The Immigrants’ Daughter Learns A Lesson



Neighborhood: Brooklyn

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I learned about sex when I was twelve. My mother called me over while she was watching a rerun of The Honeymooners on the 13” black and white TV in my bedroom. She often watched there, because my father couldn’t stand her smoking in their room. My parents are Holocaust refugees. My mother had lived in the forest between ages 6 and 8. My father had been sent to Siberia. Commandeering my room and filling it with cigarette smoke didn’t rank very high on their “Terrible Things You Shouldn’t Do to Your Children” list. I happened to be walking in the hallway when she decided it was time for the only lesson I can remember her wanting to teach me.

Mindy? she asked, half turning her face from the TV set. I could hear Ed Norton calling out, Hellooooo, ball.

Yeah? I answered from the doorway.
You know about sex, right?
Yeah, Ann told me about it.
You don’t have any questions, do you?
I guess not.

For the record, Ann was my friend who was a year older and more worldly, and always smelled like a combination of Rive Gauche and Big Red gum. Her lesson on the birds and the bees had gone like this: The man sticks his pisher into the woman’s pisher, and something comes out of his pisher that makes the woman pregnant.

When we informed my brother Harry about this state of affairs, he ran straight to our father to ask him if he really stuck his pisher into our mother.

Who told you that? my father demanded.
Mindy and Ann.
They’re lying.

Mindy Greenstein is a clinical psychologist and writer. She is the author of The House on Crash Corner and Other Unavoidable Calamities (Greenpoint Press, 2011).

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