When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And whisperings are in the dale:

The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.

Nurse’s Song
William Blake
Songs of Innocence
Songs of Experience

I once was a little girl living in the Bronx on University Avenue, where there truly was a university. I lived with a physician father who spent his days and nights reading through the Harvard Classics, holding forth on “man’s inhumanity to man,” and labelling the few patients that came to his office in the apartment as “incurable hypochondriacs.” And I had a mother – a beautiful blonde blue-eyed clinically psychotic mother. And I had an older brother who drew my mother’s total attention, and was the star of her version of the demented present and her wildly concocted future. To this day I can feel that little girl and I hear the voices she heard.

The little girl I was lived in a ground floor apartment in a seven-story brick building facing the Avenue – where trolleys clanged their way up and down the tracks. She spent a good part of her days conjuring ways to escape what was in that apartment on the Avenue. Her most rewarding ploy was to stand outside, near the front door, hidden in the bushes, her mother’s manicure file in hand, sawing away at the mortar. On and on she filed, day after day with dreams of the six floors above collapsing on the father, the mother – and yes perhaps even the brother. Sometimes a friend, who lived on the other side of building helped as nothing would ever fall on her family. And sometimes the two little girls would stop and try to figure how long this task would take until the great event would take place, but no little girl could be expected to solve a math problem with this level of difficulty.
The little girl never leaves me. How can she, and why would I want her to? For all that followed is a response to her feelings, her vision, her voice.

Today is my birthday. I am 84 years of age today, and as I conjure up that little girl, emery board in hand sawing away with hurt and anger, I can finally smile with contentment and say, “Happy Birthday to me!”