Archive | Family RSS feed for this section

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/

Vintage Greeting Cards Stir My Imagination

2 Sep

When my grandfather died almost 31 years ago, my mother shipped some furniture to me.  My grandparents’ cherry mahogany bedroom set, a lamp, an old radio cabinet and a few more pieces.  My grandfather had not removed my grandmother’s clothing from the dresser nor the items she had left behind in the radio cabinet that served as a closed bookcase.  My mother did not empty them out either.  She sent the furniture filled with my grandparents’ personal items because she just could not deal with them.

I emptied out the dresser drawers when I received it, donating most of the clothing to charity, the $10 bill I found hidden away, I still have for emergencies.  Although I used the radio cabinet, I left my grandparent’s items inside alongside the items I stored in it.  But recently, when I moved, I emptied out the cabinet and repurposed it as a curio cabinet.  I had looked at the items before this move.  In fact, I wrote a previous blog about my grandmother’s ledger books. (See blog below.). But the other piles I just ignored for 31 years.  Procrastination in dealing with sorrow is strong in my family.

But now I had no excuse.  I had to sort through the piles on the shelves.  My findings included letters that my sister, cousin, Mom and I all wrote to my grandparents. I must admit, most of the ones saved were from me. I think that I wrote the most because I moved to the Midwest.  There were also three letters in Yiddish.  I think they are from my Grandmother’s brother and sister in law.  I have to get them translated.

The antique radio cabinet.

Included in the piles were 116 unused vintage greeting cards from the 1940s, 50s and 60s:  sympathy cards; cards for birthdays, weddings, anniversary; get well cards; birthday cards for grandchildren; holiday cards. 

There was one sister birthday card.  My grandmother was able to save her sister from Poland in 1936 and bring her to the United States. They were extremely close. My great uncle was a baker with my grandfather.  But Grandma never sent this card to my Tante.  I thought, “why waste a good card.” I recently sent it to my sister, whose birthday is this month.  I think she will like it!

Card I sent my sister.

Among these vintage cards were two that really touched my heart. Created by American Greetings, these 25 cent cards were birthday cards for twins.  Why would Grandma buy birthday cards for twins? We knew no twins; we had no twin cousins; why?

I think I know.  I my theory with my sister.  We will never know, but it could be.  I honestly wish I could ask her.  But when I was a teenager, I learned her story.

The two twin cards.

We did not have living twins in our family.  But in 1930 my grandmother was pregnant with twins.  She already had two children. My uncle about 3 or 4 and my Mom was about 18 months when my grandmother was pregnant again.  At 24, she was not in good health.  Her childhood in Poland and surviving WWI had left its mark on her health.  Her kidneys were failing.  The doctor said she had to terminate the pregnancy or she and the baby would die (They did not know it was twins till after.).

And so the pregnancy was terminated.  Abortion was illegal in 1930.  However, Grandma was able to have the abortion by a physician.  Could it be that she was so sick, they had to do anything to save her life?  I assume so.  After the abortion they found out that she was carrying twins.

How do I know all of this?  My grandmother and my mother told me.  My sister knows as well. It was not a secret.  My grandmother was always open about how terminating the pregnancy saved her life.  She never got pregnant again.  I assume my grandparents were very careful.  

But after the abortion, my Grandmother was still quite ill. Her kidneys were still failing. She was so ill that she decided she had to go back to Europe and give her children to her in-laws as she was sure she was going to die.  She did not die and she returned to the USA with her children and then worked to get the family out of Europe.   (I wrote a blog about this as well, see below.). It was the abortion, the illness and this trip that led to my grandmother saving her sister’s life! 

When I saw the birthday cards for the twins.  My memory of my Grandmother telling me about this lost pregnancy came into my mind.  Did she ever think about all that happened because she ended the pregnancy? Did she buy these cards for the children who did not live?  Where they often on her mind? Did she celebrate their birthday privately?  

I will never know. 

