“Vere ist Shirley Temple?”

I always had fun teasing my European-born Holocaust survivor parents about American holidays.

“You were married on Washington’s Birthday!” I told my mother.

“We didn’t know!” she said.

“Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day” were problematic.

We were supposed to honor our parents every day, not just one day a year.

My parents never spoke of the “role” of parents.

They just did what they thought they should do.

It was that simple.

Americans were used to talking about “feelings.”

If my parents had feelings, I never knew what they were.

Attempting to Amricanize could have its funny moments.

My mother and I would laugh at her early difficulties with the English language.

When she arrived in America in 1949, she went to the store to ask for bananas. The shopkeeper gave her “Bon Ami” a well-known cleanser.

A non-so-funny moment (for me) occurred when I told my parents I wanted to be an actress.

Silence.

Then, “Ectress?”

And it had its poignant moments.

I was a blonde, curly headed child.

Our Williamsburg, Brooklyn landlady, Mrs. Bayliss once pointed at me and said “She looks like Shirley Temple!”

“Vere ist Shirley Temple?” my mother asked.

Who is Shirley Temple?

That question symbolized my family’s entire alien identity.

My parents were foreigners.

They had missed an entire cultural phenomenon.

And there really was no catch-up.

So, I continued to buy the celebratory cards, gifts, always grumbling (through smiles and laughter) “They also had (fill in the blank) in Poland and Romania.”

About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her book. FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES will be published by Adelaide Books in 2019.
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