I’m sure Mrs. Lipschitz is still alive. She must have been about 100 when I was a kid. She had an affinity for flowered house dresses (are you old enough to remember house dresses?) and she was bent over at the middle so she couldn’t see straight ahead, but she did down very well. Now that I’m old myself I understand. It gets hard for me to stand up straight.these days. And down gets closer and closer. But aside from very bad taste in attire and a necessity to walk bent over she was the picture of robust health, cooking for herself, and totally articulate, and even brilliant, in conversation (which i’m often, at my age, not!). She was also the daughter of our standard bearers the Levines whose son was a good friend of mine, summers only if you please.
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Those relationships were similar to what kids who go to camp, in our present day, experience. Camps are the newer ways of replicating the magical summers of my youth. And maybe yours. You become intensely close to someone very fast and you have a close relationship which lasts all summer. Then you may not see them again until the following summer when you just pick up as if there had been no ten months in between. In our day, with no Facebook and email and only the very expensive telephone, which kids did not use for long distance calls, I’ll tell you that, you said goodbye to your friends right around now, Labor Day, and you wouldn’t see them again until late June. That’s how it was. It’s easier for kids today to see each other, virtually at least. But there was something special about having summer friends and winter friends.
Since my mother was the real force behind keeping the Bauman House, a not so renowned kuch alein (cook alone) going, my joy was delivering a note to the teachers every year to excuse me from school two weeks or so before the official end of the year, in order that my mother could get things going in Parksville. My grandfather, known as Pop, was her reliable partner in this endeavor. And endeavor it was!
There were a multitude of jobs to get done. The windows had to be unboarded. The mice had to relocate or be executed. Ugly ugly: their winter drippings and droppings had to be cleaned up. Any other animal life was similarly removed although many, like squirrels, showed a remarkable affection for our place and real determination to return. I guess they felt since they lived there for more of the year than we did they had rights. This is America you know! And try talking to a lawyer about removing an endangered species.
The water had to be turned back on. The knee high grass had to be cut, first with a scythe and sickle and finally with a non power lawn mower. Talk about hard work! Light bulbs had to be replaced. Leaves swept from the miles of porches (okay, maybe I exaggerate a bit but since that was one of my jobs it seemed criminal and perhaps like advanced child abuse), chairs brought out to be positioned on said porches so everyone over 40 could seemingly rock away (no, not Rockaway) all day. However, with meals to prepare, shopping to prepare said meals, and laundry and other housekeeping chores, the guests were more likely moving their tasks from Brooklyn or Newark to Parksville than vacationing……but they did still find plenty of time for rocking……and playing mah jongg.
Most of the men, the fathers, would come up on Fridays and leave on Sundays. Our dog, Phoebe, learned the routine as a pup. On Fridays, we would tell her that Katrinka is coming, Katrinka being the name for my father’s ancient car, and my father being Phoebe’s favorite person in the world. As soon as she heard the most welcome words she would perch herself like a bird at the precise right angle on the porch where she could see the parking lot in the distance while still being surrounded by friends and family on her elevated throne. Suddenly she would announce, with feverish barking and violent tail wagging, he’s here. He’s here! My father, ever sensitive to the great love of dog to master, and knowing no one else would ever love him quite so deeply, faithfully and uncritically, would acknowledge Phoebe first, before greeting the rest of the welcoming committee..
Phoebe would be happy all of Shabbat, Saturday, and then replay the arrival in morose reversal. Katrinka was leaving, she knew. She always knew.
Of course the scene with my father’s arrival was multiplied. All of the fathers arrived on Friday. Except Nathan’s. We never knew why but Nathan had no father. During the week he was just one of the kids. On the weekends he was somewhat testy. Everyone else was fathered, and the pace of life, the routines, changed when the men were around.
First of all, Friday was a big shower day for the moms. They also spruced themselves up quite a bit. Earrings suddenly appeared. Hairdos were made of what was previously just hair. Lipstick was painted on and cheeks were blushing. Dowdy house dresses were replaced with more fancy duds and elaborate meals were cooking away in the shared kitchens. Never could figure out how such multi course meals were made in such crowded space but my mother’s chopped liver got chopped (by hand, need you ask!), Fannie’s potato kugel, with squash, was fragrant, Aunt Gussie’s roast chicken was succulent and everything was perfection. Now that I’m an old lady, and pragmatic, I wonder why they never thought to coop their labor and share the fruits of their hands. But they never did and probably would have considered it apostasy.anyway. I can’t ask them anymore. They’re all gone. As is the Bauman House.
I love to remember those days. I will again soon. Now I am sitting in Herzliya, 6,000 miles away from Parksville, and wondering how I came so far, in distance, not in fame or fortune. But here I am, in another glorious and memorable place. And remembering with love Parksville, a tiny village in the Catskills.