MAW MAW

This week was one of the most difficult weeks that I’ve had to experience thus far. On October 1st, I flew home unexpectedly to spend time with my family as my Maw Maw’s battle with dementia was coming to a close. I knew that I needed to be home with her, and my Paw Paw. And I spent as much time as I could by their sides. I heard stories from her younger brother, my Uncle Al, some that I had never heard before.  (One story was about how Uncle Al felt left out by some of his classmates. He asked his older sister, my Maw Maw, to take him and the other classmates that were left out to a pizza place and out bowling. She agreed, and advocated for them when the servers paid them no attention.) And while I was there, I found a box of notes that she wrote, including a letter that she started to write to all of us, but never finished.

My Maw Maw had the most beautiful handwriting, which was beautiful to see again, and she had the most impeccable memory. She knew so much about the lives of her grandchildren, from our birthdays to our best friends. Within the past 10 years, Maw Maw began to forget small details about us, like our ages, and then soon grew to forget our names and eventually forget us. Watching her memory fade was difficult, but watching her personality fade was even harder.

Dementia is a terrible disease, characterized with memory loss and a decline in language, cognitive skills, and problem solving. But with these drastic changes, also comes the loss of jokes, kindness, laughter, and the creation of new memories. As the years progressed, I missed hearing Maw Maw’s laugh, the happiness she had every Christmas helping Paw Paw get ready to become Santa Claus for her grandchildren, the times I sat with her next to the fireplace to keep warm. I missed her voice of reason and I missed her always making sure I was with a Diet Coke in hand. Maw Maw was there, but she wasn’t. And I missed her.

Some of my most fond memories of Maw Maw are from my childhood. I was her first granddaughter, and she was my Maw Maw for almost 27 years. I remember her teaching me proper hygiene (she always carried wet-ones), I remember her telling my cousin, Monika, to eat all of her food. I remember how much she loved chocolate and she always got me my favorite kind of cheese danish for breakfast when I spent the night. I had my own stuffed animal named Pinky, toothbrush in a ziplock baggie with my name on it, and pajamas in a drawer. I remember fighting over a blanket that she made my cousin, Daniel, and being the lucky grandchild to have a sleepover in her and Paw Paw’s room when we went to Hilton Head (because my family had too many kids for a standard hotel room).

Maw Maw was fierce. She was gentle. She was loving. She was always an advocate for everyone around her. She never let the cousins fight, and never was shy about telling us when we were wrong. She taught us humility, and she taught us selflessness. She welcomed everyone with open arms. She loved Louis Vuitton, Notre Dame, Hilton Head Island, all things chocolate, and her friends and family.

On Friday, October 4th, my Maw Maw passed away. She passed peacefully in her home, surrounded by family, with her husband by her side. She was 80 years old. Today was her funeral, and we celebrated her life as a family. Her children and grandchildren were all in attendance, standing by her husband of over 50 years. In the days following her passing, I stood by my Paw Paw as he ensured that each grandchild had a place at her funeral Mass and finalized the details of everything else. Some said readings, some read petitions, and some brought gifts to the altar. Paw Paw asked me to sing ‘Hail Mary, Gentle Woman’ following Communion, and while it almost brought me to tears, I was honored to sing it for her, as I did in her final days.

This afternoon, we celebrated Maw Maw’s life by gathering at a place we frequented as a family – The Hilton St. Louis Frontenac. See, my family doesn’t really cook. As a family, we spent Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, and Easter at the hotel for probably almost 20 years. When Maw Maw began to fade further, we went to a place that could accommodate her better, but we still never cooked family meals at home. After all, Maw Maw always said, “Kitchens are for restaurants, not for houses.”

Among the notes that I found in that box, I found her list of prayers. She prayed for each of us by name, every single day. She prayed for people that she met in the elevator, people she saw from afar, neighbors down the street. And when she first became sick, she told us we were going to have to take over her prayers. So I made a copy of her prayers, and I will carry them with me every day.