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/07/my-grandmas-ledger-books-remind-me-of-her-financial-lessons/

https://zicharonot.com/2016/06/06/the-mysterious-kalsbad-photos-who-are-they/

Dealing With A Speech Impediment is Not Easy!I Get Joe Biden And Brayden H.

22 Aug

In the last few months, I have had people ask me about Joe Biden.  Does he have cognitive issue?  Are you sure?  He seems to hesitate when he speaks sometimes.

My response is always, Joe Biden has a stutter.  People who stutter often have to stop to think about what they say before they say it.  It helps with the flow.

Why am I an expert?  Because it is an action I know well.  From the time I was 4 until I finished eighth grade, I had a weekly session with a speech pathologist. The year before kindergarten and in kindergarten, she came to our home and worked with me.

I was fortunate.  My Mom had a degree in elementary education and had worked as a teacher before she had children.  She knew that the way I spoke was not going to fix itself, and so she made the necessary and important calls get me the help I needed as soon as possible.

Once I got into first grade, the sessions continued. But now I left my classroom for a half hour, once a week to meet privately with the speech pathologist at the school.  I had tons of exercises to do.  And tongue twisters to say.  For me, “Sally Sells Seashells at the Sea Shore,” was not just a saying. It was a difficult and painful exercise, which I said over and over again in mirror.  W’s and Rs were so hard to enunciate.  I would look at myself in the mirror saying, “Ring, Wing, Ring, Wing.” I had to watch as my face moved. The speech teacher had me hold her face and she moved the muscles around her mouth, so that I also could move my muscles the same way.

I still do these exercises sometimes when I am alone, especially if I have to do public speaking.

People made fun of me.  A friend of my grandmother’s once told me that I should go on “Laugh In” because I spoke so funny.  At eight years old, I was mortified. And I did not want to go out of our house for a while.  My grandmother was furious. But that did not help. It was said and it hurt.

I hated going to restaurants because I had to say my order out loud.  I always wanted my Mom or Dad to do it for me. But at a certain point Mom insisted that I do it.  So I fought with my might NOT to go to a restaurant. There were many battles, where my anger and desire to stay home wrecked family events.  But the fear and shame of how I spoke made me defiant and added to my desire to stay home. 

I hated talking on the phone, for fear the person on the other end would laugh.  But my Mom would make me answer and practice phone skills with me.  My Mom never backed down.  I was going to learn to talk!

There were people who helped.  The Good Humor man in the Catskills was my buddy.   He always listened to me and knew what I wanted to order.  When he retired, the new ice cream man had a chocolate sundae waiting for me, ordered by our old ice cream man.  I called it a “yorchlet undae.” But the Good Humor men had compassionate, and always waited while I ordered.

My cousins and my good friends who knew me from early childhood, never made fun of me.  They waited and let me talk.  They understood what I said. But even if they didn’t, they helped me find the words.

But it was my father’s first cousin, David, who stuttered, who made the biggest difference.  I will never, ever forget.  We did not see him often. But at every big family event, he was there.  And it was at one of my cousin’s bar mitzvah that David decided that it was time.  Perhaps my Dad spoke to him.  All I know, is that he helped as only he could. 

I was so shy. I was standing up against a wall, not speaking, when David came over to me.  I don’t remember everything he said, but his message was clear.  IF he could do it, I could do it.  He still stuttered sometimes, but I needed to know that I was a good person. And that the speech impediment did not define, SHOULD not define, who I was and impact my life anymore.  We spoke for a long time.  He told me his story. He told me how he got through with his speech impediment, went to college, got married and had a great job. He expected me to do the same. He gave me the confidence my parents could not give me as they did not understand. 

I remember my father came up and asked if everything was ok.  David say, “More than okay.” He hugged and told me if I ever wanted to talk again, that my Dad would call him. That he would always speak to me. And he did!

As a child, the show and movie, “The Music Man,” was my favorite because I understood Winthrop and I appreciated the Music Man, Harold Hill, who helped Harold, just as my cousin helped me!

