8 years old? And a champion slugger?
His (Dutch) Great-Great Grand Father, Hector W.M. van Coehoorn van Sminia, was a speed skater, finished 9 in a field of 33 skaters in the first Dutch 11-city ice skating tour in 1909, and became a well-known speed skating coach, trainer and ice hockey player (his team won an international championship in Davos, Switzerland). He was a well-known horseback rider and horse breeder/trainer in Holland (the famous Dutch warmbloods and thoroughbreds!). His wife, my grandmother, was champion of the first Dutch lady field hockey teams (playing in long skirts!), a good tennis player, and an excellent horseback rider, too.
Their grandson, me? Not much of a sportsman. I played tennis and the piano, but wasn’t great at soccer, hockey or skating. I loved to ride horses and go skiing, until a back problem arose and I had to abandon all that. Major disappointment. Our son, David? He mostly grew up overseas during his first 8 1/2 years while we were on a four-year World Bank assignment in Bangladesh and missed out on all the early little league stuff in the US. But when he landed in Los Angeles on the way back and saw the 49ers for the first time on TV, somehow the latent family sports-spirit hit him front and center: from then on, it was football (Redskins!), baseball and basket (Magic!). Me trucking him to all the little league schools in the neighborhood for practice and battle. At high-school, he excelled in football and basketball and scored 22 baskets on a regular basis. I tried to teach him tennis – my favorite – but while he was good at it he always turned to team sports.
No wonder the family genes fulminated in his son Preston John, alias PJ. Last weekend two championships, one of which a baseball game in which he scored with his WhiteCaps team the one and only home run! And how: see it below (courtesy PJ’s mother, April, who, like her mother Doris, is an eager and competent photographer).
Below are the other sluggers and their coaches! PJ in blue far left, coach and Dad David far right. What an enthusiastic bunch!
PJ smiling with his trophy and proud Dad texting it around.
Go WHITECAPS! Happy Fathers’ Day!
And this one day later: champion “Flag” football! Thanks to PJ’s fabulous pass – as the quarterback – to a teammate who went straight for the goal line! PJ can surely throw balls!
What does his sister, Sadie Rose do? Playing soccer!
Well, the old family genes have been passed on! Finally!
You see the war movies this Memorial Day weekend. Youngsters probably don’t even realize it’s a weekend to remember the fallen. For them it’s barbecue day and heading for the first beach festivity. They should know they can because the fallen saved their lives.
For someone like me who has lived through war and escaped – miraculously – being hit by bombs or gunfire, or being taken away by cruel thugs who “followed orders” to put you away, it is difficult to understand that generations who have not experienced war do not understand what it means. Movies show explosions and people flying through the air in pieces, and we sit in front of the screen, either at home or in a theater, and just continue eating our steak or popcorn, not feeling the excruciating pain that goes with it and that those victims must suffer.
The US was hit badly at Pearl Harbor, and lost many thousands of brave men and women liberating Europe from Nazi Germany and Asia from Samurai Japan. Some seventy years later, the Twin Towers got hit by Osama bin Laden. On both occasions, thousands of dead. In between and thereafter, there were Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, and the Middle-East where many young soldiers paid the ultimate sacrifice, defending freedom and civilization.
People grow quickly complacent. Bursting bombs and flames on TV and in the movies numb your senses of what it really means: horrible pain, extreme suffering, helpless maimed bodies, deep loss for fellow humans who met this fate in defense of our freedom and ability to continue living the easy life. Did you ever as much burn your finger, to imagine what dying in a ball of flames does to your senses?
I don’t like those thugs in the streets protesting, for what? If they ask them, they don’t even know!
If I had the power, I would round them all up and make them work hard in an army camp for a while, drill them, make them climb obstacles, discipline them and give them a taste of what freedom really means and what we have to do to keep it. And, of course, some people will scream at me, “You are a bigot, racist!” or whatever. Really? So what then is so good about wild and uncontrolled protestors? Do they need extra protection and baby care under the First Amendment of “free speech?” Don’t they realize they can protest only because they live in Freedom and that violence at it is NOT a right?
