Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Monday, December 13, 2010

Repeat: My Best Christmas EVER, has been published several times

Christmas Eve 1944
Gent, Belgium

I am 12, mother is 34. She is recovering from a major surgery and a husband who has left her for another woman just a few months ago.

We are finally liberated , we in the north welcomed the allies in September.
In the Southern part, in the gorgeous mountains, hills and forest another battle is in full swing. It becomes to be known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Our gorgeous Ardennes are being mutilated. Worse hundreds of lives if not thousands on all sides of this horrific war are falling in the fresh wet snow.

Mom and I are not aware of this battle, we hear very little of what is going on outside our newly freed Provinces.
We are alone in our very cold house, windows broken covered with lumber,
water rats moved in what used to be our bedrooms.
The roof is shattered in many places from the bombing and air raids.
The wood/coal stove only produces so much heat as we huddle around it
covered in blankets.

Mother is lonely; she is sad, alone for this Christmas for the first time since
her marriages of 16 years. She is still feeling ill. War had not made her
skinny, she is a full fleshed Flemish woman like you see in Rubens renditions.
She lived on potatoes and onion gravy; we are yet to see some meat coming
in our tables but for the grace of the few Americans who are helping us.

So this brave lady who was together with her little family in grave danger all
through the war is now struggling with a new reality. She had been the radio
communicator with the Brits in her bedroom. She was fluent in the language,
thanks to a good education and was my father’s right hand in the underground fight
of what we called “the white brigade”.
She had welcomed the soldiers who parachuted in the night and gave them
clothing and food for the next stop. She had sent her only child to school when
she was wondering if a new air raid would come today, eliminating the factory
and the village. She never knew what the day would bring.

That first Christmas eve when all around us was changed and yet nothing
had changed at all. We were still seeing planes come and go over our heads and
we still saw the air battles, we did not know for sure how far the Germans were and would
they return? In our hearts however we felt that all was going to be fine.
We had hope for the first time in what seemed eternity.
With this in mind Mother decided we should spent Christmas Eve at her sister’s house in town. That was 9 km away (almost 6 miles).
The excitement got a hold of both of us and with enormous energy and good cheer we left the old stove to warm up the rats and started our journey along the
cold waters of the Canal of Terneuzen.

We had walked this foot path for years, I think we knew where there would be a dip in the dirt and mud under the fresh snow, we knew where a large stone would stick out and how to avoid falling in that narrow strip next to the canal.
Next to it was the bicycle path but that worse in need of filling the larger holes.
Even in the dark night we knew our way.
I can still see the cold fog over the water, piercing cold in our bones.
My shoes too tight. I was always growing too fast and my feet were the
first to show the signs.

We started to sing , she could sing , I could barely keep a tune.
But we sang with our vocal chords in full orchestra mode and in the silence
we go from “the Yankees are coming” to “Belle nuit de Noel” and “Petit Papa Noel “.

Along the canal there was only industry, we lived in a lonely little house about 100 yards from an electrical plant. Most plants at this point where not working, almost all had been bombed. The silence along the water was eerie, as the little bit of snow would fall intermittently. Now and then an army truck would drive by on the road and soldiers would yell “Merry Christmas”, some had other messages too.
First time we both heard F word, mother honestly had never heard that one at the
convent where she had studied. She was very puzzled, what did it all mean?
Very few Belgians had cars at that point, perhaps a few doctors.
Only army was on the road, day in and day out.
We were used to that but these camouflaged tanks were a much loved sight.

By the time we reached the blown up bridge of Meulestede we crossed the canal on a makeshift bridge and started to walk between the streets lined with houses.
Here and there one could see lights and the cozy interior of people celebrating.
Mother stopped and told me to look and listen with my heart at the sights and sounds.
“You know Jeannot , she whispered, this is what is called “freedom”.
You see we are finally allowed on the street at night, we are finally allowed to have lights coming out from the houses, that means this is our first Christmas
in many years of total freedom. “
“Freedom means we can now just walk to Tante while watching the stars and
singing, we can peak in the windows and see people with bright lights shining on their faces. Jeannot, never forget this moment”.

I did n’t, I can still see it, I can still smell it, I can feel it in my heart.

Mother was disappointed that we could not get to a midnight mass on our way
but all the churches were still closed. Perhaps no one had wanted to come out
or perhaps the new army had told them to cool it for awhile, I do not know but we passed several churches and no service.

