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Your Heart Just Gets Larger

26 Jan

Recently my cousin uncovered a photo, I had never seen before. When my Grandma Esther died, my Dad and his siblings divided up the family photos.  My cousin is now investigating the ones in her Dad and Mom’s album. This photo actually had something written on the back of it.  And I am the one with the story, because of my story.


When I married, I never expected infertility. I was in love, we were healthy, there were no problems. So when decided to get pregnant, I was devastated when we seemed unable to have children.

After the first year , I was sent on to a specialist and started on years of tests, surgeries and medical treatments.  Throughout this all, I had one major supporter, my Grandma Esther.  In her late 80s, Grandma was not one to let me give up. During a time when long distance phone calls cost extra before 11 pm, Grandma became my late night phone call.

I lived in Kansas, so when my phone rang after 10 pm, I knew it was an East Coast call. If it was not my parents, it was Grandma Esther with advise!  Her first calls were to tell me that she also had problems when she first tried to have children. She told me to stop stressing and go to the ocean. She and grandpa went to the ocean and she got pregnant with my uncle.

Well, I could not go to the ocean from Kansas. But I felt the love. Over the next few years Grandma’s phone calls came with more involved medical advise. I could see in my mind’s eye, multitudes of grandmas sitting around and coming up with cures.

Eventually I did have a healthy baby girl. My Grandma was so excited. At age 88, she flew to Kansas to be here for my daughter’s naming. Grandma’s advise did not end. Having nursed three infants, she was an expert. She announced one day that I was doing it all wrong. “If you are going to nurse, you need to do it the right way,” she said. With in minutes she had placed cushions and a footstool around me, and nursing became so much easier.

I wish I could say that was the end of my struggles, but it was not. I was unable to have another pregnancy. But I was not done with motherhood. My husband and I turned to adoption.

It was not easy. We had two strikes against us. One, we already had one child. Two, we were Jewish. Agencies in Kansas were basically religion based. We were told we could register, but when a better qualified (Christian) family came, we would be put to the back of the line.  We tried private adoption. But two weeks before the baby was born, the mom changed her mind. Again difficult.

Finally we found the Adam’s Center, a local agency that helped Jewish families.  No longer in existence, it helped about three dozen families adopt babies. Not all were Jewish.  We were one of the fortunate ones, and our son arrived.

My Dad was a bit nervous about this. On his way home from a business trip in California, he stopped in Kansas to meet his newest grandson. My sister called in advance, “Dad is nervous that he won’t love him the same.”

No worries. Dad arrived. I put the baby in his arms. My Dad looked up and said, “how could you not love that punim, that face.”  And then he told me, “With each child and grandchild, you do not split the love you have. No your heart just gets bigger and bigger.”  My parents had big hearts.

Dad was still nervous about how his mother, my Grandma Esther, would react. As far as he knew, there had never been an adoption in the family. How little he knew.

Grandma was now 92.  She did not fly out, but she called. She was so happy and told me the story of her cousin, Messuganah Esther.  She told me  in the old days, early 1900s, people, who had no children,  often adopted orphan children. Most of the time they were related. But sometimes, they were the children of friends. I must say that orphan sometimes just meant one parent had died.

In any case, my Great Grandmother Ray, had a sister, Chamka.  When Chamka finally made it out of the Bialystok region to join her siblings in the USA, she was a widow with three young children. And she was pregnant.  What was she to do?  Her sister Sarah had no children. and Sarah had a good job and could support a child.  So when Chamka gave birth, the daughter Esther, was given to Sarah to raise. Because so many girls were named Esther, she received the nickname, Meshugganah Esther. (See previous blog, Too Many Esthers.)

The photo is touching. It shows Chamka (Champy) holding Meshugganah Esther’s daughter, Lenore.  And it tells part of the story on the back.


Needless to say, when I brought my son back East for the first time, my Grandma Esther showered him with the same love she gave every great grandchild. She had a handmade afghan waiting for him as she did for all 18 of her great grandchildren. Because in my family, with every child, grandchild and great grandchild, you do not divide your love, your heart only gets larger and able to hold more love.

