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I have a couple of stories to share this evening. The first is about how much Christmas has changed. I took my granddaughters to the American Girl Store for lunch and a little shopping spree for their dolls. As they filled my shopping bag with clothes boxes, accessories for the dolls, pets for the dolls…..(and I was wondering how much this was all going to cost me!)…..I thought about my own childhood doll. I had a Madame Alexander doll and I pretended that she was a pioneer girl, like Laura Ingalls Wilder of the ‘LIttle House’ series. Laura grew up during the 1870s and traveled across country in a covered wagon. Laura had a corn cob for a doll, and her Christmas gift consisted of a tin cup with some candy inside.

My Madame Alexander doll had a small collection of clothes, most which were hand-sewn by my grandmother.

My mother only had paper dolls that she received in her Christmas stocking during the 1930s. If she was lucky, she found an orange and some nuts in her stocking too.

My reason for taking the girls to the doll store was because they receive so many gifts under the tree that whatever I gave them would be lost in the sea of presents!

I guess what I am wondering is how do we get back to better values? Going to the doll store was more about the experience that the gifts for me; I hope they remember me as the grandmother that took them to the doll store.

My second story has to do with a kind act. I was on the subway going to Madison Square Garden for a New York Knicks game when a little man asked me in broken English how to get to Penn Station. We were already underground in the subway station below Grand Central. As I was going in his direction, I told him to stick with me — I would show him the way. He was lugging two suitcases and told me he was 78 years old! We took the shuttle across town, and then we connected to the West Side train to 34th Street. From 34th we had to walk a few blocks, but I got him into Penn Station and took him all the way to the ticket counter where he could purchase a ticket to New Jersey. He was going out to somewhere near Somers where his son lived in order to celebrate his granddaughter’s first birthday! I am a little confused as to what nationality he actually was, but he was living in Argentina. I was happy that I could help him, and really did not understand how a son could leave an older gentleman like that to fend for himself.

Merry Christmas!

Last post was a Thanksgiving Story…..this post, I have a New York City story to share:

Yesterday morning, I was awakened by a beeping noise…this was a 5:10 a.m. and I asked myself, ‘What could be happening?’ Was it the alarm I just installed for carbon monixide? Did someone get into the apartment building and was now randomly ringing doorbells? Was it a former suitor, returned to my doorstep to try to talk his way in? All of these thoughts went through my mind…..in a sleepy haze.

Finally I heard knocking at the door, and I knew I had to get up to see who it was. As I made my way through the living room, I heard a ‘hissing’ noise coming from the kitchen. Something was definitely wrong.

The person knocking on the door was angry, and I don’t blame him, because my refrigerator was expelling water at a fast rate! I opened the door and a man from the apartment downstairs entered in his pajamas. I was in my pajamas too. He explained to me that a torrent of water was falling through to his apartment. This had evidently happened three months earlier (not to my knowledge because I rent — no one told me!) and he had just finished repairing all the damage from that flood. We went together to the kitchen, and pulled the refrigerator out from its nook. Sure enough, a plastic tube was erupting with LOTS OF WATER. He called the superintendent, and we managed together to get the valves closed to the water and that stopped the flow. I was left with my refrigerator sitting in the center of the kitchen, a pan collecting the water that was still seeping out of the plastic tube.

I guess the only thing ‘funny’ about this story is that I met my neighbor in pajamas!

This has been a bit of a ‘bad luck’ apartment…..starting with an overflow of the washing machine when I first moved in. I have been twice without heat in the last three weeks, for three days at a time. I got sick from the last heat outage. Now the refrigerator has erupted with a flood!

Ahhh…..living in New York City.

Today is Thanksgiving. Last Thanksgiving was a painful one for me — the first Thanksgiving without having my mother around to ‘whip’ the potatoes. This was her specialty and yearly job in the prep, a task she took pride in. I was living in Europe and opted to skip the holiday entirely. I had dinner with my friends, Michele and Jacques, in Strasbourg, France, and no one made any mention of the Thanksgiving Holiday.

This year, it was important for me to celebrate the holiday, even though I miss both of my deceased parents very much. But I had an unexpected¬† ‘Thanksgiving Gift!’

On Sunday evening, my cell phone rang and the number read Huntsville, Alabama. I answered the call, even though I could not think of anyone that I knew in Huntsville. When I picked up, a man’s voice said, “Susan?” and I replied, “Yes?” with a questioning voice.

“This is Bill Fussel, ” he said. I have never met nor have I ever spoken to Bill Fussel, but I knew exactly who he was. He was part of my Dad’s WWII bomber crew! My father spoke of him often, and he was another one of my Dad’s best friends. Many of my childhood vacations were excursions to visit the men who served in WWII with my Dad, and I can tell you that some of these excursions proved to be very interesting experiences! We never visited Bill and his family, but I always knew of him.

