It was the kind of evening when the wind found every opening in my heavy winter wrappings. There was no escaping the chill that went through my bones as I sat on the deck of the Queen Elizabeth as it sailed down the Hudson River toward the Atlantic and the beginning of our 109 day world cruise.
With my beret pulled down over my ears and scarf wrapped around my neck as high as possible, I leaned against the railing facing the winds watching he magnificent New York City skyline, swimming by so slowly.
Weeks before my friends Lou and Cathy who live in the Village vowed they would add to our send-off by signaling to us from the end of the Christopher Street Pier as we sailed by.
It seemed a great idea at the time, until our sailing was delayed into the darkness and severe winter weather was moving in. So much for a sendoff, I disappointedly thought. Lou would be working and Cathy would be alone.
As we moved along, suddenly I saw a flicker…a blinking beam of bright light coming from the Christopher Pier. Once, twice, three times. She had come. She had come in the darkness and waited in the cold to wish us a bon voyage as she had promised. Cathy’s life was all about the gift of caring. I will always miss you my dear friend.
It has always been my rule that if something has been hanging in my closet for a year or two and I haven’t worn it more than once, it goes to our local thrift shop. Clothes have always been easy to not become an attachment for me. But anything with memories, not so easy to toss.
Having lived in the same house for forty years one can just imagine how many memory-attached things I have. And bizarre as it may seem to you, I even have my mother’s purse I brought home from the hospital when she died with all her precious personal items still tucked inside. A real Grandma purse, a piece of her and who she was, with short handles and a snap closure that is still tucked away on my closet shelf. I even wrote a whole essay about that purse in Read Between My Lines.
All of this brings me to my efforts today to finally begin eliminating some ‘stuff’ among my personal things my mother, the guardian of her children’s memories, had saved for me.
In an old Balfour box (from my college jewelry days) I found a group of long-forgotten time weathered envelops addressed to me in Ohio and posted from Berlin, Germany. Letters that took me back into a world that was about to change, way beyond the innocent exchanges of my new pen pal, Ursula Thie and I. We became pen pals through a program at our Methodist Church.
The beginning year of our childhood correspondence was 1953. I had just turned 14 and was enjoying the freedoms of Junior High and life in a thriving Ohio Valley Steel town.
Berlin, den 27.2.1953
I thank you for your letter. You have it write in the december and I have became it now in february. With your letter together I have become three table of chocolate, about these I was very glad. My name is Ursula Thie.
We girls here in Germany are not how you Y-tem. Our name is young community of evangelist church. In our group we are girls between 14th and 20 years. I self am 17 years old…..
I live in Berlin with my mother and my brother. My father was falling in the contention 1945.
I am 1,70m great, have blond hairs and blue eyes. When you have a photo from you please send it me.
In the winter I am going several times into a teatre, In the summer I travel out of Berlin.
Please write me in your next letter many things from you and your live. I please you, to excuse my base english. The name of the flower at this letter is bell-flower-glickenblume.
In my world, we had just elected a new president, Dwight D. Eisenhower and my family in January was glued to our television set watching I Love Lucy give birth. In February our president refuses clemency for Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and Walt Disney’s 14th animated film, Peter Pan, arrived at our local movie theater.
In Ursula’s world, she was learning English, going to festivals where she was singing jolly songs and eating pancake, enjoying her girl’s group where they visited various denominational churches including the Russian Orthodox and the Naumburger Dom and planning ahead for a summer away from Berlin.
Little did we both know that on June 17 of that year things would change for her in East Germany.
Blogs and my correspondence with Ursula to be continued……