February 29, 2012

Mushroom-Picking Reunion

Near Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, September 1985. We're back from mushroom picking in the Dolomites, and we are ready to cook these puppies! All they need are olive oil, butter, garlic, oodles of flat-leaf parsley, and a splash of brandy.

Thank you, Nurse A

My Mom found that it was not easy being a female physician in the United States in the 1950s.

She remembers the colleagues, especially those at Wyckoff Heights Hospital, who eased the path for her. Many such colleagues were nurses who helped Mom with her English, patiently explained techniques to her, and made Mom feel like a professional.

Brooklyn, New York, Summer 1952. My Mom especially recalls the kindnesses of "Nurse A."

Oakbrook Center Opens

Oakbrook Center opened in March 1962, and our family began frequenting the shopping center a few months later.

Oakbrook was a special place. Even if a family could not afford to shop at all of the stores, it always could enjoy the flowers and other seasonal decorations.

Oakbrook punctuated many occasions for me. I went to the old Oakbrook "UA Cinema" on my first date. The movie was A Touch of Class with Glenda Jackson and George Segal. I had dinner at "The Magic Pan" on the night I graduated from high school. I used to meet my Godmother at Henrici's for lunch. When I started interviewing for university jobs, Mom took me to Oakbrook to select a suit. After I got a job, she indulged me by buying a pair of unforgettable shoes at one of the Oakbrook stores. Mr. Irene and I selected our engagement rings at the Oakbrook Marshall Field's. Mom and I picked out Mom's "mother-of-the-bride" dress at Oakbrook's Lord & Taylor.

Oakbrook, Illinois, August 1962. The shopping center always plants beautiful flowers. In the spring, it is full of tulips. That's the famous, round Sears store in the background.
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Oakbrook, Illinois, August 1962. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, my Mom, and I sit near one of the fountains. We are in front of the Sears store. Mom holds the pocketbook that my Dad's friend, Casey, brought from Colombia.
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Oakbrook, Illinois, August 1962. Ah! That dress is so fresh in my memory, I can almost hear the rustle of the fabric.
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Oakbrook, Illinois, August 1962. Well, hello there.

Unfocused Favorites, in Three Takes

A professional photographer captured these candid shots as my Parents walked from their marriage ceremony to the wedding reception.

I love these images. Although they are out of focus and worn, they catch the day's sparks.

Schweinfurt, Germany, May 1948. My Parents make their way from the "church"—a converted barn—in which they just were married to the reception hall. Their witnesses and wedding party follow them.

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Schweinfurt, Germany, May 1948. As my Parents, on the far right, walk to the reception, other Displaced Persons greet them with flowers and good wishes.

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Schweinfurt, Germany, May 1948. My maternal Grandfather, Jake, and my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, greet my Parents at the reception's entryway with the traditional plate of wine, bread, and salt. Now, the party will get under way.

It's good to be prepared for anything—rain or snow.

Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1972. My Parents take a break from the rain and snow during one of our chillier hikes.

February 28, 2012

My Mule Guide

April 20, 1976, Santorini, Greece. This is the good-natured guide who steered the animal that I rode up to the very top of the island of "St. Irene." He put my fear of heights in perspective.

Fear of Heights

Suburban Chicago, Autumn 1963. I think this swing may be riding a little too high for my tastes.

Related by Marriage: Amber in Sand

These two photographs were among those that Mr. Irene's Dad periodically sent to his brother, Ignas, while Mr. Irene's Dad served in the U.S. Army.

Camp Irwin, Barstow, California, December 13, 1951. Mr. Irene's Dad wrote, "Brother—I sit, surrounded by the desert."

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Camp Irwin, Barstow, California, April 28, 1952. "Brother!—Sometimes, when I get lost in the desert, I stop to inspect the desert flowers. This one, happily, looks like it is about to bloom."

Thanks to Mr. Irene's Los Angeles Cousin for making these photographs available to us.

An Early Road Trip

During the summer of 1954, my Parents drove from Brooklyn to Niagara Falls.

On the road, New York, Summer 1954. Dad's ready to go with the Willys Aero-Eagle hardtop.

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On the road, New York, Summer 1954. Dad is just starting out as a hobbyist photographer, but he already has an eye for views as the family passes the Hudson River.

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On the road, New York, Summer 1954. Hey! That's a challenging roadway for a new driver.

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Niagara Falls, New York, Summer 1954. My Parents like Niagara Falls so much, they plan to return to that destination in the future.

Who's keeping score?

Today, I send wishes to a person who enjoys a good Poker game.

