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The Day My Brother Save My Life, And Other Stories About the Best Brother Ever

29 Nov

Today my brother turns 65.  I find that a bit shocking as we are just 14 months apart, and where he leads I follow.  I cannot believe we are nearing the end of our working careers.  He tells us he is retiring in December 2019.  But I am glad that we are aging together with friendship and love.

I had not intended to write a blog about my brother.  He is a somewhat private person, so I will not put in a photo and I will not give him a name here.  But I am going to tell some of my favorite memories.

First important memory.   We are about 8 and 9 years old.  It was a Sunday and we had just completed a visit to my grandparents in New York City.  With three of us, only two could get window seats.  And it was my younger sister and my turn to have the window seats.  My brother was in the middle.

It was a time before seat belts, so as the car moved, we moved.  Sometimes if we bumped into each other, we would scream out, “He touched me!  She touched me! Don’t touch me!”  Car rides were not always fun!

On this day, when we got into the car, the driver’s side passenger door would not close properly, but my Dad forced it closed and locked it.  Or so he thought.  And he took off driving back to our home in North Bergen, New Jersey, across the river.

I remember it in slow motion.  As he went around a big curve going onto the highway to the George Washington Bridge, that door, right where I was sitting and leaning up against, flew open.  I started sliding out of the car with the force of the movement.

I heard my brother yell.  I felt his hand grab my hand and pull me toward the center of the car. There was no teasing, not pushing, just a warm grabbing arm pulling me up against him as my dad pulled to the slide and stopped the car.  It was a scary moment.  But I was fine. Dad got the door closed properly this time. And we went home.

I always think of it as the time my brother saved my life.

Do not think it was always like that. Being just 14 months apart, we had our moments of fighting and our moments of companionship.

We often united in either protecting our much younger sister or wanting to rid the world of her.

But as we grew up, we grew together in our parents’ words, “Brothers and sisters stick together.”  (See blog below.)

Over the years, as we faced the deaths of our parents and other close family members, my brother has been the rock.   He continues to call us “Sisters” whenever he has something to say.

Like, “Sisters, sisters, let’s calm down.”  I think it is his own way to remind himself that we are his sisters and we must stick together.

But it is my brother who would pick me up at the airport many times I came in to see my parents in their last illnesses.  It was my brother who called to tell me my Dad had passed away.  It was my brother and I who cleaned out their apartment together, sorting through the things to keep, throw out and give away.  His strength made it doable.

It was my brother who dropped everything to be with my sister when her husband became deathly ill. Getting there as soon as he could, while I made plans to fly in with my nephew from Kansas. It was my brother who taught my niece how to drive after her own father died so young.

My brother’s adult calmness is so opposite his younger self.  However, his kindness was always there.  It was my brother next to me in a movie theater when a strange man sat next to me.  And it was my brother who got me away.  (See blog below.)

It was my brother who said to his friends, “Do not bother my sister.  Only I can do that.”  It did protect me a bit from his teenaged buddies.  But we still could drive each other crazy.

Of course, my sister and I love him in return.  We know that it is our brother who keeps the peace between us when we have a bit too much time together.  His laughing questions, “Are you two still speaking to each other?”  “Did you kill each other yet?” After I spend a week with my sister, are always answered truthfully.  Thankfully we are both still alive.  We give him the run down, only one or two fights so far. But we are okay.

I have seen many siblings stop speaking to each other after their parent’s passing. Not in our family.  We have affection and fun together.  And we have my brother’s words:
“There is no item worth fighting over, they are only things.”

And he is right.  He is the Best Brother Ever.  And he did save my life.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/01/19/brothers-and-sisters-must-stick-together/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/10/10/hidden-memories-they-do-exist/

 

The Day A Wooden Swing Almost Killed Me: And Other Catskills Accidents

25 Nov
Grandmas and us

I always had a bandaid on my knee!

I have many lovely memories of summer in Kauneonga Lake, Sullivan County, the Catskill Mountains.  But I also have memories of injuries that came along with summer activities.

