Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Pursuing Plumfield
“…a hospitable-looking house, with an old-fashioned porch, wide steps, and lights shining in many windows.  Neither curtains nor shutters hid the cheerful glimmer…many little shadows dancing on the walls…the pleasant hum of young voices…”-     
 description of Plumfield from “Little Men,” by Louisa May Alcott, 1871

After several difficult years of struggling with the fears and tension created by World War II, the difficulties of adjusting to civilian life, Leon’s career shift, and the emotional roller-coaster surrounding Connie’s adoption, my life at last had stabilized.  I felt euphoric most of the time, for I now had everything I’d ever wanted.  My darling daughter, babbling happily, followed me from room to room as I accomplished my chores.  I reveled in the joy of such an enchanting shadow.  My husband of 8 years was handsome and cheerful, bringing laughter with him each evening when he returned home from medical school.  
Between running the household, caring for Connie, and managing my father’s restaurant business, my days were full.  Several times a week, Mother and Grandma Lena took Connie and me out for lunch, providing a break in my daily routine.  I can still taste the delicious finger sandwiches we ordered in the Strawberry Room at Filene’s Department Store, our favorite restaurant.  Food choices were presented daintily on pretty china.  As we sat waiting for our meals to be served, Connie would point to the large wooden strawberries hanging from the ceiling, gleefully saying “strawbewy” in her tiny voice.  Even the menus were shaped like strawberries, keeping Connie occupied as she traced them with her fingers.  The staff and customers at nearby tables often commented on my toddler's  good behavior.  Although she was young to be in such an elegant environment, she never fussed.  We rarely had to deal with spilled drinks and when we did, Connie would reach for napkins to help us clean up.
On many Friday and Saturday nights, our teenage neighbor Ellie Gillen took care of Connie, allowing Leon and me to enjoy an active social life with old friends.  We’d go to movies often and the theater on occasion, but mostly we visited in each other’s homes, playing bridge or charades, and listening to classical music.
Connie was basically an easy child.  In fact, she was so good I assumed I was a model mother.  It wasn’t until a few years later, when my sons proved to be more challenging, that I realized I could claim only a portion of the credit.  My pride in my parenting skills deteriorated further 40 years later when Connie asked if I knew how insecure she was as an adopted child; she always felt she had to be extra good, fearful that since one mother had given her away, a second one might do the same.
We had wrestled with how to tell Connie she was adopted.  From the beginning, my mother believed she should never be told, while Dad, for once, had no opinion. 
Leon and I were never in doubt about telling Connie.  Of course, she should be told, not only because she might find out anyway, but also because we wanted her to know how thrilled we were about her adoption.  Connie would learn how completely and unconditionally we loved her, how much we’d wanted her, and how grateful we were when she became ours.
We turned to Dr. Spock for a professional answer.  In his book on bringing up children, he advised   that an adopted child be told about the the circumstances at 5 years old.  I thought this was too late, for I remembered my reaction when I learned at that age that Santa Claus wasn’t real.  It didn’t bother me, since I realized I’d continue to get presents.  What did upset me, however, was that my parents had lied, and I didn’t want to lie to Connie.
Against the advice of almost everyone except Leon, I started telling Connie stories about adopted children when she was not yet two, including them with Mother Goose Rhymes, The Ugly Duckling, and Cinderella.  I learned of a book called The Chosen Baby written by Valentine Wasson in 1939 and added it to our nightly repertoire.
One evening as I sat in the rocking chair in Connie’s room, I asked her to hand me her favorite book, not sure which she would select.  Without hesitation, she picked up The Chosen Baby and placed it in my lap.  I told her how happy I was that she liked that book, because she was a chosen baby, too.  She was still too young to verbalize her feelings, but I believe she understood me.  She stood close by my side, one hand on my shoulder and the other clutching her blanket, her precious “boppy.”  She smiled at me, pointed to the book, and said, “Baby.”
I was happy with Connie’s acceptance of what I had shared with her, touched by her trust in me that everything was okay.  I took a deep breath and read the story once again.  From that day on, the book took on added importance and I could feel an almost electric connection with Connie every time we read it.
Soon after Connie’s second birthday, my parents told us they were renting a summer cottage in Saybrook, Connecticut, and wanted us to join them for as much of the time as possible.  I was delighted,   remembering fondly the summers at my grandparents’ home at Ocean Beach in New London, Connecticut.  They included daily walks with my grandfather, long talks with my grandmother, and hours of relaxing on the beach with my sister and cousins.  The hurricane of 1938 had put an end to those vacations for me, but the rest of the extended family had begun gathering in Saybrook.   Mother and Dad, Grandma Lena, Leon, Connie and I drove to Saybrook together.  After helping us settle into a large cottage on the beach, Dad and Leon drove home, returning for weekends whenever they could.
The first few days at the beach I looked forward to the arrival of Karyl and Herb with their three children.  They had returned from California now that Herb had finished his teaching commitment with the University of California at Santa Barbara.  I hadn’t seen my sister in three years and could hardly wait to reconnect with her.  When their station wagon finally pulled into the yard, we all rushed out to greet them  and were shocked to see Karyl pregnant with a fourth child.  She hadn’t said a word on the phone, wanting to surprise us – and surprise us she did.
We played on the beach, had cookouts, and visited with the extended family.  Along with the fun, there was an undercurrent of concern because Herb now had a fourth child on the way and no job.  He spent his days flying a kite in an adjacent field.  My father was apoplectic, furious that his son-in-law was failing to be a good provider for Karyl and the children.  Leon told Dad to take it easy and leave Herb alone.  
“Herb’s brilliant mind needs a rest," he said.  "Even though he appears to be idle, his brain is doing acrobatics, looking for a new direction.  Don’t worry.  He’ll come around eventually.”
By the time the summer ended, and everybody was ready to go home, Herb had been hired by an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut, ironically in the same industry and location as his father-in-law many years earlier.
The following summer, I spent another six weeks with my parents because Leon had moved to Washington D.C. to participate in a program at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  When he first heard he’d be in our nation’s capital, he asked me whether I thought he should look up his older half-sister, whom he hadn’t seen since he was a small boy.  He’d heard from an aunt at his father’s funeral that Eleanor had moved there several years earlier and was intrigued by the prospect of seeing her again and meeting her husband Max, and their children.  I said of course he should call them.  He did so and was rewarded by being received into their home with warmth and hospitality.  That was the beginning of a long friendship, and I loved being Auntie Aura to Eleanor’s daughters, Rochelle and Diana.
When Leon returned from Washington, he began his last year of medical school, consisting of a series of “rotations.”  Each month, he worked in a different discipline, accompanying experienced physicians on their rounds and beginning to handle simple tasks under their direction.  Depending on the specialty, he worked at either Boston City or Massachusetts Memorial Hospital, the two teaching facilities associated with Boston University.  Following the rotations, it was expected that Leon would have received enough exposure to all possible specializations to identify the one he wanted as a career.
Because the rotations were both difficult and time-consuming, I found myself alone with Connie much of the time.  Mother and Grandma still visited frequently, and one long weekend, they took Connie and me to visit the Kramers in Hartford.  Connie loved playing with her four cousins and I adored spending time with my sister.
One Saturday afternoon, Mother, Grandma, Karyl and I left Herb with the five little ones while we went to visit other family members.  The hours passed quickly and it was already past time for dinner when we returned.  I had worried about Connie, afraid that Herb would be overwhelmed by the care of so many children and might not feed her properly.
As we were driving along Blue Hills Avenue, we could see Herb through the kitchen window waving his arms around, facing the five tiny people seated at the table, three of them in high chairs.  We walked into the house to hear him singing Alouetta and realized the wild gesturing we had observed was his version of conducting the children in song.  Each child had a bowl of porridge which some ate with a spoon, others with their hands.  The children imitated Herb, swinging their hands and spoons in the air, splattering porridge all over themselves and each other.  When Herb saw our astonished looks, he laughed and told us the tub was already filled with water for their baths.
When I returned to Newton, I could Leon had barely noticed my absence.  He worked long hours in his fourth year of medical school, finding it more time-consuming than his previous studies.  His classmates also found the rotation schedule to be demanding, but it was even more difficult for Leon, partly because he was older as a result of his years in the army, and partly because he had major commitments in his non-academic life.  Few of the other students were married, and of those that were, few had a young child at home.
As Leon’s rotations drew to an end, he learned that his last one would have to be a repeat of a discipline he’d already covered.  Viewing that as a waste of his time, he asked if he could pursue a rotation at Children’s Hospital, even though it was associated with Harvard rather than Boston University.  When he was told he could, he approached Dr. Sidney Farber and asked about working in his pediatric pathology laboratory, known internationally for its success in treating childhood leukemia.  Leon’s mathematical mind was intrigued with the concept of medical research and he was excited when Dr. Farber agreed to take him for the month.
On the last day of the rotation, Dr. Farber was so impressed with Leon’s work that he asked him to remain and complete a one-year internship with him.  Leon came home in a fog.  He’d already set a course for himself in family practice and found it difficult to contemplate changing his specialization at this late date.  On the other hand, Dr. Farber was an exceptionally talented researcher and physician, with an international reputation.  The chance to work with him was an incredible opportunity.  How could Leon turn it down?
As we talked over dinner, I reminded him he could have it all.  He could spend a year with Dr. Farber and then become a family practitioner.  What was one more year?  When the phone rang, I answered it and had the thrill of hearing Dr. Farber’s voice. I handed the receiver to Leon and smiled when he said  it would be an honor to spend the year as his intern.
