By Sara Fryd
(a chapter from You Meet No Strangers)
Yiddish was our language – my Mother and mine. It was the only common language
Jews spoke to each other throughout Europe. There were two dialectics – Litvak
and Glitzeaner. Mom spoke one, I spoke the other. As was always the case, she
wanted me to speak her dialect and I spoke the other one, just because.
I had two names – Sarinou and Saralle (sweet Saraand little Sara). My mother and
I spoke only in Yiddish to each other. For me it was always on automatic pilot.
No thought process was involved. When I heard her voice my brain responded in
Yiddish. Although German was my first language, Yiddish somehow evolved in the
refugee camp when I wanted to know what all the grown-ups were whispering about.
My mother died in February of 2006. This conversation took place at her bedside
several days before her death.
Mom: "Raialle, (her sister in Israel) dost a bissalle perfume?" (Raia, do you
have some perfume?)
Me: "Vart a minute, eech ob a bisalle perfume in the car?" (Wait a minute, I
have a little perfume in the car.) "Mom, dee vilst perfume?" (Mom, do you want
Mom: "Nu, spritz meech oon. And lipstick, dee ost a bisalle lipstick?" (Of
course, spray me on. And lipstick, do have a little lipstick?)
I put lipstick on her - a beautiful bronze color. Kissed her forehead, kissed
her eyes, kissed her face. She held her face up, the way a baby holds its face
up when your rub lotion on. She looked a little brighter. She inhaled the
attention and breathed a little easier.
Mom: "The government owes me a lot of money. And when they pay me, Saralle,
we're going into business. You know 86 is not too old to go into business, is
it? Deeost g'zain dain tatte?" (Have you seen your Father? He'd been dead since
August 2005 and they had been divorced since 1976. We hadn’t told her he had
Me: "Eech ob im g'zain." (I saw him.)
Mom: "Git, sz’nisht git ts’zain broyges.” (Good, it’s not good to remain angry.)
"Sarinou, eech gay shtarbin?" (Sara, am I going to die?)
Me: “Mom, you want to die?” (I am completely taken off guard, for how do you
ever prepared to lose your parents?)
Mom: "Lobin zeech klapen dem kop in deir vant!" (Let them knock their heads into
My knees almost gave out, while I’m trying not to laugh hysterically. I sat down
next to her bed, my brain racing. Her body is shot. She can lift her right arm
and her head a little bit, and she can talk, boy, can she talk. I had a good
teacher. Here she is with her body broken, though her spirit, her heart and soul
are telling the angel of death to go knock his head into a wall and come and get
her if he dares.
I guess if you can escape the wrath of Hitler, be homeless for seven years
beginning at nineteen, bury your parents and your first born and leave your
sisters behind in Uzbekistan - all before your 25th birthday - travel thousands
of miles to Munich, survive a refugee camp with rations of peanut butter,
margarine, and white bread, travel by ship three months to America, the land of
the free and the home of the brave, and all before your 30th birthday, what's a
This was written from Yiddish translated notes at her bedside 26 Jan 06 in
Scottsdale, AZ when she was in the hospice. Nusha died a week later.
Sara Frydis the author of the book,You Meet No Strangers, a collection of 24
stories about growing up an American daughter in an Eastern European family. It
is available in paperback at Amazon, https://www.createspace.com/3564631"
Createspace, and in electronic digital format for Kindle and Smashword.
from the August 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine