Mom was 42 when, oops, Pip was born in 1949. That inspired a neighbor, Helen Ross, who gave birth to Clarkie.
Then nine, I observed that Mom was getting fat. Though she continued her medical practice with morning house calls, afternoon hours, and evenings on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Coming from a medical family I assumed she had a disease or condition but it wasn’t discussed and nobody but me appeared concerned.
I did research in medical books and journals. That entailed coming upon an illustration of a medieval condition. The patient in question had a large belly which was tapped to drain excess fluid.
With this diagnosis, I relentlessly asked when her stomach would be tapped.
“Soon” was the answer.
Then one night Dad woke Jo and me stating “You have a new sister.”
Imagine my surprise as that came out of nowhere.
A family friend, Alice Moran, drove me to Longwood Hospital.
Behind a window, she was lifted up and displayed. She was all red and crying.
Eagerly Alice asked what I thought of my sibling.
“She looks like a fish” I replied.
The gap of years between us, at that time, was immense.
It was our first summer in Annisquam. On the beach an older girl took me aside. Whispering in my ear she told me where babies come from. It was quite a surprise. I was a good Catholic kid and she was talking dirty.
That seemed impossible and ridiculous.
Everything was new and different in Annisquam and Pip was part of it.
That photo of Jo and me with our fat, bald sister is so astonishing. What a little imp.
It has been such a journey from then to now. Who knew that one day Pip would be my oldest friend and closest confidante?
I recall that day, decades later, when she was wheeled into the delivery room. She clutched her husband’s hand and asked “Do you love me Yuri?”
After Sarah was born Mom and I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant on Beacon Street near Kenmore Square. We ordered stir-fried string beans which she had never had.
Some time ago Pip and Yuri bought a home in Norwood Heights. After many years as a special education teacher in Arlington she finished her career in Gloucester.
Her home was a short walk to Mom’s. She was able to visit after school, make a meal, change her into a nightgown, and get Mom settled for the night on the porch for TV. In the summer there was always family around but, in the off-season, there was help to get her up and dressed. Mom said the day was long and lonely until Pip arrived after teaching. There were books on tape and she loved programs like 60 Minutes and Masterpiece Theatre.
Until she passed at 94 Mom was sharp and eager to learn. She loved a lobster and dry martini. Astrid and I came from Boston a couple of nights before the end. We brought a lobster and served her a martini. She couldn’t lift the cocktail but leaned over and slurped it. We were all there when she bid goodbye.
Pip was christened Mary-Louise Giuliano. Pip or Pippy derived from pisseda (sweet pea in Italian) which Dad called her. Truly, he adored his youngest and love child, as we all did.
They would enjoy the backyard swing as he crooned “Gish a beddah si si.
For me, Pip initially was like a toy or doll. It was fun to play with her. For Christmas, I bought her lots of wind-up toys from the Five and Dime at Coolidge Corner.
By then, she was in her Eloise phase, a little kid living at the Plaza. We would play “open and door, shut the door” or “angry frown.” Her companion was a stuffed monkey. We joked that she was “The Bad Seed.”
Fooling around I ran one of the wind up toy cars over her head. Hair got caught. I panicked and yanked it off hair and all. She screamed and said “I’m going to tell Mom and Dad.” I pleaded with her not to. But it was smoothed over and the hair grew back.
Thanks be to God.
It was more than an age difference that made Annisquam not the same for us. For me, there was transition and change. It was the only world Pip ever knew but she was exposed to all the same challenges. For me, the social conflict spawned rebellion while Pip found her own way.
She learned sailing and tennis in the Junior Program and had her own Turnabout, The Skipperdee. I had my Fishboat, Der Uferschenke.
Josephine was three years older and came out when a senior at Beaver Country Day. As an American debutante, she was invited to the Bal à Versailles. Which was commemorated by Bal à Versailles Eau de Parfum -Chaleureuse et richement texturée, c’est une indulgence intemporelle, attrayante pour les plus exigeants d’aujourd’hui. Jean Desprez utilise les matières premières les plus pures, quand il composa son chef-d’oeuvre Bal à Versailles.
We went as a family touring Europe that summer.
Mom spent months having gowns altered and long white gloves ordered. There were tails for Dad and a tuxedo for me. Pip had a gown and fur stole.
At the last minute, Dad opened a suitcase and filled it was cigar boxes, sketch pads, watercolors and brushes.
Landing at Aéroport de Paris-Orly the customs inspector wanted to tax his cigars. He refused and there was quite a scene. I tried to help with my schoolboy French. Ultimately, he prevailed after threatening to take us home on the next plane. With a shrug, the inspector marked our bags with a chalk X.
Truly, for Pip it was Eloise in Europe. What an incredible adventure and fantasy.
It was non-stop champagne, and by that, I mean the good stuff. Visiting his chateau, le duc de Maillé announced with regret “We have run out of the 1923 and will now serve the 1924.”
