A New Life! Retirement at its Best 113

Christmas 2019

At the end of every year, thinking back to Christmases past, we take the time to reconnect with people that were important to us. Long-time friends, former neighbors, relatives, for a few weeks we write cards, write an annual newsletter, send e-cards or make phone calls. We look forward to getting mail or email back. At our age, especially if we have not heard from them for a year, it reassures us that friends are still alive. Pictures cards show us that friends have aged (but somehow still look the same), their families have grown to proudly show children and grandchildren.

Christmas is also a time to give gifts and enjoy receiving them. Last Sunday, my Goddaughter and her two girls came to visit us. She was born in the Netherlands, where we lived at the time, and she lived just down the street from us with her parents and older sister. I was honored to hold the little baby at her christening. It was during the start of the nineteen seventies, the time of short skirts, hot pants and wigs. I had all of those. I remember what I was wearing: a light green, short sleeved knit dress I had made from beautiful material produced by Mike’s knitting mill. I asked the baby’s parents, our friends, “Would you like me to wear my wig or not?” They said, “That is up to you, either way will be nice.” And so I wore my beautiful, shoulder-length wig.

Today, many years later, my Goddaughter and I ended up living not too far from each other in North Carolina. She brought me a book for my birthday. It’s a book I will never read: Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett. The treasure is in what she did with it: an incredibly beautiful, detailed work of art, a Christmas Castle. My picture does not do it justice. But you can get an impression of the artistic creation she made for me, the love and time she spent on it: an unequalled treasure.

The day after Christmas, December 26, is my birthday! This year, a day after Christmas, I celebrated my 81st. I am so blessed to be 81 and healthy! We celebrated at our son’s home, where our daughter-in-law cooked a special Indonesian meal for me, including Krupuk, which she fried on the BBQ in the driveway. For dessert my friend in Tucson had sent me a spekkoek, a real Indo dessert. And, because I love desserts, and I was not sure my grandchildren would like a strange dessert like spekkoek, I made one chocolate pecan pie and one lemon pecan pie, which turned out picture-perfect and delicious! It was the first time in two and a half year that I baked something, for which I had to buy butter and eggs and lemon juice and pecans and chocolate chips! It was fun!

One of my grandsons told me that being born in Surabaya on December 26 at 7:30 a.m., meant that here in North Carolina that was 7:30 p.m. on Christmas Day! Oh! How special is that? To be a United States Citizen who was born on Christmas day in 1938! I am truly blessed.

My dear friends,                  HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

                                                      MAY YOU HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY NEW YEAR!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best 112

New York, New York! 

What an amazing, colorful, fast paced, sky scraping city is New York at Christmas time! We traveled there as a group, our daughter-in-law and her church choir, our son and three grandsons, and I. At dinner in the hotel that night, our daughter from California, my chaperone, joined us and all together we went to Hershey’s Chocolate World on Times Square for the largest, gooiest s’more I have ever had.

On the second day we found seats for eight at a small Italian place for lunch. When we could not eat all of the pizza that was served, we asked for a take-out box. Well, the only box they had was a large pizza box that did not close very well. Our son was carrying it on our way to Central Park. I said, It’s ridiculous to walk through Central Park with a pizza box, and the lid can fly open at any time! Let’s give it to a homeless person. That was easier said than done. In all the streets we walked through we did not encounter a single homeless person. We saw more of them at night, huddled on the side of the buildings in the freezing rain. We crossed into Central Park, and there I saw one! Away from the path, in the sun under a tree, lay a man, covered by a thin grey blanket. Next to him stood a water bottle and behind the tree I saw part of what looked like a shopping cart and an umbrella. I took the pizza box from our son and walked across the grass. He was just a shapeless form, laying on his side, his back toward me. Sir, would you like some leftover pizza? I asked. Yes, was the muffled answer. I will put the box down right next to you, I said. Thank you. He did not move. I walked back to the path and the waiting family members. Half an hour later, on the way back to the hotel, we passed the same spot. The shadows had lengthened, but the figure still lay motionless in the sun. He had put the pizza box under his behind. The ground must have been freezing, and his thin blanket did not even cover him completely. 

The following days, while the choir rehearsed for five hours, the family headed in different directions. From the skating rink in Central Park to the Guggenheim museum to Rockefeller Center, where I worked for a year in 1961, to Bloomingdales, where Mike worked at that time. When the Guggenheim was opened, we lived in New York but never saw any of her exhibits, nor the awe-inspiring circular walkway inside. The architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, advised people to see the exhibits walking from the top down – and so we did.

The 911 Memorial on Ground Zero was extremely moving in its simple beauty with waterfalls of tears falling endlessly into an infinity pool and from there down again into two voids. Michael Arad, the architect, whose design was selected from 5000 others, had watched the second plane hit the South Tower from his roof on the Lower East Side. He described how, in the days immediately following the WTC attacks, he  first envisioned a memorial that incorporated the element of water. His original design, aimed to evoke the impassable separation between the living and the dead — “a threshold that one cannot cross” — was rejected, but he was able to preserve the water element that was so central to his design: two square, below-ground reflecting pools are surrounded by waterfalls that begin above ground level. He imagined the pools of water to be “two voids tearing open a surface of water and the river failing to fill it up”. “The “inexplicable image,” he added, “captured a sense of rupture and continued absence” that intrigued him. The names of those who died in the attacks and recovery efforts are inscribed on bronze panels in the plaza overlooking the Memorial.

We had two days of sunshine, two of freezing rain, then snow. We walked an average of six miles a day, through blizzards from the hotel to the theaters at night, in double layers of clothes. I had an umbrella with me, my daughter’s umbrella flipped over to half the size, and the others pulled up the hoods of their jackets in an effort to stay dry. We struggled to find the right subway line and the right platform, walking down and up stairs to get there and down and up again; we used a shared Lyft twice, and took a yellow cab once. I was so happy that I could do it all, without pain, thanks to a hot pad and coffee in bed in the early morning and Tylenol throughout the day.

With the family, we went to see Wicked, The Rockettes, and then the beautiful Christmas show Heaven’s Child in Carnegie Hall’s largest theater. Our daughter-in-law’s solo was amazing, and far too short! We had never been there before as a young, just married couple. Imagine the five of us sitting in a center loge, looking down to see the full 10 choirs from two stories high! A once-in-a-lifetime  experience.

What intrigued me most in New York City, other than the bright colors at night of continuously changing billboards, window displays and Christmas trees, were the shapes of the buildings. My pictures can’t do justice to them but I am enjoying the memories.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,