THE LAP – Judy Dykstra-Brown

Version 2



Mothers with children in your lap,
snuggled safely for their nap,
or joggers slowing down their laps
so their sons can fill the gaps
and catch up to take their father’s hands,
consider parents in other lands
as well as children of your own.
Consider what seeds might be sown.

Those who assign Hillary
to whipping post and pillory
bring charges that are spurious
which is especially curious
when the other candidate
who spreads these messages of hate
has led a life luxurious,
exploitative and usurious.

When he claims to be for the masses,
how can we be such senseless asses
to vote for this self-serving fool––
misogynistic, crude and cruel?
How can you listen and not see
how dangerous this man could be?
His fake statistics, groundless rap
spewed from his seat in luxury’s lap?

Please with the election nearing,
consider what you should be fearing.
I hope that every dad and mom
pictures his finger on the bomb.
Do you want this master of derision
making that supreme decision?
This man who overlooks the facts,
and simply rushes out and acts—

could act to end the world for good
and thereby end your parenthood.

Version 2

Source: The Lap |lifelessons – blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown


When I was in the fifth grade, I had a little problem with schoolwork. Since I was one of those kids that never had problems with schoolwork, an investigative team was formed on my behalf. My mother, my teacher, the principal, and the school librarian were all brought into the huddle to figure out what my problem might be.

My totally dysfunctional family life was never discussed. No one ever discussed any child’s dysfunctional family life. There’s was an unspoken yet unbreakable agreement that whatever horrors occurred at home had nothing to do with school. Besides, whatever was wrong with my home life had never affected my schoolwork in the past, so … why now?


Eventually, when the brain trust could not come up with an answer, they thought maybe they might ask me a few quick questions.

“Is the work too difficult?” they asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said.

“Is anyone in class bothering you?”

“Not more than usual,” I replied.

Many questions and answers later, someone asked me where in the room I sat.

“In the back,” I said. I liked being alone. “But I can’t see the blackboard.”

It was an “aha” moment which forever changed my life. I needed eyeglasses. I have been wearing eyeglasses ever since. Glass. Glasses. Eyeglasses. Spectacles. The first thing I reach for in the morning — unless the phone is ringing. The last thing I (carefully) put away at night.

Glasses. Glass. The difference between being able to see the edges of things … and a world that appears as an impressionist painting.



An awful lot of people seem endlessly fascinated by childhood, especially their own childhood. Maybe it was such a wonderful time that they will forever regret leaving it. Maybe it was their best of times. For them, the grown-up world has never been able to compete. Maybe, with the passing years, even if childhood wasn’t all that great, it has achieved a retrospective perfection that was not present during the original experience.

slow children at play

Regardless, it wasn’t the best of times for me. I was glad to get out of it alive. I have never had any interest in revisiting it. At this point, thanks to the passage of time, much of it is a fuzzy around the edges. The earliest memories are just plain fuzzy all the way from beginning to end.

Everyone had a childhood. I think by the time you’re entitled to pensions and senior services, it’s time to move away from the delights of childhood and find something wonderful in the grown up world.

Childhood. It’s where we all come from, but not where we are going. Most of life is spent in some period of adulthood. I prefer it. I also prefer the adult me!


A lot has been written about dieting and body image. What interests me is how we develop our body image in childhood and how this image haunts us through life.

Here’s an innocuous example. I am short. Very short. I am less than 5’1” tall. So it would be reasonable to assume that “short” would be part of my innate body image. But it’s not. I am constantly surprised when I stand next to normal sized people and realize how much bigger they are than I am. I believe this is because I grew early and stopped growing early.

So, in my formative years, I was one of the taller kids in the class. When you lined up by size, I was near the back of the line in first grade next to a girl named Liz who grew to be about 5’8” tall. I barely noticed as the years went by and everyone else continued to grow and I didn’t. It didn’t hit me until one day in sixth grade that I was at the front of the line next to my peanut-sized friend, Cathy.

How did that happen? As a result, I have never thought of myself as small. I am still confused when people comment on how tiny I am.

My mother illustrates the more pernicious effects of childhood perceptions. She was adorable as a child but had a thick, black uni-brow. Insensitive parents and family members referred to her as “the ugly one”. At the age of 13, she blossomed into a true beauty. This is not just an adoring daughter talking. My mother was scheduled to go to Hollywood in the 1940’s for a screen test until she got a severe case of Rheumatic fever that permanently damaged her heart. No matter how many people in her adult life told her how beautiful she was, her image of herself was always as the ugly duckling. She always felt totally inadequate physically.



When I was growing up, my insecure mom overemphasized the importance of looks to me. This made me very self-conscious about my appearance. She often told me that she didn’t understand how women who were not thin and beautiful ever got husbands. It’s no wonder that it was only in my 50’s that I felt confident to go out of the house without makeup on – ever! Even to the supermarket. I always wore makeup at home, alone with my husband, until recently with husband number two. It is liberating to be able to finally feel acceptable without cosmetic enhancement.

I believe that the self-image that is imprinted on us early in life stays with us forever. Extended therapy can improve the situation and strengthen the ego. But I think that it’s crucial for parents to make sure that their kids leave home with a positive body image. Too much emphasis is placed on physical appearance early on. So too many children, including me, grow up thinking that being beautiful is synonymous with being accepted, valued and loved.

We all need to feel comfortable in our own skin, whether we’re good looking in a conventional way or not; whether we’re skinny or “big-boned” or whether we are male or female. Neither of my children have serious body issues but I’m not sure if that is because of me or in spite of me. For me, I wish I could “do-over” my childhood and deemphasize the physical. Maybe I wouldn’t have spent so much of my life as obsessed with looking “good” all the time.

