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Thoughts on the First of July

1. I stopped going to overnight camp at age 13 once the fast boys started pairing off with the fast girls. The necking (that’s what it was called then), the clothes and make-up (the girls wore cashmere sweaters and eyeliner to go to breakfast), the conversations and social life were too much and too difficult for me. I stayed home in Buffalo and worked at the local library, a hospital, and a public swimming pool. On the weekends I went to Crystal Beach, Ontario. My best friend there—Sandy, I’ll call her—was a bookworm, a top student, funny, and, like me, not teenage “cool.” We bonded. I dug her. I dug her grandmother, too. She owned a big, beautiful lakefront home, chained smoked, and spent a lot of time cooking for her kids and grand kids, always with a cigarette dangling from her mouth unlike my grandmother who had a little cottage two blocks from the beach, didn’t smoke, played cards with her friends, rarely cooked and when she did, the meal was lousy. Once I stopped worrying that there would be ashes in the food at Sandy’s, I loved eating there. There were grandchildren of all ages, a lot of laughing and yelling. And a lot of love. My father told me that years before, Sandy’s grandmother had been a madam. A Jewish madam! My father had grown up in the old neighborhood. The rough part of town. Sandy’s uncle had been his friend. I wanted to think that’s how he knew. I never asked Sandy if she knew her grandmother had run a whorehouse. Eventually, she mentioned it. Just in passing, too. She laughed about it. She said her grandmother had been poor, figured out how to survive and provide for herself and her family, had been a good businesswoman, and knew how to run the show. I loved learning that not all grandmothers had canasta clubs. On the 4th of July, Sandy and I, along with her younger siblings, cousins, sometimes their parents, and always her grandmother would watch fireworks on Lake Erie on the beach at her house. I had more fun and felt more at home there than I did at my grandmother’s and at the public beach with the crowd.

2. Two Sundays ago, June 23, the writer of an article in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times referred to Leonard Cohen as the “late Leonard Cohen.” I had been away and had not read a newspaper in a week. Had I missed this news? I googled Leonard Cohen. No. He had not died. He is on tour. Performing. I emailed the editor of that section. I have worked with him. I told him Leonard is not “late.” It was corrected in the Times yesterday on June 30. The writer wrote that the date of the initial error was July 22. Oy! Corrections! Corrections! Corrections!

So no barbecues or big beach houses for me on this 4th. I still dislike losing myself to fit in. My mother-in-law is looking forward to our quiet, little visit. Leonard Cohen is in Europe, singing to the crowds.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!


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