LIVING LIFE AT THE UN PLAZA, страница 1
LIVIN AT THE UN PLAZA
LIFE AT THE UNITED NATIONS PLAZA
By: Leslie K. Siegel
It was 6:00 p.m. as the Bill-Dave youth center van drove down FDR Drive. Eliza, her sister Glinda and Brother Richard sat in the back seat. It was winter and as they zipped in and out of lanes, Elizas eyes were temporary blinded by the white, slushy snow she watched speeding by, piled high up along the curbs. She was fighting car sickness too.
Theyd been in Central Park all day, after school. Elizas fingers were dirty and just now thawing out from the afternoons activities in the park. Lenny, the obnoxious but experienced driver was constantly gunning the engine and making them lurch forward along with 10 other kids riding in it too. Some of the diehards enjoyed the rumpus ride comparing it to a rollercoaster, but Eliza hated it and it showed on her pale face.
Another memory took hold in Elizas sharp mind of her father placing her on an amusement park ride between her 2 brothers Roy and Richard. The ride had been a terror and traumatized the poor little 3 year old, but she had said to her father that she wanted to ride with her brothers and her father obliged her against the wishes of their mother Lena. The ride had only aggravated the car sickness mode Eliza would fall into when riding in a bus, car or even a park ride.
Are you going to get sick again? asked a cute pixy looking black girl sitting a few seats away from Eliza.
I dont know Sheri. Eliza turned to Lenny. Can you slow down?
Lenny quickly gunned the engine again and imitated Eliza& Can you slow down&.Oh, no, boo-hoo, boo-hoo!
Stop it Lenny!
Why? he asked, using a little girls voice as the trickster guy weaved in and out of New York traffic erratically with one hand on the wheel. He really was a very good driver and had his license since he was 12 and he knew he had full control of the van. It just was so easy and tempting to tease poor Eliza.
Shes going to be sick, shes gonna lose her cookies, said another little boy riding in front, a good looking imp of a rascal named Cyrus. Everyone took his cue and began mimicking Eliza. Even the usually quiet Gaby and her little pudgy fat sister Lauren who was always sucking her thumb were a bit hyper too.
Elizas gonna get sick, shes gonna loose her cookies! They made it into a chant and kept it up, a sing along like Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
Glinda felt sorry for her older sister and seemed to bare the ride fine and same with the shy and quiet Richard. Why dont you leave her alone! Glinda yelled at the kids, but to no avail, the banter went as they sped up 2nd Avenue, Lenny gunning the engine.
At that moment Eliza wished she could be her older brother Roy who didnt go to the youth center because he was at a different school and therefore on a different schedule than the other 3 Osberg kids, so he was spared the rough ride home back to the UN Plaza.
The second oldest Richard was introverted, shy and remote and didnt say much due to a slight stuttering problem. Their mother doted on the boy constantly and that could have contributed to his quiet nature as well. He actually had an afro and a large afro pick was stuck in his back pocket. The kids in the back whispered about him and were kicking the seat. Rich ignored them and pretended to be somewhere else looking out the little windows of the rickety van.
It wasnt all negative like this, and Eliza knew more positives than negatives in her life! All the Osberg children did! Sometimes, if not most times, their lives were a picnic filled with fun, surprises, fine arts and candy! Thats why Eliza couldnt wait to get home to their apartment at the UN Plaza where theyd lived for just over a year.
Lenny spoke up trying to get Elizas mind off the an up-chuck. Are there really 6 bathrooms in your apartment? He smiled at her, his big white teeth glowing slightly in the waning light of the day. He wasnt a bad looking guy, but he had a rough, kidding side that sometimes showed his Irish roots. It was a bit much, but always at the end, he stopped and gave the sorry speech
You kids know Im only kidding around with you, right? But sometimes he would grab a bit too hard, or push just a little bit too much, just enough to make some kids whimper. There was something about Eliza that made Lenny want to speed up and make her feel off balanced. It was just Elizas personality, which was a bit hyper, yet inquisitive and bold! Even when she was quiet and subdued the silence burst in air like fireworks, just the, what was that word Lenny was looking for that hed heard at a James Taylor concert in Westbury, NY last month & the vibe, yes, that was it.
Yes, and 4 bedrooms, said Glinda proudly.
Sounds nice and roomy with all those rooms, said Lenny in his calm voice when he wasnt pissed off. It wasnt easy to make these kids obey even though deep down inside he cared about his job and the kids. He wanted them to learn and he wanted to teach them, but the man could be a bit gruff.
Yea, and we have a den, living room, even a maids quarters, kitchen and dining room, bragged Glinda, seeming to be the spokesperson for the Osberg kids at the UN Plaza.
Hmmm, the whole nine yards I would say! Len drove onward into the city.
But to the Eliza and her Osberg siblings the UN Plaza was this huge playground of sparkling crystal and glass. The revolving door was their merry-go-round, the elevators were fun rides at Disney; the hallways were bowling alleys and the children were gaining quite a reputation for themselves in the year theyd lived there. Other tenants constantly complained about their noise and uproar, their conduct and rabble rousing antics through the cavernous lobby. Usually it was Eliza instigating it in some form! People got used to it and conditioned to it and Eliza was sometimes blamed even if it was some other kid.
Now everybody was making fun of Eliza. Then Lenny felt he had to take control, & and who knew, maybe the kid would complain and hed lose his job! He looked out the side of his light brown eyes and saw tears rolling down the curly-headed tomboys face. He didnt want her to think he cared and was a tough love sort of counselor even at Camp Winaco where he was during the summer.
Hey, he said as they approached some traffic as he turned and put his large hands gently on Elizas curly mass of curls as he was prone to do. He had to slow down. Eliza, come up front okay? He had second thoughts about teasing her when he realized she might even vomit in the back and he didnt want to spend his Friday evening cleaning the van. He also began joking with the other children trying to get their minds off Eliza. But now that everyone was quiet in the van at the traffic stop Lenny could still hear the chanting in his ears.
Right in the slightly wet street Lenny opened his door, came around to the side hatch and opened it for Eliza. For an instant, due to Elizas fear of the heavy traffic, her adrenaline pumped up, the nauseous feeling was dissipating for the moment. I can walk from here, said Eliza, knowing she could if hed let her.
Right, sure, sorry Kiddo, no dice.
As Lenny made sure she was secured in the front seat, Eliza remembered a few months back the kids had riled Lenny up so badly and he really had gotten very angry, that the driver actually pulled over way up on 3rd Avenue and 99th Street and got out of the running van and left them sitting there. Everyone was quiet for about 3 minutes and just about the moment Glinda was about to lose her little mind, thinking theyd been abandoned and shed never see her mother again, Lenny appeared and got back in the van and slammed the door hard. No one dared question him and for the rest of the ride no one said a word.
This time other kids complained Why does she get to ride in front?
Because I said so, barked Lenny to all the kids in general. Besides, I can keep my eye on
They drove further into the city and dropped off kids at some very ritzy New York City addresses The Excelsior, The Pierre Hotel, The St. Regis and even the Waldorf Astoria where Lenny dropped off twin siblings Gordon and Gwynne and Jamie and Mary respectively.
Lenny knew that living at the UN Plaza was very exciting and upbeat with gleaming black limos, fancily dressed doormen, immaculate elevator men, glittering celebrities and foreign dignitaries milling around the lobby and grounds, which were sprawling and elegant. He always hoped to see some of the Well knowns who lived there; Johnny Carson and his wife Joanna Carson, and even famed In Cold Blood author Truman Capote roamed around. The distinguished and dapper Robert F. Kennedy with wife Ethel and their 9 children lived there too! That must be interesting. Eliza told Lenny once that the Senator had spoken to her twice, even joked with her for a split second before he was whisked away by men in black coats and ear phones and she was gently pushed aside by security and a report was made that shed spoken directly to Kennedy, whatever that meant!
It means youre in deep trouble, joked Lenny, as usual. But he sounded so serious even with his jovial clown-like features plastered to his face. In the end, Eliza waited for the cops to come and get her, but they didnt.
Eliza was quiet and trying to fight her growing restlessness and nausea. She couldnt wait to get home and away from the van and cold air and smelly odors of the city as twilight settled in and the air got nippy.
It was on the 23rd floor of the UN Plaza that Eliza Osberg and her family lived. The tomboyish oldest daughter sat in the van trying to transport herself to her bedroom she shared with her 8 year old sister Glinda. The window had a full view looking directly out into the General Assembly Room at the famed United Nations Building. It was a warm and cozy, well lit room with white walls and interesting paintings and drawings by both girls and the famous colorful numbered Hands meet with flowers lithograph. It was a nice room done up in expensive wall paper and a lush, deep orange wall to wall rug. Their beds were side by side and sometimes they would make a tent out of the bed spreads and sleep in it with Rich. It was great fun and they had flashlights. It was such a relaxing bedroom.
But the van continued riding through the city, Lenny even allowing Eliza to crack the window for air even though it was very chilly out. He was tired of maneuvering the van through some of the worse traffic in weeks due to the snow that seemed to come from nowhere and dumped a good 2 feet on the city. He wanted to get home and wanted everyone out so he could zoom lightning fast to his own squalor apartment in Brooklyn to relax and have a cold beer and watch the tube. He switched on the radio in the van. The song Lion Sleeps Tonight droned on, &In the jungle, the might lion, the mighty Lion sleeps tonight! That song always calmed Elizas spirit and made her think of the outdoors and fresh air.
It was obvious Lenny was really getting a bit sloppy in dropping off all these sassy rich kids but hed usually saved the Osberg children for last. It was fun driving into the UN Plaza and watching the doorman scurrying about. He knew one day hed spot Johnny Carson or some other movie celebrity passing by his van.
Are there really 4 bedrooms up there? Asked Lenny, although he already knew from what other people told him.
Yes, and a lot more, we even have a hiding place behind the wall in the den, and no grown ups can fit in there only us kids, so its like a club house, said Eliza, for once proud of it.
Lenny nodded with interest.
The UN Plaza Apartments were laid out in two sections East Tower and West Tower. A red velvet lobby with crystal chandeliers, marble tables and floors was only scratching the surface of this residential opulence. It was, in Elizas Osbergs opinion, humongous! 38 floors with each hallway on each floor decorated differently.
Lenny felt just a bit empowered as they finally drove down the driveway of the large apartment buildings although his stomach always seemed to flutter and that was unsettling sometimes for him.
By this time, there was a slight drizzle and the doorman was bundled up like a World War II soldier with gold tassels on either side of his shoulders of the dark blue jacket, and plastic around his doormans cap. His nose was red and when Eliza got out of the smelly van, she got a whiff of Sam the Doormans odor which was a pleasant smell of winter snow, expensive tobacco, jacket and cologne. Fog was coming out of his mouth as he hailed a cab. Eliza could detect the slight odor of Clorets Gum as Sam waved Lenny away after the kids were safely on the curb. He knew Lenny the van driver well and did not like the crass man, so he said with body language get the heck outta my territory now! But sometimes, on a warm evening, he talked with Lenny and found the driver pleasant enough and then Lenny would drive away feeling good as Sammy joke about him to the Osberg kids, which would break the tension in them, especially Eliza, he noticed. She seemed to be the worst for wear in the year hed helped her out of Lennys fume infested coach! And to think that the Osbergs gave this guy Christmas money!
Sam always knew that the Osberg kids treated the hired help at the UN Plaza like pals they met in the schoolyard and that gave them a certain charm to the workers at the UN Plaza. It made working there so much more bearable because their family was so intriguing in so many ways and no one really knew what to make of them sometimes, so that made the job more fun because in the break room they all discussed the Osbergs, and even the service elevator guys got in on the action and it made them feel like a real union or something like that. The kids even joked around with the guy who ran the service elevator. Hey Dum-Dum, yelled Glinda and Eliza if they saw him peeking around the corner looking bored. They lit up his world in a funny way, but they were disruptive and the building could not ignore that. The Osbergs had been living at the UN Plaza on the 23rd floor for almost 1 year. It was getting really very turbulent and the times called for more protests at the UN Building, the Vietnam War, Hippies, drugs, pot and even Israel and Palestine! It was starting to make security at the UN Plaza a bit tighter than usual, and so that is probably why the kids were singled out sometimes.
Sammy the doorman could not resist Eliza, and was constantly bantering with her and all the Osberg kids, they were so full of life and news and questions. But how long would management at the UN Plaza put up with it? It all depended on who was on the side of the Osbergs side! For now the kids came and went and it was actually lonely and quiet like a church when they left for a long vacation with their folks, but then theyd clamor back home and Sam would smile and pretend indifference when he saw Tom the Deskman looking at him from inside the building where he sat at a huge mahogany desk youd usually see in airports.
Hey kids, he said like Santa Claus.
Hi Sammy, they answered back.
Elizas nauseous feelings dissipated as the doorman led them to the revolving doors. Once in the beautiful, richly smelling lobby any discomfort Eliza felt melted away, her rosy cheeks returning. Her nose picked up more expensive perfume, leather, glass even the cigarette smoke aroma was pleasing and evenly fresh.
They ran to the elevators laughing and carrying on as usual. A bank of 3 elevators stood like pylons to the sky. Glinda pushed the up arrow button. John McGrath was on duty and took them up to the 23rd floor. Fresh, sweet perfumed smelling warm air was coming out of the elevator fan hanging discreetly above. Eliza put her face up to catch a whiff, like the odor of a brand new car. It felt good on her face and felt revived to be back home. And at least Central Park had been fun and shed gotten cotton candy for her treat there. The remnants dotted her faced and lips. Eliza also had some cotton candy stuck in her matted curly hair.
Yup, said Richard, who didnt converse very much, but liked John, so made the effort to speak a few words and show recognition. We played soldiers.
Its really nasty out there, said Eliza.
Where you kids coming from?
The youth group.
We were playing in Central Park!
Oh. He stared down at them with a huge smile on his big gentle looking face. His black uniform made him look more official than what the position of elevator operator was, but the kids had always treated him like he mattered to them and was important in their eyes. They looked up to him and thats what he liked most about them. Mrs. Osberg was very generous around Christmas too.
Wheres Roy? He asked.
Probably upstairs by now and sipping hot chocolate, said Eliza
John slowly reached into his front shirt pocked.
More sports pins, John?
John nodded knowingly and retrieved a pin with a little football attached to it. Oh yes!
Wow, why does he get that? asked Eliza.
Because he is the oldest and he loves football! said little Glinda.
Give him this, Rich, okay?
OK, said John placing the little trinket in the palm of Richs plumpish hand.
Finally they reached 23 just as Elizas ears popped.
Bye kids, be good!
Bye John, they all said in unison.
They walked to their apartment and rang the bell. The door slowly opened and Roy was there smiling at them. The little dark haired oldest Osberg smiled. He wore braces and glasses but was dressed immaculately in a white tailored shirt and black dress pants with shiny mens shoes that always made Glinda and Eliza laugh when they talked about them because their next door neighbor Mr. Ackermann wore the almost same ones, except his had little designer holes in them.
Hey you guys, he said excitedly as he let them in. He could be a handsome boy one day when the braces came off and the eyes cleared up. But for now he wore them like badges, not seeming to mind or notice, and he even had to go through getting his wisdom teeth out at a very early age in his teens. It would probably make the robust looking kid stronger when he got older. There was also a barely visible scar on Roys left thumb from when the boy ran through a plate glass door when they lived in a house in New England. Hed almost lost that thumb if not for the quick thinking paramedics that responded.
Roy! said Eliza, happy to see her older brother. She hugged him and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
Here, this is from John, said Richard, handing Roy the football pin.
Hey, thanks. Roy looked at the little pin and hooked it on Elizas shirt lapel.
Roy! She wore it like a metal and this one was special with a little golden plated football attached and it was the Washington Red Skins.
Look, its Indians, said Roy, knowing full well his kid sisters love for the Indians!
Thanks so much! said Eliza.
The kids walked into the beautiful co-op. It smelled like fresh flowers and their mothers expensive cologne, plus Mr. Osberg had come home tonight and everyone was in the den and Eliza could smell him clearly with his Aramis Cologne and expensive suit smell mixed with rich cigarette smoke. Sometimes she got a whiff of his breath after hed had a few bites and sips of his Vodka and Herring delight he so loved; and it was comforting, not smelly nor offensive. He was such a fastidious man and was so clean shaven and put together so right, even with a toupee.
Theres a lady here who is going to take care of us now, revealed Roy.
No more Vera the terror? screamed Eliza.
Nope, shes gone!
Really? asked the disbelieving Glinda, even getting up and looking out the den door into the long hallway leading to the maids quarters.
This new womans in the den with mom and dad talking. Shes really nice, I met her!
Wow, neato! said Rich.
They all walked into the cozy den. This room was decorated in very expensive brown intricate wallpaper and a huge Marc Chagall hung ever so exquisitely above the expensive Italian couch. The windows faced toward the tip of the Empire State Building, as well as the PanAm building to the right, and the Chrysler Buildings twinkling church looking lights to the left. The East River was lit up all around, and the George Washington Bridge stood to the foreground, cars flashing like stars. Trash and tugboats slowly drifted on the water, their little portals shining and cozy looking! When they came in and were seated, everyone sat quietly for a moment looking at the view that never seemed to get tiresome. In fact, it exuded their parents tastes.
Each child kissed their dad and sat on the couch. Mrs. Osberg was in the French chair dressed to the nines. The apartment itself was immaculate and glamorous. Mrs. Osberg was very particular about her decorators and furniture.
Lena Osberg could have been someone! With her almost Broadway career behind her and the contacts she stayed in touch with it was easy to still entertain with the idea of being known and in the know. The way she dressed and carried herself was very elegant and well put together. Blond long hair in a bun, her trademark cherry lipstick, signature white outfits and nifty flat heeled shoes in all colors and styles. The smell of Chanel #5 or Arpeage French cologne at $100 an ounce. She shopped at Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodmans, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and even I Magnin. The glamorous woman knew a lot of well heeled, high placed people and celebrities, singers and character actors. Her charity work and past paired her with many a surprise actor or singer who had even babysat them when they stayed at the UN Plaza apartment.
Their Mother Lena loved glamour! That mixed with the need to be different than all the rest, and know she was sparked with a special aura about her. Mrs. Osberg was gorgeous; she knew it. Lena was elegant, she knew. The woman who loved wearing all white and mink was outspoken and to the point; everyone around her knew that. Lena was simply smashing, gorgeous and vivacious. She didnt smoke nor drink, except sometimes socially. Shed taken good care of herself through the years of having so many children. If all had went as planned there would have been many more kids, but she did have a few miscarriages. She and Victor had been busy, as the Kennedys were.
Lena could carry a conversation on for hours and absolutely lived for being in The Know. She was smart and raised well, fine bred in the Fine Arts, she sang opera like it was a walk in the park; Lena could play the piano and once had aspirations of either being a concert pianist or singing in the opera, but after a stint on Broadway, she met Victor Osberg and her mothering instincts overcame loving living out of a suitcase. But on the other hand, Lena used her theatrical background to her advantage; her public speaking skills took her to various forums and panels, as well as at parties in the industry both media and music, plus movies. In many ways it was rubbing off on Eliza, but more so with Glinda. Some called her over-dramatic, many called her beautiful and a great opera singer and the woman could raise funds for just about any cause related the The Arts!
Kids, Id like you to meet Gemma, said Lena.
A young, petite light skinned black woman sat on the chair and smiled brightly.
Kids, this is Gemma, our new housekeeper! added Victor.
Hello, they all said in unison.
Shes going to take care of you and cook, clean and keep our apartment orderly, said Mrs. Osberg.
Im from Jamaica, said the bright eyed lady.
Eliza remembered the sneering, ugly, old white face of Vera, and this new lady seemed anything but terrifying, Eliza could sense that right away!
Wow, they all said again in unison.
You kids are cute, Ras&! exclaimed Gemma, using the word Ras as in Wow.
And she cooks! said Elizas mother. And I know what youre thinking Eliza! You can tell right away that Gemma is a really sweet person, unlike Vera, added Lena. She turned to Gemma. Thats
Eliza would always be haunted by Vera and remembered the incident with her younger sister getting her mouth washed out with Phisoderm nursing soap by Vera. Eliza recalled Glindas face turning beet red and she was screaming in terror, they both were.
Eliza stared deeply into Gemmas twinkling brown eyes, and saw only kindness and depth she never saw in Veras dark grey winkers.
I only have bad memories of Vera, said Eliza.
Little Glinda and even Roy nodded. They would always carry the harsh memory of Vera the Terror, as they all called her.
It takes a lot to push Roy to lose his temper like Vera and her sister Loretta did to the kids behind our backs! admitted Mrs. Osberg.
Eliza cut in, He ended up chasing them around the apartment with a steak knife until they locked themselves in the den bathroom.
Theyd rile the kids up and tease them, and then claimed it was Eliza who was riling them up. Once Eliza had a terrible ear infection, explained Mrs. Osberg.
The school called and Vera come in a taxi and practically dragged Eliza by her sore ear to the cab and home, explained Mr. Osberg easily remembering the incident and how they hadnt seen how Vera was at first. An aide saw the whole thing out the window and phoned us both!
Instead of trying to relieve Elizas apparent pain she told my daughter to go straight to her room, undress and get to bed with no t.v. on, said Mrs. Osberg. She told us that Eliza had been sent home from school for pretending to be sick, so at first of course we believed Vera& She shot a loving glance of guilt toward Eliza and this had not been the first time Lena hadnt believed her daughter hurt or ill. Its just that she didnt want her kids hurting, and sometimes she assumed they were playing wolf.
But eventually by that evening the truth was out about Vera. Now thats wrong and I should have seen that one coming. Luckily I called Fern and she and her sister flew in and took care of things for awhile until we found you Gemma!
Fern? asked Gemma curiously.
Oh, yes, we employed 2 sisters Fern and Ginny, wonderful women, to care for the kids years before Vera came into our employ, said Victor.
Remember, they have their own families, said Mrs. Osberg.
But Eliza knew that Fern and Ginny just cant stay away from the Osbergs, and the pay was very lucrative and the work was very fulfilling and busy, plus they get the fringe benefits of staying at the prestigious UN Plaza when their services were needed!
Mrs. Osberg added easily, We would never ask them to uproot. She leaned forward as if telling a secret. The bottom finally fell out when Vera got so brazen as to steal my Bloomingdales charge plate and bought a $90 coat. She told everyone that my husband gave her permission!
Me Ras! said Gemma almost dreamy-like as her cheery eyes took in the elegance of 23E.
She was unceremoniously fired and weve never heard from her again and if we do the police will be involved. I did make a complaint! said Victor.
Eliza didnt mention that the kids had seen Loretta, Veras redheaded sister. She said Vera got another job on Park Avenue for some family and was making big bucks and that if you kids want to come up to my place, Ill make you a nice spaghetti dinner to which the kids never accepted. As she walked away Eliza and Glinda would make fun of her.
Now this wonderful, young, friendly lady, eyes dancing with fun, stood before the kids laughing and carrying on with them.
After that, before dinner Eliza started to run her bath, Gemma came up and a said, Were gonna have so much fun, ras child! She even helped Eliza run her bath, and then washed her tangled naturally curly hair for Eliza which was a luxury. Even Glinda hopped in the tub as Gemma began to wash their hair and laugh with them. The Jamaicans hands were supple and gentle and her demeanor kind. She had 4 children of her own and lived in Brooklyn with her husband Lev, whom Mrs. Osberg ended up getting a high profile job working at the UN Garage.
Gemma, I like you, said Glinda as she rinsed off.
Me too! added Eliza as she dunked her head under the warm cloudy water in the tub and all the grim and dirt of playing in the middle of Central Park came off of her like a second skin! It felt great to be clean and warm. Her fingers were still a bit frozen and were thumping, but soon that would subside once she was dry and in her night gown watching the latest t.v. show this evening.
Its going to be my first night staying with you kids!
Yea, cried both girls.
Gemma would sleep in her quarters and all the children were looking forward to it. That evening Elizas parents left for a glamorous party upstairs where Mr. and Mrs. Glass lived.
Gemma said, Im going to make yaall hamburgers and French fries a real treat for you!
It looked good and all the kids were talking and conversing. Were so glad Vera is long gone. Gemma can you be a real Gem to us? asked Eliza.
Gemma smiled nicely and nodded.
They all watch TV in the den. Then Glinda fell asleep on the couch and Gemma ended up carrying the cute pixy to bed.
Good night Gemma, thanks, said Eliza as Gemma tucked them both in.
Sure Sweetie. Kiss me dede, she said kissing them each on the forehead.
CROWS NEST ON THE 23RD FLOOR UN PLAZA VANTAGE
The next day rose into a bright sparkling winter morning as the sun lifted slowly into the sky. Its orange rays bounced and climbed over the East River winding its way around the various scrubby green parks dotting the streets of the lower East Side of Manhattan! The famous Twin Towers were in the foreground gleaming and sparkling like a contessa of diamonds all 110 floors of them!
Cars, buses and brigades of yellow cabs made their way up 1st Avenue as day overcame the twinkling lights of The Big Apple. And on the opposite end of the World Trade Center buildings, facing The Western Front across the street from the United Nations Building stood 2 tall, brilliant buildings rising up over Tudor City. The UN Plaza Towers stood alone in all their own gleaming glory!
Eliza, the curly-headed rambunctious 10 year old stared down at the long rows of shiny black foreign delegate cars lining up in front of the UN Rose Gardens. They looked like her brothers Match Box collection, so small, yet so dignified even from that high up, over 20 stories!
She awoke to the slight commotion beginning at the UN Building, just a slight ripple of a clamor with men running to and fro, and even police cars taking positions on all 4 corners. Wow, something is really going on today, she said aloud. Eliza caught the slight strains of the scratching sound of radios and walkie talkies drifting all the way up to her bedroom!
The East River glistened in the background, with the 59th Street Bridge to the left and the George Washington Bridge in the distance picking up the slack for a spectacular view. It was always breathtaking, especially when something big was about to go down at the United Nations, which faced Eliza and Glindas bedroom.
As Eliza watched the commotion outside the window, she started thinking about Senator Robert F. Kennedy who along with his family had lived in on the 14th floor in the other tower and brushed by Eliza like a normal everyday thing. As the girl watched police come into place in front of the UN Building, she remembered the Senator coming in the elevator and actually meeting her gaze and looking straight at her big feet. He smiled and said calmly, We have a bet going and cant seem to figure out if you are a boy or a girl, said the Senator.
It was hard to believe hes been assassinated not even a year ago. Then on the day of Kennedys funeral at St. Patricks Cathedral, Eliza had full eye contact and a conversation with Ethel, who at that time was dressed in all black and heading for her husbands funeral, where even Elizas mother and grandmother attended and sat in the front row. Eliza was thinking about this mem
Her father and brothers and sister were upstairs in their dads den watching it on t.v. scanning for them in the crowd. Meanwhile Eliza stood transfixed as she said to Mrs. Kennedy, Dont worry, everything will be alright, Mrs. Kennedy! Eliza said trying to imitate how her dad said it to her when she was very ill last winter. It calmed her then and she hoped it would steady Mrs. Kennedy.
I know, Dear, said Mrs. Kennedy, now a widow, with a single tear making its way down her face! She smiled at Eliza and everyone in the elevator were transfixed for a split second, until the doors opened on the Lobby level and she exited with her entourage in tow as a million and one flash bulbs and camera lights shined on her. Eliza remembered that she had stayed in the elevator with Juan the operator as the clamor followed Mrs. Kennedys exit out the revolving doors and into a big black stretch limo. Eliza rode the elevator with Juan back up to 23, and thanked him. Do you think Tom will tell? asked Eliza speaking of the head front desk man who had been with the UN Plaza since it was built.
I dont know, Miss, you know him pretty well!
Well see, thanks Juan! By the way why didnt they make the UN Plaza an even 40 floors instead of 38? the imaginative, creative kid asked the old Cuban elevator man.
I dont know that one neither, Miss Osberg, said Juan sweetly, but with dignity.
Do you think it could have something to do with the 13th floor, look its even listed on the elevator panel? Eliza pointed to the fancy board of round yellow lights. Most of my friends buildings dont even have a 13th floor.
Well, I hear that most large buildings in New York City skipped the number entirely, said Juan as Eliza left and skipped away. She was a whippersnapper that was for sure&
As that memory passed in Elizas mind, she sat on the window sill pondering where Ethel Kennedy and her kids had gone, which later she found out was Virginia, or Cape Cod. They used to live in the East Tower on the 14th floor!
Eliza was eagerly joined by her sister and two older brothers Richard and Roy.
Cant you tell that theres something really big going on today? said Eliza looking out at the great expanse of the city with the East River simmering with tug boats, tour boat company Circle Line and even barges hulking with trash sifting back and forth.
As she was thinking about Robert Kennedy, and the day she met him and they had a moment in the elevator, a vibrating sound shook the window.
Suddenly, out of nowhere a roaring black helicopter flew by. Elizas eyes almost popped out of her skull when she saw it. They all jumped back startled.
Eliza wondered if other tenants heard the commotion or made any big deals about it after so many years.
I hope it doesnt wake mom up, said the concerned Richard, always worried about his mom Lena.
It was Tuesday morning as their mother Lena Osberg slept like a log, not even an atom bomb could disturb her deep sleep, in the sprawling master bedroom. Their father, Victor Osberg had flown to where he maintained a lace factory in New England and manufactured lace and odd womens underwear with no cotton crotch. They were innovated in Victor Osbergs mind, so he was trying to make them all the rage and that included his daughters wearing them! Lena always wore them; she had them in 3 different colors and designs and didnt mind that there wasnt a solid crotch.
Elizas father spent 3 days there at his two bedroom apartment, and then hed rent a seaplane and fly back to New York City for 3 days. He usually rented the smaller plane, but sometimes flew commercial.
The Osbergs received the best tables in the restaurants, the best service, #1 seats in the theaters and the best rooms in hotels. It was in Mrs. Osbergs nature to strive for the big things in life. She got it, but not quite like it should have been! But an interesting life for Eliza lay ahead and was destined!
The 4 of them watched out the bedroom window as the Black Hawk helicopter hovered slowly down to the front lawn of the UN and landed. People passed by it as if it was another every day occurrence. As the roaring rotors stopped their twirling a few Secret Service agents flooded the perimeter around the copter. Nothing happened at first. The kids got impatient and had to get ready for school.
Wait, hang on, said Eliza. Just one second!
Nothings happening! answered Elizas older brother Roy. Who cares anyway? He got off the window sill. Eliza knew that was standard for her older brother, who seemed to lose interest before she or her sister and other brother Richard did. Hed gone back to his bedroom he shared with his brother and was dressing for school. The oldest Osberg sibling attended a different one than his brother and sisters and there was talk about sending him to a ritzy boarding school in Upstate, New York somewhere, which sounded very exciting to Eliza, who sometimes wished she was a boy!
Do you think Darrin or Dum-Dum know whats happening? asked Glinda, feeling a bit scared.
Im sure theyve been briefed since they do work in the building, said Neil trying to sound like a policeman.
Just then, as Eliza was about to give up herself, the helicopter doors opened and 3 men got out. They surrounded a cloaked figure dressed in black and grey Arab uniform, with his signature turban.
Look, its Arafat, yelled Eliza, her nose glued to the window.
Gemma, their Jamaican housekeeper breezed in. Time for breakfast, said Gemma in a thick West Indies-like lilted accent. Shed been with the Osbergs for almost 3 years and was hired soon after they moved in to the well known UN Plaza Apartments. She had quickly become almost desensitized to the Osbergs constant clamor and energy, which was very high and it wasnt just stupid kids talking like parrots. They brought up interesting facts, and asked many questions. And not just run of the mill questions& Questions that deserved an honest and long drawn out answer. These kids drew you out of your shell which Gemma had put herself in at first. She retreated by locking her bedroom door at the UN Plaza and watching her t.v. and ignoring them at first, especially in the evenings after shed looked after and cleaned up after them. But as the months passed she became very involved with the kids, and that was mostly due to Fern, a very close family friend who cared for them even longer before Gemma had arrived. Not that Gemma was ignoring her duties, she knew how to handle things, and the kids did mind her.
Gemma could just imagine how the school teachers dealt with this group!&A smile came to the sweet Jamaican womans lips& Her big white teeth were wide and strong. She looked, at that time, in her crisp white nurses uniform and white shores, like an angel with a twinkle in her soft brown eyes. She put in many years at the Osberg residence and would probably always be there for years to come. Just then the apartment phone rang. Gemma answered. It was Tom the desk man who had been there since the building opened in 1966, and it was amazing how he ran the front lobby, like a clock. He didnt take any crap. Just want to remind you to keep a sharp on those kids today, Gemma, he said briskly. Yassar Arafat is around and theres going to be demonstrations and a big ruckus and I know Im sticking my foot in my mouth, but keep the kids away from there, please! he pleaded.
Yes sir, Gemma answered in that soft voice she used to soothe Glinda when she was crying or fussy.
Im talking about when they go off to school. Theyll have to leave out the back entrance of the East Tower&Have them use the service elevator down to the cellar, then wall down the hallway to the other tower and get on do as instructed. Ive called the school and the school van and they know of this situation, said Tom officially.
Eliza attended PS 59, otherwise known as Beekman Hill School.
But Mr. Shelley, said Gemma. Theyve been taking public transportation rather than being picked up.
Toms voice was livid. What? You mean to tell me they are not being picked up by the usual school bus van or limos like the other kids in the buildi
Gemma was silent then avoided it all by saying, I will make sure they make it to the bus stop far from the UN Building, Mr. Shelley.
Please do! He hung up.
As Glinda and Eliza got ready for school they laughed and joked with each other as Gemma went to the kitchen and started breakfast and started explaining the plan to the children who saw it all as a game like on TV!
Just like on the Mod Squad, I wanna be Peggy Lipton, shouted Eliza.
Roy ran in and turned on the little black and white t.v. set in the kitchen. It was a special report which always intrigued the kids because of the seriousness of the situation and that it directly affected them because they lived right by the eye of the hurricane!
Do you have all your school things? Gemma breezed out of the kitchen and into the girls bedroom down the hall.
Their Aunt Dorothy decorated their bedroom in shades of orange, black and white. Ripe stripes of color ran above along the upper walls that were wall papered the expensive way. There was bright orange wall to wall shag carpeting with the two beds on either side of the bedroom. And of course the Orange bedspreads and white wicker headboards, even a little white wicker elephant used as a nightstand blended interestingly. Some of the furniture in their bedroom was converted from their nurseries; a white wicker rocking chair and a delicate lamp with a statue of a white angel holding up the bulb. Pretty frilly paintings hung on their walls as well as the girls own artwork and scribblings.
Both girls were dressed and had grabbed their book bags and were in the kitchen where a nice nutritious breakfast of poached eggs, crispy lean bacon, lightly buttered toast and freshly squeezed juice awaited them awaited them. Roy and Richard were already at the round glass table chowing down. They all ate heartily and with gusto, but the Osberg children were reared on the salad fork, and showed much decorum at the dining table, except sometimes Eliza, who acted up and usually got a reprimand. It was Mr. Osberg doing the yelling about it, but he wasnt around this morning.
And when he was gone, the Osberg children ran wild and their mother indulged them with money for Bernies Candy Store downstairs in the Delegates Lobby while she arranged big charity events and fund raisers for certain colleges and organizations! Her resume reads like a who is who of entertainment, but like most mothers involved in The Arts, she also exposed her children to many things that were not on the menu of the other families at their schools and after school centers. But Lena was able to make many friends and occupied herself with family, running seemingly endless shopping errands plus her husbands anal demands to pick up his dry cleaning, have a certain type of dinner or just be ready to go out at the drop of a hat. She, Lena ran the household smoothly and with such formality in her even and electric way!
Victor Osberg took care of them all though and took them to vacation places and Europe with his wife in the summertime while the kids went to 9 week summer camps in Maine. He lavished everything he had on his beautiful, worldly wife Lena and his four children! Life was very good at that moment and neither would change a thing. Although, he had to admit that he was a little hard on his wife, her being from that entertainment Broadway crowd, raised by a daddy that indulged her every fancy, he could understand. His Navy background warranted it, so she put up with it, because they loved each other, and had actually met twice before, years ago before the fireworks burst in air in the late 1950s after hed gotten out of the Navy. But that is another story. Flash forward and here they were raising a family in the best apartment building on the Lower East Side in the Turtle Bay District. Lena had even attended the famed Julliard School of music which was virtually a stones throw from their digs. It was Heaven for Lena, and she indulged her children and encouraged them to read and take up hobbies and take a keen interest in The Arts, Broadway and The Theatre; taking them all to the Nutcracker Suite and all the Christmas and Easter shows at Radio City Music Hall hadnt hurt them one bit.
Mrs. Osberg got a kick out of buying her girls books on which were loosely based on a little girl named Eloise who roams the halls of The Plaza Hotel. Her family was a bit more retro 1970s than little French Eloises, but the books were fun to read to the kids. In fact, Lena loved to read the books out loud, which her children loved. And when they took the kids to the Plaza Hotel for dinner, there were huge posters of Eloise and everyone kept saying how much little Glinda looked like her, even though it was blatantly obvious that Eloise resembled Eliza more than Glinda.
Eliza was just too hyper for anyone to start to pay too much attention to her thus she would get too energetic, so most times they were trying to hold her down and make her quiet. Deep down inside they all knew Eliza was a special, creative little girl. Maybe with time she would be calmer. Maybe they would one day take Dr. Shipps advice and give her a pill to help her sleep. But then, maybe not.
The kids finished quickly, maybe a bit too quickly. Gemma was on to them!
Listen to me, you kids march right down to the East Tower and out the back door and straight to the 1st Avenue bus stop. And to make sure you do, I am going with you!
Ohhhh, Gemma, no, cried Richard!
What about Roy? asked Eliza.
Roys bus is waiting outside by the East Tower.
Okay, Gemma, said Roy, never misbehaving and always doing what they asked. But he asked so many questions sometimes, and it was usually questions he already knew the answers too but he wanted attention!
Though Richard was quiet and shy, he did have a very bad temper and he could get very riled up about things. Eliza was like the battery for it all to go. Glinda fussed and cried on a dime, but got away with it because she was just so cute. She looked like a little dolly crying and you just wanted to take her in your arms and rock her back and forth and sing an old Jamaican lullaby to!
Gemma got the kids ready, like an assembly line, but everyone had either a bagged lunch stuffed with goodies, or lunch money.
She walked them out the door, waited at the elevator, rode it down, and walked them to the back entrance of the East Tower. Roys van was there and she deposited him with no problems. Then she walked the other three to the bus stop on First Avenue where some other ruffian looking children waited. As soon as they spotted Gemma, they started laughing and making racial slurs, something Gemma never tolerated. She gave them a very disapproving look.
As the bus came down First Avenue, Eliza was eager to get on that bus. Once they got on the bus, Eliza saw that Gemma had gotten on and was talking to the bus driver, who was a black man and Jamaican like she was. She and the bus driver got out of the bus and gave the boys a real tongue lashing which quieted them down. They were Catholic school boys and attended John Holland School farther up on First Avenue.
You kids better mind your manners! scolded the bus driver as Gemma left without a backwards glance. Eliza watched the little, sweet young housekeeper they had grown to love more everyday walk back to the UN Plaza.
One of the kids hustled over to Eliza. She seems really steamed, Man, He slurred. Something wasnt right about these kids today.
Leave us alone, shouted Eliza, sort of wishing she were on Roys bus and going to his school rather than the rough and tumble mixed school she attended now. Not that PS 59 was all bad, she loved school.
The kids backed off when they spotted the bus driver giving them a Voodoo eye. Sit down boys or youall be walkin to yer fancy school!
