Thursday, July 30, 2015



I have no memory of the first time I met Gisela, she’s just never not been in my life.  The fact is, we met in the 1st grade.  Did we bond over our matching braids that fell to our shoulders?  Or because we were the tallest girls in the class? (I stopped being tall in the 8th grade, Gisela kept growing).  I don’t know.  Whatever it was, we bonded.  She became my always friend.  

I could regale you with stories from Mrs. Potter’s third grade class ...

3rd Grade.  Gisela is in the last seat of the 2nd row, I'm in the lst seat
... or our Brownie and Girl Scout Troops… or when we both were part-time teen waitresses and short order cooks at the Woolworth’s lunch counter (seeing us in hair nets was a scary sight)… or doing the Lindy together (the only time I ever “led” Gisela) whenever rock’n’roll music was playing… or as cheerleaders, cheering for our high school basketball team from the floor of Madison Square Garden as they played for the NYC championship (we lost in the second round). 

We sang in our church choir together, did plies side-by-side at Miss Mildred’s, were on the same swimming, volleyball and softball teams.   

We spent many days and weeks during the summer months body surfing and sunbathing at Parking Lot 5 at Jones Beach thanks to her brother Robert, a lifeguard who graciously took his teen sister and her friend (me) to the beach on the days he worked.  We double dated to our high school sorority dances.   


Once with my cousin, Bruce, as her date. 

Poodle hair cut...
She even came up a few times to my aunt and uncle’s (Bruce’s parents) summer cottage on Alexander’s Lake in Dayville, Connecticut, where we swam, canoed and skated at the lake’s roller rink to organ music as the large disco ball hanging from the ceiling speckled the wooden floor with white lights like falling stars.

The era of the "flip"
When I was thirteen and my dad died suddenly, she was there.  And not too many years later, I was there when her mom died.

I was her maid of honor when she married the love of her life, Ron.  

The girls from left to right... Ingrid, Penney, me, Susan - I don't remember the flower girl's name

And she was there during my first marriage and divorce, and when I found Richard. 

But I’d rather tell you about the time she save my life.  Literally.

It was the summer I turned 16 (she would turn 16 in the fall).  Our mothers, who were friends, decided it would be nice to send us to Word of Life teen camp on an island in Schroon Lake in upstate New York.  We were athletic and loved sports, so we couldn’t wait to go swimming, boating, hiking, and horseback riding.  When we got there, Gis and I checked into to our assigned cabin...

Gisela & cabin mates

... then after our first dinner, we followed our cabin counselor’s instructions to go to the camp auditorium to participate in a radio show.  We found seats near the top row of this presidium theater and after everyone had filed in, Evangelist Jack Wyrtzen, the founder of the worldwide Word of Life organization, started preaching fire and brimstone.  Gis and I were shocked to find ourselves in a full-out revival meeting!  In our rather staid Lutheran church (well, in comparison), congregation members might get the vapors if someone sang too robustly.  Yet, here we were in the midst of loud singing and chanting, kids coming forward crying and wailing and falling to the ground begging to be saved.  

Well, we still had the beautiful lake for swimming and boating.

On my 16th birthday, Gisela thought it would be great fun to take me horseback riding.  Now, I’d ridden a few times, but Gis had taken lessons and was pretty good.  My horse seemed friendly and accepted my control, so Gisela, our cute male Guide and I hit the trail.  
cute male guide & Gisela

We trotted, cantered and galloped through the woods and were having a grand time when something spooked my horse and she took off like a bat out of hell.  No longer in control, I held onto the saddle horn for dear life and this time truly prayed to be saved.  The Guide raced after me, and Gisela’s horse followed.  In full gallop, as I tried to avoid the tree branches whacking my face, my horse brought us to a narrow ravine.  She flew over it as my heart jumped into my throat.  The Guide and Gisela were right behind me.  We were now on a flat meadow and they chased after me like the heroes of a B-movie western.  They finally caught up with me and as the Guide grabbed my reins.  I began to slide out of the saddle.  Not to worry, Gisela was there on the other side and quickly grabbed me and pushed me upright as my horse finally came to a halt.  

I was saved!  Maybe not the "saved" Jack Wyrtzen had in mind, but saved I was by God, Gisela and a Guide.

She was a force and I loved her.  I will miss her terribly.

Rest in peace dear Gisela.


Anonymous said...

Nicely done. A true friend

MickMil said...

A beautiful and heartful memory piece. You honor your friend and your friendship magnificently.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the incredible memories Ilona. Love, Kurt