She changed it to "Debra" after she grew up. I guess there were just too many bad/sad associations with her original birth name. The birth certificate said, "Deborah Holiday." Her mother explained to me way back when I had just married into the family, that the five days she got in hospital after childbirth seemed like a holiday to her. The Waldrons already had two little boys, aged 8 and 4, and, at the time, her husband was away on business.
Debra was at times a difficult person to love. She was smart--although by the time I met her, as a teen-ager, she'd been convinced by other people that she was dumb. She was pretty and talked tough, but she was insecure. She wasn't as interested in other people -- except theoretically -- as she was in herself, and this led to trouble, both for her and the many who loved her. She was brilliant in her chosen field, Kinestheology, and a trail-blazing pioneer in the field of massage therapy. She dared to study the subject and she dared to practice, too, back in the days when a lot of people thought "massage" meant "sex." She was always brave and always unconventional, a real amazon, a tall woman with long flowing hair and a handsome aquiline nose. In Victorian times, she would have been considered a beauty.
She was a leader in her chosen field. In one of the most despairing times of my life, she gave me a massage and a "realignment of aura." I had been at the end of my rope--the very end--and she took all the pain I'd been keeping in my body and took it away. I could get off that table and go on with my life because of what her hands had done. People talk about it, but she had it--the healing touch. She founded Still Point School of Massage in MA. Although the name and practice eventually became the property of others, schools of that name still teach the blessed work of hands.
Perhaps it was all the pain she took from the bodies of her patients which sickened her. Perhaps it was her genes, for, like her mother, she fell victim to MS and began the long, slow slide toward disintegration and death. It was a terrible irony for such a vital, strong-bodied person to fall prey to a wasting disease.
Deborah means "bee," and she was a Queen kind of bee. The ancient Hebrew goddess, Deborah--and before Yahweh took over the whole ball of wax, there were Hebrew goddesses--sat beneath a palm tree, dispensing justice. Debra loved to be stage center. She hoped to end her life in a room full of her friends, a sort of exit party. The police came to stop her, but they couldn't stop the progression of her illness and the onset of Death, for spinal stenosis was reaching her brain. Her body had long since ceased to serve her and Debra knew quite well that her mind would be lost next.
Thankfully, Hospice is allowed to help those who are frail and dying in pain. It was clear that Debra wanted to leave this place and begin her journey into Time. She told me she wanted to see her mother again, and trusted that she would, on the other side.
Debra still knew her own body, and she knew that her time within it was almost over. The good people of Hospice came to the rescue and she died peacefully on June 20, just before the Solstice. I trust she winged her way to the land of cosmic clover and nectar-filled flowers.
"Everything changes; nothing dies." (The Blue Fox)
Here’s the T-shirt which says it all: “I can’t believe I’m
still protesting this crap.” It’s the all-purpose demonstration t-shirt I’ve
been looking for, as I continually find myself on the Capitol steps with signs—the
same old signs, I might add thatI held
in the ‘60’s—in favor of rights for women and rights for the individual, rights
which ought to trump the now resurgent "religious" dogma assaulting us from
If you are a woman, you are especially singled out for
second class status; make no mistake about it. Your body is not your own, but
subject to endless legislation. In ever more states, decisions which should be made in private, decisions that are between a woman and her God, now reside in the hands of government. Her health, her well-being, is not considered, only the decrees of an evergreen crop of Grand Inquisitors. (Remember, gang, this is America, supposedly
"the land of the free.")
If you are a woman, your pay is routinely
less than that of a man working the same job. Your work in the home, so lauded by the same crew of traditionalists: raising
the next generation, care-taking aged parents, running errands, cleaning house, tending gardens and cooking, has
no monetary value at all, except, perhaps, on the sales pitch “Mother’s Day,” when someone might
possibly remember to send you a card.
If you are dying, living in pain for years, a burden to family
and society, you are not allowed to cry “enough!” Even if your body has deserted you,
you are still not allowed to desert it. If your plans to shed ego and flesh, to
step alone into the final mystery becomes known, the police
will come to your door and take you to an asylum. The law says you must be
insane if you don’t wish to grasp the last agonizing straw of consciousness, if
you don’t want to lose your mind and continue to breathe for months or years trapped in a
torture chamber of tubes and pipes—but, I and others shout back, just who are
the madmen here?
Are our souls not ours to lose? And who are you, you
back-scratching, on-the-corporate-take, lying politicos, hypocrites to whom no ordinary laws apply, to make our choices for us--we, individuals, each of us one-of-a-kind? How dare you tell us what to believe and who we are?
