Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Weaving the threads of friends and family...Summer 2013

Motel breakfast on the road!
This is a long blog so if you choose, bring a cup of tea and meander with me as I try to make some sense of our summer vacation.

Weaving together the travels and the many people that we saw is a story that I hope to tell, in some way exploring the interconnections and many parts of my life. It will not be chronological and may leave out people (not on purpose) as I attempt to make some sense of it all. I think the bottom line is the fact that I am a networker and part of the fun for me is the organizing and planning before the actual gatherings. I know it is a gift that I have – to connect my family with my friends, and my friends with my family and each other. How wonderful for me to share all of this with Richard and now to mix our friends with both of our families. This was the essence of this summer.
Frankie in Chapel Hill chapel hill
Having two months to travel makes it all possible. I need to note as well that we have another wonderful community in San Miguel that I would love to connect with all of the US folks, and some have already met. I will hope to ponder for myself some questions as to why community is so important to me and at the outset….I would say that it is not so much the community itself, but its interconnections that is important to me. It is like making a quilt, or a weaving….start out with one part and then another. Alone each square is great, but when combined is magnified greatly. From a quote that Richard uses often…Shared joy is double joy and shared sorrow is half sorrow.

Travel from one place to the next
So we begin driving north with car packed with clothing, a few food items and popcorn. It is our ritual to eat a bag of popcorn on long travel days…it is something we do and both enjoy and it helps to pass some of the time. We also love to have a book on tape and this year we listened to “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” – a great book combining science with history and human interest – highly recommended by both of us. We are vagabonds and proud of it. I know it is not the way for everyone and we understand that. Through this lifestyle, I can notice the things that are important to me. I always have more with me than I need, and I am working towards having less and less but accepting the idea that it is OK for me to have some of my favorite things – clothing, jewelry, shoes….it is OK. I often berate myself saying that I should travel with less….”should” by whose standards. I am working hard on allowing myself to be me – no one else, and that “me” is who I am! In each home, whether for the night, or for the week, or the month I find my reading/writing spot, ritual of tea in the morning (Richard brings it to me), my space for whatever stuff I have – always in some organized manner for myself. This is the ritual part that allows me to be able to live this lifestyle. I think if I were not the organized person that I am, it would be nearly impossible. Richard has much less need to have his “stuff” in the same place and always to know where everything is…so we learn and lean on each other. I do not think we could live this lifestyle alone – it takes two of us to make it happen this way.

What is home?
What is home? Clearly to us it may be different than yours – it is a place where we can have all our stuff – whatever that might be at the moment – now…a few suitcases and bags. In Mexico, – a bit more (in storage as I write) and of course our “home” in Carrboro, NC - a building that we own. This year we spent time and money fixing it and getting it ready for the next renters. Is it our home? Our stuff is there – in the garage (we managed to reorganize all of space in the garage to give the new upcoming tenants 1/3 of the space. The last tenants had none.) Sometimes when I see how most of the rest of the world lives I feel a bit “odd”, but in reality it lasts for just a few moments and then I am so grateful that we have the flexibility and love of travel which allows us to keep exploring new dimensions of ourselves and the world. I suppose, like organizing the interconnections of friends and family, the challenge of planning our future travels and house sitting arrangements give me a thrill as well. Where will we be next year at the same time? Quien sabe? (Who knows?)

