Elizabeth Cooke - Author of 21 Books
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Blog Host, Marcia Rosen
Author of “My Gangster Father and Me,” will be published in 2024. Also, author of 11 books including My Memoir Workbook, has presented numerous Memoir Writing Programs and Encouraging the Writer Within You Presentations for over 16 years.
A Memoir Detective
A good detective needs to be tenacious, patient, look at the truths of a situation and ask questions that get to the heart of the matter. Exactly what is needed to write a good memoir. How do you search for clues about your history and their impact on your life? Be your own memoir detective.
My Newest Book, "Murder at the Zoo" is now available
The Fabric of Life by Elizabeth Cooke (99 years old)
MARY ELLIN BERLIN BARRETT
Her father, Irving Berlin, was simple, musically with songs in his heart , of one and two syllabi words, so natural, so memorable…so impossible to forget!
The first encounter with Mary Ellin came when I entered The Brearley School in sixth grade, in New York City. It was to a class of 48 girls, but it was Mary Ellin Berlin who took me under her wing, gave advice, was most protective, and I grew close with her.I had the privilege of visiting the Berlin home in the city, many times, and their cottage in the Catskills. Mary Ellin and I matured, shared boyfriends, went to college –me to Vassar (a drama major) – she to Barnard (a music major). Mary Ellin always found music to be a language unto its own.
We always remained in contact. When she married Marvin Barrett, an editor at Time Magazine where Mary Ellin had had a job, they decided to take the year off so he could write a book. They chose Sicily. I was living in Paris at the time (1950) and came down to the island for a week’s visit - only the week turned into over two months. We explored the island, and then Marvin put his Hillman-Minx little car on a night boat to Tunis and we drove across the North African coast – through Carthage, Algiers, - where there was -a war going on (with the French) – to the glamorous Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, ending in Rabat. Ah our hearts were young and gay!
Mary Ellin was a singular spirit – so bright, so kind, so fair. It was a privilege to have had so close a relationship and I will always cherish it. And boy! Could she play the piano!
Her father, Irving Berlin, told me more than once: “Buffy. You and Mary Ellin. Friends for life!”
He was right.
Author of 21 books include the lastest “A Letter.”
A Glimpse of my Mother by Lynn Paris, Writer
Last night, after my mother had been over for dinner, I dropped her off in front of her apartment building and sat in the car watching, as I always did as she fumbled for her keys and opened the outside door. And I noticed how frail she looked, how old and wrinkled her legs seemed in her shorts, how slightly stooped over her body was. And just for a moment I understood her life, and for an even shorter moment I put myself into that body and that life. I felt what it must feel like going home to a small apartment, by myself, an extraneous person, the one who gets dropped off to go home alone – the one who gets to visit “by invitation only” the one who feels, sometimes, that no one really wants her there, that she’s merely “tolerated”.
It was such a chilling feeling, a lonely feeling I felt coursing through my body. What if there were no Jim, and my money was gone; it could happen so easily and I could be my mother, so easily. And I’m not really sure if I would think life was worth living at that point. It seemed to me at that moment, that my mother must be very brave.
Later she called, crying, because she messed up her VCR again and had no picture just a few days after Jim had fixed it for her the last time. And I told her it was nothing to cry about, but it was, I guess . . . the helplessness she feels, the need to depend on the kindness of others – the isolation. And I knew I’d cry too, if that was my life.
Following is part of my LifeStory:
My Gangster Father and Me (Excerpt)
HIS GUN MOLL (MY MOM)
Three of the 1948 World Series games between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Braves were played in Cleveland to thousands of cheering fans. My father and his friend and business partner went to the last game and watched the Indians capture their first series title since 1920. They saw the great pitcher Bob Feller take the mound as well as Satchel Paige, the first black man to pitch in a World Series game.
My father’s business was not doing very well at the time. They had lost a lot of money in bets taken as bookies. It happens. In fact, it did, when in 1954 the Giants swept the World Series against the Indians, 4-0. It was very bad for my dad’s business. I remember him sitting at our kitchen table shocked by it.
It was in 1948 my father developed a business philosophy I have embraced much of my professional life. When times are tough or difficult, do something positive. He did by traveling out of town to see a World Series ballgame. During one of the innings, I couldn’t tell you which one, my father caught a World Series ball. Even as I write this, I can imagine how he must have felt. What a thrill! To someone like my dad, it was like winning the lottery. He returned home filled with excitement and a short time later his business reversed course. He was back to making plenty of money.
I know this much because we spoke about it in later years…years when he was no longer a young man, when his fortunes had reversed several times; and we talked about not believing what my mother had done. For years, my father kept the treasured baseball on his dresser. It would now be worth a fortune. It made him happy to have this memory of his youth.
In a fit of perhaps what could only be considered temporary insanity, my mother decided to throw the ball out. There was no sense to it, no reasonable reason. Over the years, my sons and I agreed Papa should have packed her suitcase and sent her off on her own. I mean, come on, really! She threw out a baseball he caught at a winning World Series game!
Well, a lot more, but I’ll just share one more incident involving her charming ways.
The Spaghetti House Bar and Restaurant my father and his partner owned was a big success. Many “business’ friends, my friends, locals, and visitors found it offered good food and a welcoming place to stop. There was a long bar with stools to the left and a series of leather booths on the right. Behind the bar, there was a large mirror like seen in bars in old western movies. There were dozens of bottles of different types of liquor, and in the back was the kitchen. I don’t really know much about what went on in the kitchen, except this one day.
My father brought home a large turkey and asked my mother to cook it for the restaurant for Thanksgiving. It was to be a holiday special. One can only imagine how thrilled she was to do it. I was about 16 or 17 at the time, and it seemed to me she and my dad were strangers living together. It was easy to feel the distance between them, tolerating each other. It would eventually change, but certainly not this day.
Reluctantly, the turkey was put into the oven and when my mother deemed it done, she called my dad to have it picked up. I was home when the phone rang a while later, and I heard enough screaming at my father’s end to cause me to look at my mother, questioning, what the heck was all the shouting about. She had done her job. Hadn’t she? Not exactly.
My mother wasn’t really a good cook to begin with, but this went beyond the pale as far as my father was concerned. We have had lots and lots of laughs about it over the years, even to this day with my sons. My father didn’t find any humor in it. He had many reservations for the holiday dinner at the restaurant, and here he was with a turkey half-cooked!
She was quite a character. She passed away when she was 94.
I miss being able to talk to her.
For more stories about me and my gangster father, check out the book The Gourmet Gangster.
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