Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Pack Rat Gene

     The pack rat gene runs in my family. My parents both had it, and I have it as well. I admit it. Recently I was visiting my mother and rampaged a little bit in her basement which is full of boxes of stuff. Some is clearly junk and needs to be discarded, but among these boxes there are treasures as well. On one stack of boxes were 3 small boxes, I brought up to see what they contained. One narrow box contained a Valentine from my father to my mother -- indeed a very fancy one that he gave or sent to her during their early marriage. Another box contained the Christmas cards my father had received the first Christmas he was in the Army in Chatanooga, Tennessee during World War II. And the third box is what I would like to reference in this post. It contained the letters sent to my mother by a British woman during the World War II years. They contain interesting insights into those times that I would like to highlight here.
     Apparently when Mom was a sophomore in high school, one of the teachers distributed some addresses of similar aged students in England that wanted penpals. Mom began writing to one Dorothy Dampier of Blackheathe, England, a little town that is really a neighborhood of London. Some of mom's friends also began to write to each other from the same town to town. These letters continued from 1932 to 1946, through several newsworthy events in addition to World War II. The early letters are typical teenage girl to teenage girl conversation. Later they center on boyfriends and work life. Then both girls marry. My father shipped out for England and was stationed outside London until July, 1944, when his 181st Engineers were sent to France and came ashore on Omaha Beach, a month after D Day. While he was near London, he traveled to see his wife's penpal Dorothy. He only had an address. He was walking up her street when a young woman stopped him in the street. It was Dorothy. She was on her way to the train to go to work. She recognized him from his pictures and of course, he was wearing a US Army uniform. Later in letters Dorothy wrote about the Blitzkrieg, and the blackouts and how hard things were during the war. Each women had child, in my mom's case, me. Mom sent ladies hosiery, cards, newspaper articles, sugar and other things that were in short supply during the wartime. Dorothy sent me (as a toddler)  a small gold toned bracelet which I still have in my jewelry box. Dorothy's letters reflect historical things such as King Edward's coronation, then King Edward's abdication to marry his commoner divorcee wife, then the coronation of his brother, Albert, who became King George VI.
      My husband and I recently saw the movie, The King's Speech. I learned that Albert, who became King George VI had a severe stuttering problem. The movie details how King George worked with a speech therapist to overcome this problem. The movie depicts Albert ("Bertie", as his therapist called him) practicing to give the speech that notifies England that they are going to war against Germany. In these letters to my mother, Dorothy remarks that she thought King George sounded very nervous during this speech. Actually as we saw in the movie, "Bertie" was working very hard to get through this speech without stuttering to badly. It was quite interesting to put our "movie" knowledge with this historical letter.
     Interestingly, I have found Dorothy on the Internet. She is still living (I think) though she is listed as living in a nursing home or group home that is designed for Alzheimer patients. I am planning on calling a phone number listed. Maybe I can leave a message for her son who is also listed as living in the same town. It is certainly amazing what can be accomplished on Internet these days. I will let you readers know if I can make some connection. That would truly be amazing.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

For Yom Kippur 2011 -- Kol Nidre

Memorial stained glass behind The Great Synagogue, Budapest
     In honor of the Jewish High Holidays:  L'Shanah Tovah and Yom Kippur, I have posted the history and several versions of Kol Nidrei (All Vows), the musical recitation that opens the prayer services on Yom Kippur eve. I certainly do not claim to have great knowledge about this topic, but I have always been tremendously moved by the musical piece. Here you can learn along with me about its origins, history and reason for survival for at least 15 centuries. Accompanying the words are my husband's photographs of The Great Synagogue or the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest, Hungary. This synagogue is the largest in Eurasia and second largest in the world, second only to El Emmanuel in New York City. Also view some photos of the wall of the ghetto from WWII Budapest and some monuments from the grounds and the neighborhood of The Great Synagogue. Hit read on to view and learn about all of these treasures.