Bill was looking for my mother. He had discovered that her phone was disconnected, and so he called me. Evidently my mother had given him my cell phone. I had to explain the sad news that my mother had passed in early 2013. He then shared something with me that I had not known: Bill and his wife, Alma, stood as witnesses to my parents marriage in 1947 at the Detroit City Hall. Bill recounted this memory as though it were yesterday. Bill formerly worked for Chrysler, who transferred him down to Huntsville, Alabama. He liked Huntsville so much that he and his wife stayed there.

When my mother passed, I felt like I lost all connection to my father who had passed in 1986. Now I was talking to a person who remembered them both, and was looking for my mother. I felt like it was a ‘Thanksgiving Gift.’ Suddenly my parents seemed alive again, and with us in time.

I asked Bill how old he was and he replied, “Ninety-two.” My Dad would have been ninety-five this year. He told me that there is only one other living member of Dad’s WWII bomber crew — a man named Henry who lives in Texas. I wished him a Happy Thanksgiving with his family, and we agreed to keep in touch.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!

Two 'girls' having too much fun!

My bathroom mirror is not complimentary. When I get up in the morning and catch a glimpse of myself, I want to commit ‘hari -kari’! But then when I move out into the living room, I look better in those mirrors, and reconsider my thoughts. Last night I invited a friend for dinner, and as my heat has been out for three days, I had space heaters plugged into my wall outlets. All my electricity blew! And then I couldn’t lift the mirror off the face of my circuit box by myself so I was unable to re-instate the electricity. So I lit some candles and realized that ‘candlelight’ is by far the best for my appearance.

My friend and I were both laughing about this observation. We have vowed to stay in candlelight as much as possible.

But then I came across this photo from my recent trip to France and it shows that girls can have fun, no matter what age! There is a certain ‘prettiness’ that shines through when you are happy. So what is the moral of this story? Happiness makes beautiful.

These two girls had just been shopping in a re-sale store where each piece of clothing was marked down to 20 euros…..Chloe shirts, Prada dresses, Cavalli blouses, Gucci pants and more. Everything was ‘gently used’ but the fun we had shopping was priceless!

Historic Rendezvous in Marlenheim

In the summer of 1969, two seventeen year-old girls and one fifteen year-old boy, met in the Vosges Mountains of France at a hostel where our parents had taken us to do hiking in the mountains. I was staying with a host family in Alsace, the Wendlers. My memories are vague and foggy at this point, but I know that Michele and I met Klaus, who was near to our age, and we spent time together that weekend and exchanged addresses when we parted as both Michele and I had many ‘pen friends’ that we kept up with across the world. Klaus and his family were from Frankfurt, Germany.

I continued my correspondence with Michele and Klaus after our chance meeting, and Klaus ended up visiting me, along with his girlfriend, Elke, and his older brother, in 1979. I was living in New York City at the time, and my home was on the route that they were taking to the west of the U.S. Despite spurts and starts of correspondence through the years, I had not seen Klaus since 1979. He married Elke, has a lovely daughter named Anna Maria, and lives in Frankfurt today. Most recently he was involved in researching a branch of my German family which comes from a small village north of Frankfurt called Raboldshausen. Somehow, he tripped upon a cousin of mine (our great-grandfathers were brothers) who lives in Rochester, New York, who is also involved with family research. This cousin is named Dean and he is a retired university professor who lives in Rochester, New York.

Klaus connected Dean and I and this led to a very interesting discovery for me about my Froehlich family. In fact, Dean was the repository of family research done by another relative from the Detroit area (my home town and region). Dean sent all of these records to me — it was quite a surprise! But Dean is alone and over eighty years old now with no children to pass on to so perhaps he decided to send all these research results to me since I was at least someone who was interested in our common roots.

Klaus has been wanting to get-together so as I was traveling to Alsace to visit Michele and Jacques, I suggested that we all meet in Marlenheim, a small village with a lovely restaurant and auberge. We met as planned and celebrated our reunion with a multi-course Alsatian meal, beginning with a glass of champagne! Regional specialties such as fois gras terrine, brochette of escargots, and choucrout garni were presented artistically. It was really a special meal to mark the celebration of old acquaintances meeting again, now all of us in our sixties, after forty-five years from our first meeting.

November 1

Red Tambourine has been silent for a few months.

