Mary Wallach and Eric Wallach

Recorded December 12, 2008 Archived December 12, 2008 01:19:55
0:00 / 0:00
Id: LMN000979


Mary Wallach tells her son Eric Wallach about her life, her relationship and her philosophies.

Subject Log / Time Code

Mary talks about her childhood years and some of the highlights of her youth. She also talks about where she learned to save money.
Mary’s job now and interesting people she has met through her job travels.
Eric asks Mary about spirituality and religion in her life. He also ask, “What is love?” Mary talks about how she met Dianne, her partner.
Mary talks about hopes for the future, what she would do if she were President, her favorite plays and her favorite musicals.
Message to the people of the future: “Be happy because it is a choice.”


  • Mary Wallach
  • Eric Wallach

Recording Location

StoryCorps Lower Manhattan Booth


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00:01 And this is Eric Wallach. I am 36 years old today and today is December 12th, 2008 where in New York City and I am the son of Mary Wallach. My age is 16 today's date is still 12 12 08 where in New York City, and I'm talking with my son. Thanks so much for doing. Thank you for asking.

00:28 What were talking earlier about your father's relationship to the city and coming into the city? I wonder did you come with him when he would bounce around very often come with him only because they had to be somebody in the car is here and has little errands as we were talking about through the pickle store and through economy candy and yeah, there was a place also up in the Bronx that needs to disappear into to get things like what he used to call specials which are knockwurst and good salamis and things like that. So that would be another stop the playlist Manhattan for me on many years. So how many years 11 and a half 11 years your first Year's yes. Where did you live We Live to 255 Haven Avenue open Washington Heights right across the street from the George Washington Bridge overlooking the river.

01:24 And when they built the second level on to the George Washington Bridge when they build Martha, they had a tear down our building for Ada ramp. We want to go last families to leave that building before it was torn down. My father didn't move too easily. He really kind of had to be pushed.

01:45 How do you feel about it now that spot I missed it. It's not there. You know, I don't know where that why would ever Revisited but knowing it's not there has always bothered me.

01:59 Because it would be some place I would like to at least be able to see in the knowledge that that's that's where it was and you were just telling me today is at Grandma's house where she grew up. My mother is no longer there which is sad but New York is usually the the the buildings least residential as I usually still there. What is that? You remember from this first 10 years? What? What? Can you go back to an actually revisit? I don't know where The Cloisters I remember being at The Cloisters a lot so that I'm sure it's still there. I remember Men playing chess on cement chess boards when I would walk to school that there was a little park and I wonder where that's still there and I need to revisit it. Maybe we can go.

02:55 Because I would like to my child. I think I walked through a tunnel. I remember walking my sister Deborah to school.

03:01 Those days we did that his day is not what you have to be on parent has to take a child.

03:08 If you were to start writing your autobiography today, I wonder what year the title would be.

03:21 I'm still in process, but that's where it is.

03:29 Still in process was that mean to you it means that.

03:35 I don't kind of set specific goals and it's just not my attitude. Generally. I don't see a specific into things that it's that it truly is the journey. So I never know what's coming up. That's what's been. So so funny living with Diane is here and she's a planner needs to know very much every single step. And so I have changed. I noticed that it's of some concern to you. What do you mean about too much planning, but I sent accommodation I've made

04:10 Does it work? Yeah. Yeah, because I'm very I'm I'm not attached to them.

04:18 So it's kind of fun. I find this kind of fun kind of.

04:24 Looking at all the possibilities and certainly, you know finances are always concerned. So kind of getting the best approach to things in and that's always been a game of mine wasn't can you please be specific, you know?

04:43 Well, you travel the world with barely anything but it what how did I learn? What was your what was your game with? What is your relationship with money spending it or trying not to spend it. My my main goal is to get best value for what I have which is never been been much. I mean I've done some some things that I'm uncomfortable looking back on in order to survive during our Our rough years, you know by like, you know coupon and am through the LA Times and going to newspaper machines where you know, it wasn't just one paper. I took it was six because they have to have a dollar off coupon on ketchup or whatever and so we buy six bottles of ketchup and find room for six bottles of ketchup. How much were the bottles of ketchup after you found there, you know.

05:42 Whatever whatever works we had we had to make do so and you remember when we went when I even took you I think to the post office to remember the most of them there was there was a postage machine either was a change machine think was a straight change machine. Anyway, what happened? Was it kind of gave you a dollar fifty for every dollar you put in or something like that? It's funny. I do know what I remember is that he put in a diamond you got three nickels.

