October 31, 2011

Banca Nazionale del Lavoro

Sometimes my thoughts feel like a cluster of gondolas at a quaint bridge.

Venice, Italy, April 1984. The view on my walk from San Marco to the Archivio dello Stato.

I repeated the same costume at least once.

In scouring the family albums for more Halloween-inspired images, I see that I wore the same rabbit/mouse/rat homemade costume during two consecutive years.

What a bummer. The secondary joy of a kid's Halloween is selection of a new costume.

Suburban Chicago, October 31, 1962. I look pretty happy, even though I am sporting the same costume I wore in 1961. I am sitting in the Rec Room. Behind me is the little maple play table set on which I kept my art projects and favorite toys. The set had lovely handpainted chairs that are likely to surface here in some other photo.

I am going as my favorite sitcom character.

I model my "Flying Nun" Halloween costume. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, sewed the garment, and I made the headpiece.

Tatjana stitched a matching, white bag in which I collected the candy. It rained that afternoon, and as I trick-or-treated, I dragged the cloth bag along the wet sidewalks and through the puddles. When I returned home, my Mom confiscated the wet candy and threw all of it away. She offered me whatever was left over at our house, but that was no consolation. I wanted the thrilling variety of my gathered stash, which surely contained treasures that my Mom would never buy.

Suburban Chicago, October 31, 1967. That's a taxidermied mountain goat head hanging on the cherry-paneled wall of our Rec Room. We bought the object in Glacier National Park. On the ledge sits the great old radio on which my Mom used to listen to Opera at the Met.

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

Does your pumpkin have a nose?

Suburban Chicago, October 1967. I show off my work.

October 30, 2011

History Class

Here's a snapshot of a history class in Lithuania. There's a map on one wall, and the other wall features images of medieval rulers—probably Mindaugas or Vytautas.

It's not a single-gender school. When you first look at the room, it seems as if they've segregated the children by gender on different sides of the room. But there's one row of boys in the girls' half of the room. Had they misbehaved?

The children are not wearing uniforms. It must be cold, though, because a few of the girls have scarves wrapped around their necks.

What's with the boy standing next to the teacher? Is there no desk space for him?

Jablonskio Pradžios Mokykla, Kaunas, Lithuania, 1932-1933. My Dad, the dark-haired boy in the second row, on the aisle, is looking at his desktop surface. He appears to be the only child who has no reading materials on his desk.

My Dad took this photo of us fifty years ago today.

Suburban Chicago, October 30, 1961. Mom and I smile for Dad. Check out my Mom's gloves.

"Please Don't take bottles from stand without 5¢ deposit."

"French Fries 20¢"

Mackinac Island, Michigan, July 1961. I cool off with a bottle of Royal Crown Cola.

Do we have to go to church?

I'd rather be going to the zoo.

Suburban Chicago, April 1961. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, and I pose for a picture as we leave for church. I think we are on the way out because Tatjana has not yet put on her hat.

October 29, 2011

Now, it's time to go to sleep. Let's dream about doggies.

Toronto, Canada, July 1960. I sleep at the home of my Dad's twin sister, Jonė, while vacationing.

The wooden horse was a favorite toy.

Kaunas, Lithuania, 1925. My Mom scoots along on the wooden horse likely carved by her maternal Grandfather, Silvestras.

Training Day

How cool is this?

Panemunė, Lithuania, Spring 1939. My paternal Grandfather, Vytautas, engages in military exercises with the Lithuanian cavalry.

Do you ever wish you could be somewhere else?

Venice, Italy, October 29, 1983. This is the view I saw each morning when I stepped off the vaporetto at the San Marco stop.

October 28, 2011

A Memorable Birthday

My Parents organized a celebration when my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, reached her seventy-fifth birthday. It was a big deal. Tatjana's daughter, my paternal aunt Jonė, flew down from Toronto for the weekend:

O'Hare International Airport, November 1972. I greet my Dad's twin sister, Jonė, upon her arrival from Canada, and we head toward our car to make the drive home.

