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The Little Glass Pitcher
Biography, personal incident which may be enlarged to become a book.
[809 words]
Edith Talmason
Edith Talmason, other titles
[November 1999]
Only In America (Short Stories) An accounting of the life and times of a young immigrant girl to this country during the early 20s when the country was experiencing reaction to immigrants and congress enacted laws to limit the influ... [4,963 words]
The Little Glass Pitcher
Edith Talmason

of the very few things that she could carry with her.  When she gave it to me, I knew that it meant more to her than just the beauty of its clear and ruby glass.

It held for my mother the odors of her childhood, and the memories of her parents and brothers and sisters.  Family, which in those days were cherished in memories only, because going to America in 1921 often meant the permanent separation of a family.  In 1920 congress had passed an exclusionary immigration act which was intended to keep the very people who needed most to emigrate, out of this country.   So although she had promised, tearfully, at their parting, to bring over her family, one by one, the usual way it was done then, the promise never materialized, and she never saw them again. She suffered the loss of her mother and father while she was here in this country and they in Poland.  She married and had two children whom her mother, father, sisters and brothers never knew.  Trips back to Europe were not within her ability.  Telephones were rarely used, none being available in the old country, and overseas calls from America, a rarity. But she did communicate by letter throughout her long life.  She wrote to every one of them, and they replied.   Those who survived the holocaust, which was soon to over run Europe, had escaped to South America, Italy, Russia, Canada, any place that would accept them.  They wrote in Yiddish, and it was often indecipherable.  But through those letters, I, as a small child knew of the lives of my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  The new babies that were born, the weddings, the deaths of my grandparents whom I never knew, illnesses and most indelibly, the horrors of the advancing Nazi machine.  Far in advance of the newspaper and radio reports I knew through those letters, when my aunt Pesia, my mother’s youngest sister, and her four children were driven into the sea to drown, or be shot.  I heard, sitting at their feet, my parents talking about trying to bring out their loved ones through HIAS.   Their dream never materialized.   Millions of others were making the same desperate effort, for some it was successful, for us it was not.  None of her family came here and escaped the tortures of the holocaust.

Sixty years after my mother came to this wonderful country she met her one surviving brother  again.  The reunion took place in Israel.  He had survived during the holocaust in the Polish forest.  He slept in holes dug into the ground bedded down with leaves, fed by gentile neighbors, sparingly, but enough to keep his wife and himself and their one remaining daughter alive.  He told my mother that after the war he had, with great hope, gone back to live in the town where our family had lived for generations. He had tried to pick up his life there in a familiar place, among old neighbors, but in 1956 an anti-Semitic riot, a pogrom, happened, and that was what determined the family’s immigration to Israel.  He wanted to be able to live a normal peaceful life. The rules in Poland at that time were very repressive.   Those who left were not allowed to take anything of value out of the country, except products of Poland.  So they brought out lovely glass things.  The crystal products for which Poland is famous even today.  They arrived in Israel without a sou.  The family began their life anew in a more welcoming atmosphere.

When they finally met, after all those years, my mother did not recognize him.  After all, when she had left the old country she was 22 and he several years younger. She was unsure that it could be her brother, that he had really survived.  How could she be certain?  She recalled that when he was a child, he had had an accident which left him with a misshapen finger.  She examined his hands and found the sign.  And only then was she reassured, and only then did she embrace him.  But the long separation went deeper than that, they had to find a common language.  They could only converse in Yiddish. He knew no English, and she no Hebrew, and their common language of Polish had been long unused, and probably mostly forgotten.  They  had no choice at all. Even the Yiddish became a problem..   His was heavily interspersed with the Hebrew he now spoke, and hers with English.   But somehow they managed, and it was a successful reunion.  They enjoyed a Passover seder together.  His wife and daughter, and happily his Israeli grandchildren were there also.  He had made a new life, and found comfort and peace after a life of pain and hardship.  Soon after that my uncle died, and in 1987 my mother also passed away.

So you see, this little pitcher has a history which if it could speak would tell about the home life of my family.  The wonderful bunch of boys and girls, nine of them, gathered around the festive holiday table with their parents, enjoying the holiday ceremonies together.  There, on that table, probably just as it does now at my table, sat my dear little clear and ruby glass pitcher with the deep mysterious past, only a touch of which I’ve told you today.




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© 1999 Edith Talmason
November 1999

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