Archive | November, 2015

What I Learned at a Harry Chapin Concert and Why I am Thankful For the Lesson

26 Nov

I went to my first concert at Drew University to hear Harry Chapin. I had been to musicals on Broadway, opera performances at the Met, and symphony concerts. I had even been in Central Park in 1973 when Carole King gave a free concert. I along with tens of thousands of people packed the park. I really did not see her, but I remember the sights and the sounds.

And of course, I was close to Woodstock in 1969 since it was held just a mile and a half from our summer home. With the acoustics and the hundreds of thousands of people, Woodstock actually came to me. I could feel the ground shake and the music rock from my bungalow. It really was a memorable experience.

But I had never ever been to a ‘rock’ concert before, where I actually could see the performer up close. The Harry Chapin concert at Drew was my first such experience.

I have never forgotten his concert, even though I have been to many concerts since then and have seen performances by many musicians. I do not know how, but I was able to sit near the front of the room with my friends. I don’t know how we squeezed so far forward. Did we have tickets with seat assignments? Who remembers ? All I know is that we had great seats! If we actually sat. I sort of remember standing most of the time.

I do know that Harry Chapin touched my soul that night. He sang, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” among many other songs. But it was this song that has stayed with me throughout my life. Listening to him sing that song made me happy and thankful that my Dad always paid attention to us. My Dad always found time to be with us and give us attention.

At the end of the song when the son does not have time for his father, I teared up. Even though I was not quite 20, I already felt his angst of not connecting.

Although the words of that song made me sad, I loved Harry Chapin’s voice and I loved the story lyrics of his ballads. I became a forever Harry Chapin fan.

I owned his records, and then when records (or vinyls) became obsolete, I purchased his songs on CD and ripped them onto my computer and cell phone.

When I had my own children, I took to my heart the lyrics of “Cat’s in the Cradle.” I always made sure that my husband and I had time with our children. My husband, as a physician, was busy. But he always had time to be in charge of bath time and to read bedtime stories to our children.

It was a tradition that he hated missing when he was out of town. And our children hated when he was gone. My bedtime reading was never good enough because Dad made every character special with a different voice. When he read the Harry Potter books…. All the Harry Potter books… we would all sit in the bedroom to listen to him read. Yes, he even read to us when our children could read the books by themselves. Our daughter would zoom through the books by herself, but still come in to hear my husband read.

He always stopped after one or two chapters and we would beg for more. “Just a little bit more, please.” Sometimes he would give in and read a bit more. But it really was never enough. He was and is a great Dad.

So when my children say, “I’m gonna be like him,” I know that they mean they will be good parents who spend time with their children. Not distant parents who missed the best times of their children’s lives.

Over the years other concerts have made an impression: Paul Simon; Brian Wilson; James Taylor; Peter, Paul and Mary. My husband and I took our children to see Weird Al Yankovic…twice. Two family outings I do not think we will ever forget. (The third time they wanted to go, they were old enough to go without us!)

In the past year I have been to three concerts by some of my favorite ‘oldies’: James Taylor, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross. All of them have songs that I love. And have meaning for me. James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” reminds me of the summer I was 16. Diana Ross has many songs I love. And Neil Diamond’s songs make me want to dance.

It is a different feeling when I go to see these concerts. Yes for Diana Ross, we were all on our feet almost the entire concert singing and dancing along. I enjoyed the crowds singing along with Neil Diamond at the Sprint Center in Kansas City and at the wonderful concert at the Starlight Theater to listen to James Taylor.

But nothing compares to that first concert at Drew. The excitement I felt walking from the dorms; the anticipation of being with so many people listening to a favorite singer; the joy of being there and seeing him in person: it was fantastic.

A moment I will never forget mainly due to a song that impacted my life. I was so fortunate not to have a far away father who had no time. I have heard this following many times, “You never hear anyone say I wish I had spent more time at work, rather they say, I wish I had more time with my family.”

I am thankful that in my world family came first.

 

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/harrychapin/catsinthecradle.html

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The Lighthouses That Made Me Feel Safe

22 Nov

When I was a little girl, my family drove every weekend from North Bergen, New Jersey, into New York City to have dinner with my paternal grandparents and my father’s family. We had to drive over the George Washington Bridge and into the Bronx.

