Aug. 14, 2010

Rugelah, 5 A.M.

by Sondra Gash

The house is dark and breathing
deep under the covers.
I tiptoe to the kitchen,
lift bowls from the shelf,
mix cream cheese and butter.
Flour dusts my fingers
as I roll dough into a circle,
spread blackberry jam
with the back of a spoon
the way Mama taught me.
I work quickly, leaning over,
sprinkling nuts and raisins
on top, my hands
shaping ovals, folding,
crimping edges.

Lights sifts through the windows
And I think of Mama, coming
home after so many months,
how we baked before dawn,
I, barefoot, she in nightgown
and slippers. Now I slide
the tray into the oven
and glide through the quiet
to wait for the rising.

"Rugelah, 5 A.M." by Sondra Gash, from Silk Elegy. © Cavan Kerry Press., 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of journalist, essayist, and humorist Russell Baker, (books by this author) born in Morrisonville Virginia (1925). He's a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner; the first he won in 1979 for distinguished commentary for his syndicated humor column "The Observer," which ran from the early 1960s to the late 1990s. The second Pulitzer he received for his autobiography, Growing Up (1982). He's edited a number of anthologies, including The Norton Book of Light Verse (1986). He once said, "I gave up on new poetry myself thirty years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world."

It was on this day in 1935 that the original Social Security Act was passed. It was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, and it was first intended to help keep senior citizens out of poverty, which it still does. Social Security numbers were introduced in 1936, for keeping track of taxes paid into the system. These days, people usually fill out their child's Social Security application along with the child's birth certificate, and now Social Security numbers are the de facto identification number of everyone born or working in America.

It's the birthday of blockbuster best-selling romance novelist Danielle Steel, (books by this author) born in New York City (1947). She writes in a flannel nightgown in her bedroom in San Francisco, typing away on a 1948 metal-body Olympia manual typewriter. She often writes for 18 hours a day. She usually works on several books at once.

She grew up in a rich, glamorous, globetrotting family and married a wealthy French banker when she was young. They kept homes in Paris, New York, and San Francisco. For a while, she worked at an ad agency in Manhattan. One of her clients was the Ladies Home Journal editor, who encouraged her to write a novel.

She moved to San Francisco and wrote her first book Going Home (1973), in just three months. It didn't get very good reviews, and her next five manuscripts were rejected by publishers, but gradually she got the knack of it.

She made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1989 for having a book on the Times best-seller list for 381 consecutive weeks. She's broken her own record since then.

It's the birthday of Nobel Laureate John Galsworthy, (books by this author) born in Surrey, England (1867). He's the author of the Forsyte Saga, a series of novels that satirically portray British upper-middle-class families.

He came from a wealthy Kingston Hill family and went to Oxford to study law, but spent most of his time playing cricket and soccer. He passed the bar exam about the same time a love affair of his ended sourly, and he decided to ditch England and the legal life and instead travel the world. On a voyage in the South Sea in 1893, he met writer Joseph Conrad. Galsworthy began to write books and self-publish them under a pseudonym, John Sinjohn. His fifth book, The Island Pharisees (1904), was the first that he published under his own name. Novels in the Forsyte Saga include In Chancery (1920), To Let (1921), The White Monkey (1924), The Silver Spoon (1926), and Swan Song (1928).

He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1932, and he used the prize money to help establish an international organization for writers, PEN. It's an acronym they chose for the group after someone pointed out that the words for "Poet," for "Essayist," and for "Novelist" in most European languages have the same initial letters (P-E-N). He refused knighthood, saying that he didn't think that writers should take titles. In 1967, his Forsyte Sagawas adapted into a BBC TV mini-series, which was hugely popular in England.

John Galsworthy said, "Where Beauty was, nothing ever ran quite straight, which, no doubt, was why so many people looked on it as immoral."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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