Today, I’ve done a piece called “Refugees and America.” There are several aspects to the refugee question: national interest, national identity. People speak of “American greatness.” What is included in that greatness? Acceptance of refugees? Is America a haven for the persecuted and hounded? Or is that just romance?
Anyway, this question is very important.
Switching gears now, I will throw another link at you: “Living with Falstaff: On a fat knight and night thoughts.” In a tweet the other day, I quoted a couple of words from this opera’s libretto. A musician decided he would dump on me. I wasn’t in the mood, I guess you could say. Anyway, I’ve jotted a post.
On Monday, I had a Corner post titled “The Play of Memory.” I have received many interesting responses to this. I will publish quite a few, another day. Let me tell you now, however, that two readers mentioned Itzhak Perlman, the violinist — hearing him play, long ago. And you want to know something odd? I saw him on the street this week and said hello. He looks exactly as he always has — though with a snowy, rather than a dark, ’fro.
This morning, I would like to publish one letter. It is from Paul Nolan, and it has a striking autumnality. In fact, it is damn near haunting.
My family always had a family reunion at a group of cabins we rented from old family friends on a lake in Michigan, Clark Lake. It was always held the second weekend in October, my late great-grandmother’s birthday. My father’s family, my grandmother, all my great-uncles and their wives, my grandmother’s companion, whom I considered an uncle — how I loved them all, sitting around the dinner table chatting for hours. (There was, tellingly, no television at the lake, no radio, and certainly no cellphones.)
It was one of the rare occasions when my parents did not fight constantly. They seemed to be a normal couple for three days each year. Though looking back decades later, I wonder whether their truth was apparent to all.
Years later — a year after my father died, in fact — my mother and I stopped by the cabins on the lake as we were returning from a trip to Toledo. All was still as it once was — except me. I had been a child and now was an adult. I was shocked to see how small the lake was. As a child, I knew a strong swimmer could swim across it with a boat — a rowboat — accompanying, but I never considered myself, a child, capable of such a feat. Now, as a man, I silently snorted, “You could almost swim it underwater.” . . .
Decades after that, looking at Google Maps, I saw my grandmother’s apartment building, the only other place where I had experienced the few happy hours of my youth, being demolished to be replaced by a grassy lot too small to be called a park. And I tried to find those old, simple lakeside cottages, and they were all gone, replaced by enormous mansions, crowded elbow to elbow, not much more than a walkway between them.
And soon enough I and the members of my generation will be gone too. Such is life.