Saturday, June 18, 2011

Second Daddy

By Linda Goodman
©2011


My first time around, I married a musician who became so besotted by life in the limelight that his family became his albatross, a weight that pulled him down and kept him from living his dream. He walked out on our marriage after three years, our daughter barely two years old.

I was quite na├»ve in those days. Even though our marriage had been rocky from the start, I was shocked when he left. But I was flabbergasted when he seemingly forgot that he had a daughter, a child upon whom he had doted since the day of her birth. There were no visits, no phone calls, no birthday or Christmas presents – not even a card!

I was doing well financially. I had a decent job that more than met Melanie’s and my material needs. In fact, once I recovered from the shock of being left, life was pretty good. I was single and on my own for the very first time in my life, and I was enjoying the freedom.

Melanie seemed fine, as well. She did not seem to miss her father at all. She was a happy child….until she started school. That is when she became acquainted with other children of divorced parents and realized that their fathers visited them: actually picked them up and took them to exciting places like the zoo, the movies, ball games. In the summer, their fathers took them on great vacations.

“Why doesn’t my father visit me?” she asked.

“He lives in New York,” I told her. “It’s too far away.”

“But,” she countered, “he could call on the phone, couldn’t he?”

“Well…..yes,” I stammered. “I guess he could call.”

With that she began a ritual. Every evening after supper, she would pull her little chair up to the telephone and wait: hoping, praying, willing the phone to ring. It never did.

I swallowed my pride and asked my ex-husband’s mother for his phone number. “Melanie really wants to talk to you,” I told him. “Can you give her a call?”

“It’s long distance,” he told me. “I can’t afford it.”

I was not about to let him off that easily. “Call collect! I’ll accept the charges.”

“Uhm…..I can to that,” he agreed.

The call never came, and night after night I would lie in my bed listening to my daughter cry herself to sleep in the next room.

After Melanie finally accepted the fact that her father was not going to be a part of her life, she made up a story to tell her friends. “My father works for the CIA. He spies on Communists! He can’t come and visit me because it would put my life in danger.”

My friends asked me if I thought I would ever remarry. “Only,” I replied, “if I meet someone who loves Melanie as much as I do.”

They shook their heads. “You’re setting your sites too high. You’ll never find anyone like that.”

That did not concern me. “I’ll just stay single then,” I insisted.

In fact, I had decided that I would not date at all until I had my head on straight. I did not want to be one of those needy women who hastily remarry because they cannot bear to be alone. I wanted to be confident that I could take care of myself, so that any man I welcomed into my life would be my equal, not my superior. Attaining that level of confidence took two years.

When I finally did start dating, it seemed that I met every jerk on the East Coast - men who expected me to cook them a gourmet dinner and pay a babysitter to keep my daughter while we dined. There were a few scary experiences, too – scary enough to make me decide not to date anyone again unless I was given a recommendation by a trusted friend.

I met Phil at Jerry’s, a singles bar/disco on Military Highway in Chesapeake, Virginia. I normally did not hang out at such places, but my friend Pat was nursing a broken heart and thought that going there and dancing Friday night away would make her feel better. I decided to go with her.

Things were going well at Jerry’s. Pat had hooked up with other friends and a line of potential dance partners was waiting its turn to twirl her around the floor. I was envying her marvelous dancing as I waved goodbye to her.

Suddenly, I felt a light tap on my right shoulder. Not expecting anyone to ask me to dance, I responded with a shrill scream and quickly turned around to look up into the face of man who looked like John Ritter on stilts. His face was crimson as he stammered, “I’m sorry. I…I didn’t mean to scare the hell out of you. I just wanted to ask you to dance.”

Embarrassed by my hysterical scream, I responded, “Well, then, let’s dance.”

I have never been a good dancer. In fact, during this age of political correctness I have discovered that I am rhythmically impaired. Fortunately, though, a slow song was playing that night, and I managed to get through it without stepping on his toes (though he did mention years later that I had “led”).

The song ended and, still blushing, he asked if he could sit at my table. Being intrigued by a man who could actually blush, I replied, “Sure!” We talked for a while. My instincts said that he was a nice guy.

Pat came back to the table and a smile spread across her face when she saw him sitting beside me. “Hi, Phil,” she greeted him. “I haven’t seen you in years.” As it turned out, Phil used to date Pat’s sister when they were in high school. Pat pulled me aside later and enthused, “Linda, that is one nice guy!” I had my recommendation from a trusted friend!

