I Am Inspired

another clapkin clan.

I am inspired this morning to share a “what if” thought. Usually, if you are on a solid track, you don’t go off into that dark patches full of what if’s. Today is a day I am going to let myself travel in that direction.

One thought I have never shared, and it is a “what if”. Once we lived in a lovely part the City of Los Angeles called Cheviot Hills. Our family grew and grew, and very soon there were 7 of us. Our beautiful English Tudor three bedroom home shrank and shrank until finally we had to make a move to accommodate our growing family. Our question was to stay in the city or move to the Valley beyond.

We moved to the Valley beyond. Every so often we talk about how our lives would be different and how the lives of our children would be different if we stayed in the city and NOT moved to the Valley Beyond!!!

We could not have a nicer family. The children and grandchildren are all well, educated and settled. We still live within a short driving distance to all of them. So you see this “What if” question of whether this or that or something else is not even pie in the sky. We have already received our rewards. Now it is still up to those in the photograph to continue growth and development.

Keep on the right road kids and mom and pop, good job!

clapkin van

Memories: A Memoir Writing Class Assignment


Interview with Carly about Memories she has of us Together:

“What memories do you have of us together?”

” I have memories of us looking through your jewelry and the jewelry gave me memories of you. I also remember the first black and white bracelet I made for you that broke after a long time. I knew I had to make you a new one so I did. I remember our trip to Mexico and the swim with the dolphins. I remember our trip to Hawaii and the swim in the Seven Pools.”

“Any more memories?”

” Oh yes, I remember cooking and when we were making muffins, I made a mistake and dropped too many chocolate chips in the batter. It ended up being a good mistake. Also, you taught me to put a package of pudding mix in cake batter to make it extra moist. I remember you and grandpa taking me up to the top of the hill to a giant, pretty sunset. You bought me a stretchy real pearl bracelet at Ross. It fits me perfectly. I remember telling you I had to run a mile nearly every day and you agreed with me that you use up your parts to early and maybe will have bad knees when you grow up. And today I remember the Birthday Scavenger Hunt!”


Don’t ask me for just one memory because I don’t have just one memory; I have so many. You are a person I admire and a cool, calm, and collected person. The parties at your house are really fun. I remember a lot of those and a lot of fun. We made a lot of muffins together. I like the banana ones and chocolate chips. I liked all the stuff we bake. One time we used almond flour and the cake tasted much sweeter and softer with almond flour than the cake box.

I remember the times we went out to dinners. All the food was always really good. One time I remember is when we went to an Italian restaurant and you taught me to dip my buttered pasta into a side order of marinara sauce. It made the pasta taste great. I won’t forget to order a side of marinara or maybe meat sauce.

I remember sleeping over your house on the couch in the bedroom. Now I am to big for it and besides you got a new couch. I’ll have to try it out.


  1. We used to have fun in the mall. I remember we were sitting having lunch and I saw the wrinkles on your neck. I called you Gecko Neck. You collected gecko pins and earrings for a while. You showed me your collection.
  1. I remember our New York Trip and our trip to Hershey Pennsylvania. I remember the graveyard in Philadelphia and we saw a ghost rise up. No one saw it but us.
  1. I remember you helped me learn to read better one summer and we read a whole series, but I don’t remember the name of it. It helped.
  1. I remember the whole family was riding in a bus on our Hawaii trip and the driver slammed on his breaks. I went flying right over your head.

Memories Shared by April:

One time you bought me a really nice pillow from Ross. I remember sleeping over your house; I think I was six.   Also, I remember when we bought some washcloths and made pillows with them. I still have mine. We cooked food together,

We had a lot of fun at Sheri and Jodi’s house on Easter, we had a scavenger and egg hunt and you brought big baskets for everyone.

I remember when my mom was ill and you and grandpa picked us up and we went places and did a lot of things together, and then we went home when my mom felt better.

I remember we went on a trip to Mexico, then, Hawaii and a trip to Alaska.

I remember all of the Jewish Holidays at your house, but I never found the Matzo. I remember your 50th wedding anniversary party and I remember a birthday party for you when we all wore the same shirt with your picture on it.

