As you sit in your suburban homes, by the pools at your country clubs, in your vacation resort villas, try for the sake of the patriarchs and matriarchs of our faith, to remember that we were the poor, we were the huddled masses, we yearned to breathe free, we the tempest tossed.
Remember the tenements of the Lower East Side, the sweat shops, the struggle, remember all of this, remember where we came from, from the sthetl, from the pogrom, from poverty, recall we were the wretched refuse for whom a door was opened.
Remember all of this now, as you so willingly wish to slam the door to those whose only wish is to follow in our now dusty footsteps.
It was brick, red I am told. on a quiet street not far from 16th Street and its traffic. It was small, but a good home for a couple with a child or two in the heart of the District.
I have no recollection of it, save the tile, black and white in the bathroom, the radiator on which I hit my head, and the front stoop, and that only in the picture of me in his arms, my father, the man who adopted me and later a baby girl, then dropped dead one morning of a massive coronary. I have no recollection of him, of the sister taken away, or the house, but I mourn then all.
We spent one morning of our visit to Key West wandering around Hemingway’s home.
The six-toed cats seemed to realize that we were cat people, came over to us, took us aside for a petting and conversation.
He was a tough old goat, they said, or so our ancestors told itm and we cannot begin to understand why you, cat people, so obviously intelligent would pay to see the old typewriter he hated, because the S and D keys always stuck
We scratched them behind the ears, sat by the empty pool, and waited for a literary inspiration we knew was never included in the ticket.
Looking back, it is easy to see now what was difficult then, not looking like complete fools, we all did, but knowing that we looked like fools and would for the foreseeable future, those of us lucky enough to survive and actually have one.
We knew they wanted to break us down, rebuild us in the desired format, always bending to unit cohesion, following orders thoughtlessly, never questioning why we were there, when those who sent us were ensconced in their homes and offices.
Once a year some offer me a free meal, on a day, they say they honor me, and while I appreciate the gesture, I know that, for me, is one more fool’s errand.
We both know that having a pet at our age is wise for they provide a companionship that can be difficult to find. I’ve had both dogs and cats, but the decision this time was reasonably simple, for dogs have an insatiable need to walk their people, weather is no impediment and my arthritis is no longer all that forgiving of damp and cold.
So we settled on a cat, and we have been pleased with our decision – she is joyous, playful and reads our emotional needs, but most importantly, other than not needing to walk us, she has been remarkably adept at training us to live in her new home.
They say you cannot go home again, although I have never had occasion to meet them.
I’ve never been one to follow the dictates of them, unless they were my parents or spouse, and in the case of my parents, often not even when they demanded it, so I went back to the home of my childhood, a shockingly new place as I remembered it, setting the neighbors astir as they saw it go up and out.
It, like I, am older now, but seemed to have borne time far more harshly than I.
I do sometimes have a gait to accommodates arthritic knees, move a bit slower than I imagine, but the house seemed to be looking for its cane knowing it would soon enough require a walker, and I knew that while I could go home I’d be happier if I didn’t.