I was born in the Bronx 2 years before Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t yet 6 years old when we moved to Miami Beach. I grew up in the 40’s and 50’s. Television was a new medium for entertainment with only 3 channels. My father purchased our first television set when I was 11 years old. Uncle Miltie, (Milton Berle) made us laugh along with I Love Lucy and Lassie made us cry. We waited with bated beath for the next episode of the Lone Ranger and going to the Cinema theatre every Saturday with our lunch packed was our favorite way to start the weekend. All we needed was 25cents. FDR was the president. World War 11 had ended. The nation was on a rebound with the New Deal. Life was simple, safe and good.
I grew up in South Beach before South Beach became the Southern Riveira of the US. We were poor, but so was everyone else. The Plaza Theatre was my great escape everyday after returning home from South Beach Elementary. It was on Biscayne Street alongside the projects where housing for the indigent stood. Today it is known as South Point Drive, one of the most affluent neighborhoods in the country. I watched Down to Earth with Rita Hayworth and Larry Parks at least a dozen times along with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and movies that are classics until today. We went shopping in mom-and-pop grocery stores. Jack owned the corner grocery store on first and Collins Avenue where my mother purchased our produce. The Paramount Bakery had the best rye bread ever! Chickens hung upside down from the ceiling at the poultry store and my mother always bought her brustechel from the kosher butcher that she used for brisket and pot roast. It always tasted like rubber. Harry Truman was the president. Life was good.
Beach High was the center of my life from age 12 until graduation. The junior high school, Ida M. Fisher, was abutted to Miami Beach Senior High School. I had many of the same friends from South Beach elementary school through graduation from high school in 1957. We integrated with the other students from Central Beach elementary when we attended Jr. High and North Beach elementary when we all entered high school. Every Saturday morning many of us would attend services at Temple Emanuel. We would stay spell bound when Rabbi Lehrman chanted with his illustrious voice, resounding as if he were God himself. “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He would send shivers down my spine. Life was structured and predictable.
Liggett’s, the drug store on the corner of Lincoln Road and Washington Avenue would host many of the high school junior and senior high classmates as soon as the services were over. Noon was the bewitching hour when we would gather in front of Liggett’s with those of us who lived both north and south of Lincoln Road. Those who lived north were from rich families and those south, were modestly poor. Beach High was the only public high school in Miami Beach. There was a class distinction, but there was also a mixture of friends from all of Miami Beach with a notable distinction when is came to clicks. Until today, more than 66 years later, there are some who are still feeling the exclusion and emotional scars from the sociological differences. I fortunately, am not one of them. I had a happy childhood despite the poverty. The Korean war was part of our time and we had to hunker under our desks at the first sign of sirens that alerted us of danger. Actually, they were practice tests. Dwight Eisenhower was the president. Life was OK.
I wasn’t a great student, but had enough good grades to be voted the high school princess for Homecoming. Peppi, also from my neighborhood achieved the title of Homecoming Queen. So even though there was a class distinction, some of us escaped feeling the pain that so many others suffered. We were respectful and obedient to both our parents and teachers even though amongst ourselves we made fun of some of them. When our dean of boys ordered the boys not to wear tea shirts to school, a tea shirt was donned on the statue of the Unknown Soldier that stood proudly in the senior high school patio. He did not appreciate our rebellion. There was a time when the dean of girls forbid more than one horse hair crinoline to be worn. The girls, unlike the boys, accepted her mandate and unhappily obeyed. Eisenhower was still president. Life was good.
We didn’t have a social conscience during the 50’s. We thought that was the way it was. Colored, as the black were called, were relegated to sit in the back of the bus, drink out of colored water fountains, use only bathrooms marked colored and not allowed into public places anywhere in Miami Beach. We practiced apartheid but didn’t know it. I first understood the meaning of racism when I was a senior in high school. Mr. Friend, our English teacher gave an assignment to our class to find a person who was in the profession that each of us had wanted to pursue after we graduated and request an interview. I chose entertainment, as since childhood my dream was to become an actress. Sammy Davis Jr. was starring at the Copa in Miami Beach. I was delighted that he agreed to interview me. He was cordial and friendly. He even offered to come to our high school and entertain the student body. I almost fell out of my seat. I thanked him for his generous offer and ran all the way back to the high school, more than 2 miles, directly into Dean Lessne’s office, panting with excitement and exhaustion. When I told him about the offer, his response startled me.
