Sunday, July 10, 2022

Growing up in Philadelphia

I've written before about time in Allentown, San Pedro and Ventnor, but when my childhood comes up I always say I grew up in Philadelphia.  We moved there in the spring of 1972, when Grandad was called to Gloria Dei (Old Swedes) Church, on Swanson Street in South Philly.  My first memory of it is walking through the rectory (where we met the retiring minister Dr. Roak, shaving in an upstairs bathroom), then having lunch at a McDonald's on Broad Street.  It's the oldest church in Pennsylvania, established by Swedish settlers.  They built a block church in the 1640's, then the current church was built around 1700 (of course with subsequent additions & improvements).  It was originally a Lutheran church, but later became Episcopal.  

This was the beginning of my connection to rivers.  The church is along the Delaware River waterfront, and since marrying Dad in 1987 I have lived within a few blocks of the Susquehanna River.

The church location is interesting, it's between I-95 and Columbus Blvd (formerly Delaware Ave).  This is part of the Queen's Village neighborhood.  One of the constants of my childhood was traffic noise & a fine dust that accumulated all around.  Only during snow storms was it blissfully quiet.  One of the great things about the church is that its property is the middle of a city block, and the land on both sides of it is owned and maintained by the national park service.  I believe the park service purchased the property & razed structures include many houses around the church in the 1960's.  By the early 1980's, Swanson Street was closed off and the area in front of the church was converted to a small park.  We lived in the rectory next to the church and enjoyed a lovely back yard, church yard and national park grounds.  I spent a lot of time day dreaming in nice green spots - like about how much fun it would be if I were a bird or dolphin, and how fascinating it would be if I could walk the streets of Philadelphia during colonial times.  You can understand why I am quite comfortable in cemeteries, in fact I enjoy walking through them.

Here are some of my memories of childhood in Philly.

  • I finished 2nd grade at McCall Elementary School (7th St. near Pine St.) and continued through 8th grade.  McCall's was a well-integrated school that included a substantial ESL program.  It was about a mile away and we walked to and from school (there was no school bus service in the city, and Grammie believes in exercise).  I was a year younger than my classmates, and didn't make friends easily.  But I did well academically and had some good teachers (I'm sure you can think of your own mix of good & not-so-good ones).  I remember one particularly well - Mr. Pietrafitta (Mr. P) was an English teacher and my home room teacher who loved opera.  Mr. P taught us 7th graders to sing a duet from Mozart's Don Giovanni.  The boys sang Don Giovanni's part and the girls sang Zerlina's part of La ci darem la mano.  I still remember the words.
  • Great Uncle John McCausland's unexpected death over the late summer of 1972 (Edie's father).  We had visited Webster very shortly before and stopped to see him at the police station.  And had a family picture taken at 14 Hill Street, except for Diana.  Grandad brought me with him when he went for the funeral; I didn't attend the service, but went to the viewing (My Uncle John was the first deceased person I saw, I kept thinking he was just asleep).
  • Uncle John's birth in September of the same year - you know that he's named John McCausland Rivers after Great Uncle John.  Early in the morning, I remember Grandad calling up from the bottom of the stairs to tell us we had a little brother.  This was not an easy time, as he had a birth defect which required surgery almost immediately after he was born.  John was a big, sturdy baby and fully recovered.  As far as I was concerned, he was a delight since when he cried it was a dull roar... unlike when baby Diana cried, which was a piercing shriek (very similar to your cousin Beatrice!).  I remember that Julie and I took turns feeding him his morning bottle as quickly as possible, sitting in the rocking chair in his room.
  • Julie and I dressing up as little Swedish girls for events like an early summer Colonial Fair which was held annually in the early years.  It was fun, and my other fond memory is of delicious strawberry shortcake which was sold by the church ladies at the Fair.  In later years, we were in a kids Swedish folk dancing group.
  • House work.  Grammie was a firm believer in learning by doing.  In the rectory, we cleaned the upstairs on Wednesday afternoons, the downstairs on Sundays before church and folded laundry a couple days as well.  Julie & I took turns doing dinner dishes/clean-ups.  On Saturdays we typically had extra jobs like sweeping the patio.  During the summer we had "special" jobs like cleaning silver, going through closets and the dreaded sweeping of the basement which created clouds of dust. (I did get a fundamental understanding of many household cleaning & washing activities, however did not get much experience with food shopping, cooking or personal finance stuff.)
  • These efforts were rewarded by an allowance.  I don't remember how much exactly, but it was enough for Julie and me to walk to Pop's store at 2nd & Christian St. for treats.  As far as I could tell, he sold just newspapers and candy.  One of our favorites we called "nominators", which are actually "Now and Later" fruit candy, reminiscent of Starburst.  You can try them too - they're available at the Ballyhoo shop on Luzerne Ave.
  • Living simply.  A family of six is relatively large.  Many of our clothes were from thrift stores, although some new items were purchased from Sears; Grammie would order from the catalog by phone.  There were some hours of joy looking through Sears catalogs mostly at the toy section.  Grammie shopped for produce at the open-air Italian market on 9th St (made famous by the Rocky movies).  Grandnana was a talented seamstress and did make clothes for us (especially dresses) and knitted items with our initials (I still have my Christmas stocking and a pair of CR mittens).  We didn't have normal milk, we had powdered milk (which was mixed with water in the morning, and never cold enough when eating cereal for breakfast).  We didn't use facial tissues (toilet paper was a good substitute), avoided using paper towels and almost never had restaurant meals.  But did go out for ice cream now and then.
  • Attending Sunday school and then church on Sundays.  Wearing a dress and 'church' shoes was a must.  Also Sunday evening meetings and various outings with the Girls Friendly Society, which met at a parish building.  I just read about it and now realize it's a girls ministry of the Episcopal Church - there more about Girls Friendly here.  Here's a picture from Easter, 1975 (Nana made the girls' dresses).

