How Did We Arrive at the Same Place?

At college Alan Borovoy was reading the New Republic and the Nation magazines. He supported Henry Wallace but was opposed to Stalin’s communism. He voted for Wallace but was then glad when Truman won. He cared about the poor and racial minorities. He felt very Jewish but was increasingly secular in his outlook working for justice not only for Jews but for all minorities that felt discrimination. His father had lost his livelihood during the depression when Alan was young and he and his parents had moved in with his orthodox, kosher, grandparents on Grace Street in Toronto, a working class neighborhood, often anti-semitic but which banded together in feeling a slight scorn for the “rich folks on the hill.” His parents and his grandparents were deeply supportive and allowed him to question accepted wisdom in everything, including his religion

 

How is it possible that Alan and I reached the same point coming from such entirely disparate backgrounds?

 

At college (and in High School) I read PM newspaper, the New Republic and the Nation magazines. I read Max Lerner and I.F. Stone, I supported Henry Wallace in his bid for the presidency,  and was opposed to Stalin’s communism. I tried to vote for Henry Wallace but because his name did not appear on my ballot in Monticello where I was voting– only that of his elector which I did not recognize – I ended up reluctantly voting for Truman and was very glad later that I did.

I felt deeply Jewish but was increasingly secular and felt it would be selfish to work only for Jews so I eschewed purely Jewish causes and worked for union causes and racial minorities. While I was finishing my senior year at Smith college my husband belonged to a union and he and I used to play on the phonograph all the great union songs, “I dreampt I saw Joe Hill Last Night” and “I’m Gonna Put My Name Down Brother, Where Do I sign?”

Due to the fact that his beloved youngest brother was dying during this period, my father sold all his stocks as they were a distraction. He left Columbia University when his father became ill, to help in the coffee business and ultimately went into business with this father, my grandfather, during the Great Depression. Together they ran a successful business selling coffee to restaurants in New York City run mainly by newly arrived Jewish immigrants or first generation Jews.

He taught us to see and deplore the tragedies we saw all around us – the homeless and cold on Riverside Park, warming their hands over a tin can with a wick, or trying to find warmth in a cardboard box., selling apples on the street. My father had been brought up on the lower east side and now supported the Settlement Houses which had meant so much to him when he was young. There he played handball with the other guys – all Jewish – some of whom were notorious gangsters when they became adults.

My mother was a volunteer at Madison House and supported the Hudson Guild. Yet I grew up with my older sister and younger brother in a penthouse apartment that had two “ maids,”, one cook, one laundress, sometimes a chauffeur, four bedrooms and four general rooms, a kitchen and several miniscule “maids rooms.” . I adored first Kathleen and then Mary Francis Murphy, the young Irish catholic girls just off the boat, who came to live with us and work for us. Mary was like a beloved older sister.

I will never forget coming home from school one day when I was about eleven years old, and exiting the elevator on the 16th and penthouse- floor, seeing a line snaking out our door and stretching the length of the corridor. These were, I learned, young women all waiting to be interviewed for the job as maid in our home for $30 a month plus – and this was all important – room and board. Kathleen was leaving to be married and my gentle dear mother, with her invariable good sense, hired Mary to be her replacement. Because I was the most docile and amenable, I was chosen to share a room with Mary and I loved that! I remember how – if I tried on a new dress top show her,  she would  look at me and say in that wonderful Irish brogue, ,”It’s not the dress, it’s the one that’s in it!” And if I admired her, she would say, “Ach, you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear.”

I never met with any sort of anti-semitism except for one small incident when I was eleven and we rented a house in Mamaroneck and a little girl neighbor was not allowed to play with me.  But I had heard from my father about the pogroms of Europe and from my mother about signs she saw in the Catskills in her early youth reading “No Dogs or Jews Allowed.”

