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Bittersweet Return After A Pandemic Year

12 Mar

One year and five days have passed between my visits to the elder care facility where I am a Spiritual Care Volunteer.   I last went on March 4, 2020.  I returned on March 10, 2021.  In between there was a pandemic.  Most of the year, I was not allowed to visit.  For a short period I could see people outside, and I did met with one of my people.  But I could not meet with my group.

On March 9, I was two weeks past my second Pfizer vaccine.  This means life changed for me.  As soon as I could I returned.

It has been a most stressful year for so many.   But I think the elderly took the brunt of the stress.  Many were kept isolated, away from their family and friends.  This isolation took its toll.  So many died, so many advanced in dementia, so many suffered from loneliness.  I cannot comment on my people. But I will just say that they faced the same challenges as others.

For me, personally, it was difficult not to visit.  I had been seeing them once a week for over a year.  We had formed connections and friendships.   They even surprised me with a birthday party when I turned 65.  At which time, these friends of mine, in their 80s and 90s, told me how young I was.  They told me I was Just a kid.   Which made me feel better about turning 65, if only I could be as independent as so many of my people.

Six weeks later I was no longer young: in the pandemic announcements it stated that elderly people over the age of 65 should stay inside, be careful because their lives were at higher risk.  In a short time I went from being a young 65 to an elderly person. 

I thought back to my aunt over 50 years ago.   It was summer in the Catskills.  I had run into her bungalow to see my grandma.  My aunt was reading the newspaper.  She turned to me and said, “I went to bed last night, a young woman, I woke this morning, elderly.“ 


What was she talking about?  She showed the newspaper, The New York Daily News.  An article stated that an elderly man, aged 59, had died on a tragic accident.   I looked at her and laughed.  I knew her age.  But I also knew the age she said she was.  “Aunt Leona, don’t worry.  To me you are always 39!”

But I now really knew what she meant.  I went to bed on March 11, 2020, a young 65.  I woke on March 12, 2020, an old, elderly 65.  It was a shock.

My life changed as did everyone.  But I had an added concern.  How would I keep in touch with my people who were so important to me.   I was not allowed to see them.  But I could write.  I started writing letters and notes.  I started sending goodie bags about every six weeks.  Two of my people emailed me.  One sent me everyone’s phone numbers.  I tried calling about once a month.  Some months I reached everyone. Others I only reached a few.  But I kept in touch.

The organization I volunteered for originally told the Spiritual Care Volunteers to not give out our phone number. That was now obsolete.  I gave my number to whoever wanted it.  I put them in my phone list and answered them whenever they called. They needed me. And I needed to know I was helping them in any way I could.

Over the year, some of my people did pass away.  Others moved into more skilled nursing.  At least one had Covid  and survived. I kept in touch the best I could.

Then came the vaccine. My people were among the first vaccinated in Kansas. It was so exciting. I was so glad to know they were safe and their quarantine was beginning to ease up.  I could go see them once I was vaccinated.

But for me it was difficult at first to get a vaccine.  I also have an autoimmune disease, so I was being oh so careful.   I found a spot that was providing vaccine to those who volunteer and worked with the elderly.  That was me.  I signed up on their list and soon was accepted.  I got my first vaccine in early February.  My second on February 21.  As soon as my two weeks was up I knew where I wanted to be…with my people.

I emailed the elder care facility and got permission to visit.  We set the date at my usual time, Wednesday at 2 pm, two weeks and one day past my second vaccine.   Because of my volunteer work I got my vaccine early.  So I intended to make sure I would be with my people.

I now needed permission from my volunteer agency.  I sent my Covid vaccine record.  But I did not hear back.   It was getting close.  To be honest I planned to go no matter what.  The elder care facility said yes, my people were expecting me.  I had to go!

Early in the morning on March 10, I got my approval from the agency.  I was told that I was the first Spiritual Care Volunteer returning to their facility. I was eager to go! Two in the afternoon I was with my people.  Six were there.  I was so happy to see them.

I knew what we had to do. We had to bench Gomel.  I read them an essay written by Rabbi Neal Gold that I got from a website. I read it to them.  In his essay, Rabbi Gold said, “In our time, the spirit of this prayer has expanded to all sorts of other life-and-death situations, such as surviving a car accident, recovering from major surgery, or enduring childbirth…..It is not designed for people ‘who merely with headaches or stomachaches who are not confined to bed.’ Rather, it is only for those brushes with mortality that leave us shaken — and profoundly grateful for our survival.”

 I think surviving the COVID pandemic counts!

So we benched Gomel, even without a Torah, thanking God for the goodness he sent to use to allow us to survive.

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, ruler of the world, who rewards the undeserving with goodness, and who has rewarded me with goodness.” We did the response as well.

We then talked about what happened to each of my people during this time.  The one who spent two months in the hospital with Covid. The one that was lucky because she lived on the first floor with her own entrance and could see her daughter.  We remembered the three that died. We thought of those who have moved into more skilled nursing.  We delighted in being together.

It was definitely a wonderful and joyful event for me, and I believe for my people as well. 

A pandemic year is a year I will never forget.  But the joy of reuniting with others, although bittersweet, is definitely a gift!

