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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

April is the Cruellest Month

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In high school I could diagram sentences, spell well, write fine, if not eloquently,  and liked Shakespeare’s works – at least somewhat.  So it seemed that majoring in English at CC was a gimme – especially since there was no Applied Life Management major offered.

But then I took “Twentieth Century Lit” my sophomore year of college.  And we had to read Gerard Manley Hopkins and Richard Wilbur and Ezra Pound and Archibald MacLeish and Louis MacNeice and Dylan Thomas  and T.S. Eliot….and more.  Even looking at these poets’ works now, 55 years later, my eyes glaze over and my brain goes foggy.

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The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot – from Modern American & Modern British Poetry, Copyright 1955

Glancing (blurry-eyed) over pages of these poems,  I find it fascinating that out of the 64 poets whose works were included in our book, only 10 were women – and my class was asked to read only 2 of them

Plus, I must note that those early 20th century male poets seemed primarily interested in women and death.  But spring – and April –  get a fair amount of notice.

Gerard Manley Hopkins: “That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the Comfort of the Resurrection”-  whew – which continues

Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows flaunt forth, then chevy on the air-built thoroughfare: heaven roysterers, in gay-gangs they throng; they glitter in marches.

Robinson Jeffers poem “Shine, Perishing Republic” (note: I’m not making a political statement; I’m just stating the title that Jeffers gave it.

I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and decadence. and home to the mother.

Dylan Thomas
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees

Is my destroyer.

I mostly liked e.e. cummings.  Here is his wonderfully timely and slightly-salacious, alternative vision of this season:

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And now back to April and cruelty.  In Andy’s Corner Andy doesn’t find April cruel at all.  But spring is a rough time of the year for gardeners and for cooks.  Winter crops are getting tired and spring/summer crops are mostly yet to come.  I’m busy perusing seed catalogs online.  Since all of our gardening is done in galvanized water troughs, I’ve been searching for summer squash seeds that are bush-like and work in containers.  So far I’ve ordered Bush Yellow Scallop, Astia zucchini, apparently a well-bred French variety (and being “well bred” is SO important), and Cube of Butter (yum! a natural for me).

In my walk through our garden area just now, about the only green growing use-able thing I saw was mint.

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So with dreams of summer and hot days and warm nights and an abundance of summer squash, I’ve paired my home-grown mint with squash in three do-it-right-now recipes.  After all, squash in the stores seems to be decent pretty much all of the time, if you pick and choose carefully.  Look for little shiny ones.

Somewhat related – and a fascinating read – is this recent NYTimes article which we just put in Food for Thought.  It’s shocking how much of our produce is imported.

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