31. May 2013 · Comments Off on Blue Heaven · Categories: N. Staying Alive, The Beast

It has been many years since I left Grailville and graduated from college.  I married my soul mate.  Herb and I are living with our son in the dream house we built in a town we chose.   As the song goes We’re happy in our blue heaven.


Plum Blossoms


Then an impending snowstorm threatens our dinner party and my husband roots for the snowstorm.   He refuses dinner invitations.  Friends come for three dinner parties in a row and then do not want to come again unless we go to their dinners too.


4 R


I take our small son to the Magic Kingdom.  My husband stays home.  I take our son to the city for the weekend.   My husband stays home.




I take our son to Stonehenge, to Loch Lomond, to the Caribbean Islands.   My husband stays home.

I go to the hospital alone.   He empties the mailbox each day and throws away wedding invitations and my friends’ letters.  He forgets my phone messages.

I can see that he is truly sorry.  He makes a new effort.  It lasts for a while.  I think of all the happy things,


Neil0776 copy

4 R




I count our blessings.

We accept an invitation to a birthday dinner party at the home of very dear friends, Fan and Les.   Their son Fred and Herb were roommates in their fraternity house at the University of Pennsylvania.   They spent a lot of time in each other’s homes.

Fan gave Freddie a department store in Salt Lake City and he moved out there.   Herb has not been in touch with anyone in that family for many years, but they always loved him.  After Fan and Les hear that Herb has married and settled down, they invite us into their lives.

From the moment we meet I feel that I know Fan.   We have something in common that she also feels.

In some way I do not clearly understand, we are like instant family.  I am perfectly at home in her house.  They live at 666 Park Avenue in New York in a maisonette with twenty seven rooms.  The main rooms have 18 foot ceilings

There are several antique rooms which have been transplanted from European houses.  The dining room is English.   The main salon is a pine room from Spettisbury Manor. There are two rooms from the Chateau de Courcelles in France.

FanFoxSamuels8-25-2012 1-31-42 PM


Fan and Les live as though they are still in the New York society that Edith Wharton describes in The Age of Innocence.

They have a staff of two chefs and five Irish maids.   They have a butler.  They have chauffeurs.   They even have their own curator from the Metropolitan Museum.

They dress for dinner every night.   That is black tie and evening gowns.   The long table with a runner of fresh flowers glitters with multiple stemmed crystal glasses at each place setting, surrounded by rows of sterling flatware.

Les says that Fan wants to use her favorite antique china every day, but Lloyd’s of London would not insure it for daily use.  So what you see on the table is an amazing copy of the real thing, which they have to keep protected.

Why am I so at home here?  In the best of times our family in Macau did not live like this.

The Grail had separated me from my family in such a profound way that I simply thought of myself as being on my own.  Yes, there was the memory of my grandmother’s home deep inside me.  Until I was married that was still the place I thought of as “home.”   That’s where I am from, if someone asks.

But too much time has passed.   I do not think of actually going back there again.

After Herb and I get married, my sister becomes interested in my life again.   We correspond.    As in the past, she enjoys having tailors in Hong Kong make clothes for me and now also for Herb.  I send her American inventions and clever children’s clothes.

I never tell her what happened to the college wardrobe she had made for me.  Actually, I do not talk about those years at Grailville with anyone.

My sister and her husband take their five children on a trip around the world, and they stay at our home for two weeks.   Still I do not plan to visit them in Hong Kong any time soon.

Fan young

It is Fan who encourages me to go back to Macau and reclaim my roots.  It is strange, really.

Here Fan is, living in this grand house with her second husband and a large staff of servants.  Her only son lives thousands of miles away.

She lives surrounded by all these treasures made by artists the world over, with such natural grace.  I sense that though most things here are museum quality, nothing here is for show,

The furnishings and art are all personally chosen and part of daily life.  She reminds me of what that fortune teller said long ago which I could never figure out.  He said that wealth would just flow through me because I have open hands.

He could have been talking more accurately about Fan.  She truly has open hands.

Wealth just flows through her without her grasping it, without her taking credit for anything.  I think one could arrive at that state of grace even if one did not have very much.  But most of us would not be tested by such great wealth.

Like me, Fan had a competent and take-charge kind of older sister.  Her sister worked with their father in his business.   She was the CEO of his department store in Connecticut.   She helped him extend his empire, and in the process built a magnificent legacy for herself.

Fan, on the other hand, shares her inherited wealth quietly and in a very personal way.   When Fan and her sister were girls, their parents took them on extended tours abroad.  Fan developed a deep love for the arts, especially the performing arts.

Fan says it is important for me to go back and renew ties with my family, although many of them have scattered.


Fan42674 copyFan72674 copy


After more than twenty years away, I finally take the trip back.

Now, in spite of Herb’s reluctance to go anywhere, he has accepted an invitation to Fan’s birthday dinner party.   Herb knows that their dinners and their guest lists and even seating arrangements are all carefully thought out in advance.

He knows that Fan and Les entertain purely for their own and their friends’ enjoyment.  He is always relaxed and comfortable with them.

One day before the party I get a call from Les.  Who in Washington is competing with them?  Herb just sent them an impersonal lettergram, of all things, regretting that he suddenly has to go to Washington.  Can’t he pick up the phone?

I cannot hide that I am just as stunned as they are.   They are dismayed.   They know my husband’s history.   This is an ominous sign that his demons have returned.

In one inexplicably cold and deeply insulting gesture, Herb has cut us off.


Fan NYT copy

Fan NYT 2copy3

Comments closed.