It was a Saturday night. My moth- er invited me to join her to visit Mr. and Mrs. Rosenman. We walked on the chilly autumn eve- ning past the deserted neighborhood playground. The Rosenmans lived in an apartment above Finkel’s drug- store. As I looked up, although of a tender age, I knew the sorrow that was symbolized by the starkness of a small banner hanging in their win- dow that hosted a solitary gold star. I felt lucky that we displayed a banner that featured three blue stars, but that could have changed with the arrival of an unwelcome telegram. The Rosenmans were not so lucky.
We ascended the long staircase to their apartment. My mother knocked and Mr. Rosenman greeted us. He tousled my hair and I can still recall his warm smile. This gesture made me feel welcome and wanted in their humble home. Mrs. Rosenman, sat in her armchair was knitting. She looked up at me and also flashed a smile and offered a compliment to my mother about how handsome a young man I was.
Their daughter, Bertha, a pretty young woman, was readying herself to go out for the evening, but she stopped a few moments to chat with me. I was captivated by her simple beauty; her long dark hair, the scent of her perfume and her air of sophis- tication. I had heard that she was a social worker for the city and that made her seem all the more allur- ing and interesting to me. Although prepubescent, I felt a slight awaken- ing of erotic feeling in her presence. My lifelong attraction to dark haired women might have hatched from gazing at that lovely face and the sweet aroma of that young woman.
Mrs. Rosenman asked me if I would like to eat a pickled pepper. Since I love anything pickled, I enthusiastically accepted her offer and proceed- ed to savor that delicacy. I had never eaten one before. I asked my mother if she could make that delightfully tasty dish for me. Mrs. Rosenman proceeded to dictate the recipe step-by-step to her. Whenever I see pickled peppers, my thoughts go back to that Saturday night of 65 years ago. It is strange how some simple, mundane experiences are deeply etched into one’s psyche, Shades of Proust’s Madeleines!
The attention drifted away from me. As I amused myself in the apartment, adult conversation began. Not fully understanding the spoken Yiddish, I could sense that a deep sadness began to permeate the living room. I sensed that the conversation was all about Seymour. He and my broth- er Aron were lifelong friends. They had both volunteered to join the army after they graduated from high school, both barely 18 years old. By the time they finished their hasty basic training, in a matter of a few weeks, they were on a troopship on the way to the battlefields of Europe.
Life is strange. Millions of men fought in the war. One would tend to believe with so many men in so many battles that the details of the exploits would never be known. Not so. There was almost always a comrade that was a witness. Families would soon learn the details of the deaths of their sons.
After D-Day, June 4, 1944, thousands of Allied soldiers moved eastward across France towards Germany. Private Seymour Rosenman was a young unseasoned replacement assigned to a platoon. They were traveling rapidly across the French countryside. Suddenly, an explosion from a powerful landmine tossed the vehicle over and ended the short life of a beloved young man.
The Rosenmans were never the same. Mrs. Rosenman never left her home again. According to those who knew her, she could never accept the fact that Seymour was gone. For the rest of her life she made sure that she would be home when he returned. A few years later, Mrs. Rosenman died, probably from a broken heart. All of the memories were too powerful for Mr. Rosenman and Bertha to bear. They moved a few blocks away to Sam Klein’s apartment house with the hope that the sorrow would abate. Harry Rosenman died a few years after his wife. Bertha never married, continued to live alone in the apartment and died an early death. There were no other family members.
In her denial that Seymour was gone, Mrs. Rosenman refused an offer to have his remains reinterred in the United States. He rests in the military cemetery somewhere in France. His friends of long ago always spoke well of a kind, handsome, young man who never had the chance to partake in the wonders of life.