A Song of Praise for a Fallen Soldier: Albert T. Padula

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January 28, 2016

Yesterday, a fine man, a brave soldier, a loving husband and father, a staunch Democrat, and a dear friend was laid to rest in New Castle, PA. Albert T. Padula was 91 and he fought with my father, Virgil N. Brown, along with over 550 men in the 278th Field Artillery Battalion, during the World War II.

My dad, a Minnesota boy, had been plucked from his original unit and sent to officer training school. Forced to leave behind the friends he had joined with, he was redeployed to the 278th. That’s where he met Al and the rest of the men of Battery C, where he served as a Sergeant, then First Lieutenant.

Just before Dad’s death in May 2003, in Courtenay, British Columbia, Al reached out to talk to him and had several of the other ‘guys’ from Battery C called Dad, too. I know that gesture meant the world to my father. Taking the time to stay in touch was one of Al’s gifts.

Curiosity to know more about that period of my father’s life, a period he never said much about, led me to seek out these men a year after my dad died. In 2004, my friend, photographer Cheryl Hatch, and I traveled from Seattle, WA to Hershey for one of the reunions, which had been held almost yearly since the end of the war. Al was especially welcoming to everyone and was the center of the festivities, supplying us all with ample portions of his homemade red wine.

Affable, easy-to-talk-to, Al was a great story-teller with many vivid memories of the war. He loved my dad, and I know my dad loved him. They both had such beautiful, tender hearts. Younger than my dad, Al was just a teenager when he joined the army, and he had grown up the hard way—on the field of war.

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Photo © Cheryl Hatch   Luanne Brown and Al Padula

Al shows me a framed picture from the past. This is the day we met. Fast friends from the beginning.

Al, a Technician 5th Grade, told me once that he had been really ‘pissed’ at my dad for taking him off the 240mm Howitzers they hauled around and fired. Dad made him the cook of the unit. I can only guess it was because Dad saw in Al the ability to get things done. Al told me how he had to create meals for dozens of people out of things he would find along the way, combined with the not-always-palatable rations.

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Photo © Cheryl Hatch 2004 – Field photos of how the 240 mm Howitzer worked. The 278th fired 6008 rounds from seven of these cannons, which had a range of 14 miles. The 278th fought in four campaigns: Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. The photo is from a special exhibit honoring the 278th FABN at the Pennsylvania National Guard Military Museum, Fort Indiantown Gap.

Al told me about the hard times, the sad times, and the truly horrific times. He told me about the cold and the mud and the noise. But some of his best stories were about the good times; like the time they found an abandoned cow in the field, mooing from the pain of not being milked. My dad, a farm boy, got the job done and they feasted on the results.

Once, Dad ‘liberated’ a big cask of wine—or two—and ‘authorized’ an impromptu party. Al said he’d never forget the sight and sound of that French wine barrel being rolled down the cobblestone street by my dad. It gave him a hearty chuckle every time he told the story. “Oh, man. Did we have fun,” he’d say. And they deserved it.

“Your dad always treated us like human beings,” Al told me once. “Not like some of those other g. d. officers with their noses up in the air.” Like Al, my dad had a penchant for caring about others. Maybe that’s why they liked each other so much.

Then there was the time they came across two boys—escapees from the Dachau Karlsfeld sub-camp about 10 miles from Munich, and gave them shelter, food, and a safe place to stay for while. The boys, who spent had six years in various concentration camps, bunked in Al’s tent. But that’s not my story to tell. One of the boys, now in his 80’s, Walter Plywaski, tells the story beautifully and movingly. Please, read it here.

In 2006, I went to another reunion, with my husband, this time. We all took the bus on a day trip from Hershey to Washington D.C. to see the WWII Memorial. There seemed to be a variety of opinions—from ‘too little, too late’ to humility, awe, and gratitude. It was such a pleasure to be in the presence of these fine men and their families. And it was thanks to Al and Ted Herman, the grandson of Sergeant Samuel L. Herman from Battery A, that it happened.