I remember that -when I studied in Belgium – police rounded up protesting students, hoisted them into trucks, and let them lose one by one far in the country side to walk back home. Good riddance. But the networks love to show the wild ones throwing stones or even Molotov cocktails at the police – who are protecting them normally from thugs like themselves – because those images are “sensational” – attract viewers – and are good for the ratings and advertising fees. It’s all very topsy-turvy.
On Memorial Day Weekend, as on other memorable days, I hang out the flags, of the US and Holland.
In memory of the fallen who made it possible for me to live a good life. I think of the many with maimed bodies, still finding the willpower and strength to get by with what they have, and even do Olympics. Those are the people I respect. Those are the people those street thugs should take as an example. True, anarchist people have always existed and always will, from the old classic days of Romans and Greeks to the French Revolution and the Nazi Brownshirts. The only difference between then and now is, that they can be shown on TV and that the Networks love to show them. They give these thugs the notoriety that they do not deserve at all, in particular when they put a certain political party in a bad light. How convenient for the “objective reporting” media.
What a difference our Freedom Fighters make! In the Army, on the sea and in the air!
May 4 is Audrey’s birthday. Each year we remember her. I do and so many others. This portrait stood on the grand I played on at my grandparent’s home in Holland. It is a rare picture that you won’t find very easily among the thousands of Audrey pictures floating around on the internet. It was taken by Noël Mayne in London in the early fifties when Audrey was modelling and acting in cabarets, and not yet discovered. Her mother, who I used to call Aunt Ella, had left it with my Aunt Nini (the spouse of Count John Paul van Limburg Stirum who from 1916-1921 was Governor of the Dutch Indies where Aunt Ella, her niece, married her first husband). She visited Aunt Nini from time to time, and I met her there, too. She gave it to me, and so it landed on my piano.
Not so long after that she sent me the famous picture of Audrey in Gigi on Broadway, for which she had been selected when she visited Cannes in 1952. For a long time I thought this photo was just for me, until I found out it was all over the place.
I met Audrey for the first time in 1943 when she was just thirteen and I seven. That was during World War II when she lived with her mother and two stepbrothers in her grandfather’s house in Velp, near the city of Arnhem, close to my grandparent’s place. Her mother was then divorced from her second husband Mr. Ruston, who had stayed in England. Baron van Heemstra was Mayor of Arnhem before the war. He and my grandfather were related. Audrey came to visit on a horse-driven carriage, sitting between her mother and grandfather, on an afternoon for tea. She and I ran around the estate together. Though danger of bombs and fighter planes were a constant threat, and Germans were everywhere, even on my grandparent’s estate, we were only interested in my grandmother’s great cake. Audrey was enthusiastic about becoming a ballet dancer.
Both pictures are family pictures. The first (which slipped into the internet) is Audrey at age 13. The second is Audrey dancing in Arnhem at age 16, also given to me by her mother through my Aunt Nini. I gave the portrait and the dancing originals to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund for keeps.
For some reason, I could never forget her smile. It had a brilliance I would never see again until I met my wife. Then war reached a pinnacle and we could not see each other. I lived in Amsterdam, and when everyone thought we were going to be liberated, we heard that the battle of Arnhem had failed. There were thousands of deaths. We feared Audrey and her family were dead too. We suffered a long very cold winter without food, the hunger winter of 1944/45.
Then, finally, on May 5, 1945, we were free, after five bitter years of war and suffering.
But things changed rapidly. My father died shortly after liberation when he was run over by a British truck while bicycling to his brewery in Amsterdam. My grandfather died shortly thereafter of illness. It was a horrible time for me. Then we moved in with my grandmother in the countryside. But Audrey moved in the opposite direction to Amsterdam with her mother, to continue her dancing lessons with Sonia Gaskell. I did not see them anymore before they left for London where Audrey – being British through her father Joseph Ruston – had received a scholarship at the Rambert Ballet. Audrey kept the name Hepburn her father had acquired from his grandmother’s maiden name.
