Cold chills run down my back as I remember. It was June 11th, 2010. I never thought much about Anne Frank. Sure, I read her diary in high school, but that was decades ago. I was 41 in 2010 and now a corporate executive on business travel for a big conference in Amsterdam. It was our last day in Amsterdam and my staff wanted to go to the Anne Frank House for a quick tour. I had wanted to do it on our previous trip to Amsterdam as a team, but we had all opted out. Since we had red eye flights and therefore had time to kill, it made sense for us all to go.
Something was very odd I felt. I had always had premonitions about certain spaces and things. I have blogged about numerous experiences in my life when such feeling swept over me and I would write poetry stream of conciousness. It always sort of scared me as the feelings I pick up are really quite overwhelming and strange. We arrived at the annex via cab and we all jumped out of the cab. We got our tickets and headed through the complex and into the narrow staircase / passageway into the annex.
I had goosebumps and chills all over me at that moment. I actually stopped my staff and was severely dizzy. I told my marketing team lead to stop a second and hang back with me. She asked me what was wrong. I told her I felt really funny and then I told her that there was going to be a picture of Greta Garbo in that annex room. Why I said that, I have no idea. Why that came to my mind I never knew. It just popped up in my awareness. Danielle was sort of looking at me like, whatever. As an aside, and I didnt mention it to anyone on my staff until later, but my daughter is related to Greta Garbo. I hadnt thought of her before that moment when this feeling swept over me.
We walked through the annex and low and behold, there were old newspaper clippings on the wall above where Anne’s bed was. And, indeed – there was a picture of Greta Garbo. I was at this moment completely dizzy and felt like I was in a space/time warp of some kind. My staff were freaking out at this point asking me how I knew there would be a picture of her. I told them I did not know how I knew.
Here is the actual newspaper clipping of Greta Garbo that is in Anne Franks Annex –
THE STORY GETS WIERDER!
There were signs everywhere saying no pictures allowed. Obviously the light exposure would impact the old artifacts they wished to preserve in the annex. But, I was so perplexed and confused by the strange space I had found myself in, I took a picture of the newspaper clipping and sent it to my best friend back in Washington. Mind you, my friend worked for a national lab and his phone was a work cell phone with all the security needed on the phone. For some bizarre reason, when I sent the picture of Greta via my phone to his phone, he told me later after he had been issued a new phone, that whatever I had sent him via his phone literally blew his phone up – it had caught on fire. The lab had to issue him a new phone that afternoon and I didnt get to talk to him for almost five hours after I had tried to send him the picture of greta inside the annex. THAT IS A TRUE STORY!
IT EVEN GETS WIERDER!
We proceeded through the rest of the annex and I was still feeling very wierd. We were back down in the museum area of the space which is really the base floor, watching videos on Anne Franks story. In listening to her story I immediately started having the wierdest feelings again and it all came together for me and I was left completely shaken.
Here is what happened.
Before I had left for Amsterdam, I had given my daughter Chloe a journal to write in. Literally I had just given it to her before my flight. My daughter was aware she was related to a famous actress as her dad’s side of the family has quite interesting history as tutors to kings in Europe, Greta Garbo as a relative, brother with science experiments on the space shuttle, dad ex comptroller of NSA and paid all th spies in the world, etc. The stories go on and on. My daughter’s dad has a pretty spectacular gene pool to say the least. Chloe had heard lots of interesting things from various sides of the family about many crazy escapades in her dads gene pool. Chloe at 13 really was struggling with what she wanted to do in life and loved old movies, loved Greta Garbo but was also beginning to be an artist and writer. This is why I had just purchased for her a journal – to write and express her creativity. While I was listening to the video on Anne Frank, I found out that she went into the annex at the age of 13 and had just received a diary to write in less than two weeks before. She was the exact age as my daughter and at the exact circumstances with her journal.