My grandparents’ bungalow colony was not large.  We did not have a pool, because we were directly across the street from Kauneonga Lake.  Who needed a pool? The dock and the lake were all we needed to spend hours of entertainment.

We had blueberry patches, where we would spend hours picking and eating blueberries.  We also used the blueberry patches for games of hide and seek, as well as war games that the boys among us organized.

There was also a swing set, which also provided hours of fun.  We would take turns swinging on the swings, seeing who could go higher; who could jump further from a swinging swing; who was the bravest.

At our colony, there were just three girls.  The rest were boys.  And of the boys, one was my brother and three were my cousins.  And they would urge me on to disaster sometimes.

Another fact about swings in the late 1950s and early 1960s is that the seats were made of wood.  Thick wood to hold the bodies of wilding swinging boys and girls.  Today swings are made of thick fabric.  So much smarter than wood.

Why am I so in favor of fabric swings?  Because a wooden one almost killed me when I was about six years old.

It was a beautiful sunny day.  We were all around the swing set, playing and spying on our neighbors, something we often did.  Looking over a small mound of dirt into their yard.

My brother was swinging higher and higher and then jumping off the swing.  I believe my cousins were doing this as well as the other boys.  I decided I wanted to do it as well.

I started to swing.  I remember my brother telling me to go faster and faster and to jump when the swing was as far forward as possible.   I thought I was fine, but I did not quite make it.

I jumped.   I fell to the ground.   The swing passed over my head.  I sat up.  I heard yelling.  And then nothing.

I woke up in my bungalow with my aunt and mom staring at me.  I was sick to my stomach.  My head was pounding.  I now understand that I had a concussion.  The swing had come back and hit me in the back of the head knocking me out.  I had to stay in the bungalow for the rest of the day.  Ice on the bump on the back of my head.  My aunt, Mom and Grandmas checking in on me.

To be honest, I stopped swinging after that. I would get nauseous just looking a swing set.

I would like to say that was my only adverse summer adventure.  But you know that is not true.  I remember the summer my Dad taught me to ride a bicycle.   For some reason every time I made a certain curve in the colony, where there was a little hill, I flew off my bicycle.  I was determined.   I would get passed that hill.  My knees tell the story. There are many photos of me with skinned knees all thanks to the bicycle and the hill.  But I did learn.

One injury was truly not my fault.   The Dads pitched in together to build us all a club house.  I remember sitting in it, when everyone ran out.  I was about three.  My understanding is that someone climbed on the top of the clubhouse…. I tend to think it was my brother as he was extremely active.

As the club house began to fall, everyone ran out, but me.  I was once again hit in the head. But this time, I had a deep, open wound.  Mom took me to the doctor, where I was given a tetanus vaccine and a butterfly on my scalp.   I really wanted to see that butterfly, but never did.  I still have a scar on my scalp and a tenderness.  I hate when any one tries to touch my head without notice.  It caused lots of aggravation as small child.  Especially since my other brother loved to see me scream as he pretending to go to touch my head.  Brothers and sister know how to push all the buttons!

I was not the only one to suffer from injuries during the summer.  I think everyone had at least one emergency visit to the doctor each summer.  But it was part of the fun and the excitement. The injuries became part of the summer stories, part of the memories that bound us together.

How The KinderTransport Touched My Family

5 Nov

I have always been intrigued by the KinderTransport that saved 10,000 Jewish children during the Shoah as they were transported out of Nazi territory and on to England by train and then across the English Channel.  In my mind I imagined the heaviness of heart of the parents as they put their children’s safety first and sent them to live in a foreign country with people they did not know.  What brave parents they were to know they might not survive, but to give their children a chance no matter the peril!

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My interest sparked me to read books about these trains.  And even brought my attention to the orphan trains that brought children from the east coast out to the middle of the country on Orphan Trains. In my mind the two were linked together.  The KinderTransport children were not yet orphans, but many would be by the end of the war.  The Orphan Train children were often in orphanages or living on the streets when they were sent away.

