I was born in Brooklyn, New York on August 20, 1962. My parents were both thrilled and anxious. A year and a half earlier, my mother had given birth to a baby boy who died when he was just three days old. My mother says that I saved her life just by being born.
My parents grew up in Brooklyn and got married very young. My mother, Greta Malament, was eighteen and my father, Arthur Singer, was twenty. My mother married my father because she wanted to be grown up. My father, she says, treated her like she was smart and clever and funny. My father wanted to be free to live his own life. They both wanted to be able to live as they chose and do what they chose... and to get away from their parents. And my mother wanted to have a child.
My sister, Emily, was born two years after my parents married. My family history says that my mother gave birth to my sister so that she could have a little best friend. Emily followed my mother around. My mother treated her like a grown up from the day she was born. Emily listened to everything my mother said and could repeat it. They still talk almost daily.
I, on the other hand, was born to be "Daddy's girl." I watched and learned from my dad. I could recite the team roster of the New York Mets. I learned to play poker when I was six. I read any book I could get my hands on, no matter what the subject, and I loved to watch anything on television. Even today, while my sister and brother and I know that my mother loves us all unconditionally and equally, my siblings believe my father loves me best.
My mother told my sister that it was her job to teach me to talk. So, Emily talked to me constantly. I started to talk when I was ten months old. I learned to walk when I was eight months old so that I could follow Emily around.
My brother, Ethan, was born when I was two. He was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen.
I know that many families have intense sibling rivalry, but we never did. We argued and fought occasionally. Mostly, my sister and brother and I adored each other. We were always friends and we still are. Besides Andrew, they are the people I love most in the world. We help each other when we are troubled or sad. I talk to my sister, who lives in California, at least twice a week, sometimes every day. My mother believes in the telephone and taught us that long distance phone calls are good therapy. We call each other when we have important news and also just to chat about our day.
My parents grew up in Brooklyn. Until he got married, my father had never been out of New York City. I lived in Brooklyn for the first two years of my life and then, when my little brother was born, we moved to an apartment in Queens. The apartment complex in which we lived was huge. There were hundreds of children everywhere of all ages. There was an elementary school a block away from my building, but nowhere for the younger children to spend time. My mother and her best friend, Myra, started a nursery school. I remain in touch with several of the girls who went to nursery school with me.
My mother was better at being a mother to us as little kids. My parents did not have much money so my mother took us everywhere with her instead of hiring a babysitter. By afternoon, three young children can be pretty cranky. If we started to whine or argue, I remember my mother sitting down on the floor so she could be at our level and asking us what was wrong, what was going on, and did we think it was time to go home. It did not matter whether we were at the doctor's office, the supermarket, or a department store. My mother was a care taker. If I had a problem, the first person I would want to talk to would be my mother. Except for Andrew, that is still true. Mommy never criticizes or nags. That does not mean she does not have an opinion about things, and her opinions, when I was growing up, caused many disagreements. But I knew I could tell her anything and she would listen carefully.
My father is an easy going man. I don't remember that he ever got too angry or too upset about anything. He also never got too excited. He was friendly and fun. He was never critical, but then he also wasn't ever very helpful with a problem.
My mother and her parents and my father were teachers. I grew up in a house where learning and reading were extremely important. I worked hard in school because I liked it, because my parents made it clear that I was expected to, and because I knew how hard teachers worked. Because they were teachers, my parents knew how important it was to attend all school functions and conferences. They encouraged me to participate in extracurricular activities. They made me do my homework. When I was in elementary school, my mother was on "late session." That meant she started work at 10:00. She helped us get ready for school; she made our breakfast, packed our lunches, and made sure we did not forget our homework. My father was on "early session." He left for work before we woke up, but he was home when we got home. I think we were lucky.
My parents also had the same vacation schedule that my sister and brother and I had because they were teachers. Often, during summer vacation, my parents took courses or taught summer school. We spent many summer vacations in Ithaca, New York and Hanover, New Hampshire, where my parents taught or attended college courses. My sister and brother and I played in the country towns. Many of my friends had a great deal more material things than we had. Teachers do not make huge salaries. But today, my friends wish they knew their fathers and that their fathers knew them and they envy me.
We moved to Monterey, California when I was eight and lived there for a year. Everyone in my family remembers that year in California as "the perfect year for our family." We took trips up and down the California coast. We lived in a house for the first time. We had a garden. We got a dog. My father was on sabbatical leave and he stayed home and took care of the house while my mother worked outside the home. I learned from my parents that there are no specifically male or female roles in a family and that deciding what works for our family is the most important thing. At the end of my father's sabbatical, we moved back to New York. My parents bought a house on Long Island and we lived there for fifteen years.
