Dr. Richard Moss - The Early Years P.1

The Early Years


I began my creative writing career by forging notes to explain absences from Columbus High School in the Bronx back in the early seventies. My friend, Johnny Dick (he has since changed his last name to protect his children from all that he endured) and I sailed right past the bus stop for Columbus on Pelham Parkway on Thursdays and Fridays (national holidays) headed for City Island to enjoy chips and shrimp on the beach. It was in line with prevailing wisdom about school and discipline and life in general at the time.



But the great borough of “the Bronx” (the only borough with the definitive article), that raucous, turbulent crucible of ethnicity and municipality, has always been a part of me, the theater within which the early dramas of my youth played out, a force in itself. That, along with my family, most particularly, my mother, a pugnacious woman who raised her five sons with no money, no education, and no resources save her indomitable will (this, before the age of the “single parent”), made me, I guess, what I am today.



By any American standard, we were “poor,” although we never considered ourselves as such. It was not in our lexicon. But there were five boys (I was fourth son) and my mother in a two bedroom (one bathroom) apartment. Mom was a receptionist. She and my father had divorced, and what little money he sent quickly dried up (he subsequently died at an early age).


But not once, I should mention (because it is significant for the evolving conservative narrative), did my mother consider “relief,” (“welfare” today). There was high stigma for such a choice at the time, and today I am thankful that

she didn’t, for who knows what reflexes and instincts for survival would have been blunted had my brothers and I grown up wards of the state.


Not that we didn’t have our problems. For, despite Mom’s best efforts, the manners and habits of the times did invade our lives. One brother was mainlining heroin and ingesting an impressive medley of other mind bending opiates and hallucinogens until he found God in the world of Yoga. Another was into coke and still another into booze. One brother received a college degree. One completed High School. Two dropped out. Somehow they found their way.


My mother was an intensely proud Jew although we did not have an observant home. She lit the Sabbath candles Friday nights, went to synagogue for the holidays, and managed bar mitzvahs for four of us (the youngest missed out). She was also a devoted Zionist and donated whatever she could to Jewish and Israeli causes. She never visited Israel because she could not afford to but instilled in me a love of the old Hebrew faith and the Jewish homeland.

The tales she wove of our great ancestors, the patriarchs, the warriors, and the prophets, stirred my young soul and filled me with the breadth and grandeur of our storied past. I saw them all as relatives, distant yes, but still members of the same extended family. Like many young Jews at the time, though, I fell under the sway of more exotic fare emanating from the East, specifically Yoga and then Buddhism. My love of Judaism would resurface later as would my allegiance to Israel.