I am in the mood to reminisce about my parents now that we are on good terms, I think it is helpful to understand them in order to understand myself. Of course when I was young I had no interest in doing anything but blame them for my every sorrow and inadequacy. My goal was to do everything different and be everything other than what they were, understanding them was asking me to sympathize with spiteful jailors.
My mother grows up in an orphanage, a very nice one as these things are calibrated, even though she is not literally an orphan. Her father is supposedly a dead English sailor and her mother is a Jewish girl gone bad and crazy and impoverished, who spends most of her adult life institutionalized and monosyllabic in a psychiatric ward. My mother’s extended family does not choose to take her in and arranges alternative accommodations, so to speak, in the countryside of a New York suburb, a cottage at the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society, she is in the company of hundreds of little lost souls shepherded by sincere matrons ready to prepare their charges for society. According to my mother, the family just got sick of her mother knocking on their doors begging for a handout.
My mother enters the orphanage at five and leaves at 16 on graduation day, equipped with mad typing and shorthand skills and zero knowledge of the world, having never ever been loved best of all by anyone and having learned the hard way that trust is dangerous territory best left to others.
So that is the beginning of my beautiful mother’s story. She finds a job and a shared apartment in the Village and is ready to take on everyone. And while she understands that she can depend only on herself, men admire her, chase her, plead for favors, a balance of power that suits just fine.
Through the Great Depression she is a career girl, hard working, fun loving, maybe a little hard but it is obvious she has come a long way in the ten or twelve years since the orphanage, she has become a confident woman of the world with her Katherine Hepburn cheekbones, the other Jewish girls have to contend with kinky hair and hooked noses but she is blessed with Aryan good looks that never fade.!
When my mother gets close to her 30th birthday, she decides that she needs to settle down, her beauty may not last forever, she fears. Also, she would like a baby. She would like a successful husband. She finds my father, a poet, a lawyer, ambitious, ugly as sin but will she ever find another man who adores her this much? After rejecting him twice she finally marries him in 1943 in the middle of World War II, and doesn’t regret it, at least not too much, at least not until much later.