Graduation day was exhilarating but poignant, for we were all aware of my father-in-law's absence and knew how proud he would have been to see Leon become a physician.  Leon had the distinction of being the oldest in his graduating class.  Leon’s mother, Helen and Henry, my folks, Connie and I sat in the audience, applauding as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma.  Afterwards, we went back to the house to celebrate.
Leon and I were both exhausted and in need of a break.  We decided to splurge on a 3-day vacation at Wentworth Hall, a hotel in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Mother and Dad offered to take care of Connie while we were gone, although Dad was annoyed at what he considered an unnecessary luxury at a time when we were still borrowing money from him for our routine expenses.  This in turn disturbed Leon, who believed lending us money didn’t entitle my folks to tell us how to spend it.  This was a bone of contention between Leon and Dad throughout the years, and I often found myself caught in the middle.
Leon and I ignored Dad’s objections and made our plans to head for the mountains.  As we prepared for the trip, I thought about how convenient it was that I didn’t need to pack a bag for Connie to go to her Grandma’s.  Mom was so happy to care for her grandchildren that she had cribs, diapers, baby food, and everything else she might need already there at the house.  By the time we arrived, Mom and Dad were standing out front watching for us, and Connie jumped from the car and ran into my parents’ arms.
As always, through the years, our holiday began the moment Leon and I were alone in the car.  We enjoyed each other’s company, whether chatting or simply enjoying  the scenery.  Leon spoke of how glad he was to have his last year of medical school behind him, and how he was already looking forward to the following year at Children’s Hospital.  We talked about how much Connie had grown in the last few months and how well she seemed to be adjusting to learning of her adoption.  
Leon had scheduled a round of golf for our first morning at the hotel and expected me to lounge by the pool in his absence.  As he got ready to go out on the course, he noticed I had not yet put on my bathing suit and was concerned that I would sit in the room and read until he returned, too shy to go to the pool by myself.  Not wanting that to happen, he said, “Aura, if I don’t find you out by the swimming pool when I get back, I won’t play golf tomorrow.  I’ll stay with you instead.”
I loved him for his willingness to give up his golf game for my sake.  I put on my bathing suit, a jacket, dark glasses, and a hat.  Without stopping to think, lest I lose my nerve, I took my knitting bag and book and marched myself to the pool area.
When I arrived, I saw about 200 chairs lined up in rows on the sun deck.  The pool was down a short flight of stairs, out of sight.  Not a soul was around.  I breathed a sigh of relief, chose a chair in the middle of the front row and opened my book.  I read for an hour, during which time a few more guests arrived and scattered around the sun deck.  With my head buried in my book, I was able to ignore them.
Eventually, I became uncomfortably warm and decided to take a swim.  I left my belongings on my chair and walked down the steps to the pool.  The cool water felt delicious on my hot skin and I swam lap after lap, thoroughly enjoying the sense of losing myself in the water.
When I climbed out of the pool, I noticed the pool area was still deserted.  I was the only swimmer.  Pleased with myself for having overcome my shyness, I made my way back to the sun deck.  I couldn’t believe what I saw when I got there.  Every chair was taken, with the exception of the one that held my things.  Making matters worse, the man and woman on either side of my chair were talking with each other.  If I sat down, I would be in the middle of their conversation.  
Pushing away my sense of panic, I made myself sit down and pick up my knitting. I kept my eyes on my work, using it as an excuse to avoid looking at the couple talking across me.  After a few minutes, I got up enough courage to turn to the woman and offer to change seats with her.  When she thanked me and said, “No,” I froze back into my silence.
I debated with myself whether to continue pretending to be engrossed with my needlework, or to return to the hotel room, which was what I really wanted to do, or to force myself to join the conversation, which seemed impossible.  Before I could make a decision, the man left to go for a swim and I began reading my book. 
When the man returned, he said to the woman that he’d scraped his hand badly on the side of the pool and he was considering calling a pharmacy to order some pain medication.  I realized from his comments that he was a physician and I could offer him some of the medicine I always carried to deal with migraines.  Had he not been a doctor, I wouldn’t have done this, viewing it as irresponsible to share medication.
Wanting to be helpful but too shy to speak up,  I said to myself.  “Aura, you’re an actress.  You can be outgoing like your sister-in-law.  Pretend you’re Helen Lerner.”  Playing the role of Helen, I offered the doctor my pain medicine.  He introduced himself, saying he was Dr. Harry Freeman, took a tablet and went to get water.  When he left, the woman held out her hand and said, “Hello, my name is Gertrude Frank.  That was very kind of you.”
I recognized the name and still in my Helen persona, told her my mother had been going to her milliner’s shop on Newbury Street for years.  I could picture her name printed on all my mother’s hat boxes.  As soon as I told her my mother’s name, Gertrude said she knew my mother well.  She’d always been struck by the fact that my father typically accompanied Mother into the shop to select a hat.  This was unusual, since married women typically came to the shop by themselves, she told me.  Men came only with their mistresses, never their wives.  Perhaps this was one of the secrets of my parents’ marriage.  My father treated my mother as if he were still courting her, wining and dining her even after they’d been married for 50 years.
Gertrude and I talked up a storm, and I was amazed that something I had dreaded turned out to be so much fun.  I was reminded of the time I had overcome my shyness to talk with strangers on the train during World War II.  When Harry came back, we entered into a 3-way conversation.  Someone put dance music on a radio and Harry asked me to dance.
I hesitated for a moment, thinking, “How can I possibly dance with a complete stranger?”  Then I told myself that Helen would have said yes.  I loved to dance and knew I could follow Harry, whatever he did.
We were dancing together in our wet bathing suits when Leon appeared on the scene.  He looked incredulous, unable to believe his shy wife was doing what she was doing.  I introduced him to Harry who said, “You have the most charming wife.  She is an utter delight.  She reminds me of a friend of mine who is the wife of a fellow physician, so you might have met her.  Do you happen to know Helen Lerner?”
Leon and I were dumbfounded. Leon said, “She’s my sister.”  We all laughed at this amazing coincidence.  Of course, they didn’t know how truly amazing the coincidence was, since I’d been modeling my behavior after Helen the entire time.  
That experience was a turning point in my life.  At almost 29 years old, I finally outgrew my shyness and made a determination that I would work with Connie to make sure she would never be afflicted with the social handicap I'd had for so many years. 
The first of July arrived and Leon began his year with Dr. Farber.  Now, instead of being a student, he was an intern and could be introduced to one and all as “Dr. Kruger.”  I felt the same sense of pride in his accomplishments as I had when he’d earned his pilot’s wings several years earlier and become an officer in the army.  But with the new title came new responsibilities and Leon found himself working 36 grueling and exhausting hours in a row before coming home for a brief, 12-hour rest.
One day, Leon invited me to join him at the hospital so I could see what his work was like.  I was eager to see him in his professional setting, but I wasn’t prepared for how heartbreaking it was.  At one point, Dr. Farber had to tell a mother that her little boy was unlikely to make it and then left Leon to comfort her.  I watched as Leon placed his hand on her shoulder and gently said they would do everything they could.  When he saw she was too distraught to drive, he offered to take her home.  He drove her car and I followed in ours to pick him up afterwards, deeply impressed by Leon’s kindness to his young patient's mother.
Vacations were rare for interns, but when our 10th anniversary came in March of 1952, Leon managed to get some time off.  We celebrated by flying to Bermuda for a few days, leaving Connie with Mom and Dad.  I fell in love with the island the moment we arrived.  The beautiful white sandy beaches, the palm trees blowing in the ocean breezes, and the warm hospitality of the people who lived there all combined to make it a wonderful vacation.
One morning at breakfast in our hotel, we asked our waitress where we might find a children’s store, saying we wanted to bring home something for our little daughter.  The waitress was surprised, saying she’d assumed we were honeymooners.  Because we both looked youthful, we were accustomed to people assuming we were younger than we were, so we told her we were celebrating our 10th anniversary.
After congratulating us, she said, “I thought you were surely newlyweds because you talk over breakfast each morning.  People who’ve been married for years usually have nothing to say to each other.”
We viewed her comments as a compliment about the quality of our marriage. All our lives we had found things to discuss, even back in high school— philosophy, literature, drama, psychology. 
After breakfast each day, we went out to explore the island.  A shop near the hotel rented motor- bikes for the day, but I was afraid to ride one.  The staff suggested I try one out by going around the block to see if I liked it.  I agreed and Leon held the bike steady while I climbed on.  As soon as I turned the corner, I took a spill.  Wanting to please Leon, I climbed back on and finished my ride, announcing at the end that I would be fine.
For 4 years Leon had wanted to buy a motorcycle, but hadn’t done so because I was terrified he would have an accident and I would lose him.  Throughout his pilot training and time overseas, I was plagued with the thought of his dying in a plane crash.  We had lost over a 100 young men in training alone, so my fears were not unfounded.  Because of these worries, I had asked Leon to give up his pilot’s license.  Although he loved to fly, he understood my concern and promised to give it up.
Prior to our vacation in Bermuda, I’d considered a motorcycle to be as dangerous as an airplane and couldn’t bear the thought of Leon's owning one.  However, after the experience of tootling around the island on a motor bike, I gave my approval and he bought a motorcycle the day we came home.
Soon after our return from Bermuda, it was time for Leon to make decisions about his next career move.  He’d enjoyed the challenge of his year interning with Dr. Farber, but still wanted to do his residency in family practice so he’d be able to work as a family practitioner.  Before he had a chance to nail down his plans, the Director of Children’s Hospital, Dr. Janeway, visited him in the pathology laboratory and asked him to do his residency there.  While Leon was complimented by the offer, he was hesitant because a residency at Children’s Hospital would lead to a career as a pediatrician, not as a family practitioner.