We children – my older sister, younger brother and I – went to a private school taken there either by my grandfathers’ chauffeur or our governess. My mother had selected the Ethical Culture School because their application form had not read – as the others did – “Nationality (Jewish, American, etc.)” which angered her. She was Jewish by religion but fully American in her nationality and she would not have the two confused. Our parents were completely secular having “escaped” as it were from kosher homes. My father was a confirmed and proud atheist. Although a good friend of Rabbi Israel Goldstein who had married him and my mother and subsequently married Jimmy and me, he disliked and suspected most Rabbis. This was a holdover from the Orthodox European Rabbis he had met I imagine.

He and my mother met Leon Trotsky on a visit to Mexico, and he had become an admirer. (My Mother was more reticent.) Leon Trotsky was Jewish and could not, as Stalin was, be an anti-semite. Nor, Trotsky assured my father, would he ever hunt down and kill those who did not think as he did. Nor would he strip wealthy men like my father of their wealth. Rather, he said, he would consult them, use their wisdom. He wanted to give each according to their need, which did not entail taking away from those successful individuals who could help the cause. My father hated Stalin and I grew up hating him as well. But once again, like Alan, that did not preclude my dislike for Senator McCarthy and the UnAmerican Activities Committee and their smear tactics. I could never forgive Robert Kennedy for his part in this chapter of United States history. I tended in those days to feel sorry for those in Hollywood who might have sympathized with the Communists, feeling that though they were misguided, their hearts were in the right place if they felt for the poor and downtrodden. This included a professor at Smith, whom we later sheltered from McCarthy, a woman who had never allowed her Communist sympathies to creep into the classroom. We – my husband and I – believed in democracy and free speech although we knew and felt alarm when the avowed and hard core communists pushed too far.

When Israel was recognized by Truman, I too stood in pride and sang the Hatikvah on my 21st birthday at Jennie Grossingers hotel in those very Catskills, now no longer banned to Jews. For my birthday my mother had taken me there for lunch and the announcement came while we were there. Everyone jumped to h/h feet and sang, many with tears streaming down their cheeks. My uncle, my father’s older brother, Harry, was one of the founding members of the Zionist Organization of America. He was a doctor and we adored him.

My father was progressive in almost every one of his attitudes, far ahead of his contemporaries, but alas, on two subjects, he fell short. One was homosexuality and the other was womens’ rights. I think if he had lived to today, he would have changed. But at that time,  he once questioned in my presence why women had never achieved any greatness in literature or art or politics – the odd exception only proving the rule – I did not then know how to rebut him, did not know that women were not allowed to learn throughout the centuries. But nonetheless, I knew that he was wrong, while not arguing with him. I did not argue with my father. There I believe Alan and I would have differed. I was docile although I secretly and stubbornly held to my opinions. I respected my father’s admiration for Trotsky, knowing as I did, that it came from a genuine wish for an egalitarian society, but I had read that Trotsky, when in power, had abused that power. Was this misinformation? I did not know. But I wondered. Nevertheless, I allowed my father’s denigration of women’s contribution to diminish me.

Now at last I come to the question. How did Alan and I end up in the same place? Genes? Parental influence? Early environment? All of these? Alan, of course, surged way ahead of me in founding the CCLA (The Canadian Civil Liberties Association). I joined CORE and other civil rights organizations in the US but never achieved the intellectual mastery of the complexities of civil rights and liberties that has enabled Alan to make a huge difference in the ethical climate of Canada. And thank God for that! Whatever God there is or isn’t. Later, at my mother’s urging, I joined the Board, of which she was Chair, of the New York Women’s Division of the Hebrew University. My father at that time was on the Mens Board. Now they would not dare to have two separate Boards! I loved the way my mother conducted a meeting , allowing every one to have their say, quietly and gently keeping things on track. I determined to do the same when and if I ever headed such an organization, which I did when I became Chair of Operation Lifeline which helped to bring the boat people, refugees from Vietnam, into Canada.

