Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories RE: Music & (103) ARTSY Mom

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories RE: Music & (103) ARTSY Mom


I would turn to page fifty-seven and there it would be at the top: pizzicato.  Pizzicato means a string that is plucked.  “Should I start at the top, Miss McCullough?”

“Yes, please.”

So I would grab that bass and I would start dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun.  Now my left hand is aching all the way up to my shoulder and I feel seven gigantic blisters forming on my right-hand fingers—which never did when I normally played.  I used to dread Thursdays.  She never told me anything.  Just used to sit and listen.

So, wherever you are, kid, taking those music lessons, we bow our heads for ten seconds in silence.  I know exactly what you’re going through.  God only knows the torture that man can wreak upon his fellow man.

End of Music Lessons

Stay tuned for even more of Shep’s music





As a young woman, Marjorie Crosby, my mother, left home to play the violin in vaudeville. She joined a woman’s dance troop. The dancers would come on stage and do a few numbers and then leave to change costumes, which is when my mother would come out from behind the curtain and play classical music for the audience.

The dance ensemble moved from city to city, and in New York, finally broke up, where my mother remained, eventually meeting my father, Benno Bergmann. After a long courtship, extended by the financial strain of the Great Depression, they married and had me, their only child. Eventually she taught me to play the violin well enough to be in the high school orchestra.

From time to time, when we had guests, mom would play the violin for them. As she was very shy, with our adult friends in the living room, she entered the next room, closed the French doors, and then play.

Pretty Boy

My mother taught our parakeet to recite poetry. She set up an audio tape loop, playing a word or two over and over by his cage until Pretty Boy could repeat it, then go on to the next word.

Eventually Pretty Boy could recite, all together, the first lines of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan’s Turret in a Noose of Light. 

Friends kept erroneously saying that Marjorie’s bird could recite Shakespeare. So she taught Pretty Boy to recite a few lines:

To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them.

A bird food company wanted to pay Pretty Boy to recite during a live TV commercial, but Pretty Boy would only perform when he wanted to.


Then my mother, inspired by Faberge Eggs, began designing her own original creations with chicken eggs. She discovered a way to be able to twist the egg shells into varied shapes. (She would never reveal her secret.) Sometimes she would also design cutout shapes for the basic shells and my father, with his Dremel tool, would cut them to her specifications.

She promoted her work to a mid-town Manhattan bank, which displayed her eggs one Easter season in their show windows. I designed an exhibit of them for the Museum where I worked. One year, New York’s Daily News sent a photographer and a reporter to our house, and her work was displayed in the Easter Sunday double-spread of its magazine section.

She designed and made elegant royal crowns,

complete with real diamond, ruby, and emerald chips.

Marjorie Crosby Bergmann

was our family’s original

artsy fartsy artist supreme.




  1. Bud says:

    “Marjorie Crosby Bergmann was our family’s original artsy fartsy artist supreme.”

    It is clear from where many of your amazing artistic abilities and supreme gifts of writing and communication spring forth, Eugene. Your remembrances of your Mother are as touching and poignant as they are inspiring. Thank you for sharing these remarkable stories of your Mom. ❤

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