Lorene Cary is an author, playwright, creative writing professor at UPenn, activist, mother, daughter, granddaughter, & so much more. Her latest extraordinarily moving book is Ladysitting: My Year with Nana at the End of Her Century.
From cherished memories of childhood weekends with Nana to the reality of the year she spent “ladysitting,” her stories are of their time together and five generations of their African American family. Cary captures the ruptures, love, and forgiveness that can occur in the family as she bears witness to her grandmother’s vibrant life.
Connect with Lorene
Her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vote that Jawn, The Gospel According to Nana (one-act opera libretto based on Ladysitting), On Oprah.com
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· Website, Patreon, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Facebook Group.
· Permission to Heal - YouTube.
· Permission to Land (memoir) - Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, audiobook
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Hello, everyone. And welcome to permission to heal. I am Marci Brockman, and I am thrilled that you are here. And I mean, really thrilled. I am very humbled and appreciative that you are spending your time with me each week, listening to the. The delicious meaningful podcast that I I'm called to present to you week after week.
Today I have a lovely, really, really lovely conversation with Lorene Carey. She is a creative writing professor from the University of Pennsylvania, where she has taught for 25 years. She is a fiction and nonfiction writer. She has written so many books about all sorts of really important things.
She has spent a lot of time writing about the 19th century and freedom and so on. And her latest book lady sitting my year with Nana at the end of her century, Just spoke to me on so many levels. I'm a memoir writer, this is a memoir. It's about her relationship with her grandmother.
The many generations of family that came before and shaped her and her grandma and her entire family, and really how she. Took care of her grandmother, how she brought Nana into her home, and for the last year and a half of Nana's, 101 year life, she was her caretaker and she literally Upended her entire life in order to do so.
And so this book is a cherished memory of her childhood weekends with Nana and. Woven through her narrative of their complicated relationship. And she captures the love and forgiveness and catharsis that comes from fiercely loving our family through the thick of it. It was an extraordinarily wonderful book that just sucked me in.
There were so many little pieces, little thumbnails of stories that she told that reminded me of my relationship with my grandmother and dressing up in my grandma's clothes and making all these little pretend situations in my mind. And anyway, so, so it's extraordinary. So Lorene and I had a conversation about that.
She has a 30-minute opera version of lady sitting. That's. By the time this airs will be on her YouTube channel. So I will include the links to that in the show notes. So just scroll down.
She also is an activist, civic, political activist, just like many members of her family going back to her great-grandfather, and in 2018, she created a group called hashtag vote that JAWN V O T E T H a T J a w N to motivate young voters, 18 to 24. Years of age of voters to be involved in civic activities, to be involved in, all sorts of political action, and so on. To get them to register, to vote so that they can be active voting members of the citizenry. And she's had a phenomenal success throughout the years for that. And she's also created another group called art sanctuary. She founded this in 1998 to enrich urban Philadelphia with excellence in black art. And so all of the things that Lorene Cary does are connected. Or are linked through her website, which is basically just Lorene, cary.com, L O R E N E C a R y.com.
It will be linked in the show notes as well. So anyway, I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we enjoy it. Having it and assuming you love this episode, please like, please share, please leave us a five-star review. Please leave a review on your favorite podcast platform.
Please share it with your friends and family. I would appreciate it.
And if you are able to please consider joining my Patreon subscriptions and helping me to create more podcast episodes, to be able to publicize this more so that more people can listen to these wonderful, inspiring people who help us figure out how to give ourselves permission to live our best lives.
I think it's an extraordinary thing and I'm so grateful that you're here. Thank you so much.
[00:00:00] Welcome Lorene Carey. So nice to meet you. Welcome to the heal. Thank you.
[00:00:05] It's great. I love your title. I'm very glad to be here. Thank you. Yeah, it was sort of born out of my own. Healing journey. I had been writing a lot and I want to say like 20 14, 20, 15, I was writing some stuff like for elephant journal online magazine. And I remember I was trying to figure out how to describe how I felt about my life because I didn't really feel like I was living my life.
[00:00:38] I felt like I was having these out-of-body experiences all the time. Like I was watching myself going through the motions, doing the mom thing, doing the teacher thing, doing the, you know, caretaker thing. I felt like I was an airplane endlessly, circling an airport, waiting for permission to land. Like I couldn't land in my own life. And so that's where that came from and my own memoir, what became called permission to land. And I was thinking about calling it 14 other things. And my husband just looked at me and he's like, you're an idiot. It's called permission to land. That's what it's called. That was the whole impetus for the whole thing. Anyway. So, and then a year ago, I had this heavenly epiphany to start a podcast. And as soon as I had the idea, I knew exactly that it should be called permission to heal because of that same thing.
[00:01:33] We're talking about transformative stories, sharing our narratives and sharing our experiences because together we can make sense out of it, hopefully, and hold each other's hands as we walk toward healing. So, wow. That's the point. That's welcome to the permission to heal. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you for that permission.
[00:01:57] You know, I love it because permission isn't only something that is granted once. No, of course you have to keep giving yourself permission. Yeah. I think we forget we're creatures of habit. At least I can only speak for myself. I, I forget I'm a creature of habit. I get used to doing things a certain way and I have to remember, okay, you have to give yourself permission to close the computer and do nothing for an hour or go play.
