A Striking Resemblance / Un Parecido Sorprendente

I CONTINUE TO go through old photos and came across images of my grandfather, my father, and myself. All taken on the beach. The photo of my grandfather was taken around 1921. My mother took the photo of my father in the summer of 1948. Both those photos were taken on Coney Island in Brooklyn. The one of me was at Oyster Bay, Long Island, in 1960. We had moved up in the world. Four years later, we were back at Coney Island. I know! It’s almost impossible to tell us apart. HINT: I’m the one in the baggy boxer shorts.


SIGO REVISANDO FOTOS antiguas y encontré imágenes de mi abuelo, mi padre, y yo. Todas fueron tomadas en la playa. La foto de mi abuelo fue tomada alrededor de 1921. Mi madre tomó la foto de mi padre en el verano de 1948. Ambas fotos estaban en Coney Island en Brooklyn. La foto de mí estaba en Oyster Bay, Long Island, en 1960. Habíamos ascendido en el mundo. Cuatro años más tarde, estábamos de vuelta en Coney Island. ¡Yo sé! Es casi imposible distinguirnos. PISTA: Soy el de los calzoncillos holgados.

Grandma Style / Estilo Abuela

As the below photo from the 1920s shows, my father’s mother had some style. She probably wouldn’t have fit in here in Fuengirola, although her Russian would have come in handy on the Costa del Sol. She was born in Slutzk!

My grandmother died when I was 3 years old. But I remember she had a covered cut-glass dish filled with hard candies with soft raspberry centers. The dish sat on a kidney shaped tea table in the living room and she used the candies to coax me out of my shyness. It always worked.


Como muestra la foto de abajo de la década de 1920, la madre de mi padre tenía algo de estilo. Probablemente no lo habría encajado aquí en Fuengirola, aunque su ruso hubiera sido útil en la Costa del Sol.

Mi abuela murió cuando yo tenía 3 años. Pero recuerdo que ella tenía un plato cubierto de vidrio tallado lleno de caramelos duros con centros de frambuesas suaves. El plato se sentó en una mesa de té con forma de riñón en la sala de estar y ella usó los dulces para sacarme de mi timidez. Siempre funcionó.

It Was Too Big / Era Demasiado Grande

La versión español está después de la versión inglés.

My parents’ first apartment, in 1950, was only 2 bedrooms but the rooms must have been huge. The furniture they bought for that apartment was massive. Among the living room pieces were a custom-made oversized club chair (occupied by my sister and me in the top photo) and couch. The couch was 9 feet long — even when measured by a woman. And it weighed a ton (more or less).

My trendy mother The Dowager Duchess had custom summer slip covers made that were bold and daring — stripes to cover the nubby salmon-colored club chair and floral for the coffee-colored sofa. Along with the abstract expressionist drapes, it was a combination I would have blogged about. When we moved to Long Island in 1956, the new house had plenty of room for all the oversized furniture.

The apartment in Brooklyn 8 years later was also spacious enough to comfortably accommodate everything. We arrived at the apartment and waited for the movers. The driver came upstairs and informed my parents that the couch wouldn’t fit in the elevator. My father said he would make it worth their while if they carried it up the 16 flights of stairs.

The two movers looked near death when they finished. My mother always bragged that my father gave them a beer and an extra $5 tip. “Each! she said.”

Less than 6 years later, my parents redid the living room. My father sawed the old couch in half to haul it down in the elevator. When we had the two pieces in the hall, a neighbor, Frances, saw us.  (Frances regularly locked herself out of her apartment when she went to dump the trash. Her husband, Eddie, turned off his hearing aids and pretended not to know she was out there. “Eddie! Opem Op!” she’d wail.)

“Vat heppened?” she asked in her heavily accented English. She knew my parents were redecorating.

My father explained the couch wouldn’t fit in the elevator.

“Oy gevalt,” she shrieked. “Such a sin to hev to cut up a brend new sofa!”

El primer apartamento de mis padres, en 1950, era solo de 2 habitaciones, pero las habitaciones deben haber sido enormes. Todos los muebles que compraron para ese apartamento eran enormes. Entre las piezas de la sala de estar había una sillón de gran tamaño (ocupada por mi hermana y yo en la foto arriba)) y un sofá. El sofá tenía 9 pies de largo — incluso cuando fue medido por una mujer. Y pesaba una tonelada (más o menos).