I was at boarding school, about 16 or so, when my mother called me that Audrey had become a film star! It was “Roman Holiday,” with Gregory Peck. I still see myself standing at the “middle court” of the school being admired. All of a sudden I became “famous”, too, because I knew her. I think each time she made a new movie, we went to see it immediately with my family and family friends who knew her. I remember we did not like Sabrina that much, because she married Humphrey Bogart, who was much too old for her and an obvious mismatch. Gary Cooper with Audrey in Love in the Afternoon was better, although he was also too old. Couldn’t they find younger guys? It took years before she finally teamed up with George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961 and with Cary Grant in Charade in 1964! Aunt Ella kept sending pictures, one with her first husband, Mel Ferrer, and their little son Sean, which was used for a Christmas card.
It was only years later in the mid-seventies that I saw Audrey again, at a surprise moment, when she visited friends for a birthday party in Geneva. It meant the world to me: finally. I had written to see her when she was filming Charade with Cary Grant in 1963 in Paris where I studied.
But, even though she wrote back she remembered, she was so busy she did not have time to put a stamp on an envelop. This time we could remember the war time and our first encounter in Holland.
I wrote a story about my fascination with Audrey. There are many books about her, including wonderful picture books issued by her sons, Sean, and Luca (from her second marriage to Count Andrea Dotti, her psychiatrist). My story is a personal one I cherish, because it is mine alone. It is for sale on Amazon and whatever proceeds I get from it I send to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.
Audrey was an icon for UNICEF and did so much good raising money for the many deprived orphans and malnourished children of the Third World. She traveled all over the world after her movie career, and then got felled by illness herself that took her away from us in 1993 in a very short time, only 63 years old.
Audrey in Ethiopia
It was a very sad moment to learn she had left us, but at the same time so enlightening, as I had had the privilege of knowing her, albeit at the outer edge of her fabulous orbit. I still benefit and draw strength from her brilliant beam of light in the difficult moments of human life. Who could have imagined that that little girl I met during a cruel war would turn into that magnificent woman for so many millions of people, as her son Sean titled her in his wonderful picture book, “An Elegant Spirit.” And Luca’s lovely photo book “Audrey in Rome” as well.
Luca Dotti’s Audrey Cook book!
Why should we be surprised that so many like this memoir/coming of age story? On a first Goodreads giveaway of only 2 books it got some 600 entries!
(If the links do not function- sorry, a WordPress Issue- kindly copy them into your browser/url)
Whose memoir starts off playing with Audrey when they were kids (she 13 and he 7) , only to discover ten years later that she has become a famous movie star winning an Oscar in Roman Holiday with the great Gregory Peck? I remember her from when she came to visit us during World War II when she lived near us in Arnhem at the house of her grandfather, Baron van Heemstra, with her mother and two stepbrothers. She told me she practiced for ballet at the Arnhem Conservatory. I drove her in my pony wagon but did not really know what she was talking about!
The Audrey picture above and the dancing one below are private pictures that nobody else has! I donated them to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.
Thirty years later we met again in Geneva when she was an accomplished and widely acclaimed actress, with two great sons. Many people knew her then but few people knew her as a young, beautiful undiscovered star at age 13 (picture left).
Sam says: This is a heartwarming collection of short stories that portray the path of boy meets world with realism and sensitivity. Perhaps most surprising are the different relationships that each story portrays – some were romantic, while others were more familial or close friendships. Those qualities, combined with the historical backdrop and international perspective, distinguish this book from the more typical and predictable storylines, making it a five-star read!
Get it at:
This may be the reason why so many want to read this story. But it’s not just Audrey. The other woman who till to-day, remains an anchor in my life is my grandmother, who appears in the book as “Lady D.” Who does not love their grandmother like the author does?
Sure everyone’s grandmother is something special! This one was, a Grand Dame who left an indelible mark on the author’s mind and soul. Many want to read it, thinking, yes, that’s how my grandmother was, too!
Then follow the heartwarming females that upset any young lad growing up!
And the first real love? That girl that knocks you of your socks when you are just 17?
