Goodbye Eugene- hearing the news of your passing has given us the “Biloxi Blues.”
Whether we were “Barefoot in the Park, while “Lost in Yonkers or hitching a ride home from “Brighton Beach” we waited to hear Jonathan Schwartz “Playing our Song,” on WQXR American Standard Radio. Marvin Hamlisch played Carole Bayer Sager’s lyrics to his music with his particular Zip-a-dee-doo -dah enthusiasm. We swayed along and knew all the words. Your collaborations with Mike Nicols and Gene Zaks prolifically chronicled our youth. Oh Neil, we got hooked when we read your name amongst the credits as we watched Sgt. Bilko, played with such guile on The Phil Silvers show. We waited to hear your interviews with Joan Hamburg on 77 WABC to learn what play was next to be “Broadway Bound.” Her interviews typically came at the end of her show after the bargain shopping and food segments. Even if we left the house to spatzere around our favorite thrift shops we heard your familiar very New Yawkish sounding voice broadcasted live. The two of you had a repartee we so enjoyed although we considered you quite the “Odd Couple.”
We marveled at the big city duplex apartments with sunken living rooms, and gilded cage appeal that set the stage for many of your books. Was Willy’s (Walter Matthau) apartment at the beaux arts Ansonia really that big? We thought it could possibly the best pad ever to play hide and go seek. Did Jane Fonda actually run around “Barefoot in the Park” as she pleaded Robert Redford to try again to save their marriage? We wanted to live in her apartment as soon as we moved to the Village. We knew we didn’t want to live uptown and become a “Prisoner on Second Avenue.” We weren’t sure you could top the episode when Felix Unger walked into Oscar Madison’s cluttered apartment to try to get back together with Gloria. Then you did when you had Molly Picon threaten to keep her head in the oven over the troubles with her bachelor sons.
Our take away quote of yours is “ if you can go through life without experiencing pain you probably haven’t been born yet.” RIP Neil Simon- we sure you’ll be filling them with laughter in Suite 203-04 during your “Chapter Two.”
Once there was a girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her far head, when she was good she was very very good and when she was bad —well wait control, alt, delete as far as we were concerned she was never bad- she was our one and only, one of a kind, above all the rest, separate and apart Aunt Da. My cousin’s and I were her little girls. With two daughters and 5 nieces she had 7 little girls all in a row. We were her Madeleines, she our Miss Clavell. As we walked into the room she had her roll call – Judy Toby, Bettie Ann, Elise Meryl, Roberta Mae and Amy Renee. Her world was complete when we showed up. She loved us dearly- we loved her more. A women of few needs who exemplified the definition of a family first kind of gal. She knew us all well and took a silent vow- for better or worse, in sickness and in health till her death does she now part. It’s unfathomable that we will never hear her voice calling our name or feel her arms around our waist. She set up traditions of food and candy and never forgot a birthday card. Her one of a kind giggle surrounded us with an armor like protection. As long as she was around nothing was going to harm us. She loved her babies and regaled us with Beverly and Joyce stories with every visit. Often the same ones but we never told her we heard them before. She was thrilled when they married Dennis and Bob and thought of them as sons .Her indomitable strength beyond all odds makes us question any limitation that might come our way. She never bemoaned her fate and made the most of her birthright. When her grandchildren Ted, Luke and Daria were born she was over the moon and filled with joy. She beamed with pride at the mention of their names. “The boys are so tall, and Daria, her Bev’s little girl – did you see the color of her eyes?” Oh my, she would say. She loved it when her little girls had little girls and a boy. Amanda, Rachel, Ali, Jackie , Stacey, Ilana and Jakey. They always put a smile on her face and added a tune to the songbook in her heart. Her normal was our “are you kidding you accomplished all that and more in your lifetime?” Bella Sophia was one of two cherries on the top of her Sundae. “That’s Jackie’s little girl, she’s so cute” she said to me. Last Sunday Roberta and I visited with her and she got to hear about and see a picture of Sadie Bea as Amanda held her in the delivery room. “I love this picture,” she said. So Aunt Da we are not saying good bye. We’ll let your life be an example. If we could own one piece of your strength, one glimmer in your eye and one percent of your sugar filled heart we would just about have it all. We all have been touched by the latest angel sitting prominently in the first row, first seat in the sky! If James Lipton from the actors studio were to ask Aunt Da what she would want to hear G-d say as he welcomed her at the pearly gates, we could imagine it would be “Dorothy, go find your table over there where Bubby Chicken has mandel bread and apple cake freshly baked waiting for you. Uncle Morty has 6 heads of lettuce and 12 watermelons that he surgically cut up and Sophie has been holding your seat at her maj jongg table – Rest In Peace mamala. We miss you so!
When you wake up on the right side of nostalgia, send pictures and exhume memories of days well spent. Love your muffin of choice and iced coffee and cherish the moment. Live in the moment.
Easy to say not often easy to do. When you get the chance to grab the holy grail as it’s swinging by go for the ride. Who knows why the days that hit you sweetly happen. All I know when they do happen why not choose to see the windmills. Don Quixote mistook them for giants and spent his time tilting at windmills. My take away quote from Man of La Mancha is and I quote. “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished.” Too often we catch an impregnable moment and put up our dukes when we are being offered kindness. After fortuitously hearing Bette Miller croon “As the Parade Passes By,” with Shoshanna (friend of 50 plus years) last eve, it dawned on me as my bench in life grows smaller I’m filling each seat with the deepest of players who have my back when I’m looking the other way.
So since June and July lasted 10 minutes and August is steaming our reading glasses why not get out your baton and tap shoes and join the parade. Watch reruns of My Little Margie and don’t “get up” to change the station because you don’t want to miss the episode where Peter Sands (Don Porter) asks his secretary, Susie McNamara ) to have lunch with him. Loved -The Ann Sothern Show. Netflix who?