On The Blackwater

Musing on retirement, writing, puppies, and whatever else strikes my fancy

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Spending my life in 20-year increments: DC, Calif, Maine, & now in the BlueRidge Mountains of VA, where my YoChon, Sadie Mae, has started to blog...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Holocaust Survivor Speaks to Class

First they came for the Communists,
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists,
and I did not speak out,
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists,
and I did not speak out,
because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out,
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Written by: Pastor Martin Niemoller, 1945
Tuesday, we had a dynamic Holocaust survivor speak to our class. Nathan Kranowski was born in Paris in September of 1937 of Polish immigrant parents. In 1941, the Nazis controlled the French police, and they instructed them to arbitrarily arrest "foreignors." The Nazis had decided the citizens would not fear or question their own police, so they were to identify and register all Jews, giving them an ID card with the designation: Juif, then they were to arrest them and ship them by train to Auschwitz to be killed.
The arrests began the summer of 1941; Nathan, an only child, was 3-4 years old and has few memories of the arrests since he was so young. He later learned that his father, Wolfe Kranowski, was stopped on the street in August of 1941 and asked for his papers. He was then taken to Drancy, a French concentration camp about ten miles north-east of Paris. After spending 11 months in Drancy, records show he was put on a train to Auschwitz on 19 July 1942. The doors of the cattle car were sealed after the men were shoved inside, where they had to stand for 2.5 days with no water and no food. When the cars were opened at Auschwitz, often many inside were dead. His father, on Convoy #7, was probably killed within days of his arrival.
Nathan lived with his mother in their apartment after his father was arrested. On 23 July 1942, the French police came for his mother. (They first arrested Jewish men, then the women and children later.) Nathan remembers two men in uniform in the apartment, one of them looking through the silverware drawer. The police took his mother, but not the child. Nathan somehow got to his aunt's apartment, in the same complex. His mother was taken to Drancy where, after six days, she was put on the train to Auschwitz. She was dead 7 days later.
Nathan's aunt, fearing danger to her little nephew, sent him to a Catholic family she knew who lived on a farm. They changed his first name to Pierre as Nathan at that time was a very Jewish name. After that period of time, Nathan spent time in two different orphanages. His aunt in Paris brought him back to live with her, but she had a nervous breakdown and had other health issues, so she sent him to her sister in New York. This aunt and uncle raised Nathan, sending him to school and on to college. He went on to get his PhD and teach at Hollins, Virginia Tech, and Radford University before he retired.
Nathan Kranowski showed us some sepia-toned pictures. Certainly the most emotion-charged photo was one he believes is his parents' wedding picture, two young, happy people in ordinary clothes (as poor Polish immigrants, they would have probably been married in the town hall). As young as he was when they were put to death, he is saddened that he has no memories of them, but he is proud that his grown son has named his daughter after Nathan's mother.
Dr. Marcia Horn, coordinator of the Holocaust class at Ferrum College, has interviewed Nathan as part of the Holocaust survivor project. There are 12 interviews stored at the Stanley Library at Ferrum.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Update on Mike

I had a nice long phone conversation with son Mike this evening. He emphatically assured me that he will be in a safe zone in Iraq, that if anything, he's been told he'll be bored. Bored is OK with this Mom.

He'll be sitting at a desk; any flying he does will be with the AF or the Army flying him to another Base as he oversees fourteen employees tasked with delivering parts for planes when there is urgent need. Even though he is a well-qualified Army helicopter pilot, he will not be flying a chopper at all.

He's signing a one-year contract, but it can be broken at will if he decides he needs to be home with his family instead of sitting at a desk at a Base in Iraq. He tells me he is more worried about his wife coping with two energetic young sons for that year, than he is about his own situation. Fortunately, she has family close by and they are indeed a strong support system for her.

For my friends who have met my son, you know as I do that he is bright and reliable and not a person who would take risks when his family would suffer. He had the 'opportunity' to serve in Iraq when he was active Army, but he chose not to put his family on the line. This position was offered to him by a fellow who has known him, and worked with him, for years. A good friend.