I am standing there, listening to the story of Anne Frank, a thirteen year old girl, who took her new diary into the annex with her. And, while she laid in her bed in that annex, she looked up at that picture of Greta Garbo and dreamed of being an actress someday. I had chills up and down my body at the corollary between Anne Frank and my own daughter. it was then that I looked down at my watch to figure out what day it was and my watch was a day off, though I didnt know it, and my watch said June 11th! Oh, my God I cried out. I was there on Anne Frank’s own birthday. What I didnt realize until later was that my watch was a day off due to time zone differences so in fact when I flew home, my watch stayed correct and arriving back in DC it was still June 11th.
It as if I had two days of spending Anne Frank’s birthday with Anne in a very personal way. I remember looking out at the gorgeous chestnut tree that stood outside the annex that Anne Frank wrote so often about. From her attic window, Anne watched the tree mark the seasons before the gestapo dragged her family away on August 4, 1944.
I would find out just a few months later, in August of 2010 – August 23rd, to be exact, that the beloved tree that Anne and I both shared a viewing of, collapsed in a wind storm forever ending a piece of history that she and I both shared along with all the millions of others who looked at that tree and thought of Anne Frank.
Returning on June 11th to DC on a red eye from the 10th, I was officially back in my apartment for Anne’s true birthday. It was still early like 6am and I was restless. I went below my apartment to the starbucks for coffee and wrote in my journal about my really wierd experience. I decided to walk. I always buy art when I feel the strangeness of things like I did with Anne Frank. For some reason art just pops out during those wierd moments. There was a wonderful art gallery I would always go to right next to the starbucks but of course it was closed – it was like 7 in the morning!
Anxious for some reason I decided to go get groceries.
NOW HERE IS WHERE IT GETS EVEN WIERDER!
it is now 8 in the morning. No galleries are open. When I get out of my car at the grocery store I notice a new store right next door. The doors are open. IT IS A NEW GALLERY! For some reason the doors are open. I walk in and talk to the new shop owner and look at her stuff. I tell her I love what she has. She tells me she isnt open but I can walk around and look. She informs me she is just there early to take deliveries. I literally freeze. There on the wall is a painting of GRETA GARBO!
Now anyone who knows anything about Greta Garbo knows that while she was a famous actress, she hated having her portrait done. She hated photos and was a recluse. In all the years of my daughter’s life her father and I had never seen a single photo of her in public or books on her, just her movies. There were of course stories from his family who are all Swedish where she would show up on occasion but was completely withdrawn, but no pictures in public. So, to see a painting of Greta was UNHEARD of, and in Washington DC.
I stopped and was feeling really dizzy again and I asked the store owner, “Is that a painting of Greta Garbo?” She was amazed I had known who it was of. I told her my story of the last 24 hours. She was as amazed as I was. She told me that the painting was done by a famous artist in New York City in the 1970s who was still alive who I believe knew Greta Garbo. I of course bought the painting. Here it is now in our house.
I visited the store owner a week or two later and she told me she had informed that artist who did the artwork that a family member of Garbo bought the painting. The artist as happy it would stay in the family.
For some reason, the gallery closed shortly thereafter. It was there for a brief period of months and then gone – leaving me owning this amazing painting of this most amazing woman.
Life is so completely surreal – how a trip to Amsterdam and a tour to the Secret Annex, delayed only to arrive on her birthday, to see the story tied to my daughter of a 13 year old girl with big dreams and a journal who looked up to Greta Garbo, witnessing the famed chestnut tree she too looked upon while dreaming only a month before it died, then to fly back to DC to find one of the only paintings of Garbo when a store is randomly open for a freak delivery, only to have it disappear, leaving me with a painting from a NY City artist — is beyond words.
There is truly a connection between my daughter and all of this and I am sure it will be years before I put all the pieces together. I visited Greta Garbos grave in Sweden a few years later while on business in Stockholm. I stood by her grave and told her thank you – thank you for being their for Anne Frank and thank you for being there for my daughter. I picked flowers by her grave and pressed them. I still have them by her painting.
Who knows what impact this serendipity of life will have on my daughter. But, one other oddity, my daughter’s best friend, is the spitting image of guess who? GRETA GARBO.