[00:02:25] And not that I remember what that's like, but I'm trying to remember what that's like, you know? And don't think, I think too many of us think that permission to do whatever the thing is that we're looking to do has to come from a source external. Outside and it will come, it will come from outside and it will only come later.
[00:02:50] Yeah. Right. But that's not true because at any given moment we have the power to do it ourselves. Yeah. I keep thinking of that song. I don't know who sings that I've got the power like that just runs through my head. So when I, when lady sitting came across my newsfeed, I should say, I was really captivated by the title lady sitting my year with Nana at the end of her century.
[00:03:20] And I was just captivated by the whole, the whole concept of that. I had a very, I'm going to let you talk about your book because that's what we're here to do. And I want to learn from you and hear from you. But, but I had a very poignant and beautiful end of life experience with my own grandmother.
[00:03:40] And she sort of like your Nana would not hear of moving out of her house. She would not hear of moving into either of her daughter's houses. That was not an option. She wanted her own autonomy. And so we had to hire a home healthcare worker to live with her. So my mom could do her thing and my aunt could do her thing.
[00:04:01] And I was newly married with little babies, so, and I lived an hour away. So what was I going to do? And this woman Lorna became like the third sister to my mom and my aunt and really took such good care of my grandmother. And we saw her deteriorating. A few months before she decided to go. And then that morning, Anna called us all and said, you have to come today's the day she's she's in some way, preparing to die, we can see it. And my mom and my aunt, and I just sat in the room with her for hours and she was unresponsive. We could tell that she was hearing us, but she wasn't saying anything.
[00:04:45] Her eyes were closed. And we were like holding her hands and her feet in a circle, just the three of us. And, and then she just left and it was so peaceful and beautiful and poignant and sad, but beautiful and joyous and loving and like everything all mixed together. It was just beautiful.
[00:05:15] Anyway. So when I saw the title, I'm like, oh my God, I have to talk to this woman. So you're here and you are a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania resident. I think you've always been in Philadelphia. Is that true? Most of my life, I went away to work for a while. I went to school in England. I went to school in New Hampshire.
[00:05:36] Okay. Like that. But then I came back. I lived in New York for a little bit and worked at time magazine early. Right. I remember that. I remember that, but I came back. Yeah. Beautiful. So, would you tell us a little bit about you, a little about your life, a little about who Lorraine Carey is and who she was growing up and maybe touch a little bit upon what, how the nature of your relationship with Nana and how close you were or what she taught you?
[00:06:05] I mean, it's a lot of questions all at once, but sure, sure. As, as you're talking that I almost want to just read a little section my childhood with her, because that is more articulate than I can be up here in Philadelphia. I went to her house like so many people did with their grants, most weekends for years and years and years Nana and pop up her second husband lived in New Jersey, so it was just over the bridge.
[00:06:39] Right. And they were it was it felt like. It felt like it was one. It was wonder, can I just read a little section? We're here to celebrate Lorraine, Carrie. I'm good. I'm good. Great. Why was it that weekends? Nanna Jacksons felt like a world apart maybe because dressed in old ball gowns, I traveled with the sun patch across the floor of the suburban New Jersey neo-colonial and soaked in more light and Luxe than my parents' west Philadelphia apartment could ever offer the light and time, the wide armed fragrant mimosa to climb in summer the fireplace to stoke in winter choices all the day long, whatever your little heart desires.
[00:07:30] Yes, yes. Yes. I knew I was being spoiled. That word, that obsessed black grownups and even kids, what could be worse than to be spoiled. You spoil could get you a corrective beat down there. Besides everybody needs to respect authority, learn limits above all know that older people valued you, blah, blah, blah.
[00:07:51] I knew myself to be a wimp, a failure in the toughness category, which was why I went insane with terror at the sound of my mother coming for me or my father reaching for the threatened. Those seldom used belt. If a kid down the street got a beating and in our cheek by jowl rowhouses we heard every single one.
[00:08:14] I'd be good for a month. So believe you me. I knew good and well that my whole Nana deal was off the charts spoiling, which was why with peers. I kept it to myself. What happened in west Collingswood state in west colleagues? I loved that passage. So evocative. Oh my God. So that was my, my younger childhood.
[00:08:42] My sister was not born until I was eight years old and then the two of us went sort of regularly. By that time I think Nana was probably out of the baby business. So I did a lot of caring for Carol, which I love. I loved she, she was like a living doll, baby. It was great fun. I went to boarding school on a scholarship in new England when I was I was almost 16 and I think that changed my life and I think it did.
[00:09:14] Yeah, I was out of the house. And I know more autonomous than an ordinary 16 year old. Right. Right. And I, and, and the autonomy also came from doing a, a change of culture, class lifestyle. I felt a little bit like sometimes immigrant children who speak English better than their parents do. Right. I was having a better education than any one of my family ever had.
[00:09:48] They were so proud of me. They wanted me to do things. They wanted me to have all these opportunities. But in a way I stepped sort of away from the family. I was not with them all the time. And I, you know, I went on to work. I did various, but that the nugget. Of that relationship, state state with me all my life, I was deeply, it was important to me that my children also have a relationship with it.