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The Purloined Blankets: A Winter’s Tale

30 Dec
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Blue purloined blanket and plaid purchased blanket.

With the bitter cold weather, I am thinking about my Dad and one of his lessons to me.

Always keep a blanket in the car during the winter months, especially when driving long distances.  His insistence about blankets used to drive me crazy.

My parents would come to Kansas to visit and not understand the Kansas winter mentality. Many people here do not wear winter coats most of the time.  Since we have a ‘drive up to where you are going attitude’ in the suburbs.  We really do not walk around that much.  We get into our cars and drive to where we are going, then run in.  So why wear a winter coat? A sweater is more than enough. I admit when I was younger, I would do the same thing.  But I always kept my children bundled up.

This attitude sometimes backfires on our children.  My god son went from the Kansas City area to Madison, Wisconsin, for college.  His mom suggested that he take long sleeve shirts and a winter coat up to college with him, his freshman year.  No, he did not want any of that.  Then came Thanksgiving break.  His main request was a hat with ear flaps.  He was so cold walking across campus.  Winter coat, gloves, scarf and long sleeve shirts returned with him to Madison.

My daughter went to college in New Jersey.  She also was impacted by winter in this unexpected manner. Walking across campuses really is different than Kansas ‘run in and run out.’  Her request that first winter was a coat that covered her tush. I quickly agreed to that request.

But back to my Dad.  When my family was young, we often drove to and from St. Louis in the winter months.  My husband’s family lived there. It made my parents nervous.  So they purchased a plaid blanket for my car in case the car broke down.  Having a blanket in the car was their idea of safety against the cold of winter.

He also purchased a car emergency kit for me that had a first kit, jumper cables and a flash light. Even though that kit is long gone, I have made sure we always had one in every car. That makes sense to me. So I never argued about that.

It was the blankets in the car that really drove him crazy. He wanted me to have a blanket for each person in the car. What would happen if we were stuck? We needed a way to keep warm. His passion became stronger after the time my husband, children and I got stuck in a snow storm on the way back from St. Louis.  But we spent the night in Columbia…at a hotel… I told him.   It did not matter.  He was now truly concerned. I  needed blankets,  now!

Dad did buy me another blanket.  But I have to admit, even though he was an honorable, kind and gentle man, my Dad had one flaw that I hesitate to tell you about. But I will.  He was a bit of a goniff, a thief!  He stole the blue blankets from airlines. Do you remember them?  We used to get one each time we flew…not any more.  But years ago, they always had a blanket and pillow on every seat. (His favorite airline blanket….Continental.  The airline no longer exists, except for the many blue blankets in my life.)

Dad would not use his.  He would bring in to my house still wrapped in its plastic bag. It made me crazy. When he flew to visit in the winter time, he often would come off the plane with a blanket. When he got to my house, he would pull it out of his carryon bag and quietly place it in my car.  I soon had a collection of blue blankets. During the winter, I kept a canvas bag filled with blankets in my car in case of emergency. Some purchased, some purloined.

We had disagreement after disagreement as the blue blankets continued to enter my home.  Finally my Mom had enough.  “Don’t tell him not to bring you the blankets.  The more you complain, the more he does it,” Mom demanded.  She was right, once I stopped yelling at him and arguing, he stopped taking the blankets off the planes.

Dad passed away in 2011.  I no longer worry about the blankets in the car.  Or so I thought.

My son’s girlfriend lives over an hour away. They drive back and forth every weekend. One coming here, or one going there.  It is so cold today and she has to drive home, so I asked, “Do you have a blanket in your car?” The answer, “NO.”

Oy,  I feel my Dad’s spirit rising up in me!

The plaid blanket my Dad purchased for me over 30 years ago is going into my son’s girlfriend’s car. My son will get the canvas bag filled with purloined blankets.  When it is this cold, you do need a blanket in your car for long distance travel!