I started to slow down and she found a way of making me go a little faster.
Where she saw light in the houses she rang the doorbell and started to run away.
I had no choice but to run after her and hide around the next corner.
That way we got to my Tante in a jiffy.

I can see the gate at my Tantes house and lights turning on for the
night visitors. No phone to tell them we were coming but the welcome
was heartwarming.

My cousins came out of bed to hug us and I could crawl in bed next to them
tell them about my adventure of the night. No rats here, no damage to their house, they were blessed. I was in heaven close to giggling bodies and it is Christmas.

I do not remember one present given that Christmas, I doubt that we had any
at all but I am still feeling the joy of that night.
The songs come back to me. Belle Nuit.....Petit enfant Jesus.....
Au clair de la lune mon ami Pierot. ................................

Merry Christmas Mom, Tante, wherever you are.
Goeden nacht, zalige nacht.

Christmas eve 2014

All is quiet in our house and that is the way we like it this year.
Young Bob and I had some emotional days behind us.
I am in some sort of daze.
I know everything will be fine once I can get my head cleared up.
Living in the past is so much baloney.
I have to think about what tomorrows I have left and what I can do with them.

Had bad news from Belgium today my cousin has been diagnosed with liver cancer.
Nothing can be done to help her but medicating for the pain.
I did not want to hear this today but then is there a "good" day to hear such bad news?

Today is after all just a day for me.
I am thinking about you girl.
Love you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


He went to pre Kinder garten in a small NC town. I will love that teacher forever, she had a preschool built with pint size grocery store, post office, dr o0ffice and stuff like that, she taught those little people the alphabet, and they knew it and recognized words before they graduated. No underwater painting class but everything they did was to be used later in life . I was amazed at the discipline in that mini school. They knew were to put their boots and coats , everything was in perfect order even the terrific healthy lunches she put together for these kids. This was an army of one. One great lady.
So at graduation she tells me that this kid of mine was her best student and then with tears in her eyes she added:"Public school will destroy his intelligence". I was shocked and  hurt and petrified.

The kid went to Public school , I talked to the Principal and said that he knew his alphabet and could write some words and spell them , like cat and bee....the Principal just laughed in my face , said he:"This is Kindergarten Ma'm not college, we don't do that here in that class".
I was stunned. The man actually belittled what my son knew. I was not the fighter then which I am today.
I crawled into my shell and left. My son wanted more so he did upset the class with questions and attention needed for what he did not understand. They made him the "Star" in all the plays. He was Santa twice and then told them he did not do that role ever again.

In the first grade he was not very happy and by Christmas when they made him Santa he really balked and he managed to get a fever within 10 minutes of his school departure. I mean this kid was truly sick just before school time. By noon he was healed. I ran out of patience. I did listen to him and he said he just plain hated school. We had homeschooled the girls when we lived in Spain but I was not ready for that.
A friend opened a private school with 2 fantastic teachers. I have no idea how I got the money together each month, I know I was late quite often. A few students started, a dozen at most, all came from affluent famillies. They could pay on time and I was sometimes not happy with the type of clothing we could afford as the others came straight out of Macy's top shelves. We checked the thrift stores not that many back then as now.

School went well , he did a play in French with his French teacher and he seemed never bored.
The kids had to make up a short poem to read before the parents at a meeting. Waiting with great anticipation I sat waiting to hear what my genius had put together. He started with great aplomb
stood up straight and read:"Title Bills, Bills Bills Bills that is all we have is Bills. Thank you"
You can imagine how red my face was and I think my husband (being an artist) thought this was pretty clever. The room laughed out loud. Some of the rich ladies said that he was right , that is all we have they echoed. Their kids had made flowery poems with things like "Mother is so sweet she fixes me icecream!"

By the 7th grade we could no longer continue the education at this level of tuition fee. The school had grown and still was the best in town but we were up a tree. He also lacked some social skills. He did not make friends with the kids on our street. He did well in 7th and 8th grade. Mixed fairly well and did fit in.
He became a skateboarder and just loved that activity with the other kids being chased from Main street and church parking lots. No place back then to have a pipe somewhere to play in. Later they started this when he was in High School.

