A 21-Year-Old’s Diary Entries From Late December, 1972
by Richard Grayson
Saturday, December 23, 1972
With everyone else in the family in Paradise Island over the holidays, I’m enjoying having the house to myself.
Last night was – well, kind of special.
While waiting for Ronna at her house last night, little Billy gave me a lecture on dinosaurs, his obsession. Ronna and I drove to the college and parked behind Mike, who was there with Cindy, whom he’s been seeing lately; she seems very nice.
The four of us sat together in Gershwin, just one row behind Riesa, which was a bit awkward. Before the play started, Ronna and I talked about her going to the Bronx this weekend; her sister doesn’t want to go with her to their father’s house.
Hair was all right: parts were good, while other parts bored me. Mason, somewhat surprisingly, was excellent as Woof, and Shelli was very funny as Mom.
Jerry, of course, was in the audience, and when he came over to talk to Mikey and Mike, I waved to him, but as usual, he didn’t acknowledge me – or Ronna, because she was with me.
After the show, we went up to congratulate Mason and Libby, and then Ronna and I took a long drive out to Long Beach. She suggested we take a walk on the beach in Rockaway and so we did.
It was midnight, and December, and the beach was dark and deserted and the waves were crashing onto the shore. We walked and then stopped to kiss, after which I said, “I love you.”
She said, “It’s been so hard to be without you lately.” And she confessed that she walked over from Canarsie to my house on the Sunday when I had the flu, then stood outside for half an hour, afraid to come in.
And I really think I do love her. I can’t really be sure, but I know how I feel, and can anyone ever be sure? We walked for blocks on the dark, deserted beach, two “incurable romantics” holding hands.
We decided we both learned a lot and grew up a lot during our breakups with Shelli and Ivan. I drove her back into Brooklyn, as her father was picking her up this morning.
I felt so good last night that I couldn’t get to sleep for hours, so it was after noon when I woke up today. It was a rainy day and nothing really happened. This afternoon Ronna called me from her father’s house and gave me instructions on how to get there tomorrow.
Gary and Wendy will be coming over soon, though I think I’d rather spend the evening alone, as I’m very tired.
Sunday, December 24, 1972
Christmas Eve 1972. And it is a joyful day. Last night I called Mark, who told me that Consuelo gave birth to a 7-pound, 4-ounce baby boy early Friday morning in Brookdale Hospital.
Isn’t that something? It seems especially nice this time year. I spoke to Mark again tonight, and he had just brought Consuelo and the baby, whom they named David Stephen, home. Consuelo is happy but tired, Mark reported.
I enjoyed Gary and Wendy’s visit last night. Wendy is not at all what I expected. She’s very sharp and seems a self-sufficient sort, although she’s in therapy. I like her enormously and think she’s very good for Gary.
They left at 11:30 PM, and I went to bed, watching That Forsyte Woman, a horribly done old movie version of The Forsyte Saga.
This morning I was awakened by a call from Josh, who needed to know the Biology syllabus for the term so he could study. I fixed myself breakfast, cleaned up the house, and drove up to the Bronx.
Mr. Caplan gave very good directions and I made it in forty minutes without getting lost once. Ronna greeted me at the door and I met her father, who was extremely friendly, and his wife, who’s very young and pretty.
Billy was playing with electric trains in the living room, sitting under a huge, gaily-decorated Christmas tree. Ronna and I went out for a walk through the neighborhood (Kingsbridge Heights); she said she was really glad that I’d come.
Getting in my car, we drove into Manhattan, to Fort Tryon Park. We took a long walk, holding hands as we looked out towards the Hudson, New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge.
We went into The Cloisters, where we listened to the medieval Christmas music, looked at the Unicorn Tapestry and the Mérode Altarpiece and the chapels, and then went home.
I stayed for a while, but not for Christmas Eve dinner; it was getting late and traffic would be heavy, so I left before 6 PM, thanking Ronna’s father and his wife, and getting a fantastic long goodbye kiss from Ronna.
I care for her so much.
Tuesday, December 26, 1972
It’s midnight now and I’m pretty tired. I awoke this morning to another bleak, grey day, turned on the radio, and learned that Harry Truman had died, finally succumbing after weeks of illness.
I don’t remember his presidency, although I was born during it, but I’ve always liked him a lot. The nicest thing about him was how unpretentious he seemed.
I spent the morning watching soap operas, reading, and talking to Maud as she cleaned the house. I called Dr. Kahn and made an appointment for next week; I’ve got my fingers crossed that therapy with her will work out.
At 3 PM, I went over to Ronna’s house to pick her up; earlier in the day, her aunt and uncle and cousins had been over. While driving to Manhattan, Ronna asked me if I ever get angry. I told her I do, but I wish I could do it more often.
Tomorrow is the Kingsman party and we’re going together. “Going together” – I guess we are.
