Archive | Catskills RSS feed for this section

My Favorite Catskills Photo of Me

16 Oct

Summer 1957

There are many reasons why I have always Loved this photo. First it was taken in the Catskills when I was 2 1/2. I am blissfully happy sitting in the grass. I love seeing the old wooden outdoor furniture.  I know that bench is Blue. I spent many hours on it over the years. 

I love seeing the women on the bench. The one to the far left is my maternal grandmother. She and my grandfather owned the bungalow colony. And with many family members there, I was surrounded by love. To be honest I am not sure who the other woman is, but I think it is my aunt.  I love that bench as my paternal grandmother taught me to knit and crochet as we sat on it when I was about seven or eight. 

I love that my aunt’s feet are resting on that single chair, as I know she is really relaxing. They mothers only put their feet up when they were settled in for a rest.  There is another chair to my side. It indicates to me that there is a square table to my side as well … the table where my grandmothers, great aunt and their friend spent endless hours playing canasta. 

Further on I see some of the white painted bungalows. This was the original colony. Eventually my grandparents purchased more land and moved some of the buildings. Only two of the original bungalows still exist. The land has been sold off and newer homes were erected. Two of my cousins purchased some of the land, so I am fortunate that I can still walk this property. 

I love how I look in this photo. I remember my Dad telling me that this was his favorite picture of me as a child because in this photo he could finally see how I would look as an adult. But I also love it for the curl in the middle of my forehead. I had and still have thick, curly hair. I cannot tell how often one of my parents would recite this poem to me: “There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good But when she was bad she was horrid.” 

I know that hat and outfit. It was red and white. Because of my black hair my mom often dressed me in red. I rarely wear red now. Blue is my favorite color. But when I envision myself as a child I am often in red or pink. But that hat I specifically remember. I must have worn it for several years before my younger sister was born and she have the chance to wear it. 

I wish I knew what was in the box I am holding. I am sure it is crackers or cereal. But I wish the front of the box was facing out. It would add to the memory. I guess it does not matter.  Whenever I see this photo, I am filled with joy. I am in my happy place. Our home in Kauneonga Lake, in the Catskills where summers were always delightful.  

Advertisements

Are There The Ghosts At Holiday Celebrations?

21 Sep

Another holiday.  A festive meal. Visits with family and close friends. Celebrating. But as I entered the room for dinner, for a moment I saw my Dad the last time he celebrated a holiday at my friend’s home. And next to him was their mother.  Both passed away years ago. But I saw them smiling and talking. 

This is not the first time I saw a vision of a loved one who has passed at a holiday table or at a special event. I am sure some think it is just my imagination or a vivid memory.  Perhaps it is both. 

But I am not so sure. 

How can a vivid memory describe the moment at my daughter’s wedding when, for a brief moment, I saw my parents standing to the side smiling. Was it something I wanted to see so badly, that my brain produced the image for me? Perhaps. 

But what about those times when I can still hear my mother’s voice as I am preparing a holiday meal. I do not use recipes, I just listen to that inner voice telling me what to do next. But that voice is always my Mom or one of my Grandma’s.  So are they there?

Or when I went to purchase holiday challah. At first I thought I would just get one round raisen challah.  We really do not need two challah. But then there was My grandfather’s image pointing to the plain challah as well. Yes I purchased both. Grandpa was a baker, so I had to follow his advice. 

At our Catskills home I have the most vivid images.  One day this summer, as my sister stood at the kitchen sink, I saw two images next to her.  Both my Mom and Grandma stood there and each was superimposed on the kitchen that existed in their time.  It was just an instant, but for a moment I was in a time warp. My sister, my Mom and my Grandma all standing at the sink speaking to me. (They were probably all giving me instructions!)

We have spent over fifty years in the house in Kauneonga Lake, and the memories are so strong there.  We spent many Rosh Hashannah holidays eating a festive meal and preparing for the new year. But there are also so many summer memories infused in the being of the house.  It is not difficult to imagine a loved one walking in the rooms along side me. 

