Moving To New York

I moved to Sutton Terrace on York Avenue and East 63rd St. in October 1967. My husband John had found the apartment, a short walk from Rockefeller University where I would be a postdoctoral fellow starting November 1. Although the rent for the two-bedroom apartment was $425 a month, more than four times that of our spacious six room Boston apartment, we felt very lucky. A terrace looked down on a large enclosed garden area where the children could play. As friendly doormen manned the exits to the street, it would be safe to let the children go back and forth to the garden by themselves, a tremendous boon to a busy working mother.

Amy, Andrew and I had stayed behind in Boston when John left to begin work at the New York Times. I packed up the house and arranged for movers. It was fun to have John come back on weekends to regale us with exciting anecdotes about famous writers and editors. I was full of anticipation about our New York life.

The last day at the lab was tough. I went into Dr. Nauta’s office to tell him I was going. He stood up and formally shook my hand and wished me good luck. Tears welled in my eyes as I realized an extraordinary chapter was closing. We had all shared a paradigm change in the scientific exploration of the mind. Due to discoveries in this lab, we could now chart the fine detail of neural networks for thinking. I had had daily contact with young investigators who would go on to be pillars of the new field of Neuroscience. I knew I was losing something irreplaceable.

On our last night in Boston, I took Amy, age 1 1/2 and Andrew, age 5, to the International House of Pancakes for a valedictory dinner, before taking the night train to New York. On the bus to South Station, I was appalled to discover that the antique setting on my engagement ring had vanished, uncut diamonds and all. I realized that the handle of the sturdy Mexican raffia bag that carried our travel essentials must have carried off the setting on one of the many times it had slipped over my left wrist on the way to the bus stop. Although the ring wasn’t really my engagement ring, it had symbolized my commitment. It was a family heirloom that had been given to me by my Brazilian aunt when I was nine. She had told me that it was made of uncut diamonds and was very precious. I had switched it from my right hand to my left in college when I had fallen in love with John. Later he had given me an engagement ring that I hadn’t liked so after a couple of years I had gone back to wearing the antique ring instead. Now I felt that I had lost my childhood. I showed Andrew the hole in the ring and we considered whether we should get off the bus and retrace our steps. The train didn’t leave until midnight. But it was getting dark and a search with two children in traffic would be dangerous and probably pointless. It occurred to me that the loss could represent the final break with our former life. We had been poor struggling students, now we were part of the New York literary crowd. It was appropriate for the slate to be swept clean. I wore the ring with the empty setting for years.

We didn’t sleep well on the train and were a disheveled lot when we reached the station. Instead of getting breakfast, I bought coffee, orange juice and doughnuts to go and took a taxi to the apartment looking forward to being welcomed by John. But when Andrew ran into the apartment shouting for his father, there was no answer. He had already left for work. We were all disappointed. He had not shared our vision of a triumphal family reunion to start a new life. I had wanted recognition for successfully negotiating the move and this big trip by myself. Crestfallen, I took the children out onto the terrace and opened the orange juice. A dark flake of soot floated down into the cup. I looked at Andrew and Amy and said, “Welcome to New York.”

Anya’s Thumbprints

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Anya’s Thumbprints

Nancy Orans Eder

 

Ingredients:

One eight-year-old granddaughter

One seventy-seven-year-old Nana

Two sticks of butter

One half cup of sugar

A bowl of patience

A bundle of enthusiasm

Sprinkled with joy — oh boy.

 

Two cups of flour

Keep it in the bowl

Don’t let it fly to the floor

Please

One teaspoon of vanilla

Some apricot jam

Can’t help but think

How lucky

I am.

 

A few thumbs and fingers

— Sticky at times —

Go into the making of

These lines of rhymes.

 

Fractions

And figures

Steady as you go

Just follow directions

Just go with the flow.

 

Hold that spoonful level

Check the measuring line

Sit straight on the chair

Whoops!

Pay attention to your elbow there.