A few weeks before she passed, I had some time home and I knew that I wanted to spend time with Maw Maw and Paw Paw. On Sunday, September 22nd, I watched the Cardinals beat the Cubs with Maw Maw’s hand in mind. We shared a few chips and a Diet Coke. On Sunday, September 29th, I had the chance to FaceTime my mom who was with her. I told Maw Maw about where I was and how I was, and though she didn’t say much back, she was watching my face on the screen. Maw Maw told me that I was “so smiley”. Hearing that made me tear up, happy that she could recognize a smile on my face. And when I said “I love you”, she said it back. I am so grateful for those moments with her, and the 26 years of memories before that. And I’ll forever be holding her hand, looking to her for guidance.

I am so thankful that I had my Maw Maw. And I’ll carry her in my heart every day. Mother to 5, grandmother to 14. She was incredible. I love you so much, Maw Maw. And I know you’re never far away. ♥️

Rest In Peace, Maw Maw.
Mary Claire Antoinette Pike
November 3, 1938 – October 4, 2019

XO – MC

MONDAY – NYC

D A Y • F I V E

This day started off a little differently than the others of our trip. One of my sisters went to explore the city on her own, so my youngest sister, my parents, and myself took a ferry ride… to Staten Island.

How beautiful does New York City look from a ferry boat? It almost looks small. I know it isn’t small; there are hundreds of thousands of people walking on the streets in between those buildings and on each floor of each skyscraper. As we pulled away from the New York Harbor, I realized that as much as I loved walking along Madison or Fifth, seeing the city from a view on the water was its own form of beautiful.

On our way to schedule a ferry ride to see the island, we were almost scammed. We got off the train and were met by someone who was dressed like a tour guide. After taking us on a 5+ block walk, the young man started saying that we had to go to an ATM because they didn’t have card readers. We went to the ATM, but didn’t give him the money yet. We asked to see the accommodations first. So he took us to a very uncomfortable looking bus, at which point I had a weird gut feeling, and my family and I turned around almost immediately. We noticed the brochure looked dated, possibly hinting that it was stolen from another company and trying to be passed as marketing for this scam. And when we asked if  the boat pictured was the boat we were going to be on in the water, they couldn’t give us a straight answer. We soon realized that the Staten Island Ferry was free of charge, and boarded the next one to arrive in New York Harbor.

While we were on our way to Staten Island, my younger sister and I had a mini photoshoot – as one does when they’re on the ferry with the wind in their hair. My younger sister has truly grown so much over the past several years, and I am proud of the young woman she is becoming. Year after year, I’ve realized that I have more pictures of her than anyone else, and that is because I’ve truly watched her grow. I remember the day she was born, and I remember when I convinced her that “lefties were cool”, and I remember when she cut her hair to get bangs like me – and hid under the kitchen table when she realized what she had done. I remember when one day, she was all of a sudden a really great reader, and I remember when she found her voice and made her first joke.

I would have loved to see Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty, but we had to prioritize. We had plans for the afternoon and evening, and we were so hungry on the ferry ride. As soon as we arrived to Staten Island, we walked up a long flight of stairs and entered the first restaurant we could find. It was a small diner on the edge of town, with a lot of character. None of us argued, we all just sat down and ordered a sub-par burger on the outskirts of town. THAT hungry.

On our way back, we started to talk about our plans for the rest of the day. The plans involved another “island” – but nothing like Staten Island. This “island” features amusement parks, and is part of the Brooklyn borough – Coney Island. Coney Island, despite its name, is actually a peninsula to the west of Long Island. It was originally an island separated from Brooklyn by Coney Island Creek, but in the 1920s-1930s, a large section of the creek was filled as a part of a land and highway development.

As soon as we got off the train from Staten to Coney, we immediately rode the Cyclone rollercoaster. Well my dad, my sister, and I did. I almost lost my sunglasses when we flew dow one of the hills, but it was a blast.

