September 14th, 2007 by Buffalohair admin
In remembrance of a very special person in my life I am going to reprint a story about an old Jewish lady named Gabby. Yesterday I sang some Yiddish songs with a friend of mine. After we were done I did not realize how special these songs were to me. It was Rosh Hoshana and in their way it was the Jewish Sundance. Many of you younger people don’t know what life was back in the 50’s growing up Native in this Land of Liberty and freedom. But we Krusty old farts do and it was a very bad time for us Skins indeed. I was just a little poop butt of a kid, innocent and unaware of the hatred that lay before me when my family struck out on their own in this strange land away from my relations. Everyone was very poor and it was every man for himself in may ways. In some ways this has not changed from a Native perspective fore we are still struggling to find equality even among other minorities in this so called Land of the Free. So let me share with you a story I wrote for my Nana Gabby a survivor of Auschwitz and the one non Native who befriended my ma and me when the world would only spit on us and call us names.
FOND MEMORIES, hmmmmmmmmmmm.
Gabby, my nana was a ray of sunshine for both my ma and I during some very dark times. At the time, I was to young to figure out people hated us because we were not white. I just thought they mistook us for some other kid and mom. Gabby looked white, but she was so kind and tender. She was also a survivor of one of Hitler’s Death Camps. In her own way she would put things into perspective. And offer my mom emotional sanctuary since this burden of racial hatred has taken it’s toll. It just made me sad to see my mom crying over the bad people we encountered though. So when Gabby came into out lives, it truly was a blessing.
One morning I woke up to the sounds of women laughing. So I ran into the kitchen to find my mom and this old woman laughing and drinking tea. Mom introduced this kind looking woman to me as my new babysitter or nana. She was going to care for me while ma went to work. I was very shy at first, but then she began to sing a song in some language I never heard before. Then she began to clap her hands and before I knew it, I was spinning around like a whirling dervish. I can still remember some of the words in Yiddish to this day. And I can spin around with the best of them at a Bar mitzvah, Oy Vey.
Well she taught us how to survive in this new modern world we were in. Her tale of how she survived just the emotional torment and pure anguish gave us strength. I did not learn of the extreme conditions and absolute brutality of her journey until many years after her passing. Fact is, there was many things I did not know till later. I would not have been able to grasp it at that age anyway. But she would mention how people used to be rude to her and her family. And how they coped with it. Man, she never saw her parents again after they were sent to the concentration camp. Imagine….
We learned to pretend and to wash the sounds from our ears. And we were fortunate that we only were assaulted with spit and not angry mobs of haters, blaming them for the nations economical problems. Hmmm, sounds familiar eh. Lets bomb Mexico! And build another “Berlin Wall”. Opps, sorry. Wir bezeugen die Geburt von einer neuen Zeit des Hasses.
I used to go far away within my thoughts. I would be with my cousins running around barefoot and free of any anger or hate. My mom and my aunts would be all together laughing. My uncles would be playing horseshoes or saddling up some horses for a ride. I loved riding along this bright red arroyo. The sun would hit it and it was beautiful, almost magic. The rains would come and the arroyo would be 30 feet deep with raging water. You could feel this hypnotic draw bringing you closer and closer to the edge. It would put me in a trance as I watched it. The sound of the roaring waters vibrated deep within my soul. The scent of grass just after the rain has fallen was so frail and delicate. The wind would tease my senses as the birds resumed their never-ending search for sustenance. They would chirp with delight as they discovered a fat night crawler on the muddy Earth. Then as I stand on a knoll overlooking this lush picture of nature at her best. The dark clouds would begin to melt away and I would feel a ray of warmth on my young face as the Sun regains control of the sky.
Yup, I would go there many times while growing up. My mom would still be sad though but not as bad. I enjoyed drifting away when people got mad. Gabby taught me how to be invisible. It was pretty easy all I had to do was focus on something far away, walk towards it and think, “Invisible.” It was important to focus only on that to. This gift save my life many times later on.
