I remember Bubbe Fanny with fondness and love, humor and joy. Grandma Fanny enjoyed people, enjoyed her family, and I remember visiting her during the summer and winter, and having fun with her.
She would always take me to New York City, we would ride the train from her apartment in Brooklyn. We would always go to the Horn and Hardart Automat. I loved being able to view the food and choose what I wanted. Sandwiches were piled high, cakes and pies gleamed and beckoned me. I could choose a hot meal a la carte, or choose a steaming soup. My bubbe would let me put the coins in, turn the knob, and out would come my choice. I felt very grown-up and important.
I loved the food she cooked, the delicious briskets with the edges crispier. I would peel a piece off, and she would tell me not to do that, but the twinkle of joy in her eyes stated a different story. I loved the yummy potato latkes she cooked, and the wonderful desserts she baked. I was always looking inside her refrigerator, for some deli food and/or herring in sour cream sauce or gefilte fish, to eat. I am sure I ate her out of house and home when I was there. She never prohibited me from eating what I wanted, or showed any dismay regarding my choices.
You would think that I was deprived by my parents, but I was not. I just relished what was in her refrigerator, and also inside her cupboards. Yes, some of the same items were in the refrigerator, and cupboards, at home, but it felt different to be able to browse through hers. I imagine it was because I was treated special, being the grandchild.
I remember us packing sandwiches, drinks, snacks, sun lotion, towels, an extra change of clothes, etc., and traveling on the EL to go to Brighton Beach with her, during the summer, and we would always get in the first car, and I would go up to the front window, and watch the journey. I loved looking out of the first car window, as the train moved along the tracks, clacking sounds, and the motion, made it delightful. We would get off the train, and there were stalls of vendors everywhere, and you could feel excitement in the air, along with the wonderful scent of the ocean and foods from the vendor stalls. Chatter surrounded us in varied languages from English to Yiddish, Italian to Russian, and other European dialects. Hand gestures followed the people conversing. It seemed to me, then, that all ethnicities spoke with their hands or other body movements. The cultural diversity was fascinating to me, and was wonderful to be in the midst of.
Bubbe loved the beach, and would often meet her girlfriends there (who also brought their grandchildren along), and chatter the afternoon away. Brighton Beach was always crowded, no matter the season, but especially in the summer. You could listen to conversations, and people-watch all the ladies sitting on their broad-striped beach chairs, in their bathing suits and their bright head scarves or bandanas wrapped around their heads, underneath colorful umbrellas hovering above them. You could hear them laughing and speaking Yiddish, and enjoying the afternoon together. They would have huge bags of homemade egg salad or tuna fish sandwiches for their grandchildren, cookies and bottles of soda-pop. I could always talk bubbe into buying knishes, or sometimes a Nathan’s hotdog. Those were truly joyous days. Life was filled with innocence and fun moments.
Bubbe returned to England (where she was born), in 1961, one year after my father died. She must have felt quite alone, seeing as my grandfather had died, and then my father died five years later. We were there, were her family, but I know she still felt a loss, a great void. She wanted to start anew. She still had living relatives in England, sisters and brothers. She eventually remarried an American she met while he was on vacation in London. He was a widower. They married and they spent the rest of their lives in Rochester, New York (upstate New York).
I saw them in 1972, when I took a trip from my home in California to New York to visit relatives, with my husband, and my 18-month old son. They were going to stay at a hotel in New York City, rather than have us travel to Rochester.
We reunited at Grand Central Station. She looked the same as I last saw her, and hadn’t aged in appearance. We walked through Grand Central Station. She slipped her arm through mine and we walked around. It felt like old times, with comfortable conversation and the ease of familial bonds. We eventually went back to her hotel room, as her husband was getting tired (he walked with difficulty from a stroke) and we had food brought up to the hotel room.
I am grateful that bubble was able to see her great-grandson. I am grateful that I was able to see her, after so many years. It was a wonderful visit, and one I will never forget. It was the last time I saw her.
Although separated by distance, we continued to write, and have phone conversations. Although she died in 1983, z”l, her essence is a constant, remaining within me.
Happy Birthday, Bubbe.