High school was a nightmare from day one. He only liked two classes English and psychology. Both teachers raved about him. Math teacher was also a football coach so he had little interest in this skinny guy who did not like football. My husband walked into the school halls as much as the kids, he knew the right route to the Principal office. He managed to make a lot of noise and none of it helped, I think it even hurt son.
One day the Principal was sitting in the hall selling football buttons and my husband saw him and said you should be in your office to check records on how your students are doing and why ......
Principal not amused kept offering my husband buttons for a price. I am surprised that the man did not kick over the card table with the silly buttons.

He graduated, I think they did so because they wanted us out of the way.
He went on to different classes in a tech school unfortunately he got married way to young and had to start supporting a household and then later also a son.

So much for school.
After awhile he was diagnosed with border line genius and a learning disability.
However while in the last 10 years he struggled a very hard battle with agoraphobia he managed to get
top grades at Phoenix and a diploma (highest honors) Associates (I think they call it)

So where is he now? He is my favorite son (I only have one) he lives with me and watches the old lady 24/7. If I cough more than once he comes running to see if I am chocking. If I cry too often he gives me short to the point psychological pointers. When my ankle was broken he pushed me around in the chair and arranged everything so I could do a normal life style. When I fall he cleans my wounds as he did not too long ago.
He walks my dog when I can't. He fixes a great pizza when the cook has given up that day.
There is no way that I could pay for this kind of service and this one is done with great love not because he is paid for it but because he loves me.

He continues to study all the time and often gives me lectures on astronomy. One of his faves.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

hubba hubba

OK, I have been a mess the past few days with work being done for me around the house.
That makes me a bit itchy to help which I am not able to.
So I am forgetting to cook, or do anything else, just watch ......
So I know I have a list for the grocery store, do not remember where I put it.
Walk into the store and everything around me looks like something I do not need.
I leave with grapes. I figure that is really what I need

Come home and THEN it hits me, I am out of dog food and toilet paper......
How can you forget that?
Don't answer me.

I just do not like for people (read "kids") to do work for me which I could do
without as much as breaking a sweat.

The golden age is sometimes not 18 K but a "gold wash".
If you like jewelry you know how long a wash lasts!
Good night!


It is a wonder that I had been so upset about the artist cave upstairs and could do little about it myself, a broken back does not allow you many fantasies or realities.
For instance I will never be able to do pole dancing, nor skateboard, I have problems just putting my feet high enough on the sidewalk or I fall and have a shiner for weeks.
The last fall was day before Halloween and I am still nursing a wound on the head.
The dumpster is full and goes out ASAP.
I am not known for pouting or being in a bad mood for long but this cleanup just got me in tears
for every note, every photo and the floods never stopped for long.
My Mom said if I cried a lot I would pee less.
That is not my object of this crying jag, after all I need to keep my solo kidney working all the time.

I used to worry that dozens upon dozens of magazines would just crush the ceiling and end up on top
of my head but this house is so solid, nothing happened to the boxes, not even moths in one of my wool rugs.
The only critters we ever had inside the house was a baby owl who fell in the chimney.
An angry looking possum in the washroom , did not know who was more scared but he/she scampered
quickly out the cat door which we do not use anymore.

The work upstairs was so quiet I did not even hear them move about.
Many moons ago we had an Australian friend living up there for a month or so, when she did tours she did one around the world. She had friends all over the world. I often forgot she was up there.
She told me that her dead husband was visiting every night. I just did not want to stop that romance.
She loved my cooking, I think she said that every where she went. We met her in Spain when she came
there for a month. On old TV personality she was a hoot until she had shingles and the only Spanish Doctor in the village kept giving her pain pills. We often wondered when she was going to overdose.
She said those pills were the best in the world.

So now that I don't worry about weight upstairs what new worry can I make up?
I was born with an extra worry gene.
It's a bitch.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Artist cave

The sign on the door tells us what time slot we is a sign for the election "Clinton-Gore"96!"
He does not know it yet but this is the year the decline started.
He is an artist.
He knows nothing else but to translate his time here in this Universe  by putting  images he admires on plain papers, canvas, masonite, a wall, a piece of fabric.

He was one of four brothers, the young one. In his early childhood he would pick wild flowers and bring them home to mother. He would draw them after she had put them in a jar.
As he grew older this habit never left him and he continued to search and listen to teacher who could explain the fine lines and tricks of drawing. He was a sponge and took it all in.

When Disney came out with Snow white he ventured alone to the big city of San Francisco on the Greyhound bus. He only wanted to see the film as often as possible. He took note of every artist involved in
the film's making. He filled his very soul with the animation of that film.

