Tag Archives: grandparents

Bright Smiles

16 Jan

I absolutely love this photo.

It is 1951. My parents are engaged. Dad is in the army and will be deployed to Japan and then Korea. They will marry in June 1951, when he is on a two-week leave before his deployment.

In this photo, my Mom, far left, is with her future family. My father’s sister, mother and grandmother. (My Aunt Leona, or Yoey, Grandma Esther, and my Great Grandma Rae.) I believe it is at the shower held at my Grandma’s apartment in the Bronx, when Mom met all the women in the family. We actually have a movie of this event.

I love their smiles and faces of joy. My Grandma is looking at my Mom with so much love.

I smile whenever I see this.

Childhood Events Definitely Impact My Adult Choices

5 Dec

When I was a child, I remember going to my grandparents’ cousin’s candy store on Bergen Boulevard near Journal Square in Jersey City.  My brother and I have discussed their names, as it is a memory from long ago, over 50 years.  He remembers the wife as Anna, and I remember the husband, as Morris.  We will go with these two names.

Like my grandparents, they were from Europe.  I believe that Morris was my grandfather’s second cousin.  That is a connection I have yet to finalize.  But I am pretty sure he was not a first cousin.  However, in the area they came from in Galicia, Mielec, my grandfather’s family was large and very intermingled.

The best part of going to the candy store, of course, was the candy.  We could eat whatever we wanted, within the reasonable constraints of my mother. The other part was seeing Morris and Anna, who were always excited to see us.  They never had children of their own, but they loved us.

Sometimes, my Mom would drive my grandmother, my brother and I to visit them in the candy store.  I have good memories of being there. My grandmother and Anna always had a good time visiting.  So even though it was my grandfather’s cousin, my grandmother often went to visit without him.  And since she never learned to drive, my Mom had that job and we got to tag along.

Morris always sat behind the counter and ran the cash register. He sat there because he no longer had legs, he lost them to diabetes.   Anna ran the store.  She was tiny and very energetic.  That is why what happened is so sad.

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Morris’ rocking chair. Now owned by my brother.

Anna died first.  I don’t think she was that old.  But when she died, Morris could no longer stay alone. The store was closed; their belongings were sold or given away, and Morris went into a nursing home.  I remember my parents speaking about it, because we were gifted his rocking chair.  It did not go to the nursing home with him.  My brother still has the rocking chair in his home.  The tangible evidence that Morris and Ann were part of our world.

The nursing home Morris lived in for the rest of his life was in Bayonne, New Jersey, close to where our family dentist had his office.  Usually we all went to get our teeth done at one time.

But on this day, it was just my Mom and me.  As we drove away from the dentist office, she turned to me and said, “I want to go visit Morris.  I know he lives near here.”I don’t remember how old I was, somewhere between 10 and 12.  To be honest, I thought we were going to the candy store.  But I was in for an unpleasant and emotional surprise.

When we arrived at a large one-story building, my mother and I entered and went to the desk, where Mom announced that she wanted to see Morris.  The woman stopped what she was doing and called to someone, a nurse/supervisor/care giver came out.   Both were so surprised that we were there to see him.  The supervisor said, ‘Oh my, who are you? You are the first people who have ever come to visit him.”

My Mom was stunned.  “Are you kidding me.  He has nieces and nephews.”  But she was not joking.  No one had visited Morris in the year or so he had been living there.

The nurse walked us to his room.  In fact, by the time we got there, I think three or four nurses or caregivers were following us.  Mom walked in first and knelt down beside Morris.  “Morris, It’s me Frances, Nat and Thelma’s daughter.” She said in Yiddish as she reached out to him.

Morris started cry.  He put his hands on either side of Mom’s face and sobbed, “Frances Frances.” Her name was like a chant.   While Mom hugged him with one arm, she put out her other arm, I knew that meant I needed to come over.

“Here is Ellen,” she said.  My face was now embraced by his hands as he cried into my hair and stroked my face.  I was crying by then as well, as were Mom and the nurses/caretakers.  We stayed and talked to him for about an hour.  It felt longer.  He spent most of the time crying and hugging us. And asking about all the family. I have never forgotten.

As we went to leave, the supervisor asked Mom for her address and phone number in case they needed to reach someone.  They had no contacts for him.

We went and sat in the car.  My Mom cried for an additional half hour or so.  Just sobbing, with her arms crossed on the steering wheel and her face down in her arms.  I cried with her.  It was one of my saddest moments as a child.  When we got home, my Mom called her parents.

