Culture Clash on the Streets of New York
October 12, 2011 - 12:59 pm
My mother scoffed at his proposal and said “how can you possibly ask me to marry you, when you are living with another woman?” He asked for two weeks and re-proposed after he had moved out and gotten his own apartment.
My grandmother admits to having threatened the Rabbi who was to perform the wedding. Apparently the Rabbi insisted on talking to the couple prior to the ceremony, and grandma was afraid that any discussion might give my mother cause to back out. My grandmother pulled the Rabbi aside and told him, under threat of grievous bodily harm, to “Get on with it!.”
And my grandmother genuinely loved my father, thinking that his assertive, devil-may-care attitude might be a good foil for my mother’s more taciturn personality.
My father was more than capable of making up for his humble beginnings. He was bright, now an attorney and fit in well with the other parents of gifted children at Hunter College Elementary School, where I was sent as a wee urchin. Being an ex-football player made him stand out in a world of social workers, teachers, doctors and accountants. Socially and economically he could fit in.
But the clash was still there, under the surface. Wage and hour investigator / business attorney; modern dance / football; Chopin / Gilbert & Sullivan; and the big clash, the happy go lucky optimist who taught me, “you can always play your violin on another corner” against the depressive pessimist.
It’s no wonder my father called my mother “Mrs. Doom and Gloom” and my mother called my father (and later me) “The Happy Moron.”
My father eventually became a Republican and voted for Nixon in the 1968 election. My mother died in 2003 at the age of 92, still a life-long Democrat. To paraphrase the title of Harry Stein’s 2009 book on his own coming to terms with the culture wars, I’m sure she looked back on many occasions and thought, “I can’t believe I was sitting next to a Republican.”