Thanks for all the kind messages since I learned about this possibility. Keep Mike in your prayers...


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Enchanted, the DVD

My stepdaughter e-mailed me about her daughter Trin's 11th birthday party. Trin was thrilled to receive lots of Jonas Brothers stuff, and the DVD for Enchanted. So the whole family sat down to watch the movie, and loved it, except for 7-year old Little Miss Drama Queen, Morgayne. (Correction: Her Mom says Morgayne is still 6 years old. She won't be 7 until September.)

Now, Morgayne is definitely a Princess-girl who loves everything that sparkles and has wings and puffy skirts and tiarras, so she was (at first) enthralled. But THEN...THEN! When the Princess fell in love with a mere mortal man, instead of going off with the Prince, Morgayne stomped to her room and slammed the door!

Mom and Dad tried to explain to her what had happened, and that indeed, the Princess DID find her actual Prince, but Drama Queen wasn't having any of THAT, thank you very much. (Hand on hip, eyes blazing!) ..."They did it all wrong!" she announced in a huff.

We figure when she hits about 16, she'll run off with the first man who rides in on a white horse...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Frightening News for a Mom

I knew this was a possibility, but had been pushing it out of my mind. My son Mike, a retired Army colonel who flies helicopters, has decided to take a contractor position flying in Iraq. He insists it is very safe, that he's talked to the three men preceding him in this position (whom he knows well) and they assure him it's fine.

Mike moved his family to Montana from California so his wife could care for her very ill Mom until she died. They put their CA home up for sale just as the housing crunch hit hard, leaving him with two mortgages to pay. This position in Iraq pays so well he will be able to pull through until the economy eases up.

But he'll be away for a year. And my heart drops. I lost my oldest son in 2002; I cannot lose Mike as well. He's scheduled to leave for Iraq around my birthday, early in May. As I'm writing this, I'm just numb. Yes, he'll be flying base to base. He assures me he won't be out of the safe zone. He has two young sons.

That's all I can think about right now.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Too Soon Old, Too Late Schmart

That used to be one of my Dad's favorite comments, often turned upon himself. He probably heard it from a Vaudeville team, as he loved those comics. But today, I apply it to myself.

Here's the background. About 3 or 4 years ago, when my stepson was bringing his family of boys to visit on Thanksgiving, my husband rushed over to Best Buy and bought the largest flat-screen TV he could afford. It's so big you could sit in the garage and watch from there. He's since updated the set to receive HD transmission.

Not generally a big sports fan, I knew he'd wanted to impress his son, who is definitely into sports. The testosterone folks watched it for hours.

Since then, I've enjoyed movies on the set (when I can wrestle away the remote control or when Hubby has barbershop practice or some such commitment.) Well, I began to notice that movies that I was completely certain I had already seen, were somehow new to me, that scenes I'd hardly noticed were now crisp and clear and relevant. Early this morning, I watched an old Tom Hanks movie, Nothing in Common I believe was the name of it. Hanks was a delight, thick curly hair, very young, very funny. His old salesman father was played by an aging comedian. I knew some of the scenes, but began to wonder if senility was setting in to account for parts I hadn't recalled. Then...BINGO!...I figured it out.

The large flat screen, where people are nearly life-sized, was drawing me in to an extent that the smaller TVs just do not accomplish. Much like surrendering to a movie theater screen, I'd become part of the movie (Woody Allen did this in one of his films). Whew! I feel much better now. It isn't that I've forgotten parts of a movie but that I'd not actually noticed these scenes.

No wonder I always want to watch Grey's Anatomy on the big screen; a life-size Patrick Dempsey is not to be ignored...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Great-grammie Again!

I'm gonna be a Great-grammie again! My son Andy's widow, Theresa, has a daughter...that'd be Andy's stepdaughter...who is bright as a button and very talented as a dancer. T, a social worker with a Master's who teaches at a university, has been taking Cassandra around to look at colleges. Well, I guess she left her at home alone, because Cassie found herself a fiance' (from a very prominent family I hasten to add) and now they are expecting a baby girl the end of April.

