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The Keeper of the Records

6 May

In my family, I have become the keeper of the records.  I believe it is because I actually do something with them.  I scan them in to the computer; I research these records; I write about them; and then I share the information with my family through my blogs.  I hope that my doing this will keep these memories alive for future generations.

So recently, when I was in New Jersey, I asked my sister where she had put our parents’ wedding album, as my sister wanted it when we cleaned out our parents’ home.  It was easily accessible, so I looked through it, searching for a particular photo.  I had seen it the album many times, so knew it was included.

The biggest problem with this album is that the photos are encased in plastic. That must have been the style as I have seen other albums from this era also with plastic.  So those photos are difficult to photograph or scan, as you see here.

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My parents listening to the reading of their ketubah.

I found what I was looking for: a photo with my parents’ ketubah, Jewish marriage license.  It was important for me because I have both their marriage license and the engagement agreement that was signed at the same time.

The engagement contract is in disrepair.  I hate even taking it out of its’ envelop, but I did for a photo.  It is signed by both of my grandfathers. It was kept in an envelop addressed to my Dad at my grandparents’ bakery.

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The ketubah is in much better shape.  Written in both English and Hebrew, it is pretty simple.  Not an artist drawing, but rather a form Ketubah filled in by the Rabbi.  The most important part for me is that it lists my mother’s Hebrew/Yiddish name.  We sometimes had a debate on that as my grandparents, and sometimes my dad, would call her ‘Fegilah,” little bird.  But we were pretty sure her name in Yiddish was Freida, which is confirmed with the ketubah.

The photo with the ketubah almost makes me laugh.  Their wedding was arranged quickly.  Dad was in the army and going to Korea.  Yet there he is in tails and a top hat!  My Mom is standing by the huppah in a veil that almost hides her face. It is much denser than the veil my sister, sister-in-law, and I wore, and our daughters.

They both look so serious.  It is difficult to believe that they were just 22 years old. My uncle, my Mother’s brother, is there as well.  Thanks to him we actually have a movie of my parents’ wedding!  No voices, but all the action is shown.

To me having this photo together with the ketubah is important.  It is a link that ties the document to the people in it.  Now forever together in this blog.

I think that is why I am the designated keeper of the records.

Visiting the Van Vleck House and Gardens

3 May

Another delightful site to visit in Montclair is the Van Vleck House and Gardens.  Once a private estate, the house and its gardens were donated to The Montclair Foundation in 1993 by the heirs of Howard Van Vleck, who owned this Italianate villa.  The house was built in 1916.  While other homes once were on the estate as well, this is the only house that still remains.

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The original main entrance to the house on Van Vleck Street.

The gardens are open to the public for free every day!  No holiday closures!  The lovely house is used as a center for nonprofit groups for meetings, events, and fundraisers.  I actually saw people having a yoga class in one of the rooms! What a spectacular yoga studio!  The windows overlook the gardens!

The house and gardens were a short walk from the Montclair Art Museum, just along Upper Mountain Avenue.  Our visit came after several days of rain, so all the grass was lush.  But the blooming season, except for the daffodils was not yet in progress.  I think by the end of May these gardens will be stunning.  When we saw them, everything was greening up, but not much was flowering.

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The formal garden in the back of the house.

There are several walkways and levels of gardens.  The formal gardens behind the main house are lovely. Staff members were setting up for an event when we were there, so we tried to stay out of the way. Although not much was blooming yet, it was a great place to get a good walk in a lovely setting.

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One of my favorite spots.

The Upper Lawn had several stations to check out.  You can download the Van Vleck house’ app and learn about the different areas using codes on the signs.  I liked an area on the upper lawn that had many daffodils and a bird house.  When you walk across the upper lawn, you come to the Mother’s Garden and then to a percola that was renovated.

At first, I was not sure if you were allowed to walk on the lawn, as there were no paths. But seeing the information signs across the way gave me some confidence that this was acceptable.  Also the Garden Etiquette flyer we picked up at the Visitor Center, says, “Walk only on the pathways and grassy areas.”  So we did!

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The Visitor Center with an Ap sign.

The children’s butterfly garden should be lovely as well. It is located behind the Visitor Center. (Where there are good restrooms.  Always important when walking.)  I also liked the colorful signs with details about insects and disease impacting trees and what to look for that lined the path from the butterfly garden to the front of the Visitor Center.  I was glad to see on the website that there are many children and family activities planned throughout the spring and summer.

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The pavilion by the Tennis Garden.