Fragments of Memory

In general I write memories. But this addendum to my Trip Diary of 1957 – written now in 2012 some 55 years later – is about a lack of memories that is very puzzling. In that Diary of ’57 I wrote of meeting Al and Joanne Stern in Rome, as well as Mike Mindlin and the Hochners. I do not remember ever meeting any of them in Europe at any time and as to the Hochners, I seem to remember meeting him once with Milt Bass, but never meeting his wife at all- and yet here I am writing that we had dinner – and celebratory dinners with them and the Sterns several times. How puzzling the memory is. Nor do I remember having this bad fight with Jimmy about something that made me cry – the tears of which motivated this dear man to run back to the train that was to take us to Rome – where I evidently did not yet want to go – and retrieve our luggage so that we could stay in Sorrento and visit Capri. What to make of all this? I don’t even remember a romantic moonlight horse drawn carriage ride through the ancient streets of Rome with its magnificent monuments. I do remember visiting the Vatican Museum,(and the fig leaves on the Roman statues) and I remember looking through the hole at the top of the Pantheon to the floor way below. And I remember those beautiful red and white carnations standing in the window of the Grand Hotel, the flowers that Jimmy bought me for my 32nd birthday!

A little extra knowledge. Alas, the Sterns later divorced, with Al telling our dear Joanne, on the night they returned from a later trip to Europe and were sitting at home having a light supper before going to bed – that he had fallen in love with another woman- a fellow Board member from a hospital Board that he served on as I remember – and was leaving her. She was at least in her 60s at that time I think. She never remarried, joined us in Palm Beach for a joint 80th birthday with Jimmy as they shared a birthday. She died last year and we miss her.

Mike Mindlin, a wonderfully handsome young man, was a friend of Joanne’s from the days when she worked at Look Magazine. He worked in the movie industry and never married. He was a delightful person, funny and charming. He too is gone now.

 

The Hsochners – he was a writer of biographies as I remember – I have lost track of long ago.

 

Strange that my memory returns when we get to Florence, I remember those church doors and the museums – especially the Uffizi where I held a guidebook up before me reading avidly the description of a painting of the Madonna. Only when it mentioned her blue girdle did I finally realize I was looking at the wrong picture. I also remember the bridge over the Arno where the wandering kids – from all over the world, would gather in the evening. Some time later we sent Ken Johnson, the non-violent civil rights worker whom we had taken under our wing, to Europe with his brother. They came from Plaquemine County, Mississippi, where Europe was a concept not a real place for young Black kids. Young people could then travel – putatively – on $5 a day, staying at inexpensive hotels or hostels and with a youth travel train pass. I wrote out an itinerary where they would meet Mike and Ken who were also travelling in Europe then, in Paris, and then they went on to Italy. I remember he told us that when he got to the Arno bridge, he and his brother automatically moved to a section where young Blacks were congregated. They were from Africa and Ken said he soon realized that that was not where he belonged. He felt much more comfortable culturally with the American kids, playing guitars and singing Simon and Garfunckle songs. That really struck me. I remember too – I am very good at remembering story lines – anecdotes.

I remember that as we traveled to Rome on the train, we met Jim Elson, another friend of Joanne’s and Mike Mindlins. I’m not sure how we started to talk to each other but oh how I came to love Jim Elson. He was intelligent and funny and game for anything. We laughed so much together.

I remember Jim telling us that he came from a tight knit Jewish community in Tulsa, Oklahoma He served in the infantry during WW 1 and was taken prisoner by the Germans. He had, at that time, followed instruction given to him by the American authorities, to destroy his dog tag if he were ever captured, as it identified him as a Jew. So he was put in a POW Camp with other American soldiers. The Jewish captives were segregated in different barracks and treated much more harshly. After a little while, he could stand it no more, and against the advice of his fellow gentile soldiers, and even the Jewish soldiers, he told the Camp Commandant that he was Jewish and he was moved into the Jewish barracks. He didn’t help the Jewish soldiers by this move – except perhaps psychologically – but he helped himself as he felt he had to share the suffering of his fellow Jews. I felt it was a gallant and courageous gesture – if only a gesture.