*     *     *     *     *

My Dad restored, rephotographed, and printed many family photos for the occasion. Dad assembled the large images into an album for Tatjana:

Suburban Chicago, November 1972. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, appears overwhelmed when she sees the photos my Dad collected for her birthday album. On her left is the photo of her parents, Nina and Pavel, and on her right is the portrait of Tatjana with her five siblings. I, my Mom, and Jonė stand behind Tatjana.  

*     *     *     *     *

This was a touching celebration of Tatjana's life. It grew more meaningful in hindsight because soon after the party, we learned that Tatjana suffered from advanced ovarian cancer.

Family Outing in the Park

Members of my Dad's extended family relax in the park. Check out the headgear and the shoes:

Palanga, Lithuania, 1928. On the top row, from the left, sits my uniformed paternal Grandfather, Vytautas, my Dad, my Dad's cousin, my paternal Grandmother Tatjana, and my Dad's twin sister, Jonė. I believe the man with the walking stick, sitting on the bench, is Vytautas's maternal uncle Leo. To the right of Leo is Vytautas's sister, Victoria. The woman on the left end of the bench is probably Leo's daughter.

October 27, 2011

A Party for the Teens

Kaunas, Lithuania, 1940. My Dad—on the right, wearing glasses, and looking somewhat detached—and his twin sister, Jonė, entertain friends. Jonė is on the far right, and the carnations obscure her face.


Tauragė, Lithuania, 1905. This is my Mom's paternal Grandmother, Wanda. Wanda had four children: Cody Jr., my maternal Grandfather Jake, Zigmas, and Mary.

Thanks to my "New" Cousin for making this photo available to me in digital format.

UPDATE: I omitted one son from Wanda's offspring. She had a fifth child who, as a young boy, died in a shooting accident.

Let's watch the immigrant negotiate chopsticks.

New York, New York, 1952. My Dad joins some ladies in his first taste of Chinese food.

Happy occasions are sweet even under somber circumstances.

Few occasions are happier than the welcoming of a child into a circle of friends.

Augsburg, Germany, 1947. My Dad, standing in the center with his hands folded, visits fellow Displaced Persons to celebrate a child's birthday. The wooden barracks in the background housed the Displaced Persons at the camp.

October 26, 2011

I encounter my first Poodle.

I met a Poodle for the first time during the Spring of 1960. Although I may have seen Mikey, our neighbors' dog, before this encounter, I am not aware of it.

My Parents took me to visit their good friends who lived in a cool, mid-century modern house in Rockford, Illinois. The friends had two black Poodles and an impressive German Shepherd. Here we are on the patio, and the homeowner is showing me how to hold a dog leash. I remember this moment vividly:

Rockford, Illinois, May 1960. While I am introduced to the Poodle, my handsome Dad watches, on the left. My elegant Mom relaxes on the ledge; she's looking directly at the Poodle.

*     *     *     *     *

Later in the day, after the midday, Sunday meal, Mom and Dad gave me a closer look at the Poodle:

Rockford, Illinois, May 1960. Poodles are great. Especially when they wear rhinestone collars.

Finally, Barbie

Older girls surrounded me when I was growing up. My Best Friend was one year older than I. Her sister was four years older than she. Other friends, with whom I attended Lithuanian (Saturday) school, were three years older than I.

Older girls had more interesting dolls. Everyone, it seemed, played with Barbie. When I was about four years old, I begged Santa Claus for a Barbie. When we opened our gifts that Christmas Eve, I was shocked and disappointed to see a "Tammy" doll, not a genuine Barbie. My Parents explained that Santa had concluded that I was not old enough for a Barbie. I was so bummed!

I attributed the arrival of Tammy to one of two things. My Parents either selected Tammy because she was less anatomically charged than Barbie, or, because they were not Americans, they didn't quite "get" the branding thing and thought that one teen doll was isomorphic to another.

