Opening the right, rear door for Marsha, “Dad,” he said proudly, “this is Marcie Goldman.” Closing the door quickly, Mitchell entered the Buick from the other side.
“Mister, Lipensky,” smiling, “I’m glad to meet you.”
Returning the smile, “Me, too, Marcie. Mitchell hasn’t shut up about you the whole trip.”
“And this squirt’s my brother… Larry, meet Marcie.”
“Jeeze, Mitchie, how come you lied? She ain’t all that ugly!”
“Well, Larry,” Marsha said, “You ain’t all that ugly, either.”
Walter and Larry formed an immediate affection for this girl, and the feeling was completely reciprocated.
“Guess we’d better get going! My wife’s going to kill us as it is.”
Checking for traffic, making a U-turn, driving west on Pratt Boulevard, glancing at Marsha in the rearview mirror, thinking, She’s beautiful! Walter sighed.
At forty-nine, the younger years of his life seemed to be yesterday, and Walter found it hard to realize that he was nearly fifty. When he allowed himself to think about it he became alarmed, because each preceding year seemed to speed by faster than the year before… and he felt his life whirling away. As for his wife, Walter tried to remain in love with her, but more often than not felt it a losing battle.
As for Myra, the years had not diminished her insecurity about her husband’s love for her. In addition she truly felt the boat was Walter’s first love. For this reason the boat continued to be the main source of her almost constant—in her husband’s and children’s opinion—unreasonable anger.
Throughout the winter months there would be a respite, of sorts, but in early March, when Walter began to spend more time in the back yard, sanding, scraping, painting and polishing, the hard words would always develop into open warfare.
In May, Friendship’s trailer was attached to a neighbor’s truck and hauled to Navy Pier, where the boat was lifted off the trailer by a boat crane and lowered into Lake Michigan, and the mast “stepped.”
Begging his wife to be a part of his life, “Honey,” Walter would plead, “it’s calm today. There’s almost no wind and it’ll be a smooth sail. Please come with us!”
“No!” would most often come Myra’s reply. “You go without me! I’ll be just fine here, alone!”
It had become a weekly ritual; Walter always asked, but, except on very rare occasions, Myra refused.
Larry was Walter’s first mate, and he always, willingly, went with his father. Weather permitting, Morton was asked to come along. Sometimes he would and sometimes he would not.
A part of Walter, though—an ever growing part of Walter—was secretly glad that Myra spent so little time on the boat because Friendship had become his domain, where he could be exactly what, and who he wanted to be: Skipper.
At the end of the season, in late September, the sails would be stripped, the mast lowered and lashed to the deck. Hoisting Friendship out of Lake Michigan, the crane then lowered her onto the trailer to once again begin the yearly cycle.
The studio and boat were the major factors in Walter’s life.
Unfortunately, Myra was one of those people who refused to accept what she could not change, but because she worked with her husband at the studio, she did know that she was, at least, that much a part of his life.
But the boat! Always demanding of his love, even were he to invest his time on and with the boat moderately, which Walter didn’t, the boat was something he wanted and she did not, so Myra hated it and participated with—and consequently her husband’s enjoyment of—the boat less and less with each ensuing year… And with each ensuing year the battle of the boat wore on… and on.
Walter well knew that Myra was jealous of the time he lavished on Friendship but, “Shit!” he rationalized, “if you’ve an investment like this, you’ve got to keep it up!”
In reality, though, Friendship was more than just enjoyment and relaxation. Friendship was Walter Lipensky’s psychiatrist, and lately, due to Myra’s constant haranguing, his mistress.
Despite a noticeable paunch, Walter was still a handsome man, and there were a few women at the club that he’d easily be able to have an “opportunity” with, but another woman was an involvement he did not want because he was sure the end result would be the loss of everything he’d worked for all his life. And also—though in a million years he would never admit it—he was truly afraid of Myra’s ability to, as she’d always told him, “read him like a book.”
Glancing in the rearview mirror, looking at this lovely girl, Walter felt the soft pang of lost youth and the longing feeling in the pit of his stomach of wanting something… of wanting to be young, and in love with a young woman again.
A brown Chevrolet was parked at the front curb. “Looks like Ma and Pa are here.”
“Yeah, Larry, looks like.” Pulling into the alley, parking just past the front crosswalk, leaving enough room for a car to pass between the Buick and his neighbor’s hedge, Walter felt somewhat relieved because if the visit by Marsha did not blunt his wife’s anger at them coming home this late, then he hoped the presence of her mother and father would.
Sitting on the sofa alongside her husband, “Mitchala!” remaining seated, “Oy-yoy-yoy, Morris.” Jennie held her arms to her grandson. “Look at him, Morris. He’s so skinny!”
“Ma!” Bending, putting his arms about her neck, hugging his head to hers, Mitchell kissed his grandmother’s dry cheek. Straightening, he turned to his grandfather, who was now standing.
