When I walk into my son’s room one afternoon at 5 p.m., his friend Justin is sprawled fast asleep on the bed, still wearing his shoes and coat.
“He came to do his homework,” he explains, “but before he put down his bag he collapsed.”
“What happens now?” I ask.
“Let him sleep,” my daughter says. “Do not wake him up. He is exhausted. Tomorrow morning he has to get up at 4 a.m. for ice hockey.”
In America, sports are the religion of the masses. Every third-rate swim team is treated as if it were the Olympic delegation. Our Dutch national team would struggle to keep up with these boys and girls who have to train endlessly at the most impossible times between school days crammed with tests and exams and homework. When Justin is not asleep in our bed, his sister Julianne is often collapsed there.
The trumpets sound a fanfare, and I walk with 1,300 invited guests into the courtyard of the City Hall of Stockholm, which has been transformed into a dining room. Students wearing sailor hats and blue-yellow sashes lead us to festive tables that stretch from wall to wall. The men look chic in their white ties, patent leather shoes, and honor medals. The ladies flourish their evening dresses and sparkling jewels. The walls are decorated with carnations, specially flown in from Italy, the corridors are lined with crystals, and the ceiling has been transformed into a shimmering replica of the Northern Lights.
Novelist Pia de Jong talks about her new book Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition. She tells the story of her daughter, Charlotte, who was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of leukemia, often treated with chemotherapy. Pia and her husband decide instead to take Charlotte home and care for her there.
This segment is guest hosted by Mary Harris.
I had forgotten how cold New York can be. The bitter wind cuts into my face and slices through my thin coat and sweater. A father tugs a woolen hat with a fur pom pom tightly over the ears of a baby snuggled in the sling against his chest. A teenage girl in a leotard hops from one leg to another while waiting for the traffic light to change.
I am on my way to the atrium of the New York Ethical Culture Society to hear Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival performance of 150 Psalms. It is a week of choral concerts of only psalms. Tonight the Dutch Chamber Choir will perform 12 lamentations.
Inside, the room is as warm and toasty as a church. Pews are in a semicircle, and above our heads floats a chandelier that throws shadows along the walls. As I sit down, I nod to the older man next to me. He does not seem to notice me. Strikingly, many people sit alone, apart from one another. This is a completely different atmosphere from the opera, just a few doors away in Lincoln Center, where people come to be seen as well as to watch.
Our daughter celebrated her seventeen birthday this year by getting her driving license. This was not left to chance. She made the appointment for her test months in advance, at 8 a.m. sharp. The exam itself was an afterthought — a five-minute spin in a parking lot, parallel parking, turn into the highway, and finish. Soon she was home, holding her glittering license, a free ticket to a life of freedom.
“I’m going out for a little bit,” she promptly announced. She stepped into the car, pulled down her mirrored sunglasses, opened the windows, tuned up the radio, and disappeared into the wide, wide world.
The year is 1990. The time is 4 a.m. The place: Princeton. I am jolted awake by ambulances with sirens screaming, police cars, a trauma helicopter chop-chopping overhead. I live near the train station. I peer through the window at a cluster of flashing lights converging in the snowy night.
Not until the next day did I find out what had happened. A group of college sophomores, after partying all night, decided to fool around. They climbed on top of the little train, the Dinky, which shuttles people into Princeton from main line, about five minutes from campus. The student who was first to get on top of the train was wearing a metal watch on his left wrist. Eleven thousand volts of electric current surged through the watch into his body. Eleven thousand volts! That number I never forgot. Now he was dying.