Snowstorms and Susie Dolls
Susan Annette Klindienst Fogel
A couple of years ago I was in a very tough writing game with my beautiful and smart daughter, Melissa. I wrote this with every intent to post it in time for my birthday.
Many things occurred between the time I wrote this and my posting it today.
One of those occurrences was the death on January 5, 2021 dfrom COVID-19 of my sister, Delia Kathryn Drudge. She died after 31 days on a ventilator. Because of the backlog of burials, her funeral was not held until February 5. I recorded part of this story and it was played at her funeral. She was cremated and the ashes were held until this day. The family was allowed only 30 minutes, no flowers and limited attendees.
While slightly embellished, the circumstances of my naming are true. I am ever grateful to my sister Delia and her Susie doll.
Here is the story as I wrote it those many years ago.
Ice and snow. Hard winters. People stranded. But life goes on, and babies will be born. In war time and in peace, babies will be born.
Hard winters are nothing new to Valley Forge. Washington crossed the Delaware on December 19, 1777 and was pinned down with starving and cold troops. His hope was waning, defeat was imminent. Congress wanted him to fight the British in Philadelphia. Instead he fell back to Valley Forge to rest and replenish his troops. And there he stayed until March 1778.
On February 21, 1950 there was another harsh snowstorm in Valley Forge. And a baby girl demanded to make her entry. That was me. My parents lived in Elkton, Maryland, my father was in the army. The closest hospital to them was the fairly new Valley Forge General Hospital. Opened in 1943 to treat troops injured in the war, it was inaugurated on Feb 22, George Washington’s birthday. It was the first military hospital not to be named after a person.
The storm on my birthday was fierce. My mother and my aunt went to the hospital early, ahead of the storm. My father could not get there for another day.
Struck by the historical significance of the date and locale my mother first wanted to name me Martha, then Georgette. The latter being more acceptable than the former, neither sat well with me. I was screaming in infant frustration trying to communicate my absolute horror at having to bear either of those names for my entire life. It was bad enough that my last name would prove to be unpronounceable by teachers and nuns, and the priest that read out our grades at every report card period. Being tagged with one of those two monikers was just more than I was willing to take on. I was the third child, the middle child, another would come along 22 months later. I was making my mark, getting things straight from the outset. I was willing to do my familial duty and carry around the last name, but I had to do something and fast about the first name. Just in time, my older sister came into to the room to check out the competition. In her arms was her baby doll. I had to get her on my side. I gave her my best sweet gurgly baby look.
We locked eyes. We mind melded. “Help me!” I screamed into her mind.
“Choose a different name for me!”
“ What is your doll’s name?”
I am intense! I am a powerful communicator. My message slammed into her brain. I slowed it a little and made her think that it was her idea. I gazed at my pretty, red headed sister with the sprinkling of freckles and lovely curls that she fought all her life. I gurgled again. She took a breath, stood up straight turned to our mother and said:
“Mommy, I think we should name the baby after my Susie doll.”
“Yes!” I thought, a normal name that could be made to sound strong and imposing.
My mother was delighted, but still thinking back to the Georgette idea, she thought that perhaps Suzette would be nice.
“NOOOO!” I screeched to my sister.
Did I tell you that my sister is brilliant?
“Mommy, she said,” If you are still going to use Annette as her middle name I think that Suzette Annette sounds funny.”
Our mother considered it a moment. She was loathe to give up too quickly on Suzette. But she said my name aloud with big sister’s name idea and liked it.
So, on February 21, 1950 on a Tuesday at 2:25p.m. Susan Annette Klindienst came into this world in the middle of a snowstorm in a most historic spot.