Index of Posts: Slices of Shona's Life
Memories of Shona

...back to Shona's childhood...

Shona in High SchoolShona began high school at the great Berkeley High School (the only public High School in this great diverse city of ours) at age 15, for grades 10 through 12. Shona really blossomed in high school. She studied with Maxine Hong Kingston (this I will check this with my parents) and learned about writing; she took Latin and Advanced Calculus; she took Autoshop and Machine Repair (why wouldn't she?) and re-built a Triumph engine; and single-handedly integrated the men's water polo team (her earlier experience in NZ clearly playing a role here). Shona graduating from BHS, at the Greek TheatreShe had a fast circle of quirky friends with unique interests. Berkeley High School was huge, with ~3000 students, who came from all over Berkeley. The BHS culture in the late 1970s and early 1980s was inclusive, it encouraged the fringy stuff. There was no push to conform to the "norm", and Shona thrived. My buddy Rachel talks about this Berkeley deal here.

Shona was a vision of loveliness in high school. She was smart, gorgeous, and athletic; she demanded excellence from her teachers; and walked through life looking for answers to questions, yet always managing to be compassionate about those less fortunate than her. As her sister, her range and intensity could be alternately inspiring and infuriating, and I watched her and tried to emulate her as she grew into an adult. 

The UC Berkeley Engineering Department was a world leader, and thus not coincidentally, my mother's brother Maurice, also an Engineer, also from England, was a professor in the Engineering Department at Berkeley. Shona at the Uplands. Cousins Caroline, Mark and Nicky are there. Beloved Thomas Alexander is standing in the backMy Aunt Eileen and uncle Maurice had 5 children - Nick, Chris and Valerie, Caroline and Helen - and we enjoyed many Christmas dinners at their house on the other side of Berkeley. The cousins were 10+ years older than Shona and I; we admired and looked up to our older, cooler cousins, and thrilled to hear about their highjinks at Berkeley High a decade plus before. We entertained a great deal at the Uplands house - large dinner parties or garden bar-b-ques with mutiple delicious dishes and desserts, and wild conversation. The home-made wine, pressed by our toddler feet a decade earlier (and dubbed "knock-out drops" by the cousins) usually appeared toward the end of an evening. The cousins were usually there, and the Alexanders, and often graduate students of my father's; many of them remained close to the family for years.

Her college years at UC Davis were instructional for us all. My parents are immigrants, with no personal experience of being an undergraduate in America (although my dad did his grad degrees here), and so we sent her off in the spirit of stout Cortez, as a sort of exploration into American College Life. I know I was fascinated by what she might encounter, feeling earthbound and landlocked back in Berkeley. She eventually landed in what is euphemistically termed a "Co-Op" that rejoiced in the name "The Agrarian Effort".  This was a collective of like-minded, earnest, eat-from-the-land types, who made their own dinners, and talked of Philosophy into the wee hours. I visited on a number of occasions, always pleased to be a high-schooler in the midst of adults.  Although their party libations usually consisted of carrot juice and brown rice casseroles, to me it was heaven, and heady stuff. There she met Sharon Casey, who is still a family friend and now an organic farmer in California, and Roberto Stucchi Prinetti, who would be important in her life because he set her up with a paying job as a wine sales person at his family vineyard in Tuscany - the Badia a Coltibuono. More on that adventure later.

Shona in a promotional photoIn addition to her scholarship and organic food, at Davis Shona also intensified her earlier love of dance. She joined several dance groups. I think the key group was called "Shared Spaces". She was a lovely dancer - graceful, lithe, strong. She danced with passion and earnestness, but also at times with great humor. We have numerous photos of her clowning around in spandex with that goofy grin on her face.

At UCs there is a great academic program called "Junior Year Abroad", and Shona naturally chose to be in Italy for her junior year. She selected, and was accepted at, the University of Padua, and spent a wonderful year there, making life-long friends, exploring Tuscany, and getting bit by the Italian bug that would define the rest of her life. I think she also met Ashley Maher then (Ashley has since become a huge star in the West African music scene.) You can read more about that time from two of her friends: Leah Dark and Jane Emley.

Shona's Davis graduation partyShe returned to Davis, and graduated in 1986 with a BA degree in Philosophy and a Minor in Latin. While in her final year of college she applied for a Fulbright scholarship to return to Italy. We were all excited about this, and waited with her for an answer to her proposal. I think it was one of her professors who said "no one straight out of college gets these, so don't get your hopes up." Despite her greenness, she was awarded the Fulbright, and packed her bags for Italy again, Bologna this time, to work alongside Umberto Eco, translating and studying semiotics. There she met a number of life-long friends, and of course Randy (he talks about this time here).

...The Italian Years...