Mabel Badaines

Mabel Badaines

Interviewed December, 1998

 

 

Three things I would like said about my life:

That I did the best I could to my knowledge. If I have offended anybody, I ask their forgiveness. And, I wish you all well.

Shchuchin, Poland: 1912 till 1925

 

I was born in Shchuchin, Poland. I do not have any birth certificate, so according to my grandmother, I was born the day before Christmas. In Polish it was called Bojenarodznie. And the day before Christmas, I figured out, was December 24th. And my cousin, whose sister was also born the same year told me that it was 1912. 1 really don’t know, because I wrote down 1911, because when I wanted to go to school in 1918 after the war finished, I made myself a year older so that I could go to school. Because they asked me “How old are you?” and I said, “Six.” “When were you born?” I said, “1911.” So on the passport, it’s 1911, with a question mark.

 

My grandmother used to tell me, you know like when I’d ask her what’s my birthday, cause I didn’t have a certificate, I didn’t have a birth certificate. She used to say when my mother had labor pains, which was right before Christmas, and it was a big day in the store. She [my mother] said she couldn’t have the child before my grandmother was brought. So they sent a wagon over to the little, uh, where they lived, oh what to you call it? A farm, like where the peasants lived, to bring my grandmother. And when my grandmother came, I was born, which was the story. That’s what my grandmother told me. I don’t know, since as you realize, I wasn’t able to know [laughter].

 

My grandmother’s name was Sarah Taxon ‑ “Bubby Sorke”. Taxon, that was my grandfather’s name. And the reason, I think, is because he was in charge of the farm, um, he was in charge of the milk department. The cows, and the cheeses, or something like that. Maybe they collected taxes, I don’t know. He and my grandmother lived on a farm. My mother’s name was Mindel Taxon. Her married name was Shafranowitz.

 

I don’t remember too much, I don’t remember seeing my father before he left, because I was still a little child. And then the war broke out, so actually, I didn’t meet my father until 1925, when we came to America. So I was brought up by my mother, and my grandparents, especially my grandmother. Because my mother was always away trying to make a living for me, my sister, my cousin, my aunt, and her large family. So really, when I was a small child, I remember my two grandmothers really bringing me up, taking me to different things. One of them took me next door to listen to the prayers, and my sister tells me I used to say, “I am going with Bubby to hear a Didusha,” because I couldn’t say Kidusha. I couldn’t pronounce the “G”..

 

First Memories and First Stories: World War I

Now, the next memory, my very first memory, was of my mother begging me that I should leave with the rest of the family who were ordered, packed up … the whole town was

 

 

ordered to evacuate Shchuchin because the fighting was going to be there. The Russians were fighting the Germans. They said Shchuchin was going to be the battlefield. So my mother had gotten some wagons, and put all the valuables on the wagons, plus my sister, and my aunt, and my uncle, and I don’t remember I think maybe six children The oldest one, Rivka, remained with me and my mother, because at the last minute, it must have been a Friday, because the last minute, I refused to go. My mother was trying to induce me by bribing me with chocolate. Naturally, I ate the chocolate and began to cry, “I’m not leaving my mother.” My mother was very distressed. She says, “You know, on Sunday, there won’t be any more wagons.” Of course we wouldn’t travel on the Sabbath, and I said “I didn’t care.” So it was left this way. I was there.

 

The next day, Saturday, the Germans marched into Shchuchin without firing a shot. No fighting at all. They just came in. And they put up all these wagons, right in the marketplace. And I was wondering, “What are all these wagons for?” And then I became aware that they were baking bread. Well, on the last trip my father had made to Poland before World War I, he had brought some money, dollars, which he had earned there [in America], and they [her mother and father] built a two‑story brick house. The ground floor was made into classrooms for the children. This was still under Russian rule. And the upstairs was for the principal of the school and for his maid, Zoshya. Well, they [the Russians] had also evacuated Shchuchin, so that the Germans used the whole building. The downstairs classrooms, for storage for the bread which they baked for the army, and the second floor, where the principal used to live, was occupied by the officers. They

were Austrian.

 

Most of them were Austrian, and the Austrian forces were very kind to us. When they went back to Austria on their furloughs, they used to bring us a lot of food, chocolate. And at one point they brought for me and my cousin, who had also stayed, another cousin who had stayed in the town, dolls, which closed and opened their eyes. And that was really a marvel. We played with … I had that doll until I came to the United States! Because my mother said, “Now you’re a big girl, you don’t need the doll.” So I gave it to someone.

 

The Rabbi, [in Shchuchin] was really a very pious man. They use to call him Rev Yausso. And he advised the Jews not to leave the city. And nothing happened in Shchuchin, all the fighting was in Yeduabne.

 

I remember [during] World War I, that my mother was very worried, because at first we had no news of the place where they [her family] were hiding in Yedaubne. We knew nothing about it. And then my aunt and her family, and my grandfather and grandmother came back. Where did they come back from? Lomza. And that’s when they told us. I don’t mean at the time they came back. I probably didn’t pay too much attention. But later on, they told us that they were hiding in this basement in Yedaubne. They had very little to eat. And there was no water. It was winter, so my aunt used to gather the snow when it fell, and bring it down to the basement. And then when it warmed up, they had water. And then the Russian soldiers used to loot the stores. So they used to bring her flour and oil, and she would make pancakes for them. And of course she had enough to feed her own family.

 

And they were still there when the Russians had almost left. So when they [the Russians] saw the smoke coming out, when she was baking the pancakes, Latkas, they accused her, that must have been new ones [new Russian soldiers] who came, they accused them of being spies. And they bundled them up on a wagon. And I think I mentioned it once. And my sister was carrying my mother’s silver candlesticks, which my mother had sent for safe keeping with her. And she was carrying it in a pillow case. And the Russian Cossack said, “What do you have there?” And she said, “That’s a holy object that my mother gave me, and I have to take care of it.” And she started to cry. So he let her keep it.

 

And they were brought to Lomza, which is the next, almost second biggest city in Poland, maybe the third, I don’t know. They [the Russian Cossacks] took my uncle and my grandfather away from the wagon. And then the soldiers came back and they said, “Well, the two men are already put to death. This is, you’re going to be next.” And they were in the city of Lomza. My sister remembered having been with my mother to the store of David Sheinkov [in Lomza], to buy merchandise for her own store for the little town. So somehow she jumped off the wagon and ran into the store, and told David Sheinkov what Cossacks had told them, so he went and paid off whatever ransom he had, and they released them.

