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Franzisca Tönnies Heberle

This blog – and my recent “girls” dinner party – came about because of Franzi.

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Franzi and her husband, Rudolf Heberle, at our house in Baton Rouge in 1984.

Andy and I knew Franzi – whom everyone addressed only as “Mrs. Heberle” – (pronounced with 3 syllables Hay-Bur-Lee) – and her husband, Rudolf, from our years in Baton Rouge, where both Andy and Rudolf were part of LSU’s Sociology Department.  Franzi and Rudolf arrived in the U.S. in the late 1930’s, leaving Germany as the Nazis solidified their power.

Though we were part of some lovely get-togethers at the Heberle home over the years, it’s my Baton Rouge friend Katie who really gave me insight into Franzi when she reminded me of the talk she delivered at Franzi’s memorial service in 1997.

I loved, admired and respected her, regarding her almost as an additional parent but without the usual baggage between mothers and daughters.

Katie continues – with a hilarious aside – “…their front porch was…the scene of many wonderful parties and afternoon teas.  Rudolf and Franzi were gracious hosts, the company was always varied and the conversation was stimulating and exciting.  The atmosphere was enhanced by the presence on the porch of a life-sized statue of a nude woman, a loan from a friend, I believe.  In my home village, a nude statue would have been questionable anywhere; on the front porch it would have been unthinkable if not illegal.  I knew I was on the fast lane and I liked it.”

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I can’t compete with Franzi.  This is the best nude piece we have – and it’s 8″ – not life-sized.

Though Katie was 30 years younger than Franzi, Katie remarked that “just knowing Franzi would have been a rare privilege; to have had her as an intimate friend for almost fifty years has been an unequaled blessing.”  

It’s ironic that Franzi’s father, the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, is famous for his writings on Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft.  Gemeinschaft, after all, is the study of community – the feeling of togetherness.

And when I think about Franzi and Katie – and about Katie and myself, I think about the value of friendships among women – and of having a community of women friends – of all ages.

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Franzi’s father, Ferdinand Tönnies

Just this morning, Katie, who is now 89, and I spoke on the phone for about an hour, as we do several times a month.  We could have easily chatted another hour – about children and grandchildren, about Trump, Brexit, about cooking, about our parents and husbands and brothers, about the weird weather.  And we talked about Franzi.

It was because of Franzi and because of Katie that I decided to have an “Intergenerational Women’s Dinner Party” at our house, dedicated to them both  – and to gemeinschaft.  I think all of our women readers should do the same!  I’ll give you hints.

The dinner party was a piece of cake to plan (please note all of the cake recipes included in our blogs :), because I had my younger friend Sona – who also happens to be a best friend of our daughter – to call upon.  Sona rounded up a cadre of Sonoma friends ranging in age from 50-something on down (I know you’re laughing and asking how that qualifies as young, but when you’re 75, it is!), I invited three over 70’s – and the party was on.

Because Andy, my dishwasher and general clean-up person, was off on his weeklong bicycling adventure (see today’s Andy’s Corner), I decided I had to carefully plan everything, so that I didn’t get in a twit on the day of the dinner.  I could have served a much simpler dinner but I had lots of free time that week – and truly enjoyed my creative time in the kitchen.

The menu?

The hummus and carrots were prepared 3 days before the dinner, the cheesecake 2 days before the dinner, and the burgers 1 day before the dinner (re-warming them just before serving).  The only thing left to do on dinner day was prepare the spinach salad (I bought pre-washed organic baby spinach) and set the table.  I could also have set aside the day just ahead of the dinner to prepare everything, rather than spreading the prep out.  Or I could have taken an entirely different approach and assigned everyone a recipe to prepare.  I think that actually contributes to the feeling of “we’re all in this together.”

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Roses from Lynne for our dinner

The highlight of the evening?  Lynne, who brought this rose bouquet from her garden, made the follow remarks for the occasion:

I always think of my Mother when I arrange roses.  Their beauty and fragrance are quite simply, her.  So I decided to bring a bouquet of roses along so that she could join us, in spirit, for an Intergenerational Women’s Dinner. Like our group, whose ages spanned four decades, the vase held roses that were in various stages of splendor.  Some were large and just past full bloom, their color mellowing to a soft yellow.  Others were bold in shape and rich with red and rose and yellow.  Others were tight buds, still emerging.  Each is a singular beauty, together, a bouquet representing the spirit of all things female and nurturing and loving. 

A perfect conclusion to a lovely evening with this community of women.

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The First Ever – and not the last – Intergenerational Women’s Dinner

Much love to my guests!  Left to right: seated – Connie, me (Ann), Pat, Katherine, Barbara; standing in back –  Lynne, Sona, and Nina

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