The Permission Slip

While cleaning out my crazily cluttered attic, filled with thirty-eight years of things my wife, Amy, and I don’t need, but couldn’t part with, broken chairs, boxes full of clothes, ancient computers, ‘80s vintage suitcases, and the like, I stumbled across something quite special.

Fire Hazzard

Let me back up. If you’re a procrastinator like me, there are only two reasons for cleaning the attic–because you’re putting your house up for sale or you’ve come to grips with the fact that all those cardboard boxes sweltering at over one hundred degrees during the broiling hot summer are a fire hazard (our neighbor’s house burned to the ground following the spontaneous combustion of Christmas tree decorations stored in their attic), But I wasn’t selling the house. And although I had the nagging feeling that the boxes were a fire hazard, it wasn’t enough to motivate us to take action.

Attic junk

So what other reason could there be? Two words. Flying squirrels. Yes, there are such critters and a family of twenty really liked our attic. The old mattress–downright cozy. The insulation and blankets–absolutely divine. And the floor and every one of our possessions on it–the perfect comode. On Internet advice (not always reliable), I threw mothballs up there to drive the critters away. Well, that didn’t work and had the added side effect of stinking up the second floor of my house. After more than a dozen visits from a rodent specialist, we learned that our involuntary pets were sliding through louver vents to go in and out. He put mesh over the vent and invited our friends to leave.

Flying Squirrels

If you’ve never seen a flying squirrel, they don’t actually fly. However, they do have extra skin flaps under their arms that let them glide from nearby trees to welcoming attics. They’re kind of cute. Still, not in my attic, please. Once they departed and the attic was secure from invaders, for health and sanitary reasons, it had to be decontaminated. Notice I used a third-person pronoun there. I’m handy and do a lot around the house, but the thought of dealing with poop-laden artifacts from our past was a no-go.

Flying Squirrel

To my relief, I discovered that there is a whole industry for attic specialists devoted to cleaning and sanitizing attics. Hooray–not cheap, but worth every penny. After some further research and negotiations, five brave men in hazmat suits and breathing devices spent eight hours removing everything from the attic, removing all the insulation, power-vacuuming, disinfecting, and replacing the insulation. It is now pristine, clean, and empty.

So, what happened to all the accumulated stuff up there? Other than a couple of dining room chairs we forgot we had and a bag of old letters, our attic superheroes carted it all away, never to be seen again. A great feeling. Now for the best part. Amy started going through that old bag of letters we rescued from destruction when she found…

The Permission Slip from Yvonne B Levin to Charles Levin

What started as cleanup and remediation turned into a personal archeological or anthropological project, There were letters from long-lost friends, passionate love letters we wrote each other when we were in high school, and one particularly meaningful note for me, a permission slip.

The permission slip you see pictured above is from my mother written on my behalf.:

“To whom it may concern,

My son Charles Levin has my permission to play ‘Pocket Billiards’

Very truly yours

Mrs. Yvonne B. Levin

377 So. Harrison St.,

East Orange, N.J


The pool hall I wanted to frequent required customers to be at least sixteen to play, and I was just fourteen. The note, the permission slip, seems straightforward enough but examined more closely, it contains clues to my mother’s life story, a snapshot of the 1960s, and a hint of my relationship with my mother.

The Permission Slip

First, there’s the actual content of the note. For her to write this note, I had to have asked her to let her youngest son hang around, unsupervised, at a seedy, smoke-filled pool hall. Why would she agree to that? I’d like to think it was because she trusted me, but that could only be part of the reason. I think the other part was that she was tired, worn out after losing two husbands who died young, the first at twenty-nine and the second, my father, at forty-nine, and working full time to raise three kids. My sister is thirteen years older and my brother is nine years older than I am. So, by the time she got to me, it was pretty much anything goes. A current expression may capture it best. With this note, I think she was saying “Whatever…(sigh).”

Now look more closely and notice the penmanship. My mother explained to me that she was taught Palmer Penmanship in school. She, like every one of her generation, learned to move their entire forearm when they wrote to create a flowing, smooth style. Her handwriting was always perfect, whereas my scrawl looks like hieroglyphs gone bad. Now, everyone types with their thumbs. Nobody writes that beautifully anymore.

How about that phone number, “OR6-5432?” Yes, back then, everyone shared their phone numbers with the first two letters of the town they lived in. “OR” was for ‘Orange.” When I called Amy to ask for a date (there was no such thing as texting then), I would dial on a rotary dial,  SO2-3791. She lived in South Orange. My mother also took pride in the fact that she talked ATT into giving her such an easy, sequential number to remember. When she couldn’t stand that I spent hours on the phone (remember this is high school), she got a second line. Liberation, I had my own princess phone in my bedroom with the number OR6-5431.

