Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Memories: A "Chuck Close" portrait of Florence

Many years ago, I sat a few seats away from Florence at a WOW performance of the play Claire wrote about her. As I recollect, the humor was pretty broad and the depiction of Claire's mom not exactly flattering, so I gave Florence a few nervous peeks to see if she was upset at all. She was laughing her head off.
-- Carola

I'm not sure if this is an apocryphal story but I seem to remember you told me that when you told Florence we had broken up, she hit you. Not that I condone parental violence, but I appreciated the strength of her feelings for me which I perhaps didn't recognize before. It was nice to have her on my side, even if it meant she wasn't taking your side as one might expect... Also, even though in conversation you knew Florence reveled in language, it was in her letters to me that I really caught the full blast of her storm of words, ideas, and the sometimes incomprehensible connections between them. And there was the sometimes florid, over the top, extravagant, extremely complimentary, appreciation (was it love?) she expressed for me. I was sometimes awed by her.
-- Joni

When I think of your mom, I picture her sitting at the piano, either playing herself or giving the lessons.That's the image that keeps coming to mind. I also remember you playing the violin with her at the piano. She treated us like grown ups, even when we were little kids. She didn't talk down to us.

We were too poor for a decent wedding. So our first time together spent walking around New York. We didn't even have carfare. [Eventually] we saved money to go to the Catskills. [But before that] we went mostly to churches and synagogues because they didn't cost.
-- Seymour [Florence used to refer to him as her "first husBANd"]

I remember that she gave herself a tap dance class for her 65th birthday. And how surprised I must have looked: one can be 65 and still do everything! And us walking around, talking, through the rather dark and empty streets, and you saying "wait a sec" and walking into a lesbian bar because Florence might be there. And her voice.
And the way she smiled. And going to the diner around the corner for lunch. [And] Florence being somewhere in the neighbourhood, calling, but not willing to come up.
-- Joke

She taught me to pronounce Dvorak correctly (silent "D"). We took long, slow walks on Avenue C and ate in the yuppy cafes that have replaced the bodegas. And talked and talked and talked. I admired her intrepid character - strength against adversity. And against the humiliations and diminishment of old age. She had a complete world view, uncompromised by hedonism or sentimentality. And fittingly strong opinions.
-- Naomi

I have an experience in faith related to Florence. I was actually amazed at how much her death touched me, and also all these friends and clients that have been passing away in last weeks. (it seems as if I am going from memorial to memorial). So that morning I have chanted and read and even cried for her, and realized that all the positive that I can do in this life time besides healing, I should do. So I called the chapter leader who have asked me to become a group chief (which I declined because of "organization" issues and I was struggling with that) and accepted the appointment. This is totally related to Florence's passing so I thought you should know.
PS-and...adding to the last son just started dating a girl from Coney Island..
-- Nurit

1 comment:

Vicki Blakeman said...

I found this by accident and am trying to reach her children. I was a 10 year old piano student of hers in the 1950's. When she went on maternity leave (Louise) she sent me to her teacher, Miss Goren, at the Henry Street Settlement. I would go between classes on Sat to play piano duets and play with baby Louise. she wrote to me for 20 years afterward, since I had moved to LA. A most kind, caring, and quintessentially New York lady, and fine teacher. -Vicki Blakeman