After the rollercoaster, we made it to the boardwalk. My sister made me take a couple dozen photos of her, and then we just explored. Though we didn’t ride any of the rides in Luna Park, we enjoyed being near the water, and seeing everything that Coney Island had to offer.

Have you ever heard of of Nathan’s Hot Dogs? I’m sure you have. They’re everywhere. Well, they started on Coney Island as a hot dog stand over 100 years ago. So it would only make sense for us to visit the original location, new and improved storefront.

Like the tagline on the storefront says, “The flavor of New York since 1916.” It was definitely a great treat, followed with sorbet from Coney’s Cones. I typically am just a ‘ketchup and sometimes mustard on my hot dog’ kind of girl, but my dad will try anything and definitely enjoyed a few original Nathan’s with a Coney Island brew.

After our afternoon and evening exploring Coney, we got back on the Subway towards our final stop of the day. Unfortunately, we were on the longest trip possible due to delays. It took over an hour. Though it was our only delay within this trip to NYC, I understand why New Yorkers complain about them.

We ended the night with a very sweet treat, at Serendipity 3. A very unique and narrow entryway, the restaurant has been there since 1954, and is well known for its extravagant desserts – my favorite meal.

This was my last night in New York City, and it ended a sweet one.

XO – MC

SUNDAY – NYC

D A Y • F O U R

So funny story. I left my AirPods charging next to my bed. Completely forgot them before I left for the airport. I had my old iPhone headphones with me, but they’re the ones that don’t really fit to your ears, so listening to music and podcasts as I walked around NYC and rode the Subway was a little uncomfortable. Anyways, the girl who was watching Marley for me went to pick them up and shipped them to me. Unfortunately, the hotel my family was staying at was under some construction and the postal worker didn’t deliver my AirPods to the hotel, but the main postal office a few blocks down from our Chelsea hotel.

On my way to the post office, I walked past a really cool wall of murals by different artists. They all shared a similar “hashtag”, #brickfit. There were some really cool pieces, and I enjoyed getting to see the artwork.

I made my way to the post office which was also connected to Penn Station. It was not what I expected inside. The lobby was a long aisle of teller windows and surprisingly it was not very busy. After meeting with a few of the tellers, we finally found my package and I made my way into Penn Station.

There was a really cool event going on at Madison Square Garden but I didn’t catch any great pictures. The newest class of New York Police Department rookies were graduating from the Academy. The security was insane – which I understand considering the way our service men and women are disrespected in current events.

My sisters and I spent almost the entire day shopping. First, my sisters said that they would meet me at Glossier. I mapped out the subway I needed to take to SoHo and headed that way. What my sisters forgot to tell me, is that in addition to the insane late summer heat, there would be a line wrapped around the Glossier building that would take at least 45 minutes to get through. And even better, my sisters weren’t there yet. So for about 25 minutes, I waited in line, by myself. It’s a really good thing that I picked up my AirPods today and that they were fully charged.

After being in line for almost an hour, we finally made it upstairs. I stood in front of the fan for almost the entire time. I did buy some balmdotcom though. We then headed to some of the more affordable stores and boutiques, while also making some stops at some of the less affordable ones.

After we shopped, we headed towards St. Peter’s Catholic Church for Sunday Mass. Our sister and mom met up with us, and funny enough, the air conditioning was out. So it was hot inside too.

Our next stop really moved me. The last time I was in New York City, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum was not complete. This time, I actually had the chance to see it. When we stepped into the memorial area, the mood was solemn and it was very quiet. It was so peaceful. And I immediately felt that I needed to step away from my family and walk the memorial alone.

My memory of September 11th, 2001 is different than most. I was alive, but I remember September 11th, 2002 much clearer. In 2001, I was in the 3rd grade and my private, Catholic, K-8th school didn’t tell us what happened. And neither did my parents. The next year, I switched schools, to another private, Catholic school. But this school gathered all of the students outside and though it’s a vague memory, I remember standing outside with my classmates, many people were in tears, and we had a brief ceremony surrounding the flag. I didn’t understand why we were gathered. As the years go on, that is really the only memory that stands with me through that day.

