Sunday, October 28, 2018

Another out-of-the-blue connection to the past–in which I hear from the granddaughter of my father’s beloved nanny!

I got a call a few hours ago from a woman named Anna in Germany who, it turns out, is the granddaughter of my father’s favorite nanny, nicknamed “Halle.”

My father spoke lovingly of “Halle,” and remembered her affectionately throughout his life. Never did I think that I would actually have any direct connection to her! But 70+ years later, things keep happening to bring my father’s early life into focus for me! It is such a gift.

In the early 1930s, Jews were forbidden to have non-Jewish household help, so “Halle” (her actual name, I learned today, was Ilse Langer) had to suddenly leave my father’s family. It was among the first times my father’s life was directly impacted by the changing political climate in Germany, and I believe it had a lasting impact on him. Little did he know that she also fondly remembered those days for the remainder of her life, calling them some of her happiest.

Irmgard Ulli Rainer Heinz Gert Gaby - Halle emphasized

When Anna told me today that her grandmother named her son (Anna’s father) Thomas (my father’s name), I just about lost it.

Shortly after we spoke on the phone, I received this email from Anna:

"Dear Carol,

I am still very emotional just now, but it was lovely to have talked to you.

I can easily believe that your father, aunt and uncle loved her a lot. She was an absolutely lovely and lovable person. I remember her as calm, loving, with good sense of humour and a great love and especially understanding for children. In many ways she started to train me to understand children, when I was still a child myself by telling me lots and lots of stories about the children she had cared for in her lifetime. Among them surely your father, aunt and uncle, only I can’t remember the stories that clearly. I work at university now, training childhood educators, after working with children for years myself

Ilse ("halle") trained to be a kindergarten teacher probably very shortly before she joined the Heumanns in Chemnitz. She was born in 1915 and joined them in the early 1930ies, as far as I know. So she was probably very young and impressionable, when she stayed with the Heumanns in Chemnitz. She was called “Halla” by the children. This is not a proper German name, but a nickname invented and given specially by the children.

It was a great heartbreak to her, when she had to leave the family and I think her time and positive experiences in the Heumann-Family made her immune to the anti-semitism in the Third Reich.

I always knew her as a great humanist and pacifist. She had survived two world wars and there was no place for hatred in her heart. She had countless friends and contacts, who dropped in any time of day, when she was old. And she used to collect second-hand-goods from anyone who dropped in to give to different charities, eg. for people with disabilities and for refugees, who had to start from scratch in Germany in the 1990ies. I bet she remembered how that feels like…

More hopefully later on, so much for now. It feels good to have found and contacted you! All the best wishes across the ocean."

Halle - nanny of Heumann sibs

And then Anna sent me this (translated), written by her uncle about Ilse ("Halle"), along with a photo of her shortly before she died just before her 90th birthday, in 2006:

"Noteworthy is still the time as a teacher of two children with family Heumann in Chemnitz. For Ilse, that was a positive milestone in her life, a great time. She was loved by the children and their parents also and respected. They called her Halla and they took her traveling. She always raved about Sylt. The father was a Jew and as far as I know Consul in Portugal. He owned a noteworthy Spitzweg (art) collection. As a result of the race policy, Ilse had to stop working at the house, or rather the villa, of the Heumanns, which was in Chemnitz on the corner of Kassberg and Reichsstraße and was destroyed in 1945 by bombs. Ilse, as I said, ended up in Seifhennersdorf at the end of the 1930s and now the circle closes. She never heard from the Heumanns again. "

Apparently, Halle assumed for the rest of her life that my father, his siblings, and their parents all perished in the war. If only they could have spoken before her death in 2006. My father would have absolutely adored that! Halle - real name Ilse Langer - as an old woman

I'm feeling pretty... verklemmt (which is not actually a word, my mom always insisted!) right now!

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Saturday, October 27, 2018

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Danny and Elisabeth Markus!

This post is long overdue. They all are these days, but this one is especially overdue because Danny and Elisabeth are barely even newlyweds anymore, having been married for, like, EVER.

Or since June, anyway…

You don’t need me to yammer on about what an amazing day it was (it was an AMAZING day!).

And you don’t need me to tell you how much we love Danny (we LOVE Danny).

And you don’t want to hear about the many months of planning that went it to this amazing day (MANY months… AMAZING day!).

You want to see PHOTOS! Am I right?

OK, fine. But I might need to add some captions. Deal?

Elisabeth and Danny were married at DeLillie Cellars in Woodinville. When they reserved the venue, we lived in Woodinville, but life took a few quick and unexpected turns and it turns out that we had already moved to Gig Harbor! So, like everyone else, we traveled to Woodinville for the weekend.

Here are a few photos of before the ceremony:


The beautiful bride. Yes, I’m biased, but isn’t she?!

MOB and MOH with E

Mom with her two beautiful daughters. Kat, Elisabeth’s younger sister, was the maid of honor.


These are not just any wedding rings. Danny, an avid prospector, actually pulled the gold in his ring out of the earth! He joked for years before they got married, that he couldn’t marry Elisabeth until he had enough self-mined gold to make a ring.

The gem is Alexandrite. It changes color! I always insist it’s purple, even when everyone else sees green. I wonder what that means.



Yes, I was a bit choked up -- all day!


