It rained all day and night in Boston on Wednesday and, alas, I did not get to see my sister or old friends because I was there just 36 hours and had several meetings. At dinner last night a colleague and I ate in Brookline at Vietnamese restaurant. The rain was steady and I had to stop our conversation about a conference we will be attending. We were seated by the window. I was watching the rain fall in the halo around the streetlight. Rain in Iraq is either sprinkles or a downpour--straight down or almost sideways in a howling wind. This rain was falling at a 30-degree angle pushed by a steady wind from the ocean to the East. The yellow arc of light showed the rain swirling and dancing. It has been a long time since I saw that kind of rain.
Then I looked below the streetlight and saw a Thai takeout place which was a Jewish deli when I was a kid. I then remembered all the tailor shops and butchers and little Kosher markets that were in this Coolidge Corner neighborhood 50 years ago.
Memory brings back embarrassing moments with some of the highest clarity we ever experience. Fifty years ago my Dad and I stopped at that deli after visiting my grandmother. We visited "Ma" every month. At every visit she complained that we did not visit enough and said she "was not going to be around much longer" for us to visit. Although we can't be certain because no one has a birth certificate and she would not tell any her age, she lived another three decades to possibly 100 years old.
Anyway, Dad and I went to the deli. Several of the patrons and the owner knew my Dad. My father was Jewish, my mother was Protestant, but neither were religious. So I knew very little of Jewish life. I certainly did not know that Kosher Jews don't eat meat and milk together. So we went to the little Kosher deli. I ordered a pastrami sandwich. While were eating my Dad got up from the table and walked to the counter to get some more pickles. While he was at the counter 20 feet away, I said "Dad, Can I have a glass of milk." He walked back to the table with all those old friends looking at him. He whispered that he would get me a Coke. In the car he explained why everyone looked so funny when I asked the question.
I had been on the street many times before and after that day. But my memory went straight to that day.
When dinner was over, I took the "T" to Copley Place and Newbury street. There is cafe/bookstore I wanted to visit. I browsed the hundreds of maginzes they have, then went back to Brookline to Booksmith, an independent bookstore. They sell new and used books. I ended up buying a copy of Paris Review because the main article was on memoir. It looks like memoir will be an important part of my life in the next year or two.