Monday, May 4, 2009

Beautiful Neni - Remarkable Life

If you are visiting here because of the link from the Richmond Times Dispatch or the Foxboro Reporter, thanks for visiting Ici-Neni's blog.

I created this blog for Ici a year ago because we had gathered lots of notes and journal entries she had made about her childhood and her interesting adventures immigrating to two countries and raising eight kids.

There are still many entries she had written or I had recorded that I plan to update this blog with from time to time. If you would like to be added to an email notification for updates, please email me at
Meanwhile, here are some photos to enjoy. We would love to hear your comments.

1924, with her mother. Ici wrote that she actually remembers being washed in a tub as her mother commented on Ici's tiny baby feet. She wrote about here in this blog entry.

Ici with her sister, Kato, in the 1930's in Budapest. Ici talks about her siblings and one of their funny stories here at this blog entry.

Ici's passport that allowed her to visit an Austrian family during the 1930's for a student exchange program. Ici told us stories about a beautiful Jewish girl she visited with in Austria and wondered about once the war began. She recorded this story in her journal and it will eventually appear on her blog.

Newly married. Ici's husband was the love of her life. He rescued her from a dangerous seige on Budapest at the end of WWII. Wanting to remove Ici from Budapest, he begged her father to let him take her to safety. "not unless you marry her first," was the reply. With the sound of bombs in the background, they ran about town getting a marriage licence. Ici wrote about this event and it will eventually be on the blog.

In Germany in the late 1940's

Helping husband, Joe, run his shirt factory in Germany. Always the entrepreneur, Ici wrote about their desire to create opportunity and how that took them to the US. (Will need to get this up on the blog soon as well).

Young mother.

A new life in America in the 1950's was exciting. Ici wrote about the ship ride over and their adventures assimilating. Don't yet have that on the blog - coming soon.

Glam gal of the 70's.

Still in love in the 80's

Even after 8 kids, still playing hard to get!

Visiting European castles with her children

And cooking up a mean Paprikash Chirke- even on a camping trip!

Hugging a few of her many, many, MANY grandchildren!

Smiling at us, even last week. Check out the sweet smile she had when the eight of us children stood around her. It's on an earlier posting here. I imagine her smile even brighter right now in Heaven.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ici finally gave her last breath here with us to go be with Christ this morning. Thankfully in peace while she was sleeping.

I was reminded about our Thanksgiving celebration in 2000 when each of the eight children prepared our lists of thanksgivings to God for a mother like Ici, and then the specific thank you notes Ici wrote out about each of us.

What a gift to be able to read these on a day like today. I've posted them below.

There are so many more of my mother's writings of her life growing up in Budapest and immigrating to Germany and then to the US. I have had many relatives and friends ask that I continue to post them. Especially those who love and miss her all the way in Budapest. I will plan to get these "memoirs" up!

2000 Thanksgiving Dinner. Prayers of Thankfulness written by the kids about Mama (Ici), and Prayers of Thankfulness written about each of the siblings by Ici.

From Kitty

  • Thanks for the mother who sent SIXTY consectutive cheerful greeting cards - one every single day for two months while I went through the worst part of my divorce.
  • Thank you for a mother who took the time to sew a mermaid costume for me for my sixth grade Cotillion massacred party.
  • Thanks for the mother who held my hand and wiped my tears while Dr. Caravatti froze the warts off of my hands.
  • Thank you for giving a mother who made me pull an all-nighter in fifth grade when the teacher called and announced to her that I had procrastinated my report on the 50 States and it was three days overdue- Mama set her alarm and got up every hour on the hour to check on my progress.
  • Thanks for the mother who spent the night in the hospital with me when I got my tonsils removed.
  • Thanks for the mother who treats my stepchildren with love and empathy- including them in the headcount when people ask how many grandchildren she had, and always remembering them on their birthdays.
  • Thanks for the mother who educated me on history and literature during our drives in the car.
  • Thanks for a mother who loves all of her children equally, making each of us feel special and unique.
  • Thanks for the mother who demonstrated independence and courage during these last years without her husband.