As we enter the new year, I realized more and more that we do become our parents. My sister also has our Dad’s safety gene. She gave me a Vera Bradley blanket that folds into a pillow for Hanukkah. It is my new car blanket.

Wishing everyone a safe, warm, and happy memory filled year!

I Just Love Bakery Cookies

16 Dec

Recently a friend of mine asked me to come to speak to a group of 4-6th grade children and their parents/grandparents who were taking a baking class. The children learn a new recipe and also listened to a short talk about the recipe’s place of origin.

I was asked to speak about living in New York City and, black and white cookies.  This was an easy task for me. I have a thing for black and white cookies.  Also, I grew up basically in a bakery.  My grandparents owned a kosher bakery in New Jersey until I was 14.  Meaning I spent many hours helping and visiting and eating in the bakery.

I easily spent 15 minutes talking about living above a bakery; apartment houses; fire escapes; and other New York differences for these children who live in the suburbs of Kansas. Apartment dwelling in tall buildings is not a common occurrence in Kansas!

The talk was over quickly, but it started me thinking about the cookies.  Perhaps the holiday season helped to think of cookies —  not that this is a difficult topic to think about.  But I did start thinking about my favorite bakery cookies!

I love black and white cookies. These large round cookies are covered by both chocolate and vanilla icing divided down the middle of the cookie.

And I am telling you now, when you cut a black and white cookie in half, you must always give each person half the white and half the black.  The only time I made an exception to this rule was for my son….he never ate the chocolate side.  But for everyone else, the rule remains!

There is only one place in Kansas City that I have found black and white cookies that are decent.  The D’Bronx Deli near my house is where I go for this comfort food.  A typical lunch for me is a bowl of chicken noodle soup with a Matzah ball, iced tea and a black and white cookie. I do share it, as described above.  But if my companion does not want to share, I am always content to take it home to devour later.

I have tried other black and white cookies available in Kansas, but none have matched the cookies at D’Bronx.

My cookie desires follow me.  Whenever I go to New Jersey, my sister knows that a visit to Miller’s Bakery in Tenafly is a must stop for some black and white cookies.  Last time I was home, the bakery was OUT of my favorites.  We had to order some for the next day.  But the day was not a wasted, the bakery did have New York Chinese chocolate chip cookies.  These are also quite excellent.  A large chocolate chip cookie with a giant dab of melted chocolate on the top marks a Chinese Cookie in an East Coast Deli.

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There does not seem to be any real information on where these cookies originated, except they might come from Chinese almond cookies, as they do have an almond taste.  I haven’t seen them anywhere but in New York and New Jersey, but I assume wherever there is a Jewish bakery or deli, there might be these delicious cookies.

In any case, when I could not get my black and white cookies, I went to second choice…Chinese Chocolate Chip Cookies.  It was equally yummy, in a slightly different way!

Honestly, my sister and I find it good exercise to walk the mile to Millers for a cookie and coffee. Sometimes one of our friends meets us there. Then we walk back. No guilt cookie eating!

In an effort to be fair to all bakery cookies, I will admit that there is one more that touches my taste memory as well.  The raspberry linden cookie, also known as a Linzer Torte.  My grandfather always called them linden cookies.  These are two-layer cookies.  The bottom is round with scalloped edges. The top matches the size of the bottom and the scallops, but the center has a hole where the raspberry jelly can ooze through.  These are quite excellent if you are in a gooey, sugary mood.

Actually I have no problem eating any of these three cookies.  Growing up in a bakery, however, impacted my taste buds.  Whatever cookie I eat always is in competition by the taste memories I have from my grandfather’s bakery.  To be honest no cookie ever meets the challenge. But I have fun searching, because I just love bakery cookies.

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. 

Monarch Butterflies Bring Joy

12 Sep

It has been a harsh end of summer. Hurricanes have devastated Houston, Texas,  and large swatches of Florida. Homes destroyed; trees down; major flooding; and entire communities destroyed in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean. 

