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Thinking of My Dad on Memorial Day

29 May

A rose and a Snapple for my Dad. 2016.

My  Dad was the recipient of two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star. During the Korean War, he was a forward observer, which meant he had the job of going in front of the front lines, laying the radio cable with which they communicated, and observed what the enemy was doing.   Sometimes he disappeared for a while, with no communications home to my Mom or to his Mother.

Before he left f or Korea, my Dad got engaged to my Mom, married he on his last leave, June 17, 1951, and spent time in California training. At first, I think because of his advanced age, he was almost 23, he taught map reading to new recruits. Dad loved to read maps. Honestly, I think GPS systems would have driven him crazy, as paper maps have almost vanished. For Dad a map was important.

His time as a instructor was limited. One day during exercises, an officer insulted my Dad, making anti-Semitic comments and making fun of the mezuzah he wore around his neck.   Dad was not a tall man, but he was a big man. He tackled the officer and broke his jaw.

Not a good thing to do at all. But Dad was from the Bronx. He learned at a young to defend himself. And perhaps going to an all boy high school, DeWitt Clinton, in NYC, made his sure of himself.  And he was not stupid.  He knew exactly what he was doing. But NO one was  going to make fun of him for being a Jew. (Okay, I will admit he dropped out of college, CCNY,  his biggest mistake,  he ended up in Korea instead of in a classroom.)

He was lucky, his commanding officer, a Captain, saw the incident. He and several others hustled Dad back to camp.   As far as anyone was concerned, Dad was not there when the Lieutenant had his jaw broken.   But Dad was demoted a grade and sent to Korea. He always said that the USA paid for his first cruise…to Japan and then to Korea.

Dad’s first Purple Heart came when they were going up a hill. His group was being bombarded.   The noise was horrendous. Years later when Dad saw “Saving Private Ryan,” he discussed that noise. The movie brought back his memories, as he was part of the amphibious landing in Lochi.  My Mom said he cried during the opening sequences. 

He told us, They got everything right, even the sounds of the bullets hitting the sand, but they could not get the horrendous smell.”

Dad was injured on the hill. Shrapnel entered his legs. He was bleeding. His friends cried out, “Rosie! Get Down! You are wounded! Medic Medic!. “ He said he did not even feel the pain in the rush to get up the hill.   It was Dad’s first visit to a MASH unit.   Needless to say, Dad loved the television comedy M.A.S.H. The MASH doctors fixed Dad up and he went back to war.   Years later the shrapnel began to exit his legs, causing him much pain.

Besides being a forward observer, Dad was a radio man. He laid wires and fixed faulty wiring. He received a citation for bravery for fixing wiring at the base during a bombardment. He was up on a pole fixing it, while bombs fell around him.

His Bronze Star was a unit award. Quotes from my sister: “His unit got in during the Inchon incursion when the South Korean army units on the flanks bugged out and left his division holding the line against North Korean army until relief units arrived.”

My brother disagrees. He says yes it was a unit award, but was not for Inchon. They were actually in the mountains and were abandoned by the South Koreans. The unit got the Bronze  Star for this mission, for fighting their way back to their encampment and surviving. 

His second Purple Heart got him the trip home. This time by plane to Hawaii and the big pink military hospital on the hill.   (I waved to it when I went to Hawaii 17 years ago.   Dad asked me to do that for him.) Then to California and one to Massachusetts, where Mom was able to meet up with him.

She always said that Dad was not the same person when he came home. She would say that he was not a human being. That it took a full year for the real Donald to come back.

Dad was the kindest, gentlest man. He loved people. He loved his family. But his time in the army changed him.   Certain noises would impact him.   Military movies made him cry.   He went to pay respects at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC, as well as the one here in Kansas. At both he cried for those who did not come home.

2017 Remembering my Dad and Mom. Two roses.


On Memorial Day, I always think of my Dad, and all the others who served our country.  I go to the Korean War Memorial near my home and put roses on the stone I put in for my Dad.   Roses for Rosie….and I drink a diet peach Snapple, his  and my favorite drink.

 

 

Another Blog about my Dad:  https://wordpress.com/posts/zicharonot.wordpress.com?s=My+Dad+was+a+Proud+Veteran

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/museums-help-me-honor-our-relatives-who-served-on-veterans-day/

 

Setting My Seder Table is An Act of Love

22 May

Each year, on the morning of hosting a seder, I remove my Pesach dishes from the high cabinets where they sit away from life during the year. Many of these amber glass dishes have been in my family since the 1930s.