06:16 They say it's the same thing. It says it's up to 50% profit on your diet. We made a little a little bit. I hear are there more when we used to have to buy so it is when the when the holidays Come Around House of the best specials at the supermarket for for Coke or sodas or whatever kind of case after case after case for how much I can do you think pittance did you go up in my refrigerator now is 60 years of age? I just got a great bargain on been on a diet. So I had no no, I think was iced tea lemon iced tea mix that I buy cuz it's decaffeinated with all the energies natural and I saved $17.82 and I spent $4 for this product.

07:07 So that's on my refrigerator. So it's still it's still part of.

07:12 You know how how I now can go to the theater instead of spending on the iced tea. So, what do you think you got it from?

07:23 My mother was a saver. My father was a kind of give it all away or never make it to begin with, you know, he was a gambler and he was kind of always on to the next get-rich-quick scheme didn't have didn't have the gene for saving at all. Anyways, had a wonderful.

07:49 Wonderful, joyous Ambitions. And if anybody needed anything they got in my mother was the was the polar opposite being very much of a much poorer family and frame a child of the depression in nothing. My father felt the same things growing up. So, you know how you make the best use of what you have so

08:13 Can I got your step back to 2nd? Give us a

08:17 I just have the basic highlights of your life like the dates and places of just the movement of your life.

08:26 Bourne and Bourne a Jewish Memorial Hospital in the Bronx Dayton to 1448 Valentine's Day, baby.

08:37 And

08:39 I think it was in 15958 us-59 we moved from Washington Heights to New Rochelle New York. We lived in an apartment in a residential area that the only apartment in that residential area. So I never did the single-family home kind of 50s 60s thing. It's an apartment dweller and for that it was an oddity. So if I ever had friends everybody is all the friends had that single family homes. I never did experience that growing up and my parents lived in the apartment the same apartment until they both passed. So each within 10 years of each other.

09:22 So went and graduated New Rochelle High in 65 and went to SUNY Stony Brook.

09:31 For two years

09:35 265 through 60

09:39 7 I got married in January of 1968 to your father.

09:46 And within a couple of days move to California moved moved once a year for the first seven years. I always joke that it was every time the oven got dirty we moved and it's pretty much true. And then I had your brother and then I had you 69-72 69 and 72 and I live in the house that I brought you up in from the time you were three and five so I still live there witches in Chatsworth, California. My job history is very kind of

10:27 It was

10:30 Really a matter of convenience. I didn't go back to school and finish my ba until the early 80s, but it was being a single mom and having your two boys to raise the kind of focused everything as far as what jobs I took when I needed to take a job when I could go back to school when I couldn't and really what jobs I had to take.

10:55 So there's never been a career. Although I've done social science research or research of some sort through at throughout my years. I've been doing research for 35 years. So it's very odd to be on this side of face.

11:08 Three on the responding side and you doing that now and what what specifically is it is that job for the past nine years of study that's been going on since the 70s and it's a national study regarding a with approaching household and Gathering data on Alcohol Tobacco drug, use Mental Health and health issues. And so it's part of a very large sample. We do to a hundred thousand plus households a year.

11:48 So how much do you do a year? You think how many different probably do at least 2,000 households?

11:57 In the you need to be all over the country. So after I return home, I'll be going to Philadelphia for 2 weeks. And then who knows I never know where I'm going. What's the what's your favorite place? You've you've gotten to go through this job. It's just this this little town. It's I just found it. It's so bizarre Lewes Delaware of all places Lewes down on the shore on the south part of Delaware is very easy to ignore, but it is an absolutely Charming Old Town.

12:34 Everybody walks and everybody kind of knows each other and the tax structure is very very easy.

12:44 Owner financing with no state income tax sales tax property taxes are good. Anyway, it's a beautiful beautiful little town wonderful people. Just wonderful people.

12:57 If you got people is there any one person or which one person have you met and in your job or otherwise in your travels that has sustained a lasting memory. Are you hold with you this person?

13:12 It's usually the older folks there was a Miss Mimi I remember in Georgia who probably hadn't had a visitor in a long long while and it turns out she didn't screen in for my my specific tasks buy specific person a purpose for being there but I could not leave her on and we spent about 2 hours just talking about her history and her mother had been that the child of a slave and then we went through every every lost. She ever had is just needed someone to talk to but I never wanted to leave Miss Mamie. It was another wonderful woman. Also. She was 86. I think I even have her phone number still she was on

14:02 I met her in San Diego and she she was still teaching. She was still teaching grammar school at 86 and learning the computer and she was just just the most I should just inspirational again. The people have gone through the most hardships are the are the softest and most real people to deal with it and people very talk very openly about their losses.