But I did not know of anyone who actually rode the trains to a new life brining the children to safety away from the horrors of Europe, except for a man I met on a cruise several years ago.  (See blog below.)

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The sisters,  Martha and Rosa, who I now know survived thanks to the KinderTransport.

However, recently that all changed.  I now know that two of my relatives survived the Shoah when their parents put them on a train to England from Breslau, Germany.  Their mother was my grandmother’s first cousin.  These two girls were around the age of my mother, their second cousin. Except for a photo I found and wrote about, we would not have known about the sisters.

Their mother, Celia, perished in the Shoah.  I thought they had as well.  All I had was a photo of two girls and a brief inscription on the back.  But from that inscription, I was able to find out that at least one of the girls survived.  I did not know how she survived, but I knew she lived and wrote a Yad V’Shem testimony for her mother.  From little information I had,  I wrote a blog (see below) about a year ago, wanting to know more.

Recently that blog was read by someone in England, who gave me the news that both girls had survived and had come to England on the KinderTransport.  That one girl, Martha, had lived with this person’s in-laws during the war. The families had been in touch until Martha’s death.

Now I have new wonders.  Did my grandmother know that her cousin’s children had survived?  Did anyone know?  The testimony was not written until 1999 from Australia.  So perhaps not.  Perhaps the sisters had been lost to the family forever because of the Shoah. I think this is a question that will never have an answer as anyone who might have known is long gone.

I wish I knew more.  I have reached out to the person who contacted me to see if she has more information.  I have not heard back.  But I thank her for contacting me at all and helping to solve another Shoah mystery for my family.

My searches continue.  I must admit, that this one at least gave me some hope and some joy. The KinderTransport touched my family; saved two lives.  That is the best knowledge of all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/04/06/cruise-conversations-that-linger-in-my-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/26/amazing-what-information-two-photos-can-provide/

 

Finding My Heritage In Spain

28 Oct

Our trip to Spain and Portugal had a special purpose for besides wanting to see places I had not seen. I also wanted to see the bits and pieces left of the Sephardic Jewish imprint on Spain. I have written about my maternal grandfather and his family’s Spanish roots in an earlier blog (see below). Now I wanted to see what I could see.

I was on a mission that started in Barcelona. I had been to this lovely city before and heard the story about the Jewish cemetery destroyed and replaced with a Christian cemetery. Now the only Jewish aspect was the name of the hill: Montjuic. However, in Barcelona you can visit the site of the Major Synagogue. A small space that you must walk down to see, this tiny space reflects the rule that no religious site would be bigger than the smallest church. So it is small. But I was glad to see that it has been found and reclaimed. There is a guide on site who gives a 10 minute presentation about it. So I am glad we went. Most places do not even have that!

Our next stop with a bit of Jewish history was surprising to me. We went to the small city of Sagunt or Sagunto near Valencia. I was not expecting what I found. First they were having a festival to celebrate their Middle Ages history, and as we entered I saw a menorah symbol on banners. The town had its Jewish quarter still designated including one of the original arches, called the Blood Arch. The tour guide did not know why. I have my own ideas. You actually walked through the Jewish Quarter in order to get up to the Roman teacher.

The narrow, hilly streets are picturesque, and walking through the quarter you come to the top where a private house stands on the site of the original synagogue, with an iron Menorah window. We were also able to see the archeology site of where they think the mikveh was located.

I have since researched and learned that in ancient days this town was called Morviedro. Here the Jews were protected from massacres in 1391 and Jews from other areas took refuge there. When the 1492 decree was made, the Jewish residents arranged safe passage out about 500 people.

In fact almost every city we went to had some remains of its Jewish inhabitants. In Malaga, the birthplace of Picasso, we found it was also the birthplace of Yehudah Ben Gabriel, who revitalized Jewish literature. And we found the Jewish Quarter nit far from the Picasso Museum.

Gibraltar had a thriving Jewish community and still does. We saw people walking the streets wearing kippot. We walked to the old Flemish Synagogue and took a photo of the door to the walled area. Unfortunately we could not go in.

