Letters throughout this time, copious letters from Susanna to her dad, from Vicki and Kathleen, back and forth; their struggles in New York City; living on their own, struggling to find and keep work-- funny and heart breaking, from Brooklyn to Manhattan, apartment to apartment, culture shock; the subways, the people, Vicki’s budding alcoholism, Kathleen’s creeping and devastating mental illness. They were teenage sisters lost in chronic self sabotage and fantasy. There were letters when Susanna met my father where both played opposite one another starring in The Los Angeles Civic Light Opera’s production of Naughty Marietta in 1948. There were letters of their courting, their marriage six months later , their national operetta tour, their glorious love and hope, my birth, our triumphant move to London. Letters suffused with pride and happiness. Kathleen’s surfacing and strengthening schizophrenia in the states, her "psychopathic breakdown" only magnified the flurry and tumult. Transatlantic letters filled with despair, confusion, hope and feeble diagnosis. My grandfather’s cross country bus rides following his daughter’s route through psychiatric to psychiatric hospital.
Oh yes, and there were the dozens of pieces of left-over fan mail from all over the world; Hong Kong, Australia, Ireland, Canada, many not even opened. I opened one from Angola asking for Susanna’s autographed picture, enclosed $20 “Angolares” to secure its return. For me, a remarkable and incredible find. The clippings! My God, the Clippings! Not only clippings...whole pages and magazines dedicated to their performances.
Old, saffroned, crumbly newspapers and magazines with that musty smell I always had a particular fascination with. They held time, they held history as it happened, a simple wisdom, an aromatic wisdom? Now suddenly I had dozens of these articles of not just history but of my family’s history. With a revered sense of a family connection, I would now, proudly... move on.
Yes, returning home from California, things began to settle down and sink and sear in. The letters, photos, newspaper clippings, all of it. I was mesmerized, fascinated, burdened, excited and terribly overwhelmed by this copious family material that I suddenly had in my possession. The dance of self-discovery began. The dance at times has been a lighthearted prideful waltz, maybe a syncopated enthralling disco hustle where every step was smoothe and true...to more often than not... a ball and chain dragged across a gouged dance floor that screamed… “I can’t do this!”