Suburban Chicago, 1964. I got my Barbie! Barbie is wearing the pink gown and red velvet cape that 1960s girls will recognize. I sit on my Parents' full-sized bed. An aqua-blue chenille bedspread covers the bed. Visible on my Mom's nightstand is a rotary phone with a shoulder rest. Mom used the shoulder rest so that she could talk to patients, hands free, while she knitted.

Family Dinner

A happy family eats dinner together, and a good family meal always starts out with soup.

Kaunas, Lithuania, 1932. My Dad's family shares a meal. On the left, my bespeckled Dad sits next to my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana. Dad is wearing his scouting scarf. Moving to the right of Tatjana is Dad's older cousin, his paternal aunt, Victoria, my Dad's twin sister, Jonė, a younger cousin, and my paternal Grandfather, Vytautas.

There is a cut-crystal wine glass at each place setting.

Three Generations

My Great-Grandmother, Nina, received permission to leave Soviet Russia to visit her new grandchildren. As far as I know, this is the only time Nina saw my Dad and his twin sister, Jonė, and it is the last time Nina was with her daughter, Tatjana:

Radviliškis, Lithuania, 1923. On the left, Jonė sits on the lap of my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, and on the right, my Great-Grandmother holds my Dad. This snapshot probably was taken on the same day as this photo. Dad is still wearing those cute booties.

Tatjana is wearing more modern, 1920s clothing, and Nina is wearing a nineteenth-century styled widow's dress.

October 25, 2011

Jadzė, in Her Prime

Kaunas, Lithuania, 1928. My maternal Grandmother, Jadzė. She died shortly after the Soviet occupation of Lithuania.

Amber Puppy Reunion

Madison, Wisconsin, November 2003. Beautiful Baci says, "Watch me."

Do you think we'll blend in if we wear lederhosen?

Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany, 1946. My Dad, on the left, and his friend, fellow Displaced Person Casey, go native while touring the Bavarian countryside.

Facing Revolution

This is how my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, looked around the time she attended the St. Petersburg university. She was the first woman to graduate from the institution with a degree in Chemical Engineering:

Tambov, Russia, 1916. My Grandmother, Tatjana, poses for a passport photograph.

*     *     *     *     *

This is how Tatjana looked three years later, after she watched the Russian Revolution unfold, witnessed the execution of her father, searched for his remains, feared deportation to Siberia, and fled to Lithuania:

Russia, 1919. Tatjana wears the locket in which she kept the portraits of her Grandparents.

October 24, 2011

Role Model

When my Mom started practicing medicine, there were few "women doctors." During her 72-hour intern shifts, there was no place in the hospital for her to take a nap: the doctors' "bunk areas" were reserved for "men only."

Mom had to walk across the street and sleep in the nurses' dormitories.

Brooklyn, New York, August, 1952. My Mom, an intern at Wyckoff Heights Hospital, stands with my Dad's cousin. Check out the shoes.

Fruit Snack

Suburban Chicago, spring 1964. I share a plate of green, seedless grapes with my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana. My eyes must be tired because I've taken off my glasses and placed them on the table.

Bird Brain

Would a parent today let a child drink milk and eat chocolate cake while a bird sits on the child's head?

Toronto, Canada, July 1963. I sit in the kitchen of Dad's twin sister, Jonė, while her parakeet perches on my head.

Imagining Youth

I came into my Parents' lives later than was customary for that era. I have no memory, for example, of them in their twenties or thirties. I therefore always was fascinated when I heard stories about my Parents' youth. I was excited to learn what a sportsman my Dad had been in Lithuania, particularly in the fields of cross-country skiing and kayaking.

Dad was especially fond of the times he and his father, Vytautas, kayaked the length of the Nemunas River. He derived many stories from this trip, and I sometimes wondered if Dad didn't embellish the facts a bit.

Nemunas River, Lithuania, about 1939. My paternal Grandfather, Vytautas, in the foreground, rests with my Dad during their trip down the Nemunas River. That's a pretty long kayak!

