- How Enid Dame Led Us Beyond Paradigms
Lilith, bless this gardenWhile both of usStill use it.—Enid Dame "Lilith, I Don't Cut My Grass" Stone Shekhinah, 2002
We did not know each other before Clare introduced us by e-mail, after inviting us to enter a "conversation" for the coming issue of Bridges. Clare told us only that we both had strong connections with Enid Dame, who was (and is) well-known to Bridges readers and beloved among many writers and feminists. DeDe is Enid's niece; Madeline was her friend, colleague, and a reviewer of her work.
We come from opposite "poles" of identity as Jewish feminists. Our correspondence has provided surprises. After weeks of long emails and phone conversations, we met in New York for coffee. Already "bonded," we agreed, during two intense hours of talking, on some crucial themes. One key notion is that there is no "arrival," in any of these inquiries and meditations, only "process." [End Page 200]
Here are excerpts from our exchanges—online and in person—and indications of our discoveries. This project has sparked a growing friendship, and we hope that these are the first of many conversations. We're grateful to Clare, and to Enid, for bringing us together.—Madeline and DeDe
Hi Madeline, nice to "meet" you. I look forward to our discussion. When would you like to get together? I live in Connecticut but am in Manhattan Monday-Thursday each week. I can also meet via phone. What would you like to discuss?
Hello, DeDe, I'm delighted about our being paired up. I've just returned from a writers' conference, so I'm sleepy, but just want to tell you how warmly I relate to your name: it was what I called a most beloved person, Della Quinn, the nanny who took care of me in my first four years. I had a mother, but... she was rather detached, so I clung to "De De," nobody explained why she left. I still have that fondness...
I could meet you in NYC on one of your days there. Of course I'd be glad to discuss Enid's work and her influence, but not only on feminist poetry: she was also helpful in getting me to think about my identity as a secular Jew.
I was raised by completely secular parents, in New York City and the suburbs. My one living grandmother observed no religion. She probably had some ethnic memories from long ago in Hungary, but she had abandoned all rituals before I knew her. She had divorced her husband in the 1920s, when she found he was gambling and philandering... unusual among Jews.
I have a younger sister. My parents taught us moral principles and loyalty, and my father was a hard-working provider. He was a chemical engineer. We were united as a family, including aunts and uncles, in our mutual agnosticism.
My mother was orphaned when she was ten. She was raised in luxury by her uncle, who had worked his way "up" and had become wealthy. Some of her family joined The Ethical Culture Society, an alternative to religion that many Jews were taking on. (I always found the society and their practices rather stuffy, righteous and pretentious in declaring "ethics.") Mother went to Wellesley and to NYU for graduate study; she worked in a medical research lab until she was married and pregnant with me. From then on she was a middle-class housewife.
When I was about six, in 1940, my parents became increasingly aware of the horrific problems for Jews during WWII and they sent me to "Sunday school," that's what Reform Jews called the classes held at the Temple on Sunday mornings. I never heard the word "synagogue." For me, a tiny six-year-old, Sunday School, where I knew none of the other children, was frightening. I don't remember anything that was being taught. The Temple was far from where we lived. I remember waiting on the front steps after class for my mother to pick me up, and she'd...