“Isn’t that the colored fellow?” scratching his head as he leaned back in his rocker chair contemplating my news.
“Yes”, I said, still somewhat panting and out of breath.
“Well, I am not sure it will go over well with the PTA, so I think it best to decline the offer.”
I was mortified. That was my first encounter with racism. I was 17 years old.
Every Friday night we would gather in the center of Flamingo Park, a 36-acre park in South Beach beginning on 11th Street where we roller skated in the highly lit skating rink. As soon as the clock struck 10:00 PM, the lights would go out and we had to walk out of the park that took about 10-15 minutes. There was never a rape, mugging, or shooting. We never felt fearful as we walked through the unlit park finding our way out. We were innocent and life was safe.
After school was out, many of us gathered together at Dolly’s soda shop on Espanola Way to hang out, (an expression not used in the 50’s). Nevertheless, Bobby’s parents, the owners, gave us Kool-Aid punch to quench our thirst and provided a safe environment, although many thought of Dolly’s as the Rebel’s domain, the given name to a certain group of guys who resembled the Jets from West Side Story but with sheer innocence within. We listened to the juke box spinning records of our time, and often danced along with the Platters and more alike groups of our time. Friday nights were ritually a dance night in the patio of the high school. It was another place to gather with our classmates and express our heartfelt crushes and sentiments to each other in very simple and safe ways. We did the Lindy to Bill Haley’s Rock Around the Clock along with Elvis’s Blue Suede Shoes and other Rock n’ Roll songs of the 50’s interspersed with occasional making out behind pillars and bushes. Our hormones were on fire and life was so good!
I graduated from the U of Miami with a B.Ed., (Bachelors of Education) and taught 1st grade for a few years. As the years rolled on, I married early as most of us did at that time and soon divorced only to marry again just a few months after the divorce. I moved obliviously from the Victorian Age, into the sexual revolution and beyond into the Women’s Movement, crossing into unfamiliar territory with mixed emotions, fearful I had broken values and tradition I had inherited from my parents, religious beliefs and culture. I had five children in 8 years, planning only the first. The others were all divine interventions. After the birth of my first child, the world began to change for the worse. Missiles were ready to be launched from Cuba, just 90 minutes from our homes, followed by the assassination of our president, John F Kennedy and our world was no longer the same. Our innocence morphed into an unfamiliar feeling that didn’t feel secure. Lyndon Johnson was president. Life was uncertain and scary.
Soon after his assassination, we grew into a world of danger. Rock’n Roll had a different sound than Elvis had performed. We moved onto the Beatles, then the Rolling Stones with history being made, taking us out of the last age of innocence into the Viet Nam War. The assassination of Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King drew even darker times in our lives and unpredictability became the new norm. We witnessed corruption like never before in our government with political leaders and our president behaving like a sociopath, a word I had never heard spoken. We grieved endlessly over the lost lives of our soldiers and fear that replaced our once safe and predictable lives. Richard Nixon was president and life was troubling.
I didn’t notice the fast pace my life was moving. While we are in it, time seemed to stand still. I was divorced again at 35 years old and remarried for the 3rd time one year later. I went to Barry College to obtain a master degree in social work that took 3 years to complete, going full time through the summer. I was more of a graduate student than a mother to my children, trying desperately to maintain my home without adequate alimony that I had invested in graduate school. The support I was to receive from their father had fallen into bankruptcy and the minimal salary he made was garnished by the IRS. I went without child support for more than a year, scraping whatever I could to avoid losing our home Soon after he requested a modification in child support leaving me with $1200 a month for 5 children. There were times I had no money to buy milk. Managing motherhood and career was not easy and left my children with mother wounds that took its toll on all of us and our relationships. Gerald Ford was president. They were tough years and life was getting more difficult.
With one season following another, laid in with happiness and tears, I eventually attained a second career as a social worker that manifested into becoming a psychotherapist. Having been divorced with very little support, I opened up a private practice along with two other jobs to help support my five children and keep a roof over their heads. Children not knowing about mortgages and FP&L felt abandoned by me. Their father lost his license to practice medicine and had to move out of state. They had neither a mother or father at home. Times were difficult and we all suffered hardships due to the mitigating circumstances following both the divorce and the financial stress their father and I were under. Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were president. The good thing was that interest rates had risen to 17% so I invested money my father had accrued for my children’s education in CD’s. That was good, but life was still very difficult.