Getting My COVID Vaccine Takes Me to 1960s

5 Feb

This week I received my first COVID vaccine. I traveled through a snow blast to get to my 10:30 am appointment. My walking buddy took me. I don’t like to drive, so she volunteered to get me there. While we went, I thought of my Mom. I called her the snow witch because she attracted snowstorms. She died during the December 27, 2010, snowstorm that blanketed the New York City area over two feet of snow. For me, the snow seemed apropos. Mom was telling me she was looking out for me. Getting the vaccine was important.

When we arrived at the vaccination site, we lucked out finding a parking space in the crowded area.  The parking lot was full, but we were able to find a street parking space not too far away.  In fact, when we left, I told another woman who arrived that we were leaving and had a great spot.  She followed us and parked there as we drove away.

But the main point is that I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.  Yes, I stood in a line for a while.  Actually, there were four parallel lines waiting to be checked in after our temperatures were taken and our paperwork reviewed.  Then it was to the computer check in, and finally the shot line, then I sat in a chair while a nursing student gave me that wonderful little jab.  I honestly felt the edges of my lips curl into a smile as the needle went in.  I never wanted a vaccine more than I wanted this one.

I then joined my friend and sat there for the required 15 minutes.  It was well worth it.  My friend, a dentist, already had both her doses. But she was happy to go back with me to make sure I got my vaccine.

While I was waiting in line, and then waiting for my 15 minutes to pass, my memory went back to my first pandemic vaccine.  Yes, I did have another one.  Just like many of my peers born in the 1950s and 1960s. I was one of the millions of children vaccinated for the polio vaccine.  Then for children, it was the taste of a sugar cube that saved our mobility and lives.

Every summer we went to the Catskills, to the mountains, to get away from the New York City area where parents were afraid that we would get polio in the summers.  People forget that polio was one reason why families wanted to escape the metropolitan area.  But I remember.

I also remember the long line that we stood in to get our vaccine. It was 1962 or 1963. I don’t remember the exact date. But I know I was 7 or 8 years old. My parents, my brother, my sister and I, stood outside in a slowly moving line that snaked into the North Bergen High School building. We never actually stood still. We just kept moving, and others kept joining the long line. Just like I did for the Covid vaccine: in one door and out another.

When we finally reached our goal, there was hundreds of little paper cups. In each one was a sugar cube. But not any sugar, these were doused in the live polio virus. To add to my enjoyment, each sugar cube that had the vaccine was a lovely shade of pink! We joyfully ate our sugar as we walked away. To be honest, I wanted a second sugar cube.

There was a worry that a few of the children might actually get polio from the live virus. But because it was the BEST way to keep the virus at bay, parents were willing to take a risk.  Due to these sugar cubes and the other vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin, in the 1950s and 60s, polio basically disappeared.

So now when I stood in another line to receive another vaccine to help stop the spread of a different pandemic, a little part of me stood in that other line, remembering another vaccine in a time when lies and anti-vaxxers were not trying to destroy faith in vaccines.  When we did not have people protesting and trying to stop people from getting their vaccines, as some protestors did at Dodger Stadium in California. When people understood the need for all to come together to stop a pandemic.  When kindness to others and true altruistic love for your neighbor took precedence over the lies found on social media that seem to be corrupting kindness.

I was so thankful to get my vaccine this week. I look forward to getting my second dose in three weeks, which also reminds me of my polio vaccine sugar cube. We had to have three in all for the vaccine to work.

I am still smiling, even though my arm is a bit sore. As each of my friends and relatives get their vaccine, I feel relief. Life will get back to some semblance of normal. And this vaccine will help us get there. I just wish that kindness to others really meant something. That this kindness included keeping everyone safe and the COVID pandemic at bay.

https://www.cdc.gov/polio/what-is-polio/polio-us.html

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-02-04/anti-vaccine-activists-dodger-stadium-have-more-plans

Kindness Will Heal the World

21 Dec

In April, after I had moved into my new home, I needed something to do other than unpack and feel panicked about the pandemic. I decided to take online classes, I chose the website Coursera. I started with the most popular course of all, Dr. Laurie Santos’ the “Pyschology of Wellbeing.” Dr. Santos teaches at Harvard University.

It was fantastic.  Her theories and work in positive psychology just touched my soul.  Because of the class, I started keeping in a nightly journal where I recorded each night one thing I savored, one good deed I did and three things that I was grateful for that day.  Her class focusing on learning to appreciate what we have and the importance of friends, family and memories only emphasized something I already knew and what she taught:  travel and seeing the world, making good memories,  was much more important than buying things.

But the most important point was the emphasis of kindness.  I always believed in doing a good deed every day, but according to the class the research has shown, that people who do good things for other people feel much better than those who do not. And they feel better for a longer time than just getting a good job and a pay raise.  Doing good, being kind, is the most important for happiness.

I started listening to her podcast, the Happiness Lab.  I also joined the Facebook page devoted to Dr. Santos’ lessons, The Happiness Lab Classroom.  In this time of stress and uncertainty and physical distancing, it helps to focus on the good.

