Marie and I kept chatting online and on the phone. The minutes for calls were expensive and we would buy phone cards, which were much cheaper, hoping one day the phone companies would allow us to talk for free (which eventually happened). I was spending around $100 a month on calls, and she was too. I rationalized the expense because I never really did anything for myself and this was the one thing I enjoyed. After speaking a few times on the phone, it was hard to just go back to only chatting online. And, being so far apart, there wasn’t much we could do that other friends, who lived near one another, could do. But we invented things over time. We started to have wine chats. We planned time when we could talk and have a glass or two of wine on the phone. We read books and discussed them. She would help me with my French pronunciation when I read passages to her. We talked about her visiting me in New York once she got her Associate’s Degree in May, 2001. Her family was against her visiting a total stranger she had met online. My family thought I was crazy. But once she agreed and made arrangements for her children, I got her a ticket to come see me and sent it to her. Then I made all kinds of plans for her visit. I got tickets for three Broadways shows, I planned trips to the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, Carnegie hall, Lincoln Center, the wineries in Long Island, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art…I just wanted to put a big RED ribbon around all of New York City and give it to her as a gift.
A few days after her graduation, in May 2001, she was on the plane headed to New York. My husband and I went to the airport to pick her up. I can still see her as she came down from the arrival gate. She tilted her head sideways and smiled. I ran up to her to give her a very big and overdue hug. We took her home and got her settled into my daughter’s room. That week we saw all the sights I mentioned and more. We ate at French restaurants, walked through Macy’s on 34th Street, shopped for souvenirs for her to take back home and made a ton of memories. In the Museum of Modern Art there was a painting by Van Gogh that took her breath away, “Des Mademoiselles.” She had taken an art course in college and was giving me my own personal tour of the museum and artists. We saw three plays, “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera,” and “The Full Monty.” The week was a whirlwind and then it was over. That last day it was very hard to say good bye, not knowing when we could see each other again. So with another long hug we parted company at the airport, this time with tears in our eyes instead of smiles, and we went back to our families. She enrolled in a four year college, UTA, to get her BA in French. On her first day of classes she picked up a key chain at the university for me and I still use it today.