Looking for Lydia; Finding Life

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I’ll introduce my friend and guest blogger, Molly Roper Jenkins, with a couple of stories–especially appropriate since we met because I could not find any stories about Lydia Roper.  

First, I think “phone enquiry” is a rather refined description of the circumstances of our first contact. I believe Molly’s brother, Albert Roper, having been tracked down by me on the Internet, called Molly to say he had checked me out, I was not a complete quack, and he thought it was alright to talk to me if she wanted to.


The second story concerns the novels I have written about Lydia. When I mentioned to Molly a long time ago that I had this idea about writing them, she said, in her wise way, “Maybe imagining Lydia is how you will find Lydia.”  That has proved to be the case.  I find that I am no longer looking for Lydia, because she resides in glorious, smart, brave, outrageous, sexy detail in my mind.  And I thoroughly like her.

Three days ago Molly and I were talking about writing and I said I wished she were writing and suggested she start with a short guest blog for me.  Today, this lovely piece of writing appeared.


One never knows what lies ahead when a friend refers an author or an artist of any medium. What appeals to one may be unattractive to another. It’s the same with people: “Oh, you must meet my friend Susie Q,” they urge. And Susie Q may be as dull as dishwater. We just never know, unless we explore, what wonderful adventures lie around the next bend. How many “roads not taken” do we later come to regret?

So it has been with Dean and me. Starting with a phone inquiry, we became devoted friends long before we met face-to-face. Growing from her curiosity about my great-grandmother whose existence she discovered while staying in a care facility created in her honor, she called to see what she might learn about this woman. I knew barely more than she, and, as we joined efforts to try to learn more about Lydia, we learned considerably more about each other. Both explorations have been glorious journeys. Representatives of every branch of Lydia’s family were present when Dean’s book, Looking for Lydia, Looking for God, made its debut in Norfolk. It is a treasure on every level, even though there are enormous holes in our collective understanding of this amazing woman whose complete life’s story now lives in the family mausoleum.

Yesterday, Dean called with two new gifts to share:

  • First, she wanted me to know that she has completed and published a two-part piece of fiction about Lydia, first as a young woman growing up in Philadelphia and then as the bride of an Union army officer who chose to take her, immediately following the American Civil War, to start a new life in Virginia—a decision more brave, one imagines, than any he made on the battlefields. Dean has changed her heroine’s name to Jessie, thoroughly researched the geography and ambiance of Philadelphia in the mid 1800s, and thoughtfully and logically “filled in the holes” to bring Lydia/Jessie back to life. Find Jessie on Amazon to learn what Dean has created from what we have learned.
  • Then she “introduced” me to a friend she has known for years: Joseph Raffael, an artist whose work currently is exhibited at the Nancy  Hoffman Gallery in New York City. I know only two other artists whose work even approaches the beauty of Raffael’s luminescent depictions of flowers. Even looking at his art on a computer screen is a sublime experience in which the beauty of every dew drop, every petal reaches into the heart with a profound reminder of the beauty the lies all around us. You almost can inhale the scents.

We cannot exist in today’s world without an acute awareness of the gloom and doom and horrors that are thrown into our lives every day, and it is all too easy to forget the beauty that surrounds us. Stop! Take a moment to let Raffael remind you. Seek and be inspired by your own family stories. And never pass up an opportunity to find your own Dean.

Molly Roper Jenkins

Two comments on Molly’s description of Joseph Raffael’s paintings. They are always shown at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery; she has been Joseph’s representative since he was a young artist in New York. And don’t stop with the small flower paintings he is currently showing.  I have always loved the many paintings of koi and the series of his wife, called “Lannis in Sieste.”  


Until recently, Joseph’s paintings were often five feet long, four feet or so wide.  These lovely jewels on display at the Hoffman Gallery are the first ever small format paintings, all about 20″ square.

Thank you, Molly Roper Jenkins, for your friendship and for reminding me that imagination creates reality. Perhaps you can make that the topic of your next guest blog!





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One Response to "Looking for Lydia; Finding Life"
  1. Ellen Bunton says:

    What a wonderful story. We never truly know what (or who!) is going to be introduced into our lives. I am truly glad I found my Dean.

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