October 18, 2021
Some Thoughts On My Mom, Dorothy: I'm going to begin by quoting an excerpt of "The history of women's work and wages and how it has created success for us all", by Janet Yellen, "In the early 20th century, most women in the United States did not work outside the home, and those who did were primarily young and unmarried. In that era, just 20 percent of all women were "gainful workers," as the Census Bureau then categorized labor force participation outside the home, and only 5 percent of those married were categorized as such. The fact that many women left work upon marriage reflected cultural norms, the nature of the work available to them, and legal strictures. The occupational choices of those young women who did work were severely circumscribed. Most women lacked significant education."
The course of Dorothy's life was largely the result of the times in which she came of age. Her family was an erudite bunch, all blessed with great intelligence, but while her brother Morton was encouraged to get a college education and travel the world, eventually becoming a highly respected professor at Columbia University, Mom's life took a different course, following the aforementioned "cultural norms" of the time. Lacking a college education, she held one job as a receptionist, which she promptly gave up when she married my father. But despite the divergence of the sibling's destinies, they began life with gifts that were quite equal, the only real difference between them being gender. Unlike her brother, Mom had never been to France, but she'd taken basic French in high school. But once high school was over she'd never had the opportunity to use it. Here's a little anecdote though. In 2019 I was playing guitar for a French rock band, touring all over France. I called Mom from the road to see how she was doing, and I put her on the phone with the band's lead singer. And lo and behold, they had a little conversation in French. High school for Dorothy would have been roughly 1934, so eighty-five years out from 2019. One has to possess quite a lot of brainpower to pull off something like that. I often muse upon what Dorothy's life may have been had she been born fifty years later, in 1969, as opposed to 1919. Had that been the case she may have been given the opportunity to fulfill more of her potential than the first half of the twentieth century allowed.
Despite the lack of opportunity to become more worldly for herself, Mom possessed a great value for culture, which she wasted no time in imparting to her only son. She wanted to make sure that I was able to go out into the world and experience firsthand many of the things that she was only able to dream about for herself. So instead of simply allowing me to hang around our block in Queens, playing baseball and street hockey with the local kids, she was always taking me on the subway into the city. She took me to Lincoln Center music library, and to see plays at the 92nd Street Y. She took me to The Museum Of Natural History, The Museum Of Art, and to the planetarium. She planted the seed in me to develop a curiosity about the world, art, music, culture. It's probably the reason that I pursued a life as a musician, and it's certainly the reason that I've traveled so much of the world as an adult. I wanted to make sure that I saw the places that Dorothy would have liked to have seen but never had the chance. As most of you may know, my father Murry was quite the old school New York intellectual. Murry was probably most responsible for turning me into a reader, but Dorothy was responsible for my curiosity in exploring the places and things that I was reading about. I wish that she'd had the opportunity to see more of the world. I guess I'll have to continue to do it for her. Perhaps now she'll be able to explore some of the wonders of the world with Dad, flying around the cosmos like the angels in "Wings Of Desire". I hope so.
Namaste Miss Dorothy. I'm going to miss you.
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