Dearest New York Friends

We were on Long Island to celebrate dear friends. One of these friends died on his birthday a few weeks ago. Jay wanted a celebration of his life, starting in church and ending with lunch.

Jay specified the lunch had to include good food and good beer. He would have enjoyed the loving, fun things people said about him. The lunch certainly came up to his standards. It was as elegant as a wedding reception.

We were with our own blood relatives at Jay’s memorial. Daughter Kate and sister Barbara and Thom were with us. We always savor time spent with them. We appreciated staying at Barbara and Thom’s house where we had other opportunities to visit.

We have church family, too. We had breakfast with Ruth, and this was our special time to visit with her. Attending adult Bible class and singing in the choir were the main things we all did together. We’ve known and loved her since 1967.

John, Barbara, Ruth, and Thom

No trip to Long Island is complete without time with Karen and Al. We always joke, laugh, discuss serious things, tease each other, share stories, and revel in each other’s company. For us prime time has nothing to do with television and everything to do with time spent together. When I made them pose for the obligatory photo, Karen picked up a box of Christmas dishes. Perhaps that was the official rite that made those dishes ours. They said they were agonizing about getting rid of them, since no family members wanted the set. After much banter, we were the new owners. We’ll have to wait ten months to use the dishes, but they will be in daily use for over a month.

Karen, John, and Al

After 60 Years — Helen!!

John had not seen his high school classmate Helen since graduation day. Obviously, I had not met her or her husband Joe before. This warm conversation was just like the one with classmate Carol and John the previous day. We shared our experiences, with everyone being an equal partner in the word-flow. What a delight!

We enjoy hearing accounts of how couples meet and marry, so we asked them their story. Their mothers were the match-makers! Joe’s mother was a manager at Wanamaker’s, a big department store. Helen’s mother saw photos of the wedding of Joe’s sister while Helen was trying on clothes. Joe’s mother found out that Helen’s family had an ice cream shop, so she insisted Joe drive her there to get ice cream. As Joe pointed out, his mother could have easily driven herself there. That was the beginning of a lovely romance. We saw photos of their two daughters and grandchildren who still live close by.

Helen was a teacher. Lots of people know I admire teachers, so she started on a very high plane with me. She stayed home with the girls while they were growing up. She was concerned about entering the work force again, but her experience stood her in good stead. Many students were inspired by her during her teaching career. I am envious of her gardening experience. She loves to work outside, and there is evidence to prove it.

I was fascinated by the way Joe’s job affected their family life. He was an electronics engineer with very high security clearance. During the girls’ childhood years, he could not tell anyone about his job. When the children asked what he did at work, he had to dodge the question. After a serious crisis, he worked the 12-hour night shift for a while. Not only could he not say what he did, but he worked in the dead of night. It was only a few years ago that this was declassified, so his talking to us was permissible. After a lifetime of keeping important secrets, he wouldn’t be comfortable with my publishing his photo, according to Helen. You’ll have to imagine a very distinguished man who is easy to talk to.

High school classmates John and Helen

After our satisfying visit with Helen and Joe, we headed for Long Island, to spend time with blood relatives and people who are our very close church family.

Blogger's Delightful Day, Installment Two

Our second meet-up of the day was a different type of reunion. We knew Susie only through her blog. I talked about her so often that John felt he knew her as well as I did. I took only one photo, and that will have to do. Susie is beautiful, and her face is lively when she talks. I could kick myself, and you would be right to chastise me, for not taking a video.

We didn’t go through backgrounds or family histories. We jumped headlong into conversation. I realized she expected to see us laugh, since I write about silly things. I hoped she wouldn’t be disappointed and promptly forgot about it. She took a number of pictures to send her family, promising to send them to me. I should explain that Susie is getting a master’s degree from Yale, while her daughters are attending medical school and doing post-graduate work in India. Her husband is working abroad, but he and Susie will be moving back to India in the near future. Good to her word, Susie sent me the photos, and I couldn’t help giggling. She had caught us laughing. Now laughing is not necessarily pretty, but this was certainly genuine.

For dinner, we wanted Susie to have an American experience. We spotted a diner, hoping the food would be good. The place was owned by friendly Greeks who allowed us to chat at the table for hours. We were totally surprised to learn that she came from a Christian state, one of three in India. (Sorry, my numbers are always suspect.) She grew up surrounded by other Christians. In fact, the churches there are always crowded, often with people standing outside to hear the service. The United States used to be considered a very Christian nation, so imagine Susie’s shock at finding all the churches within walking distance of Yale mostly empty on Sunday morning.

I wanted to know what languages she speaks, knowing she had complete mastery of at least two. The answer was five or six. (Again, I’m sorry I don’t remember numbers.) I had no idea that each Indian state has its own language. She explained that if the language were based on Sanskrit, she would be able to learn it fairly easily. Could she switch easily from one to another? The answer was yes. If someone spoke to her, she would automatically reply in that language. To someone who knows English and reads music, that is astounding. Switchers that I know include daughter Lise, friend Gerhard, and niece Celine.