[00:10:20] So we continued. I still went there once a week all through my adult life. I took the children there. She took them overnight, even though she was really very old and they loved it. They loved it. Had, yeah, these generations spoil another generation of family. Exactly. And in different ways, one of the things I write it in at the end is about Zoe, my daughter asking whether it be okay, whether it was inappropriate. As, as you said, you'd been there all day with your grandma.
[00:10:55] We'd been there all day. It was just so in me, by this point, everybody else had left because they had to go home. They had to. Let dogs out and do various things. Nana was so strong. She kept, you know, she had this hard breathing, she just breathed. And she breathed in the heart that had pumped through so many years kept going.
[00:11:20] And Zoe said to me, do you think it would be inappropriate to watch a movie on the computer? And I said Nana bought a DVD at like 80, I think so. Or DV, what was it called? DVR. DVR machine. Right, right. Like, and bought them DVDs. Well, what movies do you all like? And she did this Earl to an early adopter so that she could sit in bed with my child.
[00:11:48] And watch, fried green tomatoes and Mary Poppins anything they love. Right. So I said, Nana would love it if you were watching movies because, so I thought, what movie did you watch?
[00:12:07] This is really terrible. I will, I always forget the movie. Okay. And then I text my daughter and I say, if you tell me this time, I won't forget. I promise. So I wrote into the book, I forgot the movie, but it it's a movie that has to do with race in the south. And well that narrows it down.
[00:12:34] It satire it's something, but it was so funny because Nana lived her, you know, Nana from North Carolina. Had lived this life, her father had been a secretary for the, for, for the last black Congressman, from North Carolina for 90 years. Wow. 1902. I think Jim Crow had finally succeeded in North Carolina to the point where there were not enough black voters left.
[00:13:10] Yeah. Who would vote this man? His whole act Congressman named George Wise was dissolved. Right. And no, and no one else would vote for him, even though he had been a good Congressman. Right. So from 1902 to 1992, there was no black Congress person from North Carolina. Wow. And from 1902 for at least 20 years, there was no black Congress person in Congress at all.
[00:13:46] He was the last black congressperson. Yeah, that's devastating. That's, that's something. And this is history we forget. And they were things happened. We say, oh, how could that happen? Well, this is so Nana's father and her uncle both acted as secretaries for this man. They were the inheritors of land from a free colored man, their father named Napoleon.
[00:14:16] But by the time George White left and he gave this great speech, he said that the, you will see you're seeing the last of the Negro in government, but he will rise again. Phoenix like. Someday. And when Barack Obama came in, I remember anything that he paid, that he quoted that to the black congressional caucus, the Phoenix, he was like a Phoenix, but after all that happened they decided that they could not live like full men. You know, there was the poll tax. There was the, the end of the fusion party. There was a little moment where in the Republican party, they called it fusion. They had African-Americans white Americans, middle-class poor people. And they fused into a Republican party in North Carolina. The Democrats broke that up.
[00:15:20] Talk to people, pull people off, you know, divide and conquer. And they decided to move to Philadelphia because they felt like they could not be in their own words. We cannot be men anymore in North Carolina. I get that. Yeah. So that's how, that's how she came to Philadelphia. And the fact that Zoe was watching this satire about race in the south it just, it just felt like, yeah, very cyclical, very.
[00:15:54] Now did you, you didn't find out about this history of your grandfather and your great-grandfather or whatever, and until Nana told you about this later in her life, am I right? Or am I misreading that I didn't find out about a lot of the specifics until I wrote this book. Oh, that's how late it was.
[00:16:12] Okay. Research. Yeah. Yeah. So you didn't know that you'd come from a long line of activists, of people who were politically involved and, and on the pulse of, of things you didn't know that until I didn't really know that, because my sense was that after his generation, that what happened in her generation was they put their heads down and try not to lose everything.
[00:16:46] Right. Th that's that's so they stopped. They D they did not continue it as some families did rather, they sort of backed up, but, but when we would drive to wa to Wildwood, to down to the shore, the Jersey shore from Philadelphia we would pass, we always passed. It was a little city town called whites burrow, right before Wildwood.
[00:17:12] And Nana would always say, now that you're, my father worked with the man, that place is named after a white spar with named after George White. Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. I didn't know that. But so, so that, she just said just that much, when I was writing, when I started writing, she said, well, you must have gotten your writing talent from my phone.
[00:17:38] Because he wrote political speeches and things. Well, later I found out that George White was the first person ever to introduce a bill against lynching into the U S Congress. Wow. Did, did bill Hagans write that? I don't know, but the language of it is very flowery and his newspaper articles were very flowery.
[00:18:05] Oh, wow. Could be, could be writing style. It could be like handwriting. I don't know. I don't know. That's interesting. Wow. So, you know, it, it makes sense that if Nana's father lost everything like that, that she would then cling to. The things that she clung to her friends, her home and her businesses, like you said, with claw marks.
[00:18:37] Right. You know, and not want to let anything go, not relinquish a bit of control. I can understand that she also, there was that, culturally, politically, and in the family history, there was, there were also reasons for it. Psychologically, her mother died when she was six. She never, she never got beyond that one.
[00:19:06] So in the, in the book, I'd like to tell this one story she always told, she told a few stories, thumbnails, few details, but over and over, these were her stories. One was about from the time I was little, she loved dolls and she made them and taught me to me. When the book came out, by the way, my cousin and another cousin pulled out of their addicts dolls that I had made them wow.
[00:19:38] As a middle school or teenager, I'd probably long forgotten about them long forgotten, but there was a thing that now this is what you do for little girls, you make. And she always told me the story about how her mother. Had sent her out into the field and North Carolina to pick up, to go bring back cotton to stuff into this doll for her.
[00:20:03] Wow, cool. And it was a lovely story and they did raise cotton and blood. And then later, you know, I spent a lot of my life in the 19th century. Right. I've written. So I wrote novels about a woman escaping from slavery about, oh, I have a lot of research. It's the 19th century when cotton sets bowl and I've seen it, it's it, it pops open that little bud pops open and just as your hand would open and you see the tops of your fingers, each of those and closing ball of cotton is sharp.
[00:20:39] Yeah. One has to learn how to pick it. So that you don't, you can pull it out between the points. So you're not caught herself. Right. So how did Nana as a little girl do that without hurting herself? Right. And the fact is they did hurt themselves and they just, they just dealt with it. They just got bruised and, or, or cut and got used to it.
[00:21:04] What would the wife of a free man or a wealthy man, even if she, and she did, she had a lot of children, right? Nana was the fourth of five children. And, Lizzie, who was her mother was pregnant. Probably when this, when the story is told, would this, would this person have sent, they wouldn't have sent this child out into the field by herself.
[00:21:35] It doesn't seem likely. No, but that's how that I remember. So that story was, was, was, was very important to her to hold on to a few of those stories. And, she, she used to say she had this phrase she always use, which was well, it's everything under control and we would laugh about it. You know, when something like the English say, you know, did you sort it out right?
[00:22:04] Is everything under control? And that was what she'd say. Don't worry, everything's under control. And so I'm taking this book, I've made a 30 minute opera out of it. The there's a, a theater here where I had a play last year and not last year, it was pandemic was two years ago, where they asked me to turn lady sitting into a play.
[00:22:27] Wow. And I have a note to myself undertaking. Yeah, it was boy. Yeah. I have a note to myself to put in that phrase. Is everything under control because I used to answer her and say, no, Nana, nothing. I think we're control. We are losing it everywhere, everywhere every day. Wow. Wow. Yeah. You had a phrase that you used, in the book, you said Nanatude and I really looked down and I'm like, that's just freaking awesome.
[00:22:59] That's it? That's great. Yeah. Her stubbornness and her ferocity and yeah, she's a, she was a feisty, old, broad do most Jews younger to have there be. Yeah. The other business about control was manna had two husbands. She divorced the first one was very unhappy about that. And she stayed with pop up, but it was not, it was it was a cold marriage.
[00:23:33] We enjoy both of them. Both of them were great to us. I had great fun with pop-up and didn't realize until much later that he was not my blood grandfather, because he seemed like it, you know? Great. But they didn't when, when he died now, speaking of death. And so a book about dying mean to you tumble in it's like you open the drawer and look at all of the other deaths you have experienced, right?
[00:24:03] Yeah. Nana, we were there with her after Papa died. We stayed with her while the undertaker came, took his body. Did the things you need to do had his body cremated. And I answered the phone at the house one day and it was the funeral director saying that please pick up the ashes because I'm not, I said, I'm not going, they're not picking up those ashes, actually that I did everything.
[00:24:34] I took care of him. I didn't. Right. So his ashes were in our house for a good while and a car down box or something. That's how they give it to you. Yeah. It's in a box. There is a seal thing inside. Thank goodness. But they were not basement and dentist until my sister and I got together and made of service for him, you know, as my priest at my church and we spoke the words and we did the prayers and then we found a place to inter his ashes.
[00:25:11] It could be tough, you know, Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we need, I think most of us need rituals around, around deaths. You know, we need rituals to help us get through the whole grieving process. I think they're important touchstones so that we feel like we have some measure of control, you know, to sort it out. Or what was Donna's phrase, you know, is it all handled?
[00:25:38] Yeah, you know, after my, my mom died eight years ago and it was a really tumultuous, like the last 18 months of her life, we didn't talk at all. And she was an opiate drug addict. It was a disaster and and nobody would eulogize. Her husband, her sister, her best friends, nobody would eulogize her. So it was either I figure out how to say something loving and respectful after my, she, our relationship just blew up 18 months prior either.
[00:26:11] I figure out my way to, to, to this very quickly, because in the Jewish tradition, you have to be buried within 48 hours. So I had no time to dilly dally, or she wasn't going to be eulogized. And, and no matter how bad our relationship was, how could I just dismiss her whole life by not saying anything?
[00:26:35] You know? I didn't know where to begin. I was so angry and so disappointed. And so grief-stricken not just not really because she died, but because she died before we could resolve anything before we could make amends before I could get the mother back that I remembered from when I was a little girl, you know, there was, I was longing for the relationship that I wanted, and that was no longer possible.
[00:27:03] You know, as long as she was alive, even if we weren't speaking, there was some possibility, however, small it was, you know, I, I looked through, I looked through like 70 years of photographs so that I could remember her, forced myself to remember her as the. Second grandchild of my grant great-grandparents so I could see her smiling and laughing, you know, their photographs and remember her when she was young and thin and beautiful and, you know, see her with me as a baby when she, you know, was cherishing me in her arms and so on and, and, and sort of obliterate for at least a while.
