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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Remembering when the 10th Mountain Division: 85th, 86th, 87th Regiments take the Italian mountains.

From a survivor of the 1945 battles for Riva Ridge came this memory as he recently shared with his fellow troopers. "10th troopers. Do you remember where we slept or tried on the night of the 19th. I asked my buddy Don 'why are you shivering' he said he was just cold. It was a night I well remember. War is hell  and a terrible waste of young people. But we were bad asses when we had to be. Fortunately, there were good times to offset the bad times."

The weeks of February 19 onward are very important weeks in the WWII history of the 10th Mountain Division.  In fact, the historic events get started a few days earlier on Feb16, 1945 when General Hays discusses his plans for the coming battles for Mt. Belvedere and its sister peak Mt. Gorgolesco with a group of men from 1st Bn 85th. Among those present is Sgt. Dan Kennerly of 85-D who recalls: “The general starts his talk by telling us that he has never before discussed a combat plan with troops at our level. He says that because he has complete confidence in our ability, intelligence and esprit de corps, he feels that he can reveal the plan and discuss it openly with us. ‘You are the finest troops I’ve ever been associated with,’ he adds. He now has our unfailing loyalty.” He has. in fact, been earning their loyalty for months.

The evening of the 18th, 700 men of the 1st Battalion 86th plus F-86 make a daring night climb and successful assault on Riva Ridge, which rises steeply 1700-2000 feet above the rushing Dardagna River. The attack utilizes five carefully prepared climbing routes, including two that require fixed ropes. Surprise is complete, and by daybreak the mountaineers have taken Riva Ridge at the cost of only one casualty. But ferocious counterattacks immediately put the achievement in jeopardy.  Not until February 25 is the entire Riva Ridge in their hands.

At 11:00 PM on February 19, without artillery preparation, Hays’ mountaineers—waiting in darkness along the line of departure—obey the command to “Fix bayonets! Move out!”

By dawn of the 20th the objectives of the initial assault have been taken. 1st Bn 85th then carries the attack northeast along the Mt. Gorgolesco portion of the Mt. Belvedere ridge. Late in the day, 2nd Bn 85th passes through the 1st Bn 85th and initiates its attack towards the 10th’s final objective of this phase of the campaign: Mt. della Torraccia. By 9:00 PM, G Company has captured Hill 1027, a narrow ridge adjacent to Mt. della Torraccia.

On February 21st, engineers from D Company of the 126th Engineers complete an aerial tramway to a point near the top of one of Riva’s peaks, Mt. Cappel Buso. On the first day of operation, 30 wounded are evacuated and 5 tons of supplies delivered to the summit.

The Riva Ridge operation has cost the division 76 casualties:  21 KIA, 52 WIA, and 3 POW.

From Feb 21-23, after an all-day assault on the 21st our Allies the Brazilian Expeditionary Force capture Mt. Castello, thus securing the 10th Division’s right flank. Counterattacks and heavy shelling cause many casualties and slow the 2nd Bn 85th’s attack. for the next 2 days.

On the 24th. 3rd Bn 86 passes through the 2nd Battalion’s position and renews the assault. By 3:00 PM the last enemy stronghold on Mt. della Torraccia is in our hands.

25 Feb 45 The entire Riva Ridge line is in the 10th's hands as the final counterattacks on Mt. della Torraccia are repulsed.

These battles for control of the Mt. Belvedere-Mt. della Torraccia ridge cost the division 923 casualties: 192 KIA, 730 WIA and 1 POW.

These battles form the basis for the hero of my historical fiction, Twilight of Memory.

The division is ready to take the next step in its march to the Po Valley until finally on May 2, 1945, after many casualties to the 10th Division,  the German Army in Italy finally surrenders.

The 10th Mountain Division, U.S. Army


Friday, February 17, 2017

Sapelo: People and places on a Georgia Sea Island

What a beautiful book. What an informative book. What a beautifully informative book. This book is a perfect read for all who are interested in American coastal areas, Georgia Marshes,  the Sea Islands of Georgia, early Georgia History, oceanography, etc. Well you get the idea, but it is especially a must for those interested in the history and geography of Sapelo Island.

