May 2006


Andra Greenwald: Mother and Poet


When you write a piece of poetry, it’s like birthing a child. You have feelings, you focus on them, tend to them, and they come together. It is a work of creation on paper.

                                                                                             — Andra Greenwald

Andra has been birthing her poetry since age 7, when she won first prize in a day camp poetry contest. She continued to write poetry throughout her childhood and teens. Her mother’s interest in publishing her poems prompted Andra to hide them away during her college years, because she “didn’t want to share the personal feelings in them.” She reintroduced poetry into her life when she chose to begin each chapter of her master’s thesis with a poem.

She grew up in Brooklyn, New York; the eldest of 3 girls. She was honored with an award for community service upon graduating from high school, along with academic honors. She graduated cum laude with a BS in psychology from Brooklyn College and earned a Master’s in Social Work from California State University, Fresno with distinction. She maintained a psychotherapy practice for 21 years and was a superior court appointed family court mediator for 18 years, acting as the family court services director for the last years of that tenure.

“My career as psychotherapist has really been my avocation; my true vocation has been that of Mother,” she emphasizes. “I’ve most enjoyed knowing who all the friends have been, being the party house, and probably by now owning half of Pizza Hut. It has been a joy to teach my girls the value of being kind, never leaving anyone out, valuing differences and treating others as they would like to be treated. I have been blessed to be able to teach my girls right from wrong and to find that they really heard me; to impart the importance of having morals and ethics and of being true to their word. My mother did this with my father for me, and I have shared this journey with my husband, Loren, who also parades around town as Santa Claus, when hearts can use a lift.”

“I have enjoyed being the chairperson of the Speech Team Boosters and Vocal Music Department Boosters at Johansen High School, from where our eldest daughter, Haley (March Connections Voices poet), graduated and from where our twin daughters, Cami and Summer, will graduate this June. I have been and will again be a volunteer at Grad Bash and have never missed a Back-to-School Night or school Open House.“

“Until my primary career as mother commenced,” she says, “I was a member of Soroptomist International, Hospital Assistance League, American Association of University Women and American Business Women’s Association.”

She and her family moved to Modesto 8 years ago and joined Congregation Beth Shalom. She enjoys the leadership duties of a lay clergy person, as well as tutoring students and families who have sought additional spiritual growth.

She has been a volunteer at The Redwood Family Center, a residential recovery center for women and their children, since shortly after its opening 3 years ago, where she has taught nutrition and GED classes. She has joined the Board of Inter-Faith Ministries, Redwood Center’s parent organization, and has been invited to develop a Life Curriculum and AfterCare plan for Redwood residents and the Park Avenue transitional living apartments.

Dr. Seuss is Dead

Is it finally time to hang up the cat's hat
and retire little cats a,b, and c to a shelf in the cellar?
Is Horton really no longer faithful 100%? And
are motherless eggs now left to scramble for themselves?
Are Sneeds truly what everyone needs while
conflict and starvation remain the human condition?
And is Mulberry Street forever abandoned--
so I'll never see anything there again?
Please, oh, please don't say that time stands still for Marvin K. Mooney--
whose time was always now.
Did you take Mother's lessons to the grave with you, Doc? And the
red fish and blue fish, too?
And the ideals of commitment and dedication along with them?
Did we have to bury peace and harmony when your pencil was laid
to rest?
Or is a thread still blowing in the wind?
The Lorax tells me you're gone and I shed a tear,
Awakening the seeds of tomorrow that won't grow

Disneyland Mom

I'm sitting in the happiest place on earth;
Why aren't I happy?
They say that all I have to do is wish upon a star
And sala gadoola will bring Nordstrom's right into my salon.
I can sleep for twenty years--no alarm--and Prince Charming will bear the Starbucks when I awaken.
I'm told that straw can be woven into gold and that my hair will always be strong and sleek enough to hold a handsome stranger.
There will always be fairies to ward off the bad stuff and that good will always come to those who stay pure.
Kind beasts will turn into princes and good little pieces of wood can become real live boys.
Long, thin, beautiful legs can be mine, whether my thighs wish to jiggle or I start out with fins.
I never have to grow up and the good guy will always get the girl.
I can fall down a rabbit hole and not get hurt or dirty,
Or bite into an apple and not have to count the points.
They tell me it's a small, small, small, small world, peace can reign and we can all dance together.

But they also tell me there are consequences for lying; and that friends might betray.
That not all moms and dads are like Ozzie and Harriet, and that, sometimes, when you're bad, you turn into a beast, albeit just until you learn your lesson.
They show me that if you stay in the water too long, your hair will get stringy and that if you choose to be my guest for too long, you might wind up looking like Mrs. Potts.
I hear that if you pull out your sword once too often, it might get stuck in a stone and that real live boys grow donkey ears and tails if they act like--you know.
They share that books are where the world lives and that the Chip-n-Dale with no manners may not get very far.
That greed is a danger and humility a virtue.
That compassion is an enduring light, that kindness almost always wins out and that music and song warm the heat, even on the coldest of days.
Just like at home.
Maybe this really is the happiest place on earth.

And the Spring Will Come

And the spring will come
If I cannot bathe in daylight saved, warm your shoulders with my kisses.
I may be the queen who dances in your ear and paints your face with golden fairy dust,
Or the gale who brings a lullaby to your sill at day's end.
The spring will come.
If I cannot dance the leprechaun's jig, dance my part for me, for I may live in the piper' melody.
I may be ripples in the pond or stars in your eyes,
Sparkles in stone to light your way.
And the spring will come.
If I cannot join you for ice cream in the park,
I may be the fountain's song, the child's laugh,
The cloud that winks at you,
The memory you almost lost, but grabbed from the breeze as it whispered my name.
The spring will come.


I worked today--
Shopped and chopped
Spent and measured--drove till I dropped.
Washed and emptied
Helped at school
Watched the raindrops in the pool.
Filled the milk cups
Shared a treat
Cuddled with kitty curled at my feet.
Read and studied
Talked on the phone
Touched base with my thoughts--in hours alone.
Boiled the pasta
Gave kids a kiss
It just doesn't get any better than this.