No Bathing Allowed (revisited)

To say she was devoted to her only child would be an understatement. My grandmother had gotten married late and to a widower with children, as well.  Her identical twin sister had made it under the chupah years before, and had numerous of children to show for it. Grandma Fanny had been a devoted aunt as well as a personal cook for the owners of the Catskill Mountains resort until she met my grandfather. She was already in her late thirties.


My grandfather, BenTzion, known as ‘Pops’, had recently lost his first wife, the mother of his eight children, of whom two were still living in the house. He was a straight forward, hard working, honest and dedicated man who took ‘taking care of others’ as his personal mission in life.


My grandfather who came to America by himself at the young age of 10, some how got a job in a hat store and worked himself up to part owner and then started a farm; selling chicken feed and seeds; felt incredibly fortunate and gratitude to Hashem.  Knowing the future did not look bright for any one in the 1930’s especially for Jews in Europe; Pops took it as a personal obligation to bring over as many ‘landsman’ he could to the American shores.


Now in those days, considering immigration issues are always a delicate discourse, the American government insisted any family who wished to make their home in the United States; needed to have relatives in the country who would vouched for them.  That meant the citizen-already would have to take on the obligation for the new family; by putting them up physically and supporting them financially; until they found their own way. The American government did not want to have pay for these new folks. So my grandfather did. Reb Horowitz found 10 lost ‘relatives’ to bring over to safer land.


After their first anniversary, Fanny was already thirty-eight, when she started to notice unexplained weight gain and extreme tiredness. Knowing she had missed her chance of bearing children, due to her advanced age, she was sure she had a tumor. When contractions started, my grandparents overwhelming gratitude to the G-d who created her pregnant state knew no bounds. My father was born on the last day of the year; giving the new mother a promise of eternity. She exuded happiness. My grandmother had a taken care of the other children with love; but she was incredibly dedicated to my father, her only son.  The world revolved around him.


Since she was actively part of my grandfathers ‘taking care of others’ campaign, having been a cook in the past, she provided food for the many guests, ‘relatives’ and to the poor that lived in their vicinity. This included visiting the New York city market on the lower east side Houston street; every Sunday to get the best deals to shelp back to their Perth Amboy, New Jersey home.  She would pick out the best fruit and vegetables as well as chicken from the kosher butcher (which she would need to kasher when it got home) and fish bought at the fish store; offering fresh fish still alive in their water filled vats.


Yet, grandma had a strange rule in her house; when it came to bathing, under no circumstances, would she allow bathing in the Horowitz’s household from the Sunday night until Thursday morning.  Now that may not seem such a big deal when there was maybe only three sons to handle, but please bear in mind this was a house above their seed and tool outlet store on the main street that sold proceeds from their farm.  Dust flew in, chickens roamed the yard, and boys will be boys. It was also a household packed room to room at times from the many immigrants visiting for short or not so short time periods, besides the other six children that would visit when they were able.


But the bathing rule held firm no bathing in the beginning of the week in the Horowitz’s household.  It was my grandmother’s schedule to made gefitle fish for all the families on Thursday morning.  And where did the carp live before she started her early morning cooking chores to prepare for the Sabbath? In the bathtub.




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