My favorite part of this drive was usually on the way home. Then sometimes my Dad would drive in a round about way so we came to a point where we could see the little red lighthouse under the bridge. We did not always see it, but when we did it made me happy!

We had often read the book by Hildegarde Swift, “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.” It was one of my favorites. I loved the story about the lighthouse being happy till the bridge was built, and then had to realize it was still important. I loved that little lighthouse that lives in Washington Park. So those little excursions to see it filled me with joy.

Rainbow and bridge

Near the bottom of the rainbow stands the little red lighthouse. View from my parents apartment.

Even now, whenever I am back east, I try to get a glimpse of the lighthouse. But it is much harder to see from the roads with all the barriers up, unlike the 60s when it was more open.

When my siblings and I were married, my parents moved into an apartment in Cliffside Park. Their view overlooked the Hudson River. From my parent’s apartment we could look north and see the George Washington Bridge and the New York City skyline. Whenever I was there I would try, perhaps through the trees, with binoculars, to see the little red lighthouse.

I really not see it. But I would imagine it sitting across the river just under the bridge, at the end of a rainbow.   In my mind it was always saving people, even though it had not be used in decades. The lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

I know it is more than just the book and the adorableness of this little red beacon that made me love lighthouses. Our family had its own attachment to the security a lighthouse provides. My maternal grandparents had a lighthouse nightlight that kept us safe at night in the Catskills.

Lighthouse in the Catskills

The lighthouse nightlight in the Catskills house.

Night in Kauneonga Lake is extremely dark. There are no street lights. And when the night comes and the lights go out…it can be scary for children. Well for adults too, if you do not like the dark. And I do not like the dark!

It was this little lighthouse nightlight that made me feel safe.   It was not the usual nightlight. This heavy brass sculpture has a tiny light bulb in the top that can be switched on and off. Throughout my life, well since about 1964, it sat on a table at the bottom of the stairs. And every night that I spent at my grandparents’ and then my parent’s Catskill home, this lighthouse’s small beacon illuminated the scary dark nights. It was a beacon that kept use all safe. I loved that little lighthouse, as did my siblings and all the grandchildren.

The watchtower nightlight

My watchtower nightlight.

So when my children were little, I also bought a ceramic lighthouse/tower/nightlight that I kept it at the bottom of my stairs, in deference and in honor of the lighthouse I so remembered and loved. My nightlight was not really a lighthouse. It is more of watch tower with a dragon guarding it. But it was the idea of it that made me want to own it and use it in my house. It reminded of my grandparent’s nightlight.

Lighthouse

The Catskills lighthouse in my house.

I now have both nightlights.   After my parents passed away, and we divided some of the belongings, I took the lighthouse back to Kansas with me. I have it sitting on a small half table, just as it sat on a small half table in the Catskills. I have it near the bottom of the stairs. But it is not plugged in anymore. The cord is frayed and I am concerned about the chances of sparks. But I see daily, and I remember the glow of its light.

Across from it is the newer nightlight watch tower. The watch tower is plugged in, but with no children at home, I no longer turn it on. Both lights are out now. But in this troubled time, I still l feel a sense of security when I see a lighthouse and my lighthouse night lights.  I imagine sometimes that they nod to each other and whisper, “we kept them safe.”

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Red_Lighthouse

Making The Chuppah For My Daughter’s Wedding Brings Me Joy

17 Nov

My daughter is getting married in less than ten months now. Although they announced their engagement six months ago, and I should be used to the idea, I am still excited and a bit anxious. I want it to be a beautiful wedding. And I wanted to do something special for her. So I decided I would crochet her chuppah, the wedding canopy.

Cotton thread

The cotton thread which will become the chuppah for my daughter’s wedding.

I am a crazed crocheter. I make doilies and baby blankets out of cotton yarn. Crocheting is how I relax.   For my son’s bar mitzvah, I made over 60 head coverings for the married women who attended the service. Of course we bought kippot for the men. But I wanted the women to have something special as well. And even though his bar mitzvah was 12 year ago, I still occasionally see someone wearing one of the coverings I made at our congregation.

