Friday, February 15, 2019

Revisiting the 1960's and Hairstyles from my Youth

          I recently bought granddaughter Amalia a sticker book from the Usborne Series about 1960's fashion history, and became fascinated reading it.  I realized that I am a living fossil who experienced every fashion fad of that decade--especially in the two years ('68 and '69) when I was living in London and met Mary Quant. And I own a mini-dress that was worn by Twiggy in a fashion shoot--although I gave it to daughter Eleni, since I am no longer the size of Twiggy.
          The sticker book inspired me to re-post this essay from nine years ago about my peculiar hairstyles of the period.  I just wish I had as much hair now as I did then, and I don't go to the hairdresser twice a week any more--just once.  I may even re-post a related photo essay about my memories of real-life sixties fashions.

Horrible Hairdos from my Youth

Last Thursday in The New York Times Style section, a page of photographs showed the six steps to achieving a retro ‘60’s beehive hairdo. According to a hairstylist at Bumble and Bumble “The key to make this look modern and not too retro is haphazardness.” He had prepared the models at Vera Wang’s fall show with “slightly messy” beehives with tousled locks at the nape of the neck. According to The Times, “Amy Winehouse offsets hers with tattooed arms.”

Ever since “Mad Men” ushered in a widespread nostalgia for the naughty 1960’s I have been bemused as young people who were not born then celebrate that era of sin, pointed bras and three-martini business lunches.

One of the few skill sets I have down pat is how to make a beehive hairdo. The sight of the “retro beehive” whisked me down Memory Lane, recalling the sight of myself and half a dozen freshman girls lined up at the mirrored wall in the dorm bathroom, carefully teasing our long hair until it stood straight up. Lots of hair spray was involved. My daughters think that I was solely responsible for the hole in the ozone layer due to my lavish use of hair spray.

No tousled retro ironic beehives for us. Ours were as smooth and as stiff as a football helmet—hence all the urban legends about girls who never took down their beehives and ultimately learned that mice or something worse had nested within.

After teasing the hair into a state suggesting the Bride of Frankenstein, I would carefully fold it into a high French twist, securing it with a handful of hairpins and then, after using an afro pick to achieve maximum bouffant-ness, spray some more.

In my youth, a hairdo would come into fashion and we all would immediately have to have it, whether it was flattering or not. The first one I remember was the duck tail (also called D.A. for “Duck’s Ass”), the signature of “greasers” and their leather- jacketed girlfriends in the 1950’s. It took a long time for me to talk my parents into letting me have one—I was about 13 at the time—and even longer to convince them to let me add the peroxide streak that was de rigueur to go with it. I’m just sorry I don’t have a photo to show you how truly awful it looked.

Even more unforgiving was the pixie cut which I am told is now enjoying a renaissance on celebrities like Victoria Beckham. Less glamorous people, like me, ended up looking like someone who was just past chemo, or like those French women who fraternized with the Germans and were punished by having their hair cut off. I vaguely remember Jean Seberg as bringing the pixie cut into fashion. The unfortunate photo of me here in my pixie cut dates from 1958 when I was a junior in high school. 

Then I went to college in Wisconsin and mastered the non-ironic beehive. Two years later, in 1961 I transferred to U Cal Berkeley where I first encountered full-out ethnic Afros and white men with Jesus hair and beards. In graduate school in Manhattan, I remember other girls (not me) ironing their long blonde hair on an ironing board to straighten it and also setting it at night on empty orange-juice-concentrate cans.

After getting a Master’s from Columbia in 1964, I got a job in New York women’s magazines and hung around with editorial assistants who were dating those Mad Men types and drank martinis at lunch. I usually ate lunch at my desk.

Soon the Beatles came to the U.S. and Vidal Sassoon cut Twiggie’s hair into an asymmetrical bob and we all had to have some version of it. You can see my would-be Sassoon cut below. I wish I still had that mini-dress and that brooch. The photo is dated Feb. 1967.

