Email Of The Day

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A reader writes:

I recently read your note about the passing of Norma Holt through her Facebook Memorial page and there was the link to what you wrote about her in January.  It had a profound effect on me, which is why I’m writing to you. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Norma was an influential person in my life from the time I was 14 until about 24.  She was my dad’s on-again, off-again lover during those years (1962-1972). It was a very tumultuous romance and pretty ill-fated from the beginning.  We lived in a small town in PA where she didn’t fit in and didn’t want to. Her attitude and caftans didn’t cut it in suburbia!  And my dad wasn’t about to move to NYC. He had a business and two daughters he was raising on his own and wasn’t quite as free-spirited as Norma. They eventually parted ways and my dad ended up marrying someone else.

After the breakup, my sister maintained more of a relationship with Norma than I did. My sister actually visited her at the end of June in a rehab facility after her bout with pneumonia.  Norma was 94 and very tired. Her will to live was certainly indomitable until then.  Last week my sister said she tried to call Norma and the line was disconnected.  I was sure she had passed away so I googled her and that led me to the Facebook Memorial, which led me to your piece.

I had so many mixed feelings about Norma.  She was not the right woman to come into a troubled and vulnerable adolescent’s life (mine), but she was there and a commanding presence, as you know. She was a great photographer (she did two full albums of my sister and me), but definitely not a great mother substitute. She was fascinating and exciting, but I always felt I had to protect a part of me from her. Your description of her was amazing because you so accurately and precisely portrayed her.  I felt her spirit in your piece.

And I was laughing when you wrote about her forcing you into the cold bay water.  That was Norma!

It was a summer hemmed in by grief. We will spread Norma’s ashes and commemorate her life in Provincetown at the end of next month.

(Photo by Jane Paradise. See more of Norma in Paradise’s booklet “When I Was Young I Was Considered Beautiful,” which you can purchase here.)