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Forward to the Past Memoirs, Anecdotes, Bio Reflections

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The Secret Behind the Black Hole



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The Mystery of the Tarnkapp Planet



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All Aboard




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My Third Birthday and the Playground of Dreams

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Forward to the Past Memoirs, Anecdotes, Bio Reflections

…As soon as I envisioned the creation of Memories Anecdotes and Bio- Reflections (if you haven’t already noticed, I’m using my initials MAB!) real life dared to get in the way several times and derailed my journey that I appropriately call Forward to the Past (I stole the idea from the movie “Back to the Future”)…

…The notion of writing about my life, my ancestry and whatever I remember and would find out about Hal’s ancestry and our lives together, came to me at a moment when all of a sudden I realized that there are only one or two wonderful people still alive from the generation before me! Once their lives come to an end on this earth and they cross over, I’ll be “it”—the only one left with the knowledge of all our combined past. So before I would totally forget what I do remember and what I have discovered, I became determined to document everything…

…From previous writing experiences I know that once the creative juices start flowing, they manage to wake up brain cells from a deep sleep state. And sure enough, as soon as these cells—probably billions of them—received the kiss of life, I once again was able to rely on their uniqueness, their productivity and their enlightenment…

…This third book-pregnancy of mine has fertilized my memory, my musing of the past and all the phases in time—I hope it will do the same for you because as soon as the seed was planted, I became extremely excited to share Forward to the Past and my Memories, Anecdotes and Bio-Reflections with you!…

…I hope that all of you, my beloved descendants, welcome my new offspring—after all, this beautiful, bouncy baby is ready to tell you about your ancestry and spin you forward to your past…

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…When Papa returned home from French POW camp, he was in extremely frail condition. “He was like a feather, like an old, old man. He couldn’t even make it up the stairs,” Mutti wrote. Worse than that, during one of the battles, Papa’s left eye was hit by flying shrapnel. Lying injured in the combat zone, he was taken prisoner by the French who were not in a rush to perform the necessary eye surgery on Papa in their field hospital. When the French finally operated on Papa they, unfortunately, didn’t care or try hard enough or they were not capable to repair the damage. (Many years later, Papa was told that immediate surgery by a specialist could have restored more than fifty percent of his vision)…

…Given the fact that he had lost most of his sight in the left eye as well as almost half his former body weight, it was difficult for my father to regain his strength. Besides, there was hardly anything to eat for anyone. At 6.3”, Papa, who prior to the war was known for his healthy appetite and athletic build, could not tolerate any of the available food other than oatmeal during those post-war days. Mutti claimed that the oatmeal diet actually healed and helped him. As soon as he started to gain some weight and was strong enough, Papa, together with some of his friends, started their own business. I should call it “risky business” because it wasn’t exactly legal! Since food was hard to come by and since most of the household goods had already been traded for food, the men became rather resourceful…

…I remember one story in particular because as a child, I heard it over and over again: Papa and his friends made weekly trips from the city to the countryside where, in the darkness of the night, the men sneaked onto farmland and cut off horsetails. From these beautiful long tails, they fabricated brushes and brooms in their city homes. Then, during daytime, they walked back to the countryside and traded these hard-to-come-by magnificent brushes and brooms to the farmers for food—hopefully not the same farmers whose horses were galloping over the meadows in search of their tails…

…Somehow Papa’s entrepreneurial skills must have been quite lucrative and, together with a little financial assistance from each of my parents’ families, Mutti and Papa were able to rent their own apartment at Hildesheimer Strasse 200. Even though I was not quite two years old, I somehow think I remember when we left Oma and Opa’s cozy hospitality…

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…August Daniel Joseph Pallenberg (Opa) was born March 27, 1884 in Koln (Cologne). Being of the catholic faith and deeply religious, my great-grandparents obviously denied themselves any form of birth control. My great-grandmother, lo and behold, was pregnant more than twenty times, of which approximately ten pregnancies ended in miscarriages. Hard to believe? Well, it’s true and in August of 2006 my ninety- three year old uncle confirmed this incredible fact…

…On our walk around the Riesser See in August of 2006, Augie recalled that two of my grandfather’s siblings passed away as toddlers. Two other siblings ran away (or disappeared) from their boarding schools and, according to Opa, no family member heard from them ever again. Even though the memories are vague and I don’t have all the data nor do I have the last names of the majority of Opa’s siblings (eight of them were girls), I learned that some of them made a name for themselves. There was an artist, an actor, a published writer, a successful businessman and a horse breeder whose most famous racehorse was named “Pallenberg”…

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…Amongst Mutti’s records, I found an old family tree from the Pallenberg side, going back to Valentin Pallenberg, born in 1684. It was done in the German language and from what I can see, most of our ancestors had many children and they were quite a “colorful” bunch, ranging from blue-collar workers to highly successful businessmen and artists…

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…Writing this chapter about my grandparents, looking at them in photographs, reading about them on pages, hand-written in beautiful old German script, brings cherished glimmerings of the past back to the forefront of my brain. At the same time, my memory awakens the pain I felt when they left this world. Only a child then, I realized I would never be able to see their faces, hear their voices, touch their hands and be hugged by these wonderful human beings again…

…It was all so long ago but writing about my roots now, makes me realize who left impressionable imprints forever on my brain, heart and soul. My ancestors’ influence will always be part of me; their bloodline is still flowing through my veins, nurturing and cultivating me with values that, hopefully, I continue to transfer to my children and grandchildren…

…Genetic studies have shown that traits can be passed from one generation to another. But influences and impressions from our ancestral lineage don’t miraculously replicate themselves. How awesome though, that we are blessed with the ability to remember! If we concentrate, we are able to recall every cherished point in time. Some of us may be hesitant to do so because memories also store painful periods…

…One of Mutti’s wisdoms came from her mother and was passed on to me: “One might always remember mental or physical pain. However, in order to move on with a smile, the ‘bad’ should never be allowed to overshadow all the ‘good’ that life offers”…

