The Pharaoh in the Living Room
and other stories
butterflies are free . .

As I typed the previous page, I listened to the West Los Angeles Children's Choir singing and speaking the words of poet Emma Lazarus' famous sonnet, The New Colossus. She wrote it in 1883 to sell at an auction to raise money to build the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty would stand. The statue itself, which Lazarus referred to in her sonnet as Mother of Exiles, was a gift from the people of France, as most of us learned in school. American donors only  had to raise money to pay for the platform.

The New Colossus
was not famous until after Emma Lazarus, a descendant of early Sephardic Jewish Americans, died in 1887 when she was only 38 years old.  In 1901, a friend found the poem. Two years later, it was inscribed on a plaque for the Statue's pedestal. I was intrigued by this woman, and sidetracked myself to read part of the biography of the woman whose words have been taught to generations of American school children, including me. Because she was born into a wealthy family, she was privileged to receive a classical education denied to the majority of young girls of her time. Her family moved in high society and owned a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. Emma once sent a sample of her writing to Ralph Waldo Emerson who was so impressed by her talent that he became her pen pal and mentor.

I was curious about why Emma Lazarus chose to call her Petrarchan sonnet The New Colossus. Was there an "old" Colossus? And what was a Colossus anyway ?  Time for, a site I keep open on my 2nd monitor most of the time. Colossus was defined as any statue of gigantic size. However, when it was used with an initial capital letter, it was defined as the legendary bronze statue of Helios at Rhodes. More research needed, and this is where I got off on a delightful tangent, cementing my nickname, CP, short for Curious Priscilla.

I must remind myself again, right here and now, of the wise words of Dr. Joel Friedman, a former holistic physician in Gainesville who moved to Hawaii. He taught me that everything we do, we do for ourselves. It took me twenty years to understand that and to fully embrace the freedom it allowed me to give myself the - to be my most authentic self I know how to be at any given moment. Regarding this book of memories, I realize I am writing it for myself, and if my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren choose to read it, they will know who Mom/G-ma really is, or was, at a deeper level. The older ones  already know I never wanted to be remembered as a Norman Rockwell cookie-baking grandma, not that there's anything wrong with that if that's your choice. I respect that. I want my oldest grandson, Richard Carter, to remember me instead as G-ma G who taught him how to create his own website on AOL when he was seven.

An autobiography is a life review, after all, and this is my very own. I revel in all the tangents, twists, and turns my story takes. When I look back on my life, I want to hear Frank Sinatra singing, I did it my way. My wish for you is that you do it your way and know that all the answers you seek are within yourself.

Back to Helios, the sun god. Collins English Dictionary named Helios at Rhodes as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, right up there with the Pyramids of Egypt and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Holy cow! How is that masked reference connected to our Statue of Liberty? The Colossus of Rhodes was built on the Greek island of Rhodes between 292 and 280 BC. It was meant to celebrate the victory over the ruler of Cyprus in 305 BC. The statue was destroyed in antiquity by an earthquake. gives us a reality check when it writes:   
According to legend . . . it stood astride the harbor and ships passed between its legs. In reality, it stood on a promontory overlooking the harbor. . ." 
The English literature instructor, Joshua Wimmer, in his brief synopsis of The New Colossus wrote about the author,
She opens the piece by contrasting the intimidating and ancient Colossus of Rhodes with the new colossal figure of a mighty woman who cordially greets all those who enter New York she draws more contrasts between America and the Old World.
All of this drew my mind back to a school field trip when I was young. We were taken to see Lady Liberty and got to walk up the stairs inside the statue as far up as they would let us go. We were not allowed to enter the crown or the torch then. The tour guide told us it was due to an act of sabotage by spies during World War I.  Recently, I read that visitors can go all the way up to the crown now with a $21 reserve ticket.

I was excited and upset at the same time when our class went to see the Lady Liberty. I hadn't realized how long it would take a large group of people to slowly climb the stairs inside the statue. I was excited to be inside that symbol of hope that greeted all four of my grandparents as they entered New York Harbor and approached Ellis Island. I imagined tears rolling down my grandmothers' faces as they remembered all the relatives and friends they had to leave behind in Italy in order to risk a new life in a country where they didn't speak the language.