Readers meet interesting islanders with histories that cannot be found elsewhere. They learn of trials and tribulations of the past, present, and the future. They learn of the ecological past, present, and future. They will come away with an unanswerable question, "what will happen to Sapalo and the islanders." One resident comments, "we don't want a sign reading Hog Hammock was here." "We want a sign reading Hog Hammock is here."

From the book's blurb:

"With this book, Buddy Sullivan covers the full range of the island’s history, including Native American inhabitants; Spanish missions; the antebellum plantation of the innovative Thomas Spalding; the African American settlement of the island after the Civil War; Sapelo’s two twentieth-century millionaire owners, Howard E. Coffin and R. J. Reynolds Jr., and the development of the University of Georgia Marine Institute; the state of Georgia acquisition; and the transition of Sapelo’s multiple African American communities into one.
Sapelo Island’s history also offers insights into the unique cultural circumstances of the residents of the community of Hog Hammock. Sullivan provides in-depth examination of the important correlation between Sapelo’s culturally significant Geechee communities and the succession of private and state owners of the island. The book’s thematic approach is one of “people and place”: how prevailing environmental conditions influenced the way white and black owners used the land over generations, from agriculture in the past to island management in the present. Enhanced by a large selection of contemporary color photographs of the island as well as a selection of archival images and maps, Sapelo documents a unique island history."

We like to think that any author, editor knows what he/she is talking about. Buddy Sullivan certainly is an expert on Sapelo. He wasw the manager of the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve from 1993 to 2013 and is a native of McIntosh County in coastal Georgia. He is the author of twenty books about the history of Georgia and coastal Georgia, including the comprehensive Early Days on the Georgia Tidewater and The Darien Journal of John Girardeau Legare, Ricegrower (Georgia). His recent books include Georgia: A State History and “All Under Bank”: Roswell King, Jr. and Plantation Management in Tidewater Georgia. Benjamin Galland, photographer and partner with the h2o Creative Group in Brunswick, is the photographer for Jingle Davis’s Island Time: An Illustrated History of St. Simons Island, Georgia and Island Passages: An Illustrated History of Jekyll Island, Georgia (both Georgia).The photographer is Benjamin Galland, a respected nature photographer.

The book has a page count of 352 pages at 10X 9. There are 117 and 80 black and white photos and 2 maps founds in the book. It is a visual treasure as well as an authoritative text.

I love the Georgia/Carolina sea coast, the marshes and the shore. I know many Georgians who should own this book as individuals. I also think it is a must for colleges, high schools, middle school libraries, for many science classrooms, and for public libraries. I think it is a winner. Thank you Net Galley for allowing me this early look at the book.

Available through the University of GA Press, Amazon, and major book distributors. Publication date March 1, 2017.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Remembering Ann Lowe during African American History Month

    Ann Cole Lowe, 1898-1981
                                                                   America's forgotten fashion designer.

For months I researched a little known African American designer. She designed for many but was known only to that circle. She was, in her own words, a "design snob." But she was, oh, so much more. Here's my story of the research that allowed me into her social circle.

I met her in an airport last fall. I was in the airport, she wasn't. She died decades ago, but as I was 'surfing the net' I came upon two sentences about her. A 'did you know' kind of post. I was blown away, for no, I didn't know and I thought the circumstances were such that I should.

Born in 1898, the great-granddaughter of a slave and a plantation owner, the granddaughter of a slave and a free man of color, she entered the world in a small, rural Alabama town. Through talent, determination, and a desire to reach a goal, she refused to let the circumstances of her birth keep her down. She didn't preach; she didn't march, she didn't give up. She allowed a dream to be born in her heart and in her own personal way, she overcame all obstacles and achieved her dream.