There are ghosts of people I knew in my synagogue as well. Since I go regularly, I am used to people sitting in certain seats. They are not assigned. But people seem to find a place that is comfortable and so sit there every week. I have my seat and from my vantage point I can close my eyes and envision the room filled with those who passed. 

Recently a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor passed.  When I turn quickly I still see him smiling as he sits in his seat, his walker close by. Other survivors who passed fill the seats as well. When I see their children and grandchildren still coming to synagogue, I feel their spirit of joy in the congregation. 

But the most poignant for me happened about two months ago. I noticed a young man come in to shul with his wife and newborn son. They walked directly to the seat where his grandfather always sat. He sat in his grandfather’s seat holding his son, whose name was a memory for his grandfather. I really thought I could see Sol smiling at his grandson and great grandson filling his seat. It is one of my new favorite memories.  

I believe when someone dies they do not totally disappear.  A bit of them, an essence, stays behind. A smell, a sound, a place can bring their memory and their spirit/presence  back to us. I hope I always see and sense the ghosts of the ones I love at my holiday and other celebrations. 

Grandma’s Ceramic Strawberries Were Meant To Be Mine

13 Sep


My Grandma had two ceramic strawberry shaped jam jars that she never kept jam in.  They were filled with thumb tacks, safety pins, buttons and other little items that she needed to keep corralled in a safe place. She kept the jam jars on her kitchen window sill along side her plants. 

I remember them always being in her home. When she moved out of her West New York, New Jersey,  apartment up to her home in Kauneonga Lake in the Catskills, she took the two strawberries with her.  And they once again graced her window sill. Always there.  A beacon in the kitchen. 

I don’t know why I loved them, but I did. They were a shine of color that brightened up the kitchen. Perhaps I loved them because the red strawberries look like two hearts sending a hug of love. 

When my grandmother died, my grandfather left the house basically how Grandma had it. The knick knacks stayed where they were placed by her.  So even though Grandpa lived about eight years longer, the Catskill’s house still felt like Grandma.  And the strawberries stayed in their place in the kitchen. 

The house in the Catskills went to my parents. Mom and Dad remodeled the kitchen and packed up many of my grandmother’s  tchotchkes and placed the boxes in the garage. 

Eventually my Mom had us go through the boxes. She wanted us to take what we wanted before she donated the rest to charity. So my sister, my cousin and I searched the boxes. I focused on finding the two strawberries. I wanted them. I did not know it, but my cousin wanted them as well. 

“I remember seeing them at Grandma’s!” My cousin said…whined…pled. She knew when I wanted something I was one minded, so she made her case to have them as well. 

I was the older cousin, so I should have them was my first thought.  But there were two. And she really wanted one. So we did the right thing.  We each took one. We shared.  I always say, I gave one up for her because I love her. 

My strawberry returned with me to Kansas, where I put it on my kitchen window sill. It looked lonely without its mate. No matter, I knew my cousin deserved one as well. 

But I think Grandma was looking out for me. I think she knew that I really wanted to have two. I am sentimental. Having one was great, but two would be better. I should have known fate would intervene. 

About a year after I brought the strawberry jam jar home to Kansas, I went out to lunch with a work friend on a summer day. I do not remember the exact day, but Grandma’s birthday was in July. 

  We parked near a small antique/trinket store.  After lunch, since we still had time, we decided to browse in the shop. We had never been there before and honestly, I never went there again. But it ended up being a magical place! 

I still remember the moment I saw it: a small ceramic strawberry jam jar.  It seemed to be exactly like my Grandma’s strawberry. EXACTLY!  I knew I had to buy it.  

The owner wrapped it up in brown paper.  I carefully carried it to my friend’s car. I was so excited. She tried to calm me down a bit by telling me it might not be the same.  But in my heart I knew it was a match. 

Later that day, when I  put it next to my jam jar, I was not disappointed. It was a perfect match.  To this day I cannot tell which one I purchase and which one was Grandma’s!  

Do I believe Grandma had a hand in my finding it?  Is it even possible? I am not sure, but sometimes events happen that have no explanation. I think the jam jar falls into this category.  

As for my cousin, the strawberry jam jar she so wanted, she no longer has in her possession.  She told me that she moved so many times since Grandma died about 36 years ago. At some point the strawberry was lost.  I only moved twice across the country, always taking my strawberries with me. 

But it really does not matter whether she kept hers, for I have the two strawberry jam jars that were meant to be mine. 

Mr Anoff and the Sardine Sandwich

11 Aug

When I think about why I love sardine sandwiches, I realize it all goes back to my childhood and one specific incident.   I must have been four or five years old. I was in West New York, New Jersey, visiting my grandparents for the weekend. They owned a bakery on Palisade Avenue around 53rd Street.   Until my sister was born, we lived in an apartment above the bakery. But in 1958, when she was born, we moved to a larger apartment in North Bergen. (See a blog about the bakery below.)

My parents were overwhelmed at times. And I think my grandparents missed us. So every weekend, either my brother or I spent the weekend with my grandparents. This must have been my weekend.

313619_10150307851343566_2577633_n

My grandparents and the Anoffs in the Catskills about 1951.

Also in West New York lived my grandparents’ best friends, the Anoffs. Their daughter and my Mom were best friends. And their granddaughter and I became best friends as well.   Since she still lived in West New York, whenever I came to visit, I often played with her, while my grandparents worked.

I still remember the day of the sardine sandwich.   We had been playing outside for a long time, when Mr. Anoff called us in for lunch.   STOP right there. Mr. Anoff never fed us lunch. It was my grandmother, or my mom, or Mrs. Anoff or her daughter who made sure we ate. NEVER ever Mr. Anoff.   So looking back, right there something was different. Something must have been happening, but I do not what. Neither I nor my friend know why he fed us that day. I can only imagine that the women were doing something. Could it have been a shower? I do not know, but the women were gone!

In the meantime, my friend and I followed her grandfather’s instructions and went upstairs to the apartment for lunch.   I had been in the apartment before. But this was different. Mrs. Anoff was not there! Mr. Anoff was preparing a special lunch. He had out rye bread, lettuce and sardines.   He toasted the bread, mushed the sardines on the bread and added lettuce. He asked if I wanted to try it. I nodded yes. He cut the sandwich in half.   I remember eating sardines for the first time and Loving the taste. My friend did not eat it. She had peanut and jelly if I remember correctly.   (I did not like PB andJ — peanut butter and jelly.)

I ate the entire half sandwich and asked for more. I remember Mr. Anoff smiling at me and giving me another half of a sardine sandwich. It was amazing. I actually can still see the table in my mind’s eye. I can see him making the sandwich. It just has stayed with me forever.

I will admit it started a craze for me. I would often beg my Mom for a sardine sandwich, just the way Mr. Anoff made it. I think I drove her crazy for a while. Everyone else loved the normal PB and J, but not me.  I would watch her to make sure she made it just the way he did!

Honestly, I do not often eat a sardine sandwich. When they were little, my children hated the smell. So I did not eat sardine sandwiches when they were around. Now they are out of the house and I am free to do as I like. As a special treat, I purchase a can of sardines (packed in water) and make myself a sandwich.  It is a moment of memory heaven.

 

img_4070

I almost always try make it on rye bread, but since I am the only one who eats rye bread, I often substitute challah or a bagel. I always put either lettuce or cucumber on it. Just as I did when I was a child. I try to make it as much like as Mr. Anoff did as I can. I mush the sardines onto the bread and carefully place the lettuce or cucumber carefully throughout the sandwich.

I do not think Mr. Anoff ever made us lunch again.   Even in the Catskills, where we spent over two months every summers, he never made us a meal. We had mothers and grandmothers there all the time.  And even though he was almost always around,  I never remember him ever being on lunch duty again.  It was just that one magical time.

