Friends from Faraway and Long Ago: Kitsa and Lydia

Kitsa and Lydia were among the very few women in my graduating class at Eastern Mennonite College who did not wear a prayer veiling atop their heads. Why? Because they were not Mennonite.

Lydia Mattar from Jerusalem, Jordan and Kitsa Adamidou from Salonika, Greece were international students and my good friends when I attended EMC. Their origins both have a biblical stamp: Kitsa’s hometown was originally known as Thessalonika, the name of two New Testaments books (Thessalonians I and II) and Kitsa’s father from Jerusalem was the Keeper of the Garden Tomb, the site of Jesus’ burial and resurrection. (Photos from 1963 Shenandoah yearbook)

KitsaYearbookPortrait

Always on the look-out for fun!
Kitsa, always on the look-out for fun!

And then Lydia . . .

LydiaYearbook Portrait

Lydia in Dr. Daniel Suter's Anatomy class
Lydia in Dr. Daniel Suter’s Anatomy class with lab assistant

I was drawn to Kitsa and Lydia during my freshman year because I have always been curious about other cultures. In fact, one year Lydia was my roommate. It appears this inclination has run deep in my DNA. Now as I hold in my hand one of my Grandma Fannie Longenecker’s letters from college I can sense her keen interest in my “foreign” friends and a deep longing to know them better.

In this letter dated December 1, 1960, she insists that she would like both girls to spend Christmas at her home. Born in 1892, Grandma Fannie Longenecker was 68 when she wrote these words to me:

Dear Marian – Guess you’ll be surprised to hear from me, I sure wanted to write before, just didn’t get at it – (Reason) older and slower . . . . Ruth was looking for a letter from you so be sure and bring Lydia & Kitsa along home over Christmas, and forget all about paint etc, two of you can stay here & we’ll have a good time that’s the thing that really matters, I think I’ll be Kitsa’s Grandma of America – Do you know what she needs or wants for Christmas? Forgot to say I’ll pay her way up & we really want them to come, so make it strong, times soon here!

Later in the letter, Grandma admonishes:

Be sure and get arrangements to come home early & if possible bring the girls along. I’ll pay Kitsa’s fare on arrival & find out what she would like for Christmas. This $ 5.00 spot is for you, maybe you need a little for odds and ends or transportation home. Tell us what you are hungry for, that you don’t get at school.

Mark tells me ‘Marian will soon come home’ and his face lights up, so we are all looking forward to that day. Hope your old toe is better.

Grandma’s interest in Kitsa persisted through most of my college years. In her letter of March 8, 1962, she referred to Kitsa and her roommate pictured on the front page of Christian Living magazine (February 1962).

For over 25 years, my Grandma and Aunt Ruthie practiced peace and goodwill toward all, as they opened their home to refugee and immigrant families, beginning with Phuong (pictured below), a young woman who arrived by boat from Vietnam. Their home was a warm cushion absorbing the cultural shock of leaving home and family; it was a safe haven, welcoming refugees from a colláge of countries including Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Russia—anywhere there was political upheaval.

1979Grandma,Ruthie, Phuong_small

Although she graciously accepted the Salt of the Earth Award from Lutheran Social Services in the 1990s, Aunt Ruthie never bragged about her benevolence. From her perspective, she was merely sharing the love of Christ and fulfilling the statement of Menno Simons, founder of the Mennonite faith:

Framed print on the wall of Grandma and Aunt Ruthie's sitting room, 1996
Framed illustration on the wall of Grandma and Aunt Ruthie’s sitting room, 1996

In a noisy world where some speak of building tall walls and wish to spread terror and violence, I am thankful for my heritage including an education at an institution, now Eastern Mennonite University, where the language of peace is preached and modeled. In fact, it is now possible to earn both under-graduate and graduate degrees in justice and peace-building at the University.

EMUJusticPeaceQuote

 

Regrettably, the contact information I have currently for both Kitsa and Lydia has not yielded any results, so I don’t know what paths their lives have taken. But I do know that their lives, like mine, have been imprinted with the power of peace, a message this world could stand a good dose of in these troubled times.

Postcript:

Just this morning, December 11, 2015, I had a long phone conversation with Kitsa, her smooth, alto voice music to my ears. She now lives with her husband in North Carolina and is very active at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church where she is head of the Hellenic Culture initiative. She also gives private Greek language lessons.


