My parents came from very similar backgrounds, Eastern European. My Mom’s family was from Rovna, Ukraine and immigrated here in 1900. Mom was born in New York City in 1908. My Dad’s family is from Snovsk, Ukraine and immigrated to the United States in 1910, when Dad was six.
I’ve been thinking about my parents. Two weeks ago would have been their 86th wedding anniversary. Both of them are gone but certainly not forgotten. I always found the story of how they met and married a bit of a romantic comedy. Their families came from the same vicinity, near Kiev. But it wasn’t until they were young adults that my Mom, Jessie, and Dad, Aaron, meet.
Both my grandmothers were single parents. Their husbands were victims of the 1918 flu pandemic. My maternal grandmother, Ida, was a piece goods worker hemming pant cuffs and shortening sleeves. My paternal grandmother, Mary, had a small grocery store.
In the early part of the 20th century, the Catskills in upstate New York had bungalow colonies where families would go to get out of the city for a week’s vacation in the summer. This is where my parents met. While my mother denied it and my father stayed very quiet, Mom’s brother, Uncle Jay, swears their marriage was arranged.
Jessie was 21 and working as a secretary. Aaron was 25 and graduating dental school. According to Uncle Jay, (Jessie’s brother), she was dating a handsome medical student, Ben, from Texas and, while a doctor was a blessing, Ida feared her only daughter would move away. Aunt Rose, Dad’s sister, told me Mary wanted Aaron, the youngest of seven and the last one unmarried, to settle down. It was time for him to start his family with a sensible woman. Ida and Mary introduced Jessie and Aaron and found lots of reasons for them to be together. Neither Jessie nor Aaron were happy with their plans. Ida threw a party for Jessie and Aaron but was a bit miffed when Aaron brought another woman as his date and Jessie walked in on Ben’s arm.
Back in the City, Jessie and Aaron spent time together the rest of the summer. Aaron became part of Jessie’s group of friends. Jessie was a practical realistic woman and a bit of a quiet person especially compared to Aaron’s outgoing nature. He held whatever audience he had enthralled with his stories and jokes.
On September 25, Uncle Jay came home from classes at Fordham University and was told to get dressed in his best suit. Jessie was getting married in their Aunt’s apartment across the hall. He was excited. He liked Ben. He stopped short when he saw Jessie with Aaron.
Ben pleaded his case up to the end but Ida would not hear any of it. He graduated, returned to Texas and never married. Jessie and Aaron had a good life together. Mom never spoke of Ben, not even when my sister and I would pester. She would just smile and tell us she wouldn’t change anything for the world.
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.