Phil lived in the Washington, D.C. area and was in town for the Labor Day weekend, so I invited him to dinner Saturday night. As I opened the door to let him in, Melanie peered at him from behind me.

Once again, his face reddened. “I didn’t know your daughter was going to be here,” he said.

Taken aback by that comment, I inquired, as sarcastically as possible, “Is that a problem?”

He shook his head. “Oh, no!” he insisted. “It’s just that….well, I brought this bottle of wine.” He pulled a bottle of Chardonnay from behind his back. “And I don’t believe in drinking in front of children.”

I liked this man! “No worries,” I insisted. “We can drink it another time.”

During dinner, after he had assured Melanie that he liked Star Wars (“I’ve seen each episode three times!"), Melanie was won over as well.

After that, Phil came to see us every other weekend. I was managing a furniture store in downtown Portsmouth at the time and worked Saturdays. He insisted that I give my mom (who kept Melanie while I worked on weekends) Saturdays off when he was in town so that he could spend time with Melanie.

Phil took Melanie to all her Saturday soccer games (her girlfriends thought he was a dream). He took her to what had been his favorite fishing hole when he was a boy in Virginia Beach. He bought her a bike and taught her how to ride it.

Once Saturday evening, as the three of us were having dinner, Melanie asked him “Phil, is it okay for me to call you Dad?”

After a moment’s hesitation, he replied, blushing, “You can call me Dad as soon as your mom and I get married.”

I asked him later if that was a marriage proposal.

“I guess so,” he answered.

On the night before our wedding, Phil took Melanie to dinner, just the two of them. After their meal, he presented her with a ruby and diamond ring. “Tomorrow,” her told her, “I will be giving your mother a ring to symbolize my commitment to spend the rest of my life with her. I am giving you this ring because I want you to know that I am making that same commitment to you.”

When Melanie came home that evening, with tears in her eyes she showed me her ring and recited what Phil had said to her.

I drew her into my arms for a hug and said, “I think that Phil is going to be a pretty good father.”

“He’s better than a father,” she whispered. “He’s a daddy.”

Phil and I have been married for twenty-eight years now. Phil is a wonderful grandfather, and he still performs his daddy duties admirably.

When people refer to Phil as Melanie’s second daddy she always corrects them, “He’s not my second daddy.” She insists. “ He’s my only daddy.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Bone Spindle

By Anne Sheldon

Available from Aqueduct Press, $9.00
Website: www.aqueductpress.com

Book Reviewed By Linda Goodman

On June 4, I had the pleasure of hearing and seeing Anne Sheldon tell stories at the 31st Annual Washington, D.C. Folk Festival. She and storyteller Jane Dorfman partnered to tell three different versions of the Rumpelstiltskin tale. All were delightful, but it was the third tale, Rumpelstiltskin’s Lament, told from his point of view, that convinced me I needed to buy Anne’s book, The Bone Spindle, a collection of fourteen stories, most in poetry form, centering upon women whose lives are spent working with spinning wheels, spindles, and knitting needles.

“Why is it such a bad thing to want the child?” Rumpelstiltskin asks.
“Straw into gold? I would have taught him spin straw into moonlight!” he laments. Such beautiful imagery is scattered throughout each story, leaving the reader aching with the raw emotions so delicately brought to the surface.

The Story of Arachne is gut-wrenching as we see her father running to and fro, doing her bidding in spite of her nasty disposition; sobbing uncontrollably as he stands by helplessly while Athena exacts a too cruel revenge. Told in verse, it is an ethereal warning against taunting the gods.

Dream from My Mother’s House tells a haunting story, one that will visit me in my dreams. Susan, a young girl who has lost her brother, a friend, and a possible suitor to a terrible accident, is trying to cope with tragedy. When a crow leads her to a circle of ghosts on Halloween night, she wants to hug her brother, but she cannot, because she wonders“…what if I hugged him and my arms were empty?” And her suitor? Of him she says, “he wasn’t the Lewis I missed the most, and this Lewis didn’t miss me.” While this story is prose, verse is sprinkled throughout, to amazing and heartbreaking effect:

Slip the needle through and up.
Tuck the yarn around.
Dip the needle under.
Someone’s in the ground.