 

So … they were released, and they were all there. [The men had not been killed it was all a story made up by the Russians]. And then my sister, somehow she heard somebody say that my mother was seen in Bialostock. So she said she’s got to go to her mother. And, it was wartime. So my grandmother said, “Where are you going? You’re a little girl.” I don’t know how old she was ‑ 11, 12. 1 don’t know how old. So my grandfather said, “She wants to go, let her go.” So they put her on a wagon. And she went to Bialistock to look for her mother. And she remembered her mother always used to say they had a fish business. So she went to the market, and she knew the name. Anyway, she found them. And she stayed with them until my mother was allowed to travel, they wouldn’t let you travel during the war. So finally, my mother went to Bialistock and brought her home. That was their experiences during World War I.

 

In Shchuchin, [during the war] we were very well off, because as I told you, we were lucky to have the Austrian officers staying with us, and every time they came back from Austria, they brought us food, candy, butter, eggs, and the dolls. And, I remember one thing about World War I. Once we were standing on the little balcony upstairs there near the schoolhouse, and we saw a plane flying, it’s the first time I saw a plane, right over our balcony. And that was such a novel thing. I knew, I’d heard about planes, but this one came right over us. That was something.

 

Education in Poland

 

 

I’m telling a little about my education in Poland. Well my mother was all for education, so I had public school education, and I had Hebrew school from the private teacher. [But,] when I was very young, I refused to go to school. I played around and ran around. I was a wild Indian. And my mother used to say, “You’re going to be a ‘Stefka’ [a maid]. You’re gonna peel potatoes and wash dishes.” It didn’t bother me. And then in 1918, a cousin of my mother’s from Warsaw came to visit us, at Shchuchin. And my mother was telling him the problems she was having with me, because my sister was a very diligent student. She was already student. Ad nauseam, there I was, running around like a wild Indian. I was about 5 1/2, 6 or something. Well he talked to me. And somehow he got to me. I felt so ashamed. And I said, “Okay,” his name was Bimyumchi, “I’m going to start school. You wait and see. I’m going to catch up to all of them.” And I stared school, probably 1919. And in a short time I was up to most of the students my age.

 

The school that we had was for Jewish children. The instruction was in Polish. But we took all secular subjects, and about once a week, or once in two weeks, a Hebrew teacher would come in and teach us Jewish history. But everything was done in Polish. To get my Jewish education, I went to what we called a Heder, like here, like a Talmud Torah, where you go after school. And that’s where I learned to read the Hebrew And that, when I was a little advanced, we had a private teacher who would have like, three or four or five children, the same age together, and we would study more advanced Hebrew. Like we would start reading the Tanach, which is the Torah, Neviem and Ketuvim.

 

In school, we had history, geography, we had to draw maps. In geography, we had to learn where the various rivers, mountains, and important cities were, what they produced. But there were no ready forms. We had to look at the books, and drew our own maps. I remember that. And we had art, what else did we have? Of course, history, grammar, Polish history, the origin of the city. I remember, the name Shchuchin came from the fellow who built it, and his name was Shchuka. That’s where they got the name Shchuchin. So when I came here [America], I had already had a pretty good background. But the Polish children went to a different school, and I think it was situated where the, uh, up on the hill, where their religious school was. Way up on the hill. But ours was in another area.

 

The Jewish children didn’t want to go to the Polish school because that’s where they taught them Catholicism. So the town was mainly made up of merchants, and most of the merchants were Jewish. But around the town, there were like little enclaves of Polish communities, and they used to send their children into town to go to the Polish School.

 

The Neighborhood

Where I grew up, we were in a pretty affluent neighborhood because we were on the marketplace, and we had our own, we had like a half of one building, and then we had the big two story brick building. [The marketplace was a] Square “Rynek”. There were stores on four sides, in the middle there was an empty, there was like a little fountain or something in the center there, and around it, the farmers used to bring their produce. We lived on one corner. Now we lived here. This comer. Okay, my aunt, let’s see, Regina and her family lived what they called the Chumagots. It was a crooked street. So this is Regina and her family. On this side, the Vonsesagut, My Tanta Bek and her family, and over here were all merchants. And our number was 15 Rynek.

 

 

 

 

Childhood Memories from Poland

My mother always managed to be in business, she had all kinds of businesses. One time, we were making cheese, Swiss cheese. And another time we were extracting oil from seeds. I don’t even remember what they were. The oil would be sold, and then the dregs were flattened and were sold for food for the cows and the horses. I don’t remember …

 

Oh, yes, and she also used to rent like an orchard, but not an orange orchard. This was fruit ‑ apples, pears, plums. And my aunt and her big family, whose husband never made a living, they used to spend the summer there watching the fruit. And I used to beg to go and spend time with them because they were in a tent. And at night, I remember waking up one night, and the mice were jumping around me, and I said to my uncle, “Oh, my god! Look, there are mice here!” He says, “What are you afraid of, you’re bigger than the mice.”

 

And then there was a market every Tuesday, where all the peasants used to bring their

produce, and …   like live chickens and things which the people would buy for Sabbath, take it to the Shechut, the slaughtering ‑ ritual slaughterer. And, of course, fruits, and vegetables, and stuff. Although my aunt Bevki had a very big garden. She was wonderful with the planting ‑ beets, carrots, all kinds of things, in back of her house, there’s a big garden, and we used to have a lot of this, and all these beautiful fresh fruit, and they were, I remember, big yellow, big yellow apples that we used to put away in straw up in the attic to keep it for the winter. We used to prepare there like potatoes and onions, and, the staples, in the fall when everything was ripe. We used to have sacks of potatoes and onions that we would keep on, I think it was in the attic, because it was cool, but yet warm enough with the straw to keep it.

 

Ooh! I forgot to tell you about our cow, and our goat, Heiki. Remember Heiki? Our little white goat who used to have a kid every winter, that my mother would bring into the house so the baby wouldn’t freeze to death. Little Heiki. She was a wonderful little goat. And the cow. The cow was, didn’t like me. Or maybe I was too nervous. I never went near the cow, which it would just kick you. The only one who could milk her was my mother or my sister. I was scared of the cow.

 

My uncle, Regina’s parents, also had a cow, a black and white one. Ours was white and red, and they used to be taken to pasture out of the little town, for them to eat. And at one time, the two cows decided they didn’t like where they were supposed to be, and they went to a neighbor’s ‑ you had to pay the farmer to let them feed on their uh, property.

 

So the two cows decided they’d like to jump the fence to go to another area which was near. So the guy [the owner of the land) didn’t like it. So the story goes, this is what I heard, that he was trying to herd them into the barn on his property. But the two cows, our red one, and the black and white one, decided this was not their regular place, they didn’t want to go in there. So they bolted, they ran back to the city! Ours came to us, and the other one came to them.