Several haircuts have become all the rage since then—think Farrah Faucett’s feather cut and Jennifer Anniston’s whatever it was. And Kate Gosselin revisiting Sassoon. But I got married and had children and never had time any more to become a haircut fashion victim.

Now my hair has become so thin that I couldn’t possibly tease it into a beehive, ironic or not. Twice a week, first thing in the morning, I go to my hairdresser Roy Hurwitz of London Lass, because I am incapable of doing anything with my own hair. He trained under Vidal Sassoon.

Did you know that Joan Collins always wears a wig because her hair is so thin? I’m told she has 200 wigs. So does Lady Gaga, I think. Maybe wigs will become the next Big Thing.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Valentines in the U.S.--It All Started Here!

Time to re-post my annual Valentine's Day essay. I see that in last year's New York Times there was a long article about Valentines, including two photographs of Esther Howland valentines--but no mention that she was living, and began making, Valentines in Worcester, MA!

(I recently bought these English and German-made valentines at an auction--sadly, they are not from Howland or Taft.)

Worcester, MA, the once-bustling industrial metropolis 45 minutes west of Boston where I live, is enormously proud of its rather peculiar list of “famous firsts”, including barbed wire, shredded wheat, the monkey wrench, the birth control pill, the first perfect game in major league baseball, the first liquid-fueled rocket and the ubiquitous yellow Smiley Face icon (starring in a soon-to-be-published tell-all book “The Saga of Smiley”, printed by the Worcester Historical Museum and written by me.)

And every year about this time, you hear about how Worcester produced the first commercial valentines in this country thanks to a foresighted young woman named Esther Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine.

Esther Howland (1828-1904) attended Mount Holyoke at the same time as Emily Dickinson. She was the daughter of a successful Worcester stationer and, in 1847, she received a frilly English valentine that inspired her to ask her father to order materials from England so that she could assemble her own.  She then convinced her brother, a salesman for the company, to show a few of her valentines on his sales rounds.

The initial demand was overwhelming and Esther gathered some of her friends to help her assemble the valentines, seating them around a long table on the third floor of her home.  The company was eventually earning $100,000—a phenomenal success.

Esther is considered significant because, according to historians, she was among the first commercially successful women overseeing a female-run business, and she basically created the assembly-line system, paying the local women “liberally”.

She introduced layers of lace, three-dimensional accordion effects, and insisted that the verses be hidden inside--something you had to hunt for. She had her staff mark the back of each valentine with a red “H”.

In the Victorian era, Valentines were wildly popular, and the elaborate cards were scrutinized for clues—even the position of the stamp on the envelope meant something. Often the valentine was intended as a marriage proposal.

On Feb. 14, 1849, Emily Dickinson wrote to her cousin, “The last week has been a merry one in Amherst, & notes have flown around like snowflakes.  Ancient gentlemen & spinsters, forgetting time & multitude of years, have doffed their wrinkles – in exchange for smiles…”

In 1879—after 30 years in business—Esther Howland merged with Edward Taft, the son of Jotham Taft, a North Grafton valentine maker.  Together they formed the New England Valentine Co. (and their cards were marked “N.E.V.Co.”)

This is where Esther Howland’s title of “Mother of the Valentine” begins to get a little shaky.
It seems, upon much study, that Edward Taft’s father, Jotham Taft of North Grafton, a small village near Worcester, started the commercial valentine business in the U.S. even before Miss Howland did,  but he didn’t like to talk about it, because the Taft family were strict Quakers and Jotham Taft’s mother sternly disapproved of such frivolity as Valentines. (Full disclosure—I live in North Grafton, about a stone’s throw from where Taft worked.)

In 1836, Jotham Taft married Sarah E. Coe of Rhode Island and two years later, they welcomed twin sons.  But in 1840, one of the twins died suddenly, leaving Mrs. Taft prostrate with grief.  Jotham decided to take his wife and surviving son to Europe with him on a buying trip for the stationer who employed him, and while in Germany, he bought many valentines supplies—laces, lithographs, birds and cupids.

