Gifts from my Grandfather
By Anne S. Armand
“I loved to play word games while he drilled me on my vocabulary. It has been at least 55 years since I learned at his side, watching him fill in puzzles with a deliberate hand that formed each letter in a precise stroking order. Sometimes, I close my eyes and picture him sitting in his chair with the newspaper folded just so. For an instant I can recall the smell of his ink and the musk of his skin.”
DIRECTION AND WONDER
On a shelf above my desk I keep a little book, which my own grandfather gave to me. It is called a book of Jewish Thoughts, compiled by Rabbi J H Hertz for soldiers serving in World War I. I love that his pencil marks direct me to words that guided him. And I love that his own hand turned the same pages as he searched for hope during another time of turmoil and uncertainty. When I look for inspiration I reach for the tiny volume and flip through the worn pages until I find a phrase or prayer, which pertains and calms.
On my front hall table there is a brass pitcher, made in Russia, which he used for his ink. Did it come with his mother Rose or did he buy it in a shop? On my desk I have a paperweight that is a piece of iron with my name cut out by a welders torch. He claimed to have found it in a scrap heap. Did he? In my hutch I have another paperweight, it is an unadorned domed crystal. The four corners are beveled. If you hold it against the light you see rainbows but if you hold it over a picture or a word, it magnifies them. Like his gifts and stories the glass weight is not what it seems. Clarity begets answers. It is how you look that determines what you find.
Seventy years ago, there was a special edition of JEWISH ADVOCATE announcing my birth. (My grandfather was a copy editor and printer). He worked at the Advocate and took license to print this limited run. I am sure that he was also instrumental in my naming, for there would have been no arguing with him. On November 4th, 1939, I was named Anne Rose after my great grandmothers, Ada Dann and Rose Goodman. My Hebrew/Yiddish name is Channa Raizel, which as a child I thought it sounded like Hanukah Raisin. Needless to say, I didn’t like it. And when I was older I took the liberty of referring to myself as Hannah Rose, which I thought was a better fit.
In the sanctum of my grandfather’s study where the 11th commandment, THOU SHALL NOT TOUCH, was strictly enforced, portraits of my great grandmothers were hung over a book case that housed black leather volumes of the Jewish Encyclopedia. I remember looking at the women, thinking that they were watching me and surely if I dared to touch, they might know and tell! Either by intent or happenstance, it was a very clever deterrent in keeping grubby little hands away from his treasured books.
Back then I had no idea that I was their namesake and that decades later, a collection of my writings would be entitled the Hannah Rose Diaries.
LIVE IN THE NOW…RESPECT THE PAST
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
Although born in Vilna, my grandfather, Henry B. Goodman was a proper Bostonian. There was no hint of European accent or trait. His appearance was ’thoroughly modern’. In addition to the Jewish principles and perspective, which influenced his mode of thinking, he was also a Victorian. Bespectacled, vested, in maroon or navy blue, he was as meticulous and starched as his shirt.
HB was a union man, and a Republican, a disciplinarian and a trickster. A man of contradictions; yet principled in all ways. His sense of humor precipitated a complicated thought process. Gifts were often puzzles, like the man, the treasure was hidden deep inside. As a wordsmith he deftly did the Times in ink and played a mean game of scrabble. I still have his worn letters and the turntable he made for the board.
He would have been proud to know that I keep his gifts close and use them frequently. Had he been alive now, he would have been so excited to fly through cyber space with me on the Internet. My grandfather was a wise man who knew that thoughtful things are wonderful gifts to be treasured when the toys are long gone and memories are all.
I have given some of his books to my own grandchildren. It was hard to hand them over, as I know that they will not have the same connection. However, it is my hope that when these young people are grown, a few of the volumes and gifts might find a way to the shelves over their desks. There is one in particular that they will find of interest. It is simply titled:
Exodus 20:12. Honor thy Father and thy Mother.
On the back of the fourth page of the Goodman book, there is the record of Henry Baer Goodman. He was born in Vilna Russia on August 9, 1884. He was the son of Louis and Rose (Feinberg) Goodman He married Fannie Daneshevsky, born in Smargon Russia October 30, 1886. She was the daughter of Louis and Ada (Miller) Daneschevsky. Their wedding took place on Thursday, October 30, 1906 in Springfield, Massachusetts.
from the February 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine