Just a Jewish Girl from Waco

MarianneRecently I had a visit from Marianne Smith, an old friend whom I haven’t seen since I was in graduate school in the late 70s. Marianne lives in California and we’d completely lost touch until I launched ArtProfiler in 2013 and she emailed me. I remembered instantly who she was, a dark-haired young woman with a big radiant smile, who would always say: “I’m just a Jewish girl from Waco, Texas.” Her face  would always light up when she said that and she’d drawl the words real slow, in a way that to me was foreign and magical.  I was a Jewish girl too, but I knew nothing of Texas, and if someone had told me I’d be moving there thirteen years later, I’d have thought they were crazy.

At the time, Marianne and I were both aspiring writers living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She had a tall, handsome boyfriend named Craig who’d always scoop up my four-year-old daughter and toss her in the air or carry her around on his shoulders. I was a single mom. My marriage to a Czech photographer in London had ended two years before. I was lonely, sad, frightened and drinking too much. Marianne seemed safe to me, familiar, and I enjoyed being around her. We were both involved in a small newsprint literary magazine called Dark Horse, whose editor, Jane Barnes, probably the most brilliant person I’ve ever met, lived across the street from me (Jane got me sober a few years later, but that’s another story).

And now, thirty-eight years later, Marianne was sitting at my kitchen table in Austin, Texas. She had the same big winsome smile, the same droll and measured manner of speech. She still looked youthful (which made me feel good).  She reminded me that Craig had once built me a colossal oak table — varnished, stained, shiny and huge: almost the size of a ping pong table — when he was between jobs and my parents were coming to visit. We had a tea party for my parents at that table, which took up the entire dining room of my small Cambridge apartment. And when I moved back to New York City in 1979, I took the table with me. But I don’t know what happened to it after that, and I would have totally forgotten about it if Marianne hadn’t reminded me.

That made me wonder how many other things I’ve forgotten over the the years, things that were important, had value and then disappeared from my life for one reason or another. During the time we lost touch, Marianne married and had a family. She continued as a writer and political activist. She is still friends with Craig. I looked at her sitting across the kitchen table from me and thought what a gift to know someone in all the drama and intensity of young adulthood and then become reacquainted three decades later, when the story is so much further along, and one can see how the picture developed and solidified with all its twists and turns, and how one’s own picture, so known and yet so mysterious, developed in the same stretch of time.

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