Nanny's Purse

Nanny always smelled good. This is her portable perfume bottle. It has her name on it. She wore Joy, "the most expensive perfume in the world".

This is Nanny's mirror.

You may apply lipstick in public, but never face powder. You can check your teeth, but not clean them at the table. We go to the ladies' room for that.

A lady always carries an handkerchief in her purse.

I loved going shopping with Nanny on Lincoln Road. This is where Nanny bought her fine linens. Every year I too would get a fresh supply of monogrammed handkerchiefs. I always remembered to carry one when I went out with Nanny.

Nanny and Poppy lived in apartment 525. Whenever I would ring their doorbell, Nanny would ask, "who is it?" I would answer, "it's me, Nanny". We would repeat this sequence several times until I remembered the correct answer. "It is I, Nanny."

Never underestimate the importance of good grammar.

When I slept over, I shared a room with Nanny's mother. She was old and I was afraid she would die during the night. When I was seven--and she was eighty-six--she got hit by a car while walking to temple. I was sad but I found it much easier to sleep in the room after that. I loved the sound of the wind from the ocean blowing by the windows. Whenever I hear that sound, I feel happy.

Every year, Nanny and Poppy would take all their children and grandchildren to see three operas that traveled to Miami Beach. Nanny would buy me a new formal dress each season. I usually fell asleep somewhere in the first act and would awaken for the final death scene in the third.

You must never share your lipstick with anybody. Nanny knew somebody who died from that.

This is the hotel that Poppy built. They lived on the 5th floor. I learned to swim at the pool. I loved to go help myself in the bakery. Later, I enjoyed hanging out with the pool boys.

Every summer I spent a few weeks working at the hotel before going away. I was the switchboard operator (while the regular operator found something else to do). Here is my schedule.

8:30  AM  Take my seat at the switchboard.
8:45  AM  Nanny calls to see if I've eaten breakfast--I haven't.
8:47  AM  Arrive at the 5th floor for breakfast and cards. Casino is my favorite. Crazy Eights is Nanny's.
10:00 AM  Return to my post at the switchboard. Listen in on calls.
11:45 AM  Go with Poppy to take Nanny to her card party luncheon--a daily event--then to lunch. Alternatively, go sun myself.
1:30  PM  Return to switchboard. Read and listen to phone calls.
4:00  PM  Nanny calls.
4:02  PM  I go upstairs for ice-cream and Hogan's Heroes on TV.
5:00  PM  Get picked up.

Nanny was a good correspondent. Her letters included small details such as the time(9:30 AM), most recent activity (We've had our breakfast and I did the dishes), some social news, such as a description of the floral centerpieces (purple anemones), as well as the whereabouts of various family members (Mother came home yesterday...and I hope she stays put for awhile). Travel itineraries and books currently being read (On our drive up to Atlanta I read a book about Moishe Dayan, the one-eyed greatest general in Israel) were included. There was usually some advice for me (Remember to carry yourself erectly so that you will not have curvature of the spine. The almightly gave you a beutiful figure and you must not mar it.)

This is Nanny's cigarette case. Poppy gave it to her in 1946. I never saw her smoke. It probably wasn't ladylike anymore. Nanny was big on manners. I learned much from her. In addition to the "one hand in your lap", and breaking your bread in half (before buttering!), there was the elbow rule. "Mable, Mable, straight and able, get your elbows off the table." My favorite was the soup rhyme. "Like a ship going out to sea, I dip my spoon away from me."

Then there were the rules of life. You have to marry someone Jewish (or sooner or later their anti-Semitism would emerge) and it's just as easy to marry somebody wealthy as it is to marry somebody poor.

Nanny loved antiques and going antiquing. This is her compact. Poppy liked going antiquing too. I went with them sometimes. I didn't really enjoy it but I never let on. Nanny died December 18, 1974. I had just become engaged, but she never met Bill. At her funeral, her best friend, Lil, confided in me that Nanny had warned Poppy to leave me alone about Bill not being Jewish. However, Lil said, Nanny had been concerned about whether or not he was circumcised. When I responded with a dumbfounded "Oh", she paused and looked me in the eye. Finally she asked, "Well?" I assured her he was. I knew that Nanny could rest in peace now.

I still miss her.