Love in Time of Corona

… between Amsterdam, New York and Milford, PA

1 Comment

Gone Dutch


My twin daughters Kiki and Leila are reintroducing me to my birthplace. To them, the country I couldn’t leave fast enough at their exact age is everything they want; the Dutch scale feels manageable, people use bikes instead of cars, the weather isn’t extreme (no hurricanes or bomb cyclones), the architecture is either historic or cool, college is affordable, the older generations seem relatively levelheaded and the boys are cute.

I left the Netherlands because life felt too small, too oppressive and too incestuous. My stepfather had just left my mom for one of her best friends –a woman whose kids I’d been babysitting and whose ex-husband suggested that I  leave Amsterdam to study fashion design in London.

Every adult I knew had been married to someone I knew and was screwing someone else I knew and it felt like most of my peers were somehow related to me. I wanted to  move beyond the sex appeal of a teacher, a neighbor or the lover of my best friend’s mom. I had to see what the rest of the world was doing. I first moved to Paris, then Australia and then London, where I did study fashion and became a fashion designer. After ten years in London I moved to New York and I’ve spent the last nine years in Miami.

Last December, between Christmas and New Year, my mother turned ninety, so we went to Amsterdam for her big birthday bash. There, in the modernist bungalow of my mother’s friend Petra, where I’d spent many hours dreaming about a future beyond the Netherlands while reading her husband’s Playboy magazines, gathered my entire family as well as all my mother’s friends –the free-lovers of the seventies many of whom I hadn’t seen in decades. Iona, Kiki and Leila couldn’t believe that I had real cousins and they had second cousins who were their age — an entire family they didn’t know existed.


In the days that followed, Kiki, Leila and I visited the fashion academies in Antwerp and Arnhem and the design academy in Eindhoven. When we returned to Miami in January, they applied (and were accepted) to Cooper Union, Pratt, Parsons and RISD, but Holland stayed on their mind. In March we returned and Kiki took the Eindhoven Design Academy’s entrance exam and Leila did the Arnhem, ARTEZ Fashion, interview and practical test.

When my daughters were very young we moved full time to our weekend home in Milford (Pennsylvania) because of the nearby Homestead School, an amazing Montessori school run from a family farm on eighty acres that’s powered by solar panels. They took classes in a teepee, a Quonset hut and a geodesic dome, performed plays on a stage in the woods, grew vegetables and made art  in a converted barn. In 2009 we moved to Miami and stayed, mainly because of DASH, the Design and Architecture Senior High School, that has rightly gained a reputation for being the best design school in America.

IMG_4293     FullSizeRender 2

Early April, Leila heard that she had been accepted by Artez Fashion, the alma mater of Iris van Herpen and Viktor and Rolf. Two weeks later Kiki got news from Eindhoven, the best and hardest to get into design school in Europe, that they would love to have her. What started as an unlikely dream was fast becoming reality, and in the months that followed they got Dutch passports and looked for places to live.  I recently signed leases on two cute student rooms in Arnhem and Eindhoven. It felt like I was tentatively reattaching an umbilical cord of my own.

But isn’t it poetic that Kiki and Leila will continue their design education in the Netherlands? They don’t know the ghosts and ambitions that made me run away. They have their own individual paths and it seems only natural that their instincts complete a circle that is helping me to accept and even love my past, my choices and the place where I was born.











Vicodin, the mother’s helper…

Last Saturday morning I reached for clean knickers in the freshly done laundry basket and ping, my back went out. Dont do this to me I said to it, not now, (not ever actually) but it did anyway. It did it badly just to spite me. It doesn’t do it often, maybe two, three times a year, usually when i’ve been sitting in a bad chair, same position for a while, like writing and making jewelry are really bad for my back and they are the two things I really need to do (for my sanity) after making lunchboxes, driving to and from school twice a day, shopping for supplies for my family, that fucking dishwasher, homework, and cooking. But when I get fully into doing my two favorite things, which actually make me money, my back goes out. This is really unfair. Because, lets face it, the other stuff is boring. There are scales of boredom, like driving with the kids to and from school is not acually so boring because we usually have fun, but driving back alone, along the same streets twice a day is boring. Buying food is unbelievably boring, the same isles, the same shitty choices, the same rickety rusty carts, I mean the entire Publix aesthetic is just too upsetting and boring. I hate it. Making lunch boxes every morning has a certain creativity to it, its low on the scale of creative activities, but it rates in a  pathetic way. Then there is cooking. Now I LIKE to cook. I’m a good cook, or so they say, I just dont like feeding, as in whats for lunch? Whats for dinner? Twice a day. Every day. I’m the kind person who likes surprises, challenges, sudden upsets, throw me a curveball and I’m there, ready to play, but the same thing every day, day in day out eventually makes me angry. Anyone can do this shit, in fact a robot would be better  because it wouldn’t get  annoyed. So WTF you say? Didn’t Barbi just party around Art Basel? Yes I did. And  I took all those pictures. And I met interesting people who get to be creative all day long, like men with wives like me. Like my husband.  I wish I had a wife like me. Someone who pathologically has to make it perfect for everyone else.  So anyway my back goes out last saturday morning. I’d been making more beachplastic jewelry because there was an  increased interest after Art Basel when I wore this  new piece that everyone loved. I really need to create a full collection to start retailing. I want to find a retail partner. I want to be recognized for doing something creative, like all those  Art Basel types. So I’m excited. And  frustrated. Like I never have a enough time to actually do what I need to do to get to where I want to get. So, what usually happens at this point of frustration is that my back goes out. Make sense? Now I cant do anything at all. I cant sit. I can shuffle sideways like a crabby crab. But I cant write, I cant make jewelry. So I take a Vicodin. I like this stuff. Not only does it stop the pain, but it also stops my pissed-off ambition dead in its tracks. Now I’m mellow. I don’t give  a shit. But not everyone else in my family is equally mellow. Its Sunday. The day to do things “as a family”. We haven’t been outside Miami since we arrived, my husband says. So he gets us invited to The Keys. They have a boat, he says, we can go fishing. I’m not sure about boating I say. But I take another Vicodin and now I don’t give a shit. So we go, over an hour in the car, sitting, then a long leisurely lunch, sitting, then we drive to the boat, sitting, and then in the boat sort of sitting (in a hopping kind of way)  at 30 knots over big waves, woohoo, what fun cry the kids, bang bang bang goes my back.

What a lovely family outing. Only by the time I get home I can’t actually get out of the car and  my husband says in a I-know-best kind of way: You really shouldn’t have gone on that boat. Really? It must’ve been the Vicodin that made me do it.

I wake up the next day and realize that someone has come along with superglue and glued my right eye shut.  Its pink-eye mom, the girls say. Hurray, now I’m blind and crippled. I will just have to stay in bed. I take another pill and sleep till two. Then I get into the jacuzzi bath for the first time since we moved into this house. I do some gentle stretching. I take it easy while my husband notes how taking the kids to and from school really cuts into  his time to work… HELLO!

Still I’m good for doing homework and making dinner. I go to bed at ten.

This morning I’m sore but I can move enough to resume the daily chores. And the bills. I need to do the bills. And the twins science project is due on Thursday. And the fridge is empty (again). And Christmas is coming. And all I wanna do is make more jewelry. I think I’ll take another painkiller instead. At least then I won’t give a shit and l may even be caught humming: … all I want for Christmas is more Vicodin, Vi-co-din, Vi-co-din…

beach plastic comes in every color of the spectrum, the new piece