The boys sat down without another word and the rest of the trip passed uneventfully. A few women got on headed uptown to the financial district were talking about the helicopter from what shed seen on the news this morning. Eliza joined in on their conversation saying that she and her brother and sister saw Arafat and the whole thing unfolding.
We had to go out this secret entrance that they only use in extreme emergencies! Eliza hyped up,
Glinda laughed sweetly. Richard turned around shyly smiling and looking out the bus window.
Where do you guys live? asked one woman, a blond bombshell dressed in a very short mini skirt and wearing a long maxi coat.
The UN Plaza, said Eliza proudly.
Wow, ritzy, said another lady.
Ever see any movie stars?
That was Elizas cue!
Yes, lets see, Johnny Carson and his wife!
Whats he like?
Hes sort of mean!
What are you saying? Johnny Carson is mean?
Hey, shut up Eliza, said Richard.
Well, this is our stop kids, if you see Johnny and hes not acting mean, tell him Ive got a singer hes got to hear, okay? She handed Eliza her card and the three women laughed and hooted and left the bus.
Eliza took the card and put it in her front pocket.
You are not going to give it to him are you Eliza? asked Richard.
Maybe, maybe not! she answered.
They would ride the city bus all the way up First Avenue. At 57th Street they would walk three blocks to 3rd Avenue where their school was. They were rarely late.
As the bus made its way down the street, the bus driver asked, So how long has she been with you?
Oh, about 3 years, answered Eliza, suddenly thinking back to when Gemma had first come to them out of the blue after a horrible stint with a housekeeper they named Vera the Terror. All the kids were glad that Gemma was there with her sister and they were also getting to know her better each month that passed. She was a good lady and had a family of her own. Two boys and two girls, plus maybe more.
Shes happily married though, said Eliza.
The black bus driver sighed but handled it well, probably having many girls of his own, maybe even a wife.
Do you love Gemma, Mr. Bus Driver? asked Glinda.
The bus driver seemed to get shy but laughed nervously. Nooooo, course not& I have a wife, he said, trying to sound miffed.
Shes married too, and her husband works in our garage at the UN Plaza!
Not thats fine, just fine&hmmmm, acknowledged the bus driver as he maneuvered around multiple yellow taxis and many Town Cars clogging the bus lane.
We love her so much! said Eliza.
I can see that kids!
Shes very nice!
I can see that easily, he said. How did you find such a&a & a & a Gem?
They all laughed.
I think someone recommended her because the one before Gemma was this really mean older lady. They made a face thinking of the horrible Vera.
Well, youall lucky to have a lady like Gemma!
We know, we know, they all agreed.
Eliza thought back to the time she had first met Gemma and already the housekeeper was like one of the family.
ELIZAS LEGS BEHIND HER BACK TRICK!
Eliza was always very flexible. Shed be able to take her legs and fold them behind her back which would amaze even amaze the biggest and meanest of all bullies.
The curly-head, hyper girl has a fine tuned memory and could recall as far back as being 3 years old and falling asleep in the Yoga Lotus position. Mrs. Osberg would check on her daughter and would be aghast at how she folded herself all up in a round ball& Mrs. Osberg made a big problem out of it and forbade Eliza to sleep that way, as if Eliza didnt have enough worries as it stood.
In school, starting at first grade, Eliza noticed by accident that could she could do that; the folding of her legs behind her back trick& otherwise known as, Hey Eliza, roll up into a ball!!!!.
But that would bring attention to her odd looking fingers, which only had 2 knuckles, instead of the customary 3 everyone had on each hand, and a few of her fingers were bent to the right, the ring fingers and the pinky on the right hand. This brought mostly unwanted attention to her, and that along with her crazy antics of bending her body like an Indian Yogi didnt dull her presence that seemed to thrive on some underlying need for attention!
Then there was her keen love for the American Indians. She was so into them. And Eliza so easily had become a full fledged Far East Student as well & She would have excelled at Yoga if her parents had only allowed her even though she did have a lot of freedom of expression thanks to her mother and father.
Her dad had much experience with it when he did a stint in the Navy in the early Fifties. Hed taken a liking to the Oriental culture and art, and had many things Oriental.
They were not encouraging her to do the Yoga, and seemed dead set against letting Eliza try it. They warned her not to do it. But in school Eliza was more popular when she did the Yoga antics. It sort of empowered her and led them to change her wardrobe from the cute little dresses to the little boys Danskin outfits.
It should be noted that Barbara Streisand mentioned in her semi autobiography that she too could do that same trick as Eliza could do, putting her legs behind her head and rolling up into a ball, so that fueled even more antics at school. Streisand is quoted in the book to the extent of this: When I was a kid I remember I could do this little trick for attention. I would gather the other kids around me and would plop down on the ground and roll my legs up behind my head and roll up into a ball. I got a lot of attention, until my mother found out, and knowing I was wearing dresses&Oye, oye!
But Eliza had her limitations too. Due to her missing knuckles she could not grip the jungle gym bars, and she could not make a full fist so later on in her lifespan she would also take a high interest in Oriental things, especially Karate, which allowed her to learn open handed jabs and techniques. That along with her flexible body would take her far when shed finally joined a Karate school in college, which would be years from now!
Eliza had a natural enthusiasm that bordered on hyper activity but they had never given her any meds of any kind, except when she was very ill as a child and they had given her a mild antihistamine. Some wondered if maybe Eliza Osberg was out of control. In first grade she jumped up excitedly because she knew the answer to the riddle in the workbook, which came to her mind quicker than most of the other normal students in the large classroom. Mrs. Slusskin was standing over the child and suddenly Eliza jumped up and knocked the teacher with the top of her little curly head, clocking the teacher in the chin, making a bloody mess! At first they thought perhaps she may have hit the teacher on purpose out of an anger outburst, but a little German boy saw it all and saved Eliza from the gallows! It was the shy, quiet boy who still donned the traditional German suspenders and leather chap looking shorts and intricately woven top!
Roland & Eliza! They made a great pair, like Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney. Captain & Tennille. Minnie & Mickey Mouse?
When Roland and Eliza met, the two became inseparable. They ate together, played together, talked non stop and tried to sit together in class. Mrs. Hamilton made it her lifes blood to keep the two lovebirds apart, which is what it was becoming. Roland got a great kick out of kissing Eliza, and watching her roll up into a ball, so did the other kids, but when Rolands brother Daniel asked Eliza to do her leg trick for his sixth grader buddies and kiss Roland for them, the couple agreed readily. Any attention for Eliza in her mind was good attention. So at recess practically the whole sixth grade made a beeline for the little couple, who usually sat together under in the sandbox building things with excess cinder blocks theyd found. The kids made a circle around them! Eliza and Roland did their thing!
Now kiss! Every coaxed.
They kissed, holding each other close.
Woooo, what a kiss, said one boy in awe.
Now do that trick Eliza, do it, do it!
Everyone began chanting, Do
The whole crowd was chanting louder and louder until the usually distant 9th graders across the fence over at the High School of Art & Design even looked in.
Do it Eliza, Do it, Do it, Do it Eliza, Do it, Do it!
And she did, very well indeed. Everyone screamed with glee, some others in shock, this girl Eliza could really tie herself up&Wow!
But acting principal Averberg had been looking out from his parapet at the whole incident from beginning to end, and he was going to take action. He called Mrs. Hamilton, of all his staff, in and said, Go see what thats all about!
Yes, Mr. Averberg, said Mrs. Hamilton, loving the authority that her job lended. She went outside and walked up to the group, with her hands on her hips. She spotted Roland and Eliza on the ground in full swing! They were not acting dirty or causing bad things, but on the contrary it was making everyone laugh, so much so that some students who were usually bullying were rolling around laughing and holding their stomachs in glee over the trick Eliza did and how the 1st grade couple would kiss and show cute love for each other, budding love, not dirty.
Mrs. Hamilton watched with eyes squinting in rising anger as Eliza jumped up and down then put her legs way behind her head so effortlessly that it was like being in a circus!
Mrs. Hamilton ran into the crowd of kids and grabbed Roland by the collar and pushed him away. Stand there, she yelled. Eliza looked up from the ground. Shed been laughing and carrying on then saw an upside down Mrs. Hamilton glaring at her and for a second she saw Marlas ugly triangle face mixed in there, but there was something else in Mrs. Hamilton eyes, pure unadulterated hatred, maybe even slight racism rearing its ugly head during that time. The woman did have access to school records, and her daughter let her know where Eliza lived and all that that entailed. So Mrs. Hamilton must feel a mixture of things that would breed such a scathing attitude that had been building all through Elizas years at Beekman Hill School.
Eliza realized then that she was in big trouble. The plucky little tomboy nimbly got to her feet, dusted herself off and faced Mrs. Hamilton pretending she was famous Apache war chief Geronimo, an Indian that she so admired through her love and study of American Indians!
Mrs. Hamilton grabbed Eliza and shoved her over to where Roland stood stiffly. He unconsciously put his skinny arm around Eliza.
You two are a menace and should not be together, ranted Mrs. Hamilton as she came over and pushed the two friends apart again.
Eliza spotted Marla, who stood in the crowd of kids looking on and smirking. She stuck her little pink serpent-looking tongue at Eliza. The other girl ignored her and said a prayer and just smiled back as if Marla stuck her tongue out for a joke.
Im glad you are not my mother, said Eliza to the irate Mrs. Hamilton.
Girl, get, git, git to the office now! Mrs. Hamilton proceeded to prod the kids through the terrace and into the hallway toward the principals office like a prison guard. You should be glad you aint my child! She had them each held in her clamped down bony, long finger-nailed hands. The older woman took hold of Roland and Elizas shoulders and continued directing them like prisoners roughing them up just a tad, just enough she knew she could get away with. They walked down a long hallway to the principals office. She made a big point of acting like a prison guard and thats how she treated her own kids! At that moment Eliza was grateful Mrs. Hamilton wasnt her mom, but she did not feel anything for Marla at this point. They reached the principals office.
Sit down, you here, directed Mrs. Hamilton like a Nazi SS man. Almost like a Gestapo officer, Mrs. Hamilton goose-stepped down the hall and out of sight.
Across from them Eliza spotted the boy who had earlier shot a rubber band at little girl sitting in an adjoining classroom across the hall from where hed been sent out for being unruly. His weapon hit its mark from almost 30 feet away, by shear luck and had struck the girl square in the eye. The boy began talking to them non stop and even wanted Eliza to roll up into a ball!
No, I cant, said Eliza exasperated. She was a bit nervous over things.
Do you guys really kiss? asked the unruly boy, with the ruffled black hair, dark freckles and dancing mischievous eyes darting this way and that way!
Yes, said Roland matter of fact. But not for you, kid!
Mrs. Hamilton had left them all there without another word or backward glance. She had other fish to fry! In her mind shed done her job, so she returned to her post on the recess floor out on the terrace.
Roland came over to Eliza and took her hand and squeezed it. Dont worry, it will be okay, he assured. His big blue eyes were soft and his blond hair ruffled over black thick rimmed glasses a bit askew upon his cute little German nose, but Eliza loved his outfit of suspenders and leathers. She also loved his lunches of ham sandwiches, Chocolate Snack pack and dried apricots that his mom packed him every day.
You know what Eliza, said Roland.
One day well get married and theyll never separate us!
Theyll never keep us apart, Roland, no they wont, agreed Eliza as the rubber band boy looked on in awe and interest.
And well elope, right?
Can I come? asked the bad kid, just for a second seeming to want to.
No, both Roland and Eliza said with finality.
Yes, Ill get a long ladder up to your apartment! Said Roland, already seeing it in his little 7 year old minds eye.
You guys are talking doo-doo! The boy actually shot a rubber band hed hidden in his shoe at them.
Shut up kid! Said Roland who dodged the flying projectile easily.
You shut up, he spat back, even spitting a wad at the couple.
Hey, stop it, Said Eliza. Were in a lot of trouble too kid!
Yea, shut your mouth! Roland grabbed the rubber band and stretched it until it broke and then threw it back at the boy.
At that second the principal came in. He looked at the children sitting there. Eliza and Roland were arm and arm. He shook his head in a tsk, tsk fashion.
Roland, Eliza, said Mr. Averberg.
Yes sir, they said in unison.
He took them in the office, but he couldnt be hard on them and already stories about Mrs. Hamilton tactics in the recess yard were becoming distressing. He knew Mrs. Osberg and knew the families, even Rolands. His mother is a doctor, and both children were bright. But this was very troubling. You can not continue to make a spectacle of yourselves, said Mr. Averberg sternly.
We are so sorry, said Eliza.
I dont want to hear any excuses. If you continue to be unruly and continue to act out of hand, Ill have to take steps, warned Mr. Averberg. He was already planning to leave Roland back one grade, not just because of his closeness with Eliza Osberg, but hed seem to be having problems. Maybe that would quell their friendship.
Now I have a pressing matter to deal with here, he said. Did you see that boy out in the hallway?
Yes, they both said in unison again. They were a very cute and intelligent couple.
Well, that will be the last time you will see him, hes being expelled for shooting a rubber band at a girl. That girl is in the hospital and they are trying to save her eye!
Oh, how terrible!
So I want you both to calm down and be like the ladies and gentlemen I know you can be. I know both of your families and this is not respectable for Beekman Hill School!
Good, now get on with you to class. I will have a chat with Mrs. Hamilton too!
Okay, thanks sir!
Its okay kids, just dont get into trouble and stay calm!
We will. Were going to elope!
What? Now dont be talking like that kids!
Its true, Mr. Averberg! Said Eliza.
Get back to class now, and stop talking such foolery!
The two left the office. The boy outside leaned forward in expectation, wanting to know his fate. Eliza hesitated to tell him and bit her tongue, lest she get in more trouble. She so wanted to scream it out that he was getting expelled! Roland held her hand rather tightly which helped her stare straight ahead as the boys parents were running down the hallway to hear the bad news. They looked so normal it was hard to believe it was that kids parents. Roland and Eliza walked down the hallway and knew homeroom was about to begin so they headed to Mrs. Epsteins class! She had sat them on opposite sides but they were always making goo-goo eyes at each other so she put Eliza facing toward the window and Roland toward the desk by the door! It was heart breaking for the couple because they so enjoyed each other. The whole class knew this, but no one said a word, but many snickered in little groups usually just making fun of the couple that seemed meant to be together! Tragic is a better word, so most fed on tragic circumstances&
Mrs. Epstein was strict and if you were quiet, she would give you a piece of candy, usually a Hershey kiss and many wanted to play that game! Roland always gave Eliza his chocolate because he could remain very quiet and would do it for Eliza, because she was the opposite, usually getting a demerit for talking and carrying on. He knew she didnt hit Mrs. Slusskin on purpose last year. Hed seen her jump up in excitement and she didnt realize the teacher was standing over her. If not for him maybe Eliza would have been suspended! Hed also said that she should stop with the legs behind her back. She was getting in too much trouble and more than not they were separating her and him, and he didnt want that. They talked on the telephone until Elizas mother popped on wanting to call someone.
But by the Fall of the following year right before school started for 1970, Roland was to leave the country going back to his homeland. Eliza would always remember their antics, how they would play in the sandbox at school and build little houses and temples with the blocks in the sand. Their favorite game was how Roland would play a white flying horse and Eliza would direct him all over the recess terrace. They would fight imaginary enemies and dodge other kids as they would try and pull on Elizas naturally curly hair. Then theyd wander over to the big kids playing the game Ride a Buck where they would jump on the backs of kids stooped over and ride them like a bronco until there were 10 kids popping up and down, bobbing and landing pretty hard on the terrace tiles! They never did it, except once Roland was coaxed into it and got a black eye from being kneed in the face by someone! Mrs. Hamilton actually tried to say that Eliza had hit Roland in anger and that the German boy was lying to protect his little girlfriend, but Mr. Averberg would have no part of that.
At that moment Eliza thought about the one time Roland and her had ended up in her apartment building.
But while playing and running through the building they stopped on the dim lit 13th floor of the United Nations Plaza Apartments. It was decorated in dark Halloween colors but there was a very potent odor of potpourri or some type of bitter smelling herb conjuring up images of potions and aromas.
Be damned if you lived on the 13th floor! Screamed the German boy who had captured Elizas little 7 year old heart!
The couple who live here are friends with my parents, pointed out Eliza to Roland. But they are so strange. She gives my sister these little Oriental pin cushions like Voodoo dolls or something like that&and the man has a lazy left eye and is just strange all together. He paints as a hobby and it was always just rows and rows of faces, happy faces, sad faces, round, blue, red and yellow, drawn like a little kid drawing an audience of faces at a baseball game. It was shallow, yet there was some weird thing about how he did it, said Eliza easily to Roland who just smiled, so smitten&He leaned over as she was talking and planted a sweet kiss on her cheek and held her hand softly and with awe& I love your fingers, theyre so different!
But later on Mr. & Mrs. 13th Floor would come to dinner and as usual Eliza would cause a stir& which would almost been comical if the couple had not lived on the 13th floor! Who knows?
I wish we could forward in time and then be together, said Roland as they sat on the floor of the 13th.
I know what you mean. Weve tried everything, but I guess well have to wait until we grow up, said Eliza. She remembered theyd tired Astro Projection and it didnt work. They were still in this time. So they tried to pretend when they entered this alley by the school and Roland said, When we emerge from here, its going to be 15 years in the future and well walk away from the school and start our life. Lets try, okay?
Sure, lets do it! Theyd made a strong attempt at it, prayed, tried conjuring up the image. Then as if it really would happen, they left the alley only to find themselves where theyd always been. Well just have to keep trying, said Roland holding Eliza tightly.
MRS. Os GINGER ALE & CRACKERS
There were moments when Eliza and Glinda got equal treatment and thats when it was time for bed and Mrs. Osberg would bring her daughters ginger ale and crackers on 2 elegant gold trays. Lena would sit with them and read them stories out of the many books on hand in their quaint bedroom. The girls loved it. It calmed them. As she read Eloise at the Plaza, her voice took on the characters French airs and it took the girls to far away Europe and even the Plaza itself, where theyd been many times with their Grandma Hazel for fancy tea, although Hazel preferred The Russian Tea Room.
As For Mrs. Osberg, she read in a clear, fresh almost operatic voice, the girls were taken right to the scenes and got very excited as their beautiful mother, who really did resemble Lana Turner, the actress of the 1940s, read Eloise at the Plaza without a flaw& The two sisters sat back under their covers and sipped their chilled Canada Dry Ginger Ales and munched on simple saltines. They looked satisfied. And Mrs. O. smelled so fresh and good and elegant. In the night Eliza could still smell her mothers expensive odor and that was long after shed left their bedroom and went out, or retired for the evening.
The odor actually sometimes lulled Eliza to sleep because usually their mother would spend more evening time with them when their father was away at his factory. It was a simple arrangement and everyone sort of liked it, because Victor Osberg could be very strict, even on Lena, who was a ravishing beauty and held just as much, if not more stature than her hubby Victor O!
Sometimes instead of reading to the girls, Mrs. Osberg would sing to her daughters, but they absolutely loved when she would sing an opera standard called Papers about a Jewish concentration camp woman trying to escape and who is stopped by the Nazis. She is being interrogated by a German officer. Papers, Papers,&What is your name, Magda Salone, Age 42&, Mrs. Osberg would sing the words in a high soprano opera emotional stance& Sometimes it was overwhelming, but spectacular all the same. It was as if Lena became the concentration camp woman trying to escape. The emotion on her face, her facial expressions and the way she sang the opera with a lot of gusto and emotion. She thrived on it. She loved it and secretly regretted not singing in the opera.
She sang as if she lived it. Then the sisters would reenact the song and laughed their heads off as the song intended them to do, even though its theme has sad and tragic undertones. The girls would sing and mimic the words&so much Jewish emotion, which opera seemed to thrive on. How many childrens mothers were classical pianists and opera singers?
Eliza sipped her Ginger Ale loving the taste of it. It relaxed her. She would always remember how her mother would bring the Ginger Ale and crackers before bedtime.
Also on occasion, as her daughter sat listening, Mrs. O. would sing the same songs shed played on piano for them. One of the Osberg Daughters favorites was when their mother sang and played a song about a big brown bear! The kids would go wild and even Lena would lose control and play like a barte
The most interesting thing Eliza noticed was her mothers thick Brooklyn accent, and then the woman would sing and sound totally different, so styled and classically trained, not a note off, not a NY accent out of place! Singing so beautifully her accent disguised and Eliza and her siblings and father heard a high soprano, 4 octave range.
My Mrs. O., what a beauty. She really does look like Lana Turner, thought Victor Osberg. People would stop her on the street to see who she was; on occasion she was mistaken for Carol Channing, and shed really be Channing and the kids and hubby got such a kick out of it.
Mrs. Channing, you didnt say you had children or that your husband was so handsome???
Oh yes, these are my kids and husband, Mrs. Osberg would play along, even autographing napkins and playbills. But she did it as a gag really. And now Eliza understood why actors like Paul Newman didnt want to give out autographs. But they got through it and went onward.
Another thing Eliza loved about her mother was how every now and then she would do a magic trick at the dinner table, which was fun and light hearted. One trick Eliza remembered was when Mrs. Osberg had a napkin but it was a sheet of magnesium paper that glowed when she lit it up. It was great fun. In fact, if not for Elizas mom, their dinners would most probably have been more low key. Instead they were electric, fun and lively with candles, flowers and glamour. Mrs. O. knew how to entertain well.
Eliza had seen first hand how her mother could take over a room. All eyes went to her. As if she was some celebrity& And other than in school, Eliza was proud of her mom. Maybe because Elizas school was mostly poor blacks and Hispanics that she felt out of place when parents day rolled around and her mother came to the school. Unlike all the other parents, who stood to the side and dressed down and plain looking, so as not to startle or scare their kids, Mrs. Osberg was the opposite. She didnt mean to do it in a negative way. Mrs. Osberg was a strong personality and she was what she was&
As the teachers put the kids through their paces, Mrs. Osberg went straight over to Eliza and sat next to her and prompted her. Lena wore a white Chanel suit, a long skirt with a floor length grey mink coat, a big whit e floppy stylish hat, and a Gucci purse, smelling like Neiman Marcus!
Would anyone like to read? asked Mrs. Greenberg.
Mrs. O. raised her hand & Eliza& My daughter will read!
You could have heard the tiniest pin drop out of an earlobe!
Anyone else, echoed another teacher taking part.
No one dared answer. The room was frozen all eyes, some averted but still gazing at the woman in white across the classroom!
Eliza just started it& She began to read clearly and just a tad bit shaky at first& It was like someone else was reading and she was watching from above. She felt a dizzy, a strange light headed sensation as she felt the urge of wanting to scratch an itch between her shoulder blades. She didnt even realize what she was reading, maybe it was the Canterbury Tales, or maybe even Beowulf! She stumbled over one or two words. Her mother corrected her softly. All of a sudden there was a ringing in Elizas ears and she felt her face turning bright red, her whole body in a cold sweat but she read on not really comprehending what she was really reading. She could smell her moms distinct glamour odor. Out of the corner of her eye she watched her mother in the limelight as the other parents stood to the back of the classroom some trying to feign non interest, others looking boldly on in shock, and dismay& Some whispered quietly, eyes squinted, lips in a tight fake smile. It made Eliza so uncomfortable, so isolated, so apart from where she wanted to be.
Eliza realized her mother was no Princess Grace, but she felt what maybe Princess Graces kids felt& Or even the Kennedy kids upstairs from the Osbergs& They felt it too, but Eliza was dead sure that Ethel Kennedy did not go to her kids schools and sit beside them while they read, or make her kids feel different! There was a big difference& But Eliza felt what they may have felt& She was sure of it.
It was attention she didnt want or relish. Usually the black kids picked on her constantly, but even they had gone underground about it after Eliza snitched on them in such an offbeat and odd way. It would be something that would follow Eliza the rest of her life in different forms. Not the snitching, but the way Eliza went about getting grounded again after such an event took place.
TRUMAN CAPOTE DIRTY TOENAILS!
The first time Eliza had seen or noticed Truman Capote was one evening when the Osbergs were on their way to dinner at the Coco- Cabana, a new supper club in their neighborhood where the movie The French Connection was filmed.
Mr. Capote got into the elevator from the hallway on the 38th floor penthouses. Hed just come from visiting and drinking with Joanna Carson, and things were not going well between her and husband, talk show host Johnny Carson; it was well known in certain social circles and in the tabloids.
Capote always had been intrigued with emotional upheaval and immersed himself in it on purpose. It fueled his writing so when he saw the Osbergs, he was dissecting them closer even though hed knocked down a few Vodka Sours with Joanna. He seemed amused when he heard a riveted Eliza whisper to her well dressed father, Daddy, he smells weird, and why is his nose so red?
Shhhh, be quiet Eliza, scolded Lena Osberg all decked out in a white sparkling gown and Barbra Streisands mink coat. There was something about this family that lended an underlying upstrungness that could not be denied! Things seemed to be swirling around them like bees to honey. It was a very high energy probably due to Mrs. Osbergs personality and aura, which was so up and dazzling.
Anyone in the building with any sense could see that Eliza was a tomboy through and through. Glinda had cute looks and her smile was bright and glistening; the brothers Roy and Richard were clear faced, but slightly overweight in the cheeks, like you want to pinch them every second like a doting grandmother!
Capote heard at the meeting that Lena Osberg was an accomplished opera singer and concert pianist. Hed love to sit down and chat with her. She also did a stint on Broadway as well. Intriguing and interesting signals he received. The children seemed orderly but hed heard stories from Joanna that they were rambunctious and loud. She had also filled him in on the Kennedy play day that went so awry.
But J Dear, arent I as rambunctious and loud as the kids too! Capote wore a plain blue denim shirt with blue jeans, shoes with no socks. The elevator man seemed a bit overly friendly with the Osberg girls, and they were chatting non stop to him. It bothered many but not Truman.
The next time Eliza and Truman Capote crossed paths was the following Sunday when the Osberg kids were on their way to the bike room in the East Tower, then over to the park next door to the UN Plaza.
He noticed Elizas huge feet. She smiled up at him, reminding him of Pippy Longstocking! Her sister was very petite and cute, pixy girl cute, like a shiny button! Capote wore his signature straw hat, dressed down jeans and shirt with an antique silver flask filled with the best Russian Vodka money could buy hidden in his shirt pocket. He was walking his bulldog Maggie, who was an unruly and unfriendly jealous animal that you only petted if you liked the sound of snapping teeth and a low grunting growl.
Your nose is red, said Eliza. She kneeled down and petted his dog.
Whats the dogs name?
Maggie, but she might bite you!
You smell funny, said Glinda.
Both girls broke out in innocent laughter. Capote was not fazed, in fact, he found it quite amusing. Its a good idea to get down to a kids level and try that on&
Maggie got nervous with all the talking and clamor of children in the elevators small space. She barked a hoarse whisper of a yelp and bared her crooked missing teeth and backed up against the wall.
Adolfo was on duty and joked with the
Everyone who worked in the building joked around with the Osberg kids, some tenants not liking it. Having hired help fraternizing with the most nosiest and unruly neighbors children was like fingernails against a blackboard for some.
Why is your nose so red? Asked Eliza looking up at Capote, trying to suppress a grin.
Im Santa Claus, he quipped back at her. Capote needed a comeback and observed Eliza up and down with his piercing blue eyes squinting merrily. He was looking for something. He found it and pointed to her sandaled large feet and said loudly and clearly And you my dear have dirty toenails! He emphasized dirty toenails.
Everyone in the elevator, even Eliza, cracked up, including the operator who was supposed to be akin to the London silent guardsmen you tried to make laugh.
Dirty toenails, dirty toenails, dirty toenails, laughed Richard.
Thats right, said Capote. Dirty toenails! Not mine, hers! Mine are clean he said removing his expensive Italian shoes with no socks.
Even Eliza started to laugh because her toenails were uncut and dirty. It wasnt a very pretty site, and her feet were also oversized for her age, so the 10 year old tomboy stuck out like a sore thumb with a size 8 shoe!
From that time until they moved, when Truman and Eliza met hed utter the 2 words that would have them cracking up and roaring with laughter. It became infectious, because most in the vicinity knew Truman Capote and what he wrote and stood for. After a few months it was almost like Capote and Eliza shared a strange friendship. Even when theyd spot each other in the lobby or when the elevator door opened they would acknowledge each other almost fondly. It was odd and many did notice and told Mr. Osberg. He would roll his eyes after theyd told him and left him standing dumbfounded in the elevator almost having to ride all the way back up&
It was almost as ludicrous as when Johnny Carson invited him to go skydiving in the coming months since theyd moved in the building. Victor had declined the offer and it was at a building party so Johnny had a few in him and Osberg brushed it off as they sat together talking about the latest issues. Carson thought Osberg had a good head on his shoulders and was interested in what made his lace mill tick and how he managed to balance his time and shuttle between New York and Rhode Island!
But it would a few weeks later when Mr. Osberg was out of town at the lace factory. It was during Elizas spring break. Shed gone by herself to the park when she bumped into The Grass Harp author who was about to drive away in his Aqua blue convertible Mercedes with Maggie in the back.
Well, its the Dirty Toenails Tomboy!
Hi Red Nosed one, teased Eliza back at him, not batting an eye. Suddenly she felt like Tatum ONeal in the new movie that was becoming the rage Paper Moon with Ryan ONeal! Eliza felt like that character Tatum played. She sidled up to his car, the steering wheel on the opposite side than American cars! She boldly petted Maggie. I want to have a ride, she half demanded just as Maggie snapped at her fingers.
I dont know, Maggie doesnt like you very much. Shes jealous&
Please, it looks like fun!
Truman was debating with himself. He felt a bit drawn to this offbeat little girl. She sort of made him feel like a child again. Blurting out whatever came to mind, running wild through the elegant lobby, unknowing of the right manners or decorum or at least pretended not to. In a strange way his main character from In Cold Blood had a slanted innocence under the surface.
Okay, hop in. Ill tool you around the block&.
Great, thanks! Eliza climbed in and seat belted herself in.
Sammy the Doorman helped Eliza and shut the snazzy door of the vehicle. He knew very well how Mr. Capote drove and maybe that he might be a bit tipsy. Does your mother know about this, Eliza? He asked in earnest, only trying to protect the little girl.
Yes Sammy, she lied while sitting in the front seat of the Truman Capotes blue Mercedes. He took off with a screech and picked up speed fast, leaving the doorman stunned and worried. Even Tom at the front desk stood up when he saw Capote driving off with little Eliza Osberg in the front seat!
Elizas curly, frizzy hair blew in all directions. Maggie began barking her whispery yelp, but by now Eliza was not afraid. Truman maneuvered the car expertly, but with more speed and gusto than more drivers out that day! He wasnt a pro, but more of a speed demon. It was in his blood as well as expensive Vodka!
They raced up Beekman Place, and onto 1st Avenue, and then took a fast turn onto Riverside Drive. Eliza watched the picturesque towers from all angles and since it was the first time shed driven in a convertible she was very excited and it showed on her exuberant flushed face, her curls whipping in the warm New York City wind.
So, yelled Truman, above the din of the engine and wind. You lied so easily to the doorman!
For some reason, Eliza trusted Capote. He had a very dry sense of humor but he right away seemed to relate when he started with the dirty toenails banter with the girl.
Yea, I lied to Sammy, but I wanted to go! Said Eliza trying to emulate the Tatum ONeal character Adie Prayer from Paper Moon!
Look, even Maggie likes me now, said Eliza. She was gently stroking Maggie's fur back and the dog was responding well. Truman was impressed.
Hmmm, you must be ok then&If Maggie lets you pet her like that!
They sailed along Riverside Drive at an even pace, then Capote suddenly gunned the engine and they sprinted easily by the UN Building in the flashy car, drawing lots of attention which was Trumans intentions in the first place. They drove onward toward Tudor City where a virtually unknown Robert Redford lived. In that moment Truman Capote and Eliza were so much alike!
Capote would never be able to live it down, but he liked Eliza, more than he would have other children. Even the Kennedy kids were a bit droll after Capote met Eliza. They had a reputation, and could not be children, but more like mannequins. How sad.
Eliza had spunk and chutzpah and its the little kid enthusiasm she showed, more than most of the other snot-nosed kids at the UN Plaza had, and Truman liked that about Eliza. But it was time to get back to reality as he reached into his front pocket and retrieved a small silver flask and took a sip. He stared at Eliza and held out the flask.
Eliza really felt like Tatum ONeal now! She related to that character and was the same age as Tatum in that movie! She pretended in her head that she was in that movie and it fueled her imagination to the hilt.
Whats that? Asked Eliza, already knowing, but playing cat and mouse.
Truman ate that up. Magic juice!
Can I have a taste?
Well that all depends. Its pretty strong juice for adults!
Eliza seemed confident. I can take it. My dad let me try his Vodka once! And I also tried it at his dry bar and mixed my own Vodka drink once. I added Ginger Ale!
What? How could you! Ugh&
Thats what is in the flask, Eliza said and winked, trying to emanate the confidence of Tatum!
I know that. She smiled brightly at the famous author as he smiled wryly at the girl
If I give you a swig do you promise not to tell anyone?
I promise, said Eliza earnestly.
Now dont lie to me like you did the doorman!
Oh, I wont!
Okay Dirty Toenails, thats enough for you, joked Capote as he yanked the flask out of her strange looking fingers.
They both started laughing and carrying on as Capote drove back toward the Towers again and took another swig.
Feeling tipsy, Eliza?
Oh yes I am Mr. Capote!
Know any good jokes?
Yes& Truman Capote, she quipped.
Very funny young lady! He joked with her amiably.
Ladies and Germs, can I have your attention! Screamed Eliza at the top of her lungs as they passed a group of Japanese tourist about to enter the famed UN Building.
Eliza, you are drunk, he spat out. He gunned the engine to the hilt until Eliza thought it would burst into flames, but the liquor made her suppress the fears of her childhood.
Yes, I am drunk, she said tipsy-like.
I better get you back, he said, sort of not wanting to go back. He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a breath spray. Here, open your mouth little girl, he said to the kid.
Eliza closed her eyes and opened her mouth wide. She enjoyed his attention. Ha, ha, now I smell like you!
I dont want your dirty toenails! And Ill bet you can sing like your mother!
Wow, Mom can sing so well, said Eliza absentmindedly. She was watching some small commotion with a taxi and a bus by the time the sun began to set behind the Twin Towers in the foreground.
The car sped back onto the UN Plaza driveway and just one last stretch along Mitchell Place. By this time Eliza felt just a bit woozy but also elated. She had made a new friend and would not betray him. She got out of the car and headed to the park first to see who was around. After playing in the sandbox for awhile, then sliding down the largest slide, she walked slowly toward the UN Plaza, stopping in the garage to say hello to Lev, Gemmas husband who now worked for the building. He noticed she seemed a bit more subdued than her usual high strungness but said nothing. Eliza then ran up to the bank of elevators, pushed the button and rode it all the way up to the 38th floor. She got out and walked around the penthouse level where Capote lived. Cliff Robertson lived on one side and Johnny Carson on the other. It was quiet but the hallway was decorated very richly and smelled fresh and crisp. She wanted to see what Trumans place looked like. Maybe one day. It was a strange friendship. She also had an urge to ring Mrs. Morralt's apartment and run away and hide just to bug the ex model. It was hard for Eliza to believe that the older, silver-haired bitch was really a model on a runway with a smile planted on her pretty face. Eliza did not see Mrs. Morralt pretty and really put her in league with Mrs. Morralt, both witches and mean spirited.
She didnt ring Morralts buzzer, but walked the patterns of the rug and slowly pushed the elevator button. Thank God the quiet elevator man Hugh was on duty and she did not have to talk. But the man was still sort of eerie and dark when all he would do was hum some useless ditty as if the tune was German or Dutch, or whatever Hugh was. Once back downstairs she played a great game of monopoly with her sister Glinda then watched TV and had dinner when she felt sick. She ran into the bathroom and threw up and Gemma gave her Pepto Bismol which worked.
HOW MUCH IS THAT KETCUP BOTTLE IN THE WINDOW?
It was no secret that Lena Osberg had a penchant for ketchup. Supposedly, her mother Hazel was such a rotten cook that Lena, as a child, had to dump ketchup on everything, even chicken! It became a running hilarity with her husband Victor and their friends. Ketchup jokes, ketchup bottles, ketchup gifts, ketchup made in glass and crystal of all colors and sizes, but the most blatant ketchup object of all lasted for the years that the Osbergs lived at the UN Plaza. A 6 foot blow-up plastic Heinz Ketchup bottle that hung in the kitchen window 23 flights up!
The ketchup bottle was visible within a few blocks to anyone who happens to gaze up at the glistening UN Plaza twin towers; Eliza knew that tourists visiting the UN must see it. The large, oversized plastic ketchup bottle was like a beacon drawing the eye to it. When Robert F. Kennedy was shot and the media converged on the towers, anyone with a keen eye watching the news must have seen that ketchup bottle in the window; postcards that came out during that time showed the UN Towers and the ketchup bottle was seen in the card. A few t.v. series shot at the Towers and when a long shot of the UN Plaza was flashed on screen the famed ketchup bottle was spotted!
The history about that ketchup bottle started when Herbert and Eva Glass purchased it at Saks Fifth Avenue as a gift gag, but Elizas parents got such a kick out of it that they ended up hanging it in the large kitchen picture window. Believe it or not it caused a slight furor in the building meetings when some tenants complained that it was more of a blight. It was discussed about, voted on and the Osbergs had won the right to keep it hanging. And it did until the family moved in 1976. Eliza would always remember that ketchup bottle. Her friends at school loved it too. And if not for the positive votes by Johnny Carson (who liked Elizas mother and father), Cliff Robertson, Dina Merrill, Ethel Kennedy along with Herb Glass and the husband of Lena Osbergs friend Della Krenz (who was president of Bloomingdales at that time). The final count yielded a vote from famed author Truman Capote to keep the ketchup bottle in place.
Its like a work of art by my good friend Andy Warhol! Said Mr. Capote. And his Campbells Soup masterpiece will be worth a pretty penny one day, so I vote that the ketchup bottle remain in placed, said the flamboyant author of In Cold Blood.
But on the other side of the fence there were the non-fans of the Osbergs sense of design. Truman Capotes and Johnnys neighbor on the penthouse floor Mrs. Morralt and of course the couple on the 8th floor the Marette's whose children avoided the Osberg kids like the plague. Mary Lasker also wanted it down. It was rumored that Lasker had another apartment across the street from the UN Plaza at Beekman Place, and that she was simply using her place at the UN Plaza to store and collect some of the finest art in the World. She was known to have filled her 20th floor apartment with works and masterpieces by many known artists.
It isnt very classy and looks bad, the petite woman said in a low voice. Mrs. Osberg, it certainly doesnt reflect the high class and nuance you and your husband portray when you first applied to be a tenant here!
No taste, I agree, said Morralt.
Its like bad advertising and low class-ish looking! Chimed in Mrs. Marette. Theyll airbrush it out of a postcard, say by Hallmark, then send us the bill&I wont pay it and I wont take it!
I cant believe youve all voted to have it remain! Has the world gone mad?
Oh shut up Ladies, piped up Capote. Its different and breaks up the monotony a bit. And if they send us a bill, I will pay it!
So will I, Capote, said Osberg.
Me too, said another man in the back who usually was quiet. It was Mr. Love who lived next door to Mr. Osberg. Love had broken through all the rooms and made it one big apartment, like a studio and it was rumored he was trying to get Willie Mays buy it or rent it maybe. Eliza got a fast glimpse of the baseball great the first time hed looked at the place.
