This is my Grandpa, and his two sisters, Liba and Tilda. They must have been new immigrants in America when this picture was taken. My grandfather rarely spoke of his early years in Soviet Georgia, and I was left with just a few dark images...foremost among these bits and pieces was the fact, oft repeated and with a stark solemnity, that there were no toys for the children. None.
But none? My young mind couldn't accept a child's life with no toys, and I made for myself a little fiction about the peculiar wooden man and bear, who would take turns clacking at the stump with their axes if you pulled the handles back and forth (and I did this very often when I was little). I imagined it was the lone gimcrack entertainment of Max's childhood, and that he derived great pleasure from its existence in the fashion of one unused to more. After all, even Laura Ingalls, living deep in the dark woods of Wisconsin, had the homely rag doll Charlotte, and paperdolls cut by Ma from butcher paper.
I hoped for so many decades that this had been his toy, when he was a boy in the Old Country, that I came to believe in the saving truth. So it was with sadness, this morning, that I was forced to forfeit this constructed memory. I took the bear and the man off its shelf and showed it to my mother, who told me that it had been among the leavings of the previous owners when she and Max and Eva and Abby moved into their brownstone in the 1950s. My grandpa had not, in fact, had any toys.