movie T^elig, and that, I am convinced,nis what unhinged her. “Eighty poundsnof pepper,” the headline read. She’dnprided herself on the fact that they’dnhad to do only two takes. Playing thenmother of the psychiatrist who curesnZelig of his chameleon tendencies,nNoni played a part for which she wasntypecast. Her hair marcelled into stickyn1920 waves, she glared out at thencamera — an ax murderer crouched innthe dock — and answered the interviewer’snbanal questions with causticnaplomb: “No, we weren’t particularlynpleased with her. She • was what younwould call a brat.”n”But your husband. He must havenbeen very proud indeed?”n”Not really. He was from a very oldnPhiladelphia family. And, you see, hendrank.” She was fierce, uncompromising,nshocking — and hilarious. Therenwas a vicious honesty about her thatnappealed; “the most memorable thingnin the movie,” one critic wrote. Shenand her friend Mrs. Lloyd Garrison,nwho portrayed the psychiatrist in oldnage, were featured in the New YorknTimes, and worse yet the article wasnpicked up by the Paris Herald, amongnother papers, and a friend called hernfrom Rome to tell her how great shenwas. That was all that was needed tontopple her sanity. From that day on,nshe lived in a dream world in whichnextraordinary, marvelous, and disastrousnthings happened. “There’s-beennan earthquake in Hancock [our summernplace in Maine]. Call Winnie andnfind out . . .” And there were deepernrepercussions on our own views ofnreality. When, indeed, there was annearthquake in Chappaqua, and mynbrother-in-law, Phil, called me about it,nI thought he was joking.n”How’s Woody?” I would say to hernsometimes on the phone.n”He never paid me, you know.nThree hundred measly dollars. Younknow what that film earned?” She keptna picture of Woody, the cured, prosperous-lookingnZelig, in a silver framenon her living room desk next to anfavorite one of my father — smiling,nyouthful, glancing up from the deck ofna sailboat. Anyone looking at the overcoated,ndistinguished-looking gentlemannin the fedora, caught for a momentnin the bustle of Madison Avenuensidewalk traffic sometime in the 30’s,nwould have taken it as a picture of hern50/CHRONICLESnfather, or perhaps an uncle. The manngrinning up at her from the ship’s deckncould have been a son or former lover.n”Go right out and buy some dentalnfloss,” she commanded one night.nWhen I asked if it couldn’t wait untilnmorning, she informed me gaily thatnshe’d just been paid “mints” for’doingna dental floss commercial. “Me andnme wooden teeth,” she laughed.nSpeaking in the brogue was always anpositive sign. I hadn’t heard her in suchna good mood in weeks. The truth wasnthat she’d sat in a waiting room, andnthen filled out a form — she and somenfifty other old ladies. Nothing had everncome of it, except in her mind. Shenwent through a brief stage in which shenpossessed vast wealth, and we had toncurtail her check-writing ability. Wenneedn’t have worried that this wouldnupset her, for she continued to writenchecks in her mind — dispensing largess,ndispelling gloom. We all drewncloser to her now. Still physically active,nshe became younger, more entertaining,nalmost overflowing with girlishncharm.n”Did I ever tell you about my affairnwith Fred Astaire?” she remarked onenday to Sandra, who had gotten her thenTjelig job. Her eyesight going, shenwould sit in her apartment, alone fornhours, playing his records, imaginingnherself in his arms.n”Utter nonsense,” I assured Sandra.n”All in her mind.” But when I happenednto mention it to “Aunt” Zorka,none of my mother’s oldest, childhoodnfriends, she beamed.n”Oh, yes,” she said. “We were bothnin love with him.” It turned out thatnFred Astaire had spun them around andance floor at a Brooklyn cotillionnwhen they, and the century, werenroughly 18. They had arranged thenparty — which included an exhibitionnby Fred Astaire and his sister—and innreturn, he had danced each onenaround the room. That was all therenwas to it. But that was enough to alternboth their lives.nOne day her maid came in to findnNoni lying on the floor entangled innthe phonograph wires. Unharmed, shenlooked up with a bad-girl-caught-inthe-actnsmile. She had been dancingnwith Fred Astaire, she explained, andnhad tripped and fallen. After that wendared not leave her alone.nIn the fall of 1985 she was in thennnhospital with a brain tumor. Dr. Goodrichninformed us that nothing could bendone. She wasn’t in any pain butncouldn’t move around very well, andnthe radiation treatments made hernweak. She hated the hospital, as shenhated the fact that she couldn’t staynawake, couldn’t talk, not for long,ncouldn’t read, couldn’t even watchntelevision. What she did when wencame to visit her was play Pat-a-cakenand arm wrestle. The muscles of hernupper arm were amazingly strong. Butnshe had to be forced up out of bed tonwalk.nHome from the hospital, iri_ bednmost of the time now, she began tonsing. “I hear those angel voices singing,”nshe warbled as I came into hernroom one day, and I thought, “Good.nShe has made her peace with God.” Inlooked over at Bea, her loving, longsuffering,nJamaican nurse for the pastnhalf year, and smiled.n”She sing dat piece all the time,”nBea said, “and dat pop tune, what’s itsnname?” Then I heard the rest of thenwords, “old, black Joe,” and I sat downnnext to her on the bed and took hernhand. Fooled again, I thought, pickingnup the song, “I hear those angel voicesnsinging old, black Joe.” Her treble tonmy bass. We sang the spiritual throughntogether two more times.nMy sister had cautioned me not tonreact to her loss of hair but hadn’tnprepared me for the softness its absencengave her features. Her hair hadnbeen white and leonine and now whatnwas left of it was soft and silky andnflattened to her head like a baby’s.nAnd, like a baby, she seemed defenselessnand sweet. She opened her eyesnand looked up at me, as if reading mynthoughts. And then they narrowed innthe old way, and she pointed her fingernaccusingly, “Bald as you. Bald as younnow!”n”Bald as a baby,” I replied andncupped my hand around her head innastonishment and love. She shut herneyes. “You must have been a beautifulnbaby, you must have been a beautifulnchild,” she sang, quick as that. I couldnalmost see her dancing.nIt was only a few weeks later that shendied.nClinton W. Trowbridge writes fromnSedgwick, Maine.n