Friday, November 29, 2013

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder …1944

This grainy picture is me, age11, and Ron, one of the many British sailors that our family entertained during WWII. He had just arrived from Boston’s naval yard where his ship was docked and I was the official greeter for that day.

The boys usually came in pairs but a few of them practically lived at our house and they often came out alone …hopping on the train just as soon as they had leave.

PTSD did not officially become a diagnosis until 1980 but I will never forget how it affected our lives that lovely spring evening.

We lived in a big old house with a large screened-in porch attached to the back. On the night that I recall we had opened the big window that looked out on the porch in order to get the air to circulate. Ron had chosen a chair near the window and the rest of us were scattered about the room just chatting and enjoying his company.

All of a sudden a car backfired right in front of our house . It was very loud and I think we all flinched but suddenly we realized that Ron was no longer with us. Where was he? What had happened?

My mother was the first to act and she rushed to the porch to find Ron crouched on the other side of the window, shivering and covering his head with his arms. He had instinctively jumped through the window to find safety and it had been so quick that we literally didn’t see it.

When we realized what had happened our dad told us to stay where we were. An hour passed before Ron and mother came back in. It was just one of many times that my mother would give comfort to those boys tha we came to love.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A very different TEA PARTY…

9 years before the presidency JFK was running for the US Senate in the state of Massachusetts and his mother Rose was one of his biggest backers. She decided to host a series of teas in and around the Boston area to introduce John, (or “Jack“, as she called him). She felt, and rightly so as it turned out, that she would not only get the women to vote for him but that they would motivate their husbands to do the same.

The year was 1952 and I was in my Junior year at Boston University. I was studying for a Journalism degree and our class received a blanket invitation to attend one of the teas. It was considered quite a coup to be invited so I was thrilled. I was not disappointed. Not only were Rose and John there but most of the rest of the female side of the Kennedy clan as well... serving tea and sweets and extolling the virtues of their brother and son.

John was more than charismatic and the women’s heartbeats were practically palpable as he “played” the room, teacup in hand. I remember thinking that politics might be an exciting career but I’m glad now that I never pursued it.

A side line to all this was that Joe Kennedy, John’s father, chose the advertising agency that my dad worked for to promote his son’s campaign. We all, in my family, voted for Jack but we had little use for his father. He had been the Ambassador to Britain in 1938 and his actions before, during and after that time were often suspect, to say the least

I remember the night my dad came home after John won the Senatorial campaign. He had a long, slim box wrapped in gold paper and he threw it on the table. “This”, he said “is what we get for spending hours listening to that bastard Joe Kennedy” and he opened the box to reveal a silk tie with a hand painted Kennedy crest on it !

My dad  was the last person in the world to be seen wearing a silk tie so I wasn’t surprised by his anger …but I can’t help wondering what that tie would be worth today !!






Tuesday, November 19, 2013

“THE BOOK THIEF”… a favorite read & now a movie !

In 2006 this is part of what I wrote about “The Book Thief” and it’s amazing young Australian author Markus Zusak…

“This is one of those wonderful books that I couldn’t bear to put down. I’m sure I must have done the usual house-keeping things in between chapters but I don’t remember doing them.”

Now it is 7 years later and on the CBS newscast this morning I learned that the book has been made into a movie.           They interviewed the main actor Geoffrey Rush and it was interesting but I was
annoyed that they never once mentioned the author nor gave him credit.

I feel a closeness to Markus Zusak and here’s why… in 2006 I wrote to him and told him how much I’d enjoyed his book. I didn’t expect a reply so was very pleased to receive the following email:

Dear Virginia,
Thank you so much for your kind message about The Book Thief and I am the Messenger. I just received it through my publisher and I am very grateful. The Book Thief, especially, means everything to me, and the fact that my writing has also meant something to you is something that can never be taken for granted. You write and think no-one will read it, let alone be compelled to write to you about it.
Thank you again. You’ve made my day!
All my best, Markus

Isn’t that a lovely note? I see via the internet that he has come a long way since 2006. His Bio says that he’s married and has two children and he appears to be very open to his fans, even encouraging them to get to know him by giving them his mailing address as well as being on Facebook and Twitter.

I love these two pictures that I “lifted” from his Facebook. I think that Australia must be very proud to call him one of their own.