  • Having overnight and other visits with the Rivers family (Uncle Dick and Aunt Ginny), who lived in a Philadelphia suburb.  They had a literal mansion on N. Ithan Drive in Rosemont.  It had a ball room, servant's quarters, 9 bathrooms & was the absolute best place ever to play hide and seek.  Their kids were close to our age - Matthew, Jessica and Steven - where all my other cousins were older.  Below is a picture taken when we spent a summer afternoon together at the Mehoopany cabin.  Back row is me, Jess and Matt; middle is Steve and John; front is Di and Julie.  You know the special connection with cousins your own age, in your case it was Kyra and Lucy.

  • Trips to northeast PA (Wilkes-Barre and Beaumont/Noxen area).  We visited the Kerr family (Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob) on North Franklin Street, W-B.  And spent time with Grandnana and my Grandad at their retirement house.  Grandad had been the rector at St. Stephen Episcopal Church in Wilkes-Barre and retired in May, 1972 - notably, just before the Agnes Flood.  The picture of them below is from 1974 or so.
  • Occasional day trips, for example to Washington Crossing State Park along the Delaware River (you can guess how it got its name); Lums Pond State Park in Delaware and the Jersey shore.  Usually we went to the park at Barnegat Lighthouse (the beach was great, the hour plus drive back to Philadelphia in a sandy bathing suit sitting on a wet towel was not).  
  • Vacationing a couple summers in Mehoopany (I wrote about previously, also see picture above), and later at Good's Campground in Red Rock.  We took some other vacations including to Cape Cod and the blue ridge mountains going down to North Carolina - to visit the Carlson family (Aunt Margaret & Uncle Jack) and Grammie and Grandad Zeller.  I cannot overstate how unbearably hot it was in Philadelphia during the summers.  Often over 90 degrees & 100% humidity.  We had fans, but other than Grammie and Grandad's bedroom and the kitchen there was no air conditioning.  Getting out of the city was a blessing.
  • In 1976, the 200th anniversary of adopting the Declaration of Independence was celebrated across the country.  You can read about it in this Bicentennial Wiki article.   This summer was unique because most days the church was open for tours hosted by church members in traditional Swedish garb.
  • Going to Camp Lackawanna (in Vosburg, up-river from Tunkhannock), affiliated with the Presbytery of Lackawanna.  The presbytery had purchased Camp Sterrett, a neighboring camp property, from the Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem.  Grandad and his family spent happy, busy times there during the 1950's while the camp was associated with St. Stephen's Church in Wilkes-Barre.  Kids having a connection to St. Stephens were welcomed to Camp Lackawanna.  During each summer from 5th - 7th grade, Julie and I spent a week at Camp.  The first time was hard, I was pretty homesick.  This week was still special, since Cindy Clauser from Slatington was in our cabin (maybe the put all the "south of the tunnel" types together?).  We continued to be cabin-mates in later summers, then pen pals.  And have stayed friends all our lives, she is now Cindi Reitz.  I enjoyed camp so much that I came back as a Counselor in Training when I was 15.  I'll write more about this in another post.
  • The Lucia Fest.  This was a Christmas-time pageant (and fundraiser) at the the church, held the weekend closes to Dec. 13th - the traditional winter solstice in Sweden.  You can read about current traditions in Sweden in this article about St. Lucy.  You are familiar with Lucia at Old Swedes, I will write about your star boy time later.  I started at age 7 as one of the smallest candle girls (Julie started as a coffee girl at age 6).  We had to learn 4 songs in Swedish.  As the years went along, I learned more Swedish songs to sing with the big girls during the offertory.  It was a special experience, and I remember feeling completely drained after 2 services on Friday then 3 each on Sat & Sunday.  I wore the crown with candles to sing my Lucia solo in 1981 at age 16, which was exciting.  Dad came to the ceremony.  On chilly Sunday afternoons in November, I still think of rehearsals (I remember all the songs).  And still wear my Lucia pendant around Christmas.  