…Mutti, as did her mother, compared it with a birth. “Going through hours of labor can be a very painful experience. Yet, the second you hold that beautiful new life in your arms, you are able to disregard what you just went through. If you choose to remind yourself of the pain, you probably never want to go through labor again. Obviously we are able to move past the memory of pain and discomfort because we know that the miracle and beauty of life will reward and surprise us again and again and again…

…in 1910

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…This large, four-story apartment building was built in 1898. Opi had purchased the land a few years prior and tore down the existing smaller structure. As I mentioned before, he and Omi occupied the entire first floor and rented out six apartments of the two stories above…

…Years later, while my parents lived in Nurnberg, Omi and three of her children (Elisabeth, Dorchen and Karl), together with their families, lived in three separate apartments in the same family-owned building. WWII already had destroyed most sections of Hannover and on March 25, 1945, in the second to last big bombardment attacks on Hannover by the Americans, a Phosphorbrandbombe (a certain phosphoric bomb) hit the family owned building on Gustav Adolf Strasse and immediately destroyed one half. (By the way, in April 1945 Hannover became occupied by the U.S.)…

…Within minutes, the remaining other half of the building was engulfed in flames. Usch told me that during the attack, as with every attack, the family had taken shelter in a bunker across the street. As soon as the sirens signaled the attack was over, Usch stuck her head out of the bunker and was the first one to see that their home had been hit. She and her twin sister Hannelore were sixteen years old. They ran across the street to see if they could salvage some of their belongings but by then the fire was spreading fiercely and Usch barely made it through the flames into the street again…

…To make a long story short, everything the three Schroder families owned was gone, as was true for the other tenants in the building. All the parties were “ausgebombt,” (bombed out), a term used for those who lost their entire personal effects…

…Uncle Karl, who held a degree in building engineering and city planning, was employed by the City of Hannover and became very instrumental in rebuilding the city in the two decades that followed the war. During the chaotic days, immediately after WWII ended, Uncle Karl managed to prove that the building in Gustav Adolf Strasse rightfully belonged to the Schroder family (many people who didn’t have proof, permanently lost the right to their properties or had to wait for many years to re-establish ownership— often times it was too late because the land was sold and new buildings had already been erected). Anyway, Uncle Karl, together with an old friend, re-built the building on Gustav Adolf Strasse. In 1948, three years after WWII ended, Omi and her daughter Elisabeth as well as Uncle Karl, his wife Gretel and their twin daughters were able to move back into their new dwellings…

…Today, the space where the family grocery store once prospered has been turned into various office spaces that are being rented out. Hannelore’s oldest daughter Susanne remodeled the entire attic of the building, creating a spacious fabulous penthouse; on any of the three terraces one has a spectacular birds-eye view over the red tiled roofs of Hannover…

…At the age of four, I have a vague memory of Omi Schroder lifting me into her lap and telling me that she liked my dress and that I looked beautiful while I studied her old wrinkled face and the protruding veins on her hands. Mutti told me, that the family was rather amused when I asked Omi how come she had so many blue worms under the skin of her hands…

…I remember that Omi always wore dark long skirts with either white or black blouses. Her snow-white hair was neatly pulled back into a low bun and she always had a smile on her lips. I remember her reading me stories while I was sucking on my lollipop and I remember her shaky hands and fingers when she turned the pages…

…Omi died in 1949 at the age of eighty-five; the day after her death, I turned five years old…

…in 1894

…house with delicatessen business at Gustav…(ca. 1914)

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…I remember laughing each time I heard the story that Opa, during the reception festivities, snuck out and shocked the bride, groom and guests when he re-entered the hall, unrecognized at first because he had transformed himself into a tribal African. His face and entire body was painted black, he had donned a grass skirt, head ornaments and native beads and bangles on his wrists and ankles while holding an original spear in his hand. My grandfather, known for his comedic interpretations of various foreign characters (male or female), pretended to be left behind by his tribe and was looking for anyone (preferably a female) who could give him shelter. After he delivered his perfectly African accented plea for help, he performed a tribal dance. Mutti told me there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the hall exploded from laughter, When Opa tried to cozy up to the ladies, trying to steal kisses, he purposely left black make-up on their cheeks. Soon hilarious hysteria took over. But that wasn’t all. After having washed off his African tribal colors, Opa, dressed again in his tuxedo, joined the festivities to mix and mingle, eat and drink with the guests. Then, he snuck out once again only to re-appear a short time later as a ballerina to perform his rendition of “the dying swan” from “Swan Lake.” Needless to say, Opa’s performance had his audience rolling on the floor once again. “It was such a beautiful and happy wedding—and I was in seventh heaven,” Mutti said…

…Opa definitely started a family tradition because the costumed surprise appearances later were carried on by my mother, her siblings and in the third generation, my cousin Horst!…

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…During the first decade after the war, it was customary for many small merchants and peddlers to travel through the streets on their horse-pulled wagons. Some of them were shouting out their goods, others hollered that they were buying scrap metals. And then there were the horse-pulled carts, delivering heavy merchandise. One of those latter merchants was a particularly friendly man who allowed the children to feed his horse and, with the parents’ permission, gave us a ride around the block. One sunny day, while neither of our mothers or fathers were nearby, he gave into our pleas and allowed Helga and myself to sit next to him on his way to make another delivery a few blocks away from Karl-Peters-Platz. While he was busy carrying the merchandise into the house, Helga and I took the long whip out of its holder and playfully swung it through the air. With that, the horse whinnied loudly, jerked its head against the reins and reared up on its hind legs. Before we knew what was happening, the horse started to gallop and we started to shriek with fear. We heard car brakes screeching and people screaming as we were holding onto the bar, trying not to get thrown off the wagon. As the horse raced across another intersection, a road construction worker, who saw the galloping horse and wagon coming toward him, managed to grab the side of the wagon, heaved himself onto the vehicle and got hold of the reins. When he finally got the horse under control we were fifteen blocks away from our homes. Our guardian angels were with us that day and the story had more than one happy ending: Helga and I didn’t get punished because our parents were so happy that we were alive! Also, the construction worker received a monetary reward from both sets of our parents and the friendly merchant didn’t get mad at us—he remained friendly whenever he came through our neighborhood. But… because of Helga and my escapade, the merchant never allowed another child to ride on his wagon again. But the best of it was that, for a short period of time, Helga and I were the talk of the town—we had indeed become famous!…

