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Between You and Me

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Today we report on two diametrically opposite faces of our nation. Interspersed here are some personal recollections of my own. Fifty years ago we Americans stood proud and together, our faces turned upward to the heavens, as the United States sent Apollo 11 to the moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins aboard. Armstrong and Aldrin were to land on the surface in the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM, the creation of engineering wizardry by thousands of Grumman workers right here on Long Island.

An estimated 650 million people around the world watched spellbound on black-and-white television screens as the two astronauts took the first steps for a man on July 20, 1969, and the unprecedented leap into the future of space travel for mankind.

Until 1972, 24 people flew to the moon, none since then. But that was just the beginning of incredible discoveries and inventions, from miniaturizations to astrobiology. We have a satellite that has played host to other nations and enabled us to see around the world. Known as the International Space Station, we have used it to reach out into the solar system. And it will even become a regular destination for tourists shortly if entrepreneurs are to be believed.

A family gathers to watch the moon landing in 1969.

Meanwhile, as Armstrong and Aldrin were busy walking around on the moon, there was a tiny leap on Earth for our third son. He arrived from out of the womb at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson and at this time is enjoying a 50th anniversary of his own. We had arrived on Long Island only three weeks earlier from Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas, where my husband had served for the preceding two years, and were busy working to establish our new lives here. 

Now you might think that the blessing of a new baby, along with the need to find a new home and rent a medical office might have overshadowed the miracle of the moon landing, but for me that event was high-voltage electric. 

Just before we left New York for Texas and my husband’s assignment, I had been working at Time-Life with Arthur C. Clarke, who had arrived from his Eden-like home in Ceylon — now Sri Lanka — to write a book called, “Man and Space.” Clarke, like the other writers of space discoveries and travel, had to write under the banner of science fiction in order to gain respectability. But the truth was that these authors believed what they wrote would come to pass, and fortunately for many of them they were alive to see it happen in the 1960s. And I was fortunate enough to be part of the excitement, a front row spectator of history, as we journalists are.

I, too, was caught up in the fervor of the coming moon shot. When Clarke parted, he went on to join Stanley Kubrick to co-write the script of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” considered today one of the best films ever made, and I to become the wife of an Air Force officer and then mother of three.

So we leave the incredible heights of American pride now and look at the other side of the coin. Elsewhere in our news, we have the press release from U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who went to the southern border of the United States with a small group from the House to see first hand what was happening at the immigration centers. In his words, the situation is “awful” and the system is “broken.” The group toured and inspected facilities that are currently holding Central American migrants seeking asylum, speaking with several immigrant families as they went.

According to first-hand reports, there is a humanitarian crisis at the border. Since only very few migrants are processed each day, many cross over the border illegally between points of entry, then turn themselves in to seek asylum. They come in such numbers that they greatly exceed capacity to house and care for them, and as such are living in deplorable conditions. 

These are our American concentration camps, where children have been separated from their parents. They are deserving of our shame. “America is better than this,” declared Suozzi, and we know that to be true. At one and the same time, we celebrate and rue our nation.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Last week a theme in this column was a defense of men. In a neat turnabout, this week is a shoutout for women. The catalyst, of course, is the victory of the United States women’s soccer team. We all watched or cheered Sunday as they defeated the Netherlands team, 2-0, to win the four-yearly Women’s World Cup championship in France. And we all felt tremendous pride in their accomplishment on behalf of our nation.

Let’s face it. They won because they had to win. They became symbols of issues larger than themselves, and in order to drive home those issues most effectively, they had to be winners. You might even say they leveled the playing field in multiple ways.

In becoming winners, they achieved a record four championships for the United States since the tournament began in 1991, this while the men’s counterpart fell later that day in the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup final to the rival Mexico team, 1-0, in Chicago. The fact that the most visible and outspoken women’s team member, Megan Rapinoe, who was named most valuable player and who also won the Golden Boot for being the highest scorer, was repeatedly identified as a lesbian, gave her the additional burden of championing the rights of marginalized communities. And the swelling chorus of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” from the spectators at the end of the match was a victory for social justice that brought tears to my eyes and similarly affected many other women in the workplace.