I have been traveling in France for about a month which has been really great for building confidence and re-connecting with friends and new projects. I have renewed enthusiasm for completing the decoration in my home after several visitors offered their opinions and ideas, and I spent a couple of days at a Sibuet hotel, decorated by Jocelyne Sibuet, famed decoratrice and hotelier in France. Joecelyne shared a breakfast with me and her enthusiasm for new projects that she is working on was contagious. One of my house guests proclaimed her ‘joyfulness’ each day and it teaches me to appreciate and look forward to each moment. ‘Gratitude’ was also another word that she used every day in the spirit of being thankful. She is a wonderful cook and we enjoyed eating a number of creations she whipped up in the kitchen with ingredients fresh from the local market! She studied at Peter Kump in NYC and encourages me to take some courses, even if just for a weekend or a short course. The cooking school is now re-named but easily located in Manhattan. I now find in my pocket a reciprocal invitation to make a visit to Mexico where they manage a resort.

I built some confidence by renting a car and driving it from the south to the north of France on the French expressways, mastering all the equipment, including the GPS. The GPS dutifully led me to all destinations. I visited Morzine-Avoriaz, a French ski village in the Savoie, now in conversation with Telluride, Colorado, about a ‘Sister City’ relationship. I tried to move that initiative with Megeve, but it did not work out. In my opinion, Megeve seems like a nicer ski resort that Morzine, but perhaps Morzine is more ideally matched to Telluride because it feels less pretentious. There are less fancy shops and perhaps more back-country ski pistes. I visited as just an interested resident of Telluride, not as an official ambassador. Morzine is located about an hour further north and east in Savoie from Megeve.

I am now in one of my favorite provinces, Alsace. I am spending the weekend with long-time friends and we are having¬† ‘Indian Summer’ temperatures. Today we are going to a cross-stitch festival, and later to an Alsatian restaurant in a small village. Alsatian cuisine is specific and very different from classic French cooking. Alsace has been somewhat ruined, in my opinion, by the construction of a north-south expressway which cuts the visitor off from driving through all the little villages that were formerly located on national roads. I am hoping that we skip the expressway in favor of the smaller roads today. The grape leaves in the vineyards are withering and changing to fall colors, creating a beautiful palette of gold, brown, red, and light green across the landscape.

Photo taken along the highway in Montrose, Colorado.

Another sure sign that you are in the state of Colorado!

Paonia, Colorado

……..you see a horse hitched up to a parking place at the local ice cream store!

Full Circle

This past weekend, I made a long trip from Telluride, Colorado, to New York City. I was invited to attend a baby shower for the daughter of a long-time friend. Most people would not travel so far for a baby shower — it would be easier just to send a gift — but for some reason, I felt I needed to make the ‘full circle’ on this occasion.

The new mother with Erik, age 6 months, 1981.

Peggy and I met in the mid 1970s when beoth of us were working for Bloomingdales as buyers. Peggy bought the belt department, and I was buying small leathergoods. We became friends and started to socialize outside of work. I was already married, but Peg was looking for ‘the one.’ She eventually found him, Jono, and then the four of us spent time together. Jono’s family owned a home on Nantucket, and we had lovely opportunities to visit the island during the summers. One of my favorite photos of my son Erik and I was taken on the beach in Nantucket in 1981.

Between us two young women, I had the first baby — my oldest son, Erik. I went to visit Peggy when she was pregnant with Jill, her first-born. I have photos of Erik surrounded by Peggy’s two giant labs. I hosted a baby shower for Peggy, and made her a lined basket that she could use to move the baby around the house with her while she was doing chores — I used a laundry basket to move Erik around with me in my home.

The invitation to Jill’s baby shower felt like a very special occasion to me. I had to return to New York to participate and celebrate the new baby now coming into the life of Peggy’s daughter. I am a grandmother, and now Peggy will become a grandmother too.

Wearing Glasses

I was blessed with really good eyes….in fact, I remember asking during an eye exam, “What is 20/15?” as I had always heard about 20/20 vision as the ‘optimum.’ The eye doctor looked at me and replied, “That’s better than 20/20!”

My father was a B-17 pilot during the war and flew without glasses. He only started to wear glasses when, as he explained it, “his arms got too short!” meaning that he could no longer hold things out far enough away from him in order to see them. He needed reading glasses.

Fortunately for me, I did not need reading glasses either until I reached my mid-forties. I have developed a whole new respect for anyone who has had to wear glasses throughout their life.  For me, the biggest challenge is knowing where they are! I travel around with multiple pairs, and often find glasses in coat pockets or other secret hiding places where they were carelessly tucked.

Recently I went to my hairdresser, and despite having at least four pairs of glasses at my home …. I forgot my glasses. Fortunately, she had a fish bowl full of glasses that had been left behind by customers. Lo and behold — there was a pair that I recognized! They were mine! A distinctive pair of tortoise-shell plastic with rhinestone trim.

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