Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tuesday Apr 1

This day will long be remembered
because of the terrific snowstorm.

Visited Clara at Hospital
with David.

Again the radio brought me
old familiar tunes, tunes that
I've heard when I was a little
boy, on the old little square
of my European hometown when
I with my playmates [used to follow] the old man
[with the] playing box, who played the
same identical melodies whose
music I always remembered.

Listening to the music I close my
eyes and in my illusions I found
myself on the little marketplace
or outside my fathers house surrounded
by my little friends merrily dancing
around the man with the playing box
who so gladly repeated those enchanting
melodies at our request.


Matt's Notes

In light of his stylish, expressive prose, it's hard to remember that Papa was not a native English speaker. Once in a while, though, a missing word or strange turn of phrase serves to remind us: A few weeks ago he repeatedly referred to the headmaster of his brother-in-law's school as "the school man," and it looks like he didn't have the word "organ grinder" at his disposal while composing today's entry. Still, I don't think it detracts from the sweetness of his recollection.

In case you're wondering what early 20th Century Eastern European organ grinders looked like, here are a few photos courtesy of the Yivo Institute's "People of a Thousand Towns" project:

photo of an organ grinder

photo of an organ grinder

photo of an organ grinder

We also know what Papa's brothers and sisters looked like when they were children, so perhaps we can get a little closer to imagining the "illusions" Papa saw when he closed his eyes:

photo of an organ grinder

The children in this 1898 photograph are, clockwise from top left: Issac (he gave Papa some grief earlier in the year) Nettie, Ettel, Clara, Papa (his face is distorted in this photo, but that's him at 3) and Gitel.

Clara, as Papa mentions in this entry, was now all grown up and in the hospital with her new baby. The weather Papa and her husband David braved to visit her was indeed "terrific": New York got over 8.5 inches of snow accompanied by gale-force winds, resulting in, among other disruptions, an elevated train crash in Long Island City that injured over 50 people, one fatally.

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