Everyone visiting the memorial maintained quiet in respect for those who passed on that sad day, almost 17 years ago. Walking around the memorial was filled with sadness, but also a sense of community. To think back on that day, and all of the service men and women that came together selflessly to rescue as many people as they could from the horror that day. I can’t believe it’s been almost 17 years – seeing all of those names made it a little more realistic for me.

A few of the names affected me, but it was actually the words that followed their name that brought me to tears – “and her unborn child”. Until seeing these words at the memorial, I am saddened to say that I never thought about the expecting mothers who may have passed when the World Trade Center was attached by terrorists. I couldn’t imagine that great of a loss.

Something I did notice were a few lone, white flowers laid into the letters of a few names. I heard that the white rose in a name meant that day was their birthday. There is someone employed every day to take white roses to each name on their birthday. That restores a little bit of my faith in humanity, and the City of New York. We even saw the only building that stayed standing throughout the attacks, which was pretty incredible.

After the memorial, my mom, sisters, and I all went to see the Brooklyn Bridge. We made it about a quarter of the way into it… but to be honest, we were all getting hungry and thirsty. So we turned around.

At the end of the evening, we had a very late (almost 10:00 p.m.) dinner at a really cool restaurant down the street from my sister’s dorm. It was peaceful, candlelit, and ended with sorbet.

XO – MC

SATURDAY PT 2 – NYC

D A Y • T H R E E

Click to read SATURDAY PT 1.

Walking from 5th Avenue towards where planned to meet our sister was going to be pretty impossible to do quickly, since we needed to get from the Upper East Side to Greenwich Village.  The views towards the subway were pretty beautiful though. One of my favorite parts about New York City that I just can’t get enough of is its history, and the beautiful buildings that have been homes to different storefronts, offices, hotels, etc. There’s always something new to see around each corner, and that never gets old.

There was a little symbolism behind the shirt I chose for this day in New York. Did you check out my last post to see what I was wearing Saturday morning for a hint? If not, here’s another one: it had to do with our next stop – 90 Bedford St. New York, NY. Okay, okay. I’ll be there for you with the real reason, because you’re probably over the hints. Please don’t stop reading, I promise this is The One With the answer on where we went next.

At the corner of Bedford and Grove is Monica Geller’s Apartment from the show, Friends. I was not allowed to watch this show when I was younger, but as soon as the show came to Netflix, I binged all of it. It’s one of my favorite shows to watch, and I actually have a 24″x36″ black and white, framed poster of the cast in my house. My sisters and I posed for a picture in front of the building, and soon enough we were asking each other what was for dinner. We didn’t know where to go, so we walked around Greenwich looking for something that caught our eyes.

My sister said that Greenwich was one of her favorite areas while living in New York. and I could tell why. There was a lot more greenery and it was filled with homes, boutiques, and some amazing restaurants. The people were a little friendlier and more approachable while we were touring. We stopped at a restaurant that had vegan and gluten-free options, and we sat outside. It was the most perfect weather and I’m so glad we did. Since my sister is vegan and I’m gluten-free (yes, the noodles below were gluten-free), it was the perfect place for us to all have dinner – and they had sangria.

After dinner, we walked to another well-known landmark – Washington Square Park. There’s a lot of history with this park and the Washington Square Arch, which is probably what most thing about when they hear “Washington Square”. There are statues for notable Americans such as George Washington himself, and the original arch to the park was built in celebration of the centennial of his inauguration to the presidency. We spent some time in the fountain, as other tourists did, and just enjoyed each other’s company.

It was a lot of fun. We were going to have to say goodbye to our sister, as she had an early day on Sunday, but first dad let us stop by a place called DŌ. Talk about the best dessert ever. The Founder/Owner/CEO of DŌ, Kristen Tomlan, is actually from St. Louis (as I am); it was cool to see another St. Louisan’s success in such a visual way.