In 1963, when I was interviewing for a position with Time Inc. in New York City, I was told that my salary would be $65 dollars per week. Since I had been supporting my husband, who was a medical intern, and myself for several months already, I knew that we could not manage on that pay and said so to the interviewer. “Well,” she explained, “the men in that position earn $110 because they are the family wage earner.”

“But I am the wage earner for my family,” I objected. “Why is that, dear?” she asked.

“Because my husband gets $30 a month at the hospital and has to use that money to launder his ‘whites’ (intern’s hospital uniforms).” “Oh, then we’ll pay you the $110,” she consented.

I left her office thrilled that I had the job, but my cheeks were burning because I felt like a second-class citizen. Some 10 years later, there was a class-action lawsuit from a large group of women employees against the company demanding equal pay for equal work. It took years, but eventually they won. This has been a private uphill fight, corporation by corporation, agency by agency, for what should be so obvious, and that struggle is still going on, more than 55 years later. The difference is that now it is a public matter and the injustice rings out to fill a sports stadium.

“It’s complicated,” answers the United States Soccer Federation, trying to explain where the money comes from and how it is allocated. To heck with that! It’s always complicated to right social wrongs, to win social change. Old views have to be altered, windows of the mind have to be opened. These women athletes have thrown those windows open wide.

Furthermore, why should I care whether the star player is gay? That makes as much difference as knowing whether she paints her toenails purple or showers in the morning or at night. Do I need to know if the orchestra conductor at Carnegie Hall is a Republican or a Democrat? Or whether the chef in my favorite restaurant is right-handed or left-handed?

Let’s get real. For those who refer to the “good ole days,” nostalgia can have its place. But I say thanks for the world we live in today, where any number of social injustices have come out of the woodwork and into the light. Before they can be changed, they must be acknowledged. Their emergence has been possible because of talented warriors like the U.S. women’s soccer team.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

My parents married on July 4, 1925. It might seem counterintuitive for them to join each other on Independence Day, but back then to marry meant independence from one’s nuclear family. They were now off on their own, together ready to start a new branch of the family. And they began to have children. They were doing what had been done for only a few centuries before them, marriage being a fairly recent construct in humankind’s history.

Given statistics today, almost a century later, what they did seems almost quaint. Tucked into the back pages of The Wall Street Journal’s Business & Finance section, amid such stories about carmaker Tesla’s quarterly earnings and predictions about the future of tech stocks, is an article that would amaze my parents but speaks to our times: “Despite high costs, more women are interested in single motherhood,” by Veronica Dagher.

Not only are couples no longer feeling the need to marry before they have children. In today’s society, some women don’t need to be part of a couple before they embrace motherhood. Increasing wages for women create economic independence, and the share of women earning top salaries in high positions exploded 500 percent between 2008 and 2012. Women have gone from 1.9 percent among the top 0.1 percent of highest earners to 10.5 percent.

In 2017, according to the WSJ article, four in 10 births were to either solo mothers or mothers living with nonmarital partners. Fifty years ago, the number was one in 10. That means these four out of every 10 children are being raised without a father. That has got to have profound effect on those children. 

According to California Cryobank, a major sperm bank in the United States, about one-third of its clients are single mothers by choice. Further, the number has increased by 3 to 5 percent in the last five years. Rosanna Hertz, a Wellesley College professor, who wrote the book, “Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood Without Marriage and Creating the New American Family” (2006), has found that most of those mothers are college educated and earn roughly double the national household median of $110,000. But with rising salaries, not all single mothers are high-wage earners. Some have middle-class backgrounds and may even have more than one child.

What’s puzzling about this picture? Are we witnessing men being thrown away? I pray not. To paraphrase “South Pacific,” there is nothing like a man.

It’s understandable that single mothers may be single because they never found the right person to marry. Or they may be divorced or separated. Or widowed. Or they may have chosen not to marry. All of those reasons have to do with themselves. But according to Hertz, “there has been a notable increase in the number of women opting for this family structure in the 13 years” since she wrote her book. Since it takes both sexes to make a child, does a woman in good conscience have the right to knowingly deprive a child of a father because of an overwhelming maternal desire? Is it selfish or unselfish to procreate without a mate? Does boundless and unconditional love compensate?

