Thursday, December 13, 2018

52 Ancestors - Week #49 - Winter!!!!!

Last week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog prompt was "Winter." Enjoy this TBT (Throwback Thursday) collection of some "winter gems."

Above is the backyard of my childhood home. Probably mid-1960s. You can't even see the houses anymore due to tree growth!

The photo below is one of my favorites! Little sister, Betsy is definitely enjoying herself. Brother Dean - not so much!! In December 1964 he was only two months old!!!  By the way, the "Cannonball Express" was purchased at the Hamden Firestone store. That's where my Mom met Alfie! Doesn't the train look great? Now fast forward a few years. That thing stayed outside 24/7 and turned to rust!

Below - later that winter - March 1965. Hanging out with the neighborhood kids. And people say I don't go outside!! That's me, right behind Betsy, wearing the light blue jacket. I just turned 10 the month before.

My sister Kathy wanted to learn to ski - she got skis for Christmas 1966 (found that out while organizing another folder!) Wonder how that worked out?

The picture below was taken in April 1968! That's New England for you!! Look, I'm outside again! Thanks to my sister Jeanne for shoveling! I wouldn't have wanted to ruin those fashionable gloves!

And below is proof is that I don't hate dogs (all the time... ) I'm posing with our crazy mutt, Rodney - March 1970. 

Here are few more recent pics of Winter in Connecticut.

A brutal storm in 2010 caused this Larch tree to topple. It had been a fixture in
the front yard of my Mom's house for 51 years.

The record-breaking storm in January 2011 was enjoyed by
Scott and our first "grandson", Hudson who was visiting from
This is what I was treated to on my birthday in February 2013. I would have gone outside, 
but I think the snow was up to my neck!!

With a little luck, maybe we won't see too much of this guy this winter.

And... finally... if Scott had his way (along with a crapload of money) here's where HE would be spending this upcoming winter:
Hotel El Ganzo - San Jose' del Cabo, Mexico
Hmm....maybe he's got the right idea?????

Sunday, December 2, 2018

52 Ancestors - Week #46 - Seven Years, Seven Decades, Seven Random Thoughts

It seems appropriate, on this, the seventh anniversary of my mother’s passing, to share a bit about her.

Doris May Lichtenthal was born on March 5, 1932. She left this earth after, in her words, “finishing her job,” on December 2, 2011. Mom was 79. For more than seven decades, she dedicated herself to family life.

Decade Number One: 1932-1942
1938 Passport Photo

Without a doubt, the single most important event of this decade occurred in June 1938, when Doris, her mother, and beloved grandmother left Vienna, Austria to start anew in America. Only six years old, Doris had no real idea of the crisis which precipitated their departure. She knew her father was “away” (in a concentration camp), but she was focused on getting one of her early wishes, “to go to America and listen to Jazz.”

Alan and Doris on their wedding day - 1953

Decade Number Two: 1943-1953
Part of her master plan to have “smart, talented, good-looking kids” was achieved when she married Alan Samuel on June 28, 1953. She got the smart and talented but I’m not so sure about the good-looking! (Sorry, sibs—speaking about myself here!)

Decade Number Three: 1954-1964
Doris completed her “master plan” on October 1, 1964, when her one and only son, Dean Laurence Falcone was born. She had to marry a new guy (Al Falcone) to get the son she always wanted, but “whatever!”

Dean and Mom - approx 1968

Decade Number Four: 1965-1975
I’m pretty sure my mother wouldn’t even remember this decade of her life! She was the “consummate” Mom – cooking, cleaning (as little as she could get away with), crafting and carting (driving us everywhere!) We five kids kept her busy! Her most often quoted phrases from that time include, “I haven’t slept a whole night since 1955.” - the year of my birth. When asked what she would like as a gift, Mom always replied, “A little piece of quiet.” Yeah- how'd that work out?

Decade Number Five: 1976-1986
This was a really rough period for my mom. In 1979, she was first diagnosed with a serious skin disease, Pemphigus. It almost killed her. After several hospitalizations, the disease stabilized, but the side effects of the meds affected both Mom physically and emotionally. She never really got over having to stop dying her hair and gaining weight due to the meds. If I had been as beautiful as she was, I would have felt the same way.
Granddaughter Mia's love
 for her Omi is "infinite"

Decade Number Six: 1987-1997
No “failure to launch” here. By this decade, all of Doris’ children were “grown” and on their own - with a few lapses here and there! Mom could have finally taken time for herself, but instead, she helped take care of her grandchildren! I will always be thankful for the support of “Omi” and I know her grandchildren cherish that time as well. (I only hope I can be half the Omi, she was!! She left some pretty big shoes to fill.)

Decade Number Seven: 1998- 2008
During this decade, Doris lost her husband (May 24, 2004.) Despite being on her own, Mom found the resources to remain in her home. A treasured family tradition, Christmas Eve at Omi’s still continues to this day. Even when the day comes that we celebrate in another place, Mom’s baked treats will hold the family together, forever!

Linzer cookies were a tribute to Omi
at Granddaughter Meghan's' 2014 wedding.

The Last Years
One of the last pics of Mom and her "brood."
Sadly, Mom’s last few years were marked by multiple hospitalizations, surgeries and nursing home stays. But, through it all her mind stayed sharp and her antics kept us entertained. For instance, the day she called me not five minutes after I left the nursing home, begging me to return as soon as possible because she needed help. I rushed back, only to have her declare the food at the Arden House was “IN-edible!”

Thinking back over all she endured, I am in awe of the way she lived her life. A role model to us all – including my stepbrother and stepsisters and her cherished grandchildren.

Mom, I’m looking forward to making your traditional Linzer cookies again this year. Hopefully, no one will declare them “inedible!”

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog prompt, Random Fact.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

52 Ancestors - #47- Thankful for The Sixth Family

On the occasion of our father’s funeral service, my sister Alexandra wrote,

“This is the sixth family: the family joined now by our common loss as well as by our common love.  From Jessica in his first family to Sandra in his fifth family, and including all of us kids in between -- we are all one family. We may not look like the family that comes with a dollhouse, or on TV, but that awkwardness, the complicated storyline, is part of the truth of what our family is really like.”
Our father married four times. His first two marriages, each which ended in divorce, produced five children—all girls! Over the course of his third marriage, Dad and Valerie (who already had a son) adopted three children. His fourth marriage didn’t introduce any new children into the family, but instead, thanks to his wife Sandra, provided Dad the support and strength needed to gather his progeny together in an attempt to begin healing the wounds so deeply felt by many of his children.

After my parents divorced, my mother met and subsequently married a man who already had three children. Apparently, Alfie had the “y” gene missing in my father’s DNA. Mom finally got her son—my brother Dean!

My side of The Sixth Family

During my childhood, there were some difficult times resulting from the various divorces in the family. For many years there was little contact with my “Canadian sibs.” In July 2007, Dad held a 75th birthday party. All but one of his children attended. One year later he was dead.

Valerie passed in 2001 and Alfie left us in 2004. My mom died on December 2, 2011.

My husband Scott’s family is no less complicated. His mother died in 1954, leaving his father to raise five children. Bill married a woman who was divorced with two children. Their blended family remained close following the deaths of both Bill and Dorothy and five of their seven children.

Scott's side of The Sixth Family
Often, when parents pass away, the family begins to fracture. Grandchildren pull the adult siblings in different directions and it becomes harder to maintain family traditions.

Not our family. Perhaps because there was always a physical distance between most of us, our relationships haven’t changed that much over the years. But instead of our communications becoming more infrequent, they’ve pretty much remained static, in some cases, even increasing!

That, folks, is what I am thankful for this holiday. Despite the distances, despite the wounds, despite the differences in DNA—we are family. We might not call often, but we are always thinking of each other. And we know that no matter what, we are family. The Sixth Family.

Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge for week #47 - Thankful. (In case you're counting - don't worry - you didn't miss anything. I skipped over a few weeks so I could post this for Thanksgiving week!)

Monday, November 5, 2018

52 Ancestors - #42 - Conflict - What Has Happened to the UNITED States?

Once again, I am skipping around the weekly prompts for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge to respond to the Week 42 topic - Conflict. It's not exactly typical genealogy, but consistent with my goal of documenting my generation's story.

I was searching for a way to connect to this topic when one sadly presented itself. On October 27, 2018, 11 people lost their lives simply because they were Jewish.  I am not a political person. I rarely post anything on FB other than genealogy, family life, or food. I generally steer clear of anything incendiary or demeaning. But, I am Jewish. I feel the need to at least express my concern for this country and the world in general.  My grandfather survived two years in a concentration camp before emigrating to the United States to join his family. Their lives were never the same. (Yet, I always feel the need to apologize for the fact they survived.) This past summer, I, together with my husband, my sister, and her partner, visited the site of Hitler’s parade grounds. It was easy to imagine the crowd listening, desperate for better lives for their families.