I did not make anything for my daughter’s bat mitzvah. She occasionally would mention to me what I did for my son’s event, and not for hers. But I explained that I was not crocheting as much then. And eventually I would do something for her. The time has come.

When I first suggested making her chuppah, she told me that I did not have to take on such an extensive project. Then she posted a photo of a wedding gown someone crocheted on my Facebook page. It was beautiful. But I knew I could not do that. However, some of my friends (one in particular) went crazy and started sending me lots of Pinterest photos of crocheted wedding gowns.   They were stunning. But with my daughter living out of the country, I thought that would be too difficult.

So this summer I started working on a sample of the chuppah I thought I would make for my daughter to see when she came in to do wedding gown shopping. It was NOT a hit. She did not like the pattern I chose at all. I had to start looking again. She gave me some ideas of what she liked and then left it at that.

But her fiancée was more enthusiastic. His comments included: You can also make all the head coverings: kippot for the men and chapel covers for the women. How about you crochet me a new tallit. That would be great you can make me my tallit. I know how to but the tzitzi on.”

It is traditional for some Jewish families for the bride to buy her husband a tallit before they get married. I bought my husband his tallit.

I was not going to crochet a tallit. OY Gevalt. That was just too much pressure. I would like to say he was teasing to a degree. But I think a bit of him really wanted me to make one. (Actually my daughter says he really wants me to make one….but I do not think so!)

I still might make coverings for the women for the ceremony. But I do not think I am going to crochet all the kippot.

However, I am now working on the chuppah. I found a pattern my daughter likes and approves.   I have started making the squares and crocheting the pattern.   I am about 1/14 of the way. With just nine months to go, I have to keep busy. When my husband and I travel, I take part of the cotton yarn with me and I crochet the inner flower that will be at the center of every square.

Flight delays are a perfect time for heavy duty crocheting.   Volunteering at a registration table also serves as a perfect time for crocheting. Except when people keept asking what I was making and then want to look at it.   It reminds be that thread crocheting is almost a lost art. Many women, young and old, told me about someone that used to know who could crochet as I do, usually their mothers or grandmothers.   And it was my grandmother who taught me over 50 years ago.

They love looking at my work and telling me what their loved one made for them years ago. One woman told be about the veil another woman made for her daughter…a crocheted veil.   My heart is going there as well. But my brain says, STOP!

I get a bit anxious when I am sitting at a meeting and not crocheting. I feel like I should bring it everywhere with me. But would that be rude?   I am under a time crunch. And I want it to be perfect.

I will be honest, the chuppah I crochet will not be the only canopy over my daughter and her future husband.   We have the final tallit my Dad wore. When he passed away we buried two tallisim with him: his bar mitzvah and wedding ones. But this one we kept as our Mom purchased it especially when he became president of his shul. My son now uses it for services. But we (my siblings and I) agreed it would be used as part of the wedding chuppah for each of the grandchildren.

The beauty of the chuppah I am making is that after the wedding, it can be used as a tablecloth. It will have a life after the wedding.   I hope whenever they use it they will feel my love surround them and their marriage.

For now, all my other projects are on hold! I will stop making baby blankets and doilies. Well that is my plan, except people I know keep having babies. So perhaps I will have to sneak a few in.

And it is possible, just possible, I might have to add some crochet elements for my daughter’s veil. We will see.

In the meantime, I am making the chuppah for my daughter’s wedding, which brings me joy.

img_9903

My daughter and son-in-law under the huppah I made.

 

Chuppah: wedding canopy

Kippot: head covering

Tallit: prayer shawl

Tzitzi: Fringes on the four courners of a tallit

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/i-am-proud-to-be-a-cotton-thread-yarn-addict/

Shalom Salaam Peace

14 Nov

Where does the corruption of the value of life come from?  What sort of religious leader sends people out to slaughter innocents? Who is the person who would commit such acts of violence against others and self for some sort of glory? And how do sane and good people cope in the presence of such acts of evil?

To come out in the name of a religion to kill without thought or consciousness is so wrong. These acts are acts of hatred and evil. Not the teachings of any religion.

