THE MUSEUM OF FAMILY HISTORY presents

 

Jews in Small Towns:
Legends and Legacies

Maryland


 

PERRY PESKIN--CUMBERLAND, MARYLAND
 

My brother and I are the only members of my immediate family to be born and, at least partly, raised in a small town. My father, Lawrence H. Peskin, spent part of his youth in small towns, but both he and my mother, Frieda Komito Peskin, were born in Cleveland, Ohio, although they never knew each other when growing up. My father's family moved away from Cleveland and lived in various towns in Wisconsin, including Delavan, Janesville, and Fort Atkinson, where his father, Philip Peskin (originally Pesky) operated clothing stores.

Philip Peskin, who died before I was born, is the mystery man of my family. I never knew who his brothers and sisters were. Apparently there was a falling out between him and his family, for my father never mentioned any of the relatives on the Peskin side except one, Eddie Peskay of Hollywood, a brother of Philip, who was associated in some way with Paramount Pictures. Philip was from Dobrzyn (pronounced Dub-jin), north of Warsaw, in Russian Poland. How and why he came to America is not clear. Perhaps he needed to escape the Czar's draft, because there are vague stories in my memory of being told that someone swam a river at night. (Dobrzyn was then a frontier town, across the river from Golau, in Germany.) Philip also used to mention to my father that he lived for a while in Posen, Germany, and in Strasbourg, (then Germany, but now France) before coming to America. Some day I hope to make a genealogical search of the Peskin family and find out who my relatives are.

When Philip (born in 1870) came to Cleveland, probably sometime around 1890, he made the acquaintance of the family of Joseph Levy, a landsman from Golau (now Golub in Poland.) Joseph was apparently a widower with four young children and a new wife, Etta, when he arrived in Cleveland in the early 1870s. His fourth child was Carrie, later to be my grandmother, who was born in 1870. Neither Carrie nor her three siblings spoke with an accent later in life, which leads me to believe they came over at a very young age. Carrie's mother, whose name no one seems to know, is not buried in Cleveland next to her husband, Joseph, but the stepmother Etta is. I can only assume that my real great-grand mother's grave is somewhere in Poland and that perhaps she died in childbirth. Since Jewish families of that period practiced levirate marriage, it is not surpris­ing that Etta was a younger sister of Carrie's real mother. One can guess that Joseph desperately needed someone to care for his four young children, and a hasty second marriage was arranged.

Later Etta had many children of her own, eight of whom survived into adulthood. It is interesting to note that of the twelve Levy children that I know of, only five married within the faith, including one sister who converted her spouse. The family was very poor and not very close-knit, with perhaps twenty years between the oldest and youngest child. Since Joseph Levy was from Prussian Poland, everybody remembered that he spoke a beautiful German, but no one can remember if he was ever affiliated with a synagogue. Since so many of his children married Gentiles, he apparently lived the life of an assimilated Jew. All that is known about his working career is that most of it was spent at the men's clothing factory of Joseph and Feiss, an ancient German-Jewish company still in operation on the West Side of Cleveland. The fact that Joseph and Etta are buried in Mayfield Cemetery in Cleveland Heights is apparently due to the affiliation of their daughter Fannie Bentz, the one who converted her husband to Fairmount Temple, one of the two Reform temples in Cleveland that founded Mayfield Cemetery.

Nothing is known of the courtship and marriage of Phillip Peskin and Carrie Levy, apparently in the early 1890s, but two sons were born: Morton in 1893 and Lawrence, my father, in 1894. After opening and closing stores in Wisconsin, Phillip finally brought his family to Chicago, where my father attended high school in the Humboldt Boulevard neighborhood but dropped out to go to work and get a business education at Lane Night School. During World War I he worked for the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., and afterwards, for a sugar company.

The older brother, Morton, served overseas in World War I and in the 1920s opened several shoe stores in Western Maryland and Pennsylvania. Here he met and married Martha Luddede, a young woman of Russian-Jewish ancestry from Altoona, Pennsylvania. He finally settled in Cumberland, Maryland, in the Allegheny Mountains, a railroad and industrial center of about 40,000 and, at that time, the second largest city in Maryland. Later my two cousins were born: Phyllis in 1924 and Morton, Jr., in 1928. Morton, Jr., still lives in Cumberland and manages his father's business, still called Peskin's Shoe Store, perhaps one of the oldest family-run stores in Cumberland. Although he has married out of the faith, his two daughters have been raised Jewish. Phyllis married a Jewish businessman from Baltimore, Maryland, where she still resides.

