At 16 years old Judy was artistically and musically gifted, exceptionally intelligent and hard-working and a perfectionist in everything she did. She was neat and organized and kept her leather school shoes polished. She was already fluent in English and spoke directly and to the point. She seemed precociously mature, as young Europeans often do compared to their young American counterparts, and was as comfortable in adult company as she was in the company of her peers. Though she was only 16 and so theoretically should have been a high school sophmore, because of her academic level Judy was put in the senior class.
I could see how a host family who thought that having an exchange student would be a feather in the family hat could, with Judy, end up feeling themselves like the feather.
But for us Judy was a good fit.
Were there adjustments to be made? Probably. Did we have ups and down? Possibly. Was everybody happy all the time? Unlikely.
And yet looking back now all I can remember are the good times.
How Theresa loved Judy and followed her around like a little puppy dog.
How Judy, an excellent pianist, learned the devilishly hard piano accompaniment to the violin piece Tommy was working on, the Vivaldi violin concerto in A minor, so that they could play together at Tommy's recital.
How she landed a part (as a Russian pianist!) in the school play "Stage Door" and was a dancer in the school production of "Guys and Dolls".
The afternoon when I took Judy out of school and she and I went to Capital University to hear a program of Gershwin pieces performed by Capital's piano majors. Afterwards we had lunch then visited a watercolor exhibit at the university art museum. That was a nice afternoon.
She taught me how to make weiner schnitzel and Austrian apple strudel.
We introduced her to doughnuts and MacDonald's milkshakes.
She introduced us to the paintings of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt:
Then there was Christmas morning.
There was the night of senior prom.
And there was the conversation Judy and I had one day towards the end of her stay with us when she told me that with her first host family they'd make up new rules every day for her to follow and post them on the refrigerator. Then she asked me - this was after she'd lived with us for almost nine months - if we had any house rules. I laughed and said I thought we did but I couldn't think of what they were. Then she said that she observed that in our house everybody just seemed to know the right way to act without any rules.
But maybe part of that was Judy's doing. I remember Maria saying to me one day, months after Judy had left, that it was as if when Judy arrived we all went on our best behavior then just stayed there.
Judy is a gift to the planet.