Friday, June 6, 2008

Family Networking

I decided to get some blogging time in this morning as I probably won't get another chance to write until Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. Jessica is bringing the girls with all their stuff for the summer today, I need to prepare Shabbat dinner for this evening, and food for the next few days as we go through the holiday of Shavuot, which begins Sunday evening. My friend, Laura, came over first thing yesterday morning and we wrapped up her publication for the Springfield Township School District early. I spent a few more hours on a different publication and then Saul and I ran out to IKEA to pick up small non-stick frying pans and some other small items to make the blintzes yesterday evening for dinner before our Shavuot study session. We had to rush right back to meet the air-conditioning guy who discovered that there was a leak somewhere in our new system. He is supposed to come at 11 a.m. this morning to actually repair the system. I hope he is reliable, as it is supposed to go up into the 90's this weekend.

When he left, I wrapped up my work on the computer and Saul and I went out to pick up a few more items at Assi market that I could not find at IKEA. One was a good, cheap knife, and the other a pastry brush for brushing butter on the blintzes. The pastry brush looked a little iffy to me because it was stitched onto the wooden handle, but Saul convinced me it would be better than the usual type I use. He was right. I am going back to buy another one for me as soon as I get the chance. I just hope the bristles aren't pig. The entire package is written in Chinese except for the words, "Made in Japan."

We met Jerry and Betty Weiss at Pumpernick's for a quick sandwich at 4:30 p.m., came home, loaded the car, and went to the synagogue to prepare a large quantity of Israeli salad and over 100 blintzes. I was concerned because I had hoped to make 150 and had lots of filling left over. Jerry just called me as I was writing this to say he figured out that the reason we did not have as many crepes (or bletlach as they are known in Yiddish) as I had calculated was because the frying pans from IKEA were a half inch larger than the ones I usually use. I hadn't thought of that. We were joined by another member, Stan Brooks, who showed up for a meeting that had been cancelled and wound up cutting up onions for the salad. The whole process took about 3 hours and we were home and in bed by 11 p.m.

Now as to the family networking thing, I wrote an email to my first cousin, Jaine, yesterday. Jaine is one of Aunt Ruth's daughters. She is a professor at Macalester College in Minnesota. Her kids are Jacob and Chloe. In the last few days, Aunt Ruth has been forwarding Jaine's emails to us because Jacob, who is evidently a superlative jazz pianist, has won a number of awards, graduated from high school, and is going off to Stanford in the fall. Along with the emails have been photos of the family at Jacob's graduation. Living in Minnesota as they do, they are quite isolated from the rest of the family who are mostly all within driving distance of each other. We usually only get to see them at flight-worthy family occasions and those are few and far between, so we have never heard Jacob's music and haven't seen him in several years.

When I looked at his photo two days ago, I could not get over his resemblance to Uncle Jack, my mother's brother, who died nine years ago. As a matter of fact, Jack's name was really Jacob also. I wrote to Jaine to tell her the following story:

"When I looked at your beautiful graduation photos, I was struck by the incredible resemblance of Jacob to Uncle Jack. Almost thirty years ago, we made a surprise party for Uncle Jack's fiftieth birthday. We found an old photo of him graduating from Cooke Junior High School in Logan. Because Saul taught there, and had a connection with a photographer who was doing the school's yearbook, he took the photo in to have it enlarged for the party. The photographer took a look at it and told Saul that he still had the negative as the original photo had been his work. That is the photo I thought about when I looked at Jacob's photo yesterday. I don't know where to put my hands on that photo today as the party took place thirty years ago, but I would like to try to track it down if I get a chance."

Jaine immediately wrote back a warm and welcoming note expressing excitement over the opportunity to connect with the family in this way and hoping that someone will be able to turn up that enlargement, or at least the original. Uncle Jack's red hair had faded to a reddish shade of brown by the time he was in his twenties and I came to know him as a child. As I was speaking to Aunt Ruth about the resemblance (she also did not remember him as a redhead), I recalled a distinct memory from my past. We lived as an extended family in our row house in Logan--our grandparents, their five children (until they each married and moved out), my parents, and their three children. Aunt Ruth was the baby of the five with Uncle Jack a year older. The two of them had attended the same elementary and junior high schools the three of us attended. My sixth grade teacher at David Bell Birney Elementary School was Miss McVicker. I remember going to her at the beginning of the school year and telling her that she had also been my uncle's sixth grade teacher. When I told her his name, she said she remembered him well, a red-haired boy. I was sure at the time that she was mistaking him for someone else, but when I returned home and reported to Uncle Jack what she had said, he laughed and said that, indeed, he had been a red-haired boy.

So those of you in the family who knew Uncle Jack, what do you think of the resemblance? When I get some time in the future, I will go through my mother's old photos and see what I can turn up. In the meantime, I am just delighted to have this forum to keep the family connected.

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