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“…Vladimirets! The first time I heard the name of that little Russian or Polish town was in 1971—shortly after I got married. Over the years I not only heard Hal talk about the shetl where his ancestors came from but I also listened to stories about Vladimirets as they were told by Mary, Sam and Sidney. Had I known then that one day in the future I would write a family history book, I certainly would have asked many more questions about their families, their friends, their lives. Instead, all these years later, I had to do my questioning the hard way…

…When I began my research about Vladimirets in 2007, I almost got discouraged, learning that no records of birth, marriage or death had survived for that town. The Nazis during WWII had destroyed every precious single document! Needless to say, I didn’t give up. I knew that within the internet world of google searches and other engines, I would find traces and, voilà… I did locate stories from survivors of Vladimirets. While reading their accounts, I heard Sidney and Sam’s voices in my head, sharing their tales with me. And as I continued absorbing the statements of sad events, written by these survivors, I also heard Hal’s voice as he remembered many stories he heard from his mother…

…Following is a record of the early days of Vladimirets, life in a shtetl as Mary, Sam and their families enjoyed it and reports of what happened when all Jewish life in Vladimirets was taken and the town was destroyed…

…The first Jews in Vladimirets came in the late 17th to early 18th Century. For more than one hundred and fifty years, the Jews built and grew that little town where they traded and mingled with Poles and Russians. On August 28th, 1942, all Jews in Vladimirets were exterminated and the entire town was erased. After the war, a few survivors drifted back, but left again quickly…

…Vladimirets was a bit larger than other shtetls in the region because the railroad stopped there—but in most ways, it was a typical shtetl: not a city, not rural and deeply connected to other Jewish communities in the area…

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…Whenever Sam allowed himself some free time, he mingled with the other Vladimiretsans. Among his friends from the shtetl were the two Melamed girls and it was obvious to everybody that Sam had his eyes on the younger sister, Mariasa, who by then was known as Mary…

…Sam knew that Mary was about to become engaged to another young man from Vladimirets but it did not matter to him; he had fallen in love and his mind was made up. The courtship didn’t take long and according to the story from some of our relatives, Sam literally “swept Mary off her feet.” Soon after they became engaged in Michigan. Their engagement was rather short because on October 12, 1920 Mary and Sam were officially married…


“…ca.1918…”

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…Whereas three of the Melamed siblings had escaped the pogroms during the early 1900s and the youngest, Sidney, was lucky enough to flee the holocaust of WWII, the rest of their family became victim to the massacre of the Nazis and the Ukrainians. In 1943, Vladimirets was totally destroyed and, except for a few Jews who were able to escape Hitler’s butchers, the majority of Jews from that shtetl was murdered. As I mentioned before, all the records of Vladimirets were destroyed in 1943; nothing remained that could prove the existence of the Jewish population there—the actuality of their lives only was brought forth by memories of the few survivors…

…”Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example.” Anne Frank, “Diary of a Young Girl” (1947), entry dated April 1946…

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…Bella’s past had been quite tragic, as it was for so many other Jews during WWII. Born on April 6, 1924 in Lodz, Poland, Bella enjoyed a fine upbringing until the war started. Her mother and father were both very educated and lived in a lovely apartment with their three children: Ròża was the oldest daughter, followed by son Heniek and daughter Bella…

…Lodz, located in central Poland, held the second largest Jewish community in Europe with Warsaw holding the largest. When the Nazis attacked, Poles and Jews worked frantically to dig ditches to defend their city. Only seven days after the attack on Poland started, Lodz was occupied. Within four days of Lodz’s occupation, Jews became targets for beatings, robberies and seizure of property. September 14, 1939, only six days after the occupation of Lodz, was Rosh Hashanah when the Nazis ordered the Jews on this Highest of Holy Days to keep their businesses open and ordered all the synagogues to be closed…

…While Warsaw was still fighting off the Germans (Warsaw finally surrendered on September 27), the 230,000 Jews in Lodz were already feeling the beginnings of Nazi persecution. On November 7, 1939, Lodz was incorporated into the Third Reich and the Nazi’s changed its name to Litzmannstadt…

…As living conditions were deteriorating in the ghetto, Bella’s family, the Tenenbaums, managed to keep together in cramped living quarters. But one day, when eighteen-year old Bella returned home from school, her family’s apartment was empty. Bella told me that dishes with food were left sitting on the table and that the curtains were softly blowing in the wind through the open window—apparently the family had sat down for lunch when the Nazis stormed in and took them and neighbors away. Bella never saw her mother, father, sister or brother again…

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…went to Senn High School for two years and then transferred to Tuley High but his attendance remained sporadic—probably more so than in grammar school. In later years, after becoming a successful businessman, Hal almost prided himself with the fact that he never graduated high school. On the other hand he wanted more for his own children. He regretted making the mistake of not seeing the full benefits of a good education when he was young and later he envisioned much more for his own children, namely to experience college life and getting wisdom from books and pedagogues instead of seeking a shrewd awareness on how to survive in an urban environment like he did…

…Not being interested in school books and attending classes, didn’t help Hal from having to study for his Bar Mitzvah; both, his mother and his father, were very firm about getting their son prepared for the ceremony that would admit a boy of the age thirteen as an adult member of their Jewish community…

…Two other boys from the neighborhood were preparing at the same time for their Bar Mitzvah and the lifelong friendship of Hal Beider, Art Petacque and Louis Wolff intensified during those days when the three boys walked to Rabbi Elkan’s apartment building on Division and Kedzie. There, on the second floor in his kitchen, Rabbi Elkan tutored the three Jewish musketeers so they would be able to chant their Torah portions…

…Bar Mitzvah in 1931

…Desperate to hear stories about their youth, I was lucky to locate Louis Wolff in January of 2009. Lou told me over the phone that basically Hal and he lived different lives. Louis recalled that Hal was busy running with the kids on the streets and in his spare time seemed to be “apprenticing” in his father’s business; during those days, Sam was running rooming houses and small transient hotels. Louis said, while Hal still had a lot of freedom, Louis already was made the breadwinner for his family at the age of fourteen. Because Louis’ father was only a small peddler and his mother was deaf, Louis needed to work so the family could survive…

