October 10, 2021
On the phone, I cheekily said to my sister, “We’re going to New Jersey. Why do you think?” We had already travelled for several hours, and Mom was comfortably asleep in the back seat of the 2022 Dodge Ram truck we had rented. My sister answered, “New Jersey, why are you going there?” Waiting for the answer I knew she knew, and then I heard it, “Mom’s friend Elena!!!” I replied, “YESSSS!!!”
Mom worked with her friend Elena, while employed by the Park Lane Hotel in New York City, decades ago, for decades. Mom, now living several states away, was thrilled one day when she was at a doctor’s appointment in Brooklyn, New York, and ran into Elena in the waiting room. They embraced and chatted like the good friends they were that had retired and lost touch with that part of their lives. That emotional reunion occurred about ten years ago.
Since that time, my mom has misplaced her dear friend’s phone number several times. When she finds it, she calls Elena, and they have a joyous conversation. Once, when Elena did not answer, my mom thought the worse and became worried, until I encouraged her to call again, and when Elena answered, they chatted as if no time had passed. Mom has occasionally said to me, “can we please go and visit my friend Elena when we go to New York again?”
This time we succeeded! Before we arrived at Elena’s house, Mom asked, “Can we get her a gift?” So, we picked up a plant, flowers, chocolate, and other goodies. When we arrived at Elena’s house, I stepped out of the truck to open Mom’s door, and just as Mom had predicted, Elena was already at Mom’s door, exclaiming “Jennifer!!!!!” They immediately hugged tightly and started to walk up the stairs to the house, chatting a mile an hour. One said she was 81, the other claimed 80.
I know that they were ecstatic in their reunion. But, the happiness and deep pleasure that I experienced during that reunion was pretty grand as well. In Elena’s kitchen, I watched these two retirees, obviously challenged with a touch of memory loss, while they sampled different sweets, sipping on coffee, later touring the beautiful grounds, peeking out at the deer and her baby in the yard, and exchanging gifts. As they reminisced, I interjected my thanks for the Greek cookies Elena often baked and gave Mom to share with her family, back in the day.
I was so moved when I also heard Elena share how my Mom would often rescue her from haters who took advantage of her, because she spoke little English back then. As she spoke, I could hear the gratefulness in her voice. Two immigrants, Elena from Greece, Mom from Trinidad & Tobago, had become “not my friend, but my sister.” As they said their goodbyes, I promised these two ‘girls’ another visit soon!
As a reminder of their visit, Elena has the plant Mom gave her, and Mom has many clippings of Elena’s plants; both, I’m sure, will nurture them, just as they’ve nurtured their friendship to this day. What a nice way to welcome the season of thankfulness, I told myself, as the Fall season draws upon us.
More to come…