The following work is copyright © 2008 Susan Rosenberg. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Chapter 16. Dune Acres
Lake Michigan Poems
I walked on brilliant cold stars
and heard the strange music of
ice melting on Lake Michigan
it seemed like a great beast dying gladly
Spring has come!
Phosphorescent crests of crashing waves
luminescent gulls against the sky
incandescent, I.....also I....
radiant from a warm kiss
this cold, sunny morning.
Cold and milky
of boiling sunless grey waters
spent before reaching indifferent shore
oh, Lake Michigan!
oh, our matching moods!
“Long Beach is a slum compared to Dune Acres!” Anne Goodfellow declared hotly. Every one in Michigan City knew we were looking for a house. We had become friends with Anne and her husband Ron through the Dunes Summer Theatre. Ron, an architect, was also a fellow-thespian. Anne had grown up in Dune Acres (which we had never heard of before) and still owned her mother’s house there. The Goodfellows now lived in Long Beach and thought that the restriction against Jews was a terrible thing. They knew we wanted a lake-side home and Anne said there was one for sale in Dune Acres. “It would be perfect for your family”, she said and told us to call Mildred Warner to make inquiries. We did.
Mildred Warner, a resident of Dune Acres, managed the properties of that gated community, some twenty miles west of Michigan City. When we arrived on time for our appointment she took us directly to the available house with private beach on Lake Michigan. She must have noticed that we were impressed though we made no comments initially. After the showing, she escorted us to a club house on a high hill. It was a rustic but charming structure and she explained that community-organized parties were held there on a regular basis. “Everybody who lives here is a member of the club”, she said and told us how residents took turns being responsible for the parties. She also explained that the club house was the first building to be erected in the vicinity and had served as an inn for Chicago people. She pointed out how the entire dunes area could be seen from its vantage point. Before Dune Acres came into being, guests were invited to stay at the inn and were encouraged to buy property and build homes in the Dunes. Later, we had a tour of the entire community and were able to see how beautifully the place had developed with lovely wooded areas, nature preserves, tennis courts, playgrounds and very unique private homes. By the time we sat down with Mildred Warner to talk business, we were already sold on the house and its environment.
One of the first things Dick said to her as we began our conversation was, “You know, Mrs. Warner, we are Jewish. Is there any problem with that?” “Mr. Rosenberg”, she replied haughtily, “if there were any problem about your being Jewish, you wouldn’t be here”. Then she told us how, until recently, there had been a clause which prevented home owners from selling to Jews but the town voted to strike that clause from its laws. “We do not want to be the town’s token Jews”, we said. “No. No” she assured us. “There is already another Jewish family living here and there’s nothing to prevent others from buying homes.” Actually, we met and didn’t particularly like Dune Acre’s other Jewish family. Despite the fact that they were introduced to us as “Jewish”, unlike us, they were eager to assimilate and did not particularly like to be known as Jews. In l968 we became the happy owners of 8 Shore Drive in Dune Acres. Ron Goodfellow helped us make the house livable with some remodeling and decorating and it wasn’t long before we moved. Then came the cartons to be unloaded and our possessions to be put in order. Some workmen were still at the house and as I looked longingly at the Lake, one of them said, “Why don’t you go down and take a swim?” I answered that I had too much work to do and he murmured, “You know, this day will never come again. You might as well go down if you want to.” That statement became part of my religious mantra. With joy, I abandoned all the chores that awaited me and ran down for a refreshing swim in the lake. The work that faced me seemed much easier after that. There were many golden days to come as we settled into our life there. These many years after, I still live each day knowing it will never come again.
“How do you do, I’m Jewish”, was not the way I greeted each person I met but I did see to it that everyone knew who we were as soon as possible so that there would be no embarrassing moments. We became acquainted with our next door neighbors on the beach and soon mingled with all the residents at club parties. How did I feel about this environment in which we were a decided minority? Most people were friendly. Many welcomed us into their homes but once again, I trusted my instincts to differentiate between those who were free and open and those who were uptight with us. Our being Jewish and different made for an uneasiness with some, and, as a matter of fact, with me too.
