Today is my first official day on the job as executive director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. On Sunday I will make introductory remarks at JMM’s Annual Meeting and maybe I will meet some of you there.
Transitions like this evoke a lot of excitement and more than a little nostalgia. Among the images brought to mind are those from my “first” first day.
That kid on the left of the photo is me. I’m shaking hands with James Keogh, then the Director of the United States Information Agency, just after taking the oath of office as a member of the foreign service. I am wearing the same light tan suit I wore at my wedding six weeks earlier. Believe it or not, I had just reduced the length of my sideburns and cut my hair – this was the conservative look in 1976!
But the most interesting parts of the day are what you can’t see in the photo. First, there’s my mom who is standing about 20 feet outside the frame, “kvelling.” Second, there’s my socks.
To appreciate this story you have to know two things about me: 1) I’m slightly forgetful – my mom starting calling me “the absent-minded professor” when I was about 10 and I don’t think she meant it as a tribute to my scholarship; 2) I have had lots of problems with my feet that have made me the subject of many quack cures and home remedies (including in the era in question, putting ointment on at night and covering it with white socks).
So on the morning of my first day I very carefully put on my best chocolate brown shirt, donned the tan suit with matching vest, tamped down the still-too-long hair, got in the car and my wife started to drive to the induction ceremony in DC. About half way there, I looked down and noticed I was still wearing the white socks. I freaked out. My wife kept her cool, turned the car around – we got back to the apartment, did the quick change and made it back to the ceremony with about two minutes to spare.
I learned two things that day – first, always check your socks on the first day; and second, if you forget, don’t panic – it will be cropped out of the picture, and the people who care about you will “kvell” anyway.