It was a chilly night in November 1978. I was walking through the parking lot near Building 20, on my way to a talk. I had just come back from giving my first academic presentation at NELS in New York City. The talk was based on one of my general’s papers. I believe it was the one having to do with deriving the sonority hierarchy from markedness theory. The most memorable thing about that experience was how I was introduced. All of this was fresh in my mind, as was the upcoming surprise party for Noam’s 50th birthday (I was going to be, ahem, one of the waitresses) when who should I run into but this guy wearing a trench coat, who turned out to be Chomsky, himself. Wow, I thought, he’s out here unescorted by security. These were post-Watergate years, and I worried more about him than he seemed to be worried about himself.
We joined each other in stride and continued walking to the talk, which featured the man himself.
“So tell me, how did your talk at NELS go?” Noam asked.
I had been introduced by my then married name “Lekach.” And not only that, as “Mrs Lekach.” “I don’t know,” I responded. “The introduction made me feel so old. Like I was fifty years old.” Why, oh why did I pick “fifty”? I knew why, and so did he.
“Them is fightin’ words,” Noam exclaimed with a chuckle.
Fifty came and went, for both of us. Each birthday, I wish Noam “many happy returns of the day,” and note to myself, I’m lucky to have known him all these years.
Best, Ann (class of 1980)