In my teenage years, my parents' marriage started to unravel. They disappointed each other more and more, and they argued often. My sister and brother and I had always been very close and our parents fighting drew us closer. My mother believed and had taught us that the only people on whom we could truly rely were our mother and our siblings. We at least believed the part about our siblings and clung to each other. The year after I graduated from college, my parents divorced bitterly. Their marriage lasted twenty- seven years.
My mother and father are both remarried. My stepfather is Daniel Goldberg. He is a retired high school history teacher. For a little while after my parents were divorced, I resented Danny. I blamed him for my parents' divorce. I have since learned, from growing older and being married myself, that the people most responsible for the success or failure of any marriage are the two people who are married. I love my stepfather deeply. He is a wonderful, caring man. He loves me very much. My mother and Danny made me a beautiful wedding at their house in 1986. I am impressed with my mother's ability to marry two men who are decent and kind and feminists. To me, being a feminist is the highest compliment anyone can pay to a man. Today, when I talk about "my parents," I usually mean my mother and my stepfather.
Since I became an adult, my father has been harder to know. He is remarried and happy. At the moment, I talk to him on the phone every three or four days. When I was ill, he called me every day and came to Boston to sit with me and entertain me. I have visited him several times and he visits us. He has very little contact with my sister and brother. For a long time, this upset me. However, I have tried to accept that it is not my role to manage and fix the lives of the members of my family. I enjoy the loving relationship that I have with my father.
My brother, Ethan, is the baby in our family. He is twenty-eight years old now and he still is considered the baby. I adore him. He is a kind and beautiful man. He was taught by my mother, my sister, my father, and me to be a feminist. I do not see him as often as I would like because his job requires him to travel often. He is a freelance sound engineer for music groups. He tours the country, and the world, with the various bands that hire him to make them sound good in concert. He will work for any band that plays what he considers to be good music, in a wide variety of styles: reggae, jazz, rock and roll, blues, folk, and most recently, South African folk music. When a band with whom he is traveling comes to the Boston area, Andy and I always go to see him and hear the band.
Ethan is our baby, whenever we talk about him, my sister, mother and I
talk as if everything he does is adorable. Lately, he has been talking
about marrying his girlfriend of the last two years. My sister and I like
her very much. At Thanksgiving last year, she fit right into the love,
hysteria, and silliness that erupt anytime my brother, sister, and I get
In my family, educating children is the most important thing anyone can do. I have four parents who are teachers, either active or retired. My maternal grandparents were both teachers. My sister and I are teachers. Emily worked as a buyer in a department store in New York City and in Los Angeles for years. She worked hard and earned a terrific salary. She also had no vacations or weekends off and she worked twelve hours a day in a job that, she says, "did not contribute in any way to the good of human beings anywhere." Four years ago, Emily decided to change careers and become a middle school teacher. She teaches English as a second language in East Los Angeles.
When I graduated from college, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life. I toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer, but I realized that was because most of my college friends were going to law school. I got a job at Doubleday Publishing Company, but I hated it. I love books. Doubleday thought of books as a business. Doubleday and I didn't get along.
I soon discovered
that I wanted to be a teacher. I took a Sign Language course in college
for fun. I have always been good at learning languages. I speak French
fairly well. When I began to learn Sign Language, I found that I enjoyed
signing and I was quite good at it. After being out of college for three
years, I decided to go back to school and get a degree in teaching the
Deaf. Now I am a teacher. I am skilled at doing many things and I enjoy
doing them, but I am an excellent teacher. I adore middle school and high
school children and, when I teach them, they know it. I have an amazing
amount of patience and the ability to listen to and do more than two things
at a time something required for a middle school teacher. I am flexible
and can easily adapt to the four thousand changes a minute that happen
in a classroom. And I love teaching. I love to explain and discuss the
Constitution. I love it when my students bring me articles from the newspaper
and then we can discuss how the events described violate someone's constitutional
rights. I am thrilled at the end of a school year, when I can look at a
student's English writing folder and see the progress and improvement she
has made over the course of a school year. I love listening to teenagers
tell me the important, exciting, heartbreaking, mundane details of their
lives. Each day when I go to work, I am excited to see my students. When
I say that I teach middle school, sometimes people will noticeably back
away from me. They think that I must be crazy. Of course teenagers can
be difficult; but, mostly, they're funny.
Andy and I met on a sort of a blind date in November of 1984. Our friend, Lisa, fixed us up. I refused to go on a real date, so I made her come along. Andy was living in New Orleans and working for Amoco as a petroleum geologist. He was visiting Lisa in New York City on his vacation. I was working as a secretary at New York University because I did not know what I wanted to do after I quit my job in publishing.
