Brooklyn, NY

Leonard & Phyllis, Brooklyn, NY - married 1950

 

For decades, Lenny and Phyllis Kapner were down-the-hall neighbors of my elderly aunt, who lived in the Kings Highway section of Brooklyn.  They were an important part of her support system, and my visits to her always included time with the Kapners (when they aren’t off travelling or visiting grandchildren).  Sweet-natured and constantly joking with one another, they readily agreed to participate in this essay.  Our initial session was postponed, however, when Phyllis fell and broke her nose; it was nearly a year before we were finally able to gather in their apartment for a meal, a conversation and a portrait.


Phyllis (describing the period before they were married):
There wasn’t this sudden rush of affection.  But he kind of grows on you.  He really… he’s a very stable, warm person.

Lenny:
Tell ‘im… (laughter.)

Phyllis:
I am.  They’ll never find it out themselves.  I have to dress you cute, so…

RF:
Did you have an idea about getting married by then?  You knew it was something you were looking to do?

Phyllis:
I thought it was time for me to get married.  But it wasn’t that all my friends were married, ‘cause they weren’t.  Most of my friends were still single.

Lenny:
Neither were mine.

RF:
How old were you at that point?

Phyllis:
I was 26 when we met.  25?

Lenny:
I was 25.  You were 27.

Phyllis:
(overlapping.)  25, so I was 27.  When we met.

RF:
So, she was older, she had a job, she was making more money.  Were any of these factors for you or her?

Lenny:
No.

Phyllis:
No.  Isn’t that amazing?

Lenny:
No.

Phyllis:
Right.  I mean… more money.  It was like seventy-five dollars…

Lenny:
We lived on my salary.  We didn’t live on hers.

RF:
What’d you do with her money?

Lenny:
We kept it for –

Phyllis:
We put it away.

Lenny:
We hadda work that way.  We figured that eventually we were going to have children, gonna have to live on my salary.  We had to learn how to do it then.

Phyllis:
And when you have a rent of thirty-seven dollars a month, it really is nothing.

Lenny:
That helped.


Phyllis:
I think one of the main things that keeps us from quarrelling is that we never -- or 90% never -- blame the other person for something that has happened.  I mean, if you make a mistake, so you made a mistake, that’s all.Lenny & Phyllis 2

Lenny:
We made a mistake.

Phyllis:
It’s “we made the mistake,” that’s right.  And that’s really true.  I find that doesn’t happen too often, in other marriages.

RF:
So you surrender your ego?

Phyllis:
Yes.  In each case.  That’s exactly the words for it.

Lenny:
That’s just the term.  That’s right.

Phyllis:
You know, they say you have to work so hard at a marriage.  I never had the feeling that we really had to work so hard.

Lenny:
I think this is right from the beginning.

Phyllis:
Right from the beginning.

Lenny:
Right from the beginning.

Phyllis:
That’s the real truth.

Lenny:
We just melted together.

Phyllis:
I think we used to comment on it then.  That’s right.  That’s really true.  I never felt that we had to really work at it.  And I know that Lenny has been supportive of me when I needed it, and I think I’ve been supportive of him when he needed it.  It seems to me that that’s the way it goes.

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