Sunday, July 20, 2014



We lived at 104 American Legion Highway for ten years. Shirley worked as a Bookkeeper five days a week at a 9-5 job. On Friday night we went to Bubbe's house. On saturdays we went shopping down Blue Hill Avenue. On sundays, Shirley stayed in bed almost all day and I was not permitted to make any noise or go outside until she got up which was well past noon. I went to school, the Robert Treat Paine School, grades kindergarten through sixth grade. After public school I went to Hebrew school for four years. Before Hebrew school I went to dance/ballet classes for two years. We had a recital at the old John Hancock building in Boston. (I was going to get my toe shoes in the third year, but Shirley said I had to go to Hebrew school instead. I whined about that for the rest of my life) I almost fell off the chair while  talking to her on the phone about a year before she died and out of the blue she said, "...Carol, I will buy you a pair of ballet shoes now if you want..." Shirley said Hebrew school was in lieu of daycare. What she actually said was, "If anything happens to me, I am going to tell people that you are at the Beth El Hebrew school and you better be there!" After sixth grade, I went to Girls Latin School for the seventh and eighth grades. During every one of those summers I went to a Jewish day camp sponsored by the Hecht House for two months, June and July and then I went to overnight camp at Camp Kingswood for three weeks in August in Bridgeton, Maine where we had an Oneg Shabbat every Friday night (more on Camp Kingswood later)

Shirley used to sing during the Dorchester years. Sometimes the neighbors thought it was the radio, she had such a good voice. She loved Frank Sinatra. I remember her singing Mein Yiddishe Mama, My Funny Valentine, Nat King Cole, Chestnuts Roasting on An Open Fire....

On December 7, 1962 Bubbe died. Our lives changed. My life changed. No going to Bubbe's house on Friday nights anymore. No going to her  house on the holidays. I was 12 years old. Shirley went after work to the Brigham and Women's Hospital every night until she died. I remember when she came home and told me Bubbe died. Pancreatic cancer. I did not go the funeral. Shirley told me I had to stay with a friend. I was not given a choice to go or not. It was like she just disappeared from my life. Life went on. Different.

Friday, July 18, 2014


According to the mystical tradition in Judaism:
"The construction of the earth was begun at the centre, with the foundation stone of the Temple, the Eben Sheytiah, for the Holy Land is at the central point of the surface of the earth, Jerusalem is at the central point of Palestine, and the temple is situated at the centre of the Holy City. In the sanctuary itself the Hekal, built on the foundation stone, which thus is at the centre of the earth ." Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews

All over the world, thousands of people are demonstrating in the street either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian. Taking a break from my own personal psycho-drama to comment on the Middle East psycho-drama, i.e. Israel vs. Palestinians + Hamas. I did not go to the Fletcher School of Diplomacy but here is my two cents. It's hard to find the words to even talk about it.

Israeli forces storm holiest mosque in Jerusalem,

Wash. Post 7.18.14

Rockets in Jerusalem - YIKES ! What would Roby say? I know he would have a lot to say, i.e. The Land of Israel, etc. After all the research I did on synagogue architecture, this current situation seems to be just as impossible and irrational as the Israelites going up against Rome before 70 A.D. See Arch of Titus.

Rockets in Jerusalem in July 2014 - chilling. Sacred space under rocket attack !? This does not bode well for anybody.

Israel has lost the war of public opinion. Hamas does not expect to win the conflict with weapons, but they know they have swayed the international community by showing women and children, being killed and wounded whose pictures are on Twitter. The whole world is watching this; everybody knows what is going on the minute it happens. The Jewish community is split into two polarizing factions. Jewish Voices for Peace are demonstrating all over the world against Israeli bombing of Gaza and killing innocent women and children. I saw pictures this morning on Twitter - children dead and wounded. According to the Jewish calendar we are heading into the month of Av. The ninth of Av is the saddest day in the Jewish year commemorating the destruction of the Temple of Solomon. I once commented to Roby that after all the research I did on my synagogue project, the conclusion I reached is that the Jews never get together on anything -  our tradition is one of debate. "I go to the other shul" as the joke goes - until they have a common enemy. He agreed.

