a journal entry and memories
I said to Lucia tonight, "I want to grow old with you. I want us to talk about how our light switches don't work and things like that." She laughed.
When I walked into her apartment, I saw she looked cheerful, expectant, saying it was Billie Holiday's birthday. In the background was Holiday singing"I Can't Give you Anything but Love, Baby." From the windows, the light was still bright, the red brick of the building in front, lovely and bold against the skyline she had so often painted. Lucia's easel was empty as if ready to hold a new canvas. Chicken and soup were in an iron pot that she had once rescued from the incinerator--it looked to me like a fairy tale pot. She agreed.
I took down her pink and green hand-painted Italian dishes as she directed. We discussed with the potatoes if they should be peeled first and whether the avocado was needed for the arugula salad. When it came to the silver soup spoon, she handed me one with an ornate initial on it and looked for another, not a matching spoon but one with a different pattern that she wanted to invite to the table. Each piece of silverware has a different story. She has an I -Thou relationship with all her belongings and with her newest acquisition -- a little train that says choochoo; when you press a button you hear it and the clang of gongs and the speeding of the train along the track.
After I had told her about the film at B'nai Jeshrun of Jewish children hidden during the war in a town in Belgium, she was reminded of how Ernst worked running an elevator when he first came here from Austria, so as to be able to send money to his parents in Caracas who had been in one of the boats that couldn't land anywhere. She said Ernst was extremely thin and often starved himself to the point of fainting from trying to save money to send to them.
journal entry 4/8/94
I loved the enchanted child in her, the child that had walked through Brooklyn blocks to her home from the public library, her head in her new book, so that on arriving, she was ready to go back to the library and get another; the child in middy and red ribbon who danced --as I saw her dance once in Cummington the last summer before she had her first operation--with a magical lightness; the child whose father went off each night to the opera for standing room as she stayed home and grew to love music with an intensity that transmitted itself to me who had been inoculated against it.
I was stirred by the Italian partisan in her, by her rousing voice as she sang their songs one morning in the lockup in Washington after a brief lie-down in the driveway of the White House to protest the Vietnamization of the war; by the energy with which she responded to injustice; by her passionate interest in certain Italian filmmakers whom she introduced me to --Olmi and Rossi in particular. Each fall in New York meant for me an adventure with her to the NY Film Festival. Once, however, when I'd brought along Leo Hurwitz, she became "pissed" as she said. She called us "spoiled" for not responding at her level of appreciation. That was the first of the knuckle-rappings I received for not agreeing with her artistic judgment.
Lucia endeared me to her in the wholehearted way she had of being helpful--subtly giving advice by remembering lines or events in Proust, or by traveling uptown to inspect a possible apartment for me when it wasn't easy for her to get around. I recall her irreverent laughter and her delight in friendship. I cherish her beautiful paintings that I see vividly propped up in her studio and the two that hang now on my walls shedding light.