Isaac’s Storm

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I recently read or heard a headline “Atlantic hurricane season to be more active than normal.”  I get fear flashes.  My first hurricane experience was as a young kid in Bristol, Connie (missed us) followed by Diane (hit the Delaware Valley).  Both in August 1955.  I was eight years old.  I remember my father protecting our store’s plate glass windows with plywood, the winds howling down Mill Street,  the river rising, into the Mill street parking lot, then our warehouses filled with  the store’s GE appliances.  There were rows of refrigerators, washing machines, dryers and stoves.  The day after,  my father and an employee, Harry, moved the damaged goods to a building up town on higher ground.   I have a strange recollection that Harry was working in his undershorts.  Strange but vivid?    Were they insured?

In the late 1970s, Diane and I had bought a small riverside house in Yardley Borough.  We bought directly from the owner, I don’t remember any talk about flooding.  Certainly nothing had happened since Diane in 1955.  But it soon became obvious Diane’s waters had flooded our new house.  Windows were wracked; mud crusted beams in the basement.  Later renovations showed flood waters had reached about 3 feet on the first floor.

Years passed.  Ocassionally the river rose, particularly in the spring snow thaw.  We learned to read the Trenton station — on the telephone then the Internet. .  Normal river height was 9-10 feet.  At 17 feet water was crossing River road in Yardley.  At 20 it was in the back yard — up through storm drains.   At 23 our basement was filled with water. In 1996 there were high levels in the neighborhood but no damage to us.   The worse never happened.  Until 2004.

For the next three years, we flooded.  Some due to hurricanes.  Our basement filled with water, destroying electrical, furnace, and whatever we had left ground level or below.  So now when I hear “Atlantic hurricane season to be more active than normal,” I perk up.

For some reason, last week, I decided to reread, “Isaac’s Storm: a man, a time, and the deadliest hurricane in history.”  The author, Erik Larson, tells an amazing tale.  He writes, “This is the story of Isaac and his time in America, the last turning of the centuries, when the hubris of men led them to believe they could disregard even nature itself. ”

 

A short summary:  1900, a storm develops off Cuba, the National Weather Service reports it will track up the Atlantic Coast.  Cuban forecasters who  are not respected by the NWS are blocked broadcasting an alternative route. Isaac, the NWS man in Galveston, Texas, follows the Washington-party line. The storm must turn to the northeast.

The storm, a major hurricane, heads west, not northeast, and hits Galveston. About 6,000 die, the city is destroyed, Isaac’s  wife is lost in the waters, could we have predicted, prevented this?

Galveston rebuilds.  Just as New Orleans would rebuild after Katrina.  And on a smaller scale Yardley, my Rivermawr neighborhood, would rebuil after three floods in three years.  Some due to hurricane waters.

I worry about the coming hurricane season even though we elevated our house.  Our flooding is made worse (higher) by man made dams on the river in New York.  They are kept at 100% capacity and spill water in heavy rains.  Should the dams in NY be kept at less than 100% to povisde  space for some upriver rain?

And then there is global warming, higher ocean waters, hurricanes and increased flooding.  Should we have policies to slow man’s impact on global warming?

 

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Women in the news and in my life

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It’s March 2017.  I’m remembering January  21, the day after Trump’s inaguaration, thousands and thousands of women (and men) marched in protest in D.C. and cities around the country and the world.   The numbers were amazing.  The Women’s March.

It’s interesting and exciting that the dissent was spearheaded by women.  The President elect, our President maligned so many groups, including women.  But it’s women who took the initiative, don’t accept, resist. More are considering running for elective office.

Over a year ago I wrote a blog, “Friendship: the guys.”  I knew there needed to be a companion, “Friendship: the girls.” Maybe now is the time.

Women contributed significantly to who I am.  I have four sisters, all younger — Cissy, Vicky, Marylee and Lizanne.  All unique personalities.  My relationship with each is very different but they all have been very important in my life.    Several months ago I wrote about Marylee and will reflect on the others in future blogs, not here.   In a similar way, my mother Cis, daughter Jenny and aunt Ellen were/are important females who influenced me and deserves their own blogs.

Cousin Ellen Mignoni is the only other female relative whom I consider a close friend.  We grew up together and stay in touch.  Ellen is on my weekly call list; she is supportative and keeps me balanced. But it’s interesting,  in recent years I’ve had more contact with cousins Elaine and Phyllis;  closer friends in the making.

My earliest “girl” friend (much to mom’s dismay) was Carol Jefferies, a fellow Mill Street apartment resident, a tough kid — a year older and basically not the best influence. We got caught in a 5 and 10 store theft — can I say Carol was behind it.    In elementary school, there were various friends who were “girls,”  — Donna Lutz, Patty O’Gara, Karen Fannin, and Karen McGee.  There were different relationships with each of them but all good friends. Karen Fannin for several years was my first “girlfriend.” She taught me that girls had different interests.  In High School, I stayed connected with Karen McGee.   She was a bit of a confidant, we shared growing up concerns.  I should get in touch with her.

In my Sophomore  year I began dating Rainy Cohen.  She was from a liberal Jewish family, had an older college brother at Ann Arbor, who was involved in the anti-war movement. For me, a different culture (Jewish and political activist) and it may have contributed to my anti-war involvement in college.  Rainy today is a retired teacher, a liberal Facebook activist. We have FB contact.

Interestingly, Diane is the only female friend from my college years.  We met at a party in the Boston Statler Hilton hotel, dated for a year and decided to get married.  It’s hard to believe that was almost 50 years ago.  In the past few years, we’ve attempted to adjust to retirement and my medical issues.  It’s not always easy.  She can be very critical but it pushes me to look at my decisions.  We also share many interests and while traveling her serendipity (let’s check out this back road) complements my planning (but it’s getting late). I’d write more but she wouldn’t want me to write anything.  Enough.

In the early 1970s I read a book, “Open Marriage” by the O’Neills.  Their premise was that a married couple  didn’t fulfill all their spouse’s needs.   Wives would have male friends; husbands would have female friends.  I remember teachers at the Holy Ghost Prep faculty lunch table being amazed by the idea.  No “open  marriage” there.  But over the years Diane has had male friends and I’ve had female friends.  Many of these “girl” friends have become part of my life.

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After college and the Peace  Corps training, Diane and I lived in Bristol,  then Yardley. My first post-PC job was teaching at Saint Michael’s in Levittown.  Much to my amazement, my principal, a Mercer nun, became a close friend and mentor.  Sister Michael Marie was amazing.  She identified with kids, respected faculty, and energized  a school.  She taught me how to be an effective, understanding school administrator.  I kept in touch with her for decades, and we had a retirement lunch a few years ago, before she passed. One of my first adult female friends.

Diane and I  both became close friends with Barbara Cantor who would marry one of my best friends, John Paglione.  Barbara had moved to Bristol recommended by her Pratt College roommate Melody.  Barbara and John met in a local drug store and were soon married.  Melody, a developing  potter,  married a local boyfriend Garret Bonnema.  We all became friends.  Barbara and Melody are among my close women friends today, decades later.  Both contributed to my artistic sensibility.

For several years in the early 1970s, Diane and I lived with John and Barbara Paglione in a rented house in New Hope. Barbara became a “sister.” In recent years, we’ve visited Paglione’s in Ann Arbor, hosted them in Yardley and shared several short vacations. More are in the planning stages. Although John and I talk weekly, I really enjoy when I call and get to hear Barbara’s perspective.  A women’s point of view.

Barbara and John Dye were neighbors when we bought our River Road house in Yardley in the mid  1970s.  Their daughter, Kati and Jenny became best friends.  The Dye’s had been Peace Corps volunteers.  Although we all had similar interests, we had more contact with Barbara.    She was more out spoken, socially and political active.  She was a liberated woman and we became friends.  But it’s interesting, now that we’re all retired,  John and I have become closer. The interaction between couples is interesting.

My friends specifically female friends, were often associated with Holy Ghost Prep or Yardley Borough.  Rose Horch, lived in Yardley, was hired at HGP as an English teacher and later Academic Dean.  We became friends.  She left HGP for ETS but  we stayed in contact and although our current interaction is limited, Rose and her husband Dwight, Diane and I have had lunch in Lambertville. Rose showed me a professional woman.

