‘68 PerSisters, 55 Years Strong
Planning for our 55th Reunion is well underway, and excitement is growing among our many volunteers and classmates who’ve already marked their calendars. Emails have been sent out to all our classmates for whom we have email addresses with the weekend dates – May 26-28, 2023 – and a preview of some of the exciting programs and activities planned for that weekend.
We’re predicting sunshine, but if the weather disappoints us, we know we’ll enjoy re-connecting with college friends, deepening relationships with classmates we may not have known well 55 years ago, and revisiting our beautiful campus.
Check your email inbox regularly for 55thReunion updates. Be sure the College has your current email address. To doublecheck or update your information, notify the Alumnae Association directly BY CLICKING HERE. Alternatively, you can email Alumnae Information Services (email@example.com) or call the Alumnae tech line at 413-538-2735 .
Our Reunion Planning Team has grown, and we welcome additional volunteers who would like to help with any of our committees before or especially during Reunion Weekend for a couple of hours. Contact co-chairs Nancy Huttemeyer Davis and Sue Graham Simpson, and we’ll deliver your message to our outstanding, dedicated committee co-chairs.
Art Gallery – Cornelia “Nonie” Davis & Suzanne Spaeth Marinell -- planning a digital Art Exhibit
Class Survey - Betsey Huebenthal Johnson, Carolyn Dorais & Stephanie Whalen Cosgrove – created our Class Survey and sent requests for us to respond by November 15th
Connections 1968-2018 Classes– Meg Boyd Meyer & Cindy White Morrell – sharing ways to celebrate with MHC Class of 2018
Hospitality – Linda Graham McElroy & Judy O’Connor Hayes -- welcoming us in our dorm with homemade goodies, coffee, tea, wine and more
Memorial Service – Holly Vincent Bean & Mobby Brown Larson – leading this solemn program to remember classmates we’ve lost since our 50th Reunion
Parade – Carol Foy Graham & Donna Machcinski Petersen – updating our Laurel Parade signs and decking us out in festive, blue costumes
Program – Gayle Gunderson Richardson & Chris Anderson Salmon –planning a digital campus tour along with making available in-person tours of new and familiar campus sites
Reunion Outreach - Arin Edwards & Linda Renasco Cadigan --- reaching out to all of us with enthusiasm and encouragement to join us in South Hadley or via Zoom
Reunion Book – Joy Camp, Pam Daviau Joseph, & Linda Torlai Stauffer – helping us share highlights of our current lives
Saturday Dinner – Debbie Wolf Page and Liz Tannenbaum – will welcome classmates, our guests, and class honoraries to this special class dinner
Social: Saturday Class Reception - Nancie Fimbel & Karen Kunkel West – will host classmates and our guests in the Fimbel Maker and Innovation Lab
Stay tuned as we post Reunion News right here!
Photo: Reunion Planning Team members - February, 2022
I have credited Mount Holyoke, all my life, with my success and happiness. From the beginning of my career, I didn’t question my ability to figure things out, to survive — and to thrive....
This is just a reminder that, until July 31, you can recommend a classmate for the Class of 1968 slate of Board positions. Please click on this link to go to the Submission Form. Thank you.
The Class of 1968 Nominating Committee asks you to recommend a classmate (and/or yourself) who would like to serve as an officer of the class board for 2023 to 2028. We are getting an early start so that we can include the slate in the winter letter to our class.
Please provide this information for each person you recommend:
List of Class of 1968 Board Positions:
Two Vice Presidents/Reunion Chairs
Three Nominating Committee Members. (Class President appoints one member as Chair. Three are elected on the 2023 slate and two more are appointed by the President later in the term, some time after the 2023 Reunion.)
Help your Nom Com get an early start on the process. Recommendations are welcome via our Submission Form now through July 31, 2022.
By email - Respond by clicking on the indicated link to find the Submission Form where you can identify your choices.
