Excerpt from Part Two: Love and War – Page 41

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Excerpt from Part Two: Love and War – Page 41:

Phoenix, Arizona
Summer 2007

They say that when one door closes, another one opens. I certainly
understood the first part of that axiom, as I had just shut a major
door in my life. After working for the past thirty-plus years as a
museum professional, most recently eighteen years as director of education
at the Phoenix Art Museum, I decided to retire, or at least
switch gears from full-time employment to figuring out what I wanted
to be when I grew up. I didn’t realize that trying to reinvent one’s
identity after so many years of owning one job title would be as challenging
as it turned out to be, and when it came to finding another
door to open, it seemed like there were just too many closed doors in
front of me.

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Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 34

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 34:

Orlando, Florida
December 2002

We all decided to converge in Florida that Chanukah to go
through Mom’s things. Since we had pared down most of her
belongings the year before, it was a matter of dividing up the few
belongings that she had moved with her to Florida.

We first tackled the boxes of photo albums. In our current age of
digital imagery, where every picture can retain its freshness, be
instantly corrected, transported, shared, phoned, and animated, an
actual photograph has become a rare artifact. Examining old photo
albums, some of them more than fifty years old, has become an
archaic ritual, and yet these tangible records speak more loudly of history
and memory than does anything else. Filled with hundreds of
forgotten images, they drag the past into the present and remind us of
things that we’ve long erased. The brittle black-and-white photos with
their scalloped white borders can conjure up ghosts of those people
we recognize, as well as confront us with the strangers we don’t.

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Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 31

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 31:

Long Island, New York
June 2002

Mom died almost a year after moving to Florida. At the time, Jim
and I were as remote from Florida as anyone could get, capping
off an Australian vacation on Lizard Island in the Great Barrier Reef,
and we weren’t due to return to Phoenix for another three days. Alan
tried in vain to call me, but with the time difference, he couldn’t reach
us by phone. Instead, we came back to our room from dinner one
evening to find the fax informing us of Mom’s death sitting on our
bed. Its business-like presentation made the news seem surreal. Over
the next three days, we made a flurry of phone calls, trying to make
arrangements to get ourselves to New York for the burial. It was
impossible to change our flight arrangements to get off the island any
earlier than our original booking, so we all agreed that God would
have to forgive us for burying Mom one day after the normal threeday
requirement dictated by Jewish custom. Following twenty-two
hours of flying on five planes, Jim and I arrived back in Phoenix only
to turn around six hours later to catch another flight to New York.

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Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 25

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 25:

Van Nuys, California
July 2001

“What are you finding up there?” I asked as I held the stepladder
steady.

My husband, Jim, was balancing on the top step while reaching
into the back of the hallway closet in my mother’s Los Angeles apartment.
It was very hot, and the small air-conditioning unit in the living
room was barely keeping the temperature tolerable. We had been
cleaning out closets for several hours. Today was just one of the many
days on which we would be emptying Mom’s apartment in preparation
for her move into an assisted-living facility near Alan in Orlando,
Florida.

Mom had finally moved from New York to southern California in
1978, after the persistent urging of two of her sisters who had lived
there since the 1950s. They had first tried luring her out there two
years after Dad’s death by treating us all to a summer in sunny Los
Angeles. It certainly seemed like a good plan to try to win us three kids
over with daily doses of swimming pools and visits to Disneyland,
Knott’s Berry Farm, and drive-in movies. I was particularly fascinated
with the built-in sprinkler system in my aunt and uncle’s front yard,
which I was allowed to turn on with a big silver key. And I had never
seen anything as magical as the multicolored lights that illuminated
the sparkly stucco facades of all of the apartment buildings throughout
the San Fernando Valley each night. It seemed like Christmas
every evening in California. But Mom couldn’t bear to tear herself
away from New York just yet, so in early September, just in time to go
back to school, my brothers and I reluctantly returned home with a
true understanding of Los Angeles’s nickname—The City of Broken
Dreams.

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Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 13

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 13:

Queens, New York
October 3, 1960

Summer eventually turned into fall, and I was back in school. Alley
Pond Elementary School, or PS 46, was just around the corner
from our apartment, and I was in the first grade. The beginning of
school was an exciting time marked by new saddle shoes and shirtwaist
dresses, and now that I was no longer in kindergarten, I was
finally able to get “big girl” school supplies: a black-and-white hardcover
composition notebook, a new pencil case filled with carefully
sharpened pink pencils with pink erasers, a yellow plastic ruler, a new
box of crayons, and a red-and-blue plaid briefcase with two white
buckle closures on the front pockets. There was always something so
wonderful about the smell of those new supplies—blank paper,
wood, rubber, vinyl, wax. I didn’t need a metal lunchbox like some of
my other classmates did; my brothers and I came home for lunch
every day. We ran home around the corner at 12:00 PM and returned
to the playground at 12:40 PM before going back into the classroom
twenty minutes later.