Id feature it as a gag on my show if I was in charge of that! Said Johnny kiddingly.
The building would not allow it, Mr. Carson, said Mrs. Lasker.
I figured, but everyone knows the Osbergs are good people.
Sure they are, we not disputing that, but since we are on the subject, I think the Osberg childr
Arent all children rambunctious at some point, asked Mrs. Kennedy.
To a point, yes, but I know for a fact that there has been a rash of complaints.
They throw things out of the windows and someone is going to be hurt, said another snot-nosed wife of a banker.
Its got to stop, said the manager Mr. Williamson, a swirl of cherry pipe smoke ringed around the rotund man. In a matter of a few days Ive got complaints about them and Ive tired to talk to you Mr. and Mrs. Osberg!
Hey, hold up, is this about a ketchup bottle in the window or my kids? Asked Mr. Osberg, growing a bit hot under the collar.
Everyone started to talk at once, some shrilling. Mrs. Osberg with her Soprano opera training made her voice heard as she began to protect her brood!
Now just a minute, just a minute, who do you think you all are?
I agree, dont get down on the Osbergs! Let them keep the damn ketchup bottle up!
Really, the children are another issue to be brought up at the next meeting please!
Mr. Williamson pounded the gavel several times. Meeting adjourned.
So the ketchup bottle stayed, but the children were never really reprimanded for their behavior, partly because Mr. Osberg was out of town half the week, and he didnt want to scold or dole out any spankings and would have rather played games and joke with them, or discuss things with them like adults even though they were just kids. He missed his kids when he was in at the factory, but the lace business was very good and he couldnt stay away. But at least Fern was there to clean his apartment and they would drink coffee together and chat about his children mostly.
Mr. Osberg told Fern about the building meeting and what was said.
Dont worry Mr. Osberg, they are all bark and no bite!
Im concerned, said Mr. Osberg. People were also talking about the kids, that and how theyre acting up in the lobby and some other incidents.
Oh, dont let that bother you! Fern sipped her 3rd cup of coffee that morning. Those kids are all great. God has blessed you, Mr. Osberg.
Victor, yes. Those kids are alive and vital. Dont get angry about it, even if there is some truth to the complaints.
For Godssakes, they want us to take the ketchup bottle out of the window.
Really? Well honestly Victor, we can only pray for them.
I would imagine.
Compared to whats going on in the World now with Vietnam, theyre acting very petty. People are getting shot and are dying and theyre worried about a ketchup bottle?
Seems so& It almost sounds ironic!
They were not all against us.
Well thats comforting, answered Fern.
Carson and Capote were in our corner and Mrs. Morralt and the Marrates were in the other, he said. Mary Lasker didnt approve either, but Ethel Kennedy threw her vote for us, majority rules!
Fern laughed a deep, almost baritone laugh. Thats funny, Victor.
I know, Victor smiled.
So, no fisticuffs?
No, but Lena was fit to be tied, you know her.
Yes, I do.
Shell fight tooth and nail for those kids!
I would too! But Mr. Osberg, I mean Victor, Eliza is a very special child.
I see that.
Yes, very bright, but the other kids have beauty too, but you should really focus on some things with Eliza. Shes got so much talent!
I know it, and Ive always encouraged her!
I think she has a very good imagination and I saw her building this project with wood, and shes got some interesting art talents too, bragged Fern as if Eliza was her own child!
Oh, yes, Ive noticed. You know Fern, just because Im away from home 3 days a week doesnt mean Ive not noticed.
Oh, I wasnt saying that, but I just think Eliza is very gifted, as are all your children, Victor.
Fern took the coffee cups and put them in the sink.
Meanwhile, back at the UN Plaza it was coming up on summer when the kids would go off to sleep-away camp. Before Eliza, Glinda, Richard and Roy left for their perspective summer camps in Maine, the 4 kids were playing around in the kitchen. Gemma was busy with her sister Marge making a rum drink with nutmeg. School had just gotten out so they were punchy and rambunctious, having thrown a variety of items out the window, made many phony phone calls and went through their mothers scarves drawer when Roy saw the ketchup bottle hanging on a thread ready to fall down due to the heat of the sun.
The bottle had hung there for so long so Roy grabbed at it and it fell onto the kitchen floor. He began kicking it and Richard joined in, as well as Eliza. They were laughing and hooting when Glinda heard the commotion.
You better stop that, warned Glinda, who did have an inbred sense of being the snitch. You know how Mom loves that ketchup bottle.
They didnt listen and kept up their play.
Hey, stop that!
Gemma and Marge looked up and didnt realize what was going on. Suddenly Roy gave Heinz a swift kick, which knocked the breath out of the bottle that had hung there for years undisturbed. The 4 watched the coveted ketchup bottle deflate like the wicked witch from The Wizard of Oz did.
Ohhhhh, uh-oh You are in big trouble now! Said Glinda.
Eliza laughed and Richard left the kitchen, retreating to his bedroom. Roy was stunned and just stood there in shock.
Whats going on? Gemma and Marge stopped mixing their rum concoction.
Kiss me dede, Ras, said Gemma.
Who did that? Asked Marge.
Roy! Said Glinda.
I did not, you did it, argued Roy, trying to pin it on his younger sister.
No way, you were kicking it, I was just laughing, argued Eliza.
Told you so, piped up Glinda.
Roy picked up the now deflated ketchup bottle, his face on the verge of crying. I didnt mean it, he said sadly.
Wait until your mother hears about this, get to your bed, get to your bed, screamed Gemma half-heartedly trying to chase them out.
Marge piped in, Kiss me Grand Auntie Ferry, Ras!
Wait, I have an idea, shouted Eliza. She ran to her bedroom lickity-split and got some scotch tape, clear. She picked up the plastic bottle and turned it around and saw a small hole in it. She deftly scotch taped the hole inside and out. Then Eliza gently blew air into its original shape. Roy was so happy he started jumping up and down cheering. Gemma got up on the window sill and re-attached it. Okay, now be good, or get to your bed!
Roy hugged his sister and Richard came in from the bedroom and was amazed Eliza had miraculously fixed it.
You are so smart Eliza, thanks, said Roy.
No problem Brother, said Eliza.
Dont tell, said Roy to Glinda, who was infamous for squealing.
I wont, she promised.
The 4 kids turned their attentions to Gemma and Marge who had gone back to their rum drinks. The smell of nutmeg and rum permeated the kitchen as they added eggs and milk and began mixing it with an egg beater. All was well again and Roy never even went near the ketchup bottle after that day.
Eliza Meets & Colonel Klink
Victor Osberg could never sleep well so he stayed up very late watching the tube. Eliza too had trouble falling asleep and it was offhandedly because of her father, but tonight she still felt tipsy from the Vodka she shared with Capote. Her mind raced with thoughts of ghosts and monsters under her bed,
Because Eliza was traumatized by a trip to an amusement park where her dad put her all the fast rides so he could watch her better and not leave her alone while her brothers and he rode the rides. That extreme experience left the then 3 year old Eliza practically shell shocked and scared of her own shadow, especially when her father had brought her into the spook house at the park and that left her jangled and nervous at night, hence the insomnia the 10 year old experienced presently.
Her father had his TV on very loud and she kept tossing and turning until the sound of audience laughter floated into her dark bedroom chasing away the evil apparitions. She got up and headed for her parents room down the long hallway, passed her brothers who were snoring away. She popped her head in and saw her parents. Mom was sleeping like a dead woman, the TV noise not affecting her in the least.
Dad, can I stay up with you for awhile? I cant sleep.
Usually Victor would shoo her back to bed, but this time he relented. Alright, but then sleep, okay?
OK, said Eliza, running for their big comfortable bed.
Pop on in, said Mr. Osberg, making room for her.
What are we watching?
They began talking and Eliza felt close to him, even though he did travel a lot and was not around 3 days out of the week.
Eliza recalled the first time shed realized he was not at home and she told him as the commercials rolled on the TV.
Shed been having a nightmare soon after the amusement park incident. Worms were appearing behind her white wicker headboard and she was screaming and thrashing until Eliza felt moms hand rousing her awake. Eliza was crying hysterically so her mom tried to carry her and have her sleep in their bedroom. Eliza resisted until they got to Mrs. Osbergs bedroom door and Eliza saw her father was not there. She slipped into her parents bed and fell fast asleep until morning when her mother told her that her father always commuted, but even if he was there he would have come and taken her out of the bedroom into their room in an instant.
As the standard Carson music opened up and Johnny started doing his monologue Eliza laid back and tried to understand the humor, which was obviously for adults.
Victor laughed at almost every joke and Eliza understood some of them, especially the ones about the Vietnam War. They watched the whole 90 minute show that featured Tiny Tim singing Tip Toe through the Tulips. Eliza and her dad laughed uncontrollably. Buddy Hackett, the comedian came on and cracked them up too, then Carson did a skit with Carol Wayne that hinted at sex and big boobs which Mr. Osberg got. Finally, as the show started to wind down Don Rickles came out and did his usual shtick! During commercials Eliza would ask her father questions, usually about current events.
Her father loved her enthusiasm and it was stimulating and fun to answer his daughters questions. They were very insightful as well as very creative and intense and Mr. Osberg did his best to fill her in on all her questions&. Eliza was always peppering everyone with questions!
During a commercial break Mr. Osberg asked, Did you know he lives in our building?
Of course, Ive seen him and Ive talked to him!
Really, in what way Eliza.
Oh, dumb stuff in the mailroom and in the lobby&
Im becoming a bit concerned about what they are saying in the meetings, Eliza, said her father sternly. He didnt want to upset anyone and he knew better than anyone else how hyper his kids were. Eliza, I dont want any problems or Ill ground you!
I didnt do anything.
Ive heard that before.
Dad, come on!
No come on, Dad& I dont want to hear about my childrens rap sheet in the meetings so you better not be causing trouble, or instigating it&
Well keep it that way.
OK, love you Dad, said Eliza and crawled out of the bed. She kissed her dad and he kissed her and gave her a bear hug. Good night Sweetie.
Eliza returned to her shadowy bedroom and lay back down. Dad was now watching an old movie with the TV still blasting but she did fall asleep finally after pretending she didnt hear it or just blocking it out until he had to turn it off around 3:30 am. Then before they knew it another day was dawning.
It was Friday night, right before the Osberg kids were to depart for summer camp in Maine & all 4 Osberg children went, and that would free up Gemma to enjoy her own family an summer when Victor and Lena went traveling to Sardinia and Europe, but it was to be a special Friday dinner and a very close friend of the Osbergs, Elle Moss, was coming by with her boyfriend Werner Klempner who played the Commandant on the TV show Hogans Heroes. Gemma was going all out to make the dinner elegant and classy, with the help of Mrs. Osberg. The table was set with the Osbergs most expensive silverware and crystal, except for Eliza who had plastic and unbreakable plates. Last year when they celebrated Roys 13th Birthday theyd pulled out all the stops with fine china, food and entertainment. Mrs. Osberg brought out her fine paper thin crystal. During the meal Eliza held the delicate wine glass and got Glindas attention by holding the precious expensive crystal glass between her teeth to make her younger sister laugh.
As they both carried on, Eliza pressed too hard with her mouth and a chunk of the $100 a glass crystal broke off.
Mrs. Osberg almost had a full blown cardiac arrest when she saw what had happened. Mr. Osberg rarely hit his kids, but he saw how upset his wife was and knew how much she coveted her china and dishes.
What was that, Eliza, he yelled.
It was an accident Dad!
He reached out over the table and slapped Eliza square in the face, which was startling, especially to the company that sat at little round tables around the dining room. Elizas cousins, Lauren, Dina and Stan were shocked as well as her Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Kelley.
Go to the kitchen and eat the rest of your food there. Get out of my sight, yelled Mr. Osberg.
Eliza got up with tears in her eyes and was crying and hiccupping. She did as she was told as everyone began to relax again.
So now she spotted the fake crystal and plates by her place. It didnt bother her like it used to& And in the end it was better.
It was going to be some special dinner and evening of good food, and music. Werner was bringing his violin and Elizas mother was going to sing some opera and standard songs accompanied by Mr. Klempner.
The Osberg children adored the show Hogans Heroes and were looking forward to meeting the funny bumbling actor who plays the Commandant Klink!
The moment came around 6:00 PM when Elle showed up with her famous date. They stood in the hallway as the children filed out and were introduced to Werner, who looked like his character except he had a lot of freckles. They went to the living room after giving Mr. Klempner the grand tour of their wonderful spacious apartment, skipping Eliza and Glindas bedroom.
Oh, thats the zoo! Said Roy.
Werner laughed. I was the same way as a child. I was lucky to be able to find the right color socks.
In the living room they all discussed the latest political situations, Vietnam and lighter issues about the lace business and what the state of Broadway was these days!
Talk leaned toward Lena Osbergs stage career and beautiful Soprano Opera voice. They chatted and discussed the latest rages and talked drifted to Werners TV role of a Nazi Commandant.
Its just a part, nothing more, he said, flitting his hands nervously too and fro, trying to make light of it.
But youre doing a Nazi, doesnt it bother you a little? asked Mrs. Osberg.
At first, but were in our 6th season and I dont think much about it anyways. Its a job.
Do you get fan mail? Asked Eliza, totally intrigued with him.
Yes, of course I do, he answered strongly. More than youd think.
Do you answer back and send your photo with an autograph? Asked Eliza on cue.
Yes, sometimes, but not really, he answered back cryptically.
Whats Hogan like? Eliza was on a roll.
You mean Bob Crane?
Hes very likable and a very funny talented man, but hes very intelligent&.
Stop pestering him with questions Eliza," said Mrs. Osberg.
OK. Just one more&. Can you say that one thing you say to Hogan?
What? He feigned ignorance, but knew what she wanted, everyone did!
Can you? The company, even his girlfriend looked on eagerly, trying to hide it badly.
No, I dont think so, he snapped.
He turned away from Eliza and talked to his date.
Glinda sidled up to Werner. Oh please, cant you just do it once?
No! He said it firmly.
The kids were disappointed, but then dinner was announced and they all floated into the dining room decorated with burning white candles, white table cloth linen and fresh white flowers.
At the table they served wine and a before dinner appetizer and salads. It was scrumptious faire.
Everyone was talking and laughing and relating. Eliza asked Werner again between the banter. Can you just do that thing once?
Will you stop pestering him, scolded Victor Osberg sternly.
Its alright, I actually get that all the time.
Sorry about that, apologized Eliza.
Cant you do it please, asked Richard shyly, his voice squeaking like a mouse in his nervous shyness.
Is it fun being on Hogans Heroes? Asked Roy out of the blue.
Yes it is, but its hard work keeping up that energy my boy, said Werner not missing a beat. He enjoyed it all. It was then that he turned to Eliza and said frankly: Eliza, you have a very special effervesce! But you are all very special too!
Say thank you to Mr. Klempner, kids!
Thank you, they all said together in unison.
Dinner was excellent, Mrs. Osberg, said Werner.
Why thank you Mr. Klempner.
Eliza came up behind him and whispered. Can you do the Hogan thing please?
No Eliza I cant, he said seeming to get exasperated.
They all went to the living room to listen to Mrs. Osberg sing to Werners Violin.
He played the instrument with much fanfare and energy. Eliza remembered one particular episode where the commandant plays his violin for a fake record Hogans men are making.
When you played in that one episode I didnt realize you were really playing the violin!
Yes I was, and it was my idea, he bragged.
All that evening all the kids were asking him to do the Hogan thing. He declined, even after Mrs. Osberg sang many opera standards that he played to on his violin. It was mystifying to Eliza.
Kids, stop, said Mr. Osberg.
Leave Mr. Klempner alone children, said Elle.
In fact, get ready for bed now, its late, said Mr. Osberg.
Okay, they all said filing out.
The children got ready for bed. They were all in their matching pajamas and had brushed their teeth. Gemma supervised. They filed back in just as Werner and Elle were leaving. Goodbyes were said and Werner complimented Mrs. Osberg on her wonderful singing.
You are so wonderful Lena, Im very impressed, he said, every bit like his character on TV, just a little bit softer and not so stern and arrogant, almost shy.
Thank you! My pleasure, she answered demurely, the true social hostess.
You have to come back again, said Mr. Osberg.
You play the violin lovely, added Mrs. Osberg. Very sweet.
Children, say good bye to Mr. Klempner, said Mr. Osberg gently.
Bye, good night. Thanks.
Oh, thanks, I had a marvelous time.
We did too, said Eliza.
He bent down on one knee. Good.
Mr. Klempner? Can you& Eliza begged&
No, sorry&, he said, abruptly getting up.
Please, they all asked again.
Not tonight kids, Im tired.
The Osbergs walked the couple to the elevator as the kids followed.
Mr. Klempner, please, they all begged.
Okay, they all said reluctantly, but still hoping against hope.
The elevator came quickly and Eliza tried one last time. She just said, Please Mr. Klempner, Please????
He acted like he didnt hear and went into the elevator.
Please, yelled Glinda, then Roy and Rich and finally in a last ditch effort, Eliza yelled, Do it Mr. Klempner!
The elevator shut and just as it was going to engage, an arm came out and pushed the elevator doors open. A bald head popped out and uttered loudly Hogan!!!!! Now get to bed kids!!!!
All the kids laughed and hooted and Werner Klempner threw them a kiss and left.
He did it, he did it yea! Cant wait until I tell the kids at school!
GHOSTS AT THE UN PLAZA
The first apparition Eliza saw at the UN Plaza was a man in a grey jumpsuit and construction hat. Shed just returned from Sunningdale and was adjusting to being back at the UN Plaza in her own bed. He was stooped over the dining room table one early Sunday morning Eliza walked by. Shed seen something out of the corner of her eye. Her heart did a flip-flop when shed walked in and the man came up, arms raised with a strange distorted strangled look on his ashen face. He was wearing workmen clothes and what looked like to Eliza as a painters cap. It was his face and aura that freaked the girl out. She ran down the long hallway to her parents room crying and carrying on about a strange man in the dining room. Mr. Osberg had just gotten out of bed and was about to shower and shave. It was Sunday morning.
What were you doing in the dining room? Asked Mrs. Osberg.
I was passing by and looked in and saw this man.
Eliza youve got to stop this. Your imagination is running away from you, said Mr. Osberg.
Im telling you I saw him!
Dont go in the dining room again. You might break the Venus D Milo statue.
It already has two broken fingers, Dad.
Thats not the point Eliza, said Mrs. Osberg. Your father and I bought that in California from the Hearst Estate, so stay out of the dining room. Mrs. Osberg shut the doors leading into the brown paneled room.
Lena walked back down the hallway as Mr. Osberg took Eliza into the den where they began discussing spirits, ghosts and imaginations gone wild.
But dad, I saw him!
I know you think you saw him, but its called a figment of your vivid imagination.
Nooooo, a ghost dad, a ghost.
Eliza stop talking nonsense now!
Dad, it was so real I could have reached out and touched him. I could even see his face.
What did he look like? And tell me straight, asked Victor, getting drawn into it.
His face was like he was surprised, like he was afraid too! But not of me, or surprised because I saw him. He was reacting to something else in that time frame!
Hmmmm, I see. It made total sense to Mr. Osberg. His daughter may come off as an odd ball, but she was a brilliant girl, but too hyper.
Mr. Osberg remembered a story hed read recently about when they built t
Shes always been different than your other kids, you know that! Fern was sipping coffee and talking to Mr. Osberg from her cozy roomy house in Lyon Avenue, across the street from a small oil truck stop. Sometimes late at night in the middle of a raging blizzard, the oil trucks would pull up to the little rest spot, and re fuel, have a bite and a cigarette far away from the pumps&.
I dont know what to make of it, Fern.
If she sees something than it probably is something in her mind.
I dont disagree with that. I just dont know how to deal with it.
Just dont discourage her enthusiasm, its so natural and fuels everything behind that gifted creative sense. Watch her as she grows&.Just dont judge!
I try not to, Fern. She comes up with some wild things.
Just monitor her. Sit down and explain things to her. And for Godssake, Victor, dont give your sons hunting knifes!
How did you know&Oh never mind I know & Eliza!
Dont be mad at the child. She cares deeply. Shes different than most kids, as well as all 4 of your kids, Victor. Shes a smart cookie. I think you already know that.
Yes, I know.
Listen, just try and calm her and dont tease her Victor, and dont let the others either. You remember when she fell at the club? No one believed her at first.
Falling is one thing, seeing strange men in our dining room is a whole other ballgame, Fern, said Mr. Osberg looking out at the view of the East River and 1st Avenue.
I know, but she can pretty much comprehend things better than the rest of the kids.
Yes, I realize that&
Yup, but open to knowledge.
Okay, Ill agree with you on that, said Mr. Osberg&
A few days later, Mr. and Mrs. Osberg had a small dinner party and had Mitchell the caterer do the food and favors as usual. Eliza and her siblings watched in the kitchen as Mitchell did his thing. Then later on when the company came, they made quick appearances then went to the boys room to watch TV.
The party raged on all night and to the early morning. Mrs. Oberg sang, there was laughter and Eliza heard a lot of men laughing and singing together. It was a good party that finally wound down around 1 AM. All was quiet by 2:00 AM, even Mr. Osberg didnt put his TV blasting for once. It was silent. All of a sudden Eliza awoke from a dream she was having. She had sneaked into her parents bedroom and was watching them dress for a party. Her mother saw her hiding behind the love seat and began screaming at her hiding there. Then as Eliza stood up and ran from them in her dream she could hear drums and male voices chanting over and over, louder and louder. She suddenly woke up from the dream and it was quiet. She turned her head and looked to her right side of the bed and she spotted a man standing there, who at first looked like Mitchell the caterer to Eliza. Then he came closer to her bed. Elizas foot was sticking out of the blanket and rubbed up against the mysterious mans lapel. He was tall with black hair and dark eyes. It wasnt Mitchell. Eliza didnt know who it was. The man turned to the side and Eliza saw his hair up in a bun like a Japanese Samurai warrior. He was wearing a black suit and stood close to Elizas. She could almost feel him breathing, but all he did was stare at her. She felt he wanted her to see his profile clearly when he suddenly turned to the side and came so close to her! Her foot was touching his jacket and she could feel the vibrations of her foot rubbing against the fine fabric, the friction. She tried to say, &who are you? but all that came out was a croaking sound. All of a sudden, drums beat again with chanting men and as the music got loud, the weird man popped like a bubble and disappeared. The room became quiet again. When the apparition Eliza saw disappeared, her voice came to life and she said to the darkness Who are you?
Eliza froze and couldnt move for the longest time. She finally turned and pulled the hot blanket over herself and started to cry in fear. She knew she couldnt bother her parents on this, but it was so real. She got up and ran quickly to her bathroom across the hall. Glinda slept through it just like when shed slept through the hurricane when they stayed up in West Hampton at the Bath and Tennis Club!
Once in the light of the bathroom Eliza looked at herself in the mirror. She looked scared and panicked almost like the first ghost she saw in the dining room. How did Glinda do that? How did she sleep like a rock?
She went down the hallway and went into her brothers room and watched them sleep feeling jealous. She went to her parents room and they too were asleep. Her dad snored like the lion (Oh the Lion Sleeps Tonight)! Her mother was the same lion but without the fire. Why did they all sleep so well and Eliza slept terrible. Well all except her dad, but this time her father slept soundly and she dare not wake him up because he truly deserved his sleep for once.
She slowly walked back into her bedroom, but decided to take her pillow and bedding and sleep in the bathtub. She went in and made a pallet for herself and fell fast asleep in the tub. She closed the shower curtains and closed the bathroom door and locked it. So if she over slept she could say she was in the toilet. She locked the door and lay down and soon was fast asleep. She felt much safer in the tub.
In the darkness of the dining room a flicker of an apparition, the construction worker Eliza saw & he was upset and riled up and had actually been killed when they laid the foundation of the UN Plaza.
The other ghost Eliza saw was also someone who might have been killed while the UN Plaza was going up. Hed fallen from the 23rd floor when a wind whipped up. He was the foreman. So Eliza did see the entities, but no one except maybe Fern believed her. She tired to explain to her sister Glinda and brothers, but they couldnt totally grasp the concept. Neither could Mrs. Osberg and even Gemma guffawed it and didnt want to discuss it. Eliza went in the bright dining room and stood by the Venus de Milo and stared at the spot she saw the construction worker. She made a mental note to find out if it could be true about seeing these ghosts. She would ask around. Im sure someone like Adolfo or an older building maintenance man will know, maybe Dum-Dum.
Eliza did ask and low and behold Dum-Dum knew something and told the girl that some men did get killed in the building of these towers. She told him about seeing the two men and his eyes got bright.
Ya' know Eliza, Ive been here since the building opened in 1966, and I saw some strange things too.
Can they hurt me, Dum-Dum?
No, just your fear can hurt you, he said wisely.
Yes, so remember this, as scared as you are of them, they are triply scared of you, said Dum-Dum, who for once didnt have that Dum-Dum look on his face. He didnt have his usual shot of whiskey yet either.
But to Eliza it made sense and she was relieved that someone understood and explained it to her. Although her father did, she liked Dum-Dums explanation better. And Dum-Dum believed her.
Oh, dont say nothin to no one about what I tells ya', Eliza, he said.
Oh I wont.
I could lose my job and I cant afford that. So mums the word, okay? He put his rough hand out and Eliza shook on it.
Dont worry Dum-Dum, I would never tell, she said, thinking of her excursion with Truman Capote and that day she got drunk with him and shed kept her promise even though she was acting strange! And for once her personality hid her antics from her family, which for now was good!
FERN & GINNY SISTERS OF MERCY!
Eliza reflected as she got ready for school in the clothing her mother set down Danskin pants, white socks, penny loafers. They were a very boyish style and it would be Glinda who would break out and get her
Fern and her sister Ginny were professional governesses Mrs. Osberg had hired, 2 Italian Catholic sisters who were hired even before Vera the Terror before they moved to the UN Plaza!
Eliza remembered how Fern and Ginny came on board after Glinda, the youngest of the Osberg brood was born. Fern had taken a firm hand and interest in Eliza and even had taught the hyper kid how to tie her shoelaces and potty trained her.
Eliza recalled even earlier when Fern would come and when she left Eliza would cry and carry on, thinking that if she kept up the tantrum, Fern would have second thoughts and would come back. When she stayed over she slept in Elizas bedroom which had a twin bed set.
Fern was deeply religious, a devout Catholic woman who was trained as licensed nurse! She wore a nurses fraternity pin along with medium sized silver cross with an intricately carved figure of Jesus dying on the cross. She had natural abilities to rear children and even nursed Eliza though many accidents and sicknesses.
Soon after the amusement park trauma Eliza had contracted some sort of infection and had a raging fever. She was having hallucinations of a large blimp flying around the room and when Fern was napping in the chair Eliza would have sworn that Ferns face turned into a wolf. She would stare at it and watch it change from Ferns face to this hideous wolfs face that would growl and try and talk to her. It was really Fern snoring, but the girl was so hyper focused that her imagination was bright but out of control, thus the fever intensified the personality trait.
Fern and Mr. Osberg stayed up all night and bathed poor Eliza in alcohol and cold water. The Governess, as Mrs. Osberg referred to her as, sat through the night with Eliza who actually was having hallucinations about many things due to the high temperature. On a whim, Fern started talking to Eliza about how God was watching over her, thinking that maybe the hallucinations would turn nicer. But what happened was that somehow they bonded very closely, especially when Eliza had fallen at the Osbergs country club they belonged to.
Shed been playing with her brother Richard, who had a frozen ice cream pop and Eliza was chasing after him around the pool area. Suddenly Eliza fell down by the same pool her sister had almost drowned a few weeks earlier. At first the spunky girl got up after slipping pretty hard on her left leg. She brushed herself off feeling no pain at first. It wasnt until the next morning that she awoke to the most excruciating ache on the left side of her leg above the inner thigh.
Shed gone to her father initially. I fell down Dad.
Where, asked her father Victor, shading his eyes to look across the pool area where he rescued his youngest daughter a few weeks earlier.
Are you hurt?
My left leg, she pointed to the injured spot. Here&
Here? He touched the spot, but not hard.
Richard walked by with the ice cream half eaten, the cause of the fall. Momentarily Eliza forgot the injury and looked longingly at the ice cream. Her dad didnt seem concerned as he handed her a county club chit or chek as they were called, for Eliza to get an ice cream cone.
It wasnt until the next day, Monday, that Eliza felt the searing pain of a torn ligament. Any movement caused tremendous discomfort for the girl, but her dad had gone to work hours before. When the cleaning lady came in to make up the beds, Eliza was full blown crying and traumatized and was in shock from the sudden fall and sustained injury, which had aggravated during the night. When the maid could not budge her, she called Mrs. Osberg who had little patience with the daughter who was prone to temper tantrums and was always crying as a baby, from the moment she was born.
Lena Osberg tried to rouse her daughter out of her crying fit. In the past Eliza would pull something like this. She loved her daughter who looks so much like her, but the little girl tended to cry wolf and cry she did, for hours on end!
Come on Eliza, get up darling&
I cant, I hurt my leg!
Stop this carrying on or Ill call your father!
She tried to pull Eliza up but it only caused the girl to cry louder with pain. Her mother never struck her daughter, but this time she lightly tapped her on the butt which had made things worse. Finally, Mrs. Osberg lost patience and left the bedroom just as Fern was coming in for work. She heard the commotion upstairs as the maid pulled Eliza from the bed as the girl was howling in pain.
When Fern ran upstairs she spotted Eliza stooped on the floor crying, face red, tears flowing.
Whats going on here? Fern was like a mad mother bear trying to save her cub.
Shes going nuts, said the maid in a huff and leaving the room as she hastily made up the bed. Mrs. Osberg came in again. She was wearing her nightgown but was wrapped in a silk robe from Bloomingdales.
I dont know whats going on with her, or if it is all in her head&, said the perplexed maid. I cant get her calm.
Why is she crying?
Shes carrying on about nothing.
Now come on Mrs. Osberg, Ive been a nurse for over 40 years and I dont think shes carrying on for nothing. She may be injured. Did something happen?
Mrs. Osberg stopped in mid step. Now she knew. Yes, yes, something did happen&She fell down yesterday at the club. But my husband and I thought she was fine.
I dont think so, Fern said moving closer to Eliza. Eliza, whats wrong Honey?
My leg, said Eliza tearfully.
Fern bent down and took the girl in her arms and soothed her gently. After that it was revealed that Eliza had a major injury and Mr. Osberg was called at his factory in out of State by Mrs. Osberg who now believed her daughter. She came in the bedroom as Fern further soothed Eliza and had her sitting up drinking a vanilla shake she had laced with an antihistamine which would help the nervous girl sleep better.
Lie still Eliza!
I called Mr. Osberg, Fern. I dont know what to say. Im sorry Eliza. I love you darling, said Mrs. Osberg making a big production out of hugging her daughter. She obviously felt guilty now for not realizing there was something wrong. She reached down and stroked her oldest daughters curly bushy, out of control hair& She loved her and Eliza sensed this. But for some reason, they missed communicated with each other. Maybe as they got older they would bond like Glinda and mom do! For now they show tolerance toward each other but they did have their moments and moods.
From that moment on, Fern took over caring for Eliza, even taking her to the hospital. Fern seemed to steady Eliza and was capable. They bonded and Fern even called her sister Ginny and between the two of them they began to nurse Eliza even though the doctor wanted to keep Eliza in the hospital due to the extent of the injury and the location of it. And the fact hat Eliza had to remain almost immobile, a tough thing to make Eliza do, but Fern and Ginny were up to the task and managed to watch the little girl in shifts. After theyd give her the mild sedative they would sit with her and talk about Jesus and how he will always be at her right side no matter what and to always pray and not be afraid if he appears to her. He isnt a ghost. Hes the Holy Ghost. Eliza took it all to heart and studied it well. They were amazed. But Mrs. Osberg did not like it one bit. She constantly tried to stop the teachings but no one would budge, not even Mr. Osberg would breach it with Fern, and told his wife so! What harm can it do? We can teach her about a Jewish faith we dont really practice?
Eliza remembered very well how she would wake up in the middle of the n
Eliza would always remember them, even though by the time Arafats plane landed, they were coming to stay during the times the Osbergs went on vacation, taking their older sons with them.
One memory Eliza recalled was how Ginny would make a foot concoction out of vinegar and Athletes foot liquid, and then wrap her feet in plastic after applying the smelly goop. Shes sleep all night like that, the odor wafting in and out.
But the best was when Fern would take Eliza and Glinda to her house on Lyon Avenue, which described what Fern represented & A lioness and her little cubs. In fact, Glinda was deathly afraid of dogs until Fern introduced them to Mitzy her beloved Beagle.
At fist Glinda was scared and cried when Mitzy trotted in, her little paws going tit tat tit on the shiny linoleum in Ferns kitchen. At that time, Ferns daughter Gayle lived with her parents Al and Fern, but Al and Fern had separate beds and photos and paintings of Jesus and Mary up on the walls in all forms of painting and design. The eggshell walls were chock full of Jesus in many mediums, even candles with his picture. The old style home had a happy childrens vibe and Eliza always felt safe and secure there.
It was one day during Easter vacation that the Osberg girls were at Ferns. Glinda had been avoiding the dog daily. While at church, Fern had whispered to Eliza to pray hard that Glinda would like Mitzy, and that if Eliza prayed hard enough it would happen!
When the group came back from church, Mitzy made a bee line for Glinda. At first Glinda began crying, but suddenly her younger sisters face un-contorted. Her tears turned joyous and her face turned up from the frown that threatened to suppress a giggle as Mitzy charmed her and won her over.
But the real inner feelings Eliza felt were for the new religious world that Fern opened and instilled in her. She took to the Mass and the giving of communion, Jesus, and his story as well; saying prayers and forgiveness, plus more valuable lessons. Ferns sister Ginny was one of several sisters of Fern, but Eliza remembered Ginnys husband would make fun of her when she cried or was in distress. Hed say, Sing for us Eliza, sing! It made Eliza cry harder and more violently, especially when Arthur would mimic her. But all and all they all had good hearts.
Once the family moved to New York City at the UN, she would come with Ginny and even help Gemma with meals and cleaning. Eliza always had trouble sleeping so would wake up and not being able to sleep she would seek out Fern, who was not about to sleep on 25 cups of coffee a day. She was painting the molding around the apartment at 2 a.m.
Many times Fern would let Eliza stay up and theyd talk about God and many issues as did Eliza and her father.
Eliza and her sister would spend many Easters and Christmases with Ferns family. The sisters in both camps were close. The Osbergs usually took their older boys to South America or St. Martin in the Caribbean and would leave the girls home mostly due to Elizas hyperness and they just thought Glinda was still to young or they would have taken the child. And they did notice that Eliza wanted to go, the boys were half and half, feeling dragged, and that Glinda would fight them on it and cry and want to stay home to play in her room and see her friends and talk on the phone to her other friends. She didnt want to go to Aruba, so they obliged her and brought Rich and Roy. Poor Roy sat in the sun the first day too long and spent the whole vacation almost having to be hospitalized, but Mr. Osberg took over nursing his oldest boy from sun stroke, which had hit the kid pretty hard. He was a lobster ready to be boiled and eaten. They slaved on Noxzema and tried to make the boy comfortable with ice and ice cream and cold things to drink, coca cola, and finally the doctor suggested a sedative, so the teen slept most the time until they bundled him up and flew him home first class.
LENA OSBERG COULD HAVE BEEN IN PICTURES!
Every year Lena made sure that Miss USA and Miss Universe would come for dinner at the Osbergs compliments of some very high end friends who lived upstairs from the family!
Eliza enjoyed meeting the gorgeous women every year. They all seemed different, but Glinda especially got a kick out of sitting in Miss. Universes lap, and took turns switching from Miss. USA to Miss. Universe in a heartbeat. Of course Eliza peppered them with many questions, some surprising everyone.
Gracie Berg didnt believe Elizas family had dinner with the famous beauties, so one evening they showed up for dinner and Eliza coaxed them onto the phone and extension and called Gracie. Of course Gracie finally believed it when she heard their almost purring voices talking to her about the competition and how much they enjoyed having dinner at Elizas apartment at the UN Plaza. Gracie then believed and had even been given an autograph from both women. But in the beginning of the evening before all the clamor of guests coming to and fro, there would be a transformation.
Eliza remembered how they smelled so good, almost akin to Elizas mothers odor, but Eliza loved the way her mother smelled when she applied the Ponds Cream before bedtime. That mixed with the odor of expensive perfume would always settle Elizas stomach when the family took a rowdy yellow cab to Bruce Hos Chinese Restaurant on Broadway near the theater district, once Lena Osbergs stomping ground.
But one thing Eliza loved were the huge parties her parents threw. They had so much fun watching the preparations, it was all so exciting.
Usually Mitchell would show up with his crew and start the procedure of pulling out all the fine china and such things. Table cloths, cooking-ware and the like were pulled out of golden woven fine baskets and drawers built into the walls of the dining room! It was fascinating for the Osberg kids to watch it all unfold. Maids and food servers in place, plenty of champagne chilling, plenty of fancy finger foods, Russian black Caviar and fancy social crackers were the order of the evening.
Then the sisters would wander in to watch their parents get ready. Eliza would drift to her fathers bathroom and observe him shave and theyd talk about so much and so many subjects to discuss. She would watch him deftly apply the shaving cream and easily start his routine, finishing with applying bronzing cream and a fake mustache making him resemble a bald Burt Reynolds.
Eliza would joke with her dad and they got along so well. Sometimes when Glinda or Richard or even Roy wandered in when Eliza and Mr. Osberg were talking loudly, he would nicely shoo them away as he and his oldest daughter would discuss world peace.
I want you to be on your best behavior tonight Eliza, and if anything do it for your mother. Some famous people are coming and just be good and dont disappoint your mom Sweetie. Said Mr. Osberg.
Alright Dad, Ill be good.
That means no loud talking or jumping around and dont ask so many questions.
I wont, said Eliza.
Tell your sister too, okay Eliza?
Yes Dad, I will.
I dont have to tell the boys except sometimes your older brother.
Good, he said, finally putting the finishing touches on his toupee, making sure it was in place, the mustache giving him an air of importance he so valued. He also loved the parties they had at the UN Plaza. Lena could really entertain, he wouldnt deny that ever.
He knew that tonight sounded like it would be a mixture of old comics and new surprises. Also, Abel Faderberg a famous lighting director on Broadway was coming with his wife, once a famous singer and showgirl. James Earl Jones was rumored to be coming by after supper for drinks, so it would be interesting.
Finally all was in place, even
Glinda ran in. Hey, this is a big one, said the cute little button of a girl.
I know, mom is going nuts.
Yea, guess she is. A lot of people are going to be here, said Glinda excitedly. Do you think mommy will sing and play piano?
Probably, answered Eliza.
Mitchell is really going all out in the kitchen, he wont even let Gemma help him!
Well he wants all the credit, have you seen what he makes? Asked Eliza to her little sister.
Yea, I do. Looks good, and Ive tasted a lot of it, she said mischievously.
Me too, hes nice. In fact, said Eliza. &Once I saw a ghost and I thought it was him!
When? asked Glinda.
Last week, right on my bed, said Eliza showing Glinda the spot.
Glinda looked fearful and on the verge of tears at the thought. Mrs. Osberg was passing by at that moment. Now Eliza, dont start scaring your sister or Im telling your father.
Im not mom, but its true!
Mrs. Osberg was wearing a beautiful white gown, complimenting gold slippers with her makeup done up to a tee, plus her hair was freshly dyed her usual platinum blond with the cherry lipstick in place. She was smashing looking. She resembled Lana Turner for sure! And Eliza knew her mom went through a lot to look fantastic, same with her father, but Eliza was not really up on it, and usually wore tomboy clothes her mom picked out& The boys Danskin pants and shirts with penny loafers.
