Ghosts linger around my Passover table 


The Passover of 2016 was tinged with sadness because I couldn’t help thinking of my childhood.  My parents and grandparents faded from sight; one right after the other, mostly without warning.

Grandma was a small, stout lady, with a face that I can’t really ever forget because I look so much like her, especially in my 66th year. My grandfather, was short in stature, but high on everyone’s respect list. He had a head full of beautiful white hair.

I remember going along with my tall, handsome, adored daddy to pick them up at their apartment. My grandmother would have her coat on, and announce to my grandfather that “the machine is outside, and it was time to go.” Why she didn’t just refer to it as the car was a mystery to me. I do remember she wore red old-fashioned shoes, a longish skirt, and a long sleeve blouse. She always carried a  black purse that held Dentyne gum. She would offer this special treat randomly to all her grandchildren.

We’d arrive at my house where we ate the standard dinner we always ate at holidays, it didn’t really matter which one. Mom was in charge and she didn’t appreciate any help.

There was always chopped liver and matzah ball soup, my mother’s tie to her ethnic background. We’d all gathered around  the kitchen table, my grandparents sitting next to each other on one side, my mother, wearing her blue apron, always up during the meal serving us.  My father and

My dapper grandpa, Harry Zelivyansky

My dapper grandpa, Harry Zelivyansky

My Grandmother, Miriam Zelivyansky when she was young.

My Grandmother, Miriam Zelivyansky when she was young.

Marilyn, Mom, Dad and me .

Marilyn, Mom, Dad and me .

My sister Marilyn and I with my dad outside of Grandma and Grandpa's house,

My sister Marilyn and I 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.

two sisters and I would take our familiar seats. It was usually turkey, sometimes a roast, salad, sweet potatoes, and a vegetable.

The Seder I remember was not too formal. I do remember my grandfather singing some prayers. He had a beautiful voice that I can almost hear when I close my eyes and concentrate.

Little did I know that one day my grandparents and parents would be long gone, but their presence would always linger; they’re always around me, like a loving purple aura.

This year I particularly missed them all, but I’m grateful for the love that is still there.

 

Having fun at the Harmony Project holiday event: December 19 — a biased review


My Life in my 60's

When I started with the Harmony Project there were around 125 people. Now, there are 200. I didn’t really think I’d ever like singing with such a big choir, but I was wrong. We sing with one voice, and without music. It’s so much fun. We clap and rock it out too. There’s no shortage of baby boomers in the choir, but there are also people of all ages, all sexual orientations and all religions. Nobody cares about who believes what. We are all there to sing and share.

Today was our holiday concert at The Southern Theater. Almost every seat was taken. It was a rejuvenating experience.

The South High Harmony choir did a fantastic job singing for the audience. They’re kids from a high school that needed a little boost. They should be so proud of themselves. They did “We Will Rock You” with energy and heart.  It…

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10 of my pet peeves



1. One-upmanship

These are the people who always do better than you do. Before you finish a sentence, they are competing with you.

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2. Dishonesty

When I see something that doesn’t belong to me, I try to find the rightful owner. Some people do believe this: “If someone is stupid or careless enough to leave something out, they deserve to lose it.” People these days even steal things like your identity.

Your fault for letting me steal it?

3. Boasters

I hate people who go around boasting about themselves, their kids, etc. Oh, my child is so beautiful, smart, and popular. The irony of that whole thing is that those bragging parents usually have kids who are beautiful, smart and popular.

I am so great!

4. Unfairness

Life ain’t fair. Why can’t I get used to this reality. Equality? Nope

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5. Really, really, white teeth

Back a few years ago, your teeth could get a little yellow when you got older. Now, we have to bleach our teeth? I guess I got to get with it a little more. I’m already using white tooth rinse. It doesn’t taste that great. But, since I have crowns all over the place, I better whiten those jewels.

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6. Pressure to look young

Watch any of those old movies from the 30’s and 40’s. The parents looked older than their children!

Remember when mothers and fathers looked realistic?

7. Complainers

Nobody is interested in your aches and pains.  Nobody wants to be around a Debby Downer. Take 2 aspirin and don’t call me in the morning.

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8. Bullies

Now only do they bully in person: they do it online. I remember when some people said some bad things about me in something called a slam book. I’m glad I’m not a kid now. I still remember this and it was 52 years ago give or take a year. And thanks to the “friend” who showed it to me.

Teh precurrser to cyber bullying

9. Name callers

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Whoever thought that one up must have been delusional.

Cyber bullying

10. Presidential Campaigns

Wake me up when it’s  past the 2016 election. I’m just worried that someone who reflects some of my pet peeves might become president.

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What do you think? Do you share any of my pet peeves?

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