Going Home-Brooklyn and New York
It is said that you can’t go home again. That is true for me in literal terms. If you read my book The House on Sunny Street: a Tale of Two Brooklyns (PublishAmerica.com;Amazon.com; Band N.com)- about my childhood home, you will learn that 1185 St. Mark’s Avenue in Brooklyn ,New York is now the parking lot for the 77th Police Precinct. But you will also appreciate the history of a special house,neighborhood, and family. Maybe you will laugh and cry with me and my family and friends as we come of age in Brooklyn. But you will not be able to see the house beyond what exists in pictures or on the cover of the book, a painting by my mother, Anne Marie Beach. If home were only that beloved house and place and the people who lived in the house, I would not be able to go home again. It is not there and they are not there. But home is more than that. Anchored in a place, for me Brooklyn, and New York City, Long Island and Upstate New York it is also anchored in the heart and soul and spirit. It is alive there and with such life you can always go home again,and those you love so deeply are waiting there. And I do go home whenever I can. And always I am refreshed and renewed by touching Brooklyn soil and visiting friends, family and places that shaped my life and call to serve God’s people.
Finally after a year and four months and some tough health issues I was able to make my pilgrimage to Brooklyn and New York on October 31st, 2013. I could only stay four days and I could not go everywhere important to me or see everyone, but I traveled a lifetime in those days.
We met our close friends Danielle and Laura and went to Nathan’s in Coney Island first. As a child Coney was my favorite place to visit with my Mom and she also lived there in Senior housing facing the ocean “with a million dollar view” in the last decades of her life. My cousin Jackie grew up there. There are so many special memories there. Nathan’s was damaged when Super Storm Sandy hit New York last year. One now orders inside and eats outside. It was a chilly Halloween day and the hot chowder was a welcome lunch. We were surrounded by some homeless men and treated them to chowder and Nathan’s famous hot dogs. Laura said “how they find you, I don’t know-but they know!” Laura has been my friend since 1982 when I met her at a NYC Shelter for homeless women. Living still in a residential facility she moved to in 1982, she now helps countless other homeless people. She is a faithful Jew and she explained to me that she has been praying for my health daily and with that she does a mitzvot each day so God will hear her prayers for me. I told her that she was righteous and just and a servant of our God always. Still, she said, she would do an extra mitzvot (bring someone else a blessing) for me every day. I gave her a very big hug. Laura and I are blessed with friendship.
The Amusement Park was quiet and yet I could hear the happy sounds of years past. When we visited the Board walk near West 36th Street where Mother lived, the new cement “boardwalk” was undamaged but her favorite cabanas at Seagate and some of the rocky structures dividing Seagate from Coney were now under the sea and sand. Mom would not be happy about that and I still miss the real boardwalk that splintered my feet. The sea was uneasy on this chilly day but I closed my eyes and remembered how good it felt to be in it, and to be enjoying a sunny day there with my Mom. I could see her in her chair with the little beach umbrella on it. And I could see her opening her eleventh floor window and letting the good sea breeze in. She was there. We were there together again. But the chill nipped and we decided to go to the Brooklyn Museum for the rest of the day.
This is Judy B. and my dear friends Danielle and Laura in front of the new Brooklyn Museum. This building is a strange mixture of old and new that somehow works. I went to Prospect Heights High School just a few blocks from the Museum and it was part of my campus as were The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Prospect Park and the Grand Army Plaza Library. What a campus! How my friends and I loved exploring the Museum. I prefer the original building, but the additional space caused by the renovation draws one in. The floor devoted to Feminist Art was a wonderful addition. We were amazed to have Judy Chicago’s whole exhibit of the Dinner Party to ourselves. When it was there years ago, I could not even get in!
Plate and place at the Table. Sophia’s plate and place at the Table. Sophia is Wisdom, the Feminine image of God.
How special it was to be at the Dinner Party.
The next day Judy and I went to Grand Central Station and caught the Metroline train to Beacon,New York. There we visited with Ellie Ver Nooy. Ellie is a dear friend and the widow of Pastor Dave Ver Nooy my spiritual guide mentor and friend since childhood. Pastor Ver Nooy went home to God last December. His love and guidance remained although he could no longer speak it as the Parkinson’s took its toll. Ellie gave me his well worn Book of Worship and I was so grateful to receive it. He was there on the deck facing the river where we always sat, and right next to Ellie and his beloved dog as he always was. He was there.
In the picture on the right,Ellie is on the right and Judy B. and Dancer are sitting in David’s chair.
And finally, for the last two days of the pilgrimage home,
we went out to Long Island and visited with my family. We had a cousins reunion of three branches of the Shotwell family clan and had four generations of cousins together. We are the elders now but silently our beloved elders were standing right there with us. We met at Cousin Dorothy Shotwell Stewart’s house and went to a nearby waterfront restaurant for a seafood feast and wonderful reunion. Dorothy is now in her 92nd year. Bobby Robinson is now 78 and his lovely wife Barbara just had a birthday so we celebrated birthdays too. The younger members present are Lori (Robinson) Whitlatch Post and Kenneth Robinson. Patricia Sullivan King graciously and lovingly shepherded us for two days. Patty and her daughter- in- law Beth King who located us through her genealogy work had a wonderful brunch with us before our departure on Sunday.
We are connected by love and I am renewed.
Thanks be to God.