  • I started high school in 1978 and graduated in 1982.  Rather than our local South Philly high school, fortunately Julie, Diana and I went to the Philadelphia High School for Girls on North Broad Street and John went to Central High which was just down the hill from Girls High.  Both were college prep magnet schools.  Getting there involved a bus ride from Front St to Broad St, then a subway ride which totaled 45 mins plus each way.  Other than the most obvious problem (no boys!!) and being so far away, Girls High was a good experience.  I made some friends, who I have since lost touch with.  Overall effective teaching, interactions with smart classmates and a wonderful music program.  The best part of high school was being in the choir (then called "Treble Clef") and the orchestra playing cello. I worked hard, my GPA placed me close to the top of my class and at graduation (held at the Academy of Music on Broad St) Grandad gave the invocation since I was the highest ranking student whose father was a clergyman.  I had a graduation party in the back yard later in the day - below is a picture of me, my friends Lynne and Lorraine, Uncle John and Aunt Julie.  Dad came to both the ceremony and party.    

Although the Philadelphia years weren't ideal for me socially, Philadelphia was an interesting place to spend formative years.  After that it was off to King's College in Wilkes-Barre.  I have no regrets, and have been happy to spend the majority of my life by the beautiful mountains and Susquehanna River in the Wyoming Valley.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Half Way Through

It's mid-year already!  I am always surprised when we've "suddenly" arrived at the July 4th holiday - coming up on Monday.  It's time to plan a cook-out and think about making blueberry pies.  Here are a few updates:

  • The Supreme Court is issuing a set of rulings showing its current conservative bent.  A ruling against the EPA's regulation of power plan emissions does not bode well for addressing climate change (or the power of the EPA generally).  Vacating Roe v. Wade will have significant consequences for women specifically, and their partners and families in states where legislatures are opposed to abortion rights.  Your Grandnana spoke about many horrible outcomes with illegal abortions prior to RvW and fully supported Planned Parenthood, as do Steve and I.  It's truly upsetting, though heartening to know that a majority of Americans are pro-Choice and that Congress can take action to legalize abortion.
  • Jan. 6, 2021 Congressional hearings are in progress.  It has become clear how just how hard President Trump tried to remain in office after losing the 2020 election.  Given the increasing economic strain on low- and middle-income Americans over decades, it's not surprising that the status quo seems unacceptable to so many people.  But it's still difficult to accept that a determined minority is no longer committed to democratic values.  
  • We are not done yet with our latest mouse situation (or is it an infestation, now that we are in the 8-10 range this spring)?  Both kitties are doing their jobs, though Oren is more enthusiastic than Rambo.  He growls when the mousey is in his mouth, and is not eager to "drop it!" when requested by co-habitating humans.  I believe only one escaped the kitty brigade, but we hope it has since been caught.  Oren spends time in the kitchen carefully watching the dishwasher area (near the kitty food bowls).  Our neighbor Crystal told me a couple weeks ago that she discovered a visiting mouse on the kitchen counter between her flower pots...  so it's not just us!

