So I am finally getting around to telling you – YOU – everyone, anyone that will listen/read about the day of the cups.
This is a big deal, so pay attention.
I only have one sibling. My brother Mike. Many of you that know me, and that know him, know that we have a very complicated relationship. We have gone years without speaking to each other. We’ve gone through that fiasco many a time, for a couple of different reasons. And we have come back together many a time too, and so on. Sometimes by force. Sometimes because we wanted to try again, and try to heal, and let bygones be bygones. What the fuck is a bygone? Oh. I just looked it up. Yeah, that’s a difficult thing for me to do, or it has been for me.
It means disagreements. Let disagreements be disagreements? That’s funny. I mean, if you know me on a super intimate level. I have had a real hard time with that one. It’s only made life harder for me. Not anyone else. I think about that now and I see that I am much better at that than I used to be. MUCH better. But I’ve always been one to nag at the other person in my relationships to “fix” these disagreements, when “fixing” them meant making them agreeable. LOL!
Anyway, I digress. A little. Mike and I have had our ups and downs. A lot of downs. Or should I say, a lot of rocky road in trying to reconcile enough of our current relationship so that we can just manage to love each other without it getting too complicated so that we’re not fighting all the time. That’s why playing music together is such a great idea for us. There’s just no bullshit there. It’s easy, and we connect and get along great. Nothing to it.
Well, recently, as you might know, I was part of this wonderful exhibition, Intersecting Paths: Art & Healing at Hebrew Union College at USC, curated by Georgia Freedman-Harvey. What’s great about that show is that, even though it’s over, there is still an online archive of the exhibition here.
And one of the artists in the show was Ehren Tool. He makes these ceramic cups for the children of soldiers that have seen action, or have fallen in battle. At first, I thought he made these cups for Jewish soldiers, so I didn’t bother to give out my name when Georgia the curator was asking the artists in the show if they had fathers or grandfathers that served in war. But then, at the end of the exhibition, just a couple of weeks ago, there was going to be a ceremony where Ehren’s cups were going to be presented to the artists and their families, among others, and it was going to coincide with a partial exhibit across the street at USC Hillel, where there would be small portraits of fallen soldiers.
Anyway, at this point, Georgia asked me again if my father was a vet and I told her he was in fact a WWII vet, but he wasn’t a Jew. She told me that it did not matter. He married a Jew, he had Jewish children, and he helped in the war effort to free the Jewish people in Europe. It was like a giant light bulb in my head was short circuiting or something. Duh!
Then I had an idea to bring Mike into the ceremony, as he was my family, in fact, my only family and we were addressing our father. Why wouldn’t we both get cups?
I sent Ehren a picture of my father at 19 years old, sitting on top of an Army tank in northern Italy (Treviso) in the winter. He was a radio operator sent in the very last (88th) tank brigade. I also sent him a picture of my father with my brother when he was a baby. His first and only son. He looked happy, and proud. And my favorite pic of me and my dad when I was little sitting on my brother’s bike, wearing practically identically the same material (my dress and his pants).
I did not tell Mike that his cup would have a special picture of himself with Dad on it, so he was quite surprised at the end of the event when we went up to the front to get our cups.
Very early into the event, when the speakers began reading off the names of the vets that were being honored on the cups, one of the women’s voice began to shake as she read the name of a man whose family she knew very well. She was not expecting to read the name and she began to cry. Sitting in the audience and watching her trying to hold herself together, I suddenly lost control of my emotions. Not just for her, but for the fact that they shortly thereafter read my dad’s name, Private First Class Calvin J. Snyder, United States Army. And for the fact that I was sitting there beside Mike and we were there together as sister and brother, willingly there, together, happily – and this would have made our parents happy too. And more importantly, it made ME happy. And I just could not stop crying my eyes out.
Then, Mike started crying too. He got up to get us some tissues, or napkins rather. That was nice of him, but it did no good. I went through those pretty fast. I was a snotty mess the entire time until we got our cups and finally got the hell out of there.
We sat in his fancy car (he has a Porsche that I’ve often made fun of) and stared at our cups for a real long while, playfully fighting about whose was better. Mine was better, of course. But you can see Mike’s on his Facebook page.
Ehren Tool has made and given away over 14,100 cups. He is a modest, humble, amazing, beautiful person and artist to have this purpose. I really wonder if he knows the effect he has on the families he touches and how an item such as this can be a means to speak about war and feelings and memories and bring loved ones closer together than therapy. Maybe he has an idea, but maybe he’d be too overwhelmed if he could take in all the appreciation we all feel.