Only in Cadiz was all remnants of the Jewish community destroyed. Probably because of the 1755 earthquake and tsunami. But at one time there was a thriving community that had to escape due to the forced expulsion of the Jewish people. In fact 8000 Jews left Cadiz and traveled to North Africa.

A sign in Sintra

In Portugal we went to Sintra to see the Pena Palace. But while walking through the narrow streets of the city, I found a cork store where I purchased a purse. Then I noticed its address: Beco Judaea. The street of the Jews.

Church of Sao Domingos where Jewish citizens murdered in 1500s

The Jewish Quarter.

But it was in Lisbon that we had the most in-depth experience. Besides visiting some of the important sites like the palace of the inquisition and Rossi’s Plaza where the Crypto Jews were tortured, we visited the church, Sao Domingos, where the massacre of Jews began in the 1506, walked the Jewish Quarter, and learned how King Manuel I tricked the Jewish population and baptized them all without their permission. He wanted to marry the daughter of the king of Spain, but he also wanted to keep his Jewish citizens. This was his solution.

Finally we visited the Lisbon synagogue built in the early 1900s that still has services today. Portugal was a neutral country during the war, a Lisbon was a place of refuge. Today 2000 Jews live in Portugal.

Https://dis.bh.org.il murviedro-sagunto

Do I Need A Thimble? I Guess So.

23 Oct

When I first started sewing and doing needle work like embroidery, my paternal grandmother gifted me two thimbles. One was hers and well worn, the other was brand new and silver. She told me that I needed a thimble because it would make sewing much easier and would protect my fingers from calluses and cuts.  She was probably right.

I still have these two thimbles, but to be honest, I actually hated using one.  I tried for the longest time to get comfortable having a metal hat on my finger.  I usually did not wear the thimble all the time, rather I just put it on for a moment when I had a tough, stubborn stitch to get through layers of fabric.

My paternal grandparents are the ones who nurtured my interest in the sewing/knitting/crocheting arts.  Grandma taught me how to knit and crochet.  Grandpa was a tailor who helped me with the intricate details of sewing like the best way to match plaids, especially around pockets.

He also taught me how to cut/design a pattern to fit a specific person.   This came in handy as my maternal grandmother had scoliosis, so when I made her dresses, I had to make one side of the dress two to three inches shorter than the other side without it looking weird. Thanks to my grandfather, I was able to accomplish these designs. I have written about my grandfather’s tailor shop on Delancey Street.  See blog below.)

The gifts of the two thimbles were part of that nurturing and encouragement.  I kept them close in my sewing basket for those times when I did need them.  But after a while, I put them in a safe place, because I did not want to lose them.

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My printer’s box and almost all my thimbles.

Eventually the two thimbles became the start of my thimble collection.  It is not large, about 60 thimbles in all.  Although I have not purchased a thimble in years, I still have them on display in my kitchen’s printer’s box – the perfect spot for tiny collections.

Printer’s boxes were popular about 35 years ago, when printers went from hot type to computer generated type.  As a journalism student, I actually learned to set type and had to memorize where the different letters and spacers and numbers were kept in this box.  I still remember some.  My first cousin gave me my printer’s box as a gift.  It was the perfect for me for my journalism background and for my thimbles.

Most of my thimbles came from places I visited.  They were the perfect item to remember a trip, as they did not cost too much and were convenient to carry.  I have thimbles with Disney characters; others showing famous sites like Golden Gate Bridge or the Alamo or Mount Vernon; some depict cities like New Orleans.  Most are from different states in the USA that I visited, but others come from other countries like Budapest, Hungary; Dominica; Spain.  I even have three thimbles from NASA! Two depict the space shuttle, and one shows an astronaut floating in Space.

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A close up of my printer’s box, you can see my three Nasa thimbles and the top left is my limoges one.

Some thimbles are so lovely with hand painted landscapes or designs.  One is made of cloisonné, another is from Limoges.  I actually have a little sewing machine from Limoges in my printer’s box. I am sure my Mom got them for me as they are pink and red.  I would have purchased blue!  But my Mom often got me items in the warm tones.