So when I saw Brayden Harrington speak at the Democratic Presidential Convention.  When I heard his story of how Joe Biden helped him.   I had tears, but more, I nodded in understanding and support.   It was my first cousin once removed, David, who was my helper.  Who change the path of my life.  Who helped me out of my shell and helped me find my voice.

From a girl who was afraid to order at a restaurant, or speak on the phone or talk to strangers, I ended up with master’s degree in journalism.  I speak to strangers all the time.  I speak on the phone, to groups and even taught high school.  No one in my adult life knew about my issues. All that work in elementary and middle school paid off!  By high school I sounded like everyone else, because I learned to compensate!

Joe Biden; the king of England George VI, so finely illustrated by Colin Firth in “The King’s Speech”; Winthrop, in “The Music Man,” my cousin, David:  all overcame a speech impediment by learning skills to compensate, as I do. I know when a word is coming that I cannot say that day.  Yesterday, or even a minute ago, it would come out. But at that moment I need to quickly find another to use.  But I am slick and quick and I learned over the years to avoid multisyllabic words in my spoken language.

So NO Joe Biden is not slow, or demented.  He, in fact, is amazing to me.  That he has gone so far and learned to speak out.  But more, he has become a role model of good to young people who also suffer from speech issues.

If you need help with stuttering: https://www.stutteringhelp.org/

A Quest Completed! Thanks to My Cousin!

19 Aug

In my quest to discover more about my ancestors and my family’s immigration to the USA, I have enlisted the help of my family.  My sister, an attorney, was given the job of research. When I could not find something, I often sent her an email and said ‘try to find this’.  And she did. Sometimes we argued about whether we really found who we thought we found. But in the end, we would determine the truth.  She is named for my paternal great grandmother, Raisha.

My cousin’s son, when he graduated college, and before he got a job, became interested in family as well, and created a marvelous family tree of my paternal side. I still send him updates when I get more information. He keeps it current as cousins marry and babies are born. Other cousins have sent me photos as they search through their parent’s albums. We have had great discoveries through these albums, including the only known photo of my other paternal great grandmother. (See blog below.)

For years I have wanted to find the graves of my paternal great grandparents.  I knew they were buried in New York somewhere. I actually remember my great grandmother.  Before COVID, I found what I thought was my great grandfather’s grave, and sent it out to my cousins, asking what they thought.  It was not the grave. Two of my cousins remember going to visit the grave with my grandmother, to see her parents.

My Great Grandfather Louis and Great Grandmother Rae in 1894 around the time of their wedding.
My Great Grandparent’s grave!

They said, it is in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.  OY, I really wanted to have pictures of the graves.  But I live in Kansas. I just needed this photo, to complete a desire in my quest to answer questions. Where were they?  Were they with other family?  No one wanted to make the journey out to the cemetery. They were all busy.

But, I have a fantastic cousin.  I call him the king of the cemeteries.  He does not like that title. But I give it to him out of love.  He is the one who makes sure the family plot where all my grandparents, my parents, his parents, my uncle and others rest, is always cared for by the cemetery.   When we have gone and seen something not right, we have emailed him. And he makes sure it is fixed. He is named after this great grandfather.  And they are both Baruch Lev, blessed hearts.

This week, when I got a call from him, I was worried.  He doesn’t call me that often.  And with me in Kansas, and most of my family in New Jersey and New York, I wondered did anything happen.  “Do you have Facetime?” he asked.  The next thing I know he was calling me back, and I was walking with him in Washington Cemetery seeing the graves of my great grandparents.  I have tears in my eyes now, but at that moment, I was elated.  “Take pictures.”    Of course, he was taking pictures.  He said, with nothing to do right now, he thought he would take a ride out and find the graves.

He could not find the grave of their child who died as an infant.  He did not see the graves of any of our great grandparents’ siblings.  And although my cousins thought that my grandparents were not buried together, the memory was wrong. They share a grave site.  

