Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dear Eduardo - 2

Dear Eduardo - 2

Some people would never understand how neat this place is. How does one explain?

It is a building near other buildings on the block. They were all built around 1928. They used a certain kind and color of brick, but they used other colors around the archways of the building doors and the undersides of the windows to contrast. In other words, they cared. The lobby floors are
mosaic. There was once furniture in the lobbies, too.

The Parkway is half a block away. It runs for four miles eastward going to Pelham Bay, and about a mile west until it hits Fordham Road. There are of course trees and birds, but there are also the most wonderful stone table and bench chessboards. There are avenues of benches every other street or so.

You take the Parkway -if you are lucky, you walk it- until you get to the New York Zoological Park and the New York Botanical Conservancy. People still call them the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. Once upon a time the Bronx Zoo used to have two free admission days a week. Now there are "free" admissions for those who are members of the Zoological Park. For that, you pay something like 100 dollars a year.For those who cannot pay that, admission is $26.

There is a an El train 3 blocks away. It screams and lurches, then stops. To newcomers this might be annoying. To those who have lived here a long time, it becomes part of life's and life's welcome regularity of noises.

Not so welcome regularity: the mice. I hate mice.  The one workperson I called in to do something here, like make sure there were no open mouse holes, said that whoever filled in the holes at some point did a great job.

That person was my dad. He found the holes that the super couldn't find.

Well, I guess we should be glad that rats don't come here. About half a mile away, on Bronx Park East past the divide, in the buildings that used to be the Workers' Coops and are listed as a Heritage Site, there are rats. The person who bought the buildings hates workers and won't get rid of the rats. I think there should be a law that the person who buys buildings that are part of a Heritage site must keep them up, which includes making sure that rats are evicted.

The couch my grandparents had in here until about 1978 was sold. We did keep the one they bought afterward, and the two matching chairs. I have re-transplanted them.

You slept on that couch, Eduardo. Do you remember?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Dear Eduardo - 1

Dear Eduardo,

Well, I'm back.

I don't know if you think I "deserve" to be back. But I am.

I am in the place that matters most to me, that always mattered most. I tried not to come back. I lived in ten places between the time I left and now.  But it was no good. They were all no good. It will sound corny, but this is where my heart is, where my heart always was.

I have assembled all that was left of the original furniture, and there is quite a bit yet. And the books. So many people told me so many times that I should sell the books, and of course there are some rare ones. I laughed at them. I didn't let any of them go. Now I am glad, They are going with me back into the apartment where they belong.

When I am here, I am back with my grandparents and my mom, even though they have all passed on. I feel them here, with me.

You were here a lot at one time.

I don't want to summon you or call you yet. Or perhaps ever again. I don't know yet. You were so angry when we talked last.

It has been 12 years, Eduardo. Are you still as angry? Is that what you wish to preserve for whatever time on earth is left to us, now that our mothers are gone?

Remember those dishes with the flowers in the middle and the pink borders? I brought them along, too. And the finer ones, and the glass jars, and the little gold demitasse cups, and the Depression era glass. And that large bar, with the side drawers and the pop-out shelves.

I am so glad that they didn't remove the molding and the arches from the entryways and the foyer. I put my grandfather's desk right where it used to be. And the bookshelves right across from it, just where they used to be.

Some people would no doubt say I am crazy.

If so, crazy feels good. Crazy feels at home again. Crazy is where I should have stayed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Not A Thing You Can Easily Move

My grandma (mother's mother) died on March 3, 1988. My grandpa (mother's father) died on March 5, 1985. I keep on thinking of how they would have reacted to Netanyahu's statement, "America is a thing you can easily move."

Not A Thing You Can Easily Move

Frannie Zellman

To the memories of my grandma and grandpa, Helen Glaser (1900-March 3,1988) and James Glaser (1899-March 5,1985)

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I fought for the rights of workers.
I wrote, I marched, I spoke.
I testified. I planned.
I grew up in the slums of Philadelphia,
Mr. Netanyahu,
not the suburbs, as you did.
Gangs threw my papers
in the street.
America was a road littered
with the hopes of poor kids.