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…Speaking of television, Art Petacque (who gave the eulogy at Hal’s funeral), went to seek higher education at universities and became a columnist for the Chicago SunTimes. When he got his own regular television spot on one of the local channels, Hal always watched his famous buddy Art. Hal was very proud of his life-long friend who had become the recipient of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize!…

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…“Harold didn’t come to dances as regular as Freddie but he loved music and always thought like a businessman,” Dan Bellack said. “Somehow Hal hooked up with Buddy Arvey, one of Chicago’s biggest playboys! Buddy Arvey’s father was Jake Arvey, a big political figure and very rich. Anyway, Hal and Buddy became co-producers of ‘Star Night’. I think it was either in 1953 or 1954. My orchestra, the Dan Bellack Orchestra, was not even big enough—I had to hire more violinists and other musicians for this venue at Soldier’s Field. This was a huge event with many popular singers, like Eddie Fisher, Patty Page, June Valli, Julius deRosa etc. But….the whole thing became a bust because it started to rain cats and dogs soon after the show started. It was a big disappointment for all of us plus we had to pay the orchestra, the stars etc. Fortunately Buddy Arvey had the foresight and taken weather insurance with Lloyd of London. He collected $27,000.00—a lot of money during those days—but it still didn’t pay all the expenses”…

…I remember Hal telling me how excited he was to put this event together and how devastated he became when the whole thing fell apart because of the weather. As a matter of fact, in our home in Wilmette we had pictures on the walls in our bar-restaurant- basement, some portraying the Dan Bellack Orchestra, and others portraying Hal with Patty Page and different celebrities. In another photograph Hal was holding the umbrella over one or more of the famous singers on this ill-fated night…

…Even though this big event turned into a flop, Hal must have enjoyed his producer-status because he tried one more time to make it big with Dan Bellack and his orchestra…

…“Hal financed a big recording session,” Dan told me. “This time he had hooked up with MGM and had high hopes of making all of us famous. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and the whole thing ended up being a loser. That was Hal’s first and last venture into the recording business,” Dan said….

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…I am not certain the fog ever lifted after the ceremony but certainly the shiver- fever-combo had stopped and was replaced by a big happy smile—perfect for the photographer who kept snapping away as Hal and I posed with “our” children, my in- laws, the extended family and later with the many friends who had been invited for a dinner reception to the home in Lincolnwood…

…Since our wedding was held in the middle of the week, rather than a traditional Saturday, the fête was more on the casual side but not at all less festive. I certainly didn’t regret that I had opted to wear a peach Pierre Cardin (copy) wedding dress instead of a white fairy-tale gown. I loved my ensemble and became more comfortable and felt more beautiful by the minute as Hal, my (new!) family and our friends extended their warmth, love and compliments to me throughout the evening…

…After the intoxicating festivities of our wedding came to an end, I was awed and adrenalized to be spending my first night in my new home as a new bride and new mother to two teenage children and ten-year old…”

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…“I’m getting really pissed off at Billy,” Rene said one morning on our beach hike. “How dare he leave me alone all day? And Hal…well he’s even worse. You guys are still newlyweds and he behaves like an old married fart”…

…It was obvious that Rene was angry and for some reason I only became irritated after she pointed out to me that the “boat” had become obviously more important to the husbands/fathers than any of us. I suggested a reverse psychology plot and after we had lunch with the kids, Rene and I walked to a nearby flower shop and chose two lovely arrangements to be delivered to us. We asked the florist to hand- write two notes that said something like, “To the gorgeous bathing beauty whom I’d like to meet,” and we had it signed, “An Admirer!”…

…Rene and I nervously giggled all the way back to the hotel and couldn’t wait for the late afternoon—by then our husbands would have returned, showered and would get ready for dinner. Sure enough, around 5:30…

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…Mutti turned out to be the quintessential yodeling Heidi as I had talked her into wearing my “Dirndl” outfit (a Bavarian costume) with my braided long blonde wig. After I applied rosy cheeks and tons of freckles on her nose, she laughed and assumed her role to perfection…

…Jackie appeared as a close to unrivaled copy of Marilyn Monroe, looking glamorous and sexy in her black satin dress and hairstyle from the fifties…

…There were many awesome other costume ideas, such as our heavy-set neighbor from across the street, Donald…, who was gutbusting as Batman when he showed up with his slender wife Bonna, dressed as Robin. Diane D… (who, in real life, always dressed picture perfect and never had a hair out of place) came as Phyllis Diller, totally disheveled, with a half unrolled curler sticking in her unruly hair. Her then husband… came as the “gun-slinging” John Wayne in a cowboy outfit. Oy… just as I typed “gun slinging,” I had a shiver run down my spine but I will later write about the… tragedy that occurred years later!…

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…As life had shown many times before, happiness and sadness walk a tightrope together and soon after Hal’s cousin Avrom and his wife Tova visited Chicago for the first time. It also was the first time that Sam embraced Avrom, a son of his brother Israel (Sam and Israel never saw each other after Sam left Vladimirets in 1912).

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…In early February Kenny, together with fellow actors, first appeared at the “Prop” on Clybourn and then at the “Chicago Actor’s Project” on Halstead in Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” directed again by Liz Sipes. The following article appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on February 10, 1989…
_______________________________________

Troupe plumbs O’Neill depths
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THEATER

By Julie Jacob Inn Town Theatre Company’s production of “Long Day’s Journey into

Night,” Eugene O’ Neill’s brilliant autobiographical play, is so well done it’s difficult to sit through.

The love-hate bonds in the “haunted” Tyrone family recall those of O’Neill’s own. Mother Mary, like O’Neill’s mother, is a dope fiend, addicted to morphine since the difficult birth of son Edmund (O’Neill’s version of himself). She can’t break the habit, partly because her stingy, alcoholic husband, actor James, never allows her a nest for her family. His dissolute, alcoholic older son, Jamie, tries both to protect and to defile beloved kid brother Edmund, who tries escape, hope and confrontation to reach out to the others.