[00:27:50] All of the more current harsh images of her, because the fact is that those, those images sometimes obliterate the other of course. So, so you're, you're trying to do an evening or changing or moving or something that is. Useful to the community because you're born into it, you're born alone, but you're born into a community.
[00:28:21] You die along with you also die from a community. And all those things are so difficult and so important. Yeah, and it wasn't just that I had to say something about my mom, cause it was respectful and caring of her, which it was but it was also important for me. At least I felt it was important for me to say something that would help, as you say, her community in their grieving of her.
[00:28:51] Like what can I say about her that they would, that. Help them remember her as the quirky, generous open-hearted loving person that she used to be rather than the addicted person she became. And so I focused on those memories and the things that I learned from her, if not, by example, at least the cautionary tale, you know, like yeah.
[00:29:19] And good, bad or indifferent it worked. It was yes. You know, the other thing is if, if you were teaching a creative writing class, which I do, one of the things you would do is say you have to do that in order for the reader to understand the magnitude of the loss absolutely. So that's what was lost to the addiction, right?
[00:29:47] And so first you grieve the quality of life and then you grieve the life. But you can't grieve any of that until you see what it was that that was lost. Yeah. And then, then people can, then, then people can get to their own loss. Cause sometimes you can't get to the loss because you're stuck on this ledge.
[00:30:13] Right. You know? It is. Yeah. Yeah. And for me, I think writing the book was also part of that. It was so that I could honestly, think about the loss, you know, in a, in a way that was specific, Articulate and also useful. One of the things I'll never forget use of Komunyakaa was an amazing poet. Talked about how a poem should be of intellectual and emotional use to the reader.
[00:30:50] So when he's asking, when is it finished? And if it's not of intellectual and, and not just either, or, but an emotional use of the reader, then it's not finished yet because maybe you've said what you need to say, but if it, if you haven't said what the reader needs to read, right. So, so that's when you write it in your journal and you leave it there because it was important for you to write, but not for someone else to read.
[00:31:18] Right. And I think precisely what memoir writing is, you know, you're taking, you're taking. Your own story, your own journey, your own experiences with your interpretations and sharing them with somebody else, because it's through story that we reach empathy and catharsis and community and healing and find meaning.
[00:31:41] Yes. Yeah, yes. Yeah. Stories are meaning making meaning making. Is that right? Sounds weird. Yeah, it does. It does. It does. I think they, I think they, sometimes they make meaning sometimes they capture it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. For me it feels like there is meaning and I, I have to, I have to write until I find.
[00:32:11] Yeah, absolutely. I think with any creative endeavor, it's, it's that way, you know, as opposed to making it, it's not like, oh, this is chaotic and I am so wonderful. I've made meaning of now. I think there's meaning there. And I have just a sort of crawled on my belly up to broad street, trying to find it to try to find it.
[00:32:31] Yeah. Yeah. I've been journaling since 1983. So I sometimes I write and I, no idea what I'm going to write about. I just keep writing and then sometimes I've written and then I go, what the hell did I just write about? And I read it and I'm like, did I just write that? Like, I don't even remember how that game out of me you know, these things just, or I'm also a painter.
[00:32:53] And so there are times where I've started a painting and I just stopped because it stopped speaking to me, and I just have to wait for it to. Open its mouth again to communicate to me what it wants to be. Any creative endeavor, I think has a, an air of mystery like that, we're, it's a give and take, it's a cyclical thing in some weird, magical, mystical way.
[00:33:20] It does, it does have magic and mystery, but it also requires so much discipline because for me, and I think writing's different from paying this book for me, I just have to write and write and write, and I throw away a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. So you know, cause not every, not every insight needs to be seen at all.
[00:33:47] Sure. It might be worth it for you to read, but not everyone needs to read it. Right. Or be too personal or for you to be a hundred reasons why certain things get shared and certain things don't. Yeah. But it is what we are doing. It certainly in memoir is it is it's like blues you do take, speaking of permission, here, you take life, including its pain and not exclusively, but including it.
[00:34:14] And you tried to make beauty of it, right? That's the alchemy. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. For me it was very sense-making like I was trying to figure out how my mom's experience in her life, which also encompasses her experience with her mother and encompasses my grandmother's experiences with her mother. So we've now gone back to three, four generations.
[00:34:51] How, how does that all play into. Who I became, or what kinds of behaviors or templates for relationships or ways of thinking about myself, my own self identity. How did all of that sort of occur? Like there was a good portion of my life, primarily my adolescence in my early twenties, where I think I was sort of wearing a big V on my chest for like I felt like it was all this injustice and I felt victimized by my mom's bipolarity and, and her drug use and dah, dah, dah, whatever.
[00:35:29] And, and I was in therapy, but obviously not dealing with the crux of the cause of all of my suffering. Like I wasn't mature enough to, or ready enough to deal with any of that. And I didn't deal with any of it until after she died, because I didn't know the depth of. Lied way, lied, whatever slept.
[00:35:58] And so the process of writing my book for that, for that reason, I'd started out just as a lot of journal entries, like how I was dealing with all of that. Where did that happen? Trying to unravel the history of all of that and figure out how to heal so that I've stopped the toxicity from going to the next generation, which is a great gift.