18th Century Vienna
was glamorous and corrupt, and the pathway to fame could not be trodden in
innocence. Count Maximilian discovers Klara in a Nightingale Cage, an orphanage
for the abandoned children of musicians. He educates her, fosters her
remarkable vocal talent and initiates her into the art of love, intending to
create the perfect mistress. The Count controls every aspect of Klara’s life,
until Fate, in the form of handsome Akos Almassy, takes a hand. The tall, dark
Magyar violinist can make beautiful music and healing potions, too, but can he
rescue Klara from the Count—and live?
An excerpt from my latest Viennese romance, the story of a premier Nightingale, Maria Klara Silber:
"I sincerely hope that my accompaniment will be
acceptable. And please let me add, Fraulein, that the memory of the Eurydice you sang last Christmas will
only die when I do."
At his side,
the Baron gravely nodded his massive head.He, too, had much admired Klara in the role.
you, Herr Almassy."Klara smiled at
the compliment, offered by a musician who was fully competent to have an
opinion.Singing Eurydice had been both a joy and a universally acknowledged
triumph.What the nuns had taught was
sinful pride - wicked, but apparently inextinguishable-insisted she should take
pleasure in her vocal skill, in her achievements.She could feel a flush rising, coloring her
cheeks and tinting her bosom.All the
humility drummed in during childhood was often at war with the vainglorious
world in which she now moved.
Almassy's eyes followed the progress of the blush with interest.They were extravagantly lashed and there was
a hint of the exotic, a tilted fold at the corner. The color was interesting, a
hazel that tended, not to green, but to amber, like one of Signor Manzoli’s exotic
And how his eyes were looking, as
if he could pierce straight through her chaste exterior to the white-hot essence!
Herr Almassys' aquiline nose and high cheekbones compelling, and began to
imagine him as some long ago Attila carrying fire and sword across the
Hungarian plains.His black braid, thick
as horse tail, slipped over one strong shoulder as he bowed to kiss her hand.
grazed her knuckles, and Klara was struck by a series of inexplicable
sensations.First, came a startling
flash of deja vu, as if this raw moment had already had a thousand
repetitions.Hard on the heels of that
came another sensation, one even stranger, perhaps because it had been so long
since she'd felt it in relation to another human being - a rush of absolute joy!
were soft and warm.They lingered.To actually kiss the hand and not the air
above it was somewhat daring, but the feeling that they were already intimate
was so powerful that she experienced, not displeasure, but a thrill.She caught the scent of him, healthy, manly,
and something else as well, something musk and green, something from a wild,
dark mountain forest.
salute to her hand completed, he lifted his head.In the instant his eyes pierced hers again
and the world of up and down was no more.
was falling, head over heels, a long dizzying descent through clouds.Falling…
past year became a watershed for me. I marked my 50th
birthday in April, and then my daughter celebrated her 21st
birthday within days of my milestone. But these weren't the most
the end of July, my first love (I guess first crush might be more
apt), Simon Ward died. He was a British actor who was a significant
player in my hopes and dreams for most of my teen years. (My
obsession was a constant nuisance for my family). Within a day of his
passing, I was reading about the death of Angharad Rees, an actress who'd been the
heroine of Poldark, a British mini-series that I'd watched and loved
during this same period.
in December, my beloved 88 year old father had a fall and passed
away within the space of a week. My daughter and I needed to move
out of our house and in with my mother, so that I could care for her
in my childhood home. My past was slipping away and these changes
were brutal and painful for me.
the passing of my Dad was very traumatic. But why did the
deaths of Simon Ward and Angharad Rees affect me so strongly? I
believe it's because it was finally clear to me that the girl that I
was is gone, and all the hopes and dreams that she had were never
going to materialize. A tiny part of me had never stopped
hoping that maybe my dreams could still come true. Now I obviously need some new ones. But I'm
still trying to make my peace with the old ones.
allow me to go back to the beginning. For as long as I can remember,
I have been an Anglophile. Just the
idea that a country existed that had a queen who occasionally rode
around in a carriage and wore a crown seemed proof to me that
fairy tales were not necessarily fantasy.
there was dress-up. If we were going to put on costumes and make up
stories, I always wanted to play – as I put it - "old
fashioned." I loved the idea of the past and history. Having
the perfect costume extended to Halloween, of course, and I was
blessed with a mother who sewed beautifully. Of course I had to
be a queen complete with an elaborate gown and crown one year, and
Laura Ingalls Wilder in a prairie dress and bonnet another.
forward another five years or so. I didn't have much to feed my
obsession until one Sunday night when I was going to turn off the TV and stopped to watch a man gallop his horse across the screen, greet a foreign princess and welcome her to England. This
was the opening chapter in a drama called "The Six Wives of
Henry the VIII" and I was probably the only preteen in America
who would spend the rest of her adolescence watching "Masterpiece
was smitten and mesmerized. This was the closest I was ever
going to get to time travel and that's when I knew this was what I
wanted to do. Even if at that point I thought I was going to do it
all – research, write, design the costumes, compose the music, act
and direct or even produce historical dramas.
