The best part of Uncle Irving and Uncle Izzy going off to the Korean War were the presents! Okay, that is the perspective of a five-year old girl. And, maybe an eight-year old, my sister. What did we know about war and barracks and guns?
At night, Sis and I lay on the twin beds pushed next to each, in the dark, whispering in our secret language. Above us twirled giant, colorful paper fish (or, now I wonder, were they dragons?), suspended from the ceiling. A special gift from Uncle Izzy. Sis had one over her bed, I had another over mine. The bright fish kept us company those spooky nights in the big, pre-War brick apartment building off the Concourse in the Bronx, with the view towards the rear.
How we loved our fish! Our only pets! (My mother could barely tolerate the paper ones, much less real pets! “Dust catchers,” she called the fish. She was right, but . . . even so, we so little . . . we needed something!)
Then the hand fans. The gorgeous silk fans, with painted landscapes. The one with the black background, a painted pink bridge and red flowers — my favorite. Another impractical gift I loved. From Uncle Irving.
And the best! The very best! The red silk pajamas. (Real silk? Probably not! But I didn’t know the difference!). The tops, heavy with embroidered flowers, complete with frog closures. Sis and I wore our sets until they were ripped rags! But for a while, I felt so elegant, an Asian princess.
Years later, decades later, Uncle Irving would say, “Enough already! I’m tired of hearing about the pajamas!” But I never got tired of remembering what a treat they were, how they brightened our gray wool plaid and yellow flannel wardrobes outfitted with my mother’s Spartan brand of practicality.
Royal red silk for the little princess. . . could there have been anything sweeter?
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