Molly In My Heart

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When I was about nine years old, I went to a classmate’s birthday party. For confidentiality, I will refer to that classmate as Molly.

I remember it was a cold, grey early December day, probably around three in the afternoon when my mother dropped me off at Molly’s house.

Molly greeted me at the door and I said, “Happy Birthday!” I handed her my present: Holly Hobbie Colorforms, stickers, and a new sticker album gift-wrapped in brightly colored paper and a red bow.

I looked around the living room and there wasn’t one party decoration, no balloons or streamers hanging anywhere. The house was dingy and dark and it smelled like stale cigarette smoke. Her father didn’t say hello. Instead, he stared at Howard Cosell on the console television set complete with a big rabbit ear antenna.

“The backyard, Molly! You and your friend need to play outside!” her mother yelled from a room somewhere in the back of the house before I could even take off my coat.

Molly looked at me with unhappy eyes. “I have to listen to Mommy,” she said as she took my hand and led me through the house and out a back door that had a ripped screen and a broken window. The back yard contained a dilapidated swing set, barren of any swings or slides, and was littered with empty bottles and rusted cans.

Molly and I played outside for the entire two hours of her party.

No other classmates or friends came.

It was just me, and I was frozen to the bone under my coat and my mittens.

All Molly had on was a striped long-sleeve t-shirt, stained jeans, and torn navy-blue sneakers. She told me she didn’t need a coat and wasn’t cold despite her chattering teeth.

There were no snacks.

There was no soda or ice cream.

There were no favors or goody bags.

There was no cake for Molly, and no singing of “Happy Birthday.”

It was dark when my father picked me up. Christmas lights twinkled from all the houses on Molly’s street except hers.

When I got home, I couldn’t stop shivering. My mother was livid when she found out I was outside for two hours in the cold and in the dark.

“What kind of people have a party outside in the freezing cold like that!” she yelled. She called Molly’s house to complain, but nobody answered the phone.

I understood a little more about why Molly’s clothes were always dirty and why she never brought a lunch to school. For the rest of the year, I was extra nice to her. She was absent a lot, but on days when she was in school, I’d share my lunch with her and reach out to her because Molly was my friend.

I wasn’t allowed to go to her house ever again to play with her, and her parents would not drive her anywhere so she never came over to my house to play, either. The following year, I didn’t see much of her because we had different teachers, and we consequently lost touch.

That party was 40 years ago.

I’ve been haunted by it ever since.

It makes me incredibly sad that nobody else came to Molly’s party.

It makes me even sadder to think about how hard life must have been for her.

Molly ended up dropping out when we were in high school, and I have no idea where she is now.

However, Molly never left my heart.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for Molly to be loved and to have enjoyed a real birthday party like she so deserved.

I really hope God answered my prayers.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“Molly In My Heart” was posted on jillocone.com on January 12, 2020. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2020, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with reposting, licensing, and publishing inquiries.

A New Hope, Indeed

opening_crawlI’m in full preparation mode for Thursday, which includes purchasing as much Kleenex stock as possible and buying tissues by the boxful.

That evening will culminate 42 out of my 48 years here on earth, and I’m not being melodramatic in the slightest.

As a little girl in the 1970s, I wasn’t a tomboy, but I also wasn’t a “girlie girl.”

I fell in the middle, a misfit of sorts, and always sympathized with those toys relegated to the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” especially the polka-dotted elephant.

Toy options for little girls like me in the 1970s included various models of Barbie dolls including Cher and Farrah Fawcett, Shrinky Dinks, Easy Bake Oven, paper dolls, Holly Hobbie, Fashion Plates, Spirograph, and baby dolls.

While the Spirograph and Shrinky Dinks were okay, the rest?

No, thank you.

My little brother, on the other hand, always received the coolest toys for Christmas and his birthday, so I played with them instead.

