‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

… or committed to a Sanitorium.  Your choice!  I am happy to say that I am happily engaged at probing, exploring, challenging the people and experiences of my life….

As my memory opens to this memoir, the words pour out like water from the spigot.  Either the time is right or I am making it all up.  I wouldn’t be the first writer to pretend a life.

It’s not all peaches and cream.  Every day after hours of cogitating and writing, I wonder what the hell I am doing.  My mind whirls around a familiar female self deprecating chant, “who the hell do I think I am”?   Who cares what happened to me in my life?   Boring!  Totally boring! But like the song of the same name; I Pick Myself Up.  Dust Myself Off.  Start All Over Again.

Whichever holiday you celebrate, as a gift to you, I am sending one of my life episodes. Please do not think me arrogant and overhubrised (a new word for Webster).  I miss you guys something terrible.  And it’s my way of keeping the connection going.  

Right???  Of Course, right!!! 

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

An Excerpt from “Not Yet”…

It was 1948 and I was finishing my sophomore year at the High School of Performing Arts.  The school was moving to the new/old building on 46th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. I was not going to move with it….  

My grandfather, my mother’s father, who won the immigrant’s American dream sweepstakes by becoming rich but not famous, gave my mother an ultimatum.

“What’s it to be, Anna?  I sold the old decaying Brooklyn house you were born in!   Are you going to live in the street or the house I bought for you in Westchester.” 

For me, the move was exciting.

I was ready. All those high school movie musicals with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland prepared me for my next starring role. Judy Garland. Of course, Judy would have to battle it out with Betty Grable who to this day is still my special Star. 

I convinced my mother to buy the requisite saddle shoes. 

The school, a beautiful ivy covered building, was set on a campus.  A far cry from the aged run down schools of New York City. This school looked like the one on the set in the movie Good News with June Allyson and Peter Lawford.  And just like the movie, it had sororities.  I was ready to take the school by storm.

I was “rushed” for a sorority.  I had to look up what that meant.  When I discovered it meant they “chose” me, I was grateful.  I practiced  gratitude in the mirror for hours.  

One of the chores for a rushee was to read and memorize the Constitution of the sorority.

One day, as bold as you could print it in black and white, I read, “no Jews allowed’.

I kept rereading the sentence. I was sure I was mistaken. I was not.  

There was no mistaking I was Jewish.  I went to Sunday School. Back then, girls didn’t get Bat Mitzvahed. However, in the Reform sect of the religion, at 15 we were confirmed when we graduated Sunday School. As close as a Jew could get to being a Christian.  I lived in a house that celebrated Christmas as well as Hanukkah and if truth be told Christmas was the bigger holiday. 

My father finally came into his own playing Santa Claus.  A most peculiar Santa Claus.  Somewhere along the way of many celebrations he lost his Santa Suit. He still had the mask. No suit. In place of the suit, he wore this fantastic, fabulous enormous Chinese Embroidered Robe with his face covered by a Santa Mask.  Somehow, when paired with the robe, the mask created a very Asian looking Santa. The robe and the mask belonged together.  He was a sight.

The younger ones, like myself and Arlene and later on toddler grandchildren screamed in terror when he picked them up to sit on his lap.  I don’t think I knew Santa was my father until I was 6 or 7.  

That’s only one sample of the secularness of my  Jewish ancestry.  

Growing up in my house, we didn’t talk about the concentration camps and the six million Jews that were gassed in the ovens of those camps.  We performed the duties of good citizens during the war.  Paper and metal drives, rationing, voting for FDR. My father read the New York Times religiously and the New York Post which back then was owned by Dorothy Schiff a committed liberal Democrat and a very different newspaper than it is today.  He must have discussed issues of the day. Either because it was a “ not in front of the children” subject or I was deaf because it wasn’t about me.   

All eight of us went to Sunday School.  All four of the boys were Bar Mitzvahed.

I remember my mother opening a special Christmas Savings Bank Account every year. My father played Santa. But I was still a Jew.

In bold print , in the sororities constitution, I was being told I wasn’t wanted.  

I was miserable. 

I went to the powers that be.   I explained I was not permitted to join them because I was Jewish.

They had a special meeting. 

They would make an exception in my case.  

I think. I am not sure. But I think, maybe for the first time, I was beginning to understand that being different wasn’t just about being special and gifted. It also meant I wasn’t wanted because I was different.

 I didn’t belong because I was different.  

My Brooklyn neighborhood was very mixed.  My New York schools, the students were of every stripe and color. 

I was never going to be a star here. Never.  

I didn’t want to be where I wasn’t wanted. I had enough of that at home.

I reapplied to the High School of Performing Arts.

Gave my saddle shoes to my sister.  

I never looked back.

P.S. Here is the real gift.  A selection of videos of the movies that not only influenced my life but during my darkest childhood hours gave me the support, joy, and mostly, the hope that my dreams would come true.  

These formulaic, trite, movie plots kept this little girl a believer.  

Try to remember I was born between the Great Depression and World War II.  Any movie that offered respite from a very troubled world was a gift.  To give you a perspective try watching a movie called Sullivan’s Travels, written and directed by Preston Sturges, a Hollywood genius.  His movie is exactly what these videos are all about.