 

I remember Italy as wonderful, Rome, Florence, Venice stand out – not Sorrento or Capris for some reason. Paris is a dream. Can’t get over how much we walked, and Jimmy is amazed that we seem always to be buying. But things were so cheap then – especially cheap for us Americans at a time when the dollar was high for us. Now in 2012 we would not dream of staying at the Meurice at over $500 a night, or casually dining at Tour d”Argent and the like. It is quite a different world. How lucky we were to experience all that when we were young enough to marvel at everything.

The Good Professor

The last of the students were straggling out of the university’s large lecture hall, baseball caps firmly planted – backwards – on male heads. Their professor, affectionately known just as “Howard,” had asked that all baseball caps be removed during the lecture, and the students, aged anywhere from eighteen to thirty, had grudgingly complied.

As the students pushed out through the door at the back of the lecture hall, hurrying to their next class, Howard stood standing at the lectern, reviewing his notes. Looking up, he noticed a tall black student approaching. From afar the student appeared threatening, his baseball cap set backwards on his head, his jeans hanging loosely on his hips. his large brown eyes deeply set in an expresstionless face. But as he came closer, he seemed vulnerable somehow.

“What can I do you for?” Howard asked in the wry slang of the long past era of his youth. The student did not smile.

“I did not remove my cap,” he said.

“I noticed.,” replied Howard, a weary tinge entering his voice.

“But you didn’t say anything,” the student replied, his voice emotionless.

What was I to do, Howard thought, embarrass this kid – to him they were all kids, and he loved them all – this class of mainly dropouts. They were now – some reluctantly –back at school due to parents’ prodding, or perhaps having finally saved up enough money at dead-end jobs.  Almost all had come back to school fueled by the stark realization that there were no more jobs – even at the gas pump – for those without an education. If I had embarrassed this kid, Howard thought, he would have walked out of the class, and what would I have accomplished? No way Howard could have done that.

“You didn’t say anything,” the student standing before him had said. For a moment, he seemed to Howard like a young boy, daring his parents to make him eat his vegetables. or perhaps a young David challenging Goliath. It was certainly a challenge.

It took only a split second for Howard to respond to that challenge.

“I figured you had a reason,”. he said.

The student’s features softened, he smiled very slightly and nodded as he turned and joined the last of the stragglers.

Howard picked up his notes, and looking at his watch, headed for his next class.

Sisters

A letter to my older sister Grace, with whom I had been distanced, when our dear mother was dying.

March 1979

Grace Dear,

I have been unable to pull myself together enough to answer your lovely letter for all this time. Sometimes I thought I would fall apart.  The thought of Dad standing beside Mother’s bedside, holding her hand, whispering, “This precious hand. This precious hand.” just seemed too much for me. I don’t think I am made of strong stuff and that scares me.

Someone, hearing that my mother was so ill, said to me, “It is very difficult to contemplate becoming the oldest generation in line.” But that is not even a factor in my grief. I think what overwhelms me is the feeling of lost opportunities. I never had a chance to get to really know that soft, gentle, inward woman who loved without being able to show it, who gave without ever seeking credit, whose anger was so infrequent and therefore often misdirected.  There is so much I want to know that I will never know. Are there secrets to life that anyone can tell you?

I speak for myself when I say that I had a golden childhood. Mother seemed so glamorous, so madly in love with Daddy, who was so virile, so dashing. They were like a reconstructed F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, who never reached disillusionment with each other. That we were secondary to that love never bothered me. I knew it but I felt privileged to stand on the edges of it, always protected by it and with some of the radiance and excitement spilling over onto to us children. Didn’t you feel that too?

When I sought a “motherly” figure,as I did, I found Lola Palitz, and later Mae. But being motherly usually carries with it certain intrusions into the lives of your children, demands, expectations, that were simply not there with Mother. We never even had to wear rubbers when it rained. and I was so proud of that; Funny to think of what some consider the Jewish mother to be.