I spent hours creating highways out of the plastic, orange track that my brother’s die-cast cars could take back and forth to work or use to race their nemeses. I took pleasure in building cities and creatures out of his collection of hard, plastic interlocking blocks in all shades of primary colors. I could pretend and use my imagination to create stories that didn’t have females conforming to the societal stereotypes of the era when I played with toys marketed to boys.

Especially in 1977.

That’s the year when my beloved uncle and grandfather took my brother and I to the movies to see some two-hour-long space-type flick that was all the rage.

I was six years old, and I remember it.

My brother was two, and he remembers it.

The characters and vehicles and lands from this so-called “space opera” were top-billed requests on letters addressed to Santa from all over the country that year, and believe you me, I raided my brother’s treasure trove of vehicles and figures from said “space opera” every chance I got.

That blockbuster movie, known today as Star Wars: A New Hope, has coursed through my veins for 42+ years and positively impacted my life in several ways.

At first glance, many are surprised that this blonde-haired, blue-eyed beach-loving writer and educator has had Jedi dreams and a desire to join the rebel alliance surging through her blood since childhood. I am not ashamed about my love of Star Wars, which began the minute I first heard the London Symphony Orchestra blare the main title while I read the quintessential opening crawler announcing that it was a period of civil war and that “rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.”

Star Wars was deliciously different and provided me with a new way of seeing things. It was the first time I was exposed to a strong woman who wasn’t being molded into a future wife or mother. Leia was a princess, that’s true, but she had a purpose much greater than her title. She wasn’t searching for a prince or seeking admiration. Instead, she was fighting for a cause she believed in with fierce determination and ultimate fearlessness.

Leia was my inspiration, and I adored her.

I still do, now more than ever.

Star Wars offered me new hope at an age when I so needed it.

And it wasn’t just Leia.

I loved all of the characters and their idiosyncrasies. This most interesting band of misfits and their missions transported me to exciting worlds as they defended their cause with 100% effort and dedication for what they believed was the greater good.

And Boba Fett is the baddest-ass misfit mercenary ever to travel to the Outer Rim and beyond. He’s got swagger and an aura of cunning dauntlessness, and is the coolest cat I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

Star Wars lands like Tatooine, Hoth, Bespin, Endor, and Yavin 4 were so different from the other lands of suburbanite make-believe I was exposed to as a child. Who would have ever thought that now, thanks to the magic of Disney Imagineers, I can actually board and ride the Millennium Falcon and walk through lands inspired by those in the Star Wars franchise two- score-and-two-years after seeing them on the big screen for the first time? Shameless plug here for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is out of this world, pun intended, and Shangri-La for the millions of people like me who have Star Wars in their bloodline.

Three trilogies with nine movies and two spinoffs spanning 40+ years in both space time and reality… I’ve loved every single one of them.

Let me loudly repeat that for the fanboys in the back: I unconditionally loved every single movie.

Now, the saga featuring the story of the Skywalker lineage is ending with the ninth installment, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which premiers on Thursday night.

Sure, there will be new Star Wars series and films in the future, especially on Disney+, but THIS saga, the Skywalker three-three-three trilogies, has reached its end.

This saga’s threads spans generations and have run deep through my life tapestry inspiring me, exciting me, and providing me with a sense of acceptance and a love of story I might never have found otherwise.

More importantly, this saga has provided me with hope, time and time again, and I’m eternally grateful for its lessons.

Carrie Fisher taught me to follow my heart and age authentically, that it’s okay to be broken, and honest writing can be therapeutic. George Lucas taught me to write what my soul tells me to write in spite of the naysayers. Princess Leia taught me to be a strong and independent woman while fighting for what’s right, and also that I never have to conform to society’s norms. Han Solo taught me that scoundrels aren’t all that bad. Luke Skywalker taught me to believe in what I cannot see. Chewbacca taught me the value of friendship. C3PO taught me the importance of wisdom. Anakin Skywalker taught me the perils of giving into darkness. Darth Vader taught me that family ultimately comes first. Padme Amidala taught me to serve when I can. Lando Calrissian taught me to let bygones be bygones. The Emperor taught me the importance of balancing the dark with the light. R2D2 and BB8 taught me to keep rolling when things get difficult. Kylo Ren taught me to focus on the lesson instead of the outcome. Finn taught me that anyone can be a hero. Poe Dameron taught me the importance of teamwork but to recognize when it’s time to work alone. Rey taught me to seek my destiny and to believe in my journey, no matter where it takes me. Obi-Wan Kenobi taught me to trust the Force because it will always guide me in the right direction.

