Elephants in the Room: Charlene Wexler
This is a book that will bring back memories that everyone has growing up, going to parties with friends, living life as a teen and even falling in love. The compilation of serious, humorous, heartfelt and emotional stories will set your curiosity buds on fire as you open to the first story which brings back memories of the famous Rexall Drugstore, working for her father and being called at 16 Ms. Doc the author relates her experiences dealing with growing up during the 50’s and 60’s. Going to the grocery store to pick up what her father needed lets readers know that Chicago back then is no different now and the ending will remind you as the author states: Who says Chicago is dull? The second story focuses on life in general and the things her mother taught her growing up but the next story Band of Girls is not any different than girls are today growing up, rushing sororities or house plans, in fighting, back stabbing, running for president of the sorority and then an ending you won’t forget as the author takes inside Beta Chi and meet Merle, Judi, Carol and Susie, hear them bad mouth the others, find out what they do to undercut each other as the entire mood changes on November 22, 1963 and perspectives are different, goals change and where these girls wind up you would never expect. Story three-titled Second Date tells how the author met her husband Sam and why sometimes second dates can lead to a lifetime of happiness. The story that I really loved in this first section was Taking Nothing for Granted as a young woman meets an amazing man and does not appreciate all that he does and did for her until something tragic happens and she realizes the true meaning of love and why you need to cherish the time you have together. A Night In an Inner City Hospital is really quite authentic in that I spent many nights and days in the waiting rooms, registering my mom and realizing that something could happen if no one took the time to find out what was wrong or cared. Medicare, Medicaid and insurance issues are paramount, as even now and back then you don’t always get seen without those precious cards. As the two friends spend the night in the hospital and one finally gets the surgery needed the ending you just won’t believe. Apple Strudel the title story Elephants in the Room and Battleground Leftovers are just some of the stories in section two titled Family and Friends. I love the fact that Sam packs away those leftovers, has her meal wrapped in a restaurant if she dares to go to the bathroom or is not paying attention. Keeping her out of the kitchen as leftovers are great but sometimes you need to check for the green. The saddest story that brought tears to my eyes was “Loss and Grief,” as the author shares the story behind the loss of her 12-year-old son Jeff to Leukemia. Her emotional breakdown is real and hanging on for her other children difficult. Next meet Charlie who was her moral support and kept her alive, full of life and understood her grief and gave her a reason to live. If you ever have to meet someone that is never on time, does not care to check her watch then read “The Gates Are About to Close,” and find out what happens when sometime disregards time, never worries about getting to the plane on time and stating that it goes back to when she was only three and considered a slow poke but why at her age now? The Hoarder Gene is great because everyone loves to collect things and her husband has a thing for bikes and he keeps them stored in their no car anymore garage. There is always room for one more and although the author tries to tell him that enough is enough Sam has his own mind. Their shopping in Walgreens reminds me of going shopping with my husband because we do the same thing and of course sometimes you have to hide the purchases when they stack up. Sam loves bikes and this reviewer loves clothes. From family, friends, lunch with the girls, sisters and dealing with death this book has many themes that the author shares besides these. Short stories do not always have to fit into the mold of the entire book and throwing in some extras to keep reader interest kept me glued to the printed page until I read the last essay or story.
For those of us that need air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, car heaters and air conditioners running you will appreciate the story titled: The Temperature Games where both the author and her husband love to play with the heater in the car, the thermometer in their home or the thermostat hoping that Charlene will survive the thermometer wars still going on today. Sam even developed a rule that after July 4 even if it is 100 degrees outside and the house is warm no air conditioning. It believes in regulating heat and air conditioning by the season not by the heat or cold.
Section three is titled: Animal Magnetism and the story about Charlie her dog was heartwarming as he kept her alive, focused and still wanting another pet in her life. Ode to Tyrone saying goodbye to her cat and realizing he’s gone in a unique way and then in the last essay or story realizing that she just might have found a new love and what could she do. To find out you need to read the story titled Feeding a Stray Kitten that I Really Don’t Need. The final section is titled The Passing Parade and begins with a talk between God and Angel and how he wants man created and what the Angel thinks he should do. I love the story Robots because it is so true. When walking in the street, traveling on the train as she did in this essay or even on a bus everyone is so involved with their IPods, I Pads, or cell phones no one notices anyone or talks to anyone. But, when something happens on this train ride you won’t believe what the passengers do. Does it really take a tragedy of some type or an emergency for people to communicate with each other? Robots or People: Read the story titled Robots and you decide which one you are. Think about yourself and how you would react if you realize you left your cell phone home. After all this is your link to the world, you need everyone to be able to reach you and in case of an emergency what is anyone going to do? Going to lunch with a friend Charlene laments, contemplates, drives slowly, gets gas and prays she gets to her destination alive, unhurt and okay. What happens at lunch you have to read for yourself? If you can make it there can you live without your facebook, emails and twitter for one hour? Senior Moments Rounds out the book and is the title of the last section. The stories vary from a woman falling and needing help and realizing that if she stays calm she just might survive to someone stating as I would agree the need for a book and why she really needs one. She gives many reasons but one, which hits home: I need a book so that I can pass it on to you. As a reviewer everyone wants the books I read so there are numerous hands out and there are several out for this one. Senior Shopping is great because of their interesting way of getting the job done separately at Walgreens. It brings a smile to my face. Finally the last one is titled “When I’m Gone,” where the author shares her feelings about getting older, life span and her own thoughts about her funeral. But, she ends it on a positive note as she says: Don’t rush enjoys every minute that you are alive. The title story tells about the author’s family when someone pass away and how the family deals with the death and how they share what they are going through as there are many Elephants in the Room and still more to come. A collection of short essays focusing on love, life, death, illness, loss of a child, bouncing back into life, growing up in the 50’s and how Kennedy’s death changed so many lives and the way young people reacted. When you read part one you will hear the voices of young people as they are striving to attain their goals, meet friends, form friendships and hopefully succeed in reaching their plateaus. They are thought provoking as what would you do if there were no animals and the many stories about Charlie, Tyrone and a stray cat round it out until the Passing Parade and Senior Moments. This last section is quite funny and the final poems expressing her feelings about her own mortality. Read these stories and take the many trips back in time and even in the present, as author Charlene Wexler will bring smiles, tears and joy to your heart.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine