Tag Archives: Summer

Sisters: Grandma Esther and Aunt Minnie

19 Oct

Esther and Minnie 1

Today I found a photo gem.  I love this photo.  I see my Grandma Esther and her sister, Aunt Minnie.  I see the fence around our bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake.

The photo looks out to what we called the “front lawn,” and in the background I see the lake.  You might not notice it, but if you look through the fence, you can see a bit of blue surrounded by trees.

There are several things that make this photo special.  First, I love how my grandmother is standing.   She had a habit of holding her foot up like that in photos.  I guess she liked to stand that way.

Second, she has her sunglasses off to the side, and I remember those sunglasses!!  Although I usually think of them on her face.  She wore them all the time.  Third, their hair!  Neither of them are totally white yet.  Later Grandma would put a rinse in her hair which gave it a blue tint!

Also, they are dressed up! All I can think of is that they were going to a show that day at one of the big hotels.  Otherwise they would have been in shorts and shirts and sitting in a chair either playing canasta or knitting.

This has to be in the late 1960s.  I might have taken this photo with my Brownie camera.  Once I got a camera I started my life long habit of taking photos of everything.  It might have been someone else, but for now I will claim it.

I have written before that we spent every summer in the Catskills.  I had all four of my grandparents and many other family members together all summer long.

Grandma Esther, Grandpa Harry and Aunt Minnie shared a bungalow!  How that worked, I never asked.  It was just the way it was every summer. I assume their love for each other overwhelmed their annoyances!

In the winter they lived in the same building in Co-op City, NYC,  but in different apartments.  Uncle Al, Aunt Minnie’s husband had passed away years before.  From that point on the three of them were always together.

I cannot imagine them apart. The sisters were always together in my mind, loving and fighting.  Many times, I think back to them when my sister and I squabble.  A vision of the two of them fighting over a canasta game, they were always partners, flashes and sometimes I just want to laugh.

We were so fortunate to have our summers in Kauneonga Lake surrounded by people who loved us.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/25/the-grandmas-forever-canasta-game/

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

 

My Favorite Catskills Photo of Me

16 Oct

Summer 1957

There are many reasons why I have always Loved this photo. First it was taken in the Catskills when I was 2 1/2. I am blissfully happy sitting in the grass. I love seeing the old wooden outdoor furniture.  I know that bench is Blue. I spent many hours on it over the years. 

I love seeing the women on the bench. The one to the far left is my maternal grandmother. She and my grandfather owned the bungalow colony. And with many family members there, I was surrounded by love. To be honest I am not sure who the other woman is, but I think it is my aunt.  I love that bench as my paternal grandmother taught me to knit and crochet as we sat on it when I was about seven or eight. 

I love that my aunt’s feet are resting on that single chair, as I know she is really relaxing. They mothers only put their feet up when they were settled in for a rest.  There is another chair to my side. It indicates to me that there is a square table to my side as well … the table where my grandmothers, great aunt and their friend spent endless hours playing canasta. 

Further on I see some of the white painted bungalows. This was the original colony. Eventually my grandparents purchased more land and moved some of the buildings. Only two of the original bungalows still exist. The land has been sold off and newer homes were erected. Two of my cousins purchased some of the land, so I am fortunate that I can still walk this property. 

I love how I look in this photo. I remember my Dad telling me that this was his favorite picture of me as a child because in this photo he could finally see how I would look as an adult. But I also love it for the curl in the middle of my forehead. I had and still have thick, curly hair. I cannot tell how often one of my parents would recite this poem to me: “There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good she was very, very good But when she was bad she was horrid.” 

I know that hat and outfit. It was red and white. Because of my black hair my mom often dressed me in red. I rarely wear red now. Blue is my favorite color. But when I envision myself as a child I am often in red or pink. But that hat I specifically remember. I must have worn it for several years before my younger sister was born and she have the chance to wear it. 

I wish I knew what was in the box I am holding. I am sure it is crackers or cereal. But I wish the front of the box was facing out. It would add to the memory. I guess it does not matter.  Whenever I see this photo, I am filled with joy. I am in my happy place. Our home in Kauneonga Lake, in the Catskills where summers were always delightful.  

The Legacy of Woodstock

17 Aug

The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

The view toward the stage and West Shore Road.

It is amazing to me that an event that divided a community; created havoc and orderly chaos; memories that lasted a life time, both bitter and joyful, is now the reason why the Town of BethEl, White Lake and Kauneonga Lake in Sullivan County, NY, might actually survive.

