We Are Famalee

Mom never left the house without lipstick

Mom never left the house without lipstick

Hello long-lost DT, I’m still uptown though my sister and I visited the StoryCorps booth in Foley Square this week to about our mom. I interviewed my sis who described Sally as a fantastically wonderful lady but so out of her element. Not only was she born at the wrong time, and one of a long legacy of strong women, but as my sister so eloquently stated, our mom should have been a career woman just couldn’t get herself together to do so. She graduated from college in the 1950’s at a time when her college advisor (Univ Wisconsin) told her to skip law school and become a social worker (since that’s what women did at the time). Law school took three years whereas social work took her two. The measure of success in those days was to be the perfect housewife, to dress right, to be demure, and care for the husband and home. She got the dressing right part down but the rest of it, ixnay.

Alas, not only was our mom not brave enough or prepared to NOT get married and settle down, join the Jr. League (which she did, and that was controversial since I suspect she was the first Jew in Chappaqua to do so, she was the only Jew), at another time, she might have had a brilliant career and left the child-rearing to a staff. The nannies and housekeepers might have done a better job and she might have led a more fulfilling life. Her words of wisdom to us were to always have your own money, always be able to rely on yourself. Are you sensing any bitterness, here?

The crazy thing is that my sister and I have had our brilliant/fun careers (she in food a la Montrachet, Grammercy Tavern and beyond, I in the world of art and philanthropy) and opted out to be with our kid, although we are both back in the mix in different iterations. It’ll be interesting to see how our children manage and what decisions they will make. Same is true for you, my dear.

But back to StoryCorps. It’s a lovely oral history project founded by a tremendously talented storyteller, David Isay. The public is invited to reserve a spot at one of the stationary spots (NY and SF) or one of the mobile units and record your story. A copy goes to the Library of Congress and select interviews are parsed down to two-three minute segments and broadcast on Friday mornings on NPR. The stories are great; sad, happy, funny, poignant all. Grab one of your parents and get them to pass on their stories. I wish I’d done so with my mom and dad. Fortunately, I have my sister to help fill in some blanks.

3 responses to “We Are Famalee

  1. My mom says the same thing, “be sure to make your own money and have a career.” My mom was a working mom, but one with a seriously entrepreneurial/inventor spirit. Had she taken her own advice, she would have had her own company or been a top executive.

  2. So the trick is, dt, to encourage our girls to focus and follow their dreams. First, though, she has to have a dream. What do you suppose Michelle Obama, a highly educated career woman who retired to raise her girls, and support her President-elect husband, is thinking right now? Yes She Can.

  3. Thank you for posting about StoryCorps and for visiting our Foley Square booth! We hope that the recording becomes a great way to look back on and continue your conversation with your sister.

    I’m writing because I thought you and your readers might be interested in several upcoming StoryCorps events in New York. On this Monday, November 24, StoryCorps founder Dave Isay will be answering questions and sharing stories from “Listening Is An Act of Love,” StoryCorps’ first book at the Brooklyn Heights Barnes and Noble at 7:00 PM. Events at Suffolk Community College and the New York City Tenement Museum will follow in the next few weeks. Details about these events and more information about “Listening Is An Act of Love” is available at http://www.storycorps.net/book/book-tour.

    Additionally, StoryCorps is launching the first-ever National Day of Listening the day after Thanksgiving, November 28, 2008. We are asking Americans to take an hour to honor a loved one by recording a conversation with him or her in their own homes. The National Day of Listening website (www.nationaldayoflistening.org) contains more information, tips for a Do-it-Yourself style interview as well as a video that walks viewers through an interview scenario.

    Again, thank you for featuring StoryCorps on your blog! We hope you will share these book reading events and the National Day of Listening with your readers, family, and friends, helping us make the experience of listening as an act of love even more accessible.

    Best wishes,

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