When I was teaching full-time, I created a unit on Mob Mentality. It was the early 2000s. Many of my students were (or wanted to be) gang-involved.   Almost all struggled with a variety of issues that resulted in poor decision-making. The majority were “followers” or otherwise disenfranchised, searching desperately for a group and a feeling of belonging.

 9/11 was a fresh wound at that time. Understandably, there was a lot of confusion and fear. The “us” against “them” mentality was becoming noticeable. I decided to take my class on a “journey”- exploring why good people can sometimes do really bad stuff. (Something almost all of them had experienced, either as the victim or the victimizer.)
We read about the Salem witch trials.

We read. “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson, one of the only stories to have stuck with me from my high school years, almost 50 years ago. In the story, the residents of a small town observed an honored tradition.  Every year, all the townspeople would gather in the square for the annual lottery. The winner's
prize? Getting stoned to death by your neighbors and loved ones. 

We read “The Wave”, by Todd Strasser. This book, based on a real event, tells the story of a teacher who attempted to help his students understand why so many people stood by, silently, while the Nazis murdered millions of people, just because those folks didn't meet a certain standard. The teacher created a scenario within his classroom that quickly spread throughout the school, creating a culture of “us” and “them.” (The book was made into an ABC After-school special in 1981)

I have no idea if my lessons had any impact but it was important to me to share the repercussions of intolerance and mob mentality with these teens who faced an uncertain future. 

When people become concerned about meeting their basic needs - food, shelter, safety - they can become desperate for a solution.  I get that. 

But this feels different. The divide is growing. I was taught this is the UNITED States. E Pluribus Unum. The melting pot. 

Tomorrow is Election Day. Perhaps the tide will turn.  For my grandchildren’s sake, I hope so. 

NOTE: This post is NOT meant as a political statement, nor in support of a specific person or party. It is simply my hope that we can all become more tolerant, understanding, and accepting. 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

52 Ancestors - #41 - It's Hockey for Us!!

“Sports” is the topic for Week 41 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge. There is only one sport I can write about: HOCKEY.

Hockey is the only sport I really know anything about. I can fake my way through baseball – after all, it’s just guys hitting a ball and running. But – nine innings? Really? Football is just too flippin’ long to hold my attention. What the heck is a “down”, anyway? Basketball? Eh. Curling might do it for me – except I’m morally opposed to sweeping. (As well as all other forms of housework…)

Alfie, during a game at the New Haven Coliseum.
Date unknown
The New Haven Arena
Date unknown

 I didn’t even know hockey existed before Al Falcone came into my life. Sundays in the late 1960s and early 70s were all about visiting family in West Haven, eating pasta (yea!), and attending the Blades’ games at the New Haven Arena.

I didn’t go to the games as often as my siblings and step-siblings but often enough to have memories of big-haired women in fur coats and the acrid smell of cigarette smoke. The games were exciting! The Blades were akin to that team profiled in the movie “Slapshot.” Fights were frequent and intense. I’m generally a peaceful person but I found the fights fascinating. Maybe I need therapy around that…

I wrote about Alfie’s life-long love affair with hockey in an earlier post. While he enjoyed many sports, he was quoted as saying, “Nothing beats hockey." And, so it was for us kids. Alfie’s bio kids have hockey in their blood. 

As a kid, Mark played hockey throughout high school and into his college years. Brother Dean played on a youth league. I don’t remember ever going to a single one of his games. I suck. But, in my defense, maybe I was working?

Hamden Youth Hockey. Dean is the first kid on the left, first row. Date unknown.

Alfie adjusting Dean's helmet. 1976
Alfie's daughter, Laura recently asked me if I get a certain sports channel before she committed to visiting me during the playoffs. Son Mark attends multiple live games every year, including the “Frozen Four”, the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship. Sandy, who, as an adult, moved to a rural area, suffered missing games for years until cable television finally came to her rescue.

My youngest sister Betsy was pretty much raised by Alfie since she was only about a year old when he met our mother. So, it stands to reason she is now a HUGE hockey fan. It doesn’t hurt that her husband is also a big sports enthusiast.

My mom and Alfie. Around 2000.

My mother, Doris Lichtenthal Falcone, enjoyed attending the hockey games in the early years. I remember them going away for weekends to attend hockey games as far away as Canada. My mother stopped attending the games after a fan lost an eye after being hit in the face by a flying Russian hockey puck.