Family/Friends – is there a difference??
Most of the family at Cape Cod
Every year I think of someone, or a few people who are important in my life – I would visit them in a hospital for sure, and sadly would probably go to a service for them if they were no longer here in this world. I decide because of this to visit them while still alive – and this year it included several people who have been important in my or our lives. Ken in NJ (over 90 y old) was the accountant that I worked with for 18 years on LI…we spent so many days together and for me he was always a person that understood me and listened, especially during my very difficult years. We have exchanged Christmas cards for the last 30+ years but not seen each other. It was lovely to meet him again after so many years. It was a moment in time and special for me to see that relationships can hold over so many years – with no real knowledge of either of our day to day lives we were back again as good friends. In the same day we made two other visits – cousins Bob and Ellen in their beautiful home. Here we were with family that we do not see often but again – always able to go back to a place of comfort in conversation. Our lifestyles are so very different, yet we were able to enjoy stories of the various travels of all of us. Later we were off to Herb who lost his lovely bride Milli this year. I am not sure what to call them – family or friends….Herb worked with my dad in the 1950’s on LI and we have remained friends with them for all these years. Sharing the sadness with Herb was a beautiful thing as he was comfortable with us, sitting on his porch, sharing stories and crying. I was moved to tears myself, especially when entering the house with no Milli. We had visited them both several times on our travels from NC through NJ. So, it was quite a day, combining these 3 important visits AND the driving in places we had not been before. It was my day of highest anxiety because of the city traffic – now realizing that we need to own a GPS for days like that. We are both so used to walking everywhere and not needing a car – and here we were driving everywhere in the traffic around NYC.
Herman in NYC (going on 101 years old)
Two days later we met Herman in NYC – a cousin at 100+ years of age. What a treat for all 3 of us. He had such great stories of Granny and life in Germany before the war. I keep thinking that one of us should visit him with a tape recorder or video to capture stories we will never have again. Our visit to NYC also gave us the chance to see Max (nephew of Richard) from N. Ireland who is now living in NYC – making his way in the world. A contrast from the over 80, 90, 100 age group to this 20+year old. As the oldest in my immediate family, but without children, I still question my own age – and glad that our friends/family encompass 8 mos old to 100+ during our 2 month visit in the US.
"WVOGEL" coming to you live from
Brewster, MA!  Orion arranged
this skit including all the f/f.

Laurel and Marylee at Moosewood
Restaurant in Ithaca, NY
So… is there a difference between family and friends. The only thing I can say on this is that I look at the difference ONLY as blood or marriage as family and the rest are friends. However, in my opinion there is no difference as our family are all our friends and our friends feel like family – all those that we saw on this trip – as they represent people who are close to me in so many ways, throughout my whole life. Henceforth, I will use f/f to mean family/friend. I have had conversations with f/f's about “What is a friend” – and, I suppose there are different levels of friendship. For me, an f/f is someone I can depend on in many situations, who accepts me unconditionally, whom I accept unconditionally and who I like to spend time with. You all know who you are – I saw you this summer.

weaving my mother's side of the family
with my father's side - in Boston, MA.
My "sibs" - I love you guys!
Regarding family…this summer’s travels have connected us to many parts of our family – nearly every one of my family including my siblings and all their kids and grandkids were with us at Cape Cod and Trumansburg, NY. We have the cutest little new grand nephews – Hudson and Nathan – both born this past year. I am grateful that all my family likes being together and I don’t even know how many years we have been gathering as a family in the summer. The tradition was started over 30 years ago by my grandmother Boma who took us all somewhere during the summer.
The 3 children of Lotte -
Rolf, Yvonne and Daisy
This tradition was maintained by my father, and now it is us 4 kids who are keeping it going. Soon it will be time for the next generation. From my perspective as the oldest in this family I love that we have this time for fun, fellowship, exercise and delicious food. This year we were joined by cousins that most of us had never met – Daisy and her daughter Rana from Australia; Rolf from Switzerland and Yvonne and her husband Asher from Israel. Everyone mixed together so well and now we have connections in other parts of our world. I had many thoughts during our week of the Cape that both our parents, Erwin and Lotte, were with us in spirit. (They were first cousins, born only several days apart who grew up in Germany as brother/sister, more than cousins. Both their fathers were brothers, and both their mothers were sisters!) In part this came together through the building of our family tree – we are all part of the “Gutenstein Family” from Frankfurt, Germany. At one point there were 16 children and many of these children had families. Throughout the last few months there have been many emails from members of this tree….connecting this family together. This is again where the idea of “What is a family” comes from. There are people connected to us by blood but who we do not know in all parts of the world. Some are still “friends to come”! Just this morning I was writing to someone from this large tree, Ricardo, who lives in Buenos Aires. We will plan to meet him when we go to Patagonia in December/January.
With Brucie in Wilmington, NC