We did not go on the Rhododendron Walk.  It was somewhat muddy and damp, and I was not in the right shoes for that.  However, I did enjoy the Tennis Court Garden, planted where the estate’s tennis court once stood.  To the side is little pavilion.  I could, in my mind, see people resting there between sets of tennis, or watching those playing while enjoying the shade.

I hope to go back to Montclair and visit the Van Vleck gardens when everything is in bloom!

 

To learn more about the gardens and home, go to: www.vanvleck.org

 

A Little Gem, the Montclair Art Museum

1 May

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I just spent five days in Montclair, New Jersey, visiting my sister who recently moved there.  When we drove to her apartment, we passed the Montclair Art Museum.  Outside many of its trees were covered with crochet and fiber art works, my attention was immediately captivated.

She knew what I was thinking.

“Yes, we are going.  I knew you would want to go.” And I did.  I crochet; I knit; I sew; I have embroidered; I do candlewick embroidery; I needlepoint.  In simple terms, I love fiber arts.  And this display was calling my name.  I wanted to take photos of the trees from her moving car.  But she told me to calm down.  We could actually easily walk over to the museum

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On exhibit at the museum is the 2019 new Jersey Arts Annual – Crafts, “New Directions In Fiber Arts.”  It will be at the museum until June 16, 2019.

There was felt art, and crochet art, and quilt art.  Each of the 32 artists have their own specialty.  Each is special.  But I must admit, I have my favorites.

One artist, Jeanne Brasile, does water color and embroidery over braille newspapers.  I loved the geometric shapes and the colors of her work. They are delightful. Another, Robert Forman, makes yarn paintings.  I liked how the yarn formed another painting over the existing work.  You sort of see two different works of art at one time.  Geri Hahn sees art in musical sounds.  Her work on fabric looked like butterflies dancing to me. So Yoon Lym’s lovely felt painting looked like a water color.  I also enjoyed the story quilt by Faith Ringgold.

But every artist’s work had something to intrigue.  I enjoyed that each one wrote a statement about their work.  I, of course, read every one.  But I also purchased the booklet that went along with the exhibit to help me remember.  Actually, I should be honest, my sister purchased it for me, as she is a member.  Thanks!

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I also liked that scattered among the art works were little signs called Family Threads for family activities and questions.  This made the the exhibit much more interactive and family/child friendly.

The fiber exhibit was not the only gallery that I enjoyed.  Currently, the “Undaunted Spirit: Art of Native North America” is also on display until mid-July.  Part of the display, the baskets, I believe, are always on display.  The gallery that housed this exhibit, The Rand Gallery, is named for Annie Valentine Rand, and some of the many Indian art baskets and art works that were collected by her and her daughter, Florence Rand Lang, are on display there.

In March, my husband and I  spent a week on the Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations in Arizona, so I was fascinated by the many baskets which reminded me of what I saw in Arizona.  But seeing the art work of the Plains Indians also called out to me as I live in Kansas and enjoy seeing Indian Art locally as well.

My sister and I loved walking through the room filled with George Inness paintings. Many showed scenes from Montclair in the late 1890s.   My favorite was the Niagara Falls and Winter Moonlight.

Outside of the walled museum, there are art sculptures on display.  But for me the fun was walking to each tree and seeing the fiber art that encompassed the trunks and some of the branches of the trees.  I love seeing yarn bombing examples.  I felt a bit badly as it rained several of the days we were there which was dampening to the art and to the spirit.  Luckily, a break in the rain helped our visit to the outside grounds more enjoyable.

The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and open from 12 – 5 pm on the other days. To find out more about the museum and its programs and events go to  www.monthclairartmuseum.org

 

 

Technology Equals No Division

27 Apr

I had the most pleasant dinner with my husband and siblings in a restaurant in Montclair, NJ. The food, fish for all of us and ice cream and sorbet for dessert was delightful. We chatted and ate and visited and finally were ready to leave.

I have to admit that perhaps we asked for too much. We wanted to divide the check so that my husband and I paid half and my siblings each paid a quarter of the bill. The waitress said it was fine. And so we gave her three credit cards and waited. And waited. And waited. I should have known something was not working out.

Our bill for four people was $129.02. She came back with my credit card and a receipt for $86. She then was going to divide the $43.02 between my siblings. I was astounded that she did not even realize that this was not divided in HALF. It was two-thirds and a third, but definitely not half. $86 and $43 are NOT equal!

I went up with my receipts to speak to her while she was running the other cards. I politely said, “Wait. This is not right. $86 Is not half of $129.02.”