My cousin took pictures of the grave and the entrance to the section where they are buried, in the Bialystoker area.

Above the gate it says: Bialystoker. And under it UNT VEREIN SOMACH NOFLIM.  My grandfather was the president of the Bialystoker Free Loan Society, the Somach Noflim. This is the area where he was buried.  He was also a vice president of the once famed Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which he helped establish.  The blog below explains the goodness of my great grandfather

Above the Gate: Bialystoker Unt Verein Somach Noflim

Baruch Lev ben Yaacov Zev, died July 24, 1941, just a few months before my father’s bar mitzvah. He was 71 years old. And Rushka, or Raisha or Rae, or Rachel, she has all those names: Rushka the daughter of Avigdor, who died on November 29, 1956, on my brother’s third birthday. I was not quite two. I actually have a memory of her.

I once told my Dad, that my memory was Grandma Ray sitting in a chair in my grandparents’ Bronx apartment. She was not moving very much and she had lace on her head.  Later I told Dad it must have been a doily on her head.  And my Dad laughed. He said she had very little hair, and her scalp showed through, making it look like lace.

I consider myself so fortunate to have a family who appreciates my desire to have the history of our family written down for the next generations.   I appreciate my sister who does research; my cousins who send me photos, especially the ones with inscriptions on the back; my cousin’s son who does the family tree; and my cousin, Baruch Lev,  who took a day to go to the cemetery for me and give me this gift of our great grandparents’ graves.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/11/23/the-gift-of-a-photo-becomes-a-gift-of-genealogy/

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/

Rediscovering My Husband’s Parent’s Wedding Album

15 Jun

As we have been unpacking since our recent move, we found items we did not even know we had.   Among them was my husband’s parent’s wedding album.  It makes sense we had them.  At the time his mother died and their father moved, one brother was living in Europe and the other brother was busy with four little children.   That meant that my husband and I did a lot of the sorting and cleaning.   Especially since his father was moving to live with his new wife.  A wedding album with his deceased wife would not have been a good idea.

I should also say my husband’s mother died when she was just 59 years old from lung cancer.  It was a painful time for her and for her family.  She was way too young. Smoking three packs of cigarettes a day was not the best for her health.   (See blog below.)

I digress.  We found the wedding album as we were packing boxes in the old house. The album was in an old box of items important to my husband.  We were sorting through the box to see what we needed to move with us.  Of course, the photo album made the move! We did not have time to really look through it when we were getting ready for the move. But now that we are here and unpacking, we took a break to look through a bundle of old photos.

Lee, his mother, was one of ten children in the Matassarin family. I knew eight of them. One died before she was born. And one passed before I joined the family. In this photo, most of her siblings and their spouses are in the picture. I am assuming the one that is not in were still serving in the military. It was soon after WW2.

Her parents died long before she married.  Her mother died when she was only five or six years old; her father died when she was a senior in high school.  (See blogs belos.)

Her oldest brother walked her down the aisle.  Her youngest sister was her maid of honor.  In some of the photos, she looks pensive.  I wonder if she is missing her father?  Her mother?  Even though she had so many siblings with her, I have to think she missed not having either parent.

My husband’s first cousins planned to have a family reunion next week. They planned a trip to Leavenworth, Kansas, to see the family home and to visit the Jewish cemetery where their grandparents were buried. It has all been cancelled due to the virus. I had planned to share the wedding album then. Instead, I share it here. Not all the photos, but at least this one that shows all the family together on a very happy day.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/05/06/remembering-my-mother-in-law-with-a-manicure-and-pedicure/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

Pademic Move: One Month Update

13 May

We made it to a month in the new home.  Finally, no more workers, all wearing masks, some wearing gloves and booties, are coming in to fix one of the many issues that we had to correct in the new hone.   Practically everything is completed.  

We actually can use our master bathroom, stovetop and trash compactor. Many pictures are hung on the walls.  And upstairs in the main living area, we only have only one box to unpack!! 