Ted became a dear friend to Al, and to all the remaining men in the battalion, and did the leg work to keep the reunions going—especially as the once strong legs of the older men grew weary.

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Photo © Cheryl Hatch – 2004 WWII memorabilia belonging to Sergeant Sam Herman.

 

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Two members of the 278th explore the Pennsylvania Memorial at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery.

Al and I had spoken not too long before his unexpected death, as we frequently did. Our conversations always started the same way: “Brown!” he’d say. “Padula!” I’d say. And we’d laugh. We talked about subjects like our families—he always had loving and appreciative words to say about his wife, Cathy, and he was so proud of his daughter, Cheryl’s accomplishments, which included creating the wonderful website that honors all the men of the 278FABN.

Al would tell me about his political actions—back in the day—and now. The principles of liberty and justice still raged in his heart. These were the things he and his fellow soldiers fought for when they were barely men. He never abandoned his principles or his fellow soldiers. Not only did he keep in touch with me, he kept in touch with all the guys he served with. As they succumbed to the ravages of age, he would call me and say, “Well, Brown, we lost another one.” Then, he’d tell me their name and share an experience or two about each person. I know he took each loss hard.

 

Al Padula 6 - CopyPhoto © Chery Hatch 2004 – 278th FABN reunion attendees, Fort Indiantown Gap Museum

 

In our conversations, Al had strong words for political parties, pundits, and demagogues who used tall tales and lies to advance their own ‘money-grubbing’ agenda. He knew how the American system of politics worked. He understood that we each had to take responsibility for how our country is run.

He was informed about the issues and where local and national politicians stood on the issues. He voted and believed we all had the responsibility to vote. These were sacred things to him. He, and the men he fought with, had stood up for these freedoms. They sacrificed their youth to keep the world free. They believed they had done something important for their country. I believe it, too.

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Photo © Cheryl Hatch 2004

The men of the 278th FABN exhibit, with pride, the 2004 citation in honor of their service from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Al loved to laugh and we never had a phone conversation that didn’t leave me chuckling at something he said. Never one to mince words, he called life as he saw it. Life was tough, but so was Al. He became a hero to me. And I will miss our conversations more than I can say. I cherish him for the wonderful man he was and for the link he provided to my father.

Rest in peace, dear friend. Job—well done.

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Photo © Cheryl Hatch 2004 – Al Padula and Luanne Brown

To Cathy and Cheryl, I send my sincere condolences and those of my family. We may have lost a hero, but you’ve lost a husband and father. I send my love to you both.

Thank you, Ted Herman. You gave the gift of remembering and respecting what these fine men did for our country. I know Al thought the world of you and your family and hoped that somehow you would carry the memory of the 278th forward after they were all gone.

My sincere thanks to Cheryl Hatch, of Isisphotos, for accompanying me on my first trip to meet the men of the 278th FABN in 2004. Your photos are amazing and a wonderful tribute to these brave men.

Top photo of Albert J. Padula © Cheryl Hatch 2004

 

 

 

Life is short and we’re all going to die

for blogI guess it’s the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman—both 69—that’s got me feeling my own mortality. But to be honest, it’s been on my mind for awhile now. Not every day, in my face, but it’s hiding back there somewhere behind my temporal (tic toc) lobe and it likes to peek out from time to time and poke me a little too hard.

At 64, the clock seems to whir, but then I’ve heard its sound numerous times in my life. Narrow escapes that could have ended badly. Decisions I didn’t put any thought into that led to dangerous places. Watching people my age and younger lose their lives to illness or accident. Having survived a terrible car crash only days before my 21st birthday, I realized fairly young that time is a gift.

