My earliest memory is dancing to a song that had the phrase “Mayim! Mayim!”.
It was Williamsburg, Brooklyn less than decade after World War Two.
The streets still had “woodies”, wood-paneled automobiles and even a horse or two. Many of the buildings were fired by coal. Coal deliveries was one of the most exciting, among many, street activities. The truck driver would place a chute leading to a low window opening into the basement of our tenement and dancing black coals would roll down the slide into the sub floor.
My parents were Holocaust survivors as were all of our relatives. My mother’s sister lived next door with her husband and daughter. I later found out that my uncle was my aunt’s cousin and had lost his first wife and two sons in the war and that her daughter’s delivery in post-war Germany was so botched that she and the child nearly died and she could never have another child.
Our parents shielded us from their experiences. My father called us his “ketzeles”, his kittens. My mother was devoted to us. Although she couldn’t read English at the time, she would patiently sit with me on our velvet couch (a gift from a great-aunt who came before the war) and point to the pictures and create stories (in Yiddish). It fired my imagination and desire to learn how to read. My uncle was the cheeriest, most loving man I ever met. He always had a big smile and a pocketful of butterscotch candies which he generously handed out. To this day it is my favorite candy.
I remember dancing with other young children in a circle in a second floor walk-up on Graham Avenue. There were many Israeli flags.
We sang “Mayim! Mayim!” as we twirled around.