There is a support group that deals with such issues. Called Single Mothers by Choice, it considers the emotional, financial, psychological and practical aspects of becoming a single mother. It also provides others in the same situation to talk with. To choose single motherhood is a hard and, incidentally, an expensive route. That was the thrust of the WSJ article. Right from the first step, there is no one with whom to share costs. Initial costs can range from several thousand dollars to six figures, and insurance is spotty.

It is certainly true that life does not always work out the way one would like. In fact, it almost never does. Too many bends to see around, too many roads not taken, too many disappointments. But I would just like to add a last thought from “The King and I”: Most men “can be wonderful.” 

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Schools are out, or almost out, trees are lush with leaves, people are beginning to wear shorts and sandals, and the temperatures are finally approaching the high 80s. It seems to have stopped raining. The lines after dinner at ice cream parlors stretch out the door and down the street. Dogs have their tongues hanging out when being walked. And it’s light until almost 9 p.m. Summer, glorious summer, has truly arrived.

It has been many years since my children enjoyed summer break from school’s routine and therefore I with them. Yet the feeling of relaxation that summer ushers in still floods my being. This is the time to make a barbecue and invite friends, enjoy the summer sky over some nice port in the long evening, lounge in the backyard, splash at the beach, watch a baseball game, sleep in a bit and read, read, read those books and magazines that have piled up on the bedside table all year long. It’s also the time to sail, swim, play, get lost on long walks and, in so many other ways, rejoice in the outdoors. There is even time to think.

Here is something tantalizing to think about. A letter published on the website Medium.com Monday, written and signed by a group of 18 billionaires, from 11 families, including financier George Soros, co-founder of Facebook Chris Hughes, Abigail Disney and heirs to the Pritzker fortune, Liesel and Ian Simmons, urged government to tax them at a higher rate. They called for “a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1 percent of Americans — on us.”

Over the last three decades, the wealth of the top 1 percent grew by $21 trillion. Who can even visualize such sums? But the wealth of the bottom 50 percent fell by $900 billion — not hard to visualize by comparison because we can see the effects on American lives. 

The letter follows a similar declaration by investment guru Warren Buffett in 2011 encouraging greater tax on the richest. He revealed that his effective tax rate was actually lower than that of any other 20 people in his office. 

The richest pay 3.2 percent of their wealth in taxes versus 7.2 percent from the bottom 99 percent. President Barack Obama (D) picked up the suggestion at the time and called for a 30 percent tax for that population, dubbing it the “Buffett rule.” Not only was that never enacted, the latest round of tax cuts under President Donald Trump (R) have particularly helped those same richest Americans.

The Monday letter was addressed to all presidential contenders. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. senator from Massachusetts and Democratic hopeful, has proposed a comparable strategy, recommending that those who have $50 million or more in assets, like stocks, bonds, yachts, cars and art, be subject to a wealth tax. That would include some 75,000 families and raise, in her estimation, $2.75 trillion over the next 10 years. That money could be put toward better child care, helping with education debt and the opioid and climate crises. Such a tax would strengthen American freedom and democracy and would be patriotic, it is claimed. Surveys show that about seven out of 10 people support this concept.

In 2014 Nick Hanauer, a successful Seattle entrepreneur, wrote a memo to “my fellow zillionaires” in which he advised the following: “[We are] thriving beyond dreams of any plutocrats in history, [while] the rest of the country — the 99.99 percent — is lagging far behind. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us.”

How is that for some heady stuff to occupy the mind and lessen any lazy guilt as our bodies are stretched out on the lounge?

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

One of the best plays I have seen on Broadway is the drama, “The Ferryman.” Written by Jez Butterworth, directed by Sean Mendes and playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre only until July 7, it is so deserving of winning four Tony Awards, including best play, and should not be missed. The story is about a large Irish family in rural County Armagh in Northern Ireland and conjures up Tennessee Williams and “August: Osage County” for its familial interactions of love, lust, betrayal, anger, contradictions, secrets, repression and murder. But it is so much more.

It is historic, being set in 1981 at the height of The Troubles involving the British, loyalist Irish Protestants who want to remain in the United Kingdom, and nationalist Irish Catholics, including the Irish Republican Army, who want a united Ireland.