When he returned, Taft began making valentines with his wife’s help, and in 1844—3 years before Esther Howland graduated from college—he opened a valentine “factory” in North Grafton (then called New England Village.)  But because of his mother’s disapproval, Taft never put his own name on the valentines—only “Wood” (his middle name) or “N.E.V.” for “New England Village”.  Some believed that Taft trained Elizabeth Howland as one of his workers before she opened her own factory
Taft and Howland merged into the New England Valentine Co. in 1879, and a year later Esther’s father became ill and she left her business to care for him.  After he died, she moved in with one of her brothers and she passed away in 1904.

Unfortunately, despite all the couples who presumably found their true love thanks to Esther’s creations, the “Mother of the Valentine” never married.

In 1881, George C. Whitney bought the combined business of Taft and Howland and it became The Whitney Co,  which dominated valentine production for many years.  Instead of cards laboriously made by hand, Whitney turned to machine- printed valentines and eventually added postcards in the 1890’s.  The Whitney designs, featuring children who resembled the “Campbell Soup “ kids, were wildly popular, although more often exchanged by children than adult lovers, and in 1942 the Whitney factory closed, as a result of wartime paper shortages.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Magnificent Magnolias and A New Granddaughter!

While Massachusetts grapples with record cold and snow, I’m in San Francisco getting to know our new granddaughter, Gage Antonia Hineline, who was born on the day before Christmas to daughter Marina and Jeff Hineline.

Since Wednesday was the last full day before I return to the bitter cold of Massachusetts, Marina decided to take me and the Big Eleni (Eleni Nikolaides, who is the honorary grandma to my three children, and is now living with her own daughter and two grandchildren in Florida, but came to San Francisco to help out) to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, to see “Magnificent Magnolias—Now in Bloom, Mid-January through March.”
On the way there we passed some of the “painted ladies” of San Francisco, which I’ve admired ever since I was a student at U Cal Berkeley in 1961-1963.

I love magnolias, and was astonished to see that here in San Francisco, magnolias are now in bloom everywhere.   The San Francisco Botanical Garden, in Golden Gate Park offers, “the most significant magnolia collection outside China, where the majority of species originate.”

At the entrance, one poster advertised the “Magnificent Magnolias” exhibition and another warned us not to tread on the caterpillars of the California Pipeline Swallowtail Butterfly, which is a stunning blue color I’ve never seen before.   

Marina checked the map of nearly 100 magnolia trees—“from the monsoon-influenced temperate forest of the Himalayas to the cloud forests of Mesoamerica”-- with the Botanical Garden’s Staff member, while giant magnolia trees (originally brought from Asia in the 1930’s or earlier) bloomed overhead in white, pink and magenta, and visitors from around the world, including these young lovers, admired the beauty overhead.
This giant magnolia blossom, as large as a saucer, is Magnolia compbellii “Late Pink”, “Introduced in the Garden from seed purchased in 1934…in Darjeeling, India.”  White and pink blossoms covered the paths, and someone put these in one of the ceramic pots that mark the gardens.

Marina kept her dog, Stamper, on a leash, and introduced her to some visiting toddlers, while the “Big Eleni” pushed Baby Gage, blissfully asleep, in her clever “Doona” carriage which converts into a car seat, so you don’t have to wake the baby to put her in the car.

And here she is—turning a month old tomorrow, and already melting our hearts with her smile.  Baby Gage Antonia Hineline!  Every bit as magnificent as the magnolias!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Reagan's White House Ghost Story (and Others')

It's become a Halloween tradition for the Rolling Crone to re-post the story told to me by President Reagan of his own encounters with White House ghosts and other haunting happenings experienced there through the ages.  Wonder if the Trumps have encountered any of these ghouls as yet?

Ever since the White House was first occupied in 1800, there have been rumors of hauntings, but I got this story direct from the President. No, not President Obama (or The Donald). I first heard about the White House ghosts directly from the lips of Ronald Reagan.