[00:36:27] Yeah. And yeah. Okay. And there's, I mean, so the writing is part of it, but I think, I think all of your activities. So you asked me about activism and I have. Thought I felt a need and if it felt like a calling to do various kinds of civic engagement here in my own Philadelphia, so I started a black art group and you have a voting group both beyond or something boat that John John, John, John, it's a Philadelphia slang, Joanne John jawn, which means a watch McCall it it's, it's differentiated now.
[00:37:19] Like, gimme that, gimme that John over there please. Who's it. What's it. Right and as we, as the F the rap song for the group says, if you would promote that jawn. Then both that jawn, right? So it's just talking to 18 year olds, 18 to 24 year old who are very active, very passionate. I mean, I don't know what older people say about them.
[00:37:47] It's not true. Things mattered to them a lot. They give us much money. Percentage wise, they have less money, but they give as much money, a percentage wise, as they're older, as older people, they give time, even though they're in school and working and they give time to charitable actions, they are out protesting stuff that matters to them.
[00:38:12] They are really they, but to get them to connect that activism and charity to elections and elected representation. That's a different matter. Sure. So, so all of this is getting young people to write social media posts and Instagram and Facebook and all that kind of stuff, as well as to create art and online activity for other 18 year olds that talks to them about voting.
[00:38:53] And we're not talking about voting for somebody it's not for a charismatic, you know, candidate. It's not for a platform. It is just for duty. You vote for your jawn. Yes. Yes. And, and the thing is those young people who come out voting in their first possible election tend to vote more regularly than others.
[00:39:20] For the rest of their lives, this, this last election in Philadelphia the young people 18 to 24, we had more register than before. We didn't have quite so many as registered in 2008, but almost a 2008 cause they were interested in Obama. Sure. But we had many more come out than we usually do for an election where there's not a charismatic person that they say we want, you know, we all want that person.
[00:39:55] And those who registered of those who registered 70% voted that's 4% more than older folks here in Philadelphia. 66% of older registered voters. Wow. I don't understand why that isn't a larger percentage. I vote when my kids were little and we used to have voting booths with curtains and we could take them inside.
[00:40:21] I used to take them inside and let them push the little things down and crank the curtain thing. And they used to like, mommy, why are you crying? And I just, the voting to this day brings me to tears. I just, I find it a very moving experience. And you know, how many millions of people have suffered through all sorts of indignities and have gone to war and so on, just so that I have the right to go into a voting booth and say what I need to say, make my opinion known.
[00:40:55] I think it's as an American, I think it's as, as a citizen of any country that has the right to vote. I think it's the most sacred act we have. as citizens. Well, the, the thing is to get to find ways for young people to tell that to each other. Yeah. They're not going to live on a 53 year old may. Some of them might, but it was, it was a fascinating, I use, I started in my, I teach creative writing at university of Penn.
[00:41:28] So that group, that, that class acts as an editorial group. And then we connected to high schools, other college groups, all kinds of groups. We had a wonderful woman, Feldman Brant, who was running a foundation here in Philadelphia that funds people in the arts she had was on sabbatical.
[00:41:51] She said, let me help you with your kid. Well, she knew all the arts groups and she said, does so-and-so know you're doing this does so-and-so. So she connected us. And one group called the big picture Alliance. They did a wonderful film about the MP. That was great. It got out to that group. There was another group called spiral queue and they make life sized puppets, and they do parades and people made the puppet they made for us was a mailbox that you could put on and sort of dance in the mailbox.
[00:42:30] When they brought it out. We were on the street. We had dancing, puppets were registering people to vote, shouting bus drivers, blowing up. Beep beep people are waiting, et cetera. Mail person, a post office woman came up and said, I like this. She started dancing with the buck. You know, so, and, and I'll never forget during that particular afternoon, a man came by with two children, and kids of course were stopping and enjoying this whole situation.
[00:43:05] And one of the people at the table, a young woman, I think she's a graduate student at the education department. She said to him, excuse me, sir, are you registered to vote? You just, and he said, no, I can't vote. I'm sorry, I can't vote. And she said, no, you can button. And he looked at his kids and he said, I was incarcerated and she said, it's Pennsylvania.
[00:43:34] Are you out? Are you on parole? Are you off parole? Are you? He said, yeah, I'm fine. I'm I'm working. I got, she said, you got your vote back. And he grinned, wow. He was a citizen again.
[00:43:52] That was, it was all that was that like day after, day after day. And you add those things up and yes. One of our, we were once the 60 minutes did a piece in yes. VICE did a piece and yes, there was Nightline. And, but for real, for real on the street one after another like stealth culture change.
[00:44:16] Beautiful. Yeah. Beautiful.
[00:44:23] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It's in your blood somehow. It's in the DNA, you know, I guess I think probably the other side. My mother's side, probably too. Well, yeah, still intergenerational activism. That's right. I love that. Okay. So let's finish up with the six quick questions if you are ready. Okay. So what six words would you use to describe yourself?