We had a very nice time on our first "date." In the back of my mind, I kept remembering that Andy was going back to New Orleans and there was no way that I was getting involved with a man who lived two thousand miles away from me. He walked me to the subway at the end of the evening and we said good-bye. I figured that was the end of it. Lisa, on the other hand, had other plans. She gave Andy my address and he began to write letters to me. Andy has a great sense of humor. He is smart and clever and an incredible artist. Also, he is an marvelous writer. He wrote long, interesting, sometimes silly, letters to me and I wrote back. I began to fall in love.
At the end of February, I went to visit my grandmother in Florida and I wrote to Andy, asking him if he was interested in joining me at Disney World. When I tell this story, I like to say that I fell completely in love in Disney World and then spent the next several months convincing Andy that he was in love, too. The fact is that Andy would never have allowed himself to be convinced of something of which he was not already pretty sure.
In October of 1985, I moved down to New Orleans to live with Andy. It was the bravest thing I had ever done in my life, up to that point. I moved away from my friends and my family and everything I knew to live with a man, whom I did not yet know very well, in a strange new city. I was afraid of being a short, Jewish woman from New York City in the deep South. My family was surprised that I was leaving New York. I loved New York so much that I had even gone to college there. I had sworn dozens of times that I would never live anywhere else in my life. I learned that it is important to be flexible about my convictions and my dreams. One of the things that I knew was that I had been dating boys, and then men, since I was thirteen years old, and Andy was the last man I ever intended to date.
We lived together in New Orleans for a year. It was hard for me. Andy and I did not know each other all that well when I moved into his apartment with all my clothes and things. I was used to living alone, getting my own way and being in charge of my life-- and so was he. One of the things that I have learned to do since that first year is compromise. Compromise was very difficult for me. If I did not get my way, then I felt that I had lost something. I learned that compromise is important when two people are trying to live together. I learned how to accept a compromise without feeling like a failure. When we first started living together, Andy and I argued a lot. We were testing each other and figuring out boundaries and territory. I had a tendency to say the most hurtful things that I could think of during an argument. I thought it was important to win an argument. This would be one of the bad things I got from my parents. Andy, for his part, thought that every time we argued it meant that we did not love each other anymore. He thought that an argument meant we were breaking up. We have both learned that it is natural for couples to fight and that any two people living together all the time are going to have arguments and compromises. About three years ago, we found that we had just naturally stopped arguing. We still did not always agree, but instead of arguments, our disagreements had begun to be resolved by discussions and talking. We found that most conflicts we had were resolved easily and quickly, and without any loud or painful arguments.
In August of 1986, Andy and I got married, moved to Boston, and both started graduate school. On the scale of stress indicators, all three rate fairly high. We deal with any stress or difficulties by talking to each other all the time about everything. When it comes to discussing our feelings, I do most of the talking. I tell Andy what I am feeling and he listens and comments and then I tell him what I think he is feeling and he tells me whether or not I am correct and he comments. Since I almost never stop talking and he is very quiet, this arrangement suits us well.
Andy and I enjoy most of the same activities. We love to go to the movies. We like museums and, especially, aquariums. Andy taught me to enjoy going for long walks. He also just repaired our bicycles so that we might start riding bikes again (I am a little nervous about this). We love the ocean, although we don't like to go in the water. We love to travel and sightsee. When we go on vacations, we walk for miles and make a point of seeing every tourist attraction available. Andy has never been to Europe, and while I have, including spending a summer in Switzerland as an exchange student, I have never been to Paris. It is a dream of mine to live in Paris for a summer. Someday, we will go to Paris.
We love to read. I usually do not have time to read for pleasure during the school year, so in the summer I make up for it by reading at least fifty books (preferably by women authors). Andy loves to write. He corresponds with many friends who live across the continent and the globe and he has several penpals. He also writes complicated and lovely poetry. I write letters only because I enjoy getting mail.
Music is very important to me. I am a singer and a musician. I play the guitar. Andy is always impressed by the number of songs that I know. I was brought up on folk songs and union songs. In high school, I sang in choir and in a special small choral ensemble. In college, I sang Gershwin and Cole Porter with friends. I look forward to teaching the songs I grew up with to our children the way my mother taught them to me.
I do not believe
in fate. I do not believe there is one right person in the world for me.