On the other hand, Glinda was developing her own style and had long since grown out of that and had been accumulating quite a wardrobe herself, although they still had matching pajamas.
Richard and Roy used to have matching clothes but also had graduated a bit more into their own identities. Richard took to wearing bell bottom jeans, button down checkered man tailored shirts and hush puppies while Roy wore simple sweaters and slacks and shiny shoes.
By the time company started arriving the kids had already eaten in the kitchen and were told to come out later to be introduced and then back to TV in their bedrooms. While they were in their bedroom Eliza had an idea to do a musical show for guests. Glinda would be in it too. They started setting it up and ended up on the window sill putting on this weird oriental songfest using bedspreads, fancy colorful pillows and even the wicker tops of the laundry baskets that looked like a Chinese hat. They sat on the sill with the cute pillows set up against tan oriental screen from their fathers den. They sang a made up song by Eliza and both had the small finger cymbals that Indian women belly danced to. Each girl looked so adorable that when Mr. Osberg passed by their bedroom he couldnt resist grabbing his Polaroid camera and taking a few shots of his 2 daughters doing that shtick.
Girls, girls, I love it, I love it! Said Osberg, always having a penchant for anything oriental because of his Navy days in the early 1950s. He also faintly reminded Eliza of Havi Gold the camp director and his love of Broadway and how the whole camp revolved around Broadway Musicals. It was as if Ira & George Gershwin inhabited the soul of Havi Gold, and certainly Victor Osberg.
Mrs. Osberg walked by, then the boys and finally Gemma and Marge stood to the side smiling. It was a very good skit, very creative, thanks to Eliza.
Honey, lets let the girls do their bit for our guests!
If you dont mind Bouge , she said, using her affectionate nick name for him.
Lena, Id love it, and they will too!
Well fine Honey!
Yea! Both girls cried in excitement.
In excitement they ran around and yelled and began bowing and acting like a Chinese couple.
The party went in full swing. It was a very high life evening. People ate, drank, played music and when Mrs. Osberg sang everyone went crazy over her! When the party was in full swing after drinks and dinner, the Osbergs gave everyone the grand tour of their apartment. They saved Eliza and Glindas bedroom for last.
They had Richard by the light switch and when everyone came to the door, Rich switched on the light which the girls had draped in purple Hermes scarves. The sisters did their 5 minute act to a very receptive audience, including a very famous comedian that did old time radio and played the violin and another well known black actor, who came right in the middle of drinks just in time to squeeze in the frilly girls bedroom. You could cut the air, which was thickly and richly laced with the odors of perfume, cologne, expensive cigars and cigarettes, along with the sweet odor of fresh flowers and soap. The show ended with the black actor who starred in The Great White Hope taking Lena in his arms and waltzing around the bedroom, then turning into a rumba number.
Very impressive girls, said the famous comedian. Put them on the Road Lena, Ill give ya my agents number, said his companion jovially. Everyone was in great spirits and the skit had brightened the night with vitality and good vibes. It almost seemed to some to be a hippy version of the oriental dances and songs. Strange, but well done.
They all were squeezed into the bedroom, many wearing full party attire, but not Mr. Famous comedy guy. He looked a bit like he was doing a stint of 18 holes in the evening as he held his dry scotch in one hand and munched on some high class snacks of caviar and matzo crackers. It was amazing to watch and see the people in the room. Of course Eliza was very young and didnt realize who these people were until years later when she grew up.
The Osberg kids up on the window sill, the 2 girls looked so cute and their costumes were ingenious thanks to Elizas ingenuity! Anyone could tell right away!
Hey, these kids are naturals, piped up the black actor, finally releasing a tuckered out Lena Osberg in the arms of her husband. He was extremely happy with what Lena had done to raise money for his newest show! Not bad kids, he said directly to them. It was like his own childhood was surfacing for that one moment. These kids had a good start with a mother like Lena Osberg.
I agree, said Abel. Victor, you should encourage it, said the older man.
Theyre a good act, said the comedian. I liked it.
Well, what do you think we just did& We did everything just short of charging you all tickets, joked Osberg. Everyone laughed. Even the glitzy Helene Holly and her hubby Darth Martin had flown in for the party and were staying with the Osbergs.
Everyone was talking about it and wanted them to do it again from the top. They improvised and Eliza loved it. Because for once, she was being treated like the favorite daughter, not just Glinda. The boys stood to the side looking jealous for attention&but eager.
Hey, said Roy. I can do that too! He jumped up on the sill. It was like he was making a speech, but he was trying to fit in and grab some of that spotlight and follow what his sisters were doing, failing badly.
Get off the stage, said Mr. Osberg, puffing on a More cigarette. For a second he looked like Rock Hudsons character from the detective series.
You girls are great, said The Great White Hope guy, who by now was fully tuned on the drink he was nursing.
Eliza looked at him and thought of Truman Capote. She wanted to try the same with the black actor who shed seen in many movies and even in plays through the years, but couldnt because her parents were watching her every move!
Yes, very impressive, said the comedian who also was very famous and well known and had his signature attire so that when Eliza got older she would remember.
Take it on the road kids, like we did, said the comics very drunk friend.
Abel cut in, and the lights were a
Thanks, they said together.
The well known ageless comedian walked over and patted their heads. Good job!
Thank you, and you are funny too, said Eliza, although she wasnt that familiar with him.
Thanks, said the kids.
After that everyone filed out and back to the living room. They listened to records of all types and styles of music and it drifted throughout the apartment and even into the hallway. It was a positive evening for everyone especially when the black actor recited Hamlet to a hypnotized audience. Elizas heart was beating quickly and both girls could not sleep. They talked most of the night, most about being seen by famous people seeing them perform. Finally they slept and Mr. and Mrs. Osberg crept in and kissed each of them.
These kids are so special, said Mr. Osberg.
Bourge, I love them so much!
Were very lucky. I love you darling, said Victor now that he had his wife alone away from the crowd and kids prying eyes. They embraced in the darkness of the bedroom then retired to their own.
CAMP SUNNINGDALE, LAKE SEBEGO MAINE 1968-1973
Eliza was 6 years old when her parents sent her to a sleep-away camp in Lake Sebego Maine. Camp Sunningdale, an all girls camp where they swam, did sports, arts and crafts, campfires, sleep outs, even Broadway plays, plus songfests and camp competitions, as well as many other activities. But Capture the Flag seemed to be an all time favored through the years.
Eliza enjoyed the Arts and Crafts and when the art counselor Annie picked up a creativity and imaginative streak in Eliza, 6 year old Eliza would celebrate the next 5 birthdays at Sunningdale.
It was a sprawling camp with volleyball courts, basketball courts, badminton, arts and crafts shack, social hall, and a quaint looking lake front and ski dock. A boathouse and beautiful dining hall and lodge with a huge fireplace and various forest animals upon the walls. Even a small little island in the middle of the lake that the older girls would swim to. You could see a cute little dock and sun deck, with small hut with goodies and a fridge of sodas and fruit and package Twinkies!
Havi Gold and his family ran the summer camp. There were 10 cabins, girls ages 6 16, and then a descent C.I.T. program yielded year after year of summer fun for Eliza.
Her favorite was how the girls in her bunk would role-play. One particular girl Samantha, who everyone called Sam, a very boyish Jewish girl with jet black hair and braces, was the leader and a bit of a bully. For the most part the camp was wonderful and fun for Eliza, but there were some small differences. Eliza was extremely high strung and hyper, some saw it as a problem.
Havi Gold had been informed of a few problems between Eliza and the other kids. They were teasing her and shed been prone to car sickness therefore had to be left behind with one counselor and that was debatable. But she had a nice spirit and was not violent. Her counselor Annie had good positive things to say about the little girl. As the summer of 1968 came and went Eliza grew up a bit. By the end of August after her 7th birthday celebrated by all in the dining hall, Eliza went on her first canoe trip down the Saco River with the older girls after she begged and begged the head counselor.
They had even gone on another small scale camp-out beyond Sunningdale perimeters at a discreet camp ground. But they were rained out within a few hours and had to go back to camp. Believe it or not the Saco trip rained out as well, although it was a rainy summer in Maine, for the most part Elizas first summer camp experience went well. There were a few problems with the other kids, but nothing that would prevent her from returning. Even though most in her bunk had not liked her and more or less teased her. Also, before the first camp out, she had also signed up to go on a mountain climb, and if her counselor Annie had not gone along, Eliza didnt know if she would have made it back downhill.
It sounded a bit more glamorous on paper in Elizas mind when she read the description on the sign up sheet. She had a deep love for American Indians and being at the camp gave her new insight and activities to pursue. Her high enthusiasm made it at first easy to accept her on the camp outs and climbing expeditions, but once she was there it was a whole other ballgame. She was prone to volunteering and being the first on the list, but by the time the first campout and the end of the mountain trip, Eliza was in better shape and understood what it would be like. So by the Saco River trip Eliza was willing and ready and felt she could do it, actually imagined herself doing it. She faired well on the third trip down the Saco River. All was well until the rains started soon after they were on the water, a light drizzle. One canoe had capsized having the male counselor and two campers soaked and super wet. But they made it to the campground and set up tents and began the process of dinner and fire tending.
By the time evening fell, it was pouring buckets of cats and dogs. Everyone went to one tent, but eventually was soaked to the bone, but somehow the counselors kept the fire going.
Eliza ended up sleeping in Annies lap throughout the ordeal and felt safe and secure. She dosed and awoke a few times to find the rain rising. Half sleeping and half awake she remembered being carried by the kind quiet counselor Annie into the only secure dry tent. There were 8 other girls in their group alone, and another counselor there and they all huddled watching out the tent flap for someone to rescue them as were the groups of older girls in the same boat. They were calm and Sam was even jovial and told a few jokes.
Another rain out and Havi Gold had to drive the old station wagon they all dubbed The Old Grey Mare all the way around the river until he found them and piled them all in old clunker of a auto at 2:00 AM.
Along with the camp out Eliza loved the camp dog Tiffy. Havi owned an aging black Labrador. She followed the dog all over and really loved Tiffy. Her second summer at Sunningdale she even got picked as a gag to play Tiffy in the camper/counselor day where counselors and campers changed roles for a day. She dressed in a black leotard, black socks and a pair of Mickey Mouse ears. Eliza spent that day walking on all fours like Tiffy and even sitting under Havis desk while Robin the C.I.T. playing Mr. Gold fed Eliza M & Ms just like Havi did with the real Tiffy&
It was Elizas 3rd summer & 1970. This time Glinda was sent along with Eliza. She was 6 and cute as a button. Unlike Elizas tomboyish ways and loud manner and the fact she was always teased and picked on by the other children, and was afraid of the lake, and had problems being in a shower stall, Glinda was the opposite and like a little angel, cute face and baby personality. The youngest Osberg child was more subdued, more normal looking. Glinda started to really shine when color war broke out and the camp went into heavy competition with them breaking into two teams, blue and gold. Glinda was the camp mascot and they would dress her up in team themes like a mermaid for the blue teams Tempest theme. When the teams marched to breakfast they carried Glinda on a huge surf board. She was like a little queen on a throne when she said to Havi, Come up and see me sometime! It was a good gag and Havi ate it up, he loved it so much, he wanted it done again at lunch and dinner for his guests and camper alumni. It was no secret that Havi Gold loved Broadway and always judged the best musicals and songfest competition when it was Broadway themed, and the C.I.T's who were the future counselors, knew this and would bend the teams to reflect that to try and win the completion. One summer Eliza gleefully played in the chorus of a Westside Story spoof for Color War where she was a Jet gang member and even got to carry and fake Jim Bowie knife at her belt and they let her wear a feather in a coonskin cap, thanks to Annie again. That year it was Broadway vs. Westside Story and Glinda stood at the center dressed in a show girl outfit looking like a little glamour queen. A surfboard painted silver was brought out with much fanfare and the campers were dressed in black tie and tails with the old Fred Astaire top-hats and canes. They sang Broadway tunes changed to blue and gold team fight songs. It was amazing to watch. Eli
After the songfest, Havi had his aides had out the new summer yearbook, a beautiful, colorful book with a pictorial of the summer. And there was Glinda smack dab in the center of the camp photo yearbook cover sitting on the shoulders of Havis daughter Jani. Then one summer another little girl named Lori Osberg (no relation to the Osbergs) showed up. She was darkly cute as a button as opposed to Glindas light blond look. So Lori then became the second mascot after she threw a small tantrum to get that position. She was not even close to the pixy looking Glinda or the cute beauty she possessed. Even Eliza was envious of Glinda and remembered that when she was 6, she never was asked to be a mascot. In fact, the third summer when they announced camper/counselor day again and no one mentioned her playing Tiffy, so Eliza went up to Havi and asked. He was half paying attention to her, but nodded his head which to Eliza was a yes so she ran as fast as lightning to her bunk and stated to get ready and screaming Im going to play Tiffy, Im going to play Tiffy!
At lunch shed acted up at the table and was disruptive and bratty so the counselor Lyn who was sitting at the table that day ran up to Eliza as she was running out of her cabin to the main office to play Tiffy. Robin was playing Havi again and was just making an announcement of rest period and that the candy bag would be coming to each cabin. Lyn screamed at Eliza, No you are not playing Tiffy!
Eliza froze in place, tears forming. But Havi said I could.
No Eliza, you are not going to play Tiffy this year.
Why! She began crying and carrying on.
Because of the way you acted at the table& Atrocious!
I want to play Tiffy, please Lyn!
You have to grow up Eliza. You are not 6 years old anymore, you have to be mature.
Eliza began crying hysterically.
Come on Eliza, lets take a walk&
Eliza walked with Lyn to an old abandoned camp ground. They talked for almost one hour and Eliza had calmed down, Lyn reached into her pocket and gave Eliza a pack of Atomic Fire Balls. I know you missed canteen so here, this is for you!
Thank you Lyn, sniffed Eliza.
You are a very special little girl, said Lyn.
I dont feel special.
But you are, said Lyn as they walked back to camp. A few campers were staring openly and knew Eliza was in some sort of trouble.
At that moment Lyn handed Eliza an opened letter. Sorry you didnt get this after lunch but you were acting so horrible at lunch that I didnt want you to get it just yet. Its a special letter from a cartoonist friend your mothers. All the staff recognized his name Bob Kane! Look, he even made little cartoons of Batman and Robin. She handed it to Eliza. Lets read it in the back porch.
They walked to the back porch and sat at a picnic table and Eliza read it out loud. Dear Sweetpea, have to make this short as I am getting ready to write some new Batman material! Ive drawn Robin to keep you company at camp. Thanks for your letter. Your mother gave it to me and you are a real Gemma to write me. Take care and have fun. Ill send you more comic books too! Love Bob Kane a.k.a. Batman!
Thats amazing Eliza. He wrote you! How many girls get that, praised Lyn trying to bring the girl up to her usual high intensity.
Thanks. Can I play Tiffy now?
Eliza, now you know you cant play Tiffy any longer. Youre a smart girl, why do you act like a dum-dum so much when you are so intelligent?
I dont know.
Eliza went back to her cabin where everyone saw her outburst and knew Lyn had put a damper on Elizas dreams of playing Tiffy the camp dog.
How dumb, she cries cause she cant play an old smelly dog, said Betsy to Sam.
You know Eliza, shes weird!
I know, said Betsy, and all those around her nodded in agreement.
Hey, stop talking about Eliza, piped up Amy, a nice girl from New Jersey. Eliza ignored all of them and just changed into a yellow tee shirt and blue shorts and climbed onto her top bunk. Then Robin as Havi came on the P.A. asking the blue and gold teams to line up.
Glinda Osberg and Lori Osberg report to the C.I.T. cabin for your costumes.
A cabin door slammed and Glinda ran very quickly, and soon another cabin door slammed and Lori Osberg from Newton Mass ran in the same direction. Believe it or not they were NOT related, just shared the same last name, but it was strange.
Hi Glinda, yelled a few people. She waved happily. The girl was like a celebrity at the camp. She would even eventually get the lead in the plays put on by the camp every summer, which were all Broadway hits like Carousel, Oklahoma, Sound of Music, and Oliver! Glinda could sing like her mom and had a certain something. Eliza had it but her hyperism hid it and she came off as flighty, high strung and off the wall. Any talent was lost in a whirl of the fast talking and jerky motions. Most could not take the keen imagination and the out of the control personality that she had inherited from her mothers high energy and opera singing attitude. Highly based on emotion, very excitable and quick to break a glass, spill the water, drop a plate, not paying attention.
Elizas curly hair went in all directions and unlike Glindas straight brown locks. Glindas feet were small and delicate awhile Elizas were as her dad said, gun boats! Glinda also seemed socially planted and well adjusted there.
The only thing running against Glinda that first summer at Sunningdale was the fact that the It girl was potty trained by Vera the Terror, the housekeeper Elizas parents had hired and who wielded some stiff punishments on Glinda. Glinda would hold her bowels and sometimes had accidents. In fact, in Glindas first summer at Sunningdale she would almost hold it in and almost go in her pants or would cry and hold it in until she couldnt, as if she was terrified to go naturally like most her age. She had grown out of it by the middle of July when Havi Gold took her aside and said, Oh Glinda, no more accidents. Believe it or not, he got his daughter Jani and another one of Glindas young counselors to re-potty train the young sweet girl. But her cute appeal seemed to have Havi take a special interest with the help of his daughter who really took a shine to Glinda. The truth was that Havi loved that mermaid routine and kept having her do it over and over. Even Glinda got bored with it. And Havi was also very impressed with Glindas mothers Broadway background and made no mistake about it, he rolled out the red carpet when the Osbergs arrived on Visiting Day in Mid August and Glinda was playing Oliver in the musical they were putting on at the camp! In fact, Dina their cousin was playing Mr. Bumble and Elizas best bunk mate friend was playing Artful Dodger, this girl from Illinois named Jill!
Even at Roy and Richards camp across the lake from the girls, word has spread there that the production was open to them and Havi had put out the message to them that they were invited so there was going to be a huge barbecue and then the play later in the evening.
Eliza watched her parents in the darkness of the Social Hall as Glinda sang Where is Love? Eliza saw the tears in her mothers sparkling hazel eyes, and she could smell her mothers signature perfume.
Eliza prayed to Jesus and thanked him for making Glinda not soil herself and she didn't, which made her much more normal.
Afterwards everyone hugged and sang the Sunningdale theme, Friends, Friends, Friends, We Will Always Be& It was strange for Eliza to see her parents, so well dressed, standing outside beside a campfire as candles lit the paths and walkways of Sunningdale, and singing was heard in every corner. Havi loved singing, especially the Broadway standards so even that summer they utilized Eliza for a very important song, a medley of standards rewritten to reflect what happened during the summer. Not just when they read your name and then read a song title you most fit. Eliza still remembered hers &
The best of the night for Eliza and Annie is when a special award was presented at the end, a special title, called Maturity which went to Eliza Osberg. At first Eliza froze in her seat, and then she shyly went up and received her award. It was a 3 by 5, very professionally done card that was signed by Havi himself, plus by Lyn, and even the tennis counselor Danny Blatt, who also liked Elizas spunk and enthusiasm and how the little tomboy would volunteer first for anything new even if shed never done it, and usually she was not get it, but she would try, then the next time they found that she had an incredible back hand so it was not a total loss, so he signed the award.
But even at Sunningdale they wanted to hear Mrs. Osberg do a few standards or opera tunes just to enrich the children of course. Mrs. Osberg would greatly oblige and make the once large stage to Eliza seem very small because of her mothers large presence and voice. She sang her heart out to anything they played. She even sang the song she sang to them at bed time and then some opera standards and even the Papers, Papers song the girls so loved. It brought the house down and even for once Eliza wasnt embarrassed or overwhelmed. These kids were rich and knew culture so it was easier to fit in and feel proud like she should! Mrs. Osberg was a talent all her own and it showed on her kids very much!
And Elizas love for American Indians only enhanced her art and creative niches that they were bringing out at Sunningdale! It had been good for both girls in many ways. Her love for Indians truly came out that summer of 1968. Once ensconced in the arts and crafts shack Eliza began creating acrylic paintings on canvas of faces of Indian chiefs and Indian themed landscapes.
There was a hat contest coming up and the whole camp, including Havi and his staff were to make hats and then parade around the social hall and winners and prizes would be awarded.
Eliza worked on an Indian bonnet decorating it nicely and creatively. She also decided to add a nice touch and offered to do a speech by Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierces when he surrendered to General Crook in 1877. No one else made speeches and it was a bit odd, but they said yes once Annie stepped up to the stage. She had paved the way for people to understand this little girl some called odd-ball.
Earlier in the day Eliza was hanging around the Art shack waiting for Annie to get some feathers to decorate the bonnet. There was a totem pole by the shack and Eliza looked up and saw a strange hat sitting way at the top. I wonder what that is. She said pointing up.
Eliza looked at the hat in the totem pole for a bit. She circled it and no one was there until Annie showed up and got the feathers. She went back to her cabin and continued decorating her Indian hat, and working on her speech. About one hour passed and it was almost time for lunch, then the continuance after rest hour. The winners would be picked by everyone& Majority & Just as lunch was announced by the ringing of a big bell near the dining hall, Havi Gold came on the P.A. and announced Attention, attention, all counselors and campers somewhere on the grounds of Sunningdale we hid a special hat. Anyone that finds it will get a special prize! Suddenly as Eliza finished her chieftain bonnet a flash came to her!
The hat in the totem pole!
She jumped up excitedly.
Whats up Eli, Asked Jill, her bunk mate, calling Eliza by her tomboyish pet name.
I know where the hat is!
Hey, everyone, said Jill. She knows where the hat is!
Follow me, said Eliza triumphantly. Everyone, including Annie ran behind Eliza who made a sprint to the totem pole on the hill.
There it is, up there! Look! Eliza pointed up to the top of the Indian symbol. Everyone was cheering and yelling and jumping up and down.
Eliza Osberg and her bunk mates have found the hat!
Everyone filed into the dining hall after a big fanfare and order was restored. Lunch was cold cuts, sandwiches, King Cole potato chips, dill pickles, grape bug juice and ice cream for dessert. The rest hour, then canteen candy, and then everyone was supposed to report to the Social Hall for hat festivities.
Eliza saw Glinda who was wearing a small cardboard cutout of a hat, but shed glued different colored sparkles on it, so it actually looked like one of the better ones of her age group.
All Eliza could think of was the prize she won for her cabin. Maybe its dinner at DJs Caf? in town, or maybe candy or something good to eat. Everyone paraded around showing off the hats. There were many styles, trends and shapes. Havi came in with his usual entourage. The head counselor and her husband, Havi's daughter Jani, and Havis pretty girlfriend June. The two riding counselors stuck like glue on the outskirts.
Havi held court on the stage and judged the young cabins first, and of course Glinda won a prize a pack of M & Ms. Others won candy mostly! When it was time for Elizas age group the candy was gone so they have I O Us for candy ands soda.
Then Elizas bunk paraded by. Eliza asked the judges, You know we found the hat right?
Yes, Eliza, we all know. We are all aware of it, said Jani officially.
The end came finally with winners awarded except for Elizas bunk.
What happened to our prize, Havi? Asked Eliza boldly.
Be more patient. Thats a problem for you, Eliza, snapped Havi.
Hey, arent you making a speech? asked the head counselor, trying to break the tension.
Eliza had changed her mind and didn't want to do it.
Oh? Havi got up and shooshed everyone with & Hey everyone, Elizas going to do a speech now!
No Im not. I dont even have my hat, said Eliza losing her high morale.
At the end of the social hall Elizas bunkmates sat in back. Sam, Betsy and Jill grabbed Elizas Chief Bonnet and did Indian yells and whoops to get more attention. Here is your bonnet Chief Eliza!
Havi announced Eliza again. The room quieted except for the occasional subdued laughter of some campers. All attention riveted on Eliza Osberg. She was nervous but began a speech shed read over and over again or role-played with her friends. A dozen times or more: Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. TooHulHulsote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led the young men is dead. It is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food; no one knows where they are& perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Here me my chiefs, I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever!
For a split second no one did a thing, just frozen in a time frame, then someone clapped, and then the whole auditorium was clapping and cheering. They were surprised but she did it! They took her on their shoulders and carried her around the social hall. It was embarrassing but more bearable than being singled out and teased as they were prone to do to Eliza.
The campers made Indian calls, bird calls and whoops and yells, especially Sam and Jill.
What about our prize, asked Eliza in the microphone.
At dinner kids, said Havi, making a quick getaway.
His entourage followed and swallowed him up like a clam. Annie came up and hugged Eliza. Very good, Eliza&Very good speech. You didnt even have to use the book!
You were great, said Jill.
Yea, you were, everyone agreed.
Glinda came by and congratulated her sister. Richard and Roy were there too and ran up to her in their matching camp outfits of Skylemar, a camp they had attended summer after summer, after a few years of going to the youth centers camp Wineko&
Theres a lot of talent here, said Annie.
Hey Glinda, do that Mae West thing, asked someone in the crowd.
Without much prompting Glinda struck a sexy pose and aid, Come up and see me sometime!
Everyone broke in laughter and applause.
God, two sisters with so much between them, said Annie, trying to push Eliza too, not just her pretty sister.
What about our prize Annie?
Yes, what is it?
I dont know, well see at dinner.
Did Havi tell you?
No, he didnt.
Well, Kids, dont worry, it will be nice, whatever it is&
They went back to the cabin and got ready and cleaned up for the afternoon activities, which were taking place at the lake. A lot of the kids were being tested and moving up from beginners to intermediates, and advanced swimmers. Eliza was afraid of the water and thanks to Suki the swim counselor, and Annie, Eliza had overcome! She also had overcome her fear of showering in the shower stalls. A lot of her quirks alienated her from the other kids. And her sister was cute and spunky, but also had some bathroom issues too. Annie had enjoyed meeting the Osbergs who did not stay for the hat contest, which disappointed both Annie and Eliza, but it was what it was. Visiting day had turned out fantastic for all and the Osberg had brought cute gifts and candy and food to their girls. Eliza would probably sleep in her new genuine moccasins that said Streaker on them! They were a size too big but it didnt matter. She loved it.
Later on the lake, Eliza and Jill took out a canoe. They role-played Indian warriors and Annie watched them handling the canoe. Eliza was in the bow controlling it. Annie realized that the girl was very positive, and that was due to the fact that Eliza went on those trips two summers ago. Now she could handle the canoe and had the gumshoe to give a speech like that. Camp had been good for her and she had grownup, even now unafraid of the close walls of the shower stall. She always volunteered for new things and activities even though shed never done them. There was resilience in her, a hyper ball of fire. So many gifts, her mother is a beautiful woman, well accomplished concert pianist and opera singer, Broadway success! But it would seem most of the favoritism went to Glinda, who obviously was more normal, even calmer. The afternoon came to a nice end, even Eliza won the greased watermelon contest, grabbing it and running down the beach. Everyone was very excited about what the prize would be and knew that Eliza had come through for them. All though dinner anticipation was brewing with Eliza and her cabin mates. Finally, after along drawn out dinner and announcements, Elizas cabin was up front and Havis girlfriend June handed out blue and gold pennants with Sunningdale written on it in yellow stitch.
This is it? Asked Sam, who was expecting more.
Yes, that is it.
What a rip, said Betsy.
Havi knew it might be harsh, but the crescendo was growing too large and he didnt want his campers to lose the sense of humbleness. They had expected to win something grand, so he downplayed it, like a tough love dad. Annie realized what had happened, and right then and there she had a plan that would give the girls the prize they so deserved. Havi is wrong on this one.
So Annie decided right then and there that these kids were going to get the best prize kids love. She was planning to raid the kitchen that evening very late, around midnight when everything was quiet. So when they got back to their bunk that evening for the night, Annie gathered them all into the backroom and told them the plan. They all agreed and wanted to do it. Most of them really felt cheated. It was all so unnecessary.
So were gonna raid the kitchen, asked Sam.
Yes, we are&with me directing the onslaught.
Heres the plan kids&
Is Suki in on it too? Asked Eliza.
I told Suki to get into the kitchen through the dock path below the kitchen cellar! It opens easily, thats where we will go. Follow me kids, and be quite. She stared at Eliza and said, Be like Elizas Indian friends!
Everyone chuckled and agreed.
They sneaked out into the night under the cover of darkness. It was cloudy and the only light was the softball field mosquito traps that glowed like little satellites suspended above on wires. Eliza slinked along and emanated her favorite Indian Geronimo of the Apaches. Annie had even allowed her to put on a little war paint on her cheeks with colored clay and even wear her Indian hat she had made. Everyone knew Eliza loved her Indians, so they played along. But she was still teased relentlessly. This time she was in her limelight, mostly thanks to Annie.
Everyone watch how Eliza acts this time, kids&
That speech blew me away, said Sam to Eliza.
Thanks Sam, said Eliza, amazed at it all.
Yes, me too, I liked it.
Eliza had prayed as instructed by Fern in a fevered letter to the girl a week earlier. Fern had said she needed to pray to God to soften the hearts of those around her who have hurt her or helped her! Jesus had done his job!
They all came close to the opening at the kitchen cellar. They easily slipped in and before anyone could blink twice they were in the food cellar and going into the freezers and ice cream caches. Eliza found root beer pops and began eating them. She found a huge tin of King Cole Potato chips and opened it and ate to her hearts content. They found a big chocolate cake for a future birthday that week. They all shared a slice and ate it all quickly&.
Everyone quietly rummaged around the cellar and got candy, peaches, fruit, ice cream, soda and many snacks. Jill ran over with a cheese bottle and was spreading it over an ice cream cone&.
Everyone nibbled on granola, Twinkies, ho-hos, ding dongs, raisins, peanuts, pretzels, some even making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches mixed with cereal. Eliza saw Sam eating a bag of raw oatmeal.
It was then that Eliza was drawn to the front cellar door. There was a stairwell that led up to the softball field. Eliza looked into the darkness and saw what looked like an old woman with a shawl standing on the steps glaring down at them. She tried to say Who are you, but the words were frozen in her throat. She turned to show Jill or Annie, but when she turned, the image was gone. Then they heard shrieking on the field and clamored up carefully, not revealing they were hiding there. The C.I.T.s were running around the field covered in masks and white sheets and they were scaring everyone and spooking each other. They must have been drunk on their day off, or maybe even on some type of drug of that time, the Sixties, which was the intention of the game they played. Little campers squirmed in their beds at the shrieks so late in the evening. Some other counselors ran into the field and were being spooked by the crazy counselors in training. It was all confusing and jumbled but they left out the back door. Eliza looked again and at the same time a counselor was grabbed by a ghost, it was the other swimming counselor Mary from Texas. She played guitar at campfire evenings and was very animated and intense. But she was grabbed by someone and when Mary pulled the sheet off it was the shy C.I.T. that was with Eliza always wondered could be a C.I.T. she was just so shy! She didnt seem shy at that second. The young C.I.T. Faith was smiling and seemed like she was possessed on L.S.D. in Elizas opinion!
Annie told them that this was the real prize and to play like we didnt do a thing. They all were prompted and if they were good at acting they will get away with it. So they took all they could carry that would not melt and left the premises the way theyd entered.
I saw a ghost!
What do you mean Eliza? Asked Anni
It was an old woman!
Sara Hayden, said Annie.
Sara Hayden owned this property many years ago. They say she is buried under the lodge, which is the cellar we were in. Are you sure it wasnt one of the C.I.T.s?
Im sure. It was different, said Eliza.
Well, dont mention it anymore! Be good and quiet. Even Geronimo knew when to be quiet&okay?
Now everyone follow me and our little chief here.
The kids laughed and quietly hooted like Indians.
They slowly made there way back to their cabin and once safely inside they had a big party in the backroom. Candy, potato chips, cake, soda, ice cream and snacks, even fruit and milk. Chocolate milk shakes and even scoops of Italian ice!
They stayed up most of the night. And then quietly took the evidence into the woods and buried it. They all walked back arm and arm and went into the cabin and went straight to bed. In the morning the bell rang for breakfast and at the flag pole they knew that Havi Gold was pissed and looking for blood.
Someone raided the kitchen last night and left the doors all open, and now everything is ruined!
There was a mumble in the crowd. But Annie knew she had locked everything up and probably for the first time she realized it was a set up and Havi had come in later on and opened the doors making the kitchen raid like a criminal offense and someone would have to pay. He already had his suspicions and he couldnt believe it if it was revealed to be true. Breakfast was a solemn affair. Havi made many announcements and a lot of people took the floor and talked about lying, deceit and trust.
How could you do that? How could you be so selfish as to ruin it for the others, who ever you are!!!
Annie wanted to blurt out that the CITs always raided the kitchen and sometimes played ghosts. Havi knew about it, but was reluctant to say a word about it. He knew instinctively that it was Elizas cabin that did it, with Annies help! But no proof was found even when he sent a few cronies to search Cabin 9, and they found nothing amiss. So the whole camp would suffer instead and were all confined to their cabins until dinner! No games, no talking, no nothing. Just lie on the bunks and meditate on what had been done.
Annie held a private meeting in the backroom.
Dont worry kids& We are in the clear okay?
How, asked Betsy, who was prone to crying when agitated.
We sit tight and let the heat pass, just like the Apaches did, right Eliza&What did they do in this case&.
Oh, they would fade into the desert and lick their wounds, then go to their stronghold in the old country of Arizona and lay low!
Right! Annie held them together. Hold my hand everyone&.Good. Now, promise to keep cool and let me handle this, okay kids?
They all agreed&
They all went to bed and Annie left to talk with Havi. She talked to him for many hours and now he realized it was the CITs that left the door open. She told him about the CITs and the ghosts and goblins thing they did. He knew about it. He would talk with them. If anything they would fess up that they left the doors open. Annie admitted that they did raid the kitchen but they took very little and locked up everything.
I believe you. But you should not have done it.
I realize that, but the kids were so down about the prizes they got, like they were overlooked.
They were not acting humble and had to be brought down a notch. But you got what you wanted, so lets call it even, okay?
You got it Havi&
She left and went back to the cabin and went to bed.
PAUL NEWMAN SAYS DO I KNOW YOU LENA?
Helene Holly and Darth Martin were character actors and very good friends with Lena Osberg. Theyd known the Osbergs since the early 1950s when Lena and Helene worked together on Broadway and in show business. They had stayed close through the years. When Helene was making a new movie shed invite Lena and Victor to the set.
Lena Osberg was no lightweight when it came to talking to and relating with celebrities and important people around town.
Helene recently had worked with Joan Crawford and George Segal and Mrs. Crawford was about to do an episode of Night Gallery about a woman in an elegant high-rise apartment. Rod Serling was told about the Osberg apartment and wanted to check it out. Hed heard from his people and staff thanks in part to Helene Holly, that the Osbergs UN Plaza apartment would be perfect for the episode hed been planning on. Rod always checked out the locations first then let his crew handle the details.
Meanwhile, the Osbergs were all going out for dinner at the Grenadier Restaurant on 1st Avenue, a favorite haunt of the families, celebrities and delegates living at the UN Plaza or having offices on the first 7 floors of the UN Plaza.
Mr. Osberg wanted to use this dinner time to discuss rationally the pros and cons of having Rod Serling shoot his t.v. series in their wonderful apartment at the UN Plaza. A representative from Serlings production company had been at the last building meeting and discussed the situation with Night Gallery coming to film. Mrs. Osberg was all for it, but not Mr. Osberg nor the majority of the buildings tenants. It would be a disruption and in light of the Osberg children running wild through the halls of the building, they needed to curtail things to better able to figure out how to remedy the childrens rampage first. But they would keep things open until after Serling came and went. Maybe he would be interested in an apartment and Mr. Osberg was discreetly told to encourage Rod Serling to maybe consider renting an apartment here! It would mean big perks.
For now the Osbergs were buzzing as usual as they went to the elevators and rode them down with no fanfare.
The restaurant was across the street and up the block from the UN Plaza. They were dressed up and ready. The girls wore frilly dresses, even Eliza. The boys wore dark 3 piece suits with brown mackinaw jackets. The Osberg sisters wore paten leather shiny shoes from Bergdorf Goodmans and Mr. and Mrs. Osberg wore nice attire, Mrs. Osberg sticking to her all white floor length dress and her grey mink coat. Mr. Osberg wore a Pisces 18K gold fish necklace with a yellow shirt, black slacks and Gucci shoes. He puffed on a cigarette in the elevator as they went to the lobby and out the revolving doors, smelling like expensive cologne, perfume and shampoo.
Sammy the Doorman watched them walk up the driveway. Most would ask for a cab, but he knew the Osbergs and they walked a lot. Boy, that Mrs. Osberg is a real looker& She looks just like Lana Turner! He commented to Darrin, another doorman manning the front.
The family walked up the street to 1st Avenue. The restaurant was crowded to the hilt, but they were immediately led to a round table for 6 in a prime location at the ritzy Italian place called The Grenadier at the time.
Rod Serling possibly coming to dinner next week was the topic of conversation, and having Gemma cook one of her Jamaican dishes or even taking him here to this restaurant!
Wow, Rod Serling in our apartment, marveled Eliza excitedly.
Now Eliza, calm down, its no big deal, said Mrs. Osberg, scanning the restaurant for anyone famous. She spotted her prey, Paul Newman and his agent sitting at a window booth to the side.
Ill be right back, said Mrs. Osberg, getting up daintily and with gusto of knowing she made an impression wherever she went. The woman walked straight over to Paul Newmans table. She was animated and bright like a shining star; a cross between Lucille Ball, Carol Channing and Lana Turner!
Well hello, Paul, said Mrs. Osberg as if shed known him all her life.
He took the bait right away, seeming amused. Well, hello to you too, he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
Eliza got up and followed her mother to Newmans table.
This is my daughter Eliza, said Mrs. Osberg.
Hello, he said, suppressing a smile and looking over at the gentleman across from him and told him with his eyes to play along, or if he knew this lady. Eliza stared deeply into his sparkling blue orbs! This is my agent.
How do you do, said Mrs. Osberg. She put her gloved hand out and Paul took it and kissed it gently.
Please, he said. &Would you like to join us?
Oh, thank you, but the rest of my family is over there! Mrs. Osberg made it a big dramatic point so all in the restaurant would notice her, which they did. She acted outwardly familiar with Mr. Newman. It was interesting and fun to watch.
Please, we insist, have a drink with us, said the agent.
Oh I cant join you. You two look like youre finished anyways.
How about coffee, I mean you're practically sitting in my clients lap already, why not? The Agent sounded sarcastic but light hearted.
I cant stay, but Mr. Newman, can I have your autograph for my friend, she asked boldly.
Ummmm, I dont mean to be rude, but I dont give autographs anymore.
Oh? Why? Asked Eliza as she peeked her face over the cluttered table at Paul Newmans almost empty plate and half filled glass of red wine.
Because some screwy broad took his name and charged a bunch of junk on his plate, said the agent.
Oh, how awful, said Mrs. Osberg.
We had a housekeeper named Vera the Terror who charged a coat on my moms plate, revealed Eliza.
Oh Eliza, must you?
Dont worry, I know what it feels like& Sorry about the autograph, said Newman, who was genuinely concerned.
Okay, well, l had better get back now, said Mrs. Osberg. Thank you both.
Everyone in the restaurant was watching like hawks as Paul Newman got up and embraced Mrs. Osberg friendly and familiar-like, then kissed the little girl with the woman.
She made you feel that you knew her well. Give Joanne (Woodward) my best, said Mrs. Osberg. She walked back over to their table with ease and a triumphant look on her face.
