A Father’s Day Surprise from Susan Branch

Linda and I have just returned from a two-week vacation trip through Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. We had numerous adventures, saw beautiful scenery, and met interesting people along the way. This past weekend, our trip was capped by a “Friends of Gladys Taber” conference at Danbury, Connecticut, in honor of Gladys Taber, longtime past resident in nearby Southbury and chronicler of life in the region during the thirties, forties, and fifties. The keynote speaker for the conference was Susan Branch, author, artist, blogger par-excellence, and devoted fan of the lifestyle and philosophies espoused by Ms.Taber.

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 Susan Branch signing her book for me

Linda was introduced to Gladys Taber by Susan Branch via her uniquely charming blog. Susan’s blog was initially recommended by Sally, one of Linda’s longtime friends and a kindred spirit.

As for me, I am a bit of a newbie to Gladys Taber and her story, but I have long-appreciated Susan Branch and what she does. Linda would occasionally call me away from my computer during the course of my own blogging activities to show me something on Susan’s latest blog post. Not infrequently, Linda’s call would be preceded by the sounds of great music wafting into my den – often the incomparable music of Frank Sinatra singing with the Tommy Dorsey band which Ms. Branch frequently adds to her charming visuals. Linda would call down the hall, “Come here, Alan. You are going to like this!”

I am a devoted fan of the big band era, and, in my opinion, the Sinatra/Dorsey collaboration in the 1940 time period produced some of the finest music…ever. After hearing many of my Sinatra/Dorsey favorites on Susan’s blog and learning that she is a huge Astaire and Rogers fan, as well, I recalled that most-expressive phrase from Anne of Green Gables – “kindred spirits.” I enjoy reading her unique and well-written blog posts to boot!

In this day and age, encountering someone who is both aware of and passionate about the marvelous entertainment legacies of both Sinatra/Dorsey and Astaire/Rogers is a very rare event. Fred Astaire? Probably the finest complete entertainer ever to come our way – he and, perhaps, Al Jolson. Nobody has ever done what Astaire did – and seemingly so effortlessly. Ginger Rogers? She did what he did, only backward and in high heels. As for Sinatra and Dorsey, I had a chance to briefly chat with Ms. Branch about that very subject at the conference and to verify what had been obvious about her love of their music.

 My Big Surprise

 After breakfast on Saturday morning, the large audience in the event-room at the Danbury Crown Plaza was eagerly anticipating the arrival of Susan Branch and her keynote address to the conference. The first thing Ms. Branch did upon taking the podium and thanking the assembly for their interest in Ms. Taber and their attendance was to produce a camera and take a three-shot panoramic record of the audience from her vantage point. That was quite cool…and unique.

Then, she asked the audience, “Are the parents of Ginny from California here in the audience?” Linda and I sat stunned for a moment before concluding that she MUST mean US! We raised our hands and with help from the assembled members, Susan located us toward the back of the room. She continued (paraphrased), “I have a message from Ginny: Happy Father’s Day, Dad!” The entire assembly applauded as my fallen-jaw joined forces with the rest of my face to produce a huge smile. Linda and I looked at each and laughed in amazement. How nice of Susan Branch to do that and how about that daughter of ours – Ginny, back home in California! How did she manage that?

To our great surprise, when we called Ginny from Connecticut later that day, she was almost as surprised as we were. It so happens that Ginny had commented on Susan’s blog post about her dad citing her “sweet tribute” to him. Ginny went on to merely mention that her dad (and mom) would be attending the Gladys Taber convention over the coming weekend.

Susan replied to Ginny that she would watch for us, there, venturing that we will love visiting Stillmeadow, the former home of Ms. Taber. The house tour was a scheduled conference activity for that Saturday afternoon. Fair to say that Susan Branch surprised us all with her thoughtfulness on Saturday morning!

When Linda first proposed our trip centered on this conference months ago, I probably surprised her somewhat by saying, “Sure, let’s go!” I appreciate thinkers/writers like Ms.Taber, and I decided to fully participate in this three-day event with Linda including the tour of Stillmeadow. When I heard that Susan Branch was the keynote speaker for the event, my decision was a no-brainer. I had long appreciated Ms. Branch and what she does. I had seen Linda’s signed copy of Susan’s book celebrating her twenty-fifth anniversary with husband Joe and their European trip. She is smart, she is savvy; first and foremost, it is obvious that she really cares about people and gives of herself in her blog, her books, and her public appearances.

It took hard work to build her unique niche and to earn her popular and well-deserved acclaim. Hers is a wonderful example of a success story anchored on true dedication to a cause and working hard/working smart. I like that.

Thank you, Susan, for making our Saturday morning at the “Friends of Gladys Taber” (FOGT) conference most memorable. I enjoy now having my own personalized copy of your book to remind me of the day; your keynote address was wonderful and wise – as expected.

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Next week’s post on Reason and Reflection will highlight our other adventures during the two weeks we spent in New England, including more on Gladys Taber. Linda has many of Ms. Taber’s books, but lacked a copy of Stillmeadow Sampler, shown above. She had hoped to pick up a copy at the silent book auctions held at the conference in Danbury. As I suspected, a nice copy would not likely surface, there, so, before we left on our trip, I found this fine copy on the internet. It was here when we arrived home, and I enjoyed Linda’s excitement when I gave it to her that evening. Pictured with it is the delightful account of Susan’s and Joe’s celebratory tour of the English countryside, A Fine Romance.

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 Linda and I at Gladys Tabers’ Stillmeadow home. It was all great!

4 thoughts on “A Father’s Day Surprise from Susan Branch

  1. What a wonderful story, Alan! It’s a perfect memory that you, Linda, and Ginny will treasure forever! Come visit my blog today for another Susan Branch connection!

    • Thanks for visiting, Dawn! I took your invitation to visit your beautiful blog and will make sure my wife, Linda, also sees it. She is the avid gardener in the family; I am the benefactor of her beautification efforts in our yard. Like you, she is a retired educator, volunteer at the local historical society, and fan of Susan Branch and Mary Engelbreit. Sounds like “kindred spirits!”

      • Linda and I are definitely ‘kindred spirits!’ It’s so wonderful that Susan Branch has brought so many people together. I was so fortunate to meet her twice last summer ~ at a book signing and a tea party in Chicagoland! It’s so wonderful that you were able to meet Susan in Connecticut. I’m looking forward to hearing from Linda, too!

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