In 1974, the year Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, my father, a man with rabbinic aspirations, was deep in his own pickle, indicted for conspiracy and fraud in the federal summer school lunch program. Nixon was brought down by Deep Throat, the pseudonym given the informant who passed information to Washington Post journalists about his administration’s involvement in what came to be known as the Watergate scandal. My father got off somehow.
It always seemed odd to me then that as we approached the one land I experienced in all of Connecticut as a land of Jewish multitude the first cue that we’d soon arrive would be the Holy Land U.S.A. sign and its accompanying, outsized cross. Obviously the sign advertised no real holy land but was a manufactured tourist stop; nevertheless, I was always eager to spot the sign, then the cross, and point them out as if together they formed a kind of important, albeit theologically incongruous, family landmark.
Three years ago, when his mother announced that she was flying to Moscow to adopt a seven-year-old girl, Stewart did his best not to react. His mother had always been the kind of person who made threats, who cajoled and coerced, until she got her way. For years, she’d been threatening to adopt one of the children she sponsored in Mexico and Guatemala and Romania, to bring a child home to live with her in Ventana Beach, so she would have someone in her life who loved her, who appreciated her.
The friendship is both tender and antagonistic, deeply intimate and full of spite, and Elena reflects on the difficulty of telling her own story without Lila in it. There is Lila’s story and there is Elena’s story, but Elena realizes the two are inextricable.
The plan was to torch the rose patch. We could, at this point, see no other way. Flickerdot, our beloved hybrid, was a complete bust. But one couldn’t blame us for being fooled: the first and second generations were so thick with blooms that Jamie could put a book — an Oxford dictionary, no less — on the plant and the dense flowers would hold it up.
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