Bye little girl, said Mr. Newman.
Bye Mr. Newman, see you in the movies, she added.
They sat back at their table. If Mr. Osberg was embarrassed he didnt show it on his calm face as the successful businessman sipped his drink of Vodka on the rocks. The boys had cokes and Elizas Shirley Temple sat on the table. Glinda had fruit juice. Mrs. Osberg took a little dainty sip of her scotch on the rocks. Mr. Osberg played it cool and suave and didnt even comment on his wifes antics. He just got very stern looking and tried to keep the kids, especially Eliza, in line and disciplined!
Suddenly Paul Newman got up and headed for the Osberg table, which surprised even his agent.
Mrs. Osberg, I just wanted to thank you again about not being sore over my no autograph policy. Its not you, I can assure you of that, he said.
Oh, Mr. Newman&.
Paul&Yes, of course&. Well, Paul of course we understand.
I just wanted to make sure you knew what a gorgeous woman you are, he said. Newman turned to Mr. Osberg. You Sir are a lucky man!
Thank you, said Victor Osberg.
Kids, say hello to my new friend Paul Newman.
Hi Mr. Newman, they all said in unison. It was like in a movie, so surreal that Eliza doubted any of the kids at school would believe her unless they were sitting there beside her. It was that amazing!
Suddenly he walked gallantly up to Lena Osberg who was emotional under the surface, you could see her breathing raggedly and Eliza could actually see the flutter of her mothers heart against the fabric of her white gabardine gown. He got close and hugged Lena tightly and whispered check your purse later, as he slipped in a white of sheet of paper. The agent didnt miss the action and was dumbfounded. He shrugged. Go figure&
Newman and his agent finally left. Talk drifted to his last movie The Sting with Robert Redford, who lived very close and who the kids had seen on the bus and on the set of The Way We Were with Streisand. Then even when Redford did The Candidate by their school Eliza remembered going up to Redford on the set next door to PS 59 and asking if he remembered her from the bus or his film with Streisand. He had either pretended he recalled her, or maybe he really did! Eliza would never really know.
You should have said how you guys used to see Robert Redford every day on the bus, said Roy.
I was nervous when mom talked to him right off the bat like that, said Eliza.
Neat, he plays a cowboy. said Glinda.
Okay kids here comes the food, eat up.
By the way, said Mrs. Osberg as she reached into her purse and retrieved the paper Newman had put in there. &he left this! She held up the note. Everyone was amazed and talking at once. Mr. Osberg was handling things well considering the star had been polite and even said he was a lucky man. The note read: Dear Lady, May you always be as beautiful and bountiful as you come off as. Your dear friend Paul Newman!
Well, thats special& Every talked at once until the food started arriving in shifts.
It was an Italian delicacy and very high class food, very expensive, very rich, but very good!
There were baskets of warm garlic bread, appetizers of little Italian pizzas, and then they brought large salads with Caesar dressing and croutons along with glasses of grape juice for the kids and red wine for the adults. The main course was everything from Chicken Marsalis to Pasta with meatballs and sauce, and even fish. They all ate everything but with passable table manners. Out of the corner of Mrs. Osbergs eye she watched Eliza and was pleased the klutzy girl was not spilling her juice or talking a mile a minute.
The family walked back toward the UN Plaza after dessert of a big cake of baked Alaskan, which they all enjoyed.
It was a great dinner and Mr. Osberg was filled in on all the doings the kids were up too when he was gone. Eliza told him about the youth center when John the bully took over the game and how she turned the tables on him. Glinda said she was taking the recorder flute lessons and loved it. Roy was quiet, and said nothing for once. But Rich was doing most of the talking with his father about a new fish in his fresh water tank and Lena Osberg was saying that she and Mrs. Krenz went to the Plaza Hotel for tea and bumped into Herbert Glass but he wasnt with Eve.
By the end of the week, Rod Serlings office called but Victor had put his foot down. That would mean lots of people strolling in and out of the place, wires, chords, cameras&Hmmmmm. I dont know about this, said Mr. Osberg, weighing the odds of good and bad.
Oh I see. Well, youd be compensated nicely and your place will be on the show.
We will have to really think on this, said Mr. Osberg.
I hope you will consider this, its like art.
Whatever decision you decide is fine, Mr. Osberg, said a sweet voiced assistant to Serling. Just get back to us by tomorrow afternoon with your final answer.
Really, its all great. The crew will be very careful&
In the end, after a long discussion between Mr. and Mrs. Osberg, they decided against it due to the fact that Mr. Osberg would be away for 3 of those critical days so they decided not to do it after all. Everyone concerned was disappointed and in the end Serling got another place but it wasnt what he had intended and hed wished the Osbergs would have let him film there!
KIDS FROM HARLEM FOR LUNCH AT THE UN PLAZA?
Victor Osberg made no secret of the fact that he wanted his kids to attend a normal school! Not the hoity-toytee ones the children at the UN Plaza went to. A special school bus picked up those snooty rich kids while the Osbergs seemed to be the only kids in the building at the UN Plaza that went to a district public
The school Eliza, Glinda and Richard attended was at 220 E. 57th Street in New York City, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. It was a time that the city first started busing the students in from Harlem and the Spanish Barrio so there was a very tough element at the district schools.
Eliza and Richard became friendly with the Moshe family, 6 black brothers who lived on the lower East Side. Two of them, Shadee and Ishmael were in Elizas classes. David Moshe was in Richs and the other three were in the lower grades or different schools like Roy attended. A few times Shadee and Ishmael were at the same table when Mrs. Greenberg matched up 4 to 6 kids in squared off desk groups.
And sometimes on the recess yard called 'The Terrace' where everyone played games and sports, Eliza would be the only girl in the bunch and the Moshe brothers would always pick her for their team when they played touch football, or once in a while, Ishmael would bring a soccer ball and theyd play that.
Richs only friend seemed to be David Moshe who also was very quiet and shy like Rich was. Eliza wondered what they talked about seeing as Rich barely said one sentence.
It did look odd sometimes when they sat together at play time after lunch. Eliza would stand together with the Moshe brothers and it did look rather strange, especially when Rich joined them. Most of the white groups stuck with their own. There were rich kids like The Osbergs, and lower income children, black, white, Chicano, Puerto Rican like Gracie Berg was, plus a few Orientals, but they stuck in clicks and few had the notion or the gumshoe to cross the color lines except Eliza and Rich Osberg.
All the Moshe brothers would eventually become friends with the other Afro American kids.
Marla Hamilton was a bully through and through and lived in the heart of Harlem. She found Eliza and her brother Rich easy pickins', and recruited her friends, all black, to help her torment them. The rich whites invited the Moshe brothers to their big apartment with the 6 bathrooms. Thats what one of the Moshe brothers said. She wanted to see for herself. She was going to try to befriend Eliza and then get invited over. Eliza saw the mean black girl coming toward her in the long hallway. Eliza started to run away from Marla.
She didnt need to be tripped or made fun of today. She began to trot away toward the guidance counselor area where she was always safe. They told her that if the black girl Marla or her group of friends started up with Eliza, she should make a beeline for the guidance department which was what she was doing when Marla caught up with her. Hey wait, I aint gonna hurt ya, Eliza, soothed Marla, so unlike her. &At least not this time, thought Marla.
Ive not been too nice to you, she admitted, not meeting Elizas steady gaze. Well, uhh, I dont know&. she said in a sweet sickening voice. So I want to be your friend now, said Marla out of the blue.
Marla had been hearing things about Elizas living space. Her friends were daring her everyday to have the balls to befriend the loser white chick and see for herself.
Why are you wanting to all of a sudden be my friend?
Marla feigned anger, Why the hell do I need a reason, just accept it, and thats that white girl! She held out her hand and that was Marlas way so Eliza shook the black girls hand and it was a sealed deal although it felt uncomfortable for both kids!
Part of Eliza wanted the friendship, wanted to show Marla Hamilton that she could be a very good friend and confidante to the unhappy, unruly black bully of the school. But most probably it was some kind of cruel trick. Eliza tended to fall right in, and it was mostly due to Ferns teachings to be friends with enemies, turn the other cheek, which is why Eliza had so many problems socially with other kids at the rough and tumble school. She also wanted to be liked, simply liked!
Really, I aint kidding I can be your best friends, said Marla, usually used to hitting Eliza rather than gently putting her slim black fingers on Elizas back. Marla had picked on the Osberg kids since first grade and now Marla was curious about the UN Plaza.
All day Marla stuck with Eliza like glue, which made Elizas friends stay clear. There was a very weird moment when after many years of Marlas cronies picking on Eliza, that Eliza turned around and saw all those kids (Marlas cronies) standing beside her now. It was sort of eerie and brought strong memories of Ferns strong voice about how Jesus would walk with his enemies and others would chastise him for it, not understanding why& But here Eliza was amongst her enemies like Jesus. She felt like Jesus, or felt what he might have felt. It was even lonelier and darker than she had imagined! Deep in the recesses of her mind she knew that Marla was not being friendly for nothing, just as Jesus might have felt the same thing. It would be a learning experience for both Marla and Eliza. As the day progressed, Eliza began feeling a little embarrassed as people came up and asked her what was up. Finally Gracie Berg had cornered her in the gym alone and Eliza managed to get the message out about what was happening& She just wasnt sure what was going on, but she was trusting in God!
You and your Jesus, said Elizas best friend Gracie Berg.
What do you mean me and my Jesus?
These girls are playing you up big time Eliza. Why are you falling for this?
Look, it is what it is!
And what is that?
Look, dont freak further, but I invited Marla over to the apartment, admitted Eliza.
What, you crazy girl?
So what? Shell be alone, not with all her cronies. They act different alone,
Her crew& Ive seen how she is when its just me and her& I think I can win her over and make her see me for good!
You are making a big mistake.
Maybe so, but God leads me!
God & Your sick, said Gracie. Do you need approval that badly?
Maybe I do&who knows?
You are much better than that Eliza, said Gracie, who was way beyond her years.
Later, after school, for the very first time, Eliza wasnt running from Marla, and when they met it was like a dream in slow motion. So very Surreal! There was the moody, mean and sour Marla with scowl on her dark features. But this time she smiled widely when she saw Eliza, a huge white toothed grin.
Marla was not pretty. She had an overly oval looking face like a triangle. Angular features, high cheek bones, eyes too close together, severe corn row braided hair, not attractive in the least. Years of bullying and fighting and anger had made her sharp features rough and tumble. Her eyes were dark, you couldnt even see her pupils. She was short and very skinny and was prone to anger quickly. She was actually left back in 3rd grade and even paraded around her report card like a purple heart. A big red stamp proclaimed her not promoted so she ended up in Elizas class long ago. Little by little Marlas teasing turned ugly and almost violent. Sometimes she would kick or trip Eliza in the hallways or in gym class, even when Mrs. Fohrs heads was turned.
Well you ready Marla? Asked Eliza as they walked down 3rd Avenue. Theyd just left school and were out on the street. Eliza was nervous still not believing she was walking calmly with the school bully Marla Hamilton. At that moment she knew they would go straight to the apartment and not stop at the Indian store or the candy store either like with Gracie or other friends of Elizas.
And the first thing Eliza noticed was that none of her friends or even family walked with her when she hooked up with Marla.
So Marla and Eliza rode the bus in silence together. Marla wondered how shed agreed to this! At least Eliza wasnt as what Marla had imagined. She was actually an okay kid, but Marla had gotten into a habit of teasing Eliza. Her friends would never understand so she told them she was just messing with Eliza and wanted to see the apartment the Osbergs lived in.
They walked down the driveway of the UN Plaza. The doorma
Hi Eliza, he said going down to her level. Whos your new friend?
Oh, this is Marla Hamilton, Marla this is Sammy the Doorman!
Instead of being friendly, Marla smacked her lips in disgust, and turned away from him, looking off into the distance of Sutton Place.
Nice. Said Sam sarcastically.
What did you say mother fucker? Marla turned violently.
Nothin, I didnt say nothin, said Sammy.
A chill ran up Elizas neck. Shes never seen that coming out of Sammy and he always exuded a calm demeanor, but his mean Irish roots came clear and cold and it was so strange and sad and exciting all at the same time.
Humph, she said under her breath, but he had heard that too.
Now theres no need for that young lady, said Sammy menacingly.
Just then, as Sammy glared at Marla in disgust, a taxi pulled up so he left them standing there.
Elizas old fears of Marla surfaced so she ignored it. Come on, lets go, she said.
Now Eliza began regretting shed fallen into this with Marla. It was now obvious what Marla was all about, but they rode up in the elevator. Chin Ling was on duty and joked with Eliza, but Marla became stone faced.
Who is your new friend, Eliza? Asked the little Chinese man with the happy smile. He always had a twinkle in his eyes.
Hi Ching Ling, said Eliza, but nothing more about Marla.
I see your brothers, Eliza, he revealed. They were with 4 black boys upstairs, he said.
Oh, the Moshe Brothers, answered Eliza. Marla didnt acknowledge anything, but stood there like a Mahogany statue. She was no beauty, but had a toughness about her that was seriously daunting. Marla was most probably used to wearing the mean face, because of her rough environment. Eliza knew that somewhere inside Marla was a nice kid deeply hidden. Her father had told her in many ways that people like Marla felt very little inside.
They got to 23 and walked to Eliza apartment. Marla was secretly in awe, but was poker faced about it as they walked into the gigantic, glamorous apartment.
They walked into the kitchen where Roy and Richard sat with 4 of the Moshe Brothers eating a box of Ritz Crackers and Oreo Cookies and Chocolate Milk Nestles. Marla saw it all and eyed it and smacked her lips but didnt move. She wanted some of that for sure and had never really had that stuff in her house. Shed seen it on t.v. but thats about it, and here she was getting ready to chow down&
Hi guys, said Eliza.
Hi Eliza, the boys said smiling. They were very dark skinned.
This is Marla, said Eliza with little fanfare.
Marla just glared and took a seat, as the Moshes moved away from her. She grabbed a few Oreos and crackers and started eating them. She drank Milk from Davids cup, which didnt faze anyone too much.
Why dont you have a few crackers, Marla? Said Roy trying to be funny and who didnt realize who Marla was. Two of the Moshe Brothers did, and so did Richard, who sat transfixed staring at the black girl that wreaked havoc in their hearts every day at school and whose mother was known as Frauline Hamilton, the Nazi.
I guess so, Marla said, munching heavily on the Oreos and gulping the fresh cold chocolate drink like it was ambrosia. Shed never had a whole one to herself her mother doled it out like small cubes of sugar. It was not good! She felt a mixture of feelings. Jealously of course& But some respect, anger mostly. Wanting to strike out so she didnt have to feel, just feel the rage that hid the feelings of emotion. It was hard.
Eliza eyed the boys who seemed a bit perplexed at seeing the hated bully of Beekman Hill School standing there.
Eliza gave Marla a grand tour. As they looked at the sixth bathroom Marla couldnt help herself and started talking about her place in Harlem she lived at with her sister and mother.
Its nothin like this, she said almost jealously.
Whats it like, Marla? Asked Eliza as they stood in Elizas parents bedroom.
Its bad, she said honestly. I went to take a bath and there was a live huge rat in the tub, and theres tons of cockroaches, but you dont realize it until you get up in the middle of the night and go in our kitchen! Paint is peeling off the walls too, certainly aint like this place!
Im sorry, Eliza said genuinely, but she figured Marla was making it worse than it was, I mean she did live with the most hated aide at the Beekman Hill School Mrs. Hamilton!!!! That in itself was bad enough, so anything small was magnified. Eliza identified with Marla more than Marla thought. Whatever happened she would call Fern and pray to Jesus for guidance.
Aint no thing, who really cares, answered Marla trying to downplay it all, like she was a strong girl for living there. But Eliza was starting to see Marla in a deeper light as Jesus felt when he stood before King Herod and understood him! Eliza had a feeling God meant for this to happen, even if Marla was putting on an act to see, be inside of, and experience the UN Plaza.
Nothing more was said between them. They went back in the kitchen when Gemma had arrived from her bedroom. She was not on duty and had decided to spend her day off at the Osberg Apartment. She didnt pay much attention to things and went back into her bedroom and was centered on watching her soap General Hospital.
So Eliza decided that she would serve Campbells ABC Soup and she began making it, using 2 cans with water. Eliza felt like a mother hen when she began doling out the soup in some fancy bowls shes spotted in the cabinet. Marla played along and sat at the table looking out of place and slightly uncomfortable. If Annie saw her now, the other girl would have beaten the living shit out of her.
Finally Eliza sat down and had her bowl of soup. She was now realizing Marlas intent not to be a friend, but more along the lines of a spy. Eliza now wished shed not fallen for it, but she looked around the kitchen and it was almost comical. Rich and Roy had left so it was just Eliza, the 4 Moshe Brothers and Marla. They began throwing crackers at each other for fun, but then Marla beaned the cracker too hard which nicked the corner of Treys left eye.
Hey, that wasnt very nice!
Oh what a little baby you are black boy! Said Marla.
Hey dont talk to my brother like that, triangle face, said David, throwing a cracker at Marla, getting her square between her dark vicious eyes. It was at that moment Mrs. Osberg walked in the kitchen dressed up and smelling like Bergdorf Goodmans!
Eliza froze in her seat and felt the color rise in her cheeks. At that same moment Marla took her soup and hurled it across the table, all 4 brothers getting doused with warm lunch! Little noodle letters were plastered to the ceiling and walls, plus on the glass table made in Italy, as well as on the Moshes faces too! It would have been like something out of a comedy sketch if not for the seriousness of it all with Mrs. Osberg standing there about to blow a gasket and faint!
Whats going on here? Cried Mrs. Osberg. Wheres Gemma? Who are all these black children? What are you all doing here? Mrs. Osberg was becoming quite livid like a sleek Lamborghini going from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds. Eliza!
Theyre friends from school, answered Eliza trying to sound confident.
How dare you!
What mom? Said Eliza, tears already rolling down.
Meanwhile David and his brothers had gotten up and took the whole box of crackers and threw it at Marla. Marla didnt hesitate to go after them single handedly and they had jumped up and were running around the kitchen to get away from the angry black girl. They started laughing, all 4 brothers. Marla was shrieking. The known bully knew how to stir up the cauldron.
Mrs. Osberg grabbed Marla by the collar of her jumpsuit.
Let me go honky white woman, snarled Marla.
What the hell are you doing? Who are you? Mrs. Osberg shook Marla like a rag dol
Ask your daughter, threw back Marla, pulling herself free long enough to kick Mrs. Osberg square in her stomach making a dirty shoe imprint on the womans brand new white coat.
Mrs. Osberg seemed shocked at first, then went into action and hauled off and slapped Marla square in the face!
White bitch, screamed Marla.
Everyone get out of my apartment now, screamed Mrs. Osberg who was on the verge of having a stroke, her hair coming askew, even breaking one of her peach colored fake nails when shed hauled off on Marla. Gemma, Gemma, come here right this minute, she yelled like she was singing the finale of an opera, minus the music, which Eliza could hear clearly in her own head!
She dialed the front desk downstairs on the small white building phone. Tom, its Lena Osberg, she stammered while trying to catch Marla. She kicked out at the unruly black girl running a muck of their kitchen.
Yes Mrs. Osberg, said Tom, always knowing that if there was a call from the Osbergs, it meant some funny banter with the guys after work! He wondered why someone didnt write a movie on this family, the way they acted and especially the way Mrs. Osberg was.
I want you to send security up here right away, please hurry!
Whats the problem now? He asked, hoping none of the kids were hurt. It sounded pretty serious, but it always sounded serious with this raving, yet ravishing broad.
Never mind, just do it!
Yes, I will, right away!
Mrs. Osberg hung up the phone and by this time Marla was heading for the door just as Gemma had come out of her room hearing the clamor.
Gemma, Gemma, get that girl! Screamed Mrs. Osberg.
Gemma went into action, her lithe body reaching out and grabbing Marla in her tracks. Marla thrashed suddenly nailing Gemma in the eye!
The sturdy little housekeeper flinched for a split second. Ras, Jesus! She held fast to Marla.
Gemma, get her out of here! Commanded Mrs. O. from the sidelines, not wanting to get in the way of the flailing arms and legs of the little black girl from Elizas class! How could Eliza have done this!
Gemma started to drag the black girl across to the foyer and to the door. The usually quiet, good natured Jamaican woman was tight fisted and her face was all scrunched up in anger and frustration. Eliza had never seen Gemma so riled up and potent. She actually resembled an Apache Indian warrior like the lady who used to wash Elizas familys clothes back when they lived in another State. Mrs. Lula, who would scrub and scrub the sheets in the laundry room in their house back then. Eliza would watch her face and it would turn into Geronimo or Cochise as they went to battle and were fighting for their freedom!
Roy and Richard ran out and helped Gemma by opening the front door. Marla was yelling and screaming and swearing like a sailor and resembled, believe it or not, Helen Keller type character being hauled out of the room forcibly.
Dirty girl, ras&
Whats going on? asked Roy. Glinda was at a friends house.
Rich, Roy, get back to your room, Eliza come here!
Just then 2 security men arrived in the hallway and helped drag Marla to the service elevator and would literally toss her out the back door of the UN Plaza by Riverside Drive to avoid any media circus that might happen due to the Vietnam talks at the General Assembly room with Nixon trying to persuaded them to end the war. If she tried to make more trouble they would call the cops and from there, who knew what would come of it. Just no more news hounds or ketchup bottle protests!!!!
Youve gone too far this time, Eliza, screamed Mrs. Osberg.
Mom, I didnt invite the Moshe brothers, Rich did!
I dont care, you had that wretched child here and you have no right! Wait until your father hears! Go to your room now, she wailed at her daughter. Look at what that damn girl did to my new coat, cried Mrs. Osberg, brushing herself off and taking a seat at the table. Gemma came in and calmed her talking soothing and making Mrs. Osberg a cup of hot calming tea. Eliza slinked away and went to her bedroom.
And stay in your room until your Dad gets home, do you hear me, Eliza, screamed Mrs. O. down the long hallway. Her opera voice easily reached Elizas buzzing ones.
Thats not fair mom, I didnt have the Moshe guys here!
Rich heard his name and ran to the bedroom and locked himself in. The Moshe Brothers calmed down once Gemma removed Marla. They filed out the door quietly. Eliza was crying and in the doghouse for sure. And what would happen when she got to school tomorrow? Marla would be on a rampage for her, but maybe not.
Eliza got on her hands and knees and prayed as Fern had taught her. She pleaded with Jesus to make things right and she blessed all who were involved even Marla! She had turned the other cheek. Maybe in the end Marlas heart would soften enough that she would not make waves at school. It was puzzling and that made Eliza stop crying. She would explain to her dad and in the meantime, when Mrs. Osberg went to the living room and was talking to her friends about what had happened. Eliza sneaked into the den and used her fathers private line to call Fern. They talked for a bit and Fern calmed her and said she would talk to Mr. Osberg before he got home and got the news from a raving Mrs. Osberg. Eliza explained it all in great detail and Fern got a picture. Tell Gemma Im sorry she was hurt!
I will Fern, said Eliza. Gotta hang up now Fern. I love you so much! I wish you were here, but Gemma was good&
Okay sweetie, Ill talk to your father, said Fern in her soothing thick New England accent!
God bless you Fern.
Jesus is with you dear.
PROTESTS AT THE UN BUILDING
By the time Mr. Osberg got the phone call from Fern and got home, a lot of the clamor of Marla and Moshe boys was less jagged. Mrs. Osberg called the Beekman Hills School where Marla's mother worked in the office and they had it out on the phone. Roy and Rich said they had invited the Moshe kids over when Eliza showed up with Marla.
Eliza, what were you thinking inviting an unruly girl like that here, and a bully at that, to our apartment? Asked Mr. Osberg. Thank God he had been briefed by Fern. He understood it then, and he just wanted to see how Eliza would respond.
I honestly dont know why dad. She was nice to me but she always picked on me, so when she got nice I guess I wanted her to like me and it says in the Bible to love your enemies and youll find eventual salvation!
What are you talking about now? Asked Mrs. Osberg, who was sitting in her favorite French chair taking in the other side of the story. One thing about the Osbergs, they did listen when the dust cleared and Eliza had the floor at the moment and made her case excellently, so much so that Mr. Osberg was proud of her and realized she was a special little girl, although a bit hyper, yes, but special and sensitive all the same!
What happened when you went back to school? Asked Mrs. Osberg, ready to go to her daughters defense and show up at the school which she had done for them all through the years, and would do in the future for as long as the school allowed her to. There was a rumor that Mrs. Marrate was vying to get the principal at the Beekman School to resign to get her own man in there, and there had been light talk of Mrs. Osberg taking a stand.
She just glared at me, but kept her distance. Then Mom called my guidance counselor and spoke to Marlas mother! Said Eliza speaking both to her Dad and Mom.
Has she threatened you? Asked Mrs. Osberg. She knew that kind and had seen it in her own childhood growing up in NY in the early 1940s, especially during the war and after shed gotten a bad case of polio that had her in an iron lung for almost two years! Her older brother Abraham had died in 1945 of an anorexic condition just after entering Navy School, then Lena had contracted Polio one summer at camp.
Not lately, since this happened, at least not verbally. But I am
How do you know? Asked Mr. Osberg.
Because she has been picking on me for some many years now, I can see it in her eyes. But when that happened the other day she got scared!
Bullies are always scared Eliza, said Mr. Osberg.
Your father is right, sweetie, agreed Mrs. Osberg. She remembered how life changed after she got Polio, and how the other kids avoided her, even her dearest boyfriend of the time there at camp, Mitch Weinbaum. But when she lay in the infirmary in the beginning stages of the disease with some other children before getting transferred to a hospital in New York, Mitch had come to see her and sat with her even holding her hand, which was great taboo back in the early days of the beginnings of the disease that struck down children. Lena had just swam in the camp pool and started feeling stiff. She developed a raging fever as the first stage of the disease started. But thankfully her parents had acted quickly with the camp staff and Eliza was transferred quickly. It might have saved her life along with the little girls raging spirit which persevered and overcame the Polio, and when you looked at her standing there screaming about Marla the bully you could not believe she would have had such a wretched disease and had fully recovered.
Eliza explained to them exactly what had happened as she told it to Fern, but didnt say shed spoken to Fern. Eliza guessed that Fern had called and spoken to her dad and that is why the heat was lifting. Mr. Osberg understood even more and could see how Lena would be so upset when she came in on the thick of it. He didnt let on that hed had the whole scoop from Fern.
Remember what I told you about bullies Eliza?
Yes, sure. No matter how mean and big the bully is, he feels like this, she said, holding up her fingers like she was holding a small object& They feel like a little kernel of corn!
Lena Osberg added. Is everything okay Bourge? She asked, using Victors nickname.
Yes, now that I know all the facts, said Victor.
I didnt realize that it would all go crazy and I knew how Marla was, but I didnt think she would take things so far. I was only trying to help and be her friend, explained Eliza easily.
Mr. Osberg remembered his conversation with Fern and what she had said. He actually saw a little Fern developing in his daughter. He was not going to ground her on this. But he knew that a very famous movie that her 2nd cousin had written was coming on t.v. and he wanted her to keep her religious enthusiasm but she had to see how Jewish faith works as well.
Eliza was grateful that Mrs. Osberg didnt get hurt too badly by Marla, but Gemma had a black eye and Mrs. Osberg was not happy about being kicked by the bully.
Whats going to be done about this Victor? Mrs. Osberg folded her hands together and then smoothed out her new white organdy dress. She had just gotten a manicure down the street at Amatos and her hair had just been cut, shaped and dyed. It shone bright and blended well with her makeup and red lipstick. She was a piece of work and wore herself well!
Well, obviously Eliza isnt to blame, so I guess its up to Marlas parents to do what they have to do.
Eliza imagined Mrs. Hamilton taking a coat hanger to Marla, maybe even a leather belt or even a switch she might have bought just for the occasion. Eliza knew very well how Marlas mother could be and she threw her power around the lunchroom like a prison guard bucking for a promotion! It was scary.
Well, you wont see that anytime soon, said Mrs. Osberg.
I called Mrs. Hamilton and she gave me an ear full, said Mrs. Osberg.
And Ive seen her in school, shes the same, both of them, if not worse, added Eliza.
Has she tried to get you? asked Mr. Osberg.
Well, I have to say that shes not as bad as she was. So thats good, but she will get me eventually, somehow in her own way!
Okay, enough on Marla. Did you speak to the Moshe brothers parents?
Yes, I did. Both of them could not have been any nicer and more understanding. They grounded the boys indefinitely and said their sons should have known better, reported Mrs. O.
Roy and Rich were not there when it happened, said Eliza, playing the Jesus role to the hilt.
No, Glinda wasnt there either.
Where is Glinda? Asked Mrs. Osberg.
She had music practice, said Eliza, wishing theyd allow her to take music lessons too, but she was just too out of control and hyper for that, at least in her parents eyes.
Oh, Said Mr. Osberg.
Well, thats that.
Go on and play, suggested Mrs. Osberg, wanting to be alone with her husband.
So Eliza went on after the event. Rich was hiding behind the door and pulled her to him.
Whats up in there? He asked, seeming to b fearful. Rich never had the gumshoe Eliza had so he was always quiet, subdued, and reserved in every way. He retreated into himself and had his own world of protection. It was the essence of Rich!
So Eliza went back to school always wondering when Marla was going to trounce her. One day when Glinda, Rich and Eliza were coming home from school they noticed a ruckus going on across from the UN Building. People of all shapes and sizes were marching. It was Israel vs. the Arabs and people on both sides were getting restless wanting to riot. The riot horses moved in.
Hey, theres Preview, said Eliza, noticing the riot horse shed petted for years.
Yea, I see him, said Rich looking at the brown horse in the distance.
Oh, look theres Rosie! Eliza pointed next to Preview to a lighter brown looking horse.
The children ran through the surly crowd and up to the 2 riot policeman on the curb.
Hey its those kids again, Jim, said one cop, seeming unfazed about the crowd getting ugly. He liked the kids and they always remembered the horses names and to bring a lump of sugar that Preview loved. The Osberg kids smiled up at the cops and loved the whole aura of it& Especially the horses and the cops mixed in together. They fed the animals sugar and even a carrot. Eliza had ridden at summer camp since she was 5! It was an amazing experience and made her love the animal. Of course her love of the American Indians fueled a lot of thing with horses and this was one of them!
A few other policemen on horses were on hand and edged over to the small group. They joined Preview and Rosie and formed a strong line of defense against the backdrop of the UN Building but let the kids continue to pet the horses. It had been this way for many years now and the kids were like fixtures, and you just accepted them, it was strange but few questioned it, and the ones that did, mostly were ignored. Just as though the kids didnt get unruly or that the demonstration became weapons violent they knew how to handle it.
Wow, some new recruits? asked Eliza. She went and begged to pet another horse. Whats his name, Officer?
Donahue like Troy Donahue, the actor, he said, not expecting the little girl to know who he was, but she did due to her moms love of old movies and Broadway.
The kids petted the animals as the 2 sides protested and started to get edgy. Glinda was getting freaked out and she was starting to whimper and cry, looking very frustrated.
For some reason Eliza was not afraid. Rich was just looking around and in awe as the crowd suddenly swelled to hundreds of people. Some man on the Israeli side started a chant. He started to scream this weird high pitched yell. Some women enhanced it by shrilling their little ditty. The women were mimicking the Arab female call, a cross between a yodel and an Indian war whoop!
We are going to riot, warned the inciter on the Arab side. We will break down these barriers and riot!
The crowd started to push at the barriers. The police went into action immediately. They almost mowed down El
Lets get out of here, said Rich.
After feeding Preview the last carrot, Eliza took charge. Hold on to me, said Eliza as both Rich and Glinda grabbed on to her shirt tail and she began to lead them out as Glinda whimpered. They were in the middle of the hurricane of a crowd ready to burst. People were like heated clouds turning into thunderheads. They were acting rowdy. Eliza cut a path through the crowd. Up on the small platform there was an Arab man dressed in traditional garb and Eliza noticed his shoes which were curled in the front. She would love a pair. He was speaking loudly through a megaphone that echoed and bounced against the buildings. News cameras were set up and cameras were snapping and clicking. .
Hammjagster Square is where it was allowed. Eliza looked up at the inscription in stone with a man pushing a plow. &we shall beat our swords into plows & But it seemed like the opposite today to Eliza, at least at that moment as little black helicopters and news station copters circled above like little birds!
Just stay close to me, instructed Eliza, taking the lead.
The crowd was swelling and billowing and the riot police were trying to restore order which looked far from being contained. Eliza spotted Preview and Rosie in the crowd and headed for those horses. The two animals actually recognized the girls after so many years and caught their scent and came to their rescue and on their own came to the aid of Eliza and her scared stiff sister Glinda. The horses came and surrounded the girls for a split second as to give them time to cross over to the more tamer side of the curb. No one would have believed it if they hadnt of been there. It was amazing and memorable. Eliza would never forget it, and looked straight into Previews large brown eyes and for a split second it seemed to the plucky little girl that horse knew her.
The riot horses were edged back by their riders back into the thick of it, and left their charges on the curb in safety of the headquarters set up there. They did their thing and Eliza noticed the horses before the riders. They had been coming to this corner for years now and had befriended the riot horse brigade.
Eliza wished this had been going on when Marla was there because that whole thing may have been avoided and maybe the Moshe Brothers would be with them now instead of being grounded like they were. Eliza continued to push through the crowd with Rich and Glinda holding on to her for dear life. Eliza wondered what punishment Marla had gotten from her witch of a mother Mrs. Hamilton. Shed seen Mrs. Hamilton in action at school and knew well how that lady was. She had begun working in the cafeteria as a monitor back when Eliza was in 1st grade. She would always separate Eliza and her very best friend Roland who had moved to Germany when Eliza was in 4th grade after he was left back. They were inseparable and Mrs. Hamilton would say Hey you two, move down, but it sounded like moo down, she always separated Roland and Eliza but Eliza always laughed when Hamilton said, moo down, moo down, like a cow.
It became a fever pitch with the crowd, just when it seemed that everything would go totally haywire, Glinda, Rich and Eliza reached the other side of the street. On this side of the street was a circle of people that were sitting down to pray in all ways. The kids ran across the street back to the UN Plaza. From their vantage point it looked like a restless sea of people bobbing on a choppy ocean. The kids had participated in many protests in the past, especially when the Vietnam War made its face known by the late 1960s& There was also a protest that got the kids marching on the news and Victor Osberg almost fell off the couch when he saw a fast clip of it the next evening when he was watching his usual news station and sipping his vodka and eating his Herring and Jewish crackers. It was when Taiwan wanted to separate from China.
Eliza remembered, as they ran down the UN Plaza driveway the time this Russian fraction was protesting there. They had a huge black cage and they were chanting over and over, Let our people go, now, let our people go, now!
So Eliza ran down and joined them after checking with the riot guys who were there via Preview and Rosie! The leader of the protest, a fat, sweaty Russian man, asked Eliza to sit in the cage and she obliged him. They carried her around and chanted the slogan. Even the news trained their many cameras on her in the cage.
Later that evening Mr. Osberg was watching the news when they flashed his daughter in the cage. He was angry at first but later he decided not to say anything. Eliza didnt mention it so why rock the boat. If she had missed school or lied then that would be a reason. He switched to channel 2 CBS and saw the same tape with Eliza in the cage. He was amused now, but as always he called Fern, who was up late.
Fern, I just saw Eliza on a news story. She was riding in a cage. Its on every sobering.
Really? Fern was amazed.
Yes, said Victor, sounding like he was losing his mind.
Victor calm down now! Jesus Mary and Joseph its not the end of the world, put your doubts aside&Its your daughter, your crazy daughter who has the know-how and knowledge and thirst to know things&plus your wifes genes of showbiz&shes a natural.
My God, shes just a kid!
Now Victor, I want you to go to the bar and get yourself a dry vodka with a dash of lemon juice. Sniff the drink before you sip, then take a big swig and breath out slowly then sniff in the fumes of the lemon and vodka! You will see a difference.
Well if she isnt hurting anyone whey mention it. In fact, if I do mention it, it might become more of a problem. In this case, forget it&Eliza is fine!
He told her all about what happened with Marla, much of what Fern already knew but she stored it away with the other info and assessed it. She had answers&it takes pray and meditation&. Jesus leads the way&She would teach them this and they would overcome evil and ignorance.
God is with you Victor Osberg, said Fern in a low whisper.
I figured youd say that Fern. Ill see you Monday night, okay?
Okay, God Bless you.
You too, bye.
He hung up and turned on the t.v. just as Johnny started his monologue! During a commercial break he went into the bathroom and relieved himself and then took a dose of some tranquilizer his doctor has prescribed for him to sleep! Hed turned to meds this time. It wasnt easy. But business was good and even Lena was trying to get him to slow down and retire early and count his retirement golden egg! Hed been sitting on it for years, and it was time to cash in.
UNITED NATIONS PLAZA BACKYARD
A few weeks after the big protest, Eliza and Glinda were at the UN Park by the UN Rose Gardens. Thankfully Marla had just about stopped her jealous tirade, but she was still vibing Eliza out as the other kids had heard them say. Still Marla glared at Eliza from across the classroom and scariest of all was when Marla just by chance passed by the classroom where Eliza was sitting in and vibed her out there. No one who saw would admit or stop the torment. People were conditioned and it was known that they wanted to cater to the blacks to make them want to send their kids there, all the way from Harlem or even have a mother of one of them working in the office in a semi important position!
Through the school gossip grapevine, Eliza had found out that Marla wanted her burned at the stake in a sense, literally, same with her mother. Eliza felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and just wished she could use the ruby slippers to get out of the school, but right now she and her sister played at the elegant park, which was usually empty except for am abandoned car outside the gates of he little park nestled between the UN and the UN Plaza Apartments.
Seeing the abandoned car parked in front of the UN looked like a sore thumb with a cast on it.
Eliza and Glinda walked up to the car and riffled through it, finding nothing. They went back to the park and began playing on the swings. A bum showed up and began going around the park and going through the trash cans, bu
At that moment Eliza had her Dads Polaroid camera and began snapping photos of the activity of the bum. She proceeded to photograph him dumping the baskets, and it was all coming out instantly on black and white film. Shed had bought it at the souvenir shop in the Delegates Lobby!
Look at that bum dumping all that garbage around the park, said Eliza, bringing Glindas attention to it.
Eliza, stop snapping photos of him like that! Hell come after us!
Oh stop it, he will not, said Eliza as she snapped more of him doing his dirty work.
Glinda ran away from Eliza and hid in the Rose bushes by the General Assembly Building.
The bum was doing his thing and Eliza snapped some shots of him in various stages of his dirty work. Shots of him dumping it, sifting through it, eating it and sitting in his midday lunch munching. He had retrieved a discarded KFC bag, and at first he seemed happy until he saw what he thought he would. Awww, coleslaw again damn it! He ate it though.
The light skinned black man in a tie and rumpled brown suit move his cache over to the abandoned car and proceeded to eat in the auto without a care in the world, so Eliza snapped a few of him eating in the car and he didnt even noticed Eliza thats how sly she was in getting him candid. She was a natural in many ways.
So Eliza looked at her instant camera handy work. She was proud of it and wanted to show her father, who encouraged that stuff.
She ran over to Glinda. Look, look, this is so cool, said Eliza.
No, I dont want to see it, said Glinda. She was nervously looking over at the bum eying her back suspiciously and trying to act all tough now. He picked up on Glindas fear.
Eliza showed the shots to Glinda. Glinda half looked at the photos, but kept looking at the bum who just sat in the abandoned car and ate.
