My mom and dad lived in an apartment house in Brooklyn from 1935 to 1955. My sister and I lived there also. I was born in 1940; she, in 1944.
Living in a one-bedroom apartment was a bit crowded. My sister shared the one bedroom with my parents, and I slept on a “hideaway bed” in the living room.
My mother sent the wash out to Blue Sky laundry. My dad’s shirts came back starched and pressed. This is a stereotype of wealthy families, but we had no choice. We did not have a washing machine, but my mom would wash some stuff in a double sink using a washboard. To dry them, she hung them on a clothesline that stretched from our kitchen window to the brick wall of the next building. There was another one on the other side of the window for use by the neighbor from that side. We lived on the ground floor. Above us lived the Newerths, Harry and Elizabeth. My mom would hang the wash, and Elizabeth would put her clothes out on her line, directly above ours.
Due to gravity, the higher-hung laundry dripped on the lower-hung clothes. My mother fought with the Newerths for all the time that we lived there, when their reds and blues would ruin my mother’s newly washed whites. All I heard was, “That [expletive]. I’m going to go up there and kill her. She ruined my wash again.” They would scream through the window at each other and in the hall, if they met when getting the mail. This was not just my mother and the Newerths doing this; there were apartment houses all over, and this was a common happening.
We finally moved to Bayside in 1955. Never saw the Newerths again. Mom and Dad had six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. They died in 2004. Dad was 91 and Mom was 92.
They had plots in a Farmingdale cemetery, because my dad belonged to the Knights of Pythias in Brooklyn. Two big pillars are at the entrance to the cemetery; they say “Saratoga Lodge.”
My granddaughter Jaimee, who is 11, asked me: “Why did Great-Grandpa have to die?”
I answered: “Everyone dies, Jai. If God takes the old ones first it is really a blessing, and he was old. So don’t think of it as an end, but a new beginning to a new world somewhere.” My mom died about six weeks later. They were married 68 years.
A year later, we are doing the unveiling of the gravestone. This is when the stone is covered with a cloth and then unveiled, and there’s a small ceremony with the immediate family. All of us are there. The stone is on a grade, the first row from the road. We do all the prayers and are standing around talking. My sister, Arlene, comes to me and says, “Come with me, you are not going to believe this.” She leads me up the hill to the next row of graves. Right above my parents’ stone is another one. It says, “Newerth, Harry and Elizabeth.” I almost died.
I assume that when living in Brooklyn, they belonged to the same lodge. So I hope the Newerths are not living above my parents in the new world. But even if they are, what are the chances of having a clothesline in the 21st century?
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