NOTE: Ellin is “in the air” today coming back from Los Angeles. I will be fielding comments in her stead. She says she’s sorry, but they don’t give you WiFi in the air. I can vouch for that. We were in dead space while we were coming back from Arizona. It’s one of many “cost cutting” features that makes air travel so much fun these days.


I grew up in a very old, cold house.

It was first built in the mid 1800s as a four-room bungalow with a crawl space attic. At some point, owners raised the roof and built a small apartment under the eaves. One little bedroom, a miniature living room, tiny kitchen, and a bath. In front, there was a balcony just big enough for a single adult to stand and look down at the countryside.

This would eventually morph into our upstairs bedrooms. Two “kids” rooms so small the drawers were recessed into the walls to make room for beds, plus a slightly bigger space for my parents.


The lower main floor expanded in all directions. From the original four modest rooms, it became seven. Each room was added to a different side of the house without regard for architecture or logic. It was a classic of “country” design based on utility alone. Eventually, the dining room had no windows and the large “salon” had but one small opening that faced north.

The downstairs was dark as night all the time. And chilly.

Two stairways twisted around each other, but there were eighteen doorways. You could get lost in the twisting hallways of that house. Some hallways ended at a blank wall. Perhaps they had gone somewhere … once upon a time.

My parents loved it. From the day we moved in, they began a series of renovation projects that would never be completed. I can’t remember when it wasn’t being remodeled. I still have a horror of home renovation projects.

One year, a slow-moving contractor left us without a wall in the dining room through a long, freezing New York winter. We wore overcoats from November till April when finally, the walls for the new room were added.

With all this renovating going on, you’d think they’d have put in a modern heating system at some point, but they didn’t. They kept the converted coal burner that probably was original to the house. The radiators were surely antiques, ornate, cast-iron relics from the turn of the century — possibly earlier.

That old furnace was barely able to heat to the first floor. The second story was effectively unheated.


I was cold in that house most of the time. I developed a love-hate relationship with bathing. I loved being in a tub of hot water. It was the only time I was entirely warm. Getting in or out of the tub was terrible. The bathroom was frigid and I was a tiny, skinny kid. The kind of kid that is always being urged to eat.

Even today, I have trouble convincing myself to get wet in anything but the warmest weather. I have a knee-jerk reaction that getting wet equals chilled-to-the-bone. Until I develop some momentum, it’s a battle.


It’s odd how old, nearly forgotten memories live on in our bodies. Physical memory is sometimes more powerful that more normal mental images. Some of my physical memories elude my conscious brain completely. I react, but I have only a dim, shadowy memory fragment of why. A lot of things I can’t remember are probably best left on the trash pile of personal history.


One thing has come back to me.

I had a cold childhood. Cold at night, cold by day. Cold relationships with cold people. It shaped me in all kinds of odd ways that still linger as I trudge forward into my “golden” years.


I was an only child and I loved it! I felt bad for all those poor kids with siblings who had to share rooms, toys and above all else, parental attention. The world of my parents and grandparents revolved around me and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. When I decided to have a second child, I was pretty much in the dark about what it meant to grow up with a sibling and how a parent was supposed to handle this, to me, alien situation.


When I was pregnant with my second child I worried how I would handle sibling tensions. I wondered if I could avoid identifying with the older child who had been an only child for almost five years. I felt guilty about destroying his monopoly on adult love and attention and also about bringing a child into the world who would never experience being the sole center of the family’s universe.

In the early years, juggling the needs of the two children turned out to be easier than I had imagined because of the large age difference. For example, for several years I could give exclusive attention to my baby daughter when my son was at school. In fact, my kids got along amazingly well throughout their childhoods so I was spared a lot of the sibling rivalry and hostility I was so afraid I would mishandle.

Then they grew up and all Hell broke loose!


They reversed the usual sibling process. Just when they should have stopped fighting and butting heads, they started doing it. I don’t know if it’s easier to be in the middle of this bickering and sniping with young adults than with young children. I know I obsessed about what I had done wrong that prevented the great sibling bond I had heard so much about from forming in my children.

It took years but the anger and tension seem to have ended. Lo and behold, my children have found that incredible adult sibling bond that surpasses parental approval and attention in importance. When one of them has a problem, the other is there in a flash with unquestioning loyalty.



They have very different interests and lives, but at 30 and 35, they have a connection I envy. For the first time I my life, I wish I had a sister or brother to share memories and family responsibilities.

I wish I had the special bond you can only get from growing up with someone, day in and day out, in the same house with the same family, sharing pets and friends, secrets and jokes. I don’t have that special person who shares my genes and childhood. The person who will always be there for me in a unique way no one else can.


My long deceased parents and grandparents made me the center of their world, but now I have no one with whom to share those memories of my cherished only childhood.


Take me back to Coney Island, the Coney Island I remember from when I was a child.

Boardwalk at Coney Island - Marilyn Armstrong

I want to be on the Boardwalk. I want to sniff the air full of the aroma of spicy exotic food, pop corn and hotdogs. I want to smell the salt air blowing off the ocean and shade my eyes from the gleam of bright sun on white sand.


I want to hear the endless screams of riders on the Cyclone, the squeal of kids discovering how far they can see from the top of the Wonder Wheel.


I want to watch the people, all the different people of every color from everywhere in the world as thy gape at the strange wonders along the boardwalk, hear the rumble of the elevated trains passing.


I want it to be exactly how it was the first time I rode the big roller coasters and screamed in delighted terror. I want to be that child again for a single day, the little girl discovering fear and wonder on a hot summer day when the world and I were both young.