It was the Woodstock Festival that put these small towns in the eyes of the nation. I remember that weekend and the weeks that follow so well. My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake and we spent each summer there for my life. My grandparents had made Kauneonga Lake their year-round residence. They knew everyone. They were active in the community and the synagogue.

And I remember the hostilities and disruption that came after the festival was over and most of the people had left.   I say most because a small group stayed behind and never left the area.

I see my Dad trying to direct traffic in front our home. And letting a few vehicles park on our long driveway and front lawn.   I remember the people who came to ask if my grandfather would let helicopters land on our lawn. (That would be a NO.)

I remember the police on horseback trying to ride up the hill to the Woodstock site.

And I remember the mess afterwards. The days upon days to clean up the debris left behind.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

The symbol used throughout the town of Kauneonga Lake.

But now that same event that caused pain for many, especial the Yasgurs, is now the reason for renewal.  It so amazes me now that the sign of a bird on a guitar that was so hated by some of the townspeople, is now redone as a bird on a leaf and is  symbol used in the town. And even a horse stable uses a take off of the iconic sign as its symbol. Wow! How the attitudes have changed.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

Even a stable uses a sign to remember Woodstock.

At first the site of the Woodstock Festival became a legend and people would come up each summer on a pilgrimage to see it and talk about it. There was no monument. A group of people, the remains of the Hog Farmers who had helped at the concert, who hung out there to tell the story. Over time a monument was built, and the field was left empty.

Those who love the area owe thanks to one family’s vision, Alan Gerry and the Gerry Foundation. I believe it is thanks to him that the area is surviving the loss of income from the bungalow colonies. As the colonies closed or came under the ownership of orthodox Jewish communities, the area became desolate. But then in 1997 the Gerry family began it’s interest in the Woodstock site.

With the development of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel and White Lake and Kauneonga Lake have had a small rebirth. Each summer I come up and I see new restaurants, new stores, new houses even. On the weekends I hear the sounds of cars whizzing by our home before and after concerts.

People come to hear the music and to visit the Bethel Woods Museum. Every summer I take a journey the almost two miles to visit the Woodstock site and take a photo. I remember the blocked roads, the multitudes of people. I remember my grandfather’s reactions to all the young adults walking by our home. “Where are their mothers?” He kept asking as he shook his head.

But along with the memories of 46 years ago, I also see the new site. I have to tell you, it is wonderful!

 

My Grandma Always Won At Solitaire

11 Aug

Grandma Thelma was not a good loser. In fact, I would have to say that she hated to lose, especially at cards. It did not matter who she played with, a solitary game or against one of her grandchildren. Losing was not an option for grandma.

She loved to play solitaire. And her endless days in the Catskills during the winter months gave her plenty of time to play. But she played even in the summer when there were many people up for the summer.

Grandma would eagerly deal out her seven piles of cards and start a game. But if it wasn’t going well, she might add an eighth pile. Or perhaps count out her three cards in a slightly different manner. Or maybe check the cards that were turned over to see where the card was that she needed.  She would then work to get that card uncovered.

We would protest! “Grandma, That is cheating!”  She always denied it. To her it was winning. Why play a game by yourself if you were going to lose?  She said she was not cheating, she was just changing the rules.  But rules are meant to be followed.  Not to Grandma, if she had followed the rules, she once told me, she would not be here. She would have died in the Shoah.  So you make the rules so that you win. To some degree I could not argue with that.

However, there were times she would never make up her own rules. During the summertime daily canasta games with three longtime friends (including my other grandma), she played honestly.  Doing anything else would have been a disaster. And when you play with a partner, it is much more difficult to make your own rules, since you both have to play as a team.  But to be honest team work was not my Grandma’s strong point.

She also never cheated during the weekly gin rummy game that the women of the colony played when the husbands were in the City. It was for money! A penny or two per point depending on the win. When she played for money, she always followed the official rules.

But with her grandchildren, the three of us who spent the summers in the Catskills, she would often follow her own rules.   Sometimes is was as simple as taking a peek at our hands.  I admit we were a little lax on holding our cards close to our chest.  But when playing gin rummy with Grandma, we learned quickly to keep our cards hidden. She would warn us once if we held our cards where she could see them. But if we made that mistake again, forget about it, she looked.

On rainy days, when we were stuck inside for the entire day, my Mom would often ‘kick’ us out of the bungalow and send us across the lawn to our Grandparent’s house.  They lived there throughout the year and had a television.  But that was not our true reason for going.  With our Grandparents we played cards or baked or just visited.  The card games, however, were epic battles.  They could go on for hours as we played gin rummy for points.  Or perhaps a canasta game, the three grandchildren and Grandma.  Or perhaps a canasta game for two.  Hours of entertainment,  And my Mom would get a break.