After the third divorce I slipped into my 40’s. I acquired a live-in partner who was helpful as a Mr. Mom. Struggling with his own problems, he moved in and filled in the blanks that I could not handle. At 45 I asked him to move out. HIV and Aids entered the world. I remarried to find a safe harbor that lasted 9 years. My husband was nearly 20 years my senior, so that disparity eventually led to another divorce. Now in my 50’s I was on my own with 5 teen-agers, some who had graduated college and others just entering. My children had their own issues that led to some serious problems. My eldest child, at 24 years old, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 1 and had a series of hospitalizations with no end to her suffering in sight. My heartaches manifested with the death of my mother, followed by the death of my best friend. Two months later, my ex-husband passed away, followed by the loss of my father 2 months later. My loving mother-in-law, my children’s paternal grandmother died just 3 months later, all before I turned 58 years old. After my father’s death, my first- born, Pamela, 34 years old, leaped to her death from a 15-story window. I suffered 5 losses in a year. George Bush and Bill Clinton were presidents. Life was terrible.
The years moved on without realizing how fast my life was going along with my aging. I had a terrible 4- year relationship with a man I met 5 months after my daughter’s death. A narcissist, philanderer and misogynist and without any warning, he discharged me from that relationship with no place to go. Unknown to me, he had been having an affair. Four days later, his girlfriend moved into my bed. Life was lonely, scary and worse than ever before. Much to my chagrin, during those years, my practice grew exponentially and I was considered to be a very successful psychotherapist. I had published a book in 1995, THE MYTH OF THE MAIDEN: On Being a Woman followed by WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder. I had several short and long-term relationships. All of them contributed something valuable to my personal growth and development. I am grateful for every relationship I had, even those that didn’t work out. Bill Clinton and George W Bush were presidents. Then came 9/11. The country was in shock and life was a mess.
At 62 years of age, I finally found my soulful content. I had been racing most of my adult life without much time for reflection. I was beginning to figure out life, relationships and existential issues with a sense of reality and maturity as well as the evolution of my professional role as a psychotherapist since 1978. I had been working since age 11, never stopping long enough to realize how short life really is. I bought a home and continued my practice along with publishing a third book, I HATE THE MAN I LOVE: A Conscious Relationship Is Your Key to Success. Life began to move in a positive direction. I regained my life force coupled with self-esteem and self- love. My relationships with my adult children began to grow stronger and closer. Life was beginning to be good once more. At 70 I learned I had lung cancer. Surgery was performed and I was recovering with the support of family and friends. I still worked and had a full practice, known as an expert in Inner Child Work. My autonomy surged along with my authentic self. George W Bush and Barak Obama were president. Life was getting much better.
At 79 years old, Adenoid carcinoma emerged with two more lesions in my lungs. Thanks to the advice of Avram, my last boyfriend, an international, recognized, pancreatic surgeon, CyberKnife, a safe form of radiation therapy was applied instead of another surgery. After being followed for 5 more years, no sign of return was noted. I continued with my private practice, enjoying the work skills I had acquired over the 45 years. My work, although not my identity, has always been my salvation. It was said by Freud that if you love your work, you never have to work the rest of your life. Despite the fact that Donald Trump was president, life was once again good.
A few days ago, I woke up realizing I was about to be 84 years old. Where had the time gone?
“WHAT!”, I shouted. “No way. What happened to being 25 years old? It was just yesterday!” Yesterday, moved like a rocket into the 80’s and beyond. At 82 years old, I stumbled on a man who lived just 9 doors down the street from me while walking our dogs. He was a snow bird from Methuen, Massachusetts. We both lived on the same street for about 12 years; he part-time, me permanently and had never seen each other. A widower for more than a year and few months, we began a relationship. Fifteen years my junior, I had no expectations of ever becoming a “cougar”, but here I was, in the late, last quarter of my life, living out the best relationship I could ever imagine. I traveled to Massachusetts for part of the summers, and he returned to the house just 9 doors down the street for the winters. We traveled together finding the happiness we both deserved and fell in love. Donald Trump followed by Joe Biden were presidents.
Life is filled with ups and downs and conundrums. However, it’s never too late for your dreams to come true and for happiness to arrive. I lived through 15 presidents. All of the men in my life, except Avram and the father of my children have passed. It took a long time that felt short, but now I can say with gratitude that life is great!