I followed up that class with one called “Resilience Skills in a Time of Uncertainty.”  This course also focused on the theories of positive psychology. The instructor this time was Dr. Karen Reivich, who is the Director of Resilience Training at University of Pennsylvania.   Her lessons built on what I learned in Dr. Santos’ course.  Some of it was rehashing the same information.  But it reinforced and emphasized how to help yourself feel better.  For me,  what I learned, is that you do that by doing good.

After taking this class, I changed my journal entries.  I now write five things I am grateful for each evening.   What has this done for me?  Instead of going to bed worried about the world, the pandemic, the election, the craziness going on, I think about what I am thankful for and the good that I see.  It really makes all the difference.

What else has it done for me?  I was always a charitable person, but my husband and I have upped our donations especially to food pantries and organizations that do direct aid.  I have written letters to and called people who I think need a boost.   I have tried to let my friends know how much I appreciate them. I am focusing on doing at least two good deeds of kindness each day.  Kindness with conviction.  I would rather focus on that then being upset or annoyed.

I am also trying to watch more uplifting programs.  Forget all the gloom and doom movies and documentaries.   This led me to watch the most magnificent documentary about doing good I have ever seen.   I suggest everyone watch The Antidote.  I cried tears of joy throughout the movie as it tells the stories of nine people and organizations that help others in the most sensible and good ways. 

Every one of these programs should be followed throughout the country.  There were three that truly touched my heart. At Bridge Meadows in Portland, Oregon, foster care children and their ‘adoptive’ families live in a community with seniors.  Watching them interact brought joy and tears to my heart and eyes.

In Sullivan County, New York, the Center for Discovery, was amazing.  Since I spent every summer for over 25 years in Sullivan County, I was stunned to find out about this wonderful educational program and home for children and adults with complex disabilities.  And wonder of wonder, a friend of mine’s uncle spent most of his life here.  I am so impressed.

A nurse and doctor in Boston treat the homeless.  The doctor goes out into the streets to find people and care for them.  The nurse encourages into her clinic, where they soak the feet of the homeless who learn to trust them to get the care they need.  Wow.  Just watch.

The other six programs were wonderful as well.  Watch this movie.  Currently it is on Amazon Prime. If you want to bring some joy into your life and learn about more ways to help others.  Watch it.

Kindness is what will heal our world. Listening to others.  Being a friend. Appreciating what we can and helping others, in my mind, can make such a difference to the divide that is now hurting our country.  

Every human being deserves to live a life to the fullest of their abilities.  This documentary shows us how.

A Pay Phone, Then a Party Line: Using the Phone in The Catskills

17 Dec

Recently I wrote a blog about doing the laundry in the Catskills. (See blog below.) Several of my friends who spent their summers with me in Kauneonga Lake, and my brother, felt I left out one important aspect of the laundry shed: the pay telephone.

In our small colony, owned by my maternal grandparents, the pay phone was also located in the laundry shed. The only way of communication for almost all the residents of the colony to the outside world.  If they needed to call their husbands, doctors, restaurants, anything, this was the only place to make a call or to get a call. Our colony was small, so when someone did get a call, the person standing closest to the phone would answer it and send a child to go get the call recipient!  Of course all the children loved to answer the phone. At larger colonies there was an loudspeaker system to call people to the phones. (See blog below.)

I think, but since I was a child, I am not sure, that the Moms had set times and days when they spoke to their husbands during the week. 

The phone my friend has from the bungalow colony.

The telephone has long disappeared.  However, when reading my blog, one of my friends told me that she had the phone, and sent a picture.  I do not know how she got the wall phone she had.  But though I thought the number was correct, the phone was wrong.  There was no place for the money.  And our pay phone definitely was a commercial one with coin slots.

Now I did say that the pay phone was the only way to communicate. But that is not totally true. My grandparents had their own separate line because they owned the colony and would need to call local people like the plumber or electrician. So if my Dad wanted to call my Mom, they had this private line to speak. Also if there was a true emergency, my grandparents would call for help.  You did not need to use the pay phone.  Hmmmmm. I wonder if the phone my friend has is the one from my grandparent’s bungalow?  Could be.

In 1963 our phone life and summer life changed. My grandparents purchased a winter/all year house about 1/3 mile up Lake Shore Road from the bungalows.  Behind the house was a bungalow that became our summer home.  This was both fun and sad.  We had a bigger bungalow, we had our grandparents, and my parents had some peace and quiet, but we were no longer at the colony at night for fun activities or on rainy days with the other children.  However, there was an apartment at the house, where one of my friends stayed.  (See blog below.). But we were no longer part of the rhythm of the colony on a daily basis. 

Communications changed as well.  People started getting phone lines. They were not completely private. People would get Party Lines.  That is what we had at the bungalow up the hill. My grandparents and my parents shared a party line.  We were so excited to have our own phone.  But it had its now side as well.

The phone lines had slightly different rings, so you knew when you were being called. And we had a special way to call down to my grandparents so they knew we wanted to speak to them.  If you picked up the line when the other people were using it, you would hear them speaking.  In fact, if you were quiet then you could listen to the entire conversation.

That was a bit crazy, cause my grandmother sometimes would listen in!!! My MOM would get furious.  And they would have a big argument!

Here is my brother’s memory:

“Yes. She (Grandma)never said anything just listened. She was really good at it,
and I think many times we did not even know she was listening. Mom
would know when Grandma knew things that she had not been told! It was
one of the things that I remember Mom arguing with Grandma about!”

Since my grandparents lived in the Catskills throughout the year after 1969 when my Grandfather retired, their phone line would be on all year long, while our phone line would be turned off after Labor Day.

But eventually, everyone got their own private phone lines.  It was amazing.  I could call my aunt at the bungalows and find out what was going on with my cousins.  Were they going to the movies? What were the plans for the rainy day or the evening? That was what we were missing when we first moved to the bungalow by the house.  

When we were teenagers, those phones were even more important for when we made plans with our friends and cousins.

The days of the payphone and party lines ended in our colony, but the memory of the times when two people needed to make a call.  Or watching when a teenager was on the phone trying to find a private spot….there was an extremely long cord. Or wondering if my Grandma was listening on the line….I have to admit, every once in a while I listened in on my Grandma’s call. Mainly because I needed to make a call and she was already on the line.

https://zicharonot.com/2020/12/12/the-summer-the-laundry-never-dried/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/09/17/sometimes-rainy-days-were-the-best-days-in-the-catskills/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/12/30/loudspeakers-often-interrupted-life-and-the-quiet-of-the-catskills/

The Summer the Laundry Never Dried

12 Dec

The rain started slowly this time.  Giving my Mom enough time to call for us.  But she really did not have to, all the children in our little colony were running to the same place: the clothes lines.  It had rained for weeks.  Finally, there had been a break in the weather. For days, everyone lined up at the two washing machines to get their clothes and linens done. People were running out of clothes to wear.  Everything was a muddy mess.  No one could afford for the newly cleaned clothes to get wet.

We all hustled and ran for the clothes.  Each group of children around their Moms pulling the clothes off.  The littlest ones were grabbing the clothespins and putting them into the cloth bags.  We were successful.  None of our clothes got really wet.  While Mom went back to our bungalow to hang our clothes up on the porch, I remember helping my Grandma take off some of her clothes off the lines.

At least we did not have to go to a laundromat to clean our clothes! This was important as most of the moms up for the summer did not have car with them in the 1960s.  Having to go to the laundromat was a major ordeal especially with all the little children. I guess sometimes someone did go. There was always one husband/father up there for the week who could run this errand as needed.

For us there was a little shed that held two washing machines.  Our moms would put their laundry basket in a line so everyone knew who went next.  They left their laundry soap and change in the basket as well. The person before them would empty out their laundry from the machine and put the next wash in.  I think it cost 50 cents to do a laundry.  Then they would tell the next person that their wash was up, so they knew when to go get it and start the next load.  How they knew, I don’t know.  Perhaps everyone had different colored baskets or different laundry soap, but they knew.  It is a mystery to me.

Laundry days were usually Wednesday and Thursday. Everyone wanted the laundry done before the weekend when the Dads would be up. But during this time of endless rain, occasionally the Dads would have to take the laundry to the laundry mat. I got to go with my Dad once. It was quite the adventure. Long lines, as everyone needed clean and dry clothes. I remember where the laundromat was, just outside of Kauneonga Lake on the road to White Lake and to ice cream, Candy Cone. Of course, I remember, because once our washes were in the machines, Dad and I went for ice cream while we waiting to go put them into the dryer. Then we stayed close to the laundromat, to get our clothes as soon as they were done.

So many laundry memories came rushing back to me due to a painting. A distant cousin of mine, {her grandmother and my maternal grandmother were first cousins. (See blog below.)} did a series of paintings that she then gave to people who made a donation to her chosen charity, an animal shelter. One painting touched my heart. I made my donation.

In my mind this painting was like a calm and practical Chagall painting, but instead of animals or couples flying above a town, it was a zaftig woman walking across the laundry lines with a laundry basket on her head. The colors, the story of the painting, the atmosphere just yelled Catskills in my mind. Laundry Day! Joy! I had to have it.

When it arrived, the memories started crowding into my mind of the year when the laundry never dried.  How when the sun finally came out and stayed out, all the Moms and grandmas were so filled with joy that they could get their clothes clean. How they rushed to do laundry.  I think they agreed that everyone could do one laundry and then go through again.  Everyone had to get at least some laundry done before it rained again.

 I think they felt like the woman in the painting, just tripping above the clotheslines in happiness.  Finally, finally we all had clean and dry clothes!

Of course, I had to hang the painting in my laundry room. Every time I look at it, I remember how lucky I am to have a washer and dryer of my own. That I do not need to hang my clothes outside to dry depending on the weather. That the joy of laundry should be with me all the time!

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/13/finding-katie/

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

T

Reupholstery Keeps the Spirit of My Furniture, I Hope

20 Oct

Over 30 years ago a truck arrived at my home delivering my grandparent’s bedroom furniture to my home.  Made in the early 1930s, the cherry mahogany furniture was hand carved. The two chairs were covered in yellow silk and stuffed with horsehair, I knew that because the fabric was beginning to fray and the stuffing was coming out. 

