On Family

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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