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The case holding my Spanish scissors and thimble.

I do have one other special thimble purchased for me by my parents.  It is housed in a red leather box with a pair of scissors. Inside the box is marked with the words, Artes De Toledo.  I believe my parents purchased this set for me when they went to Spain about 30 years ago. Toledo has a history of making both swords and damascene metal inlay.

My scissors and thimble are definitely Spanish!  They have the look of damascene metal inlaying, but with colored inlay.  I know that Toledo is famous for its steel work. But I  have never seen anything else like it, so I googled Spanish scissors and found scissors very similar to mine.  They were labeled “Toledo antique embroidery scissors”.  Makes sense, as I used my set for embroidering as well.  I will say that  mine is in much better shape than the ones shown on Pinterest!  There were even four cases with matching scissors and thimbles, similar to mine!  All from the 1920s and 1930s.  Which makes me wonder, where exactly this set came from!

I have not looked at my thimble collection for years.  I see them in the printer’s box, but I don’t really look at them and remember when I purchased them.  The special case from Toledo, I keep up in my sewing room, closed and put away.  Thus, I must say thank you to AtticSister and her blog post about a thimble case, which sparked my search for my red leather box and to look more closely at my thimbles.  You can read her blog here:  https://atticsister.wordpress.com/2018/10/12/antique-walnut-thimble-case/

Earlier blogs I wrote about sewing.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/29/my-birthday-sewing-machines/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/12/27/why-i-gave-away-a-bit-of-my-moms-memory/

 

Grandma’s Crystal Debacle

1 Oct

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Recently I had a women’s event at my home and I decided it would be nice to use some of my nicer, crystal pieces to serve the desserts. So early in the day, I went to my breakfront to remove the items I wanted in order to rinse them off and plan my settings.

I have to admit, whenever I open the door to my glass-shelfed cabinet, I feel a sense of dread.  Will something fall and break?  Will the shelf break?  Will all my crystal pieces — Waterford, Mikasa, Lenox — and other family heirlooms fall to the ground in a giant glass, crystal and ceramic mess?

Sounds a bit bizarre and as if I am over reacting, I know I do.  But I have a strong evidence that this type of disaster can happen in an instant.  It happened in my family.

Many years ago, when I was young and married, but not yet a mother, I received an extremely stressed out phone call from my mother.  It seems my paternal Grandma had decided to clean all her crystal and china in her curio cabinet.  I know that cabinet well.   It had glass doors and shelves, so you could more easily see all lovely pieces. Many piled one on top of the other.

Grandma was in her 80s, I cannot tell you her exact age.  Grandma lived in a small one-bedroom apartment with my grandfather in Co-Op City in the Bronx. I cannot remember if my Grandpa was still alive.  And I don’t know why she decided to clean on her own, without any help, I don’t know. Except I will say she was an extremely independent person. I assume a holiday was coming, so she wanted everything to shine!

No matter the reason, the crux of the story is that after she had cleaned all her pieces and put everything away, the very top glass shelf fell!  It must not have been put back in properly.   Does not matter.  What does matter is as it fell, everything under it was destroyed in an instant.  It was probably one of the most agonizing moments, which she watched in horror. She could do nothing but watch.

Grandma was hysterical.  These family heirlooms that she had purchased over the years, and a few that were her mother’s (my great-grandparents always lived with my grandparents) were destroyed.  They could not be fixed. They were just shards of glass. Grandma was distraught.

I believe my aunt, went over as soon as Grandma called.  But there was nothing to do but to clean up the mess as carefully as possible.

Eventually everyone knew about the great disaster.  When my mom found out, she called me and told me to call Grandma.  That Grandma needed emotional support now!  It was at a time when long distance phone calls cost money.  But Mom told me it had to be now. As soon as we hung up!

I did as ordered. But I did not mind.  I spoke to my Grandma weekly anyway.  I called Grandma.  I acted as if I knew nothing.  That I was just calling to say hello.  Usually we would speak for about 15 or 20 minutes, as I told about what was going on. And she told me about her week and gave me wonderful advice.