My husband’s family also enjoyed hockey. Three of his nephews played the game. I remember one game in particular, in East Haven, CT. Brother-in-law Gerry, usually one of the calmest, quietest, well-mannered men I ever met, became so enraged after a certain play, he almost came to blows with another fan! That’s hockey!!

However, my proudest connection with hockey is our daughter, Caitlin. In high school, Caitlin took up lacrosse. She soon was plagued with shin splints and decided to join the girl’s ice hockey club that was just forming. Her thinking was that hockey was similar in form to lacrosse. Gliding across the ice might be easier on her legs as well. Just one teeny, tiny problem. She didn’t know how to skate. 

Caitlin is not easily put off by a challenge. In fact, that seems to energize her. She most certainly rose to this one. I remember her first goal. Barely able to skate the length of the rink, and apparently forgetting how ice and skates interact, she fell after jumping up and down in her excitement. Being a “hockey family” is a memorable experience – early morning ice times and smelly equipment (Driving home in a freezing cold car because you HAD to keep the windows open!) create serious bonding!

Caitlin proudly sporting her #10!
I keep this picture EXACTLY as it was found in Alfie's wallet after his passing.
He was so immensely proud of her!

I don’t really follow hockey anymore. But, I still feel a connection when a student tells me they play. A friend of ours has a very talented granddaughter who may go far in the world of women’s hockey.  Hockey will always have a place in my heart. (Sorry West Haveners - I can't get over our high school rivalry!)

Our grandchildren are a bit too young right now, (all younger than 4) but perhaps one day they will carry on the legacy!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

52 Ancestors - #44- Halloween in "Paradise Hills"

I am jumping ahead a few weeks so that this post appears on Halloween. Much more timely than staying in order and posting this during the week of Thanksgiving!! (I'm a bit behind on posts for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge!)

I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of my favorite Halloween photos from years past. The first photo was taken Halloween afternoon, 1965 in Paula's Goddard's yard. Our little suburban neighborhood was called "Paradise Hills." It probably should have been called "Peyton Place", but that's a subject for another day! (Sorry to you "young 'uns" who have no idea what I am talking about.)

I wish I knew who all these kids are! I'm the "Wishnik" (troll) on the far right.
The woman on the left was our Brownie leader, Mrs. Civitello

Year unknown, but I'm pretty sure that is my sister, Jeanne disguised as "Cousin It."

Slightly blurry shot of the neighbor kids. 1969
I'm the "old lady" on the left in the back row. To my right is Jackie Mendillo.
Sister Betsy is the witch. The boys in the front are Bobby Silver and my brother, Dean.

1960-Something. Bobby Silver and brother, Dean. That's Philip Lendroth behind Dean. Hobos were big that year!!
1972- You might think this was a Halloween pic, but it probably was just another day in the life of Dean Falcone!

This isn't a Halloween picture, but it's one of my favorite sibling pics!!!
Our grandparents brought these costumes back from their trip to Hawaii.
Left-to-right: Jeanne, me, Kathy
Probably 1964ish

Hope you enjoyed these! Growing up, Halloween and St. Patrick's Day were my favorite holidays. Since I'm not Irish anymore (Thanks, DNA!!) guess that leaves me with Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

52 Ancestors - #40 - My 5th Grade Year

Ten. A decade. The first whole number with more than one digit. “Ten” is the prompt for Week 40 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge. It seems like a great opportunity to share a little about my tenth year of life.

In 1965, I was 10 years old and in the 5th grade at Bear Path School in Hamden. That year was quite significant for me. That was the year when I really began to understand how short I truly was. I knew I was shorter than most kids my age. (I wasn’t blind!) In fact, in 2nd grade, I told my mother that “The higher kids say I’m a small fry and they want to boil me!” (Thanks, Mom for keeping such good records in my baby book!)
Here's a terrible scan of a slide from 1965.
I'm pictured with my best friend at the time, Debbie Colliander.
I'm the short one, in case you weren't sure!!
 But, it was in my 10th year of life that it became more noticeable. The other kids were starting to sprout – making the height gap more obvious than ever. There was another girl in my class who was also short, though not as short as I. She was beginning to get growth hormone shots and her mom was discussing that with my mom as an option for me. So – my grandmother (my father’s mother) paid for bone scan x-rays and some other tests to try and determine a possible cause for my petite stature and whether taking growth hormones would be a good plan. It should be noted that I am the only short person in my biological family. It should also be noted that my father was quite short as a young boy and didn’t start his growth spurt until the age of 18.

