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Springtime in New York


It was cold viewing the Statue of Liberty

Before we left on our spring break trip to New York, I said humorously, “New York will never be the same again!” And now that we’re home, Charles and I in Cairo, our daughter-in-law Christi and our three grandchildren in Birmingham, I realize how true that prophesy was. I’m not silly enough to think anyone is going to find our six sets of footprints on the concrete streets, the elevators, escalators, boats, buses, restaurants, museums, Ubers and taxis. But, to us, New York will never be the same again. We have a newer, clearer, truer picture of the social/arts/heartbeat city of our nation.


We studied dinosaur skeletons, Egyptian mummies, and African mammals at the Museum of Natural History. We took the Statue of Liberty cruise and did due homage to the beautiful iconic statue; we read about the plight of immigrants at Ellis Island, and enjoyed an extensive harbor cruise with a guide who filled us in on facts, scandals, and myths as he talked about bridges, buildings, and politics. We rode sightseeing buses all around the city always finding seats on top. Even in the rain we had glass over our heads and could see the streets full of yellow taxis, could view tall buildings crowding the sky, Radio City Music Hall, Trump Tower, the theater district with familiar titles that peaked our interest, and beautiful Central Park.

It was raining the afternoon we walked in Central Park but that was one of our must-see places so we did it anyway. It was still winter there the last week of March. Tree limbs were bare and brittle looking against a gray sky. But jonquils bloomed here and there. And quite often we spied patches of snow left from the blizzard two weeks before. It was cold and windy as we posed on a bridge in our ponchos for our picture in Central Park. As we walked back towards a street where we might catch a cab I could hear Mattie (8) behind me repeating plaintively every few feet, “But where is the playground?”

We went to a basketball game (Knicks vs. Pistons) in Madison Square Garden. We hugely enjoyed seeing our grandsons choose jerseys in the gift shop and we all, of course, rooted for the Knicks. We had delicious hotdogs and popcorn while watching the game from excellent seats. The fanfare and hoopla were up to all expectations, so colorful and festive. And the Knicks won!


Central Park on a rainy day

We started out early on our last whole day in New York headed for the Empire State Building. This was one of our all-around favorite adventures, I think. We loved seeing the city, the harbor full of boats, the many bridges, everything, from the top. From there we took an Uber to Ground Zero.


The memorial to victims and heroes of 9/11 is so well done. And the museum, to me, is a must for a visitor to New York. We chose to do the self-guided tour which took about an hour and a half. The whole experience is horrendous, touching, and forever memorable. Through the use of videos, posters, pictures, pieces of walls, airplanes, personal things like a backpack or a purse, we were given a composite of the terror of that fateful day in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. A banged-up burned fire truck is there to remind you of those brave responders who climbed stairs to help others, knowing they wouldn’t be seeing the light of day again on this earth. As we entered the museum, we became very quiet in respect. There was no sound of laughter or chattering, just soft voices of explanation as we all tried to grasp the magnitude of what had happened and explain it to the children. The part which made tears well in my eyes was the sound of voices repeating their loved ones’ names at a memorial ceremony: “My father __________, my husband ________, my sister__________…” Our three children were really respectful and interested and I was so proud of them.

We really packed a lot into that last day. We had high tea at the Russian Tea Room at 3:00 in the afternoon. Charles tried to dash a little politics into the mix but didn’t get far! We all were treated like royalty in this extravagantly decorated place with soft music playing. We ate tiny sandwiches, little cakes, and drank our tea with pinkies curled.

All my life I’ve heard and read about Broadway plays but never been to one. Well, now I have! We went to see Lion King and had center mezzanine seats looking right down on the stage. I’d seen the movie over and over with different ones of the grandchildren so I was really curious as to how the actors would present this live performance. It was magnificent! The animals were all in character, either people with masks or people with lifesize puppets and other such inventive ways of bringing life on the stage. Sound and lighting and stage props made the desert so real and the hyenas so horrible! Charles had particularly intended to wear his hearing aids that night to be able to hear all the lines but—he forgot them! And he could hear anyway, the sound system, acoustics, and all were so good. I was truly charmed by young Simba and Nala, such cute children playing those parts.

When we left the theater to walk back to our hotel, Time Square was lit like daytime, or even brighter. We felt safe walking the street and enjoying one last evening of the competitive sounds of taxi cab horns, the tall lit buildings, the mass of humanity.

