“Straightening things out” among the machatunim

Saturday, Feb. 20, 1943

Some names will help as we are now dealing with 5 people — and I haven’t even been born yet:

  • My mother is Lois. Her father is Pa. Her mother is Mother.
  • My father is Abe. His mother is Mom. His sister is Mim.

The letter from Pa set off a panic. So today my father wrote to Mim, “… about that business with Lois’ mother and Mom on the phone and the fact that Mom didn’t invite her over etc. At first we thought that was ok but then we got a letter from Pa saying Mother had gone to New York and one of the reasons for going was especially to see Mom and Lois says that if Mom didn’t invite her over it will be terrible because her mother will be offended etc etc etc. Boy ain’t we got fun! So we think you ought to broach the subject to Mom to invite Lois’ folks over. See what you can do. For all I know Mom did invite her over for some other time. Did she? Or something – Anyway, see if you can get Mom to invite them over on Sunday, or something – How about Washington’s birthday? Oy!”*

My father’s letter to Mim seems to have crossed one to her from my mother: “We enjoyed your letter and had a good chuckle over the jam poor Mom was in. Really, tho, she shouldn’t give it a thought because my mother wouldn’t dare venture into the wilds of Brooklyn all by herself. She’d probably prefer to make a visit with my Father because he’s good at navigating. Besides, there’s a whole future for straightening things out. I think Mom was unduly worried. If you think it’s safe to tell her you told us, please assure her that it’s nothing to worry about.”

Since a Passover visit East was in the works, “straightening things out” would take on a new order of meaning.

*“Oy!” or, more emphatic “Oy vey ist mir” – “Woe is me!” expresses dismay and exasperation. Of German or Danish origin, it is related to the German “Weh,” meaning “woe,” and the Danish “oh ve.” It’s the perfect expression for when you’ve just washed the floor and kids with muddy boots tramp through or for anything else that makes you want to throw up your hands at the perversity of human nature. And that’s the last Yiddish you’ll need for a while.





This entry was posted in Chicago during WW II, Jewish life in America during WW II, Today in WWII, World War II and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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