Category: “Princeton-Echo”

-Rowena 130519 Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Rowena Xiaoqing He is a Chinese historian and guest researcher at the Institute for Advanced Study. I meet the small, modest woman over lunch. “I have a lot on my mind,” she says, eating her salad. “I have to prepare for the coming weeks, the many lectures I give throughout the country.”

For Rowena, who chooses her words carefully, everything is about June 4. That very day, 30 years ago, student protests in Tiananmen Square were forcefully suppressed by the government, a horror many of us witnessed live on television. Since then Rowena’s goal has been to not let the world forget what happened. In the beginning, when she started out as a researcher, she kept a low profile. But in 2014 she became known to a wider audience with her acclaimed book, Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China. The book was named one of the top five China books of 2014 by the Asia Society’s China File.

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Visiting Mother Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

I don’t have to get ready to visit my mother. She never likes it when I put anything on my face. “You are beautiful as you are,” she always says. I take an early train. I know she’s already waiting for me, sitting at her window.

When I take her in my arms, I feel her bones through the baggy sweater. She has been sick, lost pounds. My mother has become a birdie. A little bird with gray feathers on her head.

“Finally,” she says, “you are finally here.”

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Sleeping Through The Night Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

“And does your baby already sleep through the night?”

I found that one of the most irritating questions I heard

during the time that we had three children under the age of

four. Hello, of course not! All three were awake at every turn.

The solution came from my midwife, who found us

exhausted after the umpteenth time with our eldest. She

shook her head and said: Why don’t you just take him to bed

with you?

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Recommendation Letters Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

‘As a natural leader, he always takes the lead and knows how to motivate others ... Curious and creative, he takes the initiative to go off the beaten path. He loves intellectual challenges, which cannot be complex enough for him. His analytical qualities and scientific interests are beyond his years. In addition, he has a strong empathic capacity.”

That’s a fragment from a letter of recommendation written for the son a friend of ours for admission to a very selective private school. Mind you, this is for kindergarten. The boy was five. His intellectual achievements so far consist of stacking blocks. And what toddler does not go off the beaten path, especially at the table with a plate of pasta in front of him or her? Six letters were needed when applying to this school, which the parents had set their sights on. Once he was admitted, they hoped, he would surely be on the fast track to a top-notch high school, then on an Ivy League university.

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Carillon Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

‘Time in the Netherlands sings,” wrote the Italian Edmondo De Amicis in 1874 in his book “Olanda,” referring to the sounds of the omnipresent carillons that accompanied him on his journey through Holland.

Princeton has its own version. At regular times, the fourth University Carilloneur, Lisa J. Lonie, climbs the 197 stairs of the Collegiate Gothic Cleveland Tower and starts to pound 20 tons of bronze bells with her fists and feet. A tsunami of sound pours out over the quiet town. Closing windows and doors makes no sense. Everyone in the widest range of earshot is recruited into her audience.

To quote Bertus Aafjes: “The whole sky is saturated with sound in an instant. It grumbles, it thunders, it hails, it clatters and suddenly there is another burst of sound.” The firmament is played, nothing less. Think of music as an atmospheric phenomenon.

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Michael Graves Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

One day he appeared, standing pontifically on our stovetop.

The gleaming Alessi Whistling Kettle that belonged to my

roommate. She could not stop talking about it. We finally

would have modern design in our humble student dorm. And

affordable, too. Of course, it was a lot more expensive than

the HEMA Whistling Kettle we already had, but, she said,

well worth the money.

I could not share her enthusiasm. I thought it was odd, with

its cone-shaped shiny belly. And then that red bird that

whistled when the water came to a boil. It was funny the first

time, but would I have to endure this every time I heated up

water for tea?

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Doris Duke Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Americans like to say that behind every great fortune is a
great crime. But that is hard for me to imagine as I walk
through the bucolic Duke Farms on this sunny autumn day.
My guide is my gardener, William. He grew up near this
2,000-acre estate in Somerset County and became fascinated
by its bountiful trees and plantings. And he was equally
fascinated by Doris Duke, the remarkable, star-crossed
woman who inherited this extraordinary place. She led a life
filled with money and all the misfortunes it can bring.
Doris was the only child of the exorbitantly wealthy tobacco
manufacturer James Buchanan Duke, the philanthropic
maker of Lucky Strikes and Camel for whom Duke University
is named. When he died in 1925, the bulk of his estate went to
the 12-year-old Doris, whom everyone then named “the
richest girl in the world.”

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article

The Weather Girl

The Princeton Echo, Noeember 2018

-Hurricane Florence Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

I used to have a little weather house that looked like an Alpine chalet. When the sun shined, the cheerful girl in a dress came out her door. But when rain was forecast, she vanished indoors and the little man appeared with his umbrella. That meant closing our windows and getting out our rain ponchos.

The modern weather house is the television. When bad weather is ahead, such as recently with Hurricanes Florence and Michael, the meteorologists appear on the screen, decked out in rain suits, waders, sou’westers, and of course gripping a huge microphone while they shout into the teeth of the wind.

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Golden Apples Of The Sun Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Summer can be like the guest at your party who was welcome when he arrived but does not take your hint about when to leave. Even as the days grow shorter and my shadow falls longer on the garden path, the heat of August lingers well beyond its welcome.

Until one recent morning when for the first time I noticed a diaphanous mist hanging over the grass. It was a gauzy curtain that turned my favorite trees into insubstantial shadows. The gate to the garden seemed to float mysteriously in the air. When the fog cleared later that morning, I saw what I had not noticed until now. The leaves were proudly glowing with autumn colors. Deep red, ocher yellow, burnt purple. A loamy aroma rose from the earth. Some trees were already bare ruined choirs, their branches grasping the sky.

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
-Hollow Tree Library Eliane
Illustration by Eliane Gerrits

Marquand Park is a beautiful 19th-century jewel that’s around the corner from me. When I walk into the park with my dog, I am always greeted by a cheerful buzz of activity. Small children bake pies in the sandbox, bigger kids twirl in feverish circles on their tricycles. When it starts to drizzle, everyone quickly gathers their things and vanishes. As the park falls empty and silent, I tug up the collar of my raincoat and walk my dog through the greensward on Magnolia Hill.

Posted in: Princeton Echo
Share this article
Saving Charlotte: A Mother and the Power of Intuition
Sign up to receive occasional updates from Pia about her books, articles, and appearances.