Okay, I looked, now lets go, said Glinda. She wanted to get as far way from the bum as possible. Just as Glinda was about to bolt out of there, a police car cruised by and stopped when they saw the abandoned car. They got out and came up to the curb and saw the car with the bum sitting in it totally obliviously to them being there.
Yes, you, said the second officer.
What officer& Im not doin nothin&This aint even my car, said the pitifully dressed man down on his luck&
We figured that, said the first officer as he surveyed the area and the car itself checking for bombs or anything a miss. They were doing those things now that the Vietnam War was in full swing.
No sir, this aint my car. I was just sitting in it and havin my chicken dinner!
The cops looked around the UN Park and noticed tons of trash spilled out of the trash cans. They stared back at the bum looking innocent.
Well, whats to do here Joe? asked one officer to his dark haired partner.
Well, theres not much, maybe ticket him for loitering and send him on his way.
One officer started the paperwork. The bum got on his feet, coleslaw bits coming out of his mouth with a half eaten biscuit in his dirty hands.
So you said you didnt dump this trash all over the park?
Thats right officer sir&. No way. I didnt do it. Give me my ticket and send me on my way, said the bum. Maybe you better talk to those two kids over there, I think they wuz the ones!
Officer, officer, wait a second, cried Eliza who had been watching from the side lines. Wait one second, cried Eliza with the photos in her hands, Look officer, hes lying! Eliza handed the officer the shots shed taken minutes before they showed up, even a few of when they arrived before shed run out of film.
The cops were impressed with the work. Can I have this one? Asked one of the cops, wanting a black and white clear and crisp of him talking to the suspect with his partner watching on the sidelines.
Why of course you can&. Thats why I snapped two! Said Eliza.
Thanks kid! The officer took the little photo and slipped it in his coat pocket.
No problem, she said.
Joe, Joe, come here, look at this, he called to his partner who was watching the bum. The guy was just about to make a quick getaway. Hold it mister, said Officer Joe.
The shots clearly showed the bum dumping trash all over the pristine park. Shots of him dumping trash, picking in it and eating it and sitting in the car with his find. It was all in the photos.
So, uh, Mr. Un, Mr. Ulysses," said the cop. You said you didnt dump the garbage around the park? Then what are these?
The bum looked from the two officers to the candid Polaroids taken of him dumping and eating the garbage.
So? Asked the officer holding the shots.
I, I, ummmm, I, ummm& he stammered then deflated defeated.
Pick it up guy, or well run ya in. I knew you was lying!
Pick it up now, commanded the second officer.
Okay, okay officers, Is doing it! The bum looked around and spotted the Osberg girls standing by the slides. Glinda ran out the back door and down the street.
Eliza kept her ground. She wanted the photos back. Officer Joe walked over to her. Hey, thanks kid, you saved us a lot of grief, he said. Good work. Glad we came along when we did.
The bum glared angrily at Eliza. It did not faze her in the least, but now Glinda was far away back up stairs, probably crying to mom or Gemma.
Hey kid, you better skee-dattle and take these, he said, handing back the photos to the plucky young girl who he almost mistook for a boy!
You done a good thing, kid, said the other officer ruffling her hair.
Eliza took the photos and took one more look at the bum who was sweating and swearing and carrying on. She took one more shot of him and the police to the side. He did pick up the garbage though. The cops left, then Eliza ran as fast as she could to the other side of the street by the other park across the street they labeled The Dog Park. The bum watched her. She screamed, Sucker, and ran into the UN Plaza through the revolving doors. If the bum tried to follow he would not be allowed inside, so she was safe and couldnt wait to tell her father and show him the photos. He would be home on Thursday. It was so exciting. She was intrigued with it and loved the attitude and fun of it. And she surely would show Richard this!
Eliza walked into the apartment after taking more photos of the desk man and even Ching Ling. She walked into the den where Rich, Roy and Glinda watched cartoons and ate lots of candy from Bernies Candy store downstairs.
Look its Eliza! Glinda ran around laughing and joking. Show them the photos! Said Glinda triumphantly, now that she was 23 flights up and far from the ugly bum who could have hurt her.
Eliza passed them around and Rich especially loved the photo of the cops. Cool, he said.
You took these? asked Roy.
Yes, said Eliza proudly. She told them the story, with Glinda filling in the parts about running away. Eliza explained everything to them about what happened after Glinda ran like a scared rabbit. Wow, if you were in the Apache days you would be dead now!
God, you were brave, said Roy.
Im going to do a report for school on it, said Eliza.
Youre lucky that bum didnt come after you Eliza, said Glinda, who even looked out the window with a little fear on her cute face.
Well, I think I have more to fear from Marla than some stupid bum, said Eliza.
Oh yea, thats right, I forget, said Glinda.
What are you going to do, Eliza? Asked Rich.
I heard something about it in school, you know that Shadee Moshe is in my math class and he was talking to the other kids about it. Marla really hates you, said Rich.
I dont know, said Rich.
It will all work out. I feel it already starting to fade a bit. Shes not even caught me alone. I am careful and hang around with Gracies friends and they like now that theyve gotten to know me and have sort of taken me under their wing!
Later on Eliza started putting something together with her pictures and by the time dinner was ready, shed labeled everything and glued together a nice collage of the event. Her father would be proud. She knew her teacher would flip for it! As for the bum and Marla, well she would pray as she had for the last few weeks for them!
EAST END BOWLING ALLEY
Every Saturday all the kids went to the Bill/Dave Youth Center. It was simply called Bill-Dave Club, the names of the owners, who were brothers. They also ran a summer camp called Wineko that Roy and Rich first went to, before Camp Skylemar took their hearts. But all 4 kids went to Bill-Dave.
In fact, it was the first time Eliza saw a bowling alley. The first bowling alley shed been in was in September of 1966, two months after the Osbergs moved to the UN Plaza. Lenny was not driving for Bill/Dave at that time. But it was an older black man name Vic who took about 6 to 7 of kids to an upstairs bowling alley on Broadway, but very shortly the center expanded and hired van drivers and Eliza never saw Vic again. Lenny now drove them to and from the parks, amusement places, museums, bowling alleys and such places like skating rings and now to the End Bowling Alley on the lower East side of New York City. East End Avenue and 1st, or was it York?
The East End Bowl was on the lower East side. It was huge with 3 floors of alleys and lots of vending machines and automats. It was the first time Eliza and her siblings saw a microwave oven. She and her friends Glen and Gary watched it cook food and they even put things not allowed in, sometimes even the taboo forbidden tinfoil just to watch it spark and crackle.
John the Bully threw in a huge cockroach and they watched it explode.
Eliza was fascinated with it. The roach was put in then when they turned the dial and pushed the red button, the roach stopped in its tracks, froze for a split second then exploded with a splat right before their eyes.
Soon the management went to Lenny and told him that if it continued with his kids, they would be ejected from the bowling alley. Len gave everyone a stern lecture dotted with visions of punishments and non-perks, plus being sent home in a taxi with parents footing the bill.
Dave, who rarely got in on the antics and usually just made sure the invoices and such were being paid and that the liability insurance was intact, plus that the vans had the right registrations, decided to step up to the soap box and haltingly told them all that if the tomfoolery didnt cease, hed make arrangements for a trip to the New York City Library. Everyone groaned, but promised, scouts honor, to be good from then on!
Lenny spoke up again after Dave did. Dont put anymore shit in those microwaves! Do you realize well be thrown out, and those ovens can kill you!!!
What do you mean? asked a scared Eliza.
Thats right, spoke up Bill. Microwaves are accelerated particles of heat and even a small explosion in the oven could kill you! Read the labels kids, it says that if you have a pacemaker, and you know what those are, or if you are pregnant, do not stand near it!
Everyone looked around at each other as if to say, It was you, not me, but Bill/Dave Youth staff knew the ropes here. Bill and his brothers had run Camp Wineko the same way, so they knew all the kid tricks.
Lenny added, If were thrown out of this place, I will not be a happy camper kids! I will be very angry if that happens, so take care, okay?
The kids knew he was serious. No one wanted to cross this guy. Not even John would strike out at him as he would sometimes do to Dave, who was not really a kid kind of guy, and mostly made sure the books were balanced and every parent paid their dues. There was another brother named Alan, but he only seemed to show up when food was being prepared out of a big box of cheese, baloney, mayo, etc. He was the food guy and wasnt really needed at the bowling alley. But when it came to going to Central Park or Van Cortland Park, or even ice skating, Alan would man the box of food and oversee the food lines! He also wasnt a kid type of guy either and Eliza found that out last year when they went to the skating ring at Central Park and she had fallen down and someone had skated over her gloved fingers. He overreacted and rushed her to the infirmary at the ring in Central Park's security department. Her parents were in Sardinia at the time, so only Gemma was home that day. Fern and Ginny had gone shopping on Broadway. Gemma handled it and showed up at the ring herself in a taxi cab. It turned out fine though and she just took Eliza home. The persons skate had run over her left hand, but it was so minor. Eliza had been a bit traumatized because Alan had been nervous!
But even after the big bowling alley lecture the microwave ovens still were be tampered with by the kids. So management got wise and installed a locked timer and moved the bulky machines up to the 3rd floor where the big leagues played and you had to ask permission from the guy at the door to use the ovens or at least be a league member.
But the kids at Bill/Dave got very good and even joined as one of the leagues thanks to Bill pushing them and Lenny talking to management. Eventually Lenny even supervised them for the Bill/Dave league team and they even won trophies, even little Glinda. Roy and Rich ended up on opposite teams as were Glinda and Eliza, but they all had won trophies with winning league teams.
Mr. Osberg was very impressed with all of them. He actually bowled an average near-perfect almost to 300 and had his own bowling ball. Eliza saw it many times and took it out when he was away. It was in his clothes closet and had a nice smelling leather bag as a house for it. The holes were big and measured to her fathers fingers. It was heavy, but one night Eliza had taken a few fake slow shots using their hallway as an alley. It helped her get better at the job. But she never got caught and one day her father even took the ball out, probably having noticed that someone was using it. He was sharp in that way, but figured it was Eliza. He gave her some tips on balance and a certain way to hit the alley and make the pins fall!
He was most proud of Roy and Richard, because even when they went to Wineko they had won trophies and plaques. Rich and Roy were not and never would be star athletes. As Eliza bowled for her team she remembered when her Dad made her brothers play Pop Warner Football. Eliza had watched in the shadows as her brothers bowled, which you could tell they loved to do. Especially when a huge cardboard box filled with fresh hot shoe string French fries and cold drinks of Coke and Root Beer awaited their return to the score table. She remembered the Pop Warner days when shed watch the tears in their eyes as they slowly put on their whole football uniforms and helmets and filed into my fathers bedroom, helmets and all.
Finally, Eliza mother intervened when Rich went crying to her. So Victor Osberg changed his tactics and tried to get the boys into hunting and fishing, even buying a few items to entice them hunting knives and a compass, plus promising to take them to Canada on a camping trip he might plan. That got Rich going. Eliza tried to horn in on it too, loving Indians like she did, but her father became aloof with her and held her back. No Eliza, this is for them!
Hed relented on the football but actually went out and bought them each a compass and a hunting knife. Rich already had a set of replica models of police guns and German Lugar pistols. They looked so real.
One day Eliza saw the football uniforms and wanted to impress her father. She was a through and through tomboy always. She put on the football gear and ran into her dads den. Ironically he was watching pro football on the big color Zenith t.v.
Daddy, look at me!
Eliza, take that off. Put it back now! He was annoyed.
No buts, now
Eliza had been slightly hurt by is remark. But she understood that he was probably disappointed with his first sons and wanted them to show enthusiasm.
But when they started playing in the bowling leagues all four kids at East End Bowl, Mr. Osberg went and bought the boys bowling balls and matching bags. Even though Eliza and Glinda had a few trophies Mrs. Osberg still gave most of the glory to the boys.
They had been going to East End Bowl for weeks and finally they knew it well enough to have a very offbeat game of Cowboys and Indians! By the end of one rough and tumble bowling day and after Eliza and her friends had hamburgers, fries and Cokes, they dared each other to walk down the long alley and look inside the pin machine! No one was around and they were in-between league games and everyone had gone to lunch or left the building or went to visit others on the other floors. The wax guy had finished his stint, and there wasnt anyone in authority in sight, not even the crafty Lenny, who had laid off as the teams came to fruition! Even the security guards by the microwave ovens were missing from their posts, having long since realized the kids would not fool with the ovens now that they had joined the leagues, so things became suddenly lackadaisical! So the group started daring the stunt, which could be dangerous if someone got caught or hurt.
Believe it or not Casper was the first volunteer. Slowly he walked gingerly down the well lit alley. The buzzer sounded when he stepped over the line. Eliza followed him and pretended to be Geronimo meeting his tribe behind a canyon. When they got to the end, John the Bully actually rolled a ball down the alley and the two had to jump out of the way, Eliza skinning her knee as she jumped away and fell in the gutter! The sound so close of the pins when the ball hit them was staggering and the two jumped back up and ran back to the seats. Eliza could smell the oil from the pin machine and she was curious to look behind the alleys.
Betsy was with Eliza and they started to fight over the balls coming in on the enclosed ball machine. During a particularly rough game of Cowboys and Indians Eliza had let Betsy on her team reluctantly. The spoiled blond girl, whose mother charged you when you made a phone call from their home, started trying to take over as chief and Eliza was having none of that. She remembered when John the Bully tried it and this time Eliza was not going to submit.
She and Betsy stood by the machine opening where the balls were coming out from other bowlers oblivious to the two girls and their private game. In their game the Indians were supposed to grab a ball someone just shot and claim it. Betsy wanted the ball before Eliza and put her hands out in front of Elizas. Eliza wanted that ball and just as it was going to come through the round hole, Eliza put her hands at the last minute, further into the mechanism. So her fingers were inside the machine more than they should have been when the ball came up from the shoot.
It was then that the ball crushed Elizas left hand. She yelled in pain as the second ball behind the first landed against the first ball. Betsy jumped back when she saw blood pour out. Everyone was screaming when a young French youth center worker who had just started that day came running on the scene. The Frenchman was good looking and loved kids and knew how to deal with a crisis. He was very handsome and sweet, unlike Lenny who was very New York and very gruff.
Help me, Oh God help, cried Eliza.
The Frenchman and Bill made an effort to pull Elizas hand out. Turn off this alley, please!
The manager, a portly old man, ran back to the switch and frantically switched things on and off. Shut down Lane 15, cried one man. There was an echo of different male voices, some screeching Shut down Lane 15, by God, shut it down NOW!
Finally they got a hold and grip and the Frenchman pulled, which released the hand. The Frenchman took his scarf and wrapped Eliza's hand up and directed her over to the eatery tables. At first they thought her fingers were broken because Eliza did have some fingers that were bent oddly, but the wound was on top of Elizas hand, not the fingers, once they cleaned the blood off and put an ice pack on it immediately. Even John the Bully looked concerned.
It looked pretty bad, but Bill ran and called the Osbergs, Gemma answering.
Osberg residence, she said with a slight hint of her Jamaican accent coming though.
Hello, this is Bill Axelrod of Bill/Dave Club for Kids! We have Eliza here and shes been injured.
Oh my God, screamed Gemma, who ran for Ms. Osberg who was in her bedroom getting ready to go to the Plaza with Eve Glass for lunch.
Tell them to bring her to our doctor and Ill meet them there!
Okay, Mrs. Osberg, said Gemma, not faltering. Shed been through a few of these lately with the kids and in the end it was going to be okay, just like when Eliza fell and hurt her leg in that pool accident she told Gemma about.
The address is 5 Park Avenue, Im calling her now on Mr. Osbergs other line, said Mrs. Osberg. She sounded panicked, but in control. She was wearing all white, a beautiful fluffy sweater wrap with white pumps and even a long string of pure white pearls. She was smashing and elegant! Tell Bill Ill meet him there, instructed Mrs. Osberg. She called down to the desk and ordered Tom at the desk to get her a cab ASAP!
Bill himself drove Eliza there rather than have Lenny do it. Bill had noted how upset Eliza got when Lenny came up and began to try and tease her. It just was his way to show affection. Bill knew that. But there was a time and place for that, and now isnt the time, so he gave Len a look that said, Bug off and go away, which Lenny did. Hed known the Axelrod brothers for years and they had been very supportive of his steps to improve and stop his drinking, and had given him many jobs through the years.
Eliza had cried harder and became hysterical so Lenny backed off.
Bill pulled up in one of the vans to Elizas doctors office. She was waiting for them and had stayed open for this. Dr. Shipp was extra tall and lean. She had black hair in a bun on top of her head. She was calm and soft spoken and had a raspy but firm unwavering voice, almost like Fern did! Eliza had to endure their dentist Dr. Vogelstein who had a poster in his office. As he drilled the cavities the poster was in front of the patient on the wall. It read & Painless Dentist Upstairs with an arrow pointing to the 2nd floor above, noting that he was on the 1st floor and therefore was not the painless dentist! When hed find a cavity he would make much dramatics with the flailing of his hands. Hed run out of the room screaming Lena, Lena, Lena!
Before that Eliza had Dr. Fine, but he was anything but fine! He was a Dr. Frankenstein as far as Eliza was concerned. Once hed given her a booster shot and hurt her and from then on she would carry on and cry whenever she had to go to him. He, in turn, didnt like Eliza one bit and would use scare tactics to shut her up, which never worked and only incensed Eliza, making her scared and unsure of what to do.
But Dr. Shipp had taken all that away. She was a good woman and a good doctor and she was the only one who had suggested they give Eliza a sedative at night so she could sleep better, but the Osbergs had refused.
What happened? asked Dr. Shipp. She was her usual calm self. Shed been their doctor for years now. Bill explained as they took Eliza in the examining room. Dr. Shipp gently unwrapped the scarf that was covered in fresh blood.
She cleaned the wound with the help of her nurse. She noticed Bills natural calm nature. Eliza seemed to relax even with the injury.
Well, its a deep gash but I think the butterfly stitches will do in this case, Eliza, said Dr. Shipp.
Thats a relief, said Bill as the doctor calmly continued to clean the wound, put the butterflies on it, and wrapped the hand in light soft gauze.
At that moment Mrs. Osberg rushed in.
Who was supervising? asked Mrs. Osberg, going right over to her daughter and kissing her and hugging her tightly.
I was there Mrs. Osbe
Well this is inexcusable, ranted Mrs. Osberg. And Bill knew she was right. She had a right to be angry and upset.
No stitches, Mrs. Osberg, shes going to be okay!
Mrs. Osberg looked deeply in Dr. Shipps' dark grey eyes.
Shell be fine Lena, said Dr. Shipp, taking Mrs. Osbergs gloved hand.
It wasnt Bills fault, Mom, said Eliza.
I know sweetie.
You just take it easy young lady. There will be no bowling for you until I say so, are you clear on that?
Of course Dr. Shipp, agreed Lena.
I will Doc, said Eliza.
Thank you Bill.
No problem, Mrs. Osberg. Im just glad she is okay.
They all left together, including the doctor and her nurse. The taxi had dutiful waited all that time, meter running. Mrs. Osberg would have it no other way.
As Mrs. Osberg got in with Eliza, she turned to Bill and thanked him profusely.
My pleasure, Mrs. Osberg! he said humbly. He was glad hed not let Lenny come. It was better this way, with as little drama as possible.
Bill was very good to me, and he truly cares, Mom!
Mrs. Osberg, I hope you this incident wont deter you from continuing to send your kids to my club!
Well, you must admit, Id had some doubts about Eliza, but well see.
Mom, remember years ago when we first started coming here I stepped on a peg at the bowling alley and my right foot got really infected?
Oh, yes, I do! But this was a bit worse dear.
I think they need to make some changes over at East End, said Dr. Shipp.
I do remember now how Elizas father brought her in when she stepped on that little plastic letter at the bowling alley, recalled the good doctor as the cab driver waved them in, wanting to get on with the trip.
They all hugged and took off. Bill got into his van and ended up giving Dr. Shipp a ride to her apartment on Fifth Avenue. Then he went back to the club and picked up his brother Dave and they went to a nearby deli for dinner.
Everythings okay now, said Bill to his quiet brother who did the books better than reprimand a kid.
Im glad, said the other man as he munched on a roast beef sandwich.
Shell keep all of them in, so we didnt lose them!
Good. We do our best.
I know, but if it got out that she was going to pull her kids from our club, people might jump ship too, because of her!
She didnt, so relax and eat your food! Ive gotta pick up and pastrami dinner for Alan. Hes at your apartment.
Its always food with that one, laughed Dave.
They both ate and talked about their day and the outcome of Elizas accident. Ive got to thank Frenchy for what he did! Im so glad I found him. He kept his head cool and I like that.
A few weeks later when Eliza returned to the East End Bowl shed noticed that they had removed the tops of the ball return machines which was a very positive move and would cut down on accidents from then on. Signs were posted that if anyone was caught walking down the alleys would be forbidden to ever come back. From then on everything went normally.
ELIZA & RANDY MANTOOTH MARRY, A BLOW TO THE COUNTRY!
In the fall of 1971 a new show called Emergency came on ABC. It was about a firehouse in Los Angeles, CA with a bunch of gorgeous fireman, one in particular the character of John Gage. Randy Mantooth& Eliza had gone head over heels over him! It was love at first site and set off a chain reaction at home.
In a strange way, the American Indian phase she was going through turned into a police and firemen craze. The Osberg kids started going over to the local fire station in their neighborhood by the UN Plaza. It was only down the street.
It all started soon after the show aired on a Saturday night at 8:00 PM right after Adam 12. The Osberg kids fall for the new show just as they had Adam 12. Eliza noticed the dark haired cute boyish looking actor Randy Mantooth right away.
From then on Eliza was totally hooked on Randy, the show, the actor, the plots. The premise of the show became part of Elizas lifestyle.
It started with role playing of course. Instead of Cowboys and Indians they just began a light game of Emergency. Eliza played Randys character, sometimes a victim, other times shed play Randys sidekick Kevin Tighe. Even John the Bully didnt give them any grief and loved to play the criminal that gets hurt in the bank robbery scene. To keep him satisfied Eliza knew hed love that bank robbery episode when the firemen had to treat him. Some customer and himself had to be treated, which he did in the TV show. In the youth club version Glen and Eliza show up. John is standing on a huge rock cave with some kids playing customers who were wounded in the robbery.
John played it to the hilt, swearing and shouting at Eliza and Glen, as Gary Dennis edged his way up behind John as a SWAT team melted in with a few other die-hards pretending to be Swat moving in. The game was more fun when John was happy, and it gave the kids a new game instead of the same old Cowboys and Indians stint, which even Eliza thought was getting tired and old hat.
Lenny and Bill watched this new game with great interest. They were thinking about adding a First Aid class to the program and when they saw Eliza with her Emergency fire hat together with the Bully John as a bank robber and wrapping his fake wounds with toilet paper they began to talk about the new class and having Eliza as the first pupil.
Who thought that a stupid game could be a good thing, Bill, said Lenny, as he watched the kids go through the process.
Some even played policemen who tumbled all over John, tackling him to the ground and using shoe laces as handcuffs. John loved it and was thoroughly energized, but as a boy would be, not a bully. It was different. Bill saw that, as did some of the staff there.
Whose idea was this Len?
Ask Eliza, answered Lenny.
What do you think?
Tell Eliza I want to see her, said Bill.
Eliza thought she was in trouble. Hi Bill, said Eliza casually as she took a seat in a folding chair by his desk. Shed not spoken to him much since the bowling alley incident months back&
How is your hand, Eliza?
Great, she said, holding it out to him& just a very thin scar that was dissolving into a white lines.
Eliza, lets go outside out on the grass, he said leading her outside to the courtyard on the inviting fresh smelling patch of grass.
Whats up Bill? asked Eliza, taking a seat. She liked his calm, sweet demeanor.
Eliza, I noticed you are playing a new game and it gave me an idea. Id like to start a class in First Aid, and Id appreciate it if you would spread the word to the other kids. I saw you and the way you handled John!
Yes, she said, relieved she wasnt in trouble.
What gave you this new idea? he asked.
I watch this show on television called Emergency!
Oh yes, the firemen!
Yes! I love it. I love the one that plays John Gage, Randy Mantooth! admitted Eliza. She got a faraway look in her eyes, like she could reach out and touch Randy one day in the future, or at least brush his life path in some weird way.
Well, well that is good timing, said Bill.
Imagine if you took the First Aid class youd be just like Randy as Gage! Hed be proud of you, Eliza! I would even write to him and tell him as a youth director, that you are doing great things because of his show and his acting!
Elizas eyes lit up lik
Wow, really neat, Bill!
But you must have to give up a few games and then you can learn real First Aid for real, explained Bill lightly.
Of course, said Bill realistically. Just for a few weeks, then you can go back to that, if you want! If she did it, everyone would follow, he knew that. Ill even get a real fireman to come in and do a demonstration for you all!
Wow, thats great!
Of course& How does that sound, Eliza?
It sounds good, but I dont think the other kids would give up their play time. Theyre not as nuts over Emergency and firemen as I am, or my sister or brother!
Well, I thought you could help me make it fun for them, like when you kids role play&like John the Bully liking to play the bank robber! I want that same energy he puts into playing the bad guy at the bank, to maybe putting his energy into doing First Aid!
Ill have to see, its a pretty big order for me to fill, Bill& said Eliza honestly! She looked toward the kids who were winding down on the bank robbery game due to her absence.
Eliza, you have a great enthusiasm and you could really help us here at the center to draw kids to the real deal, the First Aid and other educational skills they need and should be getting, preached Bill, trying not to sound like he was lecturing. You can make it as fun for them as you do the other games you kids play, and weve been watching&, he admitted, trying to open his kind heart to her.
Ill have to see she looked toward the kids again, who were winding the game down even more&.It was down to a crawl, half hearted as they saw her sitting on the grass with Bill deep in a conversation. It looked serious.
Think about it, asked Bill.
I will& Can I go now?
Yes, of course. Go&
Eliza ran back to the game. John the Bully had become restless and was playing a game of forced tag football, everyone was hyped up on that as John showed his strength by throwing some kids into a muddy patch hed found in the bushes. Hed taken the bank robber role too far, but no one really stopped him except for Lenny, who dove into the fray and rescued everyone and dragged John into the van to have him cool off for the 3rd time that day!
Hey Eliza, come over here, said Glen Harris, her usual sidekick. Another boy had written Randy and Leslie Marry, its a blow to the country in the dirt.
She told Richard about the First Aid class and he jumped at the chance to take the class. He ran up to Bill and was so out of character for his shy self. He wanted to take the First Aid class. Bill looked toward Eliza and winked at her, and smiled brightly.
Richard and Eliza were the first to sign up. Others slowly signed up, but not as many as Bill had wanted. But he would hold it off for one week then see.
Elizas brother Rich has been into First Aid, the Police and Rescue Operations on a quiet level. He didnt verbalize it top much, but also had a very high interest in oceanography! He and Mr. Osberg worked on his fresh water fish tank and boasted at least 12 different types of fresh water fish.
Richard had books on Oceanography and ocean life, in fact that was the one thing he and his father talked about and gelled over. They were both in heaven at Sea World!
But when it came to police or firefighters, Rich went wild and was always hyper over it. This new game they played really got him up and talkative. He played a police officer who kicks down an old door of the fort they were using as a bank. He loved it more or just as much as Eliza did!
Randy Mantooth was a turning point in Elizas lifecycle.
In fact Randy seemed to take over the essence of what was left of Roland before he left with his family to Germany, and Eliza missed him, but she had just discovered Randy Mantooth. She reflected for a moment while standing by Lennys van. In fact, Roland was standing at the same spot by the van the last time they spoke or saw each other. They were talking through the van window.
Im leaving for Germany tomorrow, he said. He was holding back tears. So was Eliza, but she was distracted by someone in the van trying to talk to her, a new kid.
Here, take this Eliza, said Roland, handing the girl a German Mark with his handwritten message that read: I love you always and 4-ever and Ill come back for you one day in black ink! He signed it RD + EO& There was a picture of a German king on the bill.
They talked a bit more. Let me see the bill one more time, Roland asked. Eliza handed him the German Mark through the van window as Lenny revved the engine.
Roland quickly wrote something more then threw it back into the small van portal window as Lenny screeched away from the curb. It would be the last time Eliza would ever see Roland again! She clutched the bill tightly then read what hed written, Ich Liebe Dich! I love you, said the boy softly, barely audible, but Eliza caught the way he said German and it was said with his most heaviest accent, almost not hearing the G as it rolled off his tongue and Eliza looked up at him through the portal window in the back and a single tear made its way down his pal face. His blue eyes were watery but strong.
Eliza remembered that moment and wished it was Randy Mantooth writing it or standing there. And why wouldnt Roland take her to Germany with him and they could marry now? Unfortunately that was the last time shed see Roland. His family left that week for Cologne Germany only to return once in a while to visit their father who lived in the upper New England area with a companion.
The school year droned on. Rolands absence only seemed to make Mrs. Hamilton happy and she never let Eliza forget it. But Eliza did have Randy and she made it known to anyone whod listen she started pasting poster sized pictures of her idol all over her locker at school just like in her bedroom. She used cement in the locker to do it as well. She was thinking that shed never stop loving Randy Mantooth.
She and Glinda wrote loads of letters to him and Eliza even found the number of Universal Studios where they filmed Emergency. They began to call non stop until a mans voice came on and pretended to be Randy Mantooth on the set. Elizas imagination ran wild.
But nothing would top Darien Marks joke saying a mans shirt was Randys and that her father knew Randy Mantooth and personally had him give the shirt to Eliza when Mantooth supposedly stayed over Dariens duplex apartment at the Astoria House on 70th & Park Avenue. Eliza took it like a big fish on the hook. She wore the shirt every day and even added her fathers cologne, never laundering it, and even sleeping in it. She believed it for a long time until maybe 8th grade when someone had finally told her it was a joke and she said shed known all the time, but the truth was she wanted so much to believe it was Randys. It could have been.
Eliza recalled when Roland had told her he was going back to Germany with his family. His family spent their last weekend on Fire Island, but this would be it! In fact, Rolands mother would take her sons and go straight back to their homeland and his father ended up mysteriously moving to Rutland, Vermont and living with an older man there. But now Eliza had Randy Mantooth!
BAR MITZVAH ON A DOUBLE DECKER BUS
It wasnt your typical Bar Mitzvah. The Osbergs were not even close to full bloom practicing Judaism. Certainly not Orthodox, nor even near being Conservative Jews. If there was something under the radar of the Reformed Jew wire, that was where the Osbergs were situated.
When oldest Roy turned 13 in December of 1970, instead of a normal Jewish ceremony (there was so much memorizing, not Roys forte) and the family did
Why cant you give your son a real Bar Mitzvah? asked Mrs. Glass to Lena as the two sat in the Garden Room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Were having a party because its too much trouble for Roy, you know that! said Lena. &. and its already set!
For Godssake, where? Mrs. Glass sipped her drink, seeming a bit more interested in the Osberg kids than most of Lenas other friends in the building. Specifically Roy and Eliza seemed to be on Evas lips lately as the 2 grew up.
Lena got that beautiful twinkle in her playful hazel eyes, a cross between Lana Turner & Carol Channing, but all her own! Ready to laugh?
What? asked Eva, almost afraid to hear what it was& In a funny way Lena was like a beautiful Lucille Ball, with her funny natural antics and just how different she really was from the rest of the women they associated with. She had class and knew how to handle herself. Lena, like Eva exuded confidence, elegance and social grace, plus the ability to raise money didnt hurt them a bit. Being amongst the money makers didnt bother them at all. They were quite comfortable with it, always had been. But the choice of how the Osberg children were being taught the Jewish religion always left a craw in Evas chest. She didnt want it wasted and Eliza seemed to show more interest than Roy, which was normal. These days everyone was breaking the traditions just to get some sort of congregation going.
Well, you know that movie that came out last year about Gertrude Lawrence, you know Victor always says and thinks I remind him of the Julie Andrews character playing Lawrence!
Go on, baited Eva, as she sat memorized by Lena Osberg&
You know that movie Star!, and how she hired a double-decker English bus to take her friends driving around the city and, well, you know the movie, right?
Lenas eyes danced with excitement. It was sort of Victors idea really Eva. He loved it and I did too!
But Lena, its not a real Bar Mitzvah, you are telling everyone that it is!
I know, but it makes Roy so happy, hes very sensitive, special, well, you know what I am talking about Eva!
Eva nodded knowingly. Yes. She continued. I dont mean to lecture you, but dont say its a Bar Mitzvah when it isnt. Its a party&
Okay, okay, dont be so uptight. Its the Sixties, remember? Everything is done all mixed up and wacky!
Lena, you know what I mean and not religion, just everything else!
Of course, but hes turning 13, so what, big deal so we say its a Bar Mitzvah, hes going to get all the presents and money, so whats the difference?
Im talking to the wife of a family living at the most exclusive building in the city and Jewish to boot! And you have a Christmas tree, Lena, and Victor allows it!
Its his idea, defended Lena& He doesnt want things to be religious! You know, Eva darling, there is a way to celebrate Christmas in a more commercial sense!
I know what youre saying dear, but maybe you should just cool it a bit, okay?
Its a free country!
I know, but why even mention it in mixed company, Lena? Eva sipped her scotch and nibbled on gourmet peanuts.
The whole family and our close friends will be getting on that double-decker bus just like in Star, and I am excited for Roy and for everyone involved& You will be missed Eva! Lena ignored the comments on cooling it.
Both women laughed because the Glass were heading for the French Riviera and would be gone until after Christmas.
Well come see you before you all leave. And you can show us the pictures, you are hiring a photographer?
Well, of course, only the best!
That sounds like its going to be great& said Eva, putting her hand on top of Lenas little piano fingers. I dont mean to be hard on you or mettle, I just want the best for them, and if we can give them something, lets do it right, thats all Im saying.
I get you loud and clear! You are a good friend Eva.
So, is the double-decker going to just pull right up to the front of the building? asked Eva.
No, they wont allow it to park in front so were meeting the bus behind the East Tower by the big service area to the back near the delegates lobby!
It sounds so fun, I wish we could go, but well, you know that we already have our tickets and hotel, she said.
I know Eva. And dont give me that condescending look, I cant take it right now, said Lena, downing her drink and ordering up another, the young waiter at her side in a split second move.
This isnt about some zany but well intentioned Bar Mitzvah party, or a double-decker bus& Its about your Catholic governess teaching Eliza about the New Testament and about Jesus Christ!
What are you talking about Eva?
Eliza told me Fern is teaching her about Jesus and God and the Holy Ghost!
She should be hearing about it from a real Rabbi, and it should be about King David, Moses and the Holocaust.
Oh Eva, please! Lena sipped her drink and looked around.
Eva drank the rest of her scotch and signaled the waiter for another.
Its going to be great, Eva. I told you we hired a professional photographer. Its all set and even Victors family is going to be there & his sister, husband and her children.
And they went for it?
Yes and why not?
Well, I guess Roy will be thrilled.
We all are thrilled, Eva! Think about it, its not about us, its about Roy! And dont worry about Fern. Shes the best governess Ive hired in many years. Shes great with the children and has been with us so long.
Of course, Sweetie, I know that! And Roy is a darling boy, but you must have a chat with Fern.
Okay I will, and at least Roy doesnt have to memorize all that Hebrew!
Eliza told me that her friend Valerie Steins brother had one! said Eva. A real one, she stressed. Now why would you want to confuse this child Lena?
Minus the double-decker bus, Im sure, joked Lena. And we are not confusing our kids Eve! I know how it looks, but these kids are going to turn out fine, I promise you and myself!
Oh, but of course Lena, but you know Eliza. She can memorize and learn the words and prayers. I showed her a few for a Bat Mitzvah
I dont mind it really, I dont Eva, but please do me a favor and dont mention it to Victor. You know how he is! The next thing you know Victor will have her reading the Torah or talking her into going to Israel on a Kibbutz!
Oh, okay, I wont!
Remember this too Eva, Eliza is a girl! In a weird way, its a mans world there!
Eva shrugged, wanting to change the subject! She was feeling a nice scotch buzz, but didnt want to dwell on religion and God!
Im going to say this last thing and then we should drop it, Lena.
Why not when Eliza turns 16 you and Victor give her a real Bat Mitzvah. Shed love it, and get a real Rabbi, and Ill help her!
No, said Lena with finality.
You know why Eva, shes too hyper, out of control, thats why!
But she loves it, and I think it would give her something to feel more grounded then maybe she wont be so hyper and out of control!
I know you mean well, Eve, but we just dont want it, at least right now.
Such a pity, said Eva tapping her well manicured fingers against the table almost like she was counting.
No, not a pity, its the way I want it, and you know as well as I that it would make us look so fake and hypocritical.
Herb always said you have always been that way, especially with religion and being Jewis
Hey remember Victor started the first Jewish frat in college so I think you are barking up the wrong tree.
Eve knew why Lena was that way, and it really didnt have anything to do with being Jewish. It moved along the lines in her own mind of whether it was pressure her children could handle. Eve was sure Lena and Victor saw their childrens free spirits and didnt want to force them to memorize all the words, maybe that was it.
Eve and Lena finished and left a hefty tip. They both shared a cab back to the UN Plaza chatting about the latest fashions and jewelry lines. Eve drifted back to the double-decker bus fiasco.
So youre really doing the double-decker bus thing!
Yes, Eve, we are and thats that.
They reached the UN Plaza, Lena paid, Eve tipped the driver.
Both women wore beautiful, well made clothes and shoes. No expense spared.
Mrs. Rose was coming out the door to walk her two poodles Sassy & Gucci.
Hello Gigi! Mrs. Osberg ran up to Mrs. Rose who was dressed in all black with a huge black fur coat to the floor. Her snot-nosed bitches yapped and snapped at each other and anyone walking within range. But the distinct odor of doggie perfume was in the air around the pooches.
Hey girls, said Gigi, who kissed both women and held the leashes in one hand. As the dogs barked and carried on she looked to Sam for rescue, and found it. Here, take them will you Sammy.
Sam rushed over in an instant and grabbed the leashes. Mrs. Rose handed him a $10 tip. He smiled brightly and the still ravishing woman who was a bit older than her other friends.
Across the street was Pete the official Dog Walker eyeing the tip that passed between Sammy and Mrs. Rose. Pete was angry that Sam got the tip, but there was little he could do being on the bottom of the totem pole at the UN Plaza.
Pete remembered another time that the Osberg kids wanted extra money (Like they need it!) so they posted a big sign in the mailroom lending their services as dog walkers too. Rich did land a plum dog walking job from Eve & Herb Glass whose son Barry had just gotten a black purebred Labrador retriever just like Tiffy at Sunningdale, but much wilder, younger, a male and not so laid back and tame.
Pete knew Poco was strong and unruly, untrained and pissed anywhere he damn well pleased! They fed him 2 cans of Alpo and hed eat it up in a few gulps. Pete the Dog Walker watched Rich and Eliza walking, or should it be said that Poco was walking them? All went fine up until the dog broke its chain and ran down 49th Street and almost got stuck by a bread truck. Pete knew that soon hed have that one back in the bag, once the Osberg kids tired of it. He was vigilant and would take over when they were either fired or told to bug off.
Sure enough as he had predicted, hed been told by one of the maid up at the Glass that what ended the Osberg dog walking stint was one evening Eliza and Rich were babysitting the rambunctious dog. There was a special on television a live broadcast of Eisenhowers funeral procession. The ex president had died the week before and the kids were watching it carried on all stations when Poco went into full erection and Eliza ran into where the Glass were having a dinner party in full swing.
