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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. 

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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

 

Fear Is Not The Right Response

11 Jan

I have heard the word, “fear,” way too often in the past few weeks. Really! Stop with the fear! You want to be angry. I can handle that. I am angry. I am angry that terrorism and politics are causing many to bend with fear. Do NOT!

White supremacist; ISIS; mentally ill young men with guns; shootings at an airport, at a school, a nightclub, at a mall; Nazi symbols defacing property and tombstones; tirades of racist and anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric during political events and elsewhere. Bomb threats phoned into Jewish Community Centers and schools.

Since 9/11 so many people seem to live in fear.  It seems  important decisions that impact many are based on that fear as well.  Yes, we must be careful. But we have to stop being so afraid!

People tell me and write on Facebook that they are afraid. Well I am not afraid. I am so darn ANGRY!  I believe what I have is righteous anger!

I am angry that in 2017 that people have not realized that this is one world, and we all live in it. That if a bomb goes off in one area, it impacts many areas.   We are all connected. And no matter what anyone believes, we really do have to work together to keep our world intact.

I am angry that guns are such a problem in the USA. That mentally unstable people can so easily obtain a gun and blast away, taking lives and destroying families.   I am angry that the sane gun owners do not stand up to the gun lobby and say, “Enough is enough.   We want the right to have guns, but we also do not want so many innocents killed. Let’s do away with semi automatic and automatic weapons.”  I am angry that this has not yet happened.

I am angry that instead of stopping gun violence with the only thing that would work, less guns. Some states, including my own, have legislators who voted to allow concealed carry for people who are not even trained to use guns. They are all insane in my mind. And they make me ANGRY!

I am angry that people are not kind to each other. They use words and actions that harm others and do not ask forgiveness. I am angry that some judges still allow convicted rapists off with a short sentence, and do not consider the victim of the rape. What is this? The judges should be impeached.

I am angry about what I perceive as a war against women’s health issues. I am tired of women being written out of history and their stories being hidden away, as men seem unable to deal with the competition of smart, intelligent women. I AM ANGRY!

I know I seem angry about many issues. But my biggest anger is for those who say they are afraid!   Franklin D. Roosevelt stated so wisely, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” And that is what I believe.

Do not let yourself be immobilized by fear. Words associated with fear include: “scared to death, “ “Frozen in fear,” “make your blood run cold,” “wild with fear,” panic, anxiety and terror.   These are not the words we need to use.

Be angry. This emotion promotes action. And we need action to combat what is happening in the world. My grandmother left Poland when she was 16 years old, alone, in 1922. She had lived through the First World War in Poland. And she had survived and was ready to move on. She did not let her fear make her inactive. NO, she lived. And she fought to get to the USA.   And then she helped members of her family escape Poland in 1936.   Her rightful anger gave her the energy to ACT. And her actions saved lives.

When you are angry, you might ‘bite someone’s head off’ but you will not be silenced!

I am not saying to be out of control angry. My mother would say, “When you lose your temper, you lose the war.” I do not advocate losing your temper, but I do advocate using your anger to bring to action to accomplish good.

No terrorist or terrorism or shootings or anti-Semitic acts will frighten me. But these actions will enrage me and move me to actions.

So stop being afraid! Fear is not the right response to evil. Work for good. Be angry and DO SOMETHING!

The Antique European Hannukiah

5 Jan

When my husband’s mother died in 1984,  we were given the opportunity to chose some of her personal items.  My husband and I were the only children who were dedicated to having a Jewish family, so we took most of the Jewish religious items, including this Hannukiah that belonged to his grandparents.

My mother-in-law told me that  was her father’s and had come with her parents from Europe in the early 1900s.  This was the Hannukiah the family used when she grew up. It was the item she chose to keep after her father died, when she was 16.

I know it is bronze.   I know that once it burned oil, as the dark burn stains still are visible.  But we have never used it.

Years ago, when I went to the Jewish Museum on 92nd Street, in New York City, I purchased a book entitled, Treasures of The Jewish Museum, published in 1986.  While looking through the book, I discovered on page 66, a hanukkiah much like ours.  It said it came from Spain or France and was first used in the end of the 13th or beginning of the 14th century.  The book says, “The gabled end of a Gothic catherdral, rose window and all, was the model for the backplates of the first pendant lamps.”

I remember thinking, impossible.  But it is so similar.  The only difference was that on the museum hannukah lamp, the shamash area was elevated, instead of off to the side, as in our design.

