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Monument Valley Invokes Images Of My Dad

16 Mar

Monument Valley straddles Utah and Arizona, but for me it straddles my childhood and adulthood. I often watched old John Ford movies with my Dad, who was a major John Wayne fan. My job was to iron on the weekends, exactly when these old movies were on television. It gave me something to watch as I suffered through this chore and created a bonding time with my Dad.

Dad loved any John Wayne movie, military, westerns, Irish themed. I was more picky. There were three I loved. “The Quiet Man,” “The Searchers” and my favorite of all, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.” The last was filmed in Monument Valley, so I knew that one day I would make the trek to see this spectacular site. Finally I made it. It was more than I anticipated.

The visit came on the last touring day of a weeklong Roads Scholar program learning about the Hopi and Navajo Peoples and visiting their reservations. Monument Valley is located in the Navajo Reservation. It was worth the wait. Usually I write about my trips in order. But the emotional impact forced my mind to focus on this experience.

We arrived soon before lunch at the Goulding’s Trading Post, where we had time to visit some of the sites before we had lunch and continued into the valley. The movie crew used some of the outside of the buildings for the movie, including a storage building that became the office of Captain Nathan Brittles. Of course that was my first stop. John Wayne played this character in the movie. And although it is a small space lined with movie memorabilia, it touched a nerve in me. I started to cry as I exited the building, just missing my Dad.

The after lunch experience created moments of awe. As we toured the valley, stopping at many vistas along the way, including John Ford Point, and seeing sites that were visible in the movie, I kept thinking about my Dad. He would have LOVED seeing Monument Valley! He would have told me about every scene with a bit of Goulding’s or the Valley were in.

Dad would have relished the beauty of the valley. The bright red sand stone and majestic buttes would have inspired him as they inspired me. There are no words. Majestic is too small! Unbelievable is too trite! Incredible is ridiculous! Photos do not do it justice. Traveling along the 17 mile loop and listening to the young Navajo guide tell you the names given to the buttes and why they were named is a little surreal.

John Ford’s Point.

These buttes do not need names. They need appreciation! Each one still a work in process as the cold and water still invade the sandstone and split through the crevices causes giant portions of stone to fall and then crumble at the base.

I really felt Dad was with me in Monument Valley. Another woman on my trip was also on a pilgrimage in tribute of her husband who had passed away. He also loved old John Wayne movies. We decided that they were up there together watching us as we toured this site. And at the final stop on our tour of the Valley, she played her flute for the group. Her haunting melody swept across the silence, its lament echoed the sadness in my heart that my Dad never made it here. But at the same time the echoes of the music, the unbelievable, majestic and fantastic vistas brought me joy. Because I was there and in remembering my Dad I keep him alive.

I am so fortunate to have found the perfect educational program, great guides and wonderful experience to remember my Dad.

Our Daughter: Not An Astronaut

7 Mar

We always thought our daughter would become an astronaut.  It was not a crazy dream.  Our house was filled with books and videos focusing on the idea of space exploration.  My husband actually started filling out the application to join NASA, but an undetected medical issue ended his dream.  However, that did not stop him from always speaking about space. (See blog below.)

Because he could not be an astronaut, for his 40th birthday, I gave him a week of Adult Space Academy at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama in 1994, just four years after the program began. He had a wonderful time and came home with his own blue NASA jumpsuit, which became his Halloween costume for years.  As a pediatrician, it was important for him to have a great costume.  Each time he put it on, he glowed.

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My husband and daughter in Space Camp.

His constant discussions of the joys of space camp excited our daughter, who also wanted to go.  So in June 1995, my husband  took his NASA jumpsuit with him when he took our then nine-year old daughter to Huntsville for a weekend of Family Space Camp.  They had a wonderful time.

Our daughter was hooked. She also came home with a desire to learn everything she could about space and becoming an astronaut.  So the summer between sixth and seventh grade she went to Space Camp at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.

