One of the first things I do when returning home from a trip away is to stop by my local coffee shop and get my favorite iced tea. Do I go for the tea… well no, not really. No matter where I live, I have been doing this for years because it is not really about the beverage, it is about the people. The folks that work at my local coffee shop whether it was when I lived in Pasadena California, Rockville Maryland or now in Hollywood California make the day just a bit brighter.
This story isn’t about the iconic and ubiquitous coffee shop, coffee or tea. It is about “Connection”. Away for a week in Trieste, Italy, I return to my local coffee shop to be greeted by London – there we are Black Girl Magic! She knows my name, I know hers.
When I first moved to Hollywood, I was looking for someone to do my hair – ok black folks know about our tresses and finding that perfect someone who can work with our pride and joy, our pain and our kitchens (translation – the back of our head where hair gets super messy, frizzy and tangled) … who do I ask? London at my neighborhood coffee hangout. She welcomes people, makes the coffee, and the tea, provides service with a smile and makes sure I get my hair done did (as I say) by someone she trusts.
I was so happy to see her when I got back from Italy because she embodies the motto, creed of the shop– Moments of Connection. Every time you interact with a person – it is an incredible moment to make a positive welcoming connection. We need more of that in the world.
In Trieste Italy, I did not find my favorite coffee shop (though there were lots of other iconic American fast food and brand name stores), but what I did discover reminded me of when I visit my neighborhood coffee spot and run into someone like London. I found powerful moments of connection. A community mental health program that lives, breathes, walks, and talks moments of connection and welcoming. Mental health services are grounded in strong values, in a philosophy that starts with freedom first, and is relentless about relationships and trust. Each moment with a person is a moment to make a positive connection. No matter how complex the needs of the person – each person is met first as a human being, not as an illness or a problem to be fixed. The focus on freedom first, helping people to remain in the community of their choice, connected to others with meaning and purpose in their lives. There is no restraint, no coercion, no police – just people. People to people – connected in the most humane of ways.
I wish this is a story I can tell in one quick blog, it isn’t. I went to visit an incredible community mental health program in Trieste. It is world renowned and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health. Would you like to know more? If so, join me on a visceral journey of sights, sounds and words to experience the city, the history, the people that help contextualize the work done in Trieste Italy. There will be many moments of connections as we journey forth. I have my supersize iced green tea….so grab your favorite beverage, snacks and buckle up (oh right this is about no restraints – no need to buckle up) – just get cozy as we take this amazing voyage.
We won’t find any unicorns pooping fairy dust, puffy cotton candy streets or rainbows greeting people into the city – which is what I started to believe as I heard others tell their tale of visiting this “great magical” place. So, what is it?
Next stop – Trieste, Italy where ‘Da vicino, nessuno e’ normale’ – up close nobody is normal.
Click, tap, clack, tap…tap……schwzing……………
“Dad, it’s 3 in the morning, what the heck are you doing?”
It really was 3 in the morning – a late December evening that had turned into morning, the day of my parents famous Holiday Party. Preparations were underway which included, on this morning, the percussive rhythmic noise of the old family Royal typewriter.
My father replied – “its moydasheva!” The grin on his face was reminiscent of a mischievous young boy caught with his hands in the cookie jar. The look on my face was one of utter confusion – what was moydasheva? As the military nomadic Myrick clan, we knew several languages from our travels abroad, our diverse circle of friends and our various educational experiences but this did not seem familiar at all.
I looked over at my Mom and she too looked just as perplexed. “Moydasheva? Huh?”
My father continued to repeat the word and each time the pronunciation was punctuated with both frustration and glee – “Moy-da-she-va”, you know “Moydasheva”. At this point I think my dad was laughing and we were giggling along.
At 3:00 o’clock on a Sunday morning 12 hours into cleaning and preparing a house for a grand holiday party, let’s just say he could have said “dust” and we would all be in tears with laughter. But there we were giggling about some weird word. Secretly, I thought my father was holding out on all of the languages he knew and was sharing some joke in Yiddish!
Who knew? Well he didn’t and he wasn’t speaking Yiddish or anything else for that matter.
I finally stopped giggling long enough to ask him “what exactly is – Moy-da-she-va?”
His reply: “You know that show, the one on TV with the female writer that opens with words on a piece of paper inserted in a typewriter”. Clearly he gets it that we have no clue as to what he is talking about because his response is met with blank stares from my mother and me.
He points to the paper coming out of the typewriter and says again now articulating every letter and syllable s-l-o-w-l-y: “MOY- DA- SHE-VA”. My mom and I followed his pointing finger, looked at the paper in the typewriter that read “Murder”. Simultaneously we both shrieked “Oh, ….. ‘Murder She Wrote’!”
