Columns | Essays | Books | HuffPo Blog | Newspapers | Magazines | Business/Finance | Travel | About Me | Contact
 


Photo: Jim Alcorn

 

 

"Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in the mirror which waits always before or behind."
-
Catherine Drinker Bowen

 

 

Tina Traster, Essayist

Hey Dad, Listen to This (Damsel Fly Press) 
My father was a kid from Brooklyn’s mean streets, or so I thought. He played stickball and nicked bubble gum from the corner candy store. He never finished high school. He pronounced diner like “dinah” and tuna like “tuner.” My mother fell in love with him because he was a good dancer. Rippled with muscles, my father worked on his hands and knees laying carpets, carried a gun for protection, and changed his name informally from Dave to Tony so people would take him for a mob-connected Italian, not a Jew. He wasn’t one to tell many stories about his childhood except for tales of his German Shepherd, Rex. His sage-green eyes watered when he reminisced about that dog.

When I was in my mid-twenties my father mentioned he spent the first seven years of his life living on a farm in Colchester, Connecticut, before moving to Brooklyn. “No, you didn’t!” I protested, thinking he was yanking my chain, as he often did. “You’re a Brooklyn kid,” I insisted.

“Well, not really,” he said with a straight face. . . . Read more at: http://damselflypress.net

Shine the Light (www.Mothering.com) 
I heard her calling “Mommy, Mommy” before I opened the door. She tore off the school bus as though it were on fire.
“I tried out for solo, I tried out for solo,” she squealed, pushing open the door. “I'm going to get it this time. Mrs. Sanders said I was great!”
“I think you're going to get it, too,” I said.
“Listen to this, Mommy,” she said, still wearing her winter jacket and hat and over-stuffed purple backpack. She spread her feet apart, took a breath and belted out “Shine the Light, Shine The Light...” with Gospel-singer force.
“Wow, Julia,” I said, amazed at my nine-year-old. “You really deserve the solo this year.”
“Thanks, Mom,” she said, peeling off her coat.
Six years earlier, when Julia was in nursery school, she could not learn lyrics or hand movements. . . Read more at: http://mothering.com/parenting/shine-the-light

Life-line (www.ModernLoveRejects.com) 
I was surprised to see he had no front teeth. He smiled thinly while beckoning me to enter his cluttered dining room. Musty and dank, it was a museum of lifetime accumulation. Stacks of yellowed paper, stuffed owls, clocks, a brass American bald eagle affixed to the wall. A worn checkered cloth covered a small square wooden table with spindle legs. Mr. Pulda pulled out a chair and motioned with his beefy hand for me to take a seat. His eyes narrowed. He wasn’t the type of man who entertained guests. He didn’t like outsiders. Not even those who proclaimed they would help him save his farm. Mr. Pulda wanted was to be left alone to feed his cows, to tend his soybeans and corn.

He’d managed to live in isolation on a 67-acre farm all his life. He had six siblings but they weren’t interested in perpetuating a way of life his parents and grandparents knew. The 1920s paint-peeled farmhouse was his and his alone. Mr. Pulda never took a wife nor had children. He was 72, still sturdy enough to ride a tractor and nudge a stubborn cow.

Nobody in the suburb that grew around Mr. Pulda’s farm paid much attention to the old man. Toothless and grizzled, he scared kids when he occasionally went to the strip mall. That wasn’t too often. Mr. Pulda lived in a world that no longer existed. As long as he had his acreage to demarcate his life, it made sense to him. He was completely shocked when I told him town officials were trying to buy his farm right out from under him, without his permission. The mayor and his cronies were up to mischief. This would make a great newspaper story. My editors agreed. It had the elements editors love: A David and Goliath conflict with the lore of a farmer in suburbia. The intricacies of town law and how it can be exploited to undermine the unsuspecting.    Read more at: http://www.modernloverejects.com/?p=1496

