Alberta and Leon. Now, there was a couple, let me tell you. Alberta had a nervous disorder of some sort, which caused her to speak too loud and smoke too many cigarettes. I do not ever remember seeing her without a cigarette in her hand. She would smoke when she cleaned, she smoked when she cooked, and she smoked while she ate. She didn’t have to worry much about matches or lighters in the house since her last cigarette was really just an extension of her first one that morning. Never was she without those things, and to think she even lived a rather long life!

Guess she had been hospitalized a few times in the past, but nobody ever mentioned that. That was one of those dark secrets in the family, especially since most of our older relatives had experienced at least one visit to a sanitarium for one reason or another. Mother now says it was probably all due to sugar imbalance. Everything is due to sugar imbalance according to mother, but not back then.

We had Sabbath dinner at Alberta and Leon’s house once. Alberta didn’t seem so nervous when you put her next to Leon. They were mother’s cousins and lived next door to Mother when she was growing up. Leon had an unusual sense of humor, which most people just never really got. He sold men’s suits downtown and I guess he was a real big shot sales clerk at the company, or so Mother told me. The company has since gone out of business, but Mother made quite a fuss over it back then since it was a reputable shop. Reputable meant that it was good. I didn’t know about disreputable for a few more years.

They had a wiener dog, or at least that’s what everybody called her, named Lady. She really wasn’t much of a lady either. She was long, old, and just about as nervous as the two of them. We couldn’t get very close to her or she would poop on the carpet and then Dad would yell at us. If we did get past the dirty spot, she would bite. Kids do the darndest thing. My brother used to tell me I could pet her and I would try each time. I guess it was a lot like Lucy and Charlie Brown in the Peanuts cartoon with that darned football.

I remember their screened in back porch; it looked over a wonderful garden. They didn’t garden but they hired somebody to tend it. It was really quite pretty.

I remember once when we slept over and Alberta apologized for not changing the evening towels before it was morning. Mother said, “Goodness, Alberta we usually leave the towels for a week. We could not even think of how much it would cost to provide daily towels for everybody!” then Alberta changed the towels, and I thought that was rather weird and an awful lot of fuss over family. When we got home, Mother bought a bunch of new towels. That lasted maybe a week.

Shabbat.

Grandma and Grandpa were there, and Aunt Gardy, too! Big Frieda and Little Frieda, and I think Little Frieda’s husband, though I don’t remember much of him. They ended up divorced and nobody talked about him, so he no longer existed. When people talk about people in the family that no longer existed, things go real quiet, and then they get real loud.

Shabbat.

The meal was beautiful. The prayers were beautiful. The candles were beautiful. The table itself was beautiful. Mother kept talking in a very low voice about how “those people” did things. All the time, I knew that “those people” were our family and that she had done those things before we moved away. I didn’t understand how they had become “those people,” almost as those they were like the people who ended up nonexistent.

I don’t recall anything earth shattering happening during that meal. How can one describe the beauty of faith? That is what I witnessed during the prayers, and during the meal, and the before and after gathering of family, and I thought that the extra place setting was just perfect. Elijah! Elijah! Elijah could be coming! Wouldn’t that be just grand?

One should take care of strangers, for you never know when the stranger isn’t a stranger, but an angel in disguise and that place setting was just too cool. Yet so many people think that angels do not come any more and they have no idea.

Shabbat.

I know there are angels. Oh, yes indeed. There are tons of them out there and they are here in my room, and they watch over my family morning, night, and noon. They were there in the street when that poor crack junkie tried to take the purse from the wrong cookie!

The Walk.

I was taking the kids for a walk in the evening because they had been fed, and I never quite knew what else to do with them at that time of the day. So, I piled all three of them in the double carriage and grabbed my purse, and off we went. We turned into the alley, which led to the police station, and that park that abuts our backyard. I had to stop, and I told the kids it was for mints in my purse so I could sneak a smoke, though they knew what I was doing. A car came up, a little red car with a dark woman driving, and a black man got out. In the middle of my neighborhood at that time, there were no black men, which I always detested because it wasn’t a true reflection of what life is all about. I took a quick look, and thought perhaps he was going to work, but he wasn’t, of course, because it was late in the afternoon, and all around us were doctor offices that closed at 6 pm.

As he walked up to me, I saw his face so clear, and the car that ended up driving away and I saw her face and then I was amazed at the clarity of it all. With my hand in my purse, holding my pack of cigarettes that were not mints, he continued to walk closer and said, “I’m sorry, ma’am” and grabbed the handle of that purse laying across the top of the double stroller protecting those three young children.

The Fence.

Now, I have had my purse taken from me before, and I have had to go without eye glasses because of that. This time, there was a credit card of no use and six dollars in that purse, but there was no way, absolutely no way, I was going to go without glasses again! I grabbed on to that purse and hung on with all my might as he started to pull on the handled and I pulled, too.

There was a six-foot wooden fence and he started to swing at the fence and I was aware of myself bounding off that fence, yet I could not feel a single thing, for I was so determined not to lose another pair of glasses. After a minute or it could have been ten, I heard a voice that told me to yell and to yell as loud as I can, so I did. I yelled, and I yelled and I could not believe that it was coming out of me since it was so very, very loud and clear.

