Remembering my father (and mother) on Father’s day


My parents before they were married.

My parents before they were married.

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I close my eyes in my bedroom, and pretend, only for a minute, that I’m back home in my old bedroom. I visualize where the bed was, my dresser, and the closet.  I think about where the other rooms of the house were situated and what they looked like.

Sometimes, when I’m remembering, I hug the pillow and remember how it felt to hug my parents. How comforting it was, and how safe and loved I used to feel with them.

I had a special relationship with both of them. I was the baby of the family and lived alone with them from the age of 13. I did miss having my two newly married sisters living with us, but I enjoyed hanging out with my old parents. We went out to eat a lot, saw movies, and attended the theater. (My old parents were somewhere in their late 40’s and early 50’s.)

Sometimes, I try to remember them talking in the kitchen on a Sunday morning. I can see my mother sitting at the table, newspaper not too far from her. (She loved to read that newspaper cover to cover.) My father is standing up, probably doing some chore. They’re talking about his job, or what they’re going to do in the future.

I can almost hear the comfortable din of their voices. She saying, “Hank, why don’t you get some blintzes from Solomon’s?” (We used to get blintzes from the local delicatessen every Sunday.) Before he ever left the house he would always give her a quick kiss. Before too long he’d come back with the scrumptious Solomon blintzes. All my mother had to do was heat them on the stove.

After we eat our blintzes, my father is going to go out and do outside chores like mowing the lawn or shoveling the snow. He might run some errands.

Sometimes, I’d tag along with him. I was crazy about my father. He’d talk to me like an equal, and was a good listener. He always made me feel loved and important.

He had a friend who owned a car wash, so about every weekend I’d go with him to watch the car get cleaned. I’d carefully watch the car go through the stages, while he kidded around with his friend. I could see that Dad could get along with everyone.

I had an acquaintance whose parents were divorced, and the father would take the kids somewhere special every Sunday. I didn’t know it was because they were divorced. (In those days people kept divorces quiet.) So, I kept pleading with my dad take me out on Sunday without my mother. He did it once. We went to the planetarium at the Cleveland Science museum. We looked up at the pretend stars in the planetarium and listened to the lecture. I loved having my daddy all to myself. (I only hope my mother wasn’t too hurt.)

My parents sometimes took me to a local amusement park, Euclid Beach. My mother would park herself on a bench and my dad would go on rides with me in the park. This was a big feat for him because he was really not too crazy about amusement park rides.

One time we got on a ferris wheel and before it started, he asked the ride attendant to let us off. Another time we were on an Over the Falls” ride and the power went out. We were stuck on the ride for about 20 minutes. I wasn’t worried cause I was with my dad. (Years later, he told me he was nervous about my mother being alone, and us getting stuck on the ride.)

My dad  always took time to get dressed for work as a Cleveland Policeman. After he shined his shoes, and put on his uniform with the golden badge, and completed it with his hat, he didn’t look like Daddy anymore; he looked liked a king. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world to have such a good-looking, important father.

My parents were so close, that I can’t remember my father on this Father’s Day without including both my parents.

Happy Father’s Day to them both, wherever their souls ended up. If there is such a place, I have no doubt that they are together.

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A delicatessen documentary makes me cry : “The Sturgeon Queens”


A documentary about a delicatessen in the lower east side that survived for more than 100 years provoked tears from me today.

It was about the family that still runs a deli on the lower east side of New York called “Russ and Daughters.” Documentarian, Julie Cohen interviewed Hattie Russ Gold, 100, and Anne Russ Feldman 92 , the daughters of the original owners, who took an active part in the business. The current owners, Joshua Russ Tuper and Nikki Russ Federman were also interviewed.

Cohen  also interviewed some loyal customers including Maggie Gyllenhall, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Food is a powerful drug: it fills us up, and works on our emotions too. Sometimes, it can remind us of a happy childhood.

The Deli was celebrating 100 years! It is a true testament to that family to have kept it going so long.

If you have this in your background, I’d suggest seeing this documentary. Warning: it may make you cry.

Traveling in a time machine

Me grandpa, Harry Zelivyansky

My Grandmother, Miriam Zelivyansky when she was young.

It brought back memories of my grandparents, and the extended family I came from. Although she was born in the United States, my mother’s first language was Yiddish. She didn’t speak much English until she entered kindergarten. My mother had 3 brothers and 1 sister. When I was a little child we often got together.

My grandfather was a small, handsome, man who learned the craft of tole painting in the old country, and liked to sing. Grandpa had a headful of white hair, and stood up very straight. I knew all the members of the family respected him. Their children called them “ma and pa.”

My grandmother was a stout lady who I do remember hugging every Sunday when we came to visit. My mother and I would also take Grandma shopping at the local grocery store every Thursday. When I was being good, she would hand me a square of Dentyne gum. I’d carefully unwrap it, anticipating that burst of flavor.

I remember going to their house every Sunday and visiting them. Sometimes I didn’t want to, but I knew they were an essential part of our lives. My grandpa would watch me sing and twirl my skirt. They had a stained glass window in their house, and I liked to look at it, and imagine another family living on the other side of it.

Although  both my grandparents spoke English to me, their main language was Yiddish. Sometimes, when my mother didn’t want me to know what she was saying, she’d speak Yiddish to both of them.  She also would also loudly argue with my grandmother in her native tongue, but never my grandpa.

They came to our house for every holiday.  We’d have to pick them up at their house, and my grandma would say, “is the machine (car) ready for us?”

My grandma never made us any meals. The closest thing she would come to was offering fruit. My mother always said, “She’s tired from feeding 5 kids for years, and is now retired.”

I know my mother really liked food Jewish style.  She made a few Jewish things: real matzoh ball soup, and chopped liver. Other than that, she got it from Cleveland, Ohio, Jewish eateries like: Davis Bakery, Corky & Lenny’s and Solomon’s.

Why did a movie about a delicatessen provoke tears?

One way my mother shared the Jewish culture with me was through the food.

Every weekend, my mother bought the traditional Jewish food : tongue, pastrami, and corned beef. She also bought some bakery items like: chocolate cupcakes and coconut bars. She also got a dozen bagels, and a loaf of rye bread. For herself, she’d buy some creamed herring which I found revolting. She must have bought the same thing every weekend because I distinctly remember the white paper, boxes, and the smell of the whole stash of food. Later in my life I developed a taste for the herring and the salty lox.

When she was at the end of her life, I would try to return the favor by taking her out to a deli and helping her order a tongue sandwich on rye bread. By then, she was blind, and not the same woman I’d grown up admiring. But, she still enjoyed a good tongue sandwich, and was still attempting to be fiercely independent.

And so that’s why a movie about a delicatessen on the lower east side of New York provoked tears from me. A deli where people still come to feel that sense of family. A place where the help spoke Yiddish to the customers.

That side of life is nothing I will ever see again. It’s gone. Just like my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.

Me and my cousin Sheridan with mom's sister, Lil and her husband Al

Me and my cousin Sheridan with mom’s sister, Lil and her husband Al

L to r: L to R : Aunt Lillian, Uncle Sam, mom, Uncle Phil (blonde) & Uncle Phil

L to r:
L to R : Aunt Lillian, Uncle Sam, mom, Uncle Phil (blonde) & Uncle Phil

My sister Marilyn and me with my Dad outside of Grandma and Grandpa's house,

My sister Marilyn and me with my Dad outside of Grandma and Grandpa’s house,

L to R: Eileen, Dad holding me, and Marilyn.

L to R: Eileen, Dad holding me, and Marilyn.

Mom's brothers and sisters getting older

Mom’s brothers and sisters getting older