A couple of weeks ago, my siblings and I got together for our annual Sibling Sabbatical—aka, SibSab—a time when the four of us get together to enjoy each other’s company and to catch up on what’s been going on in our lives and those of our families. We’ve been doing this since the year after our dad died (preceded by our mom’s death three years before that) and this was our 12thsuch activity. I have written about these each year so if you are interested in reading more about some previous ones, just search on the key word “Sib.”
Typically these SibSabs occur over a long 4-day weekend but this year, our SibSab was actually a weeklong combined event at our brother’s house near Philadelphia, PA. The occasion was his oldest son’s high school graduation.
We all gathered at the Philadelphia airport on Saturday afternoon and then our brother drove us out to his house. Having the extra days gave us a lot longer to be together as well as spend time with our brother’s wife, a most gracious hostess, our brother, a most generous host, and their two teenage boys. Over the week we got ample opportunities to sit out in our brother’s peaceful backyard and just visit where we often talked about family memories.
On Sunday afternoon, we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a museum I had not been to in at least 25 years. I enjoyed getting to see some of my old favorite impressionist artist’s works but the one that I was just smitten by was this Renior, Portrait of Mademoiselle Legrand, a painting I don’t think I had ever seen before.
This attractive eight-year old girl, while older than my granddaughters, caught my eye, as she seemed a striking amalgamation of my two beautiful granddaughters. I don’t know how long I stared upon her lovely, innocent face as she glanced away from the painter, but I had to go back for one more glimpse before I left (I read later that Renoir attended Ms. Legrand’s wedding eighteen years later, a thrill I hope to enjoy with my own granddaughters).
Monday gave us more time to visit with our brother’s family, as the graduation was not until Monday evening.
On Tuesday, our SibSab started in earnest when we took the train to New York. While all four of us have each been to the city before, we couldn’t recall ever being there together so we thought that would be a good way to kick off SibSab.
Our first stop was MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art, and one that I had not been to before. I had no idea how huge MOMA was. Following a delicious lunch near the top, al fresco…
…I got to explore entire rooms of Picasso…
…and Monet paintings.
Both of these paintings I was quite familiar with but had never seen before in person. And after so many years of seeing the huge collection at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, it was thrilling to get to see one of his most famous paintings up close.
A special exhibit I particularly enjoyed was these city and building models created by Bodys Isek Kingelez, a self-proclaimed designer, architect, sculptor, engineer, and artist.
On our way out, it was intriguing to see art similar to one that I had painted myself many years ago.
Jumping on the subway…
…we arrived just in time for our next activity, a Circle-Line tour of Manhattan. On this 2½-hour cruise along the Hudson and East rivers, we got to see many familiar sites…
…but an unexpected site was Sigourney Weaver’s paranormal apartment building from the Ghost Buster’s movie, only on the Hudson River rather than on Central Park as seen in the movie.
Our last stop before an excellent dinner at a NY Italian restaurant…
…was a visit to the 9/11 Memorial.
I had been before when the museum was still under construction but visiting the tower pools a second time and seeing the names of the fallen was again a sad and somber experience.
Unfortunately, all the museum tickets were taken for the day so we didn’t get to go in, a visit we heard later that takes at least 4-hours (which we didn’t have). Before we left, we heard a plane overhead and witnessed quite an eerie sight of the plane’s reflection on the side of the new World Trade Center, a sobering reminder of the tragedy of that day.
Arriving home late on the train, we decided to take it much easier on Wednesday and so mainly took in just one activity, but it was a doozey.
We went a short drive up to Doylestown to see Henry Chapman Mercer’s American Castle, Fonthill—a forty-four room mansion crafted almost entirely of concrete (even the roof and many of the windows).
It was absolutely amazing and an incredible story of construction! Every room was unique and generously embellished with many of his handcrafted tiles, the ones he was famous for. Unfortunately we were not able to take pictures indoors so I obviously had to buy the book.
For our last day together on Thursday, we took in a Phillies baseball game. Thanks to our brother, we had incredible seats on the 13throw behind home plate.
And from the Hall of Fame level we also had access to, we got a bird’s eye view while enjoying a famous Philly Cheesesteak.
It was a very exciting game with the Phillies winning 9 to 3. We got to celebrate the victory on the subway home with other fans and with me in my new souvenir hat.
Friday brought as always, the hardest part of SibSab; saying goodbye. Living as far apart as we all do, it is often only these annual events when we get together. A tradition is always getting our picture together, sitting in birth order, as a reminder of our time together.
But in spite of the sadness of our farewell, an exciting part is always discussing where our next SibSab will be the following year. And for 2019, we have some very thrilling plans, maybe not on par with our 2015 SibSab in Amsterdam, but still exciting, a place where we can all be a kid!