Dixie Darr

I’ll Take Manhattan

In Lent - Season of Change on April 8, 2017 at 1:27 pm

 

 

Lent – Season of Change, Day 34

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney joins the growing list of my favorite books of the year. Rarely have I flagged so many pages with words that charmed me.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1984, the year of the subway vigilante, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish, who only admits to being 84 because being born in 1899 makes her sound too old-fashioned, heads out walking to her favorite neighborhood restaurant in Midtown Manhattan. She ends up walking almost to the southern tip of the island and back, reminiscing about her life and befriending a cast of characters along the way.

She moved to New York in 1926 and has lived there ever since, watching the city grow and change around her. Some changes she laments and some, like the World Trade Center, she has grown to appreciate.

Working in advertising at Macy’s, she becomes the highest paid woman copywriter in the country. Not a typical working woman for the time, she“was not on the prowl for a permanent connection. No taxidermy for me; strictly catch-and-release.”

She spent her first Christmas in the city alone. “Alone, but not lonely; in the state of being solitary but not the condition of wishing myself otherwise. Solitude enrobed me like a long, warm coat.”

Eventually, even though“Whenever ‘everyone’ is doing something, I seek to avoid it,”she does marry and have a child. No longer allowed to work, (you read that right, “allowed”) she“came to miss the relative privacy—not to mention the privacy from relatives—that I routinely enjoyed while breadwinning, even in my bustling and clamorous office, where I could shut the door and tell the receptionist to lie: “She’s not in.”

Turning back north toward a friend’s New Year’s Eve party and declining offers of a ride, she says, “I figure Chelsea is a hair under three miles away as the crow flies, but I’ve never been inclined to let crows plot my routes.”

As she remembers soaring to the heights of her profession, she also recalls some very bad times.

Lillian’s story is in many ways the story of the 20th Century. I didn’t want the book to end. Lillian is a singular and witty companion. I wanted to continue my stroll with her for a little while longer. Just a few more blocks.

 

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