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Nov. 23rd, 2016 10:28 pm
smackenzie: (faye)
[personal profile] smackenzie
His mother looked like an older, shorter, female version of him, gray in her dark brown hair and laugh lines in the corners of her brown eyes. His father was equally gray and equally old, if taller and less creased in the face.

Sadie remembered Leo telling her that his father owned a dry cleaning business, and now she noted that the elder Brodsky was wearing a very nicely-pressed gray suit.

They seemed happy to see her, and Sadie wondered what Leo had told them about her. Leo's mother took the flowers and bustled off into the kitchen, leaving Leo and his father to take her coat and hat and show her into the parlor so she could sit. The parlor wasn't very big, and it was made smaller by the overstuffed furniture. Knickknacks and framed photographs crowded the mantel over the fireplace. It was very cozy, but she imagined it might be too much in the high heat of summer.

Leo's mother returned with the flowers in a white porcelain vase, which she set on a side table before vanishing again.

"My mother is a human bustle," Leo whispered in Sadie's ear. She tried not to giggle.

Leo's father sat a little stiffly in an armchair, but Leo had settled on the sofa next to Sadie. Eventually his mother returned with a tray bearing glasses of tomato juice and little dishes with celery and olives and crackers, and when everyone was adequately juiced and snacked, she finally sat. She reminded Sadie of her own mother that way - why sit when someone might want something? Sadie guessed that Leo's mother would be up and about for most of lunch too.

Leo's mother did in fact get back up after about ten minutes, during which time both Leo's parents asked Sadie where she was from and she told them about back home. She did most of the talking, which was strange for her, considering her friends now could be a talkative bunch, and she wasn't used to sitting in someone's parents' parlor telling them her life story.

Lunch was brisket and green beans and bakery rolls and potato kugel and applesauce, and there was a lot of it. The brisket was a little on the dry side and not as good as Sadie's grandmother's, but she ate what Leo's mother put on her plate and was gracious about it. She'd shed some of the ways her parents had brought her up, and some of the things they'd taught her, but manners were manners, and it would be rude to tell Leo's mother no. Her own mother would no doubt be proud of her.

Leo and his mother did most of the talking now - as in the house Sadie grew up in, the women and the kids did most of the talking, and the fathers either talked among themselves, told their children to eat their food, or said little. Sadie didn't mind. Leo's father seemed like a nice person, and from the little she knew of Leo, he'd done a good job raising at least one son.

She talked about her job and some of her friends, carefully editing out the potentially scandalous parts - she could tell them that Carroll was a photographer and had shown some of his work in a gallery, but she couldn't share that some of his subjects were completely naked, and she couldn't even come close to suggesting that she was one of them - Leo's mother thought it was very interesting and fun that Sadie was friends with actors and painters, although what would the girls do when they got married, and how would the boys support their future families?

"One of them is married," Sadie said. "My upstairs neighbor Marianna. Her husband is in the merchant marine. She paints while he's at sea, and when he's home she spends most of her time with him." She spends so much time with him that her studiomates have to find somewhere else to paint, and the poet who lives downstairs from her complains about the noise. Addy had once or twice suggested that Marianna and her husband buy a new bed that didn't creak so much, but Marianna had said that the one they had was comfortable and more importantly had been a wedding present from her in-laws, and she wasn't going to get rid of it. Besides, Joey was home so infrequently that Kulya and his girlfriends shouldn't complain.

"This doesn't bother her parents?" Leo's mother asked.

"I don't know. I know it doesn't bother her. Or her husband."

"Everyone's different, Ma," Leo added. "What if he was a traveling salesman? Or if he worked for the railroad? He'd be gone all the time."

"She's alone," his mother protested.

"Oh, no," Sadie said. "She has friends and studiomates. My roommate and I live right downstairs if she needs anything. She's very happy. She says she doesn't want someone around all the time, getting underfoot and making demands on her. I guess her husband feels the same way, or he wouldn't have married her."

Leo's mother did not look convinced.

“You have a very nice home,” Sadie said, to change the subject. Marianna's married life was her own business, and Sadie didn't want to get into a discussion of her plans for her own married life, and she certainly didn't want to talk about her friends' romantic lives with Leo's – or anyone's – parents.

Mentioning the house was a good plan, because Leo's mother launched into a long ramble about the house and the neighborhood and oh, what trouble they'd had with the pipes, that plumber, thought she was a schnook, wasn't he surprised, and on and on. She did have some nice things to say about the house itself, and the old lady who lived next door who buried her husband – may his memory be a blessing – a couple of months ago, it was a nice peaceful street except for the dogs, oh and some of the neighbors had their share of trouble, and she kept going until Leo's father interrupted her by asking if there was dessert, and he was sure Sadie didn't want to hear about Mrs Lieber's daughter.

“She ran off with a butcher,” Leo confided to Sadie. “Nice guy, Jewish, but fifteen years her senior and rumored to have been married before. It was a little bit of a scandal. At least he didn't have kids that anyone knew about.”

His mother was already standing and clearing the plates, so Sadie got up to help but was waved off.

“No, no, sit,” Leo's mother said. “You help me afterwards.”

So Sadie sat and Leo told her about moving out of the Lower East Side and into the house when he was ten, how nice it was to suddenly have to share his room with only one brother instead of both of them, and not only that, to get to live in a place with more than three rooms and its own bath.

“No more washing by the stove,” he said. “It was bliss. I didn't even care that I was suddenly across the river from my friends. Some of their families followed us to Brooklyn, anyway, and I made new friends.”

“I've lived in the same house my whole life,” Sadie said. “Well, that I remember. My parents were living in an apartment when I was born, and they stayed there until my mother got pregnant with my sister. My father had saved up a lot by then – he wanted to buy the biggest house he could, without looking showy – my grandmother didn't want him to tempt the evil eye – he bought a three-bedroom place. That's where I grew up. They're still there.”

“Do you - “

“Tea?” his mother interrupted, appearing over Sadie's shoulder with a pot and a glass.

“Yes, thank you,” Sadie said, not minding the interruption at all. She was sure Leo was about to ask if she missed home, and she didn't think he or his parents would appreciate that her answer was no.

Dessert was spice cake and tea, served in the tea glasses with their silver holders that were so old-world that Sadie's aunt, who was a contemporary of Leo's parents, wouldn't use them. These were pretty and polished and might have even come from the old world with the Brodskys, when they emigrated before Leo was born. Sadie let Leo's mother put a sugar cube in her glass with a simple “Thank you”.

The design on the silver glass holders was pretty but old-fashioned, but Sadie couldn't help but think that at least one of her friends would be able to create a modern design to bring these tea glasses up-to-date. She didn't know any silversmiths, but she knew enough creative people that someone might even take up the challenge, if she were to give it.

“Leo says you make dresses,” his mother said, after everyone had tea and cake and she'd finally sat down.

“Patterns, mostly,” Sadie said. “But I've made some clothes for some of my friends. I just finished a three-piece suit. My friend was very pleased.”

“You make me a pattern, yes?” But before Sadie could even answer, she went on. “Leo, tell Sadie about your school.”

Sadie had heard some of it – third graders, in a Flatbush neighborhood but not this one – mostly first generation, the children of immigrants, and the language was sometimes an issue. Leo had been told by the school board that the students were to learn English, and not be allowed to speak Yiddish all the time, but he was very casual about enforcing that particular rule. It mattered more to him that they learned math and history and penmanship, and if some of them struggled with the English reading, he was more than happy to help out.

Sadie watched Leo's parents as he talked, while trying not to look like she was, and they both looked very proud. She knew his brother in New Jersey was a doctor and his brother in Crown Heights was an accountant (that brother would probably take over the dry cleaning business when their father decided to retire), and as far as prestigious careers went, a teacher in America wasn't as impressive as a doctor. But both his parents seemed pleased with his choice of career. And for Sadie, whose parents were baffled at best but generally dismissive of her decision to be a dressmaker, this was something of a revelation.

Although her parents had been vocally very proud of Henry, when he joined the Army and learned how to fly planes. He would have taken over her father's grocery had he lived. Now she imagined her brother Jonathan would, unless Edith and her future husband got it. It wouldn't be Sadie's future.

Sadie helped Leo's mother clean up after dessert, drying the dishes and being told where to put them away. Leo's mother chattered on in a combination of English and Yiddish and the occasional word Sadie didn't know but assumed was Polish, about her son the doctor and her son the accountant and her daughters-in-law and her grandchildren and her sister who lived up in the Bronx and her other sister who lived in Philadelphia with her son - “Philadelphia, I ask you! Why so far from the family?” - every so often she asked Sadie about her own siblings but Sadie could only get about ten words out before Leo's mother was off again. It was exhausting, but at the same time, Sadie got the impression that Leo's mother didn't completely care if Sadie was fully listening or not. Some people talked to hear themselves, and some people talked because they had a lot of stories to share.

She imagined introducing Leo's mother to Alistair – the chatterbox and the quiet boy – and what ideas Alistair might get from listening to this middle-aged Jewish mother talking about her people.

She couldn't remember any of the women in her family talking non-stop with a total stranger (and as much as Leo might have told his parents, Sadie was still a stranger to them), except maybe her Aunt Minnie, or Minnie's sister Molly. But her own mother? Sadie's mother was more of a listener with strangers. If Henry had brought a girl home, Fanny would have asked her some leading questions and then let her talk. Family was another matter, but prospective partners for her children got to do most of the talking.

