Elizabeth Shames was 75 years old when interviewed by Beverly Staples in 1990.
My name is Elizabeth Shames. Elizabeth Book was my maiden name and I still use it, because we’re very big library users, all of us, we’re readers. I was born March 12, 1915, in New York City. lt’s really very hard to explain to everybody what it was like. Living in New York was the most marvelous place to grow up. It had everything.
We had one of the best school systems in the world. The teachers were mostly women, especially in the lower grades and they were unmarried. If one was married she had to leave to make room for someone who had to support herself. The presumption was, that if you married, your husband would support you. There were lots of Ph.D.s in the system. I lived in Washington Heights at first. It’s hard to realize that there were ice wagons with horses and there were other wagons with horses. We always had a car, but there weren’t too many cars. It was an easy, pleasant place to grow up. I was invited to teachers’ homes or my mother would invite them to our home to chat and have tea.
There was a close connection. I had an older brother and a younger sister. He was two years older. My sister was five years younger. My brother died in 1975. He was an engineer for the Baltimore Watershed the Army Core of Engineers. My brother was a very remarkable person. He apparently made a reputation for himself amongst engineers. They said, “If there’s anything you want to know, call Joe Book.”
My mother was psychic and her mother was psychic. To make decisions that way, was accepted in our family. When I make decisions I project myself into all the different situations and whichever feels the most comfortable is the one that I choose. If there is any reservation, for any reason, such as dishonesty, or because I don’t feel comfortable, I don’t do it. That’s how I got married too. I choose the one where everything fit, ethically, morally, and intellectually. Sex didn’t play as big a role, and it shouldn’t.. Whereas sex is very, very important it’s not the key ingredient in any marriage. The key ingredient is companionship. If you have companionship, you can solve problems. In too many marriages where they get married primarily because of sexual attraction other things can be unequal. That’s what tears marriages apart. If you can become friends and have respect for each other, that’s the best thing you can say about any marriage.
When I was growing up, I was “skipped” several times throughout school. Each grade level had a Part A in September and Part B in February with different teachers. If you were bright, they would skip you over Part A or B. This happened to me so often that I got right out of school after I turned sixteen. I lost gobs of information. I was put in classes where we did two years work in one year, or one years work in six months. It was just taken for granted that was the way things were. I had always expected to go to college. When I got into jr. high school I was stunned to find out that my father had not planned on that at all. I asked him years later how he could do that and he said that I was such a pretty little child that he thought I’d get married when I turned sixteen sixteen! ! ! !
So I had to go to work, my brother went to college and my sister was still very young. I worked for nine years and hated it. I despised it! I took classes at night for two or three nights a week. I studied art, modern dance, and design. Those were my life. More than anything in the world I wanted to be a dancer. I had taken ballet when I was younger. I was taking a class with someone who was in Martha Graham’s groups. I remember the night I went to class and I was the only one who showed up. This was Ann Sokolow who was giving the class and she was one of Martha Graham’s leading dancers. Of course she wasn’t going to give a class just for me. Now, the Graham Style of dancing is a very strict discipline.. It has to do with the contraction and release of muscles. It’s very, very strenuous. She wasn’t going to do all that for one person, for a dollar. She was looking at her stockings which had a run in them and wondering where she was going to get a dollar for another pair of stockings. I couldn’t leave my job. My financial support was very important to my family. So I had to stay at work and go to school at night.
I was also going out a great deal. I went to the theater a lot. I had a subscription to the Theater Guild. We also used to go to the Lewiston Stadium which was near City College. A ticket was twenty five cents. It was like a Greek Stadium and the music was the quality of Carnegie Hall.
Then, at twenty, I got myself engaged and I not myself disengaged. He was a twenty eight year old CPA. I didn’t know how to explain it to him (it was still the middle of the depression at this time). I realized that he needed someone to help program him to help him get up in the morning and point him towards the door. This wasn’t for me. I didn’t understand why. All I knew was that something wasn’t right for me. He was so upset that he had to go to a psychiatrist. Especially since we had had sex. He said it was O.K. since we were going to get married. I thought, I suppose so. It was no great shakes. Maybe if it had been I would have had a harder time, I don’t know. Intellectually we did fine. We liked the same things. For years afterwards he would call and say he had two tickets he wanted to give me for the Met, for my birthday. He would say that I didn’t have to invite him I could invite anyone I pleased. Well, of course you don’t do that. So I would invite him and he would take me out to dinner and the opera. He was buying my time.
