flying history

Katie is trying to learn how to take selfies!
Katie is trying to learn how to take selfies!

My mother and her parents loved to travel but were afraid of flying. During my childhood we never flew anywhere so I didn’t notice this and it somehow never came up in conversation. It didn’t even occur to me when I was 15 and my father was offered a job in Greece and my parents decided to move us there. We traveled across the mighty Atlantic Ocean on a cruise ship, the TSS Olympia, from New York to Athens, with a stop in Haifa, Israel.

My first flight on a jet, from Athens back to New York, was memorable. It was just me and my sister, nervous and holding hands for most of the trip, on my 17th birthday, on a 747, shortly after the Greek army had deposed Col. Papadopoulos in a bloodless coup. Our parents were to follow us a couple of weeks later. The perimeter of the airport was surrounded by tanks, reminding us of the fear we felt at dawn weeks earlier, when we awakened to the sound of tanks rolling down our street and military music playing on loudspeakers.

We loved getting pictures of Katie and her parents while we were away on our trip!
It won’t be long before she masters the technique!

We were in the middle of a row on the plane and did not get to look out the windows. There was a stop in Rome, but we didn’t have to get off. However, when we landed there my ears started to hurt, a sharp, stabbing pain. The pain subsided a bit as we flew on to New York, but returned with a vengeance when we landed there. I didn’t fly again for 34 years!

My mother made a dear friend in Greece, a Canadian woman named Carol who was married to a German man, Ernst. Mom overcame her fear well enough to fly to Lebanon with Carol & Ernst and my father, and to visit Carol & Ernst when they moved to Germany, and to Ukraine with my father and his sisters to visit the land where his parents were born.

My grandparents remained fearful of flying. When they came to visit us in Greece, to economize, they sailed on a freighter that accepted a few passengers! It was a rough and tumble passage, and I loved listening to their stories about their adventures on board. Grandmother died without ever having flown, in spite of her son’s repeated efforts and offers to take her up into the sky. He was a pilot, after all.

When Grandfather was 90-something my uncle persuaded him to fly from Cape Cod to Florida to spend the winter down there with him. Tim & I met Grandfather and his physical therapist at the airport to see him off. The captain was the son of the physical therapist, who had kindly arranged everything, and he came out personally to welcome my grandfather and then pushed his wheelchair onto the plane himself as we waved goodbye. Right then and there I decided that if Grandfather could face his fear so late in his life, I could do so as well.

"Daddy, where's my menu?"
“Daddy, where’s my menu?”

Grandfather’s physical therapist also had made him a sandwich and put it in a zip-lock plastic bag. When my uncle called me that night he told me that when he asked Grandfather what he thought about the flight, Grandfather went on and on about the zip-lock bag. He had never seen one before and was marveling at the technological genius of its design! Never did say much about the flight itself!

Finally, my opportunity to try flying again came along when I was 51. Larisa, Tim and I flew down to Florida to visit his stepdad, who was dying of cancer. Much to my surprise, I loved it! Being a dreamer without much aptitude for logic, science and technology, I found myself in awe of the human minds who had figured out how to fly and it still seems like nothing short of a miracle to me every time we take off or land.

And the curve of the world passed
With all of that flying
Above the mighty ocean
Now we all are arriving

Grab the carry-on baggage
Join the herd for the mad run
Take a place in the long line
Where does everyone come from?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve flown in the seven years since, sometimes even by myself, to Florida, Georgia and North Carolina to visit family. It’s still a thrill! So last month Tim & I boarded a Delta 737 in New York and flew to Frankfurt, Germany, our once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit his brother and sister-in-law and to visit Venice and Norway with them. Seven international flights in a month!

It was dark for the flight over, and uneventful. But I had a window seat and a flight tracker so when we caught up with the light over Europe I got to see all the fields and forests in Germany as we began our descent. Some fields were bright yellow – I later learned these were growing rapeseed. After we landed it took us less than a minute to go through customs.