She had a feeling Leo would be able to hold his own. Alistair would not. It was a good thing her parents were unlikely to meet either one.

After the dishes were washed and the leftover brisket wrapped and put in the icebox, and after Sadie had insisted she couldn't take any home with her but she would accept some cake, thank you, Leo's father got her hat and coat, and she put them on, pulled her gloves out of the coat pockets, and thanked Leo and his parents for a lovely lunch.

“Come Friday,” Leo's mother said. “You meet Nathan and Jocelyn and their boys.”

Sadie wasn't ready to meet the rest of the family.

“Thank you,” she said, “but my friend's play is opening and I promised him I'd go.”

“The play will keep. You come for dinner.”

“Ma,” Leo interjected, “there will be other Fridays. Let Sadie go to her friend's play.”

“Hmph. If you say. Take her home.” She kissed Sadie on both cheeks and wished her a safe trip home.

Leo rolled his eyes in a good approximation of a put-upon son, got his hat and coat, and walked Sadie out of the house and down the sidewalk and towards the trolley stop.

“You don't really have a play opening to go to, do you?” he asked as they walked.

“Yes and no. It's actually Thursday and it's not a real opening, it's just a reading. Roman – my friend who produced the Hamlet - has a playwright friend he wants to introduce to the theater collective. I guess this is kind of an audition for her, to see if the rest of the collective would be interested and if she would want to join such a collaborative group. Julia Chase, who owns the theater, will be there. Everyone will, I think. They're getting back to Hamlet on Friday.”

“So you could come to dinner.”

Sadie risked a look sideways and Leo was grinning. He didn't seem bothered by the fact that she'd lied to his parents to get out of having to meet his brother and sister-in-law. She wasn't sure how she felt about that.

“She can be very tiring,” he said. “My mother. I love her dearly, and she raised us well, but she has a lot she wants to say, all the time.”

“I didn't mind too much. I didn't get a chance to say something embarrassing.”

“What could you possibly say that was embarrassing?”

“My friend Carroll, the photographer? The one who showed his work in a gallery. Some of his models are naked. I wasn't sure how your parents would take that.”

“Did you model for him?”

“Yes.”

“Naked?” Leo's tone was half hesitant and half interested, as if he wanted her to say yes but wasn't entirely sure it would be proper. And how did Sadie answer that question? He'd accepted the all-female unchanged Hamlet, which had seemed very avant-garde to her, but how would he feel if she told him that yes, she had modeled for Carroll without any clothes on, and not only that, that particular photograph was hanging on the wall, for sale, at Carroll's show?

Someone could have a print of her naked back and ass hanging in their house. At least Carroll hadn't photographed her from the side, or the front, so anyone could see her face.

How surprising that she had a line, and that was it – she'd model stark naked for her artist friends, she'd even allow those pictures to be shown in a gallery, but she wouldn't show her face. She hadn't even realized that would be an issue for her. Carroll had posed her and evidently he was much taken with the shape of her back and ass, rather than her breasts or thighs or stomach or face. She wondered if she'd get another chance to model for someone, and if they'd want her to take her clothes off. She wanted another chance to say yes, to cross another boundary.

She could have asked him to photograph her naked for Alistair, and to make a print for him for Christmas. But that time was past.

“What are you thinking?” Leo asked. “You're very quiet.”

“Nothing,” she said. “I was naked, yes. That's one of the photographs Carroll hung at his show.”

Now it was Leo's turn to be quiet. They'd gotten to the trolley stop and were waiting for the next train. She'd take the 2 to Sheridan Square, that way she wouldn't have to walk as far.

“Leo?” she asked. “What are you thinking?”

“Where's the gallery?”

“In the Village. Why?”

“Would you mind if I went to see Carroll's photographs?”

“No.”

So that was how she felt about Leo. She didn't mind if he saw her naked, hanging in a gallery for anyone to see or to buy. And why should she care? If she hadn't wanted anyone to see her naked, except for whoever she happened to be sleeping with at the time, she wouldn't have modeled for Carroll when he asked. She hadn't expected that a nice Jewish boy, who she thought she might be genuinely interested in, would express an interest. But she also hadn't expected to even meet a nice Jewish boy to be interested in in the first place.

She told Leo about modeling and what little she knew about being an artist painting or photographing your friends, and Leo told her about his abortive attempts to learn how to play the piano - “I had to go to someone else's house to practice, since we didn't have a piano, so you can imagine how long it took me to learn anything” - and they talked about silly things they'd done as kids until they got to Sadie's stop. It wasn't a long walk back to her and Gigi's place, and this time Leo kissed her on the cheek at the front door, and told her that he'd see her on Monday.



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