I was was born Nikki Neysa Nelson on August 27, 1943. When my father returned from WWII, we continued to live at 536 West 114th, NYC, for a few years. We lived in what is now, I believe, the Pi Epsilon Phi fraternity house of Columbia College. My father taught English Composition and English Lit at the School of General Studies, Columbia University.

 

We moved to Shanks Village, New York when I was about five years old. Shanks Village had been the World War II port of embarkation known as Camp Shanks. After the War, they converted the barracks into housing. Everyone was under age 35 and poor. (You recognize it: the old "poor but happy myth" that has shreds if truth but is also untrue enough to have become a dreadful cliche.) Anyhow, I know life was hard for my mother, who didn't like having an ice box after she had gotten used to a refrigerator and who did not find a kerosene barrel outside her back door an attractive sight. (The barracks were divided into apartments that were heated by a central kerosene burning stove; there were many fires.)

 

Washers and dryers existed but no one owned one, so for years we walked a mile to the cinderblock laundromat, with its familiar army of round Bendix faces. Mostly my grandmother (who lived with us) washed my dresses by hand, gently kneading them against her scrub board. It was not a very contemporary life-style.

 

My grandmother washed my dresses because I was not allowed to wear pants. I suspect that if I had been allowed to wear pants, they would have gone to the Bendixes with everything else. Nor was I allowed to cut my long braids which hung in two waist-length ropes that got washed rather less than they should, mainly because no one could put up with the awful fuss I made over hairwashing.

 

Despite the constraints of dresses and braids, I managed to live a wild and carefree life. I was completely unsupervised on non-school days from about age seven onward. I had a radius of several square miles of country that I was free to roam. And I did. My skinned knees that never healed should have told my mother something about the dresses, but we were both oblivious to the state of my knees.

 

Along the way came a brother, Eamon George, born in 1947; a sister Dana Tecla, born in 1950; and my littlest sister, Noel Emerson Teye, in 1951. My mother had her hands full, but she was always distracted by her own rich inner life. I wonder if she would have could have withstood some of the hardships she faced if she had not had her poetry to preoccupy her. It used to annoy me that our house was always a mess, but I have to add that she was very loving mother and that I am glad I have her poems. I would not have her clean house with me, if that were all she had done.

 

My great buddies during this era were Eileen Vivian Simpson and Mary Brett Bernadette (also known as Brecky) deBary. The last I heard, Brett deBary was a professor at Cornell and Eileen was somewhere in Maine. I should try to find them on the internet.

 

We moved to Leonia, New Jersey when I was about 13. Basically I hated it. My teenage years were miserable, though there was nothing particularly distinguishing about my teenage angst. Leonia left me with perdurable distaste for the suburbs. I didn't like upscale Tenafly much more, but that comes a little later in the story. Buds of the decade were Olga Seraphim Karamitas Milanos and Claire Leslie Storff Kohler. They stayed buddies. Claire died of breast cancer two years ago. Olga has just become a grandmom.

 

I went to a girls' college in Pennsylvania called, somewhat eponymously, Beaver College. (I am not sure about the "eponymous" part. "Eponymous" is one of those words like "hermeneutics" that I keep having to look up in the dictionary over and over again, 'cause I just can't get it right. Anyhow, due to difficulties with the name and its various associations, Beaver has become Arcadia University!) At Beaver, I was an English Lit major. Good friends included Brooke Maury Dojne, Elene Meury VanNoy, and Wendy Schempp Matthews.

 

Afterwards I worked at American Ballet Theatre. There I became friends with Florence Pettan and Tamara Moskowitz. We are still a trio several times a year.

 

While I was at ABT, my high school friend Olga introduced me to Fred Crabbe of Tenafly. Fred had just gotten out of Vanderbilt Law School and was a recent graduate of Dartmouth. He was also quite handsome and I was very impressed. We were married from 1968-1985. Ricky (Frederick Locke Crabbe IV), now known as Ric, was born in 1970.

 

We moved to Tenafly, which is where Rick grew up. While I daydreamed out the window, he went from Ricky to Ric. But I was not cut out for the suburbs, so when Fred and I split, I headed straight for NYC. I have been here in the city ever since.

 

Ric has grown up into a fine young man of whom Fred and I are both extremely proud. He is almost finished his Ph.D. in Computer Science--UCLA. He has a lovely girlfriend, Rebecca Hwa, who is also a computer scientist--Harvard. Like his dad, he went to Dartmouth for his undergraduate degree. Ric is also a genuinely nice person.