 

 

There were two girls, I don’t remember their names. There were two sisters. We used to play, friends from school. We used to run around. In the winter time, we used to go like ice skating, but we had no skates. We used to do it with our shoes. You know, if the water freezes, and it’s solid, and there’s no snow on it, we used to just skate with our shoes. Oh, yeah wait, I remember one other thing. Rivki was still living with us until we came here. And she had a boyfriend, and my sister was already in Warsaw studying. And I was home yet. So she [Rivki) and her boyfriend and some other people, they rented a horse and a sled, and we went sleigh riding, I remember that ‑ cousin Rivki. Well, I considered her like a sister.

 

My sister was away, studying in Warsaw to be a kindergarten teacher. And then after she graduated, she went to Chelem to teach kindergarten. [I was not really close to my sister] because she always used to chase me away. And she was older and I suppose she had things to talk with her friends, her boyfriend, and she used to just chase me away. Except once when she was sick, what did she have? She had Scarlet Fever I think. So I was the go‑between between little notes that she used to write to her boyfriend. But we weren’t close. I don’t think so.

 

Anti‑Semitism in Poland

So that was life in Poland, but I don’t know. We had like an inborn fear of, like, before Christmas Eve, Jews were actually afraid to go out in the street, because you never know when a drunken Pole would get you, hit you or something. And then Sunday, ” the people from the church used to march in the marketplace and bring out ” their paraphernalia, I don’t know what it was, banners and statues and things they would march around the marketplace, so Sunday was not a good day to be out.

 

The Poles, you know, the Catholics, they were taught in school to hate the Jews. The Jews killed Jesus, so we were killers, so collectively, we were all guilty. And some of it might have been because actually, the Jews were very enterprising and good workers. And all around here were Jewish stores, and when they would come to the city to sell their produce, and they saw, you know, how all these Jews had stores and big buildings, and things like that, they were jealous, a lot of it might have been jealousy.

 

At one time, I don’t know who killed them. They found five bodies near the river. I don’t know who killed them. But we, it wasn’t a very safe environment. We were always worried that there might me some, somebody was inciting them to, to kill Jews. And they used to have a saying whenever they had tough times, it was the fault of the Jews.

 

But there were some nice ones. We had a neighbor. I think she used to do our laundry. She was very nice and kind. So I don’t know. It must have been all kinds.

 

Religion in Poland

 

And in Poland, of course, my grandmother lived with us, and she taught me all the prayers. I knew a prayer for every little thing. And I was very religious when I was little. Because when my sister used to come, and she wouldn’t wash her hands and say a prayer before we ate, I used to feel terrible, and I used to think, “My God, she’ll be punished.” Because my grandmother was very, very orthodox. My mother, she was Modem. But we did, of course, there was no question, we observed the Sabbath, we went to Schual. Our nice time we always had at Passover, because we used to go to my aunt Belki’s and her family. It was always a jolly Seder there, it was full of children. And we felt at home there.

 

Coming to America

My father’s parents were divorced, so his mother came to live with us. And my father was a Yeshiva Bocher. And it was not really a happy marriage, because my father was involved in his studies, leaming. And my mother was a business lady, and very bright. And I guess there was no middle ground. So after a while, I don’t know, this is what I was told. My father left Shchuchin and went to America. I know it was 1905 because I do have the passport, which I gave to my granddaughter, and the date on it was nineteen hundred and five. And the last time, he came back and forth. I imagine they must have tried to make a good life for themselves, but it didn’t work. So according to what I was told, he had been back and forth twice, and the third time, he left before World War I, and then we didn’t get together until 1925. Because my grandmother, my mother’s mother, lived with us. And my mother wouldn’t leave her mother. And my grandmother wouldn’t go to America because it wasn’t kosher enough. My grandmother died in 1924, and finally, in 1925, my father sent us tickets, and we came to America on the boat Olympic! I remember the boat!

 

Well, I remember first we had to go from Poland to England to get the big boat. So from Poland to England, we were on a small boat. And everybody felt find. We weren’t seasick or anything. We ran around. And we used to hear people talking. They used to say, “Listen, listen, listen,” and I would say to my sister, “What are they talking about? What’s ‘listen’?” And then we came to England, and we stayed there three days in London. I remember going to White Chapel, where my mother bought me a dress and my sister a dress. And from there we went to get the boat, which was in South Hampton, I think it is anyway. So we got the big boat, 7he Olympic, and as soon as we got into the Atlantic Ocean, we were sick, all of us. My mother, and my sister, and myself We couldn’t keep any food down. The only things we could really digest were grapes, green grapes. I remember when we got the green grapes. So we stayed most of the time in the cabin, because we were throwing up most of the time. And then when we were about one

day away from New York City, we all got well all of a sudden, and all of us went up on the deck.

 

And I remember we came in on 14th street, and my uncle Taxon and his wife, my Uncle Morris and Aunt Hava, met us at the boat. And we did not go to Ellis Island, because my father had sent us Second Class tickets, so we were kind of “the chosen”. And my uncle and aunt took us to their house in Borough Park, and we lived with them and their family, I don’t know, a week or two weeks, I don’t remember. And then my mother and father rented a house on 45th Street, in Borough Park [Brooklyn, NY]. I remember the address: it was 1657 45th Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

America ‑ Spring 1925 till Today

 

Education in America

We came on May 27, 1925. Now I did not start school until the fall of that year. I remember my aunt taking me to school. My Hebrew name was Malka, and she said, “Malka, what kind of a name is that? I can’t register you in school as Malka.” And being an Estonian originally, she named me Mabel Shafronowitz, and as a twelve year old, I was put in third grade. So when I came to America in 1925, 1 was already [in Poland] in the last grade of what here you would call junior high school. In Poland, we spent like eight years in the first part, and then after that, we could go to the Gymnasium, but since we had graduated from junior high, we would not go to the first year, in Gymnasium but likely the third or the fourth. They would give us an exam to see how much we knew.

 

So when I came here and they put me in third grade, I could read, but phonetically. So you know, at one time the teacher told me to read, and I read, oh, something like, table, I read it “tahbia,” and the kids were all laughing at me. So after that, I refused to read. And this teacher said she’s not going to promote me until I could speak English well. So I was in the third grade I think for almost a whole term. And then I was promoted to the fifth grade, went straight from the third to the fifth. And this teacher saw that I knew math, and I knew geography and history. I could do things. So she really helped me get along. So from 1925 to 1934, 1 went through elementary school, junior high, high school, and Brooklyn College. So I caught up. So I graduated from Brooklyn College in 1934, February, 1934.