I do remember talking to him about sardines once or twice, possibly because my Mom brought up the topic. I think it was a sort of adult joke that I was still eating sardines.  I remember him smiling whenever the topic came up.

But now, most important, I almost always text or email my friend to tell her when I am eating an Abe Anoff sardine sandwich. I think it makes her feel good to know that I am remembering her grandfather, and the good times we had as children.  Mr. Anoff has been gone for many years.  But a piece of him stays in my heart and my taste buds.

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/bakery-aromas-bring-back-delicious-memories/

 

The Sirens of Summer

4 Jul

Although we would go up to the Catskills for Memorial Day Weekend to get our bungalow ready for the summer, we would not begin our true summer stay until Fourth of July weekend. On the east coast, school usually did not finish until the end of June, making the beginning of July the true start of summer.

What a great time it was to be finally up in the Catskills. The weather in the City was already getting too warm, especially without air conditioning. All we could think about were the cool mornings and evenings of the mountains; the endless days of outdoor fun, swimming, boating, and just having fun with friends and cousins.

But there was one sound of summer that we all dreaded. The sirens of summer were a portent of something bad happening.   Whenever we heard the sirens go off from Kauneonga Lake, and saw the cars and pick up trucks carrying the volunteer firemen rush to the station, we knew something horrible had happened.   It was not usually a fire. It was usually a boating accident or a drowning.

IMG_0253

My nephew waterskiing in a boat driven by cousins. Kauneonga Lake 2013.

I remember the look on my mother’s face whenever the sirens went off. It was a mask of anguish. When I became old enough to go out on a boat with friends, she always told me to wear my life jacket; to be careful; and not to fool around.

Every teen who drove a boat was supposed to take lessons and pass a driving test. The office was near the fire station.   I remember going with friends as they went for the test.   But I also know that many times, knowing the rules and following the rules were not the same.

For instance, several of us were canoeing one day, when friends came by in their motor boat. They thought it was great fun to swamp us and make our canoe overturn and fill with water. Luckily we were not too far from the edge of the lake where we could touch bottom. I still remember lifting the canoe over our heads and walking it out of the lake.

But honestly, the young adults I hung out with were usually very careful when out on the lake. We never had an accident or caused one. We might have done a few foolish things in our time, but we also knew that safety was important on the lake.  They never cut off a person who was water skiing or got too close to another boat, unless we were going very slowly and met to meet up.  Yes, we went fast sometimes, but in our day during the week, there were not that many boats on the lake.

Unfortunately, not everyone follows the rules.   And each summer, the sirens would go off.   We knew that someone was in trouble. Eventually we would hear about a drowning or near drowning.  We were thankful for the volunteers who took the time and effort to try a water rescue.  Many of them were friends of my grandfather and father.  So we often heard the entire story of what stupid fooling around caused the tragedy.

With the Fourth of July here, I wish everyone a safe summer. Enjoy your time on the water. Boating is much fun.  I still love the thrill of riding around the lake in a boat.  I love the thrill of hitting the waves produced by other boats.  But I always have a life jacket near by. I know that my cousins will take no unsafe risks.

I pray that this year, no one has to hear the sirens of summer.

Memories of the Multi-Colored, Rainbow Fence

19 Jan

My son and I recently completed a project in my home. We stripped wallpaper off the walls of a bathroom and covered the vacant walls with a lovely sea foam-colored paint. I loved working on this project with my son over his winter break!

While we were painting, I kept flashing back to my Grandpa Nat, for whom my son is named. Grandpa would have loved that my son was taking on a painting project and successfully meeting my expectations.   It was my grandfather who taught me the skill of scrapping and painting and keeping a home in shape.

As the owner of a small Catskill’s bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake, Grandpa did much of the maintenance on his own, with help from my Dad and us, his grandchildren.   The difficult plumbing and electrical work was done by professionals, the painting was a chore we could all do. And we did.

“IF you don’t Work, you don’t Eat,” Grandpa would intone. Of course we always ate, but he wanted us to know that it was important to have a good work ethic. In the real world, not working meant no money.