So how is my view of New York changed? First of all, everyone was very friendly and helpful, contrary to my idea of folks in big cities. Second, I knew the city was full of tall buildings but I couldn’t imagine one could ride for miles and miles and still be surrounded by tall buildings. Third, the masses—so many people of so many different cultures! I kept thinking as I’d look into their faces and wonder if they were just getting off work or were going to meet someone special or were like us, strangers in town—I’d think every person, every single person, is someone for whom Christ died, but only a few know that. Fourth, I felt a deep respect for law enforcement employees, more than ever before. And fifth, I’m more convinced than ever that we live in the most beautiful blessed area of the whole earth, our little corner of Southwest Georgia! But I do miss being able to go up so high and look out far and wide. And we miss the friendly Uber drivers.


A street scene in Chinatown

We all talked about our favorite part of the trip as we waited to board the plane back to Atlanta. Some enjoyed the Ninja Restaurant the best, some the Empire State Building, others the river and harbor cruises. But one of the things I’ll always cherish is the sound of our three Graham grandchildren enjoying games of Author cards and Categories in our neat room on the 12th floor of the RIU Plaza Hotel.

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Ginger’s Birthday

From the beginning, I loved gingerbread. I thought it was really nice to have a big sister named Ginger who could bake yummy things, like cookies–and gingerbread. Today I’m thinking of her because it’s her birthday. I can’t call her and wish her a happy birthday because she has  Alzheimer’s and lives in a different world. She’s 86 today. She doesn’t know it but, though she’s always been one of the middle ones of us ten, she is now the oldest one living.

In my first colorful memories of Ginger she wore her dark soft hair in long braids. If she gave me a piggy back ride I could gee and haw with her braids. She taught me my ABC’s using a stick to write in the sand.

When Ginger was away at Rabun Gap school, she saved us young ones little boxes of cereal from her breakfast tray. We were so thrilled when the big loud Trailways bus brought her home for holidays. She always had new funny songs to teach us and never got too old to play games with us like “Catch a Fellow Off a Stone” or “Blind Man’s Bluff.” She was so serious about her Bible study and wanted each of us to be just as serious. But she really loved a good laugh too.

The summer before Ginger got married in 1955, she sewed nearly all the time on Mamma’s New Home sewing machine. I hung around and pestered her a lot. I was twelve years old and dreaded to see her leave. Our brothers secretly placed a kitten in hers and Del’s car when they drove away. Several of us piled into a brother’s car and chased them all the way to Toccoa. We laughed ourselves sick when we saw that kitten’s head appear on the back of the seat between the heads of the bride and groom.

When Ginger had her first baby, we celebrated around her letter as Mamma read to us. Ginger and Del lived in Texas where he was in seminary. We didn’t know when we’d get to see little Joel. Then, at Christmas, with no warning, they appeared. We took the baby from Ginger and presented him to Mamma, telling her it was a baby who’d been left at our guesthouse. She took one look at that bouncy cute baby and said calmly, “This is Ginger’s baby. Where is she?”

Ginger and Del had three more children, Jonathan, Eulanne, and Freida. They were all so cute and fun and Ginger doted on every one of them. The family went as missionaries to Bangladesh but had to come home because of medical problems. In the meantime, I’d gone to college and then got married. I didn’t see Ginger that often anymore. But when we did land at our home at the same time, we started talking where we’d left off the last time. And giggled a lot, shared books, Bible verses, and many songs. One summer a whole bunch of us got together and Ginger instigated our having a star-watching night.

Ginger loves music and still will try to sing in her bed at her care home. Daddy used to say that Ginger had a light in her eyes like stars glowing when she was excited. Her eyes still light up like candles when we sing songs about Jesus. She doesn’t recognize us but knows we are someone who loves her. Recently, my sisters Jackie and Suzanne were visiting her and Suzanne called me. She said she’d hold the phone to Ginger’s ear and let me talk to her. I told her who I was and where I live and that I loved her. Suzanne said she smiled. She talks mostly in garbled unrecognizable sounds, but the last time I visited her she broke out of that “other language” and said distinctly one time, “I love you.” She even said to Charles and me as we hovered over her bed, “It’s good to see both of you.”

Alzheimer’s is a terrible thief that takes away one’s ability to communicate, to enjoy life, to know one’s identity, to remember….

But down, deep inside, I know my Ginger is still there. I remember how she loved playing with her grandchildren, how she was so proud of their every achievement. I remember how she was always doing for others, teaching English to Laotians, even after she retired from teaching fourth grade. I sit and hold her hand and tell her about the good things she’s done. She doesn’t understand, but she smiles. And her smiles light up her whole face.

Happy Birthday, Ginger!

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