It was March 18, 1986, and my husband Nick and I had been invited to a state dinner in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. The State Dining room was filled with gold candlesticks, gold vermeil flatware and vermeil bowls filled with red and white tulips. I had the great privilege of being seated at the President’s table along with Chicago Bears’ running back Walter Payton; the Canadian Prime Minister’s wife Mila Mulroney; the president of the Mobil Corporation; Donna Marella Agnelli, wife of the chairman of Fiat; Burl Osborne, the editor of the Dallas Morning News, and Pat Buckley, wife of William Buckley.

The President, a brilliant storyteller, entertained the table throughout the meal and the story I remember best was about his encounters with the White House ghostly spirits. Here is how I wrote it later in an article about the dinner for the Ladies’ Home Journal: “According to the President, Rex, the King Charles Cavalier spaniel who had recently replaced Lucky as First Dog, had twice barked frantically in the Lincoln Bedroom and then backed out and refused to set foot over the threshold. And another evening, while the Reagans were watching TV in their room, Rex stood up on his hind legs, pointed his nose at the ceiling and began barking at something invisible overhead. To their amazement, the dog walked around the room, barking at the ceiling.

'I started thinking about it,' the President continued, 'And I began to wonder if the dog was responding to an electric signal too high-pitched for human ears, perhaps beamed toward the White House by a foreign embassy. I asked my staff to look into it.'

The President laughed and said, 'I might as well tell you the rest. A member of our family [he meant his daughter Maureen] and her husband always stay in the Lincoln Bedroom when they visit the White House. Some time ago the husband woke up and saw a transparent figure standing at the bedroom window looking out. Then it turned and disappeared. His wife teased him mercilessly about it for a month. Then, when they were here recently, she woke up one morning and saw the same figure standing at the window looking out. She could see the trees right through it. Again it turned and disappeared."

After that White House dinner, I did some research and discovered that half a dozen presidents and as many first ladies have reported ghostly happenings in the White House. It’s not just the ghost of Lincoln that they see, although he tops the hit parade. He caused Winston Churchill, who was coming out of the bathroom naked but for a cigar when he encountered Lincoln, to refuse to sleep there again. And Abe so startled Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands that she fell into a dead faint when she heard a knock on the door and opened it to find Lincoln standing there.

I also learned that the Lincoln bedroom was not a bedroom when Lincoln was President—it was his Cabinet Room where he signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

It’s well known that Abraham Lincoln and his wife held séances in the White House, attempting to contact the spirit of their son Willie, who died there and who has been seen walking the halls.

The ghost of Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, appeared often in the Rose Garden, which she planted. There is even reportedly a Demon Cat in the White House basement that is rarely seen. When it does appear, it is foretelling a national disaster. While the Demon Cat may at first look like a harmless kitten, it grows in size and evil the closer one gets. A White House guard saw it a week before the stock market crash of 1929 and it was also reportedly seen before Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

Abigail Adams’ ghost has been seen hanging laundry in the East Room—she appeared frequently during the Taft administration and as late as 2002 and is often accompanied by the smell of laundry soap.

Lincoln himself told his wife he dreamt of his own assassination three days before it actually happened. Calvin Coolidge’s wife reported seeing Lincoln’s ghost standing at a window of the Oval Office, hands clasped behind his back gazing out the window (just as Reagan’s daughter saw a figure in a similar pose.) Franklin Roosevelt’s valet ran screaming from the White House after seeing Lincoln’s ghost . Eleanor Roosevelt, Ladybird Johnson and Gerald Ford’s daughter Susan all sensed Lincoln’s presence near the fireplace in the Lincoln Bedroom.

I’d love to find out if the Obamas ever encountered any ghostly knockings, or if their dog Beau suffered the same alarming anxiety attacks as Reagan’s dog Rex. Today, as the portals between this world and the other world swing open, I suspect the White House will be hosting a ghostly gala of the illustrious dead.  I wonder, if Trump wandered down to the basement, would he encounter the Demon Cat?

