Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

What She Was Like

Ever see a bonsai sequoia? There it is, a being that should, by its nature, be one of the largest organisms on the planet, bound by wire and ceramic and years of judicious cutting into a space about the size of an old-style electric typewriter.

Right out of college, Kay was Joseph Papp's stage manager when the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park was a new thing. The first time George C. Scott attempted a major Shakespearean role, Kay was the person who taught him how to make it work. She eventually left the theater and landed in public relations, and soon she was on her way to becoming a big cog in Manhattan's Democratic machine. There are a lot of ways to go about marriage and motherhood--Kay's ways shrank the scope in which her vast intellect and talents could operate, until she became a perfectly miniaturized version of herself, bound at root and branch with some very strange ideas about the nature of honor. She was the most voracious reader I've ever known, and one of the most discerning. It is everyone's loss that the only writing projects she ever finished after she became a mother were PR articles. It is everyone's loss that her career in politics shrank until it could fit within the bounds of the local PTA.

The first time Dan brought me home to dinner with his parents, I found Kay terribly intimidating. It wasn't just that she was so erudite, so certain of herself, so ardent about her political positions. She was also just plain loud--because, as I only learned much later, she was completely deaf in one ear and could barely hear herself. At her table, I always had a sense that everyone in the family had to be prepared to shout from the rooftops anything they wanted to say, no matter how trivial or tentative. Once I got used to it, it was kind of exhilarating. If fame could be earned by raw decibel levels, Kay would have been one of the great pundits of our times.

I loved her fiercely, and she could really drive me crazy sometimes, and I loved her fiercely. I don't just wish she'd lived longer--I wish she'd lived bigger.
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