Barbara Cavanaugh was a younger German teacher at HGP in the 1970s.   My first European trip with students was a week in Germany with Barbara.  Barbara was a female contact with the younger generation — music, movies, lifestyle.  I always commented how I had faculty friends that kept me young.  Barbara was the first female in that category.

Years later I became friends with another German (and math) teacher, Sandy Courtney.   For years Sandy organized an exchange program with an HGP school in Germany.  I signed on two years.  Sandy and I had a unique relationship.  She was pretty conservative, but socially liberal.  She didn’t drink but had no problem joining me as I sampled German beer.  I have some contact with Barbara on Facebook; but contact with Sandy has been too limited.

Another HGP teacher, Eleanor Osborne and I were friends from Bristol.  She and I grew up on the same block on Mill Street.  Regularly the Profy family had pizza and pasta from her family’s restaurant.  Eleanor came to HGP as a substitute foreign language teacher — Spanish.  As the years passed and we became older, Eleanor increasingly became one of my sisters with frequent telephone contact.  A new HGP language teacher, Edna Ramirez , and I have become social friends.  Fascinating how you just click with some people.

In my last years at HGP, I also became close to Kathy Posey, an English teacher. She was from Virgina and and at times slides into a southern drawl — calling me “Vinne.”  I would only allow that from Kathy.  She retired right after me and we have met for lunch several times. Kathy is understanding, a support, a good friend. Kathy showed me the importance of nurturing students.  Mom, Kathy.

Other HGP female friends include Arlene Buettler (her husband John was a 60s HGP grad, faculty member and friend) and Trish O’Conner.  Both were my assistants in the library.  Arlene’s library style was conservative, hush, quiet, very classic; Trish was liberal, loud, a friend of all students.  Although both could sometimes drive me crazy, they were/are close friends.  I still send Arlene notices related to “chocolate;” Trish gets emails related to Ireland. More recently, Gerri Carmine, another math teacher, and administrator became a cooking, Italian culture friend.  There are other HGP teachers who have left imprints, Louise Martucchi, Pat Esposito, Karen Smallen, Jan Nolting, Kristen Walters.

We moved to Yardley in 1978.  Several years later I was recruited by the local Republican Party to run for Borough Council.  At my first meeting I  met Susan Taylor.  A fiscal Republican but quite liberal socially.  I had registered Republican to vote against Reagan in the primaries.  Could I run as  Repulican?  I did.  Susan and I became a local team for eight years.  In addition to our time dedicated to borough issues; we socialized.  During the 1980s, our family vacation was chartering a 30 foot sailboat out of Rock Hall on the Chesapeake with the Taylors.   Jerry, Susan’s husband, had significant sailing experience.

For years I became involved in  local community organizations.  Susan, sometimes Jerry, were involved with the same organizations — the Yardley Historical Association, Friends of Lake Alton, Friends of the Delaware Canal,  the Yardley Community Center.  Although I no longer have involvement in the community organizations; our friendship with the Taylors is strong.  Susan is probably my closest female friend.  Words not needed; she understands.

Another girl friend from the Council years was Sue Micklewright.  Sue was hired as one of Yardley’s first Borough managers.  We had a professional relationship which developed into a personal friendship, which has continued even though Sue moved to Oregon.  When I’m upset, Sue is often my late night telephone call or FB friend.

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Women’s role in our lives and their contribution to our history – personal and national — is often not recognized.  I suspect I have a share of male chauvinism.  But  I believe I have also realized the contributions of women to my personal life and our national character. Part of who I am is because of them.  I thank them. May there be many more women’s marches.

 

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Tapestry of tradition and memory

 

 

 

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On December 3, Diane and I met the Kwaits at the Prallsville Mills craft show.  It was our kick off for the 2016 Christmas season.  It’s a small but friendly show, maybe 40 booths, a lot of jewelry and women’s clothes.  I didn’t buy anything but enjoyed talking to several crafters.  Kathleen Lang Metaxas makes scarves eco-printed and colored with natural materials; she has a new studio in downtown Yardley.  We liked raised wooden trays by Larry Rocco from Pipersville; but I think if I shopped for the right piece of wood, I could make one.  A carpentry challenge.  I was particularly taken with handmade Irish tweed caps made by a woman, “Dannybird.”