I want us to be close. I need your help and hope that I can give you mine. In fact, I called you the other day when I felt overwhelmed by what was happening, but no one answered. It was just as well, as I would not have been a very good conversationalist. But Ii want you to know that for the first time in many years, I turned to you as I used to all the time. How wonderful it would be to have each other again. Do you think it can really be done? Can we overcome all those years of mistrust and lack of communication? Can we stand equal now, no older sister, no younger sister, just two sisters helping one another to waltz through this vale of tears?

However close we may be to our children ultimately it is the same generations that must comfort one another, as is so evident with Dad and Harry. So who knows, perhaps you and I shall reserve rooms in the same Home for the Elderly. Incidentally, they are much nicer up here.

Take care. I hope that the fatigue is gone along with all aches and pains, and that you are back providing the leading competition on the tennis courts.

Much love, E

Rice Pudding

Some eighty four years ago, Jimmy decided he hated rice pudding. This aversion seems to have stemmed from an incident at Kamp Kohut when, after refusing to eat his sticky gelatinous looking dessert – a twisted edition of the velvery dessert we know as rice pudding – he was left to sit in the deserted camp dining hall for hours. I am not sure who won this battle of wills, the rigid Director or the little boy. In any case, since that time, Jimmy would not even look at rice pudding. It is strange indeed, as he very much likes rice, and rice pudding after all just requires the addition of good things like sugar and cinnamon and raisins. But there you have it..

Now fast forward to Jimmy ‘s 40th birthday. At the time we had living with us a nice young Norwegian man, Per . It was no secret that Per had a crush on Jimmy whom he saw as a sort of surrogate father – funny and open hearted, unlike his rather dour and severe father in Norway. So it was no surprise to me when Per said he was going to make a special birthday treat for Jimmy for his birthday. At the time, I did most of the cooking and all of the baking, and had already baked a birthday cake, but I told Per to go ahead – that I was sure Jimmy would appreciate the gesture.

Some time later he showed me the dessert that he had made. My heart sank .It looked very much like rice pudding.

“Per,” I ventured cautiously, not wanting to hurt his feelings, “that looks like rice pudding.”

“It is called Risengryn Grod” he replied.”

:”Yes,” I said, “but is that rice pudding?”

“Yes,” he said proudly.

“But Jimmy won’t eat rice pudding,” I blurted out.

Oh dear. Per’s face fell at least three storeys, so I added, brightly, trying to avert catastrophe

“Perhaps we can call it something else?”  Per looked hopeful but not too hopeful.

“I have an idea,” I said, “We will call it the Norwegian queen’s wedding breakfast.”   Per brightened. Perhaps we had found a solution to this dilemma.

At Jimmy’s birthday dinner that evening Per and I sat anxiously awaiting dessert. Out came the cake with the obligatory candles, accompanied by raucous and out-of-tune   singing. Then I announced that Per had also made a dessert for the occasion. Per went into the kitchen and brought it out, setting it gently in front of Jimmy who looked at it warily.

“What”s this?”

“Per made you the queen’s wedding breakfast,” I answered brightly.

“Okay, but what is it?”

“Risengryn Grod,” said Per helpfully.

The children were meanwhile lapping it up, and I put my spoon in the delicate white concoction pronouncing it delicious.

“Ummm” I said, “try it.”

And try it he did – finishing it all, but never relinquishing his suspicious scowl.

So can a Norsk Risengyn Grod be rice pudding by any other name?

On Overcoming Shyness

It is true that I am shy. Still,  I have lived in our apartment building for over forty years without knowing a single neighbor and  that is a little much. Sometimes I blame it on the fact that we live on the second floor and going down in the elevator from that height, doesn’t give one much chance to initiate a conversation. One could hardly get out,”Hi, I’m…” before the doors open on the ground floor, and everyone is rushing in a different direction. Nevertheless, it’s strange, because I really like people.

