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Words in Bloom Stories & Thoughts from Gemini Ink’s Writers in Communities Program at the Ella Austin Community Center


Words in Bloom Stories & Thoughts from Gemini Ink’s Writers in Communities Program at the Ella Austin Community Center Writer-in-Residence: Carlos Ponce Cover Art: Veronica Montemayor Funded by: the San Antonio Express-News Editing, Layout and Design by: Adriana Sánchez Alexander Executive | Artistic Director, Gemini Ink: Rosemary Catacalos Executive Director, Ella Austin Community Center: Anthony Hargrove Writers in Communities Director, Gemini Ink: Adriana Sánchez Alexander Director of Social Services, Ella Austin Community Center: Lucy Pantoja © 2008 Gemini Ink


Words

By Kathleen Bonnett Words are simple words. Words are swords. Hurtful words can build a city. Words can rain a home. Words can change life. Words can charm a fool. Words can make a dam. Words can still a storm. Words can be important. Words can be inspiring, encouraging. Words make friends. Also words can bloom, But words can make a man or a woman. So, let your words be true.


Foreword A woman who began picking cotton in her childhood, another one who became pregnant at sixteen, a woman who lost her mother at age four, and a man who worked at all kinds of odd jobs to support his family. These are some of the brave and amazing people who took part in a series of writing workshops for senior citizens at the Ella Austin Community Center and whose words and thoughts you can read in this book. With a combined experience of more than 900 years, the seniors’ memories are as rich, dramatic and funny as the best novel you might find in any library. But it would be misleading to say that they write only about their past; these senior citizens are active, full of creativity and eager to engage in new adventures. For me, leading this workshop was a privilege. I will always remember these students who enriched my life, and I’m sure that their stories will leave perhaps a small but gratifying impact on those who read them. - Carlos Ponce, Writer-in-Residence


NOTE: The authors’ work is edited as lightly as possible in order to honor and preserve their original voices.


Table of Contents Lucille Cooper....................................... .......1 Carlos Reyna............................................ ...3 Kathleen Bonnett..................................... ....5 Ida Mae McDaniels.......................................9 Rose McVea...............................................11 Emily G. Delgado........................................15 Doris L. Martin...........................................19


Lucille Cooper

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At eighty-nine years of age, Mrs. Cooper is the youngest member of the gang (in personality). She has an extraordinary memory of her welllived life, and she exudes a good mood that is contagious to everybody around her. -C.P. My Mother When I was young, my mother would go to work and my sisters and I were at home alone after school. We were not allowed to go out to play because my mother didn’t let us. We had to wait for her inside the house. So I became a reader. To spend the time I would read books and read them over again. Sometimes I would go outside and read under the sun. But then I would get very hot and would go back inside and keep reading. One day my mother was mad at me and she was reprimanding me, and I talked back to her. My mother got upset and she was going to hit me. So I jumped five steps back and left the house. I went out into the street and wandered for a long time. When I got back, my mother didn’t talk to me for a long time. 2


Carlos Reyna

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Mr. Reyna is a quiet man and a hardworking fellow who likes to talk about his family and his childhood. He had a difficult childhood that he not only survived but overcame successfully to help his family through difficult times. -C.P.

I Didn’t Like School I don’t know why, but I never liked schools. My parents took me to a school when I was young, but as soon as I could I left the building. I didn’t like to be inside, I would rather go to play with my friends, or even to do some work and earn some money. That’s the reason I didn’t learn to read and write in English or in Spanish. And I had to work very hard because I didn’t get good jobs. But I don’t regret it. It’s just the life that I had to live, and now I’m retired.

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Kathleen Bonnett

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Mrs. Bonnett is a lovely lady from Guyana who survived a devastating flood in her childhood. She is a delightful woman with a special gift for writing and telling captivating stories of her amazing life. Now legally blind, Mrs. Bonnett finds the way to share stories that are a testament to her fortitude and love for life. -C.P. The Great Flood It was 1930, the year of the great flood in my native country, Guyana. The dams and creeks were filled to the top but it continued raining and raining day and night. The water began to run on the streets, and when it reached the doorsteps of the houses everybody began to look for safety. My mother told us to go to a house that was on a hill. It was a wise decision because the houses in the low parts of the city got flooded and the water washed away everything — mattresses, chickens, chairs, and macaws.