Eliza ran in frantically. Somethings wrong with Poco. Hes hurt!
When Mr. Glass went to investigate he came back laughing his head off about it. Its okay Eliza, he said to the wide eyed girl. Its a natural thing dogs do when they are excited. So calm down, Poco is fine! In fact, I can assure you he is better than fine!
Were you petting him more than usual? asked one man at the other end of the large dining room table.
Yes, we always pet him. He likes it!
Everyone cracked up then. Well, I think Poco is fine. Listen, why dont you and your brother go back home now. Well watch Poco, said Mr. Glass, as he sat back down at the table and took a sip of red wine.
Okay. Are you sure?
Yes, now Eliza go home and dont worry! Said Mrs. Glass getting up from the table and prodding the kids to the front door. At that moment Poco had followed the kids out into the hallway when they had left the bedroom door wide open, a strict rule that was broken. Poco ran into the dining room with a full hard on.
See kids, hes fine! said one young lady, an executive for an ad agency trying to suppress a laugh and keep a serious poker face about the incident.
They went home and found their mother and father planning for the party for Roy. It wasnt a real Bar Mitzvah with the Jewish trappings and prayers and Rabbi standing by and in Elizas opinion that wasnt quite right. Mrs. Glass had told Eliza that. It was more like a 13 year old little boys party event where guests brought gifts and money in honor of the birthday boy just like a Bar Mitzvah. Lena was promoting it like it was a full fledged one, but everyone knew it wasnt. They all knew Lena would do anything to make her kids happy and content.
The double-decker bus bar mitzvah was to be held at the Plaza Hotel were Eloise from the books lives and roams the halls.
But the double-decker bus ride was at first a bit scary for Eliza. The red and blue two level bus pulled up in back of the building where deliveries were made. It, like the ketchup bottle in the window of the Osberg kitchen was an eye sore and only showed how the Osbergs were different. Mrs. Osberg loved the movie with Julie Andrews Star so that was contingent on this bus tonight. Victor really thought of Lena when they saw that movie loosely based on the life of Gertrude Lawrence, who would shuttle her friends to parties in a double-decker bus and reminded Victor of his wife! They could have been one in the same! He also wanted his wife to sing opera at the top her lungs when they rode down Madison Avenue.
Victors sister, husband and kids were there, as well as Gemma and Fern. For once the boys were not dressed like twins, except their mackinaw jackets. The girls were not dressed the same either. Eliza loved the coat she had. It was a fake fur camel hair coat with a cute little winter Russian hat that she liked to wear.
Wow, you look like Fern, said Glinda as they made their way to the bus.
They took the usual banks of elevators down to the lobby, but instead of boarding the bus in front, they went around to the back of the Delegates Lobby and got in from there. High heels clicked on a shiny marble floor echoing against the ceiling and walls of the lobby that was still crowded with delegates from all over the world. Eliza saw an Arab man with full garb walking with a woman from India wearing an emerald green sari and cute thin slippers and Eliza didnt miss the dark red dot in the middle of her forehead. Then a Japanese man walked by wrapped in orange monk robes and wearing sandals with special socks that allowed the big toe and second toe to rest against a wooden separator. The driver helped them board the bus once they were all assembled outside.
Eliza and her cousin Dina sat side by side on the top level. Before the bus went on 1st Avenue, Mr. Osberg asked the driver, who was dressed in formal English bus outfit, to drive around the block of the UN Building, then go into the main driveway of the UN Plaza. This was so the photographer could take a shot of them all in front of the UN Plaza. It was just getting dusk out. Sammy was on duty as Victor and the driver got off the bus as did all the Osberg family. Fern and Gemma came outside dressed in formal white uniforms. The photographer took a few shots as the family all stood by the double-decker bus. Cars, taxis and limos started backing up like at a snowy airport. The air was crisp and chilly and a taxis headlights shone against Elizas coat and she all of a sudden got scared that they would be hit by the taxi. In the photo you see her deer in head lights eyes popping out of her head. After a bit of light arguing Sammy asked them to kindly shove off!
Mr. Osberg handed Sammy a $100 bill, but soon Tom the desk man came out and gruffly put hands on hips and even the elusive Mrs. Williamson joined him. A ketchup bottle in the window this is not! said the stuffy manager who always sided with the dreaded Lady Ms!
It was at that second that Truman Capote walked out with Maggie.
Eliza spotted him and yelled, Hey Santa Claus!
Capote at first didnt recognize Eliza, but then his eyes got bright and he smiled at her. Hello Dirty Toenails although I didnt recognize you in your little girls outfit and coat, he easily bantered to her, to the perplexed looks of Mr. and Mrs. Osberg. I honestly thought all this time you were a boy, he laughed uproarishly and continued on down the driveway.
Eliza, do you know who that is?
Yes, its Truman Capote!
Please folks, please get on the bus and clear the way before someone out there blows a gasket, cried Sam. He gave them a pleading look as the traffic started to pile up.
Mrs. Osberg, you look ravishing, screamed Capote as he made his way down the street with Maggie in tow!
Thanks, she screamed back, her face rosy and bright, her demeanor so up and galmoured out. Victor took it all in and loved it. It was like being on a rapid river ride with Lena at the stern steering.
In fact, they all looked great standing here. It was obvious that Victors family was mostly dark-haired with oval faces and cute genes. Eliza looked like her mothers side of the family with curly hair and light looks. Glinda resembled her fathers side. The boys were a little of both, but definitely like Victors side of the family too. But they all made a handsome spectacle.
Even Fern and Gemma were in some of the shots and when you looked closely, Eliza did indeed resemble Fern in facial features, but it was subtle, especially with the Russian hat the girl wore. Finally they all got back on the bus and took off down 2nd Avenue. The driver put on festive music. It was December 2nd, 1970.
The bus skirted down 2nd Avenue as everyone became happy and fell into a party mode once drinks on the first level where most of the adults sat were passed around. Champagne, wine, whiskey shots and even a few tequila drinkers in the family crowd downed their shots with gusto.
Eliza lost her initial fear and sat with her cousin Dina.
Uncle Victor is so great to set this up, where did he get the idea? asked Dina, who was a striking looking girl the same age as Eliza. She had a sultry look and was well built and smart.
Eliza answered honestly. Well, it came to him when some movie with Julie Andrews came on; some movie called Star, about the life of some old lady actress from the 1930s Gertrude Lawrence.
My dad saw it but it was really my mom that liked it.
Offhandedly, Lena planted the idea in Victors head of what shed like to see. She must have fashioned herself after the actress Gertrude Lawrence, but the seed had taken and Victor began the process of trying to put it all together. It had come together nicely, he thought. His whole family was here as well as his kids and other in-laws, minus Hazel who was down in Florida and couldnt make it. Some were secretly glad, others just a tad bit disappointed Lenas mother couldnt be there. Victor could go either way. Just as though Lena and his kids were happy, he was happy!
At this point everyone was getting rather rowdy, including Uncle Kelley and a few others who had been drinking martinis. Roy had brought his Nerf football and was tossing it around. Stan and Roy played keep away from Glinda who began to whine out of drama.
It was the kids on the second level, and the adults on the first. They werent stopping at a temple.
Elizas Uncle Kelley looked a lot like the actor Kirk Douglas. Everyone said so who saw him in family photos and in real life. He even had a cleft in his chin. He was funny.
Hey Kids, he yelled from the entrance to the second level! In no time at all in a few steps he was right with them. Im Santa Claus, he joked easily. He even told a few dirty jokes and had them all laughing and hooting. Soon Mr. Osberg joined them up front on the second level as Uncle Kelley told the last of a very dirty joke that he knew would crack up his nieces and nephews.
So the man goes into the outhouse and there wasnt any toilet paper. How do you suppose he wiped himself?
How? roared the kids and Victor.
There was a sign on the wall that said put finger in hole to clean, so the man cleaned his butt with his finger and stuck it in the hole. On the other side was a little Chinese man with 2 bricks, so the guy sticks his finger out and the Chinaman guy slams together the bricks between his finger and he pulls out in pain and says, ouch, and sticks his finger into his mouth!
Daddy, that is so bad&yuck! cried Dina, cringing.
Elizas image of her uncle faded a bit with that joke and she could not imagine him actually having patients come to see him, even though she knew it was the physically sick ones, but the ones that were a bit thatched in the head! But she was sure her Uncle was competent. Why would a doctor want to drink so much like she saw him doing?
But everyone roared with laughter even though theyd heard it before. But Uncle Kelley had a million of them and each was as dirty as the next, if not worse, but he was very good at telling them, and because he was so handsome like Kirk Douglas, it was fun watching him tell it. It just was. But at the same time, you could have an intelligent conversation with the doctor. Kelley was an M.D. and more! Hed written books and was a genius and aside from all of it, he was so good with the kids.
The bus drove down Madison Avenue and 5th toward the Plaza Hotel. They traveled through Central Park and old snow lay on the ground. People walking by noticed the bus and waved at it! It was very exciting. It was something different to see a double-decker bus whizzing by.
As they got closer to The Plaza Hotel, Mr. Osberg pointed out all the horse and carriages on the sidelines. Look Eliza, horses, said Mr. Osberg. Then somewhere along the line, between the restaurant and the UN Plaza someone had slipped Roy a Yakima! He wore it proudly on his head like a true boy coming to manhood!
Roy, every bit the birthday boy now wearing the traditional Jewish hat men wore, looked in his element as he played host and head of the party man like hed seen his dad do many times.
It would have almost been comical if theyd pulled up to a Jewish temple in that double-decker bus. Eliza remembered her friends brothers Bar Mitzvah and it was totally different than this. And his uncle certainly wasnt telling dirty jokes. Eliza remembered Erics uncle as he helped his nephew say the powerful prayers which were really difficult and hard to memorize. Eliza wanted a real Bat Mitzvah.
Why cant I have one? She asked.
Youre a girl, said Richard.
Well Eliza, they have one for girls, said Aunt Dorothy.
Dad, can I? asked Eliza.
Well see, he said skeptically,
By that time Rich, Roy and Cousin Stan were playing football. The view out the windows turned into shiny jewels of colorful lights of the city. The bus was attracting a lot of attention, which was the intention in the first place and Roy loved every minute of it.
The bus was drawing all of the attention and the kids began waving at people watching from the busy streets. Christmas decorations had gone up and on every corner was a Santa Claus clanging away on their bells; Macys, Saks, Bloomindales and other stores were window decorated to a tee with colors and sparkle shone out to the curb so inviting. FAO Schwartz beckoned those with cash and credit to indulge their kids, which Lena and Victor didnt do. Except maybe to their youngest Glinda who bordered on being spoiled. But to throw more salt to the wind, instead of full blown Chanuk
Aunt Dorothy, Victors younger sister, was very loving and fun. She could have been a sculptress and loved owls like Lena adored Ketchup and Eliza loved Indians. Dorothy had a special affection for Eliza. So bright, alive and warm. Carefree and light, she wished Victor would relent and do more for Eliza, like give her a Bat Mitzvah. Maybe by the time she turned 16 Eliza would be calmer and more able to have more. She certainly was intelligent. At least from what she asked for Christmas, usually Indian related, but in a secret way Dorothy wished Eliza was the star tonight. She put her arm around Eliza and Dina. They sat laughing and joking as the bus with the English advertising cruised through Central Park and down Central Park West to Fifth Avenue, ending up at the front entrance to The Plaza Hotel. The doorman looked like hed seen it all and didnt react to the big oversized double-decker bus pulling up.
They all left the bus laughing and carrying on. It was a large group as the bus driver parked the huge boat nearby. They all went inside the Plaza lobby and headed to the huge restaurant. It wasnt long before everyone was seated and had drinks and little gourmet food trays of many types of breads. It was no fewer than 3 waiters that came around and took food orders from steak to lobster to Squab, even a cob salad, shrimp cocktails. All that was missing were the Rabbi and the Torah. As usual the family was a spectacle and all eyes were milling around them in the restaurant. They were who they were and made no airs of who they were.
At the table there were no gaps or silences with Roy sitting at the head easily conversing with Stan and Uncle Kelley about the football teams or sports, especially basketball. And they all indulged Roy. It was his birthday.
Aunt Dorothy, Dina and Eliza were talking about them having a Bat Mitzvah, as Glinda, Lena, Lauren and Roz were discussing fashion trends, and Victor got wind of that one and joined in.
As Mr. Osberg lit up a cigarette, he was rearing to get into a political discussion about the war in Vietnam other issues which hed been in discussion with Uncle Kelley on the bus. As for Eliza and her having a Bat Mitzvah, he felt a tad bit guilty over it and therefore tried to avoid it all together.
By then the food started arriving in droves, waiters bursting in and out, wine being poured, shrimp cocktails for everyone, salads, and before long they started toasting Roy, who even wanted to make a speech saying he was proud to be there. He thanked everyone for the party as Uncle Kelley screamed, Youll get the bill Victor! It was attention for Roy and he had it in him, having inherited his mothers showbiz bug.
Thank you wonderful family, he droned on, trying to emanate Dean Martin when he was roasted on NBS last month. Roy held a wine glass up and tired to act suave and with it like Martin did. This party is greatly appreciated, he said, being prompted by Lena who went into to stage mama mode, as her mother probably did way back when! He droned on thanking everyone from his sisters to John McGrath for the football pins and even thanking Tom the Desk man! After the speech everyone applauded loudly and with energy for his sake. It took a brave kid to go up there and talk like Roy did. This is his night!
Finally he ended it with a few bows. Even those families at other tables were silent and listening to the strange little boy with the Jewish hat on making a speech like Dean Martin. Everyone clapped though, very enthusiastically. With Lenas encouragement it looked like all the families were one big applause and it was like the president had arrived for dinner.
The meal was in Elizas ballpark& Scrumptious and elegant. She passed on the shrimp cocktail, always shunning anything odd or raw, especially Chinese food.
But tonight was Roys night and thank God no Oriental food in sight. Roy was a meat and potatoes type of kid anyways. Eliza ordered a hamburger and French fries with a Shirley Temple. In the meantime they all munched on breadsticks dipped in garlic butter, gourmet warm bread in little baskets lined the long rectangular table that accommodated everyone.
Eliza and Glinda began their antics. After sipping their Shirley Temples and filling up on the warm buttered bread, they headed for the ladies room which had an adjoining powder room with an intricate French sofa like in the Roman baths. There was a black woman attendant standing by the marble sink filled with baskets with napkins, lotions, soaps, even a little jar of expensive peppermint candy with a little tip jar beside that. The tip jar was filled half, mostly silver. This fascinated both Osberg girls who peppered the poor lady attendant with question after question and kept at it.
Why do you do this?
Because I does.
Do you like it? asked Glinda.
Why? Asked Eliza putting on some lotion. The attendant shrugged nonchalantly and looked toward the floor.
Do you see anyone famous? Asked Eliza.
Wow, cool, said Eliza. Who?
Oh, I saw Liza Minnelli once when I worked over at Studio 54, said the sweet looking black woman, who realized the girls meant no harm. They didnt make her feel bad or guilty for what she did and seemed intrigued. All the same, they should get back to their table.
Maybe you girls better scat&
Okay&bye, they said, leaving the bathroom.
Hey, wait kids, said the attendant. She handed them fancy mints with Plaza Hotel written on them.
They went into the hallway leading back to the restaurant but decided to explore the hotel. There was a roped off section and of course Eliza led the way in, Glinda following her older sister. Both girls were dressed up nicely and Eliza wore her coveted Russian hat. They walked down an empty cavernous hallway that led to an enormous banquet room all done up like the Arabian Nights with a huge oil painting of Henry the 8th in the middle of the room. The girls began running up and down the rows of round tables laden with party favors and gifts and loot. Fancy napkins and silverware was set. It was actually for a big Iranian wedding reception.
A head waiter walked by stiffly and did a double take as he saw Eliza get up on a chair to stick her little fingers in a fondue chocolate fountain that had just been turned on. It reminded Eliza of the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder.
What are you kids doing in here? he yelled stiffly.
Nothing, said Glinda, as she jumped up like a guilty kitten.
Young lady, get down from there now! he commanded, his face turning a bright red.
Okay, said Eliza, who nimbly jumped down and came up to him.
Where are your parents?
At the restaurant.
Whats your name?
Eliza thought for a second and came up with & El&Eli&Eloise!
Very funny, ha, ha, right and Im the president of Caesars Palace, get out of here now, he screamed.
By this time a few other waiters and servers heard the commotion and someone called the Captain. He showed up hands on hips. Eliza jumped back bit and faced the man in all his fury.
Im Eloise of the Plaza, she said strongly. She started acting and emanating what she thought Eloise would do. It halfway worked.
With a hint of humor, the head waiter broke out in jolly laughter. Eliza was off the hook.
Okay, okay Mademoiselle Eloise, said the head guy playing along.
Wee, said Eliza. Polly Vu Fianc?es? she asked to everyone. Everyone did laugh over the joke. The crowd of waiters and servers found Eliza and Glinda delightful little girls, especially Eliza. The Osberg children had treated the staff at the UN Plaza so well, th
In a funny way she was Eloise of the UN Plaza, an alter ego, she thought, as they ran down the long hallway. Eloise posters were up on all sides of the hallway in different poses. One in particular caught Elizas eye. It was of Eloise with a French coat and a very familiar looking Russian cap that was almost identical to the one Eliza wore with her brown camelhair coat, at least in Elizas mind.
As she and Glinda walked back to where their family was, Eliza looked closely at every poster of Eloise. The little icon wore different clothes in every photo, and that reminded Eliza of a few years ago when her mother had taken them to a fashion show right here at the Plaza and they actually got to participate because Lena knew the lady running it, Mrs. Piasqualli. She even got to hold a little toy poodle and walk up and down the runway. That was 3 years ago and now here they were having their brothers Bah Mitzvah that Eliza very well knew wasnt really one at all! She loved Eric Steins Bar Mitzvah and really wanted to have one too. For although it really wasnt a Bah Mitzvah, Roy did get many presents and cash at a small reception at their apartment. Besides receiving $10,000 and many gifts, he got savings bonds and stocks, even something for college. But in all of the hoopla not one prayer or stop at the Jewish temple for Roy. But he did get an interesting sculpture of Moses holding the ten commandants, but it was such an abstract looking piece like something Eliza would make in Art classes they would not let her take. She was just too darn hyper which squashed anything that could have made her more under control. She looked at the paintings of Eloise and touched it with her fingers, which was also not allowed. She knew she could be able to draw characters but she didnt get a class to go to like her friend Val Stein. Seems as if Val got everything. Yet, as Eliza ran back to her table to her family, she was glad Vals parents werent her parents. They were so stuffy and strict. But more restrained and quiet. When Eliza told her Jewish friend about the double-decker bus fiasco Val was not laughing and didnt get the fun of it.
Is it a Bar Mitzvah or a party? asked Val when Mrs. Osberg told her one afternoon, making it seem like a real Bar Mitzvah which was starting to get on Vals nerves. She knew Elizas parents were a bit flamboyant, but when Val told her father about the double-decker bus, she and her dad didnt like the idea of it.
Whatever you do, Val, do not tell Grandma!
Ever! added Mrs. Stein.
They rented a double-decker bus and are going to the Plaza Hotel and Mrs. Osberg has been saying its a Bar Mitzvah party!
Oh Gosh, said Mrs. Stein.
Can I go Mommy? asked Val. For what it was worth, it sounded like fun.
No! said Mr. Stein. No way!
Under no circumstances, its sacrilegious Val!
The next day Val told Eliza what her parents had said.
Oh thats too bad, but Ill tell you all about it, said Eliza.
Eliza couldnt believe how strict the Steins were as she returned to her table at the Plaza. She was glad they werent her family.
Where have you been, your food is getting cold, said Mrs. Osberg.
She was where she shouldnt have been, snitched Glinda like clockwork!
I was not!
Eliza glared at her little sister and began to eat her dinner, which was delicious. The burger was certainly no McDonalds, it was huge and had a strange tasting dressing mixed in that just didnt belong there. Eliza took a butter knife and scraped off the dressing and continued to eat her food. The French fries were huge steak fries and werent cooked crispy, but were rather almost raw. But the Shirley Temple made it all taste good going down.
Everyone started talking about different subjects as the dinner progressed. Roy wanted to know why this wasnt a real Bar Mitzvah.
Its complicated kids, said Mr. Osberg in his calm public speaking way he had about him.
What do you mean Dad?
Theres a side to it that we just dont practice. And I know a few of our friends like Eve and Harry Glass dont like the idea of you children getting snips of religion from here or there, like Eliza and Fern!
But I love what Fern has taught me, Daddy!
And Im not denying that. But to the best of my ability, Im trying to show you a little bit of everything. So your mother likes to call it a Bar Mitzvah.
But Dad, I want to have one when Im 16!
Youll never follow through, said Mrs. Osberg, knowing her daughter.
I will too, and Mrs. Glass said I would. She said Id be great!
Well, Eve Glass isnt your mother! answered Mrs. Osberg.
Mom, its not like that!
Well then, why dont you ask Mrs. Glass if she wants to help you and while you are at it, ask her to foot the bill too!
Now Lena, theres no need for that!
Sorry Eliza& I didnt mean it. I just want the best for you. Why do you want to weigh yourself down with the priorities of this?
I dont know, I just do!
Decisions can be made when she gets older, said Aunt Dorothy! Shes so young!
I agree, dont push it!
Well look into it!
Listen, if Eve Glass wants to help, I know her well, shed pay too!
Shes not paying for it, I will, said Victor! If it happens at all!
Dina came over and sat down next to them, which ended the conversation.
Eliza watched Stan and Uncle Kelley give Roy a very interesting gift, a talking book of all the basketball stats from the NBA since its inception and sports stars from A to Z. Roys eyes busted open and he loved it. Everyone started giving him their gifts and checks and he excitedly ripped them open. He accumulated quite a pile of things as dessert was rolled out. It was a huge chocolate (Roys favorite) cake with vanilla icing with 13 candles and 1 stuck on top for luck and to erase the 13 stigma.
Lauren and Aunt Dorothy gave him other gifts too and then Victor handed Roy an envelope with a check from their grandfather who had died a few months before, which is the reason for Grandma Hazel not showing up for this. She was, believe it or not, sitting Shiva, the Jewish term for a year of mourning. In fact, she was not happy that they were celebrating this party and asked that they wait, but it couldnt and wouldnt. Besides, this is the way Pop would have wanted it anyways for his favorite grandson.
Roy opened his now deceased Grandfathers envelope to reveal a check for $10,000 cash to which he passed right to Victor.
He wont see a dime of that anytime soon, said Dina to Eliza.
Then Roy opened more envelopes from loads of friends of the Osbergs. Checks and cash fell out, but Roy was allowed to keep that. Hed accumulated almost $700.00 for himself alone, not counting the gifts hed received so far. But out of it all, even the money, he loved that sports book that his aunt and uncle and cousins had given him. Even some of the elevator guys got Roy a gift from the UN Plaza staff. The word spread and Roy really had hit the jackpot this year. The party was a success and Eliza sat there soaking it all in sipping on her Shirley Temple she spilled a little bit. Waiters from all sides came out of the woodwork smelling a tip to wipe it away and smile, wishing the little girl would do it again. After dessert they even invited the bus driver for coffee.
Dina and Eliza ran with Glinda and Rich through the halls of the Plaza Hotel like wild Indians. They had been also drinking Coca Colas and were hyped up from the big slices of chocolate cake, especially Eliza. But Mr. Osberg and Lena just sat at the table unconcerned. Victor was on his 4th Dewars by this time of the evening and Lena had another Long Island Iced Tea with Roz and Aunt Dorothy in tow. The evening ended with Roy and the men lighting up and smoking a huge Cuban Cigar.
Kelly put the long cigar in Roys mouth and lit it up. Roy puffed lightly and coughed then Mr. Osberg and Kelley took a hit from it, even passing it around the table. No thanks, said Lena. Not my cup of tea!
Roz took a big hit of the cigar, than passed it on. Everyone was laughing by the time it got back to Uncle Kelley, who handed the last part of it to the bus driver, who took a huge puff. Thanks. They all broke out in serious laughter and whooped it up for the next hour.
Finally, the Captain came over with the bill, ceremoniously handing it to Mr. Osberg who took it and handed the head waiter his charge plate. They took it and ran it through. Everyone was all together again and the bus driver went outside to warm up the double-decker which was ready to roll with heat and all, with Christmas music playing. The family entered the bus and the driver had the addresses of those who lived in the city and they took a whole 1 ? hours to drop off everyone. It was like a real live tour. It felt good and everyone had fun. Glinda fell asleep in her mothers lap. Dina and Eliza talked and stared out the windows marveling at the people still walking the streets. They even saw bums and bag ladies walking around and wondered if theyd be okay.
Finally, the bus pulled up to the front of 860 UN Plaza and the family came out. There was a late night graveyard shift doorman none of them really knew well. He helped them to the doors and was tipped nicely. He smiled at them and almost wanted to salute. They went upstairs and put the kids to bed, then retired, not forgetting to kiss Roy and Richard too.
ELIZA & DAVID CARRADINE
Yes, Emergency had been Elizas obsession and was all in good fun. Randy Mantooth was foremost in her mind always. Then one Fall evening, the night of her parents usual big bash to bring in the winter, Eliza sat in her brothers room watching a new TV show. It was a new fall scheduled add on called Kung Fu starring David Carradine! Almost overnight as Eliza watched the show in her brothers bedroom while her parents partied away the evening in all good fun and cheer. Thats the way they were, and many, if not all their friends, even the Osberg childrens play pals, were up and fun and full of mischievous and jokes! The girl was smitten and hooked as soon as the intro song played and the sun rose on the screen and David Carradine comes over the desert mountains playing a flute. School had not started up yet, it was between holidays so this new thing had time to take root! And take root it did!
Eliza had returned from another summer at Camp Sunningdale and had been crying herself to sleep for many nights. That is how it always was with when she returned from summer camp in Maine. But this time, when she saw the first episode pilot of Kung Fu Eliza became intrigued. It was at that moment that she had, after three years, fallen in love with a new TV cult figure. Shed even stopped wearing the Randy Mantooth shirt Darian had given her, which by this time was lack luster. In fact, a few stories had trickled into her favorite fan magazine Tiger Beat, that was starting to hint that Randy Mantooth was a recluse and not fan friendly or interested. Shed always wrote him letters and had sometimes received an obvious copy signature with a lame photo for her wallet. So now this new show came on & Kung Fu!
She watched the show with great interest endearing herself immediately to the character of Kwai Chang Caine played by Carrdadine. She especially loved the flashbacks and as she was sitting in her brothers bedroom watching it, she tried some of the Karate moves with a fake plastic African spear from the gift shop across the street at the United Nations Building.
Her father walked in. He was dressed immaculately in a fine black tie and tail tux with black Gucci shores. Hed even put on his toupee, mustache and bronzing cr?me making him look so much like Burt Reynolds. He watched his oldest daughter. During the commercials they talked.
What s on? He asked curiously. He had noticed that shed began to get wound up in this new show hed read about in TV Guide.
Oh, Dad, its a new show called Kung Fu. And its so cool. I love it. Can I take Karate?
What? He watched her.
David Carradine as Caine was surrounded by about ten cowboys and was sure to get beat up. But suddenly strange flute music came on. Victor sat on Roys bed and watched as the flashback came on.
Eliza realized she wanted to take Karate.
Dad, can I take Karate?
Hmmmm? He was into the show, and lit a cigarette distantly.
Dad, can I take Karate like that?
She related to the boy on Kung Fu, Caine as a kid in the temple in China studying Buddhism, meditating and learning the secret fighting art of Karate. Victor could almost see the sugar plums dancing in Elizas head &
You know why, weve already been over this Eliza. Dont ask questions you already know the answers too, he scolded puffing on the cigarette and side-glancing the show on TV.
But Dad, I could do it, and the philosophy is really about peace and maybe I can learn balance and poise! Yoga and meditation!
Okay, sure, but keep in mind its just a TV show Eliza, said Victor.
They both looked at the small TV screen. Kwai Chang was trying to stop some bad cowboys from raping a lady on the road.
Look Eliza, you are a girl, not a boy! Stop this! I dont mind you watching TV, doing art projects, even decorating your room, but no Karate! Think, think!
He finished his cigarette and walked out, but not forgetting to pat Elizas curly had and give her hug and kiss!
I should have been born a boy, Daddy, she said into his wonderful smelling jacket.
None of that Eliza, he said half wishing the same.
She went back to watching the show and her father returned to his party guests. Eliza tried some of the moves again with good success. She was flexible too, but except for her fingers, all else would fit. She had wide shoulders, strong legs, big feet, potential ballet dancing skills, even though she spilled things at the table and seemed a bit of a klutz. It also could easily be an ugly ducking thing. Or in her head!
Karate, if anything, would help me get centered, she said.
Afterwards, the show ended. But they showed scenes for the next show airing Thursday night at 9PM.
Eliza could hardly wait. Then she could watch it in the den in color and its on way after dinner unlike Happy Days & Laverne & Shirley which usually ran through the Osbergs dinner. Victor didnt want to eat until 7:45, and that meant only being able to catch the last 5 minutes of Laverne & Shirley and then Eliza would have to get it third hand at school and theyd act it out for her. Gracie Berg made a great Shirley!
The next day at school they were talking about Happy Days, but they were talking about Kung Fu, mostly the boys. Eliza ran to a bunch of them and joined in on the excitement on the terrace at recess.
Yea, did you see that guy kick butt! said Tommy Brown.
Yup, exciting how did he do it? asked another kid.
I can do what he does, said Eliza.
Sure, Eliza, sure, they all murmured.
I can&Watch me!
The boys half heartedly watch her as Eliza began doing the moves shed been practicing at night. At first it looked a bit awkward, but after a few kicks and hahs the boys gathered around Eliza almost reminiscent of the day Roland and Eliza were kissing and Eliza rolled up into a ball!
From across the yard Marla and her friends saw the commotion and started to try and make it a real fight. Marla ran straight for the crowd watching Eliza and smashed into them very hard. One boy fell and cracked his head on the pavement. Mrs. Hamilton saw the commotion too, but didnt want her daughter in trouble, so she ran in and grabbed one boy and Eliza who had fallen down after being pushed.
Another boy saw Marla and went for her and knocked her to the ground. Eliza
It was a real knock down drag out mess! Mr. Averberg with a few security guards from the High School of Art and Design rushed in and started breaking it up. The little boy lay bleeding on the ground. Eliza slowly distanced herself from it all as one of the guards came up and helped Mrs. Hamilton who was not hurt, just shaken.
Marla was the one who started the whole thing, Mr. Averberg, said one sixth grader. Everybody agreed and nodded.
We werent doing anything but playing and then Marla just acted like she was in a game of Ride a Buck, but you said we cant play that anymore!
Marla, Mrs. Hamilton, please come with me, said Mr. Averberg.
My daughter didnt do nothin, screamed Mrs. Hamilton, her words mixed with spit. It was that little Eliza Osberg. She was jumping and pushing and doing whatever fool thing she does, said Mrs. Hamilton, her steel grey eyes scanning the gathering crowd of kids and teachers. Eliza was long gone from there, and that was thanks to her new knowledge. She pretended she was a mixture of Geronimo and Caine from Kung Fu, her new show hero! It seemed to help her pluck up the courage to get away before she was fingered by the irate Mrs. Hamilton.
Yea, it was Eliza too, said Marla, sweat gracing her dark brow, her cornrow braids in disarray.
But Eliza had quietly been spirited away by the boys and hid in the little playhouse on the other side of the terrace.
I dont see Eliza anywhere.
Shes the one Mr. Averberg!
Never mind, both of you to my office now, he said adamantly.
The school nurse ran to the stricken boy.
Marla pushed him, said Marilyn Kerr. Hard!
The boy was tended to then taken off the terrace quickly.
Elizas heart was beating like a mad hornet that Mrs. Hamilton was being escorted off with her daughter Marla.
Youre safe now Eliza, said Gracie Berg climbing into the playhouse.
Everyone saw Marla causing it and Mrs. Hamilton backed it up, so you are in the clear Cochise, said Paul Bruchard, a Puerto Rican kid who lived 3 blocks away from Eliza off 51st Street.
Wow, they really went off!
I know. All I was trying to do was show some kicks and have fun, said Eliza.
That kid didnt look so hot. Do you suppose theyll fire Mrs. Hamilton? Expel Marla?
Who knows, said Eliza. We can only pray for them, she added.
What? Are you crazy?
No, lets do it right now, form a circle! instructed Eliza.
Gracie, Eliza and some others stood in a circle, even a few of the rough and tumble looking boys. Across the way, in the high school yard many hippies with funky hats stood in praying mode too, and were chanting Peace, Peace, Peace!
Eliza began. Lord Jesus Christ! Please bless Marla Hamilton and her mother Mrs. Hamilton. Help us understand and see your path for us and them!
Mrs. Greenberg crept up and listened in, but didnt interfere.
Lord Jesus, help us cope, said Eliza softly, but with strength. Repeat after me! Our Father&
Our Father, said the group.
Who Art in Heaven&
Who Art in Heaven&
Hallow Be Thy Name&
Hallow Be Thy Name&
The prayer went on slowly and after that Eliza thought it best to end it when she spotted Mrs. Greenberg talking to Mr. Averberg on his balcony beyond the terrace where his office sat like a perch in a ship& The Crows nest!
Later that evening, just to please her mother, Eliza wrote a quick essay entitled, The #1 Person in my Life Is Really My Mother! It turned out to be easy to write and actually took some time and thinking on Elizas part, but it was truthful, thoughtful and very well written, but cryptic too&
She went to Fern who was staying in the den.
Hi Sweetie, you okay?
No, not really Fern. Eliza sat on the couch that served as a bed at night.
Fern lit up a cigarette, her standard Marlboro brand and stirred her coffee as usual.
Is this about your mom?
They all get so upset with me, especially her, about my praying and Jesus, Eliza stated solemnly.
Remember, Jesus was ridiculed for his beliefs and actions.
Eliza read the new essay to Fern and it was excellently written and done, at least in Ferns opinion.
Dont hand it in, just show your mom. Thats what Jesus would do and then he would pray for them all. I cant believe their making such a stink, said Fern taking a full hit off the cigarette and sipping her coffee in between.
And it was pretty embarrassing. I felt like Kwai&I mean, Jesus, said Eliza. Fern easily caught the beginnings of another name before the young girl said Jesus!
Who did you say before Jesus? asked Fern.
Kwai Chang Caine, a new TV show called Kung Fu. A man of peace who fights like 10 tigers, quoted Eliza easily from the cowboy western show on NBC.
In fact, its on tonight and you can watch it with me.
Well see. It sounds violent, said Fern, taking a puff of her cigarette.
No, its philosophical about peace and the main character Caine is really calm and silent.
Hes a Buddhist!
A Buddhist!!! Fern almost dropped her cup of coffee and her hands shook a bit.
Yes, they talk about Taoism, explained Eliza, getting caught up in the flashbacks. Listen& She stood up and recited a line from the show she was so taken with. &To know the World is Great, but to know oneself is Tao!
Hmmmm. Stick to Jesus and the Bible Honey. Its a television show and theres much more to it than you think.
Fern got up, put her cigarette in the ashtray, took a large sip of coffee and said, You know to have no other graven images other than God!
Of course, Fern.
Get the Buddhism out of your head. Jesus is the only teacher and Lord, said Fern sternly and with a bit of Italian fire in her low, husky sounding voice with a slight hint of a New England accent.
There was an incident at school!
What? Are they riding you about your essay again? That Mrs. Greenberg has got to stop.
Oh no, not this time. I think it was Mrs. Hamilton and her daughter Marla. Remember when I told you about the time Marla came here and caused all the trouble?
Yes, I do. I said you should pray for them and you have, havent you?
Yes& All the time!
So whats wrong now?
Well, this time I was showing off some of the Karate routines I saw on Kung Fu last week, said Eliza truthfully. She never lied to Fern, ever! It was during recess on the terrace and
Eliza, Jesus told us not to make a display of ourselves. You have to be humble. Im not blaming you for the fracas, explained Fern quietly, almost at a whisper. You are very different from the rest out there, and Jesus has plans for you. Dont fall prey to temptation and what the Devil wants you to think is right!
But I was having fun and not being mean and you know me!
I know you Eliza. They walked with and gave to and laughed with and finally laughed at Jesus too so use this as a lesson. Knowledge and peace, plus good intentions can be very misconstrued and there are a lot of people out there that fall into the category as your nemesis Marla!
Of course Fern, but heres the worst part. During the upset Mrs. Hamilton ran in and grabbed me. Then she raised her hand to me and took a few swings so purely on instinct I blocked her hand with a Karate move and she fell down too!
My Lord, for Godssake& Jesus Mary and Joseph Eliza!
Wait, before ye judge, said Eliza holding up her hand.
Okay, well, that was impressive!
After everything happened and then everything calmed down, I made everyone take hands and come into circle to pray to Jesus for Marla and Mrs. Hamilton! Eliza took a breath. It was a moment she would never forget. They all listened to me and everyone, even Mrs. Greenberg didnt interfere. Although, out of the corner of my eye I could see her wanting to, but she didnt move, Fern! said Eliza with awe.
I see, noted Fern, filling her coffee cup with a fresh brew. She also lit up another Marlboro and listened intently to Eliza. God works in very mysterious ways so that you come to him willingly and truly.
So thats what happened today, Fern.
Eliza, God makes Jesus a prophet. You did very well in praying. He softened your teachers hearts and they allowed you to do the circle prayer.
Yes, I can see that Fern.
And, when your teachers went to the principal and got your mother involved, that was the devil hardening her heart!
Yes! I see that, acknowledged Eliza. But why did God allow that to happen to me in the first place? asked the astute young girl, feeling like Young Caine from Kung Fu asking the bald master a question. Lately Eliza had been role-playing like she was Young Caine in the temple in China!
Thats the way God tests us!
Now young lady, that Karate show youre into, Im worried about it. Dont give up on Jesus, Eliza. Dont go to the Devil!
Its on tonight. We can watch it together and youll see, said Eliza excitedly.
Okay, but Im not expecting Disney here, said Fern.
Fern, thanks! I love you so much, Eliza embraced Fern and hugged her. Fern hugged back. God bless you Eliza, God Bless!
Later that evening Fern made her specialty Spaghetti and Meatballs and Italian Garlic bread and eggplant. Everyone loved her dinners! They were like Sardis Italian restaurant without the loud crowd and celebrities. Well, Fern was full blooded Italian!
Glinda walked into the bedroom before dinner. Fern isnt going to like Kung Fu and then you wont be allowed to watch it, said the little girl plopping down on her frilly bed.
Fern would see after she saw Kung Fu how good it was and how un-evil it was!
Well see, said Glinda.
After dinner Fern cleaned up the kitchen and listened to her religious radio show. Eliza sat with her listening too. Glinda was playing with her doll collection and Richard and Roy were in the den watching TV. Dinner was over and the Osberg parents went up to visit with the Glass for awhile, but Victor wouldnt be back for Kung Fu at 9PM. Eliza was already parked in the den in her dads favorite chair. Roy had made a big bowl of popcorn. Glinda stayed in her bedroom, having no interest in Kung Fu and had no intention of watching the show Eliza seemed to be jumping through hoops for. First Emergency, now this. Even Fern was sitting expectantly in the den waiting for the color set to begin showing Kung Fu.
The show started, credits and Oriental flute music played as usual on the large color set. The show began and Elizas heart beat wildly. She was really loving this show and wished that one day she could actually go to such a place in China, because they really existed, she had checked. She was making a full on effort to find out more and maybe instead of going to Sunningdale in Maine she could go to one of the temples just for the summer in China as some sort of offbeat exchange program. Shed heard her school had a student exchange program but it was only for the extremely gifted, not the most gifted but so hyped out students like Eliza!