My Aunt Myrtle


What? You have never heard me speak of my Aunt Myrtle? How could I have even told you her name, because I did not know she existed until several years ago, when at a family reunion someone put her name on our family tree? Still we were not sure and no one ever spoke of her or gave a hint this person existed or was connected to our family. She is gone and everyone connected to her is gone, too.

Myrtle Levin was born to my grandmother and grandfather and lived just under three years. She was found buried at Salem Memorial Park and Garden with a beautiful aged gravestone stating she died May 10, 1910. Born February 16, 1907, Myrtle was the first child of Dora and Joseph, was a sister of yet to be born, Stanley, Martin, Merriam and Max and Aunt Myrtle to many of us.

After checking all of the vital records and finding that indeed Myrtle is ours, we discussed moving her to the Levin Family plot at 1051 El Camino Real, Coloma, CA 94014. Please visit when you can. With proof in hand and without even time to think, Myrtle was moved to a lovely little spot in the Levin Family plot. We were told that when Mrytle was disinterred, there was still a casket intact with little particles very much in existence. Our family wondered why she had never been moved to join the family, but found that she was buried in a children’s section, which was the way things were done then and in some cemeteries still done. Did the family feel it was better to leave things lie? Did we have the right to move her? Thank goodness it was done the moment both cemeteries heard the story and saw the proof. They took the case in hand and did a most genteel move to right what they deemed a wrong.


It must have been too painful to discuss Myrtle with later generations or were things like a child’s death a sacred secret. Did they think that by not talking about her they would ease or lessen the mourning of this child? Was the shock and disbelief so overwhelming that no words would ever come? Did they think that by being mum they could ease back to a normal life and leave the hurt of this unordered death behind?

Since I do not know and did not know of my Aunt Myrtle until a short time ago, I will have to create her from the part of her family I do know.  She was beautiful and had strength budding in her character. Mrytle was intelligent, kind, enterprising, respectful, active, very energetic, aware, balanced, appreciative, affectionate and authentic.  She had an outgoing personality. She was resourceful. She had dark hair and big brown eyes. She had a twinkle. Her body was shaped like a spirit, soft and delicate and she had an overpowering will. Myrtle rarely cried or whimpered; she got everything she needed by willing it to be. She left this earth, but not our hearts. Now her aged stone is shining in the sun with her family. Her truth is known.

Fifth Grade Culmination/Graduation in West Hills, California Celebrating our Granddaughter’s Achievement


As you can see, modern technology secures a record of this event for each iPad holder/user, but for me it screened out the event that I so desperately craned and wiggled to see. I know they did not realize that they were being obtrusive and prominently using up my space and the space of others to see their family member culminate/graduate. I enjoy bringing you the above photograph of the experience plus I have added the interior chuckle I have every time I see the iPads using my space or is it theirs once they have taken it?

Well thought out plans had been made for this event and many practice sessions had been conducted; all speeches were committed to memory, the songs well rehearsed, outfits for the event had been searched for and purchased by the celebrated child and family members. As the rewarded volunteers took their front seats, we the others, scrambled for the best leftover seats we could secure.

The prossession began. We were on the wrong side, oh well.  The speeches began and songs sung. The school officials gave appropriate speeches of their love for the children, rewards given, culmination certificates lovingly handed to each child, another song was sung and the procession off to begin a new life began.  The photo on the top is what I saw of the event for most of the time. But I am not one for the back scenes or do I like to sit on the sidelines, so I scrambled, nudged, gently elbowed and jostled myself in position to grab the shots of our granddaughter receiving two awards and her diploma for our family records.

Aside from enjoying and witnessing this charming event I saw so little of, I had an opportunity to feel like I was my mother. She so proudly came to these advancing events for our children and smiled with hugs. Now I am she.


I knew what I wanted from my grandmother when she was ready to give it up and I told her. When I would visit her in windy cold Tule fogged in San Francisco, she would let me wear her fur coats. Never ever before or after the wearing of the furs did I feel more regal. I came from a very warm climate in Southern sunny Los Angeles, so when I would arrive for a visit to Grandma Dora and Grandpa Joe, it was a quick hello and a whisk off to buy me undershirts, a sweater, a jacket and some socks.  When Grandma Dora passed away, I received as physical remembrances of her, a half used lipstick, all of her undershirts, which I Tie- dyed, and her Russian Silver Fox jacket. What treasures, all of them.