I never went back to the nursing home.  I think because every time I thought of him, I started to cry.   But I know my Mom and my grandparents went.  To be honest he did not live long after our visit.   My sister, who is four years younger than me, does not remember Morris or Anna. But what she does remember is my grandparents and my mom talking about him.  And my mother always talking about what happens to someone when they are all alone in the world.

For the past ten months I have been a Spiritual Care Volunteer at an elder care facility.   Over and over again people have asked me:  How can you do that?  Doesn’t it bother you? Isn’t too difficult when someone dies?

The answer to all these questions is an emphatic NO.  Each week when I go, I am greeted by smiles and joy.  I speak to each one of them.  Some days I give them hugs.  Sometimes someone cries, especially if they have recently lost a loved one.  Most of them have family members who often come to see them.  Most important to me is that I know that I am going every week.  I am giving them the attention that Morris so deserved and did not receive.

This childhood event definitely impacted my adult choices. Each time I go, I feel a little lift to my heart, knowing that I have helped to brighten someone’s day.  It is the best feeling, because each time I go, a little of the sadness that has followed me for over 50 years, whenever I think about Morris, dissipates.

The Gift of a Photo Becomes a Gift of Genealogy

23 Nov

When my paternal grandmother died, my dad and his siblings divvied up the photos in her albums.   It made sense at the time, as it was before the internet and the scanning of photos.  But it left each of the families with an incomplete overall picture of whose photos exist.

I have been going through family photos for a number of years.  One of my paternal first cousins has been going through the photos her father had from my grandparents over the two years or so, and when she finds something interesting, she emails the photos to me.  Last week was special.  She found a photo of our paternal grandfather’s mother.  I have written several blogs based on these photos.  (See list below.)

But I had NO photos of my grandfather’s parents.  ZIP.  It was a hole in my genealogy puzzle.  In July, I wrote a blog about my grandfather’s family and its many mysteries.  And last week,  my cousin sent a photo of our great grandmother with my uncle that she discovered.  WOW.  I was struck my how much my grandfather looked like his mother! I immediately put the photo into the blog. (See below.).

But I think the acquisition of this photo needs its own blog, as now I have photos of seven of my great grandparents and four of my great great grandparents.  That is amazing!  I think of my children and my cousins’ children and grandchildren, and I realize that to have these photos labeled is an important gift I can give them all.  For my future grandchildren as well, they can now look back and see some of their four times great grandparents.  That to me is quite wonderful!

I did know one great grandmother, Rae/Ray.  I have vague memories of how she looked. But I remember seeing her when we went to my paternal grandparents’ home.  She lived with them always.   We have the most photos of her as she lived until 1957.  I have photos at different stages of her life and her husband, my great grandfather who passed away in the late 1930s. (See blog about him below.)

Because of this great new photo, I thought it would be great for my family to see all of these photos in one place: my grandparents, my great grandparents and the two sets of great great grandparents.  I also used both their Yiddish/Hebrew names and their English names when they were different, so that everyone knows these names as well.  Also you will notice my great great grandfather Jacob Zev Litwack.  This is not the last name that my great grandfather used when he moved to the United States.

This is my Thanksgiving gift.  The gift of identified photos!  Happy Holidays to all.

 

MATERNAL Family

Maternal great grandma Sara, she died very young.

Great grandma Chava when younger.

Maternal great grandparents/Chava and Gimple

Maternal great grandfather/Shlomo/ Solomon Avraham .

Maternal grandparents. Taube/Tova/Thelma and Nissan/Nathan

PATERNAL Family

Paternal great grandma Sarah (The new photo!)

Baruch Lev/Louis and Rasha/Ray when they married

 

Paternal great grandparents Baruch Lev/Louis and Rasha/Rachel/Rae/Ray when older

Paternal great great grandparents Elka/Esther and Avigdor/Victor

 

Paternal great great grandmother Rasha/Rachel

 

Paternal great great grandfather Yaacov/Jacob Zev. (My great grandfather did Not use this last name in the USA )

Paternal grandparents Harry/Hirsh Zvi and Esther

Blog about my great grandmother and family mysteries: https://zicharonot.com/2019/07/18/some-of-my-paternal-family-mysteries-solved-but-not-all/

Other photos from my cousin:

https://zicharonot.com/2017/12/19/my-familiar-ancestor-who-we-cannot-identify/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/01/26/your-heart-just-gets-larger/

 

About my great grandfather, Baruch Lev:

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

A Memorable Day My Senior Year at Drew

10 Feb

As I try to sort through old photos we found when cleaning out my parents’ and my grandparents’ homes, I find some that trigger strong memories.   Recently a few appeared that brought me back to college at Drew University in Madison, NJ.