We parted ways with my sister, and made our way to Times Square for a final touristy destination. I genuinely could not believe how many people were there. How could so many people be in one place at one time? It was a little overwhelming. But I loved the lights and the movement and the color.

We bought a few souvenirs from a gift shop, an NYPD shirt for myself included, drank our weight in water because we all realized how dehydrated we were, and called it a night.

XO – MC

SATURDAY PT 1 – NYC

D A Y • T H R E E

Saturday started off different than Thursday or Friday. I met my sisters at Madison Avenue’s Ladurée. There is a significant history behind this company and their macaroons, directly relating to my name and its unique French spelling, “Madeleine“. Its original location, opened by Louis Ernest Ladurée and located at 16 rue Royale, is in the Madeleine neighborhood of Paris. From its creation in 1862, to the fire that burnt the bakery down in 1871, to Ladurée’s grandson, Pierre Desfontaines, creating the macaroon, to the company’s new growth since 1993, Ladurée has always been in the business of macaroons.

After we ate macaroons to our hearts content, we walked a few blocks over towards Central Park. Yes, I know we were there yesterday, but keep in mind, Central Park is huge. It covers over 840 acres of land. The day was beautiful and it was definitely worth walking around a little bit. Though it was hot, so we had to make several stops at hot dog stands for water.

On the way, we stopped at 5th Avenue. My sisters had even this on the agenda, not particularly because we could afford much of anything on 5th, but definitely for the experience. My youngest sister actually did purchase a pair of Quay sunglasses from Bloomingdales, as she had just broken her previous pair. It was definitely hard to pull me away from Tiffany & Co., Chanel, and Lonchamp without purchasing anything. I wouldn’t say I’m a “materialistic” person, because I usually go for the best deal when I’m shopping, but I do have a few favorites. To be honest, in the photos above, I’m wearing a few of them, such as Chance Eau Tendre by Chanel, a Tiffany & Co. infinity pendant from my grandmother, and my Longchamp Le Pliage backpack which was the most wonderful thing to happen to me on this NYC trip. What was in my backpack that made it so wonderful? Well, I actually wrote a post about it.

After our 5th Ave. window-shopping spree, we made our way to Greenwich to meet up with our sister for dinner and a walk around Washington Square Park.

to be continued

XO – MC

FRIDAY PT 2 – NYC

D A Y • T W O • C O N T I N U E D

Click to read FRIDAY PT 1.

Where do you think we went after our tour of Central Park?

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as The Met, was founded in 1870 for the purposes of bringing art and art education to the American people. It lies at the edge of Central Park, and is the largest art museum in the United States. It is also well-known for being the location for The Met Gala, formally called the Costume Institute Gala and also known as The Met Ball. The Met Gala is an invitation-only, annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Costume Institute in New York City. This gala signifies the grand opening of the Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibit. Each year’s event celebrates the theme of that year’s Costume Institute exhibition, setting the tone for the formal attire for the evening.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I was raised Catholic. The Costume Institute’s Spring 2018 Exhibition actually touched on Catholic traditions, so for my family and I, it was really cool to experience. The exhibit lasted from May through October, and was titled, Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. On The Met’s website, they describe the exhibit as a “dialogue between fashion and medieval art from The Met collection to examine fashion’s ongoing engagement with the devotional practices and traditions of Catholicism. Serving as the cornerstone of the exhibition, papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, many of which have never been seen outside The Vatican, are on view in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. Fashions from the early twentieth century to the present are shown in the Byzantine and medieval galleries, part of the Robert Lehman Wing, and at The Met Cloisters.”

My sisters and I decided to walk around the museum a little more. There was a lot to see. I don’t know how much of an “art appreciator” I am, however. I can appreciate that someone worked very hard to create a piece of art, like an extravagantly detailed watercolor for example. It’s the simpler paintings of just a few lines that seem so simple, that I don’t know how to “appreciate it”.

Sculptures on the other hand, are something incredible. I feel that there is immense talent in creating a realistic statue of a human – creating every wrinkle, every crevice, every detail. The rooms that features the sculptures and statues were the ones where I spent the most time.