This went on for quite some time, while I was going out with a man who was much older. (I was proposed to by a dozen men.) I would go away on a week vacation every summer to the Adiroridacks and would meet someone new every year and add him to my list.) So this much older man, who I was going out with had already been married and divorced. I couldn’t marry him because philosophically we were millions of miles apart. It was the middle of the depression and I didn’t like his friends. They were people with a lot of money, but not very high principles. They were mostly manufacturers. I didn’t find them interesting at all. He would take me to the opera or whatever and that was not anything that they shared. He was twice as old as I was. He kept saying let’s drive to Maryland and get married, but intuitively I knew it wasn’t right so I couldn’t do it.
Then I met somebody whom I had met casually a few times before. He was a friend of my first fiancé. He called me and I thought he just wanted to talk about things, but he really wanted to talk to me that hadn’t occurred to me. He was a CPA and about eight years older than I was. The first time we went out he bought tickets for three Sundays in a row. I thought, who does he think he is? He bought tickets for Carnegie Hall, the theater, and something else. Then he asked me to marry him. Now CPA’s are the kind of people who live a lot in numbers, but this guy liked to sail and he liked to fish. He had been planning a trip to Mexico for a month. So we got married and went to Mexico. We drove in a little bitty convertible. This was in 1940 and I had only gone out with him a couple of months. Everything fell into place. It wasn’t a powerful sex drive.
Women of my age usually got their impetus from the male. At least a lot of them did, I did certainly. Women today assert themselves much more now they we did then. When I think about it, our generation was a bridge between the Victorian society and post World War I and the Flapper. When I was a little girl I used to read books relating to the Victorians like Elsie Dinsmore. It’s absolutely horrendous if you read it now. They would put little girls into corsets as soon as they began to show anything. It was a very artificial and phony society. It was in emulation of the British.
Anyway, we got married and had a phenomenal time. We lived in New York. I remember when I was single and went out with girlfriends to the Lewiston Stadium, for instance, and would come out filled with the music. New York was safe. I would walk all across and all through Harlem to another subway system. They would see me in town and call e “high yaller”. It meant that I was a light colored Negro. Of course I’m not black… but anyway I could walk anyplace. I could come home at one, two or three o’clock in the morning in the subway by myself and just feel that the whole city was mine. It was a phenomenal feeling. It was wonderful and it had everything.
So we got married July 12, 1940 and after about a year Stan said we should think about having a child. I was 25 and he was 33 when we got married. I thought, oh I never thought about that. I had cousins who didn’t marry and cousins who married and never had children. “Oh well,” I said, “if that’s what you want it’s O.K. with me.” So Peter was born December 1942.
Shortly after that, when Peter was six months old, Stan was drafted. He went into the Navy just before his 37th birthday. But he didn’t look his age and the Navy grabbed him before the Army could. He was never in combat, he was too old. He felt it was a big waste of time. He was in the South Pacific the whole time. I used to read four newspapers a day and write to him every single night without fail. He came back in 1945 he was gone for two and one half years. I had spent all that time telling Peter about the things we were going to do when Daddy came home.
Stan came home and spent some time with his father who was dying of cancer. We decided immediately to have another child, because time was passing and he was now almost forty. Stan wasn’t well. He had what they thought was viral pneumonia. I went to see him at the hospital one day and he just crept away from me and put his hands up to repel me and I asked what was the matter,. He said he had tuberculosis. The Navy finally released the x rays on him which revealed that he had holes in both lungs. The prognosis was very good. All throughout my pregnancy they kept saying he was going to be O.K.. I had a cousin who was a doctor and he had just come back from the South Pacific. He also said that the prognosis was very good.
