Love in Time of Corona

… between Amsterdam, New York and Milford, PA


20 – a love story

my dear father, an architect

I was not quite two when my father died

Seven years after he survived a German concentration camp he married my mother. Five years later they had me. My mother told me that my father loved me deeply and that, after the war-years in which he’d lost everything, which had been dear to him, he was  happy and hopeful again. Still it all ended, regardless, as his car hit a solitary tree, waiting for him like the last Nazi, by the side of the highway.

Three years later my mother married my stepfather. Eleven years after that my stepfather left us for  my mother’s best friend.

me, age two, waiting...

So, for the following fifteen years, I had relationship issues. I fell only for men who went away. I had quite a few long distance relationships, passionate when we were together and then heartbreaking when we were apart. It felt like love to me. I loved men who were emotionally unavailable, I loved a famous athlete who was always either competing around the world or in training, I loved one married man, I loved a junkie who loved his needle, I loved a Jew who told me he only could get serious with Jewish girls, I loved a man who always, always stood me up, and all this felt like love because I thought that if I could make these men come back to me then everything would finally be alright again.

When I turned thirty I moved to New York where I met a woman called Midge. Midge saw me. Like really understood all of me. Midge said, “I know just the person you need. A young medicine woman called Ashtiana, she helped me beat cancer….”

For three years I saw Ashtiana, once or twice a week. Ashtiana was psychic, she had trained with an American Indian medicine man, and healed purely from deep instinct, which never failed her. Ashtiana  helped me save myself.

I’d grown up in Amsterdam , which was hardly a mythical place, then moved to London which was hardly spiritual.   I’d never heard of  New Age  so  I went to see Ashtiana without any prejudice. Our first appointment was a traditional psychic “reading”. She didn’t use a crystal ball or palms or tea leaves or cards. We just sat together in her  Greenwich Village fourth floor walk-up  and surrounded by American Indian blankets, drums, flutes, pots, dream catchers and crystals in every color and size it felt like a visit with a new friend.

I did not need to tell her that I made dumb choices in men. The first thing she said to me was, “they always leave you, don’t they?”

So I asked her if I’d ever find true love.

She said, “Yes. Yes, he is very tall and he’s creative and he’s not American.” ( I rolled my eyes, another long distance one?) she said, “no, no he lives here, he’s here and once you meet him he’ll never leave. He’ll never ever leave you, even if you’d want him to, he’ll never leave and he’s not the kind of man who brings you flowers every day (I don’t care, I thought) but he’ll bring you unexpected gifts…”

“When?” I asked. “In three years,” she said.

Three years seemed an eternity, I wanted him tomorrow.” He’s not ready either,” she said. “he’s going through his own changes.” She made it sound like my future man and I were  getting prepped for each other by the universe.

So. I became celibate as if I was trying to erase my patterns, like rebooting or creating a blank slate, whatever, it was not something Ashtiana had told me to do, she only led me to what I needed when I needed it…

Then, when I was ready, open I guess, I went out for dinner with a tall, good looking artist. We connected. We had a great time. I asked him if he was American, but he was too drunk to answer.  I called him the next day and he could not remember me. I was shattered. How could he not remember, we were perfect together! As I sat in a traffic jam on my way to my weekend house in Pennsylvania, I said  out loud:

“I did not make it up. I did not make him up. I did not make him up.” Again and again like a mantra.

And then next to me, in the passenger seat, appeared my father.

“No, you did not make me up,”  he said.  “I am here. I am always here. All you have to do is remember me and remember how much I love you…”

Over the years I had come believe that when he died  I was too young to remember him.  I never realized  that he was a part of me regardless of my mind. That our spirits were bound together no matter how young I’d been. I cried the whole way home. I cried for me and for him, and for all those years that I thought that I’d been  too little to understand.

I had to re-unite with my father before I could love and be loved. Does this make sense, now, to you, as I write this 22 years later?

Of course I told Ashtiana that after my breakthrough I was ready, and could the universe please send my man along a little sooner.

me, thirty-two, still waiting...

But there were more lessons, more memories, more layers of perception and expectation that were laid bare, each one first painful then enlightening…

Twenty years ago, Labor Day weekend 1990, I must’ve  been deemed ready, or maybe my grandmother thought enough already

My Grandmother, Oma in Dutch, died five days before Labor day 1990.  Oma and I were very close.

Odd circumstances conspired so that I could not go to her funeral in Holland and at the time I was devastated. I did not want to be alone in Pennsylvania while the rest of my family mourned her. But then my friends Bern and Ilonka invited me to Easthampton for the weekend.

