The Island at the Center of the World

12 Sep

What is it about New York?  Lillie Stone was from Manhattan.

Her family got off the boat from Castle Garden and Ellis Island and almost never left Manhattan.

Lillie had style.  She had flamboyance and also shyness.  Like many children of  immigrants, she was ambitious and eager, but also patient – especially with her children.

Her own childhood was tough.  She was born at 1 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side.   Father Harry worked for the New York Herald, and walked to work on Newspaper Row downtown.  Mother Irene sewed for sweatshops, often from home.  One tenement they lived in burned while she and her sister Alice were home alone.  Their parents were, as usual,  at a speakeasy.  The very young girls saved themselves, and though it slowed them down, they dragged the Singer out the back bedroom door, through another apartment, and to the fire escape.  They knew the machine put food on the table.  To do it, they had to step over the dead body of another resident.   I remember that treadle machine, with its wood completely singed and black on one side.  I used to wonder about it, but never knew the story until later.  By the time the Herald  relocated to Herald Square, the family could afford to move with it, to a brownstone elevator building in Chelsea.  It was later rent controlled, so they stayed there for many decades, until the last of us left New York County, which of course is the island of Manhattan.

When I think of my own, protected childhood and then all that, I am amazed.  Where did she pluck that patience and goodness from, in the childhood she never liked to talk about?

Steve Jobs and My Mother Were Right

10 Sep

They both said it.  Good design is important.  And Good Design always remains good, enduring design.  This is something I was reminded of today during a discussion with my nephew Geywa about music.  Good music is good music, whatever the genre.  Good design in textiles, architecture, or the design of the ipad and even its packaging – good design.  Steve Jobs was inspired by the bauhaus and its minimalist approach.  But there are many approaches and room for them all.

For better or for worse?

7 Sep

My mother always said, “When you wake up in the morning, you can act to make the world a little better, or a little worse.  Why would you choose to make it worse?”
It’s hard living up to what she taught.  Lillie Stone was no saint.  She was an imperfect person, as we all are.  She had some big  flaws, but she got the important stuff right.

Lillie “stones:” nuggets of knowledge

6 Sep

“Always do a kindness.”  As a basically nice person, this would often come back to bite me.  Then my mother’s answer always was another nugget:  “Never regret a kindness.”
I haven’t passed up many opportunities to do a kindness.  It has gotten harder over time,  since I have MS.  I have to watch out,  it can take my strength.    No regrets.

In the beginning was Lillie Stone

1 Sep

My mother died at 90 in 2009.   Her name was Lillian Stone.  I still hear her voice every day, residing in things she’d repeat to me.   I am looking out the window, it’s gray and rainy, and I remember:  “Always wear a bright color on a rainy day.”  So I put on red and she is still making me smile.  I wish I could remember all the things she said.  I wish I’d written them down along the way.
So, I will start remembering them, one rainy day at a time.

Hello world!

23 Apr

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