Yet knowing that, I have to admit I’ve squandered my fair share of it. I’ve dreamed too big and apparently unrealistically (and truthfully—I still do, but I like that about myself!).  It’s too late for many of the things that I thought would happen in my life to happen. And yet when I sit back and take stock, I am grateful for the life I’ve lived.

While I may not have nailed as many ‘big’ things as I had planned on in my youth, I’ve done well with the little things. The daily things. The ‘get up and keep trying’ things. I’ve been good at loving others—family and friends. I excel at wishing the world well. And I hurt for those who need a hand up. It’s the small acts that  define me. The hugs given, the encouraging words spoken. The positive thoughts and prayers extended to others and the world. And I’m okay with that.

I try to keep the ‘should-haves’ and ‘could-haves’ out of my inner conversations. And I’m getting pretty good at it. So this is me, doing what I love, yet still sometimes struggle, to do: write. Be in the moment. Express what it means to be me—at least for myself—and with the hope that when others read my work they might find some comfort. I guess the secret is—or so the sages all say: Cherish the moment. It may be all we have.

And as I look outside, in the still-dark morning, I proclaim that whatever today brings me will be quite enough.

Pearl Harbor Day

December 7, 1941 – My mom, Evelyn Beatrice Elburg Brown was 17 and a junior at Minneapolis West High School. At least that’s what they call it now.

Mom

Pearl Harbor Day always made my mother sad. She would usually call me on this day and tell me about all the boys from her high school that were lost in the war. “So many went and so few returned,” she said.

As her dementia worsened, this was a point that stuck with her. Whenever she brought the subject up, sadness filled her voice and while not a woman who cried easily or often, tears usually filled her eyes.

Mom’s been gone now for almost three years–in February and already my body and heart are tweaked to the upcoming anniversary of her loss. I can’t seem to help it. Feelings of sadness start to overwhelm me around this time of year. I seem to feel physical–and emotional pain more easily.

This will worsen, bit by bit, as the time grows closer to the actual date of her death, and linger for some time after. It happens around the anniversary of my father’s death in May as well, but less and less with each passing year.

My mother suffered many losses in her life. A stillborn brother. An adult brother who died too young–Uncle Slim. Her father, her mother, and only nephew Johnny all died within five years of each other.

She told me that once she was stopped at a red light in Vernon, British Columbia not long after our family emigrated to Canada in 1969 and she felt the earth open up and the hands of everyone in her family reach up  to pull her towards death. But she resisted–until she was 88 years.

I suspect that all of us who have lost someone dear feel that tug–both a longing and a fear of joining those who have gone on before us–although we know not where, how far, or even if there is a road to take us to that better place where we hope they already are.

So here’s to all the people who died on Pearl Harbor Day–all the beautiful young sailors who never had the chance to grow old. And to the civilians who died as well. Thankfully, my foster sister Edna Weller Czaplewski was not among them. A mere two months old, living close to the scene of destruction, she survived to become a beloved member of our family some years later.

And just for sake of inclusivity, here’s to remembering all the other people who served and died in both the Pacific and European theaters of WWII as well, including all the Jews and others who perished at the hands of that mad man, Hitler.

I wish days like today–where we remember the dead–would muster up some resolve to prevent war from ever happening again. But since it’s still raging around the planet,  we seem doomed to plunge ever-deeper into  cesspools of conflict that now stretch across the sea to our very front door. In the words of Pete Seeger, “When will we ever learn?

I guess the answer is still blowing in the wind.

(The picture above is of my mother, taken in the mid-1950s at my grandparents’ cottage on Big Lake, Minnesota.)