Apples In Winter (WAMC Northeast Public Radio) The Roundtable
I hear his step before I feel his bare arms around me. His embrace is like a warm sweater. My nose is pressed against the chilled window. I never tire of watching snow fall. Tonight it is falling hard. It is piling like tufts of whipped cream on the concrete bird bath, the green birdhouse I decorated with a red cardinal, the picket fence. The storm silences the mountain pass. Boxwoods droop like slackened shoulders under the weight of eight or so inches. Tree branches groan each time they smack against the clapboards.
http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain/article/231/0/1721122/The.Roundtable/Listener.Essay.-.Apples.in.Winter

Backyard Brooding (WAMC Northeast Public Radio) The Roundtable / Performance Place.
When I looked at the house I was to buy five years ago, I noticed a little green shed on the north end of the property with the inscription “Fresh Eggs Sold Here.” It wasn’t entirely a gratuitous flourish; the owner actually kept a flock of free-range hens. These birds, like roving cats, were known by everyone along the road. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain?action=article&ARTICLE_ID=1662851

Love Learned (Mamazina Magazine)
Everyone said I’d fall in love the minute they laid her in my arms. She was beautiful – a broad alabaster face with slightly-slanted deep brown eyes. She was a flirt: at 6 months she knew how to flash a dimpled smile, like a come-hither starlet. I was awed by her perfect features as the fleshy woman pressed her into my arms, swaddled in a blanket. A few minutes later she said, “Feed baby,” and handed me a bottle filled with a brown tea concoction. I took the bottle hesitantly and tipped it toward the baby’s pursed lips. How would I know when she was sated or whether she needed to burp? I felt as though someone had lent me an expensive camera I was afraid to fiddle with.

The Shed (www.thenervousbreakdown.com)
These boys are not from here. Slicked backed hair, body-hugging polyester pants, gold medallions nestled on their exposed, chiseled hairy chests, John Travolta struts. These are the boys I met in Bensonhurst at a disco. I didn’t think they’d come to my backyard party when I handed them a note scribbled with my address.

They emerge from a low-slung black sports car. I’m standing in a cloud of cologne, introducing them to Canarsie High School’s Class of 1979. My dad’s eyes narrow. These boys are not from here. They are older. Much older. Maybe 21 or 23. They are working boys and they are great dancers too. The one with the cherry-blond hair looks like Robert Redford, only the Italian version. I hope they will not be bored with us. I fiddle with my halter.
http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/ttraster/2010/02/the-shed/

For My Convenience (www.thenervousbreakdown.com)
I’m scared about tomorrow. Waiting is the worst part. The closer it gets the more unhinged I am. I try to stop picturing it. At least I’ve kept myself from Googling.

Since I scheduled the appointment two weeks ago, I’ve tried to press the thought into the furthest corner of my mind. There is nowhere in my mind for the thought to hide. Instead, I count down. Twelve more days. Seven days. 36 hours. This time tomorrow…
http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/ttraster/2010/01/for-my-convenience/

The Mom Egg (www.themomegg.com)
I was at the shoe store the other day and a father said the most refreshing thing to his five-year-old son. “You look like a pimp in those red shoes.”

The child didn’t say, “What’s a pimp, Daddy?” But even if he had, that would have been okay.
http://www.themomegg.com/themomegg/Blog/Entries/2009/12/6_Guest_Blogger__Tina_Traster.html

Folded Word Press
An online literary magazine on "YouTube"
A Broken Heart, by Tina Traster
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F35Qx85boQE

National Public Radio

Mom and Dad are in their mid-seventies, live in a Manhattan condo and play bridge. My sister and I are in our forties, married with children, living in the suburbs. We are a family like many; there are deep strains among members, which have led to times of estrangement, but lately we crowd around a table at Thanksgiving. Read Essay
 

New York House Magazine - June 2008
Who would trade world travel for a life of domesticity?

On my 25th birthday, I was aboard a yacht in Greece. I turned 35 on the Italian Riviera.

I celebrated 45 in Valley Cottage, a sweet hamlet in Rockland County where my family and I live after relocating from Manhattan's Upper West Side two years ago.

