[Somehow I got confused, so “Treasure,” which was blogged two days ago, was deleted and had to go up again. Now here’s what was intended to go up today.]
The other day I received a package from my brother. He had been cleaning out his house, preparing to sell it, and found things my parents must have given him when they sold their house 40 years ago and moved into a one-bedroom apartment.
This material began with my birth and continued into my early adulthood. Some of it I had; some I was familiar with; but some astounded me. I had no idea they had collected it. I felt great delight at having it before me – and great guilt for having allowed disgruntlements and discontents from preventing me from demonstrated the reciprocal consideration and kindness toward my parents that this appreciation of me deserved.
But someone has told me that all children feel they have not done enough for their parents, and all parents feel they have not done enough for their children. And as my brother said, when he admitted sharing some of my feelings, they could not help being themselves and more than we could help being ourselves. (Also when I mentioned my experience to a woman of my age, with whom I chat at the Wrench Café, she thanked me. She saved similar material for her sons and was pleased to know they would receiving it. Maybe, it occurred to me, all parents have this “hoarding” gene and, not being one, I had not known this until what was in my mailbox bit me.)
Anyway, I have a series of pieces I’ve written about growing up in West Philadelphia in the 1950s, which I had intended to re-blog here. Now my plan is to do that but to intersperse them, more or less sequentially, as I work my way through this box.
Among the things my parents saved (See blog of August 15) were cards from when I was born, my first through fourth birthdays, and my bar mitzvah. The bar mitzvah cards, for reasons to be explained, were not of much interest.
I was a first born son of a first born son. My father, Herb, had two brothers, Babe and Manny, and one sister, Esther. My mother, Rebecca, had a sister, Mary, a brother, Leon, and a step-brother, Sam, all of whom, except Manny who was in the service, lived in Philadelphia, and none of whom, as yet, had any children. So I was a big deal.
There were not only cards but telegrams, hand-written notes, and penny postcards. (The cards probably cost a nickle or less.) Cute animals abounded, ducks, kittens, and many puppies. One had Bambi and Thumper and one Superman. (For whom were they intended, I wonder. By the time I would recognize them, they would have long been packed away, if not discarded.) In the spirit of the times, one could be folded into a soldier’s cap, and one afforded a slot within which to save pennies, accompanied by a note from the sender, my future dermatologist, expressing his wish to my father that they be used “to shoot all the Nazis.”
[Another item of interest was my mother’s hospital bill. She had been in Pennsylvania Hospital 15 days, at $8 per. The delivery room had cost $10, as had my circumcision. Lab costs were $2, the phone $.83, and newspapers $.40. Her physician charged another $150. “Fifteen days in the hospital,” a friend said. “You must have been a handful from the start.” “Hey,” I said. “At $8/day, including meals, it was probably better than moving back into 10th Street, with her in-laws.”]
Both sets of grandparents and all my aunts and uncles sent cards. So did people who remained friends of my parents the rest of their lives. But many came from people I did not know and can not recall ever having heard mentioned. Who were “Goldie and Raymond,” “Aunt Frieda and Uncle Ben,” “Mrs. Herman Wierle,” “Sarah Pincus,” “Mr. & Mrs. H.J. McGlade, Sr.”? How did they connect to my family, and when and how did this connection end? Did they peer at me in my crib, and what did I think? Dream? Hallucination? Demon? When I did not know what dreams, hallucinations or dreams were.
They are all gone, of course, as is everyone who could tell me.