We also had a serious discussion about higher education in the United States. Susie has talked to a number of foreign students who agree with her. Her gentle observation is a scathing denunciation of what is being taught. Being politically correct is more important than teaching content.

Friends, and that is what we are, talk on many levels. We enjoyed being with Susie, sharing both serious and amusing moments. Neither of us ever expected to meet in person when we first followed each other’s blogs. To have shared such a wonderful evening was beyond my dreams.

Click here to see Susie’s blog.

Blogger's Delightful Day, Installment One

A blogger couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. I met two people for the first time and had hours of face time with a blogger I had longed to see in person.

We began by having brunch with John’s high school classmate Carol and husband John. Carol and my husband had not seen each other for 60 years. Of course, their backgrounds hadn’t changed, so they began on common ground. Did that leave out their spouses? Absolutely not! When four conversationalists sit together, each one is an integral part of the moment. And how the moments flew!

We loved hearing how they met. Being distantly related by marriage, they both went to a christening. Period. No sparks; no fire. I’ll bet they spent very little time together at that event. Fast forward ten years. Carol from the Bronx and John from Brooklyn had both moved to Manhattan. When John was told that Carol lived right around the corner on the same bus route, he invited her out to dinner. After they had been married for a year, they moved to Vienna for John’s job. He worked for the United Nations, and she taught school. The rest is a lovely history of their traveling through life together and retiring to Massachusetts. That is terribly condensed, but this is not a biography.

We talked about many things, and then I turned into a missionary. When John P. showed a bit of interest in blogging, I couldn’t stop talking about WordPress. I love blogging, and that is what they will remember about me. I apologize, Carol and John, all the while hoping he will try it and like it.

Part two of Blogger’s Delightful Day will be next.

Godparents' Day

We had a true Godparents’ Day in Massachusetts, though I didn’t tumble to it until the end of the day. We visited niece Chrissie and Chris in the ski resort where they live, and from there we drove near Boston to see nephew Anders and his daughter Rowan (4). We are godparents for both Chrissie and Anders. It was marvelous to see them both on the same day.

We steeped ourselves in conversation with Chrissie and Chris. We began in their condo and continued in a restaurant overlooking the ski lifts.

I loved hearing them talk about the skiers and snowboarders coming down the slopes. They pointed out an instructor with his young charges and commented on the relaxed form of a good snowboarder. At the end of the meal, John and I could have picked out beginning boarders by their arms stretched out for balance. A couple of skiers wiped out at the end of the run. The child hopped right up, but the woman struggled valiantly before a man came over to give her a hand.

All too soon we had to leave, but we had enjoyed every minute with them.

Anders was just coming home with his daughter when we arrived. Some children are painfully shy, but she danced out of the car and ran to introduce herself. She said, “My name is Rowan.”

The four of us went to a marvelous supermarket down the street and chose take-out food from a buffet bar. We don’t have anything that like that near our home. Rowan painted with water colors as we ate, leaning over for a bite of food every now and then. She was delightfully irrepressible and fun to watch. We missed seeing Anders’ wife, Caroline, who was working in New York for a few days.

Anders gave us a tour of the new attic bathroom which we will be the first to use. It is a marvel.

After Rowan was in bed, Anders showed John a model engine he has outfitted with a camera. They had fun discussing a project for using it.

Toilets while Traveling

It amazes me that toilets come in all sizes. I’m sure there was one standard size when I was young, but no more! The first motel had a toilet designed for a two-year-old. The seat was almost on the floor!! You might think the room was meant for a very young family, but there was a handicap grab bar in the shower. Talk about mixed signals!

The second night the toilet would have been good for a five-year-old. With that progression, we might have a geriatric bathroom on the way home.

My favorite bathroom was this one.

It was decorated with original Pollock mobiles. The photo doesn’t do them justice, but I loved them. Note one mobile hanging from the ceiling and the other standing to the left of the mirror. Nephew Chris designs mobiles, and his and niece Chrissie’s home is filled with them. It struck my fancy to have real art in the bathroom.

Click here to see Chris’ blog.

On the Road Again

Day one of travel was easy for me, since John did all the driving. The day was sunny and warm for a winter’s day. We left North Carolina in the morning, and I took a photo of the visitor’s center sign before we stopped for the night.

Having gone further than John thought we would, we had time to poke around Binghamton, NY the next day. We checked out the train tracks, but nothing was moving. It was fun to look at the buildings in the heart of town. Some were old houses in varying degrees of disrepair, and others were gorgeous. We stopped for lunch at an Italian restaurant in some little town. The waitress said there was one serving of eggplant Parmesan left, and I told John to go for it. He loves it, and I don’t. I chose a seared tuna panini. We were both wowed by the food. Delicious!

We had coffee with Long Island friends Connie and Dennis in their lovely town, along with their daughter Danielle and her son AJ. They moved upstate the same year we moved to NC. The family’s equestrian center was just a short ride out of town, and we enjoyed the tour of the barn. Presently there are 29 horses in stalls around the huge riding arena. I had seen pictures of it on Facebook, but it was even more impressive in person. We enjoyed catching up before moving on.

John, Dennis, Anne, Connie, and AJ