It is my senior year.  I will only be there for one more semester, as I completed college in three and a half years.  It is the fall 1976, and my parents decided they were going to take advantage of the lovely weather and spend a day with me, along with my paternal grandparents.

Although both born in the United States, neither of my grandparents went to college. Grandpa finished eighth grade, I believe.  Grandma finished high school, she might have also gone to a secretary school, as she worked as an executive secretary until she was 77.

On this Sunday, since I was only an hour away from my parent’s home in New Jersey, they all came out to see me and take me out to lunch.  It was a wonderful planned surprise.

I took my parents and grandparents all around the college campus.  They met my friends. Saw my dorm room.  They finally could visualize where I was going to college.  This was a treat for all of us.

My grandfather, who was usually a solemn and taciturn person, was happy. He enjoyed the entire day.   I was almost surprised that he came because he was never outgoing with us.  But he and I shared a bond because I sewed and he was a tailor.

You will notice in one photo I stand with my grandparents and mother in front of a window.  They had a good laugh because that window led to my dorm room.

I was living in the first floor of what was then New Dorm.  It had recently opened. And I was so excited to have a room to myself!!!  Each ‘suite’ had four little rooms surrounding a common bathroom.  I thought it was the biggest and the best.  I never ever had my own room before. In fact, it was the only time in my life I had my own room.

Across the bathroom from me lived one of my best college friends. We are still friends to this day.  Another room was filled with a girl who lived with me my junior year in a real suite, where we even had a living room.  The fourth girl I did not know.  She spent most of her time in her room.

New Dorm was built into a hill, so on one side the rooms were below ground level.  That window was high up in my bedroom. But I did not care.  I told my parents that it kept me warmer and allowed me more shelf space!! They still could not understand why I would give up a suite with a living room for this arrangement.  But I loved it.

My daughter went to Drew 30 years after I did.  She lived in this dorm as a senior as well, after spending her junior year in a real suite.  It was just great to have your own space.  When she graduated, I was there to help her clean out her room after four years of college.  And when I entered Riker Dorm, once New Dorm, the rooms and the bathroom seemed so small!  I was mildly shocked because my memories made everything so much bigger.  But it was still a great place to live!

But back to my grandparents and parents.  They were laughing because I thought living in the basement was a great improvement over sharing a room.  My grandparents told me that in their day, living in the basement apartment was not considered a treat.  Rather it had lower rent because there were no good windows and no light.  They could laugh all they wanted, for me it was the best ever.

I had a wonderful senior semester at Drew. These two pictures bring back memories of college and delightful memories of my parents and grandparents.

 

 

Halvah, My Favorite Childhood Treat

26 Dec

Sometimes walking through a store brings back a memory. It happened to me today. One minute I was walking through a grocery store in Holon, Israel, with my daughter. And in an instant I was transported back in time and place. I was in my grandparents’ bakery in West New York, New Jersey.

I am sitting at the counter while my grandparents work. In front of me are three large rectangles of a most delicious treat, halvah. My favorite, marble halvah, is in the middle. And I so want to eat some of this sesame and sugar delight. My grandmother sees me sitting there. “Just take a small piece,” she says. And I do. I carry the love of halvah with me till now.

After some weekend visits, Grandma would send a half-inch slice home with me. My father and I were the biggest halvah fans. We would savor that slice, trying to make it last for a week. A feat that was a bit difficult to achieve!

After my grandparents closed their bakery to retire, my Dad would go to the local deli to buy halvah to satisfy our family’s cravings. My sister also loved the marble halvah. She remembers, “The halvah from the deli came wrapped in wax paper inside the white deli paper, like how lox came. I think because of the innate oiliness.”

In the summertime we could always get halvah at the bakery in Monticello or the deli. Halvah was always part of our life. But moving to the Midwest took me away from this treat.

In Kansas I never see full chunks of halvah. If I am lucky I find packaged process halvah By ‘Joyva’. However it is not the same. I have not tasted this treat in at least four years, since I don’t like the taste of the processed packaged squares of what should be a delectable treat that melts in my mouth.

The sign says “Halvah and sweets.”

But there in the large supermarket, Hetzi Hinam, was an entire counter of halvah with many different flavors. It called out to me. It took me back in time. I craved it. My daughter told me to get some. But I decided no, I just took a picture. I have been regretting that decision since we came home.