 

1 had made a very good friend when I came to the States, when I went to the Hebrew Academy in Borough Park in Brooklyn. My friend Lillian Salwen. We became very close. I spent a lot of time at her house, and she at my house. In our last year of high school, she came and she said, her chemistry teacher said that there was a contest going on in chemistry. The parents of this young woman who had died very young, had established a scholarship, and high school students, chemistry students, were encouraged to write essays, and the winner would get a prize. Chemistry was one of my subjects

 

Well, I wrote an essay on the contributions of chemistry to the enrichment of life. And

somehow, I won! And I got a $20 gold piece. And that was, Oh my goodness! At the graduation from high school, my parents were so surprised that I got a medal, they called it a medal. Anyway, so with the $20, my friend Lillian and I decided we were going to go to Boston to visit my very dear, my mother’s dear cousins. And we took a boat from New York to Boston. And we spent, I think it was over the Thanksgiving weekend that we spent there. And then we came back.

 

When I graduated from college, my mother and father, and my aunt Havie and my uncle Meshki went to the graduation. And I think that was the proudest moment in my mother’s life. Let’s see. It was in 1934.

 

 

Now I’ll tell you something else. It’s just on my mind. Oh, my education here. In addition to having a secular education, I also went to, I think I mentioned about the Hebrew Academy in Borough Park where I met my friend Lillian, and from there I went to Hertzlia High School in downtown New York because I had finished the Hebrew Academy. And I traveled from Borough Park to, I think it used to be on Ludlow Street somewhere downtown. But, I was still not sure on how to travel, so I used to take the Culver line, the train from Borough Park, and get of at Park Row in Manhattan, and walk from Park Row to Ludlow Street, to Hertzlia High School.

 

One time, I didn’t know how it happened, but somehow I got on the wrong train, and instead of taking the Culver line, I took another train, who left me of in, somewhere in Bay Ridge. And I didn’t have any money because I’d spent the nickel already. So I went from Bay Ridge to Borough Park, to get home. You know, I could have asked somebody to lend me a nickel, but I must have been very shy or afraid or something.

 

Anyway, after that, I went to a Hebrew Teachers College for teachers. And that was also in New York on 85h Street and Lexington Avenue. This was when I was in College. We used to go, Lillian, my friend Lillian, and myself, and there were a few others, we used to take the train from Borough Park and change on 14th Street at Lexington Avenue to go to Hebrew School. And I had some very nice teachers there, but after my mother died, I dropped out, and stopped the second year.

 

So, I went, I decided that I wanted to get a license to teach in high school. So I needed some more courses, so I enrolled for graduate courses at NYU, to take some extra courses in German. Then I could get a license to teach German in the high schools. But then when I decided to get married, I just finished the courses, and I didn’t teach at all. Not until after my first husband died. That’s when I went to teacher’s college.

 

But when I was teaching, [after her first husband died] I spoke to my nephew, Irving, and I asked him if I could use the credits from Hebrew School to get an increase in wages because … He said, “Well…” So I inquired. And they told me all of the documents were lost. So I got an affidavit from some of the teachers, and I got forty credits towards my. . let’s see, see thirty credits you got one increase, sixty credits you got another one. But, I had had about 20 or 25 credit from the extra courses I took, plus the forty credits, and I got my second increment. So when I stopped teaching, I was on the highest salary. Because, Irving did tell me if the records are lost, you should get an affidavit from some of the teachers that you remember, and luckily, they were still alive. So I did that. So I did continue with my Hebrew education.

 

Religion and Family Life in America

I had to be religious [when I came to America], because my father was so orthodox. It was strange [seeing my father after so many years]. Uh, I never felt very close to my father. The only thing I remember is once he sent a picture postcard of himself, and Mia Taxon’s sister, Lena, and she must have been around, she reached up like to here. Pretty little girl. That was Mia’s sister, Lena. Mia was the youngest actually. That’s when I saw, the first time I saw him [my father]. And then when I came here in 1925. So then you grow up, and I was already 12 years old.

 

Anyway, my father was, I guess he was okay in his way. But he wasn’t much for education for girls. I remember when I graduated high school, I wanted to go to college. And he said, “Oh that’s enough. You’re going to go to work.” So he got me a job in a children’s, where they make children’s clothing. A friend of his from Borough Park. So I worked there and where he put me to work was ironing the children’s clothing. And I came home and both my hands were swollen. And my mother took a look and she got so mad. She said, “Forget it! She’s going to go to college. I don’t want her to work in a factory when she grows up. She’s gonna go to college. I’m working.”

 

My mother always worked. She was never idle. She never had trouble finding a job. She was a wonderful seamstress. She used to make my clothes. I remember when I went to college, I used to go to Kline and buy a dress for a dollar. And then I would buy a lace collar and cuffs for another dollar, and she would fix it up for me, and we cut $100.

 

She [her mother] used to make all my clothes. The first bought dress I had, remember I told you, was when we were in England, and we went to White Chapel. She bought me the, it was a navy dress with a pleated skirt. They must have had a sailor collar, I don’t remember that, I remember the pleated skirt. And shoes, shoes used to be made by the shoemaker.

 

My family was not really hurt by the Depression. Because, a short while after my parents moved to 45th street, in this house, my mother and father somehow managed to buy the house, which was like a 3 story, there was a downstairs, a first floor, and an attic. So we lived downstairs, and the second floor, and the attic were rented out. So we had kind of an income. And my father worked, and my mother worked. They always had work. And we did lots of things. We sewed linings of coats. We strung beads. I don’t know. But we never went on the dole. We always had enough to eat.

 

In 1934, after graduation, a cousin of mine, Franny Taxon, was recuperating from an illness in Florida, and we were good friends. So she wrote to my mother, and said that if I would come to Florida, I could stay with her. That was my graduation present. So I went to Florida, and I stayed there a week or two, and then I came home. And I really don’t remember what I did that summer, but I remember my mother got sick. That was the summer of ’34. And through a misdiagnosis, and before penicillin, she died of a ruptured appendix, in the fall of 1934. That was my first really sad, saddest moment. Because my grandmother had died, but I was still young. In ’34 that was a big loss, because I was very, very attached to my mother

 

Courtship, Marriage and Children

 

 

Then in 1935, I went to a, to the mountains. Actually to the Poconos. And this was a rest, like a hotel, but from the labor union. Somehow, I don’t know, somebody gave me a card that I belonged to the labor union, and I went there for a week. It was very, very reasonable. And that’s where I met my husband [Jack]. It was I think a labor day weekend. And he was there. We first met there in the Poconos in the social hall. It was after supper, and you know they had entertainment and dancing, and I was standing there with my roommate, and another gentleman that I met. Jack came over and said, “Would you like to dance,” and I said, “Okay,” and that was our first meeting. We danced.