My brother believes (and it is true) that she would rearrange the deck, stacking it in her favor, if you had to leave the room for a minute. I remember often calling for someone to watch Grandma while I ran to the bathroom.I would bring my cards with me,  I knew that if I left my hand unattended, I would not win.  Sometimes, if my brother or sister were around,  I just asked one of them to play out the hand.

You might think that she not a good role model by all this ‘cheating.’  But she really was so obvious about it, and never sneaky, that I am a little adverse to calling it cheating.  We knew exactly what was happening.  We knew she just did not like to lose, but at the same time she knew that she was not really winning.

It became a running joke.  I remember once telling a friend that my Grandma always won at cards.  She was amazed. “How did she do that?” My friend asked.  “She must have been really lucky.”

“Well, luck had nothing to do with it,” I admitted.  “She created her own rules.  And in her rulebook, my Grandma always won.”

Flying Is No Longer Fun!

3 Aug
The moon from our plane window.  It was supposed to be daylight when we arrived.

The moon from our plane window. It was supposed to be daylight when we arrived.

Six and one half hours. That is how long our flight was delayed.  We spent 8 1/2 hours at the airport in Kansas City in total. A very long day. I am so happy my son was with me.  His amusement and laughter made the day much more enjoyable.

It started as a simple 30-minute delay for an incoming plane. It quickly turned into a nightmare for those with connecting flights.

When the new crew entered the plane they noticed something was wrong,  the plane was extremely cold.  We did not know what was happening at the time. But I did noticed that the captain had come back up the jetway and got the woman agent who was working the desk (for what she thought would be a routine flight.) She went down the jetway with the pilot.

I turned to my son and said, “That does not look good at all.”

I have been flying a lot lately, and to me this indicated a major problem .  She came back out and immediately anounced a one-hour delay. It was a simple problem she told us, one that they would probably just look at and note. If only that was true! But it was not to be.

That one hour turned to two hours . We were told that maintenance was now looking at it and determined that they would need a part to fix a thermostat.

Those with connecting flights started to line up, making their connections would be difficult.  In the summer time, flights are often crowded, with every seat filled.  Plans to fly overseas were especially difficult.

My son was walking around the waiting area, while I read a book.  He came back to where I was sitting with our carry-on luggage.

“Mom, they are offloading luggage from the plane,” he said.  A very bad sign.  I have learned that if enough people are taken off the flight and put on another flight, the airline will cancel  the ‘problem’ flight.  I did not want to be waiting for hours for a cancelled flight.  I absolutely hate that.

I immediately got on the line. I wanted to reserve a seat in the later flight.  Which I did.  We were only 2 1/2 hours delayed at this point and the next flight was to leave in four hours, but you never know. I try to be flexible, but I also want to be prepared.

We started watching people be sent away.  I was calm.  One woman was very upset because she had special concert tickets. She was making phone calls, speaking to people and speaking to the agents.  I notice one of the two male agents who had replaced our original agent was leading her away from our gate.

The delays piled up.  The part was found, but now a team of mechanics were working on it. Instead of being an easy fix, now an entire unit had to be taken out of the plane to get the plane repaired.  It was apparent that things were not going well.

We were sent to another gate as a new plane was coming, being ferried in just for us.  Okay, maybe things would get better.  Maybe.

The line to transfer or find solutions was long, since the earliest we would leave was 4:30 pm.  Our scheduled flight now was leaving five  and half hours late. Some people went home or to a hotel. They had no chance to make any connections, so they were rescheduled for the next day.

We went to the new gate and waited.  The woman with the concert tickets was back! What happened? The flight on Delta was cancelled  so she came back to United to get on the original flight.  Needless to say she did not make the concert.

The plane came. You could feel the excitement from the crowd.  Although many had left our group,  others who were on a flight with a stop in Chicago had chosen to change to our flight to Newark.

We lined up ready to board.  The new agent asked if any of the first class flyers wanted their original lunch meals. One raised her hand.  The agent had to go to the other gate to get the food.  People moaned.

The crew got off the plane.  You could feel the anticipation as we waited for our crew to arrive.  And waited. And waited.

The agent came back on the speaker. “Ummm. Well, first I am really sorry, but the crew members were sent to the hotel and are not here.  We thought they were in the crew lounge at the airport.  But they have left.  We have to get them back.  So there will be another hour and half delay. The earliest you will leave is 5:45 pm.”

