The Torch Passes (Tahoma)

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Since I didn’t get around to writing an original post for Monday, let’s finally move out a 2013 post that languished in my drafts folder after I decided not to use it as part of that year’s A to Z.

Font: Tahoma

Year created: 1994

Chapter: “The Torch Passes”

Book: Cinnimin

Written: 23 July 1996-10 April 1997

Handwritten

This is Part XVI (16) in my current table of contents for my magnum opus, set from 11 December 1960-1 April 1963. Not including Parts I put on hiatus because of writer’s block or focusing on other projects, this is the one that took me the longest at a single stretch to write. Seriously, I could’ve carried a pregnancy to full term in the time it took me to write this! Even the notebook is depressing, without any covers. This was not a happy time in my life, the summer of ’96 and my junior year of high school.

But I do like it because so much happens here, many things setting the seeds for future storylines. Some new characters are also introduced, foremost among them the immigrant Laurel-Esterházy family from Blackpool, England and Győr, Hungary. Ophelia Laurel will eventually marry Cinni’s son Serop, and several other people in the family (the second generation as well) will marry into Cinni’s family and other important town families. Even some of the ones who don’t [marry into these families] become important characters, like Kathi and poor ill-fated Lauren, who’s going to die of AIDS at the stroke of the new millennium.

Some really stupid storylines met their well-deserved death here, like Cinni’s loopy Stalinist phase (don’t even ask), Cinni’s association with the weird Russian immigrant Bouncer at The Club, and young Anastasia reading banned Soviet books in secret. New ones, more germane to a real family/town saga, began taking shape. And, of course, the torch began passing from Cinni’s generation to her children and her friends’ children.

Some highlights:

“Henry, may I borrow these velvet handcuffs?” Julieanna asked as she casually walked into the bathroom, savoring their horrified looks at being caught in the act.

[Kit] burned an extremely important paper Rob was working on for his spastic boss once she got back home. Then she finished off an entire cheesecake his secretary had made him for a Christmas gift.

“Well, I was cold, and baby was shivering, so I decided to start a fire. I saw those papers in the box of logs, so I thought they were a rough draft which you wanted disposed of, Robert!”

Luke was crying. “I look like Hitler from the waist down! Thanks a lot, you pagan Commie!”

[After Helouise has walked in on her before JFK’s inauguration and refuses to leave] “Close the door! My excretionary life ain’t nonea your business!” Sam started crying.

“Close the door! I’m sorta involved in a private matter!”

“What did you do, drink nonstop before you got in here? You’re still making!”

“You just spent seventeen minutes making onto a photo of President Kennedy!” Helouise was appalled. “Give me that bag, freak!”

Sam was so scared she started urinating again. Helouise was seething.

Julieanna gave the finger to every person attempting to slow her down and bumped several cars off the road before she finally drove through the wall of the emergency room and knocked a man on an oxygen tank into the wall.

[After her soap actor husband Kevin has said the reason he hasn’t slept with her in six years is because of a “bit too real” car accident on the show] “Oh, the hell I did mind! I have wanted a second child for three or four years now!” Julieanna started crying.

[After Kit springs a surprise visit on him in Amsterdam, all four of her small children and her lover in tow] “Why don’t you ever do things like normal people?” Gary demanded, at the desk now. “There are psychologists in England too!”

“This is crazy Kit Green, her lover, and her four kids,” Gary whispered. “She came from England to see me, then drove around Amsterdam for three hours looking for my office!”

[During the Most Popular Girl competition for the new generation, which Cinni has rigged so Anastasia will win and Bélgica will lose by a landslide] “I wonder why Bélgica ain’t practiced more,” Cinnimin said calmly. “She’s doin’ ghastly!”

“Poor sportsmanship,” Lucinda announced. “A fourth negative ten! Tens for all the others. Shall we disqualify Bélgica?”

“Lookit these judges!” Bélgica was crying again. “Your mom, your aunt, onea your stepsisters, your cousin, and onea your stepsisters-in-law!”

[Kit and Sam have found themselves roommates after having babies on the same day] Kit pressed a button, making Sam’s bed shoot up and down. Adolfa slipped to the floor and screamed, while Sam’s water spilled onto her pillows. She was fuming.

Sam was humiliated by the laughter of everyone in the room. Tears of rage in her eyes, she ran to the bathroom, slipped on amniotic fluid, and broke her leg. Needless to say, she spent quite a few months abed.

WeWriWa—Unexpected transportation

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

Katharina Brandt, now called Katherine Small and nicknamed Sparky, has just arrived at Beth Kehillah with her family on their first Sabbath in Atlantic City. It’s quite a shock to see not everyone walks to synagogue. Though the Conservative Movement issued a Responsa permitting driving on the Sabbath for that sole purpose in 1950, the official position in 1938 forbade it.

Sparky’s eyes widened when she saw a few people getting out of cabs, and a few more arriving on bicycles. “Mutti, Vati, are you sure this isn’t a Reform congregation?” she whispered.