 

And I was still there, he left before me. And he said, “Well I’d would like to see you in the city.” I said, “Okay, here’s my phone number. Call me.” So, you know, like all summer romances, you forget about it. You make all kinds of promises. Nothing ever turns out of it. Well, anyway, he did call, and he was coming over on a Friday night. My father was very orthodox. I didn’t want him to come to the house [because it was the Jewish Sabbath]. I told him, “I’ll meet you outside or something.” So the time came, and I’m waiting and waiting, he’s not there. And finally he came. “So, what happened?” He told me that he was coming from the Bronx and he was going through Prospect Park, and instead of using the exit towards Ocean Parkway, he kept circling around the part three times, and said, “If I have to circle one more time, I’m going home.” So evidently, he found Ocean Parkway, and he had a pharmacy in Manhattan, on 69h Street and Audobon Ave. And so we were married.

 

Our first apartment was on 171st street between Audobon Ave. and Street Nicholas Ave. We had a three room apartment. Uh, well, we didn’t have, I didn’t have any money, I had about $100 to my name because I used to work summers in the mountains which was when I went to high school. 1929, 1930, the beginning of the crash and the Depression. In summertime I worked in the mountains as a waitress, and whatever money I made, I saved because we had room and board. We used to get like $15 a month from the hotel, but we had tips. And I must have been a good waitress, because I got good tips. So I remember I had saved around $400. But, when my mother got sick, it was in 1934, in the fall, I used about $300 to pay her nurses,. Because my father didn’t have that much money either. I had $100 left. But, my husband, he had money saved from his store and so forth. We bought furniture, and we had a fairly decent apartment on 171st Street, which was just a block away from where the store was.

 

And then my son [Manny] was born on February 6, 1937. My father was still alive. He came to the Bris. And then about three years later, I had my little daughter [Libby] on February 17, 1940.

 

My first marriage was very good. But then, when World War II broke out, and the clerk that my husband had had was drafted into the army, somehow, he [her husband] lost his confidence, and he became, he had periods of depression. He would be either very elated, everything was going fine, or down in the dumps, so it was not an easy time. And that’s when I decided that I was going to go in and help in the store. So I used to, you know, help with the sales. I’d help with making up the prescriptions, especially reading the handwriting that were, for the birds. Some of the doctors just scribbled. It’s very hard to read the handwriting. Somehow I could make it out.

 

 

We were married, must have been about, your mother [Libby] was very small. I don’t know, couple of years. . . ’42, six years. I figured it [helping it out in the store] would be good for him. And mother [Libby] was a little girl, and Manny went to camp when he was six years old. Your mother [Libby] did too. They both went to camp. And then your mother went to Barnard, and Manny went to Columbia Pharmacy School. We [Malka and her husband] got along very well [in the store], because he had, you know, he took care of the pharmaceutical side, and I took care of the selling, and talking to people, and things like that. The store was okay. And then he got sick, and died shortly after. I think it was August 13, on the thirteenth day of Ov in 1962. Hard time I had after he was taken to the hospital, and they did some tests. And they told me that he had cancer. That was a difficult thing. But he didn’t suffer too long. He went fast, from July to August. And I remember I had to, we lived that time on 169th Street, and one of my neighbors was a nurse at the Presbyterian Hospital. And she came up to me, and she told me, she says, “Better tell your daughter and son in‑law to come and spend the night with you, because I think your husband is very low.” So Mom and Dad [Libby and Alan] came, they stayed with me. And 4:00 in the morning, they called me. He passed away. And it was a tough time. And Manny had gone back to California because he had taken a leave of absence, and the time was up. I had to call him and he came back. And we had the store on our hands. So Manny stayed until we somehow managed to sell most of the merchandise and returned some. Then he went back.

 

When my kids were little your grandfather [Jack] was very good with them. He used to lie down on the floor and let them ride on his back. He only, I don’t know, he was always so worried about the business. He wanted to be, I don’t know. I don’t know how to explain it. He bought in big quantities as if we had a big turnover, because you get a discount. But it didn’t pay, because we didn’t have enough turnover. I used to tell him, sometimes it pays to pay the regular price and you get rid of it, instead of getting a discount on large quantities. And he was always afraid. I don’t know, I was never afraid. I remember my father telling me when I went school, he used to call me the lustigager dales, the happy pauper, because I never worried, I said, “Look Papa, I got two hands, I can always make a living.” Like my mother, my mother. My father never worried because eibishter vet helfen ‑. God will help.

 

But my husband worried. Afraid of this and afraid of that. He wasn’t when I met him, it was just after [World War II] , I don’t know, who knows? I don’t know. But he was a very good person. He was very good to the clients. I remember when he died, they told me so many stories of how he would bring over the medicine, and if they didn’t have money, he would say don’t worry, you’ll pay me another time. He was a wonderful son to his mother. The others didn’t care. He always took care. And his mother lived with us when his father died. She wasn’t about to live with her sister, with her daughter. She lived with us.

 

World War II

 

I remember when World War II broke out, and I said to myself, “If I weren’t married, and I didn’t have children, I don’t think I would want to have children to have to go to war.” I felt very bad.

 

World War II here, I didn’t have any immediate family involved in the war. But what I remember distinctly, is when they dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, I felt very bad. I thought, “This is going to be the worst thing, because now they’ll be able to just destroy everything.”

 

 

And we had heard stories what was going on in Europe. But I don’t know, somehow, it was beyond belief it couldn’t…. You know, I remember the Germans during World War I as much as I remember that, I never saw any except with the Austrian officers. I couldn’t believe. And then you know when I was in college and German was my major, you read about the wonderful philosophers and writers and musicians, I couldn’t imagine that civilized people would stoop to such atrocities, it was beyond belief And then right after the war when all these things came out, it was just awful. Very bad. And a lot of it had to do, well I don’t know, you know there was this Rabbi Weis who was a very influential Jewish leader, and a friend of President Roosevelt. And he assured him that none of this was true. Roosevelt was no … Just beyond where we started reading the stories …. seeing the films… it was awful.

 

[Tanta Belki and her family] were destroyed by the Nazis. Regina, her family, all except her father, died in Poland. But her mother and the children, you know, Regina, Hal, and the others, they all came to America. Here, um, let’s see, one daughter had been in France, Latki. She saved herself during the war, and her family, they were hidden.

 

Rivki [the cousin who lived with her during World War I) belonged to this family. She came to America, and she stayed with us when she first came, and she got married, and had her own family. Latki had gone to Paris, to France, probably some time before World War II. In World War II, she and her family were hiding out on a wagon, covered with straw. Some peasants.