[00:44:51] I'm asking this to a creative writer. Oh, wait. Oh, I should've thought I should've ran these of that. I six where I did first to be spontaneous. Just relax. There's no wrong answer. Just relax. I'm not relaxed actually. If I am passionate, Yeah, I, have spiritual,
[00:45:16] What, they're just words. We just want adjectives, right? It could be now it could be verbs. It doesn't matter. Mm mm. Working, I'm working. I'm loving.
[00:45:34] Still growing. Excellent. I don't think we ever get started with that. Yeah. I think that's six. Sounds good to me. Yeah. Yeah. So many guests where we're doing adjectives only. And then I had some guests a long time ago, start to use nouns and verbs. That works really well. I like that. That's awesome. Okay.
[00:45:59] Number two, what is your favorite way to spend a day one or one of them? At the beach on the Jersey shore, just drive down before sunset and watch the sun come up over the Atlantic ocean. Beautiful. Any season in particular, or does it not matter all seasons? I go there all seasons, all weathers, all seasons, all weathers. And it's just about the, that half-blood moon is coming, but in September and October, the harvest moons come and give out to valley forge which is one of the few places near Philadelphia, where you can see from one horizon to the next.
[00:46:41] Because there's so much, so much old is building everywhere and there are forest everywhere, but this is one of the few places it's just rolling hillside. So I love to go there and walk. Beautiful. What's your favorite childhood memory?
[00:47:02] My favorite childhood memory comes from is a permission to heal memory completely. And it's my first luminous memory it's of I'd gotten a spanking. I'd had my drawers were down. I was standing there with a bare bottom with the face into the corner. I felt so ashamed. So horrible. I almost left my body almost.
[00:47:27] Wow. And I heard a voice that was a woman's voice that I now realize is very like my own voice older woman saying to me and my mother had said, you're going to thank me for this one day. And one day you're going to do this to your own kids. And this voice said, don't worry. You won't have to, you won't it's so, wow.
[00:47:51] Sorry. Cause that was the fear she said, don't worry. It's all right. You grew up and you will never have to this challenge. That is astounding. That was my luminous moment. You were like re parents were still a kid. It felt to me like the peace of God, it felt like an angel. It felt like, yeah. Wow. Yeah. Or gift.
[00:48:21] It felt like a spiritual gift that I had been given that gift to hear that voice wherever it came from. Yeah. Yeah. Beautiful. What did you get some measure of comfort from that, at that. Great. Great comfort. It said to me, go ahead and grow up. Don't you don't have to worry about how this movie will end.
[00:48:44] And one of the things that were there was too much violence when I was growing up. Yeah, it was in the, in the, you know, in my own little body, in the house, in our friend group on the playground, it was gang warring in my neighborhood. There was the war in Vietnam. There was all of the crazy assassinations that made me think. Grownups and America had lost its damn mind. Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther king, Robert Kent like boom, boom. After the other to the other one to the other, there were newspapers showing pictures of us soldiers, shooting in the newspaper, getting ready to assassinate people. Human beings from Vienna was like a snuff that my hole was all of that.
[00:49:34] And it was as if that voice said to me, you will not have to bring violence into your most intimate relationships. Very powerful. That's what I wanted to know. Yeah. To come out of all of that violence into a peaceful life. Can I, is it possible and yes, there has been violence in my life, but not in your immediate family.
[00:50:08] I don't right. The idea that the only way you can get people to do what you want is to hit them or hurt them. It may be the only, but that's and world sensibility. I think a lot of the older generations felt that way. We are a little more enlightened. Can I say it that way? But you know what, I'll tell you.
[00:50:31] When I, when I went back to the African Methodist Episcopal church, looking to their newspaper, just looking for facts about enslavement and free slave and free, there was someone who wrote it and I actually quoted it in a book of mine about the time called the price for child 1848. I think it said, a woman was quoting a man who said, I do not hit my children because
[00:51:03] the world would hit them enough. And I want them always to look back on the table that they sat on. They sat around and remember a place where they received love beautiful only. That was, yeah. He wrote that in the 18 hundreds. And he was an African-American man who had endured slavery, who had like, he, he saw violence. I ain't never seen violence. Right. So people could make and did make that choice profound. Very profound. Okay. A little levity. What is your favorite meal?
[00:51:50] But I love food so much. So many favorite meals. Oh my gosh. Pick one, pick one. All right. From the time I was a child, my favorite meal has always been chicken and rice. Now I now eat mostly vegetables. So, you know, I would add salad and beans or something to that. I just made before I came up here Greek chicken lemon soup with orzo, who I love.
[00:52:25] Oh, I love that. It's one of my favorites. So I can't just hand you something. Oh, that'd be great. Through the zoom. I go from a Greek restaurant to Greek restaurant whenever I go. And I order the chicken lemon soup because everybody does it differently. And, and I, I like some better than others, but I love them all.
[00:52:44] Oh, I need to find a recipe or invent my own or something. My daughter got me, started making it. She said, mommy, it's really so simple. She said, it's brought some orzo is shred the chicken. And then she said, you know, as a couple, three eggs, you just, mix them in with as much lemon as you, like.
[00:53:05] My recipe said, said three tablespoons. I usually use the juice of two lemons, a for four or a quarter of broth and a woman who was the designer for my place said the thing is you got to have great chicken broth that's she said more than anything. You just make a good chicken broth. Do you use a container of broth or do you make your own okay.