But it was nice to have a friend like Gabby around. She was never mean to my mom or I. And was more like family than a nana. She would take me to the Central Market in L.A. and buy groceries for my mom when she was at work. I would go over to the meat and fish department and gaze with amazement all the different sea creatures and animal parts there were. Back then, they still sold the skinned heads with the brains, tongue, eyeballs intact. Even the teeth and jaw was still attached. When you bought a chicken, you picked out the live bird. Then within a few minutes, TA DA! You’re handed a white wrapped bundle containing your fresh-butchered bird. This was somewhat traumatic for me since I would want to keep it for a pet, not dinner…lol
One time in surge of my infinite wisdom, I ran down to this park near our house. I did not think anything about it. I just decided to head on down to the park. After all, it was a nice day and I wanted to play. So I made tracks to the park a block away. Then I made this fabulous discovery. There were big giant chickens or something running around and it looked like they did not belong to anyone either.
This was fantastic and I was going to take full advantage of this situation for sure. So I went around gathering up these giant chickens. And they were tough to, I was pecked and pinched all over the place, but I was undaunted. I was saving these birds from the people who might eat them. Well, I finally nabbed one. He was not to pleased with the way I nabbed him either. I used his neck like a leash and walked him home.
I was so happy to. I got home and was looking around for nana or ma. No one was home. I was a little worries but hey. I filled the tub with water and tossed the chicken in the bathroom and closed the door. I was ready to get a few more before it’s to late. So off I went, back to the park to gather more chickens. Eventually, I managed to gather about 5 chickens and fill our bathroom.
Think I was on my last chicken run when I heard some people holler my name. I turned around and it looked like a mob was after me. At first I thought I did something bad and all the white people were after me. So I took off running, I was scared. Then I heard my ma’s voice and Gabby’s as they and a few neighbors ran to me. Well, I just stood there and began to cry because I just did not get it I guess.
The crowd overtook me and I was swooped into my mom’s arms. Everyone was all happy and crying. Gawd, what was that all about anyway? Seems everyone thought I was lost since I just disappeared many hours ago. And they were looking all over for me. So this was a happy ending for Gabby and my mom since I did not get kidnapped or molested by a weirdo.
We got home and I promised my ma and nana that I would never leave the house without an adult since I was still a puny kid. As my mom hugged me and told me how much she loved me. We heard a loud yell and all of s sudden the living room was filled with 5 angry ducks flapping their wings and crapping all over the place. Lamps were knocked down and everything was in total chaos. It was sort of fun watching ma and Gabby chasing all the birds around the house. I was having a blast running and laughing. I just knew this was a good idea.
Later after all the dust and feathers have settled, I was warned about animals plucking my eyes out and all. But no one was mad at me. We all did share a good laugh though. I was pretty beat up to. The birds kicked my butt even if I did manage to get them in the house.
The day passed as life moved forward and we returned to normality. I remember going back into the house for dinner. The house smelled real good to. It was like some of them times when people gathered and ate together, I thought. I was up and in my chair, I was starved and the smells made me very hungry. Ma and Gabby brought out the food and there was this big chicken on the table. We laughed and ate since this was a pleasant surprise for all of us to eat so much.
Gabby said something to the effect, “You’re a good hunter.” I was all proud since I knew it was about the chickens I put in the bathroom. Then the next day I was playing in the back yard and near the trashcan, there was a white feather. When I looked in the can, I saw the rest of the bird we ate the night before.
My ma once told me that Gabby was “Jewish”. I did not really know what a “Jewish” was. But for some reason, I always related this thing called a “Jewish” with cabbage and “Peter and the Wolf”. And here is why, so don’t get your civil liberties all in an uproar, gawd. Next thing I’ll get bomb threats from the JDL. holay!
Gabby used to do lots of cooking and she used lots of cabbage. It was a nice warm and endearing fragrance as she cooked. And since she was a “Jewish” the warm homey smells of cooking cabbage always reminded me of her and sanctuary.
Peter and the Wolf was the very first piece of classical music I ever heard. And it was Gabby that introduced me to the classics at a very early age. Her and I would pretend to be playing various types of musical instruments. And it was very fun since I did not know there were so many kinds. Then we would envision the story about Peter and the Wolf. I could almost hear them running as the music played on. She taught me how to imagine.
Yes there were fond memories even in the shadow of darkness and racial hatred. And leave it to an old Jewish lady to help us through a time of hate. I know she saved my mom a nervous breakdown for sure. Sometimes I wonder, if Gabby did not survive Hitlers Death Camps, what would have happened to us?