Mi Madre de moda, The Dowager Duchess, tenía unas fundas de verano hechas a medida que eran atrevidas: rayas para cubrir el sillón de color salmón y flores para el sofá de color café. Junto con las cortinas expresionistas abstractas, era una combinación sobre la que habría escrito en mi blog. Cuando nos mudamos a Long Island en 1956, la nueva casa tenía mucho espacio para todos los muebles de gran tamaño.

El apartamento en Brooklyn, 8 años después, también era lo suficientemente espacioso para acomodar todo cómodamente. Llegamos al departamento y esperamos a los muders. El conductor subió las escaleras y les informó a mis padres que el sofá no cabía en el ascensor. Mi padre dijo que valdría la pena si lo llevaban por los 16 tramos de escaleras.

Los dos hombres miraron cerca de la muerte cuando terminaron. Mi madre siempre se jactó de que mi padre les dio una cerveza y una propina adicional de $5. “¡Cada uno! dijo ella.”

Menos de 6 años después, mis padres rehicieron la sala de estar. Mi padre cortó el viejo sofá por la mitad para bajarlo en el ascensor. Cuando tuvimos las dos piezas en el pasillo, salió un vecino elegante llamado Frances. (Frances se encerraba regularmente fuera de su apartamento cuando iba a tirar la basura. Su marido, Eddie, apagó sus audífonos y fingió no saber que ella estaba allí. “¡Eddie! ¡Abre la puerta!” ella lloraria

“Vat heppened? (Qué pasó)” preguntó en un inglés muy acentuado. Ella sabía que mis padres estaban redecorando.

Mi padre explicó que el sofá no cabía en el ascensor.

“Oy gevalt (Dios mío),” ella gritó. “¡Qué pecado tener que cortar un sofá nuevo!”

My father with a great-niece, nursing an ailing back on the fading old couch in 1967. / Mi padre con una sobrina nieta, cuidando a una espalda enferma en el viejo sofá descolorido en 1967.

Supplier for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, Funerals

While cleaning out My Mother The Dowager Duchess’s apartment in August, we had some surprises. She and my father purchased their massive bedroom furniture in 1950. I found the original receipt. I have no idea how they afforded it considering the fact that my mother always claimed they were poor. They paid $846 in 1950. In today’s money, that’s equivalent to $8,472.39.

We would have loved to have shipped it here, but it would have cost a fortune. Besides, our largest bedroom couldn’t fit it all. The two dressers together were about 7 feet long.

I found a bunch of doily-like items in black and white. They’re provided free for women to cover their heads at Jewish rites such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals. Black for funerals, obviously, and white for the happier occasions. Typical of my mother (“I might be able to use it for a project”) she kept every single one. One drawer of the side cabinet in a dresser was filled with them. I laughed when I tossed them all on the bed. But then I discovered that two more drawers were also filled. There were hundreds of them. I can’t imagine that my mother actually went to hundreds of events. I think she stole a lot of them. But, she would argue indignantly, “I didn’t steal them. They put them out for free. I only took some extras… just in case.”

(Click the images for the bigger picture.)


A Dowager Duchess Don’t

In 1987 when we were living in Southern Connecticut, San Geraldo had a business trip to San Francisco. I was going with him. It was three months after my father’s death and My Mother The Dowager Duchess was about to turn 60. So we invited her along.

My mother and I sat next to each other on the plane. San Geraldo was one row back. As boarding continued, a very attractive woman came through the door and walked down the aisle toward us. She had red hair and was dressed in teal blue from head to toe.

As the woman approached, The Duchess commented in a stage whisper, “How beautiful.”

We hadn’t noticed that behind her was a little boy. He also had red hair and was dressed entirely in teal blue.

The Duchess stage-whispered, “Cute.”

A moment later, an extremely large man came lumbering down the aisle. He had red hair and also wore teal blue, top to bottom. A matched set.

The Duchess harrumphed, “Well that’s just a bit too much!”


Because I’m tacky…