  • Alex, you are wrapping up week 2 at Azec.  Other than getting a work iPhone (which you hate), all is well working in the HR Department.  On your second day, you texted me that "Everyone is so positive and friendly.  I really like it so far and there's going to be lots of opportunity for me to move up.  I met the plan manager and he was telling me there's people who've worked 4 or 5 different careers in the company and that they prioritize internal hires above external.  So I'm excited and I think there's a lot of potential."  You celebrated your 8th anniversary with Taylor on May 3rd, then her 25th birthday last Saturday.  And you've had some nice fishing time - today you send me these pics:

  • Rob, you're now working a couple shifts per week as a busser and salad maker at Sabatini's in Exeter.  Seems to be a good job, although it would be nice to work more often.  We have been trying to figure out solutions for some foot pain, including shoes to fit you comfortably.  And enjoying some time away, as you & I just visited Ontario to spend a few days with Uncle John, Aunt Fran and kids.  Noel and Larson are doing well (14 and 10), and Bea (11 months) is sweet and exhausting.  Below is a nice picture of us, with the Almonte waterfall behind us.  Her favorite and only word she uses consistently is "this?" as she looks at someone/something.  At this very moment, you are on the front porch talking with some Mormons who rang our doorbell (holy rollers, as Grandma used to say).  I'm sure you are giving them a run for their money, as you are quite the intellectual and deep thinker.  You just came in and are having a laugh, as you let them chat away (to delay pestering the neighbors)....   They asked which of Jesus's acts was your favorite, and you told them it was beating up bankers (their reply, was "yeah, we like that too!").  They said you are a man of great faith!  They gave you a Mormon bible and are coming back next week (July 7th at 3!).  You plan to prepare carefully for the next discussion - and in advance will get some extra tips on Joseph Smith & LDS beliefs from Steve.  We'll be sure  to have some cold drinks on hand for this debate.

  • As usual for this time of year, Steve has been busy with outdoor projects.  He built a handsome planter for the deck.  And over a hot weekend while Rob and I were away, he did most of the work to create a beautiful walkway from the deck steps over to the driveway, using pavers, landscape edging and gravel.  With the hottest months approaching, it's time to relax more.  We do appreciate all his efforts, we get compliments on our many flowers & blooming bushes which look Fantastic.  And we will be celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary on July 3. 

  • I now have a fitbit.  As you know, I am far from an early adopter of new technology.  The real reason this happened is that Steve got it for me & mostly set it up.  I'm getting used to having it on my wrist, and yes it does motivate me to be active.  I really do love walking outdoors when it's not too hot and not too uphill.  It helps that I still get to the gym with Laura Lewis Emmett most Thursday nights, where we do equal parts exercising and talking.

    Sunday, May 15, 2022

    The Prettiest Season

    For many years, my favorite season was fall.  Now my favorite is spring, with warm breezes, longer days and the world turning green again.  Tulips are lovely, the flowering trees are gorgeous.  I had a nice dose a few weeks ago, with a day trip to New York City (which had an Earth Day parade) and since then much outdoor time today watching Steve put bricking along the front sidewalk and plant flowers.  Alex, you showed me flowers and vegetables (including many pepper plants) that you got at Golomb's last week on an outing with Aunt Pam.  We went for the first time yesterday, and as we drove down to the flats in Plains it seemed like stepping back in time about 50 years.  

    As an update, you are currently job hunting - after your contractor position at US Foods came to an end.  In your spare time, you've been fishing with Taylor, painted Aunt Pam's back porch and yesterday called me to say you have COVID-19.  Heavy sigh!!   You seemed to have so many close calls with illnesses since the pandemic started, but only tested positive this time.  Mild symptoms like head congestion and sore throat, let's hope it stays that way!!!!  Taylor had it in January.  Suspiciously, you had been at Mohegan Sun casino shortly before each of you came down with it - so think you likely got exposed there.  All your aunts & uncles have now had it, but so far not Grammie or Grandad, Steve, Rob or I (that we know of at least).  And no serious sickness or long-term consequences.  Wisely, we are all fully vaccinated & boosted.  You and Taylor have plans to spend next weekend at the finger lakes in NY with Aunt Pam and Dawn.