It is a story about storytelling as three generations live under one roof of a large farmhouse and slowly reveal much about their own histories. It is about human kindness, as personified by the appealing leading character, farmer Quinn Carney, husband and father of seven children ranging in age from 16 years to nine months. He houses and employs Tom Kettle, an Englishman, whose mind is not all there, as his handyman; and Caitlin, wife of Carney’s long-missing brother and her son, Oisin, as well as aged aunts and an uncle. Yet Carney is also a former active member of the IRA, with its brutality and bloodshed, which he has ultimately rejected. It has homey fairy tales and classic epics in the mix, hopeless love, and lots of barroom talk and drinking, happy celebrating and passionate confrontations. Amid all that activity, with a cast of well-defined characters, it has genuine, laugh-out-loud humor.

The play is also remarkable for its length. It runs three and a quarter hours with only one 15-minute intermission after Act 1 and a three-minute dimming of the house lights following Act 2. Yet not for a minute, for me and my companions, did it keep from being riveting as it pulsated with suspense interspersed with hearthside family goodness that is set against the background report of Irish Republican hunger strikers dying one by one in a Belfast prison.

There are even live animals in the form of an affectionate goose, a feral rabbit and a real, sweet baby. Artfully they all come together to deliver a memorable play and to live in the minds of the viewers well past the end of the performance.

The prologue, set against a crumbling, graffiti-splayed urban wall, sets the sinister mood with an encounter between craven Father Horrigan and Muldoon, a major figure in the IRA. And every subsequent scene in which the priest appears seethes with tension. He delivers the news that Seamus, Caitlin’s missing husband, has been found face down, preserved by the acid in a bog, hands tied behind him and a bullet in the back of his head. The mystery of his disappearance deepens because he was not involved in The Troubles.

There is an Aunt Pat and Uncle Patrick, as well as an often mentally absent Aunt Maggie, whose roles are largely to unveil past history even as their passions define them as three dimensional characters within the family and their country. Their narratives give their lives shape and substance.

With the discovery of the body, the past meets the future as Muldoon attempts to contain the truth of the missing husband’s murder from emerging. In the process, other truths seep out in the appropriately furnished great room of the farmhouse that serves as the only site where all subsequent action takes place.

In the beginning, the viewer is puzzled as to who the family members are and their relationships to each other, which create an air of mystery. As the plot develops, the answers powerfully emerge, carrying us along, absorbed and engaged. And while the plot is masterfully orchestrated, I don’t want to give away the most important details in the hope that you will still get tickets and join me in your admiration for a remarkable play.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I recently asked that question of staffers at the news media office, and this is what they answered. I’ve grouped the responses by department, wondering if there was a common thread that ran through their common work. Answer: There wasn’t, at least not one that I could see. You judge.

The Sales Department

“Go to college.” I also asked this person if that advice had changed her life. “Yes, it was a positive thing for my future. College changed my life, with its new ideas — and independence, both socially as well as academically.”

“No matter what, trust that God has a plan for everything. For something good to come out of whatever seems bad now.” Right around then, I started to ask the source of the advice. “My mother,” she explained.

“One day, when I was about 12, my mother and I were disagreeing. ‘You need to remember the world does not revolve around you.’ That thought helped me be a much less self-centered person. I became more aware that what was going on around me was often more important.”

“Never look back or to the future. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. Live for today. That came from my Aunt Doris.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. That came from my mother and was especially true for my dancing. Another is: Always trust your gut. Go with it if something doesn’t feel right.”

The Business Department

“See the humor in things. It’s only just recently that I have begun to see that and be on the positive side of things. That has made me a happier person since I turned 50.” I forgot to ask who told her that.

“Expect the unexpected. That may sound pessimistic but it has made me ready to cope. That advice comes from life’s experiences.”

“Treat others as you want to be treated. That came from my father.”

The Copyediting/Proofing Department

“Have a sense of balance. That’s good because often I don’t have that. When I think about that, it always works out for the best. And that came from my sister.”

“Probably two things. First, never stop learning. At the dinner table, if there was something that came up that I didn’t know, my father would take down the ‘World Encyclopedia’ after dinner and we’d look it up. Be curious, educate yourself. Read about it. Second, be kind and treat other people with respect. Again the source was my father.”

“Learn to cultivate a sense of urgency. I tend to be too laid back. That’s from Dr. Who, the sci-fi character.” [That thought came from the sister, above.]

The Art and Production Department

“Try not to care what other people think. It’s a constant struggle because I am a Libra, a people pleaser. That came from my mother, who oddly enough was always critical.”