Our boys took the South Shore train into Chicago each morning. There was a Dune Acres station which had the advantage of being a half-hour closer to Chicago than the ride they used to take from Michigan City. We continued to attend Synagogue in Gary on Saturday mornings, but the rest of the weekend provided beach and lake for swimming, boating, and sailing. There were neighborhood family beach parties and club parties. We began to know people. One friend confessed to us that she was Jewish even though her husband was not. Another couple mentioned attending church and Dick innocently asked what denomination they belonged to. They told us that they were Episcopalians, but then the wife said quietly, that she had been born Jewish and had converted after marriage. “Jews are coming out of the woodwork,” Dick and I said to each other with some amusement.
All of us Rosenbergs continued our lives in the Jewish community as well as fitting in to the gentile world at Dune Acres. My diary is filled with accounts of the energy I devoted towards Hadassah as Vice President on the regional board. Even though we had left Michigan City, we remained deeply involved with the Jewish community there as well as in Gary where we attended Synagogue. My diaries tell of Sisterhood luncheons, Jewish Men’s Division meetings at our home, U.J.A. cocktail party at our house, Technion dinner meetings, reading The Book of Esther for Senior Citizens at Beth El in Gary, and working for the cause of Soviet Jewry. In addition to being involved with Jewish causes, I joined The League of Women Voters, and continued, each summer, to perform with the Dunes Summer Theatre.
I was enormously impressed by the intellect, knowledge, and involvement of League of Women Voters members. I thought that I ought to care about politics, even though I didn’t. I thought that belonging would teach me how to understand the various political issues of the day which these Dune Acres women were studying. I tried but never could become as fired up about local government as they were, nor could I understand what they, as informed citizens, were trying to probe. I did admire them and endeavored to learn and to become a better informed voter. At one of the meetings we were paired off to study various records at the City Hall in the town of Valparaiso, Indiana, the government seat of our county. My partner was a woman named Helen Booth. She spoke with a decided southern accent. I don’t even remember what we were sent to look into but what I learned that day was an unforgettable lesson. As we rode out together, talked, worked, and had lunch it seemed to me that we saw eye to eye on many issues and that we pretty much shared the same values. I was quite surprised because I had assumed that all southern whites were bigots. She was anything but. I felt completely comfortable with her and on the way home, I came right out and asked her, “how did you get to be the way you are?” feeling enough at ease to be able to tell her what I thought to be true about all white southerners. ”Ah don’t know”, she drawled, “my church, I guess… I could understand that. ‘Of course!’ I explained to myself…’’Christianity preaches tolerance and brotherhood’… ”and”, she added, breaking in on my thoughts, “my grandmother was Jewish… “Ah ha!” I said in a triumphant now-I-understand-tone. I had to laugh at myself and my own recognized bias. She and I laughed about it together.
At about that time, I received a call asking if I’d be interested in joining a play writing class with Nora MaCalvay. I said I’d be very interested to join such a class some day but I was far too busy to join then. Hadassah, the League, to say nothing of my full-time involvement with my household consisting of three teen-age sons and a husband were, I felt, all I could handle. A few days after I said I couldn’t join, I received another call. Seven people had been recruited for the class but Nora said that only a minimum of eight would make it worth her while. If I would agree to participate they could have the class. If not… “All right, I’ll join”, I said, “but I won’t write a play. I simply don’t have time”. It was agreed then that once a week I would drive into Michigan City and attend the class with Nora.
I was so glad I had. Even though I wasn’t going to write a play, I thought I could do the homework assignments. The first was an idea. Before you can write a play, you have to have an idea so if I were to write a play, what would my idea be? During the first class, we talked about our ideas. During the second, we read what we had written and were told to write a synopsis before the next class. Ok. I could do that too. Class after class had us exploring who were the characters? What did they look like? Who were they before the play began? Where did the action take place? What was the stage setting? What was the action? Every play has to have a message. What did we want our play to say? What crisis was resolved and how? Who was the protagonist? At last, we were told to write the dialogue. By the time, that assignment came I was champing at the bit. I couldn’t wait to get started and to write the play. I could see and hear it in my head. The play practically wrote itself.
The action takes place in a cheerful school room. The children look out of the window instead of paying attention to their spelling lesson. Their inventive teacher suggests that they all look out of the window and spell what they see. Each child sees differently. One notices a bird and hears its music, one concentrates on the variety of cars in the parking lot, a girl observes that everything has geometrical shapes, the playground conjures up an entire circus plot for one of the students; another sees the view as a painting… and the last child says, “I see all you see…I see such beauty….I …I….I see GOD” . The final song, “We all have a window for looking through. What each of us sees is our own point of view” expressed my message! That our creator has given each of us the ability to see. There are very few people who are completely able to comprehend the “fullness” of our world but we must learn from one another and understand that “the world and all who dwell therein” belong to God.