In 1920, my grandmother, Carrie, became a widow while she and Philip were visiting Morton in Cumberland. Philip died of a heart attack. It was decided that Carrie should leave Chicago and live with her son and daughter-in-law in Cumberland. Later, business became so good in Western Maryland that my uncle sold his other stores in Pennsylvania, opened a high-price shoe store in Cumberland, and invited my father, still a bachelor, to move down to Cumberland and open a medium-price shoe store. My father would also share an apartment there with his mother.

In 1927, Lawrence, after meeting Frieda Komito in Cleveland and courting her by mail for a year, proposed to her, and they were married. The new bride came from a Polish-Jewish family originating in the province of Galicia (then part of Austria-Hungary), north of Krakow in the town of Miele (Mel-itz). Her father, Nathan Komito, had risen from junkman to scrap-metal dealer to foundry owner, and at one time was considered one of the wealthiest Jewish businessmen in Cleveland. Although he was strictly Orthodox, his children were confirmed at the Temple, a large Reform congregation, and spent their summers at the family owned farm, the site of which is now part of the affluent, mostly Jewish, suburb of Beachwood. (In fact, the Temple Branch, where I now belong, sits on land that was probably once owned by my grandfather.) Nathan Komito's two sons both attended college, and his younger son Samuel became an attorney. He was the first college graduate and professional man in our family.

However, due to poor investments Nathan lost his fortune. His foundry later became the nucleus of a well-known Cleveland firm, Chase Brass and Copper Company, but he himself was reduced to poverty. My mother, his youngest daughter and unmarried, bobbed her hair and became a working girl. For eight years she was a sales clerk in a dress shop and a receptionist in a doctor's office, until she met my father through mutual friends.

After the marriage in 1927, she moved to Cumberland into the apartment where my grandmother had formerly held sway and began to adapt to small-town life and a completely new set of in-laws and friends. It was a very stressful first year for the new bride. She was tempted to give it all up and return to her parents' home, but shortly discovered that she was pregnant. I was born in 1928 and, as a new baby, served to bring the generations together: my staunchly Victorian grandmother and my proudly independent mother from the "flapper" generation of the 1920s.

My mother never became a full-time parent, even after my brother Allan's birth in 1933. During the day, she would work in my father's store, waiting on customers. After all, she had become used to meeting the public ever since high school. In mid-afternoon she would come home and have supper ready when my father and grandmother would arrive. My grandmother was the cashier in my father's shoe store called "The Family Store." It was a family business in many ways. The only volunteer work that my mother had time for was Temple Sisterhood and PTA.

To take care of us two boys during the day, my mother hired a local woman as housemaid and cook. These women (and I can only remember two in the fourteen years I lived in Cumberland) were dependable, hard working, and well educated, and would stay on and on. Of course, jobs were hard to get because it was the Depression, but my family treated them very well. My favorite was Ollie, who was with us for at least eight years. The day we left Cumberland, my final picture of our neighborhood is that of Ollie saying goodbye and taking our little fox terrier, Dukie, in her arms. (We couldn't take the dog with us when we moved to Cleveland.) I can still see the figure of Ollie getting smaller and smaller as she walked away down the long hill of Fayette Street with Dukie's white and brown head peeking over her shoulder. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life.

Although Cumberland was hard hit by the Depression of the 1930s while I was growing up, I was hardly aware of it. I would see the blue NRA eagle pasted on our front door and dozens of WPA workers on the roads outside town, but our personal life was quite comfortable. My dad's business prospered and, even after a disastrous flood in 1936, the new store he opened was even larger. We could afford to take little trips to Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington, the closest large cities to Cumberland, and even spent a week at the World's Fair in New York City in 1939.

Our family never lived ostentatiously. My brother and I got small weekly allowances (perhaps five or ten cents) but never big, flashy gifts like those that some of the wealthier kids got. For instance, we had roller skates but never a bicycle; wooden sleds but never a Flexible Flyer. Since I was very introverted, my most treasured possessions were books and a stamp collection.