OR By USPS mail - Respond by mailing your Submission Form information in care/of Leidich, 805 Snow Queen Dr, Chuluota, FL 32766
OR By website - You can find the Submission Form by clicking on the Class of 1968 website www.mhc1968.com The form is posted on the WEBSITE HOME PAGE.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Your Nominating Committee
Paula Braga Leidich, Chair
Margaret (Meg) Meyer
Cynthia (Cindy) White Morrell
Dear 1968 classmates,
I'm writing to let you know I wrote a book! Mini-Forest Revolution will be released June 2 by Chelsea Green Publishing! Please considering pre-ordering a copy (see end of email for links) because early sales help determine the book's success. I hope you will enjoy it and I certainly appreciate your support.
Mini-Forest Revolution tells the stories of people around the world who are making their cities, homes, and farms more resilient to climate change using the Miyawaki Method. The Miyawaki Method calls for planting dense, diverse native plant communities that become self-sustaining within three years. It’s a way to quickly establish small, ecologically robust "forests" in climates where forests naturally grow.
What I love about the Miyawaki Method is how it invites each of us to act right where we are, with our communities, for the common good. I became aware of a "mini-forest revolution" sweeping Europe and the world while living in France over the past several years and was instantly enthralled. I interviewed people who were using the method - from Paris to Japan to Cameroon to Washington, and beyond. And I co-led a mini-forest project in my French home of Roscoff. These stories, along with a how-to section and an explanation of the underlying science come together in Mini-Forest Revolution!
Please check out the book and share it with others! Pre-orders from Amazon will help boost the book's online profile, and ordering is also possible through the publisher's website and other venues. Please reach out to me to say hello - I'd love to hear from you!
Carolyn Dorais is the nerve center of the Mount Holyoke Club of Hartford, Connecticut and shares their newsletters regularly. The most recent edition is available from her at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Karolyn (Lynn) Krieghoff Sewell catches up on the last 50 years. Contact your scribe (email@example.com) to receive the full text (offered with her permission, of course)..
Tatiana (Tanya) Androsov continues to write about the horrors of Ukraine, most recently to Carolyn Dorais. Contact your scribe to receive the full text, shared with Tanya’s permission.
Nancy Fletcher offers an update to her life since the loss of her husband David Shepherd in 2018: “Flying solo after spending 21 years with David Shepherd who died at 94 at the end of 2018 is a little strange. After his death, I survived grade one/stage one endometrial cancer and managed to escape (so far) COVID. So now what? I signed up for independent living at Loomis Village in South Hadley to have that option whenever I decide to sell my Belchertown house and move. I still spend 9 weeks in Vieques Puerto Rico, 7 weeks lakeside in CT and 1-2 weeks on Monhegan Island in Maine. Checked out Martha’s Vineyard for the first time this summer and saw the enchanting Illumination. Also thrilled that Linda Gross now spends time at her new lakeside house just west of me in New York. I helped celebrate her last birthday when she and Gilbert came over for a visit.”
As we plan together, co-chairs of our 10 committees expressed these thoughts about our 55th Reunion: hope, meaningful connections, even greater attendance than our 50th, reunion is a gift, joy, excitement in working together, reconnecting, fun & welcoming, sunshine!
Other classmates who have volunteered include Susan Clark Iverson, Suzanne Lenz Janney, Stephanie Whalen Cosgrove, and Jan Andrews Owens.
If you’d like to help on a planning committee or even if you can give a little time on Reunion Weekend, please contact Reunion Co-Chairs Sue Graham Simpson or Nancy Huttemeyer Davis.
Stay tuned as we post Reunion News right here!
As we look ahead to our 55th Reunion, it is especially important for the Alumnae Association to have your current email address as they will be sending reunion registration information and updates exclusively via email.
To update your information, notify the Alumnae Association directly BY CLICKING HERE. Alternatively, you can email Alumnae Information Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the Alumnae tech line at 413-538-2735 .
Your Class Letter is a month later than usual because I wanted to include as much information about our upcoming 55th Reunion as I could, and the meetings about it have just occurred. The dates are now set: our reunion will be May 26-28, 2023. Please mark your calendars and plan to attend. There will no doubt be a new MHC President to meet as well as many friendships to renew and enhance.
Sue Graham Simpson and Nancy Huttemeyer Davis, our VP’s and Class Reunion Co-Chairs, have been meeting regularly throughout the year, and they are way ahead of the planning guidelines established by the Alumnae Association. Already Reunion Committee Co-chairs met in February via Zoom to ensure that we will have an enjoyable and memorable reunion on campus. Thank you to them both!