 

And right after the war, I used to send them packages, clothes, to France. My cousin Myer Taxon, his sisters lived in LA, and they are quite wealthy, and they used to send their clothing, clothes, fancy clothes, you know, they wouldn’t wear the same thing twice. They used to send packages to us. And I never wore those. So I sent those beautiful evening gowns and things to Latki in Paris. And she told me she sold it to people who were in the theater, after war, that’s what they had. Then she came here, after, it would be ’46, ’47, 1 don’t know.

 

The rest of the family stayed in Europe. Her mother and father, um, one brother who had gone to Cuba, but he died there. Uh, let’s see, two boys and a girl who were still there, who were all married at that time. And the Nazis killed them. So the only one that’s left after that was Latki.

 

The Children

Oh, and I had such nice kids. I used to walk with them in the carriage, no one believed that I was their mother. They were good children. Yes, they were beautiful children. Both of them. Manny was busy with his trains, but he was a good student. That’s how he ended up in California. He got a scholarship to continue studying pharmacy at the University of Southern California. And he was only twenty years old. He wasn’t old enough to get his license. But they took him anyway. Then the following year when he was twenty one, he came back and took the license, pharmacy license. And he remained there. That was in 1957. He was taking courses and he was working in the hospital where he, you know, one of the people working there became a good friend of his, I remember meeting him.

 

 

And then in, when did we go? Jack and I, we went to visit him in California, I don’t remember, it was in 19 … must have been 1958 or 1959, we went to visit him for two weeks, because my husband said he didn’t want to leave the store for two weeks. I said, “Okay, you don’t want to leave, you can stay, I’m going.” So he closed, and we went there for two weeks. And then in 1960 when mom and dad were married, he [Manny) came to the wedding. He brought his that time girlfriend, I don’t remember her name. Then he went back.

 

But I went a few times to visit him. One time I went, you know, I can’t remember which year it was. It was Christmas vacation, and I, in fact Manny even sent me a ticket, and I stayed at the Disney hotel. And then, well you wouldn’t know Rivka, the girl who stayed with us. Anyway, she was living in California then. So she came to visit, and she stayed with me in the hotel, and then Manny and I went from LA to San Francisco, but we took the scenic way. So we stopped at Hurtz Castle, and then we stopped in San Luis Obispo. And then we stopped on the way to Yosemite at a bed and breakfast called the El Portal, which was the entrance to Yosemite Park. I think that was in 1967.

 

When my kids were little they never had any problems in school. They both did well in school. I remember your mommy [Libby] sitting on a high chair in the kitchen, with her little doggy Penny. It was a toy dog. My neighbors across the way had a dog called Penny, and she was crazy about the dog, so we bought her one that looked like it. Brown little dog, and she called him Penny. And she was sitting in the high chair about that time I had the German woman working with me, Sonya, and she used to babble, like little Rebeccah. And I couldn’t understand a word she said, and he [Manny] used to come home, and say, “I know what she’s saying.” And he would tell us what she was saying. She used to babble.

 

And then one time, she [Libby] was sitting in her high chair, and all of a sudden, I heard a big yell, oooh! She was crying. “What happened?” He [Manny) bit her! So I said, “Why did you bite her?” “Because she’s so sweet!”

 

And then he [Manny] became fascinated with model railroads. And, but he always did well in school. He and his father did not get along to well, and I was Mister in between, which wasn’t so easy. I think that’s why when he went to California, he decided to stay there. He had, you know, different ideas about running the pharmacy, really more advanced than his father had. Anyway, they became good friends from afar.

 

Your mom got along all the time. And now, Manny tells me, or once he said to me, “You always favored Libby.” Why? “Cause you used to get her lamb chops.” I said, “You didn’t like lamb chops, you hated it, you wanted frankfurters and hamburgers. And I used to give you, frankfurters and hamburgers ” He was telling me I favored her because I gave her lamb chops. He never wanted to eat lamb chops. So go know.

 

 

In 1955, mother [Libby] was in camp, I don’t remember which, with Alma and Myra, and that was the summer we bought the co‑op on 169h Street. And we moved in there, well, we had to do some remodeling, which we did. And at one time, mother called from camp, and she said, “How is father?” You know he had his spells of depression. She called because one of the campers lost a father, and they were there.       So she was very concerned. And I said, “He’s fine. You know he gets his ups and downs, but he gets out of it.” You know, I never thought of it. He was always well. That was 1955. And she was probably in high school the last year. And Manny was in his last year at the pharmacy school, second year. Anyway, it [the Co‑op]was a big improvement, because they each had their own room, and somehow things were a little better. And then in 1957, when Manny graduated ftom pharmacy school, he got the scholarship.

 

That’s about when she [Libby] finished high school. It was in 1956. In 1956, Libby finished high school, and she went on to Barnard College and became a chemistry major, and which is strange, very strange, because as I told you when I was in high school, I wrote an essay on chemistry. And here’s my daughter, going into chemistry. It must have been a premonition. And now your father [Alan] established a scholarship in her name, and maybe someday somebody else will win something. That’s the way that things go.

 

Another thing that struck me the other night as I was lying awake, when I was pregnant with Libby in 1939, the organization that I belonged to was raising money, and they had, you bought, you know, a ticket, whatever it is, or a number, for a concert at Carnegie Hall. And I won. And I used to go to listen to the concert at night before she was bom. And it was, you know where the tickets were, if you’ve ever been to Carnegie Hall? Way in front! There I was with my big belly, schlepping to the concert! and sure enough, Libby was very interested in music. So maybe some of it had penetrated. It was funny. I just thought of it the other day. “Oh my god, why was I schlepping all the way up there!”

 

Libby went to the Barnard College. And she, she’d had some not‑so‑pleasant experiences with a fellow that she was going out with. I don’t know. It didn’t turn out. So then in 1958, she went to, I think Myra was visiting her, somebody. But there was some kind of an affair at Barnard, I think Barnard or Columbia, that she and Myra went. And she had a date with one fellow, and Myra had a date with Alan [Libby’s future husband]. And somehow, when they met, they switched dates. I think Alan was supposed to be Myra’s date. And the other guy, a friend of Alan’s, was supposed to be Libby’s date. And he was from Texas. Of course your father [Alan] was in graduate school then. So I don’t know, that’s how they met. And then they started calling and dating. And then they got married.

 

Libby talked to me about it. That’s how I know about the change in dates. And then Alan called, and they were on the phone for such a long time. I said, “What do you have to talk about?” Anyway, but all I can tell you this, I don’t know if your father would like it, but when she met him, he had like one suit to his name, and maybe two pairs of underwear to his name. He went on his own [to school). Because I don’t think his parents wanted to help him. Because they told him to go to city college or something, but he wanted to go to Columbia. Because he had very, very little, next to nothing. And I couldn’t understand how his parents would let their only son go off with …. But, he turned out all right.

