Now that the book is published, we discovered it doesn’t fly off the internet.
We have to market. As a confirmed introvert, marketing isn’t my chosen field
for good reason. When I email people I feel like I’m bothering them.
I choked down my distaste and began the process of reaching out and back.
Here is a report on three connections. They almost convince me marketing can be fun.
My arch-rival from elementary through high school:
I was always neck and neck competing in academics with one particular
classmate. Since all my classmates can name her in a millisecond, I’m not sure
why I’m uncomfortable naming her, but, for now, the rest of the world will
have to guess.
With a very small class, even rivals invited each other to
their homes. The two of us did get together and listen to Beach Boy
records and talk. What struck me when my rival returned my email with a
genuinely friendly response was her very warm memory of my dad. I realized
that a forty-fifth reunion is not only a time for former classmates to connect with
each other but also a time for us to be able to reconnect to our parents. I remember
all my classmates’ parents—some memories are more vivid than others—but it’s
a gift at our age to be able to talk about our parents and hold those conversations
close to us as if they are fragile crystal. We may not have liked our younger selves,
but reunions offer a time for us to have a little more compassion for our
younger selves and for the different people our classmates were as teens than they
are now as seniors—senior citizens not seniors in high school.
My Tupelo idol:
It took hours of detective work to locate Susan Stein. She married and moved
away from Tupelo, but, with the help of the Copen brothers and my sister’s
computer skills, we found her. I called with trepidation. Would she remember me
or my grandparents? (not really). Would she care that I was calling (absolutely).
We had a long talk and discovered we both had been high school history teachers.
Susan has a very keen consciousness of the events that played out in the 1960s.
While I might have thought she was predominantly interested in rock and roll,
she was alert to all the events around her and the nuances of being Jewish and liberal
in a town whose white power structure was committed to holding the color line. Both
grandmothers now, I can imagine if we met for coffee, we would talk
on and on. I was finally able to express to Susan a little girl’s thank-you for being
treated so well by an older and “cooler” girl. I am a clear-the-decks kind of person
but I did keep all Susan’s photos. When I looked at her facebook picture, all I
could think was that she is a cool looking grandma.
My former history professor:
While I idolized Susan as a role model teen, when I was in college, one of my best
History professors was Professor Bezalel Porten. He taught a course at Hebrew University
that many avoided because it met three times a week and each time we met, we had to read
and write a short paper. His readings were phenomenal stretching from the Bible to twentieth
century historians. While we always had our M&M(Margolis and Marx: History of the Jewish People)
at hand with its narrative history, Prof. Porten offered us a wide array of primary documents
bound in a yellow Akademon packet, one for each trimester. In addition, we had our trusty
Martin Gilbert atlas. Jewish Luck features one of Sir Martin's maps. Take a look and see if you don’t agree,
there’s no finer historical atlas than his. From Prof. Porten I learned the importance of writing about
what you read. It became a habit that served me well as a history major and as a history teacher.
When I emailed him about the book, he was quick to respond. He wasn’t sure he remembered me until
I could identify myself as a former Ramah in Wisconsin camper and, sadly, I learned that his wife, Debbie,
I don’t think a professor can teach enthusiasm but Prof. Porten embodied it and if you weren’t excited about
Elephantine after his course, you had a very hard heart.