This past Sunday was a beautiful spring day from Jerry’s perspective. It was sunny and cool and precipitated Jerry’s reflecting back on how he spent spring days when he was very young and lived with his parents in a three room, one bedroom apartment on Elm Avenue in Brooklyn.
Throughout his childhood, right through to his early 20s, there were no memories of summers spent in Brooklyn, ever. He spent many summers with his entire extended family, from the time he was born until he was 12, in Turkin’s Bungalow Colony off exit 106 near Monticello. After that, he went to sleepaway camps.
Jerry was tenured in Camp Raleigh for six summers, followed by an assortment of other camps. He has vivid memories, however, of how he experienced (survived) spring each year in Brooklyn, particularly the beautiful days when Jerry felt imprisoned (a veritable Rapunzel, for all non-sleeping hours during every day) in the apartment waiting for his mom to finish her daily (endless) chores. By the time they left the apartment, having listened to a myriad of Art Raymond’s Yiddish classics on WEVD, Jerry morphed into a full-froth frenzied state, needing to unleash his pent-up, naturally boundless energy, in the great outdoors that awaited him on Avenue M in the afternoon.
Jerry was very active back then (he would have been diagnosed as top shelf hyperactive by today’s standards) and was reputed to be a handful (monster) for his mother to entertain (restrain) until he reached 6 years old, at which point he was sentenced to eight years at Yeshiva Rambam. Finally, his mother could recuperate, during school hours. Of course, Jerry would return home late in the afternoon, his energy level rocket-fuel sky-high after a day forced to sit in class with only 15 minutes of “recess” twice a day. Jerry’s teachers further determined that Jerry (and all other kids) should be sentenced to sit and do homework and study. The only reason Jerry was never left back (despite specializing in failing all tests) was that no teacher deserved to be sentenced to endure Jerry’s antics for a second year.
Jerry’s favorite activity was playing in the park off 18th street between avenues M and L. He spent many afternoons there, and can still vicariously experience and recall how he used the adult-sized metal swings from which he would look up at the sky when he was at the apex of his swing, imagining that he was an airplane fighter-jet pilot flying very close to the sky and shooting down Nazi planes. He also loved the rush of climbing all the way up on the steps of the high sliding pond and then hurtling at what felt like breakneck speed, to the ground below. He could swing and slide for hours until the temperature cooled off, as evening announced its approach and Jerry’s mom decided it was time to head home after an afternoon of non-stop action.
Jerry, of course, pleaded and begged to remain playing at the park, but after many tantrums and an ocean full of false tears, Jerry inevitably trudged home, compelled to hold onto the carriage, in which his brother rode, tired, scraped up, and hungry. Dinner and a warm bath in the “vannah” awaited him at day’s end.
If playing at the park was the best of times from Jerry’s perspective, one day each spring he was compelled (sentenced) to accompany his mother on a shopping spree. She excitedly planned a trip to 34th street in Manhattan where she spent countless hours schlepping (torturing) Jerry through the notorious Macy’s and Gimbels department stores (Dante’s inferno, the ultimate crucible of hell!).This reflected the very worst of times which Jerry encountered during childhood.
He still recalls how they would enter Macy’s and head over to the beautiful elevators, where the elevator man sat on a stool, wearing a special hat and jacket, greeting everyone, and then closing a metal fence-like contraption, imprisoning all young hyperactive victims who had the misfortune of being caught in its unforgiving net. The elevator man would open the gate announcing all the departments available on each particular floor, until they reached a floor which sounded most boring and oppressive of all which, of course, his mother excitedly determined to explore.
Jerry’s mom finally exacted just retribution for all that Jerry compelled her to endure while Jerry acted like Jerry during his childhood. As Charles Dickens would have written: “While the park was the spring of hope, Macy’s was the winter of despair.”
Bet you didn’t think I could tie in a recipe with Macy’s! Well, this one comes straight from Macy’s.com and is a perfect dairy dessert for Shavuot.
Raspberry Fudge Cheesecake Bars
2 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 packages 8 oz bars of cream cheese, softened
1 can 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
2 oz white baking chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint raspberries
1 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon water
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Heat oven to 300°F. In an ungreased 9x13 cake pan, combine all crust ingredients, mix well and press firmly in the bottom of the pan. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add condensed milk, melted chocolate, vanilla and eggs; beat until smooth, scraping the side of the bowl frequently. Pour filling over crust.
Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until set. Cool 30 minutes.
Arrange raspberries on top of filling. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat unsweetened chocolate and 1-tablespoon butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Add water and powdered sugar, and beat until smooth and drizzling consistency. (If the glaze is too thick, add more water, 1-teaspoon at a time. If glaze is too thin, add more powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time.)
Drizzle glaze over raspberries. Refrigerate for 1-1/2 hours or until cold. Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Cut into 5 rows by 3 rows.