Runner by the kitchen sink.

I could not go shopping for some rugs we needed. But I did find a few things I needed on RugsUSA. So that helped. Now our hardwood kitchen floor is a bit more protected. I never had a hardwood floor in the kitchen. I am learning.

Downstairs is another story.  Each day I try to do one or more boxes.  We did one already this morning.  And I planned to do the others today as well.  But I am writing a blog instead.  Procrastination is okay during a pandemic.

I can honestly say that this house is beginning to feel like home.  Yes, there are some blips.  Like my husband asking me where something is, like shoelaces.  “Just tell me! You don’t have to get up and show me!  I guess you are getting up,” he says with a note of exasperation in his voice.

“I wish I could tell you!”  Is my response.  “But I am not exactly sure where it is.  I know the shoelaces are in a drawer in the kitchen, but I don’t know which drawer.  In our old house I would just tell you. But here I have to look.”  And even when I look, the item I am searching for is not exactly where I remember or thought I put it.

Now don’t think this conversation would not have happened in our home of 35 years.  It would have.  Even though the shoelaces were always kept in the same place, my husband never remembered where they were.  My brain carried an internal map of almost every item.  Now that map has been distorted and corrupted.  

When we open boxes now, I realize that I should have labeled things much better.  We finally, after a month, found my mouse pad, computer mouse and back up hard drive.  Finally.

But we put the wrong one on my computer.  There is another hard drive that I needed to find!  It took two days, but we found it!

The new house is feeling like home.  We both agree, it is a great place to spend the next stage of our lives.  With all of our everyday living on one level, it makes sense.  An added bonus is the maintenance provided for lawn mower, hedge trimming, leaf and snow removal.  No more weekly outdoor chores to get done.  Now we can just focus on weeding and planting.

There is the one glaring problem, however: our old home.   We had planned to move and then put it on the market, so that we could take our time.  Not disrupt the cats as much.  And do a peaceful move.  We did not plan for a pandemic financial crash.   We might not be selling our house.  The market is not going our way at all.

But then we realize, we actually put the house on the market 10 days earlier than planned. We had no plans to buy a house in March.  We were to be in Europe for two weeks celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.  In fact, according to our schedule, we were only coming home in time for Mother’s Day.  But instead we spent those two weeks unpacking and having the house issues dealt with on almost a daily basis.

I guess for us the silver lining of the pandemic is the joy of being at home and getting settled, without having to worry about a trip out of town.  And for me, having to go between the two homes, packing at one and unpacking at another, gave me the opportunity to keep busy and not focus on the isolation!  Another silver lining.

I decided to focus on the good of the move and not dwell on the issues that arose because of when we moved.  We are not the only ones who had a move planned in the month of March, April or May.  We are all navigating this strange time.  I hope everyone can find a silver lining and adjust happily into a new environment.

Most of all, I hope those who are having financial struggles are able to keep their home and find employment and survive. My struggles as silly when I compare myself to others. Sending prayers for all who are going through changes during this unexpected time.

Rediscovering A Talk With My Husband’s Aunt (Part 1)

1 Apr

Cleaning out my house as we prepare to move has brought me several treasures.  One I have been looking for over the last few months, as my husband’s family had planned a family reunion in June, which has since been cancelled.  But what I was looking for finally turned up in a file cabinet drawer.

Over 30 years ago, I sat down with my husband’s Aunt Matt, who was his mother’s sister.  My husband’s Mom died of lung cancer when she was only 59.  After my daughter was born, I felt truly sad that she would never hear stories about her grandmother’s family.  So I asked Aunt Matt if she would be the substitute. She was delighted!

We used to spend a long weekend each March at the Lake of the Ozarks with Aunt Matt and her husband, Uncle Stan, in a time share they had.  This was the perfect opportunity.  My husband and his uncle took my daughter fishing, while Aunt Matt and I talked about her life in Leavenworth and Wichita, Kansas, and I recorded her words.