Brooklyn, New York, 1954. One of the card-playing friends of my maternal Grandfather, Jake, checks to see who has her hands on the money.

February 27, 2012

Isn't it grand?

Venice, Italy, April 1984. This is the view my Parents and I see when we look down at the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.

Maggie-and-Lucy Reunion

Aww, thanks, gals:

Suburban Chicago, February 2012. My friend Kris prompts her dogs, Maggie and Lucy, to send a lovely message.

Mondays are, after all, just workdays.

Brooklyn, New York, August 1952. My Mom takes a lunch break from her workday as an intern at Wyckoff Heights Hospital.

Related by Marriage: Country Wedding

Stacey, the youngest brother of Mr. Irene's Dad, stayed behind in Lithuania after the Soviet Union occupied the country. While Mr. Irene's Dad and his eldest brother, Ignas, adapted to life in the United States, Stacey remained in the countryside and managed the old farm.

Stacey married and raised a family in the same house in which Mr. Irene's Dad and Ignas had grown up.

Near Panevėžys, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, July 1959. Mr. Irene's paternal Grandmother, Veronica, sits with Stacey's bride, Stacey, and an aunt. The ceremony took place about six months after the wedding of Mr. Irene's Parents.

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Near Panevėžys, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, July 1959. The wedding party surrounds the newlyweds. The women wear Lithuanian folkdresses.

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Near Panevėžys, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, July 1959. Family members gather for a photo in front of the farmhouse.

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Near Panevėžys, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, July 1959. Parents of the newlyweds greet the couple with wine, bread, and salt as the couple enters the reception. The three items symbolize joy, work, and tears. A similar custom arises in Polish weddings.


My Mom and her friend engaged in a chat at a picnic table. Someone took a snapshot of the conversation. Mom appears to be listening, sympathetically, to a confidence. The friend sent the photo to Mom and wrote on the back (in Lithuanian) simply, "Do you remember?"

Mom now does not recall the substance of the conversation.

Brooklyn, New York, Summer 1953. My Mom, on the left, and her friend share a private moment.

It's a back-to-back, dolphins post.

Knossos Palace, Crete, April 20, 1976. I admire antiquities.

February 26, 2012



Brookfield Zoo, Summer 1972. I imitate my Dad's style of photographing the Seven Seas Panorama.

UPDATE: Here's the 1981 commercial for the show.

Related by Marriage: An Afternoon with Friends

Marquette Park, Chicago, Illinois, January 1961. Mr. Irene's maternal Aunt Martha, on the left, chats with a friend during a Sunday afternoon party.

There's still snow on the ground, but be careful because it's melting.

Suburban Chicago, January 1964. My Mom takes me sledding at Thatcher Woods.

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Suburban Chicago, January 1964. We are cautious, however, because the snow is melting, and the Des Plaines River rarely freezes over.

Another Set of Sunday Rounds

Suburban Chicago, Spring 1963. My Mom heads off for another set of her Sunday rounds.

Tucked close to the heart.

This photo of my paternal Grandfather, Vytautas, today slipped out of the address book of his wife, my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana. I was checking the old address book for some other information, and I was surprised to find the photo. I had never seen it until this morning.

Tucked in the address book also was a snapshot of Tatjana's sister, Elena, a photo of Tatjana with her father and one of her brothers, a holy card from the First Communion of her other Granddaughter, my Toronto Cousin, and Tatjana's old Blue Cross/Blue Shield card. These items together meant something to her.

I am delighted that Tatjana chose to remember her husband as a family man, standing in the garden of their home. When she wanted a glimpse of him, she didn't reach for a formal, military portrait. She probably sought to remember him as he looked when he returned from work every day.

This photo was taken at about the time Vytautas traveled to traveled to Belgium.

Kaunas, Lithuania, about 1936. My paternal Grandfather, Vytautas, poses in the garden. Is that his daughter, my Dad's twin sister, Jonė, in the background?

February 25, 2012

"Would you like to meet my new toy, 'Miss Piggy'?"

Verona, Wisconsin, October 2011. Baci says, "You may meet her, but you may not play with her." Poppy understands the message.

Swim, Little Duck

"Plauke Antelė," or "Swim Little Duck," is a folk song every Lithuanian kid learns. There's even a "rock version" and an "Antelė" dance.

Nearly every Chicago-area, Lithuanian home had a wooden, folk-art piece depicting the song:

Suburban Chicago, Spring 1964. The "antelė" folk art hangs between the door to our kitchen and that impressive plant. My dress was pink and green.