In the spring, that work ethic was obvious. We would go up to the Catskills before the season began for my Dad to help Grandpa get the bungalows ready. My brother and I were scrappers and painters. They would put us along the bottom of the bungalows that needed to be painted, where we scrapped off the peeling paint.

When that chore was completed to Grandpa’s satisfaction, my brother and I would be allowed to paint the bottom.   I actually loved it! It was my favorite chore, even though all the buildings were painted white. (I think my sister was too young to be part of the paint squard!)

Now I have to tell you that my Grandpa was colorblind. ALL colors looked the same for him. Whereas, my Grandma loved colors. So in a way what happened one spring is partly my grandmother’s fault.

Every other spring, my grandfather would paint the wooden fence that surrounded the colony. Our colony was located across from the lake along the side of West Shore Road.   During the week, the road was quiet with virtually no cars. But on the weekend, the road was zipping with cars.   The fence kept all the children safe.

I do not know why, but one spring Grandpa painted the fence when we were not there.   And instead of getting new paint cans, he decided to use all the old paint that was in storage: exterior and interior paint. Why waste it? He did not mix the cans together. That might have been better, as everything would have been grey.   However, that is not what he did!

Instead as he finished one can of paint, he opened another and continued painting where he left off, over and over again. It was rainbow like in its many colors, but not in any rainbow order. When we drove up to the Catskills and arrived at the colony, we were amazed to see, what I thought was lovely, a multi-colored fence surrounding the property. I cannot remember all the colors that covered the wood. But it was noticeable. My parents were stunned. And then they laughed.

My grandfather had no idea what the fuss was about. When they told him, he just roared in laughter. 

I think it stayed that way for two years, even though some of the tenants complained. Although my mother and grandmother were not fans of the multicolored fence, I was. It made me happy. We were the only bungalow colony with such a joyful fence. When he repainted it, he used just one color, grey. 

So as my son painted the walls in my bathroom, a joyful sea foam blue, I continually flashed back to the joyful multicolored, rainbow fence that surrounded our bungalows.

Kuk Eyn:  Give a Look

26 Dec

“Kuk eyn!” My grandma would say when she wanted my Mom to look at something quickly, usually when we were out of the house in public place. Kuk eyn, two Yiddish words that mean look, eye.  But when Grandma said it, it meant, “Look now, give a look!”

“Kuk eyn!” my grandparents said as thousands of young people walked past our summer home on the way to Woodstock. “Look at them, what are they doing?” Is what they added to their two word exclamation. Everyone was looking at the mass of people walking by.

Kuk eyn, when we were shopping and someone was acting or dressed unusually. Kuk eyn in synagogue if someone dressed inappropriately. Kuk eyn whenever something out of the ordinary happen.

These two words were a signal, a notification. Sometimes they meant, “Watch out! Something is happening!” Whenever I heard Grandma or my Mom said these words, I always looked up with interest. I knew something was up. They were a secret code to pay attention.  “Kuk eyn” in a whisper, “be careful, watch out.”

Kuk eyn.  Give a look.  After grandma died, my Mom continued to use the expression with my sister and me. It was almost always said quietly. Not to draw attention, but to point something out. A whisper in my ear.

My mother has passed away, but I still say it to my sister and daughter. The first time I saw someone with brightly colored hair, when I took my daughter to college to begin her freshman year, I said it to my daughter. The girl with bright pink hair became one of her best friends. It is so common to see pink and purple and peach and blue hair now, I do not even react with a “Kuk eyn.”

Sometimes a “Kuk eyn” is coupled with a nod of the head in the direction to look. A sweep of the eyes to the side was another indication. It was our way to communicate without drawing attention.

Occasionally the words were said in an joyful voice to point out something we really liked. A sort of, “Wow! Look at that!”

Like most of the phrases I know in Yiddish, these two words, said with different inflections, have so many meanings.

There have been times I have been out with friends who do not know Yiddish, when I so wish I could say, “Kuk eyn.”