The Littlest Angel

The new Mach’ was challenge is to do something with a children’s book. Immediately I thought of The Littlest Angel, a children’s book I have owned from when I was 6 years old. My The Slipper and the Rose book also came to mind, but I think I got that one a little later. So, The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell it is. It’s become a little tattered over the years and as a child I even traced over the letters in the word “Angel” on the cover.

Angel 01

I know I’ve had this children’s book from when I was 6 years old because the book has an inscription for me written by my mother.

Angel 02

Only looking at it now do I realize that the illustrator is named Sergio Leone! I don’t think it’s the Sergio Leone, the director of those famous Westerns. I’ve been trying to research it online for a bit but all I can find to connect the two Sergios is this blog post about a ‘same name syndrome’. That author also thinks these are two different men.

Anyway, The Littlest Angel used to be a favourite book of mine, otherwise I wouldn’t have kept it so carefully all these years. However, I don’t think I’ve actually read it since my childhood! It has moved with me from Israel where it was gifted to me, to three addresses in Germany, to five addresses in The Netherlands. Well, maybe four, I don’t think I took it with me to boarding school in The Netherlands. Recently, we set up new bookshelves in our living room and many of “my” books were transferred from the large shelves to the new ones. The Littlest Angel moved to the top shelf on the left, bottom of the pile, and it was the first time I had actually held the book and looked into it in years!

shelf

The book is a very Christian Christmas story (not that I remember noticing that at the time) and is about a little angel, 4 and a half years old, who presents himself at the gates of heaven.

Angel 03

I’m not sure I can post all the pictures I took of this book (you know, copyright and all) but the story is about this little angel not quite fitting in. His whistle is too loud and disturbs the “Patriarch prophets”, he sings off-key thus disturbing the ethereal sound of the celestial choirs, he has trouble flying with his tiny wings and he can’t keep his little halo in check: “However, owing to the regrettable fact that he always forgot to move his wings, the Littlest Angel always fell head over halo!”. I used to love the images of paths in between the clouds and the little angel chasing after his halo.

Angel 05

The Littlest Angel needs a little disciplining and he dawdles a bit on his way to the angel he has to speak with…

Angel 07

He gets to the Understanding Angel, immediately feels at ease, and tells the Understanding Angel that he’s a little bored and longs for a box he used to have under his bed which contains his earthly treasures. It is brought to him and he is happy. Then the time comes that the Christ Child is to be born and each angel has to pick a gift to give the Child. The Littlest Angel tries to figure out what to do.

Angel 10

In the end he decides to gift his little box to the Christ Child but he also starts to feel embarrassed and inadequate because his gift isn’t as beautiful and glorious as all the other gifts. Oh wonder of wonders, the Hand of God in the end decides to pick that little brown box as the main gift for the Christ Child. It contains ordinary, child treasures, such as “a butterfly with golden wings, captured one bright summer on the hills above Jerusalem, and a sky-blue egg from a bird’s nest in the olive tree that stood to shade at his mother’s kitchen door.” Seeing that I was living right outside Jerusalem at the time I read this book, in a village in the Jerusalem hills, and there were indeed more than enough olive trees to be found, I could completely picture all of this in my mind’s eye.

Angel 12

The little box gets lifted up into the heavens, it starts to glow, and ends up being the Star of Bethlehem, shining over Jesus’  crib.

Angel 13

At the end of the book, you  can really see how tattered it’s becoming. It is, however, still in one piece, so that’s something!

Angel 14

While I did remember large chunks of the story, I didn’t remember the end part. Maybe even then I thought the whole box as a Star of Bethlehem thing was a little far-fetched and tended to skip that part? What I mostly remember is that I liked it being about a little bit of a naughty angel who did his own thing and I liked the image of what life in heaven, up there on the clouds, must be like. I also had this image in my head of these angels sliding down to earth on a rainbow slide to paint the flowers and then later watering the plants with little watering cans from the skies, thus making it rain on earth. That must have been from another angel book, though, which I think I must now go in search of. My mum was always into angels, so has all kinds of angels throughout her house (like the ones in the pictures below). My kids even call her “Oma Engel”  (Grandma Angel), so it’s no wonder I had all these angel books growing up.

