Latest Articles, Columns, Short Stories

Raising a Foodie

US 1 Newspaper, August 8, 2018

-Foodies Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

The first time our elder son seemed to understand food was at a McDonald’s. During a vacation, we had picked up a hamburger for him. He approached it with caution. First, he began to carefully dismantle it. He removed the pieces of onion, the ketchup, and the slice of pickle, then the wilted lettuce and the meat. The result was a soggy piece of bread with a slice of tomato that must have turned red from embarrassment. Thus was born the delicious “tomato sandwich,” still a fixture on our family menus.

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-Third Semester Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

In American colleges, the academic year has a secret third half. You know about the first two — the fall semester, then the spring semester, both crowded with books and lectures. But then, here comes a surprise: the third half of the school year, the one that arrives on tip-toe in early May and for the next four months suddenly leaves students as abandoned as if on a darkling plain.

The reason is that colleges want to use dorm rooms for their summer programs. So undergraduates are expelled from campus and become academic refugees. They gather everything they can carry and fly all over the world to their original breeding grounds, where they will wait like migratory birds to fly back to their college rooms in September.

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-Rfk Train Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Fifty years ago, Rich Rein, a tall, slender man who is now 71, was the editor of the Daily Princetonian student newspaper. On June 6, 1968, the day after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, he received a call from the Kennedy campaign office. Would he like to attend the funeral and ride on the train that would carry Bobby’s body from New York to Washington for burial? The newly widowed Ethel Kennedy had thought that college students should be among the journalists to report on the event. And so Rein ended up on one of the most extraordinary train journeys in history.

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-Fireflies Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

It’s finally summer in Princeton. We had to wait until late spring to get warm, but now the roses are blooming and the air is dripping with fragrant honeysuckle. The town is slowly settling into the lazy hazy days of summer. My daughter prepares to say goodbye to her classmates who will be traveling all over the world. She already misses her brothers, who flew the coop last year. “I thought that we would always be together as a family,” she says, sitting by herself at the kitchen table. Now she has to make do with us, her parents, who give her just a bit too much attention.

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This is an amazing and true story and a must-read, no matter where you are in your life.

A Dutch couple has its third child, a much-adored daughter, but it quickly becomes apparent there is something wrong with her.

The doctors do tests, knowing what they will find.

The baby has ‘congenital myeloid leukaemia’, a serious condition she was born with.

Her parents are given the option of hospitalisation for her with chemotherapy treatment, but there is no guarantee of a cure attached to it.

In fact, the opposite is more likely.

Almost without consultation, the parents decide to take her home, forgoing treatment the option.

Family and friends are not necessarily in agreement, but Pia de Jong and her husband have decided.

They will look after her and wait to see what happens. They can only hope with love and care from those around her Charlotte will fight the dread disease and go into remission by herself, without the alarming chemotherapy treatment.

Although the book is relatively short, we are given a detailed description of this family’s life; the two barely older brothers, the parents, and the way they live with and handle this truly heart-wrenching situation, in an old and busy part of Amsterdam.

Parents, friends and neighbours all contribute to this story and its resolution.

de Jong paints a great picture of inner Amsterdam, with its canals, its alleyways, its tall, narrow old houses, and its amazing diversity of residents, many of whom are a part of Charlotte’s story.

The family eventually moves to the United States.

When the author goes back to visit her old neighbourhood it has irrevocably changed, but her memories remain.

Wonderfully written, this is a beautiful book. Ask your library.

—Lee Stephenson

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-New York New York Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Whenever my neighbor gets off the train at Penn Station, he jumps on the platform, throws out his arms, and sings, “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town! The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down!” He doesn’t realize it, but this song from the musical On The Town is a mnemonic device to help me find my way around town.

People born with an internal compass can hardly imagine my panic when I walk into a city. According to my dear partner, who finds his way everywhere without looking, I am afflicted with “anti-sensory direction.” Intuitively, I always walk exactly the wrong way.

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-Angelsinamerica Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

I grew up with angels. My Catholic youth was full of stories about sublime beings who descended from heaven to warn us, to help us, and to predict our future. Angels arrived in my dreams, smoothing their feathers in gleams of blindingly white light.
  Angels were not always beautiful and nice. On the wall at my school was a print by Gustave Dore showing the biblical Jacob wrestling with a mysterious angel. Jacob struggles until daybreak with the vastly larger angel looming over him. I held my breath whenever I passed it.
   But not in my wildest dreams did I foresee the struggle that Prior Walter has with his angel in the play, “Angels in America.” This iconic and acclaimed work by Tony Kushner is now celebrating its triumphant return to Broadway 25 years after its premiere.

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-Dyson Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

In 1989 I moved to Princeton for the first time, crossing the wide ocean from Amsterdam. During our farewells at the airport, my father gave me a box filled with airmail stationery; my mother presented a fountain pen. I knew what to do. I still remember how, in my new apartment, I let the thin blue sheets slide through my fingers. The fountain pen had leaked during the flight. “I am writing my first letter on my newly purchased kitchen table!” I announced. “The house feels hollow, our stuff has not yet arrived. I miss my teapot.”

The recently published autobiography, “Maker of Patterns,” by the physicist Freeman Dyson, who has been a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study for 70 years, consists solely of the many letters he sent to his family over the years. He wrote the first one when he started studying at the age of seventeen at Cambridge University.

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-Vasilisa Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Vasilisa is waiting for me at the front door. The 10-year-old girl wears a red dress with white polka dots that covers a fluffly petticoat. Her blonde hair is set in tight curls that frame her round face. Before I can say anything, she drops into a curtsey and hands me a red lollipop. The green parakeet perched on her shoulder looks at me expectantly.

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Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition
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