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February 2009
Valentines for Life

Well readers, here's a Valentine's story. I'm sure you're all wondering how a guy who writes about snakes, frogs, turtles, skinny-dipping, hunting and fishing can even consider writing about Valentine's Day.

Let's go back in time to Abington Avenue Grammar School in Newark, New Jersey. Is this strange or what? Everyone in the class had to give out Valentine cards to all the girls and, you guessed it, to the boys too. Back then we bought cards on a perforated sheet that cost about $1.00. Imagine that! So now let me tell you about some of the Valentines in my life.

My first was an adorable young girl with a pony tail, her name was Rena Russo. I remember riding my bicycle ten or more blocks from Stephen Crane Village to her house which was right around the corner from school. If my parents ever knew…

I even remember ordering a friendship ring out of a magazine, with two little hearts with our names engraved on them. Unfortunately her father wouldn't let her accept it; he was quite strict. We did however get to go on our first "date" some forty years later and have remained friends.

My next Valentine was a young girl who lived in Stephen Crane Village also. We roller skated together with those clamp on skates. Remember them? I was even invited to Judy Gardi's house for dinner. We were eighth grade sweethearts and believe it or not went to an eighth grade dinner dance at the Branch Brook Manor where her father was the Maitre' D.

The Valentines list from high school is too long to mention.

On the top of my Life List is Grandma, my dad's mom, who taught me so much about gardening and the world of plants and flowers. Then my mom's father, Grandpa, who gave me my first guitar and introduced me to the great classical master, Andres Segovia. I have to include my mom's mom – grandmothers are just special.

My uncle Domenick who gave me my first guitar lessons, two to be exact, introduced me to Nat King Cole and to this day my all time favorite is The Christmas Song. Uncle Don Ricci Lentine, what an inspiration. But most of all, my mom, a woman of incredible strength, kindness, and understanding who supported me every step of the way, no matter what.

My list would not be complete without the wonderful Valentine in my life today. That Valentine is the editor of this great e-zine. It was at her urging that I began writing Grandma's Garden column. She has become a shining star in my life. We have spent countless hours hiking together, cooking together, and just being together. We even play in a band together and she has been such an inspiration that I have gone back to writing songs which is something I haven't done since the ‘70s. Yes, I've written a few special songs for her because she is a special lady and my wonderful Valentine, Mary Jasch.

by Lance L. Casper

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