Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Marge Benjamin remembrance

My long friendship with Taffy dates from the early 1970's when I interviewed her for a job at New York City's Department of City Planning. She was not yet 30, bright, beautiful, tentative. A Vietnam war widow, with roots in the hills of western Virginia, she was an unlikely newcomer to the "Big Apple". She was a bit awed by my relative sophistication (I being a native New Yorker) but we soon discovered that we complemented each other's assets. She had the gift of an inquiring mind. And she was always interested in the "new", whether intellectual, philosophical or domestic. Well I recall the time she experimented with the newly marketed "Cuisinart". A group of us were invited to the apartment she and Rem shared in Brooklyn Heights, where she had labored for hours making meatballs of varying ingredients: beef, veal, pork, and so on. Much drama and mystery accompanied the tasting experience. But when we were presented with these masterpieces, lo and behold! they all tasted identical! How we laughed in our joy of youth!

Taffy and I stayed in touch at intervals through her later experiences in England, New Hampshire, California, and back to Virginia. I met her family, who must have been alarmed by my New York-ness. An emphatic interest that we both shared was a love of textiles and creating fine clothes. I was pleased to advise her on dressing to maximize her best features. And I could (and did) shop for fabric for her. Since it always had to be beige or taffy-colored, I was pretty sure how to please her.

Taffy was unique in discerning the essence of an issue. Practically speaking, this meant working to convince me that my own work with old textiles was more valuable, not less, because of their rarity. Her patience over this issue was astounding. She just worked me over for years! I finally "got it"! She arranged meetings with people who could further my marketing, always enthusiastically, as if it were her own.

Now I have a treasure trove of emails from Taffy these past months. Especially in December, we wrote back and forth on, for example, the beauty of the landscape. The last of these she wrote only hours before she was taken from us. My eyes tear up at the pain of the loss of this good soul. But I will be ever grateful for having this special woman on my side, in my life.

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