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Women’s Stories of Successful Aging

Irene Jordan Caplan: Wordsmith

Leaving Manhattan (1999)

Irene describes the day she moved from her Manhattan apartment to a spacious family home in New Rochelle, NY. Her joy turns to sadness when she receives a letter from her mother.

It was July first, 1954, the day of our move from an apartment in Manhattan’s upper West Side to the Larchmont Woods of New Rochelle. I was never more excited or happy in all my life. We had two youngsters, a six-year-old boy at camp in Cummington, MA, and a four-year-old daughter at her aunt’s house for the day – plus a baby about to be born in September. We were moving to a large Tudor-style house on a half-acre lot, which my children had designated as “our own park.” There were four bedrooms, a master bedroom suite, a maid’s room and bath off the kitchen, a moderate sized dining room, as well as a lovely pine-paneled library. It was perfect for us – a dream come true.

I was ready for the movers so I took the elevator to the lobby to get my mail. There was a long letter from my mother in Alabama. I sat down amid the barrels and boxes and began to read:

“My dear,

“How can you bear to leave that lovely place of so many memories? I think of the sudden glimpse of Central Park from your living room windows when Dad and I first came to visit. What a fairyland! You must have arranged for all that snow to fall the night we were on the train. What a Christmas gift for us!” (That was New York’s biggest blizzard since the infamous blizzard of 1888.)

“I’m also remembering the icy March morning when we brought tiny Joel home from the hospital to the bright yellow nursery we had decorated for him while we were waiting for him to gain enough weight so he could leave the hospital. And his baptismal dress which you stitched for him by hand – the only sewing you ever did! And remember Rosebeth’s delight that night when she realized she could walk! How she ran giggling from room to room!”

Well, Mother went on for several pages. Tears began to blind me. Her words deflated my joy. The apartment, which I was so glad to be leaving, suddenly seemed very dear to me, and my sobs echoed against the bare walls.