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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/

 

Mass Transit: A Traveler’s Delight

22 Nov

Kansas City metro only has one really good accessible mass transit for tourists: the KC Street Car, a free light rail that circles 2.2 miles downtown, featuring Crown Center and the City Market.  Yes, Kansas City does have a bus system, but living in Johnson County, on the Kansas side, I recently realized how cut off we can be without a car.  Our daughter’s brother-in-law was traveling through the USA and wanted to use mass transit whenever possible.  My husband took him to work one day and dropped him off at the Street Car. That gave him an entire day of adventure.

However, it was the start of the Labor Day Weekend.  On Sunday he wanted to take the bus downtown to experience the Irish Festival.  We told him it was impossible. He said,
“No there is a bus a mile away.  I can walk there and take it.  We laughed. My husband showed him on the website that yes there was a bus to downtown, but it would not be running again until Tuesday.  No way to get to the Irish Festival.  (Don’t worry, we arranged for friends to take him.)

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Ferry from NJ to NYC.

It started me thinking about my experience with mass transit.  To begin with, I grew up in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan.  I spent many hours on busses, trains, subways and taxis.  It was a part of life if you wanted to go anywhere.  Many people who live in New York City do not even own a car.  Of course my mass transit of choice going from New Jersey to NYC is always the ferry!

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Mass Transit tickets

Since moving to the Midwest, I have experienced exciting weekends in Chicago, Illinois, using the mass transit system.  Chicago, like NYC, is another mass transit haven.   Using the Chicago subways is a no brainer.  Going from the airport into the city is so much faster, cheaper and easier than taking a taxi. And getting around to the different areas makes sense on the subways.

In major cities, I try to use the subways to avoid traffic. In Philadelphia we used the Philadelphia Transit Vehicles (PTV), and in Washington DC, using the METRO Transit System is a must to beat the traffic.  I will always remember the very long escalators down into the system when we traveled from a relative’s home in Maryland to downtown DC. Boston also has a mass transit system, the MBTA, that helps college students and travelers get around

I realized that my husband and I use Mass Transit whenever we can.  In Atlanta, the MARTA took us to and from the airport to the downtown hotels.  In California: we adore the Cable Cars in San Francisco. While staying in San Jose, we used the light rail to go the Winchester Mystery House in San and the Tech Museum from our hotel.

We used the light rail in Denver, Colorado, to explore the historic area and travel to and from our hotel. In one of my favorite cities, New Orleans, I used the street car with my children to get from our hotel to the French Quarter!

I have even used the mass transit in St. Louis!  Although I drive there all the time to see family, when I went to a graduation at Washington University, I was told parking was not available. I drove to the nearest MetroLink Station and traveled to the ceremony. What a delight to avoid all the traffic.

One of my favorite ‘mass transit’ rides was on the People Mover ride in Tomorrow Land at Disney World, and of course we love the mass transit success of the Monorail in Disney World.  Does that count?  I think so.  I thought of it recently when we were in Seattle.   I had the opportunity to use the one-mile monorail down to the Sky Needle and the Seattle Center, an area developed for the 1962 World’s Fair.

But it wasn’t only the monorail that had our patronage in Seattle, we also used the light rail system of SoundTransit.  The underground area was so clean!  Currently buses run through these tunnels in downtown Seattle, but I was told that would end in January 2019, as the city prepares for the expansion of its light rail.

I have also used mass transit in other countries.  Vienna, Hungary, we took our children on the subway.  I will admit there was one very loud and screechy turn.  We all held our ears.  In Israel, I have changed my allegiance from the busses to the trains. They are great and have free wi-fi.

The most interesting subway of all was in Athens, Greece. When they dug down to build the subway, the workers kept finding antique treasures. Now in the stations are displays of these lovely objects.  You get a history lesson, while waiting for the subway.

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Funicular in Quebec City.

Another favorite is using a funicular to get up and down a hill.  That was great fun in Quebec City, Canada.  I have used them in other places as well, like the Carmelit underground Funicular in Haifa, Israel, and the one at Marvel Cave in Branson, Missouri (this was my first funicular.)  But the one in Quebec City stands out in my mind.  I have seen them in Valparaiso, Chile, but did not actually need to use one.

All my experiences with mass transit makes me wish that my home town would invest a bit more in helping people move around.  I will admit that recently citizens voted to expand the light rail a bit further south to the shopping areas of Westport and the Plaza, as well as the University of Missouri Kansas City campus.  But it still doesn’t help those who live in my area.  But my dream lives on that eventually the entire city will have an operating, useful light rail system.

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.

A Trolley Car Stops, Too!

12 Sep

Holidays always make me think about my grandparents.  We spent all of our holidays, when I was growing up, at one of my grandparents’ homes.  My paternal grandparents in the Bronx were in charge of Passover and Hanukkah.  We went there every year and celebrated with all my cousins.  One year, at Hanukkah, I had to have a tooth pulled and could not eat all the treats. But Grandma made me my very own potato kugel!  I still can taste it!

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My store bought rugelach and honey cake, and candies. Still wrapped in plastic like Grandma would before the holidays.