Eliza stared at Fern sitting on the couch as the show started to unroll. Eliza knew that Fern would be livid if she decided and her parents agreed to send her to China! This particular episode had all the elements Eliza loved & American Indians, more flashbacks and the Old West backdrop. A young Indian wanted revenge against some bad cowboys who had interrupted his vision quest. Hes met Caine who taught the Indian about peace. But Caine did teach the Indian how to defend himself without weapons which totally intrigued Eliza. Everyone in the den was riveted, even Roy cheered when Caine knocked out the cowboys Eliza saw a slight reaction to the poker faced Fern when Caine asked one of the cowboys about honor and being a man and a flashback came on about honor as a man and how some on the outside are cruel. The bald Master Lu seemed so very professional and it also affected Eliza. But Fern would not budge on Jesus vs. Buddha.
After the show Victor and Lena had arrived from upstairs. Lena checked on her youngest daughter and ended up reading to her in the bedroom. Roy and Rich went to the kitchen and had a snack.
Its got good points Eliza, but still to violent for television, said Fern.
Well thats TV nowadays, Victor defended.
I love it, said Eliza. She really had been taken with it.
Fern was torn. The show was really good for Eliza. But the violence was still apparent. We would just have to watch and see, said Fern. Victor agreed.
Its not just how he bests his enemies, but how he deals with the adventure of the Old West and he has a peacefulness I want to achieve.
Yes, Eliza, I agree, said Victor.
It help me really deal with what the kids at school do to me. Especially Marla Hamilton!
Yes, he did deal with it more differently than I had expected, admitted Fern. In fact, I was impressed with the show Eliza.
Wow, coming from you Fern, thats great!
I like it too. You have my permission to watch it Eliza!
Dad, if I have permission to watch the show, can I please take Karate? Ill be sooooo careful, she begged.
You know why! I dont want you in trouble. You could get hurt, break a bone, any number of things. Karate is for boys, said Victor putting his foot down on the subject. He looked toward Fern and shrugged. Now its late, so come over here, give your dad a kiss and Fern a hug and all of you kids are off to bed now!
Awwww, crowed the kids.
But I want to watch Laugh-In! Said Eliza.
No, Eliza, bed now, he said like a Navy Petty Officer.
Okay. She went to her dad like her other siblings and kissed him like on an assembly line, then moving to Fern whom she hugged deeply.
Fern came and tucked them in.
Say your prayers, whispered Fern.
Eliza did and loved it. Our Father, who Art In Heaven, Hallow be thy name&.
When Eliza was tucked in and quiet, Fern said, Eliza, stop asking your father about taking Karate. Its upsetting him.
Im sorry, said Eliza genuinely.
If you want to practice, buy a book on it and
Okay, said Eliza not getting discouraged. Fern never did discourage them, only re-wired their paths.
Good night girls, said Fern.
Fern went to Rich and Roys room. Roy always pretended to sleep. She hugged Rich and went back to her den room where Mr. Osberg was watching TV. Laugh-In was coming on and Fern sat down.
Mrs. Osberg was in her bedroom talking on the hone to Farrah Acres, a very close friend of hers whom shed known since the early Sixties. Farrah was hip and had two kids Donny and Stevie Acres.
One day, as Eliza lay in bed, she know one day shed meet David Carradine. She fantasized about it day in and day out. Especially at night. She lay on her pillow wide awake with her eyes closed as Glinda snored like a lioness in the next bed. She imagined meeting David by hanging around with Don Acres, who was always talking about becoming a big producer in Hollywood. Somehow she instinctively knew that he would make it happen for her. Donny would drive her there in his sports car and she would simply knock on Davids door and say she was a friend of the family. Shed began learning a lot about David Carradine who was gaining a rep as a party hippy living in Malibu CA and Eliza could easily imagine being part of it one day soon.
She began watching the show religiously which changed things at school and at the youth center. It changed from role playing EMT firemen to her practicing and showing kids Kung Fu moves. She was Caine as an Indian now. In fact, once the class saw her love of David Carradine they teased her about not loving Randy Mantooth any longer. Hey Eli, what happened to that Randy Mantooth shirt? asked one girl, Marilyn.
Oh, I think I realized now that it was not really Randys shirt, she said as she showed some second graders a few kicks and blocks shed seen on the show and in the book she had in her hand on Bruce Lee.
Things got really strange when she organized an all girls football team and challenged the boys on the recess terrace to a game of touch football. It was The Caines vs. 007s and even the Swedish girl got in on it, and she was really shy.
It was weird to watch but not violent. It was better than seeing the kids getting hurt in a fracas or that old Ride A Buck game. By this time Mrs. Greenberg didnt interfere and Mrs. Hamilton was told to keep her distance and stay clear away from Eliza. Marla and her bunch glared at Eliza basing herself in the lime light but backed off finally. Eliza believed, truly believed that the praying Fern taught her worked. Time would tell.
HALLOWEEN 1972 (ELIZA AS AN ARAB TERRORIST?)
Halloween at the UN Plaza was a split decision with the tenants and building board members. Some opted to hold smaller parties for the kids to attend rather than have the rabble rousing groups of children practically panhandling for candy and monies around the buildings.
But, it was no secret that the Osbergs loved Halloween, especially Victor. He was the one that escorted his kids when they were younger and it was a blast for all of them even before the UN Plaza.
Halloween led into the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas& But this year the girls were going to Ferns house in East Providence and the rest of the Osbergs were heading to St. Martin in the Caribbean. They were sure Roy would not attempt to broil himself in the hot sun like he did in Aruba!
And the girls didnt really seem to mind except maybe Glinda, who cried that shed miss Mommy and Daddy so much. But before they left, Eliza was to pull a fast one as they were saying of late of the little curly-headed, sometimes misguided daughter!
Eliza was in fifth grade, Mrs. Greenbergs class.
So, Ive decided to have you all write essays on who is the most important person in your life, said the short, stout redheaded tough talking teacher. But Mrs. Greenberg was worldly. She loved children and she especially loved teaching them. But lately shed noticed something special in Eliza Osberg. Misguided, but special all the same, the offbeat girl was smart, and Mrs. Greenberg had the whole class tested by mid year and Eliza had surprisingly scored better than most. Enough to consider moving her up a grade.
The class had turned in some half hearted essays, some with merit, most forced, but none like Elizas piece!
Now would anyone want to read their essay out loud?
Mrs. Greenberg ignored Elizas hand waving frantically. After she chose a few C students to read their essays Mrs. Greenberg asked for one of the brighter children to come up front and watch them as the class started getting buzzy and whispery about where Mrs. Greenberg was going. No one had missed the fact that Eliza was raising her hand, nor that Mrs. Greenberg had Elizas essay right there in front of her and had taken that essay with her when she left the class. Now Ill be right back.
Where is she going? Asked Gracie Berg out loud to no one in particular.
Everyone looked at Eliza. They knew that Elizas essay was different and riveting, she had read it to some of them, and Gracie had told them about it too. All of a sudden over the P.A. system, Eliza Osberg, please report to the principals office. Eliza Osberg to the principals office immediately!
Oh, Elizas in trouble, screamed some kid that usually didnt say much. The class mumbled amongst themselves.
Im not in trouble! Eliza got up and circled the classroom like a duck, duck, goose game. No one really made fun of her this time. Gracie Berg had seen to that. Gracie was rather a normal, but bossy girl and shed made it her duty to swear off those who didnt like Eliza and just campaign for positive stuff in relation to her friend. It seemed to work.
As a sidetrack she suggested, Hey, lets see who shes given demerits and stars to, said Eliza running up front to the big brown desk!
No dont do it, cried Alberto, whom Mrs. Greenberg left in charge.
Lets, said Eliza now at the front of the class.
You go to the principals office like they said, said Marilyn, a sour puss Park Avenue cry baby.
I wanna see it before I go, said Eliza opening the presumably locked desk drawer with the notebook in it.
The rest of the class sneaked up to the little black notebook Mrs. Greenberg had hastily thrown back into the desk. Everyone knew what it was and were curious to see it!
She makes such a production out of it, said Eliza about to open it.
Just then, Katy Rodriquez, an unruly Latin girl ran up and grabbed it and went through the notebook, roughly turning the pages and scanning it while breathing heavily, then a look of humor crossed her stern features and she closed the book fast.
Whats in there, K? Asked one of Katys pals from the back of the room!
Next Katy moved to the locked drawer which wasnt locked at all. Shes been fooling us all semester, said Katy, reaching in and pulling out the grade books for the class. Katy sometimes bullied Eliza, so Eliza usually stepped aside and let the tough girl do her thing. In a funny way, it made them work together more!
Soon all the unruly bad ones were asking Katy to change their grades. She aint writing nothin in those notebooks! Its just scribbling green and red lines, look for yourselves, said another brazen boy who hung around with Katy. He opened the notebook for all to see. Most of the class didnt move an inch and stayed planted where they were. It was a shock that Mrs. Greenberg would lie and there wasnt even a lock on the desk. She had them fooled.
They began changing a few grades. Shell never know, said Katy.
Everyone looked in the book that struck fear into their hearts for months! Little squiggly lines ran throughout the whole book. Everyone laughed when a blond boy from Texas named Scott held up the little book and said, This is how we are punished. Who wants to know? Everyone broke out in serious light laughter.
Eliza started imitating Mrs. Greenberg by taking the notebook and over dramatizing it by looking at each and everyone and jotting down with the red pen, Its just a scare thing!
Just then, the P.A. cracked& Eliza Osberg to the Principals office! It was Mrs. Hamilton and she made the announcement like it was time for Eliza to walk The Long Green Mile! Eliza ran out of the class and into the hallway.
The buzzing and whispering increased, and even in other classes as Eliza passed by she could hear it resounding like the humming of curious bees! &did you hear Eliza Osbergs name called twice, whispered one girl sitting close to the door.
Elizas heart beat wildly. What had she done now!?
Go Eliza Go, some kids yelled. Run Eliza Run, they screamed as she passed by the gifted classes and began to understand the joke & It seemed those screaming it were making fun of the scene from The King & I when the British come to see a play put on by the kings palace, a parallel of Uncle Toms Cabin and the chorus is singing it as the actress in the movie is running away!
Nah, nah, nah, nah, Elizas in trouble, some students yelled.
I am not!
Yes you are, came voices from nowhere as Eliza began to spook herself. Her imagination began running wild.
Sit down everyone, said whomever was controlling that particular class Eliza passed on her way to Mr. Averbergs office way down a dark and grey hallway.
Finally she reached the end of the hall in the dark corridor of the offices occupied by upper staff at the school. Shed not ventured here since her and Roland had sat on the same wooden bench years ago (eons in Elizas mind)! But Roland had long left for Germany, never heard from again! Eliza remembered how the kid who shot the rubber band was expelled and never seen again either. When Eliza turned the corner to sit on that bench for bad kids, there sat her mother Lena Osberg glaring up at her daughter.
&mmmm Mom& stuttered Eliza startled to see her mother.
Lena wore, as usual, designer white and a very expensive cologne as spiffy smelling as the outfit was.
Why are you here? asked Eliza trying to remain calm.
Your teacher called me in!
Am I in trouble? she asked her mother.
Her mother shrugged impatiently. She wished it was a good thing as to the reasons for being there. Lena remembered when Eliza was in 4th grade and theyd asked her to co-produce and direct a special presentation of Hansel & Gretel where even Eliza played a role and participated and didnt seem to mind her mother around.
This time it wasnt a social or business call.
Eliza would have expected something like this from Mrs. Folger, her 3rd grade teacher, even maybe in the beginning of her 4th grade class, her teacher Mr. Koppleheim maybe & but not Mrs. Greenberg!
At that moment Mr. Averberg came out with Mrs. Greenberg. He didnt look up, just greeted Lena. Then he, Mrs. Osberg and Mrs. Greenberg went into a huddle in front of his office.
Now Eliza, you are not in trouble, he said calmly.
Mrs. Greenberg thought that perhaps your essay was a bit controversial. And your choice of Halloween costume!
Mrs. Greenberg broke in with, Are you ashamed to be Jewish, Eliza?
No, of course not!
Then are you ashamed of me, your mother? asked Mrs. Osberg.
No not that either! I dont know. Its all so confusing now, said Eliza looking from adult to adult. She shook her curly hair. Mrs. Osberg pranced around, her high heels clicking against the old wood of the school floor. She was nervous and looked on the verge of tears, her face becoming as red as her lipstick.
Mrs. Greenberg spoke up. Your essay is rather odd, but well written of course. But the topic! Theres just a little question?
Jesus is the most influential person in your world Eliza? Lena ranted. Jesus? Why Jesus? I thought I was the most important person in your life? Eliza, how could you?
Now Mrs. Osberg, calm down& I only called you in to discuss it, not point fingers at anyone! Mrs. Greenberg regretted calling Mrs. Osberg and causing a scene which followed Lena everywhere she went! I wanted to make you aware of things here, said Mrs. Greenberg.
Your daughter didnt do anything wrong! Its just that mixing religion at school & well, I just hope I did the right thing in letting your mother know, Eliza, said Averberg directly to the girl.
An Arab Terrorist? asked Mrs. Osberg.
Eliza began to cry. It was obvious that both Osbergs were upset.
Mr. Averberg looked a little embarrassed too, seeing as usually kids who were unruly or bad were presented to him. Now he wished hed understood more about why Mrs. Greenberg had done this.
Mrs. Osberg, Eliza, said Mr. Averberg in earnest. Im sure Mrs. Greenberg meant no harm!
I wrote what first came to my head, said Eliza honestly. Jesus has always been close to me. I pray!
Thats your problem Eliza, said Mrs. Osberg. You didnt think!
Im sorry Mom!
And what about being an Arab Terrorist on Halloween? asked Mrs. Greenberg.
Eliza turned her tear streaked face to her teacher. Well, it was just an idea, for fun, its supposed to be something scary, and an Arab terrorist is just about the scariest thing in the world right now, thats all, said Eliza.
All adults looked at each other as if a light bulb went off over each of their heads. I see&.
I mean, a witch is a witch, a ghost is a ghost, no big deal!
I see your point Eliza, said Mr. Averberg.
So, an Arab Terrorist got scary attention. I didnt mean anything by it, the little girl explained easily, but with a whirling dervish tail to it!
I know Dear, but you may be misjudged, and we cant have that can we?
No, but I could explain!
I just dont know!
I can write another essay too, Eliza said brightening up. About my mother&I will! offered Eliza.
Well, Id like to see that, said Mrs. Osberg. Who could be more important than your mother? blasted Lena, her heavy Brooklyn accent coming out more pronounced due to her anger and confusion over the situation with Eliza. This wasnt the first time something like this had happened.
By then Eliza was in full bloom tears and doubted theyd let her even go out trick or treating. It was traumatizing to have her teacher, her mother and the principal mad at her for writing an essay on Jesus and dressing as an Arab Terrorist for Halloween!
I didnt mean to hurt anyone, Mrs. Greenberg.
I know dear, dont worry. She turned to Mrs. Osberg. Please come into Mr. Averbergs office and well talk. Eliza wait here.
Just sit and wait here! You are not in trouble!
Okay, sniffed Eliza sitting on the bench. They went in to Mr. Averbergs office.
Mrs. Hamilton came out of the shadows and she roughly walked up to Eliza.
So, in trouble again, sneered Mrs. H. crossing her bony arms like a scolding teacher. Thatll learn ya, she said bitingly. &Humph& She grunted.
Eliza ignored the woman and looked straight ahead and prayed silently to Jesus, almost feeling like he must have felt.
As if on cue, Mrs. Hamilton said, A Jewish girl loving Jesus & You are plum crazy girl, plum crazy. I cant wait to see you dressin like an Arab Terrorist, she laughed evil-like.
Jesus is for all peoples, quoted Eliza to Mrs. Hamilton as Fern had taught her & Stand up to your enemies, face them square on and look them in the eye! Ferns words rose up in Elizas soul and heart.
And being a dumb terrorist on Halloween? Girl, you is just out there. If you wuz my daughter and thank the Lord you aint, she spat while edging closer into Elizas personal space, too close. Id slap you silly & thats the only way to knock sense into you kids!
Eliza just started crying again.
Eliza thought it almost comical that Mrs. Hamilton said boo-hoo like when she would tell everyone in the lunchroom to moo down, moo down, like a cow!
Oh, just stop yer cryin girl, yelled Mrs. Hamilton, her surly voice cackling and echoing across the hallway. Eliza felt like Dorothy in the Wicked Witchs castle, but suddenly she remembered the scene from King of Kings, a movie about Christ where the Roman soldier looks into Jesus eyes and is awed! Eliza didnt miss the look in Mrs. Hamiltons dark eyes as she shrunk away from the little girl when Eliza stared up at her and pretended she was Jesus gazing into the eyes of the Roman guards who gambled for his robe! Mrs. Hamilton turned away and spotted two first graders trying to sneak into the larger area of the school below the recess terrace.
Hey you two, stop, shrieked Mrs. Hamilton sounding like a wicked bird. She ran down the hall and disappeared around the corner and the area going dark and quiet again.
At that moment, after Eliza said a prayer again to Jesus, they all came out of Mr. Averbergs office as if on cue.
Eliza wanted to tell them about Mrs. Hamilton harassment, but she was crying too hard.
Oh, Eliza, dont cry Dear, said Mrs. Osberg. I know now and I know you are a smart little girl!
Thanks, stammered Eliza.
Mrs. Greenberg came up and put her strong arm around Eliza.
Listen Eliza, I gave you an A- on the essay, but can you please reconsider the Halloween costume youve chosen? She handed the essay to Mrs. Osberg.
Mr. Averberg spoke up. Now I know Mrs. Greenberg has to get back to her class and I now understand the circumstances, well let you go home with your mother now, Eliza.
Mr. Averberg, Id like to get my other daughter Glinda while Im here. I dont want her coming home alone!
Of course, Ill get Mrs. Hamilton to call her here!
Mr. Averberg, said Eliza, hearing Mrs. Hamilton name.
Yes Eliza, said the principal kneeling down to Eliza.
Mrs. Hamilton scares me! She is always scaring me!
Oh? Yes, Yes, there has been some trouble between you two.
Remember Roland? asked Eliza squeaking out his name.
Yes, the little German boy. Your err, friend, said Averberg, knowing the problems and oddities it caused.
Well, he stood up for me a few years ago when Mrs. Hamilton was after me. Then just now she came up to me and was harassing me, explained Eliza, tears flowing.
Now Averberg was thinking. He couldnt have Hamilton doing that even though the woman was loyal to the school. He knew Marla was not very smart and honestly, he really thought the whole essay fiasco was ridiculous when theres people like Marla Hamilton running around causing havoc! She should be the one being reprimanded, but it always seemed kids like Eliza, the ones that fall through the cracks, get the brunt end of the stick at a public school. So unless the Osbergs wanted to send their gifted but misunderstood daughter to a magnet school, incidents like this one would follow Eliza throughout all the days of her life. It was unfortunate.
Eliza was down the hallway with her mother. As the two walked slowly to Glindas last class, kids in rooms and some roaming the halls looked longer than necessary at Lena and Eliza.
Look, its Eliza Osbergs mother!
They said mother almost with a mystical awe and sarcasm evenly mixed. The constant aroma of extreme expensive perfume wafted in a swirl, for once choking Eliza in all her embarrassment. In fact, she actually felt just like Jesus on his way to receive his judgment. She followed behind her mother, sort of role-playing Jesus as she heard the snickers and light scales of whispering bantering when they passed each classroom.
Class, class, look at me, not out in the hall, shouted some teachers.
Then Eliza got a funny thought. Wow, I should dress up as Jesus! Its ironic because Halloween is short for Hallow Evening!
They reached the front office first where Alba the secretary worked. Lena and Alba really hit it off and Alba still could not believe Mrs. Osberg had the Barbra Streisand seal mink coat!
Alba, greeted Mrs. Osberg, coming up to the head assistant of the school office where there were 6 other lay-secretaries working at the desk.
Mr. Averberg was acting principal for many years up until one year when some parents found out that he might be gay. But, of course in all the district of parents, Mrs. Osberg showed up in court and fought for his job and won it for him. Mr. Averberg was now the Principal. So because of what Lena had done, stepping up to the plate for him, the whole school was indebted to her because the truth was that Billy Averberg was a great principal and everyone loved him except Lenas nemesis Mrs. Marrate.
Marrate was the one who had started the failed coop to put another candidate in the position. But once the word got out that Lena was on the case, most of the other parents united with Mrs. Osberg, who was a born leader and champion for the oppressed.
Now Lena stood in all her white finery in their office like Cleopatra. Can you page my other daughter Glinda Osberg?
Alba and a few of the others jumped to do it seeing as Mrs. Hamilton wasnt around and sitting on her perch by the P.A. horn as they nicknamed it. Thanks God for that! Someone in the Hamilton Camp had warned the mean attendant lady to stay clear, that Lena Osberg was at the school.
Out of the corner of her eye Eliza spied Mrs. Hamilton standing quietly out on the recess terrace talking to Mrs. DuSmonis, the multipurpose room aide. Hamilton never spoke to the other woman, but there she was talking like they were the best of friends as the Kindergarteners played on the swings and jungle gyms, their teacher Mrs. Philobosian watching over them like a hawk.
Glinda Osberg, please report to the office, your mother is here, said a soothing voice, one of the lucky assistants to grab the microphone first!
With Glinda it was always exciting seeing her mother and the same went for Lena. Glinda was Lenas favorite, although she loved all her children desperately. No one made fun of Glinda, nor teased her, especially about her mother! Glinda ran lightning fast when she saw Lena! Who could miss the pretty lady standing in the ancient school hallway?
Mommy, cried Glinda happy to see her.
Hello sweetheart, said Mrs. Osberg hugging her daughter tightly.
Why are you here, Mom?
I had to see Elizas teacher.
Mrs. Osberg shook the essay about Jesus at Eliza. Eliza, Im not angry with you about this!
Youre a bright girl and you really are very talented, just a bit mis-directed, said Lena honestly.
Okay, agreed Eliza.
I mean writing that screwy essay about Jesus Christ and now your father is allowing you to dress like an Arab terrorist on Halloween?
I think its neat, said Glinda impressionably, trying to side with her older sister.
They walked out of the school where a big yellow cab waited, meter running. They drove down 3rd Avenue then cut across to 1st Avenue, pulling up to the UN Plaza in no time at all.
Eliza, dont forget, what matters is I love you very much. Dont ever think otherwise, said Mrs. Osberg with over dramatic affection and some tears showing in her hazel eyes that only wavered for a split second. Mrs. Osberg held her daughter and hugged her tightly. A few tears escaped and stained Elizas flowered print shirt. I do care and just want the best for all my children, you know that!
Yes Mommy, I do, answered Eliza reverently.
Good, then lets go up, but if you girls want to stop at Bernies Candystore&.
Both children ran for the revolving do
Hello Mrs. Osberg, he said tipping his hat and opening the door for her. She smiled and acknowledged him as always.
He opened the door for her and took a long whiff of her. Boy, she smells so good!
Halloween was a few days away. At dinner everyone talked about the events of the day. Then conversation drifted to Lenas visit to the school.
Hows Mr. Averberg, asked Victor.
Oh, hes fine as always.
Good, and what happened with Eliza?
I talked to her teacher and we worked it out. But Bourge, I can live with the essay, but what about your daughter dressing as an Arab terrorist?
Oh Lena, dont worry, its nothing. Its really no big deal, said Mr. Osberg, as he took a bite out of the roast Gemma had made for them. Even the hoopla about the essay on Jesus Eliza wrote is no big whoop, he said.
Thanks Dad, I knew you would understand!
Eliza means no harm. Shes an oddball, Ill say that much! He patted Elizas head.
Lena nodded, no comment.
Everyone discussed more Halloween business. Roy wasnt dressing up thats for kids!
Rich was going to be a skeleton, same as always. Glinda was going to be Malibu Barbie and she ran and put on her costume and paraded around the dining room. Eliza, as they all knew, was going to be the Arab terrorist and they accepted it. The UN Plaza was another matter altogether!
But the big evening came. It was October 31, 1972. Eliza had returned to school after her mother had come, but when Mrs. Greenberg went into her doting mode, the whole class knew she wasnt putting any names in her notebook, just green and red lines. Scott looked over at Eliza and they both laughed and watched.
Mrs. Greenberg went into action as Donald, a black kid from Harlem, kicked Michelle, a shy Swedish girl, in the back of her chair.
Oh, you get a demerit, and you too Joan, class, stop it, said Mrs. Greenberg.
But Eliza and the others knew the truth now. Only when Mrs. Greenberg threatened to bring Mrs. Hamilton in did the class start to calm down. Before speaking Mrs. Greenberg had it all under control. She had many other teaching tricks and talents and had been teaching for decades. Some snickering and light whispering persisted, but Mrs. Greenberg waited in her usual commandant stance.
OK class, we have a surprise for you all!
The class immediately calmed down and listened intently.
Mrs. Greenberg continued, knowing what to do and say to get their attention. Mr. Averberg has asked us all to go to an assembly at the High School of Art & Design next door. So put your books in order and file out, she said suddenly spurring the kids on and out the door.
Everyone got up and Mrs. Greenberg led them to a huge assembly room at the High School of Art & Design which was connected to Beekman Hill School. They walked along quietly in a line as other classes started merging with them! Even the smell changed as they made their way to the high school through many corridors, doors and causeways. First, as they were led through the cellar area of the school through a small passageway between the schools, Eliza caught the scent of cockroach poison, boiler room oil, and old wooden desks; the oily scents of rusty steel with the slight hint of musty old textbooks. Those odors began fading when they took a long staircase up to the high school lobby. It now smelled like paper, books and ink from the mimeographing machine. The caressing, almost mouth watering dry smell of papier-m?ch? permeated the large colorful lobby. They were led to the assembly auditorium that was already packed to the rafters with students of all shapes and sizes from the whole facility! It was electric and alive as young hippy looking ushers led the class to a row in the theater-like room. Everyone sat down feeling at ease and excited because of the psychedelic music playing Mozart and Beethoven.
The assembly turned out to be very bright and alive with everything. The high school put on the show every year. It was little skits with Santa Claus, even shorts about the police, Vietnam, Nixon, and even Yassar Arafat. There was just about every aspect of Halloween woven into the skits, which leaned on political messages. Then toward the end of the show, an Arab terrorist ran on stage with a trick or treat bag. Eliza and her classmates, including Mrs. Greenberg, and even Mr. Averberg, probably others too, stared at Eliza with open amazement. By this time everyone knew about Elizas mother and the hoopla of Elizas costume choice and her love of Jesus.
The student actor playing the Arab terrorist pulled off his garb and became Santa Claus and instead of bullets shot from his large machine gun, candy spewed out into the audience and he even threw his Arabian hat into the audience and it landed at Elizas feet.
Santa Claus said, Remember, love all races, dont see things so badly and know that you can have fun with it like I just did! We turned something negative like a terrorist on stage and turned it inside out and we all laughed! Happy Halloween everybody!
Mrs. Greenberg made a motion to ignore the hat which Eliza did.
How weird, whispered Gracie, who was sitting next to Eliza. Thats really strange, she said looking at Eliza, who stared straight ahead! She was praying to Jesus thanking him for the message!
Jesus works in strange ways, said Eliza.
Glinda was there and ran up to them after the show was over.
Wow, did you see that? The little girl was darling in a sweet sailor dress and ribbons tied in her bone straight brown hair.
Yes, of course! Eliza said.
Wow, I wish Mommy could hear!
Really, I know what you mean, said Eliza. She was relieved her mother was not there.
Im going to tell her, said Glinda.
Maybe now I can feel better about it, said Eliza.
Hey, for sure you should definitely be the Arab terrorist, said Gracie in awe over it.
And Eliza did just that. It was evening when she began making her costume. She had stopped by the toy store and picked up a plastic machine gun. Then she took a few terry cloth towels from the huge linen closet in the hallway. There were all sorts of shapes and sizes and colors of towels she could pick from. She made a turban to cover her face. As she made the final touches, Victor walked in her bedroom and sat on the rocking chair. Glinda was with Lena borrowing her makeup and jewels for her costume.
Not bad Eliza, said Victor.
Thanks Dad, said Eliza as she spun around so hed get the full effect. I hope Im not causing too much trouble with this.
Well, you know we are always open minded with you Eliza.
I know, said Eliza.
Your sister told us about the assembly at school today.
Pretty interesting huh?
I almost jumped out of my seat and you wouldnt have believed it!
Im sure it was pretty interesting, just dont get carried away.
Love ya Dad!
You too Eliza, he got up and kissed her on the forehead. One thing about Victor Osberg is that he never hit or reprimanded his kids unless it was for a good reason!
Lena walked in with Glinda.
Look at my little girl, cried Lena going all gushy. She hugged and kissed sweet faced Glinda like a china doll.
Victor pointed to Eliza. Theres our little terrorist Lena! He teased.
She made a face. Very nice, she said sarcastically.
Mom, look at me, said Rich as he ran into the room. This year he suddenly changed over to being a fireman and had borrowed most of the costume from Eliza, due to her firm love of Emergency and Randy Mantooth!
Roy walked in, just looking. In all the years hed not showed any interest in Halloween, but he loved basketball and knew every player on the NBA. That counted for something and the John McGrath pins were piling up an
And Rich was starting to take a keen interest in Oceanography and police work. Eliza, of course would be some kind of journalist or writer, and Glinda was destined to be a performer, or so they all thought at the time. They had encouraged Glinda to take special music classes. Glinda would come home with a trumpet one day, then a flute the next week, or maybe a clarinet the following month. She finally settled on a small easy instrument & a piccolo.
Now the kids left the apartment unattended. Other kids rang the bell and Gemma was there handing out gourmet candy and mints from Bloomingdales to them as they were accompanied quietly by their parents. Little was said as they made their way down the hall to the next duplex. Gemma looked down the hall and noticed that they had normal costumes. They also ignored the Osberg kids when they came outside in the hallway too, even grabbing some mints on the way.
In fact, besides David Susskinds (t.v. show interviewer) daughter Sandy, the Osberg kids had their friends outside of the UN Plaza. Most of the children at the UN Plaza were standoffish and snooty. And with the Marrate kids probably spreading the word about the weird Oberg kids (especially Eliza) most didnt talk to them, even with Lenas aggressive play date scheduling that already had fallen through.
But the Osberg kids never let that get them down. They always had the staff of the UN Plaza, and they were much ore interesting and had more interesting gossipy things to say and reveal.
Now the kids left the apartment and started on the 8th Floor evening knocked on the Marrates door. They began the trek to each floor one by one with Rich as a Fireman, and Glinda as Barbie and Eliza blending in, a fast take making her look like a ghost or goblin. But many doors that opened to other kids, didnt budge for the Osberg kids and Glinda noticed.
Hey, Im going on my own. Youre making them not answer the door, Eliza&you are so weird, said Glinda. She stomped away in frustration.
Thats not why, said Eliza.
Then why did they open it for those kids and not us?
I dont know, maybe they ran out of candy! We did get a late start, deducted Eliza, but she knew better.
Yea, sure, right&Rich lets just meet up on the 12th floor, okay& She pressed her little cute normal looking fingers against the elevator panel and made both the up and down arrow keys light up. The elevator operators hated that, but Glinda always seemed to get away with it. She was whisked away in seconds.
Rich stayed with Eliza, loyal brother to the end! Together, as they walked from door to door, they figured out a better plan. Rich pretended he was holding her as a prisoner, that hed found her hiding in a warehouse ready to do something bad. People started to answer the door after that. Rich would say, I have this Arab terrorist taken prisoner and I am taking him to jail &ha-ha! Then Eliza came to her knees and put on a great show & It totally worked and they started to perform as a skit, like Eliza had seen at the High School. Even Glinda, by this time, pretended to be held captive by the Arab and then Rich the Fireman comes to the rescue! The 3 siblings put on quite a show. Doors were opening and they were on a roll as the Tootsie Rolls fell into their bags.
Wow, this is really fun, said Eliza, totally getting into it. Then their little show got very loud with Eliza preferring to get carried away by shooting off the loud machine gun. &.cack, cack, cack, cack, cack, went the gun, twice in the lobby, once in the elevator and 3 times on the 20th floor. Then Glinda started screaming at the top of her lungs in the hallways as doors swung open. But no one realized that Dum-Dum the service elevator operator called as many of the tenants as he could and pretended to be Tom the deskman. He said that the kids would be coming through, but it was all in fun and part of their school training! It worked well. Not only were tenants throwing in candy, but they also started adding dollars to the bags. One woman wrote out a check to the kids with a note to the school thanking them for the creative flair of the Halloween assignment for the kids!
Very good children, said a very reclusive banker at Chase. How did you ever think this up?
My sister Eliza did it!
Eliza took a bow loving, as her mother did, the center of attention and performing. It was in their blood!
By the time they hit the Penthouses in the East Tower, they were screaming and sweating and practically foaming at the mouth over the attention they were receiving with the new act.
You kids have got to calm down, or ya better take it on the road, said John McGrath as the kids rode his elevator up to 38.
Everyone laughed and the Arab terrorist costume was accepted. They reached 38 and the kids ran out screaming and pumped up, maybe due to all the candy they were eating between the shows. It didn't take Glinda long to fit into the act too. She was a nature like they were.
They kept it up until eventually Ching Ling the elevator operator in the West Tower heard from some of the tenants.
But, then there were the stuffy ones that kept up a barrage of calls (thanks to both Mrs. Marrate and Mrs. Morralt) and that pulled the plug. As the girls knocked on Johnny Carsons door, 2 security men came off the service elevator as the kids were about to go into their little role-playing act.
Okay kids, the jig is up!
Huh, what? They were perplexed.
Thats right, show is over kids, said one guard.
The Osbergs stood frozen in place, for the first time quiet.
Were getting too many complaints.
Go on home kids, okay, please.
Ohhhhh, the kids moaned in unison.
Now, now, move on, move along, said one guard. Just then Johnny Carsons door opened a crack, and then shut very quickly when whoever spotted the Osberg kids and slammed the door. A slight smell of good Marijuana wafted into the hallway, coming from the direction of Trumans apartment next door.
Darn it, I wanted to knock on Trumans door, said Eliza disappointedly. She stamped her foot in frustration.
Now no more of that kids, Halloween is officially over, said the second guard.
One guard lightly pushed the kids toward the service elevator. Take this now, he said with a slight hint of an Irish accent.
The service elevator came quickly. Dum-Dum was running it all night and the kids were relieved to see him.
Dum-Dum, all three kids yelled happily.
Hey kids, look at you!
They smiled brightly at the friendly guy with the big heart and hands.
Hey Charlie, take em down to their place, will ya?
Yes sir, said Dum-Dum, his name sound strange to the kids.
Then take a break in the basement and continue as scheduled for the rest of the evening, okay?
Dum-Dum nodded like a soldier. The elevator door shut. Suddenly Dum-Dum lost his cold look and smiled brightly at the children. What are you supposed to be? He asked the kids.
Im a fireman!
Im a Malibu Barbie!
Im an Arab terrorist, said Eliza pointing her machine gun at him. She knew he wouldnt mind. He didnt.
Oh, ha, ha, interesting.
Charlie? questioned Eliza curiously. She knew he had a real name, but Dum-Dum just fit him so well and it wasnt like he was stupid, it was just a cute nickname theyd always called him.
Do you think theyre mad at us? asked Rich.
No reason I can think of kids, but, well, you know how they are, answered Dum-Dum sagely. They looked up to him like a friend. He had a big heart and big hands, but no real answers. Maybe you did get just a tad bit out of control, he said knowingly.
So Dum-Dum took them back to 23.
Thanks! They all said together.
Kids, he said, coming down on one knee to their level. Dont give none of this any trouble in your heads, you gotta act like you do
We got you, said Eliza winking.
Are we in trouble? Asked Glinda, who was confused about the whole mess, and was simply going to block it out and forget it.
Nah, just ruffling things up a bit around here, as usual& Itll pass, just lay low, and youll see, he said to them in coarse sounding whispery tones he wasnt used to saying.
Okay, they said.
Smile, be kids, have fun and dont end up like me&Ol Dum-Dum here!
Oh, dont say that, said Eliza.
Cant you see my costume? I wear it every day! Ha, ha, he laughed. They all hooted and got rowdy for a split second. He let them out of the elevator and soon was coasting back to down to the basement for a Marlboro.
Gemma was at the door and let them in.
Cha, you kids are causing a lot of trouble tonight& Git, git, git, to ya beds, she admonished, not knowing exactly how to deal with it all.
Gemma, we werent doing anything bad, protested Eliza.
Ras&you kids are running off the hook here, said Maggie. Gemmas older sister stood with hands on hips. She wasnt upset or negative, but just trying to deal with the situation. Jamaicans were so gentle and had a gentle way about child rearing. You kids shouldnt be running all over this place.
We werent running around, Eliza lied.
If your daddy were here, youd be in your bedrooms quiet, said Gemma.
Youall should be like Roy. He so good.
Hes an angel, agreed Madge.
Just clean up and git, said Gemma to the other 3.
Okay, they agreed easily.
And dont get any candy stains in the rugs. Your mother will have your hide, said Maggie, trying to take control.
Eliza went to her room with Glinda. Glinda had taken her candy and poured it on her bed. It was like gold. Eliza hung her candy bag on the bed post.
She began taking off her costume and went to the bathroom and washed up. Glinda did the same. But soon Gemma was behind her helping her to remove the makeup shed used to transform into Malibu Barbie. It was fun.
After that the kids began settling down. It didnt take a brute to control them, just loving care and a dash of kid understanding as Gemma and Maggie seemed to have. Soon Rich came in the girls room and sat on Elizas bed. They were all talking and laughing, even Maggie and Gemma were upbeat and lighthearted. Roy was in the den and soon Glinda drifted in there and watched scary movies. She soon fell asleep as she always did. Gemma carried the little girl into her bedroom and tucked Glinda in.
Mrs. Osberg had gone upstairs to some wild costume party having dug up some pretty outrageous things right from her closet and soon shed return. Mr. Osberg hadnt called all evening. Who knows where he was on this Halloween night and frankly, Gemma was sure he was safe and having fun somewhere.
Gemma was correct. Lena had heard about the fracas and everyone there, including the president of the tenants association and a few board members didnt seem too upset, so for now the matter was made light of.
The next day everyone had a story to tell and even Mrs. Greenberg was open-minded. Eliza, you took something negative and made it fun and educational.
The assembly did it, said Eliza. It gave me the idea I needed to make it right, not evil.
Very good Eliza, praised Mrs. Greenberg going for her notebook in the locked drawer. She made a big production out of it as usual and most of the class tried very hard to keep straight faces. Eliza smirked, but it looked like she was soaking in the teachers praise. And what did you learn from all this?
I am not the only one with troubles. I learned not to be close minded and not to give up in what I wanted to do.
Mrs. Greenberg took her notebook out and opened it to a fresh page and jotted something with a green pen. You get a big gold star, a big commendation, said Mrs. Greenberg scribbling more supposed words or whatever it was she wrote in there. Maybe it was a code. Who knew? She shut the book as Eliza broke out in serious laughter, which made the class giggle and carry on too. But Mrs. Greenberg let it go for the moment. It was a good thing to let out tension and stress. Even she began laughing and jumping around and mimicking them. From the hallway it sounded funny, but Mrs. Greenberg knew better than to break the spell. Soon they would calm down and be open to learning something more.