The results of the medical tests were “just doggone short, for no reason.” Pretty sure that’s not how it was written on the actual report, but that’s how I remember it. Hey - I was 10! Just so you can get some perspective here, on October 19, 1965, I was a whopping 47 ½” tall. The height of an average 10-year-old is 54½”. I guess 7 inches was considered significant. (Full disclosure – 53 years later, I’m now 57” – a full 10 inches taller!)  

What made my 5th-grade year so prominent in my memory? Yes, there were some health concerns. I was plagued with frequent bloody noses. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the back of the classroom, holding my head back while class went on around me. That year I was also diagnosed with “screamer’s nodules.” Yes – that’s a real thing!!! I tended to develop polyps on my vocal chords which caused my voice to become raspy. The “cure” was to stop talking for at least 24 hours until the nodules became smaller. If you know me at all, you have a good sense of how tough that was for me!! My explanation for this malady was that because I was so short, I had to speak more loudly (and more frequently?) in order to get noticed. I still get flare-ups, especially the first few days of a new class term, when I do a lot more talking than usual.

It was in my 5th-grade year that I had my first boy-crush. His name was Kevin. He was pretty cute. I don’t have a picture because he moved away after that year. Kevin was my “knight in shining armor.” Some girl was drawing mean pictures of me (the content of which I don’t even remember.) Kevin took the pictures and ripped them up right in front of her! We had a “whirlwind romance” which consisted of me visiting his apartment on Mix Avenue where he kissed me outside his basement window!

But, the main reason 5th-grade sticks out in my memory is my teacher. Mrs. Knox. I think she liked me. Sometimes, it was hard to tell. She did make me stand me in the closet with gum on my nose because I was chewing in class. To be fair, she did that to anyone caught chewing gum. She always called me “Peanut.” Pretty sure it was a term of endearment, but it didn’t help me fit into the group of “normal” kids. But, I loved her. She is probably my favorite teacher, other than Mrs. Karacsonyi, my German teacher in high school.

Mrs. Knox saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Something I really didn’t fully appreciate until recently. I am a writer. I wrote a story that year about a Japanese girl and a snake. Sadly, I can’t remember anything else about it. I kept the story, written and illustrated on that weird little arithmetic paper, for years. Until the mice at my mother’s house devoured it. Mrs. Knox made quite a fuss over my little “book.” She had me read it to the entire class. She told me I was a good writer. No one (other than my mom) had ever told me I was good at anything until then. She even commented on it on my report card! One would think that might have been a turning point for me – that I would take her praise and start writing like crazy. Um. Nope.

My 5th-grade report card. 

Mrs. Knox had such faith in me, I was promoted to the “accelerated 6th-grade” class. My success was short-lived (Ha! Pun intended. I think.) The notes by Mrs. Jomini on my 6th-grade report card declared that “lack of effort is responsible for Deborah’s drop in grades.” The disappointing “poor report card for ability” reinforced my opinion that I wasn’t as smart as the other kids. (Telling a kid to “try harder” really doesn’t work. IMHO, most kids aren’t honest enough with themselves to admit they aren’t putting enough effort into their work.) My struggles in 6th grade continued into junior high and my self-esteem plummeted.

1966 Bear Path School 6th grade class. Can you find me?
I'm the short girl on the left, not much taller than my friend, Nancy who is sitting down, and a full head-and-neck shorter than Jon standing behind me!
Mrs. Jomini is wearing a red dress and standing behind Jon.

I was angry with my 6th-grade teacher for years. But, hard as it is to admit, she was right. It took me years to realize that I had a pretty good brain. And that it didn’t require much more effort on my part to use it well. I just had to figure out the best way for me learn. I am a visual learner. My auditory skills are quite weak. Once I learned to take better notes on what the teacher was saying, my grades really improved!

I am a writer. I write almost every day. Since 2010, I have authored a family recipe book, a book about the two years my mother spent in Japan, worked with my sister-in-law to update my father-in-law’s family history, co-authored a book on dollhouse furniture, and most recently have almost completed a two-year project writing about my husband’s great-grandmother. Oh – and this blog!

So – thank you, Mrs. Knox. It took me a long time to see in myself what you saw in your tiny 10-year-old student. I don’t know what happened to you or where you are now, but I hope you knew how much impact you had.