Do You Know Where Your Children Are?
Mrs. Goldstein was my friend Lou’s grandmother. I knew her throughout my childhood since Lou and his family, his parents and grandmother, came to Parksville every summer. Mrs. G was a bit different from all the other grandmothers who rented rooms and kitchens from my mother. She was quite a bit older than the others and, most shocking, she did not have an accent from some far away shtetl like all the others of her cohort.. She spoke perfect American English. In our milieu that was remarkable. The grandmothers had all fled from somewhere very bad. Not Mrs. G. She was A for apple pie American.
She was also very bright and extremely devoted to Lou, who had a much older sister somewhere who never showed up for those Parksville summers. I never knew how Mrs. G. managed to get around since her house dresses, which is what the ladies wore in the summer in those days of the 1940’s and 50’s, were draped below her ankles, a deadly thing for a lady who had to be in her 90’s by then, and very vulnerable to falling and breaking just about any bone in her fragile body. Nonetheless she was there every summer and Lou was the literal apple of her really beautiful blue eyes.
And although you won’t know this, Goldstein is not her real name. My husband and I think she’s still alive (which is why I sometimes use present tense when I talk about her) and I wouldn’t want to write about a living person without permission. Anyway, since she was ancient about 60 years ago, and she’d now be about 150, she deserves respect. I just can’t imagine her ever dying since the little old lady that she was (or is), she was (or is) quite a force, a powerful force.
She always had the job of knowing where Lou was and that he was safe. She was constantly asking everyone, “Do you know where the children are?” since Lou traveled with the gang of us and we were the wandering Jews personified. We never told our parents (usually our mothers) where we were going whether it be to swim at the falls or hike to the third hill or sit around and flirt on the piano rock or go to the village to play pinball machines or organize a baseball game, or, most exciting, that one summer, feed and play with a fox named Reddy who we thought was a dog. Mrs. Goldstein clearly knew more about our daily activities than anybody else and she was known to express disapproval if Lou did something she was not happy about.
The big blowup came when Lou was a high school senior, a member of the graduating class of 1955. He wanted to attend Columbia College in New York City and, here’s where the problem was, to study for a degree in television directing. Mrs. G. had other plans, something more traditional than this still new and unproven field of television. She thought law, medicine, dentistry, or one of the other guaranteed income producing professions that offered opportunities to Jews. But Lou didn’t want to pull teeth or cure sick people. And he definitely didn’t want to do their income taxes. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and he was determined to do it.
Now, before I continue, I want to tell you the ending is that Lou is now dead. He died in 2021. And you would have recognized his name. It appeared on your TV screen very often for about 50 plus years. He was a director of news shows, especially one that started out by asking, “It’s 10pm. Do you know where your children are?”
His grandmother, however, if she is still alive as I suspect, went into orbit about such a career choice. She had always been a pretty refined type, friendly, nice, but maybe a tad too dedicated to Lou. They had endless discussions, arguments really, about what she considered “throwing his life away.” TV might amount to nothing. Lou might be an unemployed Columbia graduate. His parents happened to agree with her, and so did mine by the way.
The only support he got was from our gang of kids. The graduates that year included my cousin Richie who became a dentist, Marvin who became a high school history teacher, Lenny who became an accountant and Leigh who became an engineer. Nobody was very bold or avant garde in our group. Everyone was practical. I, myself, two years later, studied elementary education.
But it seems that Lou, however, inherited his grandmother’s feistiness and convinced his parents to pay tuition (hefty as it was) to Columbia, where he was an immediate success, drowning in fabulous job offers as soon as he graduated.
I lost track of him until I was married with kids. That’s when my husband and I started watching the 10 o’clock news. As soon as I heard their opening line, my mind shot back to the Bauman House and Mrs. Goldstein searching for Lou. She, of course, never included the 10 p.m. piece but when I heard, “Do you know where your children are?” I immediately knew that Lou was around there somewhere. His grandmother, may she live and be well, lost the battle but she clearly won the war. Her grandson was a big success. And as my children grew I always found those words so compelling. I would do inventory, continue counting kids, one to four, and tell Lou, remotely as we would say today, “Yes Lou, I know where my children are.” Of course these days, when my kids are already middle-aged, I can no longer do that.