Ultimately, Mary concludes that her big mistake in life was falling in love, thus engaging in the world rather than escaping into a convent. Even her once-beloved wedding dress, like the treasured scrap of paper on which James carried praise from a noted actor, can only be remembered in pain.

Each performance is exceptional. Everett F. Smith’s James perhaps defines the family, with his irrational temper and occasional flickers of tenderness toward the woman and sons he loves. Mary, played by Mary Ann Flynn, delicately hovers near madness as she goes back on morphine after a “cure.” The drug allows her both to escape her pain and to lash out openly at the others, an intricacy Flynn handles well. Jamie, played by Ken Beider, is beautifully balanced on equal parts slovenliness, despair, devotion and hatred. Scott McWilliams, playing Edmund, perhaps articulates his character the least, but convincingly portrays a man who, although overwhelmed by circumstance, still tries to stand upright.

Edmund finds peace in alcohol and in the sea; when he can lose himself, “for a second, there is meaning. Then the hand lets the veil fall and you’re alone, lost in the fog again…

…Despite the agony of watching this play done well, the playgoer leaves tiny Prop Theater knowing O’Neill understood the dynamics of the pain he couldn’t erase…

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…“It was only a sunny smile and little it cost in the giving. But like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living”

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…At this point I have to mention that somewhere between 1990 and 1993 Danny and his musician friends had formed the group “Spot and Billy.” For years Danny had written many songs with impressive lyrics. The other young musicians were equally talented and it did not take long for me to make the decision to ‘finance’ another set of sessions in a professional recording studio. Whenever I could, I would pop by and kwell! Watching the boys in action at the studio, listening to their music, observing the process of creating a new recording and hearing Danny sing was definitely one of my favorite pastimes. I thought that everyone in “Spot and Billy” was fabulously talented and I couldn’t help but share their dream of fame. I eagerly helped the boys with the PR and put together packets and sample tapes that we sent to agents, radio stations and whatever else seemed appropriate…

…I don’t know which trip we were returning from (again, I don’t have an ongoing up-to-date calendar programmed in my head!) but while we were waiting at the Miami airport for our connecting flight to Chicago, I called home to check for messages. Lo and behold, there was a message from an agent, representing a well-known record company, saying they were interested in “Spot and Billy.” I got enormously excited (I’m sure Danny even more so!) and the minute we returned home, we contacted the agent and during several discussions found out about the essential requirements to get started. One of the biggest necessities would be for “Spot and Billy” to play small gigs in…

…Over the Christmas break I invited my family to the Grand Geneva Resort and Spa in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Once again, it was wonderful being together and Mutti kept telling me how much she enjoyed the nearness of her big family and how much she cherished observing and holding her great grandchildren. Fortunately, and due to the kindness of nature, none of us knew it would be Mutti’s last Christmas with us….

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

…I heard Danny coughing as I recited…“Y’hay sh’may raba me’varach le’alam uleh-almay alma-ya”…

…While I bravely kept reciting, I suddenly understood why Shay, Jackie and Kelly behind me kept making noises and Danny on my left side kept coughing and why Kenny kept muttering something in front of me as he still stood dangerously close to the edge of the cliff, waving the plastic bag through the air. With every inhalation for air, I unexpectedly comprehended that a coat of dust had been forming on my lips and tongue and while I was determined to finish reciting the Kaddish, I knew we all were inhaling and ingesting parts of Mutti…

…“O’seh shalom beem-romav, hoo’ya’she shalom aleynu v’al kol Yisrael, ve’imru, Amen.” I closed the little book and turned around to look at my daughters—all three were clinging to each other crying but definitely laughing as well. Kenny turned and as he walked away from the cliff’s edge, he said, “Oma, I always knew I carried you in my soul but little did I know I would carry you under my sole”…

…Needless to say, Kenny’s wit broke the spell and knowing that besides having parts of Mutti inside of us, we also noticed other parts of her ashes were in our hair, on our clothes, on our faces and everywhere on the rocks and the rest of nature around us. As we brushed our hair and clothes and wiped our faces, we swallowed between coughs and allowed ourselves to dissolve into laughter. It was an incredible and unforgettable moment. My children and I agreed how special and cherished this point in time was and that it would be forever carved into our hearts. It was then decided to eternalize this day by carving. “Mutti/Ellen/Oma…March 25, 1997” on one of the big boulders and to claim this part of the mountain as our very own as we appropriately named Mutti’s final resting place “Oma’s Dusty Point”…

…While my children were busy carving the inscription into the rock, I watched over this awesome scene in this spectacular setting of nature and experienced a warm feeling of immeasurable gratitude; there was so much love all around us and the past few days had created a new strong bond between all of us…

…The clouds were growing heavier and darker and even though we did not want to leave, we realized it would be wise to start our descent before the ominous clouds would get a chance to release their own heavy tears on us. As we prepared to leave “Oma’s Dusty Point,” we stopped dead in our tracks as our attention was drawn to a powerful song coming from a small bird that sat perched on a cactus very close to us. I only can recognize a few of our feathered friends and I believe this songbird with its long tail and white patches on its wings was a mockingbird. Conscious that Mutti’s love for birds was unique, my children and I grew very still and allowed our own individual beliefs to take flight as we watched the bird and listened to his song…

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

…After we enjoyed a morning tour of the Victoria Falls with our guide, Fran and I decided to walk back to the Falls during the afternoon by ourselves—we wanted to stroll through the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Wildlife Park and enjoy the peaceful grazing zebras and other game in their natural habitat. Once we arrived at the entrance to the Falls, we were greeted by a congress of baboons, resting in the shade of the trees. I recognized one of the guests from our hotel; she seemed to be fearless while crouching quietly near the baboons…

…Eventually the woman slowly rose and came walking toward us and I found out that she and her husband were enthusiastic safari goers and had lots of experience with the wildlife of the African bush, especially with the mountain gorillas in Central Africa; the woman told me that Dian Fossey was her idol. Before Fran and I descended on the hundreds of wet steps alongside the Falls, she gave us some useful tips in the event we’d encounter some of the animals…

