Thursday, July 18, 2019. It was hot as hell yesterday in New York. with temperatures in the 90s and the RealFeel reaching up to 103. Brutal. And dirty air that cast its cloud over the city. You could see it from riverside. Everything in the distance was covered with a thin grey blanket of air. Very hard to take.
Then last night about 7:45, just as had been forecast, the off and on torrential rains of Barry moved in, and washed everything including the air. By the time of this writing (11:40 pm), it was still raining and the thermometer had dropped to the mid-70s. Heavenly. Although the forecast for the next couple of days sounds just as brutal.
It’s been very quiet in our NYSD calendars. JH went golfing with his father and brother in Edinburgh, Scotland for a week, and yesterday he flew to Milan meet up with his wife Danielle for a few days in Lake Como. DPC and his dogs stayed home and stayed in out of the heat.
With the downpour, I turned off my A/C, happily, opened the terrace door, and the background, as I sit at my keyboard, is the sound of it falling in occasional torrents, with the tires of the passing cars splashing through it. It’s a beautiful summer night and sound right now.
Summertime is always a reading time for me because the calendar is not interrupting. This past Tuesday I finished a book written by a friend entitled Oy Vey, I’m Going to Church: A Memoir.
My friend wrote this book originally as a memory of and for her family. Instead of her name, she used a nom de plume, Krissel. I’ve known the author for a number years and known superficially about her life. We are contemporaries, and coincidentally she went to Smith in the same class as my first girlfriend (from grade school). I know her husband, I’ve met her children, and I’ve been a guest at their table more than once. It’s a dynamic New York family and long active in the community.
Aside from the title – which amused me lightly – I had no idea what was inside except that it was a “memoir.” I had no expectations when I opened it. I’d done it solely because the author is a friend whom I admire.
So I first read her bio on the back flap of the cover to see what there was that I didn’t know. In it she identifies herself as:
“…born in New York City and attended a prominent, private all-girls high school in Manhattan; she graduated cum laude from Smith College, which was soon followed by marriage and three children. While raising her children she became a fund-raising volunteer for a variety of non-profits and went on to found a successful international fundraising consulting firm that she managed for more than thirty years. She has been a guest on talk shows and a frequent guest speaker at business and non-profit events around the world.”
The front flap tells you a different story: “What happens when a young Jewish girl grows up in an upper middleclass household in New York City …” And right after college her life takes a turn for change that she never anticipated — she met and soon after (three dates, I think) became engaged to a man to whom she now has been married to for 55 years.
Everyone knew about the differences: she was Jewish; he was a WASP (she refers to him as Superwasp in the book), and one of most intelligent and agreeable gentlemen you’d ever meet.
Aside from what I’ve told you, having no expectations, and no particular interest, I only wondered what the book would be like.
Well, that was early Sunday afternoon. The story was about her growing up in that particular family at that particular time (mid-20 century onwards) in New York. Four hours later and three quarters of the way through the memoir, I was so involved and amused that I had to tell my friend the author about it.
This is what I wrote to her: “This is a wonderful book. Its coziness becomes habit in the reading. I laughed throughout as if I were in the room when it was happening. However, this is a very serious book in a very important way.”
Oy Vey … is about how people can actually get along. People of diverse thought, religions, politics, personalities, economies, can get along, even famously. I’m not sure if that was the author’s intention and inspired her. But the personal-ness is easily recognizable to anyone, and the separateness of our ways of life is the learning.
This is also an authentic memory about real life in New York at such a time where our generation — born mid-20th century — were the first real Americans — the third generation of those who had emigrated in the late 19th, early 20th centuries. It’s not only a record, but a reminder of the values of that life and those lives.
It has a strong element of nostalgia that applies to all of us. But most importantly this book represents the changes that came about in the 20th century America. Good and bad. It’s quietly very deep. Kitty (her mother) is very deep from start to finish, all the while appearing to be totally superficial. That’s significant. And funny, but touching — that’s where its success lies with the reader.