To paraphrase a bit, "Everything I know, I learned in Northrop House and most of that was from Enid Epstein. She knew how to take advantage of courses, meet and appreciate professors, enjoy extra-curricular activities that made sense for her future careers and make and keep interesting friends. And she did all this in an easy non-judgmental manner that allowed me to take vicarious pleasure in all these areas as well as to encourage me to reach out on my own. She discovered stuff: The printing press at Amherst with Leonard Baskin at the helm, Sylvia Plath in the Chaucer class, several wonderful people in our house, the Rare Book Room in the Library. I went to the Joe McCarthy lecture where he was introduced by my classmate, Madeline Buckley at Enid's suggestion, an experience awe-inspiring in its revelation of possible ideological differences in compatriots.
Enid and I told each other stories of our families. She taught me some Yiddish words and broadened my reading to include firmly Jewish authors while I told her of my lonely, but rich, country upbringing while my father was in the Army during World War II.
We separated for a while after graduation in 1955, but discovered each other again when I moved to Philadelphia and discovered that she lived in Wallingford with Gene, Peter and Melanie. There were phone conversations and a couple of dinner parties; one I remember where Gene and Enid described a family adventure on a farm in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The main emphasis seemed to be searching the country side for the New York Times. It took Gene several long forays, but he was successful three days out of the four.
Reading was always a thread in our phone conversations, but boasting about our children took a shocking amount of time. Enid began to dress with mouth-watering elegance and style at about that time. I learned about Diane Von Furstenberg and Gene's buying trips for his store. She also began to branch out from baby-world and write for real publishers, a junior high social studies text was one of her branches. Then she taught an intellectually gifted section in the Wallingford Schools; my favorite of her adventures with her class was the construction ad launching of a hot air balloon.
Meanwhile she began making prints: puzzles, posters, weaving images. Her friends in Wallingford did not necessarily know of her art work unless they were artists, too. She always acted with a quiet acceptance of her surroundings. She accepted bumps of illness, cancer, hip replacements in a "Why not me?" mode. She'd talk about her art or her illness if asked, but never brought up self-referential events on her own.
Her craftsmanship was boggling. She studied photography, built her darkroom, learned Photo Shop when she received a Pew Grant. She paid for her art supplies with her work. Her attention to her work was exacting and delightful to see. Her attention to her house, her cooking, her family, was as exacting.
Her life is a triumph to think about and to have shared for a few bits. Her soup was delicious when the Finneys had a celebration or a disaster. Her gift of etching tools to our artist daughter was a special event. Life with Enid as a friend was a joy and an education.
With Joy and Heartache,
[Note: My father called my attention to the following e-mail from Kay to Enid just a few days before she died. Enid never saw it, but it speaks volumes about Kay and her relationship with my mother. It's a lovely note and I'm taking the liberty of including it here. - Peter]
From: "GKFinney@aol.com"Dear Enid,
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Sent: Thursday, September 25, 2008 8:36:19 AM Subject: The art of the book
Sometimes I think of all of the arts in your books. It's a catalogue of what makes us human. Invention, research, technical knowledge, perception and perfection, big picture and obsessive detail, positive and negative, collaboration (artistic, social, marketing, marital) and total individual concentration and then a book appears and is spread around the patrons and libraries for all of us to recognize and love.
We had a friend who was recovering from a stroke, and when we were visiting him in a rehab center, we asked him what he did during periods between therapy, and he said that he spent time in his head replaying gorgeous golf courses hole by hole. I hope that you are remembering your books, page by page. It is also a lovely exercise.
Love to you and yours,