Tag Archives: family

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.  

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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. 

The Dress Fiasco That Almost Wrecked My Brother’s Wedding

4 Aug

On September 2, my brother and his wife will be married for 38 years. Their Labor Day weekend wedding was notable for several reasons: his was the first wedding in our immediate family; he got married on our youngest sister’s 21st birthday; the drama of the dress my Mom wore to the wedding.

Why would a dress be so memorable? Here is what happened. My sister in law chose orange, yellow and beige as her wedding colors.   My mother did not want to wear beige, as she felt it was too close to the bride’s white dress. But she could not find a dress anywhere, in a color she liked. She decided to have one made specifically for her.

She chose an orange/peach color fabric, with a lace inset at the top. As a teacher in West New York, she knew many people. Someone recommended a good dressmaker.   The dress was well made, but it looked absolutely horrid on my Mom. I can still see the dress, even though she never wore it to the wedding, just tried it on for us.

My husband and I, who were engaged at the time, arrived in New Jersey about four days before the wedding. That evening, my Mom tried the dress on for all of us. My Dad, my sister and I stared at the dress, without words. Mom looked horrendous. The color was WRONG! It took all color from her face. The style was also terrible. She looked like she was wearing a nightgown to go to bed, NOT a gown to wear to a wedding.

My sister and I were stunned.  We were silent for a few minutes. We actually had no words, no way to tell her how terrible this dress looked. Mothers and daughters have a connection,  from our silence, and probably the looks on our faces, she could tell. “It looks horrible, doesn’t it,” she asked…or something like that.

Then the tears started. The wedding was just four days away. What would she do? We had a major disaster on our hands!  My sister and I were up in an instant.  We would do something!

My father was somewhat calm. “DO not worry. You will find a dress.” He was positive. But he was also insistent that she no longer tried to save money.   This called for emergency shopping, and we knew the perfect store: Gail Browns, located on 58th and Bergenline Avenue.  (Thanks North Bergen friends for this info.) It was a high-class dress shop near by. A store that we never shopped at because the prices were way too high for us. We usually went to Little Marcy’s, occasionally Corduroy Village, but never Gail Browns.

The next morning, as soon as it opened, my sister, my Mom and I went to the dress store. With in minutes, the sales lady brought over a beautiful beige dress with a brown belt. It was the same exact color as the tuxedos the men were going to wear. Mom put it on. Stunning.

Grandmas. mom, sister and me

Mom in her lovely dress stands in the middle surrounded by my grandmothers, my sister and me.

Yes, there were just a few minor alterations. The hem had to be shortened; the belt loops moved; an extra snap on the bodice. But the seamstress knew it was an emergency situation. This was Friday. The wedding was Sunday. By late afternoon, the dress was complete. I believe they even dyed shoes for her!

The Dress Fiasco was over.  The discarded dress disappeared.  Never to be commented on ever again.

Mom looked wonderful at the wedding of her oldest child. She looks lovely in all the photos. There is a picture of my Mom and Dad dancing that I can still see in my mind. It was a great dress.

I missed Mom when I purchased the dress for my daughter’s wedding last year, 37 years later. She also got married on Labor Day Weekend. My Mom is no longer with us.  She did not get to go dress shopping for this wedding.

Instead, my daughter and I went shopping, and narrowed the choice to two dresses, which I brought home.   Later that day my sister arrived from New Jersey. I tried on both dresses. I took the advise of my sister and daughter who both loved one specific dress. They said it was me. The other dress, which was grey drained me of color. Another dress fiasco was averted. I wore the lavender dress that they loved.

Now my sister is facing this hurdle. Her daughter is getting married next June.   I know she realizes that I will be there to make sure that her dress is the perfect one.   There will be no tears four days before another wedding because the mother’s dress is horrendous. No more dress fiascos ever!

Another blog about shopping: https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/shopping-on-the-avenue-i-dont-mean-fifth-i-mean-bergenline/

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.

IMG_3209

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

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.

Defacing a Cemetery and Bomb Threats Make Me Angry

20 Feb

I was not sad today when I found out more Jewish Community Centers had received bomb threats that forced evacuations.  I was not sad today when I found out Chessed Shel Emeth Cemetery was vandalized and over 100 stones were toppled.  I was not sad.

I was ANGRY! I am still angry. I am frustrated that people believe hatred wins. It does not win.

This wave of anti-Semitism has touched me on several occasions. My sister and nephew were exercising at the Tenafly, NJ, JCC when it had to be evacuated in bitter cold weather. Children and elderly had to walk or be taken to a safe place.

The Jewish Community Center in Kansas has been on high security for over two years now since a horrible instance of anti-Semitic violence led to three deaths. And twice bomb threats have been received this year. I am used to seeing armed guards at the JCC and at our synagogues.

But today was the final straw. Today the cemetery where my husband’s parents and grandparents, as well as his great aunt and uncle,  are buried was vandalized. Chessed shel Emeth in University City, Missouri, in St Louis.  I am so angry that someone thinks toppling graves is acceptable. I think my anger is intensified because so many of my family have no graves. Their remains are included in the ashes of the concentration camps and destroyed Jewish communities in Europe.

I think I am angry because by destroying graves, they– the haters– try to wipe out out memory. I am always searching in my family’s genealogy, always wondering about who came before and how are we related. So I say to the haters, “It will not happen. We carry each person’s name and memory as a blessing. ”

I contacted the cemetery as soon as I found out to discover the status of our family graves. I was surprised at how quickly I had a response. I was contacted within an hour that Our stones were not toppled.

I want to thank all those who reached out to us. I am glad that the community is coming together to help repair the damage.  Donations can be made to help pay for the damage,. (See link below.)

And I say to those making threats and trying to destroy cemeteries, You will be found. You will be punished. This is not Europe of 1939. This is the United States of America. And you are in the wrong. We stand united.

I am angry, but I believe in goodness.  And I will continue to work with and focus on those who want a better world. I think we need to spread kindness, but we also need to find those who are perpetuating these acts and hold them responsible for their actions. It is just wrong.
If you want to help the cemetery please go to this site: https://www.chesedshelemeth.org/how-to-donate.html

Vandals target historic Jewish cemetery in University City

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.”