There is a wonderful museum there that contains many space relics.   We had been members of the Cosmosphere for several years, after a tour there once on our way to Wichita.  It was a bit out of our way, but well worth the journey.

When our daughter went to Space Camp in Hutchinson, there was only one overnight Space Camp available.  But she lucked out.  The following year, the Cosmosphere added a second level to Space Camp.  In this new program, the campers had an overnight trip to Houston, Texas, to visit NASA. That was so exciting for her.

While they were in Mission Control, the Space Shuttle mission STS-93 was orbiting the earth commanded by the Astronaut Eileen Collins, July 1999.  Our daughter was able to speak to Astronaut Collins.  And they were there when the Space Shuttle actually returned to earth and touched down in Houston.  That was the highlight for her.  A woman in control  epitomized our daughter’s dreams.

Her next stop was Huntsville, Alabama, on her own for Space Academy.  She was in her happy place.  At 15 years old, the world was hers.  As a scuba diver, she had her happiest moment in the giant tank, while others were learning to scuba dive, she somersaulted and enjoyed moving around the mock-up of the space vehicles.   We flew in to attend her graduation, where we were told what an excellent student she had been that week.

We didn’t fly in just for her.  Since her program ended on a Friday, my husband and son were signed up for Family Space Camp that weekend. While they enjoyed camp, my daughter and I explored Huntsville.  And she told me all about her experience.  She came home with her own  NASA jumpsuit and joined my husband in dressing up each Halloween.

Thus, we were surprised when she did not go into science and pursue her space exploration adventures.  In fact, when she wrote her college essay, she focused on the strengths of Pippi Longstocking, and not the excitement of space camp.

Why asked why, she said that an astronaut had come to speak to them at camp. He told them that the astronauts currently in the program were like penguins, who would never fly. To our daughter that was the end of her NASA dreams.  She found another dream and earned two masters’ degrees.  But never joined NASA.

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Our daughter never became an astronaut, but her American Girl doll did!  Last year, 2018,  the American Girl Company came out with Luciana.  Our daughter and her husband were at the mall when she stopped into the American Girl store because she saw all the clothes and items available for Luciana.  She purchased a NASA like jumpsuit for her doll.  She dressed her Rebecca doll as an astronaut and joined her in her own NASA jumpsuit! (It still fit as it had when she was a teenager!)

Recently I was at the mall and saw all the space accoutrements.  I sent photos to our daughter to see what she thought, as it was close to her birthday.  And even though she is in her 30s, her American Girl dolls and space are still important to her.  She reminded me that she had purchased the jump suit, but her husband said she did not need anything else.  But what is need to a mom.  I got the space suit, the book and a few other items. Once again I state, my daughter might never have been an astronaut, but I could be sure that her doll reached the stars.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

Locking Up Candy Saves the Day!

2 Mar
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The locked candy was kept on the bottom left side.

My Dad loved to eat candy.  He absolutely had a sweet tooth.  And he could not stop once he got started!  The only way my mother could stop him was to keep the candy locked up in the breakfront/curio cabinet in the dining room.  The key, which was beautiful and ornate, was kept it hidden from him.

To be honest, I think my brother and I knew where the key was from an early age. But we also knew not to take it or to eat the candy.  Mom had a strong knowledge of what was in the cabinet.  She had been keeping a strict eye on Dad and the candy ever since she had a mah jong game at our home, inviting four friends over to play, and when she went to put out the treats, almost all the candy was gone. She was so annoyed that she started locking up the candy in the bottom part of the breakfront, where you could not see what was inside.

Baked goods were not a problem. Our grandfather was a baker, so there was often cakes and bread in the house.  It was delicious and kept us filled with delights.  But I guess for my Dad it was not enough.  Candy was his downfall.  Thus, my Mom rarely purchased any and when she did, she locked it away.

The locked candy worked for us as well, especially when our home was robbed.  There was a rash of robberies in North Bergen that year along the Boulevard East corridor. The police had even put notices on the front doors of homes in the area.  We had been fine.  We really thought no one would enter our house, because our elderly landlady, who lived on the second floor, was often home.   But eventually the thieves came to our home.

