On a sultry summer evening in July 1944, neighbors sat on the stoop in front of our home chatting and seeking relief from the heat. Children were playing an intense game of “hide and go seek.“ As they scurried to find hiding spots, I quickly darted across the street just as Bummie Ackerman drove up the block. As the brakes screeched we collided, and I flew up in the air and then plummeted to the ground. Everyone stared in disbelief and surrounded my unconscious little body. In those simple days, a quick meeting of the minds decided that Bummie should drive me, my mother, and a small support group to the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital; no ambulances, no lawyers, no lawsuits.

I was drifting in and out of consciousness and I remember being worked over in the emergency room under a bright light. I don’t know how long I slept but I remember waking up on a sunny morning in a large crib. I recall looking up at an angelic face with a serene smile. The face was not framed with a halo but a pure white starched nurse’s cap. “Where am I? What happened to me? I want my mommy!” The soft, sweet voice responded, “Herby, you are in a hospital. You were hit by a car and you have a fractured skull. Your mother will come later, but you don’t have to worry because I’ll be here and I will take care of you.“ Believing in her reassurances, I relaxed and fell back to sleep, and nature took its course.

A few days later, the angelic nurse seemed to float into the room. She looked down at me and said, “I brought you a book that I thought you would like to read.“ At this point in my life, I had read my school primers, some simple picture books and comic books, but I had never read a book for sheer pleasure. Her choice for me was Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. After she left, I open the book and began reading. It could not have been a better first choice for me to read. It had all the elements that would excite the imagination of an eight-year-old boy. I later learned that Sylvia Pollack was from Middle Village.

During my stay in the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital I must have re-read that book three or four times. It had so impressed me that I have been an avid reader all my life. When my mother and brother Sam came to bring me home, they dressed me in a brand new sweatshirt with the face of Charlie McCarthy stenciled on the front and prepared to take me home.

I recall looking up at an angelic face with a serene smile. The face was not framed with a halo but a pure white starched nurse’s cap.

As we were leaving the hospital, I don’t remember if I thanked that blithe-spirited nurse for caring for me, and more importantly, opening up the world of literature to a naïve little boy, but I would like to take this opportunity to do so today – Thank you Sylvia – 66 years belated.

This story was read to Sylvia Pollack, at her 90th Birthday Party.
December 26, 2010.
She still looked like the Blithe Spirit that changed my life by bringing me a book.