As we shuffle on forward
As we wait for inspection
Don’t be holding that line up
At the end lies redemption

Now I’m stamped and I waved through
I take up my position
At the mouth of the canyon
Saying prayers of contrition

A few days later we took a cheap flight on a budget airline, Ryanair, to Venice. It was cloudy so I couldn’t see anything, and it was definitely a no-frills, sardine-in-a-can experience. On the trip back to Germany three days later, however, the sky was clear and we flew over the Alps, much to my delight! It was amazing looking down on those snow-capped peaks.

Please deliver my suitcase
From all mischief and peril
Now the sight of it circling
Is a hymn to the faithful

Forgive me my staring
For my unconcealed envy
In the hall of arrivals
Where the great river empties

A few days after that trip we flew from Frankfurt to Oslo on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). Even the inside of the plane had that Scandinavian feel, light and airy, you could even see through under the seats. After a magical week in Norway, we flew from Bergen to Stockholm, and on that flight, out of the blue, I got such a sharp stabbing pain in my nose, cheek and temple that tears were squirting out of my eye. At first I thought it was a sudden migraine, but I suspect there was something off with the air pressure. It brought back the memory of the ear pain flying home from Greece all those years ago.

We changed planes in Stockholm and then flew back to Frankfurt after having the best Swedish meatballs ever, right there in the airport restaurant. And unfortunately the pain came back on that flight, too.

Its hand carts and quarters
All the people it carries
To be greeted with flowers
Grandfathers and babies

The friends and relations
Leaping over hemispheres
Transcendental reunion
All borders vanish here

A little over a week later I took a 12-hour Sudafed before boarding the Delta flight from Frankfurt to New York, just in case. Not sure if it was needed but there was no pain on the return flight home. I love Delta because it has a flight tracker at each seat. I was able to identify the English Channel, Great Britain, the Irish Sea, Ireland, and stateside, my beloved Cape Cod, as we flew over. We also flew over Nova Scotia (thinking of Sybil then) but I couldn’t see the land there because of the clouds.

Too bad customs was overwhelmed when we arrived after having such a great flight. It took us almost two hours to get through the maze of lines and scanners and official agent desks! I’m glad my sister and brother-in-law did not give up waiting for us to appear through the arrivals door!

We are travelers traveling
We are gypsies together
We’re philosophers gathering
We are business or pleasure

We are going or coming
We’re just finding our way
To the next destination
And from night into day

~ Mary Chapin Carpenter
♫ (Transcendental Reunion) ♫

It’s good to be home. We continued to receive pictures of Katie in our email almost every day while we were gone. Thank you, Larisa! I have thousands of pictures to go through and many posts to write about this trip which I will get to, even if it takes me all summer. We went to the nursery to get flowers for the balcony and nasturtiums for  Zoë to nibble on. We ate at our favorite restaurant and went down to the beach. Tim went to the eye surgeon yesterday and we found out that he will definitely have to have cataract surgery for both eyes in July. At the same time the surgeon will fix his astigmatism so he may not need glasses for the first time in his 62 years! That will be something else indeed… Life returns to normal…

Blizzard Colbie ~ 1.27.15

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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Come, ye cold winds! at January’s call,
On whistling wings; and with white flakes bestrew
The earth.
~ John Ruskin
(The Poems of John Ruskin, Volume 1)

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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Blizzard Colbie gave us 22 24 inches of snow. I have been waiting for some decent snow this winter and it finally arrived. Zoë and I had a delightful afternoon watching the birds feeding in the snow on our balcony.

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an odd couple ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Tim sets up a webcam when it snows up here, so our kids in Georgia and North Carolina can watch the storm as it progresses. Nate, who has loved the color red since he was a baby, pinged me to let me know I had a cardinal out there. I already knew that, but it warmed my heart to know that he is still partial to all things red.