Boba Fett taught me that there’s nothing cooler than being a bad-ass misfit, and to answer requests made of me with, “As you wish.”

Finally, Yoda taught me to do instead of try, and that there’s a time for everything to end.

And, so it is.

If you see me on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’s opening night bawling like a baby, it most definitely isn’t only because of what happens in the storyline, not that I know anything that’s going to happen, mind you.

Those heartfelt tears will be flowing because the curtains will have closed on a very special part of my life as the double suns set for the final time while the credits scroll among the stars.

Cue the John Edwards fanfare.

The force will be with you.

Always.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“A New Hope, Indeed” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on December 14, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the writer who was not compensated in any way by any entity. Copyright 2019, Jill Ocone. All rights reserved. Contact jillocone@gmail.com with licensing and publishing inquiries.

The Message

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No, I’m not talking about the marvelous old school, classic rap song by Grandmaster Flash.

I’m talking about another message which recently revealed itself in a very mysterious manner.

My story takes place at the local food market, where I violated societal convention by going there the afternoon before Thanksgiving.

I know, I know, it’s utterly insane of me to think of doing such a thing, but we desperately needed potatoes for our family’s Thanksgiving feast.

I’m the kind of person who is easily distracted by shiny things, which is a blessing because this quality has made me more aware and appreciative of the details I might otherwise overlook.

However, I threw my awareness to the wayside on this particular trip as I seized control of a wagon and prepared to do battle in the produce section. I assumed my visit would be a quick in-and-out, absent of anything out of the ordinary, then I’d be finished with public interactions for the day.

But sometimes, the universe has other plans.

I sped past the outdoor displays of table-top trees and cinnamon-scented cornucopias when something shiny and blue caught my eye right before the market’s automatic door sensed my presence with its force-like capabilities.

I moved out of the traffic flow so the other day-before-Thanksgiving-food-market-thrill-seekers wouldn’t trample me, then I backtracked to the metallic blue beacon.

It was a little, painted rock with a beautifully scripted message in gold sitting all by itself on top of a garbage can. It read, “You have the power to change things. – God.”

Woah.

Every hair on my arms and legs stood at attention as I re-read the small rock’s massive message.

I thought about putting it in my pocket, but my inner voice guided me to leave it be.

I snapped a picture of the rock and went about my business, my preparations for a produce-aisle skirmish unnecessary as there were plenty of potatoes available.

When I left the store, the rock was still there on top of the same garbage can but in a different spot.

Someone else had picked it up and moved it. Maybe this person also considered keeping it, but in the end, he or she thought it better to leave the message for others as I did.

The rock hasn’t left my mind.

Obviously, a human made the rock, but the universe placed that message for some reason along my path on the day before Thanksgiving, which coincidentally would have been my father’s 78th birthday.

The universe works like that. 

A message from God adorned in gold on a lovely metallic-blue rock placed on top of a garbage receptacle, of all places, on my Dad’s birthday.

What does it mean?

I have faith the answer, or answers, will come in time.

Until then, I’m grateful I slowed down to see and receive the message.

