Mr. Faraway asks a question, and here is the answer: It’s a long story.
At the very, very beginning, my parents met. My Mother was 30 years old, one of four daughters of a not-well-off, unhappily married small-town Wisconsin couple. My Father was 22 years old, the only son of a not-well-off, unhappily married Jewish couple, who emigrated to South Africa from Latvia just ahead of the Holocaust that swept away the families they left behind.
They met on a kibbutz in Israel, where I was conceived, and then went to New York City, where I was born.
We were not well off, either, and the part of the marriage where we all lived together did not last long: By the time I was a year old, there were no more photographs of my father. By the age of 18 months, there are photos of me in Wisconsin, on my grandparents’ porch. There are a few photos of me in New York, and then they stop, and we are in Wisconsin again, at my grandparents’ house. I’m pretty sure we occupied the upstairs bedroom, though I have some memories of sleeping on a pull-out sofa. There were lots of cousins and aunts, and a dog that I played with, a miniature schnauzer with floppy, uncut ears.
There was a kitten, too, about whom I remember one thing: I decided to take her outside to get some air one day, and she got loose and climbed up a tree. I was told she ran away, and that may be true, but in any case I never saw her again.