The war picked him up right out his last days in high school. The young man left right after his June 8th birthday and
was quickly going on board to a land called Phillipines. He became a man with a uniform, a gun and all the trimmings for war.
They put him in the drafting dept. , he said he heard the shooting but he continued to do his work, he was under Mc Arthur, the General with the Pipe and a temper.

Returning from war he felt very fortunate as there was a GI Bill. This Bill gave him the possibility to go on with his studies and have some funds to work with. He studied under Amyx in Hartnell College and became a watercolorist. After 2 years he continued at Chouinard Institute which was then the very best art school on the West Coast. Edith Head and many of Disney people were teachers there. He had the best of the best. Later Chouinard was purchased by Disney.

He discovered in LA that Disney did not pay much to do the animation so he ventured on to San Francisco near his home town Santa Cruz. He took odd jobs, shipping in Macy's, made mattresses, then airplane tires, enough to keep him in Ice cream, brushes, paint and a small place to live.

Soon he had one man shows and started to make a name for himself. By 1968 the hippies took over the City by the Bay and he just could not handle all the changes. Returned home to mother and sister in Santa Cruz
he started all over again. In 1969 enters a new way of life, a wife and 2 children.
By 1970 he and the gang moved to Nerja, Spain. for almost 5 years. He was in heaven to be able to paint
around the small villages and continue his work on trompe l'oeil. By 1973 he won prestigious medals in Brussels together with medals from the City and a title :"Commandeur".
A new addition came into the family another Kensinger, a boy!

Upon returning to the USA we had the help of a special friend in WNC.Starting all over again, shows indoors and outdoors from Virginia to Florida, cut into his painting time so he hired an agent who did the
shows for him.

By the late 1990's he was diagnosed with Alzheimer. He never accepted that fact and as he grew older and sicker he did not understand it either. He still painted but it became quite hard, soon he would ask his wife how he should mix the background. His last painting about a gorgeous lily from the yard he made almost stick like figures for stems. Then he stopped.

He had made the upstairs of the house, a mansarde type of under the roof a set of rooms, his own, he had been shipping there when we did eBay with the stock from the antique shop we owned.
Now all he did was get boxes, behind stores he would look in dumpsters he would find treasured boxes.
The upstairs became :MINE! Do not enter! He became very suspicious of anybody coming into the house. Even to the point when he did not want his own son around. Followed by the wife who was kicked out of the bed.

Boxes upstairs collected treasures such as empty coke cans, pebbles from the driveway, bibelots objects from a shelf here and there. Things just left an empty mark on the shelf and life became hard for
every one. One can't imagine this very gentle soul , this old fashion gentleman, becoming this
type of grouchy, hurtful, violent person.

He passed on in 2010,
Enter the wife, the widow!
I went upstairs and had a hard time breathing. Boxes everywhere piled and piled into miniature towers.
No room to walk even, I could see the end of the rooms and they all seemed full.
I sat on the steps and cried my eyes out.
How could I, how could I ever see the rooms again.
I started slowly to pack the magazines in view, dozens of magazines from the Christian Science reading room which they put outside for FREE and he managed to always bring some home, under his arm and
go upstairs. I must have thrown out dozens and dozens. The job went slowly and the pain was harder and harder.
An abrupt stop came when I had a kidney removed followed by breaking my back just a week later.
Not recuperating very well from the fall I no longer went upstairs and tried to forget it.
Every spring my kids would say they would go and empty the second floor.
Kids have their own life and I was not demanding anything that I could not do.

So quite suddenly son and daughter jumped in "before winter" and started to empty the boxes and put them out to be cut and folded, grandson filled his truck, on his first ride to the dump he had 420 lbs on
cardboard all folded neatly in packages!!!!!Pebbles returned in the drive way. Photos being kept for later perusal, paintings discovered, treasures found again, notes on everything . He would write MINE on everything he could, that must have been years before his passing as he no longer could read not write on the last years. He must have felt his persona leaving him so he wanted to stake a claim on whatever:MINE was his new mantra.

Now and then the kids let me come upstairs during the clean up , it hurts, it hurts so much.
2 rooms done and one last one to be finished this week end.
Daughter hired a dumpster.
Real Estate people are becoming noisy! Many people want this house it is historic and in all original shape. I hope I can leave it feet first. I love this place been here since 1978or was it 77?