clarks of New Jersey – in fact, we hardly ever listen to it – My Fair Lady and Sound of Music get most of the play. But ever since Poppy’s recommendation, Theo has been listening exclusively to the West Side Story soundtrack.

His favorite song varies – it’s either “The Jet Song,” or “Something’s Coming.” This morning (Sunday), he pulled up a chair to the stereo and was mouthing whatever words he could. He was staring at the CD player like children of yore used to stare at the radio for Green Lantern broadcasts. Then he asked: “Dad, what’s a mother loving street?” – (lyrics from the Jet Song.)

And when Natalie hears the ambulance during the rumble song, she points outside to the street.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"A tongue in every wound of Caesar"

Theo (left) and Natalie, masters of clean fun.

For a little guy, Theo is pretty good at remembering song lyrics. He knows verses one and two of the theme song from the Polar Express, and the song ain’t easy. Consider this melodrama: “We were dreamers/ Not so long ago/ One by one, we all have to grow up/ When it seems the magic slipped away/ We find it all again on Christmas Day.” He refuses to recite this poetry to his grandparents and other relatives, but if you catch him at the right time, you can hear a sweet rendition of the song.

Also, and this is tacked on as an afterthought, we were listening to a song in the car on Saturday, and I described it as one of my favorites. When we parked the car, I lingered so we could listen to it. Later that day, Theo is in the basement playing with blocks singing the same song: "Give me the key Lord and free my soul, wanna get lost in rock and roll and drift away..." I was amazed.

But that’s just a lead in to today’s item. The following conversation occurred sometime over the holidays.

Dad: Are you ready to learn Mark Antony’s speech to the Plebians?
Theo: OK.
Dad: Friends, Romans, countrymen.
Theo: Friends, Romans, countrymen.
Dad: Lend me your ear.
Theo: Lend me your ear.
Dad: I’ve come to bury Caesar…
(Here comes the punch line)
Theo: I’ve come to bury Caesar, NOT TO PRAISE HIM (emphasis mine.)

The little noble Roman already knew his line! He just picked it up somewhere. In a few years, perhaps he’ll be able to move the very stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

Let us turn our attention now to the developing verbal skills of Natalie Rose. As an 18-month-old little girl, she can say, “Dada,” “Mama,” “Mimi,” and “up,” But she’s never so cute as when she’s pointing at the fridge and shouting: “Cheese! Cheese!”

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Home Improvement

The rustic Hampton Bay chandelier hangs in the dining room at 56 Voorhees Place.

Remember the Clarks of New Jersey before they were “the Clarks of New Jersey?” They were the Clarks of New York City – 63rd Street between First and York. That’s where Theo, Margie, Casey (and even Inay) enjoyed the great metropolis. Those were the days. We ate meals on a little bistro set from the Bombay Co. I will now take questions from the floor.

Q: How many bedrooms did you have?
A: Bedrooms? We didn’t have bedrooms. We had one small rectangle – 20 feet by 8 feet — in which we conducted all of our lives. Eating, sleeping, working, nurturing a newborn, entertaining relatives.

Q: So, wasn’t that terrible?
A: Terrible? It was glorious! The greatest city in the world surrounded us, comforted us, entertained us. Every day was an opportunity, an adventure, a conquest!

Q: What about your car?
A: Well, that was a difficulty. Although it is true that I became expert at shuttling the car around the boro of Queens and its alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules, I will admit that the car (a 1994 Saturn) posed a serious challenge to convenience and happiness. I don’t miss that part of city life. I love my driveway in Metuchen. It welcomes me always. Now, I believe I have time for one more question.

Q: Where were you on 9-11?
A: Everybody asks me that. I wish I could say I was some kind of a hero, but the truth is very different, and kind of bizarre. Because of a persistent scratchy throat, I had arranged a doctor’s appointment on Sept. 11, 2001. When I left work, I was aware that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. When I stepped into my doctor’s office at 34th Street, a small TV showed both towers in ruins.
I asked him: “Should we go through with this?” My doctor, who was younger than me, answered: “Might as well, You’re here. So, what seems to be the problem?”
“I have a scratchy throat.” And on it went. All that blood and destruction, and here I was complaining of a scratchy throat.
Margie’s story is a little more touching. She was a schoolteacher in Chinatown, which is not far from the financial district. She had an emotional day with her frightened children, and then she marched uptown several miles to our little apartment.
I’ll say this about 9-11, too. The weather was beautiful. Sept. 11, 2001 and June 3, 2000 -- our wedding day – are two dates that I’ll always associate with major events and beautiful weather. As long as I live.

No more questions. We have a dining room now at 56 Voorhees Place. That dining room has a brand new Hampton Bay chandelier. Margie and I installed it ourselves, with a little help from Joyce and Goose, the Clarks of Pennsylvania. Thanks mom, thanks dad. It looks great.