 

How have international friendships affected your life? Have you connected with long-lost friends recently?

Carole Parkes and the Written Acts of Kindness Award

Thank you notes are usually written privately, but this one is a public thank you to Carole Parkes, a writer friend who just recently nominated me for the Written Acts of Kindness Award, an award given from one blogger to another to let them know their words bring inspiration.

WrittenActsofKindness Award

I take this as an opportunity to showcase Carole’s own accomplishments. Her work as a painter and photographer first caught my eye nearly a year ago, but I quickly noticed that she is a 21st century Renaissance Woman:

  • Author of a psychological thriller, Tissue of Lies
  • Short story writer
  • Painter in oils
  • Seamstress, who crafts men’s suits and ladies’ fashion jeans for Marks & Spencer
  • Photographer
  • “Occasional” poet, she says

Her husband calls her butterfly because she flits from one hobby to another. I don’t see that she has ever changed the oil on an 18-wheeler, but even that wouldn’t surprise me!

CaroleParkes

Here is a blurb from her “About” page

I was born in Liverpool, (England) in 1945, and have lived in my current house near Ormskirk, Lancashire for the past 39 years. I’ve been married for 49 years and have three sons, all now married with their own families.

I started writing in 1985 when I produced several short stories, a series of children’s books and my newly published book on Kindle “Tissue of Lies.” Between 1985 and 1989 I also encouraged my elderly mother to write her life story, whilst I started on my biography. Owing to my commitment to my elderly parents, I didn’t take my writing too seriously until after my parents aged 97 and 94, both passed away in 2012.

You are such an inspiration, Carole. Your words echo across the pond. Again, THANK YOU!

Accepting the Red Heart: One Lovely Blog Award

Remember getting a gold or silver star on your homework papers in grade school? Well, writers who read each other’s blog posts do something similar – they nominate those they admire for the One Lovely Blog Award. It’s not a gold star. It’s a red heart and looks like this:

OneLovelyBlog Award

In October, two admirable authors nominated me. Thank you to authors Kathy Pooler and Mary Gottschalk. In November, notable writer Joan Rough nominated me, so it is high time to acknowledge this honor and pass on the baton. I consider all three of these writers my mentor/encouragers.

The Rules:

Name and thank those who nominated you.

Share 7 things about yourself that others may not know.

Nominate 15 bloggers (or as many as you like) to whom you would like to pass on the nomination.

7 Little-Known Facts about Me:

  1. I don’t wear false teeth.
  2. My hair was not cut until I was 26 years old.
  3. I’m still married to my first blind date.
  4. My first engagement ring was flushed down the commode by our 3-year-old daughter. She doesn’t remember. I forgave. She was only three.
  5. One summer after college I traveled to 47 states with a friend from college. I had no idea then that my husband-to-be was living in the Pacific Northwest.
  6. One winter a snowboarder hit me while skiing. I became a pretzel, untwisted myself, and stood up again, wobbly but unharmed. I thank God and Mr. Pilates.
  7. First time in over 30 years I haven’t washed the windows in my house. (They didn’t crack or hit me with blinding light.)

My nominees come from South Africa, Australia, and all over the United States. Two are men, who I hope are not too shy to accept an award with a red heart in it. Note: I did not nominate those whom others have named.

These nominees may choose to participate or not. Also, there is no pressure to respond immediately. Remember, it’s taken me more than a month! Just know that I admire your writing and want to honor you in this way:

My Nominations (in random order):

Gwendolyn Plano   http://www.gwenplano.com/

Susan Scott    http://www.gardenofedenblog.com/ 

Patti   https://everypagewhispershisname.wordpress.com/

Diane Reed   http://dianereedwiter.wordpress.com

Judy Berman    http://earth-rider.com/

Steve Piscitelli  http://stevepiscitelli.wordpress.com/

Debby Gies   http://dgkayewriter.com

Jennifer Simpson  http://jennsmidlifecrisis.wordpress.com/

J. T. Weaver   http://jtweaverblog.wordpress.com/

Alexa   http://www.alexa-asimplelife.com/

What blogger not on the list would you like to recognize? Tell us please.

Coming next: The 200th Post Mark with Julie and Julia