What if…

IMG_8006[1]

The cover of the book intrigued me, but even so it was such a chilling thought that I couldn’t pick it up to flip through it.  What if…the vision of the view from the open door on the boat on D-Day floated into my mind as I thought of the ones who fought and died in WWII and the freedom that I enjoy now.

I’ve never been a student of wars other than to know dates and significant events.  The horror and trauma in books and movies about war doesn’t leave me with pleasant thoughts and, honestly, I have other subjects I prefer.  But shortly after seeing this book I picked up another book followed by two more that surprisingly each had a section that gave me a little more insight into World War II and the events that led up to the United States’ involvement in it. The common thread was chilling:  Hilter came into power quickly and there was no stopping him as he marched across Europe.  He was ruthless and knew what he wanted; people feared him even as they obeyed.

IMG_8847[1]

I’ve always enjoyed reading biographies and when I saw this book I realized that other than the basic story of King Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne for love I had never read anything about this couple. It was an interesting read and although an unauthorized biography the Duchess of Windsor (Wallis Simpson) was still alive at that time (early 1970’s) and had granted interviews to the author giving a first-hand perspective to many episodes in their lives. The book was kind to them overall, but did carefully develop their personalities to give a clear picture of the problems and difficulties of their life together after the Duke’s abdication from the throne.

Intertwined with their lives was their involvement with Hitler. The Duke and Duchess, like many notable figures of that time, were quite impressed with Hitler and failed to see him as any threat.  The Duke, being of German blood, loved Germany and the German people and enjoyed conversing in German. He was thrilled when they were invited to make an “unofficial” visit to Germany in late 1937 and while there the Fuhrer invited them to tea. When they parted Hitler gave the Nazi salute and the Duke returned it. The Windsors were captivated while Hitler very perceptively realized the weakness of the Duke and the power of his Duchess.

Hitler continued his well structured march across Europe; he knew what he wanted and pursued it with precision. He was in control. Through conversations between Hitler and his officers and British officials as well as details of the development of his plans the author provides a glimpse into the complexity of Hitler’s regime and the complete obedience it required.

Hitler had plans for England and for the Windsors.  He developed a complicated plan to kidnap them and hold them in isolation until he could overtake England and install them as a “puppet” king and queen.  Hitler felt they were both easy to manipulate and knew that British subjects had deeply regreted Edward VIII’s abdication. It took considerable influence by their trusted advisor, Walter Monckton, to persuade them of the danger to their lives and their need to leave Spain where they had fled after France was overtaken by Nazi Germany.

img_88441.jpg

I normally shy away from historical fiction as I feel it often gives a dramatic twist to events rather than truthful telling of the story.  I decided to give this one a try since it was a book club selection (and I do enjoy my book club) plus I had heard stories about Hedy Lamarr and her involvement with developing scientific technology.  In truth she may or may not have had contact with Hitler, but the book has her eavesdropping on a dinner conversation where her husband, Fritz Mandl, was entertaining the Fuhrer.  It was a chilling conversation where he agreed to sell arms and munitions to Hitler. As an Austrian Jew she knew all too well what was going on in Austria and the fear that gripped everyone. Soon after she would flee from her husband and Austria and come to America where she quickly became a star of the silver screen.

img_88451.jpg

The book does successfully portray the turmoil and uncertainty that gripped Austria before Hitler made his move.  People were cautious and fearful, they knew the power of the Fuhrer and the already weakness of their government. And, when he did move it was swift. After Lamarr achieved success in America she and other actors and actresses who had fled from Europe would meet to exchange news from home, the news they did not get from mainstream news sources.  It was through family that they heard of the atrocioties against the Jews, the detention camps, the cattle car rides to death and the terror that was upon everyone. A chilling picture of Hitler’s ruthlessness executed perfectly.

IMG_8846[1]

This book appealed to me instantly because I’ve always found FDR and Eleanor interesting and inspiring in their service to America and to their fellow man. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth never wanted to be the head of the Monarchy, but when they were put there by Edward VIII’s abdication they came with strength and dignity. Their courage during the bombing of London always leaves me a little awed! These four leaders served their nations and their people during dark days.