The mirrors and furniture were beautiful to see and to touch.  I had so many memories of my grandparents entwined in the furniture.  From my early childhood in New Jersey, when the furniture was in their apartment above the bakery.  When I spent the night, as a small child, I slept in bed with Grandma.  Grandpa was usually up and baking throughout the night. His bedtime began about 8 am.  In the early morning grandma would leave to go work in the bakery.  I knew that when I woke up. I was to get dressed and go downstairs, where Grandma would make me breakfast.  I was never afraid. I was in a safe place, near the chair where Grandma sang Yiddish songs to put me to sleep and under the feather quilt in the winter.  So cozy.

Later the furniture moved to their home in the Catskills where they lived after they closed the bakery.    They would spend most of the winter in the Catskills, but would return to their home in West New York for a few weeks when it got too cold.   The bedroom furniture, along with their other lovly 1930s furniture, stayed there after Grandma died in 1981 and until Grandpa died in 1989. The only piece that did not make the move, was the baby grand piano. (See blog below.)

The bedroom furniture was promised to me, the oldest granddaughter.  And when my grandfather passed away, about 9 years after my grandmother, my parents packed up the furniture, found a mover, and sent it to me along with a few other pieces.  (See blog below.)

I made some changes.  My grandparents slept in twin beds. I saved the headboards, but I had the foot boards and the side railings made into a lovely television stand that matches the rest of the suite.  We did not need these as we use a king mattress.  The headboards are in my basement.  Too lovely to get rid of, they sit waiting for some future date when they will be used.

I left the yellow silk on the chairs.  All these years.  It was the original upholstery, and I could not change it.  In my mind when I saw the fabric, I could see my grandparents. I could remember sitting in the vanity chair and hearing my grandmother singing to me.   I could see myself sitting at the vanity brushing my hair and trying out her hair adornments.  I could remember Grandma sitting behind me and brushing my hair 100 strokes, to make it shine.  The fabric stayed.

The chairs with the original fabric.

Over the 30 years I have had the furniture, the fabric faced the many challenges of two small children.  It continued to decay, fray and split.  Finally, after 86 years, I decided this fabric was done. I had to reupholster the furniture.

I did it tentatively.  It took me months to find a fabric that I liked. A fabric I thought would go with the furniture, but also recall the fabric that was part of it for almost nine decades.  My Grandmother liked yellow and flowers.  I love teals and blues and geometric shapes.  How could I compromise? 

But then, the perfect fabric appeared. Amazingly it was at Joann’s, the craft and fabric store. And Grandma was watching out for me. It was on sale, 40 percent off!. I also was given the name of a fantastic upholstery, Gearhart Upholstery in Buckner, Missouri.

The mainly blue and teal woven upholstery has a bit of yellowish gold swatches.  And the pattern is both geometric, but there are flowers.  Lovely blue and teal flowers. Even though the colors are different, in my mind I kept the spirit of grandparent’s furniture. 

Purchased by my grandparents in 1936.  Sent to me in 1990.  And finally recovered in 2020.  I hope the furniture is loved by my family for many more decades. I hope the memories I cherish will turn into new memories for another generation

https://zicharonot.com/2020/09/02/vintage-greeting-cards-stir-my-imagination/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

The Piano Behind the Fireplace

13 Sep

Our house in the Catskills has been in our family since 1962.  It has gone through many changes.

When my grandparents purchased it, the house had been divided into four apartments.  Slowly, slowly it was returned to a single-family home, with an attached apartment.  Rooms that were divided were opened up or reunited with the house.  Small additions were redone. New additions were created. (See blog below.)

In the living room, a stone fireplace is the focal point.  At one time the back side was covered up and behind it a tiny kitchen and bathroom was put in.  My grandparents restored it to one room.  Behind the fireplace they put a trundle bed for grandchildren and, eventually, their old upright piano.

The fireplace in the center of the living room.

That piano was the bane of my summers.  Over 100 years old now, the piano was purchased second hand for my Mom to use when she was a child.  But Mom’s abilities outpaced this piano, and in the late 1930s, when Mom was about 10 years old, my grandparents purchased a baby grand piano for her use in their New Jersey home. (See blog below.).

Mom eventually became a special student at Julliard.  She studied music there all through high school and had hoped to go there for college. But my grandparents thought a music career was not a good choice.  So Mom went to Douglas University in New Jersey and studied education.

When the baby grand piano arrived, my grandparents had the old upright taken up to the Catskills to their bungalow in the small colony they had created.  Their bungalow was one of the bigger ones, with two bedrooms, a kitchen sitting area, and an enclosed porch.  The piano was put on the porch.

As little children, before my sister was born, my brother and I actually stayed in this bungalow with my parents and grandparents. But once my sister arrived, we started staying in our own bungalow.  The piano stayed with my grandparents.  Whenever Mom wanted to play, she just went over there.  

When I started piano lessons,  I was expected to practice….even during the summer when I had NO lessons. At first it was not a problem, I just showed up to my grandparents and went in and played.  I got treats and lots of positive reinforcement for practicing, even though I would rather be outside playing.

However, my feelings changed after the 1962 summer.  My grandparents moved up to the new “big house.”  We moved up there as well, to live in a bungalow behind the house.  That freed up two bungalows at the colony that now could be rented.  The piano stayed down at the bungalow for at least a year.

