The Schumanns were all there; lined up on the stairway between our apartments like bowling pins. Grandma Rose stood her ground as the head pin. Grandpa Robbie who looked like movie gangster George Raft and their firstborn, Bert positioned themselves respectfully behind her. Remaining above was Uncle Herby; the most sweet-natured of the five siblings. My Aunt Evie, only fourteen years older than I and my favorite used her fingers as a comb to untangle Aunt Sandy’s curly hair. Sandy, who up until that moment was the baby of the family, rarely hid her disdain for me, making our encounters mostly unpleasant and sometimes a little scary. Even Spotty, the street dog that returned each night to sleep on the tiled floors between the two apartments, stayed in that morning sensing another scrap-source was arriving.Read More
One More Thing Before I Go
Last spring when the scent of lilacs followed me from the backyard into my kitchen, I thought of my mother’s distant cousin and her daughters, who, like my lilacs, visited yearly when the earth warmed and the days grew longer. I pictured us all in idyllic memories of jump rope games and playing with dolls. But, except for MaryAnn, the littlest daughter, I could not remember their names.
A few years ago, I could have called my mother. She would have teased me for my forgetfulness, asked what I was making for dinner (there was never a phone conversation where we didn’t talk about food) and repeated her mother-to-daughter mantra, “When are you coming over?” We would have shared stories of those long-ago days before hanging-up and re-joining our lives. But my mother has passed on and while the images of our family lingers-the details are lost. I write One more thing before I go, my living record for my son, in hope that one day, when he has a question I can no longer answer, it can be found in this blog.
In the years that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Grandma Rose sent off her two sons and son-in-law, all her nephews and the sons of her cousins, along with witnessing the deployment of sons of friends and neighbors. The war was a great equalizer. It captured the sons of Christians, Jews, African, European, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans. Even though, in those bygone days, ethnic and racial groups were segregated, America sent all its sons, whether the apple of their parents’ eyes or orphaned. The promise that they’d return to a better world was delivered to most returnees at the war’s end. For others, it would take more waiting and for some, the wait would last for generations. Still, while we wait, our futures are brighter than anywhere else on earth.Read More
Grandma Rose was the middle child of five with Bess the eldest girl and great uncle Sammy between them—even when they were in their eighties, Grandma called her big brother, Sammy as if they were still children at the orphan asylum. Following them, were great aunt Edna and the youngest, Sidney. Theirs were old fashioned names of a time long gone: The first two children were born in the 1890’s. But the human condition, whether in the digital age or the days of horses and buggies remains the same. People have always loved and lost, suffered or triumphed. No matter how woeful these children of the Brooklyn streets spent their early lives, they each lived to be quite old for their generation and with more financial stability than they began as the offspring of a deaf and mute mother and alcoholic dad; making them winners in the game of life.Read More
I grew up at a time when nicknames were common. Some were simply for demarcation. We had two Evelyns in the family. We called my mother’s middle sister Our Evie (emphasis on our). My Uncle Bert’s wife (an in-law) was Bert’s Evie. Other names were endearments, usually ending in Y. Elizabeth became Betsy, Sondra was tagged Sandy, Andrew-Andy (no need to go on), but some nicknames were so cruel; they’d be deemed...Read More