 

 

Giddy-up, Canada, Your Future Awaits

Oh, Canada! Congratulations on the return of hope to your glorious country. Thank you again for allowing my family in as landed immigrants in the summer of 1969. Fleeing a failing democracy, my father sought refuge in the softly rolling hills of the Shuswap Valley in a “Green Acres”-type farm held together by barbed wire and bailing twine. Although I elected to return to the U.S. four years later (swayed by love for a man, not love-of-country), my parents and one of my siblings remained, making various places on Vancouver Island their home.
While there, I participated in Trudeau-mania–Pierre Trudeau, that is. This is probably too much information, Canada, but your new prime minister’s mother, Margaret Trudeau, a native of Vancouver and I shared the same gynecologist, who just happened to be Donald Sutherland’s brother. Given that Justin Trudeau was born in 1971, it’s quite possible that my feet were in the same stirrups as his mother’s during her pregnancy. Of course, I’m making all kinds of assumptions here that may or may not be true, but I just had to share this little Made-in-Canada story on this auspicious day for my former home. My heartiest congratulations to you all.

My Children Won’t Know The Greats

This is a beautiful account.

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I lost my grandmother this week. She was 100 years old. That’s an entire century of life. I couldn’t help but thinking of all the things she must have experienced in her lifetime. In 1915, when she was born, electricity was a thing some people had in their homes, but many people still used iceboxes, hand-washed laundry and lived much more simply. Electric vacuums and refrigerators were available but were brand new, and not everyone would have one. Cars being driven looked a little something like this Dodge:

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She lived through The Great Depression, when drought and poverty were rampant and many people starved. She lived through two World Wars, the civil rights movement, would have known about Woodstock, and would have seen 15 presidents (mostly) through their terms. She would have remembered the advent of the technology that has become so important to my generation. Maybe she didn’t remember…

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SOMETIMES YOU EAT THE BEAR, AND WELL, SOMETIMES HE EATS YOU

It takes courage and desire to pull people through. Larry has a goal–and he’s making it happen–one day at a time. I admire your fortitude, Larry, and your honesty. Although the daily battle continues, I think you’ve won the war. My best wishes to you and thanks for sharing.

Brown-bear-female-and-its-children-play-with-a-ball-in-Kamchatka-Peninsula-Russia-8012761(previously published in Stigma Fighters)

It was over six years ago that I found myself in a psych ward, my long struggle with depression having come to a head. This wouldn’t be the last time, but there was always the desire to get better and that had made all the difference (sorry Mr. Frost). I went from years of being on Lithium to a new schedule of drugs: citalopram, latuda, lamictal and klonopin, trying to calm each point on my neurotransmitter highway (nice band name) with medication.
My official diagnosis was Bipolar II, but I didn’t think it was accurate. Here’s the thing: I felt like a failure as someone with bipolar. I’d heard all of these stories about folks with bipolar calling their spouse from a yak farm in Peru to explain an exciting new start up they’d invested in. Bipolar meant writing an opera in the morning…

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Waving good-bye

My morning started with a wave to my neighbor, Mark and his canine companion Roscoe, as they returned from their morning walk. The autumn snap in the air enticed me to follow his example and I set out on my routine jaunt. Even though I’ve been walking up and down my meandering street for 30 years, I always notice a new detail, like the absence of a cedar tree that’s been removed or a house that sports a new color. Frequently, I’ll stop and talk to people along the way—especially if they have dogs—so I can get my canine fix for the day.

Hellos and good-byes from this morning’s stroll got me to thinking about the customs I grew up with. For example, as a child, I was always expected to rise from the couch or wherever I was and join my parents to greet guests at the door. Sullen sitting was not allowed. If I was in a room occupying the last chair and a grown-up came in, I was taught to offer my seat to them. (This was not true for my brother and sister, with our elaborate crissy-crossy rituals that lay claim to primo easy-chairs. We fought bitterly and frequently about who sat where.)

Not offering a seat to an elder was taboo in our family, but that seems like a dead custom today. Though older than the majority of the working population, I was the person most likely to offer my bus seat to the elderly or infirm (who were frequently younger than me). Only once in my bus riding history did anyone, a young man with droopy pants, offer me a place to sit. I lavishly praised his parents for their child-rearing techniques and I’m sure he thought I was crazy—in addition to being old.

