Monday, June 25, 2018

52 Ancestors - #26 - What Are Black Ewes?

The prompt for this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is probably one of my favorites: "Black Sheep."

"Black Sheep" as defined by
I will need to depart from my focus of writing about my generation this week as I truly can't identify any black sheep presently in our family. Or perhaps that is the "blessing" of having so many quirky family members (myself included, of course!) - it’s tough to discern the “quirky” from the “black sheep”!

However, there is a "black ewe" in Scott's family whose antics have occupied me for over two years. "What's a black ewe?" you ask? Well, according to Ron Arons, who may have coined the term, a  black ewe is a female black sheep. Ron has made a career of researching the black sheep in his family. In fact, he has a whole website of "Black sheep" goodies for sale! Like this tattoo pictured below.
I posted a little teaser about Scott's great-grandmother, Catherine C.  FitzAllen in October 2017. I have been working diligently since then and I'm fairly certain the book is ready for publication!

If you're interested, I have posted the completed first chapter this week. (Kind of a "cheat" post - Scott and I are traveling for the next few weeks, so this is also an easy way stay on track with my posts!!)

I would be very appreciative of any feedback. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

52 Ancestors - #25 - "How Did I Get My Name?"

Continuing my goal of documenting my generation's story, this week I am attempting to tell the story of some of the names in our family. Five years ago, I posted about the "Winchester Tradition" in Scott's family. For several generations, all the children were given the middle name of "Winchester" to honor a beloved stepmother. Scott and a few of his siblings continued the tradition with their children. Our daughter Caitlin and her husband added a new generation by naming their first son Jack Winchester.

The prompt for this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is "Same Name." That's an easy one to respond to. We chose to name our second daughter  Meghan. The name was already "taken" by Scott's niece but we had a very good reason to also use it. It appeared that our Meghan-to-be would be born very close to "Big" Meghan's birthday, September 6. Plus, I loved the name, Meghan. In 1989 I still thought I was Irish and loved all things Irish. Our two daughters would be Caitlin and Meghan. Nice Irish-sounding names, right? (I have since discovered I don't have a drop of Irish blood. But - the girls do, so THAT COUNTS!!)


Scott and I checked in with his sister, Jeanne who okayed our request. And all was well. My due date was August 25. Pretty close to September 6. August 25th came and went. As did August 26. And the 27th. Nice hot summer. Bad plan. (Not that there was a plan!) Soon August was in my rear-view mirror. "Hang in there," the doctor said. "Remember, you were 12 days late with your first child." Not something you say to an overdue preggo who has a four-year-old to entertain during the hottest days of the year. September 3 and 4 go by. On September 5, it was decided I should get induced, The only thing keeping me going was the thought that the two Meghans would be 20 years and one day apart. Cool. But - nope. Nothing much happened on the 5th. Finally, on the 6th, things started moving along. "Wow!," I thought. "They will be exactly 20 years apart!" Noon on the 6th - no "little Meghan." 6 p.m. No "little Meghan." I was getting pretty cranky by then. I distinctly remember asking for a Caesarean section. My request went something like this: JUST GIVE ME THE KNIFE AND I'LL DO IT MYSELF!! Scott talked me off the ledge, 

MEGHAN WINCHESTER HOLMAN (yup - Winchester) was born on September 6 at 11:37 p.m. Just 23 minutes to spare - but she did it!! (And, I knew what I was talking about - she was born by Caesarean section. Why don't the doctors listen??)

"Little" Meghan - 1989

She and her older cousin have always shared a special bond - same name, same birthday. Even more special, years later, when "big" Meghan had her twins, "little" Meghan stayed at their home and helped with newest additions to our family. To this day, "big" Meghan's kids refer to our daughter as "Little Miss Meg"

"Big" Meghan's twins
Ring Bearer and Flower Girl at
"Little" Meghan's wedding
The two Meghans - 2013
 "Little" Meghan is on the left.

Caitlin - 1986
Scott and I explored several names for our first child. Alicia and Ryan were top contenders. One night we were watching Airwolf, a mid-80s TV show starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Ernest Borgnine. Another character on the show was a woman helicopter pilot named Caitlin. Good Irish name, I thought. Not too common either. Unlike my name! We settled on Caitlin for the first name and chose Rose for the middle name, to honor my maternal grandmother. But then, our good friends had their daughter and named her Caitlin Rose. UGH. So, we chose Elizabeth - it sounded good and was the name of my youngest sister. So there were two Caitlins in our circle of friends - that was okay. But...I guess Airwolf was a pretty popular show. Caitlin became the Debbie of the 1980s. Sorry, kid! We thought we were being original!

