Friday, July 2, 2010

5 Freelance Friday: Travels with Vivi, Cambridge Massachusetts

We last left off when the family moved back to the United States from Germany...

In Fort Sill, Oklahoma, George finished his course of duty with the military, and the family returned to his native Cambridge, Massachusetts, where George took a position as a librarian at Harvard’s Yenching Institute. They moved into an apartment in Hammond Street, a unique community of Harvard graduate students and employees, some with young families, and many with international backgrounds--all of them idealistic, intense, and politically engaged. 

The stories of the life on Hammond Street are legendary – the mutual support in times of crisis, the wild and crazy parties, the amount of champagne consumed, the raucous meetings of EOS, Inc, (membership only open to those who do not live up to their potential), and the happy evenings sitting on the stoop with all the neighbors...the list goes on. The small apartment had also, again, become a haven for all who needed a place to stay – recent immigrants and visiting scholars from the Far East, partners during break-ups, children during family feuds, and of course a never-ending series of visiting friends and relations from Europe. Vivi kept the tradition of absolute hospitality alive, as she had learned and experienced herself in Japan. 
The family eventually moved to a new Cambridge home: a coop in Putnam Avenue provided a similar community as the Hammond Street apartment. They soon became a drop-in center for the coop members, and were known for their readiness to provide an open ear to anyone, accompanied by a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, depending on the time of day. 

The last three years of Vivi’s life were affected by tragedies: In 2007, George died suddenly of a heart attack, on the day of their 61st (military) wedding anniversary. Later that same year, her oldest nephew sustained significant brain injury in an accident. One year later, her son Jan committed suicide. Meanwhile, it was apparent that Vivi was experiencing progressive stages of Alzheimer's. It is not clear how much she was able to really take in the extent of these sad events.
In her last year of life, she was cared for diligently by her many friends, who enabled her to stay in her house until her death. She enjoyed life to the last moment and reflected on how good it was. She passed away quietly on April 26th, the day of her 64th (church) wedding anniversary, thus bringing to an end a truly remarkable life.

This is the final installment from guest blogger (and Katrina's mom) Kerstin Potter.


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