Monday, October 22, 2007

Wednesday Oct 22

By mistake I wrote
for several days, at one
time on the wrong pages

I neglected my diary

Just the fact that Mrs.
Surdut introduced me
to a girl with $10.000, and
her family, must be entered.
But the girl does not appeal
to me.

The day I'd promise to marry
her, I'd be on easy street
because of her wealth,
but my heart says no


Matt's Notes

I tend to discuss Papa's chronic bachelorhood as just another symptom of his self-imposed limbo, a sign of his powerful emotional attachment to the old country, an illustration of his inability to see America as the place to marry and make a home. I'm fascinated with this angle because I know he would one day become an exemplary, self-sacrificing family man who was delighted with his life and exuded a sense of contentment.

Still, while I think it's interesting to examine Papa's diary in this way, I don't want to generalize every moment he reports as if there aren't other, less hidden forces at work. For example, we know Papa was an incurable romantic, a poetic soul who longed, no doubt, for an overwhelming, all-revealing love. This desire to wait for his heart, rather than his community or someone like Mrs. Surdut to choose his mate was not just sentimental, though; it was a distinctly American and modern innovation embraced, more boldly each year, by Papa's contemporaries. (As we've discussed before, this was especially troubling to the old-style Jewish matchmakers who found it increasingly difficult to make a living on this side of the Atlantic.)

It's hard to tell whether the wealthy woman mentioned above approved of Papa and would have consented to marry him, but the tone of this entry suggests she was Papa's for the asking. I expect he chatted with her for a few hours, had cake and coffee with her parents in their well-appointed living room, and then went about his business while they decided if he was worthy of their $10,000. A few days later, there it was: a one-way ticket to easy street (I love this entry because Papa uses the expression "easy street" as if it were part of the popular vernacular, which of course it was) delivered to his door by a flushed, breathless, soon-to-be-disappointed Mrs. Surdut.

Papa may have been at odds with his place in the world and may have struggled with difficult internal battles, but he also just wanted to know what it was like to fall in love. I think I'll just believe him when he writes "my heart says no," let him gently break the news to Mrs. Surdut, and leave him to wonder, on his own, when the answer might be different.

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