I’ve just started reading it, but already know that it was the alliance of the U.S., Great Britain, and Russia that gave the Allies victory.  That alliance wasn’t easily formed and took much work to keep it on task, but grew one step at a time as leaders cooperated in a common cause: defeat Hitler.

Europe was ripe for Hitler.  WWI had left it devastated and rebuilding.  Citizens didn’t want another war and were quick to agree to appeasement.  We must remember how easy he made his first moves and how calculating he was in his plans.  First he took control of his own country and then built and strengthened the Nazi regime as he invaded others. We must be vigilant to protect our freedom as it can be taken quickly and silently.

 

 

 

 

And suddenly – it’s spring

 

IMG_8500_edited-1.jpg

A sure sign of spring is the blooms of Mountain Laurel on the scrappy little tree in my front yard.  After a month or so of grey, drizzzly days this morning the sun rose in a cloudless sky.  What a welcome relief just to have a sunny day.  The temperature rose up into the 60’s and everyone was outside like it was summer time!  To be truthful, we probably aren’t done with winter but we are keeping an outlook for what passes to be spring deep in the heart of Texas.

Time is funny, isn’t it.  Seems like I just put the pumpkin on the porch and now here I am cleaning out the herb bed and gathering the pesky oak leaves.

The Wedgwood Senior Living complex

IMG_7737.JPG

After a long absence I’ve returned to blogging and I’m excited about the many things I’ve collected to write about during the past few months! My first post is about a building that has been a familiar landmark on the San Antonio, Texas cityscape since 1965.

For several years I worked in an adjacent building (I parked near the carports in the lower left of the picture) and got to know one of the property managers via telephone.  They had several exotic birds that lived in the property’s garden area and one of them was an escape artist extraordinare.  I would arrive at work and find him wandering in our parking lot enjoying a leisurely morning!  I would give her a call and tell her that “so-and-so” (I don’t remember his name) was out.  She would sigh and then we would share a laugh to start our day!

Click here to visit Doorway Into the Past and read about this building and its new life.

The Dishwashing Ritual

There wasn’t anything else to do about it except to fill the sink with hot soapy water and start washing the accumulated dishes.  After several days of sporatic starts the control panel on the relatively young dishwaster was dark and no amount of trickery from me would coax the start button to initate a wash cycle.

I wasn’t too unhappy about the prospect of washing the dishes, in fact I almost looked forward to the chore. I learned to wash dishes while standing on a low stool next to my maternal grandmother.  She taught me the methodology of preparing and washing dishes; she washed dishes three times a day for everyday of her adult life.  There was no machine to load and walk away from and return to later to retrieve sparkling dishes. She had two enamel washpans, a farm house sink, a dish drainer, and cup towel. And in the summer time, me.

After the table was cleared and the plates scraped (if needed) into the trash she would fill one pan with hot, soapy water and the other pan would be placed in the sink to be filled with cool water.  First in the water were the drinking glasses and maybe the tea pitcher. She would wash and I would rinse and under her careful eye put the glassses in the drainer. Next would be the plates with silverware on top with our final round being the serving dishes and pots and pans.  There was no other order and she taught me well.  After we finished the rinse water was released into the sink and I dried the pan. She would carefully carry the wash pan out to a place away from the house and empty it to avoid any tiny pieces of food from going down the drain of the farm house with sensitive plumbing.

But there was more to this ritual that just washing dishes.  There was talk.  What did we talk about?  I don’t remember, but I know that we discussed many things.  Stories of her girlhood and of my grandfather building their house around a small existing house on their property.  Stories of her family and our family tree.  Talk of the weather and getting the clothes in from the clothesline before it rained.  Talk of the watermelon chilling in the refrigerator. Talk of the flowers I was going to clip that afternoon for a bouquet to go in her large vase.  Talk.

When my mother was there the routine changed just a bit.  My grandmother still washed, my mother rinsed and I dried as the dishes were put in the drainer.  Again, under the careful supervision of both women.  And, there was talk.  This time it was adult talk and I remember discussions of my mother’s friends and where they were at that time.  How certain people were related to other people and the news from town that my grandfather had brought home at lunch (he worked in the Post Office and knew every tid bit of gossip and community knews).