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an angry looking jay, perhaps because I didn’t put out peanuts in the shells for him ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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this cardinal seemed to be eating snow all afternoon ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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Tim liked this picture a lot so I included it here ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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oh how I love my friendly, inquisitive mourning doves ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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a sweet little junco, he captivated Zoë’s attention for quite a while ~ 1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut
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1.27.15 ~ Groton, Connecticut

They still have not come to plow the parking lot of our complex and I’m wondering what the hold up is. Tim returned from doing some volunteer work at the Red Cross shelter and got stuck in the entrance to the driveway. Fortunately our very kind neighbors dug him out and created a parking space for him, too. All the neighbors’ cars are still buried.

Edit – the morning after – the final snow total for Groton was 24 inches! The town of Thompson got 33.5 inches!

delightful dots

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Katie and Barbara ~ 1.17.15 ~ Billerica, Massachusetts

Grandchildren are the dots that connect the lines from generation to generation.
~ Lois Wyse
(Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Grandmother)

a quiet moment with Grandpa
a quiet moment with Grandpa Tim ~ 1.17.15 ~ Billerica, Massachusetts

Saturday we spent the day north of Boston, visiting Katie, who was visiting some friends there with her mother. Katie the observer, she is definitely an observer, bright-eyed and curious. She had grown a lot in the month since we saw her last.

Things have been relatively quiet around here. We’ve postponed some plans because a few relatives and friends have caught that severe flu going around. I haven’t had the flu since 1988 and I hope to keep it that way! We get flu shots every year, but this strain mutated and this year’s vaccine is only about 33% effective.

And the nursing home where my aunt lives is under quarantine, because of the flu outbreak, which may interfere with our plans to celebrate her 100th birthday on the 30th. So far she hasn’t caught it.

happy child
happy Katie ~ 1.17.15 ~ Billerica, Massachusetts

Zoë, who normally has excellent litter box habits, got the trots. Poor thing was doing her best to get to the box on time but we had a day of cleaning up after her. She wouldn’t eat and she didn’t want to be around us, but she is now back to her hungry, sweet, affectionate self.

And so I am enjoying my winter rest, puttering around the house, watching the birds, wishing for a little more snow, pruning my family tree (still), and making travel plans. My eyes get very bleary reading these travel guides……

We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(The Conduct of Life)

snarfelly

just before take-off
just before take-off (Dec. 20)

Parents of very tiny humans have a delightful way of inventing new words. Snarfelly is one, new to me at least. Katie had a cold when she embarked on her first trip by airplane to visit both sets of her grandparents in Connecticut, and other assorted friends and family. The breathing through her congested nose was dubbed snarfelling by her attentive parents.

When Larisa emailed me this picture from the jet before taking off my already high levels of anticipation of holding my granddaughter intensified tenfold. We were getting ready for our solstice gathering, which turned out to be the biggest one we’ve had in years – twelve adults, two teens and  two babies. And Larisa, Dima and Katie arrived right in the middle of the festivities.

Janet’s new granddaughter, Summer, was here, too. She is just a month older than Katie. It was so much fun having two babies in the house!

We had Katie and her parents here for three wonderful days, even though everyone except for me was sick. One night Katie’s parents went out and Tim & I got to babysit. When I was changing her diaper, Tim gently jiggled her little rib cage and Katie laughed! She looked so surprised! We’re pretty sure we were the first ones to hear her laugh – what a gift!

Katie's parents help with opening her gifts
Katie’s parents help with opening her gifts (Dec.22)

The day before they left my sister and brother-in-law came down and we had an early Christmas. Then Katie and her parents were off to visit her other grandparents and great-grandmothers for a few days. Larisa sent emails and pictures saying Katie was getting less snarfelly every day.

less snarfelly (Dec. 25)
less snarfelly (Dec. 25)

It was such a joy to hold my little Katie so often during those three days. And once when she was taking a nap I just lay down next to her as she slept. I was going to read, but never actually picked up my Kindle, I was content to watch her sleep. Lost in awareness, thinking of my last baby becoming an amazing mother to her first baby. I love that Larisa is careful to keep as many carcinogens as possible away from her little one.

