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Mama and Papa

I wish I could say that I adored my grandmother, but she was a bit of a sourpuss, as far as I could tell. Her children, my mom, Dotty, Bess, Adele, Norm, David, Eddie, and Joey treated her in an off-hand kind of way that didn’t inspire respect from us grandchildren.

Her one claim to our hearts was when she would dig deep in her purse and find kosher hard candies wrapped in wax paper. They had a soft raspberry center, and I loved them. She would grab me, pinch my cheek until it hurt, fish around and hand me the prize. That was the limit of our engagement my entire childhood. Then she would sit and crochet for hours, making comments in Yiddish now and then, or in broken English.

But Papa, on the other hand, always had a smile on his face, and although we didn’t really talk or share experiences ever, he was to be admired. When I think back now, I wonder how on earth she survived having 9 children, losing the eldest at 12 in a drowning accident—after which Papa apparently had a breakdown and lost his entire successful contractor business in NYC. They moved to Buffalo and started over, with 8 children in tow and Mama doing all the work around the house. Not one of her kids was forced to help out—their job was school. The Jewish ethic. The girls were to marry and the boys study and get good jobs. Mostly that’s exactly what happened. A lawyer, a veterinarian, two car salesmen and four wives.

Mama must have been exhausted.

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