Charles and Sally

Charles and Sally
en route to Le Diner en Blanc

Le Diner en Blanc New York

Le Diner en Blanc New York
Lincoln Center 2012

Friday, September 26, 2008

Celebrating Birthdays

This is a big birthday month in our family. Last week I had a big birthday and was thrilled to be celebrating it with my family, at least the ones who live in the United States. Mark and I went out for dinner with daughters Nancy and Dorri, granddaughters Anna and Nina, Dorri’s boyfriend, Steve, my dear cherished friend of many years, Mickey, and her daughter, Rifka (whom I first met when she was 18 months old and my oldest was 12 months). I loved the poems that Anna and Nina wrote for me and the photo montage of family and friends that Dorri created. It was a casual get-together where we went to a little restaurant, ordered loads of hors d’oeuvres and light entrees and passed everything around the table, so we all had tastes of everything. And I got to talk a little bit with everyone – good tastes there too. Which is how I like to live life – enjoying little tastes of lots of experiences.

Now next week Mark and I will be celebrating with our daughter Jenny, who’s having a big birthday herself, and this time we’ll be enjoying eating experiences (along with other experiences -- but eating certainly is a big part of most celebrations!) with Jenny and her three children. Aside from family meals and a special dinner out, by tradition in the little town where she lives (and maybe throughout Germany), birthdays are celebrated with kaffeetrinken – wonderful home baked cakes and coffee in the mid- to late- afternoon, enjoyed with family and close friends. Maybe we’ll even eat the brownies I baked after special requests from Maika and Lisa (no nuts) and Jenny (yes, nuts). So I made both kinds, and again we’ll have choices – and tastes.

It’s hard to live so far away from children and grandchildren, especially around special occasions, but we’re very lucky that we can stay in touch in so many ways – free or cheap ways to phone, along with email, of course, and even an occasional postcard or letter – which usually takes only two or three days to travel between New York and Germany. My birthday card from grandson Stefan came in the form of a note in a bottle – only the bottle was designed to carry postage and to be mailed – a little more reliable than dropping the bottle in the Atlantic. Of course, we’re even luckier that we can make occasional visits there and that they can come here – not as often as we all would like, but precious when they do occur.

So I won’t be writing in these pages for a few weeks, and meanwhile I send good wishes and happy celebrating to all grannies and grandkids – and to the generation in between.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Women Need to Vote

I am very excited about a recent family development. My eldest granddaughter, Maika, has just registered to vote in her first presidential election. I remember the first presidential election I voted in, in 1956 – my candidate didn’t win, but that didn’t discourage me from future voting – and I haven’t missed an election yet.

My mother was a witness to history. In 1920, the first year that women in the United States were allowed to vote, she was 20 years old and too young to cast a ballot, but she still told me that she celebrated that day. She knew how much other women had worked and dared and had suffered for that right for more than 70 years.

On November 15, 1917, which became known as the “Night of Terror, the warden at the Occoquan workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they had dared to picket Woodrow Wilson’s White House for the right to vote. Forty prison guards went on a rampage, using their clubs to beat the 33 women wrongly convicted of obstructing sidewalk traffic. (All the convictions were eventually overturned.) Lucy Burns was chained by her hands to the cell bars above her head, left hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. Dora Lewis was knocked unconscious. When Alice Cosu, her cellmate, thought Dora was dead, she suffered a heart attack.

Their food was full of worms, which often floated to the surface of the thin soup they were given; their only water came from an open pail. The open toilets could be flushed only by a guard, who decided when to flush. When Alice Paul embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat, and poured liquids into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this three times a day for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press, and newspapers around the country reported what was happening. All the suffragists were released on November 27 and 28, 1917. Alice served five weeks.

Two grannies, a friend and a cousin, sent me an email with photos of these women. I appreciated the reminder. This story and more are told on the Women in History website, http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/index.html, and in the HBO movie, now out on DVD, “Iron Jawed Angels.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I plan to. After learning all of this, can any of us, and our daughters and granddaughters, fail to exercise our hard-won right to vote??? And to vote responsibly -- not because a candidate is good-looking or a woman or can tell a good story -- but because we honestly believe that this person will govern responsibly and well on the vitally important issues of the day.