 

Well, I don’t know about Jack so much, but I think   … Jack wasn’t too happy that she [Libby] married a fellow who had nothing, but he made the best of it. Because you never know, everyone is born with his own luck. And when I was married, I had $100 to my name. And I’ve got no money to afford a wedding. He [Jack] was always afraid. Because when I was in the store, some salesman, from Lilly’s came in and he said, “Do you have any money? Buy some Lilly’s stock.” He said, “Stock? Oh my God! We’re gonna lose everything. It will be 1929 again!” But I bought anyway. I bought 50 shares of Lilly. And do you know how many shares that turned out to be? I can’t even count. And other stock. But, he really didn’t care, I had everything in my name. And one time, he said, “I don’t even know what we have,” I said, “Okay, sit down, I’ll show you what we have.” I wrote down everything. Except             . I had bought some stock which went up. I made $5,000, which was spent on the wedding [Libby and Alan’s] And you never know, because if you don’t risk, nothing ventured, nothing gained. That’s about it. When the kids left it was lonesome, but don’t forget, Mother [Libby] lived near. We used to see them all the time. And I still helped in the store.

 

Life After Jack’s Death

After Jack died, it was pretty tough. But, Manny stayed until we got everything cleared up. Well, first of all we had signed a lease on the store, and I had to get out of that. But the lease was in his name alone. And the landlady was such an SOB, she gave me such a hard time. And I told her, I said, “You can take me to court. All I can do for you is to give you an extra month rent, because we’re selling the merchandise at cost. We’re just getting our money out. That’s it, and the lease is not in my name. If you want to take me to court, you can take me.” She said, “Okay, give me two months’ rent.” I said, “Okay, here’s two months’ rent. Good‑bye.”

 

Then Ruth and Dean and the kids… well they were really very good friends. So Ruth said to me, “Why don’t you go and take some courses. And take the exam. See if you can teach.” I said, “That’s a good idea.” The first job I had after that, is, my sister saw something in one of the publications that she got from the Hebrew teachers’ union that they needed a teacher at a hundred and … I don’t know, it was in town at a Hebrew day school, somewhere in Washington Heights. It wasn’t too far from where I lived. They needed an English teacher for the afternoon, and since I had my college degree, they hired me, for something like, I forget, twenty five or thirty dollars a week for the afternoon. So I taught there.

 

In the meantime, I went and took some courses at Teachers’ college to get my credentials

in order to take the license exam in elementary ed. And, well anyway, the principal at that Hebrew day school, she wanted me to stay on to be a science teacher, but by that time, I had already taken the substitute examination. And I passed. And I got a job. Because that’s when they needed teachers. So I was making more in one month than I could make a whole year in the Hebrew day school. So I told her, “I’ll finish the term, but I can’t do any more.”

 

So I got a job as a sub in PS 134. It was on the east side, at Third Avenue and 122d Street or 123d Street. I don’t remember. It’s still there. I got a job teaching first grade. And then after two years, you know the teaching counted as elementary ed. So after two years, I took the regular exam. And I passed. Don’t tell me how. After being out of school for so many years, since 1934, ’35, ’36. And that’s where I stayed. But Ruth said, “Why don’t you take some courses and try to take the exam.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “You know what? They have books, not books, it’s really paperback, which have the past exams that you can look over to see what kinds of questions they’ve asked.” So I got one of those books, and I looked over, and I said, well, it doesn’t look so hard. I’ll take it. So that’s what I did.

 

And then I became interested in the union, because that was when they were starting. It was 1963 when they had several different unions for teachers. And then they combined into the United Federation of Teachers of New York. And so I became interested in the union. And I became, they elected me chapter chairman. So I was chapter chairman of the union for a long time. And teaching in Harlem, which was considered a stressed area we got extra study periods, we got like two extra study periods a day, no a week, I think it was. And then being chapter chairman, I got another three. So every day I had a free study period. In the study period, I used to make my program. I found teaching very rewarding, and being less stressful than having a small business, because I would finish at three, and that’s it. And all weekends, and all vacations. I liked it teaching, I loved it. It was very rewarding because when you teach first class, they come in, it’s like Tableau Rosa, an empty slate. And at the end of the year, you see the progress that they made. It’s the quickest. And then I had some nice kids. That was it.

 

Well, I wanted to tell you that being in a small retail store, there really wasn’t very much time to for exploring or extended vacations or visiting. So when I started teaching and I had all this free time, for the first summer, 1963, and I had taught, I think it was 1964, because I taught the whole year of 1963, the United Federation of Teachers was advertising their two‑month trip, visiting ten countries, and I took advantage of it. And I went, and I’m glad I did. Because at the time, you know I was well, young enough to put up with all the travails, and traveling, and being with different people. It was most gratifying. We went to Hawaii, to Hong Kong, to Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Turkey, Israel, Greece, and home. It was most satisfying, most educational, meeting all these different cultures.

 

I sent your mom postcards from all the places I went to. I don’t know if she saved it or

not, but at home, in the pantry, I have a thing with the hotels where we stayed. Well that was good remembering. And the next long trip that I took was after Ned [her second husband) died. I went with the Elder Hostile to Australia and New Zealand, and that was also very gratifying. And we stayed at dorms, which I guess, I was a little younger. Ten years younger maybe, because the restrooms were quite a distance from the dorm. But we managed. And the trip was very educational, broadening. And here I am, still alive.

 

 

The Second Marriage

And then in 1974, my cousin from Syracuse told me that there was this man [Ned] who had lost his wife and was looking for somebody. So I said why didn’t he come to New York. She said, well, he kind of you know, didn’t travel much. She says why don’t you come and visit me, you’ve never been to Syracuse. So I was debating. First I called my sister Hanchie. She says, “What for, why do you have to go? Let him come here.” Then I called Judy’s mother. I said, “You know, I’m in a quandary. I really don’t know what to do. My sister says that I shouldn’t go. And my cousin says I should come, and I haven’t visited.” She said, “Why don’t you go. What do you got to lose?” So I went to see her and I met him.

 

And I didn’t feel like I should come … I didn’t want to go to Syracuse. I said I have a wonderful job. At that time I was already getting $20,000 a year. In 1974, that was a lot of money because I was under contract. And if I put in another three years, I could retire on half my salary. So I met him, and I said, well, I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do.

 

But he started writing me letters and calling me on the phone. And then I went again, I think it was Columbus Day or something. At that time I didn’t stay there, I stayed at, oh I remember, I think Alan [her cousin’s husband] was sick or something. So I stayed at a hotel.