Every so often something happens that sparks a memory and bring me back in time to the apartment in the Bronx.  During Rosh Hashannah, such a moment occurred.  As I was preparing my dessert plates and covering them with clear plastic wrap, my mind flashed to my paternal Grandmother. She was a great home baker.  One of the high lights of going to her home for the holidays was her magnificent dessert table covered in her treats!

Before dinner, the dessert platters were covered with plastic and put high on a cabinet in the spare bedroom.  We, all the grandchildren and children, knew the desserts were there. But also knew the penalty if we took snuck in and took some.  My Dad and Uncle, known noshers, often snuck in.  But the grandchildren were more careful.

Several of my boy cousins and my brother were eventually tall enough… and sneaky enough… to climb up and reach the sealed plates to get a few treats before dessert.  But we were very careful.  There was always a cousin on guard duty.  We were never greedy, we never took too much in fear of being caught by the sight of an empty plate.

The best part of the holiday was when the dishes were cleared from dinner and food was put away.  Then out came the desserts.  My Mom and Aunts and Grandma could bring all the home baked treats out and put them on a long table against a wall.  Among my favorites were the rugelach sticks and the thimble cookies.  But my all time favorite were the apricot candy.  So thick and gooey.

There were cookies and cakes and even homemade candies.  During Passover there were also Barton’s candies.

Thanks to one of my cousins, I have the recipes for three desserts.  I was bemoaning that I miss them years ago. I found out that my cousin had the recipes.  So smart.  His wife emailed three recipes to me…in 2006!  At the time she told me that they had high calorie count.  And she was right.  Each recipe is chuck full of sugar.

To be honest most of my desserts are store bought.  But for you bakers, here is one of Grandma’s recipes:  Apricot Candy:  Wash ½ pound of apricots.  Boil in 1 cup of cold water. When water is boiled away, mash the apricots.  Add 1 ½ cups sugar, ¼ pound almonds.  Cook for 1 hour, stirring constantly.  When thick, pour out into a pan, and when cold, cut into squares and dip in sugar to prevent sticking.

If you have crowns on your teeth, do NOT eat this!!. It is delicious.  I love apricots and dried apricots and this apricot candy.

One dessert they did not have the recipe for was Taiglach, a mixture of nuts and honey mixed together and baked into a gooey hard mess of deliciousness.  You had to be careful biting into this dessert.  I remember one year my Dad actually broke his tooth biting into this!  He was not so happy that holiday.

My grandfather had a role at all these family events.  He would sit at one end of the table and guard it.  Seriously!  If any of the grandchildren (or his children) took too much dessert or came back too often, he would intone, “A Trolley Car Stops Too.”

When I was little, I had no idea what he was talking about.  But when I got older, and found out what a trolley car was, I realized he meant we were eating too much.  That even a trolley car, which ran constantly, would stop occasionally.

My brother, and my boy cousins were often the recipient of this advice. I heard it as well, but not as often.  It really did not matter.  We all would conquer our fear of Grandpa, in order to have a sweet delectable dessert.

As for his saying, we use it often, especially when something is happening that we think needs to end.  I still can see my Grandpa nodding at me and saying in a deep voice:  A Trolley Stops Too!

 

 

My Grandma Was One Determined Lady!

9 Jul
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My elegant grandmother.

This is my favorite photo of my paternal Grandmother.  Every time I look at it, I just have a moment of joy.

Grandma was born in November 1898 in New York City.  I am thinking that this photo was taken in the about 1918 – 1921.  It is definitely before my grandparents married, as I do not see a wedding ring on her finger, and they married on February 26, 1922.

I love this pose!   The message I always got from this photo is that Grandma is ready to go and conquer the world.    She is elegant.  I love all aspects of this outfit from the hat, to the fox stole, to the beaded purse.  I especially love the high heeled shoes. Grandma had a long history with shoes!

Grandma was a force to be reckoned with on any topic.  And this photo makes me think she was that way as a young woman as well.  She is not facing forward like 95 percent of the other photos I have seen.  No! She is posed ready to move… elegantly of course.

She married the tailor who worked with her father.  She had three children.  She worked for years as an executive secretary for a shoe company, which had its offices across the street from Macy’s.  (See blog below.)

Grandma worked until she was 77.  The only reason she quit was because of a subway accident.  She was pushed/shoved on the steps to the subway.  She might have been mugged.  I believe her purse disappeared that day.  She broke her arm in the fall.   After that incident, her three, now adult, children said, “Enough!  She had to quit her job!”  They did not want her taking the subway anymore.

Grandma did not want to quit.  But she did in 1975.  Part of her willingness to quit might have been the timing. The shoe industry was no longer flourishing, in fact it was dying anyway due to the cheap imports coming from overseas.

When I saw the play Kinky Boots, I thought of my Grandma. I had so much empathy for Charlie and his efforts to save the shoe factory! I remembered how difficult it was for my Grandma as the shoe business disappeared.  You would have thought she owned the company!

After she retired Grandma spent much more time knitting sweaters and afghans for her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was a wonderful baker. And always made us great treats.  When I was away at college grandma would send me care packages of baked goods.  She was an inspiration to me. (See blog below.)