We found a parking space in the East 70s (!) and went to the Whitney to take in the Lucas Samaras show. Prof. Merritt had recommended it to her, and although I’d seen it already, I enjoyed seeing it again with Ronna.
Afterwards, we walked hand in hand down Madison Avenue, looking at the art galleries and fancy shops. Ronna is quite a walker. We walked some more after we drove down to the Village, where I got some things in a bookstore.
We had dinner – hamburgers, by candlelight – at my favorite Village restaurant, The Cookery; neither of us really digs big, fancy restaurants. Then we walked some more in the rain.
I took her home to study. Ronna says she’s studying more “because of” me, which is flattering.
When I got home, I was tired and had a stomachache, but then Kurt called and I felt so guilty about not seeing him that I picked him up and we went to Jahn’s and then for a drive through Prospect Park.
Kurt’s like a twelve-year-old, and I find it hard to relate to him. He uses words like “chick” for girl and phrases like “dynamite!” But I can’t not see Kurt because it would hurt him too much. And he’s the most unstable person I know.
Thursday, December 28, 1972
Funny how when things seem the worst, they often turn out to be the best. These past 24 hours have been beautiful. Last night, I picked up Ronna at her house, drove her sister to their cousins’, and we went over to Melvin’s place.
Melvin was about to go to sleep when we arrived. He’d ordered a lot of deli, he said, but wasn’t expecting too many people. Maddy and others were sick with the flu or in Florida or not at home.
For a while I was afraid I was going to have to listen to Richard drone on all evening, but others soon came: Karen and Larry, Leroy and Sharon, Costas, Phyllis, Mara (Melvin went out and picked her up at work in Kings Plaza), Lee and Manny.
It was a pretty poor showing, but I had a pretty good time. After all, I was with Ronna, and that always helps.
Karen mentioned that she’d run into Jack in the city, where he’s working as a cashier at a parking garage. I’d love to see Jack again and apologize for the way I acted toward him when I was jealous of his friendship with Shelli.
Today Ronna came over at 1 PM, in order, she said, “to feed you lunch and make sure you’re eating right.” She made scrambled eggs, which I loved simply because she made them.
I do love her and I tell her so, and even if she doesn’t reciprocate, I understand: she feels that saying “I love you” to me would represent a commitment she isn’t ready for and that it could lead her into getting hurt. I’ll be patient.
We went to the college library with our books, intending to do our term papers, but we found it closed due to the national day of mourning for Truman. Renee came by and the three of us abruptly decided to go to Kings Plaza to see Fiddler on the Roof.
Although we arrived late and the theater was crowded, I enjoyed the movie immensely, and all of us cried a lot.
Afterwards, I treated Ronna and Renee to dinner at The Crepe & The Pancake. It was all so pleasant and friendly and nice: being with the girl I love and a dear old friend from P.S. 203 and Meyer Levin J.H.S.
Renee said that she, Alice and Robert went to see Hair last night and the consensus was that it was bad.
Tonight I know I should get to work on my papers or grad school applications, but I think I am too happy to write “statements of purpose” when I’m not sure what my purpose is.
Sunday, December 31, 1972
As I make this last entry in my 1972 diary, there are less than six hours until 1973. I don’t know if I’m depressed or happy. This year has brought so many changes, and most of them, I admit, have been for the better.
What will the next year bring? As a matter of fact, that’s what worries and scares me: this year has been so good I’m afraid to let it go. I called Dr. Wouk in the country and she said, “Richard, are you going to begrudge yourself another good year?”
Of course she’s right; for the past few years, each new one has been an improvement on the preceding year, and I’ve felt this way with each year’s passing.
Last New Year’s Eve, my accomplishment was surviving – the breakup and other things; this year I’ve grown. But I still have so far to go.
What I’ve got to do now is take a deep breath, don’t look back, and plunge into the future; 1973 will be the year I graduate and enter the “real world,” the “shooting gallery,” as Slade called it.
Will I make it? For the answer to this and other questions, dear reader, dear writer, just keep living and you’ll find out.
I got next to nothing done on my paper on bodily transformations in literature; my typewriter conked out, and rather than get any more hassled, I said, “Forget it” – until tomorrow, of course.
Elspeth called and said there’s going to be an impromptu New Year’s Eve party at Skip’s apartment – so I guess Ronna and I will stop by, at least for a little while.
Elspeth asked me to call Vito and Mason to invite them, and I did, glad to speak to each of them and wish them a happy new year in case I don’t see them.
Ronna called to say her paper isn’t going very well, either. I’m to pick her up at 7:30 PM and we’ll go over to Susan’s house.
I don’t mind going to see Susan at all; no one should spend tonight alone. Last year Scott and Avis were kind enough to ask me along as a third wheel on New Year’s Eve and I enjoyed being with them.
I called Avis to wish her a happy new year; she’s spending the night with Alan, of course. Gary dropped by a little while ago on his way to an evening with Wendy.
And there is it is – 1972 – almost over. May we all have peace and love and laughter in 1973.