All the time that he was in the hospital (7 months), until he died, as a TB patient I could not disturb him. He had to have perfect equanimity all the time. I was not allowed to tell him anything that might upset him in any way. While he was in the hospital, my infant Barbara developed pneumonia and I almost lost her. I was hysterical. I was not allowed to tell him ever if anything was wrong everything was always fine.
When I went into the hospital to visit him, he would wash his right hand and not touch anything (since TB is communicable). We were never allowed to kiss or touch in any other way. He would hold my hand for the whole time we were there. The social worker would encourage him to write. I would go visit him two or three times a week whenever I could get away. We couldn’t have any phone calls either. This is a man who found it very difficult to express his feelings. He was very inhibited in many ways. He wrote me several letters while he was in the hospital.. Some about our plans for the future. Barbara has since retyped the letters and all my children have copies of them. She thought he sounded suave and debonair. I said, “He could hardly get a word out!”
Stan had a hard time learning to trust, but learning to trust is the most important thing in a marriage. You must have enough respect for each other to trust. It’s the most important; thing in any relationship even a business relationship. In a marriage it is absolutely critical. Stan learned to trust me to the point that he was able to write these letters. My daughter was born August 1946. Three months later, Stan died. I was devastated. It was the most wrenching thing that ever happened to me. I had never, been that close to death before. I had been telling Peter, who had just turned four, that when Daddy comes home… Now there was no Daddy. I didn’t know how to tell him. Life goes on. When you have small children you get up in the morning, get them dressed and go out. You have to go through all the forms of daily rituals so that there is order in their lives. The order is reassuring to them. At the, same time, all I wanted to do was scream and scream and scream… at the unfairness, at the stupidity, the carelessness, at the wanton waste of life. “What am I going to tell these children?” I thought. I couldn’t work outside with an infant and a four year old child. There was nothing I could do. All I had was the insurance on Stan’s life which I felt belonged to my children because I didn’t know what the future was going to bring. It was too unsure.
We had the funereal and because we were Jewish, he was buried immediately. It’s much better to get it over with than to wait for the funeral. My brother came up from Baltimore. It was the first time in my life that I had to make funeral arrangements. They handed me papers and papers. He said, “you can have this and this…” I got up the next day and went to the funeral. By whose order the coffin was open, I don’t know. I wasn’t that familiar, with dead bodies, because my mother had always protected us from that kind of thing. My brother, had my arm and I walked over and I saw Stan, lying there. His hair was reddish blonde and he had a reddish mustache and I thought hmm, his moustache needs clipping. He looked fine. So help me, he start talking, the thing he said to me was, “Don’t worry Liz everything is going to be all right.” I wanted to hear more, but my brother jogged my arm. Sometimes you obey certain norms. Like somebody jogs your arm and you move on to let somebody else in, but I was the one who should have stayed! And so Start said not to worry because everything was going to be all right. He was the CPA, he knew, because I was sure that he meant financially.
I can’t tell you how much that reassured me for the rest of my life. I was the only one who heard it, but he said it to me. I knew that he meant don’t worry about finances. I had been working all through the depression when people who lost jobs never got other jobs. There was no unemployment insurance and no social security. If you lost your job, that was it. It was horrendous. I had a lot of things to worry about.
The most trouble between Start and me was money. When he went into the service, he had stocks and bonds of different kinds that he had accumulated before we were married. He gave them to his parents. When he went into the service, he left me with twenty nine dollars in the bank and turned the securities over to his parents. I was never able to address it or resolve it, because of his illness.
I was choking. My body was screaming. I wanted to go somewhere and scream instead of cleaning diapers and hanging them up on the line. I had a baby who was seven months old. I told my friend that I was choking and I just wanted to scream. She told her doctor and he said I had globus hystericus. I hadn’t had sex in a very long time.
All through the war, sex never entered my mind. When I was working at a part time job in Radio City there was this Hollywood studio executive guy who would stand at the door and examine me. A lot of prominent men in the theatre business expected the women to make the overture. I remember some guy who I met in a party, handing me his card and saying, “call me.” Call you?… the arrogance of this guy. So this guy at the door would wait for me to make an overture. I just found the whole idea astonishing.
