As time went on and my father still was not found, I began to feel more and more different and alone. I remember Devorah Mann, whose parents were divorced, and how she was always treated differently. I remember always feeling sorry for her. This particular situation was even more unique, and therefore harder to deal with. It was probably even more difficult for adults who could not think of anything comforting to say or do. I began to see less and less of my parents friends and it seemed that the community as a whole just wanted to stay away from this story.
Sabbath was very different now. Before my father disappeared, our house was filled every Sabbath with neighbors, family friends and strangers from all walks of life. My mother was always busy in the kitchen putting together Israeli salad platters and desserts. We children, with our tireless energy, would run up and down the stairs, playing hide and seek and cops and robbers. My father would go to shul Sabbath morning and then after lunch he would usually relax with a few friends and play his favorite game of Othello.
We were now going to our grandparents more often and when we did stay home, my mother or her new friend Izzy would make Kiddush.
I suppose that is why my mother grew so attached to Izzy and his family. He was truly one of the few people in the neighborhood who stuck by us through all this. He answered the press, came over at a moments notice when my Mother felt scared and invited us for Shabbas meals. My mother was so grateful to him that in the end she allowed him to take advantage of our situation.
But in the beginning, he was our savior. I will never forget an outing we took with his family just before the Summer of 1986. He drove us upstate to see a piece of land that he wanted my mother to invest money into. The plan was to open up an amusement park for Jewish kids that summer in the popular catskills. Izzy, with his enthusiasm and energy, convinced my mother that they would make a lot of money doing this. They were going to be equal partners, my mother putting up all the money and Izzy putting up the talent and business acumen.
In my diary I described that day as “the best day of my life!” It truly seemed like such an adventure.
They called it “Sherwood Park”.
A short time later it was summer and we moved in. There were three bungalows. Izzy’s family got the bigger, nicer one because he had a wife and four kids. The middle Bungalow housed the four 18 year-old workers named Shlomo, Rami, Michael and Mo. My family got the third bungalow, which only had one bedroom. My sister and I had to sleep in the living room. This was certainly a new experience for us living in such a ratty, bug infested place. I knew deep inside that my father would never have allowed my mother to get involved with this situation or live like this, but he wasn’t there to stop her and we, as kids, had no control.
Izzy brought along all of his animals. Our monkey Udi was a big attraction as well. The park was slowly coming into shape. It had a mini zoo, a few rides and lots of booths with games and prizes. The idea was for Jewish camps all over to come to the park. My mother worked very hard putting together booths. I suppose she needed some sort of an escape and this was it. Away from the probing eyes of our tight knit community she felt more at ease and surrounded by Izzy and his family as well as the workers, she felt safer. It seemed to her a win-win situation.
There was a woman named Irene who babysat Izzy’s children. She was a convert in her late 20’s who seemed to have no family, so she had an arrangement with Izzy where she’d get room and board in exchange for helping with the kids. She was also a very crass person with a terrible temper. It was she who introduced me to my first curse words. I had never heard anyone before talk the way she did and it disgusted and shocked me. I began to hate her and in turn I began to highly dislike this man Izzy who seemed to have taken over our lives and turned it upside down. I viewed him and his family as low class and beneath us. His kids always looked messy and neglected while his wife, a registered nurse, worked all day and was never home. I grew that summer to resent his four small children who stole my toys and destroyed them. I missed Far Rockaway. I missed going to camp Avnet with my friends. I missed the clean environment where I had a housekeeper and I never heard any bad words.
”Fuck!” Irene would yell. “Can you kids just fucking keep it down! I have a God Damned headache!”
”Can you stop cursing” I’d mutter under my breath, too afraid of her to say it so she’d hear.
”Michalli, Irene will watch over you and Yaelli for the next week since I will have to be in the city.” My mother would say every so often.
”But whyyyyyy” I would whine. “I hate her!”
”Michalli, you know I am busy trying to find Abba. I need to do some things for the case. Just be a good girl and listen to her.
”Here” Irene would say later on after my mother was gone. “Take this broom and clean up the fucking mess all you stupid kids left behind. And while you are at it get me a chocolate bar from the canteen.”
That summer felt to me like the beginning of the end of my life as I knew it. To make matters worst Izzy and my mother did not make one penny. It was a financial disaster..