I was born in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. I’m not sure where Bucks county is located. I assumed the hospital where I was delivered is situated in an actual town or city, but no one in my family had ever mentioned its name. I’ve never bothered to look it up, either. So when people do ask, I just tell them Philadelphia.
I was the first child for my parents. A healthy baby boy. My mother and father had been married for several months before I was born.
My father was the product of a conservative Jewish family. They had a home somewhere on Long Island. I can recall a single memory of the foyer, with two sweeping marble staircases framing the entry. I also have one memory of my grandfather holding my left hand as we slowly walked across the lawn of the front yard. Only an image of his hand, pant legs, and shoes remain in my mind.
While my father’s family was rather well off, my mother’s family was quite the opposite. My parents met at a business where they both worked. It was somewhere in New York, Pennsylvania, or maybe even New Jersey. My father’s family owned the business, which occupied a full city block. He was a manager, and she was an employee… and was not Jewish.
The religious circumstance was a matter of great contention between my father and his family, and when my impending arrival interrupted the ongoing argument, the general mood of the discourse deteriorated rapidly.
Aside from the obligatory wedding, my mother enrolled in a program to facilitate an official conversion to Judaism. Although she successfully completed the process, my father’s family dismissed the gesture, and eventually invited him to withdraw from the business, and the family.
I’ll explain the axe in the photo a bit later.
What I remember…
There were a number of family stories that were repeated over the years. One of the earliest involved the sister introduced above.
Apparently, our home was situated near the top of a hill, and had an additional incline in our driveway. The story goes that my sister was spending some time in her crib, that had been placed outdoors in the driveway.
Apparently, cribs manufactured there in the early 60’s were made available with wheels, yet no reliable mechanism for locking them in place.
Jumping forward a bit, a neighbor apparently called our house to report that my sister, in her crib, was slowly accelerating down the hill past their address.
While there was a positive outcome to the event, somehow it was decided that I would take the blame for removing whatever item had wedged beneath the cribs wheels. I honestly don’t remember the event, of whether there was any form of punishment associated with it.
There were consequences, however, clearly articulated in another of the stories.
The prelude involves a mythology that after being put to bed for the evening, a neighbor phoned to let my parents know that I was currently making my way down the street in my pajamas. This apparently happened more than once.
At some point, my mother resolves the issue by tying me to my bed… checkmate! She then laughingly concludes the tale with, “the next morning he said ‘don’t tie me up again mommy. I promise I’ll stay in bed.’
I remember none of this, either.