Please join me in slowing down, especially during this time of year, to truly experience the season’s wonder and majesty and to appreciate the details and the messages along our path that might go unnoticed.

cropped-img_0764 Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

“The Message” was posted on jillocone.com  and on soulseaker.com on November 30, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins…

It’s been a pretty busy week over here, a week filled with a range of emotions consistent with the human experience. The arrival of the autumn of summer has quite a different feeling this year, and that’s GOOD! It’s brimming with hope and promise as more than one chapter has simultaneously ended and started over the past seven days…

Of course, summer’s end is eminent as the calendar pages forward to September and Labor Day weekend. For fellow educators, parents, and children alike, our carefree summer days will soon transition to schedules and classes with pumpkin spice everything replacing lemonade-this and watermelon-that.

I’ve been squeezing every bit of life out of each summer day with special “Auntie Jill” niece and nephew days and having fun at local events such as the Wings of Freedom Tour (6 years strong now for my brother and I!). I’m savoring every minute I can spend with my husband before I return to reality.

But this year, I’m not dreading the return to the grind. Instead, I’m excited and ready to begin a new school year (my 19th year teaching). I hope to inspire my students and my colleagues by doing the best job I can without complaint and negativity. I’m looking forward to see how September’s white pages turn into June’s masterpieces by becoming filled with masterpieces created by my students in the Journalism program.

img_8029On a much larger scale, an 80-year-old chapter ended this week as our home, built in 1949, came crashing down in glorious demolition. Formerly known as “Pop Tittle’s House,” our garage apartment served us well for the twenty years we lived under its roof. We decided late last year build a new home with more living space and fewer stairs at our current location because it has a lot of history and we love our neighborhood. Other residents of “Pop Tittle’s House” (the first owner…now read that right, it’s “le” not “ie”!) included my parents when they first got married, my Uncle, and my mother’s parents, who rented the house from my father’s parents. It was cool to have both sets of grandparents living next door to each other for much of my childhood until they all passed away in the late 1990s, which is when I purchased the home. I freely admit that I shed a few tears as I watched the first drag of the excavator’s claw down the house’s front (my nephews called it “the ultimate claw game”). The tears are proof that the house was, indeed, a home.

Now the home is in pieces at the county dump and the lot is waiting patiently to support a brand-new forever home which should hopefully be completed around this time next year. It’s exciting to think about what it will be like to sit on a porch, and a deck, and be able to do laundry on one floor, and have enough room to actually have a birthday dinner in our very own home! In the meantime, we are staying at my dear Uncle’s home as we finalize his estate and carry out his final wishes. And for those who received the local Nixle message about wires down, our demo guys didn’t do it! Honest!

 

Another chapter that is now beginning anew is my novel, aptly titled Chapter One-A Novel. I’ve finished recrafting and will send to beta-readers and begin querying in early September after I finish my article and editorial assignments for the Fall/Holiday 2019 issue of Jersey Shore Magazine. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to interview some very interesting and inspirational people for the issue, and I’m busy as ever making sure that four guides I am responsible for are accurate. Once my work is complete, and once I’ve made it through the first-week-of-school-hysteria, I’ll be casting Chapter One-A Novel out on a line, and I hope that an agent or a publisher bites!

One of my favorite moments from the past week was celebrating with my high school classmates at our thirtieth reunion, which I helped organize. I absolutely loved seeing everyone, and I think my classmates feel the same.  At least I hope they do. It was a pleasure to organize the night and simply wonderful to laugh along with my friends and classmates, some whom I haven’t seen since we graduated thirty years ago…time is truly the biggest thief of all.

A final moment of reflection as I think about change and chapters ending…we never know when our final chapter will end. Join me in making your remaining chapters filled with laughter and fun and meaningful memories. Not all endings are bad, and not all beginnings are good…and vice versa. What matters is persevering no matter what and being able to smile in the face of adversity. We’re all in this together, and I’ll always have your back, my friend!

If you’re local and looking for something to do this weekend, I’m doing my first-ever reading at Neptune Library, where I’ll join other contributors to the 2019 American Writer’s Review in reading our works aloud from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Saturday. I’d love to see you there!

