Saturday, February 16, 2019

An Unexpected Gift

My Mother was a perfectionist and often critical of me.  But my father was not. He could be authoritarian, stubborn, angry, but never critical of me.

When I was seven or eight, he used to take me with him on the road when he went to solicit his orders at the Mom and Pops in the Hill District.

My Dad was a wholesale grocer; he owned his own company, had workers, but I'd often see him schlepping cases into the stores. He'd hoist a 100 pound bag of rock salt on his shoulder or a case of Bumblebee tuna. Often he'd have me carry in the candy, chewing gum, cigarettes, even a light case.

His mother had died when he was four years old and his father was extremely frugal which translated onto my Dad. Since he dealt in canned goods which sometimes got rusty, he'd hold up a rusty can of Argo peas and order us kids to, "Use it up."  This was his favorite refrain.

At the same age of seven or eight, my parents enrolled me in Hebrew school at Temple Sinai. I  remember one day seeing in my book of Bible stories an illustration of Hager and Ishmael in the dessert by a well.  Another showed Esau and Jacob near a large pot of soup. This was the story of how Esau sold his birthrate to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew.  These black and white illustrations swept me away.

From then on, I dreamed of going to Israel. When I was 12, I entered the National Bible Contest. After studying and competing for 3 years, I made it to the finals in New York City; the first place prize being a trip to Israel. The principal of our religious school, my Mother, and I boarded a plane for NYC.  I came in third in the US and Canada, but did not win the grand prize.

Back home, my Temple wanted to reward me and gave me a scholarship  to a one week summer leadership Kallah in Cleveland Georgia.

My Mother and Father took me to the Greyhound Bus station in Pittsburgh to see me off on the 21 hour ride. Before boarding, my Dad told me to wait a minute. He disappeared into the crowd and came back with a fluffy pillow that he had bought from one of the vendors. This gift took me totally by surprise.

I got a window seat and slept against the pillow all night, all the way to Cleveland, Georgia.

This is where I met my beloved Steve when I was but 15 and he was 17.