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Kaunas, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, about 1972 or 1973. My Kaunas Cousin greets her doggie, Ači. I was charmed to see that a duplicate of the "antelė" folk art hangs about her head.

A Milestone Birthday

In 1963, the former Displaced Persons living in our small, suburban enclave gathered to celebrate the milestone birthday of one of the group's patriarchs.

Suburban Chicago, Summer 1963. The guest of honor toasts his friends.

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Suburban Chicago, Summer 1963. Guests help open a gallon-sized gifts. That's the lovely Lily on the left. My Mom's best friend Donna, behind the men, is cleaning up the gift wrap. On the far right is Donna's husband, Vytenis.

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Suburban Chicago, Summer 1963. Everyone looks confused by a gift. Could it be something my Parents bought? Don't miss the plastic-covered chair in the background.

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Suburban Chicago, Summer 1963. The women enjoy the gift-opening. That's my Mom on the right.

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 Suburban Chicago, Summer 1963. The guest of honor and his wife relax on that chair.

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Suburban Chicago, Summer 1963. The hostess prepares to serve dessert. Will her one-person Chihuahua, Murzė, let her get out of the chair?


One of my recent joys has been our ability to get in touch with the family of Zigmas, the younger brother of my maternal Grandfather, Jake. We had lost contact with Zigmas's family some time around 1954, not long before Jake died.

Haunstetten, Germany, 1951. Zigmas sits in the garden with his wife, Heddy.

Thanks to my "New" Cousin for making this photo available to us.

Big Suit

Brooklyn, New York, 1954. My maternal Grandfather, Jake, takes a break from one of his card games. Check out the doilies on the arm rests of the chair.

February 24, 2012

Bargain Hunter

Athens, Greece, April 16, 1976. Why do I think an American girl can get a deal on denim?

Related by Marriage: We have a Chevy.

Marquette Park, Chicago, Illinois, Summer 1959. Mr. Irene's Parents stand curbside with their 1956 Chevy Bel-Aire. They've likely just finished a Sunday visit with Mr. Irene's maternal Grandparents, Anna and Stanley.

Thanks to Mr. Irene's Los Angeles cousin for making this photo available to us.

Russian Self-Reflection

Natasha, a younger sister of my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, sent this photo to Tatjana in 1963:

"Penza, 1940. Take a look at your little sister as she was 23 years ago!"

Thanks again to my dear friend, D, for translating the texts from Russian to English.


When I was an estate planner, I developed the habit of reading obituaries. Estate planning professionals aren't "ambulance chasing" when they open the obituary page. They instead read obituaries because obituaries alert a lawyer to incoming cases. It's a good idea to review a file before a grieving family member arrives in the conference room.

Obituaries are complicated pieces. How can a life be summed up in a few, expensive lines? What if the newspaper permits "Discussion" or "Comments" on an online obituary page? Can a family decline that option? Why don't obituaries usually cite the cause of death? People want to know. We know a decedent loved his family, but what did he love about his life?

A lovely woman asked me today if I have a "Caring Bridge" page. I replied "no," and I explained the blog. The blog accents what is important to me, and who mattered. Like any edited, selective work, it's the modified truth. I try not to embellish that truth. One of my favorite sayings is, "I want to get it right; I don't want to be right." I do, however, edit: sometimes people and things cut themselves out. Corners of drama and bags of anger weary my shunted patience.

About fifteen years ago, I was shopping in a "Marshall's" department store, and I caught a glimpse of my image in a mirror that wrapped one of the building supports. I was startled. For a second, I didn't think that I was the person in the mirror. I thought of myself as a spry twenty-two-year old who could earn the 1980s equivalent of "chili peppers" on ratemyprofessors.com. What I saw was a preoccupied, middle-aged woman in a shirt-waist dress.

That memory returned today when I read the piece about people trying to reconstruct family recipes. Will it taste as good as you remember it? (Ask any Lithuanian immigrant who's been in this country for more that twenty years to go back and taste the delectable Lithuanian chocolate of her youth. Blech. It tastes like a chocolated laxative!)

Can I align the past that lives in my memory with the history that the photos reveal?

When I "shake my legs," as Lithuanians say, my obituary will have one line: a link to this blog.

Champaign, Illinois, January 1981. This is the "Irene" that lives in my head: the graduate student, sitting in her monastic dorm room.

Recipe Nostalgia

"Playing Kitchen Detective."

Ride the Merry-Go-Round.

It won't upset your stomach the way the Tilt-a-Whirl does.

Melrose Park, Illinois, Autumn 1963. I ride the nice, slow-moving carousel at Kiddieland.