Louise wrote music for the play and it was fun working together. I thought her music perfect. When the play was finally produced in Michigan City, Louise and Bob came from Philadelphia for the opening. Nora’s direction made it into a far better play than I had written. I was thrilled! So was the audience of children (one performance) and so was the audience of parents and teachers! (the second performance) Actors from the Childrens’ Theater did me proud. “D’ya know,” Nora said to me privately, “this play will always be with these children…they’ll never forget it.” My heart swelled to think such a thing. After the second performance, a party was given for Louise and me. Among the guests was Father Charlie Doyle, a Catholic Priest who had been in the audience. I heard Louise saying to him, “Well what do you mean you believe in God? What is God? How can you believe?” Tch! Even after she had seen my play!
“Well, I mean, was it like a calling?” a Catholic friend asked, wanting to understand why we had gone to Israel. “Yes!” I said, “exactly that. It was a calling”. Usually, when I was asked to do certain things, such as accepting responsibility in Hadassah, performing at the Dunes Theatre, joining a play-writing class, or even talking about Israel to a third grade class in Chesterton, I believed that God was calling upon me and that it was a way in which I could serve Him. “Hineni” (here I am), the response of our forefather, Abraham was also the way I wanted to answer God’s call.
Actually, it was a Dune Acres neighbor who asked if I would speak to her class of third graders at the Chesterton School. I approached the preparations as if all of Judaism and the State of Israel were depending on me to make clear to some white Anglo Saxon Protestant children who and what we were. I started out deliberately speaking Hebrew until I detected their restlessness. I responded to it. “What’s the matter?” “We don’t understand you”, they said. I explained that I had been speaking Hebrew, then told them that Hebrew is the language spoken in Israel and also the language of Jewish prayers. I had their full attention. I brought Israeli items for them to see…a map of Israel, a shofar, photographs of Israel, a Seder plate, a kiddush cup, candle holders and Shabbat candles. I told about the holidays celebrated in Israel and by Jews the world over. I told what American holidays were not observed there, about Israeli children, about schools in Israel (drawing on memories of our children’s school days there). I invited questions and the youngsters wanted to know what kind of cars do they have in Israel? Is there TV? What kind of games do the children play? Is there snow? In answering, I tried to point out common denominators in addition to differences. In the end, I was presented with pictures the children had drawn for me. I told them that I would soon be taking a trip to Israel and if they would like, I could take their pictures with me to present to school children there and I would ask Israeli school children to send them pictures. Oh, Yes! They liked that idea very much. I had made a connection with them and for them. Their enthusiasm was gratifying and my friend was pleased.
There was a time I was called upon that I had not answered, “hineni”. As a matter of fact, I had balked. Jon was to be spending the summer in Israel with a youth group. Dick wanted to take a trip to Israel with his parents. Because my mother-in-law suffered from arthritis and had difficulty in walking I thought that being with them would slow us down. I wanted to see our friends again. I wanted to be alone with my husband and also to spend time with Betsy and Jon. I agreed, grudgingly, to take them with us. I’m afraid I was not very nice. How wrong I was! They were so thrilled with everything they saw. It seemed to me as if my mother-in-law had grown wings. Instead of walking with difficulty when we went to the Wall, (her first time there since it had been liberated in ’67), she practically flew. I have a faded photograph of the two of us at the Wall. I felt I was being Ruth to her Naomi. “Whither thou goest, I will go and thy God will be my God” Oh, yes! I made a silent vow at the wall that day and I see it on my awe-filled face in the photograph. Because of their happiness and because of Dick’s and my happiness, I enjoyed the trip double. The gladness of virtue was part of my pleasure.
Another great pleasure was visiting a Haifa school and presenting the pictures sent by Chesterton’s school children. In return, I took pictures back to them from Haifa’s students.
The whole time we were in Israel, we were waiting for news of a new baby born to Carol and Selwyn. Day after day we would ask at the desk of whatever hotel we were staying in, “any messages?” There were none. On January 6th, we landed in New York and checked into a hotel there. We learned that Joshua William Troen, our third grandchild, had been born that morning. We called, we rejoiced, and made arrangements to get to Columbia, Missouri as quickly as possible.