Get it at: http://amzn.to/1QIL94B
If I told you that picture with the beloved girlfriend was taken in a heavily guarded Jesuit boarding school you would not believe it, but it’s TRUE.
Then that lovely pianist in Paris.
Paris upsets anyone’s love life. Hundreds of books and movies ballyhoo about it, and you don’t believe it until you get bitten yourself! That city does it to young people, especially if you speak its language of love, as I do. Imagined, dreamt of, hallucination, or wishful thinking, probably all of the above, turned me topsy-turvy. Everyone who went through the same experience, and many did, wants to compare with someone else’s experience, just to be able to say, yes! that’s how it felt! Yes, that’s how it was! And then to think that I and my adorable pianist ran into Sammy Davis in the Hermes store, getting his broad smiles and autographs on her shawl!
Get it at:
But the author ran into big troubles, too. Did anyone mess up because they met spider woman when they started their professional career? I did! Nothing more distressful then getting enamored by blond hair, artic blue eyes, a most enticing bright smile and a sexy seductress grabbing you by your….well you know what. Readers don’t want to miss that desperate episode. The author got out of it thanks to the blessing of his gods…oh boy, how that seductress could have destroyed his life…Remember that fabulous song “Here she comes! she is a Man Eater, Ho Ho Ho!?” Watch out!
And then he escapes to Switzerland, meets a loving woman but when the relationship sours because of differences in viewpoints and objectives in life, he breaks up once more, only to fall in love with a Norwegian Viking on the skis slopes that ends up in tears on both sides.
Ach! How difficult young life is. Loving and living love and it never stays the way it is. Why does it have to be that way?
Dan Dwyer writes: I had read the author’s vignette on Audrey Hepburn a few months ago when I was looking for something short, different and personal because my daughter is a big Hepburn fan. Mr. Schwartz did not fail me then nor has he failed me now with his compilation of the women he has met in his life. This latest work, Some Women I Have Known, talks as much about the man himself growing up amount the fairer sex, which he learns almost too late in life has a decisive advantage over a man too eager to find life’s companion.
Get it at:
And so the deep sufferer left for Africa. Only a desperado would do that. But he got mesmerized by a dark figure, a magnificent African woman, strolling on a hill who wanted something from him. No, not sex, not earning money to give her beauty away. She wanted freedom, away from mistreatment, longing for the moment she could employ her talents, flying away to unsurpassed heights, dislodge herself from imprisonment in a suffocating society, forced marriage and abusive treatment. A beautiful bird from the jungle, begging to be let loose from its cage to spread its wings and shoot out to heaven.
I don’t think I can ever forget Nyira, ever. I don’t know where she is now, what finally happened to her when I got her out, but she did get her chance to live a better life and she did.
And that’s the moment where young minds settle and reach some sort of maturity. It’s what they call coming-of-age. We all go through that one way or another. The only thing this author can say is that he was damn lucky he did not fall between the cracks. He finally met the woman he felt comfortable with. The opposite of what he had imagined.
I think this is the element why so many want to read this love story. It’s out on Amazon. com, Kindle e-book, paperback and hardcover. Don’t miss out on these stories, they inspired me to write them, and they will inspire you when you read them.
SOME WOMEN I HAVE KNOWN – MEMOIR AND ROMANCE
KIRKUS REVIEW; “A WISTFUL MEMOIR…“
AMAZON.COM KINDLE, PAPERBACK AND HARDCOVER.
Our Beechcraft stood at Executive Airfield near Charleston in the glistering afternoon sun. Friends dropped us off after a weekend fishing off the South Carolina coast. We loaded our bags in the hull and walked back to the flight desk for weather information. Tom, my muscled friend from college and a Boeing 737 captain, and I drew up our flight plan. We had been flying the Beechcraft for several years now and enjoyed the fruits of our investments, going out each weekend if we could. I had been flying small planes since I was twenty-five. As I did well in my career as an investment banker, I could afford purchasing the aircraft. Tom pitched in as well.
“Fueling done?” asked Tom
“All fine. Here’s your invoice,” the attendant said. “Weather report OK, but you may hit some thunderstorms near your destination. Nothing to worry about.”