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Copyright 2019 – Jill Ocone“As One Chapter Ends, Another Begins” was cross-posted on both jillocone.com and SoulSEAker.com on August 29, 2019. Views and opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author who was not compensated in any way by any entity. All rights reserved.

A Quarter-of-a-Century Ago, in a Society Far, Far Away…

5864ea4c7d90850fc3ce29efToday marks the 25th anniversary of Forrest Gump’s release.

Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s been 25 years since we were first introduced to Forrest Gump, Mama Gump, Lieutenant Dan Taylor, Benjamin Buford Blue, Jenny Curran Gump, and little Forrest.

There was another 25th anniversary recently, on June 17 to be precise. This one involved a well-known low-speed police chase of a white Ford Bronco containing two former NFL players along various Los Angeles freeways after arrest warrants of varying degrees were issued for both occupants.

If you were alive, chances are you can remember like I can where you were as the chase unfolded on that warm, early-summer evening. I also remember seeing Forrest Gump in the movie theater on its opening weekend. I was moved to tears several times that night as I became engrossed in the story of a simple man who lived a big life and did the best with, as his mother said, what God gave him

Both Forrest Gump and that Bronco chase became two of the biggest pop-culture moments of the mid-1990s, each event in its own right creating thousands of trivia questions, but let’s put it into perspective for a minute, shall we?

Twenty-five years is a quarter-of-a-century, and since 1994…

  • We’ve witnessed the advancement of cell phones go from having to carry a miniature suitcase in order to make a call to phones that fit in the palm of your hand that can also trade stocks, order food, book a trip, hail a ride, play games, and alert you about a traffic snarl while making a call.
  • We’ve witnessed the evolution of what we watch transform from VHS to DVD to digital format, and today, we can instantaneously binge-watch anything we want on demand.
  • We’ve witnessed almost 3,000 innocent people lost, thousands upon thousands of families devastated, and two iconic towers destroyed by evil and hatred, and the coming together of a nation in response.
  • We’ve witnessed, since, the further division of a nation split by opposition and discord with no room for compromise or coexistence as opinions become more and more finite, the concept of truth replaced by whatever those who scream the loudest are screaming.
  • We’ve witnessed shaming and judgment replace compassion and empathy, disrespect replace respect, and entitlement replace accountability.
  • We’ve witnessed texting replace conversation and social media posts replace framed photographs.
  • We’ve witnessed facts explained as falsehoods and falsehoods defended as facts.
  • We’ve become more connected to strangers while simultaneously becoming more disconnected to those closest to us.

I could go on…

To circle back to this post’s point, I recall with extreme clarity both where I was standing when I was glued to the television witnessing that white Ford Bronco weave along the California interstates, and how I felt the first time I viewed that white feather floating along the breeze as Forrest sat, hopeful and content, in a Savannah square.

It doesn’t seem like 25 years have gone by since either happened, and THIS is what scares the hell out of me:

If the last 25 years went by in the blink of an eye, there’s no doubt that the 25 years that lie in front of me will, too.

25 years from right now, I will be 73 years old. Not that there’s anything wrong with turning 73…I know many people who wish they could have made it to 73, and I will be psyched if I make it to 73 and beyond.

My point is this: Time just moves so freaking fast. I’ve written about this before, I know, and my intention is not to belabor the point. However, this particular example of the 25-year anniversary theory punched me hard right in my gut and made the phenomenon of speeding time all the more real for me.

To quote my very good friend Forrest Gump, I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But, I, I think maybe it’s both.

Regardless if I have a destiny or if I’m floatin’ around like on a breeze, I cannot control what happens in society but I can take control of my future. There are a lot of miles to cover on the freeway that lies ahead of me and I look forward to many rest stops filled with meaningful, wonderful, and memorable moments.

Thanks for joining me on my journey. I’m glad you’re here.

With gratitude,

Jill

Please note that I wrote this entry on July 6, 2019 but didn’t post until July 7, 2019.