 

Somewhere along the way I picked up a Master's Degree in Psychology from the New School for Social Research. I also received a Master's in Social Work from Columbia University. I have worked as a 4th grade school teacher (1968-1970) in a small private school in Brooklyn. I stayed home with Ric until returning for the MA in psych. Then I returned to the world of work in 1983. Since that time, I have always worked with people who have mental illness, first at the Dumont Mental Health Center, then at the Center for Urban Community Services (formerly Columbia University Community Services), and presently as Program Director of the Supportive Case Management Program in the Department of Psychiatry at Beth Israel Medical Center.

 

In 1990 I met my husband, Joe. His full name is Joseph Paul DiFranks. We met at a course at the C.G. Jung Foundation. Joe had been captain of an oil tanker (Texas Sun) for ten years. He was starting a new career on Wall street. (Being a captain had meant months at sea, which had not done much for his marriage that had just ended. He wanted a new and different kind of life.) I was, I confess, very taken with the fact that he had been a captain, mainly since my grandfather had been captain of the oil tanker Bayonne. That Joe had been a captain told me volumes about his character. I wanted to get to know him even better.

 

We were married July 20,1991 and have been married seven years and one day, as of this writing. We have had some difficult moments, to be sure, but these have been the happiest seven years of my life.

 

New buddies include Michele Shaw and Linda Garrett. Linda has actually been a friend since 1983, but that's a new buddy when you get to be my age. I also have two step-sisters from my dad's second marriage. (My mom died in 1972 and my father remarried two years later.) My step-sisters are Alice Angell Evangelista and Callie Angell. My step-mom, Evelyn Baker Angell, died last year, 1997.

 

In addition I have three step-daughters, Joanne DiFranks, a freshman at Albright College; Alison DiFranks, a freshman at SUNY-Purchase (Joe went to SUNY Maritime College); and Mary Katherine DiFranks, a high school junior.

 

Joe has one brother (John DiFranks) and three sisters: Mary Lou DiFranks; Claire DiFranks; and Monica Pollock. Both his parents, Nick and Margaret DiFranks, live in Toms River New Jersey.

 

Sadly, another of Joe's sisters, Margie, died two and a half years ago. She died in an automobile accident, as did my sister, Noel. Noel died on her birthday, December 26, 1993. She was forty-one. Margie was the eldest child in Joe's family; Noel was our baby.

 

My sister Dana lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

July 21, 1998
 

 
Update, November, 1998:
 
My Aunt Edna (my father's sister) died on Labor Day. I am happy I was able to visit her and my cousin Ardythe and her family last March. Aunt Edna lived in Georgia with my cousin, but she was buried beside Uncle Bud in Jersey City. Despite the sad occasion, it was good to see Ardythe, as well as my cousin Guy DuBois and his wife, Lynne.
 
 
Update, April, 1999:
 
Have been accepted into the Doctoral Program at Hunter's School of Social Work. This is a pretty big deal 'cause Hunter is extra-great AND CUNY cheap. Seems to me I have tried to walk this walk before, so I'm not going to make any promises of a really fun-to-read dissertation that I post at this site. What I need is lots of humility and lots of fortitude. Come back in four years for another update!
 
 
Update, Jan, 2000:
 
Okay, so it's not another four years. Life happens and I can't freeze myself like the people who are waiting to be re-awakened when we will be able to transplant ourselves to immortality. (Who would want to be here for that anyhow?)
 
In August, 1999, I decided to leave my program director position at Beth Israel in order to spend "quality time" with my other anticipated pursuits. I now work at the Beth Israel Evening Clinic as a social worker doing psychotherapy. So far, my head is still above water with the Hunter social work doc program. Ric graduates in June and we will have a big bash in LA. No further timetable is available. Just hope to pass comps over the summer. Will update after Ric graduates or if I pass comps or if Ric marries Rebecca.
 
 
Update, July, 2000:
 
We had a big celebration in L.A. in June. Ric received his Ph.D. on June 17th, 2000. We all attended the doctoral hooding ceremony on the 16h--pretty impressive. Ric will be teaching Computer Science at the Naval Academy at Annapolis and doing research at the Naval Research Lab or whatever it is properly called. All of Joe's daughters are now in college.
 
 
Update, July 2001:
 
My father died February 24th, 2001. Ric did a beautiful eulogy in NYC. Jim Malfetti did likewise in Phoenix.
 