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A Trip to the Mall “Hi, Alice. How are you?” “I’m angry, Mrs. Martin.” “Why are you angry?” “Because my mother doesn’t allow me to go to the mall with my friends. It’s not fair. Everybody is going to be there but me.” “Why do you want to go to the mall with your friends?” “Mary told me that Johnny is going to be there, and he said he was going to buy a gift for my birthday.” “But if he buys something for you, his mom is going to be upset. She is going to ask him where he got the money.” “Well, he can hide it; his mom doesn’t have to see it.” “Oh no, I don’t think that’s right.” “Please talk to my mother, tell her that I want to go, and young girls need to have some time to hang out.” “If you promise to be a good girl and behave, I’ll try. But when you girls are by yourselves, you do crazy things that are not right.” “But I’m twelve. Anyway Mrs. Martin, I don’t 7


do anything crazy when I go out with friends. I promise you we’ll just be window shopping.” “Okay, I’ll talk to your mother.” “Hi, Alice! What are you doing?” “Hello, Rose. I’m getting ready to take Robert’s clothes to the laundry. You know Robert is always asking me to do things for him.” “Do you have to pass by the mall on your way to the laundry?” “Yes I do, why? Don’t tell me that Juanita asked you for help to get permission to go to the mall.” “Yes, she did. She said that Johnny is going to buy something for her birthday.” “Oh, that girl. I’ll tell you, kids are so precocious now, but I don’t like when Juanita goes to the mall with boys. She is just a kid.” “You are right Alice, but she needs to have a social life. If you want, I can go to the mall while you go to the laundry, and I’ll keep an eye on her.” “Thank you, Rose. You are a wonderful friend. There is no doubt that it takes the help of the whole community to raise children.” 8


Ida Mae McDaniels

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Mrs. McDaniels is an industrious woman with a wonderful personality. Even after a stroke, she has not slowed down and continues to enjoy life and make the lives of people around her more pleasant. -C.P. Friends Friends? I don’t have any. Sometimes I wonder what happened. When I worked, I had a barbecue every week and had plenty of company, but now I don’t have anybody. The only time I see anybody is when I come here to the community center and when I go to church. In church I sing, and I like that. I also see a lot of people, and I like that. Once upon a time I was so lonesome, but I didn’t know. Then my son told me, “Mama, you need to go out and have some friends.” The first day I came here to the senior center I felt like a little girl on my first day at school, but the people in this place were very nice. I play bingo and cards, and we have many other activities. Now I don’t feel lonesome anymore, at least not when I come here. 10


Rose McVea

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A well rounded lady with a fast and sharp mind as well as a positive attitude, Mrs. McVea is an asset to any group. She is well-read and a natural leader. -C.P.

San Antonio San Antonio is a great place to be No matter who you are, But if you are a working man Who happens to be a Spurs player Then you are a superstar. The San Fernando Cathedral is beautiful With a tower that is very nice and tall, And living and working in San Antonio Is the very best of all.

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A Tragedy in My Life Although there have been some hard and sad times in my life, the most tragic event occurred when I was about thirty-seven years old. I had six children, and I was taking charge of two of my sister’s kids. The youngest child was just ten years old, and I had a lot of stress raising all those children by myself. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but I began to feel very depressed. I began to think that I didn’t want to live anymore. I felt alone, even with the house was so crowded. But I felt that nobody loved me, and I wanted to end my life. One night, my husband and my children where sleeping. At about 2 a.m. I closed myself in the bathroom, took some pills from the medicine cabinet, and laid on the floor crying and crying. Then out of nowhere and total darkness, I heard a voice saying, “You are not alone.” It was a simple but clear message. I think it was God speaking to me. I don’t know how, but I got up and vomited. I think God saved me that day. 13


The Role Model There has been so much that has happened to me in my life, but I’m going to tell you something that came about just this morning. I was getting a massage from a young lady, Ms. Gonzalez, who has been giving me massages for several years. Well, Ms. Gonzalez told me that she is taking a class at St. Phillip’s College in developmental psychology. The professor in that class asked the students, “What are your plans when you reach your golden years?” Ms. Gonzalez told me that she didn’t have to think twice to answer, “I want to be like my friend Mrs. McVea. She is seventy years old and likes to travel, participates in multiple activities at the senior center, is a lector and a choir member at her church, takes an art class, and does some modeling and exercises. She is my role model.” I was surprised with the story. I’m very glad to know that I have left a positive impression on a young woman. 14


