April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In commemoration of the 25th Yahrzeit of my beloved big brother, Seymour Brier

The summer day that my big brother and I became friends began like every other one. Mama woke us up early and rushed us to the breakfast table. I had my usual morning difficulties with the steaming bowl of hot cereal emphatically placed before me on the plastic-covered kitchen table. The oatmeal was thick and lumpy and smelled like glue. Pinching my nose shut with my left hand, I reluctantly tried to swallow but my breakfast just kept getting stuck in my throat. Unfortunately, my noisy suffering was ignored by my mother who was firmly convinced that no healthy breakfast was complete without a big, hot bowl of cereal washed down by a soft cooked egg. No goyish crunchy corn flakes in icy cold milk for us. It didn’t even matter that the temperature was already in the 90s. My older brother Seymour finished easily and sat watching in glee as I struggled, while my mother shot warning glances at us from the sink where she was busy with the dishes. Finally, I could stomach the taste no longer.

“I don’t want any more,” I muttered, pushing the big bowl far away from me.

Uh, oh, now you’re gonna get it,” snickered Seymour, and sure enough there was Mama, spoon in hand.

“If you don’t eat it by yourself,” she warned, “I’m just going to have to feed you.”

Seymour hooted and I blushed miserably at the spectacle of a 10-year-old being force-fed.

But that morning, luck was with me. As if on cue, the front door swung open and there was my brother’s best pal Pinky. My unlikely Lancelot was short and fat and dressed for battle in a too-tight striped polo shirt and baggy khaki shorts. He wore his high-topped sneakers unlaced and he tripped clumsily as he entered our kitchen. Mama frowned at Pinky, gave me one last jab with the spoon, and acknowledging defeat resumed her post at the sink.

My relief left me tolerant, and I didn’t even giggle as Pinky devoured much of the remaining food on the breakfast table. Of course, this stubby hero completely ignored my existence. His hunger satiated for now, he turned to my brother.

“Hey Wes, whatsa’ matter? Aren’t ya’ comin’ to the game”?

“What game”?

“Ya know. Remember, we were supposed to meet the boys at the play street for a game of stickball.”

“Oh, yeah, I almost forgot the game was this morning. Guess I was having too much fun here. Hold it, I’ll get my glove.”

I cleared my throat and asked timidly, “Hey, can I come too?”

They ignored me. Perhaps they hadn’t heard. I spoke a little louder.

“Can I watch your game, puhleeze”?



“Ma,” I yelled, “why can’t I go watch the ball game?”

My mother’s voice echoed through the apartment. “Seymour Brier, if you don’t take your sister along, you can’t go. She’s not going to bother you, she only wants to watch. Why can’t you two ever stop fighting?”

We were out of the house before she finished. Pinky and Seymour were about half a block ahead of me and I had to run to keep up with them, but I was happy. I was going to spend time with the “big boys.” They didn’t waste the long summer days playing stupid games like jump rope and jacks. I continued running breathlessly behind them until we reached the play street.

We called the deserted street behind the old factories “play street” since no cars ever went through. There were many kids there that hot morning. The boys quickly chose captains and picked their teams. I watched with interest as their fingers flew out. Odds-evens, once, twice, three shoot!

Across the street some other kids were playing handball against the back of a building. Knowing that it would take some time to get the stickball game going, I ambled over to watch this game instead.

The day grew increasingly hot as I watched the handball game and the sun beat strongly on my head. The distant tinkle of Hymie’s ice cream wagon made my parched mouth water. Maybe, if I promised to go home, Seymour would give me a nickel, for some cool, crushed ices in a cup.

I crossed the street and stood looking for my brother. I noticed Pinky staring at me with a peculiar expression on his face. His mouth was open as if about to speak. I spoke first.

“Hey, Pinky. Have you seen my broth…”

CRAAACK! A sudden blow to my neck sent me rolling. I spun around and saw my ashen-faced brother standing dumbfounded, half of a broken stick in his hand. “I….I didn’t know you were behind me,” he stammered in fright. They all rushed to me, as my legs turned to jelly and I crumpled to the pavement.

The pain started to penetrate, but I lay on the hot sidewalk too astonished to cry. Seymour hovered over me. ““Does it hurt? Are you all right? Can you stand? Don’t cry. Please don’t tell mama.”

Every few minutes his voice filtered through the fog. “Don’t tell Mama.”

A boy who lived nearby and whose mother was at work, helped carry me to his house. There he put ice on my swelling neck as the other boys circled around me and tried to soothe me. As the shock and pain wore off a little, I began to enjoy the rare attention I was getting from the big boys.

“Gosh, your neck coulda been broken. That stick split right in half.”

“She didn’t even cry.”

“Wes is gonna get it!”

The excited voices flew back and forth. Only my brother was silent, and he was still quiet when we were finally able to leave for home.

Naturally, we were already late for lunch and mama was annoyed. “Where were you two? It’s 2 o’clock already.” Then she noticed.

“What happened to your neck? It’s all swollen. Oh, my poor baby….”

I dodged her embrace. “It’s nothing, mama. I…I just fell. No big deal. What’s for lunch? I’m starving.”

She looked from me to Seymour’s pale face and asked no more questions. We sat down to eat and though my brother ate little he did throw me a friendly grin and even helped me out when I couldn’t finish my milk. I gobbled my lunch happily, one of the guys at last. That was the day my brother and I became pals. Our friendship lasted a lifetime.

Estelle Glass, a Teaneck resident, is a retired educator who is now happily writing her own essays.

By Estelle Glass

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