People audibly gasped! Tension filled the air. The comments and questions were flying around the waiting area: “Don’t they talk to each other?”  “How could that happen?”  “Will they really come back?”  “Is this flight actually going to go?”

My son burst out laughing. I got up to ask to transfer to the other plane. But the agent was not done.

“Also I have been told that we cannot serve the meals from first class as they have been on the plane for too long.  I am sorry.”  So first class passengers were getting no food.  Neither was my son or I or anyone else.   They had just joined us peons.  And there are not many food choices at the Kansas City airport.

My son and I  had already gone without a real lunch.  It was obvious that we were going without a real dinner.

I was first in line at the counter. “Can you just transfer us to the other flight, please.”  It was scheduled to leave one minute after the flight we were supposed to go on.  But I just was not sure we were actually going to go anywhere.

“I could” she said. “But it is scheduled to go on the original plane that you were supposed to go on, and it is still being fixed.  What do you want to do?”   I really had no choice, at least I knew this plane was in working order. I stayed with the original flight.

We all sat and waited and talked to the people around us.

When the crew arrived we all applauded.

When we boarded the plane, people were laughing.

When the plane took off we were amazed.  I actually heard a few people applaud.

The captaiin came on and apologized.

But we had been at the airport for 8 1/2 hours. The airline did not offer us food coupons. There were no snacks on the plane. Luckily I had purchased some snacks for us.

We arrived 6 1/2 hours late. Instead of 3 pm, we arrived at 9:30 pm. A wasted day. We missed dinner with my brother. We were tired and cranky and hungry.

At the luggage carousel, my son and I waited with others from our flight.  Making jokes about whether our luggage was actually put on the new plane, and what else could possibly go wrong.  However our luggage did arrive.  Our ride from the airport did show up within minutes of us leaving the terminal.

The passengers had bonded during our time together.  People who were strangers became temporary friends.  But it was now over, we were all returning to life outside of the world of the airport.

Earlier in the odyssey I told my son I was going to send an email to the airline when I got home. I was angry. But United emailed us first, apologizing to us and offering a link for a gift for each of us.   You know it is bad when that happens.  I have 90 days, so I have not checked the link yet.

Although nothing can give me back my day, which was spent watching the world from a terminal window, I do appreciate the apology.  But in reality flying is no longer any fun.

Watermelon Helps Make Summers Wonderful

28 Jul

image

I love watermelon.

In the summer, on a hot day, it is the MOST refreshing of all fruits.

I love eating it cut up in chunks. I love eating it in wedges.

I love it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I eat watermelon for snacks.

Buying me a watermelon is buying me joy.

This week, with the temperatures and heat index going above 100, I knew I had to get one.   So I went to Costco, walked to the giant bins of bright green watermelons and searched for the best. I picked a few up and thumped. And finally I heard the noise I liked the best. I had found my perfect watermelon. Total Joy!

When I was little my brother and sister taunted me by singing, “Ellen, Ellen Watermelon.” I actually remember all the cousins and other children at the bungalows singing it as well. It was my Catskills nickname as a child. In fact, there are a couple of adult friends of mine who still call me Ellen Ellen Watermelon. It might have bothered me a little bit when I was younger. But truth be told, I love watermelon. So now I do not care at all.

I always got a thrill when I saw my Dad bring a watermelon into the bungalow. He would be the one to cut it up, not my Mom. He would usually cut it into quarters and then make triangular strips. That meant it was really just for us.

If he cut it out of the rind and made chunks, that usually meant he was making it for lots of people and it might be part of a fruit salad. My Dad would make one side of the watermelon into a giant bowl and put the fruit salad back into it. I never do that. But I always helped him by making the cantaloupe and honeydew balls with a special scoop.

I learned to make fruit salad from my Dad. Now, I love to make fruit salad. I like chopping up fruit to make the best combination of fruit flavors. It brings me memories of Dad, and for some reason chopping fruit relaxes me. Whenever I go to a pot-luck dinner, I bring the fruit salad.

Personally, for me just watermelon would be fine.   I like it best cut up into inch to two-inch chunks. Then I fill up a bowl and just snack away. I usually like it on its own, not mixed into a salad. Why mess up the best fruit ever, well except for blueberries, by mixing it with other melons. Yes some like cantaloupe and honeydew. But for me, only the watermelon is enough to make me happy. Although I have been known to mix blueberries and watermelon together for a special treat.

Watermelon has other uses as well.   There have been many a watermelon seed spitting contests at our home in the Catskills. And it is not just for children. I have seen many a grown man and woman spit out their seeds to see whose goes the furthest.

