Inside Chrysalis

Read a few excerpts from the book.

“On rainy days I ride my red tricycle madly up and down the long inside hall. In the early Pittsburgh winters when it seems to snow every week, I go sled-riding with my sister on Pierpont Street, just a couple of blocks away. When we move away from Bigham Street to an apartment, I am old enough to have ball-bearing roller skates that clamp onto the soles of my shoes, and we spend long hours out on the sidewalk. . .By third grade, I begin to win races. When we have standing broad-jump competitions, my long legs outdistance many of the other girls. It’s a great feeling, knowing my body will do what I want it to do.”

“The first time I show up at the rink, I’m awestruck at the huge skating arena set beneath cavernous rafters. The high old windows look as if they haven’t been opened for years. But the action down below is what fills the place with excitement. It takes a while to get used to the speed at which the skaters travel. Gathering my courage, I stand with my skates on, sipping a cherry coke over at the corner snack bar. Watching the organist jive on his bench in the glassed-in balcony, I feel the music inviting my body to move. I want to be out there – but what if I fall?

"I let my sister and her friend pull me out on the floor – and I’m doing it! Pennsylvania Polka, My Happiness, Five Minutes More. In the first twenty minutes, they teach me how to two-step (the easiest) and I’m dancing along, just like everybody else. . . During breaks, I watch the couples gracefully turning into waltz steps on the slower numbers. I’ll never have the courage to turn in mid-stride, and skate backwards. So I don’t try to waltz, but I don’t dwell on falling either.”

“That night, I stand at our second floor kitchen window, leaning out into the dark with my elbows resting on the sill. The yellow brightness of the kitchen and my day’s work are behind me. I’m surprised to find the night crying softly, just as I am. What is that line from Thoreau? “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Women, too, I think, women, too. Breathing in the chill dampness, I am strangely comforted. The night understands, without my saying a word. I sigh and turn back to the kitchen to put the dishes away.”