I passed my comprehensives last September and am still in doc program. I have three classes remaining and then orals and dissertation proposal. Gets pretty lonely about here.
 
 
Update, January 1, 2002:
 
Everyone knows what happened September 11th, although, certainly, not to us in particular. Since we live about 600 hundred feet from what was once the World Trace Center, my dog, Puccini, and I had to run down the esplanade to be evacuated to the Bayonne Military Ocean Terminal. We spent about 8 hours there and were finally rescued by my brother-in-law, Bruce Pollock. Joe, meanwhile, for 6 hours, tramped the streets of lower Manhattan trying to find us. We all lived with Monica and Bruce for about two months.
 
I actually got through my last semester of classes and now just have to do the hard part. The classes last semester gave structure to my otherwise chaotic life.
 
Ric and Rebecca are engaged to be married. No date set.
 
 
Update, August 31, 2003:
 
Turned sixty 4 days ago. So far, nothing appears to be disintegrating. My vigilance for disintegration is an ongoing project.
 
I have seen my childhood friend, Eileen twice in the past year. She found me at this very website! She seems to have much fonder memories of me than I have of myself. Meanwhile, she is the Eileen I remember from 1956.
 
We went to Greece with good friends, George and Olga Milanos in February. We voted our trip "best vacation ever," and were planning for another twenty years of holidays together, since we had all gotten along so well. Alas, on April 21st, George died of a sudden heart attack. He had been riding his bike in Martha's Vineyard, where he and Olga have a home. Joe and I have just returned from a week in Martha's Vineyard, where we kept Olga company and tended George's garden. We felt very close to him this past week.
 
The dissertation goes on and on. I have rewritten every word. Each interesting sentence has been expunged from my work as though interesting sentences were heresy. Heaven forbid that I should use the subjunctive or begin a sentence with the anathemized prepositional phrase. So it goes.
 
Oh--forgot to mention that in Jan, 2002, I started a 2nd job. I still am a psychotherapist at the Beth Israel evening clinic, but I also am a Health Educator at Village Care of New York. I visit patients with HIV, exhort them to please take their meds, and generally educate them about their medications and illness. This job is a honey because it comes with benefits, such as tuition reimbursement. This past winter I also taught a master's level course at Hunter School of Social Work in social work administration. It was a thrill, but I probably will not teach again until I am finished. The classes and students gobble time and mine is pretty scarce.
 
Joe taught sailing all summer, raced, mentored and was a fleet captain at the sailing club we joined. The club is right in our "backyard." That is, it's in the North Cove Marina, maybe a hundred feet from where I am typing this.
 
 
January 1, 2004:
 
Went to Arizona to visit my sister in November. We loved the Southwest, especially the Grand Canyon. Altogether, a pretty nifty time.
 
Am now an official Ph.D. candidate. (Silly me. I had thought I was a candidate the whole time I've been slogging through this process!) June, 2005 looks like a reasonable "done" date.
 
 
July 4, 2004
 
Passed all my human subjects review boards. Now collecting data.
 
 
July 4, 2005
 
I defend my dissertation on August 31st. If all goes well, I will have my Ph.D. by October 1, 2005. Six long years!
 
 
January 15, 2006
 
Yep, I successfully defended. Now have Ph.D. See my results by returning to Index and going to Results of Research section.
 
 
December 29, 2007
 
My friend Florence Pettan died a week ago. She was buried yesterday. Although it shouldn't have been a surprise (she had been ill for some time) it was, nevertheless, a shock. Her friends and family mourn this loss.
 
I work about 33 hours per week as a psychotherapist at Beth Israel's Evening Clinic. I also have a very small private practice. I worked for a year and a half starting-up an HIV housing program. I was the program director. I really hated that job and didn't like my boss much either. I was functioning more as a real estate agent and rent collector than as a clinician. I finally decided that, at my age, I didn't need such nonsense and just plain quit!
 
I also had a brief "fling" with academia. I had an article accepted by the journal Social Work and thought I might become famous among social workers who groove on ethics. I applied for college professor tenure-track positions and was wined and dined across the map. I didn't get any of these tenure-track teaching positions -- at age 64!! -- but that's when I realized I either wanted to teach college (not teach adjunct-"junk" for no money) or be a full-time psychotherapist.
 
Ric received early tenure the year I earned my PhD (2005). He is on sabbatical this year and is doing research at Carnegie-Mellon.
 
I found my friend Brett deBary. We have been in touch on-and-off for a couple of years now.
 