These acts of common courtesy are indeed small, when compared to heroic deeds of the young Syrian man who gave his life jacket to a woman after their boat hit a rock while crossing to freedom (http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/130085731641/my-husband-and-i-sold-everything-we-had-to-afford). He subsequently drowned and is mourned by his young wife and family. There are many such stories of this kind of generosity, throughout history, with many more to come, I am sure.

How does this bring me to the subject of good-bye? We never know when Death will call. We are here today, but will we be here tomorrow? My own sweet parents are both gone now—for some years and I remember how each time I returned to their home, they would set aside what they were doing and greet me with warm hugs and kisses. Then, when it was time to say good-bye, they both made a point of seeing me to the car and standing in their driveway, waving good-bye until I was out of sight.

Those simple well-mannered acts on their part made me feel loved—that I mattered. These acts were gifts from my parents. The gift of their awareness—their presence—in my comings and goings. I try to do the same for my husband, children, grandchildren, and friends. When they enter the house, I rise to greet them. When they leave, I escort them to their car and wave until they are out of sight. I want them to know they are loved. That they matter. That I will miss them when they leave.

While I don’t expect to leave this mortal coil anytime soon, as I celebrate yet another birthday in an increasingly long line of them, I am aware that one day, I will wave farewell to my family and friends for the last time. This last good-bye will never to be followed by a hello—at least on the earthly plane. So I intend to savor each interaction, or at least I will try to, because these common acts are ways of saying to those I love or will come to love—that I see you. You matter. I care.

I was trying to explain to my grandkids (the older ones) that love is an action word—a verb. To love is to act in love, kindness, and with consideration. It’s not enough to say ‘I love you’ to someone, unless my actions demonstrate that my words are true.

Good-bye for now. I love you. You matter to me.waving goodbye

PRESS RELEASES FROM THE FUTURE

ALL FEMALE HOUSE PASSES THE NOCTURNAL EMISSION COMMISSION LEGISLATION

‘Peter’ cams to become the law of the land

WASHINGTON D.C. – September 14, 2035

New legislation designed to monitor the nocturnal seminal emissions of every man on U.S. soil passed unanimously in a late night session.

Speaker of the House, Manii Pedii, said this was a victory for women everywhere. Also known as the TAIFPA (Turn About is Fair Play Act), this is considered one of many ‘backlash’ legislative moves on the part of this all-female body.

Payback is a bitch
This bill is the inevitable rebuttal to the harsh treatment received by women in the past and it calls for these measures to be enacted, based on the rumor that each sperm should have its day and killing sperm wantonly and knowingly through the act of seminal emissions must and will be punished. Sentencing criteria has yet to be decided but Pedii promises harsh standards.

Funding for this innovative bill provides body cameras that will be strapped to the shaft of the penis for every man in America. These ‘peter cam’s as they are referred to in the bill will be wired into a national monitoring station and when a nocturnal emission occurs, a drone will be dispatched from Central NSE Headquarter to collect the fluid which will be cryogenically preserved for eternity or until a good use for it is discovered. A storage vault for this precious treasure is to be carved behind the presidential heads on Mt. Rushmore.

No mercy to be shown
In response to the cry for compassion from a former male house member, Speaker Pedii responded, “Hell to the no,” adding, “In the early days of this century, what we now call The Darker Ages, legislative bodies at both the State and Federal level ran amok with laws, passed by men—and in too many cases supported by their female colleagues—that impinged on the reproductive rights of women in cruel and inhumane ways,” Pedii said. “Now it’s our turn.”

She went on to cite laws such as the transvaginal ultrasounds, jailing women who suffered miscarriages, forcing women with non-viable fetuses to carry them to full term, and the pervasive and punitive decline in the availability of legal abortions as some of the early rulings which led to even crueler practices in the last 20 years, including the Menstruation Tax, which was imposed on every ovulating woman in the United States.