He hadn’t seen his grandparents since his last leave and was shocked at the change just one year had made; not so much with Jennie, because in his eyes she’d always looked old, but in his grandfather.
Morris’s scraggly eyebrows shot off in all directions. The whites of his eyes were tinged with a slight yellow cast, and the piercing grey, hawk-like corneas appeared to have a slight haze over them. The flesh beneath his chin hung lower than Mitchell remembered and, though still streaked with black, his hair was grayer and the stubble on his cheeks pure white.
Holding back tears, “Pa!” Mitchell embraced his grandfather.
Turning, taking her hand, “Ma, Pa…” bringing his attention to Myra, who was standing on the far side of the room, “Mom, this is Marsha.”
Going to the old lady, “Hello.” Taking her hand, Marsha held it for a moment. Turning to Morris, who was still standing, “Hello,” she held her hand to him also, then, walking across the room, extended her hand.
In the flash of a moment, both minds whirling, the two women scrutinized each other.
Sensing… something, glancing from Marsha to her son, seeing the look on his face, two thoughts came to mind: This one is it; this one is going to be my daughter-in-law! Myra also wondered if maybe, maybe she saw something in this young woman that she’d wanted, so it seemed, all of her life: a daughter.
This lady could be my mother-in-law. “Hello, Mrs. Lipensky. I’m glad to meet you.” Her heart warming even further, Marsha thought that maybe, maybe she saw something in this woman that she’d always wanted: a mother.
Looking at the offered hand, brushing it aside, putting her arms about the girl, hugging her, “Welcome to our home, Marsha.”
Lost a moment, her arms hanging limply, Marsha hadn’t been in another woman’s embrace since… she didn’t know when. Feeling a burning in her throat and a stinging in her eyes, fighting the urge to cry, instead, returning the others embrace, “Thank you,” she said to Myra. And, to God, Thank you! who in Marsha’s mind had brought her to this miraculous time and place.
Hearing the back door open, “Don’t slam the…” Myra called over Marsha’s shoulder as the door slammed shut. “…door.” She broke her embrace as Morton tramped through the kitchen into the living room with Cricket, who immediately ran to Marsha and sniffed her shoes.
“That’s Mortie, and the one with the spots is Cricket.”
And a dog, too. Stooping, petting Cricket, looking at the six-year-old, “Hi, Mortie. My name’s Marcie.”
“Yeah, Marcie, hi!” Morton, as the rest of his family, had taken an immediate liking to Marsha.
“Hey, Mitch, seeing as you’re a guest here, I’ll give you a crack at the hot water first.
“Marcie, I’ve got to get out of these filthy clothes,” he said, holding the T-shirt away from his chest as though it smelled bad, which in fact it did. “You be okay here if I take off for a few minutes?”
“Sure! Why shouldn’t I?” Feeling the warmth of his family, for the first time in remembrance Marsha felt as though she were wanted, and oddly, since she had been in this house for no more than a few minutes, as though she belonged here, too. “Maybe I can help your mother.” Turning to Myra, “Anything I can help you with, Mrs. Lipensky?”
“Don’t be so formal, Marsha, we’re not that way around here. Call me Myra, or better still, Mom.”
Mom? She wants me to call her Mom! Anyone else might have passed it off as someone attempting to be overly friendly, but, Yeah, Marsha thought, I can do that. Not comfortable, though, calling this lady that she’d just met “Mom,” and feeling that “Myra” would be disrespectful, “Thank you,” she said.
Gesturing towards the fully-set table, “There’s nothing left to do now, Marsha, but thank's for offering.”
Now, though, glaring at Walter, her voice hardening, “We expected you home hours ago, and,” breaking with the Sunday-morning tradition, the Lipenskys now had their lox and bagels for dinner on Saturday, “everything’s out but the fish and cream cheese.”
Having seen the set table when she’d come in, now, Fish? Lox? Marsha thought, Uh, oh!
Going to his wife, kissing her on the cheek, “Sorry,” Walter said apologetically, “we ran out of wind. What the hell could I do?”
Trying to retain her façade of anger, “Yes, I know!” Dismissing her husband with a steely, kind of “I’ll talk to you later” look, Myra added, “Go on! You get cleaned up, too!”
Knowing his wife, knowing her moods well, knowing that her anger had passed, Thank you. Silently thanking God for small miracles, Walter obeyed.
Motioning to the chairs on either side of the picture window, “Sit down, why don’t you.” Myra said to the still-standing young woman. “Here, in my home, you be comfortable.”
“Yes,” sitting, “thank you.” Her senses reeling, Marsha had suddenly been made a part of a family. A family with grandparents. A family with brothers—two of them—that even spoke to her. And most of all, a family with a mother. A mother that had even prepared a meal. Looking at the overloaded table, thinking, This is just for a lox and bagel dinner? It looks more like Thanksgiving. Not sure if she quite knew how to handle the situation, she did know, however, that if she thought she loved Mitchell before—Holy cow, they even have a dog—she loved him all the more now.