    Rob, you are studying for finals.  This is the end of your second semester at LCCC, going part time.  You have been going Tuesdays & Thursdays, which include a weekly chemistry lab and tutoring a few students in math.  It isn't easy with your headaches.  I am encouraged because overall they are not as severe and your light sensitivity is reduced (migraine glasses do help).  You are seeing a headache-specialty neurologist Dr. Chua, as well as Mark Kovalchik at the Saxon practice.  You love time with Rambo and especially Oren.  They've had a some fun over the last couple week catching 4 mice - to my distress.  Oren growls when carrying a rodent about.  I do appreciate your efforts in capturing them as soon as possible, though sadly the mousies do not fare well no matter how quickly they're taken out to the back yard.  One particularly memorable situation resulted from Rambo bringing his prey upstairs, where it tried to hide until you caught him (her?) in the back-hall closet.

    Going back how much I love this time of year....  Here's a hauntingly beautiful rendition of "For the Beauty of the Earth" that I listen to now and then.  Absolutely magnificent.

    Saturday, April 9, 2022

    On Hiatus

    Well, it's been a long time since I posted anything.  Work has been hectic, etc., but the main reason for the gap is that the flash drive that many of my pictures were saved to melted after being inserted into the my computer USB port for way too long.  This was a huge mistake on my part, I knew that pictures from recent years had not been backed up & didn't take time to do it (in spite of gentle reminders from Steve).  I was so upset - feeling sick to my stomach when I thought about it.  SO A REMINDER TO YOU, be sure to save important files and especially pictures IN 3 DIFFERENT PLACES.

    This is what I was told after taking my flash drive to Custom Computers in Kingston (which Laura Lewis recommended after her computer hard drive crashed, and they helped to retrieve 20 years of her sermons).  The flash drive could not be read, so they sent it away to a restoration company which also could not read it after several weeks told me it was hopeless.  That was a really bad day.  😢  Well, so what to do about this situation.....  Of course I had help, because I have an absolutely wonderful husband (I highly recommend that you also find/have a wonderful partner).  So Steve copied pictures from my two latest cell phones and one of Rob's old cell phones.  Since I had backed up pictures a few years ago, I found every flash drive in the house, looked at their contents using Steve's laptop and labeled the flash drives.  I went through files on my computer hard drive and consolidated all those pictures.  Then Steve saved all the various pictures from many sources onto his computer & backed them up.  In the end, I lost many pictures from 2016 - 2018, but have mostly everything else.  I feel like am the "keeper" of your childhood memories, of which quite a few things were unfortunately lost during the time I was separated from Dad, he moved from the apartment to the front house in Wyoming and ultimately the property sold.  So losing pictures was painful, but all-in-all in could have been much worse.  I can say that thanks largely to Steve's patience, support and significant time & effort.

    Now that I have calmed down, hopefully I will get back into a writing routine.  Besides catching up on what you guys are up to, I also want to reflect a bit on 10 years since I created this blog.  It was on 11/11/2011 that I started CarrollBoys.....  The anniversary has come and gone.....   

    So until I get those thoughts together, here is a picture from the Santana concert in Bethlehem that you went to with Aunt Pam in September 2021.  You know that I love you very much.

    Sunday, September 5, 2021


    Have you noticed that I have a Tinkerbell license plate on the front of my car?  After hearing that I admire her, Steve found this license plate at the New York State Fair several years ago and had it personalized for me.  It seems out-of-place on my dark blue Nissan Maxima, which looks like a banker's car (for many years now, I have been driving fairly non-descript cars, like the asphalt gray Toyota Camry that you now own Alex).  In so many ways, I'm boring and predictable - am introverted, prefer minimal drama, live in a Victorian-era house in a suburban town, and work in financial services (in fact I am still involved in banking, after starting my career as a management trainee at First Eastern Bank in Wilkes-Barre).  

