As a child, before I landed in the home in which I was raised, I spent about two years going back and forth between my Irish Catholic grandmother, my father’s mother, and my Russian Jewish grandfather, my mother’s father. If that sounds confusing to you, try being a preschooler.
My grandfather was a wee wisp of a thing, standing tall at about five-foot one, and weighing in at maybe ninety-five pounds. Although he’d never been formally educated past the third grade, Grandpop was brilliant – he had grown up during the Communist Revolution and while his family and community spoke Yiddish, taught himself Russian so he could eavesdrop on the soldiers. I imagine being able to move his tiny self about unnoticed helped in this as well. After emigrating to the states, he then taught himself English.
While I lived with my grandfather in Center City Philadelphia, I attended Hebrew Nursery School. I was presumably the only baptized kid in my class. While he worked very hard to strictly speak English, there were words from his first language that peppered his speech, and I adopted them into my own cobbled-together vernacular.
I can remember walking my grandfather’s giant sheepdog, Shadow, in the middle of what must have been the blizzard of 1979. The snowbanks were taller than I was, and nearly as tall as he was. Thank goodness Shadow was a black sheepdog, otherwise we might have all been lost for good. When we got back into the house, he heated up milk on the stove and poured in Hershey’s syrup from a can, and we sat at the corner diner-style table in his tiny kitchen on the green vinyl booth and drank it together. I still think of him anytime I smell that stuff.
Being downright Lilliputian has a number of advantages, particularly when one lives in a tiny row house. Had we been a bigger people, conditions would have been cramped. The only creature that might have felt the walls closing in on him was Shadow, but fortunately he enjoyed lazying about and being very close to his people.
I’m not sure why it happened this way as I usually spent the religious holidays specific to each side of the family with that side of the family, but for whatever reason, I ended up with my Jewish grandfather one Easter. There wasn’t a yard to speak of at our house, and aside from that, it was raining. I insisted on an egg hunt in spite of the obstacles.
I can remember dyeing the eggs together, something I am certain he’d never done previously. I explained, in the best way a four year-old might, that you put the colored eggs in the refrigerator so the Easter Bunny can hide them while you sleep. I recall agreeing to the terms of indoor hiding in light of the weather conditions.
The next morning, I came downstairs to a lovely basket full of chocolates and candy. The drizzle continued outside, but I was determined to start my hunt for the eggs. As I mentioned, the house was downright tiny and there couldn’t have been that many hiding spots, but as I surveyed the room I couldn’t find a single pastel egg interrupting the grey hue of the cloudy day. No egg in the piano bench, no egg in the china cabinet, no egg nestled on the candlesticks.
No egg to be found.
Grandpop was so proud of himself for hiding the eggs so well, but sensing my mounting frustrations, he began to give hints and direct me. “You’re getting warmer, getting warmer,” as I maneuvered toward the sofa. “Getting hot! Hot!” as I realized the gap between the sofa and the wall had grown significantly overnight.
I scrunched down, clutching my empty basket, ready to snatch up the first-discovered egg. Which is when I spotted the mint green tupperware bowl, draped with an open newspaper page which covered the entire lot of Easter eggs.
Apparently I had neglected to mention to my newly-appointed Jewish Easter Bunny that hiding eggs meant hiding them individually, not collectively.
Really, we should all just be glad he thought to hardboil them!