Category Archives: family

A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH

Six Weeks in Nevada Divorce CourtsI was once sued by the Town of Huntington, NY for 7 million dollars, plus interest since 1797, and a sentence of one year in jail for refusing to surrender documents to the town historian, Rufus B. Langhams, who alleged, under oath, had been stolen from the Town by a colonial-era employee and kept hidden by his ancestors for 195 years until I was consigned to auction the papers off along with the contents of the family estate.

Prior to the lawsuit being heard before New York State Supreme Court Justice William L. Underwood, Jr., I was vilified in print by The Long Islander and Newsday, shunned by former friends, slandered by candidates and their political operatives, chastised by churchgoers, and kept under surveillance for nearly a year — only to be threatened by an assistant town attorney hiding in the bushes of my front yard after midnight, incessantly meowing until I ventured out, then backing me up against my front door while brandishing a knife-like object in order to serve me with court papers.

I share this to demonstrate my profound respect for Christine Blasey Ford’s anticipated testimony before Congress pertaining to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States.

She is courageous.

Few can imagine the resolve it takes to risk one’s life and livelihood in order to ensure justice be done on behalf of the majority who will not seek it for themselves, nor for the benefit of another, nor for the good of a nation — because the fear of retribution makes stepping up perilous.

I suspect Ford does not want to testify. But as a competent citizen with a conscience compelling her to intervene, she knows her freedom of speech is denied the moment she chooses to silence herself, and — like all rights guaranteed by our constitution — free speech was granted as an individual’s responsibility to protect.

It is not an entitlement.

The fact that her testimony involves exposing intimacies secreted by shame engineered by patriarchal societies to silence women for centuries makes her testimony all the more ominous — and her decision to testify all the more valiant.

Our demand for her to be heard should be deafening.

Our cry should be, “Can you hear us, now?”
~

They sent three lawyers with the Huntington town historian to admonish me for costing the taxpayers nearly a million dollars to wage a year long war against me, arguing the merits of their action of replevin. They called for my incarceration, demanded to be rewarded all the original Town documents in my possession, urged that I be fined, and asked that I be assigned all legal fees and court costs.

I stood alone, without consul, in Propria Persona, as evidence of my innocence.

I presented a book on special loan to me from the reference section of the Huntington Public Library, authored by Rufus Langhams. Published a decade earlier, it contained photographs of every document I harbored that he’d sworn had been stolen during colonial times, with captions confirming the originals were in his possession, kept locked in the archives of the Huntington Historical Society, to which he had sole access.

I presented letters from several museums attesting to many of those same original documents being sold to them by Rufus Langhams, while acting in the capacity of town historian as directed by the Town of Huntington.

I listed names, addresses and phone numbers of other Town residents who were coerced into surrendering copies of inherited documents to Rufus Langhams when he showed up at their homes and demanded them, citing the New York State Property Tort of Replevin as his legal right to confiscate heirlooms.

I contended the documents I held were copies from 195 years passed, not the originals of documents that Langhams sold to profit himself over his many years of incumbency as the Town of Huntington historian.

Supreme Court Justice William L. Underwood, Jr. immediately dismissed the charges against me, with prejudice, thereby barring the Town from ever bringing an action against me on the claim again, and granted me sole property rights, before assigning all expenses incurred, court costs and attorney fees to the Town.

I was then excused. The town historian and three town attorneys were ordered to stay.

~

Newsday and The Long Islander never published a retraction, nor did they do a follow up story.

There was no public acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the town historian. The spurious charges in the action lodged against me were never revealed. There was no further discussion of the papers in question.

I was never offered an apology.

Eventually, a friend within Town government told me that, in lieu of no one else wanting the job, Rufus Langhams would remain as town historian, but would no longer be trusted with unaccompanied access to historic documents, and a full accounting of the archives had been ordered.

Eight years later, the town historian died of a heart attack. His obituary read, in part: “Rufus Buford Langhams of Huntington, L.I., once went to England seeking to collect $15,000 in Revolutionary War debts from the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was not successful.”

~

I was once a force to be reckoned with.

Christine Blasey Ford is one.

Shouldn’t we all be?

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist, author, and animal rescue activist.

Find her on Amazon. Friend her on Facebook. Follow her @ margueritequantaine.com.

A Force To Be Reckoned With © 9.22.18
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WITH GRACE AND GRATITUDE

Won't You Be My Honey

The first time I spotted the alligator in the murky waters of a man-made lake framing luxurious condos on one side and a city park on the other, I worried aloud for the safety of the mallards, Muscovy, and white, waddling ducks, the snapping turtles, giant goldfish, flock of pristine egrets, and wading blue heron, making their homes in the marshes there.

“And, the kids who play in this park,” my sweetheart added.

I didn’t respond. Not that I would ever want a person of any age to be harmed by an alligator, but there was no imminent danger in that. Only the nature-preying-nature lurked.