What other fruit gives you the joy of eating and the ability to play with it without anyone yelling, “Stop playing with your food.” Even my Dad would spit watermelon seeds. I remember one contest in particular that included my husband, brother, brother-in-law, Dad and a first cousin.   We were all adults. And we cheer them on.

Best fruit ever, watermelon always helps to make summers wonderful.

Getting Ready for The Catskills

23 Jul

Next week my son and I are going to New Jersey/New York for 11 days. It is the first time in five years that I am going back east without a purpose. I have no ailing parents anymore, as, sadly, they passed away. I do not have to clean out an apartment or a house. This is not the unveiling. I do not have any meetings plan. We are just going for fun. I have not gone back home just for fun for a long time.

We are staying with my sister for a night and then my son and I and my sister and my niece are driving up to the Catskills to stay in our family home. My brother, and perhaps his wife and/or daughter will meet us up there.   We do not have to clean the attic, basement or house out. We do not have to fill up a dumpster. We do not have to do anything but enjoy the house, the grounds and relax.

Wow. We will see our cousins. We can walk into town. We can eat at a restaurant. Perhaps we will go to Bethel Woods? Who knows? We have no plans. It will be like old times…. Sort of.

My parents will not be there. The annuals my grandparents and then parents planted so lovingly will not be planted. There is no food awaiting our arrival. No special treats hidden away in the special cookie tin. We have to buy all the food ourselves.

There will be no one to welcome us when we drive up the long driveway to the house and no one to stand outside and wave as we drive away.  We will miss their smiles and their welcome.  But I know that they will be so happy to know that we are there, and that the house is alive again.

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Our home in Kauneonga Lake is our happy place. There are so many wonderful memories. SO many stories embedded in the essence of the house. So much laughter, and some tears. So much of my being was formed by events that occurred in that house. I would not be who I am if I had not spent my summers there.

I close my eyes and see the many outside activities that reside in my mind’s eye: croquet, bocce, baseball, running in the rain, watching the stars.   Each memory is a delight. My grandfather was colorblind, each year we never knew what color the furniture would be: a crazy quilt of chairs and tables. Sitting around on brightly painted wooden lawn furniture discussing whatever topic we decided.

My grandparents’ laughter; my parents’ commands; my brother’s and sister’s voices; the house resonates in sounds of love.

And then we walk down West Shore Road to where my grandparents’ bungalow colony once stood, we do not miss out on memories. We pass what used to be Kauneonga Park, the Fink’s bungalow colony, home to our grandparent’s good friends, Sidney and Bertha. The colony has changed now, but in my mind I see them and the way it was when I was a child or a teen. We also pass the White Lake Homes. If we walk through the streets there we can pass the home of Nan, a friend of my grandmother’s who was always embroidering tablecloths.

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Further along was the house of a friend of mine. His house abutted the Lake. Now there are giant homes there. But in my mind I still see the little homes.

We pass Cooper Drive…so many memories there as well, with friends who stayed there over the years. Then we walk on to the area where our bungalow colony once stood.   Now two of our cousins have homes there. Although some of the original bungalows no longer exist, houses stand in their places.

Our cousins are part of our childhood. We had so many adventures together. We grew up in the heyday of the Catskills: the 50s, 60s and 70s.   No one can take that joy away from us. We are more than just cousins. Our summers in the Catskills made us so close. We were more like siblings. And sometimes we bicker like siblings. But we share the joy of being in the Catskills.

We will share meals and memories with our cousins. We will sit by the beach and perhaps go out on a boat. The children, not us, but our adult children, will go boating and jet skiing and waterskiing. And now there are grandchildren to watch as they learn to love the Lake and the Catskills.

I CAN NOT Wait!

This time next week I will be getting ready to drive up to the Catskills. My heart is already singing with joy.

An Odd Affinity To Jelllyfish Attacks

23 Mar
I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

I think my son especially does not like jellyfish with tentacles.

When the tentacle wrapped around my son’s leg in Long Island Sound (Connecticut side), people started running. I was not sure what was going on at first. My son, then about three years old, was standing in about 6 inches of water. His hand firmly grasped by a 10-year-old with two 8-year-old children next to them. We were all together, and I was watching closely.

But I did not see what was just under the water. My son started screaming. I ran over and grabbed him, as a man came running towards me. It was scary. What did this man want? He was yelling something at me, but it took a minute to understand that a giant, dead jellyfish has drifted over to the beach and one of its tentacles had wrapped around my son’s thigh.