Back home I built the first fire of the season, between games and reading with the kids, I reflected  on our Christmas traditions.  This past week, we took the kids to McCarter Theatre in Princeton to see “A Christmas Carol.”  When Jenny was growing up Christmas Carol at McCarter or some other Christmas theatre was an annual outing.   This was the first time for Eli and Viv.  Neither got scared, like the little boy behind us.  And they seemed to get into the spirit as the cast wandered and talked to the audience, before and after the performance.  And so, as Tiny Tim said, “A Merry Christmas to us all; God bless us every one.”

Other years, we have  gone to the Nutcracker — in Philadelphia several times —  but the best was the NYC production.  We’ve enjoyed Handel’s Messiah.  This year we went to Princeton to see Robert Kapilow & the American Boys Choir at the Presbyterian Church on Nassau.  Another big Christmas show is the Rockettes, at Radio City Music Hall.  We’ve only gone once with the Dehene’s. This year we joined them for a Christmas Open House Tour sponsored by the Delaware Art Museum.  Four of the five homes were former DuPont homes, unfortunately we didn’t find them very decorated unlike the Pearl Buck home in Upper Bucks which we visited last year.

This year the Kwait’s were able to get to the Washington Crossing rehearsal.  Rob invited Eli’s scout troop.  It was clear and crisp morning and the volunteers crossed in the replica Durham boats.  After speeches and walking, the kids went to see the reproduction of the Emmanuel Leutze iconic painting.  Sadly in all the years we’ve lived close by, I’ve only done the Crossing about four times. Other local events are the light show at Shadybrook Farm and Yardley’s Tree Lighting and Santa parade.

 

 

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Many years, we’ve had an outing to  New York City for Christmas shopping.  I remember my first time.  Diane was the guide, familiar with Fifth Avenve.  Some of the names I recognized, but had never been to, Tiffany, Cartier, Bergdorf Goodman, Barnes & Noble,  Rizolli, FAO Swartz, ond other classics shops.  This was the early 1970s.  The iconic toy store, FAO Swartz is gone now.   So  is Rizolli’s, although we still have two vinyl Renaissance music albums that we bought on the trip.  I still recall the salesman carefully taking the record from the sleeve and playing it for us.  Sold.  Of course we visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Rockefeller Center, although we never rented skates.  This trip or some variation, became fairly regular when Jenny was young and also when my sister, Vicky,  lived in Darien, CN.  Sometimes the trip shifted downtown to Times Square and Macy’s and the other department stores with their decorated windows.    Or Soho as it became hip.

In the 1970-80s, Peddler’s Village in Lahaska was a traditional Christmas shopping stop.  There was several shops we liked and it was a good trip to take with my parents. Bookstore, toy store, Scandinavian decor, crafts, garden center, historic documents, women’s clothes, cups of warm cider, gingerbread houses, holiday music and maybe a few snow flakes.  In recent years, our stops there are more focused — the Italian food store or chocolate shop that sells nut free.  Haven’t wandered in years.

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Similarly New Hope and Lambertville have been holiday shopping destinations.  NH has had some excellent stores –Japan Artisans was a fantastic shop back in the 1970s,  Topeo Gallery was a favorite, Farley’s is still one of the best bookstores in the area, and there were others.  However we haven’t walked New Hope in years.  Certainly not for Christmas shopping.  Lambertville offers more today (years ago it was a nice working class town) after gentrification — many galleries and shoppes.

In recent  years Princeton is usually on our Christmas shopping trip list.  It’s less the specific shops and purchases and more the warm community, holiday spirit.  A great book store, shoe stores, record exchange, cheese, tea, oil,  soaps and bath oils, paper products, kitchen gadgets —  Princeton has a bit of everything. Like Mill Street in Bristol when I was growing up.  And we can always have lunch at a favorite — Theresa Cafe, Mediterra, Agricola, Blue Point Grill, and the classic Nassau Inn. Lots to choose from.  Many years this includes some performance at McCarter.