The lake is more for show and tell by realtors looking to justify pricey units with a view. There’s no swimming allowed, and since it’s illegal to feed wildlife in Florida outside of a reserve, observing nature in this park is mostly done from a deck built 15 feet above, and stretching 20 feet out over the water, where picnic tables are placed for brown baggers wondering what so many thieving sea gulls are doing there, some sixty miles inland.

At first, all I saw were the mammoth marble shaped alligator eyes, trolling the lake’s surface, leaving innocent ripples of water in his wake.

“Or,” she said when I pointed out the marauding eyeballs, “it’s a submarine.”

“No, hon, I’m pretty certain it’s an alligator.”

“But, I’m thinking…”

“It’s a gator, okay?”

“I’m just saying what it could be,” she persists, as the tire-like tracks on it’s back emerges. “Or, maybe one in camouflage to look like an alligator, so no one would suspect.”

Really, who am I to say otherwise? I thought.

We only visit this particular park once a year, in September or October, depending on what date the High Holy Days fall.

I won’t expound on the significance of these 10 days for those of you who aren’t Jewish, but I will share the custom of casting bread upon the water (tashlikh) as a symbol of one’s transgressions being disposed of. Unlike other religions, Jews don’t believe in original sin. Instead, we’re born pure, acquiring our indiscretions with age, intent, or ignorance along the way.

But, if we’re sincere in saying “I’m sorry” to those we’ve wronged, and have done good without expectation in return, and made an earnest effort to mend fences, the sin slate gets wiped clean on Yom Kippur, giving each of us another chance to get life right, and do it better.

The disclaimer appears in the setting of the sun, symbolizing the closing of the Book of Life, when even skeptics (secretly) want their names, and those of their loved ones inscribed therein — although no one learns who makes the cut until the High Holy Days roll around again the following year. (Because only those remaining in the here and now know if they were inscribed back in the then and there.)

For the record, I’m very disorganized about organized religion, to the point of anti-it.

But I do like everything about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the culmination of 10 days of introspection, taking stock of one’s life, offering amends, being grateful for whatever cards have been dealt, making promises and looking forward while witnessing the sun sink behind the trees, or beneath the ocean, or into the hills.

Of course, I’m pulling for more than family and friends. I want my pets to be included in that Book of Life, too, and mercy shown for all the animals on earth. I want children to be protected, and hurts healed. I want every woman to fall in love with the person who has fallen in love with her. My list is long. I ask a lot. It takes me the full 10 days to catalog all the hope in my heart.

“Watch out,” we were warned by a couple dawdling nearby. “The flora and fauna police are on duty.”

I glance over at the retiree in khaki shirt and shorts, feeling powerful on his unpaid patrol.

“I’m prepared,” I assured them. “I filled my pocket with stale bread, pre-pulverized in my Cuisinart to melt any evidence upon impact. Would you like a some?”

They showed me their cut up crusts of kosher rye. “No thanks. We’re good.”

As the sun began its steady decline, I confidently hurled a handful of crumbs to flutter like tiny confetti into the water below — forgetting that the brass ring  containing the keys to the car, our home, my sister’s home, the metal license tags of our dogs, and a silver kitty charm carried for good luck was also in that pocket.

It went with.

“I’ll be,” she said, looking down at the unintended snack. “It is an alligator!”

~

To paraphrase a verse in a song from the original, Broadway cast album of The Unsinkable Molly Brown: Your prayer was answered, the answer was ‘no’ — She heard you all right.

Most of you who follow me here, or are a friend to me on Facebook know that I lost my kid sister in May of 2015, 77 days after she was first diagnosed with everywhere-cancer.

What I haven’t shared as much is, in that brief period (and since) I’ve also lost both of my dogs, Buzzbee and Sparky, and a Russian Blue, tamed-to-my-touch, feral cat, Sneaky, twin brother to Pete.

When the last loss happened, I recalled the words attributed to Virginia Woolf upon being asked by her niece why the bird she’d found had to die. Woolf answered, “To make us appreciate life more.”

I’m not sure I concur. I don’t think I could appreciate life any more than I do.  My gratitude is fierce and deep and never falters — even when the answer is, indeed, ‘no’.

Because I see, and hear, and recognize the loss most others endure, daily, is so much greater than my own; the worldwide despair and hunger of millions in the dark of every night, the destruction of homes by flood and fire, the assault on nature by ignorance and greed, the ongoing slaughter of innocent and innocence, the intentional harm inflicted on the undeserving.

It doesn’t lessen the depth of loss I feel, but it does lessen the length of time I spend, struggling.

The High Holy Days come earlier this year and I’m on tenterhooks about it, to the point of being mindful of the fact that the ritual of tashlikh is to happen on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, not on Yom Kippur as I’ve always chosen to observe it.

We’ll be returning to the man-made lake, regardless — this time with an entire loaf of challah for the alligator.

We hope the reptile was written into the Book of Life.

We hope we all were.

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This essay was first published entitled See Ya Later Alligator in 2015 and continues to be revisited each year at this time in memory of those who have passed, and with hopes we all continue to be written into The Book of Life. ~ 

Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.  Copyright, © 2015-2018

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