Saturday, November 28, 2009
On the left is my great-grandfather Benjamin. I realized, when I set out to write a little bit of history, that I know next to nothing about him. The bare facts, only: he was my mother's paternal grandfather, born and raised in Russia, came to America by way of Ellis Island and set up a tailor's shop in Brooklyn. He spoke at least three languages fluently (Yiddish, Russian, and English). He must have had an accent. He was married to Manya, he had four children: my grandpa Max, my Great-Uncle Harold, and my great-aunts Libby and Tilly. He died early and tragically, before my mother was born, of his injuries a few days after he was hit by a car on Eastern Parkway.
My mother said he was known for being "austere, but likable."
I suppose I also know that as a young man, he was interested in grooming. Just look at those twirled mustaches, that oiled and rolled hair! He enjoyed a glance in the mirror... or two.
And I'll bet my life on some other things too: that he had a sense of humor (for his sons, both of them, were wickedly funny). That he had a sense of adventure (but then, didn't they all, who came over the long rough waters to Ellis Island). That he had a pervasive sense of gloom (for who in my family does not).
But as for the little details, they're lost to me: What was his favorite dinner? the colors he preferred in a suit? the song he hummed as he ran his sewing machine? the way he smelled and talked and moved his hands as he told a story?
for more tales of the ancestors, visit Poetikat, Alan Burnett, and Betsy (among others) on Sepia Saturday. And if you have an old sepia photo of your own, why not share it?