Surprisingly Philadelphia (a city I love) isn’t always on our current Christmas shopping trip list.  It seems the trendy commercial neighborhoods change.  There was South Street, a bit hip, years ago; special trips to the Italian Market; Chestnut Street had a few years in the sun; there was always several blocks of Walnut.  Market East was never an interest. As a kid the Wanamaker toy department, Christmas organ show, meet me at the eagle, Lit’s Christmas village; the spirit was fantastic.  When Jenny was young, downtown Phila was still a favorite attraction.  More recently the Christmas festival at City Hall and Olld City emerged in the 1990s. We still might spend a holiday afternoon in Philadelphia, usually associated with a theatre or music show.

We lived in Bristol and Yardley and there have been shops of interest in both towns.  Mignoni Jewelers is a mainstay in Bristol.  At least make a Christmas stop.  Yardley shops seem to come and go.  For several years there was a great doll shop and an interesting  craft store, I believe at different times in the same retail space.  In the 70s, there was JD Sacs, a sports outfitter.   Hometown shops were always great for that last minute Christmas Eve purchase. In the 1950s, I didn’t need to leave Mill Street.

Malls, Black Friday, Big Box Stores?  Neshaminy, Oxford Valley, Plymouth Meeting, Quaker Bridge, Princeton Market Fair, Toys r us, Staples, Home Depot, IKEA, the choices are endless.  We may shop for a specific item at a specific store but I wouldn’t call it a tradition and don’t have any fond memories.  We are small town -city.  And I’ll admit, now,  Amazon and other Internet sites.

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A week ago, we brought down several boxes of Christmas decorations.  In one there are different style Christmas lights — most not fully working.  There will be table decorations and tree ornaments.  When first married in the 70s, Diane and I went to Snipes Nursery on Route 1.  In addition to a tree, we would purchase several German wooden decorations or  tree ornaments.  For about a decade, they had a great selection.  Frequently the tree ornament we purchased that year reflected something that happened in our lives — Jenny’s birth, buying a house, a new car, a dog, we would put the date on the ornament.  Today there are more ornaments than tree space but we still like to add a new one to the collection. They are no longer all wooden but made out of all types of material.  Some homemade, some gifts, some fragile, some dated, but each year we open the box and go through them one by one.  Oh, Diane bought this in France.  Tom Corley knitted this.  Memories.

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Snipes is closed.  Now we drive an hour to Chester County, Route 1, Terrain at Styers (owned by Urban Outfitters).  For us, the ultimate “yuppie,” (hate the term), upscale garden center.  Terrain practices what I call “thematic marketing.”  A table displays honey (local, organic, specific flavors), pottery honey pots, books on honey and bees, aprons with buzzing bees.   They do still sell plants and garden supplies.  Several years ago, early December, we noticed a different Christmas tree.  Turned out it was a Silvertip Fir from the Sierra Nevada in California.  “Got to be kidding, buy local, and then we buy a tree grown 3,000 miles away.”   This year we trimmed our fourth Silver tip.  But we like the light color, spread out branches and needles that stay in place till March.  Terrain also has all kinds of Christmas decorations and plants.  Easy to run up the credit card.  But we do get 10% off as Pennsylvania Horticultural Society members.

Some years our drive to Chester County for Terrain, involves  a stop at the Brandywine River Museum and its special Christmas traditions including creative natural tree ornaments.    My mother always liked to go to the museum shop at Winthur.  One year my sisters and I all got beautiful wooden bowls turned on a lathe from a local tree that had gone down.  A few years we’ve visited Longwood Gardens.  Fantastic.  We should make the Chadds Ford/Delaware trip this year.

 

At home we address home traditions.  There are a stack of Children’s Christmas books we display on coffee tables.  There are CD disks and probably a few vinyl — must look for those Renaissance albums bought at Rizolli’s fifty years ago.  Our manager display is ultra simple — wooden figures bought at Snipes decades ago.  We usually surround them with cut evergreen.  Although we’ve done outside house lights a few years, it’s usually pretty limited.  This year Diane purchased a birch like tree with tiny lights (from Terrain and we saw them in two or three homes on the Delaware House tour).