A man and wife lose their daughter, a young girl who appeared at their door one day to weave their life of poverty into one of riches in The Crane Maiden.

In fairy tales,
there’s a thing you must not do
if you love someone
who’s not of your own kind
.

The bone spindle is an instrument capable of bringing both danger and comfort. This is a book that should be kept by your bedside, for those nights when sleep will not come; when you need assurance that even in the darkest hours, beauty can eclipse the pain.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stuck

By Becky Mushko

Book Review

Available from Cedar Creek Publishing. Phone: 800-431-1579.
Email: cedarcreekbooks@aol.com. $15.00.
Also available through Amazon.com and other online distributors
Becky Mushko’s website: www.beckymushko.com
Cedar Creek Author Page: www.cedarcreekauthors.com/Becky Mushko.html

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

Eleven year old Jacie Addison barely has a chance to deal with an obnoxious classmate and grieve her dead mother when she finds out that her father plans to marry again and move to a rural part of the state that is hours from her friends and her home. Understandably, she feels stuck in a situation over which she has no control and makes plans to run away. What child wouldn’t harbor such feelings in this situation?

Three weeks in a summer horse camp give her a new motto in life: “go forward and believe in it.” As long as she uses this as her mantra, things seem to work out. She makes new friends, wins a blue ribbon, and develops a love for horses.

Such wisdom does not apply, however, where her new stepmother, Liz, is concerned. To Jacie, Liz is a wicked witch who is trying to take who mother’s place. To add insult to injury, Liz also has temporary responsibility for her bratty twin nephews, and Jacie has to watch over them while Liz works. Could a girl’s summer get any worse?

Time passes, however, and Jacie is a smart girl. She gradually realizes that she is not the only one who is stuck. In fact, almost everyone in her life is stuck, including a ghost that she meets in the woods near her new rural home on Smith Mountain Lake. Before life can go on, they must all “go forward and believe in it.” That is the only way that they will get unstuck.

While Mushko wrote this book for middle grade students, I found it to be an enjoyable read for adults, as well. A good portion of this book’s plot takes place at horse camp, and Mushko, a third generation owner of her family farm in Union Hall, Virginia, knows her way around a farm. I learned a great deal about horses from this read. As one who has never ridden a horse, I appreciated Mushko’s careful attention to detail as she chronicled the chores, anxieties, and joys of learning to care for and ride a horse.

Mushko wisely makes Callie, the ghost in this story, a mother who is in search of her child. Callie helps Jacie understand that, when a mother can no longer take care of her own child, that mother can be happy that a nurturing stepmother is willing to take over her duties.

A study and discussion guide at the end of this book lists questions for each chapter and assures a good understanding of the book’s themes for younger readers. Musko’s experience as a middle school, high school, and college level teacher are evident.

Blended families and those who have lost loved ones will readily identify with Jacie and her predicament. Jacie is a child we have all known. She is endearing and memorable. She makes us realize that it is indeed possible to “go forward and believe in it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Other Linda Goodman

© Linda Goodman 2010



I began my career as a professional storyteller in January of 1989, just two months after attending the first Tellabration!, which at that time was a Connecticut event only. In November of 1989, I appeared as a teller in the second annual Tellabration! in Enfield, Connecticut. The story I shared was The March, which was about my father’s participation in a Civil Rights march in 1966.

I guess the audience enjoyed the story, because the next day my phone started ringing and by the end of the next week I had over a dozen performances booked. I was on cloud nine! As the months passed, I developed a confidence in my storytelling abilities that prompted me to start making cold calls to various venues.

One of the venues that I visited was the Congregational Church on Main Street in downtown Hartford, Connecticut. The good folks there agreed to let me audition to perform at their Wednesday lunch time series, which was very popular with those who worked downtown. The audition committee decided that I should be their entertainment for the Halloween lunch on the last Wednesday in October. I was psyched!

About a week before the Halloween performance, I got a phone call from the Director of the church series. She was so excited she could hardly contain herself. “I can’t believe it!” She squealed. “We are completely sold out!”

I did not know what to think. “Well…...” I stammered, “Storytelling is pretty popular at Halloween.”

“That’s not it!” she retorted. “Almost everyone calling is asking about you. They all want to know if Linda Goodman is really going to be here. They are coming because of you!”