Aunt Matt, whose real name was Marie, was filled with love for her parents and her nine siblings.  Her father, Leon, was from Romania.  He had both a law degree and a medical degree.  After college, at Sorbonne, he went to England where he met his wife, Esther. She was just 15 when they married.  (See blogs below about their marriage) Leon spoke 7 languages!

Esther and Leon

They first lived in London where the first three children were born: Molly, Joe and Jean.  They came to North America in 1912.   I understand that they came through Canada.   They first settled in New Orleans, where Leon taught at Tulane University.   (I had never heard this before!)

During the First World War, Leon entered the United States Army, where he became a colonel.  He stayed an extra year in Europe as he was put in charge of the exchange of prisoners.  (There is actually a photo of him with prisoners that one of my husband’s cousins owns.) 

Colonel Leon M.

While he was in Europe, his young family lived in Brooklyn with family. Aunt Matt said with their grandparents.  (I do know that Esther’s had family in NY. But I thought it was her brother.).  When he finally got back to the USA, the family moved to Pennsylvania, where Colonel Leon was in charge of a military hospital.  They lived in a home belonging to a family that gave it to the Army to use.  It was just 100 steps from the hospital.

Somewhere along the way, from Tulane, to Wichita for a bit, to Pennsylvania, four more children were born: Marie, Fred, Florence (Toots) and Ben (Bubsy).  When Leon was finally discharged and left active duty, he moved his family to Wichita, Kansas. Aunt Matt had no idea why they moved. (The names in parenthesis are family nicknames.)

The next baby, Leona ”Lee”  (Bubbles) was born in Wichita.  Her birth in 1925 was almost exactly one year after the oldest daughter, Molly, died while attending college in New York.  Bubble’s middle name, May, was for her sister.  This baby was important in my family, as she was my husband’s mother.  Aunt Matt said, “Lee was a born one year and two days after Molly died of pneumonia in 1924 while at Columbia University, where she was studying art.”

Lee was the only child born in Wichita.   While there, Leon had a private practice. But he was also part of a group that founded the first free clinic.  The St. Francis Free Dispensary was founding in 1922.

Aunt Matt did not know why the family moved once again to Leavenworth, Kansas. But they did sometime before 1927, because the last two children, Barbara and Richard were born when they lived in Leavenworth.  Leon had a private practice their specializing in OB/BYN and Surgery.  

Life changed for them after just a few years after moving to Leavenworth. When the youngest, Richard, was just two years old, their mother, Esther, died.  Aunt Matt was in college then.  She was told that her mother died of pneumonia.  But we know she died in childbirth.  (See blog below.)

This blog covers the first three pages of 17 pages of notes. The next ones will discuss the time in Leavenworth, Kansas.

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/04/the-great-alie-street-synagogue-my-husbands-family-london-ties/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/09/more-on-esther-and-leons-london-wedding/

If you read these other blogs, you will find slightly different stories. We all have the stories our parent’s told us. With ten siblings ranging about 25 years apart in age, different grandchildren of Leon and Esther, were told slightly different stories. OR had slightly different memories. These are Aunt Matt’s memories.

Downsizing After 35 Years

5 Mar

It has been a wacky five weeks in my life, which has left me without the energy to write. But finally, I think I can articulate my mixed-up emotions. We are moving. Leaving the only house we ever owned. Leaving the house that we brought both our children home to. Leaving the neighborhood we have lived in for 35 years.

And it is my fault!

I told my husband several years ago that we needed a smaller home. We needed to be living on one level. That he needed to stop mowing the lawn, raking leaves and shoveling snow. It was part of my wise aging plan, we would chose! Last summer he acquiesced. In August I started the search for a reverse 1 1/2 story that had some maintenance free accommodations. At the end of a January I found the house.

Bringing my husband to see it when he was not feeling well might not have been fair as he lay on the floor of the empty great room and told me if I love it get it. But I took him at his word. Also he knew I had seen a multitude of homes before getting that feeling of home I felt in this one.