We still send out Christmas cards — about 50 this year.  A few years we did the Christmas or New Year’s  letter with photographs.  I like sending cards, with a brief hand written note.  A way to keep in touch with family members we don’t see throughout the year, friends from college and former Yardley friends,  and a lot of former colleagues.

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We usually watch some Christmas movies.  “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street.”   But two are almost mandatory.  Diane will pull out our VHS copies of Albert Finney’s 1970 “Scrooge” and 1968 “Lion in Winter.”  Maybe the tension-love between Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katherine Hepburn) and Henry II (Peter O’Toole) provides a holiday catharsis.

Growing up and for many years of our early marriage, the Christmas tree went up on Christmas Eve.  Not sure but this may have been related to Father and Mother both working evenings leading up to Christmas.  Most years we went to midnight Mass at Saint Marks in Bristol.  I was an alter boy for years.  One year Father scaled the church nativity scene and made a smaller replica.  As Jenny got older, we decorated earlier. This year we decorated the week before.

Christmas has always been a time to visit with family.  Christmas Day around 11 a.m. always found my family at my Grandparent Profy’s house.  Diane similarly visited her grandparents.  My uncles, wives and kids all arrived at the same time.    Grandmom didn’t cook or entertain once her step children left the nest.   So Grandpop entertained at Christmas,  Manhattans for the adults, coke for the kids, there was usually a tray of cookies from Italian People’s Bakery in Trenton.  Good cheer shared, we were off.  In the next few hours we would visit the families of Uncle Frank Profy on Radcliffe, Uncle Tom in Levittown, Aunt Marie (Mom’s sister) in the Third Ward and finally Aunt Ellen and Uncle Frank Mignoni on Radcliffe.  All within a few hours; the cordination amazed me.  They also visited our house, usually as Mom prepared dinner.

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Married in the 1970s, Diane and I made the stop at Grandpop Profy’s and then Mignoni’s.  Car packed we were off to a classic Christmas dinner with her family in Carmel.  Turnips and parsnips were new vegetables for me which are often on our Christmas table today.  It was about that time that all the morning visits to the Profy uncles stopped — except for  Grandpop’s Manhattans.  Mother and Father began hosting a Christmas breakfast at their house.  There were grandchildren and eventually great grand children.  My sisters and Diane helped to make a lavish spread.  My favorite was always the chipped beef on toast.  Gifts were exchanged.

Sometime, maybe in the 1980s, my sisters and brothers-in-law instituted a Christmas Pollyanna.  The idea was to shop for one nice gift.  We frequently found just the right Pollyanna at pre-Christmas craft show, like the Philadelphia Museum of Art show.  I do think some beautiful gifts were exchanged.  For a few years Ted spiced the pot with a frequent flyer miles ticket.  Very nice.  By 2000 or so, there were rumblings, let’s stop the Pollyanna.  And we did.

This year my nephew, Angelo, Heather and their three sons will host the Bristol and non-Bristol family for a brunch on the 26th.  Christmas is reserved for the immediate family.  We either host dinner for Jen, Bob, Viv and Eli and Diane’s brother, Hawley or they host us.  Sometimes they do breakfast; we do dinner.  In recent years Christmas Eve has been a quiet night for Diane and me.  But for quite a few years, it was an annual visit of John, Barbara and Libby Paglione and Susan and Jerry Taylor, our closest Yardley friends.    Paglione’s  were in from Ann Arbor visiting family and joined us for the evening. We have years of photographs of the adults, the girls, all of us sitting on the couch. This year we will probably do it on Face Time.

 

Suprisingly we don’t have any fixed food traditions.  We’ve done variations of seven fishes, my mother taught us smelts on Christmas Eve, dinner has been salmon (Jen’s  vegiterianism) or turkey.  One year I tried an expensive grilled heritage turkey — it left the coals too soon and well, didn’t turn out.  Homemade cookies, some years. But the menu seems to change annually.

