Saturday, October 01, 2016

Pins and Cigarettes and Falling Down the Stairs

My great-grandma with her ma and sisters in 1938.

Over coffee on the upper west side, Ricki told me a long-ago memory about her two aunts. One of these aunts happened to be my great-grandma Minnie (“a piece of work, your great-grandma”). The other aunt was Minnie’s younger sister Sarah.

Minnie and Sarah learned to sew in the old country.  We're from a long line of dressmakers, my mishpocha. And Minnie and Sarah— boy could they sew. Beautiful garments. To die for dresses. 

Ricki was eight years old and she needed a fancy dress.  She told Tante Minnie and Tante Sarah her favorite color was blue so her aunts went out and bought some blue satin and white lace. Minnie and Sarah stood Ricki up on a milk crate and fussed.

“She should have cap sleeves” said Minnie.
“The lace collar should go like this,” said Sarah.
“We’ll put the waist here,” said Minnie.

Minnie’s words ran together, muddled and messy. She had pins clamped on one side of her mouth and a cigarette dangling from the other. Ricki remembers the pins and the cigarettes most of all. The mumbles in Yiddish and a little English here and there. The pins and the cigarettes.

Ricki’s memory reminded me of an incident as told by my grandma, Minnie’s daughter and a piece of work herself. Sometime early last century, my grandma decided she hated her real name and insisted everyone call her “Cindy.”

It didn’t last long, the Cindy phase, but during that time, Cindy got together with her mom and Tante Sarah and they made a dress together. It was a beautiful red sexy dress. Very tight from top to bottom with a little slit, just long enough to show off your high heels.

Sarah put on the dress. Or maybe it was Cindy. She tottered forward taking very very small steps because this dress, the dress was very tight. She teetered her way out of the apartment and into the hall… and fell down the stairs. Oops. Design flaw.

#minnie lulov frimmer 
#sarah lulov oringer

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