A Short Visit to the Middle Class

The first thing we do, we rent a bigger apartment and its in the Bronx, believe it or not, right next to Yankee Stadium. For a while I keep working at Brentano’s, still part time so that I can keep going to classes. Peter gets job which involves keeping drugstore shelves stocked with lipstick and face cream. I finally get my degree from City in 1965 and find a job teaching. Peter starts work for a publishing company hawking its back list, especially its best seller, The Joy of Cooking. to book stores all over the city.

Every morning I take the subway to Fordham Road and walk down the hill, stop at Bickford’s Cafeteria on the way to buy a greasy sweet cinnamon bun. I make a right turn at the White Castle, walk up the concrete steps to Junior High School 45, and proceed to  teach art and take attendance in home room.  It is a crazy position, insane with blustering administration and jabbering children, I am seriously anxious in my Italian flat knit outfits and low heels trying to keep 12 year olds from throwing crayons out the window or hanging themselves from the window shade pulls. At night I cook dinner  for Peter using my copy of his cookbook. He is footsore from walking and too tired to be a poet. We have transformed into model adults of the middle class, our hipster days mostly put behind us, so I think.  Perhaps this is the quiet desperation Dr. Gurchin talked about, so I think.

Then Peter gets a big break.  His father Horace offers him a job in his garden supply company even though up until now he’s been pretty contemptuous of Peter, he gets impressed in spite of himself when he sees Peter’s recent spirit of enterprise.  The position is Midwest Sales Manager so Horace says we have to move to Michigan.

Now by this time I have become the kind of person who has personalized engraved stationery and writes letters in turquoise ink and I have a closet full of grown up clothes and a sofa that I didn’t find on the street and a real bed, not a mattress on the floor.  I walk on a Persian rug and put my coffee cup on a glass topped coffee table with a rosewood base.  I am not an outlaw anymore and I feel stylish, sort of stylish.

Peter and I study a map carefully and decide to move to Ann Arbor which we think will be cosmopolitan, but when we try to rent a place it is way too expensive. All the apartments are filled with students and teachers and rich salesmen, poor salesmen have to live in Ypsilanti next door, which is where we wind  up.  I order stationery with my new address.

We live in Michigan for a year.   We hardly ever go to Ann Arbor.

In this new job, Peter travels all week and is home only on weekends, he is supposed to visit garden centers and take inventory of the stock so the center can reorder his father’s product, which only takes him a few minutes, actually, because he makes all the numbers up. He drives around the rest of the time visiting pharmacies and buying cough medicine to drink in his motel room and get high. You didn’t need a prescription for codeine cough syrup in most states back then. On Friday nights he comes home with a weekend supply and sips all day Saturday and Sunday, every time I open a drawer a dozen empty bottles rattle around. And he gets fat, very fat, he is stuffed with syrup and I am marooned in Michigan.

I sign up for lessons at the Champion Driving School.  Until we moved to the Midwest, I never even thought about owning a car or driving, in New  York you take the subway or if you have money you take a cab. Driving is hard, especially parallel parking, I think it must be like learning a foreign language when you are old like me, a lot easier when you are a kid.  After I finally pass my driver’s test I could go anywhere, but of course I have nowhere to go.

I decide I want to get pregnant.  I meet a girl with a baby in the downstairs apartment and it makes me yearn for a baby of my own, so even though it is no fun having sex with a 300 pound codeine addict I insist even if I must invent new positions so I don’t get crushed and have to pound away for hours at Peter’s desensitized bulk.

Luckily after we have been in Michigan for a year Horace gets wise and recalls Peter to New York.  Because I’m pregnant we don’t get cast off, he gives Peter a job where he can watch him closely and finds us a place to live.  We move into an apartment on the West Side  right off Broadway in one of the buildings the family owns, a seedily elegant brownstone, I buy a crib and a baby carriage and wait for motherhood.

About Karen To and Fro

Everything you didn't want to know about me!
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