“Stop worrying. My husband told me that, and I find I’m not as uptight as I used to be.”

“Having low expectations is a good strategy. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. That may sound pessimistic but the message is that things will always be better. The source: Stefan Sagmeister, who wrote a book that included things to be learned.”

The Editorial Department

“Don’t listen to outside people. If you think of something you really believe in, just go for it.”

“This paraphrased quote from Maya Angelou: ‘People will forget what you did, what you said but never how you made them feel.’ My first-grade teacher made me feel mutual respect and that is what I show others.”

“Keep swimming — no matter what’s going on in your life, never give up, keep going. I never gave up on dating [points to engagement ring] or careerwise. From ‘The Road Less Traveled,’ life is difficult and once you realize that, life becomes easier.”

“Always clean stuff from the top down. Don’t do anything over again — from my father.”

“I will quote what a priest told my father when he was diagnosed with cancer. ‘All you can do is be grateful for what you’ve had. Otherwise it’s too difficult.’”

And from my mother: “You don’t have to answer every barking dog.” Not a bad piece of advice for a future newspaper publisher.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

A recent article in The New York Times asked, “What is your oldest or most cherished grudge?” Everyone holds grudges, I guess, and they can range from some perceived slight or cutting remark to deep hurt or betrayal. While we all know that forgiveness is a lot healthier than anger, still there is something immutable about a deeply held grudge. However hard and sincerely you try to let go of it and go on with your life, it’s impossible to entirely discard the pain. Some people even admit to tending their grudges like a garden.

“Holding onto a grudge really is an ineffective strategy for dealing with a life situation that you haven’t been able to master,” said Dr. Frederic Luskin, founder of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, as reported in separate Times articles by Tim Herrera and Katherine Schulten. The psychological study suggested that “skills-based forgiveness training may prove effective in reducing anger as a coping style, reducing perceived stress and physical health symptoms, and thereby may help reduce” the stress we put on our immune and cardiovascular systems. Carrying anger into old age can result in higher levels of inflammation and chronic illness.

So how do we discard grudges? How do we forgive?

Luskin urges that we recognize three things. First that forgiveness is for you, not the offender. Second that it’s best to do it now. And finally that forgiveness is about freeing yourself.

Then to continue the process, change the story about the source of the grudge. Rather than being a victim, think of yourself as heroic. Then think of the good things in your life so as to balance the harm. And remember that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want. Luskin emphasizes that forgiveness is a learnable skill. It just takes a little practice, he advises.

Now all of the above sounds good but I have another track to suggest. To sooth a grudge, there is nothing quite as satisfying as revenge. And the best revenge? A life well lived. It’s an old adage but true.

So what makes for a life well lived? I guess there are as many answers as there are people, but I can tell you mine. Make your home a happy and comfortable place by creating a room or a corner just for yourself. All you need is a special chair with a fluffy pillow or a bedside table with your latest reading choices or music source, and of course a picture you love on the wall. Take an aromatic bath. Welcome friendship and love in your life. If all else fails, get a dog.

When the weather is glorious, take a guilt-free walk, even for five minutes. Say hello to strangers in the post office or the supermarket aisle and watch a smile appear on their faces. Make yourself something you really like to eat, and if you shouldn’t be eating it, just eat a little. Do some kind of work that is worthy of you, then take pride in the way you carry it out. Clean out just one desk drawer and feel like you have your life under control. Remember to laugh at life’s little incongruities.

Go see a good movie. Or a play. Or attend a concert. These can all be found locally. Plan a trip, even if it’s only for a Saturday afternoon to the East End. Then go on it and see how many new things there are to see. Buy a shirt or an ice cream cone. Celebrate every possible occasion and even celebrate just for the heck of it. Take a nap, if only for 20 minutes.

And for Pete’s sake, read a newspaper, preferably a hometown paper because that tends to have more good news!

Stock photo
Daniel Dunaief

By Daniel Dunaief

We generally don’t have to look too far to find difficult marriages. But what about the unions that reside inside us?

Determination and doubt travel together when we’re making a decision, when we’re confronting the naysayers and when we’re preparing for the next steps in our lives.