 Major fires are burning throughout the northwest creating horrible smog throughout the region and destroying forests and homes. They could have used at least 12 inches of the 50 inches of rain that devastated Texas. 


It has been difficult to find a bright spot. But then I noticed an amazing sight. Instead of the two or three Monarch butterflies I have seen daily the past few years, this year I have seen a multitude of butterflies.

 Our home is an official butterfly garden. We do plant flowers and milkweed to attract the butterflies. And we do not spray any pesticides on our lawn or flowers.  (I wrote about saving the butterflies in an earlier post. See link below.) So we have been hoping we would eventually see an increase in butterflies. 


I was still amazed.  I have seen swarms of butterflies daily since Friday. And today the most I have seen in years, along with a multitude of bees. In fact, when I went to a garden center on Friday, I saw so many butterflies I could not even count them! 

I went on line to check on the Monarch migration for this year. Was it better than past years?  I found mixed results. One said there were 27 percent less Monarchs wintering in Mexico this past winter. But another said the migration this spring equaled last year or was better.  

No matter what the experts say, there a definitely more here than last year. Something that can bring a bit of Joy. 

PS: Since publishing this I have heard from many friends and neighbors stating they have also seen a tremendous increase in butterflies. This is wonderful as we are on the migration path!!
https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/saving-the-monarch-butterflies/

Death By Chihuly…Or So It Seemed

24 Jul

I was 3 ½ when my family moved from West New York, NJ, to North Bergen. The reason for the move was the soon to be arrival a new sister. The apartment we lived in was too small with only two bedrooms.   So we left the safety of West New York, and my grandparent’s bakery, to venture off to North Bergen.

We lived in a three-family home, we had the second floor. Next door was a family with one daughter, known here as DAS, who was a bit older than my brother, and 18 months older than me. DAS became my buddy. We loved each other, even though over the years she almost killed me several times and got me into the biggest trouble ever!

But I guess it does not matter. We are tied together though the bonds of our childhood memories, the close friendship of our parents, and shared memories that no one else, but my siblings share. DAS has to love me for life for all she has done to me over the years.   And I tell her that.

I have written in another blog about being pushed through a basement window and almost dying. That was DAS. I have written in a different blog about hitchhiking with a friend, even though my parents had forbidden it. Yes, that was DAS. Or the time we almost killed my brother by tying a rope across the driveway and pulling it up just as he rode his bicycle toward us. Yes DAS!

I could write about smoking my first and only cigarette…YES DAS.   Or even my one time of shoplifting as a tween.   DAS!  She dared me and told how to do it. Or the time I broke my big toe walking on cinderblocks after my grandfather specifically told us not to do it! Since my parents are no longer alive, I can now tell all. 

So over the years, I have complained to DAS about her being the cause of my biggest troubles as a child. Oh, I admit she was also the cause of some of my favorite memories.   It was not all bad with DAS.

I have known DAS for 59 years. That is a long time for a friendship. I won’t go through the years we did not see each other. It does not matter. What does matter is that now, even though we grew up in New Jersey, we live just three or so hours apart in the Midwest. I live in Kansas and she lives in Arkansas.   And over the past few years we have tried to see each other several times a year.


This summer it was mine turn to go visit her. My excuse was that I wanted to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. I did write about the exhibit. (See below link). That is not my issue here. The issue here is that DAS is still trying to kill me. Not on purpose, but it happens.

First night in her house. She tells me that she cannot use the shower in her bathroom, she needs to shower in the guest bathroom. Okay, so when I was done, I went to her bathroom to brush my teeth while she showered.   I think she forgot I was there, and turned off all the lights while I was in the bathroom.

Luckily I remembered that when I left her bathroom (up three steps) and then walked through her bedroom into a small hallway, there were two little steps somewhere. I could not see them. I did not know where the light switch was, so I walked very carefully. It did not matter, I hit the steps and fell to my knees. Luckily I was going up! So I really did not hurt myself too much.