My favorite piece of art in the museum was not a part of any exhibit. There was a gentleman sitting on his own stool, sketching an image of the sculpture in the center of the room. It was the most beautiful and precise sketch I’d ever seen. He was so excited for us to photograph him and encouraged my sister to pose with him. That is undeniable talent.

Our last photography moment at The Met was the iconic “Gossip Girl” photo. In the show, the main characters, Blair and Serena, frequent the steps of The Met. The higher the step, the more status you had. Of course, we had to take our own picture.

(P.S. It means nothing that my sisters are both on a higher step than I am.)

XO – MC

FRIDAY PT 1 – NYC

One thing I learned from day one in New York City, is that you walk – A LOT. But with everything there is to see, you don’t notice how much you’re walking until you fall into your bed at the end of the night.

D A Y • T W O

Have you ever of Eloise? If you haven’t, let me explain. She is one of New York City’s most mischievous (and fictitious) residents. Eloise is a young girl who lives in the “room of the tippy-top floor”, with her pug dog Weenie and her turtle Skiperdee, in the Plaza Hotel of New York City. I read this book when I was younger with my mom, as did my sisters. So it made sense that a visit to The Plaza Hotel was part of our trip.

Unfortunately, The Plaza Hotel was roped off for actual guests (not us measly tourists) once you entered the front doors. The hospitality-nerd in myself was a little disappointed that I couldn’t explore a beautiful, historic hotel. However, I do understand the concern for their guests’ privacy and to maintain the chaos of nosy tourists bothering their experience. Maybe one day in the future, I’ll stay at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, walk past the rope, and explore the building as a guest.

My dad takes food very seriously – especially street food. After we went on the shortest self-guided Plaza tour, we met him outside the hotel next to a hot dog cart, before entering Central Park. It was a beautiful day, but it was SO HOT. And I made the mistake of wearing all black. Thankfully, Central Park has several benches and shady spots where we could relax and cool off for a few moments. The views from wherever we stopped were so incredible – we couldn’t stop taking pictures.

We made our way through the park to New York’s very own Central Park Zoo. The Central Park Zoo is a part of a system of four zoos, and the New York Aquarium. It actually began as a menagerie, which is defined as a collection of exotic animals kept for display, later becoming the second publicly owned zoo in the United States, behind the Philadelphia Zoo. There are three main areas – tropic, temperate, and polar. The only area outside this predetermined division is the pool for sea lions, which we were able to see as soon as we walked through the gates.

I’m originally from St. Louis. Why is this relevant? Well, I had a lot of expectations walking into the Central Park Zoo. I am used to a free zoo, located on 90 acres of land, in comparison to the 6 acres that the Central Park Zoo is located. There are about three-million visitors each year for the over 18,000 animals in the St. Louis Zoo, and I think the Central Park Zoo had maybe 100 animals. Some of my favorite memories are from the St. Louis Zoo, from Discovery Corner to the unique Railroad. I guess you could say that I expected a place like New York City to blow me away with their zoo, but I was a little underwhelmed. I will say however, that it was worth being able to say that I went to the Central Park Zoo and getting to spend that time with my family.

After our walk through the Central Park Zoo, we stopped by the memorial to John Lennon in Central Park, called Strawberry Fields. My dad is huge Beatles fan, so this tribute to John Lennon and his work with Strawberry Fields Forever, was a must-see for him. As we approached the memorial, it became very quiet. Almost silent. We found out shortly that Strawberry Fields was a designated Quiet Zone in the park. It was beautiful, even more so because almost everyone was respectful to the quiet. The mosaic was larger than I thought it would be and this part of the park was incredibly shaded, so the serenity was easily kept. As we walked away from the memorial, we decided on our next stop, which was at the opposite end of Central Park. How were we going to get there quickly?  Pedicab. It was really fun. But long story short, I’m very grateful for a dad who knows how to bargain with Pedicab drivers.

to be continued

XO – MC