Note: My mom has been trying her hand at writing, too. During this shut down, where she has been almost entirely confined to her one-bedroom apartment, she has been reflecting on her life. She wrote this piece and I thought I would share it. I think it gives some insight into her and some lessons she taught me. Plus, I think it is great that she is putting pen to paper (and in her case it is with pen and paper) and I want to encourage her to continue.
I’ve often heard women complain that their husbands were busy playing cards while they were left alone. I didn’t mind.
This is what I did. I walked the Avenue, Fifth Avenue.
On Thursdays my husband, Barry, and his friends would get together after work, have dinner and then play cards. They always played at our house because it was a central meeting spot.
In the meanwhile, I would finish my workday at school in Brooklyn and take the subway to the city. There is only one city, Manhattan.
I would walk up the avenue, but not like Fred Astaire and Judy Garland (Easter Parade, 1948), more like Bill Cunningham (NY Times Photographer). I‘d go to the corner of 5th Avenue and 57th Street to watch the world go by. The languages I heard, the clothing I observed and the ages of those walking the Avenue were as varied as the cultures they represented.
Since the hour and day was not conducive to seeing a Broadway matinee, I varied my excursions. Sometimes I would go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The outside was surrounded by the ever-present sounds of construction and general din of the City, but inside was quiet with magnificent stained glass windows.
Most fun would be visiting the luxurious bathrooms of the very expensive department stores such as Saks 5th Avenue. The restrooms were decorated with silk or satin wall coverings and gold-plated faucets. I got a kick out of my brief moment of feeling rich and pampered.
Other excursions would be to the jewelry stores, Cartiers and of course the crown jewel, Tiffany’s. Tiffany’s had a special room where they displayed replicas of the trophies made for championship teams and marvelous tiaras and necklaces commissioned by famous people. The real jewelry would be in locked cases. Obviously, I never bought anything; but it didn’t hurt to look.
Other times I would go browse in Barnes & Noble – no coffee bar then—and also the Hallmark store which had all kinds of knick-knacks in addition to the wide array of cards and wrapping paper. I strolled past the other famous shops as well.
Getting into the City always excited me, with its energy and hustle bustle.
I would head home, plug in the coffee pot and bring out either the brownies or pie that I had made the night before for Barry and his fellow poker players. After the refreshments the guys would head home. We all had work the next day.
My take: Mom loved the City and she passed that on to me. While I have not ventured into the fancy stores on Fifth Avenue, or tried their restrooms, I have people-watched along that iconic avenue and I have spent hours in its bookstores and that same Hallmark shop.
I also learned that husbands and wives don’t need to be joined at the hip. Mom and Dad had unique interests and that was a good thing – they gave each other space to pursue them. This was a valuable thing to understand and was an important building block for my own marriage.
I well-remember poker nights because the smell of the cigars wafted up from the basement. I was sometimes asked to help clean up the next day and the air was still hazy from the lingering smoke. My dad didn’t partake, but his friends sure did. I always hoped there was leftover brownie as a reward for my efforts.
Also, Mom loved coffee – I believe she must have built an extraordinary tolerance to caffeine because she consumed potfuls (of regular!) in the course of the day when I was growing up. At some point it did catch up with her so that now she has to limit her intake, but she still loves her two cups in the morning, black (no sugar, no milk).
Thanks, Mom, for sharing.