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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.