 

And then I don’t know. Where did I go? I think it was Labor Day, and Bobby [Ned’s daughter] and the family always go to New Jersey to the beach somewhere, and he went with them. And from New Jersey, he came to New York to see me, because that’s when we went up to see your mom and dad [Libby and Alan]. Your mom made dinner for us or something. And I don’t know. And then I said, “Look, on one condition. I’ll try it for a year in Syracuse. And if it doesn’t work out, I want you to promise me we’ll move back to New York.”

 

I married him because we had a lot in common, and he was very knowledgeable, and we had a lot to share, and I met his family and they were all very friendly, and I had been alone for twelve years. I don’t know. I guess I was tired of being alone. I grew to love him over time. He was very considerate. I was lacking for nothing. Anything I wanted. And he’d never flown before he’d met me. And he wanted to come to Thanksgiving and there was a strike, a bus strike or a train strike or something, and he had to take the plane. “So see? Now you know how to fly.” Then he loved flying. [Before], he was scared of flying.

 

I made some very good friends. And it worked out. So life was nice. I wasn’t lacking for anything. I had a nice home, and I made really wonderful friends all around. Some of them are now, you know, I’ve seen a lot of them be taken, so many, they’re gone. But I’m still there. Because I have friends. I was thinking of leaving for New York in the beginning [after Ned died]. But I didn’t have anybody except Mom [Libby] and Dad [Alan]. You [Jennifer] were away at school. Lisa was away. Your mom was working, your dad was working, and I’d just become like a third sleeve. You can’t depend on that. And I figured I’m better off where I am. I have very good neighbors. You know, Lucy and Jane, and Jeannette Meizer, she moved away now, but she’s still a good friend. And I figured it would be a good life. I’m not going. You know in a small town you had to join all the organizations, so they keep you busy. There were two synagogue sisterhoods, and

 

there was N’amat and Hadasah, and the National Council of Jewish Women, and ORT. You could be busy every minute of the day if you want to.

 

 

 

Religion During Adulthood

 

During her first marriage: [My religion) was not too strong. No, because the store was open seven days a week. In the beginning. And then I insisted that he close one day, Sunday. He says nobody closes. I said Look, we need to have a day or rest. [But] I’d grown out of it [religiousness) a long time before.

 

During her second marriage: I became observant. But I wouldn’t say I was believing more. It’s hard. You know. The things you believe when you’re a little child. Different. When you start to grow up you start to question. You always question why ? Question why did my mother have to die? Why couldn’t she live? She was a young woman, she was only 54. And then you start questioning more.

 

What I feel is if you are a decent person, if you don’t knowingly hurt people, don’t cause trouble, and behave like a decent human being, I don’t know. As a matter of fact, one of the prophet asks, “What does the Lord want from me?” And he says, “Live righteously and justly.” The main principle.

 

I never really felt that I had a spiritual guide. No not really. I question too much. I’d like to believe if Jews have that sworn faith like my father had, the Lord will look out, the Lord will take care. But I prayed so many times. Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe it’s not in the cards. Not my destiny. That’s the way it is. I question too much.

 

Grandchildren Oh, grandchildren are real joys. You know, you put money in the bank, and it’s the percentage. You don’t have the full obligation of the parent. But still you have their love and you can love them without feeling the responsibility. It’s easier. Grandchildren are what you get for interest, the interest on whatever you put in to life. Some grandchildren don’t care. I think my grandchildren are very devoted, especially the ones that I grew up with, or grew up with me more.

 

I’ve got lots of great memories. I remember coming back with Lisa from California when Manny was married, and your mother and father took a vacation. And we came back here. And Lisa and I, I had bought her a little carriage to keep at my house with a doll. And she was doing something. She had wheeled the carriage into the road or something. And I said, “Lisa you shouldn’t do that!” And she said, “I want to do things by myself,. ”

 

 

I remember another incident when I was coming back from California, it was Christmas vacation, I had spent some time at Manny’s house. And it was a Sunday morning, I was coming back. I took the night flight, the red eye, or something. The red eye from San Francisco to New York, and I came in at seven o’clock in the morning, and there was a taxi strike. And so you know we were all sitting there looking for a taxi, and this other person said, “I’m also going to Manhattan,” and I said, “Good, we’ll get one cab.” When I came in it was early in the morning, and your mom and dad were supposed to be in Vermont skiing, and I opened the door, and there’s Elisa. The crib was in the little room. And she heard the door, and she stood up there with that big smile on her face. She recognized me! Mom and Dad, had came back. They had all caught colds. And I thought they were in Vermont. And this was seven o’clock in the morning, and I was so happy to have company.

 

I remember lots, but I remember one time coming to visit, your folks [Libby and Alan] and, you [Jennifer] had fallen somewhere in Queens, and your face was all swelled up. There were bruises on your face? I said, “What happened?”

 

You remember my taking you to see the, um, in Radio City. We went to see a movie. You remember that? And it was Beethoven’s Symphony. It was a cartoon to the music of Beethoven. And we were sitting on the bus, the cross town bus, to go to Radio City. And this woman was sitting across from us and she looked at you and she said, “Oh what beautiful brown eyes your grandchild has, Big brown eyes.” Lots of other things. I don’t know whether it was you or Lisa going skiing in Central Park. Not skiing, skating. I don’t know, it gets all mixed up.

 

Right now, what’s really, I’d say mostly on my mind, is my grandchildren. Just want them to see, on their way to a happy life. Meaningful life.

 

Crucial Moments and The Meaning of Life

 

Well, I think the most crucial decision was when we had to stop the machinery when mom [Libby) was critical. Whether to take away the life supporting machine. I think that was, that was my worst moment. Hoping maybe there would be a miracle… maybe there’ll be a breakthrough.

 

All I can say I did the best that I knew how. Maybe I should have done better, maybe worse. But I did what I thought was, at the time, for the best. Hindsight, it doesn’t help any. You just know what you did. Whether you should have done it better or not, who knows. It’s easy you know to become a rock at hindsight, say I should have done this and I should have done that. At the time, you do what you think, the right thing to do at the moment. It’s all you can do. Because we have limited knowledge. I don’t know. Maybe I could have done more. But I don’t know. I just have to accept what I did at the time, that I thought was the right thing to do, in accordance with my limited knowledge at that time. Maybe now that I’m older and more experienced, I might have done things differently. But who knows.

 

Well, I’m glad I’m here talking to you and sharing some of my experiences with you. And I hope we’ll share some more good times. As I told Jennifer Halpern [Manny’s daughter], I said hurry up and get married, because the dress I want to wear to your wedding is not going to fit me no more, I’m getting so fat. I’d like to see my grandchildren married and happy. That’s one thing I want to, I hope I’ll be able to be around for it.

 

 

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