“Children, read through this correspondence before you discard it.” The note was taped to a plastic bag filled with letters of condolence from 1954 when my dad passed, a high school yearbook, correspondence between my mom, GG, and her teen-age buddies, and some very pretty Valentine cards with our names on them as the senders that were unmistakably in my father’s handwriting. There was also one rusty button pin with the image of a football and the deteriorating. faded remnants of blue and grey silk ribbons.
The letters, correspondence from her girlfriends, dated back to 1928. She had to leave Harrison Technical High School, located in the South Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, to move with her mother and baby brother to Brooklyn, New York, for two operations for problems associated with scoliosis, adenoids, and severe burns to her face and neck.
The neighborhood was on the west side of Chicago and, at the time my mother lived there, it was eighty-four percent foreign born or native with foreign parentage. As Eastern Europeans moved further west or north, the ethnicity changed; now it is a Hispanic neighborhood, and Harrison Technical High School no longer exists.
The letters were from girls with names like Sadie, Ida, and Gertrude and nicknames like Shrimp, Curly, and Dubby. Last names, Rabinowitz, Celovisky, and Shitof for example, resembled a roster from an Eastern European Jewish refugee camp. Expressions like tee-hee and heh-heh punctuated gossip about parties, boys, and other girls. The letters were affectionate and hopeful about mom’s recovery and return, as well as the writers’ ambitions and dreams.
I vaguely remember some of the letter writers, as they became life-long friends of GG’s, and their names were on the sympathy cards sent to her when my dad died. Mom survived them all, living a robust life for 99.6 years.
My brother passed on the plastic bag of memorabilia to me to peruse before sending it on to my sister. I purchased a nicer tote for the papers, but I held back the football button. I am staying with my niece, my brother’s middle daughter, whose son plays center for his high school team. I cleaned up the pin, painted over the rusting back, and glued on new ribbons in red and black, Sammy’s school colors. I’m not sure my mom was much of a fan, but I know that she would be tickled to be with her one of her granddaughters watching a great-grandson play.