Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Who remembers the All-of-a-Kind Family series? If you do—and even if you have never read it— you may want to take a look at the following essay, Family Affair:

It is December 1912, and in the front room of a tenement flat on the Lower East Side of Manhattan an eight-year-old girl named Sarah is dusting the piano keys and the lace doilies, the intricately carved heavy wooden table legs and knicknacks from the “old country,” with the greatest of care and even a little bit of enthusiasm. She's playing “find the buttons,” a kind of work-as-treasure-hunt game devised by her clever Mama. The mother of five girls ranging in age from four to twelve, Mama is a master of making life simultaneously instructive and fun in spite of her large family's rather precarious financial situation amid the pickle barrels and clothing vendors of New York’s crowded immigrant enclave. As usual, this particular diversion—one of many in Mama’s arsenal for getting her girls to complete their daily chores without grumbling—proves to be a winner. “I found them! I found them all, every single one of them!” Sarah cries out joyfully as she bursts back into the family kitchen, her dreaded task complete. Dusting will never be the same again.

I knew Sydney Taylor only very briefly, during the last summer she spent at my summer camp, where she had been the dance and dramatics director for many years. At the time, I had no idea that she was the author of a well-known series of children’s books, and she was too modest to say anything about it. It was my bunkmate who told me, asking with incredulity: “What? You mean you never heard of All-of-a-Kind Family?!”

I hadn’t, but I soon fixed the situation by reading all of Sydney Taylor’s books.

The link to the above essay arrived in my in-box only a few hours ago, as I was in the middle of preparing for Rosh ha-Shana—a quick look backward as we prepare to move forward into the new year.

Shana tova to all my readers and friends. May you inscribed for a good and sweet year filled with all blessings.

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