14:30 More so than their joys.

14:33 And I don't know whether it's my face or just that I appear out of the blue and they know they're not going to see me again, but having a stranger's ear opens people up.

14:46 It's much easier to talk to a stranger that talk to family it truly is so I hear all sorts of things but mostly said that most about straws life is hard life is hard life is joyous, but life is hard.

15:04 And the saddest part is when when people outlive their families, that's the hardest thing.

15:15 And I I bring something to those situations and that's very satisfying. What do you mean? What do you bring to the situation? I bring a smile and bring some warm. I'm I wind up hugging people want me on that. We're not supposed to tell wind up hugging people out of out of nowhere and I wind up getting hugged. So it's that instantaneous acceptance. There's that there is a true joy in that in that interaction, you know, it happens maybe once a quarter for me, but they're all special. They're all special.

15:52 I have the time they call me Miss Mary what they make their children call me Miss Mary or whatever and that's all over the country. There's this this this beauty to it and I love meeting.

16:05 Still so many times. I made a family the rest of the family is all within blocks while they're all built houses or trailers on the same Hill or or whatever. It happens to be and people to take care of one another and it's beautiful thing to say, you know, I live in a large city. There's more disconnection than connection. And so this just reaffirms the connectedness of the human race. Wonderful. I love my job.

16:33 Love my job and it challenges me every door every door.

16:39 Do you ever feel compelled to knock on a door? You've knocked down before?

16:45 No, no, no magic of the moment. I never know where it's going to lead. I never know where it's going to lead.

16:59 So always fun always interesting.

17:04 You're mine. I said some philosophical questions.

17:08 Okay. Brick. What are food do you believe God is?

17:14 Believe in God

17:18 I believe in the in the

17:22 The power of the Soul more than more than a God. I don't believe in a figurehead would be a

17:32 Just an all-encompassing power of of humanity. I don't know whether there is a man. I don't reject the the out now to the concept of God to me. It's more. I'm more nature than God and I feel like the power is in the soul.

17:54 To your experience of God is through your own.

17:58 And I remember there's been times in my experience with you that you have either gone to someone who can do the automatic writing with beer comes in their body and they write or remember that one story. I wonder what your relationship to this spiritual World Tour the World of the Unseen used to be much stronger. I mean, I would seek it out more for curiosity than for believe I did take in the seventies. I did take training in in in Tarot. I took training in in in doing readings doing psychic readings of all sorts, and I wasn't bad. Actually, I was pretty good. So once all the the things that went on in our lives the tragedies went on and I realized that my denial of my instinct was was a contributing factor. I tried to then turn to my instincts which is my soul which is

18:58 Being which is Madison's for that kind of guidance rather than externally cuz externally the guidance I saw it kind of didn't work. So I try to be very self-reliant. We're talk about self-reliance.

19:17 Celebs with that time me and that pretty practice anything. What would kind of spiritual practice do you have now?

19:28 Kind of spiritual practice. Do I have?

19:31 Doesn't have to be one.

19:37 Tampa I believe in my higher power that might not be your higher power. So I have my conversations with my higher power and it's a good conversations with oneself spirituality comes from being out in nature and connecting with silence which I adore.

20:00 It's funny that the booth is rumbling when I talk about silence is not funny. I didn't feel rumbling before.

20:07 But yeah, the communication account with complete silence is is kind of a a prayer thing for me.

20:18 What do you think is the purpose of this life?

20:24 If there is no no, what do you think is the purpose of this life?

20:28 To take that spiritual selves and make it wider light or Pure Life so that you don't have to come back into this body relearn the same lessons until you get to in advance. I always clean mice. I mean, I think I just take for granted. You know, I mean, I will surround myself in my light I will you know, if I interact with somebody who is very negative always, you know, cleanmyspace, you know.

20:58 Is my hands in and clean it? So those are those are things I don't even think about any more that's definitely practice occasionally when I go to Temple, it's not so much.

21:16 God that I'm feeling is I'm feeling a communal connected this to a at 2 a.m. Quiet place a prayer for my son.

21:27 Hey, what about Diane? How is that how that relationship come into your life or what is shocking and surprised you probably know the story. I know that's true. I'll share it with you. I mean it was from out of nowhere we had match was working for me.

21:53 And I was away on a trip to Alaska with a friend and driving Alaska, which is I've been to five times now, I think and just throws Gloria's place. It's always hard for me to leave, Alaska.