My brother and I were students at North Bergen High School at the time.  Luckily, he arrived home before me and found the giant mess.  The police thought he interrupted the thieves as our stereo and television were left hanging, actually hanging from their wires.. The police also thought the thieves went out one door while my brother came in the other.  My parents  were less concerned about the burglary because the police were so happy that my brother was safe.  They felt we were lucky that my brother was not injured!  This left quite an impression on us.  We were  careful about opening the door and entering the house for years!

But the burglary was intense!  The thieves trampled through our home.  Searching through everything. Emptying out the closets and the drawers.  It was a disaster and took quite awhile to put back into order!  For me the idea that someone had rummaged through my clothes, my underwear,  horrified me.  I had to wash everything before I would wear it again.  What bothered me the most however, is that they stole my moon landing necklace.  I had a lovely round silver disc that showed Tranquility Base and spot where the lunar lander had settled, which my Dad bought me in 1969.  It was one of my prized possessions.  I only wish I had worn it to school that day in 1970, the spring of my sophomore year of high school.

My parents’ closet and dressers were totally emptied.   It was an enlightening moment for my younger sister.  In 1963, at the World’s Fair, my parents had purchased a 45 record of “It’s A Small World After All” for her.  My sister listened to it constantly.  Finally, my Mom could not take it anymore.  She hid the record in the closet and told my sister she accidentally broke it when she was cleaning.  Imagine my sister’s surprise when she spied the record, totally intact, on the floor.  That, at least, gave us all a moment of delight in the middle of cleaning and anguish.  Well maybe my sister was not delighted.  And perhaps my Mom felt a bit guilty.  But my father, brother and I had a great laugh.

However, the best of all was the locked candy, which actually saved the day.  The breakfront had two locked doors.  On one side was the candy.  On the other side was our Mom’s jewelry and some other important items.

The thieves did their best.  They pried open one door. Destroying the locks and damaging the door.  All they found were bags of candy that they emptied out on the floor.  I wish I could be there when they searched and found nothing but candy.  They must have thought we were crazy people locking up candy.

The good news is that they did not even attempt to open the other door. They left it locked.  Leaving all my mom’s valuables behind.  From that point on, locking up candy took on new meaning as it had saved us from losing many more important items.

It took a while to get the breakfront fixed.  No more locked candy.   My parents also found another place to keep the jewelry.   But we never forgot how that the locked up candy saved the day.  To be honest, whenever I go to visit my sister in New Jersey, I look at the breakfront and remember its importance in saving our valuables during a burglary.

 

 

A Memorable Day My Senior Year at Drew

10 Feb

As I try to sort through old photos we found when cleaning out my parents’ and my grandparents’ homes, I find some that trigger strong memories.   Recently a few appeared that brought me back to college at Drew University in Madison, NJ.

It is my senior year.  I will only be there for one more semester, as I completed college in three and a half years.  It is the fall 1976, and my parents decided they were going to take advantage of the lovely weather and spend a day with me, along with my paternal grandparents.

Although both born in the United States, neither of my grandparents went to college. Grandpa finished eighth grade, I believe.  Grandma finished high school, she might have also gone to a secretary school, as she worked as an executive secretary until she was 77.

On this Sunday, since I was only an hour away from my parent’s home in New Jersey, they all came out to see me and take me out to lunch.  It was a wonderful planned surprise.

I took my parents and grandparents all around the college campus.  They met my friends. Saw my dorm room.  They finally could visualize where I was going to college.  This was a treat for all of us.

My grandfather, who was usually a solemn and taciturn person, was happy. He enjoyed the entire day.   I was almost surprised that he came because he was never outgoing with us.  But he and I shared a bond because I sewed and he was a tailor.

You will notice in one photo I stand with my grandparents and mother in front of a window.  They had a good laugh because that window led to my dorm room.

I was living in the first floor of what was then New Dorm.  It had recently opened. And I was so excited to have a room to myself!!!  Each ‘suite’ had four little rooms surrounding a common bathroom.  I thought it was the biggest and the best.  I never ever had my own room before. In fact, it was the only time in my life I had my own room.

Across the bathroom from me lived one of my best college friends. We are still friends to this day.  Another room was filled with a girl who lived with me my junior year in a real suite, where we even had a living room.  The fourth girl I did not know.  She spent most of her time in her room.

New Dorm was built into a hill, so on one side the rooms were below ground level.  That window was high up in my bedroom. But I did not care.  I told my parents that it kept me warmer and allowed me more shelf space!! They still could not understand why I would give up a suite with a living room for this arrangement.  But I loved it.

My daughter went to Drew 30 years after I did.  She lived in this dorm as a senior as well, after spending her junior year in a real suite.  It was just great to have your own space.  When she graduated, I was there to help her clean out her room after four years of college.  And when I entered Riker Dorm, once New Dorm, the rooms and the bathroom seemed so small!  I was mildly shocked because my memories made everything so much bigger.  But it was still a great place to live!

But back to my grandparents and parents.  They were laughing because I thought living in the basement was a great improvement over sharing a room.  My grandparents told me that in their day, living in the basement apartment was not considered a treat.  Rather it had lower rent because there were no good windows and no light.  They could laugh all they wanted, for me it was the best ever.

I had a wonderful senior semester at Drew. These two pictures bring back memories of college and delightful memories of my parents and grandparents.

 

 

Does My Takasago Couples Bring Happiness to My Marriage, Perhaps!

19 Jan

My Japanese carved celluloid pieces are bits of memories of my Dad, who fought in the Korean War in 1951-1952.   He spent time in Japan as well and purchased little carved objects that he gave to my Mom, as well as to my grandparents.

I remember four items in particular, there might have been more: the clamshell with its tiny diorama, the elderly couple, the rickshaw, the seven lucky gods of fortune.  When I see them, I think of his service, and his pride of serving his country.  But I also see the lovely art made in Japan.

I have the clam and the elderly couple.  My sister has what remains of the seven gods and their pedestal.  They were on a corner shelf in my parent’s apartment as long as I can remember.  We often played with them as did our children and some are lost.  As for the rickshaw, it has disappeared.  The clam, couple and rickshaw were always in a curio cabinet and so remained intact.

I wanted to find out more about these objects.  Why they were made? Were they made for the soldiers who came after World War 2 and were occupying Japan?  Was it a way to earn money in an economy that needed to grow?  A cheap gift that soldiers could buy and bring home?

I have no idea. I tried going on line and finding out about them. But all I could see was multiple images of items similar to mine.  I saw about 30 different clamshells, including one so similar to mine.  It had the cute little red crab on the top, the two little shells on the bottom as feet, and a similar boat floating in a river. The tiny people carved inside were different.

I found rickshaws carrying geishas similar to the one I remember.  There were also several collections of the seven gods available for sale.

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My parent’s Takasago couple.

The only items I did not see available for sale was my elderly couple.  I understand that, because they are considered lucky for married couples!  My parents got married just before my Dad was shipped overseas. And my Dad brought this couple home for my mother as a gift.

I remember my graduate school roommate, who was Japanese, seeing these at my parent’s home and telling me that they were good fortune given to a couple when they married to bring long live together.  It did work for my parents. They were married for 59 years before my Mom passed away.  Pekoe loved these figurines and was so happy that my parents had them.

I have since learned that they represent the Takasago Legend about an elderly man and his wife.  They figurines are to help a couple live together in harmony until they grow old together.  The couple are often shown in drawings with the elderly man raking to bring in good fortune, while the woman is sweeping to push away trouble.  I love this legend!  You can even see that my couple, the man is holding a rake, and the woman holds a broom.