Maid of Honor, getting ready. When did my little girl become such a beautiful woman?!


Zoe was the Maid of Honor’s honorable canine. I just love that this wedding was dog-friendly – though we didn’t bring Quinn because we selfishly wanted to focus on the humans of the day, not our little Quinn-cess.


Grace, Danny and Elisabeth’s sweet (huge) dog, was very much part of the day!


Alex and Peter paid a visit to us as we were getting ready. I don’t see them anywhere near enough these days, and I miss them both!


This is Danny, getting ready with his sister Michelle and her husband, Kenny. I love that we’re all now family!


Elisabeth and Danny wrote their own vows, full of love, honor, and support – and without any “obey” bullshit, of course.

The ceremony was, in a word, EPIC!


Kat and I helped with Elisabeth’s dress as she went to meet Danny for the “first look.” She had successfully managed to keep her dress hidden from him for almost six months!



My guess is that Danny was impressed.



Apparently there’s a tradition in Indian weddings, where the bride and groom lead a dance to the site of the ceremony. I’m so glad Danny and Elisabeth adopted this for their wedding. The mood was just pure JOY!

And the ceremony itself… brace yourself, because it was amaaaaazing (and not at all traditional)! Well, maybe it began as a traditional wedding ceremony…



The bride and her very proud father.


I don’t think Tom took his eyes off Elisabeth the whole time. He wanted to appreciate every second of this walk down the isle!


Danny walked his mother (and Grace), down the isle. I just love Kathleen’s tennis shoes!


My handsome sons walked me down the isle.


Ah, the story of Kat and Ian!

OK, Reader’s Digest version: Ian has been Elisabeth’s best friend since they were freshmen at Cal together in 2002. Kat’s first plane trip alone, when she was 13, was to visit her sister. She met Ian, who was 18. Instant crush, but… really?! Fast forward about 15 years: Ian has gotten his PhD in chemistry at Harvard and opened the Ian B Seiple Lab at UC San Francisco, and Kat has moved to San Francisco to live with him! Those five years that were a big deal at 13/18 aren’t such a big deal at 28/33 – and that crush? Well, it most definitely continues! (Psssst – we also love Ian!)


It was such a lovely ceremony!


Yeah, I know. Verklemmt again!


I love the way Elisabeth looks at Danny in this photo…


…and how she looks at her new wedding ring (‘this thing is happening!’) in this photo!

At this point in the ceremony, things took a bit of well, an… unusual turn. Danny and Elisabeth had asked Ian to be in charge of the unity ceremony.

Ian is a chemistry professor…

You know where I’m going with this, right?



Ian spoke of UNITY and LOVE and well, chemistry, all those good things. But to be honest, I can’t remember details because I was thinking, ‘Please don’t blow us all up!’ (Not really; he would never do that!)

And then it was time to PAR-TAY!


Happy! Happy! Happy! I just love the sheer happiness at weddings – especially this one!

Of course, there were the requisite family and wedding party photos:


Danny and Elisabeth with Danny’s family.


Danny and Elisabeth with Danny’s mom, sister, and brother-in-law.


Our family!


Hey look – I have a new son!



The goofy wedding party.

The reception was wonderful!sDSCF5980

On each table, Danny and Elisabeth shared aspects of their lives…


Elisabeth’s career in anesthesia…


…their beloved (and quirky) VW bus…


…their mutual love of their annual trips to Burning Man. (I wish I had photos of all these center pieces! There was one for Grace, one for Danny’s career as an actuary, one for their love of rock climbing, etc.)


And suddenly the daughter is… parental?!


The food was incredible!


Kat gave a hilarious speech that had everyone in stitches!

Then I talked about “The 25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 years of Marriage.”


(Since some have requested that I post those 25 things, here they are:

· Laughter is sometimes more important than conversation.

· Conversation is sometimes more important than silence.

· Silence is sometimes more important than righteousness.

· Kindness is most important when the incentive for it is lowest.

· Staying angry is difficult when you're laughing.

· "Being nice" is very effective.

· Traveling in the same direction sometimes means staying put.

· Passion may fade, but true intimacy grows in its place.

· Unconditional support is sometimes the best thing you can give.

· Winning isn't always winning.

· Trust is much more powerful than jealousy.

· Marriage is an ebb and flow endeavor, with each lasting anywhere from hours to years.

· Pooling finances emphasizes the meaning of "ours" and "in this together."

· Hugging and kissing in front of the kids makes them happy.

· Planting a garden together is good for your relationship.

· Good sex is important.

· A good marriage is a gift to your children's future relationships.

· Shared interests are important. So is having interests of your own.

· Good parenting is sexy.

· Misfortune can be a favor.

· Playfulness isn't stupid.

· Don’t count on changing each other, but DO count on change IN each other.

· Dating is hot.

· Early birds and night owls can co-exist.

· The habit that annoyed you in year one will still annoy you in year twenty-five. (And also in year 35!)


Then Tom gave a toast that began, “I have just a few short things to say…” and down cascaded his “few notes”!

It was sweet and funny and kind and self-effacing – just like Tom.

Then the sun began to go down and the photographer whisked away the happy couple for a few (amazing) photos.

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And then we all partied into the night!



The day went by so very fast, but the memories will last forever!



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I love these two with all my heart and I’m so happy that they found each other and (finally) made it all official with a damn fun party!

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