On Sunday we went to play baseball with their group of friends. And there , on first base, was a man who was tall and not quite American. I was in the outfield. I miraculously made a catch. Next I hit it out of the park and ran my first home run ever. He was waiting for me on home plate  and held up his hands. As we high-tenned the energy shifted. I knew it was him, tall, good looking, funny, smart and Scottish. I’m sure  my Oma’s spirit was there on that diamond behind the Catholic church, helping me along before she passed on to the hereafter…

Twenty years ago today we went on our first “date”, which I refused to call a date, because I’d had so many bad ones and this was my new beginning…

all ready ....

and twenty years later my  “date” wrote me this e-mail (ironically we are apart this week, he in Pennsylvania and me in Miami):

– Good morning on the 20th anniversary of our first “date”
of me getting up and waiting around
to call you, not wanting you to think I was over eager to see you and then
dialing the number you’d written on the orange Post-It
with a little flying heart above the number and saying
shall we go to a restaurant in Montauk for lunch?
and you not wanting to go to a restaurant so
we decided on a beach picnic
and me
coming to that house on 3-mile harbor road
and you not being there and me thinking that I
was getting a high class blow-off, imagining the race car driver having zoomed in before
me with his faster car while I was driving the beat up old pick-up
like a loser,
fueling my insecurity about not being
urban enough for such a
lovely fashionable woman
and making small talk with Ilonka who seemed embarrassed
and sort of restless and thinking
I should probably
and almost walking away when you finally
pulled up with Bern
and then
I remember
my first impression was how
beautiful and tall you were
and then
you rushed up to me and gave me a huge wet kiss
and apologized
and we kissed again
quite passionately
in the bedroom there
and you got ready
and then we drove off in my truck to
Springs and bought some beers and
a single chicken cutlet
and down to
Gerard Drive and found that little quiet spot around the bend
and lay there and chatted and put the beer in the
water and kissed a lot and swam and fell in love
even more.
And then the rest of the day and you
going back
not sure about me being around

and I kissed you and hugged you and told you that
it was crazy but I felt like I was already in love with
you and that I ‘d be there no matter what happened

and you driving back to city…

twelve years later...


Miami Beach Round Up, ten best …

Remember? getting ready to leave Milford September 2009...

Nine months since I packed the car in Milford and headed south with three kids, six bags, and loads of movies. Nine months since we did what we wanted, in a fuck the consequences kinda way, like – get outta town – hop on the bus gus – life is a beach – fuckem if they cant take a joke – the experience will do us good – life is too short  – broaden the horizon – migrate like a nomad – follow the sun and live your dream…

So what was it like? Living the dream on the beach? It was just like life. But sunnier.  It so wasn’t Milford. It was so Miami Beach. But it was life nevertheless. Husband and I still had fights. So did the twins. We still had homework and laundry and rashes and crushes. I still got rejection letters and I still cared when they came. Only it was 78 degrees in February. Only some days we said lets have lunch on the beach, and I made sandwiches and we hopped on our bikes and ten minutes later lay in the sand, stood in the surf, without guilt, on a Tuesday afternoon.

When I look back there were some memorable moments, quite a few actually, like I have a top ten of my high and low moments of nine months at the beach:

Best Parties:

1. October>The Halloween cross dressing party for grown ups, after candy rounds with the kids, going back home and dressing up with husband, have a scotch in the bathroom while he tried to get into a bra and pantyhose, making myself up like a man, and leaving the house around 11 instead of coming home at 11. Coming home at 3 am. Drunk and stoned. Not done that in a while great start to our Miami Beach party season…

2. Which concluded with a party on Biscayne Point a few weeks ago when husband wore his pajama striped pale linen pants and I wore new white silk pants, and  our host dropped his glass of red wine at our feet, splashing it mostly over husband ‘s pants and within ten minutes of our arrival I’m sitting with my feet in the pool, for once wishing for high chlorine levels to help remove the wine stains, and look through the gauze curtains to my left only to see husband in his white y-fronts standing by an elaborate four poster bed while host holds up pant after pant, as if they’re at Prada together. Me thinks, well, thats the fastest A has ever gotten out of his pants at a party and how gay is that host? Not at all it turned out, he had buxom brunette twins in matching shorts and fishnet stockings launching around, bored and clearly waiting for the party to be over. One well-groomed older lady referred to them as “the hired help”. Still, it turned into one of the best parties when Tray Lockerbie, a young singer from Nashville stepped out with his guitar, sang a few songs and inspired three more musicians to come out, including husband. They jammed, we sang. We danced. Got home late, husband in different pants from the ones he left home in – a sign of a good time had…

