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Brenda Isenberg Class of 1974
I attended AIS from 1969 through 1973 (8th through 10th grades). Iíve stayed in touch with Linda Finlay, and weíve exchanged visits between New York City and England over the decades. Erika Whiteís family and my family (the Isenbergs) went to the otherís dinner parties and events ever since our respective returns to NYC from India in the 1970s. Joe King, AES class of 78, joined us for the 2002 Passover Seder at the Whites in NYC, and he started off the night with his first taste ever of both gefilte fish and old-fashioned Manischewitz wine, which he used to wash the gefilte fish down. After the 2001 reunion in DC, I stayed in close contact with a small group of alumni, and invited the afore-mentioned Joe up for New Yearís Eve. Six months later, greatly in love, I moved down to Richmond, Virginia to be with him, my reluctant son in tow. Joe and I got married in November of 2002, and live in Richmond, where he works for the Department of Defense.
My son Ben, from a previous marriage, is 19, and a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, majoring in film and photography. His freshman year, Ben made the Deanís list, was offered membership in two honor societies, and is already developing a resume of exhibitions, and credits. He just moved into his own apartment on August 4 of this year Ė 2005 Ė after living in the dorms a few blocks away from us his first year of college.
My corporate life was rather good for a long time - I had a nice job at Merrill Lynch for fourteen years, graphically organizing financial information and concepts for Merrillís senior management. The hours were long, really long, often 80 plus hours a week, but the package was unbeatable, and I had a lot of freedom and perks. My office was in the North Tower of the World Financial Center, the most gorgeous place Iíve ever worked. The World Trade Center site is directly east of the WFC.
Right after our India days, my family returned to our brownstone on the upper West Side of Manhattan. I also returned to the private school I had previously attended a few blocks away (Franklin School, now called Dwight) and graduated after my junior year. I took a couple of years off, going back to India to stay with Linda Finlayís family at #10 Golf Links, spending time at the Art Students League of New York, and working, not wanting to go to college when I was 15, and eventually graduated from the State University of New York, Empire State College (an independent study program) in 1979. I bought my own loft that same year Ė in an illegal building, no less, and moved into it with no electric or plumbing, and proceeded to renovate, something I naively figured would not be all that bad as I had watched my parents do it with the brownstone. These days, my projects are much smaller in scope. My last one was building a double screen for the previously feral kittens I still have housed in my art studio in our Richmond townhouse.
We still have an Upper West Side apartment in New York, although itís rented out now. I havenít gotten to the city in a while, but Ben goes up every month. Iím happy in Richmond, especially now that we live in a pre-civil war town house in Shockoe Bottom, in downtown Richmond. We moved here the day after Ben graduated from his suburban high school in 2004. It was very peaceful out there, but two years of peace was enough for us. Our area of town is full of character and historical homes (this part of Richmond was not burned down during the Civil War); itís also a lot edgier than the suburbs, and only a few blocks away are both the church where Patrick Henry proclaimed ďGive me liberty or give me deathĒ, and the Edgar Allen Poe Museum. I know about ravens now! Out in the burbs, we got a real Disney scene going, putting out about 40 pounds of wild bird seed a month, attracting a fantastical variety of wild life. To Joeís dismay, one winter, I also nurtured thousands of seedlings in our guest room. Even though we had our own yard in Manhattan when I was growing up, gardening had been my motherís thing Ė I just collected the worms and let them go. I continue to garden in a tiny yard sandwiched between the house and the ruined stable. Joe and I have two of our own cats, Houston (pronounced HOW-stin, after Houston Street) and Picard. Life is good, and my challenge now is to push myself to find appropriate galleries for my work.