When I began my research, I was writing an historical fiction. Soon it became clear to me that her story, her true, unvarnished story had to be told. It was, at that point told only in bits and pieces and often with the bits inaccurate and  the pieces changing with each retelling. I began my research to clarify things for myself and found myself getting to know a strong woman from a family of strong women. I decided that I could not do her justice in fiction. I could not get in her head and speak in her voice. I wanted her to speak for herself. And so she does.

Here's the blurb from the book cover:
"For any designer, designing the wedding dress to be worn by Jacqueline Bouvier, future First Lady of the United States, for her marriage to John F. Kennedy would be a lifetime achievement. For Ann Lowe, it became a statement. The iconic gown would become the most photographed wedding gown in American history proving that (in Ann’s own words), “a Negro can become a major dress designer.”

Years earlier, as the sun rose on the morning of Ann’s birth, no one in the small town of Clayton, Alabama could have dreamed of the heights she would achieve for she was born a squirming, scrawny, little black girl in the Jim Crow South, but from an early age she recognized her dreams.

Her path would not be easy, and any success she might have was certain to be achieved only with steadfast effort and fortitude on her part. Armed with a great inner strength and natural talent, she rose above all obstacles and forged her own future.

When she designed and produced Jacqueline Bouvier’s wedding dress, very few knew her name. No one but her staff knew of the disaster that preceded the delivery of that now-historic wedding dress to the home of the bride. Even fewer knew that she was the granddaughter of a former slave.
Even today, few know her story."


Ann was descended from a long line of seamstresses and designers. Her great-grandmother was a slave and her great-grandfather the plantation owner. When a baby girl was born of them, that baby girl became a seamstress and, by law, a slave. She was purchased in her teens by a free man of color and from them came the line that today can claim Ann as their own.

She designed for a first Lady of Alabama, for Gasparilla patrons of Tampa,  for an Oscar winner and for the socially elite of America. In the 1960's she appeared on the afternoon talk show, The Mike Douglas Show. Mike asked her what drove her to work so tirelessly. She remarked that she "wanted to prove that a Negro could be a major dress designer." From this statement I found the title for my book, Something to Prove, A Biography of Ann Lowe, America's forgotten designer.

The biography is now complete. Along the way I have learned to marvel at what she overcame, and at the people she met. This woman who under normal circumstance might not be welcomed in their homes, became a darling to the Duponts, Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, Roosevelts, Lodges, Posts, Auchinclosses, the Bouviers,..well you get my drift.

As I researched her life, I found beautiful gowns, and their owners. I have been in touch with some fascinating people. A concert pianist now living in Belgium, an academic in Ohio, a lovely socialite who invited me to her home, the daughter of a novelist whose works became the story for several John Wayne movies, including the unforgettable, Shane, and a lady who has the distinctive sound of my mother-in-law on the phone.

I've tramped through graveyards, seen homes falling down, visited with ladies who still speak of the members of her family with their family nicknames as if they are just around the corner, and driven through beautiful rolling hills only to find an improvised town at the end of the road.

Now, I think, I can write an historical fiction, not with her as the main character, but with her as the inspiration for a historical era, but first I must help her tell her story. Through almost 60 photos and dozens of interviews, I hope I have done that.

I had fun with this research, even when I was pulling my hair out trying to find the beautiful brides, debutantes, and socialites from the 1950's and 60's. That's the beauty of research, you never know where the path will take you or who you will meet along the way. I love it.

Interest? Read more in one of the three additions available at

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

LISETTE'S LIST by Susan Vreeland: My review revisited for Leah. Thanks Net Galley

Susan Vreeland's Lisette's List, has been available for over a year now. If you have not read it, what are you waiting for? It  is a work of historical fiction about art, war, and love  It is a work of historical fiction that I fell in love with and is in itself a work of art.

From the book's blurb:
"In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.

Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach."
My thoughts:

When visiting art galleries, there has always been one gallery that I could speed through. That gallery would be housing Camille Pissarro, Paul Cezanne, and Marc Chagall. I simply did not understand most of their paintings. While I still do not understand all, Lisette's story helped me see things in the paintings that I had not, seen before. In fact, I became so enthralled when Lisette would learn of the meaning of or the reasons for the paintings, that I would come to the computer and research that painting. Often I would simple have the painting on screen as I was reading about it. Wow! Most books do not do that for me. Two of the eight paintings discussed in the story are not actual, but this in no way detracts from the novel. Additionally, the book is so well researched that Ms. Vreeland uses passages from known writings or discussions by the artists themselves.

The blending of the horrors of WWII in France and the life and times of these artists, and of  the other characters in the book, make an evocative read. Lisette is a Parisian embodying all the glamour and free spirit of that word just before WWII. She is enamored with the art scene in Paris and wants to work in a gallery. She has just received the opportunity she so desires when change occurs.

Suddenly, this young Parisian must move with her husband, Andre, to Provence in the south of France to care for his dying grandfather. Grandfather Pascal introduces Lisette to more art and art history than she could ever have learned in the galleries of Paris. She learns that in his early years Pascal was a color pigment salesman representing his beloved village which mined the materials needed by artists. Through his work he became friends with the artists of the day.

His humble cottage in Roussillon, Provence, France, was sparsely decorated but did feature a wall of paintings given to him by those friends from the art world in Paris. He leaves these to Lisette and her husband Andre. He also leaves them his memories, both written and oral. These works of art and the artists who painted them are lifelines that help Lisette get through life after the war takes Andre's life and Lisette must live along and learn to survive as a provencial woman.Through necessity she becomes a fighter, facing shortages, sufferings, and starvation.

My only small complaint would be that, too many times, we had to read through Lisette's mixing of various items to achieve color pigments that she wanted to duplicate. Since colors and pigmentation were essential to the story, I understand these inclusions. They did not detract from the overall story.

Beautifully written with vivid and colorful descriptions, thoughtful insights, and life in Provence, what more could a reader ask?  I highly recommend  Lisette's List. I think book clubs could have stimulating discussions about the book. This is my first Susan Veerland book. It will not be my last. I received an advance reader's copy of the book from Net Galley.

After publication of the book, Vreeland again toured the lovely French settings of the book, this time with a group of readers and admirers. Regrettable, I was not part of that group, but have enjoyed the photos of the trip shared by Mimi Placencia. Check out her photo below.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman: Paris at the dawn of WWII

I feel that I had to fight to finally read The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman. Let me begin by saying that Alyson Richman is one of my favorite authors. I've read four of her books previously with The Lost Wife my favorite book of the last five years. The delay was all my fault.

After I read The Lost Wife I couldn't wait to tell my book club about it. After my review, several requested to borrow it. My neighbor, Dee, was first to request it, so the book went to her. My copy had my many exclamation points and underlined passages smiling up at the lucky reader. It took Dee several weeks to get the book back to me. When she did, it wasn't MY book but a new copy. "Why," I asked concerned for my baby.

"I was reading it while I was cooking, and spilled shrimp juice all over it. Fresh shrimp juice." Now, if you know anything about shrimp juice, you know that it can start smelling after a time. So Dee, being very conscientious, bought me a new copy. Gone were my highlighted areas, exclamation points, and hand written comments. I was devastated. I accepted the new book. Graciously? I still miss No I.

Then, along came The Velvet Hours.  I immediately put my name on the list for checkout at the library. Weeks went by. I couldn't wait, so I ordered a copy. While waiting for delivery, I received a note that I could pick up the book at a branch library. Not wanting to deprived others of the joy of reading the book, I told them to pass it on to the next person on the list.  A few days later my paperback copy arrived. I grabbed my highlighter and sat down to read. The print! My goodness, the print was so small, or else my eyes are failing, that I couldn't read it. I seriously thought of contacting Alyson and asking if the print was 11 pt. or smaller. For me it was unreadable. My husband, tired of hearing about it, ordered me a Kindle copy knowing that I could manipulate the size of the text.