Miami icons: Sam, Esther, Iran

3. Our  dinner parties at our Aqua Candyland Bachelor Pad like the one  in honor of Eyjafjallajökull and Zaha Hadid who could not make it home to London because of the ash… four fabulous Miami Matriarchs: Sam, Iran, Kathy and Esther, dishing and gossiping and one-upping with stories of their wildest Miami moments…

Zaha and Barbi in the Tiesto candy-land elevator

4. The twins birthday party by the pool, voted best party by them, in 90 degree weather, ten ten-year old girls and two boys (pretending they were at their own separate party) going wild. Iona came to the rescue, miraculously, like a pied piper, rounded them up and bossed them around into orderly games that included hula hoops, diving for prizes and water guns. All a sweaty, hamburger-scented blur to me.

twin birthday

5.  Top best moment beyond, over and above parties: Finding out that Iona got into DASH. A top-ten-ever-proud-mother-moment.

6. The “gifted” test of the twins. A controversial public school moment, where I bought into the system that separates the so-called gifted kids from the rest, and puts them in classes that are superior in method and level of teacher. Hm. Ok, some another time shall I rant about this. Anyway. To get there from here, my girls needed to get an IQ test of sorts. Now. You have to know that over the years opinions by various teachers on their intelligence and the ability to apply themselves have varied. I never wavered, but was often worn down by  negative reports that included notes like “unable to concentrate”, “reading impaired”,  “incomplete homework”.  So this test was a test. A test about who was right. Was my conviction just motherly love? Like Kiki said, “of course you think we’re smart, you’re our Mom!” She thought the teachers were the only authority, and when “gifted” teacher, Mr Spagnola, told their class that they were “the worst class in the school” the last nail had been nailed into their “see Mom, we’re stupid” coffin.


my smart twins

They tested brilliantly. Smart, ahead of their age, eloquent, sensitive and insightful. A weight of self-doubt fell off my shoulders, the veil of insecurity was lifted from their aura. Just one silly test was all it took. I know its all relative, the Wizard of Oz is right about certificates, but, but, it was a good Miami moment.

7. The day I moved into my small sunny studio at Ofer Mizrahi’s utopian village alongside the tracks on 4th North Court. I’d had my eye on the small,  like 250 sq.ft, studio for months –  a palm-tree just outside the french doors, surrounded by young painters, designers environmentalists and architects. A place of my own to escape to… for more look under # 7 in my Worst Miami Moments…

8. My Mom’s visit. Showing her all my favorite things and seeing her health improve in the sun, surrounded by  granddaughters and love.


9. Getting my scarves into Base at the Delano Hotel, making clothes again, finding local women who can sew and bead and enjoy making my stuff while getting paid, and realizing that I can start my business here and help clean the beaches from plastic pollution and maybe make a difference in the environmental consciousness of Miami. All of which is recorded here:

blue beach plastic silk scarf

10. Marriage. We have been together 20 years this Labor Day. Twenty years is longer than I lived in Amsterdam by two years. Its ten years longer than my life in London. In twenty years everything happens. E V E R Y T H I N G. Jobs come and go. Money comes and goes. Parents die, kids are born. Friends die, friends are born. Dreams die, dreams are born. Together we lived in Tribeca and on 9th Street, we lived in an old terracotta factory on the Raritan Canal just outside Princeton which flooded during hurricane Floyd and a week later I was pregnant with twins. We moved to Milford, we built our dream house, we moved to Miami.

Alastair Gordon at Tiesto @ the Fontainebleau

Love. I learned that love changes. That love isn’t static but more like a pink lava lamp. Sometimes we are completely one, sometimes we are at odds, but we always come back together with more love, more intensity and more understanding.

Miami was his idea. We needed it, he said. We needed sun as in light, and parties.  He challenged us and some days this made me mad. Some days I did not want to be Barbi in Miami, I wanted to just be Barbara again. But now, a year later, he has left for Milford and I miss him. And I love him more for making us do this, and for taking me into our marriage deeper than ever before…

Alastair, Kiki and Leila leaving Miami Beach, back to Milford....

Iona and I are here for two more weeks, while she does her DASH summer camp and I enter ten more memorable Miami moments, coming soon….