She was not convinced. “Are you sure? I have to get my manager,” she told me as she hustled away with a dazed look on her face.

A few minutes later the manager came. “How cam I help? ” He was pleasant.

“This is wrong. $86 is not half of $129.02. ” I told him. I was sure he would understand. But no such luck. “You asked for half on one card and the rest divided between those two!” He told me.

“Yes half. $86 is not half of $129.02. Half of $130 is $65. This is wrong.” I started doing the math, the division on a piece of paper. I showed him the math. But that was not what he needed. I offered to show him on my phone calculator. But no. He had a calculator that he pulled out.

He typed in 1292. No I said. You need a decimal. It is 129.02. He might have been anxious at this point. I noticed my siblings laughing and looking at me. I was getting exasperated. And I now was in teacher mode. I had taught at a high school. There is a definite teacher voice and look that can come over me.

In any case he correctly typed in 129.02 and divided by 2. 64.51 was the number it read. “You are right,” he admitted. “I am sorry. I will fix it. ”

I wanted to make it easy. I wanted him to credit my sister’s account and just put the rest on my card, the other $43.02. We would sort it out later. But that was too much as well. He ended up crediting my account and my sister’s. He ran a new receipt putting all the money on mine. I paid , added tip and we settled up.

My siblings laughed all the way to the car. They knew I was frustrated, they told me that the look of our mother came over me as I tried to explain the math to the manager. Mom taught fourth grade for 30 years.

“I just can’t understand how the waitress and the manager did not see that $86 was not half. $43 and $86 are not equal. Did they not understand half, divide by two,” I was still frustrated.

I was concerned that they did not believe my division that I did on paper. They would only believe a calculator. I felt like I was in a science fiction novel that I had read years ago where a boy who could do math in his head was considered a genius because everyone else HAD to use a calculator!

I am worried Technology is destroying the ability to calculate math in our brains.

Ring Jells Addiction Started in The Catskills

21 Apr

Sometimes I read a note on Facebook that just touches my soul.  It happened now.  Someone posted about meeting a woman shopping for Passover food in a grocery store.  She was crying while holding a box of Joyva Ring Jells in her hands.   It seemed her mother passed away, and this would be the first seder without her.  Her mother loved Ring Jells, and the sight of this box made her cry.

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This box is now empty.  But I enjoyed every one.

That should be my children one day.  I love Ring Jells.  While I cook my seder meals and prepare for the long hours ahead, I eat these throughout the day, to me, they are the most delicious chocolate covered sweets.   I am basically addicted to them. The taste of raspberry and chocolate together delights me. Thank goodness I only find them during the holidays.

My addiction started when I was 16 years old working behind the deli and cheese counter at the Daitch Shopwell in Monticello, Sullivan County New York.   It is here that I served the women and men who spent their summers relaxing, cutting their cheese selections and their deli orders.   I worked at this supermarket for three summers, earning spending money and preparing for the costs of college.

But it is also where I learned to love Joyva Ring Jells.  We sold them in the dairy section of the deli, along with all the cheese.  We had a large display of them. Hundreds of ring jells for sale by the pound.  I loved them.  I have to admit it, I would snack on them.  Not eating tons.  But at least two or three each shift I worked.   Eventually the manager told me to stop.  And buy some.  So I did.  I would weigh out 3-5, pay for them, and keep them behind the counter with me.  Snacking as needed.  When the weekends were busy with crazy customers, I really did need them to get me through the day.

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Marshmallow twists live in my freezer.

I did not realize they were a special Passover treat.  In our house, my Mom was a Joyva Marshmallow twist fancier.  She would buy them at Pesach and keep them in the freezer all year to snack on.  Did you ever eat frozen marshmallow twists?  At first you have to be careful not to hurt your teeth, but after a bit they melt just a little and are delicious.  I admit I still have some in my freezer from last year.   Usually you had to get just plain white ones.  However, sometimes we could find the ones with pink insides!

After I learned about jell rings, I had to have those as well.  My sister and I favored them over the Marshmallow twists, which I think made Mom happy.  She would share them with everyone, but now had more for herself.

The ring jells, on the other hand, were the perfect snack.  I would take two  or three at a time, stick them on my fingers,  and get ready to eat.  We do crazy things when we were younger.

When I left the east coast for the middle of the country, I had an issue.  I could not find them in Kansas. But when my parents were alive and visiting, they would bring boxes of Ring Jells and Marshmallow twists with them. So we never suffered during the Pesach holiday.   They also brought Bartons candies, another treat that was nowhere to be found in Kansas City. Eventually these treats came out west, and  I could get them on my own.

