Penny Marshall’s death hits so close to home. Born the same year as my mother, she offered a different model of adult femalehood–screwball funny, radically unpretentious, and trailblazing. A director, a comedian, a Bronx-born broad with gorgeous legs and unfailing creative vision: I still wear an L on my sweater in homage to her Laverne. She was one of my chosen god-mommies though I met her only once, and I’m bereft to learn she’s no longer on our plane. Gen X ladies: We’re really the grownups now.
Sunday, on the precipice of a new moon and the Jewish New Year, I woke at 4 am, early even for me. Cool air drifted through the window and rain pitter-pattered against the glass as I lounged in bed, draped in an autumn mumu and reading my second Gilda Radner book in two days. I’ve been pretty open about how hard I’ve been finding life, so the peace of that moment was sweet.
I’m not entirely sure why Gilda’s been giving me so much comfort right now. I’ve been reading and watching everything about her and I think partly it’s her guilelessness coupled with that intense mischief. Her intelligence and sense of the absurd were palpable, but so were her huge vulnerability and empathy–it was all wrapped in an enormous, childlike glow. Not a childish one, mind you for by all reports she was eminently kind, and children rarely are. (People who think children are born kind are fooling themselves; kindness is always a learned trait.) But Gilda was surely childlike: playful, present, boundlessly, bountifully enthusiastic. So much so that her voice was extra-raspy and her limbs extra rubbery, as if excitement was constantly stretching her limits. Continue Reading →