 
March 21, 2009
 

On July 1m 2008, I started a private practice in psychotherapy for adults at Columbus Circle. I am there four days per week and at Beth Israel Medical Center once a week. My private practice office is:
 
1841 Broadway @ 60th Street (entrance on 60th St)
Suite 700
Columbus Circle
New York, New York 10023
 
Ph: 917-860-9057
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 

May 30, 2010
 
My stepsister, Callie, died by her own hand. I have, in my work as a psychotherapist, talked a lot of people down from ledges, but this was, nevertheless, a stunning shock. It is thought that her date of suicide was April 30th, 2010. "April is the cruelest month. . . ."
 
All this narcissistic blogging, self-documentation, and facebook stuff is beginning to seem repulsive to me. I would wipe out this whole website -- my own demise by my own hand -- except that it may be a curiosity to someone someday.
 
Anyway, I wrote a poem about Callie which is in the Poems by Nikki section of this website. The poem's date is May 13, 2010.
 
 

July 1, 2011

 

Now work full-time in my private practice and retired from Beth Israel
 

 

August 16, 2012
 
Whitman Hwa-Crabbe was born June 29, 2012. I am thrilled because I had come to believe I would never be a grandmother; Ric and Rebecca seemed very involved in their academic careers and I incorrectly presumed they were not interested in the option of children. Soon I shall have pictures of little Whitman in the Family Album section of this website.
 
 
September 7, 2012
 
Pictures of Whitman are now in Family Album. Also pictures of me and Joe on our transatlantic voyage on the Queen Mary2.
 
 
July 19, 2014
 
It's been a rough two years. Joe had lung cancer, I had breast cancer, and three and a half weeks ago I had hip replacement surgery. I may need surgery for spinal stenosis, but that is to be decided down the road. (I am a complicated case because I have a 16 inch Harringtron rod in my back. The rod protects the back but can also exacerbate other conditions, such as spinal stenosis.) Anyhow, I now have a total artificial right hip to match my Harrington rod and my reconstructed right breast. I am truly bionic and look forward to as many robotic body parts as I can acquire along my journey!
 
Am still working at my private practice full time, but I am beginning to look forward to retirement.

 

 

March 12, 2016

 

Not sure if I remembered to say awhile back that son Ric earned tenure at Annapolis Naval Academy circa Spring, 2005 and was awarded full Professor status circa Spring, 2013.  Rebecca followed suit with tenure at Pitt circa 2007.  Meanwhile, I had two more hip replacement surgeries and Moh's surgery for basal cell carcinoma.  Joe has had no lung cancer recurrance for three and a half years!

 

I think we are in good health now and want to keep it going.  Some other good news would be that we did have a wonderful cruise in November, 2014 from Venice to Croatia, Malta, and Sicily, which was topped off by several days in Rome.  We have another cruise planned for July, as well. 

 

More good news is that my cousin, David DuBois, married his sweetheart, Ashley Krepps.  It ws bittersweet only because his father, Guy, who died of cancer in 2013, did not live to see this beautiful moment.  It was great to see so many family members.  (I can count my blood relatives on two hands and that includes Whitman.)

 

Oops!  Need to note we bought a boat.  It's a 28' Alerion Express.  To tell the truth, the boat's tiller was replaced by a wheel and I am now hopelessly confused at the helm. And no, it's NOT just like driving a car.  (Former owner was rather elderly and wanted to make things easier by replacing the tiller, but he made them harder for me!)  Her name is "Bristol Cream," and since it is bad luck to change the name of a boat, Bristol Cream she stays.

 

 

April 19, 2017

 

Went to Rome and Florence for 11 days in March.  Have been to Rome probably ten times, but Haven't been to Florence in fifty years.  Weird to have gone when I was 23 and again at 73 . . . with 74 just around the corner.  Florence looks exactly the same.  I do not.

 

Bought a house in Annapolis, about 10 minutes from Ric.  Whitman is going to go to kindergarten in Annapolis, because it's a sabbatical year for Rebecca.  Unfortunately we won't be there yet.  Although our house closes on May 19th, we still have an NYC apartment lease until Nov1, 2018 and I have an office lease until April 1, 20018, so we'll be renting our house out until sometime in 2018.  I plan to retire April 1, 2018 and we'll move to Annapolis sometime before November 1, 2018.  Joe and Ric plan to double-hand the sailboat from here to Annapolis.  It should take a week.  If they stay in bed and breakfasts along the way, I might join them. . . maybe