Michel, being the charming man that he is, sent me the most beautiful daisies on my birthday so that when I arrived back home, they were waiting for me - he knows they're my favorite flower - and they were exquisite. Michel is family, after all these years, and he's working on a book that I can't wait to read. He's promised us a visit after he sends it to his publisher. We're going to hold him to it.
Turning 49 was a piece of delicous chocolate cheesecake, complete with a candle and singing.
It was 12 degrees when my plane landed at La Guardia. To my southern sensibilities and skin, it felt positively Arctic.
John and Katie's new apartment is on the Upper West Side, just a couple of blocks from the Time Warner Center and dangerously close to Border's Bookstore. Before my send-off to NYC, my office surprised me with a cake, candles, singing and two extremely generous gift cards with instructions to use them on my trip. I didn't disappoint them and Borders was the better for it, as was Barnes and Noble, and several other establishments.
Katie and I spent my actual birthday walking around Manhattan, seeing "He's Just Not That Into You", drinking hot coffee in very cold and wintry Central Park, and eating delicious food. And giggling - we giggled a lot. Made keen, obtuse observations, and in a way it was like hanging with a best friend, who just happens to be my daughter.
On the day after my birthday, we made our way to the Barnes and Noble near Lincoln Center where she hung out with the cookbooks and I drifted off to biographies and nonfiction. We lugged our loot to a sitting area just across from LC, and while Katie perused her baking book acquisitions, I sat back and took the opportunity to do what I love doing most in Manhattan - watching people. There was much to see, as there always is. NYC never disappoints and is always lively and over-stimulating.
It was a delightful way to spend a Saturday Afternoon and, thankfully, the temperature rose above freezing. Hardy NY'ers were positively basking in what they considered "mild" conditions. Me? I was gloved, wrapped in a scarf and ensconced in the faux fur coat my best friend Sharon lent me because living in Wilmington, I refuse to own outerwear that's more substantial than my leather jacket. I would have frozen solid without Sharon's generous contribution to my comfort. It's just one of the many reasons I adore Sharon.
We dropped back by K & J's apartment long enough to collect John and headed for a late lunch at the Olympic Torch Diner. But before venturing out, we ventured up - to the roof garden of their apartment building which happened to be on the 57th floor. It was breezy for certain, but what an incredible view! As sunset enveloped the city, the lights twinkled before us, like scattered stars - some static and others in a sort of Brownian motion. What a sight it was - the Hudson River to the left and Central Park to the right and everything imaginable in between.
However, at that haute height, the only noise to be heard was the wind whistling a very icy tune. I still can't imagine that my daughter lives up there and has made that town her own in the almost three years she's been a resident. Amazing. It constantly amazes me. She thoroughly thrives up there, as does John. It's like they've always been there, so comfortable and at ease in a town I always liken to semi-controlled chaos.
I'm so happy for them because they're so happy! I miss having her in town, no question about it, but taking queues from my parents, I choose to revel in their joy and right now, their joy is in the 18th floor apartment that is surrounded by glass buildings and busy streets and throngs of people; if that's where they find happiness, where they thrive and live and have carved out an inestimably interesting life with a view that won't stop, well, then that makes me happy, too! And very proud. So very proud of both of them.
Katie has grown into such a lovely, capable woman - the young girl who was always wise beyond her years has matured into an insightful, thoughtful, creative, accomplished adult. Watching the metamorphosis has been captivating, enchanting...a precious gift from a young lady who has generously given me ever so much along the way. As she has expanded her horizons, she's exponentially expanded my heart and my mind. Can you tell I'm proud? I make no apologies for this gushing - she can back up my accolades in a way that words can't come close to expressing in any sort of adequate form.
On Sunday Morning, 8 February, I packed up my suitcase and Katie rode the elevator with me downstairs and she gave me one final wonderful "Katie" gift of the weekend...she allowed me the comic thrill of watching her hail the cab that would start my journey back where I belong - in the land of iced tea and warm southern breezes. I love watching the NY side of her...so determined, full of chutzpah, certainty and with a confidence her very southern mother couldn't possibly manage.
Just before I got in the cab, headed back to La Guardia and the commuter plane that would deliver me back to my corner of the US, we snapped two photos. No tears, not even the hint of them did I feel. We had a spectacular visit, shared so much fun with Katie's seamlessly ascerbic and amusing turns, but it was time for me to head home to the much more decidedly genteel land of tea, Andy Griffith reruns, cats, a dog , so many cichlids and two parents I enjoy so very much, and it was time for her to return to her epic pace of ordering groceries from Fresh Direct (just a click of the keys and the cupboards are restored!), baking sinfully rich and mouth-watering desserts, and the quiet (it's all relative!) life she lives on the 18th floor of a very tall building in a very large city with a very tall boyfriend, two cats and a red kitchen-aid mixer. It's good we know our place, eh? :-)
I've been working like crazy since my return,. I've been slammed at work and I've enjoyed every minute of it. Every single minute. I am also typing this from a new Toshiba laptop that my parents bought me last week and I'm loving that, too. It's lightning fast, has a 17" screen and I can load my huge spreadsheets on it, have five applications running and never miss a beat. It's great fun and we're still getting to know each other, but I'm feeling a delicious synchronicity.
There is, however, excitement in the air! Upon my return from Yankee Town (NYC), I was informed by my beautiful daughter-in-law to be, that she and my son had set a wedding date! Yes! June 21st, on Wrightsville Beach, my son Justin and his lovely fiancee Stephanie will officially TIE THE KNOT! We're all very excited for them.
On April 3rd, I will be catching another plane and this time I will head North by Northwest to a town I haven't visited for over 12 years - Charleston, WV. I'm flying up to spend four days visiting my son because I haven't seen him since August and I need a Justin fix! I can't wait to see Justin and Stephanie. I'm looking forward to a tour of my old hometown courtesy of my 22 year old son and his soon-to-be-bride. I have talked with his boss, who happens to be his father, and he has agreed to let the fellow off for a few extra hours to entertain me. I'm looking forward to this trip and by the time I return on 6 April, before you know it, Katie will be coming down to visit and help prepare for the wedding - at which she will not only be the sister of the bridegroom, but will also be the official photographer!
We have much to celebrate, to be grateful for and sometimes when I think of my family, my friends, my town, my animals, my books, the ocean, and the list goes on, I am struck - literally - by just how blessed each of these days of our lives truly are - they are so inextricably intertwined, but in the best way possible, because somehow they are fashioned in a way that allows us to be close, even as we each chase our own dreams, realize our respective goals, struggle and learn and make our way on paths that feel bathed in dappled-sunlight and I know intrinsically that this light must absolutely originate from the center of heaven. It really does feel that way and I am in awe of every single second of it. It occurs to me that I wouldn't understand how precious all of this is, how illuminated these paths are, without having walked down a few dark wrong curves and you know, I'm grateful for those, too. For the lessons they impart, a determination they stoke, and a perspective that would be impossible to understand by any other means.
Spring is in the air, daylight lingers later into the evening now, and though I don't own a sailboat as of this writing, I appreciate these days of fair winds, and following seas.