A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after – oh, that’ s love by a different name.
~ Barbara Kingsolver
(The Poisonwood Bible)

just before take-off on her trip home (Dec. 28)
just before take-off on her trip home (Dec. 28)

I have not been active in the blogosphere these past couple of months – I know I’ve missed many of my friend’s posts – and responding to comments on my own posts I’ve woefully neglected. I had surgery to remove a benign but bothersome cyst on my middle toe on November 12. Recovery seemed to be going well for a week and half when I woke up one morning in a lot of pain because an infection had developed. And the infection turned out to be a very stubborn one. The antibiotic I was given made me queasy much of the time. Not being able to keep a shoe on my foot for very long made decorating for the holidays and even routine household chores difficult. It was a good thing I had seeing Katie to look forward to to keep my spirits up!

When WordPress sent me my blog’s statistics for 2014 I was startled to see how long it had been since I posted anything. Laurie, Kathy, Sybil and Diane turned out to be my four most active commenters – thank you so very much for all your thoughtful comments over the year!

The post most viewed was Cat Cataracts, even though no one commented on it this year, posted back in 2011! And people from 114 countries viewed this blog. It makes me wonder about them – were they just passing through or do they return for more? When you think about it, the internet is an astonishing thing.

Katie-Dec30
asleep with new toy in hand (Dec. 30)

I am so grateful for family. Tim & I had fun spending Christmas morning on Skype with Nate, Shea and Dominic, all the way down there in Georgia. And also Christmas afternoon here with Bonnie, Kia and Khari. We saw the third installment of “The Hobbit.” We’re planning a trip to Germany, Norway and Italy. Zoë loves to sit between us , purring contentedly, when we watch TV in the evening. And we have plans to see Katie in January.

Happy New Year!

little baby

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…Nate and Katie, 10 days old…

You’ll have to forgive me for sharing another batch of pictures! I am home now from my grand adventure – a thrill of a lifetime! I had the joy of seeing my granddaughter born and the privilege of seeing her and holding her every day for the first few weeks of her life. I was delighted to have her smile at me quite a few times.

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…Katie, 12 days old…

One day while there I emailed Tim and told him how I wished we lived next door to Dima & Larisa. He wrote back, “I am NOT moving to North Carolina!” And I do agree with him – I don’t care for the hot, humid, sub-tropical climate down there. On my flight returning home, when the plane came down from the clouds and I could see Boston and the harbor, a tear of happiness came down my cheek. Home sweet home – New England! I was gone for six weeks, the longest time I have ever been away from Tim and home. What an incurable homebody I am!

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…Katie, 15 days old…

But there will surely be many trips to North Carolina in the future, and the kids have promised to come up north for the winter holidays. Maybe we will show Katie her first snowfall! She has such bright eyes and when she’s not sleeping she is gazing around, taking in all the sights and sounds. Pure awareness. Babies are a gift of spirit…

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…Katie, 20 days old…

Zoë missed me. Last night she slept on my lap for a couple of hours and protested with loud meows when I tried to get up to go to bed. But she followed me to bed and snuggled until I fell asleep. I think all is right in her world again.

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…Larisa and Katie, 22 days old…

I see you young and soft oh little baby
Little feet, little hands, little baby
One year of crying and the words creep up inside
Creep into your mind
So much to say
~ Dave Matthews
♫ (So Much to Say) ♫

katieandme

…one last snuggle, Barbara and Katie, 23 days old…

low tide

5.3.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
Zoë waiting patiently for her morning sunbath ~ 5.3.14

Over the years our double-paned sliding-glass doors filled with condensation and became so “foggy” that we could not see out of them. It took us a long time to get around to having them replaced, but we finally did so near the end of April. Zoë was delighted to be able to clearly see the birds and we celebrated by buying two chairs and a little table (at an estate sale) for the balcony.

