‘I am From’ Poem by Nancy M. Schwartz
I am from waffles with syrup on Sunday mornings.
I am from tuna hoagies and milkshakes after a sleepover with my friend, Shari, at Murrays Deli in Baderwood Shopping Center with my sister, Wendy, who has since passed to the other side.
I am from Tough Skin jeans from Sears, and orthopedic shoes that were not my favorite, and that may be why I have a shoe problem 🙂 especially ones that look like ballet shoes, and Mary Janes or clogs.
Clogs like the red patent leather ones Maria from Sweden sent our entire family including my Dad after she returned to Sweden the summer she stayed here in the US with us.
Maria polished her nails every minute a peach metallic color that she allowed me to use. Maria wore black string bikinis that made the Cheltenham Pool lifeguards fall off their chairs. Maria brought her boyfriend to my sister’s room and locked the door. My Dad banged on the door til it opened. He was responsible for this high school student and her stay in America. I gave her my sister, Wendy’s gold eagle pin when she left for Sweden. Wendy was not happy!!
I am from the Green Lane home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania before my parents divorced when I was ten. My Mom and I moved to an apartment in North East Philadelphia. The home on Green Lane had a refrigerator that hummed and beige plastic crinkled benches shaped in an L in the kitchen. A yellow and green attic with a yellowing orange shag rug, where my Aunt Ruthie lived for a while doing yoga and making coffee. I pretended to read the newspaper with her like my Dad read the New York Times before I could read. Aunt Ruthie took me to Woolworths for Jergen’s hand lotion which smelled like cherry and almonds and brought me a pretend baby bottle with fake liquid milk to feed my stuffed bunny having a birthday.
Aunt Ruthie is one hundred years old now. She lives in the same assisted living place where my Mom, JoAnne, lives by the ocean in Long Beach. My Mom still remembers Aunt Ruthie even with her dementia. My home with my pink and green carousel wallpaper, and a beautiful magnolia tree outside my bedroom window. It bloomed with a lovely perfume in the spring. In my backyard, we had barbecues and places for our golden retriever, Brucie who knocked me on my head and Rebel his Mom to run. I once ran away in the backyard with a small pink, purple, and green, flower suitcase full of my light pink security blanket, and Cookie Monster, I hid behind the drying sheets on the clothesline.
I am from the lavender rhododendron flower bush and bright pink azalea bushes with yellow roses blooming on the side of my home. My rock collection was at the bottom of our driveway, and neighbors gave me Easter Baskets full of candy multicolored jelly beans, chocolate eggs, and toy bunnies.
I am from Chanukah where the candle’s light in the window equals the sparkle of light in me when we eat latkes,(potato pancakes fried in oil), spin the dreidels, and exchange small gifts with people we love. The year my parents divorced, I recall crying because there was no money for gifts. Mom, the single working mom, left that same night and brought me some. A beautiful tall brown plastic jewelry tree, and more. Always giving always love, Mom. One year my Dad gave me a beautiful tiny jade turtle, maybe foreshadowing for my third son, Alex, I would have that go at his own, pace. Love him like all my sons, Josh, Sam, and Alex. I wrote two books about Alex.
I am from readers, and writers on both sides. Uncle Stan and his book on death and ethics. ”The Patient, Death, and the Family,” by William A. (Editors) Troup, Stanley B.; Greene. Uncle Herbie and his book about Webster’s Third, “ The Story of Webster’s Third Phillip Gove’s Controversial Dictionary and Its Critics,” by Herbert C. Morton. It was the first time the F word was included in the dictionary with other colloquial words. Dad and his manuscript on WWII, “The Long Road Home,” by Martin Levine. It is not published yet. It is about life as a seventeen-year-old soldier. My sister, Susie Garber, and her many books. Aunt Barbara from England, wrote many books. Her subject was the humane treatment of animals in science experiments and animal issues. “In The Name of Science,” by Barbara Orlans. ” My Mom wrote and painted beautiful art. My cousin, Dan Troup, wrote a book on finding the right job, “Selling You, The Advantage Job Search,” by Daniel J. Troup.
My Uncle Herbie’s wife’s daughter wrote many books too, Jennifer Ackerman. Her newest book is “What an Owl Knows: The New Science of the World’s Most Enigmatic Birds.” I recall visiting Jenny on Thanksgiving with my Mom in Washington, and her sister with challenges that included the festive holiday not being able to speak, and wearing clothes, just the way my son, Alex does now.
I am from the song, Deep In The Heart of Texas, Summertime and the Living is Easy, which the best baby on all of Green Lane, I gave my love a cherry, and the idea to be thankful to people no matter how small their deed, and to love people all people and our world.
I am from Adeth Jeshuran synagogue where I took my dog, Rebel for show and tell. Where when I went through cancer radiation treatment many years later I stopped in, and the only two beings in the shut knew my Dad, no longer in this world, and said how he helped them. They played with my sisters, Wendy and Susie. The synagogue with many beautiful colorful blue pink, and purple stained glass windows, like Chagall. Ladies with fancy hair, I would notice as the service dragged on.
The same synagogue where I went to nursery school trying to learn a language for what I wanted. When asked if I wanted licorice or good and plenty I tried to find the word for licorice but to my dismay kept getting the good and plenty. The nursery school where I took my hand-sewn bunny from my sister, Susie, that the kids ripped apart for the teacher to take to her home, and turn into a cat.
The synagogue where we celebrated Purim with pet rocks, hamantashen, and lemons with yellow candy sticks to drinking the lemon juice, and had Havdalah after Shabbat with delightful wine, and clove spices to smell in the silver vessel, on the bimah (a stage) with Rabbi Rosenberg and Cantor Davidson, to remember to have a sweet week. Cantor Davidson handed us the triangle American flag, along with Rabbi Landes who would lead my Dad’s service on his journey from this earth. Cantor Davidson taught me about the book, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944. I will never forget a student asking me at Phoenixville Middle School to borrow the book one day in early autumn. No, I said I don’t want anything to happen to it. I found a delicate peach butterfly at my car fluttering its wing that same day, from the West Indies. I gave the book to the student the next day. The hard red candy apples for Simcha Torah, and men’s club breakfasts before school with my dad who fought in WWII, holding a gun without bullets, and he had to say in German put your hands up, and pretend he did have bullets, winning him a silver star. Plain bagels with butter and tea with sugar.
My dad prayed with my friend, Debbie/’s Dad every morning. Debbie’s Dad who survived the Holocaust, A soldier and a survivor praying together… To this day I am still friends with Debbie. My dad made sure I got a Jewish education at Beth Shalom the Shut designed by Frank Loyd Wright that looks like a silver mountain. Our class was the first class through before it became Perlman. Forman Day School, the class with my friend, Rick, that saved my boob, and my marriage the year I had breast cancer.
I am from Chinese food with shrimp kung pao that we ate together with my mom and relaxed in the sunshine of her love. My Dad’s love, and my sisters’ love. I am from all of this, and it is who I am and how I love and live.