Sure, I could take the harder assignment, prove something to myself or my boss, venture into the unknown in my area of expertise, or I could stick with what I know, take jobs that will be manageable and remain in my comfort zone.

Determination is often considered the more admirable member of this marriage. Such fortitude pushes us to set new expectations and to venture into arenas where the risks we take could cause physical or emotional bruises.

We see determination when we look at the faces of people running up a hill, returning home late from work, or practicing their musical instruments until they develop rings on their lips or red welts on their necks.

When we’re seeking inspiration, we read about or consider the determination of others, who overcome financial, emotional or logistical limitations and exceed everyone’s expectations but their own. Determination is akin to an off-road vehicle that we maneuver into untrodden or difficult terrain, hoping our suspension and alignment can handle the sudden and unexpected contours of a landscape better suited for pictures or studies of nature than for travel.

While it has a bad reputation, doubt, like the blue girl Sadness from the movie “Inside Out,” also has its place. Doubt can, of course, make the determined part of ourselves even more steadfast, as we seek to prove to ourselves and everyone else that we can and will accomplish anything.

Doubt is the rain that can make the sunshine that much sweeter.

Doubt also can spring from reason and understanding, as in, “I doubt climbing to the top of that tree, when I haven’t maneuvered to the top of a tree in years, is a good idea.” Yes, doubt can and does save us, not just from embarrassment but from injuries, discomfort or dead ends.

Reflexively ignoring doubt as an unwelcome voice whispering in our ear carries risks that may be unnecessary, such as ignoring a “Beware of the Dog” sign before jogging through a stranger’s yard.

So, how do we deal with this married couple? Do we let determination rule the day most of the time, while we periodically give doubt the chance to share concerns about obstacles and consequences?

The answer depends on the circumstance. What is the downside to acknowledging, understanding and appreciating the origin and potential benefit of a doubt?

This doubt shouldn’t need to hide behind the punch bowl, sit in the dark with the coats in a back bedroom, or wait in the car while determination gets to run wild, pushing our limits.

We should consider doubt — whether we or someone else expresses it — in the open, allowing ourselves to ponder and plan for the difficulties ahead, giving ourselves a chance to make informed decisions and to see a few steps into the maze of our future.

Our doubt may help us find a better course of action, redirecting and refocusing a determination that enables us to persevere over the course of a future filled with potential but riddled with uncertainty.

If our determination makes a better case than our doubt, at least we’ve benefited from the marriage that lives in us. Indeed, at its finest, determination should not only understand and appreciate doubt, but this tenacity should also use concerns and objections as motivation, giving determination the opportunity to win over the concerns doubt expresses.

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Incredible as it seems to me, it was exactly 50 years ago that we started packing for our move to the North Shore of Long Island. We were on an Air Force base in Texas at the time and had originally not planned to come here. It was 1969, the Vietnam War (a part of our everyday life in the military) was raging, both Kennedys and Martin Luther King had been assassinated, the country was being ripped apart by riots, and until that moment we had intended to settle permanently in San Diego. My husband, who loved warmer weather, had researched the climate throughout the nation and decided that when his tour of duty ended, we should live on the southern California coast.

So we were taking our two sons, the third still in utero, to settle on the other side of the country from the city in which we were both born. But our families were still in New York. And when the time came for us to declare our intentions to the movers, we couldn’t go through with the decision. In those chaotic times, family seemed the most important element of our lives. My parents were our children’s only grandparents, my husband’s parents having both passed away some years earlier. Our children were my parents’ only grandchildren, and they all adored each other.

To everyone’s surprise we changed our plans at the last minute and wound up in Stony Brook, attracted by the coming medical center, which my husband felt would enrich his ophthalmology practice. The rest is history, our history interacting with our hometown, and after half a century I will say that the community never disappointed.

We discovered St. Charles Hospital, where our third son was born and where I was cared for like royalty. After a nomadic year of renting, we found a beautiful piece of property in the middle of the woods and borrowed to the hilt so that we could build a modest ranch house there. My husband started his solo practice—that’s what physicians did in those days—in a small medical building in Port Jefferson, and after six months we could afford linoleum to cover the subflooring in the kitchen. A year later we were able to pave the driveway. We regarded those as personal high water marks.