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
an extraordinary piece of driftwood ~ 5.20.14 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Never mind that right on the heels of these sips of joy we had a flood in our basement, a sewer backup. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Funny all the twists and turns life brings. Thank goodness our home insurance is covering the cost of clean up and repair. Yuck, yuck, yuck. I’ll be glad when they finish, but we had to interrupt the process to drive to North Carolina as planned.

Everyone’s experience indicates that everything we are, and everything we do, is simply the movement of existence itself. It’s here that we come to the highest realization indicated in all the great spiritual traditions: we do not exist as anything apart from the flow of nature and that flow is an unformed, inexplicable dance accomplishing itself.
~ Darryl Bailey
(Essence Revisited: Slipping Past the Shadows of Illusion)

For a few days forgetting about the ‘inexplicable unformed flow of nature’ in our basement, we started our journey south and delivered Aunt Flora’s rocking chair. We had a wonderful time visiting family. Nate & Shea drove up from Georgia, and I got to see an old friend from high school who happens to live about 2 miles from Dima & Larisa.

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
5.20.14 ~ Eastern Point Beach

And then… Tim got sick with diverticulitis (not again!) which delayed out trip home by a day so the antibiotics he was prescribed could have a chance to start working. Needless to say, we didn’t arrive home feeling particularly refreshed physically, although emotionally we were revitalized for having spent so much time with our children.

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
5.20.14 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Last weekend we made it to a local farmers market. This morning we took a walk on the beach – the tide was very low, revealing the largest piece of driftwood I’ve ever seen. Tim estimates it to be 20-25 feet long! What could it possibly have been? This afternoon we ate our farm-to-table lunch out on our new little table on our sunny balcony. Life is good!

5.20.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut
5.20.14 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Zoë’s Topsy-Turvy Year

1.4.14 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Zoë

This is the sweet face that I see when I open my eyes every morning. My precious Zoë. We’ve been through so much since she decided to be my friend last year, around this time. She picked me – I’ve never had a cat single me out for special affection before! The beginning of this story can be found here: Second Day of Christmas.

She arrived here by car from Virginia with her sister Scarby, on March 2. When we opened the cat carriers, both Zoë and Scarby bolted out and hid under the basement stairs. But in a few minutes Zoë emerged, adorable with cobwebs clinging to her whiskers, and came right to me for greetings and petting. Cleary she was happy to see me again. But poor Scarby was not at all pleased with the new living arrangements and did not come out from under the stairs for about a week, when she shot upstairs and started hiding under Tim’s bed. When Scarby did come out she would hiss at Zoë, making it known in no uncertain terms how much she blamed her litter-mate for this unfortunate turn of events.

And then on April 4, Toby came to live with us. So much was happening over the next few months. Major surgery for Toby. Nate & Shea installing a powder room for his use. Dima & Larisa’s wedding. Toby hard at work making my garden beautiful. Putting my aunt in a nursing home. My father’s final illness, death and burial. So many people, so much activity, noise and confusion – not the stuff cats are fond of. My sister and her husband finally took them in for some peace and quiet early in October.

But Zoë was depressed up north there, and I finally brought her back home in the middle of November. Scarby stayed on, happy as can be exploring the house and the woods up there, already catching mice. Last I heard she had her sights set on catching a chipmunk – I hope she doesn’t succeed though! She is as attached to my sister now as Zoë is to me.

Zoë, my little couch potato, has been getting fat over this year – she weighed 24 pounds when we took her to the vet in August. We think it is stress eating, something we do as well. So now it’s time for Zoë, Tim and me to get some exercise and stop eating so much!