Likewise, we lived in a row house in a comfortable, but strictly middle­class, neighborhood on the west side of town. Although four out of the twelve tenants of the row house were Jewish, it seemed like stretching things to call our block a Jewish neighborhood, even after the rabbi and another Jewish family moved in across the street. It would have been perhaps the beginning of a Jewish neighborhood if Cumberland had hundreds of Jewish families, but since there were only fifty families, many without children and scattered all over town, it never seemed like an unusual concentration to me. I imagine most of the Jewish families who moved to our neighborhood came because the housing was newer. I did notice, however, that when we moved out, a photographer and his family from our congregation moved in.

I was never to see what a real Jewish neighborhood was like until we moved to Cleveland Heights in 1943. There the population was at least half Jewish and was served by all kinds of Jewish businesses, youth centers, and social agencies of all kinds, none of which could be found in Cumberland.

Cumberland had two synagogues: the mid-nineteenth-century Reform temple, B'Er Chayim, founded by German Jews, and the much more recent and smaller Orthodox shul, Beth Jacob. B'Er Chayim was built like a Greek Temple, but constructed of brick and located on one of the main cross streets of downtown, most likely its original location. Beth Jacob was a converted business building or residence located in a rundown commer­cial neighborhood quite a distance from downtown. Except for its sign, it appeared very inconspicuous, much like a store-front synagogue in Cleveland Heights.

Some families belonged to both congregations. I remember a boy in my confirmation class at B'Er Chayim who invited all his friends to his Bar Mitzvah at Beth Jacob. It was the first time I had ever been in an Orthodox shul. Some members, including the rabbi and his two sons, I had never met before, and I thought surely I knew all the Jewish families in Cumberland, at least by name. To my smug, small-town, Reform-dominated mind, the whole service seemed very foreign.

B 'Er Chayim was dominated by descendants of old German families, such as the Hirsches, who owned a tannery, and the Rosenbaums, who owned a department store. The Schwartzenbachs, who owned a large men's clothing store, were not Jewish, but supposedly had German-Jewish ancestors. Outside of these few wealthy families, the membership was Eastern European in origin, families and individuals who had arrived in the 1910s and 1920s. This group consisted mainly of businessmen (clothing merchants, blue-collar workers in the large textile and tire factories located outside town).

I knew of only one man who worked outdoors--Benny Weingold, the junk dealer. He was also one of the few members of our congregation who spoke with a pronounced Yiddish accent, although we had a number of refugees from Hitler speaking in a German accent, including a teenage girl who was living with foster parents.

Most of the Jews in Cumberland whom I knew were American born (although I'm sure there were a lot of stay-at-home grandparents that were foreign born, just like my Victorian grandmother); if the native-born Jews were not from Cumberland itself, they were from Pennsylvania, Eastern Maryland (Baltimore, in particular), or small towns in the Midwest or Northeast. (I remember one man my father said was from Olean, New York.) There were a few people from the Deep South, but these were women (mostly Gentiles) who had married members of our congregation before coming here.

My impression was that the origin of the Jewish population in Cumberland pretty much mirrored that of the total population. At that time, Allegheny County, of which Cumberland is the county seat, had one of the highest percentages of native-born people in the whole country. From personal experience at school, I knew that Greek, Italian, or Slavic surnames were extremely rare, and the few Catholic children I knew were mostly of German or Irish origin.

In our temple, New York accents were as rare as Southern drawls. The striking exception was that of the rabbi, Aaron Lefkowitz, and his wife Hadassah. They arrived in or around 1935 and were still there when I left in 1943. They were young, vigorous, intense people, always busy in congregation and community affairs. The rebbitzin sang and played the piano for the children's service after Sunday School classes down in the vestry room of our temple. The rabbi was concerned with the rise of Hitler, anti-Semitism in America, Zionism, the persecution of Jews in Germany, and the first evidence of the Holocaust. He gave fiery sermons on Friday nights and holidays and always seemed very intellectual and well informed. I imagine he had a difficult time waking our sleepy, well-to-do congregation to the urgent events prior to Pearl Harbor.

Like most middle-class children in those days, my brother and I were more concerned with social events than with social problems. We lived in a highly restricted southern community with the few blacks confined to one or two streets on the north side of town and working as laborers or housemaids. I can't remember whether they were made to do so and there were no "whites only" signs on restroom doors or drinking fountains. Even so, I now believe that Cumberland was a very segregated town.

