published works
books in progress
quotes about Naomi

Photograph by either Uncle Saul, Uncle Bob, Uncle Elliot or Aunt Lilian. Or maybe Uncle Harold.

When I was four I went on my first great adventure, a business trip with a black-haired, blue-eyed, handsome stranger who seemed to be my father. That is, my mother had told me he was my father; ergo, I trusted he was my father. Trust was my default position: I had had no experience with betrayal.

I had no experience with men, either. This particular man, the one labeled "father," had just returned from years of Air Force service during World War II. He’d been stationed halfway across the country. During his long absence I had made my debut into the intimate family society which was, during that war, a lively matriarchy. Women cuddled us, fed us, bathed us. It was my mother, a teacher, who left for work every day and earned the money that paid our rent, bought our food. In fact I never had to become a feminist; I was born as one.

So my father and I were not really acquainted with each other. When he was able to get leave, he’d drop in for a week or so. Upon returning to his base, he’d write letters to my mother, sometimes with a wistful question about me: "Did she notice when I left?" I don’t think I did. I didn’t know what his function was.

What a staunch little character I was! I had no qualms about going off alone with this strange man, plunked in the front seat of an auto without seat belts. Our departure point was The Bronx, New York, where we lived. Our destination was Woonsocket, Rhode Island, a factory town where my mother’s large family had settled. Distance, about 185 miles. Driving duration, over 4 hours.

My father and I headed off in bright daylight, wafted, I presume, on the winds of my mother’s fervent hope that her first and up til then only child would initiate some sort of familial relationship with her cerebral, emotionally restricted yet deeply beloved husband. I had another role on that journey, but I wasn’t aware of it until now.

Interstate 95, that wide white superhighway, didn’t yet exist so we took the old road, overhung with huge trees, an enchanted forest. Hours later it was nighttime, we were in a village square in an old New England town and my father had pulled off the road to phone Woonsocket and say we were lost. I was unfazed; my chauffeur was slightly puzzled but not unamused.

We got there, eventually. An open front door, golden light flowing out, my aunts, their loving smiles, open arms. One of my aunts asked my father how I had fared on what was a long, long trip for a little child. Had I gotten fussy?

No, my father said, I had done very well, had kept myself entertained by looking out of the car window and chatting away to myself.

"At some point," my father reported, "she announced that she had seen a blue cow with red spots. And not only was there not a blue cow with red spots, there wasn’t even a cow."

In that little story is buried every secret of my entire life.