At the Boys Choir concert in Princeton, Robert Kapilow commented that traditions were fluid — what’s been done in the past, is enewed by contact and interaction with the present.  We adapt, change, and enrich tradition.  2016 will probably be no different from past years — bits of the past; transformed by the present.  But always nice warm, peaceful, family and friends, Christmas spirit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering the past

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Yesterday Jenny asked me to describe a favorite place I could retreat to when in pain or trying to get to sleep.  A focus to dim distractions; awake dreams.  It got me thinking how much I enjoy remembering the past.  Sixty-eight years of experiences, people, places, feelings, events.  In some ways FaceBook is part of that process.  Some Friends are from my elementary school years, high school and college.  Others Friends are from Bristol ( including relatives) where I grew.  Friends from Holy Ghost Prep where I worked for 40 years.  Friends from Yardley Borough where Diane and I have lived from 1977.  Friends from every corner of my life.

Last night I  reflected on favorite memories.  A place I could remember; a pleasant place where I could escape the present.

Meeting Diane at a party in the Hilton Hotel in Boston.  She and a friend Susan Ruby were staying there before a Spring Break trip to Nassau.  Ted Fuery and I had been invited to a BC dorm floor party.  I met a guy Chip Muldoon (Main Line Philadelphia) and we rescued Diane and Susan who were dancing with some sailors in a room near our party. Later in the evening, I met Diane at an elevator and we went out for coffee.  It was the beginning.

Two years later Diane and I were married in Brewster NY.  The reception was at her parents house.  Family came up from Bristol; friends from our colleges down from Boston.  The next day in my parents maroon Tempest, we left for a honeymoon in Canada.  We stopped at Kent Falls in CN and Diane threw her corsage into the flowing water.  We’ve stopped at Kent Falls in the past few years savoring the moment so many years ago.

Our Peace Corps training in Bisbee AZ was a fantastic experience. We were there with 100 married couples and 20 single women, PC staff (many not much older than us trainees) and about 50 Libyians —  improving their English skills and teaching us Arabic language and culture. Daily we bussed into Mexico to teach English to Mexican children.  We were learning a technique called TEFL  that we would use teaching in Libya.  The most memorable day was a Mexican Independence Day parade.  The entire village turned out.  We marched with our students.  Quite a day of drinking and partying.  In the evening Arthur Ward and I got involved with some Mexicans at a bar.  Next thing I knew I was horse backing riding across the plains.  Fortunately the horse was in charge.

In the early 1970s Diane and I rented a house in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.  Our version of communal living and 70s back to the earth.  Summers John and I worked on local farms.  We had a large vegetable garden, canned for the winter, made all our bread, wine, beer, jams. Our iconic road trip was to Maine to visit Helen and Scott Nearing.  If you don’t know them, they were gurus of back to the earth, organic, sustainable living.  Four fantastic active off beat years.

Looking to buy a house we moved into my family’s apartment on Mill Street.  For several years we had been trying to have a baby.  Finally on October 24, 1977, Jenny Alexandra Profy was born.  I was scheduled to be present at the birth but  last minute a Caesarean was ordered and I was banished from the room.  Jerry Alonzo was visiting and we waited together.  Happiness, joy, excitement, a rush of emotions.  Diane and I had our baby.  Interesting around the same time Paglione’s, Bonnema’s,  Alonzo’s all had a child.  For all of us, an only child.

121 N Delaware Avenue in Yardley Borough. A small riverside cottage in what was known as the River Mawr neighborhood.  The house was in the flood plain but there had been no major floods since 1955 and flood insurance was only $99 annually.  There was no real estate broker involved.  The Robinson’s acted on behalf of themselves.  Cousin Thomas handled our paperwork.  To get to the bathrooom you had to go through Jenny’s small bedroom (about 10×10).  Ours wasn’t much bigger.  One floor and a partial damp basement, an attic was accessible with a ladder from our bedroom.  But it was home.  I soon became involved in town organizations, serving on Council for eight years and active in other borough organizations like the Yardley Historical Association.  In the mid 1980s with mortgage rates above 15%, we decided to build an addition.  The 20 by 25 two story addition with basement doubled th size of the house.  Flooding in early 2000s and we decided to elevate and stay.  Yardley is home.