Thank you, from Edie

  • Thanks for the mother who put up with my teenage outbursts and started all over with her love and forgiveness.
  • Thanks for the mom who never commented when I asked what she thought of any of my boyfriends.
  • While I was discouraged with my studies in college, thanks for compelling my mother to tell me over and over that I can do anything - "The sky's the limit!", Mama would say.
  • Thanks for the special memory on that sunny Saturday afternoon when together, Mama and I shopped all around in Richmond for that 'special' wedding dress.
  • Thanks for the mother who organized my whole wedding- making decisions down to the flowers while I was finishing up my last semester in Philadelphia.
  • Thanks for mother who kept me in piano lessons for 10 years despite my occasional pleas to let me quit.
  • Thanks for giving Mama the insight to make me memorize poems as punishment. I still remember with fondness those poetic lines.
  • Thanks for the mother who taught me courage- who encouraged me, at all of eight years old, to get out of the car and go inside that shoe repair shop. With Mama’s claim check and money in hand, I bravely asked the man behind the counter if her shoes were repaired.
  • Thanks for a mom who handled all the loads of dirty laundry we created, all the meals she fixed, and all the piles of dishes she washed without complaining. As a full-fledged mother today, I'm amazed how she suffered quietly through that!
  • Thanks for a mother who took me to all those college campuses my senior year in high school.
  • Mama, thanks for conveniently forgetting I was grounded and allowing me to go to that party after all.
  • I'll never forget you flying immediately to Louisville once newborn Ashley was out of the hospital and staying for a whole week. By the time you left, my shattered nerves were replaced with calm confidence - thanks to you.
  • Thanks for being a good role model by insisting we still go to church . Especially when you knew I wasn't going while I was away in college.
  • Thanks for your patience at the end of that summer when I took clarinet lessons in summer band at Freeman when I announced to you I do not want to take any more lessons because I would rather grow up being the lead singer, not a clarinet player in a band(!)

Thank you, from Mike

  • Thanks for giving me a mother who cared enough to make the devil costume for me on my sixth Halloween, even though I was angry that everyone said "Oh how cute!" when they answered the door.
  • Thanks (twice) for the college education.
  • Thanks for "Children's Theater", "Virginia Museum Theater", Cotillion,
    the discussions on Marxist dialectic, and the other random conversations that gave me a cultural and intellectual edge.
  • Thanks for Kanawha.
  • Thanks for once letting me stay home from school sick, even though my mother knew I was faking, and she just wanted someone to run errands with.
  • Thanks for the Richmond west-end and Westham Parkway; it was a great place to grow up.
  • Thanks for helping my mother attend Annette's and my wedding. Considering the circumstances, I know it was quite a stretch.
  • Thanks for all of my mother’s patience.

Thank you, from Andy

  • Thanks for a terrific mother- for those times I was sick at home and she let me sit in that chair in her bedroom in my bathrobe and watch TV and play with the remote control that changed channels when you sneezed hard. Thanks for the tea in that tall orange mug by my bedside, and the toast with sugar.
  • Thanks for the mother who encouraged me get off my duff and go find some playmates in the neighborhood when I was lonely and feeling sorry for myself.
  • Thanks for chicken paprikas and that pot roast with the carrot sauce. Thanks for hot-dogs and potatoes. Thanks for creamed spinach topped with fried eggs.
  • Thanks for Mama who pitched things high, like when I was in 8th grade and we were driving around on some errands, arguing about Anton Chekov's plays.
  • Thanks for the mother who would unplugged the TV and kicked us out of the house on Saturday mornings.
  • Thanks for the mother who read to us out of that "365 Bedtime Stories" book every night.
  • Thanks for Mama, who taught me to read, and for encouraged reading.
  • Thanks for the mother who didn’t me to military school or anything like that, and thanks for the shot at college, despite everything.

Thank you, from Marienne

  • Thanks for the mother who wouldn’t believe the Doctors when they told her I wouldn't amount to anything.
  • Thanks for the mother who encouraged me while I wore those casts.
  • Thanks for a mother who treated me "just like the other kids" when I know in her heart that it was difficult.
  • Thank you for the mother who made me go to college when I has no aspirations to do so.
  • Thanks for a mother who was patient with me in finding what kind profession I should aspire to become.
  • Thanks for a mother who told me that I could "get a husband". When I thought everyone saw "different", Mama told me, “you are very pretty.”
  • Thanks for a mother who told me how to catch a husband, .... when Robbie came to dinner, Mama would say " feed this growing boy!"
  • Thanks for a mother who sent me to Paris when I was in college. It was a wonderful experience that I'll cherish forever.
  • Thanks for all the wonderful meals like paprikash chicken, ruckert kaposta, vudash hoosh with that wonderful gravy.
  • Thanks for a mother who saw Robbie and I through the darkest times after Danville
  • Thanks for sending my mother to Front Royal when Robbie was in the hospital.
  • Thanks for all the trips- like to Florida and Nags Head- and especially for the memory of the Canada trip. Oh, and God, thanks for including me on that trip- if it weren't for me, the only American citizen in the car old enough to speak, my family may not have been able to return, because you didn't have a passport!