As the man ran over to me, he was yelling, “We need to get your son to first aid NOW!” I looked down, and there just under the edge of my son’s swimsuit was a giant welt that encircled his thigh. Bright red and raised, the welt was growing before my eys.

By this time my son was holding his breathe. I could see his lips turning blue. He was so scared and in pain. I had him enveloped in my arms, as the man rushed me towards the lifeguard station. But we did not move far, the lifeguard was on his way running to me, with a squirt bottle in hand. He had heard all the commotion and knew something had occurred.

He sprayed my son’s leg with vinegar. The smell was sickly sweet. But I could see my son relax a bit, as the cool liquid eased the pain and started working on the jellyfish venom.

Needless to say, it was the end of our relaxing day at the beach. Even 21 years later, I can close my eyes and relive this moment and the entire hour or so that my son sobbed till he fell asleep from exhaustion. And I do not mean whimpers. I mean full-throated screams of agony. My friend, my Mom, the three girls and I all wanted his pain to end.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My favorite jellyfish photo ever.

My son developed a healthy fear of jellyfish. He loved the water and he loved swimming. But no longer ever wanted to go into ocean. When we went to Florida to see his grandparents, we would walk along the beach the night before, checking for jellyfish. When he saw a jellyfish lying on the beach he would run in the other direction or hop over them. Usually the beach would be closed if we saw jellyfish. Which was just fine. Most of the time, he just wanted to swim in the pool. And I agreed. I did not want to go through that fear again.

Our family love to go to aquariums when we travel. He loved going as well, but he would quickly run past the jellyfish tanks. He wanted nothing to do them. He did not even want to see them.

I would like to say that this was his last encounter with a jellyfish.

Move forward 12 years. We are again in Florida visiting grandparents. One evening we had dinner with my nephew, who was studying marine biology. He told us all about the different jellyfish and Portuguese Man o Wars, which were common in Florida. And how jellyfish and Man o Wars were not the same things. A Portuguese Man o War was not a jellyfish! Our nephew made that clear. My son was unhappy with the dinner conversation. I think the conversation was actually a foreshadow of what would come the next day.

We were visiting friends on the coast. My son, my college-aged daughter and her then boyfriend went down t the beach to enjoy the great day. The adults stayed upstairs on the balcony and enjoyed visiting. We were getting cleaned up and ready to leave when the younger adults arrived back upstairs. My daughter announced loudly as they entered the apartment that my son ‘was stung by a jellyfish!” He is in pain.”

“Very funny, “ I responded. Thinking that she was joking because of our dinner conversation last night.

“No,” her boyfriend added. “He really got stung. Just as we were getting out of the water”

I looked at my son. Oh no! They really were not joking. I could see that he was in PAIN.

Mother mode kicked in. He really was stung by a jellyfish AGAIN! Well actually not a jellyfish, it was a Portuguese Man o War, even worse!!!

Someone went on line to see what we should do. Did getting stung a second time add to the impact and chances of a systemic reaction? Should I take him to an emergency room? I called my husband, who had remained home during our trip to see grandparents. Probably did not need to take him to the hospital, but needed to watch him for a bit. (My husband is a pediatric allergist, so it did make sense to call him.)

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

After the Man o War stung him, we used wine vinegar to ease the pain.

Vinegar would help. But the only vinegar my friends had was wine vinegar. We used it. We doused my son’s foot in wine vinegar. And then the jokes began. He did smell like a salad. And their dog did want to lick his leg. We got him calmed down as the pain ebbed. And we overstayed our visit by an hour or so, as we waited to make sure there was no reaction.

All was well. My son recovered.

But his odd affinity to jellyfish attacks have created an environment for jellyfish jokes which have become a permanent part of my son’s family life. I must admit, I am among the worst.   My husband and I travel often. And I still love aquariums. I have been to the aquariums in Boston, Baltimore, Atlanta, and more. And each time I go, I take photos of the jellyfish tanks then I email these photos my son.

Sometimes I even buy him jellyfish gifts.

He always smiles and says something like, “Really. This is what you got me.”

But finally I bought him a jellyfish gift that he loves.

His cat’s favorite cat toy had disappeared. He was bemoaning this to me one day, and told him I was going to the pet store to get food for my cat. So I would look for something.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

The wonderful jellyfish cat toy I purchased for my son.

I found the best toy ever. Developed by National Geographic, part of the price of this perfect toy goes to support animals. It is a jellyfish filled with catnip on a stick. I had to buy it.