(If you have any  personal paranormal experiences to report, let me know about them at: )

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Update on Colette--Paris's Most Scandalous Woman

Yesterday I saw the new film "Colette", directed by Wash Westmoreland and starring Keira Knightley as Colette.  I absolutely loved it!  It was thrilling to see the various adventures and scandals of France's most famous female author--whom I wrote about in a January post, based on five antique French postcards in my collection--brought to vivid life on screen, presenting scenes of decadent Parisian life and fashion circa 1900.   I was knocked out by the accuracy of historical detail in the settings and fashions--including the theatrical scenes in the antique photos below.  But my blog post, republished here, recorded even more of Colette's scandals than the film.  That ends when Colette, having gained notoriety as an actress in the music hall, undertakes to write novels under her own name.  But the film doesn't tell that Colette in 1912 married  the editor of the newspaper Le Matin and had a daughter with him a year later, but  that marriage ended when he learned she was having an affair with her 16-year-old stepson Bertrand, child of his first marriage.  Colette was 51.

When I first bought this set of five French postcards dating from fin de siècle Paris, I didn’t realize that one of the actors in this melodrama, named Colette Willys, was in fact the Colette--who wrote such books as “Gigi”, “Chéri”, and the saucy series of “Claudine” novels.   She was the single-named author (full name Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette), who was called the most important woman writer in France and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.
These postcards are advertising an over-the-top melodrama called “La Chair” (“The Flesh”), which was the hit of Paris in 1907, and was presented throughout France for four years and 250 performances.   As is stated on the cards, the actors were Christine Kerf (dressed as a man), Georges Wague and Colette Willy.  The photographs were taken by a photographer named Walery, and the performance was a pantomime, with no dialogue, but music by A. Chantrier.

 The reason the play was such a huge hit in Paris, selling out every night, was due to a “wardrobe malfunction” more famous than Janet Jackson’s at the Super Bowl.  In every performance, the actor playing Colette’s lover, as he tried to stab her, would tear her blouse so that one breast (the left), would be exposed.  (Surely this must be the origin of the term “bodice ripper”?)  Throughout France, Colette’ breast was celebrated in newspaper cartoons, poems, post cards that became pin-ups, and gossip.  Eighteen-year-old Maurice Chevalier, an unknown actor at the time, said that Colette’s breasts were “cups of alabaster.”
Here’s the plot of the play:  Hokartz, a smuggler (Georges Wague) discovers his beautiful wife Yulka (Colette) has been unfaithful to him with a handsome officer  (Christine Kerf).  He lunges at his wife with a dagger and tears open her dress.  Overwhelmed by her beauty, he then kills himself instead.  

I’m sorry my five postcards don’t include the one showing Colette’s breast, but I’ll add that photo –taken from the internet—at the end of this post.