However, one day I decided that enough was enough. I was going to get to know some of my neighbors. So, when I entered the front hall of our building and noticed a woman standing waiting for the elevator, I walked up to her and said,

“Hi.” She responded pleasantly enough and then went back to staring at the elevator door waiting for it to open. Nothing daunted, noticing that she had a shopping bag on the floor beside her, I said, “I see you have been shopping. ” Moving closer I said, “Let’s see what treasures you have gotten for yourself.”

I looked into the bag. The top of the bag was wide open after all. What should I see but adult diapers.

Fortunately for me the elevator arrived at just that moment and making some excuse to go out again, I watched as tight-lipped she entered by herself. I have not, since then, tried to make friends with anyone.

Laughter

We are probably too old to own such a rambunctious little dog. Our fuzzy black five pound Pomeranian is more like a monkey than a dog. He gets into all kinds of mischief. He wants – no he demands -attention  every waking hour – that is, every one of his waking hours. if we are asleep, he is determined to awaken us. He leaps on us from afar, he walks on us, he scratches us, and he licks our faces obsessively. This morning, he did just that at 7:30 am, in my book an ungodly hour. i pulled the sheets and blankets over my head so that he could not get at my face.  i stayed that way until breathing became a bit difficult, and then, feeling that enough time had passed for him to move on to other pursuits, (perhaps this time aimed at my poor husband, who was also trying unsuccessfully to get back to sleep), i gently and slowly pulled the blankets off my head and dared to open my eyes. With my head still on my pillow, I found myself staring directly into another pair of brown eyes. They belonged to a bundle of black fur sitting directly at eye level, and staring directly back at me.  I could only laugh – and that is precisely what this little dog does for us. He makes us laugh.

A Lesotho Tale

Many years ago a friend in New York City wrote to tell me that a couple, friends of hers, were coming to Toronto and asked if I might entertain them one evening, perhaps introduce them to some of my neighbors. I agreed of course and not knowing anything whatsoever about Lesotho I then went to the Library – this was the primitive system we operated under in those days – and found out all I could about Lesotho i.e. climate, altitude, exports – the usual thing that you find in an encyclopedia. I copied down what I had discovered, made many copies and distributed them to the four couples, friends, whom I also invited for the evening, all of whom had never ever heard of Lesotho prior to this anticipated visit.

Keep in mind that all this occurred a long time ago and I no longer remember exact facts but that is not important as you will get the gist of what I am about to tell you I am sure.

The night that our special guests were to arrive, my friends were all determined to make them feel welcome so when the door bell rang, and someone answered the door, all were there to greet them. We took their coats, asked them please to make themselves comfortable and offered a drink. There was a lull in the conversation which I broke by saying,
“Have you found Canada’s weather too cold for you?” It was a brisk October day as I remember.
Before either of them could answer, one of my friends piped up,
“I wouldn’t expect so. Lesotho has a temperate climate, but it can get quite chilly in the winter in the dry season.” Another added,
“Yes and you weave those lovely colourful woolen scarves, don’t, you for days such as this.” Someone else piped up declaring,
”I would love to see the Maletsun Falls. I hear they are so beautiful,” and another added,
”What about the Katse Dam and Trehleny National Park?”

Before our astonished guests could say anything, another of our friends added,
“But the terrain is so rugged. Not many good roads. To get around, I imagine we would have to travel on foot or on horseback.”

Our bewildered guests could not get in a word before there came a question from another of our friends.
”In a landlocked country like yours, completely surrounded by South Africa, how do you differentiate yourself from such a strong neighbor?” A friend leaped in with,
“Well Lesotho has a constitutional monarchy….” A few of others who had been silent now joined the conversation,
“Is your present Monarch a direct descendant of King Moshoeshoe?”
“He was King in 1866 wasn’t he?” There was no time for our guests to answer before another friend….well you get the idea. We all knew more about Lesotho than our guests it seemed.