To me this photo is the essence of my Grandma. Perhaps others will see something else in this photo, but to me it is a young woman doing something a bit differently.  This photo also reminds me of one of my cousins.  She also likes to do everything her own way.  And in this profile, I see them having the same face.

I try to imagine what Grandma was thinking when this photo was taken.   But more important, I think about who she became and the impact she had on those who loved and cherished her.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/11/22/i-love-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade/

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

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

 

 

 

A 1920’s Car Ride

30 Jun
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My grandparents are the couple sitting together in the back seat.

A few months ago my cousin searched through her mother’s trove of photos and found several that she sent on to me.   One of the most intriguing ones for me was the photo of my grandparents in the back seat of a car, in front is another couple and in the back seat, a third man.

What were they doing?  Where were they going?  Who were the other three people?  I have no idea.  But that photo of my grandparents in the car has to be from when they were engaged or just married in the early 1920s.

My grandmother used to tell be stories about growing up in the New York City of the early 1900s.  She was born in 1898, before the day of cars.  It was not until 1913 with the advent of the Model T that cars were mass produced and easily seen on the streets.

Grandma told me that the first time she ever saw a car it caused a ruckus. All the horses were startled and tried to run.  At the time there were no traffic laws for cars, which added to the chaos.  But change came, and the cars eventually took over from the horses.

Although Grandma told me wonderful stories during our summers in the Catskills, she never told me about her first time in a car.  I do know that Grandma never learned to drive a car.  She had her children and eventually her grandchildren to drive her to and from the Catskills and to the store.  And when she was in the City, she always took buses or the subway.

In this photo, my grandparents look comfortable.  The man in the driver’s seat looks older than the others.  Perhaps he is driving the two couples somewhere for a date night?  I wish I knew because my grandfather is almost smiling, and to be honest he did not smile very much at all.

Whatever was happening, it must have had some significance because they took a photo.  But the best part is that they look happy.     I am so glad my cousin shared this photo with me.

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

My Familiar Ancestor, Who We Cannot Identify

19 Dec

My cousin posted photos yesterday in the hope I could help identify them. None of them had any identifying information.  Several we could figure out, they were mainly our great grandparents and one great uncle. Several are children I has never seen before, perhaps they were from her Mother’s side.  And then there was this photo. A young women who looks much as I did as a young woman. She could be me.

Mystery woman, a relative?

Joan Steiner and me graduation

My college graduation.

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A mystery couple; is it the same woman?

I see so many similarities: our hair, our eyebrows, our noses, our resting face, our lips.  My glasses hide my eyes, but believe me they are similar. When I first saw the photo, I was startled.  Under it my cousin had written: You resemble this woman.  And I do.

I am now haunted by her. Who is she? Is she a great aunt? A cousin?  I am relatively sure she is NOT a grandmother of some generation.  But if I was a time traveler, I think I would be her.

I also love her dress.  There is a bit of sparkle on the collar.  All who know me, know that I love sparkle. I could wear a dress like that.  Perhaps not the high collar.  I do not like turtle neck shirts or high collars of any sort.  The dress itself, is something I would wear.  I imagine that it is blue, my favorite color.

I think she is my doppelganger.  I cannot quite get her out of my mind now.  She also looks a bit like some of my cousin’s daughters.  The family genes are strong. I really want to know who she is? Where she ended up?

This photo was taken in the USA at a photo studio on Grand Street, NYC.  So I at least do not have to worry about her dying in the Shoah.  I think she might be one of my grandfather’s five or six sisters.  I only ever met one as a child.  There were four or five we never knew.

We have another photo taken at the same studio.  Is this her as well?  Or a sister?  I am similar to her as well.  I think it might be her a few years older, with her husband.  She has rings on her fingers now.  But she is still wearing a top with a little drama to it, with all that lace!

Then there is the location of Grand Street, in lower Manhattan.  It runs parallel and a bit to the south of Delancey Street.  My grandfather and great grandfather had a tailor shop on Delancey Street. Also the Bialystoker Synagogue is on Grand Street!  Well we are all Bialystokers!  The synagogue started life as a Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1826.  In 1905 it was purchased to be a synagogue.  But more important it was started by the Chevra Anshei Chessed of Bialystok, and our great grandfather was extremely active in all Bialystoke communal organizations. The synagogue is an historic landmark. I think I need to go and see this synagogue!!!

I am sure she is related somehow.  There are so many connections. I just wish I knew how! I do not think I ever will unless another photo turns up with a name!

In my heart, I wish that my ancestors had put names on the back of all the photos.  The ones with names in Yiddish, or Hebrew, or Polish or German are so wonderful because we actually have a name.  But the many photos that remain forever nameless sit in albums and wait for a name that will probably never come. This lack of identification concerns me as we go on to web-based photo collections.  We need to keep some sort of identification for generations to come.

But for now, I will look at this photo of my familiar but unknown relative and truly wish I knew who this woman is, and how she might be related to me.

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

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

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Bialystoker+Synagogue+on+Grand+Street+image