Ring Jells are comfort food for my sister and me.  I am going to visit her the end of the week.  I sent her the following text message on the Thursday before Pesach: “So I purchased one box of raspberry jelly rings to bring to you. And one for my home. Cause I have to have some.  But I had three today and I feel better.”

She wrote back: “I bought two boxes for when you are here! LOL”

My response: “LOL I will leave mine at home.  We do not need three.  Great minds think alike.”

A number of years ago we went through a difficult time. We lost our parents and aunt in less than a year.  Five months later, erev Pesach, my sister’s husband also passed. It was a horrible time.   I did not know how we would survive that holiday.  But I have to say, our friends knew of our need and ring jell addiction.  Friends filled the house.

I don’t know how many of them went shopping. But in days we had boxes upon boxes of ring jells.  In the evenings, when most everyone had left, my sister and I ate ring jells and talked.   It was a Pesach that tried our souls.  And I hate to be trite, but the ring jells gave us a small amount of comfort in our first Pesach without these beloved family members.  (And a mighty thank you to all who purchased them for us.  I don’t know if I ever told you how important they were in this horrible time.)

Special foods bring memories and joy.  For me Joyva jell rings helped me through preparing seders and difficult times. They bind me with my sister.   I could see my children crying over them when I leave this world.  But I don’t think they will buy or eat them.  This addiction will probably end with me.

A zissel Pesach to all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/05/my-jobs-behind-a-deli-counter-daitch-shopwell-and-butenskys/

 

My Experience on the OC — Orientation Committee 1976

13 Apr
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My OC t-shirt. My name is on the lower left.

There is one article of Drew clothing that I kept for 43 years and will probably continue to keep.  It is my orientation committee t-shirt from 1976.  I think that fact that it was the bicentennial of American Revolutionary War, besides marking one of my favorite Drew activities, gives it a special place in my heart.

I started my Drew career like all the other freshmen, a little excited, a little frightened, and really having never lived away from home.    But my sophomore year was much different.  I left the Drew campus to study in Israel at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

This was unusual at the time for two reasons: because most people studied abroad in their junior year and because I went eight months after the Yom Kippur War.  Life in Israel was still disrupted. I won’t go through all my experiences, but I will say I came back to the USA afraid of nothing.

When I came back, I wanted to become part of the Drew community.  Many of my friends have formed new bonds while I was gone.  My dorm room was chosen by my freshman roommate, we were going to live in a suite in Foster.  But we would not be sharing a room. She had a new friend who would be her official roommate.  And I would be living with someone I really did not know.  But it was fine.  We had a great year in that suite!

I decided I wanted to change my major and study English literature and writing.  This meant I had to take some lower level classes.  I decided also that I would graduate in 3 ½ years since I had received 12 credits of language for the intensive Hebrew Ulpan I had attended in the summer when I first arrived in Israel.  For me that meant taking 18 credits a semester, six classes, for the next three semesters, and attend at least one class in a January term, a new idea at Drew.

I also wanted to get involved. And I did.  I joined a number of clubs; started working on the school newspaper, The Acorn; did a bit in student government; and learned about the yearbook, which I would help edit in the next year.  With my Israel experience still on my mind, I joined and became a leader of the Jewish Students Group.   Because I wanted to do something to help others, I also got involved in the Orientation Committee, which helped new students in the fall to learn about the campus and settle in before everyone else arrived.

I must admit, besides working on the Acorn, my favorite activity was the Orientation Committee.  I loved the preplanning, but I especially loved being on campus early.  It was so beautiful.  The Drew campus is one of the most beautiful campuses.   And being there in the quiet was extraordinary.  We helped freshmen move into their dorms.  We watched as parents tried to direct and arrange for the last time.  We saw tears and hugs, while helping the freshmen as their parents drove off.  Most important, we made their first few days enjoyable and welcoming.

I loved Drew so much, I wanted my daughter to think about it for her college career. I took my daughter to visit Drew the summer before her junior year of high school.  We took an official tour of the campus.  But as we walked the grounds and looked at the newer buildings along with the old, I filled her in with my stories.  Stories that our tour guide, a Drew student, also seemed to enjoy.  I think the beauty of the campus drew her in to the Drew family.  As she also went to Drew and became an alumna.

I now have several Drew hoodies and shirts.  In the winter, I always wear my Drew sweatshirt proudly.  These are great additions to my wardrobe.  However, the almost 43-year-old t-shirt in my dresser is my fondest Drew article.   It reminds me of my last semester of college, as I did finish that January.   It reminds me of the friends I made then and still have today.   It reminds me of the beautiful campus, which I was able to share with my daughter.