Sirens blare in Jerusalem, rockets land in Hebron and Bethlehem 


07/12/2014 19:14



"The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live."
Gil-Scott Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, poem and song, 1970 (about the Civil Rights Movement. Gil Scott-Heron could not foresee social media - indeed, the revolution IS being televised...

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.




Wednesday, July 16, 2014



*104 American Legion Highway
As a preface to the Malden years, it is worth noting that during the Dorchester years, Shirley did not drink or smoke. There was never any alcohol in our house. I never saw her drink except on Passover when we drank that horrible Manischewitz wine.   She had friends. Marian and Mel Brenner. They lived in Randolph. We went there on Thanksgiving. Shirley made a special 'Christmas' cake with graham crackers and red and green jello. It was fun to help make it. They had three kids. Marian was a friend from high school. In the summertime, we went to Wollaston beach or Nantasket. I remember Mock taking us in his 98 Starfire Oldsmobile, black convertible with a red interior. We also went to Nantasket to visit and stay with cousin Irene and her husband Sumner Zorfas and their three kids.

Our house had a lot of books. I got books for presents and I loved them. (interesting that books seem to be on the verge of disappearing) I read a lot and Shirley read a lot, in addition to Vogue, Bazaar and Town and Country.  I loved to read; it was an escape and it worked. She took me to the theater; we saw Once Upon a Mattress in Boston.

I remember walking with Roby on Blue Hill Avenue from Boby's house to ? He gave me a book of fairytales. I loved it. I still have two books from childhood: Debbie and Her Nap and A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. Also, all the Madeline books..."In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines lived 12 little girls in 2 straight lines...."

*104 American Legion Highway, pastel on cardboard, memory drawing

Monday, July 7, 2014


The 'Good' Shirley and The 'Bad' Shirley (The Medicated Shirley comes later)

Angry + Terrified
I sat in my therapist's office two weeks ago and said I don't understand how she was able to keep it together all those years in Dorchester, when she worked to support us and then to see her spiral down  during and after the Malden years - she became a different person. Tough to watch. She told me one of her boyfriends, Mock, told her not to marry Julius Silverman- "he's a tough guy..." Turned out, he was.

There were at least three different 'Shirleys'...the 'good' shirley who everyone liked, beautiful, funny, fun to be around. That was her 'public' self. I lived with her, alone, during those years. Behind closed doors, another story played out. After divorcing my father, Stanley Miller before I was two, Shirley remained a single woman for 12 years, becoming "a single, working mother, ahead of her time" as she was fond of saying. When I got old enough to go to school, she worked full time. Interesting that she chose not to remarry all those years. I now realize, she did not like anybody to tell her what to do. It was not due to lack of options. She dated many guys who liked her over the years including Harold Berman, truck driver, nice, Mock, always came with chinese food and games for me, and Ozzie. She chose Julius Silverman. One day while shopping in the supermarket, a woman came up to Shirley and they talked. Afterwards, she said "your father is dead." I was eight. Then we continued on shopping. When I asked about my father, i.e. what was his name, she slapped me across the face and said, "he was rotten. He would not pay for child support.
He was rotten." She went to court to prevent him from seeing me because he did not pay child support. Exit my biological father. (Years later I met his brother, my uncle Frank,  more on that later)

During the Dorchester years, her mantra to me was: "you have to get good marks so you can go to college, you have to get good marks so you can go to college!  No TV unless you get on the honor roll. You have to get on the honor roll so you can get into Girls Latin School, (a public college prep high school in Codman Square). " I did it. I had to. In the seventh and eighth grades I was taking: Latin, English, Math, History and French. She said I did not have to go to Hebrew school anymore because I would have so much more  homework to do. Femina, feminae, feminae....yes I did have a lot more work to do.