My passport photo - July 1955

Pretty simple tale here, I was named Deborah after my mother's best friend, Debbie. She chose my middle name - Joan - "...because it just sounded good." If I had been a boy, I would have been named David. Deborah and David - good Jewish names and "not common at all" in the 1950s. (Did the sarcasm come through on that??) Just one story about my name. I never knew how to really pronounce it. Was it "Deb-OR-ah" or "DEB-or-ah." A few years before my mother passed away, I finally asked what the proper pronunciation was. Mom's response? "How the hell should I know?" Gotta love her!!                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

                                                                                    JEANNE CAROL
Jeanne with cousin Pam Margand - 1956

Sorry, Jeanne. I have no idea how your name was determined. You would have been a David, but you were a girl. If it helps, your is the only Hebrew name I know: Shaina Carmel. (Well, I do know mine: It's Deborah!) 



Clytemnestra Katharine Anne - 1961

My parents' third daughter is named Katharine Anne. Kathy, if you ever feel like your name is boring, perhaps it will help to know you dodged a bullet.  Our father was a professor of Greek and Classical literature. He had a very strong idea of what he would like to name his third daughter: Clytemnestra. Mom said no. She won.

ERBS - 1964ish


Elizabeth Rose Byk. My youngest sister has two middle names. Why? My guess is that it was a compromise. Perhaps my mother decided to give in on that one because she definitely won the naming of the previous child. My mother got Rose in honor in of her mother. My father got Byk in honor of his beloved grandmother, Estelle Byk Kesner.

                MY BROTHER, DEAN
THE DEAN - 1964

My mother's humor came through again in 1964 when my brother was born. After four girls, my mother finally got her boy. She had to marry a new guy to get a boy, but...whatever. So - did she name him David? Nope! My baby brother was named Dean Laurence. Why Dean? Well - there are two stories here. My brother said he was named after Dean Martin, a fave of his Dad's. I forget what the Laurence was for. My mom told me she named him Dean because she was afraid that would be the only title he would have in life. My mother had a lot of faith in us.

Sadly, we have no idea how Scott got his name. The Winchester middle name was a given. I asked his sister who said their parents just liked the name. 

Do you know how you got your name? If not, try to find out. There's probably a good story there!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

52 Ancestors - #24 - Father's Day

Let me apologize in advance for the short post last week and what will undoubtedly be short posts for the next few weeks. Last week, my husband Scott and I spent a terrific week in Colorado celebrating grandbaby #3's 1st birthday. Oh - and we also enjoyed a doubleheader concert: Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan!! This week I am preparing for our upcoming trip. (Click here for info on that.) I hope to blog about the trip, but Internet access may be sketchy.

The prompt for this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks is a pretty obvious one: Father's Day. I searched through my stash of photos, hoping to find a photo from each of Scott's Father's Days. Not as successful as I hoped to be, I realized that Father's Day is basically Mother's Day's "poor cousin."

One reason there is no photographic remembrance of Scott's first Father's Day may be that Caitlin was only 8 weeks old in June 1985. I had only recently stopped nursing her 24/7,  (seriously – I'm not exaggerating – it was dreadful) so I probably had no reserve energy to pick up a camera.

The next few Father's Days were indeed documented, but somehow Scott isn't in the pictures. In the early years, many of our Father's Day celebrations were combined with my stepdad's birthday. Alfie (Al Falcone) was born on June 7, so the combo holiday made a lot of sense. It was always a scene! After much deliberation regarding the location, each year our gang would meet at a local restaurant for Sunday Brunch. "Gang" isn't quite the right word. Maybe "mob" is more appropriate, as there were between 8–15  people or more at our gatherings.

Here are a few of the photos I found:

Alfie at LaLuna's in Branford - June 1987
PopPop (Alfie) and Caitlin at Top of the Park (Park Plaza Hotel) in New Haven - June 1988

Caitlin and Aunt Kathy - June 1989

Meghan and PopPop at Cousins Restaurant in Wallingford - June 1991

We haven't gone to many Sunday brunches since PopPop's passing in 2004, but when the "gang's all here," it's the first thing we want to do as a family.