I have been going through every instance of halvah memory when I was denied my treat. When my husband, then fiancée, and I were in school, I kept my halvah in his refrigerator wrapped in a plastic bag with a handwritten sign saying this was mine, “Do Not Eat”. I would bring the halvah back from New Jersey to Missouri for those moments when I really needed cheering up. You can imagine my furious anger when I found out my husband’s roommate, David, ate my halvah without my permission. Let’s just say he never did that again.

My disappointment that day was overwhelming, I can still feel my anger even now 40 years later. So although my angst is not that bad today, I keep thinking, why. Why did I deny myself this treat? I could have purchased just a small chunk. But I said no.

Part of it, I think, is that I have such high expectations of halvah. I know what I remember it should taste like. But after eating those packaged chunks I have been disappointed. So I think seeing all those lovely rectangles made me a bit afraid. What if this halvah’s taste did not match my memory?

When I had it four years ago, I also purchased it in Israel. My daughter was living in Tel Aviv then, and I purchased a piece at a little shop. It was delicious. Perhaps my fears are unfounded. I should have purchased some! I could be eating a piece right now!

Instead I am here writing about halvah, remembering the taste, and wishing I had purchased just a bit of my favorite childhood treat.

Perhaps we can go back or find another store!

For those who wonder, according to Wikipedia, “The word halva entered the English language between 1840 and 1850 from the Yiddish halva(Hebrew: חלווה‎), which came from the Turkish helva (حلوا), itself ultimately derived from the Arabic: حلوى ḥalwá, a sweet confection .

Epiphany, Excitement, Discovery, Disappointment, Hope

16 Nov

In searching for my ancestors, I have learned that not everything turns out as I hoped. But part of the search is the excitement of discovery and sometimes just the process itself.

Museum brochure

While in Seattle with my husband, I decided we needed to go to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum, a National Park Service site. We had been to Alaska and seen the town of Skagway where the hordes of people climbed to start a cold and difficult journey to find gold. We have ridden on the White Railroad train to see the path these souls walked to the Yukon Territory.

But to be honest I never connected Seattle with the gold rush. Now I know I was wrong. Almost seventy percent of all those who joined the gold rush came through Seattle. It was the hub for stocking up with the many supplies needed. The idea to come to Seattle was reinforced by a strong media campaign by a Seattle in 1897-98 to encourage people to come to Seattle first.

After visiting the museum, I had an epiphany! I knew my great grandfather had abandoned his family in New York to go to Seattle in the late 1890s, but I never could understand why Seattle. Now I think I know. He joined the adventure seekers looking for gold.

My great grandfather did not return home after his adventure. I wrote about this in the blog below.

Seattle Public Library

Genealogy on the ninth floor!

Being in Seattle for a few days, I decided my next stop needed to be the Seattle Public Library! So in the morning I set off. The staff was so helpful. Who knew there would be a genealogist on staff! Many thanks to John, who helped me explore. And to the other kind staff member who got me started until John came to work.

The old city directories.

I started by looking through the Seattle City directories. I searched from 1898 through 1924. My excitement was high. I found three men named Abraham Rosenberg in my search. The first seemed the most positive. With finding his death certificate we saw that he was born about the time, 1868, that perhaps my great grandfather was born. I found him in the books beginning in 1917.

The wrong Abraham Rosenberg, 1917 city directory.

But it was a disappointing find. We found his obit, and from there realized he only had lived in Seattle from 1916. Could not be my lost ancestor. Not only that he had children at the same time my family was growing back east, in the late 1890s.

John and I were disappointed together. He searched for every reference he could for Abraham Rosenberg in different spellings and in Spokane as well as Seattle.

I am not giving up hope. I vaguely remember that my great grandfather lived a long life. It might be that he died in 1963, those death certificate records are not yet on line.

I know my grandfather found his father in Seattle in 1902 or 1903. So I know he existed.

An earlier Abraham Rosenberg.

I went back in time. And found in the 1904 and 1905 city directories an Abraham Rosenberg is listed. He is a tailor! My grandfather was a tailor. Could it be my missing ancestor? We might not have found him traces of him in other records. But I am positive that I will one day find him. I will not give up hope.

The process is part of the adventure. I had a wonderful adventure and met the nicest staff at the library!

https://zicharonot.com/2015/06/14/the-sad-scandal-that-forever-scarred-my-grandpa-harry/

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!