This is Esther
I asked Esther what are some of the changes in her lifetime that stand out for her. She said there was a time when there were only two cars parked on the street and she and her friends would play kick the can in the middle of the street. And now her friends are dying. The loss is so great for her that she sometimes feels overwhelmed. During the hour or so that I spent with Esther, she said several times "...my friends are dying and I feel lonely." She also said that no one knows who she is anymore. She feels somewhat anonymous.
One of the stories Esther related to me had to do with birthday celebrations. For her 80th birthday, she invited eighty of her friends to celebrate with her in her friend's beautiful townhouse on the Upper East Side. She chose to celebrate her 90th birthday in her own spacious apartment, she only invited those who were capable of climbing the four flights of steps to her apartment.
Esther's husband, Leon, was an artist and a photographer. He died many years ago. The walls of her apartment are filled with his paintings and photographs as well as images of him. She has two children and two grandchildren who live in New York and with whom she sees often.
Earlier this month, I received an email on my blog from Esther's granddaughter, Elana. She had been following the stories on my blog and thought her 91-year-old grandmother who lives alone in the Bronx would be an excellent person to photograph and interview. So, I took the 1 train and a bus to the Bronx. There, I found this beautiful apartment complex of several four-story buildings. Elana had informed me that it was Esther's father and a group of his friends who had built these buildings as a cooperative. Esther described her parents and their friends as liberal Jews and Communists. She lives on the fourth floor in one of the buildings. They are all walk-up buildings, no elevator. I reached the top floor slightly out of breath and wondered to myself how is it that someone 91 years old could climb these steps every day.
Although Esther did not always live in her current apartment, she was born in the very apartment in which she now lives. She had lived on the Upper West Side when she married. She moved back to this apartment with her husband 66 years ago when she was pregnant with her first child. There were acres and acres of open fields surrounding the buildings. She would frequently pick flowers that were growing wild. Then she added "...and now you can't park your car."
Esther lives a lively, vibrant life. She has a master's degree in dance from New York University and she taught dance to children and school teachers in over 25 different states. She is the author of 17 books on music and dance for teachers, librarians, and children that are known and used worldwide. She also established a record company, along with an amazing electronic composer named Bruce Haack, called Dimension 5 - the dimension of the imagination - and put out 11 records of creative songs for children to dance to. An album of Dimension 5 songs was recently rereleased by King Records in Japan and has been sold in 6 Asian countries as well as Australia. She also appeared on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and the Merv Griffin show. There is an express bus right on her corner that takes her to the Upper East Side of Manhattan where she visits with her "few remaining friends." Despite the many losses in her life, she loves living in the home in which she was born, and is healthy enough to walk the four flights of steps in order to enjoy the rich culture of New York City.