12/7/41: A Typical Sunday
Sunday morning breakfast consisted of lox, smoked fish, slices of tomato, sweet onion, cucumber, bagels, Kaiser and onion rolls, corn rye, butter, cream cheese, and a multitude of jams and jellies.
Above all else, Mitchell loved being with his mother’s family on Sunday mornings, and was always able to eat two bagel sandwiches consisting of a thin spread of lox, an extra thick spread of cream cheese, and cucumber, tomato and onion. When he’d bite into it, the pressure of his teeth would cause the assorted contents to ooze out the back. Somehow he would also be able to manage at least two slices of rye bread with cream cheese and jelly.
“My God! Where’s the kid put it?” Walter would always ask in feigned amazement. Mitchell would giggle and Al Marcus would look under the table. “Nope,” he’d say. “I don’t see a hollow leg.”
After breakfast, Marvin, Sandra, and Mitchell would shoot marbles on the living room rug.
On this Sunday, Marvin, the eldest and most proficient at marbles, was on his knees on the right‑hand corner, taking aim at Mitchell’s prize silver and black aggie.
“Hey!” Leaving the table, Al came into the living room. “How’d you guys like to go to Brown’s for some winners?”
Distracted, much to Mitchell’s relief, Marvin missed.
“Good idea, Al!” Jerry pushed away from the table.
“Yeah,” all three kids shouted simultaneously, and began to gather their marbles, putting them into drawstring canvas bags, as Marvin smirked because his stupid sister and dumb cousin had added to his already large collection.
“After such a meal, some fresh air couldn’t hurt.” Morris stood, followed by Sheldon.
“You’re not going with them, Walt?”
“Nah, Myra. I’d just as soon have another cup of coffee.”
“Walt, the coffee’ll be here when you get back!” Myra felt that he didn’t spend enough time with his son. “You go with them!”
“Okay,” sighing, “if it’s that important to you, I’ll go.”
There was a gumball machine on the counter of every delicatessen, grocery, and candy store in the city of Chicago. In the glass‑domed machine there were six-hundred gumballs of assorted colors, and maybe fifty or sixty “winners”: an orange gumball with red spirals. A winner gave its owner the choice of any nickel candy bar on the rack.
After a half hour and a hundred pennies, the group had 94 gumballs, along with six winners for the children.
On their way back to the apartment, “Mitchie, Sandy, you want to race?” Al challenged, “I’ll race you guys to the corner!”
“Hey, Pop, how’s ’bout me?”
“You, Marvin? I could never beat you. You want to give your old man a heart attack? Tell you what! Why don’t you run ahead and be the judge.” He pointed to the corner, a half‑block away. “Just wave your hanky whenever you’re ready. Okay?”
“Yeah! Okay!” Running to the corner, Marvin stood on the joining angle of the pipe fence with his handkerchief in his hand. “You guys ready?” he called through cupped hands.
Giggling, following Al’s example, Sandra and Mitchell took their runner’s stance, with their rumps in the air and their fingertips touching the expansion seam of the sidewalk.
“Okay, you guys!” Waving the handkerchief over his head, “Ready… Set…” Marvin dropped his arm. “Go!”
The runners start. It’s Mitchell in the lead with Sandra close behind with Al taking exaggerated, high-kneed strides. At the halfway point it was still Mitchell and Sandra, with Al taking short, flouncing steps with undulating hips and fluttering hands.
“Ohh! Ohh, my dearth,” lisping in a high‑pitched, falsetto voice, “you’re all juthst too fatht for lil’ ol’ me.”
Following a few steps behind, the four men were laughing.
Crossing the finish line, Mitchell and Sandra looked at Al, who stood with arched hips, with his elbow bent and his hand turned outward. “You thweet children, you.” Speaking in the same lisping, falsetto voice, moving only his wrist and hand, “Oh, my goodneth…” Turning to the four men, who were sitting on the fence and a door stoop, holding their stomachs, laughing hysterically, “Honethtly, have you ever theen thuch thweet children?” Stamping his foot, “Honethtly, they are tho thweet!”
Sitting on the fence with Morris, Walter was laughing so hard that he fell over backwards landing on the hard ground. On the stoop, Sheldon threw his head back, cracking it on the plate‑glass door. “Oh, my God!” Jerry cried. “I’m gonna pee in my pants.”
At the corner, knowing Al was doing something funny, but having no idea why their uncles, father and grandfather were laughing that hard, looking at Al, who was still standing with his face pointed skyward and his hands akimbo, the children walked back to the adults.
“Daddy?” Going to Walter, Mitchell pulled on his sleeve, “Why are you guys laughing, and what’s wrong with Uncle Al?”
Fluttering his eyelashes, Al walked to Mitchell. “Thethh big ol’ men!” Looking from man to man, pausing, licking his lips seductively, “They laugh at justh any ol’ thing!”
Attempting to answer his son, “Mitchie, you wouldn’t under…” but unable to hold it back, Walter’s laughter erupted.
Usually showing a dour countenance, Mitchell did not see his father laugh very often, but his father’s laughter was infectious and Mitchell began to laugh, too, and so did Marvin and Sandra.
Catching their breath, the eight began to walk again.
Walter walked with his hand on his son’s shoulder, and the weight of his father’s hand on Mitchell’s shoulder felt wonderful.
“You look so nice and healthy,” Bea commented when the red‑cheeked group came into the apartment. “Looks like you had a real good time.”
“Yeah,” Al said. “We did, didn’t we, kids?”
Sandra was coloring in a coloring book at one end of the kitchen table while Marvin and Mitchell played checkers at the other end. The adults were in the dining room with the radio droning in the background. Absorbed with checkers and the coloring book, the children did not notice, but all sound, except for the radio, had ceased.
“Mitchell,” Myra had come into the kitchen, “put your coat on,” she said softly. “We’re going home.”
Following behind her sister, her eyes glassy as though she’d been crying, “Sandra, Marvin,” Bea said. “We’re going home, too.”
Mitchell looked questioningly at Marvin, who shrugged his shoulders.
Tearfully hugging Jennie and Morris, Sheldon and Jerry, they said their good-byes at the front door.
Walter held the back door open for Myra, Mitchell and Marvin. He sat next to Bea, with Sandra on her lap, in the front seat. The short ride home was in total silence.
Slamming the door shut, “Thanks, Al. I’ll give you a call later.”
Putting the Buick into gear, Al drove away.
The walk up the three flights of stairs seemed to be hard. Walter, who usually took the steps two or three at a time, held onto the banister, pulling himself, almost wearily, upward. Walking behind, as if having to catch her breath, Myra stopped every few steps.
“Mommy, Daddy,” looking from one to the other, “what’s wrong?”
This typical Sunday was December 7, 1941.
The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.