I’d say, “my husband is overseas!” After he died, I was choking. It needed to be released someway.
Then, my sister”s boyfriends would set me up with dates. One was a doctor who needed a mother and I said that it wasn’t for me. They all took it for granted since I had been married, that I was up for anything. Some guy called me, he was visiting from Massachusetts and lost his date. He heard I was nice person and asked me out for a date. My father said, “go.” So I met him and he was very pleasant and easy to get along with. It took him seven hours to ride from Massachusetts there were no turnpike. He said he’d be back in three weeks and he would call me. I thought, this one, if he asks me to meet him at his hotel, I’m going. And that’s exactly what I did. I thought, this is my therapy, this is what I need. I’m going to do what the men do. He was a very nice guy. So I hopped into bed with him and he was pretty surprised.
So he started coming to New York every three or four weeks. Then he started pressuring me to marry him and I couldn’t. I was not over my first husband. It was as if the experience with my first husband had never been resolved. I just couldn’t think of marriage. Then I noticed that my daughter Barbara was having problems. She would run, she would go into a circle, and fall. I took her to all kinds of doctors and finally my cousin, the same doctor who helped out with my husband, said to have her hip x rayed. It was a very simple test, but the fancy pediatrician who I had had, didn’t bother. She had a congenital dislocated hip.
Joe, my second husband, was so good through all this, he would come to New York and take me to the orthopedic hospital and he would bring toys. He would throw a ball to each of the children in the room or he would wind up toys and send one to each child. These were long term patients, some in body casts. She was in the hospital six months. She had two operations on
her left hip and on her thigh. When she came out of the hospital it was just a little beyond her, second birthday. By this time I had promised to marry Joe. He was so good to her, and so supportive.
He was a very mature man and wonderful, but intellectually we were worlds apart. He was very physical. He couldn’t read because the letters used to jump. He was a very good guy and he adopted my children. ‘They carried his name. We had a third child together. That’s my daughter, Denise. We moved to Massachusetts. He did a lot of things. He was a professional wrestler in Boston for sometime. He was also a cowboy. He was born in Russia and he spoke all those languages. He was an upholsterer. He could make a piece that had a sculptural quality to it. He would do the whole thing, the fabric and the frame.
He had what they call, “golden hands.” He could do anything. As a horseman he was a phenomenon. He would go near the horse and you would not see him mount. He would fly up from the back side of a horse. He and horse were one. They moved together like a centaur.
So we lived in Massachusetts for a few years. One day we went to New Hampshire to visit friends. We saw all that land, and he said, “Boy I’d love to have horses again.” So I said, “Why not?”
We moved to New Hampshire and bought a small farm. I didn’t think of it as a farm though. We lived in Madbury, right next to Durham. Durham was where the University was. This was my concern. I was taking my children from a good school in Massachusetts to New Hampshire. I didn’t know what kind of school system was going to be there. This was a responsibility I assumed that my children should have as good an education as we could possibly give them. I had the Harvard Classics and the Britannica. I took them to the library. I made sure they finished their homework and understood what they were doing. They were all very good and very bright. They did well and got to be well known because they did well.
We lived there and they all rode. Things were going along, very smoothly. Peter was chosen one year to go to the advanced studies program at St. Paul’s. It was a special summer school in Concord for very bright children. Barbara just missed it. He had a choice to take classes in English or some other subject. He chose physics. He came out of there loving Shakespeare. Then Joe got lung cancer. Peter had just started at the University.
(I knew before hand that Joe was going to die. Before Stan died, I woke up one day (while he was in the hospital with a good prognosis), with a black cloud over me. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t draw a deep breath. I had this feeling of oppression. I didn’t know what it was about. All I knew was that it was something bad. At that time, Peter was quite young, but ran very fast. I would hold his hand when he would cross the street. I wouldn’t let go. I thought, something is going to happen, but I didn’t know that it was that my husband was going to die.)