Emily G. Delgado

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Mrs. Delgado is a brave woman who is raising a grandchild by herself. She feels lonely sometimes but overcomes hard times with her faith, her great love for her family, and support from her friends at the community center. -C.P. The San Antonio I Know San Antonio is beautiful because I was born here and I have lived all my life here. I like to walk by the River walk and watch people from all over the world enjoy our friendship. The library is another great place to go and admire and I like to see children reading and studying there. And last but not least is our annual festival Fiesta where all the people of San Antonio come to have fun and get together. 16


Two Angels at My Door This beautiful morning, I took my son to school. I came back to my house to do my usual chores, and I locked the screen door. A few minutes later a friend came over to visit me and to chat a little bit. She knocked at the door. I went to open the door, but I just couldn’t do it. It seems that the screws on the lock had come loose, and there was no way I could open the door. I got scared because I thought that if a fire started inside my house I would be trapped, and I would be in the middle of a tragedy. I began to think about what to do, and it occurred to me that I should call emergency response. I did, and they sent me two young men from the fire department to open my door. I was afraid of what could happen while I was trapped, but the men took care of the door and they fixed it. I’m so thankful to God and to the two firefighters who came to my rescue. 17


Day by Day with My Son I was married for fifty-four years to a very good and nice husband. He was a good father, a good provider, and a good working man — at work and at home. Now I feel very sad and lonely because I’m by myself. I have only my thirteen-year-old grandson who we adopted. I lost my husband to a stroke, and it has been very hard to live without him. He was my husband and my friend, and I used to talk with him about everything. Everyday I pray to the Lord for strength to live day by day. Coming to the senior center has helped me to live a normal life. I can have meals here and share with other senior citizens who share situations similar to mine. My son helps me a lot at home. He goes to a school of science and technology, and he gets good grades. I give thanks to God for having such a wonderful son. 18


Doris L. Martin

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Married to a military man, Mrs. Martin has lived all over the world, and she is a loyal friend and a dedicated mother. Her kindness and wisdom are reflected in her beautiful writing and her fine demeanor. -C.P. My San Antonio I like San Antonio because I like the Fiesta with a lot of hot jalape単o peppers. I like San Antonio because I found my husband here and got married in this city. I like San Antonio because I like the weather without cold winters of other places. I like San Antonio because the hot son and hot jalape単os keep my heart and my soul warm. 20


Second to None When I was very young, my brother was my best friend. He was seven years older than me, but nevertheless I would help him with his newspaper route. I used to put the rubber band around the papers. When he saved enough money to buy a new bicycle, I was the first one he invited to ride with him in the buddy seat. I remember that every time he came back from school in the evening, I was happy to see him. I know it might have been strange to have an older brother as my best friend during my younger years, but he was as sweet as a brother could be. He would go to play marbles and tell me, “You stay here, don’t go anywhere.” And he would be playing but watching me so nothing bad would happen to me. He was more than a brother to me — he was a friend, and I was his baby sister.

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Friends In my life I have traveled a lot. I have met many people. on my second trip to the Philippines I met Willie and Allie. When their first child came my husband and I were her godparents. When she got married and had a son he became our grand-godson! I will always think of my friends as number one. When we were in the Philippines we would party together and when we had to go home they would say: “We’ll just set a bed. Ain’t no need of you going home.” And even today when we talk by phone the first thing we say is: “Ain’t no need of you going home.” 22


GEMINI INK is the only community-based center for literary arts and ideas in San Antonio and South Texas. During the past year, we served more than 5,600 readers, writers, and literary performance-goers representing a diverse sampling of our community’s population. Writers in Communities (WIC) sends professional writers with specialized teaching experience into a wide range of community settings to work alongside students of all ages, needs, interests, and abilities. WIC writing workshops have been offered in schools, justice settings, neighborhood community centers, and healthcare facilities, among many other venues. While in residence, WIC writers help students create dynamic writing projects, often reflecting their own lives, that challenge, celebrate, inspire, and enlighten. Most WIC residencies culminate in the publication of an anthology of participants’ work and a celebratory public reading. For more information, visit www.geminiink.org; or call 210-734-WORD (9673) Toll-free: 877-734-WORD (9673)

Words in Bloom  

Stores & Thoughts from Gemini Ink's Writers in Communities Program at the Ella Austin Community Center