 Having Colette’s lover played by an actress in drag was as critical to the success of “La Chair” as the bare breast.  Just months before the opening of this pantomime, Colette appeared in another musical drama at the Moulin Rouge, in which she passionately kissed the aristocratic Mathilde de Morny, Marquise de Belbeuf, known as “Missy”, who was her lesbian lover in real life, and was wearing mannish clothes.  (The premise of that performance was that an ancient Egyptian mummy comes to life, sheds her bandages, dances for and then kisses the archeologist who found her.) That kiss caused a riot among the audience and the police shut the production down immediately.
 Lesbianism among upper-class Parisian ladies was much discussed and decried in the newspapers of the day, and Colette’s own erotic interest in women was well known.  The success of “La Chair” was a personal triumph for Colette because, for the first time, she became self-supporting.  Her first husband, Henry Gauthier-Villars, known as “Willy”, was a 14-years-older author and publisher in Paris, and a notorious libertine.  He encouraged his young wife to write a novel about her schoolgirl days and eventually published it with his own name as the author--“Claudine at School.”   That book and three more naughty “Claudine” novels became instant best sellers, but the real author never profited from them.
Willy would lock Colette into her study for four hours and not let her out until she had written enough pages toward the next Claudine book. (Like Colette, Claudine began as a 15-year-old girl from a small town in Burgundy who got in trouble at school and indulged in lesbian affairs.)  When Willy and Colette separated, they continued to see each other, but Colette constantly had problems with money and poor health, until the success of “La Chair”.
Despite her interest in women, Colette never lacked for male lovers throughout her long life. By June 1910, Colette’s divorce from Willy was final, and she was acting in another melodrama featuring nudity-- “Sisters of Salome”. In 1912 she married the editor of the prestigious newspaper Le Matin, Henry de Jouvenal.  She had a daughter with him in 1913.  The marriage allowed her to concentrate on her writing career and she produced two well-received novels Chéri in 1920 and Le  Blé en Herbe in 1923.  Both dealt with the subject of an older woman falling in love with a much younger man.
Like most of her novels, these books were drawn from Colette’s own experience. The marriage to Jouvenal fell apart when he discovered that his wife was having an affair with her 16-year-old stepson Bertrand, child of his first marriage. They divorced in 1924. Colette was 51. The following year she married her final husband, Maurice Goudeket, who was 16 years her junior. By then she was considered France’s greatest woman writer. 
Colette’s husband Maurice was a Jew, and he was arrested by the Gestapo in December of 1941. Thanks to the efforts of Colette and the French wife of the German ambassador, he was released a few months later, but the couple lived in Paris in fear of his being re-arrested throughout the war.  In 1944 Colette published her most famous book, “Gigi”, about a 16-year-old Parisian girl who is being trained as a courtesan but decides to get married instead.
 Colette died on Aug. 3, 1954, at the age of 81.  She was refused a religious funeral by the Catholic Church, but was given a State Funeral—the first French woman to be so honored. She was enrolled in the Legion d’honneur and buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery.  

Monday, October 8, 2018

Was Columbus Really Greek?

I see that Trump stirred up a lot of controversy on the internet today with his praise for Columbus as a hero.  So I thought I'd add to the fuss by reprinting my post from four years ago that suggests that Columbus was in fact a Greek, from the island of Chios.

 "Reception of Columbus by Ferdinand and Isabella"

I realize I may sound like Gus, the dad in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" who chauvinistically insists that everything originally came from Greece and Greek culture, but a number of historians do believe that Christopher Columbus was not Italian but came from the Greek island of Chios, specifically the mastic-growing village of Pirgi.   (Only on Chios will you find the mastic tree, which produces a resin that has made the people rich since the 14th century. ) 
"Santa Maria--Flag Ship of Columbus"
When I visited Pirgi on the island of Chios, I learned that many families  there still have the last name "Columbus".   All the buildings in Pirgi, even churches and banks, are decorated with a unique kind of geometric patterns made by scraping away the top lawyer of white plaster to reveal the darker color beneath.

 This decoration is called  ksista (“scraped” in Greek) or, in Italian, scrafitti. It is believed to have originated in Genoa and spread to Chios when the island was under Genovese rule—from 1346-1566-- but it’s still done today in Pirgi.

"The Landing of Columbus at San Salvador October 12th 1492"

Here are some of the reasons that historians like Ruth G. Durlacher-Wolper, who wrote "Christophoros Columbus: A Byzantine Prince from Chios, Greece", believe that the discoverer of the Americas was a Greek from Chios.

"Triumphal Procession at Barcelona in Honor of Columbus"
--He was said to come from Genoa, but the island of Chios was under Genovese rule from 1346 to1566, so it was part of the Republic of Genoa during Columbus's time.
--Columbus kept his journals in Latin and Greek--not Italian, which he didn't even speak well.
--He signed his named "Christopher" with the Greek letter X .
--He made notes in Greek in the margins of his favorite book--Imago Mundi, by Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly.
--He referred to himself as "Columbus of the Red Earth" and also wrote about mastic gum. Chios is noted for its red soil in the south of the island, which is the only place where mastic grows. 
--The name "Columbus" is carved over many doors in the villages of Pirgi  and a priest with that name traces his family on the island back more than 600 years.
Whatever the truth may be about Columbus's origins, I wanted to illustrate this Columbus Day blog post with some of the many scenes on a bed coverlet that I have hanging on a wall  near my computer.  It was sewn in redwork (also called "turkeywork") by a woman with the initials "E M" in 1892 to celebrate the tetracentennial of Columbus's landing. Whenever I look at it, I wonder at the many hours it must have taken her to complete this tribute.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Amalia’s Mermaid Birthday Parties