    Do you day dream?  I remember time in my childhood day dreaming about life in Philadelphia when it was a colonial city.  And what it would be like to be a bird or a dolphin.  Sometimes I still do as I've grown older.  I also appreciate things that help you to forget about reality for a while, like a great book or a movie, also spending time in Disney World which is truly magical for me.  I was so excited the first time Dad and I took you to Magic Kingdom, Alex - when you were 5 years old.  The music, parades and park buildings/landscaping made me think about the special time when kids believe that fairies exist, Santa delivers presents to everyone around the world on Christmas Eve and for both of you that Thomas the Tank Engine really lives on the island of Sodor.  When my family was in the Dominican Republic, I did believe that the three kings were coming on Epiphany (in Latin America children got presents on Three Kings Day, rather than at Christmas which was a religious holiday).

    I'm not sure if you watched Disney's Peter Pan movie growing up.  The bedroom scene where Peter teaches Wendy and her brothers John & Michael to fly is one of my favorites - complete with pixie dust.  Later, after flying to Neverland they and the lost boys get into trouble with the pesky pirates.  Tinkerbell gets mad at Peter, who is paying too much attention to Wendy, and betrays all the kids to Captain Hook.  She then realizes her mistake and does everything she can to save them.

    Tinkerbell is one of my heroines because she is loyal, but not perfect.  When she makes a mistake, she does her best to fix it.  And like me, she has a large derriere - though unlike me, hers is attractive.  I thought about this quite a bit going through separation & divorce (which is really painful, I highly recommend that you be thoughtful and be sure if you marry that it's to the right person the first time).  I hope you do day dream, have your own hero's and keep some favorite "magical" things in your lives even as you are handling all the serious responsibilities of adults.

    Saturday, June 19, 2021

    Class of 2021 - Graduation

    Robert Buchanan Carroll, you graduated on Friday June 11.  Alex, Taylor and Aunt Pam arrived as you finished getting dressed, gowned and capped - and went upstairs to meet our new "baby", kitten Oren.  Although the chance of rain was minimal, guess what...  a light drizzle started about 6:15, just as you got ready and then Steve dropped you off.  

    It was a damp start, with alternating sprinkles and light showers.  Of course, the bleachers and chairs on the field were wet (your gown gave you one more layer of protection).  I will say it was a bit startling to be in the bleachers sitting close to so many with masks being optional - after getting used to many social distancing precautions due to COVID 19.  Over a week later, thankfully we all remain healthy.  

    It was emotional for me as pomp and circumstance started and on-off during the ceremony.  This is a huge milestone after caring for you as a newborn and infant, on through toddler & preschool years mostly at Cookie Corner, to Tenth St Elementary in Wyoming and on the the Secondary Center in Exeter.  Your classmates spoke, I especially appreciated listening to Adam Wisnewski, the Class President and one of your close friends in elementary school.  The rain slowed down, then an amazing thing happened.....  a gorgeous, bright rainbow came out above the stadium.  Shortly after that, a second much fainter rainbow appeared above it.  A double rainbow!!!!!   Through all the kids' diplomas and on until after the ceremony was over.  I will always remember it.  It feels like it was a blessing upon you personally and the Class of  2021 after the disruption of your junior and senior years.  And I agree with a comment by your valedictorian Grace Washney, that the challenges of this time has made you all resilient.  Having the capacity to meet adversity head on and adapt to change is essential.

    This past week I asked you what your favorite part of graduation was - your answer was, "when it stopped raining".  LOL !!  It took a while to find you out on the field after the cap-throwing finale.  You then got introduced to our "Robby Face Fans" that Aunt Pam suggested getting.  Most of our pics included them.  😄  One thing is definite, you are a very handsome boy!!  As we walked back to Montgomery Ave, some drivers on Wyoming Avenue honked their congratulations along the way.  We had pizza and desert, including brownies.  The brownies were quite intentional as I had also made them for your Cookie Corner graduation.....  after which, I got a phone call that you had eaten a number of them and were sitting down looking slightly green.  Your teachers asked me to come pick you up early, for fear you would be ill soon (I did come get you, and luckily you did Not get sick).

