Louise and I were sipping iced lattes in Starbucks Patio after our constitutional along El Paseo, Fanny snoozing at my feet.  Agnus, a friend from Paradise Senior Living, puffed up. plopped into the vacant chair, pulled out a hankie the size of a dish towel and sopped the perspiration dripping from her brow. Clearly, she was agitated. “Dr. Sidney’s nurse has it in for me. I’m convinced.”

                   “The tiny one with the bodacious tatas and the18 inch waist?” I go to the same doc.

                  Agnus rolled her eyes and wrung out her hankie. “I know I’m obese…”

                  True! Agnus had to be hitting 300.

                  “…but I’m happy with who I am. And Harry’s even happier!”

                  Agnus and Harry were the poster couple of Louise’s short-lived dating service. Hunky Harry, buff, handsome, a personal trainer at Gold ‘s Gym adores Agnus, every inch, every ounce. Says he wants something to pinch and cuddle.   

                  “The harpy insists I get weighed,” Agnus said. “She doesn’t even allow me to take off my chunky bracelets or my earrings, or even my sandals. And then she tesk, tesks and rolls her eyes.”  Agnus gave me a beseeching look. “What would you do, Hazel? 

                   I drained my latte. “I’d just say no!” 

                  “Can I do that?” 

                  “I’m not familiar with a law that says you can’t. What’s she gonna do, sue you? Obviously, the scrawny little witch can’t lift you onto the scales. It’ll take courage to say no, but I have confidence in you, Agnus.”

                  Agnus sat up straighter, a smile on her pretty round face. “You’re so gifted, Hazel, you always cut right to the chase. I’m going to take your advice.”

                  Louise pulled the soggy straw from her latte. “You’re such an expert, Hazel, you should have a column in the Desert Sun. Always giving out advice, at least then you’d get paid for it.”

                  Ignoring her sarcasm, I suddenly had another one of my epiphanies. Louise is always nagging me about “giving back.” What better way to give back than to share my advice- giving talent? 

                  So, I invite you all to write to “Dear Hazel.” Anything that’s bothering you: finances, relationships, personal problems, you name it!  Then look for my advice on my Facebook page: Hazel Flick and Fanny


Hazel Flick and her pesky pup, Fanny

Hazel Flick and her pesky pup, Fanny


When I was four years old we lived in a little brown clapboard house in Eagle Rock sandwiched between an apartment on the corner and the Eagle Rock Elementary two doors up. My dad was a young lawyer just starting out, and my stay-at-home mom was pregnant with my brother, Danny.

My mother had given up a scholarship to a prestigious music school to marry my dad, but she hadn’t given up her ambition. I don’t remember her cuddling or reading to me, although she must have. All I remember is her singing, not songs, but scales. She practiced scales by the hour, making each note perfect, while she did the dishes, set the table, made the beds, dusted our little living room.

Every day I would sneak out of the house and run up the street past the little Spanish bungalow next door until I came to the school. My heart would beat faster as I passed the imposing edifice, stairs ascending to a shadowed portico flanked by towering columns. The building seemed huge, awe inspiring and a bit frightening, and I would hurry past, my destination the white-washed kindergarten building at the far end of the fenced playground. Day after day I would stand, my face pressed against the chain link, waiting for the children to come out and play.  Suddenly I would feel a bruising grip on my arm and my mother would swing me around, scold me soundly and drag me whimpering back home. Though tall for my age, I was only four and didn’t belong in kindergarten.

Perhaps because of my height the teacher thought I was older, or maybe she just took pity on me. At any rate, one day she suggested to my mother that I might give kindergarten a try.

The room was long and bright with sunshine pouring from high windows. I vaguely remember graham cracker and apple juice snacks and squirming on a colored mat while the teacher read us a story. But what I remember most is the extended platform on the east wall with blocks laid out to form a house. I remember putting on an apron, insisting I would be the mother, and proceeding to do what mothers do: boss, demand, push and punish. Little surprise, I was soon asked to leave.

I had flunked kindergarten.

Fast forward twenty years. I returned to Occidental College to get my teaching credential. For my teacher’s training I was assigned Eagle Rock Elementary, scene of my disgrace



My mother made hundreds of Raggedy Ann dolls. She sewed them all and stuffed each body and head so tight, there was never a wrinkle… until her fingers became arthritic and the task was taken over by her faithful companion Maria Julia.  But even though it was painful, she insisted on pulling and tying each strand of the special red yarn for Raggedy’s hair,  embroidered Raggedy’s features, and placed the shoe button eyes in just the right place to reflect Raggedy Ann’s expression of wisdom and loving kindness.

Mother was very particular to make each Raggedy Ann authentic. She combed the fabric stores for bolts of the strongest muslin for Raggedy’s body, just the right red and white stripped fabric for her legs, her black feet, her flower-patterned dress, her white cotton apron and pantaloons. She  scoured yarn stores for the particular color of red yarn for Raggedy’s hair.  She haunted antique stores for shoe buttons, not too large, not too small,  and sprayed then black for Raggedy’s eyes.

Imbedded within Raggedy Ann’s stuffing, next to the candy heart that said  “I love you” were the lucky penny and the wishing pebble. The hearts with I love you were not always easy to find and on occasion were inscribed in her own hand. She always shined the lucky penny and blessed the wishing pebble before securing them next to the “I love you” candy heart.

When she died I inherited Raggedy Ann patterns, bodies, pantaloons, aprons and dresses already cut out and ready to stitch. I have inherited yards of red yarn, bolts of fabric, hundreds of shoe buttons, bags of stuffing; boxes of lucky pennies that need a shine, wishing pebbles already blessed, and candy hearts that say “I love you.” 

Mother made Raggadys for church bazaars, to be auctioned for charity, to give to children and new babies…always  with a copy of the book “Raggedy Ann” by Johnny Gruelle, with the original illustrations.  

Once I gave a Raggedy Ann away that mother had made for me. From that day forward, on those she gifted to loved ones and friends, Mother wrote a special note, in her distinctive hand, in red ink, on Raggedy’s back side.