Old friends mean a lot to me. Old acquaintances and relatives do too. Now with the advent of Facebook, it all becomes a reality. One can find just about anyone and if you can’t find the one you are looking for, surely you can find another family member or a friend who can.
We lived in Texas some 28 years ago. Shep and I were just married and living in Manhattan and absolutely loving it….when, lo’ and behold, his job with WR Grace required a transfer to Dallas, Texas. Being Ms. New York my entire life and working at that time as a manager in Macy’s Cellar, I was horrified. Although we were newlyweds, we argued about this move passionately and watched the show, “Dallas” with renewed curiosity mixed with dread.
We flew to Dallas, and trying to duplicate Manhattan, I found the only high rise apartment building at the time, (in Turtle Creek) and put down a deposit to hold it till our arrival. I went to Joske’s Department store and applied for a position as a buyer. Already on slippery terra ferme, the mud sunk deeper, when suddenly there was a shift in plans. The move would be changed from Dallas to San Antonio. This was it — too much. I could never do it. But, Shep did have to relocate; there was no way to avoid it if he wanted to advance his career. And so, I gave in, had a cool Manhattan farewell party with the “Dallas” theme as background music and bid adieu to our upper east side apartment in The Claridge House.
To say I was a “poor re-locator” would be a gross understatement. As a hip New Yorker, born and bred in the Brooklyn housing projects, I relocated with such reluctance and skepticism, that my adjustment was destined to fail. The quirky thing I notice about so called “worldly wise New Yorkers”, is that in actuality, they can be very provincial. There is something really odd about living in New York and the daily struggle for survival. The goal is to make it to work and back, through a gourmet dinner and wine, then, into your loft bed for the night, and when that is accomplished, you feel like a hero/survivor. There is the notion that the harder it is, the bigger the struggle, the better it must be! After all, good things don’t come easy, so it stands to reason that New York MUST be the best, because it is the most difficult. I believed that with all my heart and never wanted to leave. Most New Yorkers don’t. The truth is though, that there is life outside of New York and in fact, everyday life need NOT be a battle royale. It can be simplified and less stressful and still very worth living.
Back to the subject matter here. We did relocate to San Antonio, Texas into a garden apartment complex (there were no tall buildings!) ironically named 7600 Broadway! I worked for Dillard’s Department stores as the buyer for three departments in about a dozen stores in Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico. I was the gifts, lamps, and wall decor buyer. And my office was in a warehouse on Broadway with several other buyers. My boss was a genuine Texas merchandiser who chewed and spit tobacco, in between smoking Marlboros. He was kind, but I was horrified. He was short of breath and slightly impatient with my low comfort level with numbers, facts, and figures. I have never been a numbers girl and even in college as a merchandising major, I struggled with Open-to-buy formulas. Send me to the wholesale gift market and I was a gem. I could choose items, colors, styles that almost always sold. I had a true sense of what someone else would like to purchase, even when I hated the item. With a great flair for merchandising the item and creating desire for it, I was worth my salary, but for my number sense — I should have been slaughtered.
Now, while I was busy learning to drink Dr. Pepper and purchase stone cactus displays and armadillo statues, Shep was working with Howard Publicover for WR Grace. WR Grace was busy spreading their retail and restaurant acquisitions at the time, and Handy Dan home stores was their big push. Handy Dan was the precursor to Home Depot in the southwest. I think Howard was slightly intimidating to Shep as was the corporate world he was now in. Making presentations to large groups of executives always seemed to rattle Shep, though he did well. Howard was perfect in his job though, and we soon became friends with Howard’s family, who had relocated from Massachusetts. We all tried to learn Texas two step dances together, ate on the lovely River walk and shared our stories of missing the Northeast and our friends.
The Publicovers were the epitome of a large, happy family and we loved to spend time with them in their big house with four kids. Their twin daughters, Kym and Karyn were in high school by then, their son Mark was probably in elementary school as was their perky daughter, Lynda. I was pregnant with my first child and very excited to be so. Shep and I had traded up and bought our first house on Dove Flight in the northern part of town. San Antonio was still a very military area and this part of town was especially so, thus we fit in, even less. Being around the Publicover family through my pregnancy was so appropriate and when I had baby Nicholas they were quite helpful in getting us acclimated. Lynda was especially interested in this new baby and she spent time at our house helping me. I too, was very drawn to her sweetness, her zaniness and her open questions.
This family seemed to do most things, BIG. Their new house was so big and the windows might have been the biggest I had ever seen, with drapes that ran for two stories. The kitchen was big. The yard was big. This was Texas where most things are BIG. But biggest of all, was their camper which we loaded into one weekend, with baby Nicholas in my arms. I cannot remember if we had a destination or not, but it sure was fun riding around while Howard, also a big guy, drove this mammoth vehicle. Howard and Shep had purchased cowboy hats and boots at WR Grace’s cowboy store, Shepler’s and wore them well. So, as I remember, it was a fun time, at a tender and impressionable phase of our lives.
After two years of non-stop comparisons to life in New York, Shep finally relented and we made plans to move back. I have always looked back on this decision as a mistake, because we were doing well, had a nice life and had made some good friends. Texas is a very family friendly place, the antithesis of where we were headed. But, this is how life goes and this is how maturation takes place, through making some poor, but hell driven decisions. So, back we went, only this time we moved out to Hampton Bays, Long Island and I shall write more about that another time.
We sent Christmas cards to the Publicovers for many years and then somehow, that ended, but I am not sure why. Baby Nicholas is now, 28 and married and his five brothers followed him into this family. I am a lactation consultant and will be attending a conference this summer in San Antonio, so all these years later, I became curious as to what and whom I will find and if anything will be vaguely familiar. Enter, Facebook — the life changing channel of communication, perfect for someone like me who always likes to follow-up on lost friends. Through just a little bit of searching, I found the Publicover twins and then, Lynda! Oddly, coincidentally, synchronicity, who-knows-what, Howard Publicover had died the day before! Irony or ironies? The family was too busy with funeral plans to email back and forth which was completely understandable, yet so very sad to hear. I became even more curious about what had become of this family.
How uncanny this is? I, who thinks of death and its meanings, more often than is probably normal, runs smack into death. There are these grown-women-and-men-children who have lost their big daddy. Their mom, Virginia (who in her Facebook photo looks very much like a Texas country singer), has lost her husband of so many years. Lynda has posted two photos that haunt me in their loveliness. One is of her in hospital bed with her dying dad. The other, so striking, is of her holding his hand as he lay dying. She had been told many times that she had “man’s hands” and she finally came to realize that her hands were her father’s replicas. The wonders of genetics. And, she is so honored to have the facsimile of the hands of the man she loved so dearly. We are in touch and I am enjoying hearing about her grownup life. She says I was an inspiration to her in the way that I nurtured my first child. She went on to breastfeed each of her children, which to me, is the greatest honor of all. Surprisingly, I recollected my first year of mothering as clueless and so ungrounded. Who knew? Through the eyes of a 12 year old, comes glory and tribute unknown to oneself.
So, moral of story — too little, too late. We will never see Howard Publicover, though we hope to visit with the rest of his family. I wish I could keep up with everyone who has ever crossed my path, but it seems that is not possible. I am ever curious as to the impact I may have had on them, and how they perceived me, at different times in my life.