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A Memorable Performance

Life Story Club Contributor

Feb 27, 2020

I think from the time I was very little, before I could speak, I would be humming things. I just seemed to live in a world, a very, very early world of music. My parents took me to church which almost ruined things because I liked to make little songs that I made up all by myself. I was distressed to find that you had to read things. And I was young enough and ignorant enough that I got through that stage.

I think of myself as singing from the heart all the time. It’s as though my first language is singing, before anything else happened. I remember as a very, very little child. But my parents thought it sounded melodic, or at least pretended they did. I do think that “Marriage from the Heart” was about singing. It was. I wrote a book called Marriage from the Heart and it was a bestseller.

It was because I’ve always been musical. And I just sing to sing. To sing. You know? I hate it when I have to, you know–I don’t hate it–I like it when I’m singing in choruses and things because you have that constriction that’s important. But I don’t ever remember not singing. It was that early.

Through the boxes

Life Story Club Contributor

Feb 3, 2020

I had a strange thing happen when I was very young, when I was about … I wasn’t even 10. This was in Jackson Heights and they were ripping up all of the old places where we had these fantastic yards to play in. And so they were deciding they didn’t need that any longer, and so … But all the boxes were coming in, because there were the first refrigerators for the entire block in Jackson Heights. Suddenly, they were all delivered on the same day. And so, as you can imagine, it was heaven for the children, because there’s all these boxes and you’re climbing around and climbing around. And as usual, I was not used to thinking about time. And so I was … My sense is I was five. It was in that area. My mother always let me out, because I always came home. But I was in these tunnels that the kids had actually just done the way … What kind of creature would do that? Anyhow, there were tunnels, through the boxes.

And I must have stayed too long, so it was just me in there, and then this boy who was much older than me. He was, I think, 12, and I was about five, five-ish. So what happened was nothing, in a sense. We just were climbing through these little hallways we’d made and we didn’t realize how dark it was getting. And anyhow, this young man was looking around, just was looking. I think he was curious of what a young girl looked like. I didn’t have any sense of fear in terms of that, but I knew that it wasn’t the right thing to do, and I didn’t know what to do about it, so I shut up. And he just looked at me from afar. It wasn’t anything that was terrible or … Although, it was frightening. And then when I came back, I started feeling guilty, because I thought, “I have to tell Mommy about this, because I’m not supposed to do these things.” And it was just, I felt like I was betraying somebody by doing it. And actually I was, because this was a kid who was just very naive, and wanted to look at somebody, but I shouldn’t have been there.

He asked me if he could touch me. Yes. And of course, that put me into terror. And I kind of overreacted. As I said, nothing even got done. It was about … It was beginning to do. And for years, I felt guilty about it, because I felt I betrayed him, because he hadn’t done anything really wrong. And then when I went to … I went to my mother afterward and confessed the whole … and of course, when you confess to your mother these kinds of things, they want everything, including the things that never even happened. They’re like a … My mother was hysterical and it infected us. Because he lived in the apartment above us.

He was 12. So he was much older. And you know what? There was a knowing in me that there was a wrongness done, because of me not being able to be … able to say, “No Mommy, this didn’t … ” But the thing is, I have to say, this just upset me all my life, so I don’t know why it was … because it just was a sense of guilt that I had done something I should not have done, but why would I … but it was tough for me. I don’t know how to … And I did talk to my mother, and my mother went up and told Mrs. Wiseman about what happened, and she wouldn’t let me play with him, and my mother wouldn’t let me play with him. So that’s how they just did it. But it was a sense of that I had done something wrong, when in fact, if you look at the facts, nothing was done wrong.

It wasn’t my fault. But it wasn’t his fault either. I guess that’s what I’m saying, that he asked me something politely. He wanted to look at my underpants. And that, of course, puts you into high terror. But my memory is very strong that he had no intention of doing anything that we would call, quote, “bad.” And so that … It made me realize how when you’re not clear about things, and when you’re in with people who, especially my mother, who would always get hysterical, that was her first reaction on any situation. It made me realize how I had done something that made him be a bit ostracized, and that I for years thought about that, because it somehow did bother my conscience. And I was glad I had that conscience. I was glad that I … maybe I was being myself, overly sensitive. But I’m glad, because if that had happened to any of my kids later on, I would have been very upset. So that’s it.

Yeah, I had the instinct to protect myself, I did. Well, my mother was really a nutcase, and that kind of that, and she was always saying I was going to get killed by this and that and the other thing. So, in part, it was her hyperawareness.

This was years ago. Years ago. It would never have happened, even 10 years later, because by then, the culture had changed in that way. In certain ways, ironically, just making people all feel too guilty about everything.

