Wednesday, December 13, 2006

West Deal, New Jersey, 1972

When I was five, my grandmother and grandfather moved five blocks away. My grandfather hid pennies in his hands and recited a spell, eichl meichl peichl he would say, and the penny would magically jump from hand to hand -- where would it be? How would it get there? One of his arms couldn't unbend all the way, and the reason, he told us, was that he had been struck by a bullet in some war, which I believed for a long time.

My grandfather would recline in a black leather chair, his grey hair oiled back and cut short to his crown, the hair smooth and velvety. He would correct my Hebrew pronunciation, and told me of his days in the cheder in Sans, Austria, where he was a good student, where he got to taste honey when he first learned the alef bet. They studied the Talmud, and each scholar added to the text, the margins filling with interpretations.

His father was already in America, in Philadelphia for seven years, and opened an oyster restaurant before his son came. When his father met him at the dock, he pulled his son's long and curly payes falling in front of his ears, and scolded him, you have to cut these, you are in America now.

My grandfather was angry, of course, but he said nothing, merely nodded, to this stranger who was his father.

7 Comments:

Anonymous trappedinasui said...

You are in my blogroll because, like me, you have been both to Mali and Bali. Your blog is intriguing. Beautifully written snippets, the connections not yet obvious, concise to the max, dislocated in time, posted sporadically, you wanderer, you.

3:31 AM  
Blogger telfair said...

I love your blog and the story of your grandfather was like an early Christmas present.

Thanks for finding me and for continuing to delight and move your readers with your beautiful writing.

6:28 AM  
Blogger joyfish said...

Hi trappedinasuit, Mali and Bali are so different, at opposite ends of the earth, extremes of dry and wet, baroque and barren. I feel a special bond with you who have been to both.

Telfair, I'm so glad you are blogging again and I get to share in this new chapter of your life. Have wonderful holidays!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a bittersweet story. 6,000 years of tradition destroyed by a father's scolding words.

Maybe one day, his children will taste honey too?

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Celia said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Work in Progress said...

Beautifully told.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Work in Progress said...

Beautifully told.

1:01 AM  

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