When my son came over to pick it up, he laughed. “Really a jellyfish toy?”

“Yes,” I said. You can finally get your revenge. Whenever your cat attacks the jellyfish toy, you can envision those jellyfish that attacked you getting attacked by your cat.”

And he smiled his best smile and agreed it was a wonderful idea.

 

Bungalow Life was Ruptured When the Water Heater Blew Up!

26 Feb

Bungalow colony life in the Catskills was peaceful. Each day we knew some of the basics of what would happen.

The mothers played cards and mah jonng on a set schedule. The grandmas played canasta. All the women knitted and crocheted during the day. We went swimming. We played. We picked blueberries. We rode our bicycles. We just had fun. On the weekends, the dads came up. It was simple and quiet, except for the sounds of childhood and the sometimes yells of the moms.

The moms had several important needs. One was hot water.

We needed to shower and the moms needed to do laundry. Without hot water, life at the bungalows would come to a standstill. Children got extremely dirty with all the outdoor activities in the summertime. We could wash off in the lake, but not our clothing. So the moms were always busy with laundry.

People did their laundry on certain days because there were only two washing machines in our colony. I think they might have had a schedule, but I cannot be sure. I do know that the laundry room often had loads of laundry waiting to be done. People would put their baskets in the laundry room, with their detergent on top of the clothes, and as one person finished her load, she would load up the next person’s laundry in the machine and start it.

The wet laundry had to be hung on lines. We did not have dryers at our colony. I am not even sure if clothes dryers were available when I was little. So the clotheslines were always in use. Clothespins were important. I still have some I saved from the Catskills!

This meant that rainy summers were a disaster for the moms. Children would sometimes have to wear the same dirty clothes for another day, if they could not be washed and dried. During rainy summers, we often had laundry hanging all over the bungalow during the week. And it really did not dry that well because it was all so damp. Sometimes my Mom would put the oven on to try to dry out the laundry.

We would visit our friends during rainy summers, and walk through layers of drying laundry! Clean clothes, clean linens, clean towels were important!

So imagine the aggravation it caused when the water heater went out. It did not happen very often. But once in a while the pilot light would go out and the heater would stop making hot water. Usually one of the men would go and light the heater. It usually was no problem. The heater lit easily.

Except for one time. The time my best friend, Vicki’s, Dad went to light the water heater. I cannot remember if someone tried to light it before him. I do not remember if he was the only dad up there, so he got to do it. I do know that usually my dad did all the chores since my grandparent’s own the colony. I do not know why it was Normie who had the job on this particular day. But he did.

Normie and his wife, Wini, in matching sweaters in the center. My grandfather stands behind my grandma.  Wini's parents are the women sitting on the left and the man standing on the right.  At the bungalows in the Catskills in the 1950s.

Normie and his wife, Wini, in matching sweaters in the center. My grandfather stands behind my grandma. Wini’s parents are the women sitting on the left and the man standing on the right. At the bungalows in the Catskills in the 1950s.

His in-laws and my grandparents were best friends. My Mom and his wife were best friends. (A friendship that continued till my Mom passed away.   And still continues with us.) And his daughter, Vicki, and I do not know life without each other. So it made some sense that Normie would take on this responsibility if my Dad or uncle was not there.

But we are not sure why it was Normie who went to light the water heater pilot.

I was just a little girl. But I remember what happened next.

Normie went to light the water heater, it was behind a bungalow.

A moment later there was a big “BOOM” explosion and a blast of fire shooting into the sky.

It was so scary!!! Everyone was momentarily stunned. Then there was chaotic movement.

I vaguely remember Normie walking out from behind the bungalow, dazed. Perhaps burning. Or maybe not! Maybe it was just people rushing towards him to get him away from the fire. There was a lot of screaming; a lot of running around. It is so confused in our memories. But there was good new, he was alive.

Then the Moms gathered the children and made us go inside. I am sure Vicki went with me. All I remember is that we were quickly moved out of the way.

Next thing came the fire engine and ambulance and the volunteer firemen and ambulance/EMT crew. It was amazing how quickly they got to the colony. The fire was soon extinguished. Normie was taken away. The children, me included, were terrified.

My friend Vicki remembers, “I remember going to see him in the hospital. He smelled like A & D ointment or some kind of burn cream he had on.

“I was so devastated that happened to him. I thought he would never come home!”

But Normie did come home. He had no eyebrows or eyelashes, but the fire did not reach his face. He had no chest hair; the fire singed that off. The main damage was to his legs. They were burned.

I remember before the explosion, he had large varicose veins on his legs, but after the fire, you would not really see them.