As I stare at the soapy water I remember those treasured moments vividly and with contentment.  I also remember washing dishes at another sink with the woman who would be my mother-in-law for many years.  The routine was the same, she washed and I rinsed and dried.  We stared out the window at the field of oats visible across the yard while we washed and talked.  She shared stories of her girlhood there on that same property, stories of her children, and much practical advice that she had garnered from her years of life.  We talked about my children and their cousins, remembering the past gatherings and planning for future ones.  Sewing projects and recipes were also part of our conversations. We talked. I enjoyed those times while the menfolk were elsewhere and we worked together washing dishes.

I dip my hands into the water and start the methodical process of washing while the memories of other sinks full of dirty dishes and hot, soapy water surround me.  The continuity of life and the importance of talk.

 

September Rains and the Aquifer

IMG_7550

Since Labor Day the San Antonio area has had almost 17 inches of rain; we’ve set a record for September rainfall and with more rain in the forecast this may be the wettest month ever for us.  Everything is green and blooming profusely! While the rain is an inconvenience no one complains, ever. We take it thankfully when it falls.

An added benefit is that the Edwards Underground Aquifer has risen over 30 feet at the test well and the local springs are flowing again.

Yesterday evening I checked on the Blue Hole (the original headwaters of the San Antonio River) and yes, there’s water flowing from the spring! However, it wasn’t its usual blue color possibly from mud that had collected in the basin prior to the spring’s activity. Still, it is fun to watch this crystal clear water flowing downstream to join the current SA River.

Spanish explorers and priests reported this area as being sprinkled with many springs, some of which rose up many feet into the area before releasing their water to flow downstream.  They described the area as being an oasis and very beautiful with all the vegetation and trees.

IMG_7509

The San Pedro Springs are also flowing very nicely and the water is very clear. I noticed water in one of the lesser springs in the park, too.  The springs in this area attracted the Native Americans before the Spanish explorers came to the area.  Somewhere around the San Pedro Springs the city of San Antonio was established in 1718 – 300 years ago.

IMG_7504
Springs flowing – September 18, 2018

 

100_7357.JPG
Normal appearance of Springs – April 26, 2014

 

 

Colors and Patterns: Tiffany Glass Panels

IMG_7187_edited-1.jpg

I’m sure that it was the colors and patterns in stained-glass that first attracted me to them as a child.  I enjoyed those hours in church when there was stained-glass to study. Pictures of the disciples, of Jesus carrying a lamb, and Paul’s conversion gave life to my Sunday School lessons.  My grandmother’s quilts with their colors and patterns also kept me focused as I memorized their lines and etched their names on my memory.

This trio of stained glass panels are owned by the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas and are displayed in their American Art exhibit. They were crafted in the Tiffany Studios in 1905. Per the display description,

At the turn of the 20th century, Tiffany Studios became renown for pioneering the use of opalescent glass in a range of luminous colors, patterns and textures that revolutionized the medium of stained-glass windows…This window was likely a specialy commission for a residence, where it would have been installed on a stair landing to let in changing color and light as the sun moved throughout the day.

IMG_7189

The details are exquisite and reflect the craftmanship associated with the Tiffany Studios. I wondered if this commission was for installation in a new home or perhaps a gift from a husband to his wife and would love to know more of the story and see a picture of it in that house. I can just imagine an elegant woman with upswept hair in a soft Edwardian dress pausing with her hand on the newel post and admiring the light illuminating these delicate iris as she climbed the stairs.

 

The Hat of Intrigue

img_70451.jpg

This hat is absolutely stunning, the pictures just don’t do it justice! The first time I saw it I marveled at the color and this beautiful bow/flower/feather arrangement on the back and the delicate beaded trim.  But it was the underneath that really caught me by surprise.

img_69271-e1534645168494.jpg

The pleats on the under side of the brim are the finishing touch of a custom made hat. The workmanship is incredible on the entire hat.  Sadly, it does appear to have some slight signs of wear.  Although that is what intrigues me – why would a hat this well made and incredibly stunning have been worn so much?

img_69261.jpg

My thoughts are that it was custom made to match an outfit.  Can’t you just see it paired with a matching outfit and dyed to match shoes? Which makes me think it was for a wedding, but would it have been for a bride, mother-of-the-bride, or an attendant? And, the myster of the gentle wear of it leaves me clueless. For now I have to wonder and day dream a little about the woman who wore this elegant hat.  Perhaps some day a short story will come to me about her.