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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

We were never meant to be a metropolis

Ah the birds and och the butterflies, and gosh dang that tame chipmunk, not to mention going shoulder-to-shoulder with the crowd of everything and everybody in my backyard. The bird baths are the biggest favorite, much jostling and shoving here, I saw a blue bird pushing ahead into the splash water kingdom. And the chippie runs right over my feet.

Ernie, Porkie Cat, is a maniac and chases everything including bees and bugs. He can spot the smallest bug at 50 yards and move in for the kill. Our bee hive has baby bees, and Willie Dog keeps trying to snap them up. He’s been stung twice, though the bees themselves are amazingly docile and sweet. Honey is good: fresh and clean and clear.

A quick aside: K-One, who got best student in his class, is a little boy moving up to third grade coming from a hugely dysfunctional family. His older sister is still in fourth grade and I can’t understand why, very smart, and personable, behavior and adjustment issues, and the two youngest brothers suffer the same problems.
I am heartened though because “Cosmos” tells us multiple tales of multiple scientists and physicists who did poorly in school, or were totally self-taught.

Right now, as I speak, there is a 12 year old boy whose IQ is higher than Einstein's and was kicked out of school, because he had his own theories and means of solving math at that. It seems we have no room for those who step to their own heartbeat. Maybe we just don’t want to let on that they are smarter than we are.

I went to a wedding yesterday and the white decorative twinkling lights reminded me so much of the fireflies whizzing through my garden every night, I can sit on my porch and observe both the lights and the occasional bats dashing through. But I can only observe, I can never be part of their world.

So it is with weddings, I can watch and smile and shed a few tears, but I can only cheer them on into their future, I can not live it. That’s what drives special weddings, the perfectness of the event, the special things that make the life long memories.

Chrissieanne, I have known you over two-thirds of your life, and you are so beautiful in so many ways that allows me to feel I have shaped some of that loveliness. Your smile is radiant and real, it envelops your whole person and reaches out to all who are present. It is not a stingy smile; it is as open as your heart.

John, the way you look at Chrissieanne makes my knees wobble and my soul tremble. There is love written all over your face. If ever two were fated, it is you and your red headed freckled beauty.

From my place as a quiet observer, I could see nothing but love and friendship, and the strength of two independent sides of the same golden coin.

The children, of course, are glorious, and the violin wedding march played by your daughter was a charming touch. The wedding gown was right out of a fairy tale, and the best person was like an elf out of "The Hobbit" — really, really liked that one. When I asked if she was Jimmy, she replied with a female name, and then added, “I am whoever you want me to be.” Sweetie, you wore that tux with elegance and aplomb. You were made for a wedding.

And the Minister/JP was female and the bridesmaids all wore simple long kelly green gowns, and it all just made me sooooo happy.

I knew absolutely no one there, and it was certainly a mixed crew. Again like a Disney take on a wedding, especially Uncle Dick, a mammoth man in a wheelchair, being carried by his vassals (relatives all) — again no elevator — to the second floor. Schenectady needs to totally re-evaluate it’s code system.

Uncle Dick is quite a raconteur reminiscent of the Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra crew. He used an oxygen device to breathe and the only time he angered me was when he used an entire shaker of salt on his dinner. I wanted to grab that shaker out of his hand, and yell, you're too neat a guy to squander your life like this.

Of course there were drinks I never heard of, and fancy ales and beers brewed on site. And an Italian buffet; the sausage and peppers were the best. And little champagne bottles of bubbles, to go with the fairy lights. And dancing, and the usual slightly off-color stories, and children escaping from their minders, twinkling on the dance floor. I do not make this up: The girls were dressed like flowers, in layers, and soft colors and bare feet, and they were luscious.

And the two children of the happy couple, who played major roles in the ceremony, were polite and poised and cheerful and above all happy real people. The pink violin was a masterful touch.

I felt like I was peeping through the curtains of a tiny house, in the forest, and being allowed entrance to a very special time, filled with joy and milk and honey.

Thank you, Chrissieanne, for growing into the amazing woman you’ve become — a bank manager, by golly. And John her tender knight in shining armor; what an amazing family you are. May you prosper and grow ever more enchanted with each other. May you be blessed in good times and strong in bad. And may you last and last and last and ride into the sunset still slowly dancing and holding onto each other and staring into each others eyes.

-Good Speed-

“Being Who You Are Is Not a Disorder”

Being who you are is not a disorder.
Being unloved is not a psychiatric disorder.
I can’t find being born in the diagnostic manual.
I can’t find being born to a mother incapable of touching you.
I can’t find being born on the shock treatment table.
Being offered affection, unqualified safety and respect when and only when you score pot for your father is not a diagnosis.
Putting your head down and crying your way through elementary school is not a mental illness.

-Frank Wright, “Pediatric Suicide”

Last week we did our end-of-the-year ballet program, and though we had a few setbacks, we prepared and arranged the stage on Friday and it looked wonderful. We really have a nice stage. We had three six-foot trees that lit up and we swathed the bases in different-colored tulle. We had real tickets, so the guests kept half and we took half. This was for a drawing after the event, for some original artwork and childrens' games, and each child was given a certificate of accomplishment. And all 15 of them, even little Brooklyn who is three, behaved wonderfully. Two little girls got potted plants to take home for achievement and personal growth. Throughout the program we sold fruit punch, and sugarfree gum, and bananas in the foyer, and all in all we collected $37.65 which went towards a grand pizza and ice cream party afterwards.