Her dog, Rue, started barking. And she yelled out, “Did you fall? What happened?”
“You turned the lights out. You tried to kill me for the 59th time!!!” I yelled back, while rubbing my knees.

She was sorry. And I forgave her. Something, I have been doing for along time. And I thought we were done. One death per weekend seemed enough.

But the weekend was not over. We still had the Chihuly Exhibit to see. The day time went fine. We went to Crystal Bridges by car, it was hot in Arkansas, and walked through the museum. We had a fabulous time. We both love the blown glass masterpieces designed by Dale Chihuly.

We had lunch. We visited. We got ready to go to the Chihuly Exhibit in the Forest. This is where we made our mistake. The museum is in walking distance from my friend’s house. So we decided to walk. We both love to walk and were used to walking a mile or two every morning.

But we did not check where the outdoor exhibit was located. We did not know that it was actually about two miles away.

And so we walked and walked and walked. Up and down paths, past the museum, up a hill into the Chihuly in the Forest exhibit.

We made it to Chihuly in the Forest, now we have to walk back!


We made it. We walked all around the paths. We saw all the wonderful Chihuly. But we realized we made a big mistake. We had to walk all the way home. And if we waited too long it would be dark. Walking those trails at night was not a good idea.   So we headed back before dark. We went back down to the Museum, through the paths, across the parking lots, up the hill, back to the streets of Bentonville.

In all we walked over five miles in the heat and humidity of a June evening in Arkansas.   And as we walked I moaned….”Now you are killing me by Chihuly. It wasn’t enough that you turned the lights off on me last night. This is the 60th time you tried to kill me. One for each year.   But I never expected Death By Chihuly.”

Needless to say, I lived.   And I loved the Chihuly exhibits. I learned where the light switch was in her home.   I guess I am always ready for another DAS adventure.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/a-wonderful-gift-at-crystal-bridges/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/oh-how-i-dream-about-ice-cream-in-the-catskills-in-the-summer/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/the-big-snow-in-the-winter-of-1960-61/

Girl Scouts Should Not Be Banned

3 May

I feel a need to speak out against the banning of Girl Scouts by Diocese of Kansas City, Kansas (KCK). Why me?  I started my adult  career 37 years ago working for the Girl Scouts in Kansas City, Kansas.  I was one of the women who went out and recruited new leaders for troops; I was a troop leader for Troop 77 in KCK; and I trained new leaders there.

Although 34 years have passed since I actually worked for the Girl Scouts there, I was a volunteer for many years after my daughter was born. I was Vice President of what was the Santa Fe Trail Council of Girl Scouts headquarters in KCK before this Council merged into a larger Council   based in Kansas City, Missouri.

I am well aware of the low income areas of KCK.  And I have to say what a mistake it is to sever ties with the Girl Scouts. Many households in KCK live in poverty. Girl Scouts (and Boy Scouts) provide a way for these young women to learn about the world outside of their difficult life. As new immigrants moved into the area, it was Girl Scouts troops that helped the girls acclimate to living in the US. And it helped the parents as well.

Girl Scouts of the USA is a secular organization. It does support organizations that in turn support women and women’s rights.  But those that are affiliated with a religious organization have always been able to decide what they want to do in terms of national activities.  So if the troop leaders do not want to participate in a March for Women, the troop does not need to march!

Severing ties with Girl Scouts will be a detriment for the girls of KCK. It will cut girls off from a sisterhood of  women throughout the country and the world.

I have been a Girl Scout, a Girl Scout Leader, a Girl Scout staff member, a Girl Scout board member, the mother of a Girl Scout and a Girl Scout Volunteer. I am a Girl Scout life member. I was trained to be a Trainer of Trainers at the Girl Scout Edith Macy Conference Center in New York. The trainings and relationships I made through Girl Scouts impacted my life.

I hope this decision is reconsidered. Banning Girl Scouts is a mistake.

 

http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article147857619.html