As for poverty among whites, we always saw a few shabbily dressed kids at school, but the label "West Virginia" always served to explain them. It didn't occur to us that because of the Depression and the presence of a permanently poor class, Cumberland had its own "hillbillies" to care for.

Anti-Semitism was an equally subtle thing. No one ever said that Jews couldn't join the local country clubs. They just didn't, and they weren't numerous or wealthy enough to support one of their own. In a small way, my father and Uncle Morton broke the religion barrier when they were inducted into the local Shriners chapter of the Masons. Dad also played saxophone in the Shrine band and attended Shriner conventions. My grandmother and Aunt Martha also belonged to the Eastern Star, the ladies' auxiliary of the Shrine, but they were both so Americanized that perhaps few of the other women knew they were Jewish. In fact, many people in town thought my grandmother was Irish! Belonging to the Masons also entitled the two Peskin families to membership in the Shrine Country Club. I remember once a year we dutifully went to a big picnic affair there, where the main feature was a skeet-shooting contest, involving clay pigeons. I don't remember ever meeting anyone I knew from school at these picnics.

Much more important in our lives was the yearly round of activities of B 'Er Chayim. This is not surprising because in a small-town congregation, gossip and social pressure playa big role in keeping the members from straying. My mother used to tell me how on the few Friday evenings when she and my dad stayed home from services or went to an early movie, invariably the next day someone from the congregation (probably Mrs. Edna Rosenbaum) would drop by the store and say, "We didn't see you at services last night. Were you sick?"

On the big event of the Jewish year, the High Holy days, all the Jewish businessmen closed their stores, and we kids stayed home from school. Grandma Peskin always made a point to attend services all day long on Yom Kippur and fasted. The rest of us never went that far. I always felt strange dressing up for services in the middle of the week and dreaded meeting any of my classmates downtown on the days we had to stay out of school. From about the age of six, I began to realize (and secretly resent) the fact that I was different. From then on, whenever I met Rabbi Lefkowitz in public, I never addressed him by his title.

The congregational year for me then continued with religious school classes every Sunday morning from Succoth to Shevuoth. For some reason I can't remember any of my teachers, although I think classes were held in small, somewhat dismal rooms in our ancient temple, and children's services were conducted in the vestry. Each pupil always gave a nickel to charity every Saturday, and I was very proud to be elected treasurer and to count the money after services and deposit it in a bank.

There was also a formal children's service in the main temple held at least once a month instead of the usual services on Saturday morning. Ordinarily these were very poorly attended except by old-timers like Mrs. Edna Rosenbaum and Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Hirsch. After all, Saturday was a working day for most of the congregation. However, the children's services were conducted by members of the confirmation and pre-confirmation classes, and the rabbi made a big thing out of them. I very often had a part and even read from the Torah on occasion. At a children's service, all the members who had children in the service would attend with other family members and friends, and attendance soared. Mrs. Rosenbaum, who sang the responses and hymns very loudly, would be in good voice on those days.

Our congregation never believed in Bar Mitzvahs; back in those days that was for the Orthodox. (No one mentioned the Conservative movement at all.) However, we did have confirmations at Shevuoth, on the years when there were enough pupils to form a confirmation class. I was always impressed with the ceremony for, in my eyes, these ninth and tenth graders seemed impossibly mature. They conducted their services in so orderly a manner, read Hebrew so smoothly, and gave their speeches in English so convincingly that I, for one, could believe that they were now young men and women. (To some extent they were, because older pupils were fre­quently held back until the majority of the class was of confirmation age.)

Since I left town one year before I was to be confirmed, I never found out how well my class did. There were all of nine in that class but, in contrast, the congregation I attended in Cleveland was so large that my new confirmation class had about seventy-five members. I, who probably would have had a big part in the Cumberland confirmation service, had no part at all in Cleveland, since I had arrived so recently and parts were based on seniority. However, having become very self-conscious about speaking in public, I was actually delighted with this turn of events, even though my parents were somewhat disappointed.

The event in the Jewish calendar that gives me the fondest memories of Cumberland is Passover. B 'Er Chayim strongly believed in organizing the whole congregation into a community seder, always in the vestry room. The sisterhood cooked and served the supper. (My mother, who was always on this committee, saw to it that her brood was served first.) The rabbi and many of the pillars of the congregation read from the Hagaddah. Everyone sang the traditional songs, which we kids had practiced for weeks ahead of time in religious school, while the rebbitzin Hadassah Lefkowitz played the piano. The top Hebrew pupils got their chance to shine in re­citing the Four Questions. "Who knows one?" was always comical with the rabbi choosing some of the "characters" in the congregation to answer.