CUP Runneth Over
This law passed in 2017 was touted by then Speaker of the House, James Boner, Jr., as the “Comeuppance Act” or CUP. “We need to teach women that their true value is as vessels to be impregnated. Every period is a slap in the face of their ultimate purpose—which is to act as brood mares for humanity. Each egg that is not available for fertilization is a loss to the world. Woman should be punished for that and this law imposes a stiff penalty for that affront.” Funds collected from the passage of the CUP Act were used to fund sports stadiums around the country.

Pedii credits Hera’s Alliance which was formed in the late 2020s for helping to reverse the appalling trend of men telling women what to do with their bodies.

Background on Hera’s Alliance
Women of all orientations finally went ‘ovaries to the wall’ after the CUP Act was passed. Hera’s Alliance started out small, with a handful of hetero and bi women schooling misogynists about just how strong and powerful they were. Sexless Saturdays and Sundays were introduced and soon became the norm as all sexual activities were curtailed with their male partners. But that was only the first step in the quest for women to regain control over their reproductive decisions.

The movement spread quickly throughout the country as both working and stay-at-home moms declined to do more than their fair share of the work. At first women rotated absences from their jobs so as not to bring commerce to a halt. But as law makers cracked down on these shenanigans through massive arrests and incarnations, protestors took their actions to the next level and ceased all activities in a sit-down strike that spread from Seattle to NYC.

Wide-spread strikes turned the tide
In those days women, earned only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women were also underrepresented in high-wage occupations. And yet this strike, joined in solidarity but many enlightened men, brought the country to its knees, where it stayed for 28 days—or the length of an average menstrual cycle.

Since then, repugnant reproductive laws were reversed, and a wave of women entered politics. This led to a crushing majority of females in all elected and appointed positions which is why today’s vote was made possible. “You don’t think the subpar class of men who were attracted to serve in the legislature because of the ‘easy money’ would pass any bill that would subject them to any consequences do you?” Pedii asked. “So it was up to us to let them know how it feels.”

5 Lessons Learned on Mulberry Street

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5 Lessons Learned on Mulberry Street

I’ve had many years to enjoy Dr. Seuss’s, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.” My sweet mom, Evelyn, who died two years ago at 88, used to read it to me when I was little. I have particularly vivid memories of snuggling up with her and listening wide-eyed to the story—again and again. Now, it’s my grandchildren who snuggle with me as I read it to them. Oh, the enduring power of a great book.

At its heart, this is a story about a boy making up a story. And his journey through the creative process can teach us some important lessons about writing—and life–that I, for one, am still not too old to learn.

Lesson 1: Turn your minnows into whales and your horses into elephants.

The book is about a boy, Marco, who is challenged by his father to keep his “eyelids up” to see what’s happening in the world around him as he walks to school and back. For Marco, a natural born storyteller, that’s quite a challenge, especially since his father tells him not to exaggerate about what he observes. But Marco can’t help himself. He likes to turn “minnows into whales,” and the minnow in this case turns out to be a horse and cart making its way down Mulberry Street, the same route Marco takes to school.

Like many storytellers, Marco isn’t won over by simple reality—he wants more and wails, “That can’t be my story. That’s only a start./I’ll say that a ZEBRA is pulling that cart.” And poof! The horse becomes a zebra. Marco ramps up his imagination another notch: “The story would really be better to hear/ If the driver I saw were a charioteer.” And poof! The driver is a charioteer.

With every choice, Marco ‘one-ups’ himself until he works his way up to two giraffes and an elephant, “with plenty of power and size—a blue one with plenty of fun in his eyes. And then, just to give him a little more tone,” Marco adds a “Rajah with rubies perched high on a throne.” Notice that Marco never lets the plot lull, because things in the story constantly change. No change. No story. Or at least not a very interesting one.