Once they were my grandmother’s dishes. She collected them during the Depression, as they were given away for free or a low cost. Sometimes they came in boxes of food or were prizes presented for going to the movies. I sometimes wonder if the fact they owned a bakery gave her more access to these dishes, as she had quite a collection of one pattern.

Grandma’s depression glass was produced by the Federal Glass Company.   Our pattern is called Patrician or Spoke. Many just call it Patrician spoke because of its center design. The color is amber, although this pattern came in several colors: pink, green, clear and amber.

When I first got these glass dishes, there was not a complete set at all. Many had chips along the edges. The collection included luncheon plates, a few dinner plates, a creamer, a sugar bowl without its lid, several coffee cups, more saucers, and two serving oval serving bowl and an oval dish.

Over the years, I have filled in the set. I now have dishes to serve 18 people at Pesach: dinner plates, soup bowls, bread/butter plates, dessert bowls, and multiple serving pieces. Many of the pieces I have repurposed, like the bread and butter dishes, now used for gefilte fish. The creamers and sugar bowls are used for charoset. Small bowls sometimes are filled with salt water or eggs. I have both cereal bowls and soup bowls…all are used for matzah ball soup to start the meal.

When I first used these dishes, I would change everything for the holiday. Pots, pans, two sets of utensils, everything in the house would change. But for Pesach I just used this one set of dishes, since glass dishes could be used for milk or meat. They just needed to be cleaned in between uses. This made Pesach a bit easier.

I have to admit, over the years, I have stopped changing everything for Pesach. I still clean out the cabinets and pantry. I still stop buying bread or any product with yeast. I still buy my Kosher for Pesach food. But I no longer switch all my pots, pans, utensils and more.

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My Patrician Spoke dishes, with my Rueben wine glasses and Lenox seder plate at seder.

But what I still do, and will always do, is take out my Depression glass dishes to be used for the seder. It is a minor ordeal. Someone, usually me, stands on a step stool to reach into these cabinets. Someone else, usually my son or daughter or husband stands below me as I count out the number of dishes I will need for the current seder.

They place the dishes on the clean counter.   There are many that have to be transferred. As I take out each dish, I run through the seder in my mind. What each dish will be used for; what time in the seder will it be used; what I need to still prepare for the meal.

Preparing for seder is a several day event. The foods, the dishes, the haggadah; each are planned according to the rituals and the group that is attending the seder. I have three sets of haggadahs. I switch depending on the mood and the attendees. But the one constant is my dishes.

Besides the dishes, we now bring out the seder plate.   My Lenox plate was my parents. When they stopped leading a seder, they gave me their original plate, and purchased another one for my sister. The special glasses from Murano, Italy, come out of the breakfront: one used for Elijah’s cup filled with wine; and now one for Miriam’s cup filled with water. These my husband and I took from my in-law’s home after his mother passed away when she was only 59. Each of these items bring memories as well as set our families who are gone at the table.

For many year’s I used a matzah cover created by my great grandmother in Europe in 1901.   Two years ago I donated it to a museum (see link to blog below). I now used a matzah cover I made as a teen.   But sometimes, I use one that my husband purchased for me in Cochin, India.

The small wine cups we use are Rueben glass from Israel.  One set was my parents,  I actually took all the Rueben glass when we cleaned their home for the first time.  The others were part of a wedding gift my husband and I received many years ago. We truly have a multinational seder with the items from throughout the world.

Even setting out kippot has a meaning. As we place the colorful kippot at the table, we read the names inside. Someone’s bar or bat mitzvah is remembered as well as weddings we attended. I always provide my husband the white kippah he wore at our wedding.

The napkins I use for seder are also special.  A friend made them years ago.  Twenty napkins, two sets of plagues.  Each napkin has a number, a design and a plague.

Setting the seder table is an act of love. Each dish, each ritual object carries memories.

When I put them away each year, the process reverses. I stand back on my stepstool and someone else hands me the dishes as I request.   We are done for another year. Except for one addition: I add one thing, a piece of the afikomen to keep us secure for the year until the next seder. This piece replaces the piece that I put away a year ago.

