Brief essays about an enduring marriage, motherhood, breast cancer, and aging. Schwartz (Writing/Richard Stockton Coll.), the daughter of German immigrants, grew up in Queens in the 1950s. Ensconced in saddle shoes, plaid kilt skirts, and crew-neck sweaters, the author felt “American enough” to appreciate the survival stories told by the family: How they had outwitted the Nazis and landed in Queens. How her mother, an expert knitter, had an American job even before reaching Ellis Island. How her father swiftly bought a house with a $3.50 deposit, without even seeing the basement or the top floor. A woman of her era, Schwartz married and raised two children before beginning a career as a college professor. Even as she revels in teaching, she worries about her daughter and her 15-hour workdays: “She once invited me over for a drink and served water.” The most powerful essays here deal with the author’s mastectomy and her husband’s heart attack: “I am not religious, I don’t love ritual, so I never thought I’d be peeling apples for a Passover Seder so soon after a mastectomy. But I am. Eight days ago I was lying in Presbyterian Hospital being prepped for the removal of my left breast, and tonight I’ll be dining on fine china, unused in two years, as part of a ceremony I don’t have time for when I’m teaching, unless it falls on the weekend.”
A gentle, moving celebration of the quotidian.