Thursday, March 13, 2014


Dark summer evening years ago at 2 Merrall Drive, Lawrence, I remember hearing for the very first time interlineated squeals, yawns, buzzing and squawks of short wave radio.  I was about 6 or 7 and spending time on the high roof terrace of my grandfather’s house in the company of my uncle Stephen.  He was still in college then at Brown and I can’t remember whether the radio was his or my grandfather Martin’s.  Stephen was actually my step-uncle, my mother’s step-brother, although the significance of this wasn’t apparent to me then. 

The radio bursts – quickly, loudly, softly, slowly, often dramatically spoken words in Russian, German, English, French, perhaps Chinese – spun like a web and were unforgettably exciting.  When Stephen explained what I was hearing and let me adjust the dial myself, I felt connected to the universe for the first time & also a personage.

Around then I began to hear murmurs – from my parents’ bedroom at night, at cousins' house visits, during seen-but-not-heard restaurant family gatherings – why we hated Stephen and his mother.  These conversations meant nothing to me at the time -- they were only slightly confusing white noise -- and 50 years later still don’t.   Nothing ever was explained in subject-predicate detail and I have been forced on several very awkward occasions to inform people really wanting to know and understand me, including my wife and daughter, that I really didn’t know my relatives well.


  1. What a terrible shame, Curtis. Similarly, I was unduly influenced by how "we" felt about the few relatives I had. Nell

    1. At least I got to hear short-wave radio. It was a beautiful old set that he had and the large console radio in my grandfather's house (the 1940s equivalent of a magnificent television) was quite something. I wish I owned it now. Eventually I learned more of the "backstory," but none of it ever affected me. In most family matters, I was a minor part of the scenery and that is why today I have no "family" (apart from Caroline's relatives, whom I'm very fond of) within most people's conception of what that means. Curtis

    2. I also have this nicely illustrated blog! Occasionally since I was in college and everything fell apart on my mother's side of the family, I've run into my step-uncle, who I liked when I was very young, but never really got to know. At first I think we consciously ignored each other (my motivations were social awkwardness, not knowing what if anything to say, and a fear of rejection; I'm not sure what his were). Eventually, I sincerely believe he forgot what I looked like -- I think I have a better memory than most people for faces and I have difficulty "letting go" of things. Today, I guess, he's old and I'm much, much older. Curtis

  2. You do have a wonderful, nicely illustrated blog! I could have written the next to last sentence of your second reply. My nuclear family gives me great comfort, including my cats, and of course, I have myself, as do you. Nell