My father swore that he was saying that all along; but alas no. My dad heard himself saying “Murder She Wrote” but what came out of his mouth had succumbed to the effects of no sleep better known as “the 3 am communications effect”…..Moydasheva.
But not to worry, now we have a new holiday greeting to include on our cards to our friends: “Moydasheva!” (Sometimes we add Y’all at the end of the greeting as in “Moydasheva Y’all!”).
And only we know what it means and our friends, well they think we speak Yiddish.
The Royal typewriter was used by my aunt, then my mom, then my cousin, then my brother to write papers in college or high school. For my aunt and mother- college was something many women of color did not have access to due to racism, yet both used that typewriter in college graduating with several degrees. They paved the way for all of us that followed, using that typewriter in one way or another, to complete our college degrees as well. When I miss them, or when life is hard and I am struggling to push through the pain, sorrow, frustrations, anger or sheer sadness, I can access their spirit and strength through these memories.
The Royal typewriter sits atop a small writing desk in my father’s library just as it has these many years after the preparation for the family annual holiday party. Though long faded, the paper with the one word “murder”, still remains steadfastly waiting for the next word to be typed; the next story to be told; the next memory to be stored.
Click, tap, clack, tap…tap……schwzing……….!
Playing with words and sounds is like
candy rolling around in my mouth;
coating my throat,
down to my heart and touching my soul —
To play with words and sounds
inside and out is like happiness
Playing with words and sounds taste like candy;
watermelon candy jam!
You’ll know what I mean because when you join in
Sharing words and sounds adds a beat of souls in sync
What’s it like to jointly play
with words and sounds that become
watermelon candy jam?
Yummy-yam Sweetness !
(Thanks to a friend for joining in on a stimmy-stammy-jam-slam resulting in the creation of “Watermelon Candy Jam” – who knew!!! )
When my father was in Korea in 1955,
His father in Jacksonville Florida could not vote.
When my father drove my brother and mom across the country in 1959,
He needed to find overnight accommodations.
In his uniform, he made requests and was met with “no, nothing here for coloreds”.
Until he was referred to a house, a “black brothel”.
My dad, my mom and my brother were led to an upstairs room apart from the brothel because that is we where “coloreds” could stay.
When my father was stationed in Germany, he took my mom to Paris.
He picked up a newspaper and on the front page was a picture –
Four little children, little black children flanked by the national guard entering a school.
White women, faces distorted and ugly, spitting on little children
He turned to my mom and said “we have to go home, we need to be back home.”
When my father was in Fort Leavenworth Kansas, in his uniform and at his office on base, April 4, 1968,
He heard the news of the assissination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
A uniformed coworker was overheard saying: “he got what he deserved”.
My father, entered his office, asked not to be disturbed, shut the door and mourned alone.
When my father prepared to leave for Vietnam,
he drove my grandmother, my mother, my brother and me home from my great-grandmother’s funeral. As he stopped for gas, my grandma took us to the bathroom only to find the “men” and “women” bathroom doors locked and marked “White”. My father, in his uniform, asked for the key and was told “you don’t need a key”. He asked the man to stop the pump though the tank was not full – he threw the amount owed of $2.50 on the ground, we all got back into the car. His children never got to use the bathroom.
When my father returned from Vietnam, he was not met with “thank you for your service”.
My father, in uniform, was treated with ugly, distorted faces and spat upon.
When my father watched as the first African American man
was elected President of the Unified States, he told me “I never thought I would live to see this day”.
When my father planned his wife’s – my mother’s – funeral, he asked me to lay out her clothes.
We selected her favorite outfit and on the jacket was a crystal encrusted “Obama” campaign brooch. We buried my mother with the brooch as she was so proud to support Barack Obama.
When my father texted me on Wednesday November 9, 2016, he said:
“Friday is Veteran’s Day – Reminds me: Once I was young, studious and optimistic.
My father fought for the rights and freedoms of others in their country.
He fought for the rights and freedom for all citizens of his beloved country, wore his uniform with pride until his retirement, carried out his duties, salutes the flag and votes even
This country and its citizens did not always thank him for his service, for his sacrifice and that of his family.
When I replied to my father’s text, I simply wrote:
“Remember to have the audacity of hope as Barack Obama so eloquently says. And no matter what anyone else says or does, you are my hero, you are my brother’s hero, you are our family’s hero. You are loved, loved deeply”.
I then wondered when…when …when can stop we all stop wondering when?
we have the audacity of hope. Hold on to, spread and act on that hope.
Thanking all the Veterans and their families that give their lives to support this country even when at times our gratitude, love and support are not reciprocated. Thank you for your service.
Veterans Day November 11 2016
(Text, stories and images shared by permission of my dad – Howard A. Myrick, retired Army)