The Mystery of
(or, My Life with Bagels)
Throughout most of
my adult life, Sunday has been one of the "downer" days of my
week -- much like the ever-consistent "Blue Monday", but harder
During both my school and working days, Monday represented the end of
the magic weekend where play, leisure, and above all, sleeping in, were
at the very least, a choice. But on Monday, that was that for another
5 or six days. It was "back to the grind", whatever that grind
may have been. Most of us have been there.
Now that I have been pressed into "early retirement" by issues
of health and disability, ironically enough, Mondays have become another
shade of blue, still a downer because Monday now represents the day that
I don't get to go back to work, and don't get to go back to school --
and everybody else does. Being left out is nearly always a bummer. So
is being made marginal. It's all about freedom of choice, I guess.
But why the Blue Sunday? Sunday evening might be considered the gateway
to Monday's blues, which doesn't explain why my particular Sunday blues
usually commence first thing Sunday morning and go on all day. My Sunday
blues are a mystery that I've been puzzling at for years. This week, over
a bagel and drip coffee, I may have bit into the answer.
I was raised in a large Jewish neighborhood in Pittsburgh PA, under the
roof with an Orthodox grandmother from the Old World, in this case, pre-Soviet
Lithuania. Sunday mornings, my community was waking up from its Saturday
Sabbaths. Multiple Jewish bakeries were shaking off their day of rest
to greet long lines of customers that eagerly awaited their bags of warm
bagels and poppy seed rolls, fresh out of the oven.
In those days, no self-respecting Jewish bakery would have produced the
cheddar cheese- and olive-covered confection that jogged my memory this
week. Blueberry or pesto-flavored bagels were, back then, unheard of and
probably undreamed of. At most, a bagel would be decorated with sesame
or poppy seeds or onions. Two kinds of dough: Water- or egg-based. That
Back in our warm
kitchen at home, as in the kitchens of so many other Jewish homes, Sunday
morning was a feast for the palate and eye: The whole family, Mother,
Father, Grandmother and me, gathered jovially around the kitchen table,
passing plates piled high with bagels and poppy seed rolls, platters full
of vivid lox slices and platters of the fixins' -- cream cheese, butter,
green onions, white onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, your choice.
I don't know much of a tradition it was in other homes, but in my childhood,
part of the Friedlander Sunday Morning Festivities consisted of my only
weekly cup of coffee. In reality, this special treat was a cup of highly
sweetened milk, prepared by my mother's or grandmother's hand with only
a tablespoon or two of actual coffee -- just enough to give the white
milk a bit of a tan. To my child's palate, it was sublimely delicious.
To a young child, those Sundays were even more special than the Saturdays
which preceded them, Sabbaths that Orthodox Jews make a day-long fuss
over, the size of which dwarfs almost anybody else's Sabbath, or even
some annual holidays.
As far as my inner
child is concerned, nothing as enchanted as those lox-and-bagel Sundays,
replete with sweet, exotic and otherwise forbidden "coffee",
has ever happened to Sunday since then. So today, I mourn those bygone
Sundays. Now that I finally know the source of my long-standing Sunday
Blues, will I be able to find a cure, or at least a comforting replacement?
Well, there are those Sunday phone calls home. And besides -- If knowledge
is power, then there is hope.
I was born, raised and college-educated in Pittsburgh PA, spent a life-changing
summer as a social services volunteer in London, England, supervising
a daycamp for working class children, staffed by volunteers from all over
the world. Then, off to Champaign IL for an MSW, mistakenly thinking that
Social Work would marry my two majors, Psychology and Sociology. Eventually,
this took me to the late, great Byberry Psychiatric Hospital in Philadelphia,
where I lasted 4 months before finding my way to freelance writing. I
was a founding mother of the Philadelphia Writers' Organization, and before
being catapulted into my second life (see below), was modestly active
in feminist, civil rights and nonviolent causes.
After moving to Seattle, WA, I worked a variety of jobs, finally ending
in paraprofessional work in the public schools, while I continued to write.
Unfortunately, this led directly to my second life after I was chemically
injured by one too many uses of Kwell shampoo (headlice are an occupational
hazard in urban public elementary schools). This soon blossomed into Multiple
Chemical Sensitivity, aka Environmental Illness, aka Chemical Hyperreactivity
Syndrome, etc., and a move to tiny, lovely, semi-rural Vashon Island.
My second life is about surviving and attempting to heal my health, which
has become a fulltime job. When the air is clear of heavy woodsmoke or
the occasional pollution drifting in from the mainland, I am very serious
about my walks in the country, woods, and beaches. Environmental Illness
is a socially isolating condition, and nature has become my best friend.
With what remains my brain, I write haiku and other short forms most days,
and the very occasional article or longer poem. I am grateful as well
for books, tapes and cyberspace.
published in Water~Stone:
Hamline Literary Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2000.
I wanted to be a
I studied in secret
my pack of gilt-edged holy cards
St. Alban holding
his own chopped-off head
in his hands
young St. Stephen
on his knees
being stoned to death
St. Sebastian clutching
pierced by arrows
and my favorite -
St. Catherine stretched on a mill wheel
arms and legs splayed
eyes rolling heavenward
It is an important
to teach young children
so they will not question
the beloved mother at the sink
who grasps a knife hidden under soapy water
cuts her hands
turns to her child
holding out bloodied palms
now see what you've done to me
Kathy Anderson lives in South Jersey. She was awarded
a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and admitted
to The Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Her writing has been published
in national magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. Her plays have
been produced in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Arizona. Incoming,
her full-length play, was featured in the International Centre for Women
Playwrights Chicago HER-RAH 2007: A Festival of the World's Best Women
Playwrights and Their New Plays.