When I Was a Child Performer on Yiddish Radio

Bernice at the mic. Courtesy of the author.

New York, 1945–46

Waving goodbye to everyone — announcer, orchestra leader, orchestra — I felt happy. A few of the other musicians applauded!

Tati, my father, waited with a big smile. I was almost at the studio door when I heard, Enshuldik mir, efsher kenst du schreiben dein nomen far mir?”

A skinny man, older than my father, wearing a grey suit, and a funny upside-down grey hat on his head. He wanted my autograph?

Tati stood to the side, watching.

“Oif dos,” Grey Suit Man said, holding out a paper from his pocket. His hand shook a little. His face had too…

Photo by aboodi vesakaran on Unsplash

As if a gun had fired in
Their midst.
As if an otherwise unheard signal had given
Them new direction.
As if they suddenly all had business
As if they could not — for one more moment —
Bear each other’s presence.

As if it was an immediate necessity to split up the
Safety of their circling.
As if — with a Fury and with Great Purpose —
Each feathered heartbeat flew to make a new beginning!

With legs tucked, they created wind and fuss — and I was
Compelled! — to stop, lift my head, take notice, admire and

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

And I broke the chain and forced the lock —
and I found her in her nightgown on the floor where she had fallen —
and I covered her and patted her and cooed at her —
and I called 911.

Then the police came and EMS came and
then EMS wiped her excrement and
then they placed her on a stretcher and
then they carried her into the ambulance.

I gathered papers but didn’t help wipe her!
I closed lights but didn’t see her placed on the stretcher! …

Photo by Marian Kroell on Unsplash

Chalk and summertime and childhood.

Chalked games on sidewalk squares outside the house.
Potsy and Hopscotch and Skelly.

Chalked games that could be rained on.
Chalk was found in pockets for after the rain and was always used to its
nub. No waste.

Chalk meant connection, automatic inclusion.
Chalk was daily survival.

Chalking was never careless or haphazard. You
chalked and the others watched until you were done and
until they were satisfied that it was perfect.
Chalking was sacred writing.

Chalk had homes in our homes — it lived in boxes and unused ashtrays and ceramic bowls and tins…

It’s no good to get old

This creative nonfiction is based on a loved one of mine, now gone. — BZG

Photo by Ayanna Johnson on Unsplash

They’re finally taking me over to the cemetery. I’ve been begging them for at least five years to ride me over — just for a little look-see.

I’ve got a pair of dark pants, a nice, short-sleeved shirt and a tie. My shoes don’t look so good, but they still fit good.

First thing, I have to talk to Franny.

I use my cane to tap on her door. I never bother to ring her bell. Franny and me, we know each other pretty good.

When I entered his world, I discovered he was more than just my father

It was a long walk to Shul.

“Tati, how much longer? I wish we could see the Shul.” My legs felt like sticks. It was hard to keep up with Tati.

“Honey, we’re just three blocks from our house.” My father stopped for a moment. The sun made his hair bright; I had to squint to look at his face. “We still have a way to go.”

My fancy shoes for Shul had a strap across the top of my feet. It was hurting and itching…

Bernice Zuckerberg Gordon

My musical voyage took me from Yiddish radio child star to operatic soprano. Get my newsletter here: bernice-zuckerberg-gordon.ck.page/7b24f4c32d

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