Thursday, February 28, 2013

Remembrance of Things Past - A Night at the Opera

Two tickets for performance of "La Boheme" On February 9, 1944
at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York City

Terra cotta frieze from the fa├žade of the old Metropolitan Opera House
mounted in fireplace

Since the second week in January I have been living with my father who will be 92 years old on May 25th. My father is many things: husband for almost 70 years, father of two daughters, native of Germany, US Air Corps veteran of WWII, retired professional engineer with credentials both in mechanical and civil engineering, and former member of the governing board of the community where he and my mother have lived in the house he designed since 1968.

But his curriculum vitae would include so much more. I have described him as a Renaissance man: builder of boats and ham radio equipment, lover of history ancient and modern, devotee of the arts especially classical music and opera, patriotic and interested citizen and supporter of the best interests of the country which welcomed him at the age of eight and provided him with the finest of educations at no cost at The City College of New York of CUNY.

My parents' home is filled with collections of material connected with each of my Dad's areas of professional or personal expertise as well as my mother's collections reflecting her interests in needlework, painting and gourmet cooking. Since Mom is living in an assisted living facility receiving care appropriate to her stage of dementia and Dad is receiving my care and the wonderful care of Hospice I am able, at every free moment, to begin the process of going through it all, weeding out, assigning destinations for a great deal and often rewarded by the discovery of a treasure.
One of our family stories is attached to the ticket stubs shown here. I found these stubs resting at the bottom of a small drawer in my mother's bedroom desk. On February 9, 1944 my father was on leave from the Army Air Corps before going to places like Meridian, Mississippi with his young wife. He thought to give my mother and her aunt a treat by taking them to the opera. He was to pick them up at their place of work, the fashion house of Nettie Rosenstine on 7th Avenue. Rosenstine was a famous designer for whom my mother worked as one of a number of sketchers in the design department while my aunt worked with a group of accomplished needlewomen who were sample makers, creators of the first sample of a new design. Upon his arrival at the assigned location my father found himself fairly run over by a bevy of scantily clad models. He said it was a surprise but not hard to take.
Arriving at the opera house Dad went to the box office to buy three tickets. He was told that tickets for that performance had been set aside by season ticket holders for the exclusive use of GIs. The tickets he received were for the center box in the Diamond Horseshoe (first row of boxes) held by the Astor family. My aunt, an opera lover who had sat in the balcony for many Met performances could not have been more delighted or impressed.
Years later, when the Met's old house was being demolished after the company's move to Lincoln Center, my father purchased the frieze which appears above.  The fireplace for their new home would be designed around it. Another treasured item in search of a new home.                                            

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Polished Worry Stone

Rubbed Smooth by Faith and Prayer

Glories in the Cross

by Sister Moira Quinn, OSsR, Prioress Mother of Perpetual Help Monastery (Redemptoristine Nuns) currently in West Park, New York - Remarks to the community, Ash Wednesday, 2013 after presenting each sister with a pocket
sized worry stone.

Very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had just risen, the women went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who  the tomb?” When they looked up they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled away. Mark 16:2-4
Hear the worry in the women’s voices? They say rubbing a worry stone calms the soul. We all have our share of worries: Hilda away community caring for her aging parents, Paz with her sister awaiting brain surgery; all of us under a deadline to find a place to call our permanent home, sorting through real or imagined treasures of what to bring along and what to leave behind; the actual move, how we will be community in the future… How do we handle these worries?
If we look to our foundress, we see that despite all the blessings bestowedon Celeste throughout her life, she had her worries also. But reflecting on the life of her Beloved in faith and prayer she wrote, “In your humiliations all the sweetnesses of your infinite glory are hidden. How can I ever thank you for these marvelous humiliations while you invite me to keep you company (on the cross) and you in your mercy deign to gaze on me with your divine light.” Florilegium 117
And Jesus answers, “Give your attention to the treasure which I disclosed to you on the cross in which my eternal glory is enclosed.” Florilegium 123What is this treasure? All our trials, humiliations, our frailties, ourchallenges; all our mundane tasks are hidden treasures.

By our own faith and prayer during this time of transition together we experience transformation of being rubbed smooth when we unite ourselves to Jesus on the cross and discover the graces and gifts, the wisdom andaccomplishments in sweet acceptance of those hidden graces of the cross in order to obtain the glories of Jesus, our Beloved. The stone has already been rolled away!
Let us polish our worry stones then, basking calmly in the merciful gaze of Christ’s divine light as we begin this Lenten season.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Finding Buried Treasure

Today I took advantage of the presence of my youngest son to carry out still more archaeological investigation in  the home my parents have enjoyed for 45 years. In these last weeks I have found my baby blanket, the comb, toy and collar of a dog laid to rest 50 years ago, my sister's communion veil and an exquisitely beaded evening bag first used by my grandmother.

