The 25 Cents Memory Call
by Marjorie Wolfe
I called "tatteh" on Father's Day, but the line was busy. Today's conversation has been dubbed the "25 Cents Memory Call." It was placed on my new Samsung A680 telephone. While I waited, I began to reminisce.
As is true with so many young girls, I had something special with my dad when I was growing up in Rockaway Beach, New York. There was a magical bond that still cements an adult relationship between a "mature" mother of three, grandmother of four, and active senior citizen.
Unlike today's dads, mine never referred to a religious skullcap for men as a "Yamaha." Dad's vocabulary didn't include words like "bonding," "Quality Time," "dumkop"(dumbbell), or "Azoy ret men tsu a tateh?" (Is that how you talk to your father?)
He never felt so verbally tongue-tied that he mailed me a Hallmark card that began, "Between You and Me..."
No, dad didn't participate in "Jump for Joy" programs, Gymboree, or all-day conferences titled, "Jewish Child Care: The Bottom Line." He was too busy working in his butcher shop in Lynbrook, New York. Dad never told me in jest that I was a "5l6 trapped in the body of a 212." He did, however, compliment me when I wore those ultra feminine bouffant skirts filled with crinoline petticoats. "Shaineh Maidel" he would say.
Our kitchen--on Beach 68th Street in Arverne--had a "Pushkey" and a framed sign: "Remember the poor--it costs nothing." We were never served a "Dr. Rutheimer" sandwich, a Shecky Greene Stage Deli special: Pastrami, Corned Beef, Finlandia Swiss, Cole Slaw and Russian Dressing.
We never knew from "nouvelle cuisine," "power lunching," or Carmel Kosher Imitation Chicken Flavored Fat, manufactured under strict Orthodox supervision. No cholesterol, either! We ate liver once a week because it was so healthy!
I was reared in a home where you had two mealtime choices: take it or leave it. My classmates' school lunchbox at P.S. 42 contained Spam; mine contained a container of "tant"--orange juice as good as your Aunt Sally used to make--a brisket sandwich, and carrots (they're definitely good for the eyes.) Ever see a rabbit with glasses?
In our low-tech home (pre VCR, "boombox," computer, plasma TV screens, or iPod) we listened to the radio together: "The FBI in Peace and War," "My Friend Irma," "You Bet Your Life," and "Fannie Brice" as Baby Snooks. Rumor has it that my first words included "Vos you dere, Charlie?"
Dad never adhered to the motto, "Tout Bien on Rien"--Everything Wonderful or Nothing At All. I learned at an early age the meaning of the word "compromise." (Compromise is the art of dividing a Sara Lee cake in such a way that everybody believes he got the biggest piece.)
It was dad--not a driving instructor--who taught me to operate our Nash Rambler. He began each lesson by saying, "Midge, drive with care. Life has no spare."
Dad followed the philosophy of "Don't just view it; do it!" We vacationed in the White Mountains (Bethlehem, NH), ice skated at the Brooklyn Ice Palace, and enjoyed the B'way show, "Tomorrow the World," starring Skippy Homeier.
When our first TV arrived, dad hung a 9" x 12" sign which read: WARNING: Overexposure to this TV can be hazardous to your spirit and lead to complications such as borderline boredom, latent loneliness, and chronic cabin fever.
Dad was a "Milk-and-Cookies parent" (coined by David Elkind)--someone who has a "reverence for childhood as a state of life which is just as valuable as any other and which must be preserved," and who therefore have "a relaxed attitude toward their children."
(Ring) "Hello." Hi, dad. Happy Father's Day."
"Hi, Midge. I've been expecting your call."
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of a book titled, Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction? Yiddish Trivia.
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