And so the hanukkiah stayed on my book shelf as a decoration along with  other, more modern ones,  that joined the collection over the years.  But that was it.   I never did any follow up.  As long as it was part of the family’s lore and history, that was more than enough for me.

Until this past December, when I went to Israel for a visit.  While there, I spent the day at the Israel Museum with my daughter’s mother-in-law.  As a resident of the Jerusalem area,  she has visited the museum many times.  She suggested we take an English tour of the permanent exhibit.  So we did.  We were the only two who signed up for it.  Lucky for us, we had a private 90-minute tour of the museum.

Since it was close to Hanukkah, the guide took us to see the collection of Hannukiot/hanukkah lamps that the museum owns:  covering many centuries and many countries.  There, on the wall, the very first one, was an exact duplicate of my husband’s grandfather’s Hannukiah!  The one that came from Europe and that he had used when studying medicine in France during the late 1800s.  Wow.

I asked our guide about that Hannukiah, as the touch screen was not working.  She said it was the oldest Hanukkah lamp that the Israel Museum owned.  She thought it came from the 17th century.

So to my husband’s Matassarin/Matassaru family in the USA and Israel: the family Hanukkiah survived.  It did not get destroyed in the Shoah.  No Leon brought it to the USA with him and his family, and used it with his children.

It has been an amazing journey for this centuries old work of Jewish religious ritual item. It traveled with my husband’s grandfather from his home in Hungary with him to medical school in France.  From there, he took it to England, where he met his wife and they had their first three children.  Onward to Canada and to the United States, where he settled in Kansas!   He served as a colonel in the US military in World War 1, then settled in Leavenworth, Kansas.  After he died, his daughter (child 8 of 10) had it in her home in St. Louis.  And finally it resides with us back in Kansas.

I am honored that this Antique European Hanukkiah lives with us.

A Kansas Wedding With a Catskills Honeymoon

10 Sep


My daughter and her beloved were married last week in a traditional Jewish wedding held outside in a park in Leawood, Kansas.  Gezer Park was established to represent Leawood’s relationship as the sister city to the Gezer region in Israel. 

It was the perfect spot for them to marry as they live in Israel near the Gezer Region. They chose to marry in a quiet area of the park called the Havdalah Garden. 

The small, private ceremony for family and their friends reflected their commitment to focus on their marriage.  And so the park’s limit on guests reflected their desire to keep the ceremony intimate. Later that day there was a larger reception for friends who have had an impact on her life. 

They married under a chuppah that I crocheted for them. Intertwining threads created purple flowers within each white square. Four of the groom’s brothers steadied the poles as the bride and groom stood beneath.  

It was a beautiful day tinged with a bit of sadness. A close friend had lost her battle with cancer and the funeral was the Friday before the wedding.  And then there was the sad fact that they had no grandparents at the wedding. I had all four of my grandparents at my wedding. But I decided the beautiful weather was the gift from all who could not attend. 

From a wedding in Kansas, the couple went on a honeymoon to the Catskills at our home in Kaunenga Lake. They are not the first in our family to honeymoon in the Catskills.  When my parents married in 1951, they spent a weekend at Grossingers before my dad left for an extended tour of duty in the Korean War. 

My grandparents went to have dinner with them each night. My Dad used to say he was the only person he knew who shared his honeymoon with his in laws. They always said that they just wanted to pay for dinner. 

My daughter’s honeymoon is similar, but different. There is no Grossingers. It closed years ago. But we still own our family home. My siblings, who own the home with me, were more than happy to let the couple honeymoon there. 

And my sister is recreating the role of my grandparents. My daughter has never been there without family, and was a bit worried about being there ‘alone.’ She welcomed and actually insisted my sister come as their driver and company. We have been calling her the chaperon. Now to give my sister credit, she offered them a car and keys so they could go by themselves. But they wanted her to come along. We are all getting a good giggle defining her role. 

It is a bit more emotional for me as this weekend is also my father’s birthday weekend. I know that he and my Mom, as well as my grandparents, would be filled with joy knowing that another young couple is enjoying the peace and beauty of our Catskills home. They would kvell knowing that the bridal couple chose to be there for their first trip together as a married couple. 

I know they have walked to the lake and seen the places where my daughter spent many happy moments. They have seen where my grandparents had their bungalow colony. They stopped at the Woodstock site and had ice cream at Candy Cone. They have made new joyful memories. 

It was a beautiful wedding, a lovely reception, a glorious weekend of joy which has led them to a peaceful few days in the Catskills. I hope these moments are reflected in their marriage. Which I hope is filled with love, joy, laughter, glorious moments, peace, contentment and beautiful memories.