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Make Way, Proud Mama Coming Through

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Thunk, thunk, thunk.

That’s the sound of the my full heart.

The sound of my chest beating with pride.

The sound of my love bubbling up from inside.

Other people now see what I’ve known — this child of mine is letting her light shine.

Just about 15 months ago, Momo — as she is affectionately known — our now 13-year-old daughter picked up the camera and began to snap some shots of this and that.  The more photos she took, the more she refined, took note, and used this medium to help her articulate how she feels about and sees her world. Her keen interest and enthusiasm have gotten her up before sunrise, to get shots during the “golden hour.” Her inspirations have her laying on her stomach in the snow, standing on ladders, and having her friends model wherever they go.

 

Gold Key Winner "Jump"

Gold Key Winner “Jump”

Just recently, Marjorie joined the school art club, made new friends and through their and the teacher’s urging, she entered the Scholastic Key Awards.

Yee-ha now– she earned two Gold Keys for two of her photos, plus four Silver Keys and a couple of honorable mentions.

Gold Key Wiiner "Stairs."

Gold Key Winner “Stairs.”

Gallery DebutFriday was her coming out party– all Gold Key works were on display at the Holland Project in Reno, NV. To be on hand for her artistic debut, to see her face shining and her excitement growing — THAT was a Thunk, thunk, thunk.

Gallery Debut
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Sleep on in Peace Now

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All now is in preparation for our 2nd annual Christmas party. Last year we invited friends near and dear to gather clad in Ugly Sweaters to add to the mirth.

This year the theme is “Fiscal Cliff Be Damned – Let’s Make Merry.”

It’s a fine excuse to whisk away the cobwebs, straighten up the nick-knacks, spiff up the pillows, shine the glass and basically not think about anything — I hope. My plan: “If I break this up room-by-room one each night this week, the place will be in fine shape by the weekend and food prep will rule party day.” The sweep-up keeps my body busy and my mind focused on trivial details before I attempt to sleep.

So I start with the master bedroom – shifting this and that, clearing the raft of clothes piled from the last laundry load, making order of the child-made craft collection we’ve accumulated through the years, adding a beloved photograph to the memory wall, tackling the bookshelf where some disorganized elf has come to play (uh, that’d me me), finally making my way to the reading corner and its comfy chair. Under the ottoman sat a mass of stuff I did not recognize: daughter Marjorie had evidently hefted some items in one night after school or confirmation, I know not which. There I found her Action Bible, some worksheets from a month ago, that library book we had looked for high and low and finally had paid for in desperation so she could attend the school dance. A few other books rounded out the lot, except for one more item — the treasured school photo compilation sheet from her Kindergarten year – 2004-05. I pause. The memento reminds me of what my invented busy-ness was set up to avoid.

Smiling back at me were her 24 classmates and six adults – the principal, two teachers, two aides and the school nurse. I know them all. Bright, fun, curious, serious, squirrely – The Mrs. L&D class had it all. There’s Abby who froze with stage fright during the nursery rhyme play; here’s Austin who farted on my leg while reading aloud one day; Rebecca shared Fruit Loops that one time; Alexia’s art was sublime; Gabby lived up to her name; garrulous Matt was just the same; Madison’s pig tails were her calling card while Reece looked like a boy honor guard. I love and cherish the memories all. Last girl on the keepsake photo montage was our little Mo – tiny in shape, big on personality, showing her 6-year-old shy grin. She’s the girl who continues to steal my heart, test my patience and dash me with her confidence. Eight years later we look at one another eye-to-eye.

fallen petalI think of her classmates growing up too, making their own way in life, gaining friends, learning more day after day, and all that is ahead for them. All week I’ve had the children of Newton, CT in my thoughts – the sadness there is beyond my comprehension. But seeing our daughter’s class brings the suffering closer. A leap of imagination and her class is theirs. My empathy for the people who loved those dear ones deepens. Oh! The children of Newton belong to me, too.

XXXIV

Sleep now, O sleep now,

O you unquiet heart!

A voice crying “Sleep now”

Is heard in my heart.

The voice of the winter

Is heard at the door.

O sleep, for the winter

Is crying “Sleep no more.”

My kiss will give peace now

And quiet to your heart—

Sleep on in peace now,

O you unquiet heart!

— James Joyce (Chamber Music)

Hero in the Household

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For the past 7 months we’ve had the privilege of having a hero living in our midst. Last year we had a famous English author and in 2010 we shared our space with an international fashion designer. No, this isn’t the Ritz, it isn’t even the Betty Ford Center. Our daughter, Marjorie, has been a Young Chautauquan for the past five years.

In the late 1870s through 1920s, Chautauqua (She-taw-kwa) was the adult education movement in the U.S. taking its name from the shores of Chautauqua Lake in upstate New York where it was born. The format “hit the circuit” with performers raising a tent under which to perform music, provide religious education, give political speeches. The backbone of the presentations were lectures. The tradition died off for some 70 years as radio and television became the pervasive form of entertainment in America. However, in the 1990s, Humanities programs across the US re-introduced this concept with a twist: a Chautauquan today is a scholar who portrays a significant figure in history by delivering a dramatic monologue in costume and in character. Following the presentation and while still in character, the Chautauquan answers audience questions about the life and time of his or her own character. This allows the audience to have a conversation with, say, George Washington or Louisa May Alcott. Then the Chautauquan steps out of character to take additional questions from the audience creating a unique learning experience for both the audience and the scholar.

Marjorie’s group, the Silver State Young Chautauqua Program chose the theme Heroes in History for 2012. For her, this meant one person – a hero to her mind – Miep Gies.  The Dutch citizen (Austrian by birth) who was raised as a foster child in the Netherlands applied for the post of temporary secretary for the company Opekta in Amsterdam. The company sold a pectin preparation used for making jams. She initially ran the complaints and information desk and became a close friend of the owner, Otto Frank. In 1935, after refusing to join a Nazi women’s association, she was nearly deported but avoided that uncertain fate by marrying her longtime fiancé Jan Gies. The two became the trusted protectors of Otto, Edith, Margot and Anne Frank and the van Pell Family. Miep became a close friend of the family and was a great support to them during the two years they spent in hiding. She retrieved Anne Frank’s diary after the family was arrested and kept the papers safe until Otto Frank returned from Auschwitz. She gave Otto the diary that has helped millions worldwide to identify one person – Anne — one family – the Franks — with the 6 million who died in the holocaust.

Meip GiesBringing history to life and giving life to history, is all of these things: fun, educational, personal, fulfilling, challenging. For Marjorie the research is at least ¾ of the fun. Because of her love of books, she thrills in going to the library, finding resources, talking to librarians, making of mission of finding first-person resources and fleshing out the stories. The main source to her work this year was “Anne Frank Remembered,” a memoir by Gies. Workshops for five months help the young people create the characters and prepare them for question and answer time. The performance piece takes Marjorie into new realms and this year, because Anne Frank (played by special friend Jade) is onstage with Miep, the process has been cooperative and instructive.

And now it’s show time. The young historians present their characters this week under the big tent as part of Reno’s community-wide Artown celebration. More information about the festival is here.

As for us, the heroine will live on in our hearts. Getting to know this character has brought home Miep’s notion that “even an ordinary secretary or housewife or teenager can, with their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room.”

Thank you Miep for making a safe haven, for shielding the persecuted, for comforting the hidden, for preserving the memory and for serving as a caring example of how to be.