Ever since her sixth birthday party last August (theme:  Fairyland), Amalia has been planning for her seventh birthday party, which she decided would be a mermaid party.  Her Mommy spent months on the internet, tracking down treasures like mermaid necklaces and mermaid spoons and personalized mermaid goody bags and a mermaid outfit for each guest.  When Amalia’s mermaid costume came in the mail, she couldn’t wait to try it on.  And she looked so happy!
Amalia insisted on having the party in August (her birthday’s actually on August 26) even though many of her friends were still out of town on Sunday, August 16, when six girls arrived, along with parents and a couple of siblings.  Most of them put on their mermaid outfits at once, and then they got a complete “mermaid makeover” with face painting by Amalia and Nico’s artistic nanny, Jennie, (who will be leaving in October, when she has her own baby.)  After the makeover, the girls decorated mermaid mirrors with shells, played mermaid Bingo and “Pin the Tail on the Mermaid”, and had their Polaroid photos taken in the photo booth to record the day.
There were snacks on the table—sandwiches and cookies shaped like shells, seahorses and mermaid tails, veggies, including a hummus and carrot octopus, and, finally, it was time for the cake, which Mommy and Amalia had made the night before.  (Amalia made the mermaid on the cake all by herself!)  The mermaid piñata with blue hair was the centerpiece until it was time to unload her treats by pulling on ribbons (so much nicer than beating them out of her with a stick!)
The New York birthday party ended, just like last year, with the young mermaids throwing Yiayia Joanie out of Amalia’s bedroom so they could open the presents and goodie bags in private.
And then it was time for Amalia’s Massachusetts birthday party in Grafton, attended by her extended family.   On August 26, Amalia woke to a breakfast of cupcakes topped with a candle.  Because she had spent the entire summer obsessively reading all the Harry Potter books, she was wearing a nightgown based on Harry and Hermione’s Hogwarts school uniform.  Then her aunt Frosso and family gave Amalia her favorite birthday gift of all—a Sorting Hat, just like Harry had at Hogwarts, which sits on your head and selects which house you are destined for: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, or Ravenclaw.  The hat talks and its mouth moves, and Amalia got chosen for Gryffindor, just like Harry Potter.
Then the rest of us had our chance at the sorting hat, as it analyzed our nature.  Yiayia Joanie got Ravenclaw—(for students who are arrogant and intelligent.)
Soon Amalia and Nico were down by the pool, waiting for people to arrive.  Amalia checked out the Emoji piñata.
People came and splashed and swam like mermaids and ate pizza and Greek salad.  The Emoji piñata was destroyed.  Then it was time for the Mermaid cake and ice cream.  The cake came from my favorite bakery—Yummy Mummy in Westboro.   Amalia had given the baker and designer a detailed memo on what color the frosting should be—yellow and purple hair, blue for the waves, etc.
Amalia blew out the mermaid tail candle and insisted on cutting the cake herself.

The celebrating went on all afternoon, but before it was over, we assembled to take this photograph of us.   It will be a bittersweet memory, because we don’t know when we will all be together again.  Marina and Jeff (at left) were headed back to San Francisco. Eleni, Emilio and their kids, at right (with Amalia clutching her beloved book) headed back to New York. And Frosso and her family, including husband Sy, little Stone and Baby Eleni, as well as her mom, the Big Eleni, are moving to Sarasota, Florida!

Meanwhile, Amalia is already planning her next year’s birthday party.  Will it be a Harry Potter theme?  Stay tuned!