I was upset because the inside walls of the statue, close enough to touch if you leaned way over the railing, were totally covered with graffiti, much of it written with red lipstick.
There was a lot of profanity written in red that was usually reserved for bathroom walls, balanced by lipstick hearts announcing to the world that Mary loved John. I was glad my grandparents didn't get to go inside the statue to see that some American kids had not learned respect and defiled public property. They'd see that soon enough.

The guide told us "Statue of Liberty" was just her nickname. The sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi, named her Liberty Enlightening the World. We were surprised to learn that the seven spikes on the crown aren't really part of the crown. They're actually supposed to be a halo. I felt sure our teacher was pleased that we were expanding our knowledge of U.S. history. All in all, It was one of those days in your life that you never forget.

As I reminisced about that long ago day, thoughts of other field trips our teachers carefully planned for us made me appreciate how fortunate I was to grow up in culture-rich New York City. Our school trips took us to places many people never get to see in a lifetime. We took them for granted as we took our permission slips home for our parents to sign for our next outing. Classmates who were a year or so ahead of us told us the teachers had a formal list of places to take us. Before we were graduated from Ten Eyck - Junior High School 196 on Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, we would have all gone on field trips to the same wonderful places.

Eventually our field trip took us to the Empire State Building. It was built four years before I was born and at that time it was the first building to have more than 100 storeys, or floors. From 1931 to 1973, it held the record for the highest observation deck in the world since the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889.
The highlight of the trip for us was the observation deck on the 102nd floor. Through the telescopes up there, on a clear day it looked like you really could see forever.

Another favorite trip was to the out-of-this-world Hayden Planetarium where we could watch a movie, a sky show with a tiny dot that represented Earth. It really put things in perspective. The American astrophysicist, cosmologist, and author, Neil deGrasse Tyson, has been the Frederic P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium since 1996. His current TV show, Star Talk is educational as well as entertaining. It's one of my favorites.

We were also taken to the New York Public Library (NYPL) at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan. If you are a bibliophile, or just love libraries the way that I do, you would love the NYPL, the second largest public library in the United States, second only to the Library of Congress. NYPL has almost 53 million items. Their Project Gutenberg contains 52,313 ebooks and kindle books you may read free of charge online or you may download them. See A quote from one of their books, The Library, caught my eye. The author Andrew Lang wrote,

The bibliophile asks about his books the question
which the metaphysician asks about his soul.

New York Public Library

The Library adopted as its mascots, the world-renowned Tennessee marble lions, known as Patience and Fortitude. Those were not their original names. They were renamed by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia for the qualities he felt New Yorkers would need to survive the Great Depression. They have been guarding the entrance since the Library was dedicated in 1911. Patience sits on the south side of the main steps and Fortitude sits to the north. I treasure the replica bookends of those lions that were given to me by a dear friend of our family, the late Bob Meade. His gifts always reflected my current interest at the time. Later, when I was getting into all things Egyptian, he asked me if I would shop for an ankh ring for a young woman who worked with him at Eckerd Drugs on University Avenue. He added, and get the jeweler to make one for you, too! He was such fun and full of surprises.  Thanks, Bob.

When we were taken to The Cloisters, we were told that tourists often missed this unique museum. It's located in Upper Manhattan and specializes in European medieval art, much of it mystical and religious, out of a Catholic tradition.  Around the time I was born, parts of five French monasteries and abbeys were excavated and reconstructed in New York City. That was the beginning of The Cloisters in the Washington Heights area of Fort Tryon Park, with a lovely view of the Hudson River. The park was commissioned by the well-known philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. When the park was finished, he donated it to New York City.

It was like a trip to the Middle Ages, not my favorite time in history. I was fascinated by the 500-year-old Unicorn Tapestries I had only seen in a book at my library on Devoe Street in Brooklyn. I had never seen anything like this museum before. It is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).

I don't think I had ever seen real columns before, except in books. I didn't like some of the capitals with their grotesque faces. I made a mental note to have two columns in my house when I grew up and got married. It didn't happen, but I have loved columns since that day.

Gordon loved columns, too, and had a strong preference for the ornate Corinthian capitals. When we went to Rome, he was like a kid in a candy store at the Pantheon, the best preserved building from Ancient Rome. It was completed around 125 CE in the reign of Hadrian with its columns and famous dome, the largest un-reinforced dome in the world. Steps of Numidian yellow marble extended from its base but I don't remember if they still exist. I was having more fun watching Gordon enjoy that day and the porch colonnade that had eight Corinthian columns. But I digress once more and have saved my favorite school trip for the last.