Thank you, from Joe

  • Thanks for the mother who darned my St. Bridgets uniform pants after I had holes in them from the playground. And thanks for her not telling Papa about it!
  • Thanks for Mama not telling on me for sneaking out at night when Papa was on business trips.
  • Thanks for a mother who taught me etiquette, and how to change my bed and wash the dishes and cook and set the table properly- so I can teach my son the same.
  • Thanks for giving my mother the patience for teaching me the rudiments of how to spell and add and multiply, since I was having trouble in school as a child and even ran away from school.
  • Thanks for a mother who knows how to be a good grandmother- who gave support to Zander during the troubled times with Mar and my separation.
  • Thanks for the boy scouts, cub scouts, and piano lessons.
  • Thanks for the mother who spurred me to study- even taking literature and film classes with me.
  • Thanks for giving Mama the strength to support Papa when he wasn’t feeling good. She prolonged his life at least five years because his life revolved around her.

Thank you, from Margie

  • Thank you for all the times my mother squeezed my hand and held me close whenever I was frightened or uncertain---e.g., when we were on the ship with all those scary soldiers coming over from Europe, or when getting shots, or when leaving all those 1st times for school (elementary, high school, & college), or when leaving for my honeymoon and a new life.
  • Thank you for giving my mother the creativity to invent for Judy & me all those neat stories at night about that nasty "Pinchy-Punchy Johnny" as a means of dealing with our local bully (whose name just happened to be Johnny).
  • Thanks also for the neat Hungarian fairy tales; like the Rooster and the Golden Ring, and the Women with the Heavy Cross.
  • Thank for helping my mother convince me that my glasses didn't make me look ugly----that if I smiled I would always be pretty, because, after all, my smile was my best feature anyway.
  • Thank you for all those letters to me in camp and college beginning with "my dear darling Margie".
  • Thank you for the mother who gave all of that support during those many tough times in past years-----I still try to "look at the donut---not at the hole" and "get mad---not sad" as Mama always advises.
  • Thank you for the mother who interceded for me to Papa when he seemed so immovable in his many unpopular decisions & opinions affecting me which I often disagreed with.
  • Thank you for the mother who goes out of her way to prepare paprikas chicken & nokedli with dill pickles whenever I came home to Richmond---it always made me feel so special.
  • Thank you for my mother’s persistence in trying so hard to keep up with new high tech items just so you can keep in touch with us---e.g. the fax machine.
  • Thank you for trying so hard to follow through with your exercise programs so that you can be always at your physical best and be with us for may more years to come.
  • Thank you for helping Mama be such a loving mother-in-law to Lucky and Nagymama to the kids---and for being the best Mama a girl could have---please don't ever change!

Thank you, from Judy

  • Thanks for the loving kick in the pants.

Finally, Ici herself took the time in 2000 to write out specific letters of Thanksgiving to God for each of her eight children. What a gift on this day to be able to read and appreciate words personally penned by her.
A Thanksgiving Prayer from Mama for her Children

Dear God, I want to give you thanks for all the gifts you bestowed upon me this past year: for my long life, for the love and support of my children, for their frequent calls and visits. God bless them all, and thank you!

Thank you, Lord, for Judy. I especially wish to thank you for my daughter, Judy, for giving me refuge when I needed, as in adverse weather or power troubles made my condo uninhabitable; for her advice and help to buy my condo, for taking me to church.

Thank you for Margie- for her help to get my long term care insurance, for giving me advice in physical therapy questions, for registering all of my belongings before I had moved, for providing me with my fax machine, and for introducing me to the use of it!