Before I continue with the unearthing of my grandmothers silver fox jacket, let me tell you I began having a flashback of visiting in my grandparent’s home and being given permission to search for treasures in the downstairs basement which had, to the naked eye, basic furniture and all the signed books from My Uncle Irving Stone.  But, leave it to a child in a candy store, or that is how I felt being given searching rights.  I unearthed from the very recesses of the closet that held her silver fox jacket, a box full of little bits and pieces of jewelry.  They did not have anything connected to them or did they relate to each other in any way, but they were unusual and one of a kind pieces. When I showed the unearthed box to my grandmother she was very surprised and told me she had forgotten about the box since her mother who was in the pawnshop business, put it there before she died.

We had a wonderful, more than wonderful, an astonishing and brilliant afternoon picking through each piece and enjoying guessing where they had been and what they had adorned. She finally made the statement that I could pick three items to keep. Oh my, I leapt and pranced and ran around the box picking what would be mine.  Not so fast, not so easy, lots of moans and groans and picking became the hardest work imaginable. I must tell you that I learned then and there, that my grandmother stuck to her word and never, ever gave in to pleading.  I learned from a master grand dame and I never forgot her secret desire peeking through to give me the moon, but she stuck to her three pieces.  I took the three pieces and they hang framed in my living room ever since our encounter that foggy cold afternoon in the basement of their Ocean Avenue home.

Now to the saga of the Russian Silver Fox jacket.  I never thought my request to have it would come to pass.  Why?  There are many, many San Francisco relatives who I thought wanted it, too.  Who I thought would be chosen over me. Why I thought that they would be chosen and not me is another story.  But to my joy and delight I have had the jacket for 47 years.  It was worn, stored and worn again and again stored. Then, PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals became very vocal and very physical in the early 1980’s, so the jacket went into semi-permanent storage until yesterday.  I opened the bag containing the jacket and little hairs began to fly. I threw it in re-cycling. I went in the house in psychic pain. I saw all the faces of those who had wanted the jacket. I saw my grandmother looking at me. I remembered my fervent desire to own my grandmother’s precious possession. I ran outside and pulled the jacket from the trash bin and shook and shook the jacket; hairs flew. Albeit, less and less hairs flew as I continued to shake.  I put the jacket in the drier on air dry.  I took it out of the drier, took it outside and shook it again.  The more I shook the more beautiful it became. I thanked all of the Russian Silver foxes that lent their hides to make this jacket.  I did not apologize to PETA because after all, this jacket was before PETA’s time, then, again, the concept of cruelty to animals should have always have been observed.  Now the beautifully fluffed jacket is hanging in a closet downstairs.

At this writing I wonder if I am really going to wear the jacket.  I know I am, I just do not know when.  When I wear it, it will sing out about the relationship between my grandmother and me.  It will show that I was chosen to receive this gift by someone who valued my request. I will wear the jacket with one of her tie-dyed undershirts and complimented by lips wearing the half used lipstick she left behind. I will once again feel glorious and regal. I will melt into my grandmother.

My Uncle Max Levin

My Uncle Max Arnold Levin was born on February 12, 1927 and died July 24, 2012 in Millbrae California at age 85. Max was born to my Grandmother Dora and My Grandfather Joseph Levin in San Francisco. He was known as one of the twins.  He was a true sports fan and was loyal to the S.F. Giants, 49ers and a Warrior fan for his entire life.

I knew little about his life and his growing up years. I was not even born for some of it and then, he lived in San Francisco and I lived in Los Angeles.  I would visit my family in San Francisco and got to know Uncle Max.  It wasn’t until I was grown did I really understand my Uncle Max’s talents. He was quiet until he spoke and when he spoke everyone within range heard his booming statements. He thought for a long time before he made a statement.  Everyone did not agree with him all of the time, but all of the time he was right. I realized that those that did not agree did not understand his well thought out truths.

My Uncle Max had many bosses in his life that told him what to do and he did it.  When he got to be his own boss, he was happy and satisfied that he did a wonderful job.  Now that he was the boss, he made decisions he had made all of his life, but this time he made them and carried them out to fruition in his own time and in his own way, the right way.