I'm sure Scott would remember better than I, some of the gifts the kids have given him over the years. Considering his "uniform" consists of a T-shirt and jeans, the typical Father's Day gift of a tie was not an option. A favorite gift has been hanging over his dresser since 1999.

Father's Day Collage - created by Meghan 1999

Recently, Scott received something he has been wanting for years: a baseball signed by Yankee player, Bernie Williams. (Dean, you now are Scott's favorite person!) So, my Father's Day gift to him was a no-brainer!

Ready to showcase his treasure!
Happy Father's Day, Scott (aka Pops)! It's been fantastic watching you with our girls over the past 33 years and even more fun watching you with the grandkids!!

UPDATE: Immediately after publishing this post, I realized I never mentioned my dad, Alan Samuel. It was not a purposeful act – it's just that my father was not actively involved in my life for many years. Happily, he worked to rectify that before his passing in 2008. And that is a story for another day!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

52 Ancestors- #23- Going to the Chapel

A very timely prompt this week as Scott and I just recently observed our 35th wedding anniversary!

After nine years or so of courtship and two previous engagements, the ring was permanent installed on my finger on May 28, 1983.

It literally was “Going to the chapel, and we’re going to get married...” for us - the ceremony was held at the Yale Divinity School Chapel. Scott’s father, the Reverend William Holman taught at the Divinity School, so the location choice was obvious. As was the choice of officiant. Not religious folk, Scott and I were thrilled to be married by his father, a Methodist minister. It was a fairly traditional  ceremony that we orchestrated ourselves. We included the usual vows.That saying from  1st Corinthians, “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” might have been the only quote from the Bible. It was the perfect ceremony for a non-observant Jew and a rebellious, never really religious son of a minister. A few months later, I realized we left out the vow of being loyal “till death do us part.” Hmmmm.... But we definitely included “in sickness and in health.” I consider that more important, actually!

A page from our wedding album. It took 25 years,  
 but I finally made the album in 2008!

Scott’s father, 
Reverend William W. Holman

Saturday, June 2, 2018

52 Ancestors - #22 - A Heritage Trip - Amsterdam to Austria

This week's topic for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is "So Far Away!" It couldn't have come at a better time! In just a few weeks, Scott and I will be joining my sister Jeanne and her partner, Suzi on a very special trip, a river cruise beginning in Amsterdam and ending in Vienna, Austria.

In the spring of 1938, my mother traveled with her mother and grandmother from Vienna to Holland. If you know anything at all about world history, the reason for their trip is obvious. As Hitler marched into Vienna, things got quite dicey for the Jews. My great-grandfather's hat factory, Lital, and several shops had already been "purchased" by the Nazis and things were looking quite grim. My mother's paternal great-grandparents were of the opinion that things were going to be okay. Her mother's mother, Sophie Spiegel did not agree. Sophie's best friend lived in Holland and Sophie herself had Dutch citizenship, as did my grandmother, Rose Lichtenthal. My mother was 6 years-old. They decided to leave. My grandfather, Paul Lichtenthal,  stayed behind because of the business, an unfortunate decision which resulted in his being imprisoned in Dachau and Buchenwald for nearly two years.

My mother's family had been in Vienna for several generations, having come from Romania and Poland. Our family history is rich with references to the city. So, it was amazing when my sister broached the idea of taking a trip which is basically the reverse of the one our mother took so many years ago.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

52 Ancestors - #21 - Scott W. Holman, PFC Army - 1971- 1974

May 28, 2018, is significant for two reasons. One: It is our 35th wedding anniversary. Two: It is Memorial Day. So, it seems very appropriate to write about my husband, Scott, a Vietnam Era veteran. I will warn you: This is a very long post. I wanted to capture his story, much of it in his own words, for our children and grandchildren. Scott is a man of few words. I really enjoyed the morning we spent as Scott relived his experience. As we chatted and I learned more about his "escapades", one thing became clear. It's a good thing we met after he left the Army. There might not have been a marriage had I met him earlier!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

52 Ancestors - #20 - Why I Chose to Study German

This week's prompt for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is "Another Language." Continuing with my theme this year - telling the stories of my generation - I've decided to share why I chose German as the foreign language I would study in school.

My mother came to this country from Vienna, Austria, with her mom and grandmother in 1938. Her father arrived a year later after being released from the Buchenwald concentration camp. (Read about his story here.)

While my mother almost never spoke German, my grandmother often did. Mom would occasionally respond in her mother-tongue, but most frequently used English. Because of that, it was clear that the conversations centered on us kids. What in the world were they saying? I really wanted to know.