This isn't a great photograph, I know. But it was one of my Dad's favorite snapshots.

An Influential Friend

When my Dad was a high school student, he had planned to study medicine. In his teens, he became close friends with a classmate, Casey. Casey convinced my Dad that it would be more interesting for the two of them to study agricultural sciences together.

My Dad and Casey enrolled in the agriculture program in Lithuania. When they fled to the Displaced Persons camps at the end of the war, Dad and Casey continued their studies in Germany. Dad took classes in Stuttgart.

The plan to study agricultural sciences was a wrong turn for Dad. When he emigrated to Brooklyn—and then relocated to urban Chicago—there was little demand for someone with an agriculture degree. Dad therefore retooled himself and went back to school in the States.

Casey emigrated to South America, where he put his agricultural training to use. He became the owner of a coffee-bean plantation. Casey sent photos to my Dad of himself riding horseback around his property and harvesting his crops. Late in the 1950s, Casey sent my Mom a Colombian pocketbook that she carries in this photo.

Do you have a person in your history to whom you attribute a "sea change" in your life? Or is there a moment you can identify as a turning point for you?

Kaunas, Lithuania, June 1941. Casey and my Dad take a break during classes during their first year in college.

October 23, 2011

Three's Company Reunion

Verona, Wisconsin, 2007. Pupa, Baci, and Rex wait patiently for morsels of roast turkey.

This looks like a fun group.

And people wonder why my maternal Grandfather, Jake, played "bridge with the ladies" every Sunday afternoon. Ha ha.

Brooklyn, New York, 1954. Jake enjoys the company of the ladies with whom he played cards.

Another Sunday Promenade

It's almost time for the Sunday passeggiata!

Put on your best outfit and take a stroll:

Schweinfurt, Germany, 1949. My Parents, third and fourth from the left, take a walk around the DP camp with friends. The gentleman on the far left later became my Godfather. Mom is wearing the fair-isle knitted mittens that my Dad gave her as part of a wedding gift. Mom still has the mittens. There was a knitted scarf that matched the mittens, but Mom believes she left the scarf behind in Germany when they emigrated to the States.

That is so touching: knitted mittens. It's no wonder I miss Dad so much.

UPDATE (1): That's barbed wire.

UPDATE (2): We found the mittens.

October 22, 2011

Where I spent most Sundays.

My Dad enjoyed taking photographs of animals. Nearly every Sunday morning, he packed me up, and he drove the short distance from our house to Brookfield Zoo. Because we went so frequently, he and I rarely did the "touristy" things other people did at the zoo. For example, we didn't go to the porpoise show very often, and we rarely visited the lion house. Instead, we'd spend hours watching one type of monkey or another, waiting for just the right shot.

The one indulgence my Dad allowed me every Sunday was a visit to the Children's Zoo. There, I could interact with baby animals and even pet a number of them. I remember that feeling of excitement as we used to approach the gates of the Children's Zoo. Even today, just thinking about it, I recall the smell of the baby goats and the sawdust.

My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, once implored my Dad to take me to church on Sundays instead of to the zoo. He responded, "She'll learn more about God at the zoo."

Brookfield Zoo, June 1965. I cradle a white rabbit at the Children's Zoo. My Mom knitted the white cardigan that I am wearing. I have a strap around my neck because my Dad had given me a "Brownie" camera with which to start taking photographs.

I was a perpetual motion machine.

Suburban Chicago, 1960. My Mom (on the far right, wearing sunglasses) watches as I dart around our guests on the backyard patio. The woman in the center, with the pearls, is my beloved and dearly missed Godmother.

A Sunny Day

Kaunas, Lithuania, 1929. My Mom and her charming paternal uncle, Zigmas, pause during a walk.

Another Grandfather in Uniform ...

... during the years of Lithuanian independence1918 to 1940.