One day, I woke up in Madbury with the cloud over my head. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew that somebody was going to die. My husband, Joe was very tired. We had been having a lot of guests friends and family from New York. This was my way of making sure there was a connection between my children, myself and all these people whom I had known. So I called the doctor and made an appointment for him. He went to the doctor and the doctor said that he was working too hard and he was tired. I said, “That’s not it.” Joe came home that same night and he coughed, and brought up a spot of blood on his handkerchief. I called the doctor immediately and I told him. He said to have him at office at eight o’clock in the morning for an x ray. The doctor called me later in the day and said that Joe had, what they called, a snowball and it had to come out.
He went to Overholt, the Clinic in Boston which did just chest Surgery. It was one of the best places in the world philosophically as well as surgically and medically. It was wonderful. So he went down and had his lung taken out. He had no hospitalization. The doctors charged us only what Blue Cross might pay.
It was touch and go for, awhile. He was O.K. for a while, then he wasn’t, then he was… Then he died. Peter was nineteen, Barbara was fourteen and Denise was just eleven. I was very sick and very lonely.
My family was in New York and because we were Jewish my neighbors left me strictly alone. There is something so ignorant about some people. It never occurred to them that I might need help. One of my neighbors, who is now a born again, and was then a nurse, said to me years later, “but you buried him so quickly.” I said, “that’s our custom.”
It was winter and I had one good friend. The abysmal ignorance of most people who consider, themselves intelligent and well educated always stuns me that there could be such a lack of understanding and compassion. They knew that I was there alone. This was in a very small town. They had put me on all kinds of boards. I was on the executive board for the school, PTA. I was on the executive board of the Mental Health Clinic in Dover. I was also on the Board of Community Concerts. They had always pushed me you represent us. But when it came to exhibiting even the smallest amount of compassion, all I can say is they were too ignorant to extend themselves to stop by or call me. I had two neighbors who would call me or stop by. I never trusted any of the others after that. I must say that I had a fair degree of contempt for them. These are “good Christians” who give lip service only.
I had tried working at different things. I had been afraid to tell Joe that I wanted a job. We had a small business in Dover, upholstering and decorating and so on… I studied interior design for years. When I was going to school I studied interior design and dancing. We also had a riding stable at home that Joe wanted.
Now I was asking myself what I wanted to do. I knew I had a little grace period because the social security would continue for my children and I knew I had enough to get along with for a while. I knew there was time for me to train myself in something. I decided that the thing I wanted to do was weave. I went to the University and saw Winn Clark. They had a weaving department in connection with Occupational Therapy. (I knew some of the people at the University because my children went to school with all of their children She said there was no room in the class, but there was a great teacher in Exeter. So I called the teacher there. She had started weaving in the thirties she had been weaving a long time when there was no equipment available. She was a darling person. Her husband was in charge of manual training. He made a lot things for her and fixed a lot of things.
I went to her and said, I will not absorb anything. Joe had died in January and this was maybe March. I knew I had to do something right away. She gave me a small table loom, all threaded up and give me the treadling and said this is what you do… She would also give me the cotton. I was working in cotton then, but she had terrible colors. I’m a colorist color is my thing. So I would take it home and do it. She would talk and explain and I would tell her that I wouldn’t absorb anything. had to do it. I will do it and it will be the sense memory.
I did that for several months and then a relative of my first husband’s came to visit to pay condolences. He said, “So what are you going to do.” I said, “I’m going to weave!” He said, “what do you need?” (He had been an aeronautics engineer and was in China during World War II, when he came back he gave it up and went into dress manufacturing and did very well.) I said “I need a loom.” He asked how much it was and I told him about three hundred dollars. He gave me three hundred dollars.
During this time, I was going back to New York quite often to be with my parents and my three cousins. One of them was a baseball player with the Red Sox. He was also a lawyer, a philologist, and a spy with the OSS during World War II. My other cousin, Ethel, who had been a kindergarten teacher was a very, very powerful influence in my life. A negative influence, as it happens. I just recently realized it. Somebody sent me a little clipping about praising people. I just realized that being with these three cousins, who were much older than I and never married, meant that you were accepted into the company of the elite.
