Before the cabin was sold, before the children grew up and became lawyers, doctors, oh yes, it’s true, and housewives, husbands, fathers and mothers; before Uncle Bernard moved Bobby and Fela downtown, and Jeanette moved Sammy into his bedroom that really was half a dining room on West End Avenue, we inhaled summer weekends in Peekskill. Pecans and pistachios in big bags, borsht and challa, Babka and compote, tea in a glass with sugar cubes in the teeth.
Sammy, Bobby, and I are upstairs in Bobby’s room while the grownups argue once again about Stalin and the failure of Lenin’s dream, no really Trotsky, oh who cares, and what’s happened to the Jews, who would have thought, and did you hear about Bronka’s tante Claire from Bucharest, no, Kiev, well, anyway, she’s coming.
We’re upstairs. We crawl under the covers of the big bed that takes up most of the tiny room, and Sammy says, “What are you guys doing under there?” And something is happening, but we laugh and say, “Nothing.” Bobby’s face close to mine. I turn over and start wrestling. Sammy jumps on top, and it’s raucous. I am screaming with popcorn hysterics as we tickle and we rub and touch bodies, his bum on my elbow, my belly takes a knee.
Mom comes upstairs, opens the door, and catches us all shrill wildness. There’s silence in a second. The three of us shaking, caught between whoops and sheer terror. For a moment it’s a toss up – disaster or delight. We watch her eyes closely ’til they flicker like the fireflies early that evening, and she falls on the bed grabbing us all in her arms. She is beautiful, my mother; she is dizzying in her sparkle. We lie with her, and in a clear voice, so like a deer breathing at the side of the road, she leads us to sing, “Allons enfants de la patrie, le jour de gloire est arrive.” Come children of the country, the day of glory has arrived.