Yesterday afternoon, Shemuli at the tefillin stand asked me to try to convince an American man and his adult son to put on tefillin. He had tried but they refused. It was raining, so I went out with my umbrella, and standing there in the rain, I convinced them to come inside and put on tefillin.
I usually ask them where they are from, mostly as a tool to keep them relaxed as I begin to put the tefillin on.
The father said, "The Bronx."
"Oh yeah, I lived in the Bronx a long time ago."
"When did you live there?" He asked.
"During the War…We moved there in 1941 and stayed until around 1947."
"Oh, that was 10 years before I was born. We lived there when I was born. Where in the Bronx did you live?" he asked.
"1011 Sheridan Avenue"
He jumped back, and jerked his head, and he said, "That's my building!"
"What, did you buy that building?"
"No, I mean that's the exact building my family lived in when I was born!"
What are the odds that two people will meet who lived in the same neighborhood over 70 years ago let only the same apartment building?
Memories: What was it like in the Bronx back in the early '40's? There were horse drawn ice wagons that came to deliver blocks of ice to the families that had ice boxes and not the modern electric refrigerators. Kids would climb up onto the back of the wagon when the delivery man wasn't looking and grab small chips of broken ice to suck on. Popsicles weren't invented yet. Besides, these were free (if the driver didn't yell at you). Early in the morning the milkman would leave glass bottles of milk in front of each apartment door. You could tell how many kids the family had by how many bottles of milk were lined up in front of their door. Bigger kids played stick ball in the street. Stick ball used a tennis ball that had its white fuzz rubbed off leaving its red rubber cover for the ball, and a broom stick (handle) for a bat. Smaller kids played marbles on the sidewalk. Families gathered around their radio in the evenings to listen to all kinds of exciting stories that were the family's main entertainment. There was no television yet. All except the newest cars were entirely black, and their gear shifts were still on the floor. My father took me to the Yankee Stadium for Babe Ruth Day. They gave the "slugger" a new car to show their appreciation.
What else do I remember? Growing up… looking for what I was supposed to do. Something was missing, but I had no idea what. I remember every night lying in bed and talking to G-d, Who was somewhere high above my bedroom ceiling.
Been there, done that, thank G-d I'm here now.