Greenwich Village, 1958.
“When my mom was a kid a social worker came by because my grandmother had a car accident and wasn’t like she used to be. So the kids ended up with foster parents and only saw their own parents on holidays.” --The Beat on Ruby's Street
Ruby wants to know why we never celebrate Mother’s Day. I said it doesn’t matter and leave it at that. She won’t, so I’m putting it down here and I told her, that’ll be the end of it.
First you should know I had a really great mother. She and my father owned an antiques store in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (the name of the town makes Ruby laugh). My mom had a knack for finding things, like a Louis Quatorze chair and a Wyeth watercolor and even one of the very first toasters.
My mother’s name was Nora. The store didn’t have a name, which I always liked. It just said “Antiques” and it was tucked away in a corner lot near a grocery store and Pinsker’s luncheonette. It looked like a little log cabin, and we had a ton of walk-in traffic, even though Sheboygan wasn’t all that big.
My father hauled and arranged the furniture and he did the accounting, too. Mom was the saleslady though she said she didn’t have to sell much, the antiques sold themselves. She knew the history of everything and it got so we all could recite where something came from or how it came to be.
People loved talking with her and listening to her. She had a story for everything, and the stories always wrapped you up in them and made you feel included. My father tried to talk like her when he was selling something to a customer, but he never quite got there. I guess he tried, and it bothered him a little. But he never said anything to us.
My father’s name was Tyrone, like Tyrone Power in the movies. (Didn’t look like him, though - he wore glasses. And he wasn’t named for him, either).
Ruby wants me to tell you about the accident, but there’s no point because she talks about it in the book. So you know my brother Eric and I ended up with my grandmother first and then foster homes.
I did see my mother a few times a year on holidays and she was always really happy to see me. She told stories, just like she did when we were kids. I remember a story about a garden where the flowers could talk. And another one about a dancing frog who only danced for its master.
My father carried her from the chair to the bed and back. He was always worried about us tiring her on Christmas.
I tell Ruby it’s more important to have each other every day than on holidays. That’s why we don’t need Mother’s Day. It could be any day and I’ll take her and Ray to the galleries around here, or Battery Park for a picnic or a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
I tell Ruby we have our own lives, and our own way of living them.