Meanwhile we loved, loved, loved the beaches, the creeks and the rivers within easy drive. We swam, collected all manner of shells and identified them for our children, we rode tire tubes into the harbor as the tide swept us out of the creek and we rented kayaks to paddle on the Nissequogue River. Our big expenditure was a Sailfish that we kept on the rack at the beach, and we sailed across Stony Brook Harbor to the Smithtown beach.

We were pleased to join the Historical Society, the Environmental Center, the Emma S. Clark Library and the Civic Association. People welcomed us, we found friends—or rather our children found friends and we then became friends with the parents—and we enjoyed the social and cultural scenes thoroughly.

Our children were educated in the local school district well enough to continue in life and thrive. We thank the many teachers, administrators, counselors and other personnel who every day delivered that fine effort.

My husband’s practice grew, and so did our children, so that shortly after the youngest started first grade I was able to realize my dream: starting a hometown newspaper to serve these villages. Again, our work was welcomed and our lives blossomed. I am thrilled every time I meet new residents and visitors to our area. Those contacts are invariably enriching, and we take our mission to provide impartial information and protect the community to be a noble pursuit. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to be joined by highly committed colleagues.

After 50 years, we can look back and know that we made the right choice.

Author Angela Reich with her book, 'Shipwreck of Hopes'
Leah Dunaief

Today, May 23, is the birthday of Margaret Fuller. She would be 209 years old. I don’t know if you have ever heard of her. I hadn’t really, maybe vaguely. She was actually born Sarah Margaret Fuller, named after both her grandmothers, until she dropped the first name at age 9. She was in other ways a precocious child, too, the oldest of Massachusetts lawyer and Congressman Timothy Fuller’s children, and he taught her to read and write before age 4.

Fuller, a Harvard grad, was such a stern teacher that he forbade her reading sentimental novels and instead gave her what was then, at the beginning of the 19th century, a vigorous classical education — indeed a rarity for a woman at that time.

Margaret Fuller grew up expecting to be exceptional, and she was: as a journalist, editor, literary critic and women’s rights advocate. She strenuously protested slavery, homelessness and other injustices. She advocated for education for women. She also was reputed to be the best read person in all of New England. She was the only woman allowed to use the Harvard library for her research. Her breakthrough book was “Woman in the Nineteenth Century,” considered the first major feminist work in the United States, and she was friends and the intellectual equal of such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne — said to have modeled Hester Prynne after her, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and admired by Edgar Allan Poe.

Margaret Fuller

She died in 1850 at age 40 in a shipwreck off Fire Island, with her Italian count husband — if they ever married — and 2-year-old son, within sight of the shoreline. Her ship, the Elizabeth, ran aground on a sandbar as it was being captained by the first mate. The event was in all the metropolitan newspapers four days after the tragedy, once word could get out after the gale passed that had come sweeping up the East Coast, destroying the ship. Fuller had been sent by her publisher, Horace Greeley of the New-York Daily Tribune, to Europe from which she filed dispatches for four years, first from England and then from the 1848 revolutionary wars raging in Italy. In effect, she was this nation’s first female wartime correspondent.

Fuller’s life was honored with a book, “Memoirs of Margaret Fuller Ossoli,” a flattering portrait edited jointly by Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing, all of whom rushed to get it out in print before, they feared, her reputation would die. In fact, it was the best-selling book in the United States until Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

Margaret Fuller was a remarkable woman, and I am glad to meet her. How did we happen to meet?

We were introduced by Angela Reich and the Three Village Historical Society. Reich wrote a book called “Shipwreck of Hopes,” about the ship Elizabeth, and although this is fiction, the author spent a great deal of time getting the historic context right. She traveled to Harvard, poured over original letters and manuscripts, and otherwise discovered that there were thousands of shipwrecks off the Fire Island coast. Yes, thousands! This just happened to be one of them, and this one carried a famous passenger.

It is a wonderful thing that we can listen to a writer discuss his or, in this instance, her book and all that went into the writing, dressed in our daytime suburban-casual clothes, enjoying other community members similarly gathered and even a little homemade carrot cake on a given Monday night. In the process we learned some local history and met two worthy women: Margaret Fuller and Angela Reich.

We live in a terrific place where such delights — theater, music, documentaries, political debates and book discussions — frequently happen. All we have to do is get off the sofa after dinner and go to them. It’s often hard but so worth the effort. 

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