It was my turn to take the Beech back to Manassas in Northern Virginia, our hub. I started the engines, let them roar a few times, and taxied to the run way. Patrick Allen of Dreamstime.com took our picture. A few moments later we were airborne. Soon we would be home to tell the funny boat stories and show off our tanned bodies. Sunita, my wife, would be waiting anxiously. She would never come along. Andy, my son, and daughter Sonia, sometimes flew with us, but they were busy with parties this weekend. Besides, Sunita did not like them coming along. Tom was engaged to his umpteenth beauty, a smart girl from Manilla, but she felt terrified in small planes.
We were flying under visual flight rules in clear skies at an altitude of 9,500 feet, enjoying the scenery of fluffy clouds, the patches of forests and fields gliding by below us, the sonorous hum of the engines. As the weatherman had predicted, after about an hour and a half we began to experience some turbulence but the bright cumulus turned dark much faster than we heard.
Tom radioed Flight Watch for an update and they reported that conditions ahead were changing rapidly. I contacted Flight Service and activated our instrument flight plan, as visibility deteriorated fast. We contacted Air Traffic Control, and the Washington Center controller reported significant storms developing along our planned route. Tom and I discussed if we should return or reroute. But from the cockpit, the sky to the west looked darker and even more menacing. The controller suggested we proceed in northeastern direction to avoid the worst of the storms. Knowing they might have a better radar overview than we, we accepted the new course. It didn’t look much better, but at least it seemed less threatening.
Then flying conditions got suddenly pretty rough. We could not see anything anymore because of the harsh rain and thick clouds. I asked Tom, who had more experience, to take over the controls. We were about twenty minutes from Manassas. The hazardous weather and fierce lightning was now all around us. Turbulence shook the aircraft pretty badly and the instruments beeped several warnings. Tom struggled to keep the aircraft level. The controller informed us of severe thunderstorm activity near Manassas. Tom sneered that it couldn’t be worse than what we were having already.
The controller said landing was still possible and instructed to descend to 4000 feet, but there the clouds were even darker. Lightning kept slicing through them.
Hail began to clatter and the turbulence became increasingly violent. Then the aircraft experienced a sudden loss of 2000 feet. “Damn! Microburst!” yelled Tom to the tower. “Loosing speed going down!” We were far too low, still half a mile from the runway and facing tough headwinds. I led the landing gear down at about 100 knots. Tom applied full throttle to gain height but the aircraft continued to be pushed down. We saw the ground approaching fast. Tom tried to pull up again and level but the Beech veered abruptly to the left in strong gale winds and the nose pitched downward. We hit the ground, skidded and spiraled several times with tremendous shocks, and came to a very rough halt. My seat broke loose or cracked, I didn’t know what happened, but I felt a terrible pain in my back. Luckily no fire broke out and the canopy was still intact, but rain, hail, lightning and thunder continued unabated. Tom leaned forward over his stick, his shoulder hugged in a forward position. I couldn’t move.
“Tom!” I screamed. “The hell wake up man! I feel like I’m dying.”
I noticed a slight shrug in his shoulders, thank God he was alive.
“Tom!” I yelled again.
He came through slowly. His hair was bloodied and his lips were cut. “Come on, John, don’t panic! The tower knows. The meds are coming. Hold on!”
We tried to loosen our seatbelts but everything was twisted. My vision blurred and my senses numbed. The last thing I heard were the ambulance sirens. Thank God! I just hoped they would be in time to get us out before the plane blew up.
* * *
We woke up in a bright white hospital room. Sunita stood near my bed, with the kids, tears in her eyes, but so glad I was alive. Tom’s fiancée, with her typical Philippine name, Mahalina, stood at Tom’s bed, holding his hand. He looked like a Sikh and a surgeon with his head in a ball of white bandage.
“You guys are very lucky,” Sunita said. She wore her black hat as if she had been preparing for my funeral. “Better leave that flying to the birds.”
I laughed, Tom grinned painfully. He couldn’t move his face.
“Yes,” he mumbled through his bandage. “Flying is for the birds.”