On the top linen closet shelf Andrew found a cardboard box from Bonwit  Teller carefully tied with string. Resting in a nest of tissue paper was the top of my parents' wedding cake - August 3, 1943. Also in the box was memorabilia of my mother's graduation from the High School of Industrial Arts in January of that year. Among these momentos was the wedding invitation for the original planned date of July 6. When permission for my father's leave from the Army Air Corps was withdrawn the wedding was hastily rescheduled. We also found the invitation to Mom's sweet sixteen party and various certificates from schools attended in Brooklyn, NY.
The cake topper reflects how much World War II influenced culture and society. Note the red, white and blue ribbon in a "V for Victory" touch and groom in uniform indicating his branch of the armed forces.
Also discovered today were the Kodachrome 2 x 2 inch slides of our family's 3-month trip to Europe in 1961. Under the most demanding direction of my father we hand mounted the film between 2 layers of thin glass and taped the edges so that less of the image would be lost than is the case with cardboard mounted slides. These illustrated many travel log presentations. Perhaps we will find a way to have such outstanding photos digitized for future enjoyment.
What shall we do with all of these treasures? Wonder how this wartime cake topper would be valued on "Antiques Roadshow". Do know that it is priceless to us.
I am still looking for the Belgian lace cathedral length veil first worn by my aunt in 1928; used by my mother in 1943 and then again by me in 1967. Will be sure to photograph that gem.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Responding to Comments

Thanks for reading, posting comments and offering a "welcome back".

Yes, I too am trying to resist the tendency to refer in one way or another to the 'good old days'. My own parents are living examples of that tendency and offer many reminders that any argument will go over better without wandering down memory lane, unless, that is, you are explicitly asked to take the stroll. I am consoled in knowing that this tendency is not limited to Baby Boomers. From ancient times each generation has fallen into the trap of harkening to former glories.
Yes, I am on a sort of leave of absence in response to family need. Over the years a few other sisters in my community have had to take time away for similar reasons so this work of mercy is definitely not without precedent. It is the fruit of honest discernment with ones superior who in turn will consult with the diocesan Vicar for Religious. I am the oldest of two siblings but my sister works full time. So there you have it. My gratitude to my community is great. But I am eager to spend time with them and am searching for the right person to spell me as caregiver.
By all means do add me to your list on Facebook. The "Redemptoristine Nuns of New York" also have a community page on FB and you are welcome to add it to your friends list.
Cannot leave this tonight without mentioning the big news of the day, the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI. What a surprise to hear about it first thing in the morning. His wisdom is to be admired and appreciated. He has served long and well and is clearly no longer able to sustain the effort required to deal with all that is challenging the Church  and the People of God in these days. Let us all pray that the Holy Spirit will do a mighty work among those entrusted with selecting new leadership so that the love and compassion of the Father revealed in the Paschal Mystery of the Son will be known and felt in every human heart and all of creation.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Boomer In Between

Dad and I celebrating his 90th birthday 2011 

Go to
for pics

In the 25th year of their marriage, as if in celebration of a finally empty nest, my parents moved into a new home. Now, in the 70th year of a long love affair, they are newly separated by the vagaries of dementia in my mother and an ever growing physical weakness in my father. These days I live in their love nest caring for Dad while shuttling back and forth to visit my mother.

Friends have told me how fortunate I am to have my parents with me for so long. Mom is 88 and Dad is 91. Part of that 'greatest generation', they married young. She was barely 18 and he a 21 year old sergeant in the Army Air Corps soon headed for the Pacific. Before he was shipped out Mom joined him in places like Meridian, Mississippi and, Coffeeville, Kansas. Thus was I conceived. Born in the middle of 1945, technically I am not one of the Baby Boom Generation cohort of 1946 to 1964. Yet I have always felt part of the advance guard, one in the first lines of the cohort and sharing its sociological features.

When parents marry young, bear children quickly, live to ripe old age and then begin to need care, their children have already entered into the last stages of their own lives. In addition, these children have off spring of their own; children with whom they strive to remain connected. Not to be forgotten are grandchildren clamoring for loving attention.

Thus the shift in gears indicated here in January has brought the reality of many of my generation; extended family in both directions, calling for connection and perhaps, in the end, physical care and assistance in dismantling what remains of lives well lived.
New editorial policy here will include whatever strikes the fancy of this contemplative monastic nun temporarily on hiatus; of a very mature women (at least in age) with history as wife and mother, teacher and librarian, artist of sorts, and caregiver. All these, the reflections of a boomer in between.