On the day of his Brith Milah, we were all there. Friends and family crowded into their little house. The women were all with Carol in one room and the men were watching the mitzva being performed. Suddenly, a hysterical Lisa ran into the room and we realized that she had witnessed the circumcision of her brother. I wanted to comfort her, to explain things to her but she wriggled away, saying through her sobs, “I know. I know. My father told me. It’s for the Jewish people!”
Every summer I had a leading role at the Dunes Summer Theatre. I often combined my religious beliefs with those of the character I played. For instance, while portraying Juno in Sean O’Casey’s “Juno and The Paycock”, I spoke the prayer she said just after hearing her son had been shot in the war between the Die-hards and the Tories and when I said her words,
“Why couldn’t I remember, when Mrs. Maddigan’s son was killed, that he wasn’t a Tory or a Die-hard but only a poor dead son? It’s well I remember her words, for it’s my turn to say them now. Mother of God, take away their hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh. Take away their murdering hate and give them Thine own eternal love..”
So said Juno. So said Susan, playing the role and meaning every single word.
When I played the part of Juno I was made up to look like a poor, hard working woman, but I also felt like one because I was having actual physical problems at the time. As soon as the run was over I was scheduled to have a hysterectomy. The operation was a success and the tumor was benign but I developed an infection with a very high fever while I was still in the hospital. I thought I was going to die. It was all right with me. I was so tired. I thought, “well, my job is done. Jon is almost a finished product…so if it’s time to die, it’s OK, God.” When I recovered, I can’t describe how filled with joy I was to be alive. That experience and joy has stayed with me for most all of my days since then.
I would never have been able to accomplish all I did had it not been for Shirley. Shirley was young, pretty, and black. She lived in Gary, Indiana with her husband and two children. Every morning she would take the South Shore train to Dune Acres and come to work for me, to keep our big home clean and to help me in every way she could. Leaving her children was difficult for her and she kept in loving touch by telephone. It occurred to me that it would be good if her children could see where their mother worked and so I invited them for a day at the beach which turned out to be a tremendous success. I had thought there might be trouble from neighbors seeing black children on our white beach but nobody complained at all. Had there been any problem, I was ready to insist that I, as a home owner was entitled to invite whomever I wished. We did it a number of times. Once I took the two to see “Aesop’s Fables” at the children’s theatre. I enumerate my good deeds not to show what a righteous person I am but to illustrate how my behavior is tied up with my religious beliefs and understanding. I cannot do otherwise.
Carol and Selwyn were in Missouri with their three children; Michael had met his beloved Rachel and both were students at New York University. Dan had met his future mate up in Boston. When Michael and Rachel announced their engagement, we gave a party for them. My father in law fainted in the midst of things and an ambulance was called. My Mother-in law and I followed him to the hospital in Michigan City. As if what happened to Dad wasn’t frightening enough, we sat in his hospital room and heard news of the horrific terrorist attack against Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. I remember sitting in Dad’s empty hospital room watching the dramatic event on the little overhead TV set. Dad was finally returned to his room and seemed to be fine. It was thought that one of his grandchildren may have hugged him too tightly around the neck which caused the fainting. It was predicted that he would be all right but they wanted to keep him in the hospital overnight for observance. As we drove the half-hour drive back to Dune Acres, my Mother-in-law cried. “It is not time to cry yet”, I said. “When the time comes, then we will cry.” “I’m a realist”, she replied. “I’m a realist too”, I told her, “but reality is like a coin that has two sides. We don’t yet know to which side the coin will fall.” Dad was fine and home with us again the next day.
From a diary entry on September 22, 1972 – “My moods these days are both dark and light. I’m heavy-hearted, as all of us are, since the shock of guerilla terrorism in Munich, and the outrageous and diabolical plot to murder through the mails. Yesterday, I was with Dr. and Mrs. Jack Karpas, Israelis who had just arrived to the States and who expressed such great sorrow for the Israeli diplomat who had recently been killed by a booby-packed parcel, that I was prompted to ask, “Did you know him?” “No”, Mrs. Karpas answered swiftly, “but it doesn’t matter. We are all one family. Whenever there is such a death, we feel it just as much as if we did know them.” And so it is with all of us. It is members of our family who are being held for ransom in Russia. It is members of our family who are being mistreated in Arab countries. It is our family who is being threatened and terrorized throughout the civilized world. And the dark mood is made darker by an awareness of the world’s indifference to these atrocities. This is made clear by Kurt Waldheim’s callous attitude, by the Vatican’s denouncement of Israel’s self-defense as “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth tactics” and by newspaper articles describing the plight of the poor misunderstood Palestinians published in an effort to be “fair”.