…Long story short, after Fran had taken enough photos from every angle of Victoria Falls, we decided to climb up the narrow steps and return via the park to our hotel. I was in front of Fran when suddenly I saw a flange of baboons in single file descending on the steps in front of me—the leader of the pack was in front and looked like a primate on steroids; even though on all fours, he was at least four feet tall with bulging muscles! Panic surged through me like fire would through straw! “O-m-i-g-a- w-d, look, Fran!” I muttered under my breath and then I froze, remembering the warnings the “Dian Fossey groupie” had given me just an hour previously. “Don’t make eye contact, don’t move—any sudden activity or noise may irritate them and they can become quite aggressive,” she had said…

…While I stood motionless with downcast eyes, I could not believe Fran exclaiming loudly, “Wow…what a great shot,” as I heard the whirring sounds from his camera. Out of the corner of my downcast eyes, I saw Fran take another step back and then, with a loud thud, he was gone!…

…Alerted and probably ready to attack, the tribe of baboons stopped dead in their track and all their eyes followed the direction from where the jerky movement of Fran falling off the “steps” plus his ear-splitting “Oooooh…” had come from. I’ll never forget the onset of tachycardia (my heartbeats were faster than drum rolls) as my body’s sympathetic network system went into full action; I felt the sweat running down my spine, experienced difficulty in breathing and became lightheaded from anxiety. Faintly, I heard Fran’s voice somewhere below me and gratefully realized he did not crash into the very depth of the Victoria Falls way down below…

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

…Trying not to wake Fran, I quietly left the bedroom, walked into our living room and raised the electric rolling shutters on the balcony door and windows, replacing the darkness of the rooms with the natural early morning light. I stepped onto the balcony and what I saw literally took my breath away. Whereas I could still faintly hear the raging weather from the Tasman Sea in the distance, inside Mildford Sound our beautiful white ship was gliding on water that was as smooth as silk and glistened like ice. Patches of blue sky and early morning sunlight peeked through a mysterious fog that cloaked part of the mountains. I had never seen fjord land where mountains seemed to grow perfectly straight out of the sea with such majestic height (4,000 ft plus) and where such luscious rainforest clung to sheer rock walls. Because I stood in the bow of the ship, I could see waterfalls left and right tumbling hundreds and hundreds of feet into the water below and to top of this magnificent display of nature, albatrosses with their greater than ten feet wingspan were gliding through the air, so close that I could see their eyes! I honestly had goose bumps all over my body and I knew I had to wake Fran so he could share with me this particular generous gift from our planet. When he stepped onto the balcony, he gasped and kept repeating “O my God,” over and over again. Clad in our robes we sat down and just marveled at this incredible masterpiece of creation. In this pristine quietude and beauty of nature, we sailed approximately nine miles through Milford Sound before entering Doubtful Sound, the second largest of the fourteen fjords in New Zealand’s “Fjordland National Park.”

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

…safari and visited another elephant sanctuary where I made friends with a young female elephant (cow) that was abandoned by her herd in Kruger Park. I spent thirty minutes with this beautiful animal with its shredded ears (from the abuse by other elephants) during which she let me come really close, touch her tongue, feel her teeth and stroke her head and body. At one point she put her trunk over my shoulder and we looked into each other’s eyes. When the time came to leave, I had tears in my eyes and I could have sworn my new friend’s eyes looked damp, too, as she followed me all the way to the exit”…

.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-

…“I do have plenty of time to wait until… …points of view as time marches on. Their deep thoughts, growing knowledge and enthusiasm for life will give plenty of reason to keep filling many more pages but those will have…

…to be continued by the next generation!

“We are, each of us angels with only one wing; and we can only fly by embracing one another.” Luciano de Crescenzo

The Secret Behind the Black Hole

The gigantic crystal bubble globe touched down on Tatooine without a sound.

Almost in a trance, Luke took a few steps toward it. He stretched out his arm and with a pointed finger he touched one of the crystal spherules.

“DIIING,” the sound was that of a bell. Luke touched another crystal and this time it sounded like it came from a violin. He touched another crystal and a piano sound escaped.

Luke smiled and tried to see through one of the crystals, but all he could see were thousands of crystal spherules — almost as if a mirror was reflecting them over and over and over again. Luke stepped back. “Hello,” he called. “Is anybody in there?”

The answer came in a booming sound, as if someone was blowing the lowest note of a tuba.

Suddenly hundreds of crystal balls separated and Luke had trouble stepping back fast enough so he could witness the spectacle. As more and more crystals detached themselves, it was obvious that something like a giant doorway was forming.

Like turned around. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” he asked…

…While Luke was being led into the brilliant sphere, he immediately realized that the inside of the crystal globe looked no different than the outside. He wondered why his weight would not crush the luminous glass-like balls but to his astonishment the crystal spherules on the inside were of a different component. Whereas the globe in its entirety looked the same with its outside substance being very solid to the touch, the inside, though, was soft and comfortable.

“There is nothing in here,” Luke said. “There is no flight deck and there are no instrument and control panels.” He walked further inside and said, “There are no walls or separations and there are no seats in here. There is absolutely nothing! How do you fly this form of a craft?”

No-Wi moved his hands across the crystal spherules and the swipe of his touch produced a beautiful sound — like thousands of violins. “Every application you can think of is in each of the small spheres; there is a lot of knowledge in every single one.”

“And you know which one of theses hundreds of thousands spherules you have to touch when you give a command?” Luke asked in amazement.

No-Wi nodded. “I do,” he said. “But why don’t you sit down and make yourself comfortable because we are ready to begin our journey.”…

…Luke saw planetoids and asteroids of gigantic sizes and he saw galactic colors of immense beauty followed by volumes of total darkness. He saw clusters of red dwarf stars and tiny moonlets dancing around them. He saw big moons that orbited planets in a range of brilliant colors and many times Luke found himself squinting and blinking from the tremendous brightness of the births of new suns. Luke also saw those suns that had reached the end of their billions of years life spans as the turned into planetary nebulas right in front of his eyes.