They are both delighted and excited. I, in the role of Great-grammie, ask when a wedding date will be set. I guess Papa-to-be's parents are asking the same question. The world is changing much too fast for those of us stuck in the old ways. Last weekend, the couple's church held a baby shower for them in their Fellowship Hall, so that's a good sign, right?

We're planning to be in Maine part of the summer this year, so I'll get to hold...and rock...and spoil...baby girl Chloe Louise Nightingale. Isn't that the prettiest name? It just flows. See Colleen, you aren't the only one getting to buy teeny tiny baby clothes again! And I suggested to my daughter, now known as Auntie Cathie, that she scoop up some flannel crib sheets, since I won't be able to find them down here in the South.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hollins University Literary Festival

A literary festival it certainly was, Saturday at Hollins University. Becky drove her PT and I attended with three purposes: First, to hear and meet the award-winning authors, second to meet other writers and readers, and third, to scout around the premises a bit with the intent of enticing my 16-year-old grandaughter Anna to consider Hollins during her current college tour.

The three authors were excellent: Charlotte Matthews, with a list of awards as long as your arm for her poetry, told us a wonderful story about her young daughter. It seems her daughter had an imaginary friend named Amy for many years, and one day Mom and daughter went into a small Charlottesville gift shop full of cards and stationery. The attractive young clerk smiled at Matthews' daughter, and said: Hi, I'm Amy!

The daughter replied: Oh, it's YOU, squealing with joy. The two immediately talked with one another as if, indeed, they'd known each other for years! Matthews was a bit nonplused, to say the least. And she told us the gift shop Amy periodically sends a note or a card to her daughter, with no return address on the envelope, and always just signed Amy. "It's a bit frightening!" she admitted.

S.J. Rozan was another speaker, a native New Yorker widely regarded as one of the finest crime writers to emerge in recent years. She, too, has won many prestigious awards for Best Novel and Best Short Story. While crime novels are not my particular interest, her reading was top-notch.

Christine Schutt was the afternoon speaker, and the one I was most interested in hearing. She's Writer-in-Residence at Hollins for 2008, so I'm certain there will be other opportunities to hear her read from her works. Her writing style, with a captivating rhythm, was wonderful. She, too, has won many awards, including a Pushcart Prize and an O. Henry Short Story Prize. I bought her book, A Day, A Night, Another Day, Summer which is a collection of short stories that was published in 2005 to wide acclaim.

We had a really nice lunch chosen from Hollins' cafeteria; contrary to the festival's write-up, the lunch was complimentary. We sat with Kevin Kittredge, the Arts Contributor for the Roanoke Times, and had a nice conversation with him as well as with a woman on the Roanoke Library Board.

It was quite an event, and I'm definitely sending my grandaughter an e-mail "postcard" from Hollins to get her to visit their Web site. She's won writing awards for several years, and I've always felt Hollins would be a good fit for her.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Spring...well, almost!

After a cool start, we had a lovely warm sunny day today. Dick raked leaves from the front and back lawn, picked up broken branches, and whistled. After church and a bit of grocery shopping, I joined him on the front porch swing while Sadie Mae romped with the boys. (She can still outrace them, and it is such fun to watch as she streaks around the yard in large circles with both choc Labs running full-tilt trying to catch her.)

When she tires, she races up on the porch with us, tongue lolling out, grinning to beat the band.

Meanwhile, as we see the leaf buds coming out on the trees, we remind each other that daughter Cathie and grandaughter Anna are struggling to shovel paths through yet another one-foot wet snow falling on top of the last 8-10 inch snowfall up in Easton, Maine. Here, the birds are singing away and we put more birdseed on the list.

Our sunroom has a solar panel roof, so the temperature reached well into the 80's while we ate a late lunch.

Tomorrow's forecast is for even warmer temperatures, so Dick plans to spread grass seed and fertilizer in time for Tuesday night's predicted rain. If we still lived up north, we'd be clearing heavy wet snow and lugging wood in to feed the woodstove. I do not miss that for one minute!