Brace yourself. This is tough stuff, even for me! I had to do what she said - you never knew when she was going to explode or why- any little thing could set her off. And then her rage, anger and frustration came out in violent, emotionally + physically abusive episodes; she would fly into a rage and sweep everything off shelves and tables, sending books and papers and lamps flying. In the eighth grade I had to make two mythology reports because she destroyed the first one. It was like living in a war zone. This was the 'wire-mother monkey' or the 'bad' Shirley.*
No one else saw 'the bad shirley.' Only me. I was terrified of her and I was angry. I became the punching bag. That began a pattern of my not listening to any 'authority figures.' I still have trouble with that but after five years of EMDR therapy, I can 'hear' people better.You do not 'forget' the trauma. The sound of breaking glass reminds me of my childhood.

Julius did not know anything about the 'bad' Shirley when he married her. He did not know she threw his diamond engagement ring down the incinerator at 104 American Legion Highway and that Shirley and Ruth Goldin had to sort through the trash to find it.

After years and years of therapy, I realize, our relationship was doomed. She was never going to be the mother I wished for, and I was not going to be the 'perfect' daughter she wished for. Tough stuff.

*Wire mother monkey: Harry F. Harlow, Monkey Love Experiments.
When I read about these experiments in various Psychology classes I took, I began to think of her as 'the wire-mother monkey'; a piece of terrycloth over a wire monkey - hard to hurt to love her. 

POSTSCRIPT: Many years after these events, while talking to her on the phone in Berkeley, I confronted her about her abusive behavior (from a nice safe distance of 3,000 miles away); she was taking medication then, Stelazine, an anti-psychotic drug. She said, "I know, I am sorry, do you forgive me?"

During these years, my 'safe haven' was Bubbe's house. I never told her what was going on. I was there on friday nights and all school vacations. It was SAFE; unconditional love from Bubbe which is how I started this blog. 

SAFE: Bubbe + Zaidy, 1962ish

Friday, July 4, 2014


A POSITIVE CHILDHOOD MEMORY: The 'Good' Shirley in the Dorchester Years

When I was a little girl, my mother and I went shopping on Saturday down Blue Hill Avenue to Mattapan Square, the Jewish neighborhood shopping district next to Dorchester. (1950's-1963) First we went to the supermarket that delivered. Then we went to lunch at the G + G delicatessen where all the politicians went to schmooze with their constituents. I had a hot pastrami sandwich on a roll that came with potato chips and a half sour pickle. Blue Hill Avenue was teeming with people on saturdays and we would always run into some relatives....Irene, Faigie, Irene's mother I think. Then we continued shopping at the bakery. Shirley ordered danish pastry for herself, half moons for us and sometimes, cupcakes. Then we walked home or took the bus. By the time we got home, the groceries were delivered. (If only supermarkets would deliver today!)

After supper we would snuggle on the sofa and watch movies while sucking on our tootsie pops. Chocolate. At 11:30 horror movies would come on - with Feep and after that Creature Feature.....I got my love of classic movies and B science fiction movies that have become cult classics from her; we watched Them, Day of the Triphids, It Came From Outer Space, and my all time fave, The Day the Earth Stood Still with Michael Rennie! Those movies are still running on TCM. I found those movies on DVD while cleaning out her apartment. Along with an assortment of Shirley Temple movies that I still love to this very day. She must have been named for Shirley Temple, don't you think ? I never asked her about that. Those saturdays were preceded by friday night Shabbat dinners at Bubbe's house, See Blog, September, 2009.

Scan of illustration in The Synagogues of Dorchester by Richard Heath, Sept. 2004, showing advertisement for the opening of the G and G Delicatessen, from The Jewish Advocate, Thursday, June 3, 1948. 

We lived at 92 American Legion Highway in a one bedroom apartment and then 104 American Legion Highway, a two bedroom in the Franklin Hill Avenue projects. My earliest memories are from there.