Most of all it reminds me of an obligation to welcome the stranger to campus.  To make all new students feel comfortable as they adjusted to their new life as a college student.  Much as today I try to make all feel welcome in my life.  While I learned much at Drew, serving on the Orientation Committee gave me some of my favorite life lessons.

 

Some other blogs about Drew:

https://zicharonot.com/2014/05/12/remembering-my-college-during-graduation-season/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/11/end-of-the-school-year-has-me-bringing-out-my-old-yearbooks/

 

Locking Up Candy Saves the Day!

2 Mar
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The locked candy was kept on the bottom left side.

My Dad loved to eat candy.  He absolutely had a sweet tooth.  And he could not stop once he got started!  The only way my mother could stop him was to keep the candy locked up in the breakfront/curio cabinet in the dining room.  The key, which was beautiful and ornate, was kept it hidden from him.

To be honest, I think my brother and I knew where the key was from an early age. But we also knew not to take it or to eat the candy.  Mom had a strong knowledge of what was in the cabinet.  She had been keeping a strict eye on Dad and the candy ever since she had a mah jong game at our home, inviting four friends over to play, and when she went to put out the treats, almost all the candy was gone. She was so annoyed that she started locking up the candy in the bottom part of the breakfront, where you could not see what was inside.

Baked goods were not a problem. Our grandfather was a baker, so there was often cakes and bread in the house.  It was delicious and kept us filled with delights.  But I guess for my Dad it was not enough.  Candy was his downfall.  Thus, my Mom rarely purchased any and when she did, she locked it away.

The locked candy worked for us as well, especially when our home was robbed.  There was a rash of robberies in North Bergen that year along the Boulevard East corridor. The police had even put notices on the front doors of homes in the area.  We had been fine.  We really thought no one would enter our house, because our elderly landlady, who lived on the second floor, was often home.   But eventually the thieves came to our home.

My brother and I were students at North Bergen High School at the time.  Luckily, he arrived home before me and found the giant mess.  The police thought he interrupted the thieves as our stereo and television were left hanging, actually hanging from their wires.. The police also thought the thieves went out one door while my brother came in the other.  My parents  were less concerned about the burglary because the police were so happy that my brother was safe.  They felt we were lucky that my brother was not injured!  This left quite an impression on us.  We were  careful about opening the door and entering the house for years!

But the burglary was intense!  The thieves trampled through our home.  Searching through everything. Emptying out the closets and the drawers.  It was a disaster and took quite awhile to put back into order!  For me the idea that someone had rummaged through my clothes, my underwear,  horrified me.  I had to wash everything before I would wear it again.  What bothered me the most however, is that they stole my moon landing necklace.  I had a lovely round silver disc that showed Tranquility Base and spot where the lunar lander had settled, which my Dad bought me in 1969.  It was one of my prized possessions.  I only wish I had worn it to school that day in 1970, the spring of my sophomore year of high school.

My parents’ closet and dressers were totally emptied.   It was an enlightening moment for my younger sister.  In 1963, at the World’s Fair, my parents had purchased a 45 record of “It’s A Small World After All” for her.  My sister listened to it constantly.  Finally, my Mom could not take it anymore.  She hid the record in the closet and told my sister she accidentally broke it when she was cleaning.  Imagine my sister’s surprise when she spied the record, totally intact, on the floor.  That, at least, gave us all a moment of delight in the middle of cleaning and anguish.  Well maybe my sister was not delighted.  And perhaps my Mom felt a bit guilty.  But my father, brother and I had a great laugh.

However, the best of all was the locked candy, which actually saved the day.  The breakfront had two locked doors.  On one side was the candy.  On the other side was our Mom’s jewelry and some other important items.

The thieves did their best.  They pried open one door. Destroying the locks and damaging the door.  All they found were bags of candy that they emptied out on the floor.  I wish I could be there when they searched and found nothing but candy.  They must have thought we were crazy people locking up candy.

The good news is that they did not even attempt to open the other door. They left it locked.  Leaving all my mom’s valuables behind.  From that point on, locking up candy took on new meaning as it had saved us from losing many more important items.

It took a while to get the breakfront fixed.  No more locked candy.   My parents also found another place to keep the jewelry.   But we never forgot how that the locked up candy saved the day.  To be honest, whenever I go to visit my sister in New Jersey, I look at the breakfront and remember its importance in saving our valuables during a burglary.