Thank you, Lord, for Joe. I especially want to give thanks for Joe, for running the factory and visiting me with his son, for helping me in emergencies and furnishing me with long distance drives.

Thank you, Lord, for Marienne. Thanks for Marienne, for her generous offer to take care of me until my last days, for driving to Richmond weekly to help and for keeping me company, for finding a house in Front Royal, for her search for an architect and a contractor, for taking me in time to the hospital when I had heart problems.

Thank you, Lord, for Andy. Lord, you have been so gracious to give me my son, Andy, for shouldering my legal and administrative problems, and for his help in moving me into my condo.

Thank you, Lord, for Mike. I especially wish to thank you for my son, Mike, who despite his growing family and full time job, found time to take me into his home in Washington DC often, to visit the theater, and who is helping me to realize my Front Royal plans!

Thank you, Lord, for Edie. Thank you for the blessings of my daughter, Edie, who made a kind offer to have me live with her in Nashville, who took the time to help me shop for condos with a real estate agent, who is typing my hard-to-read memoir manuscripts, and who invites me to spend Christmas in her home this year as well as last year.

Thank you, Lord, for Kitty. Thank you for my daughter, Kitty, for her warmth and love. She was always ready to console and stand by me. Thank you for her patience to lend an ear for my complaints and troubles, and for offering solutions. Thanks for her business advice and for being a friend since my loss of Papa.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Thanks, Margie.

So how do you know that someone is truly deserving of praise?

Well, first, the person who truly deserves it will absolutely not want to be praised publicly, which is why I have to apologize completely in advance to my sister, Margie, for this posting. She simply will dismiss it as hogwash or say she was only doing what anyone would do, but you know it’s a rare individual who would love on a person as much has Margie has loved on my mother.

Second, a person deserving of praise can be spotted by noting how everyone around them is in complete agreement that there is something quite unusual about this person. Margie is one of eight children, and I bet if you asked each of the seven of us in absence of the company of the others to name the sibling who has been granted by God the largest share of generosity, courage, and mercy, Margie’s name would be flat out stated with no exception.

In 2002 Margie brought our mother to her town near Boston, successfully got her accepted into the Doolittle Home, and began a process of daily attention and love that continued for seven years. Margie sat through meals with Mama, took her to every doctor appointment, encouraged the rest of us to visit her sometimes up to six times a year, and got my mother walking every day – a practice that would have ended years ago had she not been nudged a little. Margie has been a champion of every medical decision for my mother, every lifestyle issue, and even the activities my mother could and couldn’t do.

But I absolutely must apologize for this posting because it only further propagates the "Saint Marjorie" label, one I’m sure she must detest. Margie does what she does because she is guided by her conscious, the Lord, what have you may. But the trouble with accomplishing so much through love and repeating the practice of it over and over is that people label you with that “Saint” rubber stamp.

She may wonder if the expectation level on her is so high, that she wouldn’t be allowed to take a break from it. I want her to know that from this grateful sibling, I expect no more- I only feel thankful and glad to call myself her sister.

I hope she knows that the seven of us are so incredibly indebted to her for leading the way in the care of our mother. For being there hours a day, sometimes entire days, managing each and every fine point of her health and daily activities.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ici as elegant as ever

As my mother struggles in her physical weakness, our siblings gathered around her this week to encourage her.

As soon as we heard she was beginning to wane, all eight of us grown children found some way to visit her in Massachusettes. What at reunion it was. It rejuvenated her enough to get her eating again. Not a lot, and certainly not enough to sustain her life over the long term. But enough to allow her the time she needed for some wonderful connections.

She spoke with her sister, Kato, in Budapest. She listened as each of her eight children shared precious memories, and she got to enjoy the sunshine of unusually warm Spring weather as my siblings wheeled her outside to bask in the warmth.

She has also met with her priest. What a smile she has when she tells us she how comforted she was by that meeting. When asked if she is certain of her ultimate home in Heaven, she smiles and nods peacefully.

Please pray for peace during these difficult days for her.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ici Attends a State-of-the-Art School Run by Nuns

No question about it, my first school was a very fancy educational institution.