Thanks, too, from Sue and Nancy as well as me to all our classmates who have volunteered to help:
Others who have volunteered include Susan Clark Iverson, Suzanne Lenz Janney, Stephanie Whalen Cosgrove, Carolyn Dorais, and Jan Andrews Owens. There are still plenty of opportunities for others to assist. In particular, we need the following:
Here’s one other request for Reunion and our Class website: Nonie Davis and Suzanne Spaeth Marinell have created a Class of '68 Creativity Virtual Gallery on our website at www.mhc1968.com. It’s incomplete. They ask that you send pictures and info about your creative projects--not limited to one, not limited to “fine art”--to be included in our Art Gallery, both virtual and, at Reunion, in person. All creative work that can be photographed is welcome. This includes knitting, sewing, ice sculpture, fine cake decorating, collage, house-building, etc. Send your jpg image to email@example.com and include your name, title of piece, materials used, size and date of creation. Then plan to bring one of your creations to display at Reunion! There will be limits to what can be displayed, but we’ll find a way to show each other how creative we are.
Our Head Class Agents, Linda Gross and Ellen Petrino—under the guidance of Susan Clark Iverson who mentors us all--are happy to report that during the last fiscal year we continued to be generous, giving $214,362 to the Mount Holyoke Fund and an additional $239,273 to other College funds. So far this year we are doing well, too, and we are likely to meet our $200,000 goal. In the March4MHC Campaign this week, 96 classmates donated $56,986! Our participation rate can always be better, however, so do not think your donation is not needed. The Mount Holyoke Fund is an important component of the College’s budget, depended upon to help close the gap that tuition and the draw on the endowment alone can’t cover. Thank you to the 172 classmates who participated last year – let’s do it again! Our agents also salute the eight classmates who have given $460,510 to other College funds so far this year.
Gayle Gunderson Richardson is our class representative to the Mary Lyon Society, a group of graduates, family, and friends of Mount Holyoke College pledged to help our alma mater continue to educate future generations of inspiring, global leaders. She asks us to join her and over 60 of our classmates to make MHC a beneficiary in our will or establish a life income gift. Facts, FAQs, and details are at Mtholyoke.edu. Type Mary Lyon Society in the search bar, and suggestions, resources, samples, names and phone numbers will pop up. A lovely article about Judy Parker Stone and the endowed scholarship she funds was in a very recent publication from the College. Judy and the recipient of her scholarship have established a rewarding relationship.
Class Treasurer Stephanie Whalen Cosgrove thanks everyone who has paid class dues ($50 for 5 years). She reminds us the list of those who have paid is on our class website at www.mhc1968.com. Class funds will be needed for Reunion expenses, including the Reunion questionnaire and book. They also will help us construct and pay for more virtual or hybrid events during the Reunion. Some of us will not be able to travel to South Hadley because of distance, health concerns, etc., and we plan to have some of our events available online for these class members. We also are seeking funds to replenish the Reunion Scholarship fund. This is a fund that helps classmates who might not be able to afford to come to Reunion to travel and pay their Reunion charges, which will be much reduced from past reunions. Class dues and contributions to the scholarship fund are tax deductible. Checks should be made payable to MHC Class of 1968 and mailed to Stephanie Whalen Cosgrove at 56 Spruce Ridge Dr, Brentwood, NH 03833. Thank you in advance!
Would You Like a Turn at Class Leadership? News from the Nominating Committee
Our Class Officers serve 5-year terms. Sometime in the next few months you will receive an email asking for recommendations for class officer board positions for 2023-2028. Do not hesitate to recommend yourself. This request will also be posted on our class website. To suggest nominees now, contact any one of the members of the Nominating Committee: Paula Braga Leidich, Chair, firstname.lastname@example.org; Susan Inui, email@example.com; Meg Meyer, firstname.lastname@example.org; Cindy White Morrell, email@example.com; and Susan Rieger, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Good of the Cause
Many thanks to Stephanie Whalen Cosgrove for sending the birthday postcards to us all in 2021. Not everyone hit 75 during the year, but the Alumnae Association would allow us to see only birth month and day, not year, so Stephanie sent a card to everyone. Happy 75th last year or this!