Thursday, November 14, 2013


I’ve written about Bowen Barn in the past. It is my daughter & her husbands business in New York state where they sell a variety of goods from fine antiques to second hand furniture. It is also where they host musical events such as the one advertised above.

Joe Craven is a friend of theirs and an amazing musical artist. He is known nationwide and performs solo as well as with the Joe Craven Trio. He is extremely versatile and has accompanied many stars including Jerry Garcia and Yo Yo Ma. The following pictures show him performing at Bowen Barn in the large “fine antique” section.


All very interesting but where is the serendipity? Let me explain. Joe always stays at their house of course and evidently the next morning at breakfast California was brought up in their discussion. (I think that’s where Joe lives). My daughter happened to mention that she has a cousin out there who owns a winery and she was trying to remember the name of it. Then she mentioned that the wine was called “dam fine” because it was a take-off of her cousins nickname which is Beaver. 

Bingo! Joes eyes lit up as he explained that he and his trio had performed there in September. 

The winery is Castoro Cellars and the event was entitled “Beaverstock” and was a celebration of Neils (Beaver) and his wife Bimmer’s 30 years in business. Beaver is the youngest son of my sister Barbara who actually lives in a home built on the winery property.

I could envision it all since I visited Barbara a few years back and it was a thrill to know that, even with 3,000 miles separating us we can still connect in this way. And, just to bring it full circle back to me, I’ve enjoyed performances by Joe in North Carolina where he often plays at a venue called “The Roosters Wife” in Aberdeen (two towns removed from little old Vass, where I live !).


Saturday, November 09, 2013

A journey back in time …

Here is John Phillips Sousa, the “March King”. I don’t often hear his music now but I guess being close to Veteran’s Day was the reason that our local radio station led off their program today with his rousing rendition of “Semper Fidelis”, the official march of the United States Marine Corps.

Wow…did that take me back in time. All the way back to the 1940’s when I was seven. We lived in Plainfield, New Jersey … my mother, dad and 4 older sisters. We girls were all born in an 8 year period so you can see that we were close in age and all of us in school at the same time. Can you imagine 5 girls getting ready for school with only one bathroom in the house?

Of course this meant that we had to get up early and our dad had devised a plan to make this work. He was a production manager in an advertising company in New York City and was up very early every workday morning to catch a 7:30 train to the City. So, at exactly 5:30 AM he would turn the radio on (LOUD) to his favorite station which was completely dedicated to nothing but Sousa marches.

The minute I heard “Semper Fidelis” this morning I was once again that little girl scrambling to get to the bathroom first …amid cries of “Oh, Dad”, “Turn it down” and “I’m going back to bed”. I loved being the first one down for breakfast. It was our special time … just Dad and me and Sousa’s marches.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Lisa in China …(continued)

Let me tell you more about my friend Lisa. She and her husband are spending a year in Pinghu, China (pictured here), a city of approx. 500,000.

This area has not experienced a western invasion as have Shanghai and Beijing so they find themselves being stared at quite a bit, but for the most part the people are very friendly.

Lisa’s husband was hired to teach 28 10th graders and the first weekend that they were there some of the students took them on a tour of the city. They were taken to an old Chinese mansion built in the 1800’s and to a Buddhist temple constructed in the 1500’s. The culture and traditions of China were explained to them as they toured and they ended the day with a traditional hotpot meal. A boiling pot of broth was brought to the center of the table along with a selection of vegetables, meat, dumplings, etc. that the students had selected.

Lisa, unlike her husband, did not have a job waiting for her when they came to China but she was hoping to find work. Luckily for her this soon came to pass & she now teaches 2 sections of English as a Second Language (ESL).

Her students have a tough schedule consisting of 5 classes in Chinese and 5 in English, which includes ESL, Chemistry, Algebra II, World History and Reading /Writing. After 3 years they will have completed both the Chinese and American High School curriculums.

As I mentioned, Lisa and her husband are quite the novelty in Pinghu and one day while waiting to cross a busy street a Chinese man on a scooter stopped and asked where they were from. It turned out that he’d done his graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and is now teaching English.He was on his way to a sports complex and even asked Glen to join him to play basketball. An example of how ordinary people can break down the barriers of two very disparate nations.

I love getting Lisa’s emails and will share them with you. They make me realize that it’s an intriguing world and I want to learn as much as I can about it.