Here is where my angst began.   I was expected to go down to the colony, which I wanted to do to see my cousins and my friends. But instead of playing, I was expected to go and practice the piano.  It was no longer my grandparents’ bungalow.  It now was rented by my sort of aunt and uncle.  They were actually the brother and sister in law of my uncle by marriage.  My Grandma Rose and their son, who I considered a cousin, lived there as well.  (See blog about Grandma Rose below.)

The last thing I wanted to do was practice the piano.  Two reasons, first I felt like I was invading their territory.  I now had a set time when I had to be there to practice.  Also, I wanted to play!  Everyone else might be in the lake, but when my set time came, I had to go over to their bungalow.  There were many fights over this with my Mom.  But eventually she let me stop.  It was just not fun.

My angst ended then.  The next summer a space was made for the piano.  That little kitchen and bathroom behind the fireplace were gone, as was all the plumbing and fixtures.  The walls were cleaned and wood paneling was put in.  In the area that was once a bathroom, the upright piano now stood, back in my grandparents’ house.

So now, I could practice anytime of the day.  I left my music in the house.  On a rainy day, I could practice for as long as I liked.  While, on a beautiful day, I could just run in after a day at the lake. A low note chord broke when I was young, and we never replaced it.  I used the note so rarely, that at the times I did, I would be shocked when no noise came out.

Over time, I went to college, got married and moved away.  The piano was rarely touched and soon went out of tune.  When I started going up with my children for two weeks each summer, I wanted to get the piano tuned.  But the person we called said it was impossible, it had sat untuned for so long and it was too old.  That made me so sad.  But we left the piano there, and occasionally I would still play even with the discordant sounds that came out.

But in this time of COVID-19, the piano has been revitalized.  My nephew, who also plays the piano.  Needed a place to stay.  He had planned a long trip to Europe and had not renewed his big city apartment lease.  He asked to stay at the Catskills home.  We all agreed.  It was perfect for all of us, because we have used his time there to get some chores done and things fixed that were benignly neglected as we are usually there only on weekends.

Thanks to my nephew, we now have internet in the home and we have tasked him with meetings with an electrician, plumber and other workers.  He got a dock put in at our lake front section of Kauneonga Lake.. 

However, his greatest success, for me, is the piano.  My nephew plans to spend the winter there as well. As it is a four-season house, he can. It was my grandparents’ full-time home. So he decided to get the piano tuned!!! He found an old-time piano tuner, who has restored the sound!  This gentleman slowly got it back into shape, by doing it correctly. Over several months he came and tuned the piano just a bit until the sound board and strings could accept a full tune.

But besides tuning it, the piano tuner has dusted it and oiled the wonderful old wood.  The piano looks better than it has in 20 years. It brings me joy that the piano behind the fireplace is now a working piano giving my nephew a chance to practice his hobby as he experiences the cold winter months in Sullivan County.

(Exact dates of when of when the piano moved to the house and when I practiced at the bungalow are somewhat unknown, as it was many many years ago.)

https://zicharonot.com/2015/05/30/remodeling-my-bathroom-reminds-me-of-our-catskills-house-the-house-which-always-changed/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/08/02/a-chair-a-baby-grand-piano-and-yiddish-songs/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/07/24/movie-night-in-the-catskills-was-a-wonderful-magical-night/

Loving My Mother’s Wedding Memory Book

28 Jul

Spring and summer are usually wedding time. Although COVID-19 has altered many wedding plans, I believe we should still celebrate weddings.  About once a week I see photos on Facebook of an outdoor wedding in a backyard or a park, where a small group of people gather for a family wedding.  Other weddings, I know, have been put on hold.  But with all that going on, weddings are on my mind.

In June I wrote about finding my in-laws wedding album during our move.  Among the other items I discovered in my move, was a wedding memory book that my Mother filled out after she and Dad were engaged.  Funny how you grow up hearing family stories, but some important facts were left out. Those facts are chronicled in this memory book.

For example, I knew my parents met on a blind date set up by my Dad’s Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny.  They shopped at my grandparent’s bakery and liked my Mom.  So they arranged for their nephew, my Dad, to meet Mom.  I guess she liked him, because she loaned him the book, Animal Farm, and he had to come for a second date to return it.

What I now know is that first date was held on July 4, 1949.  Dad always said how difficult it was to go from the Bronx to West New York, New Jersey.  Now I truly believe him. It was a holiday. It must have been nuts using mass transit to go on a date.

But Mom must have liked the date. She remembered: “We went to the Roxy and then to Roth’s for supper.  I wore my black silk print and Don wore a tan sport jacket with dark brown pants.”  Can you imagine a blind date now on the Fourth of July with the man wearing a sport jacket and the woman wearing silk?  It would be perhaps a summer dress and the guy would wear nice slacks or shorts and a polo shirt. I think.

Mom was still in college.  They were both 20 years old on their first date.

They announced their engagement 19 months later on March 23, 1951, in Santa Barbara, California.  Amazingly they married just three months later.  I knew it was a quickly planned wedding. But I did not realize how quickly!