Cindy White Morrell has volunteered to identify our class granddaughters. She identified and kept contact with our 23 class daughters when she worked on campus for many years. We know of two granddaughters on campus now, granddaughters of Mobby Brown Larson and Anita Pennak Clarkson. If your granddaughter is a current student or an alumna, please let Cindy know at email@example.com.
If you have suggestions for classmates who deserve recognition by the College, please nominate them for an Alumnae Award at https://alumnae.mtholyoke.edu/events-programs/awards/. Most of the awards are for service to the College or Alumnae Association but a couple are for outstanding career achievements. The recommendation goes to the Alumnae Board Committee; its members do the vetting, so you don’t have to turn in much information. The deadline is July 31.
Finally, we have only one remaining Class Faculty Honorary, John Piper. The eleven honorary class members we chose before we graduated were some of our favorite professors. If you have a favorite current MHC professor whom you know from webinars or research interests, please speak up. We can invite that individual to become an honorary part of our class and reconnect us to the College. We can ask her or him to update us via Zoom on the campus or the students or current research interests. Send suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No Annual Letter can be complete without reminding you to submit news of your activities to Eloise Prescott Killeffer, our Secretary and Class Scribe, for the Quarterly and our Class Website. Our home page on the website contains a powerful personal reflection on the war in Ukraine from Tatiana Mazenko Androsov. Contact Eloise at email@example.com.
I leave you this year with these words: If you change your email address, please, please, please let the Alumnae Association know by contacting the Alumnae Information Services at Mount Holyoke College at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Alumnae tech line 413-538-2735 Neither the College nor the Alumnae Association now support print mailings from classes, and we want to keep in touch with you.
President On behalf of all the 1968 Class Officers
P.S. If you prefer to react to something in this Annual Letter by phone, you can reach me at 650-485-0306. I live in the Pacific Time Zone.
My biological father was Ukrainian. I lived with his last name until my late twenties. He had met my mother in a refugee camp in Germany right after World War II. Of Bulgarian origin, she was a refugee who had been taken by the Nazis in the Soviet Union during the war and, luckily, wound up in Dresden as a nanny in a Nazi military doctor’s household, where she was well treated when the doctor was home but badly treated, deprived of the food she was entitled to by the mistress of the house when the husband was in the field. My mother fled when we bombed Dresden and was picked up by an elderly farm lady in Bavaria as she was dying on the roadside. She was nursed back to life by that lady’s family.
I start that way because I know so much more about my mother than I do about my father and to point out, as my mother would always say, never to judge people according to their origins or group but consider how they behave as individuals.
The two married. My mother’s wedding dress was made from an American parachute, at that time fabricated from white silk. I have pictures of that.
The two crossed over into Belgium ten days before I was born in the Reine Astride Hospital in Charleroi. My father went to look for work and was sent to the Belgian coal mines with words that explained that when he learned French he could look for something else.
My father was an architect, from a family where three generations had been architects. My mother, when I was an adult, told me how my paternal grandfather, also a refugee in Germany after the war, paraded with his walking stick, a very dignified man. I know nothing else about him.
While working in the coal pits, my father was also very active in the Ukrainian liberation and anti-Soviet movement. Its head was Benderenko, the famous ‘umbrella’ assassination case at the beginnings of the Cold War. I have a picture of my father and friends around the portrait of Taras Shevchenko that my father had made from the bottom ends of bottles.
My father learned French in two years and went to look for a job outside of the mines. He was told that was all he could hope for. Though he had wanted to be an artist, he had only been allowed to study architecture by the Soviets, as that is what they needed. He had designed communal housing which had actually been built. He brought his designs for other projects he had dreamed of but not been allowed to build. The Belgians had nothing but the coal mine to offer him.
Frustrated, disappointed beyond measure even though he and my mother had applied to emigrate to Canada, he asked my mother to go back to the Soviet Union with him. She, who as the daughter of a well-to do leading family in a Bulgarian town on the Sea of Azov, had been sent as an enemy of the people to one of Stalin’s first camps in the north of Russia, refused. He disappeared. For years I had been told that he had been spirited away by the Soviets, taken on a ship in Antwerp. It is only after I was middle-aged that this second version came around. I have given up on the facts.