Finally, at the bottom of the note: “Warner, Jennings, Mandel & Longstreth,” a stock brokerage firm. She worked there as the first female stockbroker ever in New Jersey. After my father died, his loss forced my mother to go to work to support the family. At first, she didn’t know what she would do. She hadn’t worked in years, not since she was a floor manager at Bamberger’s in Newark. In the ‘50s, men worked and women stayed home with the kids and she had three young ones. Suddenly, at age forty with the death of my father, her world turned upside down. As unlikely as it seems, when she was a teenager she used to hang out at the local stock brokerage office, watching the ticker tape or the stock prices being posted and erased, posted, and erased in chalk on a big blackboard. Being a numbers person, she just loved it. That’s what she always wanted to be when she grew up, but there were no women stockbrokers. With a little encouragement from a friend, she studied, took her exams, passed, and got a job with a room full of men in Newark, New Jersey. Soon she was the top producer in the office. She could sell, really sell. She was rightfully proud of her new career.

Force of Nature

Warner, Jennings, and its successors were bought out several times by larger and larger firms until my mother landed at the fifth successor Thompson, McKinnon, where they promoted her to Vice President. In 1984 at age seventy-two, she had her best career year. She was a force of nature. Unfortunately, the following year Prudential bought out Thompson and on account of her age, they made mom retire. It was the end for her. Husbands gone, kids gone, and the job that filled her days with challenging joy, gone.

Then one awful day in 1989, I get a call from my sister. “I can’t reach, Mom.” We both rush to her apartment in East Orange. The super has to break the door open. Mom had taken an overdose of pills. The sight of her barely breathing, prone on the floor with the empty bottle of pills beside her, haunts me to this day. She lasted two days in the hospital and then she left us.

Before mom died, I carried this note, the permission slip, around in my wallet for many years. Partly for its sentimental value and at age thirty or so (I had a baby-face back then), maybe I’d need my mother’s permission for something. She passed away thirty-two years ago in June. At the time, she was only a few years older than I am now. Still, I think I’ll put the note back in my wallet–the date is blank, so it should be good anytime. ‘Cause, you never know when you might need a permission slip.


Find anything interesting in your attic? In the COMMENTS below, please share anything from the meaningful to the unusual you have found up there in the attic.

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Florence Remembering
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Missing the Ghost in the Palace Theater
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Zombie Phone
Word Drunk

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  1. Evelyn Cruze on July 28, 2021 at 1:03 pm

    Not my attic, but the equivalent, my Florida room. There is a chest that belonged to my mother. Searching for her album of old family pictures, which I never did find, I went thru it about a week ago. She’s been gone since July 1998. I found in deteriorated, but still visible condition, her 1929 all county yearbook. There is a picture of her on the girl’s basketball team! She graduated in 1931, and loved playing the game so much she was part of a women’s semi work team later in the 30’s. This was a wonderful find for me to share with my older brother and his children and grandchildren, showing the spirit of the woman we called mom!

    • Charles Levin on July 28, 2021 at 1:09 pm

      What a wonderful find – priceless! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dennis Perez on July 28, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    I think, feel it was a wonderful story. My mother, Lillian pass in January of 2021. She was 88, a business woman, devoted wife, and a pillar of her congregation. Parkinson and dementia took it’s toll. Covid reared it’s head and cause issues that contributed to her death. I was caretaker for 6 years. I wish I had a permission slip to let her go.

    • Charles Levin on July 28, 2021 at 1:23 pm

      Wow. I am so sorry for your loss. It seems so much of our lives are dealing with loss–loss of loved ones, loss of youth, etc. However, I believe if we are resilient and can adapt, we can treasure the time we had to share our journey down the road with those loved ones while they were here. And although they are physically departed, in a good way, we should never let them go.

  3. Steven Meyrich on July 28, 2021 at 2:09 pm

    Lovely story Charlie
    Your mom was really something and it’s reflected in your character

    • Charles Levin on July 28, 2021 at 2:13 pm

      Kind words – thank you!

  4. Meenaz on July 28, 2021 at 6:13 pm

    What a sweet, moving memory. It brought me to tears. It’s sad, and beautiful at the same time. A strong, forceful and wonderful woman, your Mum, Charles. I share your feelings of proudness. She reminds me of my Mum, still living with me,I thank God.
    I am sorry for your loss, even after all those years, a loss is always felt, like 21 years since my loving twin brother left me.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Charles.
    Loving hugs.
    Stay blessed.
    Love. Light.


    • Charles Levin on July 29, 2021 at 11:29 am

      Hi Meenaz – thanks so much for your kind words. I’m sure you cherish your Mum every day as well you should. We are both fortunate to have such loving mothers.

  5. Barbara Harrison on July 28, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    Lovely story.

  6. Yvonne Roberts on May 9, 2022 at 2:51 pm

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your Mom. Time lessens some of the pain of loss, but as you already know, it never goes completely away. As long as you remember her she will always be with you in your heart♡
    You are so fortunate to have had such an amazing, loving Mom. I never had that experience.
    Thank you for sharing this story – warm, tragic, beautiful, sad and loving all rolled into one.
    Blessings & hugs,
    P.S. I’m honored to bear her name♡

    • Charles Levin on May 9, 2022 at 3:15 pm

      Yvonne is a beautiful name. Thank you so much for your kind comments. She is and always will be in my heart. You might be interested, as an Yvonne yourself, to know what her nickname was. It was ‘Yitzi.’ How she got that I have no idea but she liked it.
      God bless you! Charlie

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