My absolutely, without a doubt, personal favorite field trip was to the American Museum of Natural History.


That's where I first saw an ancient sarcophagus in the Egyptian room. It was an experience I'll never forget, a little eerie and a lot familiar-feeling. As I got older, I found myself drawn to books about Ancient Egypt, their gods and statues, the pyramids and the sphinx, and software to make names in hieroglyphics. When Gordon and I were newlyweds, we made separate wish lists of the three countries we'd like to visit some day. When we traded lists, we laughed because we had written down the same three countries, in the same order: Italy, Greece, and Egypt. We were most interested in their ancient history and planned visits to what remained of ancient ruins, historical sites, and museums.  We realized we could see more if we chose to go on a guided tour. Gordon was not at all interested in driving in a foreign country anyway. It goes without saying, neither was I.

Italy was the first choice for Gordon because of a regression hypnosis he had experienced that validated his feeling, which he said was more like a knowing, that he had lived in Ancient Rome as a Roman Legatus Legionis, a senior office of the Roman Legion and overall Legionary commander. I had been previously regressed to an incarnation in Rome during the same time period and apparently knew Gordon in that lifetime, though he was much older than me and I was not his Roman wife then. In this lifetime, I would jokingly tell Gordon, "You owe me big time for Rome!" 

I longed to visit Florence to finally see the 17-foot tall marble statue of Michelangelo's David. I had only seen a bronze replica of the original in the Courtyard of the The Ringling Museum of Art
against the background of Sarasota Bay in Florida. That iconic symbol is often reported as being cast from the original. However, on there is a good case for it having been cast from an earlier bronze cast of the original.

We were both fascinated by Ancient Greece as well. I wanted to see the jewel of Athens, the Parthenon, which is the remains of a temple to the Greek goddess Athena, located on the
Acropolis, a 512-foot high limestone rock where many temples were built honoring Athena. This was indeed a hill with a view, overlooking the city of Athens. We both wanted to go to ancient Delphi on the slopes of Mt. Parnassus and visit the Temple of Apollo and see if we could feel the vibes of its legendary Oracle. When we planned our trip to Greece, we didn't know about the Meteora monasteries that were built in a region of almost inaccessible sandstone peaks. It turned out to be one of our favorite excursions. 

Gordon had an intense desire to go to Sparta, Greece, where he felt sure he had died as one of the 300 Spartans in the Battle of Thermopylae. Sparta was not a stop on our tour because our tour guide said there was nothing for tourists to see there. However, Gordon entertained our new-found friends on the bus with an impressive historical interpretation of that battle in all its gory glory. This was, of course, long before the movie came out. He made a good case for why he wished we could stop there. Our accommodating bus driver/tour guide was as impressed as the passengers and announced that he would stop in Sparta where the battle took place to let Gordon wander around the area for 15 minutes. The driver got a round of applause. Gordon asked me to take a photo of him by a bronze statue of King Leonidas which will eventually show up in this book of my memories.

For some reason, we waited too long and never made it to Egypt. By the time we were seriously thinking about booking our trip before we got too old to enjoy it, the U.S. Department of State had issued a travel alert for Egypt. Friends who went anyway came back with stories that made our hair stand on end and made us unwilling to risk it.

The Pharaoh
                          in the Living Room

 We had been collecting papyrus paintings from Egypt until we ran out of wall space in our living room. Soon small Egyptian statues took over tabletops and bookcases. Egyptian objects appeared in our lives on birthdays and anniversaries, the way things do when friends and relatives take notice of what your latest interest is. The highlight of our acquisitions was a life-size statue of the pharaoh above which was being used to hold a door open at a small store in Gainesville, Florida. The owner said it wasn't for sale, but Gordon could sense how much I wanted it and managed to talk the owner into selling it to him. It was one of the most amazing gifts he ever gave me, and my inner child delighted in having her very own personal pharaoh.

The living room is more eclectic now, the papyrus paintings stored for another day. The horizontal surfaces are covered with quartz crystals in the present moment where now is unfolding. One item from our Egyptian stage was never stored, and that is the Pharaoh in the Living Room.
He will remain with me in this house as long as I live here and be a reminder of the happy life Gordon and I shared before he went invisible in 2013.