Alone with me, with no one to earn anything, my mother moved in with a refugee family, only to be driven out by the unwelcome advances of the man of that house. It was then that one Sunday, in an older refugee’s home, I saw a face I liked from the vantage point of the cupboard I was cleaning. Yes, I was weird, a two and a half year old who liked super clean things. I looked up at that face and asked, “Will you be my papa?”, then climbed on his knee.
Guess what? He became my papa. He was yet another refugee, a mechanical engineer from the Soviet Union, who had been taken prisoner of war by the Nazis, had managed to escape, wind up in our 3rd Army, but become another coal miner in post-war Belgium. I have a picture of him with two fellow American soldiers.
Papa was from the Caucasus region, the only son of a Ukrainian widow and a Russian widower. His mother died giving birth to another son when papa was only two and his father died when he was eight, just as the Soviets were taking over the Caucus’ region. An orphan, he was turned away by both his half-brothers and half-sisters, becoming one of the numerous street children in the first years of the Soviet state.
The Soviets took him, fed and clothed him, and educated him. He became a mechanical engineer in a sovkhoz, then went to fight against the Nazis. When after the war, he was to be repatriated he welcomed that. On his way back to the Soviet Union he ran into a friend by accident, told by him that as someone who had been with the Allies and worked with them, he would be sent to Siberia or executed. Besides, hadn’t he sworn as a soldier that he would kill himself before letting himself be taken by the enemy, by the Nazis?
Papa changed course. He proclaimed himself a Pole and managed the interrogation process. He gave himself a new birthdate – the 25th of November. The survivor, the street child, was strong.
My mother and papa faced many challenges. One of them was that they could not get married. It was one of the things which made it almost impossible at that time for them to come to America. It was only thanks to a Methodist minister working for refugees wanting to come here that they finally made it in 1956.
My life was colored by that past. Both never told me about my father. However, I aways saw a different face from papa’s as I looked up sometimes. Besides, there were factors that led me to feel that nothing was what it seemed. For instance, why was I, supposedly of Russian heritage, taken to a Ukrainian camp as a five-year old? Why was I, an Orthodox, given over to Catholic nuns at that time? By the way, I loved the camp and one of the nuns was my favorite. I still remember a very patriotic Ukrainian poem from that time that ends with the equivalent, “..I am a true daughter of the Ukraine.”
Still in Belgium, I managed to open a trunk one day. There were my father’s designs. I remember one that remains clear in my head. A two hundred seventy-degree circular house with a garden in what can be looked at as hole in the open doughnut. There was also a portrait of me. My mother and papa never brought that to the US.
In the States both my mother and papa wound up working in factories, my mother often sewing samples for clothes for places like Sachs Fifth Avenue, papa in Bogue Electric, valued because they understood that he was something, even asking him to help their professionals with some little points.
They did what they could, getting away from the mainstream of refugees, settling among Americans, letting me dream and go not only to college but one of the Seven Sisters, the best there was before the Ivy League opened its doors to women.
They only married when I was in college, having declared my father dead. Even I had to testify before the judge at that time. But was he dead? I never really searched nor will I. Why? I was angry that he had not considered me and my mother, that he had valued his patriotism towards the Ukraine more than he valued us, that he had not put up with what my mother and papa put up with to try to provide for me. Remember, I did not even know that he had talked about going back to the Soviet Union in spite of having worked against it. However, that would have been another reason for me to be angry.
And, now, as an elder, I am facing another horror, an armed conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, another spear being thrown at me. For me no one is right, and no one is wrong. For me it is just one more aspect of us, ‘homo sapiens’, being cruel to each other. It is part of what drove me to the United Nations, to work in places like Cambodia, South Africa and Mozambique. It is what drove me to apply to be the president of the Thanks-Giving Foundation and give it all I had in the eight years I was in that position and still proudly be one of its representatives to what is now known as the Civil Society Unit of the UN’s Department of Global Communications.
As the founder of Thanks-Giving always said, “I give thanks for the gift of life and for the ‘other’”.
