To get to downtown Boston from suburban Newton without a car was a real pain in the mid-70s–to get anywhere from Newton without a car was a pain, really–but my father Bernie told my mother Sari that a second car was wasteful and on this point, as on so many others, he would not budge. His disdain for waste was also the reason he initially fought having the second child she was now carrying. Overpopulation was a real problem, he’d told her, and he’d stuck to that policy until he read a bunch of articles arguing for the superior adjustment of children with siblings. Then, he set about impregnating my mother with a zeal that was more clinical than impassioned. Or so she suggested to her best girlfriend Miriam later while I listened, “all big eyes and big ears,” as my mother always said when she realized she’d said something taboo in front of the kid.
Now every morning he zipped off to his assistant professor job in his used Toyota (so fuel-efficient he’d crowed when she’d protested its drabness), and left her high and dry with the kid and her swelling stomach.
Even on her birthday, as it turned out. This morning she’d awoke to his daily note and, of course, no car. He’d left early for work and had “fixed his own breakfast to give her a break,” as he’d written in his spidery block letters. “Happy birthday, sweetie!!” Well. The two exclamation points mollified her until she scanned the day’s list. Every day he gave her a list—go to bank, get groceries, take Lisa to park—and every day she completed it with a plodding resignation. Today she saw he’d scheduled a biannual physical for the kid. Continue Reading →