by Suzanne Vidor Parry
Actually I remember my mother holding me up as we waved goodbye from the little balcony of my room. My father was in an open sports car backing out of the driveway and it was quite clear to me that he was leaving permanently. I don’t recall tears or emotion on anyone’s part, just the tableau of the wife holding up the little child to wave bye-bye. That seemed to be definitely that. For all I knew, this was standard procedure in the adult world.
What was puzzling, unknown and maybe unknowable was the prevailing adult attitude toward illness. My father was a Christian Scientist and my mother, though she was raised as a Catholic attending church and convent schools, had somehow worked her around into being a Christian Scientist to the best of her ability. In her profession as a silent film actress she could pretty well con herself into or out of thinking or feeling anything--denial being more or less the platform of Christian Science attitude toward health matters. I was born at home with only a midwife and a C.S. practitioner in attendance. I remember my father saying it only cost $25 for the midwife, a bargain he felt.
At any rate, Christian Science children did not have the usual measles, mumps and chicken pox that other children had in those days. Luckily (or a ‘demonstration’ in terms of C.S.) the family next door was also ‘in Science’ as it was referred to and their little girl also my age, didn’t have all those ailments either.
What I did have, however, was frequent sore throat problems that persisted until around my mid-thirties when I spent four years in old-fashioned Freudian analysis. End of sore throats forever!
Also, as a child, I was very good at sudden nosebleeds, unpredictable vomiting and fear-induced pants wetting. I remember if my mother raised her voice in anger, I’d stand there making a large puddle on the floor, probably at the age between two and four, well past the usual housebroken stage.
It’s very hard to be a child. It’s scary and unpredictable at every turn, especially an only child in a household of women. It seemed as if one were excessively ”good” at all times everything would be all right, but it was definitely eggshell walking.
The mid-nineteen twenties when I was quite small, Sunday afternoons at our house appeared to be very popular. We had one of the first tennis courts in Hollywood and weekly gatherings were just part of the routine of life. I guess people had late breakfasts on Sundays and then just started drifting in for tennis around midday. We had a sort of guest house in the garden where changing and showering went on, and a comfortable viewing and kibitzing area resounding alternately with cheers, and groans from the non-playing spectators .I remember tennis at our house as being very relaxed and full of hoots and hollers, not being played for blood as it sometimes became at Chaplin’s for instance. Charlie would have the top pros of the day, Bill Tilden, for instance over as guests, and of course, top imitator that he was, he was soon out-acing everybody. It was no laughing matter. At Mother’s house however, the most serious part of the day was a huge” high “ tea served around our long dining room table. This was the average Sunday in those days all throughout the movie industry, and this scene was standard procedure at the Selznicks, Thalbergs, Laskys, Goldwyns, and so on all over town.