Joanna, Stephan, Sophia and Julian
in their pool on Long Island
And, we also spent time with many of Richard’s family – Long Island and in Wilmington, NC. We also keep in phone contact with many others of his family. I see as I am writing, that because my family meets together in one spot as a ritual each year, the connections seem greater as a larger unit but in reality, we do spend good quality time with family when in small groups as well.
Other f/f connections are Marilyn’s (Alan’s wife) – many of her extended family live in Trumansburg/Ithaca and we were able to spend time with them as well – a gathering for her niece Nancy’s birthday brought everyone together for a night. Their family does not need the ritual once a year reunion as they are all living in close proximity and therefore are all part of their larger community. In Ithaca is also the “sharing supper” f/fs – a group of friends who gather every week in the summer for dinner at Lake Cayuga. We have joined them at many times, when we lived in Ithaca and when we visit – more friends that are like family.
Clinic friends
Back to friends again for a moment – I had the chance to meet with 4 girlfriends that I worked with for many, many years on Long Island through the 70’s and 80’s. We connected through Facebook and met at a bar for drinks and it was if we were back in time. Each of us had different memories of our work life and all the others we worked with and we shared laughs and stories of this life together. Now as the connections were made I am enjoying even more the visits into their lives through Facebook. This visit was on the same day as we were visiting with long time f/f Janet and staying with her in Huntington, NY. We reconnect each time we are together as if we had seen or talked yesterday.

Janet in Huntington
on the porch at Michele's
H.S. f/f Joan and Nancy

Other f/f connections of the past were meeting two of my good high school friends in Boston. The fact that we graduated 49 years ago is not even imaginable – we are still kids and girlfriends to each other. This is another example of the difficulty of distinguishing between friends and family. Joan, Nancy and I have seen each other once each year for many of the last years and hopefully will continue this tradition.
In Chapel Hill we attended the Community Church of CH Unitarian Universalist which was our “home” for many years – I worked there, and it was our main community of friends. It felt good to go back and reconnect with so many that we know – reminding me how important community is.

with Pauline/Michael and Nancy/Rick in
Niskayuna, NY
Here is another great weaving together of f/f. I was with my quilt ladies from Chapel Hill - "The Worker Bees" in January and we worked on a quilt to donate to an organization that my sister Nancy works with in Albany - "Camp Erin". This summer we finished the quilt and I brought it to Cape Cod for the camp this fall - weaving together service and f/f's. Speaking of service - many of my "peeps" helped to support me in several of my San Miguel projects - Libros sin Fronteras and the gathering of fabric for the Mariposa project. THANKS to you all.
The quilt for "Camp Erin"

There were several difficult moments this summer for some of our friends. Several days after leaving Mexico we heard the terrible news about our friend Antoineta’s son Eddie in SMA. He was hit by a train and after several weeks of surgery he died. It was hard to be away from the community during this time but we were included in many emails about what was happening. This was a true example of a good reason for a strong community which came together to help them with love and financial support. There are continual reminders of the importance of community during times of both joy or sorrow.
Our prayers are still with a good friend Joyce and her husband Ralph on Long Island. We visited Joyce in the hospital the night before her heart surgery and she is slowly recovering many days later from several complicated procedures. Our friendship goes back over 30 years and we have traveled and visited with them on many continents. We love you Joycie!

How can I tie this together??? 
All I can say is that my past has continued into my present and hopefully my present will continue into my future. This is possible only through the witness of friends that form a thread throughout my life. May I always be a good friend and as I am, will know that my friends will all be my community as the months continue to years. THANK you my "peeps" for traveling with us, supporting us and loving us.

Ocracoke Lighthouse