My grandfather told me this whole story and so, until recently, I only had his perspective on the matter at hand. However, a few months ago, over Chanuka dinner where my grandmother became uncharacteristically sentimental, she gave me the gift of her take on this particular point in the story.
With her heavy frame digging into the gray plush sofa, contrasting boldly with the family portrait that stood above her displaying her as she stood sixty years ago, she told me that she had been looking forward to seeing my grandfather again since they had been writing to each other frequently. When he didn’t show up as planned she was disappointed. After all, she reminds me at this point, she had given up going to Madison Square Gardens with Ira Gershwin in order to meet him. To be frank, she was also a little teed-off. However, once he called and told her the circumstances he found himself in, and promised to book her a nice, clean hotel (even back then my grandmother had a thing for cleanliness – but that’s another story in itself) and take her out on the town, she allowed herself to be corrupted on the condition that her parents agreed. To be honest, she wanted an out. It was the 40s and women, never mind my grandmother who was a lady, simply didn’t travel alone. And she was scared. She had never taken a train before, never-mind ridden one alone, and she wasn’t quite sure what she was getting herself into. Nonetheless, something in her made her call her parents to ask. And, in the retelling I can see how surprised she was when amazement lights up her face as she tells me, “They said yes. So I went. Ayh what a good time we had that vacation. I had never been to Montreal alone before I’ll have you know.” When asked why she went to meet him in the end, she answers somewhat mystified herself, “I don’t know. There was just something about that Meyer. I don’t know what it is. But I’ll tell you one thing, I always had a good time with him. He sure could make me laugh!” That is the fundamental truth to my grandmother. Deep down, she knew what was what. She was on the bus so to speak. Laughter was the key and although she took herself seriously, she knew how to laugh from the belly on up.
According to my grandfather, he went all out for her that week. He booked her a nice hotel and brought her home to eat all of her meals with him and his family in the apartment above the store. He took her to the theatre and for sleigh rides in horse-drawn carriages over the frosted mountain that lay at the heart of the city. As a grand finale, they went, along with a huge group of his friends, up North to a chalet that they had rented in the Laurentians for the New Year’s celebrations. According to my grandfather, they had a great time. They went skiiing, skating and tobogganing during the day and, at night, stayed up until four in the morning talking alone in one of the rooms.
At this point, I can hear my grandfather’s voice booming in, begging to take over and I’ll allow it to. Nothing happened between us mind you, but by four in the morning we had reached some kind of unstated agreement and we both knew it. We continued our correspondence and that spring I went down to visit your grandmother in New York. Her parents, but especially her mother, loved me. Now, your grandmother always had problems with her mother, but me, I never had any kind of problems. We got along perfectly. She loved me from the moment that she walked in on me dressing. You see, what happened was, I was sleeping on the couch in the living room. She had to walk through the living room to get to the kitchen to make breakfast for the family. She thought that I would be asleep and didn’t want to disturb me by knocking. Instead, she found me in the middle of getting dressed and saw that I was wearing Tfillin. At that time, most modern Jewish young men weren’t wearing them anymore. The practice was already fading. When your great-grandmother saw that I was wearing them she got very excited. The next thing I knew I overheard her telling your grandmother that she shouldn’t let me get away since I was a great catch, even if I wasn’t a wealthy man. I only hoped that she felt the same way. I soon found out.
On the second to last day that I was in New York, we went for a walk in Central Park. It was a gray day in April and it was damp. We walked about forty-five city blocks and talked the whole way. At this point, my grandfather tends to drift off in a haze of remembering and needs to be prodded with the question, “What did you two talk about?”
We talked about how our life would be if we agreed to marry each other. We talked to each other about how we wanted to live and the type of life we would have. I said that I couldn’t promise her diamonds and furs, but I did promise her that if she’d marry me she’d always have a good life. And I prayed that that, with my love, would be enough. As we walked into the Park, the sun suddenly came out and struck us in the eyes. And your grandmother agreed to marry me. At this point, I can see him mentally tallying the score: Schecter one, Gershwin zero. We went back to her parents that evening and told them the news. We were married that fall and your grandmother moved to Canada. Later we had the four boys and your grandmother’s mother came to live with us. But those are other stories, to be told some other time….
That was a typical ending for one of my grandfather’s stories. It left you satisfied but with enough room left for one more. As my grandmother edged into the room during the first telling of this story and my grandfather put in his last few words, I realized that it ain’t ever over until it’s over. One thing that I can tell you though is that I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. When I look at your grandmother after all these years, I know that I got the best bargain around.