At Japanese wedding ceremonies, these Takasago figurines are put on a special shelf called Shimadai with other items that bring good fortune.  The figurines can be made from many different items and are to invoke a long, harmonious married life.

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The couple I received .

My roommate gave me another Takasago couple, carved from pine wood, which she sent from Japan, when my husband and I married.  The Takasago couple are also called the ‘twin pine couple,’ hence the wooden couple has much significance as well.  Because of my immersion into Japanese culture, my parents gave their couple to me when to me when I got married.

My parents had a second well-worn couple from Japan. They might also be Takasago. But I am not sure.

So I have three sets of figurines.  One is a young couple just beginning their journey. The other the embodiment of an elderly couple who has grown old together.  The other is another young couple, who shows that it had been handled over time. Perhaps for good luck?

We will be married 39 years this year.  And I see by our greying hair, that we are maturing.  I do not know for sure if these two Takasago couples helped us in our journey, but I tend to think their presences daily in our kitchen, watching over us, could not hurt.

 

 

https://japanesemythology.wordpress.com/the-takasago-legend-of-the-meoto-couple-or-the-happy-couple-and-the-twin-pines/

Cemetery Records Impacts Family Stories

11 Jan

Recently I received a cemetery record from a friend of mine, who grew up with my husband’s cousins.  Her grandfather and my husband’s grandfather were great friends.

In any case, she is researching her family history and did research on the Jewish Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas, where my husband’s grandparents and aunt are buried.  (Mount Zion Cemetery or Sons of Truth. )She found their funeral records as well, and sent them to me and other family members.  I sent it on to one more.  For me they were enlightening.  My husband’s mother had told me many stories about her family before she died.  And these records impacted these stories.

Story Number One:  Her mother, Esther, died in childbirth when she was in her 40s.   The cemetery records make this clear.  She died in the early 1930s and was buried with an infant.  This would have been child number 11, although her oldest daughter had died years before.  Born in 1889, she died in 1933, when she was just 43.  On another note,  her birthday was October 4; and many of her grandchildren are born October!

Story Number Two:  My mother in law was named for her older sister, Molly, who died in May.  I was told she died in the swine flu epidemic in 1918 or 1919.  Not true.  Molly died from the pneumonia in May 1924, when she was 19 years old.  What amazes me as well is that she was born and died on the same day in May just 19 years apart!Still a tragedy!  But what is true is that my mother in law was born almost exactly a year later.  And so was given her sister’s Hebrew name, along with another name.  This impacts me, as my daughter is named for her grandmother and so also for this great aunt.

A story we did not know, is that Malvina or Molly or Malcha, was first buried in Wichita, Kansas, where the family lived.   The family moved to Leavenworth some time after she died, leaving her grave behind.  But after her mother died, Molly’s remains were moved to Leavenworth in 1935, to be with her mother.

My mother in law told me that her father went every to visit the grave of his wife and daughter.  I have been at the cemetery and I know there is a bench there where he sat.

Story Number Three:  My husband’s grandfather died in the middle of World War 2 in Leavenworth, which impacted his three youngest children.  So true.  His date of death is listed as December 6, 1942.  Just one year after Pearl Harbor.  He had been a widow for nine years.  And was just 64 when he died.  The same age my husband is now!

At the time of his death, three children were minors, the others were married or serving in the military.  The oldest of these three was my mother in law.   She was a senior in high school.  We think she stayed with friends for the rest of the school year.  We know after high school, she moved to St. Louis to attend Washington University and live with an older sister and her family.

My mother in law told me that one day when she came home she saw her brother and sister sitting on the steps.  Some family friends were there. And she just knew something horrible had happened.  It had.  After losing her mother when she was only 8, she was now an orphan.

The two youngest, 12 and 15 at the time, were first taken to Wichita.  Remember the good friend?  She told me that her grandfather drove through a horrible storm to get the youngest children so they would not be alone.  He brought them back to Wichita.  From there they went to Arkansas to live with their oldest brother and his family.  Officially they were supposed to live in Kansas, according to my mother in law, but the state gave permission for them to leave the state to live with family during the war.