My cousin Ethel never praised me. She always criticized me by a look or a word. Whatever she did was always a put down. If I parted my hair on one side, she’d comb it the other way. If I tilted my hat one way, she tilted it the other. It was understood in the family and it was understood by me that I had been chosen, by Ethel, to be her companion in many things. We went to the opera and the theatre a great deal, especially, during the time when I stopped dating and I was going to school and I wanted to concentrate on studying (from 17 to 19). She and I spent a great deal of time together. I only just realized that she never said a kind, warm, congratulatory, or affectionate word to me never. She used to take me to restaurants like the Four Seasons and she’d give the chef a pint of fresh raspberries from her garden and then there was no bill. This restaurant was absolutely superb still is.
Ethel would virtually order me to go to New York to visit., and of course I couldn’t just leave my family and trot off. There were times when she would take a bus or get a lift from where she lived, in N.J., to Portsmouth, N.H. Then she would call me from Portsmouth, on a Sunday, (I was about eleven miles from Portsmouth), and say I’m here and I want you to come and have dinner with me. She always let me know I was very special to her, but she was so critical. She used to criticize me because I had wide feet. She would go to Paris and bring back shoes (she used to go to Paris every summer), beautiful satin sandals. Then when I couldn’t get my feet in, she’d say, oh, you with your big feet! My feet weren’t big, they were wide and that’s the way they came.
No matter how many things you do, or how many people value you, the fact that somebody was always pulling you down in snide and insensitive little ways always remains and cuts you off at the knees.
So, I went to New York and bought lots of yarns. I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I started weaving in wool and silk and some cotton. I knew I wanted to weave in color. I am a colorist. I took my stuff into the League of New Hampshire Craftsman, where you have to be juried, and I was accepted immediately. They said, “oh boy, you’re just what we’re looking for.” I thought it would be great and a good source of income, except that nobody knew much about hand weaving then.
At the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen they didn’t have that much call for weaving except for placemats. Placemats are not my thing. I wanted to work in color so I started to make stoles which were about two yards long. I started dying yarns and blowing designs up and so on… But people didn’t know what weaving was, this was 1961, 1962. 1 kept on and my stuff was in their shops, but people didn’t appreciate it.
Then I had a show at Altman’s, in New York, and they asked where they could buy the kit! There, they didn’t know what it was. I made pillows. The reason I like pillows was because I could make eighteen inches of a pattern and then go on to something different. So I could have a lot of variety. My excitement came from working out the design and working out the color values and seeing how they would change. I would really get drunk on it! Then I started making wall hangings and experimenting with Navaho saddle blanket design which was thick. I finally realized that I was never going to earn very much money at that. I had a friend in Portland, Maine who was developing an interior design department at Young’s Furniture. I knew him from New York when he was a little boy and came to me for advice about where to go to study interior design. I had lunch with him and looked around the place. The only way I can tell about moving any place is to feel it.
This was 1964 and Portland was different than now. There were only a few restaurants and you could smell the fog. I liked it. So asked my son Peter if he wanted to move into the house (he and his wife Sally had a son, Ethan), while Denise and I would go to Portland.
We moved to Portland. I took an apartment and worked for Youing’s (for a couple of years). My friend Herb Schwartz left Young’s, but I was still there. Then Denise became very ill.
She developed vertigo. I was working very long hours. We were traveling all through the state to go to clients. I didn’t mind the work I was having a good time. We were developing a whole new department everything. It was full, exciting and great, and meanwhile my little girl got sick.
At first I was too busy to pay much attention. She was going to Portland High School. She had been accustomed to going to a smaller school where everybody knew her, me, her brother, and sister. Here she was in this big, cold city where the quality of the teaching leaves a great deal to be desired. When I went to talk to her guidance councilor, about what she should think of in terms of college, she said, “Only our very best students apply to the University of New Hampshire.” Denise’s brother and sister had gone to this University and she wanted to go there too.