The solution to my dilemma appeared when I entered junior high school. I needed to choose a foreign language to study. There was no question - German, of course!

Our hometown, Hamden, Connecticut had two junior high schools. The one in our end of town was Sleeping Giant Junior High School. Thanks to the baby boomers, the school was quite crowded. German apparently didn't hold the allure of the "romance" languages, so enrollment was fairly small. Perhaps that is why our class, taught by Mr. Willems, was held in what was probably a former broom closet.

I don't remember much from those three years. Sorry, Mr. Willems! In truth, I remember exactly one thing he said. Responding to a student who asked, "Can I go to the bathroom?", Mr. Willems replied, "How should I know? I'm not a urologist."

I do remember the first lines of the DLM dialogue we practiced.

"Guten Tag, Luisa. Wie Geht's?" (Hello, Luisa, how are you?)
"Danke, gut!" (Good, thank you!)
"Prima!" (Fine!)

I continued my study of German in high school. Again, not being a course in high demand, there was only one teacher assigned. I had the pleasure of being Gertraud Karacsonyi's student for three years.

1972 HHS Yearbook - The Venture
Left: Mrs. Karacsonyi  Right: French teacher Mr. Boisvert

I'm not sure exactly what Mrs. Karacsonyi meant by the comment she wrote in my yearbook. I really hated the expression, "Good things come in small packages." (When you're 4'9" you get that a lot!) So, I understand why she chose to write about that. However, she wrote, "Kelso is wrong, not all good packages are small..." Jim Kelso was our "class clown." I guess this topic must have come up during class one day. But, what did she mean? Some good packages are big? (Like Kelso?) Some small packages are bad? Confusing!

I really loved that class. It was the high point of my day. I got to rub elbows with the "smart kids." Many of the students taking German were in the top percentile of our class. Considering there were some 700 students in the Class of '72, that was pretty cool.

Perhaps being with those students encouraged me to do better in school. I didn't get terrible grades, but I really didn't work very hard. (In fact, my first 4th-grade teacher, Mrs. Katzman, said I "wasted time" and "wasn't working up to  potential." My mother got me switched out of her class for the second half of the year, so something was definitely going on there!!)

By the time I graduated high school, I was a much better student. I completed my Master's degree with a 4.0! So there, Mrs. Katzman! Oh. Wait. Maybe I hadn't worked up to my potential in 4th grade... okay... I'll give you that one.

Being together in the same class for a few years allowed us to become a pretty tight group.  In 1971, we tried to arrange a trip to Germany. We were prepared to raise the funds ourselves, but the Board of Education refused to give permission.

Hamden Chronicle - January 7, 1971
I like how I trimmed the article following the shape of a town landmark - the Sleeping Giant Mountain!

We never made it to the actual country of Germany, but our class did take a great field trip in 1970 to Yorkville, otherwise known as "Little Germany", a neighborhood in the Eastside of Manhattan. On that trip, I purchased a copy of Der Struwelpeter, a book of cautionary tales for children. My mother told us she had been read those as a child in Vienna, so I was thrilled to get my own copy. If you think the fairy tales we were raised on were gruesome, try going to sleep after being read a story about a little girl who played with matches then burned to death with nothing left of her except her scarlet shoes floating in a puddle formed by the tears of her beloved cats.

The story of Struwelpeter - in German
The story of Struwelpeter - in English

While I did enjoy learning the language, it turned out my plan was not the best. Apparently, the German taught in school was not the same dialect as that spoken in Vienna. Also, spoken language is a lot tougher to comprehend than written language. So, many of the "secrets" shared aloud between my mother and grandmother went over my head. (Pun intended!)

My grandmother passed in October of 1972, my senior year. After her death, my German languished until I found a need to resurrect my skills. Having an understanding of basic German would be invaluable in translating the many documents handed down to me. Google translate can do a lot, but there are often nuances in a language that don't get picked up correctly.

Letters written by my grandfather while imprisoned in
Dachau and Buchenwald await my translation.
This summer my husband and I are joining my sister and her partner on a river cruise from Amsterdam to Vienna. I have been trying to improve my skills by taking a German language course on Mango Languages - offered free through our library. Today, oddly enough (is this a sign?) I read about a German Conversation Club that meets monthly in the North Haven Library. Wish I had known about that sooner!

Auf Wiedersehen!