In my sixty-two years, I can't recall any Jewish holiday celebration that gave me more of a sense of family and community. At that time I lived in an "extended family" of three generations. That is a rarity now. Moreover, at our seder table in the vestry room, or nearby, sat Uncle Morton's family. Most of the people at the adjoining tables were familiar to me and my parents. No combination of family, community, and synagogue like this ever again coincided in my lifetime.

When we moved to Cleveland in 1943, my grandmother was dead and we were reduced to a "nuclear family." (Lately this has become very rare, too.) Our many Cleveland cousins and second cousins belonged to different congregations or to none at all. The first year here, we decided to attend a community seder held at our new temple, which at that time had a 2,OOO-family membership. The four of us sat at a table with strangers. The Temple choir, mostly Gentiles then, sang the Passover song. The rabbi needed a microphone. It was a very cold, un- "haimish" ceremony and, from then on, we preferred Passover at home with just our immediate fam­ily. I realized then that, although my family was still linked to the temple, I had lost a feeling of community.

This feeling of being an outsider lasted many years, until recently. Our huge temple, one of the largest congregations in Ohio, has lost so many members through death, retirement, moving to another part of the country, and a very low birthrate, that during the weekly services, which here are on Sunday morning, only less than a hundred people usually attend. I realized recently that I know practically everyone sitting there ei­ther by name or appearance. Although I don't feel particularly attached to many of them who are much wealthier or older than I, there is a sort of bond through familiarity, if nothing else. I always wanted to belong to a small congregation, and in effect, this is what the Temple has become.

In Cumberland, the feeling of community carried on, not only from holiday to holiday, but also socially in a regularly scheduled series of family picnics. I remember vividly in the late summer our Temple members would gather for a corn roast at Schmouse's Farm on the side of Martin's Mountain about twenty miles east of town. Corn roasters over hot coals, fresh watermelon and cantaloupe, fried chicken and marshmallows roasting on long sticks later in the evening--this was country living at its best. All the families belonging to the temple were there, along with grandparents and kids.

The midsummer picnic involving swimming and softball was held in a park near a reservoir across the Pennsylvania border. I never realized my father could hit a baseball so powerfully as on these picnics. Although he lived a fairly sedentary life (as I do now), he must have been quite athletic in his youth.

Growing up Jewish in Cumberland, as everywhere, was a mixed blessing. Living in such a heavily Protestant milieu made one aware of being part of a tightly knit, but very small, minority. We weren't the only minority, of course. Dunkards and Mennonites from outlying rural areas occasionally came to Cumberland, dressed in their odd attire. Cumberland's Catholics led a more segregated life than we did, because they sent their children to parochial schools. I was aware of a vague anti-Catholicism in Cumberland. There was a Catholic seminary in town, and the occasional sight of black-hatted, black suited, and occasionally black-bearded seminarians gave me somewhat of a frightened feeling. The Catholic kids, who usually stayed in their own gangs, had the reputation, deservedly so, of being tough and menacing. I'll never forget when someone told me that a girl whom I'd gone all the way through elementary school with was a Catholic. This news came as somewhat of a shock.

When I went out to play, I usually associated with Jewish or Protestant boys in the neighborhood, often the same ones I went to school with. The year before I left Cumberland, I became very friendly with a Protestant boy in my ninth-grade class and attended weekly Boy Scout meetings with him and, his all-Gentile troop. Since I never reached the formal induction stage, I don't know if the Christian atmosphere would have made any difference or not. In Cleveland at the time, the Boy Scout troops were segregated by religion, but by the time I had made new friends here, I had lost interest in the movement.

Although the Jewish kids of Cumberland often heard of the sinister rites of the Ku Klux Klan, I don't recall that this group was active in Cumberland, nor that any overt or community supported acts of prejudice were practiced against any group. However, there were acts by private individuals that puzzled me at the time, but that I can now see were motivated by anti-Semitism.