I never knew the exact date of their engagement. But it answers a question I always had.  I got married on March 22, a Saturday night. But my Mom pushed for a while for a Sunday afternoon wedding on March 23, which would have been the anniversary of their engagement! I am sorry I did not ask her why that date was so important.  I will just believe that March 22 still counts!

The story of their engagement I had heard many times. Mom and my Grandma Esther, my Dad’s mom, flew to California where my Dad was in basic training before going to Korea.  My Mom’s parents were extremely upset and worried that they would get married there. In fact, there is a photo of my parents by the courthouse in Santa Barbara that created a stir.  But no, they did not get married then.  They waited till Mom graduated college and Dad had a two-week furlough before going off to war.

They even got a few engagement gifts, mainly from close family.

My Mom even had a surprise shower on May 27, 1951.  I have photos and even a movie of the shower.  Dad was still in California.  I assume my uncle recorded the shower. My Dad’s sister, Leona, and sister-in-law, Mickey, hosted the shower at my paternal grandparent’s apartment, for 50 guests!  My Great Aunt Minnie, who was part of my childhood and even came to my wedding, gave my Mom the bridal book, I am looking at now.

My Mom, Aunt Leona, Grandma Esther and Great Grandma Ray at the surprise shower.

But the memory book had another surprise that was important in my genealogy research. I knew almost all the people at the shower.  A few I know basically who they are, but do not remember them.  And a few were a bit of a surprise, they are my grandmother’s first cousins and aunts for the Lew family. (See blog below.) These women have shown up in my genealogy research before.  It was actually these names in reference to my great grandmother that confirmed that my great grandmother was in fact from the same family in Russia as other members of the Tracing the Tribe Group I belong to.  And connected me with distant relatives here in Kansas.   This wedding memory book makes the relationship very clear.  It states, “Aunt Rose, Grandma’s sister”.  With this shower list, I am able to realize how closely in contact the family was in the 1950s.  

Of the 50 people at that shower, I only know of three still alive today. My Aunt Mickey, who hosted it; and my Mom’s two best friends Wini and Judy.

My parents married on June 17, 1951 at Talmud Torah in West New York.  My Dad’s sister was the maid of honor. My Mom’s brother was the best man. My Mom wore my Aunt’s wedding dress. As this was a quickly planned wedding, there was no time to order a wedding dress.  And my aunt, the maid of honor, wore the gown my Mom wore when she was in the bridal party of her brother’s wedding!  Sixty-seven years later, my niece married her husband on the same day.

I even have the list of everyone who attended the wedding.  Sadly, as was the time, everyone is listed as Mr. and Mrs., so I do not have many names of the women who were there, unless they were single and came by themselves.  But many of the names I know.  Many are family members. Many are people I knew throughout my life. 

The Lew/Wolf Family members who came to the wedding.

Those first cousins of my grandmother, who came to the shower, were also at the wedding with their spouses.  I met them a few times as a child and quickly forgot, as children will do. But I know I met them, as my grandmother’s family had a Cousins’ Club for many years. And I remember going and running around with lots of children in a big room. But like many children, my memory of the adults has slipped away.

After the wedding, my parents went on their honeymoon to New York City, spending two nights at the Waldorf Astoria!  They then went to the Catskills and spent five nights at Grossingers!  A true destination spot for honeymoons.

My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in the Catskills. My Dad always joked that his in laws came to be with him on his honeymoon.  And they did. They had dinner with them one night.  And with that dinner, my Dad had a funny story to tell for the rest of his life.

This tradition continued when my daughter and her husband got married. She wanted to show her husband our Catskills’ home. So they spent three nights of their honeymoon at our home in Kauneonga Lake. My sister went with them, as my daughter had never been there alone as an adult and did not really know her way around. But I like to tease my sister that she was continuing a family tradition.  (My daughter also got married on the anniversary of my husband and my first date.)

I am so glad my Mom kept records of everything in her beautiful and precise handwriting.  Reading through this book brought back stories and memories.  And brought back the joy of the wedding season that we are all missing.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/09/10/a-kansas-wedding-with-a-catskills-honeymoon/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/19/the-descendants-of-esther-lew-and-victor-avigdor-wolff-wolf/

Beautiful Feet, A Shoe Store and My Dad’s Sage Advice

20 Jan

My Dad left this world almost eight years, but in my mind, I hear his voice and I think about him daily when I get dressed and put on my socks and shoes.

Dad had a thing about keeping your feet healthy!  It dated from his time served in the infantry during the Korean War.   He would tell me and my siblings about the men he knew who did not take care of their feet and ended up with gangrene and amputation.  Many men in the military end up what is called trench foot.  And my Dad, having seen victims of this, was always emphasizing good foot care.

I cannot tell you how many times he told me that “when your feet hurt everything hurts.” This was always emphasized when we got new shoes. My Uncle Jack was the manager of a shoe store in Yonkers, New York.  Whenever we needed shoes, we would make that journey from New Jersey.

Uncle Jack was insistent that our feet fit correctly in the shoes.  He would measure and remeasure and check our toes.  When my Dad’s embroidery business failed, Dad worked in the shoe store for a while.  He became as crazy about shoes fitting as Uncle Jack.  As a teen and young adult, when I went to buy shoes, Dad always cautioned that the shoe’s toe bed should be big enough for my toes; never cramped; and never ever wear shoes that were too small.

