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An Evening with Ute

Tuesday, May 28 at 7:00 p.m.

When we were young, my brother and sister and I were NOT allowed to leave the dining room table until our elders (grandparents and parents) were finished with their coffee, which was about 100 hours after we'd finished dessert. AND we were expected to look interested and participate in the conversation. I'm not kidding- we did not move until the conversation and coffee finally piped down. I have pictures of the family gathered during this time and I look exactly like Scout on her first day of school in To Kill A Mockingbird- a squirmy tomboy in a dress. But guess what? My mean ol' mom gave me a gift I didn't get to open 'til later in life - that of understanding the importance of intergenerational community. I am naturally chatty and curious, and I remember my brother giving me the death-stare one coffee hour(s) because of my questions about life in Scotland before the MacGregors came to America. He wanted to get out back and play some ball, but he never let me bat anyway—so pooh on him. I hit my Grandfather up with loads of questions about his life as a newly-American soldier in World War I and his role as a Westinghouse elevator mechanic for some of the first aircraft carriers in the early 1940's. I didn't know it then but apparently John MacGregor NEVER spoke about himself or the Wars. The topics had become basically taboo—but what did I know about that, so he was being nice to his curly blonde granddaughter and got to talking. His wife ("Nana" to me) and my mother were hanging on every word. I found that out later.

Same thing happens in the bookstore. Whenever I get to talking with an elder I find they've had a fascinating life, even if they disagree with me and pshaw me when I say so. After connecting over a book or chatting about an occasion coming up, it's not long before I've urged stories from them about their childhood on a 1940's farm with no running water or indoor plumbing or being one of eight kids in a 3-room city walk-up or coming to America from the USSR by way of Latvia in the 50's. If I notice PPB friends leaning in for a listen I invite them over. 

So I thought I'd invite you all over to our Event Space (PPB 261) to listen in while I chat with Ute Anderson, 81. Born in 1938 in Berlin, she and her family were civilians during World War II and it's aftermath. At seven years old, along with her mother and two year old brother, Ute was evacuated to what she remembers as Prussia during the Russian invasion of January 1945. Ute remembers everything about those days. Fear was her constant state of being, and yet she talks of the "guilt satchel" all Germans carried post-War and still do today. At 81, Ute is a six foot tall, beaming force of nature and a testament to the resiliency, humor and inspiration we can only wonder at during this series. Emma and I got to chatting with her one day in the store so we just had to share her and we hope to make this an ongoing series.

Free event! Come join us for an Evening with Ute, the first in our series "Talking About Their Generation." Seating limited to 30, please call to RSVP, (630) 765-7455.

If you happen to know a fascinating elder that might want to talk to me in front of a small audience, please contact me. Series will resume in the Fall, read@prairiepathbooks.com.

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