Within the first few pages I wanted to highlight a section but knew I might never find that passage again, so I decided to copy it. Wonder of wonders, I was able to copy and post the desired part to myself on Facebook. I've never done that before, but it is wonderful. Now I have favored passages in a spot I can get to easily.

So, we get to the book. For background, here's the blurb from the book:

"As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother’s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she’ll ever return.An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path.

Inspired by the true account of an abandoned Parisian apartment, Alyson Richman brings to life Solange, the young woman forced to leave her fabled grandmother’s legacy behind to save all that she loved."

How did I like the book? I was slightly, just slightly mind you, disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it is still beautifully written and the characters come to life, but I was not enraptured. I am probably to blame because I have already read two books on this same subject, the recently discovered time-capsule of a courtesan's apartment in Paris.

In Alyson's fictional hand we are given backstory and family history. We come to care about the granddaughter and her past and future. We meet a valuable supportive character, Marthe's maid and caregiver. Even the lover is a sympathetic character as he divides his time between home/wife/son and Marthe. We see how the other half of Paris lives through the story of the fabric of life in Paris for Jewish families during WWII. And we care. About all of them.

Alyson's interest in art of all kinds provides vivid descriptions of the apartment, the granddaughter's apartment, and the Jewish community so different that the courtesan's world. Words and phrases are a treat to read.

Do I recommend the book? Without hesitation, especially if you are just being introduced to the apartment. Read Alyson's book first, then others. Is it her best book? Not in my opinion, but it is still a worthwhile read.

Some of my highlighted quotes from the book:

"I now knew the language of caresses, the music of escalated breath."

"Her pen rolling over the paper as smoothly as skate on ice."

"His voice, almost always clinical now took on a traceable sense of fear in it. I could hear it like an out- of- tune musical note."

"If you only show the top layer of beauty, it becomes flat and two dimensional."

If you do not know Alyson Rickman's books, I highly recommend that you get to know her.

Other books that I have read  by Alyson Richman:
The Lost Wife,
The Garden of Letters
The Rhythm of Memory
The Mask Carver's Son

Don't forget to read The Lost Wife

Sunday, January 15, 2017


When I received this novel from Netgalley for review purposes, I did not know that it was written by the creator of the PBS/Masterpiece series, Victoria. In fact, I did not know there was a PBS series about Queen Victoria planned. Now, I cannot wait until tonight when it premiers in America.

From the books blurb:
"Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandrina Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. 

The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world. Surely she must rely on her mother and her venal advisor, Sir John Conroy, or her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who are all too eager to relieve her of the burdens of power.

The young queen is no puppet, however. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.
"I do not like the name Alexandrina. From now on I wish to be known only by my second name, Victoria.” 

Everyone keeps saying she is destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously."
Victoria is so well written and engaging that I was unsure of its historical authenticity. That's when I researched the author and learned of her extensive research for the PBS/Masterpiece series. Her work translates beautifully into this novel. 
The characters were so well drawn that there were times I wanted to shake the young queen and times I wanted to shake everyone around her. The dialogue and descriptions were light and easy and moved the story along without effort. 
I was especially curious about her attachment to Lord Melbourne. I knew, of course, that Victoria married Albert, 'the great love of her life,' but Melbourne seemed to forever be in the way of this happening. Perhaps it was all fatherly love and concern and returned the same way to him. Perhaps not, but I was often irritated by both of them and their attachment to each other. But, all was well in the end.
Amanda Foreman sums it up beautifully when she writes, "Victoria is an absolutely captivating novel of youth, love, and the often painful transition from immaturity to adulthood. Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit."
Daisy Goodwin, the author, drew from Victoria’s diaries, which she first read as a student at Cambridge University. She has since added extensive research. She is  the author of the bestselling novels The American Heiress and The Fortune Hunter as well as creator and writer of the new PBS/Masterpiece drama Victoria. She effortlessly brings the young queen richly to life in this novel.
The book's publication date is November 22, 2016 from St. Martin's Press. I highly recommend this work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I married into a wonderful Italian American tradition.