He often wore a bathing suit in the summer time. And we all got used to seeing his burned, scarred legs.

It was a summer event I cannot forget. To this day I hate when someone has to light a pilot light.   I know that it can explode because of my memories of the day the water heater blew up.

 

The Littlest Gambler: Learning about Horse Races in the Catskills

18 Feb

It started with a phone call. We were in the Catskills in our bungalow behind my grandparents’ home on West Shore Road. We no longer stayed in their bungalow colony, which was located down the road across from Kauneonga Lake. But my paternal grandparents and my aunt and uncle and cousins still stayed at the colony.

The phone call was either from my father’s sister, my Aunt Leona, or my Grandma Esther. But honestly, I think it was my Aunt, from the way my Dad was talking. His conversation went something like this.

“When did they show up? Did you know they were coming? Okay. Okay, as soon as I can.”

He hung up the phone and turned to my Mom. “My Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny are at the bungalow colony. We have to go down.”

My Mom was quiet. “They are here? Now?”

Well obviously yes. They were here. But who exactly were they? And why was it a big surprise? I had never heard of an Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny. But I would soon find out all about them.

Aunt Hady was my paternal grandfather’s sister.   It seems she is the reason that my parents met. Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny lived across the street from my maternal grandparents in West New York, New Jersey. She often shopped in my grandparents’ bakery and she knew my Mom. She told my Dad that she had the perfect wife for him. And in this case, she was right. Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny were responsible for my parent’s meeting.

But Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny were sort of the family black sheep. It seems Uncle Lenny was a gambler. Not a good thing in my paternal grandmother’s eyes. She really did not want them around her grandchildren. I found that out.

You see, I loved Uncle Lenny from moment I met him. Just a few minutes later we went to the bungalow colony, and my siblings and I met our great aunt and uncle for the first time. For me it was joy!

I remember Uncle Lenny’s laughter. I remember sitting on his lap and over the next few weeks learning everything you need to know to bet on the horses at the Monticello Racetrack.

He had these special booklets printed on newsprint that listed all the horses running in each race. In the book were numbers and information about each horse and how much you would get back if you bet on whether they win, place or show (first, second and third place.)

I would sit with him and go through the book each day. He always had pencil in his hand to make marks in the booklets. We would choose the best horses for the night. There were a lot of issues to consider. Had the horse won before? How old was the horse? Had he won against the other horses in this race? Who was the driver (This was a harness racing track.)? All these statistics! I loved it.

We would sit outside at a wooden table on nice days. When it was raining we would sit at the kitchen table and go through the book for each race. Sometimes we forgot about the odds and chose a horse based on its name. Special names were important as well when selecting a winning horse! Each day he let me chose one horse for him to bet on.   If I won, he would give me a dollar.

I think it was the dollar that finally got to Grandma!

I thought it was absolutely wonderful.

My grandmother thought it was absolutely horrible.

Little did I know what was going on! I was only 9 or 10 years old. And I was have a great time. But behind the scenes a war was brewing.

One day I was happily going through the races’ guide with Uncle Lenny. The next day he would barely speak to me.   Soon they disappeared. They stopped coming to the colony.   Their visits diminished. No one would speak about them. I had no idea what happened. Only that they were gone for the summer

I did not know what was happening till years later. Uncle Lenny had passed away and Aunt Hady was living in Monticello. Dad was going to visit her. When I found out, I asked about that summer.

It seems my Grandma Esther was furious that Uncle Lenny was teaching me about gambling, about racing and the horses. It seems the horses and gambling destroyed Uncle Lenny, and there was no way Grandma was going to let him influence me. Enough was enough. Uncle Lenny and Aunt Hady were bad influences. And they would have to go. And go they did. Grandma Esther put her foot down.   And when Grandma got angry, you did what she said!

I never looked at a race schedule again. I did go to the races in Monticello one time with a friend after I turned 21. He spent a few minutes attempting to explain how the races worked to me. But I knew it all. Even 11 years later I still remembered everything that Uncle Lenny had taught me. To be honest, I can still see those listings.

My summer as a gambler ended sadly for me. I missed Uncle Lenny and my gambling lessons. As an adult, when I heard what had happened, I felt terrible. Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny never had children. I believe Uncle Lenny really liked teaching me about the races and enjoyed our time together. I only ever felt love and joy from him.

I regret that my Grandma was so protective. Even though she demanded that my lessons end, I enjoyed being the littlest gambler for a summer. But I have never had the urge to gamble in my life, so perhaps my Grandma was right!