I remember the centerpiece of glass vases in the dining room of the Mondrian Hotel, feeling good about my new skirt that was actually a little too short, and being excited about the table for two on date night.
Then a Dutch number shows up on my phone. It’s 3am in The Netherlands. I laugh, assuming it’s my niece, who has the habit of calling when her alcohol level exceeds her limit, to tell me how much she loves us. It’s my sister. And a few minutes later it’s my mom, calling from France. The rest of the night goes by in a blur, all I can remember is not being able to stop shaking, and arriving to an empty house in Leiden, the next day.
In exchange for granting his wish of going peacefully in his sleep, next to the love of his life of over fifty years, Death found my father in St. Tropez a few years too early.
It made me wonder why life goes this way. Why do we grow up slowly to prepare for life, why does a pregnancy prepare us for the arrival of a child, while death comes so sudden? How could I have prepared for this? And how was I going to say a final farewell to my father, a week later?
Never in my life had I felt so proud as I did on that last Saturday in September. It wasn’t until that day that I understood the true meaning of celebrating life.
The sun was shining, a fleet of boats ready to have friends and family guide my father to his final resting place on his self built wooden boat. We drank and ate in his spirit until it was time to light the fire place, dad’s nightly tradition.
I’m grateful my mom got to experience one of the most beautiful days in her life, a day we can always look back on with smiles on our faces.
The passing of my dad, the big rock in my life, marks the end of a beautiful, mostly carefree period. But the rest of my life will be beautiful and filled with love because of him. In his spirit, it will be filled with lots of photographs to capture the beauty of life, lots of Sunday night dinners with extremely slow cooked braised beef, good wine, and a (soon to come) burning fire place. He will never leave me but always live on in me.
Here’s to a happy and healthy new year, to new beginnings and to new life. With lots of love from a beach chair on the island of St. Barths!
(Thank you Anna and Andrea for great photography)
When my husband told a colleague I would move to New York to live with him, his wife warned him.
“You have to be careful. Don’t you know how they are, those European girls? They move in with you and get pregnant right away. All they want is a baby and a Green Card.”
Well, I got it all. The baby was born nine months after I had moved. And this week, the USCIS sent me the permanent resident card, better known as the Green Card. After sending them another cheque, and more proof I didn’t just pay my husband to get married, my status was finally changed from conditional to permanent resident.
Unlike the baby, the Green Card has taken us many hours, filling out dozens of forms. We went in for interviews – Can you tell me your husband’s date of birth? – Can you show me photos of the wedding? And every time I came back from visiting The Netherlands, they took my passport and brought Mia and me into the immigration office at the airport, where I would spend hours waiting and answering questions – So back then you came in as a tourist and all of a sudden you decided to get married? Why didn’t you bring this form? I won’t be able to let you in without it, etc.
Now, I will finally be treated as a citizen. Should I start eating bagels with cream cheese for breakfast? Blow dry my hair straight? Upgrade my engagement ring (because it hurts my finger)? Not open presents until all guests have left? Nah… I only wish I could vote now. This week, President Obama started his campaign for re-election. I hope you are IN.
This move to the US has really changed me…
New BFF: “It’s so nice to meet you. What did you say your name is?”
New BFF: “Say again?”
New BFF: “Sharlette?”
Me (deciding we are not going to be BFF’s after all): “Yes.”
I may need speech therapy or the dentist to fix the gap between my teeth, but at least in The Netherlands I was able to pronounce my own name.
One time, at the playground, a mom managed to ask me to repeat my name seven times. I don’t even remember if she finally got it right, or that we left it at Sharlette.
Picking a name for our girls, my first requirement was for it to be pronounced the same way in Dutch as in English. I didn’t want my children to go through what I’m going through.
And now, with ‘Pippa and the Kids’, I can tell everyone in my new country about it and be sure I’ll get some hits…