Marin County writer Naomi Rayman is blessed with resilience, wit and an enviable ability to shift from one reality into another. When she was thirteen years old, she suffered the loss of her mother, leaving her not only without the continued unconditional maternal love and guidance a teen aged girl needs but without a link to her own history, which, it turns out, held some disquieting mysteries. But, as a teen with, it seemed at the time, better things to concentrate on than her own history, she never asked her mother any questions. She had no real interest. And, then it was too late to ask. She knew about her father’s family and their admirable status as the first two Jewish dentists in Oakland.
Life was good. Naomi is happily married to a man who is still the love of her life, is the mother of two grown children and is a blissful grandmother. She was, for nine years, the owner of a Pilates studio in Marin County and loved every single solitary minute of it. It was, as she says, “the real impetus for me to get up every morning.” And get up every morning she did, to meet clients until one day she was thrown from her bicycle so savagely that she needed to be, in her own grim description, scraped off the pavement. Unable to continue in the career she loved, she found a change that came about naturally as she emailed clients to keep in touch with them. The writing was fun, she was good at it, and found she liked the immediate satisfaction. It is easy to see why Naomi is a successful blogger, always leaving you wanting more.
Then came the day that she wanted to know about her mother’s family, to fill in the gaps. She went to the Martinez Historical Society and adjacent cemetery where she knew her great aunt was buried. Her aunt, was a well-known serpentine dancer, a flame dancer, and the beauty of that art has to be seen to be believed.
The plot thickens as the mysteries multiply. When Naomi was digging around for her family history, she learned that the woman she tought was her aunt was, in fact, her grandmother. Her own mother never even knew that her sister was her mother. Naomi, who knew herself to be an only child was in for another surprise when she discovered that her mother had a son. Naomi had a brother Michael twelve years her senior. As Naomi talks about what she knows to be her true family history, her more complete ancestry, it is clear that we are all products of our time, and the truths that used to be considered too scandalous to utter are, today, simply the color and richness we can weave into a healthy self-regard.
Her love letter? She has a lot to say on that topic. She had the good fortune to have found a letter written in 1917 from her father to his brother that she says “was poignant and relevant and filled with lewd comments as any current email would be.” Naomi talks about leaving history for your children so they do not have to go through what she did in order to find out their background when it is too late to ask. She knows her two children listened to her like she listened to her parents, eyes glazed with disinterest.
Get a box of Kleenex and listen to an exquisite letter, an exceptional expression of love to her mysteriously concealed and then accidently discovered older brother. And, as a fabulous bonus, find out why she kissed the album cover of Bye-Bye Birdie every night.