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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't Play In The Border's Room

Grandmother's today wear designer clothes, spanx, and beautiful shoes. They drive sports cars, have interesting careers, and share clothes with their children, and sometimes grandchildren. The gyms and pilati studios cater to the "mature" woman. Sixty is the new fifty, and we would much rather be forty. It was not always this way. My grandparents were all Russian immigrants. I cannot remember either of my grandmothers wearing or owning pants. We visited  my father's family every other weekend. They lived in the Bronx, a few blocks from my aunt and cousins. My grandmother was a buxom woman, not fat but shapely. She had long hair, and she was stern.

They lived in a large beautiful apartment. The front room had a picture of my father, as a baby naked on a fuzzy carpet. The next room was the kitchen. Like all my relatives, my grandmother, my Bubbe was cooking. Since we came on the weekend there was chicken soup with rice, and boiled chicken. There were other dishes but it is the chicken I remember. Children ate in the kitchen. Sometimes my three New Jersey cousins would visit. It was a treat, I loved to see them, and I still do. Opposite the kitchen was the parlor. There were ornate wooden doors. It was a formal room. You sat on high backed chairs, and drank tea from glasses, Russian style. It was always neat, that is the room adults had conversations. I had to sit alone and listen if my cousins were not around.

My grandparents had a large bedroom. Heavy wood furniture a jewelry box, and a full length mirror. The last room was the most interesting, It was the Border's room. The Border was a single man who rented a bedroom in my grandparents apartment. The door of his room was always closed. When he came in he was formally introduced to the company. He addressed my grandparents as "Mr. and Mrs. He wore a hat, a dark suit and overcoat, and carried a cane. To my child's eye he was Charlie Chaplain, but not funny. He was "The Border".  You did not play in the Borders room!

My cousins and I played a game called hide the bobby pin. You got clues whether you were hot or cold to finding it. You know where we liked to play this game... Don't play in the Borders room... bellowed my grandmother.  The room was very sparse. These were the days before television, and my grandparents had the radio. Don't play in the Borders room...

My grandmother passed away. My grandfather moved to another apartment, and had a lady friend. The neighborhood became dangerous, and gangs took over the blocks. What happened to the Border? Do you think there are children finding bobby pins in tiny nooks in the Borders room in the Bronx?  Don't play in the Borders room.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely memory. Thanks for sharing.

    I have no memories like that. Both grandmothers died (of different causes) when my parents were young. My mother's father lived with us (and was very close to me) and my father's father, who had remarried years before my parents had even met, lived in Brooklyn with his second wife, a very stern lady who had no patience or love of children. She had newspapers on the floor (at least when I came to visit). The Lifebuoy soap felt like sandpaper and smelled like harsh cleaning fluids. The whole house smelled like ammonia. The lady never smiled, although my grandfather did. The only snack I got was water or milk and Tam Tam crackers, and I knew that my grandfather loved me but that my step-grandmother did not. They were so strictly Shama Shabbas Kosher that they NEVER visited our home and never accepted food from us.

    The visits were an emotional mix. When my grandfather died, my father tried to look after his step-mother, but I had nothing to do with her that I can recall and she never seemed to care about the loss of contact.

    I assume that you must have read Mama's Bank Account or seen one of the many versions of I Remember Mama, which was based upon the book. The Border's Room aligns with Kathryn Forbes' experiences just enough to make you smile.