I believe that this is the first time I have submitted anything to our class newsletter. I am breaking my silence because of a very special Mount Holyoke connection just a few weeks ago. On October 8, 2021 my son, Brian, married Tara Burke at the D.A.R. Memorial Hall in Washington, D. C. and Mobby Brown Larson was the official celebrant for the wedding ceremony. My son, Brian, and his wife, Tara, had first met Mobby when she presided at my husband’s memorial service in 2019. They were so impressed that they asked her to officiate at their wedding. She spent a good amount of time with them beforehand crafting a truly personal and beautiful ceremony. I marveled at the fact that a dear friend I had met at Mount Holyoke more than 50 years ago was celebrating this occasion with me and with my family in such a meaningful way.
Both my children live in Washington, D.C. and in March I decided to take an apartment in Takoma Park, MD to be closer to them. I haven’t yet been able to say good-bye to my wonderful friends and my life in Illinois (I still have my house there) but I did do a lot of downsizing in preparation for the move. I spent the summer in Illinois working in my extensive perennial garden and in September headed back to Maryland. I took several boxes of my Latin books with me to donate to the Washington Latin School. It seemed like a perfect fit. As I parked in the faculty lot, I saw in front of me in very large letters, Martha C. Cutts Gymnasium. When asked how by the Latin teacher who greeted me how I had found them, I mentioned my learning of the school from Martha’s Christmas in July newsletters. Another MHC Class of ’68 connection.
On a lovely Saturday afternoon in October my daughter and I attended a truly exquisite chamber music concert at Dunbarton House performed by the Friday Morning Music Club. The program listed our classmate Leslie Luxemburg as the president of the organization. MHC women are at the forefront of so many endeavors.
While in Maryland I have also had the pleasure of spending time with two of my dearest Mount Holyoke friends, Laurie Trees Rodgers, and Nancy Huttemeyer Davis, who live in Virginia. Since the pandemic we have stayed in touch on Zoom but it is wonderful to have the opportunity to visit with them in person.
PHOTO (Judy Hayes and The Rev. Mobby Brown Larson):
...and an expert on vase painters in the ancient world.
All are available commercially.
She gave a ZOOM presentation to the Rotary Club of New York City on “United Nations: Challenges and Hopes” in October 2021.
Tanya also gave a ZOOM presentation to Pax Romana (at the United Nations) on “The UN and the Challenges of Interfaith Dialogue.”
Teenage boys driving too fast is nothing new.
Unfortunately, Roman teens didn't have airbags.
A sneak peek at a "Roma Amor" prequel in progress . .
Young Marcus Carinna is wild about chariot racing, bribing his way onto the practice tracks of Rome's racing clubs. Since racing chariots were flimsy cockleshells (see image), Marcus's parents and his paedagogus Phormio thoroughly disapprove of this risky pastime. However, that doesn't stop a 16-year-old boy determined to out-daredevil his friends -- until a crash brings him to the attention of the sinister Praetorian Prefect, Sejanus, who fears Marcus has learned something that threatens his ambition to rule Rome. This prequel, tentatively called SHIPWRECK, is now in the works, with publication planned for early next year.
Have you read the "postquels" yet?
Okay, I made up that word. But until the prequel appears, it's easy to catch up with Marcus Carinna in his 20s. In ROMA AMOR, he tries to obey his father's command to protect Caligula Caesar, Rome's new ruler. But his infatuation with Aurima, a vengeful enemy hostage, will tax his resolve, endangering everyone he loves. In AMBER ROAD, he must follow a rutted track to the North into a wilderness of hostile barbarians. Only there can he hope to find Aurima, the Germanic priestess who will help him restore his honor — if he can escape the imperial agents pursuing him.
more at www.roma-amor-com
An author's tinkering can result in a more compelling character . . . and a better story.
Imagine if the trauma of Harry Potter’s upbringing had made him join a street gang. Or suppose Han Solo had become so miffed at Princess Leia that he went over to the Dark Side. At some early point, an author has to decide Who is this character? Maybe he's a shy youngster who has to grow up into a champion who combats deadly evil. Or she's a frivolous minx who will learn to become her own dauntless self at a time when others are losing heart.