 

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/watching-antiques-roadshow-inspired-me-to-donate-my-great-grandmothers-matzah-cover/

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

Costume Characters Just Made My Children Crazed

20 Apr

I know that people have the best times taking photos of their children with big costumed characters.   Not just the Easter bunny or Santa Claus, but also characters like clowns or at Disneyland and Universal Studios. This did not go over well in my family for several reasons.

First, since we are Jewish, I never took my children to have a photo with Santa or the Easter bunny. But that does not mean that we did not have encounters that shook us to the foundation. Second my daughter, and then my son, were petrified of costumed characters. Just seeing their oversized heads could start a squall! Finally, both of my children were shy.

When my daughter was three, we were walking though a mall’s lower level, a few days before Easter. Along came the Easter bunny and his helper. My daughter was the only child around, so the Easter bunny decided to walked over to say hello. Ad my daughter looked up, I noticed you could see a man’s face through the mouth in the costume.  I had a bad feeling.

My daughter started screaming, “The Easter Bunny ate someone!” Full out screaming. Needless to say the Easter bunny ran away as quick as he could, while I was left with a screaming traumatized child. True story. 28 years later. I still can hear her screams in my memory.

When she was young my daughter had panic attacks whenever she saw a clown. This was unfortunate, as her great-great Uncle Mike worked hard to make her a beautiful ceramic clown. It was lovely and colorful. However, she would not sleep at night with the clown in the room. I had to put it away, in another room. Eventually, the fear abated. But when she was small, clowns were an emphatic NO.

Our Santa experience was less stressful in some ways, but more in others. We have all seen and spoken to the many Santa’s who collect money for the Salvation Army.   We always put money into their collection pails whenever we could. And at first this created no problems. As long as they did not speak to her we were fine.  She would shyly walk up and drop the donation in the slot.

But when she was about six, she had an epiphany. “Mom,” she asked as we drove away from the mall, “How can there be so many Santas in one place?”

I was not thinking. I just told the truth. “Honey, there really is no such thing as Santa. He is a made up character. “ I immediately knew I had made a mistake. Her best friend was Greek Orthodox. Her quick response was, “I have to tell my friend.” That would not be good! OY! Dilemma of high magnitude!

Quickly I came up with an answer. “Wait. Not all Santa Claus’ are fakes. These are really Santa’s helpers. The real Santa Claus cannot do everything. So he has helpers.” Whew….that seemed to help. And I hope she never said anything.

With my son, I was no longer surprised by any fears.  I just avoided the malls during the heavy holiday season. Or at least I did not take my son there. But then came an experience I did not expect. When my daughter was 5 and my son was one, we went to Disney World. My parents came along. I expected a fun-filled adventure. But no!

I had booked a special Goofy breakfast with some of the Disney characters. But it did not go as planned. My son was petrified of all the big characters: No Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, or Donald for him. They could not come near him without screaming emanating from his little body.

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A breakthrough! My son allows the Dream Finder a high five as my daughter looks on.

We had a minor miracle in Epcot with Figment and the Dream Finder, when my son was three. Thank goodness the Dream Finder looked like a real person, without a big head. Figment, of course, was cute and adorable. My son and daughter came home with their own Figment plush toys.

But the fear does eventually end. Years later we went to Disney World again. My children were older and ready to meet all the characters. My son even got an autograph book for all the characters to sign. We still have it. He ran up to the characters and led the way to the autograph areas. I am glad the childhood fears are gone.

My Time As A Candy Striper

16 Apr

My 45 year old Candy Striper cap.


I still have the red and white searsucker cap that I wore as a Candy Striper at Hudson County Hospital, New Jersey, in the 1970s. I am proud of the time I volunteered to cheer up patients and help the nurses. 

Our job then was pretty easy to do, we did whatever the nurses asked us based on the rules issued by the office of volunteers. For me it was important to help others, and visit the sick. 

Several days a week, after I finished my classes at North Bergen High School, I would go home and change into my white and red pinafore and take the bus along Park Avenue to the hospital.  Once there I would check in to the volunteer office and get my day’s assignment. I usually worked for two hours. That was perfect as my Dad would pick me up on his way home from work. 

My favorite assignment was to go and visit with the children who were in the hospital.  I knew how to create creatures from paper having learned the art of origami when I was 10.  I often brought some square origami paper with me.  When I ran out the nurses would find colored paper for me to use with the children. It was two hours of fun for all of us!

