Music critic and journalist, HERBERT KUPFERBERG lives in New York and is on the staff of the New York HERALD TRIBUNE.

I once read in a music-history book that the composer Felix Mendelssohn was the son of a banker named Abraham Mendelssohn, who in turn was the son of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn. Abraham Mendelssohn used to remark that he was first known as the son of his father, only to end up being known as the father of his son.

This always impressed me as an extraordinary sort of situation for a person to be in, and I admired the cheerful outlook taken by the middle Mendelssohn. But I have since learned that what Abraham Mendelssohn was in fact expressing was the human condition in general, and that all of us more or less travel the same circular path.

For the last twenty years I have lived in an apartment house in New York City. One of the many current misconceptions about New York apartment buildings is that no one who lives in them knows his neighbors. This is accurate only up to a point. It may be true that a New York apartment dweller doesn’t know all his neighbors. What is remarkable, though, is that all his neighbors know him. When my family first came to our apartment house I was a very young man still in school, and I had neither the time nor the inclination for contact with the neighbors. Whenever I met a couple going into the apartment adjacent to ours, I assumed they lived there and faintly nodded to them; otherwise, I believe I can say I didn’t exchange a glance with anyone in the house for three years. So I was completely astonished one day when I passed two women in the lobby and distinctly overheard one remark to the other, clearly about me: “Apartment 2E. The boy with the nice parents. Do you know that they —?”

I was, quite obviously, known.

Some years later I married, and my parents moved away. Again I was stupefied to hear the neighbors talking about me as I hurried in from work one evening. This time it was two young women, and one of them was whispering: “Barbara’s husband. Don’t you know her? From 2E. Such a nice girl — ” This mildly irritated me, since I had lived in the house for ten years or so and Barbara had for only two months; still, one learns tolerance if nothing else in marriage, and the incident Somehow recalled to me Sam Weller’s imperturbable reply when Mr. Pickwick once called out a bit imperiously: “Where’s my servant?” Said Sam: “Here’s your servant, sir. Proud o’ the title, as the Living Skellinton said, ven they show’d him.”

Nowadays I note that my designation, like Abraham Mendelssohn’s, has changed still further. This was brought home to me the other day by a dirty-faced but otherwise unexceptionable boy of four who accosted me as I was brushing past him on the path leading from our back entrance to the sidewalk. “I know you,” he said to me in what seemed a slightly accusing but friendly tone of voice. “You’re Seth’s Daddy.”

I couldn’t deny it, any more than Abraham Mendelssohn could in his case, so I patted the lad on the head and went my way. Proud of the title, as the Living Skellinton said.