Some Holiday Memories by Jim Smith

Nana in retirement in Florida

For Christmas, in our dreams we travel over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house. At present it is across town and along I-10 over several state lines to our house in Tallahassee the family comes. 

Christmas holidays remind me of dinners long ago at my Nana's house. She set a table that groaned with the weight of traditional Italian and American dishes.

These Italian grandparents on my mother's side really spread the holiday bounty. In attendance were family, friends, children, grandchildren, cousins, brothers, sisters and spouses. If you were invited to my grandparent’s table for Christmas, for example, plan on arriving early and remaining late. Plan to slowly, slowly, slowly eat, eat, eat from mid-day to dark.

          The repast was served in courses. I cannot recall exact menu selections, but dishes served went something like this:

Before beginning, fill all glasses with red wine, usually homemade from grapes gathered among relatives’ backyard vineyards or from the cool wine cellar in the basement. No respectable Italian home in America was without a wine cellar. But that's another story.

First Course—Antipasti including an assorted bruschetta plate consisting of roasted butternut squash and prosciutto ham, goat cheese, tuna in olive oil, black olives, fresh tomatoes and basil, assorted deli cold cuts and cheeses, hard-crusted Italian bread.

Ladies arise from table, gather dirty dishes. Retreat to kitchen.

Men refill wine glasses.

Ladies return with:

Second Course—Caesar salad or spinach salad with nuts. Toss it with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladies arise from table, gather dirty dishes. Retreat to kitchen.

Men refill wine glasses.

Ladies return with:

Third Course—Traditional roast turkey with giblet gravy, cranberry relish and focaccia, sausage stuffing, plus (for those who didn't like turkey) baked ham with mashed sweet potatoes.

Ladies arise from table. Gather dirty dishes, retreat to kitchen.

Men refill wine glasses.

Ladies return with:

Addition to third course—Creamed corn, mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach.

Ladies arise, gather dirty dishes. Retreat to kitchen.

Men refill wine.

Ladies return with:

Fourth Course—Four cheese ravioli with pesto alfredo sauce, chicken and spinach manicotti all garnished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Ladies arise. Gather dirty dishes. Retreat to the kitchen.

Men pour wine.

Ladies return with:

Fifth Course—Toasted Nonna's (Italian for grandmother) pound cake, warm apple crostada, chocolate zuccotto cake, tiramisu profiteroles, pumpkin praline cheesecake.

Ladies remain seated after dessert, take a short rest, then clear table.

Men retreat to basement wine cellar.

            It's about four hours into the meal, and of course, everyone is beyond stuffed. Ladies finish clearing table, then bring out their pennies jars and everybody plays poker including lone male grandchild, who is still in elementary school at the time. And, oh, yes. I had my own glass of wine too, extremely watered down, of course.

After several hours of poker, desserts reappear along with coffee. Whiskey replaces wine to enhance flavor of coffee. About 11 p.m., the party is over. Everyone bids a fond farewell.

My Italian grandparents had two daughters. Each daughter delivered a grandchild. I was the only male grandchild. My aunt presented them with the only female grandchild, eight years my junior.

In composing this family history tidbit, it occurred to me that no matter how many people sat at my grandparents’ giant dining room holiday table, my grandfather sat at one end, and I sat at the other. Everybody else sat on the sidelines—daughters, spouses and female cousin, in secondary positions. I'm sure it represented some old-world tradition. Had there been an oldest son of my grandparents, no doubt I would have been bumped.

At least 60 years have passed. I can see it clearly today—the house on the hill, the bright sun-filled dining room, the long and extended table, food prepared on the giant kitchen table, the family seated, the poker, the desserts, my grandfather and I at the table ends in command positions.

May your Christmas holiday be filled with memories that go over the river and through the woods, with family and friends in the grandest of your traditions.


The Italian Grandparents
Vincenzo and Esterina Coppo Grande