Leon talked things over with me.  He told me Dr. Janeway had said the hospital administration was impressed with his ability and devotion to duty.  How could he say no?  He remembered his disappointment several years earlier when he didn’t get into Harvard Medical School.  And now the Harvard community was asking for his services.  He didn’t want to be a pediatrician but thought he'd be foolish to turn down this opportunity.  I agreed
As tired as Leon had been as an intern with Dr. Farber, he was even more exhausted when he became a resident, rotating through Children's Hospital.  The fact that he was older than the others took its toll and he could barely function when he came home.  As soon as he arrived, he’d eat supper, fall asleep on the couch, wake up around eleven, crawl into bed, get up at 6:00 in the morning, hop on his motorcycle, and ride back to the hospital.  The rigorous routine caused his personality to undergo a change. The playfulness  disappeared and he often seemed tense and unhappy.
That was the year when family and friends rallied to our side.  Hal Kedian, our neighbor across the street, mowed our lawn in the summer and shoveled snow from our driveway in the winter.  That was the year I had to learn to take care of household problems without my husband’s help.  That was the year I had to make major decision on my own.  That was the year I had to become the laughter in our home.  
One challenge was dealing with my fears when Dr. Ganz, our pediatrician, told us that 3-year old Connie had to have her tonsils out.  With Leon’s familiarity with the staff at Children’s Hospital, we were able to choose an excellent surgeon there, one whom Leon trusted completely.  Not only did I have confidence in the surgeon, I also knew Leon would be there the whole time.
We brought Connie in early in the morning and she was given a drink with medication in it to make her sleepy.  It worked rapidly because one minute she was standing on her bed saying, “I’m fine,” and the next she was falling flat on her face.  Leon and I left her to the nurses while we went to the hospital cafeteria for some breakfast.  By the time we finished eating, she was almost through with her surgery and it wasn’t long before her doctor came out into the hall to tell us the procedure had gone well and she was sleeping quietly.
Knowing she would stay asleep for several hours, Leon suggested I go home and come back later in the afternoon.  When I did, I could hear Connie crying in her room, but I wasn't allowed to see her.  In those days, the medical community had not yet come to the realization that it was helpful for parents to comfort their children following surgery.  I found it frustrating to know she was hurting and scared and there was nothing I could do about it.  Not knowing what else to do, I returned home, still anxious about the well being of my little girl.
I spent the evening sitting in the living room, staring at the walls.  Then the phone rang.  It was Leon’s brother, Everett, calling to say he and his wife, Lee, wanted to take me out for dinner and a movie.  I said, “How can I go out for a good time with Connie lying in the hospital?”
Everett asked where in the world could Connie get a better baby sitter than Children’s Hospital, especially given that her father was there.  Of course he was absolutely correct.  Over the years, I have used Everett’s logic many times, giving myself permission to enjoy life even when circumstances are difficult.  The evening out gave me a break from worrying about Connie and by the time I got home, I was exhausted and able to sleep.  The next day, Leon brought Connie home, tired but doing fine.
Throughout this time, I’d been working closely with the faculty and alumni of Emerson College, who were trying to save the institution.  It began in 1949 when I received a call from one of my professors at Emerson, Dr. Ruth Southwick Maxfield.  She’d been a classmate of my parents, and her father, Dr. Henry Southwick, was a student at the school in the late 1800s, later serving on the faculty, eventually becoming the third president of the school, starting in 1908.
Dr. Maxfield loved the school dearly and was afraid it was about to go under.  She said its current president, Dr. Boylston Green, was doing a poor job of managing the situation.  Many on the faculty were concerned but afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs.  She suggested that the only way things could be salvaged was if the alumni got involved.  Since I was a second-generation graduate, she thought I might be just the person to spearhead an alumni effort.
She said there was going to be a meeting in two days and asked if I would come as an interested alumna, without letting anyone know she had alerted me.  I was honored to be asked and happy to be involved in something so important.  At the meeting, I introduced myself as a grandchild of Emerson College, saying my father had graduated in 1918 and my mother in 1919.  I was the first student to have both parents graduate from the college and no one questioned my right to be there.
Dr. Green opened the meeting with the statement that the school’s funding would last for only one more year, and then the school would have to close.  I said that under those circumstances they could not, in good faith, accept freshmen the next fall, knowing they would have to transfer to another school.  I was shocked when Dr. Green answered my concern saying, “It won’t really matter to those students.  They’ll be better off transferring since an Emerson diploma is not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
I rose to my feet and challenged Dr. Green.  I recited all that my parents and I had accomplished with our diplomas.  I spoke of the dedicated faculty, the carrying out of Dr. Emerson’s ideas.  I added that obviously Dr. Green did not believe in them and asked why would he head a college of which he thought so little?  The meeting ended in confusion.  Nothing was decided, but a follow-up meeting was scheduled for a month later.
The next day, Dr. Maxfield phoned to thank me.  She said that word of the meeting had already made its way to a few key members of the Board of Trustees and they had decided it was critical that they meet to discuss matters.  She then asked if we could hold the meeting at my home instead of on campus to make it easier to keep Dr. Green out of the picture.  I agreed.
The night of the meeting arrived and Dr. Maxfield showed up with one other faculty member and three Trustees.  Because it was a hot night, I had spent some time preparing my favorite cold desserts.  I can still picture them on the coffee table in the living room:  lime gelatin with sour cream and crushed pineapple, and an angel food cake concoction with strawberry jello, crushed frozen strawberries, and strawberry ice cream, topped with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.
As we settled down with our dessert and iced coffee, it became clear that the first thing the Board must do was to ask for Dr. Green’s resignation.  Since many faculty members were uneasy about becoming involved, we decided the alumni should take the lead.  Until this time, the alumni had been relatively inactive.    I would attempt to organize a grassroots movement to oust Dr. Green and we would create a Corporation of the College made up of alumni.  We would manage the school until a new president could be found, and then would continue to serve as advisors to the Board of Trustees.
We were successful in our efforts and Dr. Green resigned within a few months.  One of the deans became the Acting President and worked closely with the Corporation to find a way to resolve the school’s financial problems.  Our newly formed National Alumni Council fought strongly against any proposal to close our doors or merge with another college, and we raised over $50,000 from within our ranks, enough to avoid disaster.
In one of our many meetings, the discussion turned to the identification of candidates to take over as President of the School.  Burned by the experience with Dr. Green, we were wary of asking anyone who was not closely tied to Emerson either as a student or a professor.  Dr. Green had been the first president with no such ties and had turned out to be a liability.  I suggested they contact my former history professor, Dr. S. Justus McKinley.  He was a well-known educator, and he and his wife Joy had always been liked by their students.  In addition, because he was extremely wealthy, he might be willing to return to Emerson and work for the $10,000 salary that was all we could afford.  Fortunately for the college, he accepted and was soon inaugurated as the 6th president of Emerson, serving in that capacity from 1953 through 1967.
The year 1953 was an eventful one for us.  Not only were we successful at turning around the financial situation at Emerson, we also helped create the Robbins Speech and Hearing Clinic which has since developed an international reputation.  Leon had encountered a young boy at Children’s Hospital who suffered from spina bifida.  Although many of the child’s problems could not be addressed, Leon believed they should at least be able to help him get over his serious speech defect.  Leon came home and asked me if someone at Emerson College might be able to help.  Intrigued with the idea, I approached Dr. McKinley and suggested the school create a clinic to help people like Leon’s young patient.  He bought into the concept and we raised the $2,000 needed to open the clinic.
Throughout the time I was working with Emerson, my own physical problems were getting worse.  Three or four days of every month I would lie in bed hemorrhaging, racked with pain, unable to keep food down.  Whatever weight or strength I gained in three weeks, I lost in the fourth.  One month I lost so much blood I was hospitalized for a transfusion.  Another time, the doctors performed a dilatation and curettage operation, but it didn’t help.  Finally, my gynecologist said I should consider having a hysterectomy.  While this was rarely recommended for a woman as young as I was, it seemed appropriate for me since I would never be able to have children anyway.
Before he would even consider performing the procedure, however, my doctor wanted Leon and me to see a sterility expert.  He said that much progress had been made in that field of medicine in the last five years and pregnancy might still be possible.  He couldn’t see doing an irreversible hysterectomy without at least investigating the situation.
Did I dare get my hopes up again?  I’d always wanted a large family.  Leon and I had given up on the possibility, knowing it was unlikely we’d ever be able to adopt a second child.  Might we get our Plumfield after all?
We saw a fertility specialist, Dr. Simmons, who did a complete workup on both of us.  Leon’s status hadn’t changed and his sperm were still scant and abnormal, and we discovered my tubes were blocked.  I couldn't have become pregnant even if Leon’s sperm were viable.  Dr. Simmons said I had a case of severe endometriosis, a newly identified disease that was the reason for the problems I had faced for the last 15 years.
When I was in my early teens, doctors had paid little attention to my complaints, saying, “Use a hot water bottle.”  Only Leon and my mother seemed to understand.  It made me feel better to learn that my suffering was due to a debilitating disease.  I hadn’t been a hypochondriac, overreacting to what every woman undergoes during her menstrual cycle.
While Dr. Simmons couldn’t cure the endometriosis without doing a hysterectomy, he was able to unblock my tubes temporarily to increase the chances of my getting pregnant.  He also experimented with a newly available medication for Leon.  Months went by and nothing worked.
When we were about to give up, Dr. Simmons asked if we would consider artificial insemination.  By the 1960s, it had become fairly common for couples having problems conceiving to consider this alternative, but it was still a rare procedure in the early 1950s.  Could it really work for us?  Leon and I looked at each other and nodded.  Seeing our willingness to move forward, Dr. Simmons explained the procedure in detail.  He concluded by saying that if I didn’t get pregnant within the year, he’d perform a hysterectomy.
Month after month, I followed Dr. Simmons’s orders, taking my temperature every morning before I got out of bed, keeping a chart faithfully so I would know exactly when I was ovulating.  The first time I did,  I came to his office a couple of days later for the insemination procedure.  We followed this routine each month, and then Leon and I would wait, hoping against hope it had worked, and every month we were disappointed.
Once again, my frustration grew and I had no one to whom I could turn for comfort.  I didn’t want to let Leon know of my despair because I didn’t want him to feel bad.  Despite that, Leon did understand and tried his  best to cheer me up.  It didn’t really help. I couldn’t discuss our problems with my mother because we’d decided to keep our efforts secret, not wanting to deal with any objections, either ethical or financial.  I even went to the doctor’s office secretly, scheduling my visits while Connie was in pre-school, so I wouldn’t have to explain to my mother why I needed her to babysit.
The financial burden was significant.  We had used up all our savings and, as a result, had no money for any but the most basic needs.  My father criticized us for handling our funds irresponsibly, baffled by how we could spend so much and have so little to show for it.  Not wanting to confide in him, we listened to him  without explaining.
This continued for 8 months.  Finally, Dr. Simmons said, “Aura, if it doesn’t take this time, I'll recommend that you go ahead with a hysterectomy.  Call me as soon as your period starts and I’ll schedule the surgery.”
To say I felt blue was an understatement.  For the last 8 months, I’d waited for my period, hoping it wouldn’t come, but knowing that if it did, we could try again.  For 8 months I’d allowed myself to dream of what might be, of a house full of little children, of the Plumfield of my childhood dreams.  As I saw that dream disintegrate, I told myself to be grateful for the wonderful life I already had, for my beautiful home, my darling daughter, my devoted husband.  All the same, I couldn’t help but feel cheated, and I stopped looking at the calendar without even realizing I had done so.
It was during this time that Leon said one Sunday, “It’s a beautiful morning.  I don’t have to go to the hospital at all today and you need a break.  Let’s pack a picnic lunch and take Connie to Norumbega Park for a few hours.”  I didn’t really want to go.  I was cramping and nauseated and just wanted to lie in bed.  But feeding the ducks at the park was one of Connie’s favorite pastimes and she looked so eager to go that I said okay, putting on as cheery a face as I could.
When we got there, Leon and I settled on a blanket on the grass and watched Connie play with a ball.  As I thought about my churning stomach, I suddenly realized my period was 10 days late.  Could my nausea be morning sickness rather than the onset of my period?  Leon and I were afraid to get excited.  Being late, although it had never happened before, was not being pregnant.  Leon urged me to stay calm until I spoke to Dr. Simmons the next day.  I tried not to think ahead, but once again Plumfield began spinning around in my brain.
On Monday morning, I called Dr. Simmons and he told me to come to his office for a pregnancy test.  Although results are now available almost immediately, in the early 1950s it took several days to learn the outcome.  By the end of the week I was beside myself with waiting.  My period had never come and the nausea continued.  Every time the phone rang I said, “Please let it be Dr. Simmons.”  It wasn’t until Saturday evening when we were getting dressed to go to a party that we got the call.  Confirmation!
In those days, it was the practice not to tell people about pregnancy for at least 3 months.  Some couples still honor that tradition, viewing it as bad luck to speak of it any sooner.  We couldn’t wait.  Before leaving for the party, we told Connie and then called Mom and Dad, Leon’s mother, and Grandma Lena.  We telephoned Karyl and Herb in Hartford.  On the way to the party, we stopped at Helen and Henry’s to share our news with them.
As we got back in the car, we decided we would wait a couple of months to tell our friends at the party, just in case something bad happened.  However, after only about 10 minutes, our hostess took me aside.  She said, “Aura, you and Leon are bursting with something important.  Please tell me what’s going on.”
I couldn’t hold it in any longer. “It finally happened.  We’re expecting.”  The party turned into one big celebration.
It turned out that Mom and Dad had something to celebrate as well.  They had enjoyed their vacation at the ocean in Saybrook, Connecticut so much that they decided to buy a summer cottage.  Several of their friends had bought into a new development in Hyannisport on Cape Cod and encouraged them to consider that option.  They fell in love with the neighborhood, its proximity to the beach, its beautiful views, and its leisurely way of life.  When they told us about it, they spoke of the wonderful times we’d had at Ocean Beach with my grandparents when we were growing up and said they hoped Karyl and I would continue that tradition and bring our families to spend our summers there.
Leon pointed out that his responsibilities as a resident at Children’s Hospital would prevent him from going.  At first I didn’t want to go, leaving him behind, but he said, “Aura, you and Connie go without me.  I’ll be at the hospital most of the time.  Starting in July, I’m through with the schedule of 36 hours on, 12 hours off, so I’ll be able to join you every weekend.”
His suggestion made sense.  At the beginning of the summer, he would be starting his second year of residency, this time with Dr. Robert Gross, the surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital.  Leon was excited by the opportunity to work under the tutelage of such a creative and expert pediatric heart surgeon, known internationally as the first physician to perform congenital heart surgery successfully, correcting structural malformations of the heart present at birth.  Leon knew if Connie and I remained in Newton to be with him, we would rarely see each other anyway.
At the end of June, Leon, Connie, and I packed our summer clothes, loaded our suitcases and cat into the car, and drove to the Cape.  It was a beautiful ride, and as we came to the Cape Cod Canal we could smell the cranberry bogs and noticed that the Ocean Spray plant offered complimentary cranberry juice.  We stopped to stretch our legs and indulge in fresh juice and enjoyed it so much we made it a tradition.  From then on, every time we drove to the Cape, we visited the cranberry bogs.
Once we crossed the Sagamore Bridge, we were struck by the scenic beauty, the tang of the ocean air, the quaint cottages, and the unique, scrubby trees.  The last time I had been to the Cape was the summer before I went to college, and I remembered it as a quiet, undiscovered place.  The same was true in 1953, fourteen years later.
We drove through the provincial town of Hyannis and down a tree-lined street to Fifth Avenue.  Within minutes, we arrived at the Kern cottage and could see immediately why Mother and Dad were so excited about their find.  They were standing with Grandma Lena in the front yard waiting for us.  Rambling roses covered the rustic fence surrounding the property.  Blue hydrangeas hugged the outside of the house.
When we stepped inside, we were taken on a tour, ending in the attached garage which had been turned into a bunk-room for the six grandchildren.  Connie would soon be joined by her Kramer cousins when Karyl and Herb arrived for a 2-week vacation with their 5 children in tow, 3 sons and 2 daughters, plus their dog and cat.  It made for a glorious family reunion.
From the first day, Grandma Lena insisted on taking care of Connie so I could rest.  My favorite place for a nap was the hammock on the screened-in back porch.  I slept there for two or three hours each day.  Before closing my eyes, I would look out over the grassy back yard and listen to the children playing.  Sometimes they would lean on the fence, gazing out at the view.  Directly behind us to the northeast was a marshy, undeveloped expanse, beyond which we could see the edge of the Hyannis Golf Course.  If we looked southeast instead, we saw the tidal inlet, narrow fingers of water reaching toward town from the beach.  Just past the water was the Kennedy Compound.  We used to joke that we were the Kennedys’ nearest neighbors, since all that separated their home and ours was water.
We often drove to Craigville Beach for a few hours.  Before we piled into the car, Grandma Lena would pack a basket with fresh fruit and homemade lemonade.  Whenever I think of the beach, I can still smell the aroma of the grapes, raisins, apples, and peaches we would enjoy as we lolled in the sand, watching the waves roll in.  The sights, sounds, and smells brought me back to the Ocean Beach of my childhood where I was able to relax completely, knowing my mother and grandmother were watching over Connie and me.  Grandma Lena would swim with the children, serving as our personal life guard right up until she was 82 years old.  
Often, upon leaving the beach, we would go to Baxter’s Wharf and see what the fishermen had caught that day.  Fresh fish was a staple all summer long and we had most of our meals on the porch.  While the adults cleaned up after dinner, the older children played games with the younger ones out in the large, fenced-in yard.  Croquet was set up and Stephen, David, Jonathan and Connie, the big kids, taught Susan and Katherine how to swing a mallet.
When not at the beach or cooking a meal, Grandma Lena would take walks with the children, bonding with them the way Grandpa Philip did with Karyl and me at Ocean Beach.  They talked about subjects ranging from the activities of the day, to plans for the upcoming year, to what the children should do if they ever got lost.  Most summers, Grandma had a baby carriage to push, for between Karyl and me, we increased the number of great-grandchildren from 6 that first summer, to 11 by the time Grandma grew too weak to go walking with the children.
All the adults pitched in to help.  When Karyl was there, it was her job to watch the children.  Mother did the shopping, often taking the children with her to the fresh fruit and vegetable stand.  Grandma prepared our meals and everyone loved her cooking.  My job was the laundry.  Not only did we have soiled clothing for over a dozen people, we also had sandy towels, diapers, and bedding.  There were 6 to 8 loads a day and it kept me busy.
By the time summer was over, I was in my middle trimester. Some women find that morning sickness goes away, starting with the fourth month.  Mine never did.  No matter how sick I felt, however, I cherished every moment of the pregnancy, knowing how close I had come to not experiencing the miracle of carrying a baby inside me.
When I grew too big for my clothes, Karyl sent a foot-locker filled with maternity wear, promising to send another one with baby clothes in due time.  Karyl always bought  beautiful outfits.  I was especially fond of a deep blue velvet skirt with a blue and white checkered taffeta top.  There was a gorgeous orange accordion pleated dress.  There were slacks and tops to mix and match.  As I wore each outfit, I felt close to my sister.  We had shared many things through the years, and now we were sharing maternity clothes.
At the start of my 9th month, I began wearing Leon’s pajamas all the time because maternity clothes no longer fit.  I was so big the doctor thought I might be carrying twins, even though he heard only one heart beat.  As soon as I outgrew Karyl’s clothes, I packed them up and returned them.  Through the years, that trunk was sent back and forth several times as our families grew.  Every time I put it in the mail to Karyl, I felt as if I were sending her a part of me.  And whenever I received the foot-locker from Karyl, I could almost hear her saying, “Congratulations, Sissy, you’re going to have another wonderful baby.”
I couldn’t share all the precious moments of pregnancy with my sister, for she was 100 miles away.  It was 5-year-old Connie, now in kindergarten, who was my constant companion whenever she was at home.  She would help me out of a chair, pick up whatever I dropped, put a footstool under my feet.  One day, as she watched me struggle to reach past my enormous belly to tie my shoes, she asked why we didn’t adopt the second child instead.
“Wouldn’t that be easier, Mommy, than getting so big?”
I told Connie, as I had many times before, about how hard it had been to find her, how we tried every adoption agency in town, how we’d almost given up hope when we got that miraculous phone call from Grandma Dora.  I hugged her and explained that the discomfort of being pregnant was far easier to bear than the frustrations I’d experienced in my efforts to make her mine.
I assumed from Connie’s question that she understood that when you adopt a baby, you don’t get pregnant.  But the 5-year-old mind is not fully developed when it comes to logical thought, and one day Connie said, “Mommy, was I ever in your tummy?”  We were taking a bath together at my parents’ home at the time.  I was in my 8th month and the baby was very active, perhaps stimulated by the bath water.  As Connie and I watched the baby kick, she placed her hand on my belly, laughing and jumping each time she felt it move.  I could tell she wanted to believe she had once been there, too.
I paused before answering, reminding myself we had always been truthful with Connie, telling her the story of her adoption before she could even talk.  I said, “Connie, darling, you grew in another mommy’s tummy, but once you came out, I became your mommy, and that made me very, very happy.”
 She then asked the other mommy’s name.  I didn’t know what to do.  Phyllis’s name was imprinted indelibly in my brain, but I was afraid that if I told it to Connie, it would somehow make her birth mother seem closer and more important, and I didn’t think that would be healthy.  So I lied.  I said I couldn’t remember, but would look it up for her when we got home, hoping she’d forget all about it, which she did.  She didn’t mind being put off and her only reaction was to laugh and say it must have been a funny name if I couldn’t remember it.
Christmas arrived as I started my 9th month.  We’d always looked forward to spending the holiday at Karyl and Herb’s.  The family gathered in my parents’ home for Thanksgiving, but my sister convinced everyone to move Christmas to her house, where she made a much bigger fuss over the holiday than my parents had ever done.  When we were growing up, Mother and Dad decided that being Jewish was no reason not to share in the festivities.  Gifts were put out on Christmas Eve and opened in the morning at breakfast.  After our marriages, Karyl and I both had larger celebrations with Christmas trees, caroling, and all that goes with it.
As we walked through the door on Christmas Day in 1953, Karyl looked at my burgeoning belly and said, “That baby is going to be born in Hartford.”  I told her not to worry; I wasn’t due until January 29th and didn’t feel as if birth were imminent.  She watched me waddle over to the couch and said, “That’s hard to believe.  I’ve never seen anyone get this big before.”
Neither had I.  I knew I was huge, and I waddled, and I couldn’t see my own feet, but I felt beautiful.  In those days, women often tried to hide their growing abdomens.  That wasn’t an option for me.  Even if I’d wanted to do so, I grew so large that people couldn’t help noticing.  While others may have thought I was grotesquely enormous, in my eyes, the bigger I got, the more beautiful I became.  
When the holiday was over and it was time to go back to Newton, Karyl said, “I’ve got a footlocker full of baby clothes all ready for you.”  What the rest of us didn't know at that point was that Karyl was pregnant with her 6th child and I’d soon be returning the footlocker.
As I unpacked the trunk at home, I could picture each of the Kramer babies wearing the outfits.  Sometimes I’d see a stain and remember when it happened.  There were even some of Connie’s clothes that I’d sent to Karyl when Katherine was born.  Since her first three were boys, she’d had no little dresses when she finally had a baby girl.
By the second week in January, Dr. Mullaney wanted to see me every other day.  The baby was moving constantly and I felt fine, but Dr. Mullaney had never had a patient get so big relative to her size.  As a result, he was concerned that the situation could change quickly and he wanted to monitor us closely.  Mother suggested we stay at her house until the baby came so she could help me and be on hand to watch Connie if we had to rush to the hospital.  Leon and I agreed, aware I might go into labor at any time.
When we arrived on Mother and Dad’s doorstep with our luggage in hand, Mother said we could stay in my childhood bedroom, next to her room.  She moved downstairs to the living room couch so Connie could have her bed, saying, “This way, Connie will be close to you in case she needs you in the middle of the night.  Sam will be in the other twin bed and won’t mind sharing the room with Connie.”
Not knowing how long we would be at Mother’s, I went to my old grammar school down the street and talked to the principal, the same woman who held the job when I was a student there.  I asked if she would be willing to take Connie for a week or so, and she was happy to do it.  Connie felt welcome at the school I attended as a child.  She cheerfully walked the half-block each day, knowing her mommy and Auntie Karyl had taken the same steps many years earlier.  Walking with her on those mornings, treading the same path I trod as a child, going into the school, and seeing my old teachers and principal was exciting for me.  Nothing in the area had changed, except that cows no longer wandered in the schoolyard.
While the neighborhood beyond our house looked much the same, the interior of my parents’ home was undergoing a major renovation.  Each night when my mother lay down on the couch, she had to climb over giant rolls of carpeting that were stored in the living room.  Mother and Dad were having the entire second floor redone; my mother’s temporary bedroom was also the carpet layer's temporary workroom.
One morning after everyone had eaten breakfast and Connie had gone off to school, I closed the front door, walked into the living room, collapsed into a chair, and watched the carpet layer at work.  It was obvious he took pride in his craft and seemed pleased to have an audience.  As he told me what he was doing, I realized he spoke with an accent.  When I asked him about it, he said he was Armenian and had been in the United States for only a few years.  He’d fallen in love shortly after his arrival here and ended up marrying an Armenian girl from Newton.  Since we were close to the same age, I asked him his wife’s name, thinking I might have attended high school with her.  It turned out that while I didn’t know her, I had been friends with her sister.  We laughed about what a small world it is.
Haig began to tell me about his life, talking while he worked.  He grew up in the Republic of Armenia, one of the first countries to be absorbed into the now defunct Soviet Union.  Each year, one teenager in his village was selected to be given shoes and sent to Moscow to college and graduate school, with the expectation of becoming an officer in the Soviet Army.  Haig was one of the ones chosen.  During World War II, he was captured by the Germans and freed by the French underground.  He spent the remainder of the war in hiding, having found refuge in the cellar of a Belgian carpet layer's family.
As the months wore on and Haig grew restless, he asked if his protector would teach him the trade so he could go to America and earn a living once the war was over.  The carpet layer said, “You have a college degree.  You’ve even been to graduate school.  Why would you want to do menial work like this?  And what do you know of America, having lived in Armenia your whole life?  Why would you want to go there?”
Haig said, “Those are all good questions and I’ve given them a lot of thought.  I want to learn a trade so I can support myself in America, where at first I won’t know the language.  Why America?  What do I know of that distant place?  When I was a small child in my village, the adults often talked about the terrible time when the Turks forced hundreds of thousands of Armenians to march to new homes in Syria and Mesopotamia.  Many were killed by the Turks.  Many others died of disease or starvation.  The Americans, hearing about the Armenian genocide, raised money and sent food to my people.  Any country that is so rich and generous must be a wonderful place to live, get married, and bring up a family.”
As I listened to Haig’s story, I could almost hear my mother saying to me at the dinner table, “Aura, finish your food.  Remember the starving Armenians.”  That phrase entered the vocabulary of a generation, as parents all over the country admonished their children to clean their plates. At the time, I was annoyed with my mother for pushing me to eat when I already felt full.  Now, hearing Haig speak, I thought about the great tragedy that had occurred and learned to pay more attention to history.  Haig and I became good friends and a few years later, when I had a hysterectomy, his wife, a registered nurse, took time from her routine at the hospital to provide me with the same level of care given to patients who hire a private nurse.
When Haig finished his tale, I thought about how fortunate I was to have grown up in America, in a home where I never felt hunger, even during the Depression.  My parents were always able to keep me safe.  Even now, at 31, I was being cared for by my parents when I needed them.
Those days passed slowly.  It was a major effort to get out of a chair.  My stomach was so squished by the baby that when I got thirsty, I could drink only a few teaspoons of water; there wasn’t room for any more.  My belly protruded so far in front of me that I couldn’t reach the tap to get my own water.  My arms weren’t long enough.
Each night, whenever I turned over in bed, Leon jerked awake, thinking it must be time to go the hospital.  After I assured him I was fine, he’d go back to sleep, only to waken again the next time I moved.  Then on January 23rd, 1954, about 3:30 in the morning, my water broke.  This time, for some reason, Leon didn’t wake up.  I called out to him, but he didn’t budge.  Finally, after I said “Leon” 4 times, he jumped out of bed, put his clothes on over his pajamas, and then said, “What?”
  As I saw him standing there in a daze, I thought of the I Love Lucy episodes we’d watched on television the previous season.  In the final episode, a very pregnant Lucy announced she was ready to go to the hospital and her husband, Ricky, got in a tizzy and couldn’t do anything right.  Leon, standing there with his pajamas bottoms poking out from under his clothes, looked just like Ricky.
Realizing what he had done, he simultaneously helped me get dressed and remedied his own odd outfit.  We went into the next bedroom to kiss Connie and tell her we were leaving for the hospital.  She smiled, turned over, and went back to sleep.  Next, we went down to the living room, leaned over the rolled up carpets, woke Mother and told her we were leaving.  Her eyes opened but she must still have been asleep, for all she said was, “I am dreaming.”  When we assured her she wasn’t, she said, “Of course I am.  Why else would I be sleeping downstairs on the couch surrounded by rolls of carpet?”  Then, like Connie, she closed her eyes and fell back to sleep.  We learned later that neither Mom nor Connie remembered being wakened.  In the morning, they went all over the house looking for us, and when they realized we must have left for the hospital, they were annoyed that we hadn’t taken the time to wake them.
As we drove to the hospital, I was singing.  Aura, who could never carry a tune, was chirping away.  I was unaware of any contractions and felt no pain.  If my water hadn’t broken, I wouldn’t have believed I was in labor.  I mentioned this to the nurse in the maternity ward and she assured me I was in labor.  When I  was still in doubt, she placed my hands on my abdomen and I could feel the rhythmic tightening.  My baby was coming!
Four hours later, I was wheeled into the delivery room and given a whiff of gas.  When I came to about seven minutes later, I was told I’d had a baby boy who was over one third my height and one tenth my weight.  The baby was so large and came so quickly that I hemorrhaged, went into shock, and the medical team had to give me a blood transfusion.  Without it, I might not have survived.
Once I was taken to my own room, all the interns came to visit to see for themselves the tiniest mother in the hospital with the biggest baby in the nursery.  When they first brought my baby to me, they held him upright so I could get a good look at him.  He had big blue eyes and platinum blonde hair.  How could this be my baby?  He looked so different from what I expected that I checked his identification bracelet.  It was printed with our last name only, “Kruger.”
We'd decided years earlier that if we ever had a son, we would call him Philip after my grandfather.  By the time it actually happened, however, Leon’s father had passed away and we wanted to name the baby Ivan after him.  I suggested we call the baby Ivan Philip because a father is nearer than a grandfather.  Leon, knowing how close I felt to my grandfather, said we’d call him Philip Ivan instead.  Helen came up with a clever compromise, suggesting we give the baby the English name of Philip Ivan and a Hebrew name that would loosely translate into Isador Philip.  We followed her advice and arranged to have the baby named in the temple – the only one of our children with a Hebrew name:  Yitzak Pesach ben Labish (Isador Philip, son of Leon).
Right after I verified for myself that this baby was indeed my very own Philip Ivan, Dr. Mullaney walked in and said I wasn’t to nurse the baby.  “You’re so tiny and he’s so big that he would eat you alive.”  Back then, we didn’t know of the many benefits of breastfeeding a baby.  Even if we had known, I might have been advised not to nurse because I was so weak from loss of blood.  In any case, I didn’t mind.  I had raised Connie on bottles and we had bonded.  I knew the same would be true for Philip.
Exhausted though I was, I looked forward to every opportunity to have Philip with me.  At one point, Dr. Mullaney was concerned that I was too excited about my new baby to get the rest I needed.  I overheard him say to Leon, “She’s euphoric.  I’m going to prescribe something to calm her down.”  Euphoric?  Absolutely. Plumfield was becoming a reality.
When Philip was a week old, an intern brought papers for me to sign, authorizing a circumcision.  Of course I gave my permission, but then I worried about the pain and trauma for my little boy.  Every time I heard a baby cry, I assumed it was Philip and was scared something had gone wrong.  A short while later, the intern returned to tell me the procedure was successful and Philip would be brought to me shortly.  Knowing he’d be hungry, I asked if there would be any problem with Philip taking a bottle.
The intern reassured me. “Everything’s fine.  I didn’t touch that end.”
The day Philip and I were to go home, Mother and Dad came to be part of the celebration.  Dad brought his movie camera and filmed everything.  Connie came with them and was excited to see her little brother for the first time.  When we got in the car, Connie sat between Leon and me in the front seat, and I put Philip in her lap.  The whole trip home, he gripped her finger tightly in his fist and she laughed and kept caressing his head.
When we got home, we were greeted by Mrs. Selwyn, a practical nurse who helped many residents from Children’s Hospital.  As we walked in the door, I could smell the familiar scent of a stuffed turkey cooking in the kitchen.  Mother had prepared dinner for us so I wouldn’t have to.  After hugging us all goodbye, she and Dad left, and I began my new life as the mother of not one, but two children.
I couldn’t imagine life being any more perfect than it was then.  Along with taking care of a 5-year-old and an infant, I kept house, worked for Dad, visited with friends, welcomed Leon home each evening, and arranged for Leon’s mother to move into our upstairs apartment, since she was lonely after her husband passed away.  She turned out to be a good neighbor, and we got along very well.  We became closer than we’d ever been before and the arrangement worked out well for everyone.
The spring flew by and suddenly it was time go to Cape Cod.  Although I was sad to leave Leon alone in Newton, I knew he was enjoying the start of his final year at Children’s Hospital.  Having finished his residency in pediatric surgery, he opted for yet another year of training, this time working in the emergency room.  He helped me load our suitcases in the car, hugged Connie and me goodbye, and then tossed 5-month old Philip into the air amidst laughs and giggles.  As we drove away, I could already almost smell the warm salt breeze of our Hyannis retreat.
As always, our summer at the Cape left me feeling rested and revitalized.  As August drew to a close and we were making plans to return to Newton, we began to hear news of Hurricane Carol, forming in the Bahamas.  By the end of the week, it was clear that the islands, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and Cape Cod were directly in the hurricane’s path.  I thought of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 that wiped out almost every house on Ocean Beach except for  my grandparents' home, and I wanted to move the family inland to the Hyannis Inn on Main Street.  Grandma Lena, having survived the earlier hurricane, thought we’d be better off staying in the house, but I was adamant.  I was taking no chances with my young family.
I packed a bag with diapers and bottles for baby Philip, and then we opened the front door to make our way to the car.  The wind was already ferocious, and we could see shingles being whipped off nearby houses.  My thoughts turned to a news story from a year earlier in which a mother carrying her young baby in a similar situation found the baby pulled from her arms by the wind and the child was killed.  I held onto Philip as tightly as I could, terrified the same thing could happen to us.
Our next-door neighbor saw what was happening and rushed to help.  When he saw the fear in my eyes, he said, “Don’t worry, I have him tight.  I won’t let him get blown away.  You get in the car and I’ll then I’ll hand him to you.”  He had to shout his words to be heard over the wind.  As I thanked him, I said, “You should bring your family to the hotel too.  We’ll all be safer there.”  He promised me he would and then we drove off. 
When we arrived at the hotel, hundreds of people were already in the lobby and the mood was festive.  Somehow, seeing all of them made me feel safer.  The howling wind seemed not quite as scary and I sighed with relief as we shut the door behind us. Not really expecting to find a room available, I went to the front desk to inquire and was lucky enough to rent the last one.  I assumed my mother and grandmother would join me, but they wanted to stay in the lobby with everyone else.  Children were running around and Connie wanted to join the party.  Knowing Mother and Grandma Lena would watch her, I agreed to leave her with them and climbed the stairs with Philip to our room on the third floor.
  After I gave Philip a bottle, he fell asleep, oblivious to the storm raging outside.  I placed him  on the bed and sat in the only chair, sometimes watching out the window and sometimes staring down at my beautiful baby boy and feeling enormous relief that we had found safety.  By six o’clock in the evening, the worst of the storm had passed and was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm.  I made my way downstairs to rejoin the others and we decided to go home before it got dark.  Seeing an open store on our way and realizing it might be some time before our power was restored, we stopped for supplies.  I purchased every can of sterno they had in stock, knowing I’d have to heat and sterilize baby bottles with no electricity.
When we got home, the area was flooded, but our house was on a little hill and we escaped damage except for some shingles that had blown off the roof.  As expected, we had no electricity, and it remained out for almost a week.  We lit candles and I cooked most of our meals in the fireplace.  Occasionally we’d all head into town for dinner out.
I was pleased with my ability not only to survive in these difficult conditions, but to make it enjoyable for everyone.  When Dad came down from Boston on the weekend, I was eager to demonstrate my competence as I put the kettle in the fireplace to boil water for his coffee.  All he said was, “Why is it taking so long?”
I was crestfallen when neither my father nor my husband gave me any credit for handling everything during and after the hurricane.  Then I realized that in a way it was a compliment.  They both assumed I could deal with whatever problems might arise, never questioning my ability to do the right thing at the right time.  
A week later, it was time to return to Newton.  We packed up the house on Fifth Avenue and drove home, seeing signs of the hurricane everywhere we looked.  Trees were down and windows blown out.  Meadows normally dry this time of year were filled with water left over from the storm surge.  In Boston, we discovered that the 200-foot tower of the Old North Church had crashed into the street.
We’d barely had time to settle in when we were hit by Hurricane Edna.  I remember sitting in our living room thinking how unfair it was to have two hurricanes so close together.  The weather had turned cold so we lit a fire in our living room and Leon, the children, and I all slept together on the floor.  Our basement flooded and we lost power and phone service.  It didn’t seem quite so frightening with Leon by my side and the ocean many miles away.
With the arrival of fall, Connie began first grade and loved it from the start.  She adored her teacher and played well with the other children.  The days at home were quieter without her, but I knew she was happy and I enjoyed being able to focus all my attention on baby Philip.  He was a happy little fellow.  On his first birthday, the extended family came over to celebrate.  Everybody gathered around me so I could demonstrate what Philip had accomplished.  Although he couldn’t walk yet, or even stand or creep, he’d learned a new trick.  I sat him in the middle of the living room floor, took off my necklace and placed it just beyond his reach.  He rocked and rocked until he fell forward, grabbed the necklace, and put it in his mouth.  Then he looked about and laughed as everybody cheered.
As the children got older, I thought more about our lack of involvement with a temple.  My Jewish identity was important to me, yet I’d never gone to temple on a regular basis.  Now that I was raising children, I questioned the wisdom of this decision.  When I asked Leon about it, however, he said he wasn’t interested.  He’d first said no to organized religion when Connie was a baby, and he reiterated his position when Philip was born.  If I wanted to take the children to temple, that was fine with him, but he didn’t want to go himself.
It was because of this lack of Leon’s interest in formal religion that I was surprised when he became involved with the Catholic Church.  It all began when Leon helped our friends, Kay and Hal Kedian, with a problem.  Like us, they had fallen in love before World War II and decided to get married before he went overseas.  Unlike us, however, their families were not supportive of the decision.  Hal was Catholic and Kay was not.  As a result, they were married by a justice-of-the-peace in a secular ceremony.  Within weeks, she was pregnant and he had to leave the country.  Once he was gone, Kay moved to Boston to live with Hal’s mother.  During that time, she took conversion classes and became Catholic, expecting that when Hal returned, the two of them would be married in the Church and raise their baby in the Catholic religion.
The Church, however, had other ideas.  Because Hal and Kay had been married by a justice-of-the-peace rather than a priest, the Church would not recognize their marriage.  According to the Catholic Church, the couple had been living in sin and the baby was a bastard.  When they tried to remedy the situation, they were told they would need a dispensation from the Pope, which initially was denied.  Hal then decided the two of them should live as brother and sister until everything could be resolved with the Church.
When Kay told me the story and I repeated it to Leon, he said, “There has to be something that can be done.  I’m going to talk with their parish priest, and see if there’s any way around this problem.”  It was so like Leon to be willing to get involved to correct a wrong.
Although at first the priest said there was nothing he could do to help, Leon persisted for over a year and eventually met with success.  When he wasn’t at work, he spent hours studying Catholic law and learned that if Kay had been born in a Catholic hospital, the Pope could grant a dispensation.  At first, this bit of news didn’t appear to be helpful, for Kay was adopted and had no idea where she’d been born.  Leon tracked down the information and discovered that Kay had indeed been born in a Catholic hospital.  The dispensation was granted, a Catholic wedding was held, and 5-year-old Kathy was declared legitimate.
Unbeknownst to me, while Leon was meeting regularly with the parish priest to help resolve Kay and Hal’s problems, he was becoming more and more enamored of Catholicism.  I found out about this in a shocking manner.  One of Leon’s colleagues and his wife joined us for dinner in our home one evening.
During dinner, John turned to Leon and said, “Have you set the date yet for your baptism?”  I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.  John must have realized from the look on my face that Leon hadn’t shared with me his desire to become Catholic.  The remainder of the evening was awkward, to say the least.
When our guests left, Leon and I sat down to discuss the matter.  He said he was almost through with his program of instruction and expected me to take classes as well, after which I could bring the children up Catholic.  I had never disagreed with Leon before on something so important, but this time I had no choice.  Even though I was not a religious Jew, I was clearly Jewish, and could not change.  If he wanted the children to be Catholic, I wouldn’t stop him, but he would have to take full responsibility for the children’s religious training.  When he heard this, Leon was disappointed and said he’d have to discuss it with the priest.
A few days went by, and finally, after we were in bed one night, I asked Leon if he had seen the priest.  He said he had, but didn’t say how the priest had responded.  When I asked, Leon answered, “He said ‘Leave thy family and follow thy God.’”
I waited for Leon to add that he’d told the priest he couldn’t do that, but Leon remained silent.  Could he possibly be considering leaving the children and me?  Terrified of what he might say, but unable to wait any longer, I asked, “What was your answer?”  Leon said he had to think it over.  Think it over?  What was happening to my beautiful world?  How could Leon even consider following the priest’s advice?
When I finally spoke, I could hardly believe my own words, my willingness to take such a strong stand.  “All right, Leon.  You leave us and follow your God.  I will get a divorce, take the children, and marry again.  However, since you and I were married in a religious ceremony, you’ll have to stay single the rest of your life.”  Then I turned my back and left Leon to his thoughts.
Over the next few days, I kept waiting for him to tell me he’d given it some thought and decided against becoming Catholic.  He never did.  Instead, he avoided the topic.  We went on with our lives as if nothing had happened.  I have no idea to this day how Leon felt about the whole thing.  Did he decide he really didn’t believe in Catholicism after all?  Or did he hold it against me over the years that I'd put my foot down?   I hope it was the former, but since we didn’t discuss the subject any further, I’ll never know.
Before I had time to recover from Leon’s flirtation with Catholicism, another problem arose.  His residency at Children’s Hospital was coming to a close and it was time for him to decide what to do next.  After his year with Dr. Gross in pediatric surgery, he had spent nine additional months in the emergency room.  Having received training in pathology, pediatrics, pediatric surgery, and pediatric emergency care, he decided that his favorite field was surgery and he wanted to become a pediatric surgeon.  He was now 33 years old and wanted to devote another seven years to his medical training, five years in general surgery and two more in a pediatric specialization.  He would be over 40 before he began to earn a living.
For the second time in a month, I overcame my reluctance to disagree with Leon and said no.  I had already supported him through a year of organic chemistry, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and almost three years of residency, and I believed it was time for him to begin taking some responsibility for our household finances.  We were in our mid-30s and still taking money from my parents every month, living like newlyweds barely out of college.  Although the years we had shared while Leon trained to be a physician had been wonderful and I was truly happy with our life together, there had also been many difficult sacrifices.  This didn’t match my dream of what married life would be like and I cringed at the thought of continuing this way for another seven years.  
Leon was heartbroken by my response.  He loved being a student and learning new things, and he believed he had found his calling in pediatric surgery.  At the same time, although he was content to live the frugal life of a medical resident, he understood my reluctance to undergo another seven years of it.  He felt at a loss as to what to do next.
He said, “Aura, if I can’t become a surgeon, I want to be a general practitioner.  But I did my residency in pediatrics, so I can’t do that.  I don’t think I’m even qualified yet to be a pediatrician because I trained in a few narrow specialties, rather than in general pediatrics.  Without more training, I’m nowhere.”
I suggested he write to the FAAP, the Fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and see what they had to say about his training.  They wrote back saying Leon was exceptionally well-rounded, that he had received the best training in the world with highly-respected physicians at a well-recognized hospital.  They congratulated him on the choices he had made, and pronounced him a full-fledged pediatrician.
The only problem was that Leon didn’t want to be a pediatrician; he wanted to be a general practitioner. I suggested he open a pediatric office and then offer to treat the whole family.  He could still be a family doctor even if his official designation was that of a pediatrician.  Leon was satisfied with this compromise..
The next issue to resolve was where to set up a practice.  He surprised me when he said he wanted to move to a small town in the Southwest.  We’d seen much of the country during our World War II travels and he was drawn to the rugged, pioneer-like environment he thought he’d find there.  When I expressed concern about moving that far away from my family, he suggested another alternative.
"Aura," he said, "you’ve always spoken glowingly of your childhood in Ocean Beach.  We could settle in a beach town in rural Connecticut.”
He didn’t get it.  Rural Connecticut seemed just as far away to me as the Southwest.  Leon was a dreamer.  It was part of why I’d fallen in love with him in the first place, his enthusiasm for trying new things, for exploring new ideas, his optimism in the face of adversity.  But I couldn’t see this particular dream working out.  I’d heard stories about how hard it is for doctors to become established, how it sometimes takes years to build a practice big enough to support a family.
While I was a willing partner in meeting that challenge, I believed that without the support of my family, we would likely fail.  Leon was not a young, single physician who could simply rough it while he developed his practice.  He was a married man with two young children who required time, attention, and financial support.  I could provide all that while he waited for his patient base to build, but I’d have to continue working to do so.  I didn’t mind working and had always enjoyed the stimulation of running my father’s restaurant business.  But I was realistic and didn’t think I could find a job in a rural community like the one I had with my father, where I worked from home on a part-time basis and never had to worry if I lost time due to illness.  We still needed my parents.
There were other benefits of being close to my family, benefits that perhaps Leon didn’t recognize or value.  My mother and grandmother spent a lot of time helping me care for the children.  Not only that, they bought clothes and shoes for them and provided us with a summer vacation home.  When I was exhausted, they saw to it that I got some rest.
My last concern with moving to a small town was that I wanted to be able to have a third child.  In Boston, we were close to Dr. Simmons and could turn to artificial insemination again.  If we moved to a rural community, I didn’t believe this would be an option.
We discussed the possibilities over and over.  Leon still wanted to move and I still wanted to stay.  It seemed as if we’d reached an impasse.  As Leon had always done throughout the years, when he couldn’t figure out what to do, he sought the advice of his mentors.  He asked several of the older physicians at Children’s Hospital what they thought of our dilemma.  I think Leon expected them to be supportive of his point of view and tell him to insist I go with him.  
One of the doctors told Leon that he and his wife had been in the identical situation.  He wanted to move to the mid-west and she wanted to stay in Boston.  He wouldn’t listen to her concerns and they moved.  It turned out that she was so unhappy there, they returned to Boston.  He said, “Leon, live where your wife will be happy.  You can practice medicine anywhere, but she’s the one who has to fit into the community.  Besides, she’s already sacrificed a lot to put you through medical school, and she’ll continue to sacrifice as you build your practice.”
When he heard this, Leon agreed to remain in Newton.  In a short few months, Leon had acquiesced to my positions on three major decisions.  He walked away from Catholicism, didn’t become a pediatric surgeon, and gave up on his dream to move to a small, rural community.  He never again spoke of these matters, yet I knew he felt torn.  On the one hand, he often said how much he appreciated the way in which I kept him grounded.  He knew he was a dreamer and said he could always fly without consideration for whether it made sense, because I kept hold of his ankles and drew him down to earth.  
In any case, Leon and I managed to bounce back from our difficulties.  We talked for days and days about the future, making plans regarding how Leon would start his new practice.  Since he’d always hated wasting time commuting, we liked the idea of having his office in our home.  Even though this was unusual in the 1950s, it had been a way of life in earlier times, one that Leon and I both found attractive.  We considered staying in our house on Cloverdale Road, using the upstairs apartment as our home, the downstairs one as an office.  We quickly realized, however, that our family would be cramped in just two bedrooms as Connie and Philip grew older.  And, if we ever decided to have more children, our little house would burst at the seams.
Once we accepted that we must move, my thoughts turned once again to the Plumfield of my dreams.  I wanted a big old house that I could fill with my children and their friends, with a great big kitchen where everyone could gather, and where cheerfulness exuded from every window and door.  If we could find something suitable, we could remodel to add an office.
We found a real estate agent and told him our plans.  He assured us he could show us several properties, all of which could easily accommodate an office for Leon’s practice.  One Sunday afternoon, he drove us up and down Commonwealth Avenue, pointing out his selections.  The houses were big enough, and they had the advantage of being located on a bus line.  The latter was important because it meant patients could take public transit if they had no car available.
But nothing the agent showed us seemed right.  The properties were cold and formal rather than warm and comfortable.  He became increasingly annoyed as I found fault with every house.  I kept saying, “I don’t want a formal home.  I want a big old house that’s just right for children.”  He wouldn’t believe me.  Because Leon was a physician, he assumed we’d want something luxurious.  Finally, when we’d exhausted his list of upscale homes and still hadn’t found something satisfactory, he turned to Leon and said, “I’ll show her a big old house, but you won’t like it.”
He took us to 50 Grafton Street, half a block from Commonwealth Avenue.  It was indeed big with its 6 bedrooms, a 33-foot-long living room, and 4 fireplaces.  It was old, creaky, and drafty.  The large front porch was falling apart.  When we walked inside and met the owners, they appeared to be a warm and loving family, just the sort to occupy a Plumfield.  I knew right away this was the perfect place for us and, from the way Leon held my hand and smiled, I knew he loved the house as much as I did.  We walked back out on the front porch and told the agent, “Sold.”  He was dumbfounded.  He said the house had been on the market for years and no one would even bid on it because it was old and rundown.
The next week, we sat down with an architect to discuss what had to be done.  Our first thought had been to convert the living room into an office, as several of our neighbors had done.  But when we realized how much we would make from the sale of our present home, worth twice what we paid for it, and that we could obtain funds through a small business loan, we decided we had the financial wherewithal to tear down the rickety garage and attach a 4-room office in its place.  The house would stay intact, cooking odors wouldn’t infiltrate the office, and we would have the best of all possible worlds.  Our architect agreed it made good sense.
While he began to draw up plans, we put our home on Cloverdale Road on the market.  With Leon at the hospital for long hours each day, I had to handle this on my own.  An agent named Mary Louise O’Malley called to say she’d heard we were selling our home and would like to meet with me.  I was impressed both with her philosophy and her expertise, and quickly decided to retain her.
Before we actually signed all the papers giving her an exclusive on the house, she warned me that she had no intention of bringing “looky-loos” to bother us.  When I laughed at the silly sound of this unfamiliar expression, she said it described people who loved looking at houses but weren’t serious prospects.  She said weeks might go by before she brought someone by to see the house, and we shouldn’t think she’d forgotten us.  She said, “It’s obvious you and Leon love this house, and for good reason.  I’m going to look for someone who will see in it what you see.  I won’t show your home until I find that special family.”  Weeks did indeed go by, and the first family Mary Louise brought purchased our home.
In the meantime, construction began on Grafton Street, and I tried to drive over at least once a day to check on the progress.  Every time I walked in the front door, I felt a strong sense of satisfaction.  This would soon be our home and Leon’s office.  I couldn’t imagine a more wonderful setting.
I was already familiar with Newton Center, having grown up less than a mile away from our new home.  But I didn’t yet know the neighborhood.  It was perfect.  There were lots of kids living on our block, ranging in age from a baby boy a few months younger than Philip to several children a little older than Connie. By the time everyone finished building their families, there were almost 20 youngsters.  There were always ball games in yards and tires swinging from trees and basketball hoops in driveways.  
It turned out that one of the families was that of our real estate agent.  Mary Louise’s yard backed up into ours, and we’ve been friends for 50 years.
While I was busy overseeing the reconstruction of our new home and the sale of our old one, Leon was busy finishing his residency.  We both were weary, but Leon began to feel sick as well.  Not wanting to miss his last few days at the hospital, he continued working, wanting to believe he had only a cold, or at worst, a mild flu.  Finally, however, he could stand it no longer and took to his bed.  It was a rare day when Leon gave in to illness.
He slept all day and all night, barely waking long enough to sit up and drink the juice I brought to his bedside.  The following night, we were supposed to go to Helen and Henry’s for a party.  They had just moved into a new home and were throwing an open house to celebrate.  When I asked Leon if he wanted to try to get up, all he could do was moan and turn over.  As I smoothed his sheets and was about to tell him not to worry about it, his mother came downstairs and screamed at him to get up, saying he was not to spoil Helen’s party by not attending.  He was to get dressed and at least make an appearance.  Before I could quiet her down and explain how sick Leon was, he dragged himself out of bed.
As we drove to the Lerner’s house, Leon could barely hold his head up.  I wanted to turn the car around and go home, but each time I suggested it, he’d rub his temples and say he was okay.  It was clearly a tremendous effort for him.  I was upset both with his mother for insisting he go to the party, and with him for following her orders.
Once we got to the party, Leon couldn’t enjoy himself.  He could scarcely stand up.  After only a few minutes, he asked me to take him home.  On the way, he told me he was worried he might be very sick and asked me to phone David Kaufman, an internist he’d met at the hospital.  The moment we got home, I helped him back to bed and placed the call.  David came immediately and diagnosed Leon with hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver.  A few days later, he pulled me aside and said, “Aura, I don’t want to scare you, but Leon needs to be hospitalized.  Without more aggressive treatment, we may lose him.”
How could this be happening?  Leon was so young and strong, only days away from finishing his residency at Children’s Hospital.  Our new home and office were almost ready and our new lives about to begin.  I barely gave myself time to think about it and replied, “David, tell me what I have to do.”
           “Leave the baby with your mother-in-law," he said, "and I’ll help you move Leon to the car.”  When I brought Philip upstairs and told Nannie what the doctor had said, I expected her to apologize for having insisted Leon go to Helen’s party.  I wanted her to excuse her behavior by saying she hadn’t realized how ill he was.  She said nothing, choosing instead to complain that Leon had ruined the affair by getting sick.    
            When I told her that she and everyone else who had attended the party would have to get gamma globulin shots to prevent contracting hepatitis, she complained about Leon’s “lack of consideration” for his sister and her friends.
            While I was talking with Nannie, David called the hospital and arranged for orderlies to meet us at the emergency entrance.  After he closed the car door behind Leon, he said he’d follow me to the hospital and ensure Leon was properly taken care of once we were there.  As I gripped the steering wheel and stared out at the road, I kept telling myself, “Aura, you’ll get through this.  Leon’s going to get better and everything will be fine.  You’re strong.  You can handle this.”
It was the first of many drives to the hospital in which I’d tell myself the same thing.  Each day while Connie was at school, I’d leave Philip with his grandmother and go see Leon.  No one else would go with me.  Everyone was afraid of catching his illness, despite the gamma globulin shots.  As the days passed, I felt more and more worried.  Leon wasn’t improving.  His skin was yellow with jaundice and he barely woke up when I’d sit by his bed, holding his hand, telling him he’d get better.  I longed for my mother to hold me and tell me the same thing, but my parents were traveling around the world on vacation and wouldn’t be home for weeks.
There was no one I could turn to for comfort. I tried to appear courageous, yet I was falling apart inside.  I couldn't break down and cry at home where the children would be alarmed, nor could I in the hospital with Leon.  The one time I began to cry, I was alone in the car and almost had an accident, so I forced myself to keep control over my emotions even then.
For weeks, the tensions and fear built up inside me, longing for an outlet but finding none.  Then one day, in my mother’s kitchen where I'd gone to do our laundry, the floodgates opened.  I hugged the washing machine as my shoulders shook and the tears flowed down my cheeks.  I cried for Leon, lying so sick in his hospital bed.  I cried for Connie and Philip, who might lose their father before they really had a chance to know him.  And I cried for myself.

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