A year or so later, I discovered Simon Ward, a British actor
who was the star of a film about the young Winston Churchill. And there was something about him that
I really liked. He was blonde and handsome (at least I thought so)
and looked like an aristocrat.
to that point, I'd never had a crush on anyone. This was the
age of pop stars - Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy, etc. They really hadn't done a thing for me. Granted, with my
obsession, I suppose it was inevitable that it would be
an actor with a British accent. But I remember consciously thinking
that it was about time for me to have my first crush (I
was always in a hurry to grow up) and this guy would do perfectly.
spent a lot of time in my room. (My Mom's nickname for me was the Ivory Tower Princess. I decided at one point that my production company would be called ITP productions. Today I have itpwebdesign, instead). In sixth grade, I cranked out a novel
about a young woman named Rachel who was a lady in waiting at the
court of Elizabeth I. It had no plot line. It would be a few years
before I realized that if bad things don't happen to the characters
you love, there's no story worth telling. But mostly I
wrote screenplays, and scribbled out bits of themes for the music,
designed costumes and movie posters, read tons of historical novels and hated doing my homework and
studying for tests.
And I had lots of great music to listen to for my soundtracks. Ralph
Vaughan Williams, William
Walton, Edward Elgar, and eventually George Gershwin and Debussy. And
there was also Rick Wakeman's "Six Wives of Henry VIII" and
Alan Parson's Edgar Allen Poe album. And I can't forget Emerson, Lake
and Palmer. Their stuff was perfect. It was by turns romantic and very dramatic.
Emerson's Piano Concerto No. 1 (I wish he had written more), was the
soundtrack for my own Poldark adventure. In the summer of 1976
(which was also the year of my first visit to
England), I was a volunteer guide at Rockford, the 18th
century home of General Edward Hand. He lived here in Lancaster, was a physician and Washington's Adjutant General in the American Revolution. I had a beautiful gown
that my mother had sewn for me for the Bicentennial celebrations, and
I wore it for the candlelight tours before Christmas.
in my mind, I was the young colonist who had fallen for a British
soldier, one of Ross Poldark's comrades. After the war, we were
unwelcome in America, and ended up on Nampara's doorstep, looking
for a safe haven. My husband was crippled by his war wounds (all of my
characters' names escape me now) and he did not survive long in
Cornwall. With his death, my young American widow was ostracized by
the community, and had to deal with the gossip that Poldark was
romantically involved with her (they were not), while comforting her
in her grief. Unfortunately, I don't remember how her story ended.
In the summer of 1984, I made my second trip to England and finally
met my first love. By this time, I was a college graduate with a
degree in history and still trying to figure out how to launch a
career as an historical researcher and writer. (My dream had almost
been completely crushed by my advisor at college. He told me there
was no such job). At least I was over the worst of my obsession
with Simon Ward (having learned several years before that he was happily married, old enough to
be my father and had daughters my age).
he was so kind and gracious and charming. He just smiled politely
when I blurted out that I'd been following his career for years and I
hoped to work with him one day. I still remember my mother's comment
when I showed her the photo my girlfriend had taken of us – "that's
the first time I actually thought he looks handsome."
My last photo is of another bucket list moment in England in 1984. On another summer afternoon I donned an antique nightgown (it looked exactly like a white summer gown from
the turn of the century) and hat, and strolled the grounds of
Crathorne Hall in Yarm, County Cleveland, England. My childhood
friend Linda convinced me to sit down at a table that had been set for
tea for a guest at the hotel (and it hadn't been cleared yet)
and play lady of the manor long enough for her to
this story, I was Elizabeth Eshton, the American cousin visiting the lord
of the manor, Colin Hathaway (played by Simon Ward, naturally). Elizabeth's former governess was making life hell for everyone (because she had her designs on
Colin, even though he was married to Amy, a suitable lady). And Elizabeth was going to have
a very hard time making her mind up if she was going to fall for and
marry Colin's younger brother Jack or the young village vicar. Of course now we could say that I was
preparing for my role on Downton Abbey.
it to say, I'm trying to come up with some new dreams and get back to
writing while I open a whole new chapter in my life.