Category Archives: Tiana Leonard

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.”


My College Friend

by Tiana Leonard

Betsy Games and I have exchanged Christmas cards for almost 50 years. We both married members of the Harvard Crimson Editorial board and my husband was an usher at their wedding, which he subsequently satirized in his first novel, The Naked Martini. When our children were small, we exchanged bridge nights and visits to each other’s summer cottages. A snapshot of Betsy and me with our two tow-headed sons, sitting on the beach at Cape Cod is on my refrigerator. My daughter Amy’s first memory is of watching the lunar landing in the Brick House study with her brother Andrew, and Alison and Timmy Games. Continue reading

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New Hampshire Wedding

By Tiana Leonard

“I do!”

The groom-to-be’s emphatic response cut Larry off in mid sentence as he was reciting the vows. Gathered friends and family laughed in understanding. Stiff and Amy had waited 48 years to share those words and they were eager. Not counting her withholding college boyfriend, this was Amy’s first serious relationship. Amazingly, her 49-year-old consort was also unmarried. Maybe they had been searching for each other.  When a mutual friend had introduced them in Gainesville, Florida, three years before, they had both thought the other attractive but uninterested. A year of increasingly personal online flirting followed during which they discovered that they had 60 Facebook friends in common.

In June, when Amy was back in Gainesville on summer break, she told me she was asking a man named Stiff Packard out to lunch. When I asked her later how it had gone, she said it had been fun. She told me he was studying to be a nurse and was the DJ of an internet radio jazz program. Since Amy lives in Washington DC, I didn’t give it much thought. So a few months later I was shocked to learn that Amy and Stiff were having daily two-hour phone conversations. This was momentous. Amy has been phone phobic since leaving puberty. As far as we knew she had never talked on the phone for more than a half hour with anyone.  Her brother Andrew was clearly shaken. He and Amy have been close ever since my divorce from their father started them on a life of airplane travel together.  During football season, they would watch the Gators play on their bicoastal TVs, texting continually on exciting plays. Andrew is divorced and his youngest child will soon be leaving for college. The prospect of losing his special relationship to Amy was wrenching.  I felt the same way. Because of her academic schedule, Amy has spent every Christmas as well as spring and summer vacations with me. Now that I was a widow, I was looking forward to European trips together. Continue reading