The Sign

In Hello, Dolly!, Dolly Levi waits for a sign to know if she should marry Horace Vandergelder.  When he announces that the shutters will be painted forest green, Dolly gets her sign. When I moved to Budapest, I didn’t need a sign to know I had made the right move. But I got one anyway. Mine wasn’t green though. It was yellow.

One day when I was in third grade, my friends and I volunteered to help my teacher Miss Greco after school when she was cleaning out her classroom. Miss Greco pulled out a bunch of old books and games and costumes and put them on the table. For helping, she said we could take whatever we wanted. Smart teacher. I took a wrinkled poster.

In the poster stood a yellow church with a top that looked like an ice cream cone had fallen on it. Beside it — a Pinocchio-like house with flower boxes spilling with red geraniums. High mountains topped with snow rose high in the background. Centered in the steeple was a round white clock with black Roman numerals.  The photographer must have taken the photo at exactly 3:00 because that’s what the hands showed.

As the years went by and the other posters on my bedroom walls changed from animals to cars to bands, my yellow church stayed. Most nights it was the last thing I saw before going to sleep. Someday, I wanted to find that church and go inside.

One afternoon my first week in Budapest, I was walking around my neighborhood when my heart stopped. There at the end of the street stood a yellow church with an ice cream top. I raced over to it. Squinting in the sun, I looked up at the clock. The time – just short of 3 o’clock.

28 thoughts on “The Sign

  1. My brother had Mrs. Greco! Haven’t heard that name in years, I bet she is thrilled that you mentioned her- if she is still with us!

  2. Oh Phillip, what an amazing story! I am so happy to hear from you, and I think your idea for this book is perfection. Can’t wait to read it, and I’ll do everything I can to keep your online presence, present!! Love!!

  3. Hi Phil,
    I’ll pass the word. We are planning a trip next summer and Budapest is on the list. My husband, Carl, lived there as a child. He is anxious to show it to me. Maybe we can meet up?

  4. Hi Phil, great blog and great new book title! You might like to know that Caroline, now in 9th grade, is working on her own first book, a collection of short stories. Apparently, she was inspired by her best teacher ever. She will continue to “fill” the pages until she is “done” — ha!

    • Wonderful to hear from you! And I’m so happy to hear about Caroline’s book. NINTH GRADE! (shaking head) They grow up tooooo fast! Best to your family. Thanks for writing.

  5. Wonderful story Phil! I love reading your books and your blogs. I’m really looking forward to your new book too! So glad to hear you’re doing well and still loving life over there!

  6. Heartwarming! I went abroad to teach, also, Philip. I went to Japan when I was 25 and didn’t come back until 38! Every single day I learned something new, and most often it was about myself. I did not want to come back! Your writing is thoughtful and feels good; can’t wait to read more!!!

  7. Dear Phil,

    Your writing style is engaging, energetic and dynamic. I really enjoy the way you are bringing Budapest to life in peoples imaginations who live both here and abroad.

    You are so talented and cool!

    I’ll keep reading!

    Sophie :)

  8. Great Job Phil!
    I am glad that you continue to write and share your life’s journey in a way that we all can enjoy, dream and wish to be along for the ride.

    Curry

  9. Yep, there are several churches with a roof like that in my little town in Romania. You should go and visit Romania as well, beautiful churches with unique architecture. Need a place to stay? My family would love to have you over, and my brother in law speaks perfectly English. He works for an American Company.:) Targu Mures is a little but pretty town and I can recommend you many other places and town for you to visit. :)

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