[00:53:34] If I'm rushing, I use. Yeah, I've never made my own, so there's no judgment here. Well, you can also use a container and in the freezer, I always keep the ends of celery carrots and like the little ends that you can't use them that are still good. And then in the broth, I put in my own parsley carrot, or you can put in fresh, you know, do that for 20 minutes and it takes your broth, you know, it makes your broth feel like it's died and gone to heqven..
[00:54:07] Yeah, I do that when I do the, when I make matzah ball soup, I start with, I start with the broth, but then I add in my own, dill my grandmother was a big proponent of dill and multiple soup. So there's still, and there's some carrots and I don't do onions anymore cause they don't like me. Some celery, some pieces of shredded chicken, and then eventually the last thing that goes in there, the Masa balls themselves.
[00:54:30] So I might have to make some tonight. Now that I'm thinking about this, now that you're thinking about them, I've never know if I have, I love it. I always order out because I'm always afraid to make the matzah balls and I'm always so easy. You need a little oil, a littleegg, you know, the package directions on the Matsa meal has the proportions.
[00:54:49] I never remember. And you whisk it together with a fork with the meal and you put it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes and the secret is wet hands. So you put your hands under the cold water faucet and then take a little bit of the Matson meal mixture and roll it. But what you're gonna make, like skimpy skimpy little balls, because when they hit the boiling water pop, they become much bigger when, when the Matson meal absorbs the liquid from the bra, but the trick is to keep wetting your hands.
[00:55:19] Otherwise it just makes the sticky mortary sort of mess. That's what, yes, you have completely described what I was afraid of. And it's something that I've never seen. You know, I didn't grow up watching it, but I love it. And once when I was in hospital, my daughter who was in New York and couldn't get away.
[00:55:44] Called our favorite deli tests in here to deliver it to my hospital room. So I have it as a healing. That's wonderful. You might my daughter's up at, at college, in near Boston, but in a, in a Northern suburb of Boston and she was sick. It was like a month ago. And, you know, she just had a cold and a little fever and nothing terrible.
[00:56:09] And she was doing all the right things that I would have done for her. Had she been home, but I wanted to make my daughter soup. How do I get her soup to Massachusetts? So I'm on like Uber eats and I'm looking at all of the meal delivery services. And I finally find a restaurant that's close enough that sells a matzah ball soup, which unbelievably hard north of Boston.
[00:56:30] I don't know why. And I said, okay, How do I do this? If I have a meal delivery service, bring you food on your campus, are they going to be able to get access? Because the campus gates locked, unless you can swipe in how are they going to get in? And she says, it's really not worth the struggle to get the matzah ball soup. I love you. Thank you so much, but I'm good. Was this compulsion Jewish mom has to fix, you know? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, my daughter didn't say that I, I got the not Motsa Boba chicken soup to her and she didn't say no, she wasn't on a gated campus. I'm sure that was a difficulty having to get past. And then not really letting people on campus who don't belong there and have not vaccines and masks.
[00:57:25] This was in the before times, just adds a whole lot of mess and difficulty to something that should be simple. Whatever we'll get past this. And whenever that is, and we'll all be good. All right. Two more questions and then I'll let you go. What one piece of advice would you like to give your younger self?
[00:57:50] Don't be so hard on yourself. Profound. Yeah, I think we are all too hard on ourselves. Well, maybe not all, but a lot of us, the ones of us who are awake or if you're awake. Okay. And what is one thing of all of the things that you would like to change about the world? If you had the power to make something go away, what would you change or add?
[00:58:18] It doesn't have to be a takeaway. It could be an addition right now. The one thing I would change is fossil to. I would right now I would just roll it back. I would just roll up, roll back. If I were king of the forest, I would get science to say what we actually need to do. Yeah. To roll back climate change.
[00:58:43] And then I would, I would have it done. Yeah. I think that would be the one thing that would save millions of lives. Yeah. And I think in the process, wonderful other things would happen. Right. Because if we it's, it's like when you, when you sleep well, eat well, exercise, meditate. Look at this, your skin gets better.
[00:59:28] Relationships get better. Like if you handle the body handle creation, what we've been given, then other things that we're thinking about that we're also, cause we're interested. We want to make money. We want to have status. We want to have power. We want to do this other stuff. And, but if we focus on the body of the planet, right, other things will be much, much.
[01:00:00] I couldn't agree more. What a great positive way to end. Thank you so much for being here. This was, this was so much fun. I was looking forward to this all week. That's really great. Thank you so much. And for those of you who are listening, if you're not driving, please don't do this right now. If you're driving, scroll down on the show notes and you'll see all matter of ways to find Lorraine and her books and get yourself a copy of lady sitting and the audio book and the paperback and check out all the amazing stuff that she's does.
[01:00:31] And it's all going to be linked through the show notes. So, yeah. In in a week or so. Oh, well lease the remastered opera, 30 minute opera about lady sitting. Oh, beautiful. With new captions. It'll be on my YouTube channel. We're still working on the captions and the sound. And so that's coming up in within a week or two.
[01:00:57] That's awesome. So I'll link your YouTube channel to this also so that when this comes out, we can see all of that. That's awesome. I'm so excited. I can't wait to see that. Thank you so much. This was so beautiful. Have a good evening. It was so wonderful to see you goodnight.