22:06 And I was there and I kept thinking about her in a way that I had never thought about another female before so it was very very strange very odd and nowhere to put those thoughts and I began to obsess and I'm not usually I'm obsessive. I am a compulsive person. I am an obsessive person only if I have a challenge in front of me, you know, if I have something that needs to be done, I like getting things done with Diane. I was just thinking about her thinking about her in a romantic way, which I had not never never there was never any inkling that anything would be reciprocated or where that was going and it would just normally pass it kept not passing out of my head and it turns out that Diane was having the same types of thoughts and feelings.

23:00 So I got back from that trip and we had just been just been friends, you know, just just she was working for me and we were in a very kind of loose environment and it was she was just a friend and then she was going to be taking her daughter Lisa.

23:19 To her first-year freshman year in school in Colorado and I don't care to go along thing. It's not a big one for driving alone. And it involves along this trip. We dropped Lisa off at school and then we took up a journey up through Yellowstone and then down and finally back to through Nevada back to California. And yeah, the feelings were mutual. So it was it was from another planet for me and it was from another planet for her. This had nothing nothing prior had prepared me for being attracted to a woman at all. So it was the person it was the person that I've been together 14 years.

24:09 14 and a half years sometimes struggling to cycles of sevens really his Psych the more power to you for the next to 70 years. Remember the first time you were you actually driving in the car and into the hands are touching her holding hands in the sand in the car and was just the first or the must been so awkward and like it was very awkward. It was extremely awkward and no no reference points for it for any of the physicality of or the sexuality of it all just the attraction was that strong.

24:49 I've been flirtations like we have been walking with came back out. The one hotel only had like one queen bed instead of two doubles. You know, I like what should we do? What we do if we can do it, we can always stay away from each other and we went to Yellowstone. We stayed in this 10 for night night state has like two man tent with both big women and we're bigger than and I mean just the most uncomfortable evening trying to stay away from each other and really we didn't get together till any little bit till Lake Tahoe and then coming down through, Nevada.

25:35 And it just kind of happened. Vegas wasn't me to Winnemucca Winnemucca in the photo of Winnemucca Winnemucca first kiss or or first time you weren't trying to be on the other side of the bed.

26:00 Winnemucca was yes the first time we made love it. How what do you think love is?

26:09 How do I think love What is love?

26:14 Love is warmth.

26:17 Mother's Sam.

26:20 Unconditional love is caring.

26:24 Love is compromise.

26:28 Love is taking universal view of everything.

26:32 Absolutely necessary and I think that's something that that you got you got got you got got in your gut from me a global sense of universal sense of connectedness.

26:47 If we are all one.

26:50 One with the trees with one with the rocks with one with the ether one with at all.

26:59 And not finding him finding commonalities finding connectedness is love.

27:07 How much is soft and love is warm and love is sweet?

27:11 Thank you. Mam thing is letting you know, thanks for giving me that and I think you're at you. You spelled it out quite well, and I didn't get that in love from you and respect that love to all beings and all else around you is not that important if I have a task if I have a job to do the my details are very important.

27:40 Very important. I have a work me and then a Mimi.

27:47 And you tend to blend them. You know, you're you're one in this a little work me. Yeah, you're always the same. I'm very different as a work person, you know as a worker versus

28:00 Are there a couple of times in my life when work has has kind of collided with my personal life, which was just bizarre to me actually becoming at the person.

28:15 Your middle name is Sybil. You think you have more more personalities and just to

28:26 Three stages in my life. Yeah, very very definitely encourage them. I've never been particularly connect with my name. I don't physically like my name. So There Was X just like you like David Oribe Wally or a Wally Bruce or whatever and you you develop Persona that address is that I did the same thing. So what are your names are used to love Marissa something about little bit of an exotic 20-something. You know, it's just always been hard to be a Jewish. Marry hot summer Lisa. What are the names? Do you have? I had or had or have had one. Do you have you still have one more? Like I could be I don't know.

29:17 Sedalia or I could be I would just make up names and that's what I would be. I just gave you a kind of a little kick, you know, you could be something different. My life is hard to a lot of years. So we are just having this name.

29:34 Change available to me seemed an easy and inexpensive trip know your Alien Invaders. Are your whatever space invader funny. How did you survive the hardship years the tragedy besides alter egos or getting up that was that was they were just fun things to get away that they were not taking down and getting through it.

30:20 I did it myself.

30:23 I guess thank you. I guess I want to ask is what is through hardened your time about hardships in the I believe it's your empathy that that opens his door for people when they meet you to open themselves up to you because of what you've experienced in life. They feel no matter what their tragedy is. You can take it what essential truth have you learned through your experience at your life experience. We're all the same and we might be different in the way. We approach it or cope with it or whatever but nobody's had to do you say whether it's cancer or whether it's the loss of a child the weather is it doesn't matter what it is and it could be something that would be little for me to get through but it's it's bigger than their lives.