As our nest began to empty out, and the struggle to pay for our childrens’ education was coming to an end, Dick began to talk about his retirement. We had enough money to live comfortably. We ruled out moving to Florida and playing golf every day as some of his friends had done. Country club life and country club society never appealed to us and besides, Dick, at age 50, was young and vigorous and wanted to continue giving of himself. It was then we talked about returning to Israel, our on-going longing. “But what would I do there”? Dick asked. He thought of all the experience he had had in conducting international business and as a CEO. He thought perhaps he might teach at a business school and looked into the idea . When he consulted with his friend, the dean at Purdue University, he was told, “Dick, guys like you are a dime a dozen. They have a few ‘war stories to tell and after that, nothing to give our students. If you’re really serious about teaching, you’ll have to go back and earn a higher degree. Things have changed since you graduated from Penn.” As a result, Dick enrolled at the Gary campus of Indiana University’s Graduate School and began working towards his Masters Degree. He continued as CEO at Josam Manufacturing Company and carried the double load with difficulty, working during the day and studying at night.
One evening we were having a conversation about some near neighbors whom we suspected of being anti-semites. Unlike other Dune Acres residents, they had done nothing to make us feel welcome. They were civil but aloof. “Even their poodle, Beau, snubs our poodle, Maggie,” we joked and afterwards, somehow got on to the subject of Nazism and speculated how it would be if someone like Hitler became President of the United States. We imagined that even our good Dune Acres friends would say, “Tch! It’s a shame about the Rosenbergs. Such nice people” yet, would do nothing if we were deported to a concentration camp. “Yes,” we thought, ‘perhaps now is the time to consider moving back to Israel.’
I, too, was full-time busy. I had been installed as President of the Illinois-Indiana Region of Hadassah. Regional Presidents were all members of the National Board of Hadassah. I wrote in my diary, “”Did it! Triumph! Thank you, dear God!”
Putting a board together and running it via long distance was no easy job. Mentioned in my diary in those days before computers, were travels to Aurora, Michigan City, Evansville, Rockford, Joliet, La Salle, North Shore, Champagne, Springfield, Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary, Arlington Park, Elgin, South Bend, Terre Haute, Lafayette, East Moline, Peoria, Decatur, Danville, Munster, Whiting, East Chicago, and a North West Chapter formed in November, l972.
I had to struggle with my ego as I rose in the
organization. Nora MaCalvay’s Childrens’ theatre group put things in perspective for me, to a certain extent. Before every Children’s Theatre performance, members of the cast would come out in front of the closed curtain and sing,
“Rise and shine and give God your glory glory
rise and shine and give God your glory glory
rise and shine, give God your glory glory
children of the Lord.”
The song had a rousing melody and many verses. Nora had the performers sing this for two reasons. First of all, it kept the very young audience from becoming restless while things were being set up back stage. They always seemed to be entertained by the singing. But Nora’s choice of that particular song was to help her actors understand that being on stage was not for their own glory. She wanted them to forget themselves, and let God shine through as a gift for others. I think it worked for them.
I struggled to keep that idea before myself. I was discovering that I had charisma and leadership ability. As I traveled city to city throughout Indiana and Illinois and gave speeches designed to inspire Hadassah women, I felt the admiration and adulation coming towards me from chapter members. I loved it! My husband was wealthy and successful. I was “Mrs. Big Shot” in a small pond. It was all very difficult not to let it go to my head. I had to keep in mind, ‘This is for Israel. This is for the Jewish people. This is for God’s glory, not my own!’
Some of the words in a prayer I say every morning are:
“Master of all worlds!
What are we?
What our life?
What is our kindness?
What is our righteousness?
What is our strength?
What can we say before You
Our God and God of our fathers?
Are not the famous as if they
never were? The wise as if
the intelligent as if
lacking in sense? for most of
their doings are empty before you and
the days of their lives are vanity……..