Which brings me to Caligula, Roman Emperor #3.
Historians who wrote long after Caligula's death said he was an ogre. Other historians recounted the political turmoil and family tragedy that must have affected him in his youth. Who he really was, and what he actually wanted to do, are open to interpretation. Even his statues are confusing.
1. Was he this well-intentioned young guy, trying to do his best? Canadian designer Daniel Voshart created this photorealistic image from a marble portrait bust of Caligula in the Metropolitan Museum.
2. Or this brutal-looking tyrant? If you consider a number of busts believed to be of Caligula, you may end up with a different take on him. (The brilliant Daniel Voshart used AI to create this image, too.)
Who was he? Or rather, who did I want him to be?
Obviously, he would be a main character in Roma Amor: A Novel of Caligula’s Rome. In an early draft, I saw him as a cruel man, enraged by the gods’ failure to give him all he desired. This example, in which protagonist Marcus Carinna happens upon Caligula and his new wife, later landed on the cutting room floor.
CALIGULA IN EARLY DRAFT:
She gasped, “I am not barren — I swear I am not!” “You are a liar. Telling me you are with child.” Caligula placed his hands on either side of her throat. He was still thin; the knobs of his backbone jutted as he bent over her. But he was more than strong enough to strangle a girl who could not defend herself. Panic flared in her eyes. “I am pregnant! I am!” “Do you know what happens to people who deceive me?” He looked down at his wife, gasping for breath beneath him. “The Chaldean says she is barren.” I seized his wrist. “Stop. The horoscope may be wrong.” [. . .] He slid off the bed. “Livia Orestilla,” he said, “our marriage is ended. Take your belongings and return to your father’s house. I will send your dowry back to him.” “Caesar,” I said, as calmly as I could manage, “I will take my leave, if you feel wholly yourself again.” He gave me an icy stare. “Why, Marcus Licinius, I am always myself,” he said, and turned his back on me.
Perhaps this was the real Caligula. But I needed him to be a flawed man, not a monster, so Marcus could face a believable choice in the novel's climax. In the final draft, here's a different Caligula. (This scene is set in a racehorse's stall.)
CALIGULA IN FINAL DRAFT:
All at once he blurted out, “I must know if Gemellus is loyal to me.” Alarmed, I shook my head again. “I am unsuited—” “I have given him everything. I have adopted him as my son.” He heaved out a breath that swirled in the chill. “Let him think your brother’s death has made you disaffected with me. Find out if he . . . if he is plotting against me.” “With respect, Caesar, I cannot do it.” “I know Tiberius raised him to hate me.” Caligula’s throat clenched, squeezing his voice higher. “But he is content to be my son. He is loyal.” He pushed his fingertips into his eye sockets. “You will prove he is loyal.” “Let us talk somewhere else,” I said hastily. “I fear for your safety here.” His bloodshot eyes glared. “They tell me to put him away and starve him, as my mother and my brothers starved. To poison him, as my father was poisoned.” Rain scuttered on the roof tiles and rushed past the high vent, filling the stall with dampness and gloom. Drips splatted on floor bricks bared by the stallion’s restless scuffling. “They all leave me,” he moaned. “They all die.” He had turned his face to the weeping bricks and was breathing in harsh keening gasps. I let go of the halter to take his arm. “Come with me, cousin.” “Has my family not suffered enough?” He slipped out of my grasp and sank to his haunches. “Gods, no more!” His hands clawed at his tawny hair. “O Furies, let me be!”
Authors are always changing their minds in order to give you a better story.
So aren't we lucky that Helen of Troy didn't miss her husband enough to go home . . . that Victor Frankenstein didn't choose dentistry as a simpler career than medicine . . . and that Miss Marple wasn't a homebody who minded her own business? We'll never know how many times an author changes her mind in creating a character -- but we can all be glad when wonderful stories result.
Thank you, fellow reader! I love to write about treachery, love, and honor in Rome of the Caesars. To learn more about my novels, please visit my website, where you'll meet some of the stubborn, passionate, flawed characters of ROMA AMOR and AMBER ROAD.
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Mount Holyoke College Class of 1968
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