Kaunas, Lithuania, about 1930. My paternal Grandfather, Vytautas, in the uniform of the Lithuanian Army. The red stamp at the bottom of the right corner states, "Lietuvos Respublika," or "Lithuanian Republic." This probably was a passport photo.

October 21, 2011

An Adorable Child, with Bow

Šančiai (Kaunas), Lithuania, 1925. My Mom giggles as her favorite toys surround her. When my Mom was very little, she and her parents, Jadzė and Jake, lived in the officers' quarters of the Lithuanian Army. Her parents later built a house.

It's likely that my Mom's maternal Grandfather, the beloved Silvestras, carved the wooden horse for Mom.

This is the oldest photo of the old photo blog.

This image—probably from the 1860s—is not a daguerreotype photo. It is printed on paper.

The photo is in rough shape because it spent over a century folded up in my paternal Grandmother Tatjana's locket.

Russia, about 1860. These are the maternal Grandparents of my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana. On the left sits Nikolas, and on the right, his wife, for whom we don’t have a first name.

Nikolas has his right hand tucked into his jacket. He elegantly poises his pinky. His wife has the melancholy, gentle eyes characteristic of the paternal side of my family. She looks like she could have been out shopping with Mary Todd Lincoln.

UPDATE: A little digging revealed that this photo more likely dates from between 1870 and 1874. My Great-Grandmother, Nina K., was born in 1875. This is the wedding potrait of her parents.

It's almost Halloween. What will you be?

A lab rat? A white rabbit? A whiskered cutie?

Suburban Chicago, October 31, 1961. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana—wearing an apron—passes out Halloween candy at the door. Most of my friends had store bought costumes with cool masks. Here I was, a homemade, Eastern European, mouse.

Non-Eastern European Bows Reunion

These are *puppy bows.*

Verona, Wisconsin, August 2011. Poppy (the Puppy) rests in Mr. Irene's hands after her first grooming. The groomer explained that the pink bows "just somehow got there." She's doubled in size since then.

I fill in a missing link.

I  don't have many images of my Great-Grandparents, and I've posted most of them here. Early on, I talked about photos of my Mom's maternal Grandparents and her paternal Grandparents.

I also introduced my Dad's maternal Grandparents.

Here is my Dad's paternal Grandfather, Ambrose. He was born in 1838, and I think this photo dates from the late 1870s: 


Ambrose, like his son, Vytautas , served in the Russian Imperial Army during the years when Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire. I have two modern-day relatives who are dead ringers for Ambrose.

Here is Ambrose's wife, my Dad's paternal Grandmother, Salomea. She was much younger than Ambrose; she was born in 1859. I believe she sat for this photo in about 1905:


When I first saw Salomea's photo, I said, "Check out that fur vest." Next, I thought, "Wow! What an exotic name." I then looked up its meaning. It's a Polish name that means "peace." My name, "Irene," means "peace" in Greek. That's a connection that never came to mind.

I wish my name were "Salomea" instead of "Irene."

October 20, 2011

It's the one-hundredth post.

This was one of the nicest days. It was May, I was living in Italy, I was traveling the Amalfi Coast, and I had just eaten one of my best meals of my young life at the Hotel San Pietro di Positano. I was in my twenties, and promise was what I saw ahead of me.

Positano, Italy, May 1984. Positano holds second place for me as the spot of the greatest natural, physical beauty that I have visited.

A Handful for Any Generation

Radviliškis, Lithuania, 1923. My paternal Grandfather, Vytautas, holds his twins, my Dad (on the left) and my aunt Jonė (on the right). When I see old photos of my Dad, my Mom, or my aunt Jonė, I always am startled by how fully developed their facial expressions were at such young ages.

Did people back then just hang out in their army uniforms and boots? My Dad is wearing boots, too!

October 19, 2011

Three Brothers

Kaunas, Lithuania, Summer 1940. My maternal Grandfather, Jake (on the right, in uniform), sits in the yard with his two brothers, Cody Jr. (center) and Zigmas (left).