Kato, meanwhile, had to go in the nearby public high school for the first "gymnasium". (Latin based high school). It was meant to only be temporary, until the "Redemptorissen" (the nuns, whose grade school I went to) would build their convent and school. It was finished in two years, and I was transferred there too. (Ici had explained gymnasium many times to us in a way that helped us see it as shown in this graphic- gymnasium is a college prep track for high schoolers. The other track would be vocational. For more information on the Hungarian school system, see

The new school was a huge white building with center portal with columns, and two side entrances, each sporting a story high stairway leading to the first floor. The two lower floors housed all the classrooms and chemistry and physics labs, a large and well equipped gym, and the auditorium.

The third floor held the boarding student dorms and the nuns quarters (the "clausiura"), separated by an iron gate, which the nuns carefully kept locked, and a chapel. In the basement were the kitchen and the dining room, and also a swimming pool.

At the front of the school, in the center of a well groomed formal garden, the statue of Saint Margarete, the school’s patron saint stood. In the backyard was a tennis court, which in the winter doubled as a skating rink, and an outdoor exercising ground. (St. Margarete was a princess who lived in the 13th century and was kept in a convent near these grounds on Margit Island in Budapest).

This was the school my dear father lovingly enrolled his two daughters, hoping the nuns would make us perfect ladies. But he was careful enough to ask for a cut rate tuition on account of his large family and this he was granted.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Ici at Six Years Old - Her New Home and School

In 1930 we moved again. Not too far, only to the other side of the "Duna" (the Danube).

Budapest is really a twin city. Pest, on the left bank of the river, is an industrial town, built on flatland, while Buda is hilly, full of gardens and villas, and very romantic! The side of the Danube we moved to was the Buda side.

Buda has a royal palace. As a matter of fact, several palaces from different periods had been built on the top of each other. (See this website for history on the palace). This was discovered, during the communist era. The first palace dates from the fourteenth century, when Buda became the capital of the country.

There was a Roman city here too, dug out in the nineteenth century. Most of the mountains are volcanic in origin, and this explains why there are so many hot and mineral springs here. Budapest is really a bath place. (Here's a link to someone's blog about visiting the Buda Baths)

Well, my father found a way again to improve his financial standing. He became the manager of a brand new Post Office building, a job which assured free living quarters for his growing tribe.

This apartment was much larger and prettier than what we had before. The boys had a large room with a small balcony looking over the court. This balcony was built to distribute packages. By now, packages were mostly delivered by automobiles and trucks, but still some by wagons. However, to my mother’s great relief, the horse stables were not in this building.

For me, the greatest significance of being six years old is that I finally started school. My school, run by nuns, was in a beautiful small villa on the side of a hill. The building itself was lower than the street, and we had to walk through a darling little bridge right on the second floor, where the two large classrooms were: one for the first and second graders, the other one for the third and forth class students. It was an all girl school, and besides teaching the 3 R’s, also featured elementary German and French conversation.

The backyard was full with trees, birds, and squirrels, and was therefore aptly named "Squirrel home". Classes were held, when weather permitted, in the large back park. We took field trips every moth, to museums and "cinemas", and public parks and gardens. Well, I couldn’t brag about my linguistic advancement, but I sure had fun!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Ici's Uncle Jeno- a WWI Victim of Tuberculosis

My uncle, the youngest Melcher son, was Jeno (Eugene). As a 16 year old boy, he joined the Hungarian army. This was 1917, the first World War.

They did not take him on account of his tender age, so he joined to the so called "Free Troops", a bunch of adventurous youngsters, sponsored by a far left political group. They gave him spying and super dangerous assignments, and in a few months, he ended up catching tuberculosis.

Like so many sickened soldiers, Jeno returned home, but did not go back to school. He never became fully cured. He tried to work here or there, but was usually fired for fear of his infectious condition.

Jeno decided to get married. His wife came from a humble background. Her parents were farmers, and he moved in with them.

His wife, Rozsika (Rosie), produced one child after the other, only to loose them after a year or so. The three oldest survived, Magdi (Madlain), Noemi, and Auiko (Annie). When Rozsika’s parents died, they left her their farm and a modest sum to Rozsi, and Jeno used the inheritance to buy a larger house and land by the lake Balaton. He planned to raise vegetables and fruit, but was not very successful, simply because he became even sicker.

His brothers and sisters helped him financially. My mother helped him despite my father’s opposition; first with money, than with food and clothing. The maddening thing in his situation was that he could not receive any veteran pension, since he did not serve in the regular army and was not really wounded.