Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt
I saw my mother shortly after finishing this memoir and was trying to explain to her why I enjoyed it so much. I had already told her about it's tragic premise: "a gifted doctor and young mother, collapses and dies and her parents move in with their son-in-law to help take care of their daughter's three children, all under the age of six." I was explaining to her that Roger wanted to be called Guapo instead of Grandfather (for the handsome one), but none of the children could pronounce it so he became "Boppo." "Boppo" often visited his grandchildren's school to discuss writing and so when children saw him they would happily announce to their classmates: "Boppo's here!" The idea of this erudite and educated man becoming a universal "Boppo" to an entire school of children warmed my heart immensely.
This book is filled with heart-warming details and resounding moments of familial love. It is a story that can renew one's belief in the goodness of people.
There is an artfulness and a power in the simplicity of Rosenblatt's writing. His entire memoir is filled with the "bite of the real," --moments that sing with their honesty, everyday-ness and vibrancy. I fea rI can't possibly testify to how much Making Toast touched me. It is a story about humanity, family, loss. It is a story about the good life (even though at the heart of the story is a huge tragedy).
As much as I grieve for the Solomon children who lost their amazing mother, I know they are being raised wonderfully in a warm and loving family. Making Toast is a clear testament to the fact that families can come in different forms and still be nurturing and a fertile environment for positive development. The Rosenblatt's story clearly illustrates what has been lost in a modern world where children often don't spend a great deal of time with their extended families, including their grandparents. Both of my parents had grandmothers who lived with them in childhood - it's sad that such a practice has been purged in modernity.
In the book Ligaya, Bubbie's (the youngest Soloman child who is actually named James) nanny says: "You are not the first to go through such a thing, and you are better able to handle it than most." And this is obviously true. The Solomans and Rosenblatts are surrounded by friends, family, positive experiences. Up until the sudden death of Amy many of the individuals seem truly blessed. Rosenblatt himself admits that before his daughter's death he was accustomed to most things going his way.
I love how clearly drawn all the individuals are in this memoir. We get a full-developed sense of Amy, but also of her amazing children. Their comments, like most young children's comments are spot-on, humorous and profound. In one passage Rosenblatt talks about visiting his granddaughter Jessie's class to discuss a book he wrote Children of War. Rosenblatt writes: "Introducing the subject, I told the second graders that one of the sad and difficult things about children everywhere is that they have no power. Jessie raised her hand. 'That's not true Boppo,' she said. 'We have the power of thought and kindness."
This memoir truly spoke to me. In Amy's short life she touched so many people. I appreciated her ability to embrace life and make decisions without regret. Beyond that, I found Rosenblatt to be so incredibly likeable. Everyone he describes in the book is portrayed in the best light. Even in the wake of a tragedy, he find the best in everyone and brings a sense of humor and lightness to life. I learned so very much from this story and I know I will continue to think about it for quite a while.