Thursday, August 2, 2012

You Say Poland. I Say Russia. Let's Call The Whole Thing Off

The brothers stand in the middle of the roof and  argue amongst themselves.  "Poland," one exclaims.  "Russia," one insists.  "Poland and Russia," a third one proclaims. "One or the other," states a fourth.  "I'm the eldest.  If I say it's Russia, then it's Russia!" The fiddler shakes his head and fiddles.  Uncle Toby views them all with disdain.  "Foreigners," he  thinks to himself, forgetting that he himself is the foreigner.   Toby wonders if  the brothers no longer lived there, did the house still belong to them?  Did they sell the house first or did they just abandon it, as, one by one they headed to America?   Uncle Toby smiles smugly.  Since they were long gone ghosts,  maybe he could claim ownership.  The fiddler, as if reading his mind,  fiddles furiously as if disabusing him of all schemes. Deep down he  knows the fiddler is right, but he doesn't want the fiddler to know that.

The fiddler motions me over.  With his bow, he gestures towards Uncle Toby.  "Yes, I know, fiddler.  Don't worry.  He will not make away with the house while I'm around."  The fiddler plays a few bars of Rue Britannia.

"Actually, fiddler, I believe Uncle Toby  is Irish, so I doubt he wants to acquire empire in the name of the queen."   The fiddler places fiddle and bow over one shoulder and mimics a soldier's drill exercise...

 I nod. "Yeah, I know.  Once a soldier always a soldier.  But I don't think Uncle Toby is the least bit mercenary.  I think he wants to help me solve my mysteries.  I invited him up on the roof to begin with,

 The fiddler plays an old love song about regrets.  In response I belt out "Regrets, I've had a few..."  The fiddler covers his ears.

 I relent. "I appreciate you looking out for me, fiddler, but I think Uncle Toby could be an asset to me."  He looks at me quizzically. "On finding out the facts about my family."

Fiddler looks skeptical

"Because he's not not family, he can be objective," I explain.

The fiddler shrugs and walks away.  What a dear man.  Too much of a romantic for his own good, I muse.  Will Uncle Toby be of help?  Maybe his map reading skills will  give me a way to navigate my family history. I shrug. At the very least I will learn some history and some geography.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Pushcart on the Roof

The old man rolls his pushcart on the roof.

I am aghast.  "Grandpa.  Really?  A pushcart on the roof?"

The old man ignores me..  "Banana!  Banana!  Banana!"

I wonder if that is the vestiges of an long dead and buried knock knock joke, when I realize he really is selling bananas.

"Grandpa," I explain patiently.   "There's only four of us up here.  How many bananas can we eat?"

He shrugs and goes up to Uncle Toby.  "OK.  No bananas.  Could I interest you maybe in a fedora?"

Uncle Toby, ever the proper military man, brushes him off.

"Apologies, Grandpa..  You have to forgive Uncle Toby.  He's an Englishman in a strange country." Maybe
even two strange countries, I think to myself.  "Got anything in a military dress hat?"

Grandpa folds a piece of paper into a sailor's hat, and offers it to Uncle Toby who shreds it to ribbons and scatters the remnants over the side of the roof.

"Uncle Toby," I stammer angrily..  "That is littering!  Good thing there is not a police man near by to write a

Insulted, Grandpa shambles away cart and all to another part of the roof.  The fiddler plays something mournful.  I sigh and call after Grandpa, "Please come back.  It's been many years, and I have so many questions."

"I will, Debele, when, this man apologizes," Grandpa says as he points an accusatory and gnarled finger at Uncle Toby,

I look over at Uncle Toby.  He looks recalcitrant.  I can tell this rooftop diplomacy is going to take a while.

Thankfully the fiddler is good for something other than klezmer music.  He knows military marches as well.
Given he is but one violinist, his rendition of Stars and Stripes Forever was particularly stirring.  Uncle Toby
is favorably impressed.

A short while later Grandpa is telling Uncle Toby about his millinery victories.  Uncle Toby listens with
rapt attention while occasionally consulting his maps which seem to change terrain to suit the story..  They
toast their armistice with the contents from a brandy bottle.

Grandpa snores softly.  I pull a light blanket over him to keep off the chill air.  The questions can wait until