Marian and Me


Looking at pictures of my Niece the other day, I began to think about Marian Lyttle, the remarkable woman who was my Mother-in-law. I met Marian  when I was 20 years old in June of 1971. I was engaged to her son, David, at the time, and had flown to Los Angeles from Boston to spend some time with the Lyttle family so they could get to know me. The petite and ultra chic Marian was welcoming and gracious, and not just a little intimidating to an unsophisticated New England girl. I remember marveling at the immaculate home she had created; white carpets, neat gardens, everything in its place. This home, overlooking the last large undeveloped parcel of land in the San Fernando Valley-the Clark Gable ranch-was such a far cry from my humble roots.

One morning I was startled by the sounds of people scurrying about the hallway;I got up and peeked out the bedroom door to find several Black ladies in white uniforms hustling through the house. It never occurred to me that Mrs. Lyttle had professional cleaning help! No one I knew had a maid service; my family cleaned their own homes and those of their friends if someone needed their help. Later that day I was again surprised when a man walked into the yard as I was sunbathing: he was, of course, the gardener.

I remember the first time I saw Marian’s closet.It was a masterpiece of organization in every way: stylish Rodeo Drive clothing hung on perfect hangers, rows of trendy shoes in their boxes stacked on a long shelf above the clothes, color coordination in everything. I felt as if I had stumbled into Yves St. Laurent’s dream studio!

But Marian’s fashion sense and style were not the only qualities that impressed me.This woman had been widowed young; the great love of her life was taken by cancer in his 40’s, and she was left with three children to raise: her eldest son Larry, David, and my adorable Sister-in-law, Judy. I know that her way of coping was often to withdraw into that cool demeanor that she kept for the world. She read, she travelled, she shopped, she exercised..she was a very hip lady for a Mom in the 1970’s.

Marian’s outward nature was in stark contrast to my Italian Mom’s personality. Marian was Jewish, and not strongly observant. She was dignified, reserved, and calm. My Mother was gregarious, outspoken, and often went off the rails. I was fascinated by this woman from what seemed another World!

I remember times when we went shopping in Beverly Hills, or she would take me to some cutting edge restaurant. We had girl fun together, and she always seemed to enjoy exposing me to new and exciting ideas and perspectives.

Throughout my marriage, Marian was steadfastly supportive and kept her opinions mostly to herself(another strong contrast to my no-filters Mother). She was, I believe, genuinely sad that the marriage only lasted five years. She often wrote to me after the divorce, and I called her occasionally to stay in touch. When, many years later, my daughter was born, she sent lovely baby gifts and was so happy for me.

The last time I was in Los Angeles, we had a great series of visits, and she took me to lunch. Our relationship was still intact. She passed away 7 years ago August. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to her very near the end. I was lucky to be able to tell her I loved her, one more time.

Whenever I think of Marian now, I remember so much that she taught me about how to carry oneself through difficult times, and I remember so much that I wanted to emulate.But what I remember most, was a day back in June of 1974 when David and I were preparing to leave California to move back to Boston so he could attend Harvard Graduate School. Marian and I were in her kitchen.  I was starting to get emotional about leaving, and I was telling her how much I would miss her. I was sitting at the table when I started to cry, and she came over to me and put her arms around me.She said”I’m going to miss you so much…you’re my little girl, too, you know.”

As I age, there comes naturally a lot more loss. I am not one who likes letting go at all.But, as I thought about all this the other day, I found some comfort in a new perspective…not new to you, perhaps, but newly felt by me:I realized that when you keep something very close to your heart, no one can ever take it away from you…no matter what.

I love you, Mom.

A friend is a Gift you give YourSelf……

102_3157                                                                           A few days ago I was settling in to make some Xmas wreaths and spend the afternoon in the “creative juices flowing” zone, when things changed suddenly. A friend from out of town, who had become unexpectedly ill while shopping, was at my door and needed help. For the next several hours, she was violently sick, but refused my calling for an ambulance. Eventually, she acquiesced to going to the ER when her husband arrived to take her; all turned out well, as she recovered from what was apparently a medication reaction.

Several things came to me out of this experience. As I spent about three hours taking care of her, I looked at how different our paths have been. She had no one to call except her husband. Since he could not be reached, there was no one to help her but me. I repeatedly asked if I could call a neighbor or nearby friend of theirs to go to their home and find her husband (since his cell phone was apparently turned off). There was no one. NO one.

Now, this situation is probably not that uncommon. Many people are introverts and many are of an independent nature, so that they don’t cultivate a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. I have always operated on the theory that my friends were my chosen family. My “Collection” of friends is, perhaps, my greatest acquisition. I spend a lot of time keeping in touch with my group of pals, and I treasure each of them. I realized that if I were in such dire straits, there would be many people to call. I am quite certain all of those I would call would come to my aid under almost any circumstance. This is a great Gift. A friend really is a Gift you give Your Self. I consider myself so very fortunate to have come across so many kindred souls in my lifetime…from my childhood and high school days through college, work, parenthood, and even more recently.

My definition of a true friend is someone who really loves you. Someone who cheers you on, comforts you in sorrow, and accepts you, warts and all. I made a list one day not long ago of my true friends. It was a long list. I am so very thankful that my path has led me to this place. I am so lucky to be Me!

“Well, I’m learning it’s peaceful with a good dog and some trees……..”

102_2950There is so much to confront these days if you stay” in the loop”.There is always lots of bad news from the media, dissension among communities, and a general anxiety about the state of the world. So, without retreating entirely, I try to balance staying informed and keeping myself out of the fray as much as I can. Joni Mitchell released a song back in 1972 called “Electricity”, which stated, in part:

“Well, I’m learning it’s peaceful with a good dog and some trees, Out of touch with the breakdown of this Century, They’re not gonna fix it up too easy.”

I now try to immerse myself in the positive things that I have always loved, or have come to love as I have gotten older. These things include spending time with my dogs, listening to only music that soothes or invigorates me, investigating subjects about which I have much to learn, and creating things that make me feel fulfilled (this could be art/craft projects, food, music, or prose).At any rate, I am trying to find meaning and comfort in my little corner of the World, despite what is, and perhaps has always been, going on.

As Dorothy was told, it is always best to start at the Beginning….

Hello! Here I am, starting my first blog. For any of you who are curious, loyal, and strange enough to follow me, I shall do my best to entertain, educate, stimulate, and inspire you. I believe that is what good writing should do, so I promise to try.

I will be changing this format as it unfolds; I will be learning the technology and techniques as I go.

My reasons for starting this blog are several, not the least of which is to feel a small sense of accomplishment each day. I have been told that many people in their 60’s go through a process of self-evaluation that is sometimes depressing and overwhelming. Since I have always been compulsively self-analytical, the reality of my age and the changing sense of time left to accomplish things has hit me hard lately; ergo, my new Blog!