    It seemed like you also enjoyed our graduation dinner at Shogun Japanese Restaurant, with Alex, Aunt Pam, Steve and me as well as Laura Lewis and her husband Ron.  We had a lovely time, complete with Robby Fans, and followed by an interesting and delicious chocolate cake that Aunt Pam got.  It was inspired by your 2019 trip to Europe, with a map theme.  It was lovely, and you received generous gifts - especially a new laptop for your college studies, from Steve.  You are a lucky kid.  

    Here is what I wrote in your graduation card, dated June 12:   

    Dear Rob,

    I'm sitting on the back porch while Oren (with us 5 days now) runs around.  Rambo is sitting on his perch, looking out over the back yard.

    You are one of the greatest blessings of my life.  I'm so grateful you are my son, and lucky to have two healthy, hard-working young men.

    Your childhood hasn't been easy, due to circumstances beyond our control.  But you are intelligent, curious, competitive and a deep thinker.  You've forged ahead and grown up to be considerate of others.  Besides being a top student, you have given back to students and our community.  [As an aside, as I write this on June 19 you are helping at a Key Club event at the Exeter Little League field.]  These same qualities will take you forward to many wonderful opportunities.  I believe you will make important contributions to the world.

    As your classmates said at graduation, the class of 2021 faced unique challenges with a global epidemic starting in 11th grade then a year+ of virtual school.  You persevered through a difficult senior year.  Rob, you should be extremely proud of what you accomplished !!

    Congratulations on your graduation!  You got your diploma under a double rainbow.  Wow !!  ...the most beautiful symbol of hope and promise for the future. 

    With Love [This would have been "With All My Love", but I was running out of room.]


    A stunning picture taken from the Eighth Street Bridge, Wyoming - posted on Facebook:

    Sunday, May 2, 2021

    Your Aunt Pam

    Rob, today you and I joined the Temple B'nai Brith 2021 annual meeting via Zoom.  We participated because Aunt Pam told me a few weeks ago that the Temple was planning to honor her, recognizing the 24 years that she has been music director at the synagogue.  It easily sticks in my mind because I was home on maternity leave with you, Alex, when she was considering this opportunity.  It had been a somewhat difficult decision for Aunt Pam to make since it was professionally intimidating and also involved commitment to Friday services, Saturday bar/bat mitzvahs and additional services with practice time (and she was already committed to Sunday morning services, choir practices etc. at Central United Methodist Church).  It also includes a gauntlet of services at the Jewish high holy days starting with Rosh Hashana eve and morning, followed not long after by Yom Kippur evening and the entire following day.  These are somber, devout and emotional services.  I remember that Rabbi Joseph helped to convince her to take the position and worked with her closely over the first year or so regarding specific service music, holiday music, Hebrew pronunciations etc.  I was in Aunt Pam's 4-person choir at Temple for a year or two, which I enjoyed.  

    Today was quite interesting.  We learned how successful Temple B'nai Brith, led by Rabbi Mollow, has been at transitioning and in fact growing since COVID shut-downs began over a year ago.  It has posed significant challenges for congregations of many faiths, and required flexibility and willingness to re-think how to worship and engage meaningfully on-line.  The highlight for us was a tribute by Elly Miller and the lovely video below, produced by Becky Stitzer (aka Becky Kramer, one of Aunt Pam's first piano students).  Alex, you are one of the stars !  I quickly recognized the view behind you, as you were filmed on Franklin Street in Wilkes-Barre with St. Stephen's Church and its former rectory (where your GrandNana and Great Grandad Phyllis and Rev. Burke Rivers lived when I was a very young child).  The location is immediately in front of WBRE-TV, where Becky works.  You were very articulate and thoughtful.  Thank you for your willingness to be part of this special tribute to Aunt Pam, such an important person in your young lives.

    Not related to today's recognition, Alex you were also wonderful in helping Aunt Pam through gall bladder surgery about a month ago.  We got her to the hospital, kept her company before & after the procedure and brought her home.  Luckily, she has recuperated quickly, feels much better and in fact was able to handle Sabatini's pizza less that a week after the procedure 😄.