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I fought for women, especially
poor women
to have a voice, to have more ways
to control their lives.
When the landlords tossed poor tenants
into the streets,
we grabbed their furniture
and shouldered it back up each step.
America was a street blocked
by threadbare couches and hard chairs,

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I told the powerful
that they would be called
to account.
At the HUAC hearings in 1956,
I asked the Chair
if he had ever been poor.
He wouldn't answer.
America was a room swathed
in righteous privilege.

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I walked up and down
our stairs and sidewalks
calling on people to vote.
Too many, it seemed to me,
got their way through
dollars, not decisions.
America was a green haze
of comfortable favors.

And so you see, Mr. Netanyahu,
my grandparents both claimed America
after mind-breaking, soul-bruising,
heart-bloody work.
Their acts of strength
and word grew their hopes
and replaced their dreams.
They and their colleagues
built something of stony beauty
harder than flowers
and angrier than sunsets.

We who care love it
only after we cry,
 as they did, silently.

So be warned:
It shall not be moved.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wedding Snapshots: Bronx, 1953

Wedding Snapshots: Bronx, 1953

To my dad and my late mom on what would have been their 62nd wedding anniversary

Young, slightly plump bride,
beautiful in her glow.
Groom is smiling, a bit sheepish;
he's had one too many.

In this one
the bride's cousin, all of 12,
sneaks into the bride's sequestered room
with a cocktail.
"You look as if you need it," she says.

Later, after the wedding march:
Relatives gather.
Champagne talks.
The moms survey their guests.

Grand Concourse on a winter's night.
Snow moon lingers.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Toast with Butter

Toast with Butter        

Frannie Zellman

(To the memory of my grandma, Helen Glaser)

Saturday was a warm shade of yellow
and the plate of porcelain fruit on the wall

and the people in their kitchen
we could see
across the alley.

When you spread butter
on toast,
you would send the knife
in slow, precise strokes
as if you or the knife
were wake-dreaming.
You'd pick the toast up slowly
and chew each bite
with just a little butter
getting on the same spot
above your lip every time.
I'd wipe it each time,
making you laugh
and blink,
your hazel eyes
smiling into my dark unsettled ones
as if butter indeed melted in your mouth:
just a tiny spot
on your chin.

And the people in their kitchen
looked back at us
across the alley
almost but not quite
in a smile.

I think you knew them a little.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Apartment 2D - 2

If a soul can occupy an apartment, my Grandma Helen dwells here now, then, forever.  Her essence and being are in every table, every chair, every lamp, every bedspread, every closet, every cup, every plate, every utensil, every decoration.

Grandpa Jim is with the desks, most of the books, the bookshelves, the radio and the TV. I wonder what he would think of computers and tablets and 3D printing...

The black rotary phone, one of the last of its kind, sits on the far left side of Grandpa's desk, near the wall.

When people ask me why I continue to live in this apartment alone, I tell them, "I'm happiest here." Some of them shake their heads. A few understand. One of these is Eduardo.

A late-blooming dad, Eduardo has two children. His marriage, fundamentally solid, has survived a couple of affairs.

During the time when he wasn't seeing me, I texted him.  "If you decided not to see me after you got married, why are you having an affair?"

I didn't expect him to answer. But he texted back:  "How do you know I'm having an affair?"

I responded:  "Your co-leader of The Bronx Walkers hangs her head when the photo is of both of you."

He answered:  "How perspicacious of you, Emmy."

And that was all. Until we ran into each other ten years later on, of all trains, the Thru 5.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Apartment 2D - 1

I am the last one left now who remembers. No daughters to tell the stories to, to cook with, to laugh with, to argue with.  I never thought about having or even adopting children when I was younger.  The way most parents view them or speak about them, their children seem to fight or have problems or get in the way or don't respond or aren't interested in talking.  But if just one child -I instinctively think of a daughter, although it could be a son, understood...

Sitting now near the window, in my favorite chair, I look out.  First at the fire escape, then at the street.  My favorite pastime during rainy days was and is to stare at the building across the street, at its fearsome gargoyles which seem to spring into sharp relief on cloudy days.