I am weeks past due writing this as it was supposed to be a Mother’s Day post, but I figure since it’s still May (for a mere 59 minutes I know), it still counts. I’ve wanted to blog about my mother for a long time now, as to me, she is the original Gal in the City.
Many moons ago it was right here in Manhattan where she was born, and ‘til the age of nine, it was on 7th Street between Avenues B and C where she lived. Following her remaining childhood and teenaged years in the Bronx, Manhattan, like it did to me too, called her back. And for the next fourteen years these city streets were hers, for a time for work, and later for play. When her prince charming finally came along to marry her and start a family, it was farewell to big city life and hello to sunny days in a small town called Cape Canaveral.
The story continues with a fast forward to the summer following my high school graduation. With a jam-packed mini-van and me, her doe-eyed daughter, it was back to NYC—this time to 27th Street, to the Fashion Institute of Technology. There I would start my college career, and though I’m not sure either of us realized it, I’d also be starting my life as a gal…in the city!
It was my mother’s own experience with the goings-on in this crazy but wonderful vortex of creativity and culture that allowed her and my dad to drive away that August day and wish me well on my new adventure. Even though they both knew that somewhere beneath my youthful skin there was curiosity, and bravery to fuel it, they knew another truth: I was a fledgling. I suppose my mother could reason that she did it, so I could too.
As the years passed and my life in New York City unfolded, and my relationship with my mother simultaneously strengthened, the two of us began to feel as if I was reliving her life from decades before. Though neighborhoods had been gentrified, favorite storefronts closed to make way for bigger and better, and old city pastimes replaced with modern day fun, New York was still New York.
I can never tire of hearing my mother’s stories. I love the one about the time she and her gay friend Gil went to dinner at The Sign of the Dove. In a dress she borrowed from the store where she worked (and yes, returned in perfect condition the following day), he in a suit and tie, it looked like they were on a legitimate date. But when the check came, as they’d agreed to ‘go Dutch’ she had to pass him money under the tablecloth. And then there was the guy she dated that despite his looking like Howdy Doody, she liked. The problem was that his mother didn’t like her ‘cause she was a schiksa! (When I asked what a schiksa was, my mother explained, surprised I didn’t know, as now- as opposed to my childhood years- I live in a much more culturally diverse community. I’m just not down with all the slang!)
There were extravagant beehive hair dos that I only recently found out were wigs, and the loony roommate who my mom once found with her head in the oven. It’s been a joyride for me, going back with her in time and sharing stories of my own. And we get a kick when I’m doing something she did years before; like going out in my favorite wig! I even learn a thing or two, like to take the bus which years ago I scoffed off in favor of subbing it (and by that I mean taking the subway).
“The bus is great,” she said. “It gets you where you need to go and you get to see the city outside. I used to take it all the time.”
Now here I am telling people to ride the bus. And I feel like my mother.