That tactic did not last long. As soon as Grandma heard my voice she started to cry.   I heard the entire horrible story.  She had planned to pass her crystal on to her grandchildren. Now there was NOTHING LEFT! NOTHING!  (Grandma’s emphasis.).
“Grandma,” I said.  “We don’t need anything.  It is not like someone died.  You are fine.  It is fine.  We have you.”  I thought that would help.  But it did not.  The crystal items all had memories attached to them.  Each piece had a story that needed to be told.  And memory of loved one to never forget.  But now with the destruction of her crystal was the loss of these memories. These pieces that when held brought back the essence of a person.

I just cried with Grandma. There was really nothing else to do.

Years later, when Grandma died, my parents selected a set of six glass plates for me to have from Grandma.  I have them on the bottom shelf of my breakfront.  I do worry about Where they are placed.  In fact, I worry that my children will have no idea what memories these crystal and ceramic and glass pieces have intertwined in their existence.

I have decided to tell the story of my breakfront and all its many heirlooms.  Then,  even if a crystal debacle occurs in my home, at least the memories attached to the items will not disappear. Their memory, tied up with the memories of loved ones will continue.

Puzzle Mania After Visiting the Springbok Puzzle Factory

25 Sep

It finally happened!  My husband got to visit the Springbok Puzzle Factory in Kansas City.  A member of our congregation owns it and was kind enough to let my husband come for a tour. (See previous blog below.)

It surpassed all of his expectations.

For days there was the build-up of excitement as my husband counted down to the actual visit.  When the day arrived, he was almost impatient to go to work, because he knew that afternoon was puzzle factory time.

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Puzzles resting before being cut.

But the build-up was nothing compared to his joy in actually going and seeing how jigsaw puzzles are made!  He took photos of the process; he took videos; he took photos of himself and his kind host.  The visit was beyond what he imagined.  His host went around with him for a private tour!  So kind!  To be honest, I think he enjoyed my husband’s enthusiastic excitement.

I actually told the owner that when my husband retired, I hoped that they could hire him to work in the factory, since that was all I heard about for days.  I suggested that he be hired as a tester!  Just to put puzzles together each and every day.

From that point on, my husband wanted one thing only, a 2000-piece puzzle.  Up to then he thought that 1,000-piece puzzles were the best. But while at the factory he saw much larger puzzles.  And the size that tempted him the most was 2000.

When he got home that day and for the next few days, he spoke continually about the puzzles. He watched puzzle videos of people putting together large puzzles, including some guy who used his entire basement floor to do an 18,000-piece puzzle.  That was out of the question for our house.  Although he did ask if he could order it.  I think he was joking, but I said ‘NO’ emphatically.

When my daughter and her husband were in town in June, she and I went to a store where she purchased a 2000-piece Springbok puzzle for my husband’s Fathers’ Day gift.  It was a grand success.  He could not wait to get going on it!  But had to wait for a few days as we had an out of town wedding to attend.

Our usual puzzle table was not big enough for this monster puzzle, so I allowed him to use our dining room table with the caveat that he had to be done by early September.  Every evening after work and on weekends, he worked on it.  I sat with him and worked part of it as well. I like the blue pieces.

Labor Day weekend was a puzzle feast.  We had company who helped as well.  But my deadline was not fulfilled even with all the help.  Those white pieces were impossible.  They even stumped an engineer!

I needed my table. But we could not take the puzzle apart.  It was a stressful situation!  I even posted our dilemma on Facebook.  Thank goodness I did.  A friend had the answer in the genius idea of us putting our table pads over the puzzle!  It was an excellent idea, saving the puzzle, my holiday meal, and probably our marriage!

The puzzle kept him busy for three entire months, till mid-September.  It is now packed away in two one-gallon ziplock bags to go to the home of another puzzle addict.  I plan to let him work on his 1000-piece puzzles for a few months before I surprise him with another giant Springbok jigsaw puzzle to feed his mania.

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One piece left. He always leaves the last piece for me.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/13/jigsaw-puzzles-and-true-love/