But these acts cause rebounding hatred and fear. They spread a virus of unease causing even good people to lose their own inner common sense as they see these acts of horror.

We have seen it over and over as towers fall and trains explode and burn and innocent people perish in restaurants, concerts, marathons, stores. 9/11 in the USA. 3/11 in Spain. 11/13 in Paris. Stabbings in Israel. Beheadings and mass murders in areas controlled by the disease that is ISIS.

Those who act for these militant Islamic groups are not the true voice of any religion. Just as the Christians who perpetrated the Shoah did not represent all Christians. Those who use religion as a reason to murder corrupt religion.

The terrorist want to win by creating more terror and more fear. But in reality there are many more good people than there are evil people. We are the majority. We must work together. We must overcome fear. And we must reach out to the other good people in the world to create a presence of love and understanding.

Yes we must work together to rid the world of the evil of these groups who commits horror. But we must not become them.

Baruch Dayan HaEmet. May the memory of all the people killed and murdered and injured in attacks of hatred in Paris and Israel and throughout the world be as joyful memories to their families and friends. May their names be blessings. May their families know peace as they find a path to comfort.

But may the haters be destroyed and the seeds of such evil be eliminated from the world.

Blessed is the peacemaker. May we all continue to work for peace. Cursed are those who would bring hatred to the world.

Blessed is the Name.

Shalom. Salaam Peace be unto all.

Museums Help Me Honor Our Relatives Who Served on Veterans’ Day

10 Nov

On November 11, every year I go over to the Korean War Memorial that was established just about a mile from my home. Years ago I put a stone in the memorial for my Dad who served in Korea as a forward observer.

A portion of the Korean War Memorial in Kansas.

A portion of the Korean War Memorial in Kansas.

The truth is my Dad loved military history. He loved reading about the Civil War, World War 1 and World War 2. I have visited many museums just to see them and to think about my Dad. In Kansas City we are fortunate to have the National World War One Museum and Liberty Memorial. It was remodeled over five years ago. My husband and I went to check it out to see if my Dad would be able to navigate its halls and exhibits. We thought he would love it. Unfortunately my Dad passed away before we could take him there.

We are also fortunate to have two presidential libraries nearby that also speak about our country’s efforts in war. We have been to the President Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, and the Eisenhower Library in Salina, Kansas.  Both have significant information about the Second World War and dedicate a portion of the libraries to the presidents involvement and service.

About 14 years ago I went to the National World War Two Museum in New Orleans. I took my children with me; they were then 15 and 11. We walked through the entire exhibit. That day there was a special ceremony in the lobby as veterans were being presented awards. The entire time we were there, we spoke about how much Grandpa would love this museum! I bought my Dad a book and some other memorabilia from the museum. I know he wanted to see it one day.

We also visited a small Civil War museum in New Orleans, called the Confederate Memorial Hall Museum. It has been a part of New Orleans since 1891. This small museum supposedly houses the second largest collection of Civil War items. Dad would have loved it as well.

I have been to Hawaii and visited the USS Arizona Memorial and seen the droplets of oil floating to the surface of Pearl Harbor, like droplets of tears still escaping. I have walked through the USS Missouri and saw the spot where the treaty that ended the Pacific War was signed.

I have visited military cemeteries: Arlington National Cemetery, The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, and the Ft. Leavenworth National Cemetery. I have seen my father buried with full military honors including a flag-draped coffin, the folding and presentation of the flag and a serviceman on the bugle playing Taps.

The Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas.

This weekend in my continued efforts to honor veterans and their service, I spent a day in Fredericksburg, Texas. I was in San Antonio for a meeting with my husband. A good friend picked me up from the hotel for this field trip to the National Museum of the Pacific War. Who knew it even existed! We wandered through the halls and learned about what was happening in China and Japan that led to their entrance into the war. We saw planes and submarines.   A replica of the atomic bomb hangs from one of the ceilings.

I saw information about Manila and the infamous Bataan Death March. That stands out in my memory as my husband’s Aunt Grace was one of the nurses in Bataan. She was one of the few who were evacuated from the island on a submarine and so did not have to suffer through the march and the horrible internment. I was able to show my friend the book, We Band of Angels, which features two pictures of Aunt Grace in group photos.

