There she was, approaching my gate in the Atlanta airport, a stylish vision, decked out in a turquoise top, carrying a pumpkin colored purse, wearing red shoes and lugging a heavy purple carryon. She was on her way to Europe for the first time, and neutral was nowhere in her color scheme. One could say she was an exhibit of a colorful, exuberant traveler. Finally, after much planning and scheming, my sister Ellen was going to accompany me to Amsterdam.
Because my husband has business in Amsterdam, I have been fortunate enough to accompany him to that lovely city many times. Typically we travel there on a Friday, arrive Saturday and have the weekend to explore before he goes to work Monday through Wednesday. I have never had any trouble amusing myself while he worked, but I often thought how wonderful it would be to show someone around the city, someone who would love it as much as I did. Someone like my sister.
We had no reservations about whether we would travel well together, meaning we knew we would not interfere with one another’s reading, nor would either of suggest tacky tourist activities. Ellen did later voice a secret fear that I might rush her through the museums, as I had been to them before. Although to me museums are there to be visited over and over again, I also secretly feared I might experience a feeling of let down if I did not also find something to do that was new to me. I decided to take my role as a tour guide one day at a time, and adjust our plans as needed so that we both felt satisfied.
And lo, with a sidekick to amuse me while my husband worked, all became new in Amsterdam. To my delight, every single place I took my sister had changed to some degree since last I went. What bliss it was to spend my days with someone who “museums” the way I do. I would call my museum style slow and careful, yet humane, meaning that I read everything I want to read but I don’t overwhelm myself. I’m happy to immerse myself in exhibits and lose all track of time, but I’m not compulsive about seeing everything the museum may have on offer.
In five days we girls museumed ourselves through the Anne Frank House, The Dutch Resistance Museum, the Amsterdam Museum, The Church of Our Lord In The Attic, The Van Gogh Museum, The Stejdelik, and the Rijksmuseum.
We were fortunate enough to avoid long lines at the Anne Frank House, as we went late in the day, after being the last people out of the Amsterdam Museum.
My fears of feeling bored or let down proved groundless, as did Ellen’s fears of being rushed. I was just as riveted by the exhibits as she was. Here we were, two ladies who try to live meaningful lives, reading about how others had spent theirs. Our daytime hours were spent touring carefully curated rooms, and our evenings were spent gloriously debriefing. Over dinner we would pose question after question to one another about the city’s history and its development, for each of us is endlessly interested in the daily lives of others. Our questions really had no answers, but we just loved to share ideas.
Of all we discussed what we kept coming back to was the value of self expression. Again and again we had seen and read about examples of how ordinary people dealt with extraordinary conditions using what they could, never knowing how their works would one day inspire others. Some, wrote, some painted, some made needlework,some designed fashions, some composed music, but no matter the medium, they all used art to try to make meaning out of their lives. We marveled at how creativity was used to resist tyranny, to celebrate life, to save lives, or simply to endure.
Most of us will never have articles from our lives on display behind a glass case at a museum, but what if we knew they were going to be? What creation of mine would I donate as representative of the way I have lived my life? What would I write on the little placard beside my exhibit about how writing this, or painting that, or capturing an image with a camera helped me deal with problems unique to my time of life?
I am sure that my sister and I would qualify for some sort of nerd exhibit, in that we spent most of our waking hours poring over artifacts inside museums, while outside the most liberal city in the world was vibrating with life.
But aren’t we all, as we make our way through life, cataloguing and curating our own little museums, filled with our own memories and hopefully, our creative efforts? In my own collection of life memories, I am so pleased to be able to add my experiences with my sister, the colorful traveler, in Amsterdam, to see the city through her eyes, to revisit old haunts, and to enjoy being together. Luckily, my museum is open at all hours, and I have a lifetime membership.
You’re my kind of tour guide – I would go to Amsterdam with you any day! It sort of feels as though I’ve been with you already, thanks to this lovely post – but I wouldn’t mind going again. 😉
Well then, feel free to tag along next time! We’d love to have you. Thanks for reading and commenting!
What a beautiful and creative post. Your questions are ones I have never considered before and are very thought provoking. I am so glad you two girls got to take this trip together and I really enjoyed the few “after museum hours” I got to spend with you two.
And we are so grateful for support in making the trip happen.
How do you do it?! How do you come up with such thoughtful and beautiful and thematic posts, time after time? You are a genius, my dear. I loved reading this and loved considering the questions. I have long been moved by the beauty of the everyday, and that’s what I’m most interested in finding in the lives of those from ages before me or from worlds away from me. How beautiful to consider that we are all creating our own museums, even if they never make the collections of the Smithsonian or the Louvre. The urge to create, to write, even to creatively choose and thus sculpt our own beautifully individual days here on earth–this is what makes each and every one of our lives a work of art. And big hugs and kisses to you and Ellen!
Thank you ever so much, darling. Believe me, the older we become, the sweeter and more precious our memories become. Maybe the sweetest and most precious never make the Louvre, but they are art to us just the same.
A wonderful piece not only the ideas and metaphor of making our own collections within our own museums; but what a nice celebration of sisterhood/relationship! As an important piece of creating in our lives therein lies the “kindred spirits” we find and have.
Thank you for your kind words, Ms. Darlene. I know how lucky I am to have my travelin’ sister!
I love the idea that we are all curating the museums our lives are creating as we live them. I enjoyed museuming with you and look forward to many more museum opportunities.
More opportunities are a must! And I must also say you will always have a favored spot in my museum!
Also, please post this to FB so I can share and brag about your writing to my friends.
This post landed smack in the middle of my heart and the ripples keep reverberating. My time in Amsterdam and the stories of resistance inspired what became my thesis and that flame of interest has not gone out. However, the questions you pose of meaning and how we contribute individually, and the stories we weave around ourselves and carry with us are questions I love and have not considered. I am tingling with excitement!!! And of course I could not help but think of Krug the Thinker and her love of meaning and personal connection. You ladies amaze and impress me.
Thank you so much my darling. When I am next in your town, I suggest we all get together and share our thoughts. And of course I want to know what the girls think! I am not surprised that your Amsterdam experiences have stayed with you, and I want to hear all about them!
What a brilliant thought–that of giving an extra ounce or two of attention to the artful possibilities of our everyday lives. You gave me wonderful pause for thought in that all too often I find myself racing through days, speeding through life, plowing past some of the most heroic moments, the unseen moving images and the joy of tiny pleasures. It goes against what I truly want to see and feel and remember.
I will remember this post and use it as a gentle nudge to see my world through more of a curator’s eyes. There are so many treasures, and not enough time to grow tired of any of them.
Awesome post! I spent some time in Berlin doing the same recently. Oh to live in Europe…
Yes, I was born to love in Europe. Please, someone give me a chance!
I’m sure I was too!
Love the energy, the mindfulness, the ability to take in the moment – what a wonderful gift to share with someone you love and with those of us lucky enough to read your post! Hurray for your creativity and positive spirit!
Thank you so much Ms. Benita; you are too kind. I also want you to know that I thought I had edited that shot of Ellen on the bicycle but I guess I did something wrong in Adobe. But at least I am trying to learn!
Ah, well, you can always go back and do it again. Either way, I could tell what it was and I LOVE THAT YOU ALL HAD THE TIME TOGETHER! I celebrate your love of life with you!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post on touring Amsterdam. Not only the description of what you saw. But also of your reflections on what you saw. And how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. And how we – even we – normal people can create and aspire and inspire. Especially enjoyable as I recalled my own experiences in that amazing city of canals and art and history. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.