I was so cheered to see TreVan who had quit ballet because “real men don’t plié,” to which I responded with, “Real men don’t lift weights, they lift women.” It made me smile so to see him standing in the aisle during the show, plié-ing and relievé-ing right along with the rest of those dancers. He has a real talent for dance, if not necessarily for behavior.

And an audience of 37 people. Parents and grandparents and aunties and brothers and sisters. This was a night to remember; we all went downstairs together and ate together, and laughed together, and told the children how absolutely wonderful they had been.

What was truly sad though was on Friday and Monday evening we had been broken into, and the only things trashed were the setups for the show. Obviously these were people who knew about the program and did their best to sink our ship. We came through it all, and then there we were, our QUEST Extravaganza-Ballet Recital on Hamilton Hill. Can you believe it? This program meets on Monday and Tuesday nights from 5:30-6:30, and is, as everything is, free of charge.

But there's a sadness right now in my heart. Trey and Nivea disappeared from our radar and our building the very next day. All I have is a note and a number from a mom saying, “Please Call Me.” I am trying and trying and trying but no one ever answers the phone. I keep seeing Nivea’s smiling face in my car window like a recurring dream, there she is saying, “Can I come with you to deliver the food?” Honey, I would give my left arm to take you with me right now to to help deliver the food. I hope you know I am looking for you — twice I have glimpsed you in Mont Pleasant, and once you waved but the traffic was so heavy that by the time I had turned back you were gone. Disappeared into a very, very busy street full of drugs and poverty. We miss you.

I am back in Saratoga for my summer stint with the New York City Ballet, and it’s such a culture shock.
First of all, every time I visit this elegant city there is something new and exciting. The Victorian buildings are still just that: Victorian, brought up to date and up to code but still being the enchanted emerald city. This Sunday we drove down Broadway and the hustle and bustle was right out of Dickens: blocks and blocks of thronged sidewalks, bumper to bumper traffic.

“FREE Parking.”

Two farmers markets downtown, a carousel in the park, street musicians. No funny parking, which is such a waste of space in our town — simple straight ahead parking, plus the usual free lots, which don’t need attendants because they are free. There are time limits though, and there are tickets for taking advantage of handicapped spots. But triple the stores of our downtown, and quadruple the traffic, and a zillion times the excitement and charm. The hotels on Broadway are from another century the Van Dam and its' neighbors are all gussied up like the painted ladies of San Francisco; their long shaded veranda’s holding guests in rocking chairs having têtê-a-têtês and secret rendez-vous.

People in Saratoga cannot understand the protocol here. In particular they keep asking me about Erie Boulevard. They simply don’t get it. Those that have been there say construction has been going on forever and the street is now very confusing.

“We won’t drive it anymore,” one man told me. “It’s a mess, and those roundabouts — utterly ridiculous. It’s lost all its charm. I do not understand where they are going with this.”

Nor do I, nor do I.

The new parking meters will be the final nail in the coffin for much of Jay Street. The small parking lot near Jay Street is under some sort of construction, paid for by Metroplex. At least that was how it was told to me by a small store owner.

“I am sorry I put my faith in this city,” she said sadly. “I am going bankrupt, and I pay taxes.”

To me the best and most magical thing about Schenectady is the drum circle which meets weekly on Jay Street. They play in the evening under the open sky and the stars. So simple, so completely magical and wondrous. That is a way to celebrate summer in the city.

I am reminded of the plays in Central Park in Manhattan. We have made a small start with the music venues in our Central Park, but it’s only a beginning. Perreca's has the spirit to make things happen by showing free outdoor Italian movies, in memory of Dan Di Dicola. And that really rings true to me. Where’s the rest?
Where are Bow Tie's Friday night kids shows, where are the outdoors haircuts and manicures from Jean Paul Ice Cream Carts and Popcorn from Proctors? Tables on the sidewalks in front of the many restaurants? Sparklers for the kids, old fashioned sing alongs? Greeters in Victorian garb; benches to sit on and talk? Guitar players and mimes and singers and street art and balloons and face painters, not just for special occasions but for every day, to make every day a special occasion? Kid friendly, family friendly, bicycle friendly — let's not make this another Las Vegas. Been there, done that, nice place to visit, horrible place to live. Small town friendly. Maybe even a pie eating contest. Are you listening Bella Napoli?

Our downtown is set apart from everyone who cannot afford extravagance. Yet those are the people who helped to build it, and still pay the taxes for its upkeep.

How long do we get to keep putting ourselves on the back? Visit other small cities; we were never meant to be a metropolis. We might, though really might, make it as a small town. A personal destination for the people who live here and play here and raise their families here. A thank you for all who helped build Schenectady.

“Practicing forgiveness does not mean accepting wrong doing.”

-Dalai Lama

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