 

Put into the fridge

Hold the tray steady

Cover and fold

Get the soft dough cold

 

Measuring

Mixing

Beating

Cutting

Rolling

Shaping

 

Finally Anya’s thumbprints

Pressed into each ball

Filled with apricot jam

Popped in the oven

Bake them all

The cookies are leavened

They’re done in ten minutes

The scent is from heaven

 

Now write it

Erase it

Change the fraction

To half

First comes the draft

The final version is aft.

 

While cookies are baking

Sweep up the bits from the floor

Left in the path

Of two happy people making cookies as planned

We’ve got enough recipes to beat the band.

 

A recipe book is brewing

We’re cooking with steam

It won’t be long now

We have a fond dream.

 

Markers and pens

Measuring spoons and cup

Parchment papers all crumpled

There’s a lot to clean up.

 

Cookie pans and

mixer blades collide

with spatulas and knives

butter wrappers and

jam pots

ALL

Fly into the sink

The oven is heating

Our cheeks have turned pink.

 

It’s hot in the kitchen

Anya is through

The cookies come out lovely

What else can we do?

Complete the page with a drawing

Let the cookies cool on the counter

Eat one Gobble two

We are done for today.

 

The cookies will be devoured

The memory shall fade

But for now we are happy

The cookies are made.

 

New Year’s Eve 1941

By Ellie Levin

Our families’ lake in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains was frozen solid in the winter of 1941, thick enough for wild, redheaded cousin Dick, home from Yale for a week or two, to plow a large area of snow near our shallow end of the lake. His family’s house was on the opposite shore where the current ran and would have been less safe. By our shore, he and cousin Harry, home from Annapolis, laid kindle and logs enough for a bonfire to warm skaters’ hands and feet as the temperature fell. After supper we slung our skates over our shoulders and headed down the hill toward the lake, the light bursting from the ice reflecting the rays back from the stars the further out we skated, our parents calling out, “Come back!” We could see our cousins walking across the frozen lake to our shore to join us.

We danced on our toes, glided across the ice spread eagle, and skated double Dutch until our hands and noses were numb. Warmed by the fire, we sailed back out, making several more forays on to the ice before we were ordered to take off our skates, and, in our boots, trek up hill to the party where house guests and relatives sat or stood with a glass of cheer in their hands. There was eggnog, plain or with rum, coffee and tea, steak tartar on toast, plum cake soaked in liquor, cookies and milk.

My brother and I struggled with sleepiness to stay up until the clock struck midnight. Some adults were already napping in the ground floor guestroom. When midnight finally came, we were kissed and hugged, wished a Happy New Year, and told to go upstairs to bed. We were now wide awake and reluctant, but we obeyed.

This would be our last skating party on New Year’s in our country house that I can remember. Soon there would not be enough gasoline available to civilians to motor from New York City. President Roosevelt had declared war on the Axis Powers, meat and butter were rationed. Our father had volunteered his medical services to help the Allies win the war. For the next four years, our family would reside near army hospitals in southern states with scorching summers and warm winters.

By the time we were back in New York in 1946, I was a teenager distracted from the pure joy of the early years by boys, clothes, and school assignments. New Year’s Eve became one more thing to worry about. Would I have a date? What would I wear? Would my date want to be at our family’s celebration? Anyway, after Thanksgiving, my parents decided to drain our house’s pipes as they had for the years of our absence. My aunts and uncles had shut down their country homes for the winter during the war years and continued to do so in peace time. Dick had died while in medical school of a heart condition due to childhood rheumatic fever. Harry was serving in the U.S. Navy, and my other cousins were scattered.

Years later when my children were growing up, I remember one Christmas through New Year’s when the house was open, but the weather was so warm and out-of-doors so muddy that we took the children swimming at Grossinger’s hotel. Their father was a champion swimmer; both of our sons would be captains of their high school swim team. Another winter, the lake in Central Park was briefly solid enough to be open for skaters to enjoy the freedom of skating in a pattern of their choice. My immediate family put on skates and joined me. They soon tired. But for me, still even now, chilly temperatures, tired muscles, aching feet, always fade in the glow of the good times and simple joys of skating long ago with my brother and cousins on the little lake in the mountains.