Sunday, May 29, 2016


     On the west side of the Greve river, approximately 7.5 miles south of Florence, Italy, set against a backdrop of hills dense with London Plane trees, headstones belonging to 4,402 American Military Dead stand on 70 acres of foreign soil. Pine, cypress, willow, oak and cedar trees enclose the section along with oleander, crepe myrtle and laurel-cherry shrubs.
     A bridge set between the cemetery office and the visitor’s center at the entrance to the cemetery leads us to row after row of crosses and stars of David. The cemetery is hushed except for the occasional rustle of a leaf or a fragment of a bird’s song. We wander among the headstones that bear the names and dates of birth of the servicemen and women who were lost to friends, loved ones and our nation. Here and there, we see a pebble placed on a stone; a way to say “We are here. We came to see you. We will never forget you.”
      Americans, traveling through the area, stop at the cemetery, on the west side of the Via Cassia, a major highway that links Florence with Rome and Sienna, to pay their respects to the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War II. The majority died in the fighting that occurred after the liberation of Rome in June 1944 and during the fierce battles in the Apennines right before the end of the war.
      The cemetery is one of 14 permanent memorials built by the American Battle Monuments Commission. The site was liberated on August 3, 1944 by the South African 6th Armored Division; the stone used to construct the chapel and headstones was supplied by Italy. 
     On the highest of three terraces located in back of the burial site are two open sections partially enclosed by walls; to the east is the American flag. Tablets of the Missing, constructed of Travertine stone, connect the two sections. Visitors barely breathe as they read the Baveno granite panels; on the tablets are inscribed the names of 1,409 Americans—United States Army and Air Forces and the United States Navy—who died in our nation’s service and rest in nameless graves. They came from every state in our union but Alaska and Hawaii. 
     Men and women study the north section’s west wall where two marble operations maps tell the story of the American Forces in the area. Inscriptions in English and Italian provide an explanation for the maps and the military operations. A forecourt at the south end of the tablets leads to a marble and mosaic chapel—a place to meditate and pray for the peace represented in a sculpture that rests on a pylon.  May we never forget.
     The Florence American Cemetery and Memorial is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm from April 16 to September 30 and from 8:00am to 5:00pm from October 1 to April 15. Staff members in the visitors’ building will accompany family members to the graves and memorial sites.
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Sunday, May 8, 2016


It’s Mother’s Day Weekend and I miss my mom. Supportive, funny, interested in everything, and a good listener—perfect strangers would stop her on the street and tell her their problems (used to drive me crazy when I was a kid.) She was an avid reader and the library was a second home to us. I was told stories whenever it rained—family stories and I imagine her stories led me to write my own.

My grandparents and their oldest children came to America escaping the pogroms against the Jews in Russia. The eldest child, my Aunt Betty was responsible for their escape. According to mom, they were hidden by a countess who couldn’t have children and had become very fond of my aunt. The rest of the family agreed but they said their savior was a neighbor not royalty. I’ve always liked my mother’s version better—she tended to add what she called “A little local color.”

Another tale was about playing with my Uncle Johnny in a field near their house in Rhode Island. Mom was wearing a red dress and they attracted the notice of a bull. They were saved by Veterans living in a Home who gave them milk and cookies and thoroughly impressed my mother. After my uncle served in the army, she told him he would now always be able to live at that Veteran’s Home.

Mom had a boyfriend who gave her a box of chocolates whenever they dated. By the time mother returned from the date the chocolates were gone—there were seven children in the family. She decided to hide the candy in the piano. Didn’t work.

She had a job selling hats and was quite successful. The neighborhood housed working class people and the shop sold hats that would meet their budget. Mom made every woman feel like a Vogue model and they returned to the shop whenever they needed a hat.

When I write fiction I try to add a little extra added color and I wish that my mother was here to read each story.

Thanks Mom.
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