Later in his life, a painter put a paintbrush into my Uncle Max’s hands. He dipped and stroked the paper with great and true abandonment.  His works of art dripped and strode across the page.

He created masterpieces with remnants of his life story. They were the simple truths of his reality. They told of his struggles and his gradual coming through to the light. They are few, but they are brilliant statements he alone could have made. They stand unaided in all of their beauty. The artist born in my Uncle Max marked him and enlightened the world.

When Uncle Max told you some thing, it was something he had been thinking about for a long time.  If he asked you something he wanted to know the truth. If he was quiet, he was thinking. He was always thinking and then sharing. Uncle Max was a caring man, but he didn’t care if you believed him or understood him, but if he liked you, he wanted you to like him.

When Uncle Max’s parents became ill one by one, he took great care of them. He made promises to them that he carried out to the letter until the day he died. He was a man who if he made a promise, always followed through.  Knowing this about my Uncle Max has led me never, ever if possible to make a promise for fear I might not keep it.  Uncle Max never worried because he had always kept his promises and knew he always would. He was so diligent, conscientious and attentive to all of his tasks.

The tradition in the Levin family was to keep in touch. The two business locations were in different cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles.  A designated person, family member and manager in one city would call a designated person, family member and manager in the other city on a certain day, at a certain time every week, week in and week out. When the managers and family members began to die off, the tradition continued, but the designees changed. Uncle Max, the last of the tradition called my father Martin, every week until Martin died, and I called Uncle Max until he could speak no more and soon died.

My Uncle Max was a successful businessman and enjoyed the fruits of his labor.  He was generous, big hearted and a loving man. If he loved you, he wanted you to love him back and we all did. We love you dear Uncle Max and thank you for being our Uncle Max!!!

Divinity Fudge and Lula Dora McKissack


         February 13, 1903 – November 6, 1999

I am respectfully submitting the recipe for DIVINITY because not only is it the most delicious, melt in your mouth kind of candy, but it is also because divine providence brought the giver of this recipe into my life.  Lula McKissack hails originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi where she grew up on a small farm. She was given to her aunt when she was nine years old by her mother because she was strong and could do the work her childless aunt needed done. She left her aunt’s home at sixteen, married Mr. McKissack, and had two boys, Tommy and Bobby. Soon after Bobby was born Lula left Mr. McKissack and the hard life she lived with him. She moved to Louisiana where she built her own home with the help of her boys.

Lula’s boys left home early to join the navy and Lula was left alone with little means of supporting herself.  One of her friends, Nola, found out about two jobs in Huntington Park, California. They both decided to come for the California jobs. Nola came first and since my Aunt Bessie and Uncle Harold owned a jewelry store and needed someone to help with their children, Nola took the first job with them.

When Lula came to California, she went to work with our family.  I was nine, nearly ten years old when Lula came to us and she stayed with my family for twenty-nine years.  I remember calling Lula after being married for two weeks, crying that the house was dirty and everything was a mess.  I had no idea where to begin.  She told me to begin in one corner of the room and circle around until I was in the middle and the job would be done.  She was right and now, I always know how and where to begin my jobs.

Lula added unconditional love, forgiveness and a deep spirituality to our home and family. She worked miracles in our home and even though she has passed on, she continues to work miracles with our family.  Her philosophies of life have been handed down to the next generation like nuggets of gold and her Divinity candy will satisfy your hunger many things.  It will calm your nerves as you pause to enjoy it.  You will feel empowered with all of Mama Lula’s sweet charity and goodness.

Lula’s Divinity Recipe

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup of light corn syrup

1/2 cup of hot water

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 egg whites beaten stiff

1 teaspoon of vanilla

(Lula added 1/2 cup of chopped pecans)

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, hot water and salt.

Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil and cook to the hardball stage. (a little of the mixture is dropped in a cup of cold water and when it forms a little hard ball, it is ready)  Beat egg whites stiff. Pour hot syrup slowly over beaten egg whites, beating constantly at a high speed. Add vanilla and beat until mixture forms soft peaks.  Drop from a tablespoon onto waxed paper, lifting and twirling spoon to form a peak on top of each mound.

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