Loony Sanity on a Sunday

W 112

Some years ago, on a golden Manhattan morning, I stepped out of my apartment, rode the creaky wood-paneled elevator to the lobby, pushed through the entry doors of thick glass and curlicue iron, and emerged into the brilliant sunlight of a Morningside Heights spring. I strolled down West 112th Street to Broadway to get a copy of the New York Times before church. There were green leaves sparkling on the trees and rainbows of flowers skirting their trunks. There was a soft, warm breeze blowing. Were there choirs of birds singing? There must have been. Continue reading

Under a Bright Blue Sky


February in upstate New York had the perfect color palette for Valentine’s Day. Snow would fall, snow on snow, and blanket the landscape in white. The icy cold would drive all clouds out of sight and leave the sky a brilliant blue. The sun, in its short trek, would set the snow to glittering and the icicles to sparkling. What better backdrop for cheery red and delicate pink hearts? As a child I loved the holiday. Continue reading

Dr. Darden’s Ice Cream Flavors


It wasn’t Sunday afternoon if you didn’t stroll down to Dr. Darden’s drug store for a little social life and a scoop or two of his wonderful ice cream. He made it himself, chopping bits off of the ice block, mixing it with salt and tossing it into the wooden tub, then churning patiently, whistling while he worked, until the luscious confection was ready to serve. Vanilla and chocolate were the weekly staples, but every week a new special flavor was adopted or invented. It might be “spice,” fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg, or fig, strawberry, banana, pineapple, rum raisin, tutti frutti, caramel, peanut butter . . . even fruit cake for Christmas.

ice cream churn

Hand-churned ice cream is hard work, but no doubt Dr. Darden enjoyed the break from his weekday routine. In the early years of the twentieth century he was the only black doctor within a thirty-mile radius and he often worked eighteen-hour days. Continue reading

“He Died at Eventide”

Burghardt informal

What an enchanting baby he was! He had warm olive skin and wide, thoughtful eyes, and there were glints of red-gold in the curly hair that his mother loved to kiss. He was exuberant. His smile could set the room aglow, and even his tears sparkled like dew chased away by the morning sun. Wherever he went, the tiny boy was the center of attention. His proud parents almost worshiped their firstborn. It did not seem possible that such a spritely boy could ever know even a moment’s illness. Continue reading