When I was 7 years old, I lived in Darjeeling, high in the Indian Himalayas . . .
It was a magical place. Snowcapped Kanchenjunga dominated the horizon when the peak shed its clouds. In spring, magnolias and rhododendrons coated the hillsides with color. Monkeys lived right in town. We rode rough little ponies instead of taxis. I went to a school named the New School, but I left India in 1946.
Fifty years later, I went back to Darjeeling with some of my old schoolfellows. Our leader approached the lady behind the desk of the Windamere Hotel and told her we were the New School party. She exclaimed, "But we expected children." One of our gray-haired number told her, a little sadly, "We were children then." But after that, Darjeeling took us to its heart as if we had never left. And Kanchenjunga shone on the horizon as if for us alone.
A French Connection
We were Parisians, but my family had a vacation home in a village in eastern France. It was there that in March 1945, after Patton had liberated the region, I met my future husband, an Ordnance Corps lieutenant. Two years later, after many visits on leave from Nuremberg, where Harold had been transferred, we spent our honeymoon in our house. I did not go back until 1953, when my husband was sent to Korea, and I came home to Mother with three children and a fourth on the way.
Five years ago, now a widow, I went back by myself, driving through the lovely French countryside and visiting my little village. Our house, no longer ours, was still there, and the villagers were still curious about the girl from Paris who had married "the American."
D¿j¿ Vu All Over Again
It was a trip to New Jersey, and a friend and I decided to stop at my childhood home. I approached the homeowner, who was washing her car, introduced myself and asked if I could take a picture. We realized we had the same first name. The car she was washing was the same make as mine. As we chatted, I learned that our sons also had the same name. She was a second-grade teacher, the same profession and grade that I had retired from after 32 years. Then it came out that we were both widows.
We walked over to the car my friend was waiting in and as the two of them started to chat, they realized that they knew many of the same people from Long Island. Finally, the woman said, "I have to go inside. This is giving me the chills." I wish I had pursued the answers to so many more questions, but it's more fun to think that they, too, might have meshed.