Two people in elementary school stand out. At recess, I befriended a new boy in the third grade who seemed rather unathletic and shy and wore glasses, very much like myself. Both of us also took piano lessons from the same teacher. We got along well until one recess he greeted me with, "When's Jew's day?" At first I thought he said Tuesday, but he repeated the words and made it very clear that he wanted to hurt my feelings, and that this dumb pun was as close as he could get to a cutting remark. I walked away, more puzzled than hurt, and played with someone else from then on. I considered the new boy more stupid than malicious, and as his later academic performance in class revealed, I was right.

Every Christmastime in a small-town grade school, the "December dilemma" comes up with a vengeance. All through grades one through five, the Jewish kids (numbering about six out of a total enrollment of about 150) were automatically involved in the Christmas play, usually being put in the chorus. Without fanfare, notes for parental permission were given to us to take home and were always returned signed.

However, in 1939, in the sixth grade, Miss Fuller presided. She was also principal and a tyrant. Before the Christmas play rehearsals began, instead of handing out permission slips to the three Jewish kids in our class, she made us stand up in class and lectured to us on the meaning of these notes. Possibly some parents had complained to her the year before, or else she always acted this way. Anyway, I felt that she was trying to make us look like a special case--people who don't believe in Christmas. I still remember how uncomfortable she made me feel, with all the other kids' eyes focused on us three "reprobates."

Looking back at other incidents, I can see that very often Miss Fuller's wrath fastened itself on me for insignificant reasons. As mousy as I was, somehow I provoked her, and I found out why in civics class. We were discussing citizenship when she suddenly asked me if I were a citizen. Suspecting a trick question, I hemmed and hawed before I finally said, "I think so."

This answer made her angry. She said, "You may be Jewish, but you're still a citizen." I was stunned by this outburst. Again she had made me feel as conspicuous as if she had just pinned a yellow star on me. Also she was casting suspicions on my patriotism. As with everything else involving Miss Fuller, including a paddling later that year, I never mentioned my troubles to my parents. They might have reported her to the superintendent, had they known, but, introverted as ever, I always considered these incidents somehow my own fault, and not part of the anti-Semitic climate in the world of 1939.

That year I said nothing, but four years later, when I revisited Cumberland, now a big-city boy of fifteen, my cousin told me Miss Fuller was retiring and all her former pupils were contributing to buy her a retirement gift. I contributed nothing.

I often wonder what would have happened to me had my family stayed on in Cumberland. I probably would have begun working in my father's shoe store afternoons and weekends and saving up for college. After high school, I would have gone to a state college, perhaps the University of Maryland or to Western Maryland State University in nearby Frostburg, which was then mainly a teachers' college. I probably would have wanted to go into teaching, as I did in Cleveland, and my father probably would have wanted me to go into business to help him in the store.

A conflict would have also developed in my dating habits. There were very few Jewish girls my age in Cumberland, and I would have had to go out of town to find one. Perhaps I would have married out of the faith, as my cousin did.

More than likely, I would have gotten a job out of town and moved away. Most of my Jewish friends in Cumberland have done so. It seems to be the trend, especially in small towns that have lost industry and population.

My life in Cumberland came to an end one night in June 1943 shortly after the school year ended. My father's business had begun to go downhill after a destructive fire in 1940, which was not entirely covered by insurance. My father also suffered his first angina attack, his mother died of a coronary, and my mother had a hysterectomy. It was a disastrous year. He moved the business to a smaller store down the street and then had difficulties with his new landlord, unfortunately a man from our own congregation. World War II began, and shoe rationing followed soon after. My father was forced out of business. Had he held out until the war ended, he would have prospered, but perhaps he might have died from overtaxing his already weak heart. By moving to Cleveland and finding a job with the government, he unwittingly gave himself ten more years of life, dying at fifty-eight instead of forty-eight.

While Dad was in Cleveland looking for a job and hoping to get employment from our many relatives there, Mom sold the house and most of the furniture bit by bit. The car had already been sold, so we took a taxi to the B & O station and waited for the midnight train to take us to Cleveland. No one came to see us off, neither our relatives nor our friends nor any members of the congregation. Mom wanted it that way--just a quiet exit. I can still see us sitting in the bleak, deserted depot, my mother, my ten-year-old brother, and myself, still in kneepants but now the man at the age of fourteen, waiting, wondering, hoping. We were crossing one of those painful watersheds of life where we grieved for the world we had just given up and were too numb to think about the world beyond.
 


 

 

 

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