There is a lot I want to accomplish in today's blog post so I hope you will stick with me until the end – it will be immensely worth it, I promise.
First, a big thank you and many warm thoughts for all your kind comments on my birthday Monday. You say the nicest things about TimeGoesBy – enough to make me blush - and there were additional wonderful surprises.
To understand how everything came together, there are three facts you need to know:
No. 1: It has been just about four years since I moved to Oregon. I have settled in, made some friends, joined several local projects to help improve my community for elders and I like it here.
Equally true is that I miss New York City – more precisely, Manhattan – every single day. This does not mean I am unhappy.
A couple of Oregon friends tell me I should not tell anyone that I miss New York, that I shouldn't talk about liking another place more than Oregon. I disagree.
I may have been born in Portland, Oregon but from about age five or six, I dreamed of living in New York someday and my dream came true. I lived there for 40 years. It is the city where my heart will always be. My real home.
There are many people whose life circumstances have taken them away from the place where they feel most grounded, most engaged and most themselves. There is no reason friends should not know this about them. Or about me.
No. 2: Millie Garfield is one of the oldest elderbloggers on the internet – 88 and blogging at My Mom's Blog since October 2003. She may be my earliest and longest-running internet friend – we've met in person too – and we keep in regular touch by telephone in addition to email.As you will see, Millie, who lives near Boston, knows how I feel about New York City.
No. 3: Near my home in Clackamas County, Oregon is Faustine's Bakery. They make cookies – the most amazingly decorated cookies you've ever seen. (Well, they make cupcakes and cakes too, but it is the cookies that charm me most.)
So combine those three facts and let us recall Monday last, my birthday.
I returned from lunch in the early afternoon to find a delivery box at my door. The card on the ribbon noted that it was from Faustine's and inside, the sender revealed herself to be Millie Garfield.
After I plowed through the tissue paper and other protective wrapping inside the box I found, of course, cookies. I knew that's what there would be, but what cookies they are. Take a look:
The iconic I ♡ New York teeshirt, the Big Apple apples and if it's hard to tell in my poor camera shot, a zebra striped high-heeled shoe with a red lining.
Woo-hoo! Millie had Faustine's make a special order just for me. And a perfect one it is. Fan-Tas-Tic!
I may just frame them and not eat them – well, besides being so greatly decorated, the cookies actually taste good too so take that statement under advisement.
If you have read this far, you must be wondering if I gave today's post the wrong headline: A New York Day with Granddaughter Hannah.
Another old friend, John Brandt, who I have known for about 35 or 40 years sent me on Monday the charming, true story of a recent day trip with his granddaughter to Manhattan.
That would have been reason enough for me to publish it. But when I got to the last several paragraphs, I was left weeping for more personal, bittersweet reasons: what I have left behind and what John so perfectly understands about me and New York City that he gave his story this subtitle:
For Ronni in Exile on the Wrong Coast
By John Brandt
It started last week with an ad for a film about a member of the New York City Ballet Company who contracted polio at the height of her career and how it changed her life and the lives of those around her.
My granddaughter, Hannah, has been taking ballet class since she was three and now, at 13, is starting to show signs of real promise. So I decided to take her into New York and see the film.
The trip had a second agenda. Hannah auditioned for and will be studying at The Joffrey Ballet in New York for a week of intensive, all-day classes this summer. I wanted to see how intimidated she would be by the city. She won’t be alone, but still.
Our day was geared to exposing her to as much of the “New York state of mind” as possible in just a few hours. Happily it worked.
We drove in from Connecticut, very close to where the subject of the film lived with her mentor and ex-husband, George Balanchine, to west 30th street, where we parked. My son’s apartment is at 30th and 8th Avenue where Hannah will be staying during her Joffrey intensive week in June.
Next was the subway from Penn Station to 95th street and Broadway. After the $2.50 a ride sticker shock at the subway ticket booth (it’s been awhile), we boarded the local, per instructions from one of New York’s finest.
At 42nd street, we jumped across the platform to the express. Hannah was wide-eyed. “Can you do that?”
Sure, and lots more.
The 96th street station was right across the street from the theater so we got our tickets and a recommendation for lunch from the ticket lady.
She sent us to the Manhattan Diner, across Broadway at 95th. What a find. So much more than a diner. French toast with candied apples and cinnamon for her and salmon benedict for me. Heaven!
We were still a little early, so we walked up Broadway to see what we could see.
First stop was the Westside Market, a combination of deli, supermarket and gourmet food haunt of the Westside cognoscenti. The selection of food, both prepared and to cook, was quite overwhelming. The smell was pure France, or Italy, or Spain, or China, depending on the aisle.
I’d weigh 300 pounds if the Market, as the locals call it, was in my neighborhood. Of course, I’d also be bankrupt but for a good cause.
Then, 16 Candles yogurt shop caught Hannah’s eye. It’s a make your own kid’s fantasy story. She got a frequent visitor card for the one in her town. Mom’s gonna love that.
The film was next and well worth the trip. Narrators who knew and danced with Tanaquil Le Clercq told her story and theirs in touching detail, illustrated by archival stills and early kinescopes of New York City Ballet dancers and choreographers in the 1940s and 50s.
After absorbing 90 minutes of her journey, we are far more aware of how dance can move the lives of the dancers and their audiences.
It was more than a story about one dancer’s challenge. It was the story of how the interaction of talented artists and the people who handled them shaped ballet in New York in the 20th century. Some of what we learned was disappointing but all of it clarified our knowledge of and love for the dance.
But more than the dance aspect of our day, it was New York that moved us the most.
The city has a rhythm, a texture, a smell, a special interplay of light and darkness that exists nowhere else on Earth. Okay, maybe Paris, but it’s different and they talk funny.
You begin to feel it as you cross the bridge into Manhattan, drive the streets, walk shoulder to shoulder with people you would never meet anywhere else and breathe its intoxicating air.
It’s been 40 years since I worked in the city, commuting each day and taking for granted all that the city has to offer a willing supplicant. I’m reminded that it feeds creativity with a myriad of experiences and offers limitless stimulation. It is impossible not to yield to its visceral seduction. What one minute seems inconsequential evolves into a life experience that elevates everything that follows.
Yesterday, in the space of five hours, I was reminded that life isn’t routine or measured in years. New York reminded me that life is minute-to-minute, a banquet of delights set for all who dare to venture outside the ordinary.
Being one with the city is extraordinary on so many levels. It is a booster shot for mind and body, one that must be renewed from time to time. It sets the day-to-day in proper perspective. It is, down to the core, what makes everything else move forward “con brio.”
Ronni here again. So you see, my birthday on Monday came together in the most remarkable and unexpected ways: New York, cookies, two old friends who know me well doing such lovely things for me on my birthday.
It would probably make John's story even better for you to know that in his younger days he was a ballet dancer too and he still appears each year at Christmas time in The Nutcracker as Herr Drosselmeyer. This photo is from the Connecticut Dance School's production last December with Hannah, who danced in the corps de ballet, standing with John.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Too Old to be Self-Conscious