Diane and I took several trips to Europe but Scandanavia (primarily Denmark) has a special meaning.  Jen was about 10 years old.  A friend of Ragna Hamilton let us use their Copenhagen apartment. We met Ragna for s everal days, touring the city where she grew up.  It added a new dimension to our relationship with her.  Over the years of Sunday brunches at her house, she had become a grandmother to Jenny.  We traveled around the city and Danish countryside for over a month.

In 1974, the end of the war and draft, I left my teaching position at St. Michael’s elementary school in Levittown. Father Francis Hanley offered me a position as librarian, English teacher at HGP.  Within several years I was assuming administrative duties and in his last year as Headmaster, Hanley appointed me Assistant Headmaster.  I had a wide range of administrative duties including discipline.  Many students only saw my disciplinary role (about 10% of my work.). When Jim McNally became Headmaster, we served as a team for 10 years.  Father Jim became a second “father” to me.  I enjoyed administration, working with faculty, worked on a doctorate and thought some day might be the first lay Headmaster.  In late 1980s, however, McNally and I were removed by the order in a bitter fight that split the faculty for years.

In 1989, I took a sabbatical and finished my dissertation about the Political Culture of Educational Policymaking in Pennsylvania.  Ethnographic research for months in Harrisburg was exciting.  Ed Burns, Republican chair of the House Education Committee was my sponsor.  Ed treated me like an aide.  I actually flirted with running for the state House but dropped out.  Dissertation finished in 1990, I returned to HGP as a librarian teacher and started teaching education courses at LaSalle University and Holy Family.  By the late 1990s I was teaching several graduate courses each semester at Holy Family.  Although I still enjoyed most of my high school courses and students.  Graduate teacher education was very rewarding.  I continued at HF until retirement ( adjunct courses had dried up).

Although I’ve had many positive rewarding teaching experiences, the Greater Philadelphia High School Partnership and Ayudanica service program to Nicaragua were the most engaging.  Each lasted about ten years.  The HS Partnersip was sponsored by Ted Hershberg at the University of Pennsylvania.  One of my HGP classes partnered with a City school, got to know each other, explored social issues and engaged in service learning activities in a Philadelphia neighborhood.  The most successful programs were HGP and CAPA (Phila magnet school for the creative and performing arts).  Sue Rosenthal from CAPA and I became great friends and collaborators. Ayudanica started as an HGP service project by Rob Buscaglia who served in Peace Corps Nicaragua.  I joined in year two.  Run like a PC training program we trained kids all year for a 10 day service trip to Monte Rosa a sugar cane village in Nicaragua.  Ten years we watched and participated in the growth of kids ( 6 one year, 16 in our last year).  Our main project was establishing a library and computer classes in Monte Rosa. After a number of years Ayudanica became an independent nonprofit.   Successful the years we staffed and funded the Center, I suspect Ayudanica is just a memory for many of the Nicaraguans who participated. I do stay in touch with several through FB.

For about 10 years, c 1994-2004, Nantucket, Rattlesnake Bank, a small cottage off Polpis Road became our summer vacation. We rented directly from the owner, John Whitman, and over the years did everything Nantucket had to offer, kyacking, bicycling, hiking, swimming, shopping, historic tours, fine dining, music, theatre. Lots of reading and writing.   Since we returned year after year for two weeks, we really came to know the island.  I began to talk about “Nantucket Time” a quiet, no rush, moment by moment rhythm.  I tried to hold it through September, October, …. How long could it last?

Eli and Viv were both born at Pennsylvania Hospital.  I have a strong memory of visiting Jenny early the morning after his birth.  I liked that it was in the historic Penn Hospital founded by Ben Franklin.  And so excited to have a grandson.  Two years later Viv was born.  Two grandchildren.  The most important part of my life, now and I suspect for many years to come.

Sometimes negative experiences have silver linings.  When he was four years old, my grandson, Eli , was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.  For 18 months Eli’s treatment at CHOP  and Penn occupied the entire family.  Eli was courageous and has been an inspiration as I deal with my own medical issues.  His personality and abilities were moulded during this period.  An amazing kid, four years out, no sign of cancer.  One more year and we’ll be at the five year mark.  Thanks Eli.

Memories, the past, a short history of my life, stories and experiences to help me through tough times.

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