One of the things that I love about Marco is that he trusts his creative instincts. He never second guesses himself. A zebra becomes a reindeer, a reindeer becomes an elephant, an elephant gets two giraffe helpers. Boom, boom, boom! There’s nothing quite like the confidence of a creative child…may we all stay in touch with that part of ourselves.

Lesson 2: Add emotional tension or your delightful details won’t pack the wallop they could.

As page-turning as Marco’s delightful and unexpected details are, they would only be amusing instead of compelling if they weren’t wedged into a taut line of tension that stretches from the beginning of the story to the end. And it’s something more than the delightful, “I wonder what he’s going to do next,” kind of tension. It’s tension that pierces the heart—and twists the soul. In a kid’s book? Exactly.

Marco loves and wants to please his dad, by ‘behaving,’ but Marco can’t deny his nature and surrenders to his imagination, even though—or maybe because—he knows it’s exactly what his father doesn’t want him to do. This ‘oh, no, you’re getting yourself into really hot water’ kind of tension pervades the story because we know that with every act of imagination, Marco is digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.

Lesson 3: Make your hero’s physical actions acts of courage.

While it’s vital to have emotionally rich characters, if they don’t DO something, all that emotion and pain, all those human quandaries could wind up as purposeless angst. About the only physical action Marco takes is putting one foot in front of the other in the act of walking. But, at his age, that seems like an act of courage and an act of love. He’s not trying to be bad. He’s just trying to respect his own nature and please his father at the same time—the universal challenge between generations. Even though Marco may be physically constrained, his imaginary friends are not and they don’t just walk toward a more interesting and freer life, they gallop.

There can be danger in such speed, a danger that Marco himself worries about—especially when it comes to the corner of Mulberry and Bliss. And unless, to paraphrase the book, there’s something Marco can fix up, there’s going to be an awful traffic mix-up. Forces colliding. What fun!

As the left turn is made and disaster diverted, for the moment, the pace quickens and the plot thickens, until Marco is so excited by what he plans to tell his dad, that he races toward home, convinced he finally “had a story that no one could beat ….”

And he is right—but in the end, the pressure he feels in the presence of his father is too much to bear and he can report nothing of the delights he imagined, even when asked, “Was there nothing to look at…no people to greet? Did nothing excite you or make your heart beat?” Marco is forced, by his fear, to admit that the only thing he saw was that “plain horse and wagon on Mulberry Street.” It’s perhaps this aspect of Marco’s personality that tugs at my heart that most. How many of us are brimming with creative inspiration that we hesitate to share because of this kind of fear?

While this might be considered a downer of an ending, it nicely bookends the story, taking us back to where we started, a little wiser about Marco and perhaps ourselves. Marco may not have been triumphant in his own or even his father’s eyes, but I can say without reservation, that he’s been a hero of mine for over 55 years.

Lesson 4: Write words that are fun to read out loud.

Having read this books to kids and grownups, I can tell you it’s fun to read out loud. And as I finish my own young adult novel, “When Frogs Dream,” I’m reading my book to anyone who is willing to listen. I suggest you do the same with your work. There is nothing like a live audience’s response to tell you when your plot is sagging, or if something that delights you also delights someone else. I’m not alone in thinking that one of the secrets of Seuss’s success is that he made his books fun for parents to read out loud to their children.

Lesson 5: Never give up.

This story, which is the first book ever written and published by Dr. Seuss, is celebrating its 78th birthday this year (2015) has one more lesson to teach us.

The manuscript was rejected multiple times. Eventually, Seuss got lucky when he met an old friend who had just taken a job at Vanguard, and the rest is publishing history. So no matter how many times you’ve been rejected, try just one more time—it might be the one.

In closing, I’d just like to thank Dr. Seuss—and my mother—and suggest to you that if you ever need a little inspiration, or even a creative roadmap to guide you, follow Marco’s route down Mulberry Street, and let Dr. Seuss’s creative genius seep into your bones.