Work Life (Continued)

Life Story Club Contributor

Jan 30, 2020

My story did not end well. It took me a long time to realize. I was depressed for years. I actually considered– At one point, I was considering suicide.

I worked so hard on that book. Seven years of grinding and everything. But, what happened was, I had written a book that was really fantastic. It was. I know it and I went back to look at it. Just because I check myself.

Yes. It was in MLU that was so low in expectation. It shocked me, actually, that ethical culture was operating like some kind of schlock shop. That there was no… That they were three or four people… I mean, there were people who were there for me. One of them really convinced me not to consider suicide. Because I went to her for help. Because it was going on for too long.

But I said, “I’ll never write another book again.” Because it was that hurtful. I really put my heart into it. It will always be good.

But one of my saddest things is… I never even got to hear about all the things that happened. I happened to notice a couple of months ago, that somebody had said something about me. Apparently, there were people talking about it all the time, but I have no idea who they are.

A writer writes because they want to be heard. It’s the only reason. They want to be heard and they want to do it in a dignified way.

I was just beyond help for years. And then, on top of it all, Hal took us out to the hinter lands, from my point of view. Because we were out in the other side of the country. California. I was dragged out to California. I felt like I was out sync. We had to go because Hal had to go where his job was and it was in California. I was not getting royalties from the book or anything. I, still to this day, have no idea how many books we sold. That makes no sense.

It was naive, in retrospect. But, it was nonetheless, extraordinarily painful and extraordinarily dangerous for me. Because I was away from my friends in New York. I had no one to really cry on.

Hal had to just hit the ground running. So, he was all tied up in his work. I thought, what a fool I was. What a fool I was. All those things I did. Every once in a while, somebody would call. There were two or three people from New York who knew me and would call me.

By the eighth year, somebody kind of came up and said, “So, when are you going to write the next book?” On and on and on. I was thinking, “Next book, are you kidding? Look what you did for me, for the first book.”

And then I thought that’s churlish. I didn’t want to be that kind of a person. But it takes a lot of nobility, when you know that that was your best crack. That it can never be replicated. That the time comes, and then it goes.

I didn’t even know people were reading the book until years later. Somebody here or there would say, “Oh yeah, I wrote… read the book.”

Right. Nobody in ethical culture read the book. That really upset me. Nobody at the top did anything. They act like they were country bumpkins. These were intelligent people. I had… and it made me feel… everything made me feel worse because I thought, what a schmuck I am.

I know. I didn’t think of that for years until last week. Toward the end of the session, I just realized. That’s why I was so sorry. But I wanted to… I needed to say this because-

I’ve kept it for so long and felt so guilty about it. Forlorn about it and it really was a damn shame because they took somebody who I think was so competent and who had so much love for ethical culture. And I did it for the right reasons. And I will always believe they were the right reasons. I got no kudos. I got no big bucks.

Only twice did two people over a couple of years. It happened twice. Somebody wrote a note and said,”That was a really great book.”

Work Life

Life Story Club Contributor

Jan 23, 2020

I started out as a high school English teacher because that’s what I thought would be my profession. It’s always been in my heart no matter what I’ve done. I’ve always been mindful of that area, but I wanted to break out myself and to write as a creative writer. It was difficult to do because my mother was a best selling author and it made it harder for me. She was very supportive of me by not being overbearing and letting me go my own way and decide whether I really wanted to do it.

It took me about 10 years because there’s just a lot of research, more than I had ever imagined would be. So it was a good book and I wanted it to be a real book. I said, there’s no reason to do a book on being a writer unless you have something new to say and something distinct to say and I wanted it to be for the kids. You know, the kids, the grown kids and everybody in between. I’m not talking about my family particularly, just all families. I thought that every child should have an education. I had principles that I wanted to get out, but not in a marmy way. That’s why it took me a long time to put it together, but it came out and it too became a best seller. I was surprised at that because I wasn’t looking to best my mother or anything and she never would have, we were never competitive or combatively competitive.

I do not know where my last book is. There are books out there still apparently. Marriage from the Heart is still being sold in some places but I have no idea where and I don’t even know where.

I’ve always wondered where the money is. I got an advance and everything. I should have gotten royalties. I never, I was stupid. I really was not good about being an advocate for myself.

I had tried an agent in the beginning and there were things that, Marriage from the Heart was very popular actually. I was so into my own world of how important educational projects were, that I didn’t care if I got the money or not. It’s just the way I was, for better or for worse. It was for worse for me financially, I would have loved to come and apparently it went over to other countries too. I’m fine that I don’t have money from it, because I worked and I had other ways of…I really wanted to just write something that was distinct and unique and that people would really love and I know that all of that happened.