After she came home in November, I think Zoë started to sense that Toby was very ill. Before she went away she hissed at him all the time, every time he came into a room she was in. But one day after she returned, while I was sitting on the couch with her, Toby came over and sat on the couch, too. She stood up and turned around and went over to him, lay down and put her two front paws on one of his thighs. He started to pet her in a fumbling sort of way, and she didn’t cringe at all, but gazed up into his eyes until he fell asleep. The pain meds he was on made him very sleepy and his hand landed on her pretty heavily when he drifted off. She didn’t seem to mind, though, she seemed to understand. I will never forget that touching moment.

I’m starting to get the urge to take pictures again – so I dusted off the camera and got this picture of Zoë. It’s another start.

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.
~ Albert Schweitzer
(Cats of Our Lives)

Grandmother Elm

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Finally, some leaves have appeared on my tree! I think it is an elm tree.

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

My grandparents had an elm tree on the northwest corner of their house lot. Its branches and leaves could almost be touched when looking out the window of the green bedroom, feeling like the leaf canopy of this elm in the above picture.

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5.14.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.
~ Hal Borland
(Countryman: A Summary of Belief)

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Zoë ~ 5.13.13
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flag flying outside our fish market today ~ 5.14.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Toby went into the hospital for cancer surgery five days ago, and will probably be staying there for another week or so. The day he went into the hospital I had to go up to my father’s house for a few days to help out with the ancient ones. Chelsea had some time off so my aunt Em from Maryland came up and she and I tried our best to fill Chelsea’s shoes! It’s good to be back home now and slip into a more “normal” routine again, at least for a little while.

Up at my dad’s it was so quiet without Bernie around, but I was able to get outside for a short walk and take a few pictures. Later, while sitting on the porch watching birds with Dad, I experimented with the telescopic lens and got a fairly decent picture of a nuthatch (below), if a little blurry! But next time I think I will use the sports setting with the auto-shoot feature. It worked so well today with the flag picture this morning (above), which was whipping in the wind.  Enjoy!

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a nuthatch ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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pansies for Bernie ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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branch shadows playing with the roots of my hemlock tree ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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trillium ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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garden steps ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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primrose ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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life and death on a maple leaf, spider eating a lady bug ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
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garden whimsy ~ 5.10.13 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

garden angels

5.6.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
an angel in my garden ~ 5.6.13

Our lives have taken on a surreal quality, a numbness, in recent weeks. Tim’s brother Toby is now living with us, and sadly, has been diagnosed with incurable bladder cancer. A few days after receiving this devastating news, we were stunned to hear that Tim’s cousin has also been diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Radical treatments will buy them both a little time, but how much is uncertain. This is all so uncomfortably familiar, having lost three of our middle-aged parents to cancer when we were young adults. And yet, this is now all so terribly new to us, cancer striking our generation for the first time. Insidious, unrelenting, cruel…

5.5.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
new elm leaf ~ 5.5.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Zoë has been wonderful company for me – I’m thinking of getting a cat harness and leash for her so she can come out into the garden with me. She seems rambunctious enough to enjoy an outdoor adventure. 🙂 Toby is doing angelic things in my garden – he loves gardening and it gives him something satisfying and distracting to do between medical appointments. And Scarby has been wonderful company for Tim – she is coming out of hiding more often and enjoys sitting on the cat tree to look out the window and soak up the sun. She often sits on his desk and watches him work.

The other day I sent Tim a link to an article, how to calculate tree height using a smartphone. And then, Voilà!!! Mr. Logic found the app and used it on our next visit to my tree! He determined that my tree is 60 feet tall! (That’s about 18 meters tall for those of you on the metric system.) An interesting bit of information to ponder, since I still cannot see the shape of its leaves just yet.

5.5.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut
my tree ~ 5.5.13 ~ Stonington, Connecticut

Janet and I took a train to New York City. We met Larisa at Penn Station and went shopping in the fabric district for material for her wedding dress! She is sewing it herself with a little help from her friends. Seeing her drape the different shades of purple fabric over her body to see which one she liked best, well, they were some of the happiest moments in my life. My lovely daughter is going to be a stunning bride in just a little over a month!