We wined and dined at the Eiffel Tower and Jockey Club de Paris a traditional gentlemen’s club regarded as one of the most prestigious in Paris.
There was a fleet of limos as we toured chateau country. Little American flags adorned the vehicles. People lined the streets and waved as the VIPs passed through villages. It felt so pre-Guillotine.
Pip saved the corks and ingeniously made a necklace of them. “These are my jewels” she announced and truly they were.
During the week when Mom and Dad weren’t in Annisquam I was in charge of my little sister.
Me, Jo and Pip At The Beach
Pip, Me and Jo, Annisquam 1949
Pip and Mom
Family in The 1940s
Dad and family; Pip, Jo, Nugie and Mike Moonves with Augusta in front.
Pip at Miss Paige's
Pip and Jo
Pip at Beaver Country Day
There was no babysitter so that meant taking her along on a date with an au pair. We caught the bus to Gloucester and saw a movie at the North Shore. On the way home I parked her on a swing and made out on the grass. Her plaintive cry was “I’m a scared” to which I replied “Just a few more minutes.”
As a teenager in Brookline, I was my task to drive her to ballet classes conducted by Miss Paige. I sat with the other mothers as the girls were instructed. That later came in handy when I covered dance for the daily Patriot Ledger while the regular critic was on maternity leave. I often took Pip who coached me on the moves. She was thrilled when we saw Nureyev and Baryshnikov.
There would be other dates. While in college I invited her to a folk concert in the coffee club at Brandeis. I had no money as usual. The waitress asked if we wanted anything?
Pip answered, “I would like the chocolate cake.”
Driving her home I fumed. “You had to have the chocolate cake.”
It’s been a running joke between us ever since. When we go out to dinner, now that I can afford it, I say “Pip, have the chocolate cake.”
As she recalls “I’ll never forget – the chocolate cake cost $1”
Pip was always frugal while I lived beyond then meager means. She was good for a loan that was not always repaid.
While Dad loved us and doted on her things changed when we grew up and had minds of our own. He constantly punished and fought with me. That made me ever more defiant and determined to become an artist.
For Pip, the turning point came when she decided to be a vegetarian. That boiled to a head in a tearful scene when she refused turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.
After graduating from Beaver, she attended two years at nearby Pine Manor College. Then she transferred to the University of Wisconsin over Dad’s dead body. Madison was a hotbed and she changed forever. There was Peter a first serious boyfriend.
Dad warned her that he would hire private detectives to check up on her. She spent two years of looking over her shoulder.
After graduation, she lived at home and worked for the phone company. When she saved enough money she flew to Japan. Initially, the plan was to visit our uncle and aunt, George and Mary Ferdorko. But his job in Tokyo fell through.
“It was a spiritual quest with a longing to go East. Mom bought me a round-trip ticket so I would come home. I returned after about 18 months,” She recalled
“Mom endorsed this trip because she took me to some convent where I had an interview with the sister superior. There was a Catholic school in a rural area of Japan that was in need of an English-speaking teacher. Ok I thought, it’s not Eastern religion but maybe Catholic mysticism is my path.
“The sister superior flunked me at the interview and with good reason. I was not to carry the Catholic banner into the foothills of Japan. I had to find another way to ease Mom’s fear and gain her support. That’s when Mary and George became the focus.”
After three months on her own, she had to leave Japan to refresh a visa and apply for a work permit.
“I hopped on a freighter bound for Hong Kong where I would await my Japanese visa,” she said. “I fell in love with Leung Yu-ti, an officer on the Oriental Jade. He took me home to his parents, in Taipei. His sisters were thrilled, his father though was quite angry. The visa documents were lost so I continued on to Thailand and never returned to Japan.
“The impetus for the trip east was to find ‘a teacher.’ I was drawn to Japan. When I found the one monastery that would take women, they said the Abbott was away. Thus ended that phase of my spiritual quest.
”Thailand and the Theravada Buddhist tradition had no gender restrictions. My initial introduction rocked me briefly but there were many lovely, life-changing experiences after that.
“My first night in Bangkok, I found myself at a Wat (temple) in the city center. I was approached by a handsome monk in saffron robes. He called me sister. I was beguiled until the talk turned suspiciously intimate. After ignoring his suggestion to sleep with him, he then offered up heroin. Back to reality, it was a good lesson in self-protection.”
We corresponded but I wondered if I would ever see her again.
Oh my lawd!
There is a paragraph mix up – by then ….Eloise instead of the toys and hair.
Jean Paige School of Dance…..
You told Ellen Desmond that I didn’t practice. I was so humiliated. I had lousy feet for ballet. But I was good at modern in bare feet.
Very sweet. Like a love letter.
Off to drumming.
How old is pip.We were in the junior program.
When are you publishing the full, historical novel? Hard-cover of course.