Chapter 1- Going To School

A cheerful ding-ding announces my presence at the gas pumps just as the sun peeks out behind the SUNOCO sign on Route 9 in Wellesley. An attendant about my age saunters toward me. Up close I can see his greasy, acned face as he peers in at me with a crooked smile.

How To Make Pie

When you make a pie, make it with your heart. It’s not so much about what goes into the pie as what holds it together. You must understand that no matter, it’s always about the crust, the foundation of your pie. Everything else will withstand a margin of error. Not true with the crust. The crust must be perfect.

By the Pool

Palm trees shifted restlessly overhead. The dead fronds around their trunks made them look more like giant bottlebrushes than trees. “Can’t anyone figure out how to trim those things off?” I mumbled to myself. They had the look of ruin.

My Mother

I had finished sorting through all my family photos and actually wasn’t thinking about my mother. I was focused instead on choosing the next project I might tackle while “sheltering in place”. 

A Journey

I can still envision my father’s Marquette touring car as my father, brother Gerhardt, and I embarked on a most unusual journey. We started in the town of Goerlitz where I was born and where my father’s family had lived for many years. I did not know what a momentous journey it was for us or that it marked the culmination point of several years of planning on my parents’ part.

New York City To WHERE?

It was the end of April in 1939 and I was finally allowed out of bed where I had amused myself since August of 1938. I was 30 pounds heavier, and my X-rays showed real progress in fighting tuberculosis, which my doctors believed I had developed from drinking the milk of a tubercular cow the past summer on a farm where we vacationed. My parents didn’t send me to a sanitarium in the mountains as the doctors suggested. They kept me at home, fed me six times a day, read to me twice a day, took my temperature four times a day and put it on a chart, gave me a bath once a week (all that was allowed), took me in a taxi every few weeks to the doctor who gave me an X-ray, and bought me a radio (unheard of for a child’s room).

A First Friend

In the 1930’s my Japanese immigrant parents had forged their life dependent on my father’s work for the Pacific railroad that provided a company owned house. Located in a rural isolated whistle stop in eastern Oregon with no neighbors for miles around, my two brothers and I formed our own playgroup. The three of us (born two years apart) ate, slept, fought, and played together. We shared a nanny goat who provided us with milk, Our playground was along the banks of the nearby Deschutes River or in our backyard covered with tumbleweeds swirling in the hot summer heat. During our first six years we shared childhood diseases—measles, whooping cough and the occasional flu. We grew up without the benefit of electricity, indoor bathroom facilities, or hot running water but this was not experienced as a hardship; the inconvenience of an outhouse, heating water for our outdoor “hot tub” or grinding the gramophone to listen to Japanese music recordings were simply part of our life.

Things I Wish They Had Told Me

Ours was a close family even though we were scattered around the country. When I say family, I am talking about my father’s family. There were eight surviving children who as adults continued the bond of their childhood. Growing up in Kissimmee, Florida, running the general store, being the only Jewish family probably contributed to the closeness. The stories that came down to me from my grandmother described how the children seemed to hang together in couples. All her children had nicknames which added to the intimacy. For example, my father was called Lovey. We treated it as a proper name, so my cousins called him “Uncle Lovey”. There was a family story about my uncle who, as a shy child, when asked his name would answer “My name is Jody, but they call me sweetsum”. There seemed to be a birthing arrangement of boy-girl-boy girl. The close pairs of siblings –  Alda and Lovey, Morton and Sis, Dora and Jody – represented that.

1 2 3 5