“The people we spoke with gave us a detailed list of all the synagogues and other Jewish establishments in this city and the nearby suburbs,” Mrs. Small said. “Beth Kehillah was listed as Conservative. A few people back home probably secretly drove or rode bicycles too. The polite thing to do is pretend you didn’t see it. Embarrassing someone is compared to murder.”

“If they don’t live in a city with a synagogue, why don’t they spend the weekend here at a hotel or with friends?”

The eight lines end here. A few more follow to close this portion.

“That’s between them and God. I don’t approve of it either, but perhaps this is the only way they can get any Jewish connection in their lives. Not everyone is lucky enough to come from a religious family or community, or to have strong personal beliefs to sustain oneself without family or community support.”

“They’re not getting out of a cab or parking a car a few blocks away and walking the rest of the way so no one sees them!” Gary protested. “They’re letting everyone see how assimilated they are!”

“People in America are different,” Mr. Small said. “We’ll serve as an example to them. They might be inspired to become more religious.”

WeWriWa—Resisting assimilation

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Copyright Jüdischen Museum Im Stadtmuseum, Berlin;
Yad Vashem Photo Archives 5409/3083

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

It’s now the eighth night of Chanukah, which coincides with Christmas Eve, and the Smalls and Filliards are having a joint holiday meal. Cinnimin’s mother tries once again to talk the Smalls into adopting secular Christmas symbols, but they steadfastly refuse.

Mrs. Filliard helped herself to more pierogi. “Are you sure you don’t want to put up a Chanukah bush and a few secular decorations? The Christmas season ain’t over till January seventh, Russian Christmas. Even many people who ain’t Orthodox celebrate Twelfth Night on January sixth with special foods.”

“We’ll never celebrate Christmas,” Mrs. Small said. “It’s your holiday, not ours.”

“Chanukah is about resisting assimilation,” Gary agreed. “The Maccabees fought against the Seleucids’ attempts at introducing Greek customs, language, and religion into Judea. If our ancestors had given in and accepted foreign religion and culture, we’d be as much in the dustbin of history as the Seleucids are now. The holiday is about so much more than the oil lasting for eight nights instead of only one.”

WeWriWa—Holiday decorating begins

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP.

As last year, my Christmas- and Chanukah-themed snippets come from Chapter 20, “Dueling December Holidays,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

This is the opening of the chapter, when Sparky Small (birth name Katharina Brandt) and her older brothers start realizing just how predominant all things Christmas are during December in their new country. It’s particularly hard to avoid because they live with a Methodist family.

Sparky, her brothers, the Filliard girls, and Elmira came home from school on the first day of December to a wreath on the door and Mrs. Filliard and Lucinda unpacking all the Christmas ornaments and decorations. Six crates stood in the center of the living room, while small boxes, coiled-up strings of lights and other decorations, and individually-wrapped ornaments were all over the davenport, chairs, side tables, loveseat, and Lucinda’s new turquoise velvet Ottoman. A black and dark green plaid, circular cloth was draped over the back of the davenport, and a green metal object which somewhat resembled a bell was off in a corner.

“You’re just in time to help us with decorating the tree,” Mrs. Filliard announced. “Michael should have it very soon. He was supposed to be back by now, but it’s just like him to inspect each and every tree instead of sawing down the first big tree he sees. If he ain’t back soon, Pietro might have him arrested for trespassing.”

Gary could barely disguise his horrified expression. “Kätchen, Otto, and I must respectfully decline your invitation to decorate a tree, but I’m more concerned about Michael trespassing to get your tree. Did you really send him onto someone else’s property without permission?”

WeWriWa—At the butcher shop

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP.

As last year, my Thanksgiving-themed snippets will be coming from Chapter 19, “Happy Thanksgiving,” of the book formerly known as The Very First (which is set during 1938). The new and improved title will finally be revealed upon its release next year!

It’s two days before Thanksgiving, and Sparky (real name Katherine), her mother, her oldest brother Gary (born Friedrich), her best friend Cinnimin, and Cinnimin’s older brother M.J. are buying food for the Smalls’ half of the joint household’s feast. They’re now at their final stop, a kosher butcher.

Cinni held back after Gary opened the butcher’s door for her. Since she didn’t live on a farm and never helped in the kitchen if she could help it, she wasn’t used to seeing animal carcasses hanging up and strewn over tables. It was bad enough when she’d seen that fish head at the Smalls’ Rosh Hashanah supper.

“We usually go to a kosher butcher in Germantown, but this is much closer,” Gary said. “It’s not practical to haul all this stuff back on the streetcar, to our regular butcher, and back onto the streetcar again. I wish we’d settled in a place like New York or Newark, where all the Jewish resources we need are within a five-block radius of our home instead of a long ride and walk, there and back.”

Mrs. Small set her baskets down and approached a small pen of live turkeys. Cinni watched in amazement as she picked several up, felt for the meat on their bones, inspected their eyes and talons, and blew on their feathers. Mrs. Small might’ve never eaten a turkey or selected one for butchering, but she sure knew what to look for in her poultry.