Where does my own story begin? What are the words I’d use to start to tell you who I am as a person who loves words, and uses them every chance I get? Maybe the beginning is in seventh grade. I was the editor of the Peck Observer, the mimeographed (yes) purplish blue school newspaper at The Peck School. It was a big brick building across the street from my childhood home, at 43 Holbrook Street in Ansonia, Connecticut. My seventh grade teacher was a man who took himself very seriously. His name was Mr. Stamos. He was never without a pencil in his hand to fix what was wrong. He was very bald, and had a kind and frequent smile. I liked him, and he thought I was ok enough.Every year my family would go on vacation with other Jewish families to Grossingers, one of those resorts where Jewish families would talk and eat. We were very happy doing that, all of us. No one had the impulse to do much else. We went every February for school break. We would sit in a big round table and eat. I have a picture of all of us (we went with our family’s best friends and their four children) and we all look VERY HAPPY.
I began every single visit to Grossingers (there were many) with a visit to the PR man who booked the talent. I would request an interview for the Peck Observer for anyone who was remotely considered a celebrity.
In seventh grade the PR man told me that Jayne Mansfield was arriving that night and I could be the first one to interview her. And her husband, Mickey Hargity.
I interviewed them in the Grossingers swimming pool, where she wore a leopard skin bikini and I wore a polka dot stretchy thing that covered my straight line body. Mickey lifted weights in the pool.
I had never really seen bodies before. That is, I had seen Connecticut Jews in pajamas but not much else.
I asked Jayne Mansfield many many questions. She didn’t mind that I was skinny and in seventh grade and didn’t know anything about anything. She was very kind to me, and I tried hard, the next few weeks, to describe what it felt like seeing her (oh my god) and her husband (ditto) and asking her about her life.
That experience was the beginning of my trying to write everything down.
Years later, I’m still trying.
What do I write about? What do my words look like?