He saw blue giant stars that were made of many, many stars and shone brightly from the other side of the galaxy and he even witnesses a super nova where a blue giant star had just exploded…

…The minute Luke stepped off the craft, his first impression was that there were no deafening and disturbing sounds. Instead of roaring turbines, Luke heard the soft breezes of the wind. Instead of ear-splitting sirens or warning bells due to either faulty moisture farm equipment or sounding alarms that warned of unknown spaceships entering Tatooine’s atmosphere, Luke heard the pleasant sound of waves rolling onto Paragon’s shores. Instead of loud pops coming from ion cannons and charric carbines or the fierce hissing sounds emitted by turbo or super lasers, Luke heard the laughter of children at play.

“It’s so beautiful and peaceful,” he said to No-Wi. “Is this the way of life on your entire planet? Are there no threats from enemies?”

“We don’t have to be afraid of enemies,” said No-Wi. “The Dark Side has no power here. This planet is the perfect embodiment of a concept; on planet paragon everybody is equal.”

“I would like to see more of your world,” said Luke. “I also would like to meet some of Paragon’s people.” The moment Luke finished his sentence, a carriage, attached to a strange looking big balloon, landed right next to Like. At the same time three people approached.

“Hello No-Wi,” said the man. “This must be your young friend Luke from the Planet Tatooine.” The man put his hand on Luke’s shoulder. “Welcome to Paragon. I am No-Wi’s father Da-Ay.” Pointing to the woman and child next to him, he said, “And this is my wife Le-El and our daughter Pa-La — No-Wi’s little sister.”

The balloon took Like and No-Wi over luscious rainforests and rich valleys, big and small cities, majestic mountains ranges and vast meadows with sparkling rivers cursing through them. There were several oceans and countless lakes. At times the balloon flew high over the mountains and at other times so close to the ground that Luke could almost touch the foliage, the people and the many beautiful animals in their natural habitat…

“I never saw wild creatures like this before,” said Luke. “They are so magnificent and so different from where I come from. But what really impresses me is how much water you have on Paragon. On Tatooine water is so sparse that we have to collect the moisture from the air in order to survive.”

“That’s right,” said No-Wi. “Water is and always has been the mixing bowl of getting life off the ground — that goes for anything from vegetation to animals to people. Without water nothing would exist.”

Luke sighed. “I can see why nobody needs to fight somebody else here for survival. You have so much of everything. I just can’t believe that there are no other life forms from other planets in your galaxy that are jealous of what you have and want to take it for themselves — like in our galaxy.”

No-Wi shook his head. “It’s not possible here. Our world was designed after a peaceful concept,” he said.

“The what is your mission here?” asked Luke.

“We watch closely what happens in other galaxies and always feel sad when so many beautiful things get destroyed by wars. We also watch every intelligent life form and pick out those individuals who will be able to bring justice to their planets and create hope again. People like you, Luke. You have the determination to do the right thing.”

“Am I the only one who has been brought here? Am I the only one who has made it through the black hole?”…

…Luke eyes widened when he saw many people waving at him and welcoming him to the party. There were musicians playing their instruments and some people were dancing while others helped themselves to the abundance of delicious smelling food everywhere. Children were running chasing exotic butterflies and birds while others were playing games with small bouncing globes.

“Enjoy the fun,” said No-Wi’s mother Le-El and gave Luke a hug. Luke could have not been happier…

…After the blue crystal globe craft took off, Luke felt the same sensations as he did before. First, there were tremendous vibrations and shudders when they entered the black hole with unimaginable speed but as soon as No-Wi put his hand on Luke’s shoulder, a calming stillness overcame Luke. Once again mesmerized, he watched the magnitude inside the black hole and the immensity of the space once they reached the other side of it. Suddenly Luke became very sleepy. He realized it had been a long day and all the knowledge and new impressions had made him tired. When he heard No-Wi saying, “Close your eyes, Luke, you need some rest before we reach Tatooine,” Luke felt his lids getting very heavy and then he fell into a deep sleep…

The Mystery of the Tarnkapp Planet

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away…

…There was a magical planet called “The Tarnkapp.”

The inhabitants of this beautiful planet were peace loving being who very much cherished them private, untroubled and undisturbed lives.

The leader if the Tarnkapp people was Lord Tarnkappe, a wise and gentle man who had wonderful magical powers. One of his greatest powers was that he had the ability to produce a CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY. This cloak was a hooded cape and by putting it on, the individual would become invisible to everybody around him or her.

But that wasn’t all! Lord Tarnkappe also had managed to produce an even more powerful CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY, one that would cover the entire small beautiful planer, thus keeping it undetectable by mean-spirited creatures from rival planets within the galaxy.

It wasn’t that other celestial inhabitants were not aware of the Tarnkapp Planet. Many times, during their space mission flights, they had seen this beautiful blue sparkling Jewel of a planet (which looked like another Earth) but whenever…

…Lord Tarnkappe called for a meeting with his senate and told them that he was able to feel the force and that he believe Lord Vadar would never give up on his quest to find out why their sparkling blue jewel of a planet had the capability of disappearing whenever enemy space ships came near.

“It is very important that we keep our Tarnkapp secret,” Lord Tarnkappe said. “We will have to be extra careful on our routing preservation flights throughout our galaxy. If, for any unforeseen reason, Lord Vadar will capture one of our brave explorers, the magical Tarnkapp, CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY can never be revealed, no matter how much pressure and torture is being put on our men.”

Everybody in the senate and later all of the Tarnkapp citizens gave their oath of bravery and promised utmost secrecy, loyalty and patriotism to their country and their lord.

None of the Tarnkapps were afraid — after all they had learned from the best: their heroic Lord Tarnkappe. Not only did every Tarnkapp citizen have their own CLOAK OF INVISIBILITY but they also has been trained to transform themselves into other beings when threatened.

For example, Lord Tarnkappe himself had the magical powers to transform himself from a gentle humanoid to a fierce looking warrior in a suit.