31:20 So we're all the same all suffer hardships. So nobody's any any better off or worse off and nobody's better or worse than and then then the next human being on the side way, you know all experience Joy experience tragedy.

31:38 What else do you have for the future?

31:40 Great hope for the future, but I've been feeling hopeless for the past few years. Certainly. This has been a terrible time for a country.

31:50 And feeling a really really a sense of hopelessness.

31:58 And we're we're in for some hard couple years still to come some very hard uterus. But hope I thought I believe in the human race. I believe in in in us for people.

32:12 Government I have problems with.

32:15 Not as many problems as you do probably not what it if you were elected president this last election. What would be your first acting office?

32:27 My first activate with the current situation, okay, I'm saying you're not going to January 20th 2009.

32:35 Which is my favorite bumper sticker out of all the bumper stickers. That's all it said. I placed one in Crown Heights episode order of business.

32:57 I probably have George Bush arrested and tried for crimes against people of the United States.

33:08 Have a human get that over crimes against humanity in Geneva or wherever to bring him up on high crimes.

33:25 That's what he's done. Then we move forward forward with Healthcare education and

33:35 And how much does she was going to all the all the social services that are banned and the Arts?

33:44 Theraplay are you know what? I had a feeling you might ask about that and I was trying to think of what it what it was and then I was thinking well, you know, if I say something like good to know that he's me ask me why and if I if I say, you know, it's like my favorite Play It's usually the play ISO last unless it was awful. It's my most immediate experience. And since I never could imagine life without theater is always a new one to look forward to so, I mean, I don't analyze things like you do is a theater professional. I'm very in the moment.

34:32 I put it I just see when I just that the one that you said that are you so Spring Awakening Awakening and I loved and I loved it because the like the music serve the story rather story serving the music. I loved the staging of it. You know, I'm certainly not of the age that it was speaking to but they were elements of it. That weren't were absolutely Charming. I love to see you space news of audience, and I don't know whether you saw it a couple weeks to see it was marvelous.

35:12 And so that until and the one before that I saw a very small piece on Keely Smith and Louis Prima, which was really a lot of fun which was a lot of fun with my favorite place or your favorite book. My favorite music. I love the music of all things. I don't know. I did not know it was just wonderful, but I also love John McCain, you knows what another one of my favorite musical morning on on one thing. How am I available for something for the next experience if I hold onto the last one? I don't feel like that.

35:57 I just don't you know, but it's it's really funny that you that read your mind. We're weird little fun. Except me as the last question. I would ever think to ask you actually obviously not the worst actually is.

36:21 I was wondering if you think aliens are going to visit the Earth that sometime I hope so I can't I cannot believe that we're the only civilization civilization civilized, you know in this universe. I mean there's proof that the Universe exists so there are things outside of ourselves.

36:44 I have to believe there's some sort of even better what we would turn his life existing other places. So yeah, I'll be great to be visited if they ask you to come on board of the spaceship. What would you bring with you? Would you go can take a person I have problems remembering the sharpener in an endless pain, right? So what do you need? I learned that the day that I went was very very hot at home and I went down to Topanga Beach.

37:44 I slept I slept on the beach.

37:50 And I know I didn't need anything from that day on.

37:53 When was that?

37:56 Probably 78-79 something along those lines. We were at our fathers or something. She had no responsibilities.

38:07 Got it. It was just it was just hot and we didn't use the air conditioning cuz we could pay the mortgage. So, you know, I was just had I needed to get cool.

38:17 I went to sleep on this and really woke up with the sun within myself. So it was fine. Have you ever done that before?

38:36 No, I can't remember what year I went up north to to Canada by myself in my little car with my tent and my sleeping bag and that was about it when I was gone for whatever them 6 weeks. Whatever that you guys were gone. And yeah, don't your self-sufficiency there, but still it's going down to Topanga Beach sleeping like a homeless person. I always I always romanticize being homeless having all those obligations, you know that having to work and having to be home and having to feed you guys and I love you guys. So yeah, that's why I quit my job at a week after you finished College.

39:22 Don't have to do it anymore. If I'm out of the street by van on the street, so I'd only myself to be responsible for at that point. So I quit my job and I haven't gone back to her I'd ask since if you have any message to the people of the future, and do you have any message for them?

39:45 Joyce

39:47 You make me very happy moment. Thank you so much for doing this. I love you, too.