In first person… Magic of stage energizes writer-actress

Cope is a four-letter word.

Why? Because a 12-year-old California granddaughter, whom I was visiting from Florida, many years ago, asked me a simple question: "What is your name, please?" Her teacher had assigned the class to interview a grandparent. I replied, "My name is Sonya Tserulnikoff," and that led to chapter one of my 1984 book, "Cope is a Four-Letter Word."

I was born in Russia, moving to the United States as a child. Married very young, we made it through the Depression and raised two wonderful sons. While working at Brooklyn College, I went back to school to obtain a bachelor's degree in 1961.

I started a Yiddish club in Florida.

In 1996, I came to California and taught at Palo Alto's Albert L. Schultz Jewish Community Center.

What's it all about, Alfie? Perhaps most of all, there is the ability, as an actress and writer, to perform on stage, to feel the magic response and the vibes going out to the audience — this has been my personal survival kit.

As a very young 89, if I had my life to live over, would I do the same things again? I don't know. But I do know that I've come a long way. The road has been a difficult one and at times there was a wild desire to give up. But I've learned, and I've grown, and am confident, and why?

Because "cope" is a four-letter word, and I know it well.