Then there was “DJ,” another kind-looking humanoid who could turn himself into “Dot Jaws” a green monster with a purple laser…

…As night fell over the blue sparkling jewel of a planet, known as Tarnkapp, Lord Tarnkappe stood in his control center looking though his sophisticated super-high-tech windows. There, in the distance, some 850,000 galactic miles away, he saw Darth Vadar’s Death Stat hanging like a dark ominous moon in that part of the universe. Lord Tarnkappe could sense the anger, hatred and the determination of his one-time good friend Anakin Skywalker. But Lord Tarnkappe was not afraid, rather he felt the vibrations of optimism. He could feel the force indicating the presence of something constructive and hopeful: A test for two warriors on opposite ends of the Good-Vs.-Evil spectrum.

Lord Tarnkappe smiled. He knew that after a fierce battle, the upcoming galactic test would have a positive outcome…

All Aboard

CHOo-CHOo….woooO·WOooooo!

“I must be dreaming,” said Noah but then he heard the sound again. This time louder! CHOoo-CHOoo…WOOoo-WOOooooo!

Noah quickly climbed out of bed and looked through the window. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There was a shiny, brightly colored train right below his bedroom window on the street.

But it wasn’t Thomas the Train, nor was it Percy or James. As a matter of fact, Noah had never seen this train before.

“Happy Birthday, Noah!” shouted the colorful train, smiling brightly. “Come on down! I have a big birthday surprise for you.”

“Who are you?” asked Noah, “I’ve never seen you before.”

“I’m Chugg, the choo-choo-train. You know,like in ‘CHUGGA- CRUGGA..CHOo-CHOooo’!”…

…”Happy Birthday, Noah and good morning to all of you!” said Chugg. “I’m going to take you for a fun ride on this beautiful day and I’d like Noah to be my conductor. Would you like that, Noah?” asked Chugg, the colorful train.

“I would love to!” said Noah and happily put on the conductor’s hat. “Where are we going?” asked Mommy and Daddy.

“That’s a surprise!” smiled Chugg. “Are you ready?”

“All Aboard!” shouted Noah.

So Chugg, the colorful train, started his engine and as he pulled out of Arbor Vitae Street in Winnetka, he started to sing:

“Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Chugga…Choo-Choo!
It will be a great day for me and for you.
The big sky is blue and it’s warm in the sun.
What a perfect day for Birthday fun!
And now I want to hear all of you Say: Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Chugga…Choo-Choo!”…

“You’re all wrong,” said Chugg, the colorful train. “But I bet Noah knows what our next stop will be.”

Noah nodded. “I think I know,” he said and whispered something into Chugg’s ear.

Chugg laughed. “Yes!” he said excitedly. “Noah is correct. He’s the only one who guessed correctly.”

“Please tell us!” begged the adults and all the children aboard. But Noah and Chugg shook their heads and smiled. “It’s gonna be a surprise!” they said.

“All Aboard!” shouted Noah while waving his conductor’s hat. Chugg, the colorful train, started his engine and began to sing:

“Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Chugga…Choo-Choo!
It will be a great day for me and for you.
The big sky is blue and it’s warm in the sun.
What a perfect day for Birthday fun!
And now I want to hear all of you
Say: Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Chugga…Choo-Choo!”

Riding north on Lake Shore Drive, Noah, his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and all his cousins aboard the colorful train smiled and waved to everybody they were passing by. And all the passengers in the cars, buses and taxis smiled and waved back at Noah and his big family…

…And just before Chugg turned the corner, he waved back at everybody and sang:

“Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Chugga…Choo-Choo!
This has been a great day for me and for you.
The big sky is dark now and gone is the sun.
It was a perfect day for Birthday fun!
Bye-bye for now – I will miss all of you!
Saying: ‘Chugga-Chugga-Chugga-Chugga…Choo-Choo’!”

My Third Birthday and the Playground of Dreams

One beautiful sunny morning the ringing of her pink toy cell phone wakes Ellee up. She yawns and reaches for the phone. “Who is calling me so early?” she wonders.

“It’s Payton, your cousin but… I did not call you! My cell phone was ringing, too. I thought you were calling me!” Payton says into her pink cell phone.

… “Wait a minute…” says Ellee. “I think something just flew through my window.” In disbelief Ellee looks at the two figures that landed on her bed.

“Oh Wow,” says Ellee. “Payton you won’t believe who just flew into my room. It’s Peter Pan and Tinker Bell.”

“Ellee, Ellee, Ellee,” says Payton excitedly on the other end. “You will not believe it but Jessie and Buzz Lightyear are suddenly moving around my room and they are talking to me. They are trying to tell me something.”

…”Payton and Ellee are getting together
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Their flight will be smooth in sunny weather
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Buzz Lightyear is fast and strong through and through
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
He is so cool and invited all of us to jump on his back and fly with him, too!”

…”Oh it is a happy play day
Ellee and Payton are soon on their way
The fairy dust of Tinkerbell
Is going to make all of us fly well
To Oklahoma is where we will go
It’s the middle between Tucson and Chi-ca-go.”

…”Welcome Ellee! Welcome Payton! And Happy Birthday to both of you!” shout all the characters on the meadow. “Welcome Noah and everybody else! Welcome to the Playground of Dreams!”

Ellee lets go of Peter Pan’s hand and Payton climbs off Buzz Lightyear’s back. Then the two little girls walk toward each other and hug tightly.

“I can’t believe we’re here together,” says Payton.

“I can’t believe we can celebrate our birthdays together,” says Ellee.

“Yeah and look at all the toys that are waiting to celebrate with you,” says Noah. “Let’s get the party going. Let’s Play!”

Throughout this beautiful sunny day, Ellee and Payton play with everything they see on the Playground of Dreams.

They zip down on fast and curvy slides.

They bounce high on the trampoline.

They splash happily in the swimming pool and laugh loudly as they go around and around and around on the colorful merry-go-round.

…From high above they can hear their toy friends sing,
“Good-Bye, Farewell… we had a super day.
Good-Bye, Farewell… please come back soon and play.
We love you two girls and Noah too
And we’re always gonna be here for you!
Good-Bye, Farewell… we had a super day.
Good-Bye, Farewell… please come back soon and play!”