How fun that this Mach’ was challenge made me travel down memory lane and read that book again for the first time in 37-40 years or so! Thank you Herba and Die Pö.

A conversation with Gregory Peck

I was watching the documentary A Conversation with Gregory Peck on Netflix earlier this evening (I was very pleasantly surprised to find it there!). It was made in 1999 (4 years before Peck died) during a speaking tour he did throughout the US, where he spoke about his life and his career.

As I watched it, I realized I must have seen at least some of it before although there were also bits I didn’t remember. As an old-time Gregory Peck fan, hearing the stories he had to tell about his career (even though I already knew many) was an absolute joy! At one special moment in the documentary the actress who played his daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird was in the audience. Apparently she still called him Atticus and he still called her Scout. 🙂  He also invited his wife Veronique up on stage for a little bit…

The documentary also touched on Gregory Peck’s political convictions. He was famous for being a democrat and liberal and in the video speaks of opposing the Vietnam war while at the same time being proud of his son Stephen who had served in the army during that war. He is also shown giving a speech in Philadelphia in 1999 about gun control…

He says,“Is it the culture or the guns that led to the massacre at Columbine High School? And it is of course both. What is wrong with keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people?” Today, 19 years on, I could still give him a standing ovation for that. Gregory and I would certainly have agreed with each other politically…

What I loved even more in this documentary was the behind the scenes glimpses of him, with his wife and his family. His daughter Cecilia co-produced this documentary and was in it a lot…

Conversation Gregory Peck 08

… but there are also glimpses of his other kids (two sons, Stephen and Carey, from his first marriage and a son, Anthony, from his marriage to Veronique). I loved the images of a family get-together, where they all sat around and watched basketball. Look at the anticipation on the faces of Gregory and his son Stephen here!

Conversation Gregory Peck 02Conversation Gregory Peck 03

I had to blink away a few tears when Gregory spoke of his son Jonathan who had committed suicide at the age of 30, with Gregory wondering whether he could have done more to prevent that. And I blinked away major tears when the film featured Gregory waiting at the hospital for his daughter Cecilia to give birth and then meeting his 10 minute old grandson! Most parts of the documentary are also up on YouTube, I’ll just share this part about the birth here (from 5.20 minutes onwards in this video)…

The fascination with his new grandson and the concern he shows over his daughter just after giving birth so very much reminds me of my own father (and my mother) after my son was first born. Yet again, here is Gregory reminding me of my dad, even in the way he was a dad to his daughter! My parents showed that same love to my baby and the same concern for me…

2001 A. born papa mama Esther

… and their love and concern was repeated two and a half years later when my daughter was born..

The look of being in love with a new baby grandchild is very similar… It made me miss Gregory Peck and it made me miss my dad.

Conversation Gregory Peck 05

Oh, how I still love Gregory Peck! If you like him too, I recommend you check out this documentary on Netflix a.s.a.p…

Esther-Daddy Day

This evening the Jewish festival of Purim starts, celebrating the Persian Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people from genocide some 2500 years ago. My parents gave my siblings and me names from the Hebrew bible (old testament). So, my brothers and sisters are called: Rachel, David, Daniel (in fairness, Daniel wasn’t named by my parents; he came to our family age 11 and fit right in, name and all!), Joel, Rebecca and Jonathan. And then there’s me, Esther, named after Queen Esther herself! Hence also the title of this blog – I am named after the biblical queen in The Book of Esther and books tells stories, which in a way I do here as well, sharing stories and experiences in my life.

My parents always enjoyed giving me Queen Esther themed gifts. Many of them I don’t have anymore, or are scattered throughout the house and I don’t know where they are, but I do have two paintings still hanging on my walls here. One of the them, called “The town of  Queen Esther” was painted/printed by an acquaintance my parents had many years ago…

Queen Esther 2

It’s not my fave painting ever, but I like it enough to keep on my staircase wall.