I tried to visit every room with children. In those days visiting hours were restricted. Parents could only be with their children for several hours a day.   I knew from my own stay in the hospital how sad and lonely it can be. 

Making origami figures


 

It made me happy to bring a bit of joy to a younger child and leave behind a little gift of a bird or box or frog. 

But I did not always get assigned to the children’s ward. To be honest I did not like having to help in the adult rooms.  You never knew what you would see, especially on Mondays.  Often on Mondays, the results of a weekend of carousing were evident in hospital beds filled with adults who had been in car accidents.  I really did not like to see people in traction and stitched up.  I would get a little sick to my stomach when ever I entered a room. But since, in those days I wanted to be a nurse, I did whatever I was asked. So into a room I would go carrying the sheets or other items as requested. 

My time as a Candy Striper lasted not quite two years. It was on a Monday…accident day… that it ended.  I remember entering a room,  then waking up in the volunteer office and seeing my Dad talking to the director.  It was my last day. 

I did not do anything wrong. Just walked into a room, as I was told to, and ended up being there just as a man died.  I passed out. I am not proud of that, nor of the fact that I did not go back. But the sight of blood and death did not make a positive impression. I realized then I would never be a nurse. 

It made it difficult, years later, when I married a medical student.  While others would visit their spouses when they were on call, I did my best to avoid the hospital. For me heading over to the hospital for a chat was just not my idea of fun. 

As the years pass, I learned to let go of my discomfort in hospitals.  I no longer get a sick feeling in my stomach when I enter a hospital. I am aware of the good aspects along with with difficult ones. 

Overall I have good memories of my time volunteering as a Candy Striper at Hudson County Hospital. I believe that the time I spent with the children and helping others were the part of my upbringing that enhanced my belief in the importance of volunteering. My time as a Candy Striper made a positive impact on my life. 

Matzah Brie 

15 Apr

Why do I only make matzah brie during Passover?  I truly love it. I heat up my frying pan and make it at least twice each year. And I always make enough to last two days. But once the holiday is over, my desire for matzah brie disappears. 

I have learned over the years that not everyone makes matzah brie the same way.  Nor do they call it the same thing. I say matzah brie, others say matzah briet or matzah brun. There might be even more names. 

My husband’s cousin would break a piece of matzah in half and soak both halves in a egg mixture before deep frying them. It was delicious, but not my style at all.

 I wonder if the area of Europe a family came from or perhaps where in the USA they settled impacts how the matzah brie is made? 

Making matzah brie is something I learned as a child. In my family we make the same batter we do for French toast. Eggs and vanilla mixed together.  Then we run the matzah under water, breaking it down to smallervand smaller pieces till we crumble the matzah into the batter.  The number of matzah we use is determined by the number of eggs we use; about two pieces of matzah for every egg. 


I then take the mixture and place it into a frying pan that I have place a small amount of oil and have  preheated. I smooth out the top of the mixture and make sure I fill the entire pan. Then it cooks. I like mine golden brown. I use a spatula to divide it in half to easily turn it. Then cook the other side.  The smell is enticing. 


Finally I cut it to smaller pieces and I am ready to eat. In my house there is just one way to it eat, with sugar sprinkled over the top. I know some use syrup, but I am a sugar purest. 

Another delicious Passover memory.  But I know when the holiday passes, I will once again crave my Sunday morning challah French toast. All thoughts of matzah brie wil be gone till next spring! 

Hope everyone is having a zissel Pesach! 

Missing Mom’s Passover Recipes

13 Mar

The recipes filled a bag.

There were many little issues that appeared during the year that my parents died. Little things that you do not realize will cause distress. But for my sister and me, one of these issues was my Mom’s recipes. They were gone. We searched the house and could not find them. Most recipes we knew because we continued to make them.

But a few seemed lost forever, these included her Passover recipes. Since we used them only once a year, they were not etched into our memories. And so we had to use recipes from books or from others, or just not make that item. Without her recipes, we felt a bit lost.

My parents would come to me each year for the second night of Pesach.   They did the first Seder in New Jersey with my siblings and their families. Mom would cook her share of the meal, and leave all the leftovers for my brother and sister’s families. Because the next morning, bright and early, my parents would fly out to stay with me for second Seder and the rest of the holiday.