At the end of the evening our guests from Lesotho thanked us and told us that they had had a most interesting and informative evening. Canadians, they said, were very well informed.

I heard that they later told my friend in New York that it was very reassuring to learn that Canadians were so familiar with Lesotho- They had found Canadians to be, they said, remarkably geographically literate.

As our guests, I later discovered, were rather highly placed in the Diplomatic Corps, I wonder if that evening averted a war between Lesotho and Canada or facilitated the export of those woolen scarves or brought Lesotho and Canada, in some indefioable way, closer.

Portrait of a Hypochondriac

Portrait of a Hypochondriac

 

Husband (with a dire look at his wife):

The doctor says if there is pain to go right to the Emergency at the hospital.

 Wife: (who has had a painful leg) 

If I have pain?

 Husband

No, if I do!

 Wife (concerned and surprised)

But you never said anything about having pain!  Are you in pain?

 Husband (impatiently)

I don’t have pain but he said if I do have pain when I pee –

 Wife (becoming a bit worried)

       Have you ever had pain when you pee?

 Husband (more impatiently)

No, but he said if I have pain I should go right to the hospital.

 Wife

But why would you have pain?

Husband
(angrily):

I might if I had trouble peeing!

 Wife

But you havent had trouble peeing have you? You told me you were peeing up a        storm.

 Husband (storming off)

       I can’t discuss this with you!

Reconciliation

“Sweet Mysteries of Life”, a collection of my published short works in which many of my life stories appear in one form or another, contains the story of the rift that formed between my younger brother Bob, and me, a rift that was not bridged for over twenty lost years. This rift formed almost without my noticing it. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason that I could discern, my brother was not talking to me. He did not appear at our daughter, Abby’s, wedding. I remember I had made an appointment for him with our closest friend, a doctor specializing in diabetes. But he did not appear. Worse, he called close friends of ours in Chicago and tried to persuade them not to come to the wedding. He was going about town saying mean spirited and untrue things about my husband, Jimmy. It was these last two things that really got to me. In any case, we remained estranged for a very long time. It was my brother himself, who made the first small step onto a shaky bridge.

When he sold the family country estate (I say estate and not home because it originally consisted of 10,000 acres and a house built entirely of chestnut. It was constructed  one year before the chestnut blight that destroyed every chestnut tree in the United States – and contained some ten bedrooms. It was built originally as a hunting lodge for Morell of Morell metals, a multi millionaire back in the days when that meant more than it does today. As the Great Depression neared its end and we inched closer to World War II, my father bought the estate on which were, in addition to the Lodge, a railway house, a “half-way” house and a gamekeepers house, all for about $59,000. With the exception of the Gamekeepers House – incidentally the Gamekeeper himself came with the house – Floyd Wayman – the other two houses were pretty much run down although they later came to be occupied rent free by relatives of my uncle, Herman Schoenberg i.e. Max Schoenberg and his wife – and to a beloved teacher from Fieldston, Phil Kotlar and his wife and kids,) That was a long digression. When our parents were gone,  my brother sold the estate that my father had left entirely to him, despite my mother’s wishes that everything be divided up equally. At one time,  my sister Grace approached Bob about sharing the proceeds. She sorely needed financial help at that time. Her husband was suffering from a debilitating depression that left him helpless after their radio station had gone bankrupt., and they were about to lose everything that they had. Fortunately I found out what was happening when she broke down in tears during a phone call. I turned to Jimmy – as I always do – who brought in Darwin Dornbush, our beloved lawyer. Darwin was able to save the Manhattan apartment from the rapacious bank {the bank had already taken over her lovely country home in Armonk} and the proceeds from the sale of the apartment basically financed a condominium in Florida and kept Grace and Bob Forrest, her husband, and later Grace and Mort Brenner, her next husband after Bob Forrest died, living comfortably for all the years to come..

