The old ladies

Since a large part of Off Kilter is about growing up Polish-American, I’m curious about how other writers have thought about their ethnic heritage.

I’ve created a workshop called “Writing Our Cultural Traditions,” and presented it at three different conferences – in Austin and Houston, TX and in Blue Bell, PA. One of the examples I use is a lovely poem, Black Dresses by Maria Mazziotti Gillan, a wonderful poet and creative writing program director at Passaic County Community College, NJ.

It begins:
“I dress now all in black like the old ladies
of my childhood….”

How did the old ladies of your childhood dress? The old men?

Here’s an excerpt from my essay, “Pine Lake,” published in, issue 20, Winter2008:

Our grandparents passed the afternoon on wooden folding chairs in the shade. He was a small man in a white shirt with black arm garters, on his head, a straw hat with a black band. And she, white-haired and smiling, wore a pastel housedress, thick brown stockings and laced tan shoes. Grandpa liked to walk off by himself to look at a tree or pick up a pinecone and show it to one of the grandchildren. From time to time, Grandma handed out the food she’d brought: bags of potato chips, bunches of ripe yellow bananas.

4 thoughts on “The old ladies

  1. You're right about how tradition affect us.It still makes me smile when I talk about my grandmother and her Saxon mannerisms (She was from Transylvania.. A German) and how she weould get flustered and begin to howl in both english and Saxon.


  2. The old ladies wore voile shirtwaists, lavender and white, and black lace-up shoes, and they rolled their hose below their knees. Summer afternoons they sat in rocking chairs on front porches, fanning themselves, with knees apart, skirts dipping between, exactly the pose they once warned their daughters was most unladylike.


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