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Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 7

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 7:

Queens, New York
Summer 1960

Nothing seemed normal that summer. Each day was filled with
whispered conversations, secrets, and my parents’ unexplained
absences. Had it been a normal summer, my girlfriends and I would
have been playing with our Barbie and Ken dolls outside on our small
front lawn, turning a simple kerchief and two twigs into their miniature
campground. Or I might have been “swimming” out there in our
yellow and green inflatable wading pool. Maybe I would have been
lurking around the bushes with some of the neighborhood boys trying
to catch honeybees in an empty dill pickle jar by trapping them
with its perforated lid. It was always tricky letting the bees go. You’d
shake up the jar, loosen the lid, toss it onto the ground, and run away
in time to avoid getting stung. I might have been playing an
impromptu game of tag, hide-and-seek, or red light-green light with
any number of my playmates who lived just doors away. And each
afternoon, all our activities would have been interrupted by the sound
of the bells on the Good Humor truck. It was always hard to decide
between the vanilla Dixie Cup and Chocolate Eclair bar.

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Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 3

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Excerpt from Part One: A Box of Letters – Page 3:

Queens, New York
Spring 1960

“Daddy, where are you going?” I whispered while standing in the
doorway of the bedroom I shared with my two older brothers.
I somehow knew that this conversation required hushed tones
and would hold a very deep secret that only the two of us would
share. I certainly couldn’t have known back then that there would be
more secrets to come.

It was very early in the morning, that moment when night transitions
to a new day and everything is still cloaked in a velvet silence.
The casement window in our bedroom had been cranked open just
enough to welcome in the heady scent of newly mowed grass mingled
with my mother’s lilac bushes blooming below. My father was
carefully closing the door to my parents’ adjacent bedroom. His back
was toward me; one hand was still on the doorknob, and the other
rested tenderly against the door, as if he were holding back what was
on the other side. Startled, he turned around. He had been caught
like a thief whose clean getaway had been foiled. For a moment, we
both stood frozen in the tiny second-floor vestibule, surrounded by
the four doors that led to the two bedrooms, the linen closet, and the
bathroom.

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Special Quote from the Book

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Special Quote from the Book:

“It’s probably true that every woman gets her first taste of the love and security that is to be found in a man’s arms from the times spent in her father’s. They’re the memories and lessons that we carry with us for the rest of our lives. They’re the ones that we return to each time that a relationship goes wrong or when we feel desperately alone and ask ourselves “Will I ever be loved again?” Sometimes we call upon these memories when we need reassurance, and other times, they appear like specters conjured up by a particular smell, song, or memento. They’re buried so deeply inside of us and are so indelibly imprinted upon our very souls that they can never be erased or forgotten. Our fathers are our first loves, our little-girl heroes, and the mirrors in which we first learn to see ourselves as special and capable of giving and receiving love. If our fathers love us, then we can love ourselves. When they shower our mothers with love and tenderness, we learn to expect the same from all the other men in our lives. Our fathers teach us about strength, wisdom, and life’s practicalities. When they run alongside our two-wheelers for the very first time, they know when to hold on and when to let go. When they scare away the demons in our nightmares, it helps us to be unafraid to dream. Before we learn to stand on our own two feet, we must first learn to dance by standing on theirs. As little girls, we always think that we will marry our fathers; instead, they are here to walk us down the aisle and give us away to someone else. There is truly no other bond like the one between daddies and daughters.”

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Questions for the Audience

Love, Bill: Finding My Father through Letters from World War II by Jan Krulick-Belin

Questions for the Audience:

1. Have you ever conducted research to find out about certain relatives or family “secrets?”

2. Have you had to grow up without a parent/parents; how has that affected your life?

3. Have you ever taken a trip that has changed your life?

4. What would you like to know about a parent that you never knew before?

5. What is your family legacy? What do you want to pass on to the next generation?

6. Do you know someone who is stationed overseas now? Can you imagine how hard it would be to communicate with them without all of today’s technology? Seventy years ago, there were just letters.

7. Are there any WWII veterans in your family?