The house became ours on March 2. Before that was inspections, arrangements for buying, and me coming down with the flu even though I had the flu shot this year as always. The flu for me is always horrific! And this was the same. Five days of fever was followed by an unhappy asthma attack. I have basically been feeling ill for over three weeks. But a second round of steroids seems to have finally moved me forward from my malaise.

But all this has been happening as I started packing for the move while I, along with my husband and children began sorting through the shrines of this home and discarding pieces of the past. My son comes when he is not working to clean out his room and his stored items in the basement. He and his girlfriend are also searching to buy a home. They will take some of the furniture and items that are not moving to our new home.

What my current house looks like

My daughter, who lives overseas with her husband, surprised us on her birthday showing us her ticket home. She arrived two days later for 8 days of intensive sorting. She and I went through our immense library of books, taking just 40-45 boxes and leaving the rest behind.

My children and I went through the house with different color tape as we chose art work. I had first choice, but then they chose what they liked. My heart swelled as the amicably made their selections. I thought how happy I was to do this with them while I was alive and could see what they liked and how well they got along. That is a parents joy. And after cleaning out my parents’ homes after they died, I was determined to make it easier for my children!

At the same time, we were finding paint samples, running to plumbing stores and remodeling companies as we planned the updates in the new home. And I was still dealing with my asthma. I think I was in a state of suspended reality the entire time. She also packed up her entire room, while also ridding it of the residue of her 34 years. She came with three empty suitcases that flew back across the Atlantic and Mediterranean filled with pieces of her life. When she left, I felt a bit bereft, but thankful she came.

But finally this morning I woke up after sleeping an entire seven hours feeling like I could really breathe! Our new house has a swarm of workers busily updating. Yesterday nine people were painting, hammering, removing, and updating. And with the painters painting away, new hardwood floors are being installed, the electrician fixing all the issues, the plumber ready to come, the alarm company updating, the tree service and roofer and gardener all set up, I can relax. All I have left to do is to keep packing and sorting. I honestly cannot have an outside company pack. Downsizing means things have got to GO!

Pre work great room
Carpeting gone.
Floor going in.
You can see the new color off to the left!

However, I have to admit one more event probably eased my anxiety. I was supposed to go on a mission to Europe with a group. I did not fear getting ill, but the timing was so bad with the move less than a month away. And I would be gone a week as the remodeling continues. I woke up at 4 am each morning uneasy. Going through all that still needed to be done at home, while at the same time trying to get my work completed at my job. High anxiety on top of excitement. On top of trying to breathe. But yesterday the trip was postponed due to the Corona virus. It actually is a relief!

I am thankful for my friends and family who have pitched in to help! Our realtor, who has been in our lives for over 25 years, has gone beyond her role to help me in the remodeling. My walking artist buddy has Helped me chose colors. My son’s girlfriend, with her great mind for detail, was with me during the inspections. Offers of help to pack. Allowing me to put some of our extra trash in their garbage cans for pickup. Looking through things as I try to decide what to keep. And being there. My husband and I are blessed with family and friends.

Some give away stories. My daughter and I found a box of remnants from my son’s bar mitzvah. Kelly green visors with the word celebrate imprinted. We first thought trash. But then I thought friend. My walking buddy teaches catechism at her granddaughters’ school. Would they like 100 Kelly green visors for St Patrick’s Day. They are donated and at the school ready. And our 100 extra Kippur from our children’s b’nai mitzvot and friends’ life cycle events are at our synagogue in the kippa box where they are being used for services. Other items are also finding new homes. Sleeping bags we no longer use are going to the homeless through a friend’s church ministry. A Halloween ceramic plate is going to a friend who loves that holiday. And my daughter’s 25 year old Barbie camper is going to a friend so her two granddaughters can play with it. I love seeing our cherished items get a second life!

But most of all, for me, I am happy that I finally had the energy to write.

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/