I must digress here again for a moment to point out that I am constitutionally unable to write a memoir that stays on track. I must show the lead-in, and all the ramifications of every decision. In any case, when my brother sold the house, my sister told me that she asked him to share some of the proceeds of “Philwold” as it was called (after my grandfather Philip Wechsler) as our mother would have wanted. He replied that our father had left it to him, and moreover, if he shared it with Grace he would have to share it with “E” (me) as well. …and he would not do that! I told Grace to tell him that he would not have to share it with me, that I asked nothing from him but I don’t know if she ever told him that. In any case, when my brother sold Philwold, he had to clean out the attic where many of our old letters and papers were stored. He kept some of those things and among them evidently was a poem that I had written to my parents in pencil when I was about ten years old. It was titled “My Brother” and in essence it said – he is a pain and a bother but he is my brother and I love him. Now many years later, he must have come across it again and in 2007 he mailed it to me with no return address. Assuming it was from him, and that it represented an apology of sorts, I sent him an email asking him if he had sent it, and thanking him if he had. And so began a long distance email correspondence in which he finally set out some of his grievances. Chief among them – although what is puzzling is that this had happened much later than Abby’s wedding – seemed to be the fact that when Jimmy bought the business in 1982 he had balked at continuing to pay the life insurance premiums on my brother’s wife,  feeling that as her husband, my brother had that responsibility. At that time, Jimmy was buying a nearly bankrupt business from my brother and my father, which could not take on any extraneous burdens. But I shall not get into that discussion again. In the end – still via email – we agreed to disagree and to move beyond that.

Some time around then, my brother actually called – I didn’t then recognize his voice any longer, nor am I sure I would have recognized him had I seen him in the street. Over twenty years is a long time, and we change a lot between 50 something and 79 something.

In any case he was on the phone and asking me to come to his 80th birthday party on May 30. I would not go alone and Jimmy was still angry. I asked him what it would take for him to go. He said just an apology, so my brother graciously apologized and lo and behold, we were no longer estranged! It had taken over twenty lost years. We had been so close at one time – close in the way of an older sister watching over her younger brother. In 1942 – shortly after we entered the war with Germany – my father enlisted in the air force at the age of 42. My father was stationed on various air bases in the United States over the years and my mother followed him, leaving the two of us at home. During that time I took care of my brother, Bobby. Not alone – for a while Lola and Sam Palitz, my beloved piano teacher and her husband came to stay with us, and for a while Uncle Eddie and Aunt Honey Wechsler stayed with us. But we very much felt as though it was the two of us against the world. I remember one time going to the library and being told that I would need my parents’ signature on something and I said our parents were in the army. Who then did I live with, the librarian asked, her face glistening with sympathy. “I live with my younger brother,” I said, knowing that I was giving the wrong impression, but that was what it felt like.

Now, after over twenty lost years my brother and I had reconnected. I know how badly he felt about those lost years as he lamented them to me. He came to visit us in Florida and was a wonderful guest. He had finally broken up with his unpleasant wife, on whom he had cheated for years, and found his last and probably his true love in Toni Chayes, whom he had met and fallen in love with at Harvard so many years ago. But she had married Abe Chayes, an important lawyer in the Kennedy administration, and she herself served as an undersecretary of the Navy. A most impressive woman, now widowed and teaching well into her seventies, at the Tufts School of International Affairs. Perhaps it was Toni who helped us to get together again at last, as she had known me since her older sister and I had been best friends at Smith. Such a small world in so many ways.

But, alas, after his visit to us in Florida around 2008, my brother’s health deteriorated and he died in the fall of 2013. I am so grateful to Jessie, his daughter who was living with him and taking care of him then, and who advised us to come to see him as he was failing, We did and I got to kiss him for the last time.

I miss him, I think about him all the time. Perhaps that is to make up for the lost years. We had such a short time together before he fell ill. He was not a good husband or father or grandfather. But he tried to do good in the world. He was always in the forefront of the fight for civil rights and for justice. As I said in that long ago poem, despite all, I loved him. Sleep well dear brother.