The preeminence of man over beast
is non-existent for all is vain
But we are your people, members of your covenant”
To me, the prayer means that what I do is unimportant unless it is in the service of God and is for my people.
One day I travelled to Lafayette, Indiana to attend a “Jewish Education Day” under the auspices of Hadassah. What I heard there has been a part of me ever since. The program was prepared for Hadassah women who came from all kinds of Jewish backgrounds. We were asked to imagine a huge globe and to think of ourselves and every Jew in the world, (“whether they know they are Jewish or not, whether they want to be Jews or not, whether they perform all the mitzvot or none, whether they are Jewish scholars or know nothing, it doesn’t matter), every single Jew is on that globe”, our speaker said firmly, and got us to visualize it. Then she told us that everything we learn about Judaism, every mitzva we perform, every holiday we observe, every Hebrew prayer we utter, brings us closer to the center of the globe. “And at the center of the globe”, she concluded dramatically, “is the heart of the Jewish people.” I realized, then, that though I was far from the center, I wanted to go in that direction. From that time on, I have wholeheartedly accepted the concept that all Jews are on the same globe at various distances from its core. When I told Louise about it she said, “I don’t want to go towards the center, my back is towards the center!”
I came home from another Hadassah meeting with a bumper sticker that read, “We’re For Equality”. Dick thought it highly amusing to see that sticker placed on my Oldsmobile convertible parked in the driveway of our rather imposing home. I, however, firmly asserted that wealth has nothing to do with people’s worth and I believed (and still do) that our fellow-human beings are God’s children and equal in His eyes.
One day, I drove up to a rural road-side stand to buy fruits and vegetables. The hillbilly proprietor squinted to read my bumper sticker. “We’re For Equality What does that mean?” she asked in a menacing tone. “That means,” I said, looking her straight in the eye, “that I believe all men are created equal”! “Yes, but they should work!” she said, putting an end to our exchange with this complete non sequitur.
On another occasion, I had a speaking engagement for the Terre Haute Chapter of Hadassah and drove the many miles to that Indiana town. After my talk, a few people in the audience came up to speak with me and to my astonishment, there stood Sarah Gooch! Sarah Gooch? She had been one of my non-Jewish friend at Colby Junior College. We had completely lost touch after leaving school. Now she lived in Terre Haute, had seen my picture and name in the newspaper announcing that I would be Hadassah’s speaker so she just had to come to hear me. “God sent you”, Sarah said to me. She insisted that I come home with her after the meeting and had many things to tell me about her troubled life. As I listened to her, I also came to believe that God had sent me and am glad to think I might have helped her a bit.
Once, the Valparaiso chapter of Hadassah had arranged a benefit basketball game between the Harlem Globe Trotters and the Boston Celtics. It was an exciting event for a small town and ticket sales exceeded their fondest hopes. Suddenly, in the middle of the game, “Curly Neal”, one of the Globe Trotter’s star players, collapsed due to a heart attack. The game continued after he was carried off the court. I made it my business to find out what I could do to help, particularly concerned that the black basketball star was hospitalized in the all-white town of Valparaiso. I took it upon myself to bring chicken soup and gifts. At first, I was told I couldn’t see him but his lovely wife came out to meet me and thought that a visit from me might “do him good”. I think that my caring did her good too and brought her comfort. These frightened strangers in our midst were so young and so alone. I thought of Ethel Godfrey’s words when I was sick in Portland, Maine so long ago. “If my daughter were eighteen and a stranger, I would want someone to do it for her.” This black couple, so far from home, told me that they had felt prejudice from some of the staff at the hospital but others had been very nice. I’m glad to report that Curly recovered and I felt I had done my part as Hadassah President and as a fellow human being.
Dan and Kim were married in summer and we all attended their wedding in Rhode Island. Kim was not Jewish and they were married in a civil ceremony at her family’s summer home. Dick’s father flew from Cleveland. My Mother flew up from Philadelphia, the Troens drove from Missouri and we flew from Indiana. We stayed at the family’s home in Providence, met and dined with them at their country club. We had all been a bit uneasy but after a very pleasant first evening, my mother commented in her dramatic way, “We have met the enemy and they are us!”