After the war was over, the youngest son was still a minor.  He went to live with another brother and his wife in Wichita.  The next youngest, a daughter, was in nursing school,  but would stay with this brother as well during vacations.

All three of these youngest children went to college, which I find amazing!  But I remember my husband’s aunt, the one who lived in St. Louis, telling me that although there was not a lot of money left after their dad died, there was enough for college, and the older siblings made sure the younger siblings went.

After I received the cemetery records, there was some serious texting back and forth between this friend and I, as well as an older first cousin who grew up in Wichita.  Her parents are the ones who took in the youngest sibling.

It is just amazing that different people know different parts of the same story.  But when you put it all together, a truer picture appears.   Most  amazing how finding the right records can answer so many questions!

 

Thank you to /www.findagrave.com/.  I was able to see grave stones.

Oy, An Egg Kichel! Delicious!

9 Jan

Amazing how the taste of a freshly baked egg kichel can bring back so many joyful memories!

It started with a Facebook post by a friend.  She posted something from My JewishLearning.com, entitled “Kichels Recipe: Jewish Bow Tie Cookies.    (See link below, it includes the recipe.)

A few of my friends started commenting on the post about how much they loved these cookies, including me.  I commented: “My grandpa made these in his bakery and continued making them for us.  I loved them.  I would glad to be a tester for you!”

Next thing I knew I had committed to meeting a different friend and making them.  What a delight! She had posted that her Bubbie made these treats.  And she wanted to make them again.  I was all in!  (I do feel a bit of guilt that we did not have the person who posted the article with us!)

You do not bake egg kichel, you fry them.  You do not need much, just flour, salt, vinegar, eggs, oil and powdered sugar.    Mixing bowls, a mixer and a frying pan, along with lots of paper towels are required.  I promise you an hour or so of fun, and then a delicious reward.

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One of our early batches.  A bit too thick!

We learned something from our foray into making them.  The dough does have to be paper thin!  It is best to have all the dough rolled out and cut into strips before heating up the oil.  And really, you must make sure the oil is hot, hot, hot before you start putting the dough strips into the frying pan.

My friend was in charge of mixing, then rolling out the dough, and making the paper-thin morsels for us to fry.  The learning experience commence with our first frying. The strips were too thick.  So for the next batch, she started cutting the strips and rolling them out again. SUCCESS!

The excitement once we did it correctly was encompassing.  Each rectangle of dough would almost instantly turn white, bubble up and float to the top of the oil.  In a few moments one side would be golden brown, and I would flip them over.  Watch them a few moments more and then out into the towel to soak up extra oil.  Then I sifted the powdered sugar over them.

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I combined some batches.  But here they are letting the oil soak out!

We had to try one from each batch to taste the difference.  The thinner the dough, the hotter the oil, the crispier the fried kichel, the better it tasted.  We had six batches, so we had to try six. YES!  We really did!

I am so happy my friend not only said that we need to make them one afternoon, she set a date! It was not only the fun of tasting and frying, it brought back the memories of cooking with our grandparents.  We cannot bring them back, but we can in our minds relive happy moments like this!

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 Mine are on the right!

Even after tasting, we had so much left over.  We divided them up relatively evenly.  I suggested she keep extra as she has a grandson living close by to help in the eating.  But I was happy to bring a plate home for my husband and me.

My husband doesn’t have the same memories.  He never tasted egg kichel.  A Shanda!  Can you imagine never eating them?  I cannot.  But then he did not have anyone to bake traditional cookies and treats when he was growing up.  Both of his grandmother’s died very young.

For me, however, each snap of a kichel in my mouth along with the melting of the powder sugar gives me joy.  Oy!  Egg Kichel!  It is so delicious

 

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/kichels-recipe-jewish-bow-tie-cookies/?utm_content=buffer717d6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=thenosher&utm_campaign=buffer