Denise got progressively worse until finally, in her senior year, it got so bad that I was going to school all the time, taking her books and leading her down like a blind person into the car with her head spinning. Every doctor I took her to couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything. They’d say put her to bed or give her dramamine. We finally decided that the only thing for her to do, was stay at home and finish the school year at home. I went away on a buying trip to New York with two of the Young brothers and when I got home, I thought, this is no good. I’m having a whale of a time. I decided to go back to New Hampshire. No career or amount of money was more important than getting Denise back on an even keel.
So we went home. When she went to register for her classes, she was greeted like a long lost friend. At the first school meeting I went to, people came up to me as if I were a celebrity. It was so funny to me, but it was sweet. Denise went on to finish school and went on to the University.
I had to limp along as best I could and see her through. Then something happened one night. I just felt that it was time to leave the house. I had a feeling that there was something there, that if it was not malignant, it was not benign.
Denise has been regressed by a psychologist at the University and by a psychic. She wanted to find out about her dislike for change. The psychic said that there was something about the house that was not good a presence or something.
I told her the next morning that I was selling the house. She made a big fuss. She said give me a piece of land. I said no. I could have subdivided. I had thirty acres and my own
water supply up on the hill. She would have had to draw another water line. I said, “Denise, you’re not a house holder you never took care of the house all the years that we’ve been here.”
So I put the house up on the market and took an apartment in Portland. My children wanted me to move to New York or Boston. I could not go back to New York. It’s too noisy and too dirty.
I find that when I go there now I’m repelled by the noise and the dirt. When I do go there, I plan to go to the Metropolitan, to the museum, to the Whitney, to the Museum of Modern Art, or I plan to get some tickets for the theatre. I have relatives and friends there my sister lives on Long Island. Then I run home, because it’s so noisy and dirty so many cars, so many everything. I’m not comfortable there anymore. In Boston I’d have to be locked up every night, because as an older person I couldn’t go out by myself.
So I listed my requirements – first class theatre, first class museum, first class library, and a good transportation system. My friend Herb said, “Come back to Portland. “I took an apartment on Park Street, but when they turned it into a condo I said, “I don’t want to own anything. Then I moved to where I live now.
I’m a docent of the museum, because I’ve spent a lot of my life in museums. I was interviewed recently by Edgar Beam of Maine Times. I told him that throughout my life, whenever I’ve been troubled or I just wanted to pleasure myself, I’d go to a museum. I can be looking at something that’s timeless and it puts me into another dimension. It starts my mind going in all different directions spin offs. It fills me with wonderful thoughts and ideas. The Portland Museum is smaller than I would like I’d like bigger collections and better collections. I can be to the airport in minutes and be out of here. The bus terminal is down the street.
I’ve always thought of myself as lucky. Even though I’ve spent most of my life alone. The period that I was married, all told, was only seventeen years. My first marriage was for six years, but he was overseas for three.
I think I have been blessed. I was blessed with wonderful parents. To have had a mother who was its wise, and as psychic, and as loving as my mother was, was remarkable. My father was extraordinarily handsome. He had a glorious voice. He was not a great business man. He would have made a superb engineer or architect. He was always inventing things and designing things. The reason we loved to go to the opera so much was because my father used to sing us to sleep with operatic arias with his own words. In relation to other people we didn’t have anything, but we had more.
My parents were total partners in everything. My father had enormous respect for my mother. Later in my life he said, if you’re ever half the women that your mother is, you’ll be doing fine. I didn’t grow up in a household where there was a macho parent or the mother was put down. My mother was an equal partner.
I can’t say though, that I grew up feeling I could do anything. My father put me down when I was so young and made me feel that I wasn’t good enough. I believed that I wasn’t good enough. I never got the paper the degree. I hampered myself all the way down the line maybe he’s right, I don’t have it. It doesn’t matter how well you do, if someone who’s that critical in your life pulls the rug out from under you, it’s gone.
It caused me, all my life, to have a very jaundiced view of my father. Now I say to him, “Dad I’m sorry.” He gave us so much. One of the biggest things he gave us was a feeling of integrity. I never fought with Stan or with Joe. I would consider fighting too demeaning. I had too much respect for them and they had too much respect for me, to ever fight.
This all tells very little of how passionately I felt and fought against discrimination and for genuine government of, for and by The People – all The People.