Okay. I’m hoping it’s out there still. In fact, somebody told me that it’s still in the New York public library and that you can get copies of it. So someday if one of you goes to get one, would you get an extra one for me?

Young dreams

Life Story Club Contributor

Jan 23, 2020

I was raised in New York City. I had parents who were writers. So guess what I thought I would do and I would write. Though, I decided instead to become a teacher, which had set me up to teach everybody else how to write, which was a lot of fun. And that’s how it started. Although later on I did write my own book. So that’s it. I wanted to be a writer because my parents were writers.

I remember sitting there when I was three and my mother put down a piece of paper and said, “Here,” with one of these, “Here, write a novel.” I never wrote a novel. I was very young. I think I was probably four and a half or five. And I remember that I perfectly knew what the writing was about because that’s all my parents talked about. Usually crying because they hadn’t gotten their checks because they were freelancers during the Depression and then even out of the Depression. But they did manage to feed us and to get me in a good public school, luckily. We didn’t have any money for a larger dreams at the time.

I saw them on a typewriter all the time. And they were these old ones that you’ve had to like paced your fingers on, and they had such narrow fingers and I look and I have the same narrow fingers, but I think it was more just hereditary. The old, old ones, with the red and black ribbon. They worked in the 1920s through 60s. They were very large, but on the other hand you had clearer print. The typewriter that I was on with my parents and they had to kill themselves to get down. I hear them all day. They were soaking their hands. It was difficult.

On Family

Life Story Club Contributor

Jan 16, 2020

I was raised in New York City, in a family that you could trace back to the Revolution, of people coming up through the ranks in various… I guess over three millennia. And my parents were both freelance writers during the Depression, which was not easy for the family. Luckily I was in the womb for part of that, so I didn’t have the scars that my parents had.

And my brother, my big brother Georgie. So all I remember is that I was always fighting with him and I was never winning, but I never gave up. My brother had me pinned down on the floor one day. That was because I was a brat. I was mouthy and I thought I had as much rights as when I came out of the womb. So I don’t blame him for it, he was being nagged terribly by me. But now we’re best friends by the way. And we have been for many decades. But basically he was just so much older than me, and by the time I was in junior high he was off to college and I saw very little of him for years after that. He was seven and a half, eight years actually, older than me. So it was just a difference.

And my parents were writers, so of course they didn’t give me any chance. They said, “Okay, well you’re going to be the writer.” You know, and I said, “Absolutely not.” But the problem was the talent was there, and some of it’s genetic, and some of it, certainly much of it, is that you’ve been in a milieu where things were done in a certain way. And so without thinking, fall right into it.

But I decided I was going to be practical because my parents had been really broke so many times. Although I must say my mother wrote a best seller, I think it was in E.P. Dutton and it was in the 1970s. It was called The Amazing Nellie Bly. My mother had researched…Well, my mother wrote from… The story came from her, it wasn’t a made up story. But of course by the time you got to publication it had to be jazzed up some. My mother was a stickler for telling the truth, you know, so that was something I’ve always remembered, that she said, “It doesn’t pay to to lie.” And when you’re a writer… You know, it was difficult for her because she wouldn’t lie and she wouldn’t make up stories.

And so I decided just to become a school teacher, high school teacher. Yeah, I became an English teacher. And I like the kids, I love being with children. I went from K through 12 in terms of the different times that I was teaching. And so I had a very rich background for myself, and I didn’t want to write, because I remembered how miserable my mother was. Although the book was really a good book, and years later she would recognize that more. But it was like giving birth to triplets or something, you know?

But I kept saying “You know…” My mother said, to her dying day, my mother kept saying… But yet, I’d just come and I’d say, “Oh mom, I just got this big…” You know, something, some important thing. And she’d say “Yes, but you haven’t written a book yet.” And for years that was it.

I actually did not become a writer until after my mother died. And it wasn’t something that I was holding out or whatever. It’s just I was very busy as a teacher and a philosopher. I was the first woman Ethical Cultural leader in New York City, when I grew up, because I loved Ethical Culture. To me, I could really see it as the future. That it had the right components and it was just…it couldn’t have been born anywhere but in New York. Ethical Culture is a religious community, actually. It was also secular. It was a mix and match kind of a perspective. And yes, that was what was so enchanting to me, because I was very much not religious in my childhood and everything. But it gave me a double… It was like having binocular vision. That it gave me two perspectives, and that was what made it very strong for me.

And I, myself, published a book. It was called Marriage of the Heart: Eight Commitments of a Spiritually Fulfilling Life Together.

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