My folks left yesterday after spending a week in town greeting the new baby. Many things to be said about this, of course, much of it good, some not so much. Among the good was the fact that my mother and step-father are neat freaks with a decidedly missionary flair … and Tomoko and I are not.
As such, I enjoyed a full week of parental cleaning! Some folks might find that annoying, a way for the aged parent to reassert his or her authority over the misbehaving child. I don’t feel that way. I like my floor mopped twice weekly, and I’m only about to do it twice yearly (which, by the way, is twice more than Tomoko).
These domestic predilections reminded me of one of my family’s stories, likely apocryphal. It involves my great-aunt Sonia, whom I never met. She moved to Mexico City in the 1930s, and died several years ago. Anyway, she was of a certain communistic political bent, which wasn’t all that unusual among Jews in New York in the Depression. She must have been rather committed to the cause, however—instead of selling out and moving to Secaucus, she bugged out for Mexico, where she married an archaeologist. Their son, Paul Leduc, has, apparently, directed one of the best biopics of Frida Kahlo.
My father went to visit his Aunt Sonia in Mexico when he was a teenager. He was a curious sort, so he asked her why she had moved to Mexico. Was it her dedication to communist causes and social justice? Was it a commentary on the debased American capitalist culture in which she’d been raised?
Not really, Aunt Sonia said, looking around her tidy and well-appointed living room. Perhaps, she admitted, it had been politics that inspired her to cross the southern border—but it wasn’t what had kept her there.
“It’s the servants, Stevie,” she said. “I love the servants.”
There’s a lesson in there somewhere I imagine, but I’m staying away from it.