Jon told me he was planning to go to Israel after he graduated high school. I remember the day our youngest invited me for a walk on the beach to discuss his plans. “I want to live in Israel where I was born and if I live there, it would be unthinkable not to serve in the army and if I serve in the army, I want to do it as soon as I graduate when I am at the same age of all the inductees…and when I go, I hope I will have your blessing, but if I don’t have your blessing, I’m going to go anyhow.” Of course he had our blessings but there was some time before he was gone. First he had to finish school.
Jon was a senior at Chicago University’s Laboratory High School. I went with him to the annual May Day Fete, the purpose of which was to raise money for a scholarship fund. Jon was busy with his friends and I didn’t at all mind being on my own. I enjoyed the people and the fun of my surroundings, I spent money at each creative stand and booth until finally I was standing in line at the front of a small tent bearing a sign “Fortunes Told 25 cents”. When it was my turn, I walked into the tent and said, flippantly to the man seated behind a crystal ball, “should I pay my quarter now or wait until after my fortune is told?” He was very serious and said, “as you wish”. He wore a turban and asked to see my hands. “You will be living abroad”, he began, reading my palm. “I think in Europe…no! not in Europe…someplace overseas” He hesitated a great deal over that and finally gave up on it. “I can’t tell,” he admitted “but in another country...far away from here.” “You believe in God”, he went on, “I mean so much so that God is a part of your daily life…a part of everything you do”. He looked further as I acknowledged the truth of what he had just told me. “You will have an operation but you will be all right. You will always be surrounded by young people,” I was smiling at that thought when he continued, “and you will end your days a very blessed woman.” I drew back, startled. “END MY DAYS?” He too drew back and said no more. It was over. I paid my quarter and left the tent, examining my palm wondering where he saw what he saw. How could he tell, for instance, that we were planning to return to Israel? How could he tell how much I loved God?
Michael and Rachel were married in Chicago. My mother fell at the festivities and broke her leg. We took her by ambulance to the hospital in Michigan City and a few days later, I flew with her to Philadelphia. While there, Dan called to tell me that Kim fell from a horse, broke her neck, and was hospitalized at John Hopkins in Baltimore. As I was leaving Philadelphia to take a night train to Baltimore, my mother thrust a book at me so I’d have something to read on the train. “It’s very good”, she said, “It’s about John Quincy Adams”. I took it along and began to read. When I got to Baltimore, the hospital was closed and I stayed at a motel across the street. I read a great deal more that night. Next morning, Kim was down in X-Ray and I sat in her room waiting to see her. I was still reading the book when Kim’s mother arrived from Rhode Island. “Oh!” I told her, “I’m reading the most wonderful book and I keep thinking about you and your family as I read because it’s all about the early Congregationalists who settled in New England. It helps me understand Kim, you, and the family so much better…” “I know what you mean”, said Agatha Littlefield, “That’s how I felt when I read “The Source”. When Kim was returned to her room, she found the two of us smiling.
Sunday, November 19th, 1972 To Carol…Because your little girl said to me today, ‘My Sunday School class is going to the old age home on December 3rd and we’re going to sing “Shalom Chaverim” and we’re going to dance the hora and we’re going to sing Channukah songs and that’s REALLY giving Tzdakah!” (charity) because she said that. Because her response to Golda Meir’s interview this Sunday was to “write a little prayer”, because she was concerned and loving and kind when you, her Mommy, was sick, I know the woman you are and the mother you are being. I know the woman she will be and I, in turn, thank you for continuing me through your children. Am Yisrael Chai.” (the people of Israel live)
In December of that year, we took a trip to Israel. Dick had finished his Masters Degree in Gary and was teaching there. He had applied to the Haifa Technion as a doctoral candidate and our trip was centered around finding out if his proposal for the research he wanted to do was acceptable. Of course we also arranged to see our old friends. We were curious about how it would be to live there again. We were immediately embraced into the circles of friendships we had enjoyed back in the ‘50’s. Everybody was gladdened by the fact that we wanted to return and when we finally learned that Dick had been accepted as a doctoral candidate, we spread the good news. Almost immediately, one of our friends called to tell us about a furnished apartment that would be available for a year. We went to see it, found it to be suitable and reasonable and signed an agreement with the owners before we returned to Dune Acres. We couldn’t get over our good fortune.
We had from the beginning of January until the end of August to sell our house, tie up loose ends, make arrangements, pack up, say goodbye, and leave, not for a trip but for a whole new life in an old-new place.
Read Chapter 17