The walkway memorial to presidents.

The walkway memorial to presidents.

We then walked through a memorial to our country’s presidents to the Nimitz Hotel founded by the family of Admiral Chester Nimitz. It is now a museum honoring his memory and his work as the Admiral of the Pacific Fleet. I believe I honored those who serve by visiting these museums.

And always on Veterans’ Day I think of my Dad, who served in Korea. My Uncles Bernie and Stanley who served in World War Two; My husband’s Uncles Ben and Fred who were military physicians in World War Two; His Uncle Richard who served in Korea; and his Aunt Grace and Aunt Florence who were nurses in World War Two. My husband’s grandfather served in World War 1. And not to leave anyone out, I also think of my husband’s and my cousins who served in all of these wars including Vietnam.

Museums do not tell the full story. They cannot transmit the heartache that follows a person throughout their life because of the things they saw, the odors they smelt, the lives that were lost and the changes it caused in their psyche. But for me to visit these museums, I feel I am showing respect for the sacrifices these veterans made for all of us. I am proud there are so many veterans in our family!

“Who are you?” These Photos Call Out to Me

3 Nov

I look through this photo album and I cringed. There are so many unnamed children and adults. Did they survive? How are they related? Who are you? Who ARE you?

For some I am fortunate, there are names written on the back of the photos in English, or German or Yiddish. And someone can translate the names for me. The English ones are easy, I usually know who they are and how they are related. Some are photos of people I knew about, but had not seen.  Some I post on Tracing the Tribe Facebook group to see if someone can translate the words written on the backs for me.

Others are photos of people now identified as a cousin. But I have no idea who they are? How they are related? Or what happened to them during or perhaps after the Shoah? The photos are from the 1920s and 1930s in Europe. It is almost painful to look at these photos because I do not know what happened.   And I imagine the worst. I only can look at a few photos at a time.

My grandmother's first cousin, Dora, and her husband.

My grandmother’s first cousin, Dora, and her husband.

The ones I know give me a chill.   I see one of a couple, Dora and Max, from what I think is their wedding in 1924. Oh My. I met Dora in Israel in 1975 when I took my Grandma Thelma to Israel to see her brother and family.   She had not seen her brother since 1932, over 40 years. Much had happened to them and to their family.

While in Israel on this trip, I met many family members who came specifically to see my grandmother. Although I had lived in Israel and gone to college there for a year, I had not met these people before.

But really of the new family members I met, I remember Dora and her daughter the best.   I still l can hear her daughter asking me all sorts of questions about my grandmother. When I questioned her, she responded saying basically, “Look I am told that this Thelma is my mother’s first cousin. My mother lost so much in the war, I want to be sure who she is before I bring her to see this Thelma.”

And so I answered the questions. The answers were right. My grandmother and Dora were first cousins. They had not seen each other also in over 40 years.

They spoke only in Yiddish.

I will never forget their meeting. I will never forget the tears and the pain as Dora told my grandmother what had happened. I will never forget seeing them sit together on the couch in our room holding hands and crying. Dora’s daughter, who was the age of my mother, handing them tissues. I was overwhelmed. I was just 20, and this was beyond my abilities to cope. I sat and I listened and I watched.

The back of the photo with the inscription.

The back of the photo with the inscription.

So to open this album and see a photo of Dora and her husband from 1924 almost breaks my heart. A photo inscribed to my grandmother: “Die Kusiene Taba Schenk in America, Die Beste grusse fenden wir dir deine kusiene   Dora and Max 11/2/1924.”

Taba Schenk, Tova Szenk, my grandmother’s maiden name. My grandparents married a few months later, and my grandmother became Tova/Thelma Amsterdam.

In the photo, Dora is a young woman, but she looks just like the woman I met so many years ago in a hotel in Tel Aviv. She is not as old of course. But the face is the same. She is cleared eyed holding on to a long strand of pearls, her husband sitting next to her.
Dora’s life changed with the war.   But she survived. She had children and grandchildren. And eventually reunited for a visit with her kusiene Tova.

About the photo album:

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

An earlier post about the trip to Israel with my Grandma:  https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/