I believe Andy and I are lucky to have found each other. I never take that
for granted. We laugh at the same things. We find the same things to be
important. We support each other in our work and feelings, our hopes and
dreams. Friends of mine tell me that they want to have a relationship like
ours. They want to talk about their husbands or boyfriends in the same
way that I talk about Andy. When I ask them what they mean, they tell me
that whenever I talk about him, it is clear that I love him, that he loves
me, that we respect each other and cherish each other. My friends tell
me that they have never heard me say anything mean or unkind about him.
When we are together, it is clear that we like each other more than anyone
else and that we would rather be together than anywhere else. I think that
is an excellent description of us. I know we are privileged. Our relationship
is solid and indestructible.
In the summer of 1991, we decided it was time to buy a house and have a baby. Instead of getting pregnant, I got what I thought were fibroid tumors. The week after we moved into our new house, I was scheduled to have surgery to remove the tumors. We thought our plans would be delayed about ten months and then we would get pregnant.
Unfortunately, life doesn't always follow the plans we make. During surgery, the doctors discovered I had cancer and they did a hysterectomy. My course of chemotherapy put me in the hospital for five days and home for two to three weeks in between. I felt sick for months. Andy came to the hospital every day after work and entertained me until he had to go home to sleep. When I was delirious or sleeping because of the medication they gave me, he sat and wrote. When he was at work, my mother sat by my hospital bed. She tells me she read one hundred books sitting at my bedside while I slept. I spent twenty-eight consecutive days in isolation during my autologous bone marrow transplant. It was the hardest thing I have ever done.
For my family, it was the most difficult year and a half we have ever experienced. But it was worth it. I am completely cancer-free. The doctors tell me that there is an excellent chance the cancer will never return. I am very healthy.
My priorities and
goals have changed since I have had cancer. Very few things seem to upset
me. If something happens that I do not like or that I begin to get upset
about at home or at work, I think to myself, nothing can be as bad as what
I have been through already. My goals for the future have become rather
simple: I want to have children. I want to see them grow up and be happy.
I want to be happy. I want to continue to teach. I want to grow old with
Andy. I think these are the most important things in life. Anything else,
like trips to Paris or singing on stage in front of an audience or writing
a best-selling novel or winning the lottery, is just gravy.
My sister has been married for three years and is expecting her first child in November, 1993. Everyone in my family is very excited. At first, I was sad and jealous when I found out Emily was pregnant. I have been married for seven years. I always thought that the first grandchild would be my child. I was jealous because she is getting the experience of pregnancy and childbirth that I will never have. I thought about it for a long time. Emily is my closest woman friend. I thought about how much fun it will be to be an aunt. I thought about how, when we adopt a child, Emily's child and my child will be first cousins, close to each other in age. I have no first cousins and Emily and I always thought that cousins would be fun to have. In the excitement and anticipation of her baby, I have been able to overcome my jealousy and disappointment. Andy has already threatened to hide our credit cards because he is afraid that Aunt Juliet will spend every cent we have on presents for her new niece or nephew.
Since we are unable to get pregnant and have children biologically, we naturally came to the idea of adoption. My brother-in-law, Michael, is adopted. We have many friends who have adopted children. I have taught countless numbers of hearing and Deaf adopted children in my years as a teacher. Adoption was never a difficult choice for us.
Andy and I have always said we would join a temple when we had children. I grew up with all the traditions and training of my Jewish family. We went to my grandmother's house for holidays and Sabbath meals. We went to shul with my father's parents. I learned the prayers, rituals, and traditions of Judaism. These family traditions are very important to me. Andy is one-eighth Jewish. He was drawn to Judaism before I ever met him. He took classes and had plans to convert to become fully Jewish. Our getting married provided the impetus he needed to make the move. Half an hour before we got married, under our wedding huppah, the rabbi officially converted Andy to Judaism.
As an adult, I had many questions about religion. One of my major concerns about Judaism was that women were not respected nor treated very well. This is still very difficult for me. It was very important to Andy that we get married by a rabbi. Because of my questions about religion, I agreed to having a rabbi only if the rabbi was a woman. As it turned out, our female rabbi conducted our wedding in a very democratic way that was respectful of both tradition and women. We do not belong to a temple now, mostly because it is very expensive. It is important to us to give our children the traditions and the foundation that I had and that Andy has learned. It is our intention to join a temple to help give our children these traditions that are so important to us.
My family cannot
wait to have a new baby in the family. My sister and I are excited that
we might have babies at the same time. My mother cannot believe her good
fortune that each of her daughters will be having babies and she'll be
a grandmother. Andy and I know that we will have no trouble considering
an adopted child our own. We already love the children of our friends.
I love my sister's unborn baby. I love my stepfather, who is not biologically
related to me. It will be easy to love a baby that we take care of and
nurture and who depends on us.