A second piece of art I own hangs in my living room and was once given to me by my parents. It’s an absolutely fascinating ink drawing they got me when we were all visiting the artistic town of Tzfat (Safed) once in the north of Israel…

Queen Esther 1

If you look closely you’ll see that the figure of Esther and the pillars next to her are made up of tiny Hebrew lettering. We were told that the whole text of the Book of Esther is worked into this ink drawing! I just love this. This drawing is not only connected to my name and that bible story, it is also forever connected to my parents who picked it out for me. I can still see myself standing outside this artist’s atelier together with my parents, deciding on this particular work of art.

Tomorrow is not only Purim, the festival of Esther, but is also the second anniversary of the passing of my father. I am happy to have such mementoes as this one that keep me connected to him. So, as this evening/tomorrow is the happy festival of Purim as well as a day during which I commemorate my dad, I am dubbing March 12th, 2017 “Esther-Daddy Day”!

According to Jewish custom you say “May his memory be for a blessing!” and I can honestly say that although I will miss him forever, my father’s memory truly is a blessing. For tomorrow I wish for my family and myself to be filled with not only sad but also many happy memories and in Yiddish I wish to those who celebrate (my Jewish brother and sister among them) “A freilichen Purim”!

30 Day Movie Challenge – Day 6

Day 6 – The first movie you ever saw in a cinema

The first movie I remember seeing in the cinema was towards the end of the 1970s when I was living in Jerusalem and my mother took me (and possibly some of my siblings as well but I don’t really remember that) to see the Cinderella movie musical The Slipper and the Rose starring Richard Chamberlain and Gemma Craven. I must have been around 7 or 8 at the time.

I posted about this movie once before while reminiscing about Richard Chamberlain (go to that post if you want to see some more delightful clips). Seeing this movie sparked a love for Cinderella stories that I am still susceptible to today and an admiration for Richard Chamberlain.

I could have written about this movie in yesterday’s category as well (‘A movie that reminds you of someone’) as I always have to think of my parents when I see this. My mom loved this movie as I did (I think she had a crush on Richard Chamberlain too) and my dad’s nostrils would quiver with pleasure when he watched the “Protocoligorically Correct” song. I even still have the accompanying hard cover children’s book, worn for having been read so often, with beautiful full colour images of the movie that my mom gave me as a present around that time.

Richard Chamberlain is so charming as the prince, I can watch him forever in this! Michael Hordern is a wonderul scatterbrained King, Kenneth More is a lovely, pompous Lord Chamberlain and Annette Crosbie is the bubbly, ever so rushed and overworked Fairy Godmother. Cinderella (Gemma Craven) is admittedly almost too sweet but that doesn’t hinder the fun! She’s the pink princess any 8 year old would love (except my daughter who unlike me never liked princesses).

OK, yes, the film is very sugary, I do realize that, and I can understand that many people would find that a bit much to bear. But there are also some nicely fleshed out characters that make me laugh every time (I mean, come on, I defy anyone to not enjoy that silly king and the pompous Lord Chamberlain) and the cleverly rhymed and fun songs (despite two or so very sappy ones) make this movie such a joy to watch! I think it is mostly a forgotten film now and I find that to be such a shame…

(30 Day Movie Challenge – the full list of questions)

 

Four score years

My mother is 80 years old today!

Mama bday1

This picture of her was taken at a wedding when she was about 5 or 6 years old and she was a bridesmaid.

We  celebrated her birthday last weekend with a high tea, followed by a lovely guided tour through Panorama Mesdag, a special museum hosting a huge panoramic painting connected to her family history as her grandfather’s ships are portrayed on that huge panoramic painting. Afterwards we had cake and dinner at her apartment, it was a lovely, albeit totally exhausting day. I have lots of brothers and sisters and everyone came, including my two brothers living abroad. We were a group of about 20 people. Great day!

My mum is quite fit for her 80 years, here’s to many years more!