The shoe store was important for other reasons, besides providing jobs and teaching a skill.  In fact, my oldest cousin and my brother eventually worked in a shoe store in Monticello during the summers. (See blog below.).

The stacks of the store’s storage room have additional importance for me.  When my husband and I became engaged, my Dad and Uncle told my husband to be not to buy a ring, they would help.  Uncle Jack had a great friend, or perhaps distant relative also named Jack, who was a diamond dealer.   He met us in the stacks of the shoe store carrying a shoe box filled with diamond rings. No one knew there were diamonds there.  When he left it looked like he purchased a pair of shoes. For me the shoe store in Yonkers provided shoes and diamonds,  and provides a great story on how I got my engagement ring.

I digress, so back to feet!

Another rule was: “Never wear wet socks.  When your feet get wet, dry them and change your socks as soon as possible.”  This one was often said when we ran around outside in the Catskills, especially after a rain or when the dew was thick in the mornings. Dad would rather we ran around barefoot in the rain, then wear sneakers and wet socks.  It was wet socks on soldiers that led to the trench foot conditions that impacted their lives.   To this day, I would rather wear sandals in the summer and waterproof boots in the winter to keep me away from wet socks!

When my Dad was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, he started visiting a podiatrist once a month to keep his feet in good shape.  On my Mom’s side, we had an elderly relative who lost his legs due to diabetes.  That was not going to happen to my Dad.  (see blog below.)

This emphasis on feet came to mind because of a chat I had with three friends.  We were at one friend’s house watching an important football game, when the topic of bunions came up, as one had bunion surgery and another was contemplating the same surgery.  My three friends were talking about their feet and the aches and pains and shoes that they were concerned about.

I said nothing at first. But I was thinking about a recent experience.  I had been on a cruise that entailed much difficult walking. As a reward to myself, I had a foot massage and reflexology on the ship.  The young man who provided my service, kept commenting on my beautiful feet.  He told me was expecting really ugly bunion ridden feet because of my age.  My feet astonished him. (See blog about walking below.)

img_7493

My beautiful feet enjoying Florida.

So finally, I joined the conversation, “I don’t have bunions.  My feet are in good shape.  In fact, they have been called beautiful.” They insisted I take off my shoes and show off my feet.    Which I did.  The friend who just had her foot surgery said, “You do have beautiful feet.  Your feet look like the photo the doctor showed of how feet should look.”

I told them that I owe my beautiful feet to both genetics and my Dad’s constant reminders about foot care.   Each morning, I dry my feet and put a healing lotion on them.  Once a month I get a pedicure and a massage.  I never wear wet shoes or wet socks.  I make sure my shoes fit correctly.  I do not wear high heels or pointed toes.

In my mind, I see my Dad smiling at me as I continue to follow his sage advice and remember Uncle Jack’s shoe store.  And feel blessed that I do not need foot surgery!

 

 

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/03/18/the-great-shoe-catastrophe/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/05/childhood-events-definitely-impact-my-adult-choices/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/07/10/walking-my-way-through-the-perils-of-stone-pathways-in-europe/

 

Sisters: Grandma Esther and Aunt Minnie

19 Oct

Esther and Minnie 1

Today I found a photo gem.  I love this photo.  I see my Grandma Esther and her sister, Aunt Minnie.  I see the fence around our bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake.

The photo looks out to what we called the “front lawn,” and in the background I see the lake.  You might not notice it, but if you look through the fence, you can see a bit of blue surrounded by trees.

There are several things that make this photo special.  First, I love how my grandmother is standing.   She had a habit of holding her foot up like that in photos.  I guess she liked to stand that way.

Second, she has her sunglasses off to the side, and I remember those sunglasses!!  Although I usually think of them on her face.  She wore them all the time.  Third, their hair!  Neither of them are totally white yet.  Later Grandma would put a rinse in her hair which gave it a blue tint!

Also, they are dressed up! All I can think of is that they were going to a show that day at one of the big hotels.  Otherwise they would have been in shorts and shirts and sitting in a chair either playing canasta or knitting.

This has to be in the late 1960s.  I might have taken this photo with my Brownie camera.  Once I got a camera I started my life long habit of taking photos of everything.  It might have been someone else, but for now I will claim it.

I have written before that we spent every summer in the Catskills.  I had all four of my grandparents and many other family members together all summer long.

Grandma Esther, Grandpa Harry and Aunt Minnie shared a bungalow!  How that worked, I never asked.  It was just the way it was every summer. I assume their love for each other overwhelmed their annoyances!

In the winter they lived in the same building in Co-op City, NYC,  but in different apartments.  Uncle Al, Aunt Minnie’s husband had passed away years before.  From that point on the three of them were always together.

I cannot imagine them apart. The sisters were always together in my mind, loving and fighting.  Many times, I think back to them when my sister and I squabble.  A vision of the two of them fighting over a canasta game, they were always partners, flashes and sometimes I just want to laugh.

We were so fortunate to have our summers in Kauneonga Lake surrounded by people who loved us.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/25/the-grandmas-forever-canasta-game/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/