Pandemic 1968: In which my father relocates us to the Plaza Hotel

Everyone is sick, feverish, vomiting. The six of us. It’s 1968, so my grandfather Avrum who lived with us is already dead. He had a tremor–Parkinsonian souvenir of the 1918 flu. His mother died in childbirth with him. I don’t know her name, and never will.
My world is a rough one, maybe rougher than it will be when I grow up. We are tested for TB because Avrum had TB in his liver, of all places. I love him, and when he moves in with us I spend my evenings worrying that he will die.
At night, I sneak in to watch his breathing, asleep in front of the television.
But he’s dead by 1968 as we, and millions of Americans, go down with the so called Hong Kong flu. We recover slowly, but although the Christmas vacation is over, school is still closed. My mother does not go back to work, and we stay home, getting on each others’ nerves. Winter is my father’s slow season, and I see in retrospect that being cooped up with us is his idea of hell.
So, he takes us to the Plaza Hotel, in mid-town Manhattan. It is a delightful choice. Unlimited room service just a dial away. The family business is booming madly at the end of the Sixties, although later it will go belly up. My father is feeling flush. At times in his role as patriarch my father will ban certain items as too extravagant–no orange juice or shrimp cocktail in restaurants. But now, fatigued from his personal corner of the pandemic, we can order whatever we like.
Which we do. And cruise the corners of the hotel as if we are Eloise. Pop out and hail a taxi, never realizing we are supposed to tip the doorman, who increasingly scowls at us. Jump on beds. Play cards at all hours, watch unlimited television (strictly controlled at home), and write our friends letters on hotel stationary.
Now memory fails me, but life must have returned to normal. What did I learn from my father? I had already learned that a good time–dinner, a trip, a festive holiday– could turn bad through one of his rages. But I also learned that a bad thing–a pandemic with vomiting–could turn to fun.
In many ways, my father was my first and on-going introduction to the complexity of human reality.

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

4 thoughts on “Pandemic 1968: In which my father relocates us to the Plaza Hotel

  1. As soon as I started reading, I pictured Eloise!
    I was so overjoyed when you compared yourself to her…
    I think there’s a smidgeon of her still left within

  2. Mir! I absolutely love this. Since I knew your father, I can easily picture his despair at being cooped up at home with the 5 of you. What cracks me up is that he chose the Plaza, as opposed to any other hotel in NY. Why the Plaza and what did it mean to him? Now please tell us: how did this sojourn at the Plaza turn into a family joke or reference point later on? Sending love!

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