On November 6, 1927 a little girl was born – me – to impoverished Orthodox Jewish parents who needed a boy. They already had a girl. One girl is enough, but you take what you get. They got me.
I grew up to be a bigger, noisier me–opinionated and truculent. They wanted me to marry early. Instead, I insisted on going to college, Brooklyn College, because it was free.
My parents never understood me nor I them, but we loved each other in our chaotic way. We differed on almost everything. We fought about almost everything. In the end, I like to think they were moderately proud of me.
I celebrated the exact anniversary of 86 with my eldest child. The Indian dinner was her idea – we had lived in India long ago and loved the cuisine. She was getting out of work in a neighborhood with many good Indian restaurants.
“Come meet me,” she said.
“But it’s dark and I’m blind,” I protested.
“Take a taxi,” she said. She’s a wiseguy.
I am a Depression child, congenitally unable to take taxis. Stingy. What the uncharitable call “cheap.”
“Come,” she said. “Meet me on 28th Street. Take the #6 train at Union Square. Ask people for help.”
Off I went. Blind and careful. New Yorkers are kind to white-haired, distressed ladies wandering in the dark. I made it, to Union Square, to the #6 train, to 28th Street – and there was my daughter. Triumphant. “See!” she said.
“No,” I said, “but I came anyway.” We went through the unfamiliar streets – I do not know the east side of my city at all – to a Chettinaad restaurant, Anjappar, which has an unfamiliar cuisine – and how we overate, treating ourselves to southern Indian delicacies. We had mutton sukka vartival and and dosa stuffed with potato curry and wonderfully spicy chicken and eggplant. Lassi washed it down.
Then, we went to Spice Corner to buy Indian sweets, and then we strolled along from 29th and Lexington Avenue to 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue. Only then did I succumb to the corruption of a cab – I wasn’t up to subway wandering by then. But in spite of the extravagant taxi ride, it was an absolutely grand NEW YORK BIRTHDAY. I wonder where I’ll celebrate 87?