My children went to the Jewish Day School, so they were off that week. It was a perfect time for my parents to have grandparent adventures with the children.

Mom would arrive and join me in cooking. We always spent the first seder with other families at friends. But I alternated second night seder with another friend, and so often it would be at my house. Eventually, second night became my domain.

Whatever the case, there were certain foods I did not make until Mom got here. She knew exactly what to do, even though she might have had the recipes written down. After making seders for so many years, she knew her recipes. Whereas, my sister and I depended on her memory to help us.

So I should have known what happened to the recipes. But it never occurred to me.

About a year or so after both my parents passed away, they did so quickly and within nine months of each other, I finally cleaned out the bedroom in my house where they always stayed. We had already cleaned out their condo apartment in New Jersey; had told the managers of the apartment they rented in Florida to take what they wanted and donate the rest, and we had mostly cleaned out the house in the Catskill. So now it was time for me to do the final cleaning and pack up and donate what they had left behind in my house.

They had their own space, and I had avoided going into it, but my son wanted to move into this larger room, with its own separated entrance.

I finally opened the closet and packed my dad’s jeans and shirts and jackets. I started cleaning out the drawers. Putting tops and items into bags to donate.

There in the bottom drawer, covered by tops, was a small, stuffed plastic bag filled with papers. Recipes. Lots and lots of recipes. She was in the process of rewriting in her beautiful teacher’s handwriting. Passover was back: Vegetarian Chopped Liver, Matzah balls for 10-12 people, Farfel pudding from Sylvia, Baked Gifilte Fish from Lola, Potato Kugel, Stuffed cabbage.

Mixed in were many other recipes, including Hamantasch from Phyllis and my Uncle Stanley’s cookie recipe, which she called Cookies by Stanley. (He was baker and passed away in January 2017, a week before his 90th birthday, on my Mother’s sixth Yahrzeit.)

I would like to say I used these recipes. But I did not.  I put them in my room, in a box, waiting to be used.  I did not share them.  I did not look at them.  I just could not.  Now, I know I need to scan the recipes and send them to my brother and sister. I know that. But for four years they have sat in their bag while I have looked at it as a locked time chest, unable to really sort through the notes left by my Mom.

I decided this year was the time. I was ready.   We are done missing my Mom’s recipes.

Why The Same Old, Same Old Feels Good Now

14 Feb

When I was young, I never understood why my grandmother ate almost the exact same breakfast every morning: Cottage cheese, a piece of toast, fruit, water for her pills and coffee. “Isn’t that boring?” I asked. For me breakfast needed to be an exciting start to the day, especially in the summers.

But now I understand. Each morning I start the day with basically the same breakfast … everyday.  I like it.  Why change?  Occasionally I switch it up, usually when I am traveling.  But when home it is the same old, same old. It feels comfortable. Why change? I have become my grandma.

But I find my need for consistency goes beyond breakfast.  I like to shop in the same stores. I know which clothes lines and which shoes fit me well. Why should I venture to another store when I know I can always find clothes and shoes that fit at Chicos and Clarks?   Yes I sometimes go into another store and find something, but usually it takes more time to figure out where the items I might like are located. But I do go to discount stores that I enjoy like DSW, where I can find my favorite shoes at a less expensive price. 

I am even happy with my usual grocery shopping selection. Friends have tried to get me to go to two newer, more hip, places to do my grocery shopping. But I have my big three depending on what I need. I used to start with Costco for some items, but with no children at home I do not often need bulk food. Instead I buy smaller quantities at a local grocer/supermarket.  Occasionally, I do venture to the newer stores, but I feel a bit out of alignment when I shop there. I have to search the aisles for what I need. 

I often dash over to a nearby Target for sundries. Two years ago they totally remodeled the one I shop at.  The changes were nice, but the disruption made me realize I was getting set in my ways. I like the same old, same old. Although I now love the changes, I feel a sense of loss.  Now I have to readjust my habits to find the items I need. However, I will admit when my favorite brunch place renovated, it became much improved! 

But lately I find that I just like being at home. Especially when I am home.

My husband and I travel … a lot.  We are fortunate that our son lives close. He  moves back to our house to care for our cats when we travel.  But with being on so many trips, the joy of just being at home sometimes is the best.on one hand I know I am getting set in my ways. However,  it just makes the same old, same old feel good.