I was astounded. I had been telling professionally for only one year. This would be my first performance in Hartford. How in the world did they even know about me? My vanity answered: When you’re good, word gets around.

On the day of the show, I walked into a room with an audience that had standing room only. Their reactions to my stories were intoxicating. They laughed at all the right spots, gasped and screamed in the appropriate places, and applauded wildly throughout. The response was so overwhelming that my program took twice the amount of time that was allotted. At the end I received a thundering standing ovation that lasted for a good five minutes.

After the show was over, a long line of audience members stood waiting to speak to me. I noticed that many of them had books in their hands. The first woman was so effusive in her praise that I was actually embarrassed. Then suddenly she thrust a book into my hands. “Will you please sign my copy of Star Signs?” she pleaded.

I looked at the book. Sure enough, the author was Linda Goodman, Astrologer.

“I’m sorry, “I told my disappointed new fan. “I’m not that Linda Goodman.” The fact of the matter was that I had never even heard of Linda Goodman the Astrologer.

Word of my true identity filtered back through the line and several angry outbursts occurred. After I recovered from my horror, I actually found them to be amusing:

“You Imposter!”

“How can you call yourself by her name?”

“That’s like saying you’re Wyatt Earp just because you have the same name!”

“But you must have enjoyed my show. You gave me a standing ovation!” I responded.

“That’s because we thought you were her! You’re a fraud!”

“I’m not a fraud!” I protested. “I am Linda Goodman!”

One smug woman summed it all up: “You may be A Linda Goodman, but you’ll never be THE Linda Goodman!”

In the years since then, I have been mistaken for THE Linda Goodman many times. People just hear the name and make assumptions. It has happened so often that when I get a call or an email from someone I don’t know, inquiring about my work, I make a disclaimer early on: I am not Linda Goodman the Astrologer.

Last week I got a call from someone in Oregon who wanted to know if I would sign her copy of my book if she sent it to me with return postage.

“I’m not the astrologer,” I told her.

“What astrologer?” she asked. “I’m looking for Linda Goodman the Storyteller, the author of Daughters of the Appalachians.”

If only I could see that smug Harford woman again, I would tell her a thing or two. I may not be THE Linda Goodman, but I am certainly THE OTHER Linda Goodman.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Second Hand Rose

Compact Disc Review

Available from Ellouise Schoettler

Email: ellouise9112@ellouisestory.com. 301-951-1213 $15.00
Recommended for teens and adults.

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

This CD, recorded live at Strathmore Hall Arts Center in Rockville, Maryland in April, 2007, embraces an environmental theme: reduce, reuse, and recycle. All the stories on this CD extol these virtues.

The Thrifty Tailor is an ancient folktale about a man whose love for his beautiful coat prevents him from discarding it when it gets worn out. Creatively thinking outside the box allows him to preserve the fabric he cannot do without.

In the story Handmade, a news article that claims young girls are learning to sew again brings back nostalgic memories of treadle sewing machines and explains the difference between handmade and homemade.

The Wedding Dress recalls the memory of a bride who finds the wedding gown of her dreams in a second hand shop after the wedding. She buys the dress anyway, planning to save it for her daughters. Of course, younger generations have varying tastes that do not necessarily value old world quality or style. What to do? I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it to say that art plays a big part in solving this dilemma.

The Cussing Cover, collected by folklorists Randy Russell and Janet Barnett and recorded with permission, tells the eerie tale of Mavis Estep, who was born in a thunderstorm and, therefore, fears a death by lightening. She extracts promises from her husband, and disaster results when those promises are not kept.

What could be worse than traveling to a funeral, only to discover that one’s suit has been left behind? Good Will Mourning reveals that the solution to this problem lies in thrift, artistic vision, and a little help from friends.

The last story on this CD, Secondhand, is cute, short, and funny – the perfect ending to this delightful recording.

Live recordings often sacrifice sound quality for the sake of the energy that only a live audience can bring. In some places, this CD’s sound fades in and out, but the stories are so well written and so well told that the few sound flaws are easily forgiven. Ellouise Schoettler has once again produced a well-rounded and enjoyable recording. It pays homage to history, folklore, and environmental responsibility. It is educational, entertaining, and endearing. Those who love such stories will be glad to hear this CD.