I once journeyed to all corners of the world. Passport agents had trouble finding blank spots to issue stamps. By the time my daughter was two—and we were still living in Manhattan—she'd been to London, Moscow, and Portugal. Read Essay

New York House Magazine - August 2007
A summer rental prompts a big change in one family's life.

Summering at a tumble-down lake house in the Catskills liberated me from the absurd notion that I had to raise my family on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The flower-scented air, brooding mountains, and starry night skies inspired me to ditch the co-op and buy a 150-year-old farmhouse perched on a hill overlooking acres of woods in Rockland County. Not exactly the Catskills, but a step closer to greener pastures.

My daughter was two when my husband and I, and our two cats, rented the lake house. Over three summers, the little wooden two-story Arts and Crafts–style house on Ulster Lake ruined my appetite for urban living. Swimming bare-assed in the lake, picking wildflowers, and napping in the grass reawakened feelings I last felt as a teen in summer camp in Delaware County. Read Essay

Inside Magazine - Winter 2003
Happiness Is A Child Called Julia

My teeth clattered as my husband and I waited on the windswept, snow-drenched runway to board the Aeroflot jetliner from Moscow to Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia. As we crossed the tarmac and climbed the stairs, I caught a lasting glance of the pelting storm walloping the frost-encrusted plane in the winter darkness. Tears slid down my checks. When we sat down in our sardine-sized seats, I said to my husband, “Do we really want a baby this badly?”

Half joke, half-truth, I felt nothing but panic when the plane taxied off the runway and lifted into the black January night. Siberia. A baby we knew merely from a three-minute videotape. We were journeying into the unknown. Read Essay

The Bergen Record - August 16, 1998
Yes Ma'am, Men Are Plentiful Here


Forget Big Sky country. Montana is "Big Guy" country, a place where men fish and golf and dance the two-step. This is a land where a man extends a rough, leathery hand, whisks you onto the dance floor, and teaches you to waltz in 15 minutes. Who needs Arthur Murray? Men out here say "Yes, ma'am," even when they're having impolite thoughts. And hiking and rafting guides look suspiciously like Brad Pitt. Read Essay

Animal Watch 
Rites of Passage (Resentment and Gratitude)

The rabbi at Hevrah Synagogue in Stockbridge, Massachusetts welcomed the congregants to rise for the kaddish, the mourner's prayer. The setting was cozy, and the rabbi asked each mourner to name the deceased and state their relationship. I hesitated for a moment, wondering whether it was appropriate to stand for a four-legged creature, my beloved shih tzu, but my husband nudged me with his eyes. "Chelsea, my dog," I said, when my turn came. The rabbi nodded, and I collapsed into tears. It had been months since Chelsea died, but the pain seared through my flesh and bones.

Human death is buffered by a series of rituals, from time off work to family support to funerals. Not so for our creatures. Dealing with an animal's death is a far more haphazard event. There are no assumptions about what a grieving person needs. There is no template for how society handles the tragedy. Read Essay

The Bergen Record
A Tourist's Look at the Edge of Terrorism

My husband and I had two plane tickets to Israel, where we planned to stay for a week.

And then, on April 6, Hamas, an extremist Muslim group that opposes peace with Israel, killed seven Israelis in a car bombing in Afula. The next day, a Palestinian fatally shot one and wounded four Israelis in Ashdod. Islamic Jihad, another militant group, claimed responsibility for the second incident, but both groups said the attacks were carried out to avenge the Hebron mosque bombing, which killed at least 29 Palestinians. Hamas promised more violence. Read Essay

Animal Fair -
Sex & The City Dog

I knew she would be perfect for him. Those long legs, come-hither eyes, wicked waggle. She's playful, but demure. She doesn't eat off his plate (not until he's finished) - some guys really hate that. And she rolls onto her back pretty easily.

When I first set eyes on Chloe, I knew she was right for Chelsea (a male). I hopped right to the matchmaking. In no time flat, they were like two birds in a nest, or more literally, two New York City dogs who are left alone most of the day because their dog parents are out working to pay for designer pet food. Read Essay