So much story, so much to this story, yet without all of the pieces you just will not see how it is that I know, I know, I KNOW that angels are here.

The Break.

A man at the bank across the street from our struggle had decided just that day to work a little bit late. Now, later we found that he never did that, yet this one time he stayed. He happened to pull out of the drive as I started to yell, and two women I had never seen before who must have been in their late fifties or early sixties just happened to be walking by at the exact same moment.

The strap of the purse finally broke, and off went the man, hugging that purse, and he went running right toward the main street during rush hour. Sticking out like a sore thumb in that neighborhood, he was a marked man as far as all were concerned.

The Banker.

The banker’s car pulled out into the traffic on the main street, and the driver began to blow his car horn. The entire main street traffic stopped for blocks and people exited their cars and began to yell and point and honk their horns.

The Two Women.

One woman ran off as though running a marathon toward the main street while the other ran toward the children. Where was I? Half way between the protective carriage and the main street, for I had to stop myself from chasing a lost pair of glasses! When I returned to the stroller, the one woman was speaking to the children and they were all very calm and quiet. She pushed the stroller toward the police station since I was so sore from my intimate encounter with the privacy fence. Half way to the station (it was right next to the encounter), the sprinter woman returned and said, “He is in good hands and all will be O.K.” I asked where these two women lived and they told me a street name, yet I have walked there many times over, and never, no never, had I seen their faces and told them that. They shrugged and smiled. We got to the station, and the two women carried the stroller up the steps. Three police officers were standing at the door and held it open for us to enter.

The Police Station.

I walked to the counter, which I knew all too well from reporting about a wayward child, and they all knew me as well, welcoming me by name. I turned around and the two women were gone. I asked one of the officers who had held the door open for us where the women had gone, and with a look of surprise, he asked me, “What women?” I told him I meant the ones who helped me bring in the baby carriage and his only reply was, “You carried that up yourself.” I decided not to say any more since I had enough to think about at the time, and filed it away to process later.

The Purse Hugger.

What happened to the man? Well, he ran toward the police station on the main street, and due to the ruckus turned and ran across the lawn never realizing that it was a police station and fire house. He was hoping to jump a fence, yet wouldn’t you know that the fire auxiliary just happened to be testing the fire hoses at that time! Truly, he was a marked man from the very beginning. Traffic was at a standstill, a man running while hugging a purse, honking, and people shouting and pointing. By the time I (we?) had arrived at the police station he was in justice’s hands and my purse had been recovered, along with my lost pair of glasses! He ended up with six years with no probation for stealing a purse with one bad credit card and six bucks.

I never saw the women again.

Shabbat.

I don’t know who “those people” are, but I do know my people, for we are all God’s people put on this earth to help one another the best we can; and sometimes, yes sometimes, He will intervene and send us an angels and sometimes an army to get us through.

Things happened in the middle of that story that I have not touched – things about family and patterns and stuff and clarity and the eyes in my mind. These are things that unfolded, and things that were told, that gave me the insight I did not know I needed.

Garden Tools.

Those things would be the chance encounters, like the man that lived down the street from me whom I always saw working in his front garden, never saying, “Hello,” never waving, never even acknowledging that I was walking by with all those kids somehow crammed into that double stroller. Until, that is, one day, and only that day, for it never happened again. He came up to me, and stopped our entourage to show me the tools he was using for his garden. He spent almost ten minutes explaining to me how to tell the antiques from the new, and where to find the markings to see if the hand tool was from Pre-War II. The kids sat so quietly the entire time, which was quite an anomaly itself, and I thanked him for his information when he was done with his lesson. As I (we?) walked away, I looked up to the sky to ask, “God, why do I need to know those things?” and received no answer.

The Move.

So, during the between time, yes, the between the fence and the court case, Grandma and Grandpa were moved out of their house, and Mother, dear reputable Mother, was going to throw away all of the tools in Grandpa’s garage because they were old, which made them junk. I walked out to the garage, to that clean, well-organized, immaculate garage, looked around, and found that I was amazed at what I saw, and what I now knew and then explained to her that not all of those tools should be given to trash. I showed her the markings and explained that dear meticulous, perfectionist Grandpa had oiled and cleaned each tool after working in his gardens and that these were indeed special. I then was able to look up to the sky and say, “Thanks so much.”

I walked many times up and down my street with those children crammed into that carriage and never did that particular man ever turn again to speak. I wonder if he knew what he had done. I was once asked if I had ever met a prophet. Is it not possible that God will use anybody convenient? Perhaps, if I am not willing to carry the message, then the job will go to the next person in line.

Shabbat.

During the move, Grandma told me about her mother, how special she was, how much she loved her and that even at eighty something years old she still missed her. That was when I found out about my Grandma’s tale of youth of a little girl in a world that seemed too big for her to fit into; she told me these tales as she so gently, and carefully held figurines that had belonged to the woman that Grandma loved so much that I had never known, yet I saw in the eyes of the woman that I loved so much. She held each piece as though it were of tissue old and yellow, like turning the pages of a book that has seen hundreds of years of history unfold. Grandma was a beauty and Grandma was my angel.

Grandma was a rose petal

Grandma was my rose

Grandma was the blossom

Amongst all the thorns

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