“My Book comes to Life… Who Woulda Thunk”? 😮😮😮

Dee-Dee Diamond
7 min readFeb 28, 2024

My book is breathing…🤔

Once upon a time this old lady, (me), 👩‍🦳while on a visit with her rural Southern grandchildren… when a certain negative fact kicked me in the heart.

This generation knew nothing about our family’s Brooklyn roots. For all they knew, I was raised in a horse & wagon, while settling the plains of the new world.

And what they knew was from the movies…only!

So, I wrote a bunch of short stories for those same kids. Then it got published and that was that…or so I thought. 🤔🤨

I had purposely used false names of everyone and “most” Avenues except for Stone Avenue which had its name changed to a local heroine’s name, (Mother Gaston Blvd).…many years later.

🤐 “Well shut my mouth”,

A woman reader called the publisher & said her husband lived on Stone Avenue, (in my same time). He totally recognized the camouflaged characters…and locations of my stories. She was sure it was her sister-in-law, who grew up on “the shoebox block”, I described on “The Shoe Block”.

One-by-one that family got in touch with me.

We covered the people we knew, and they hooked me up with her husband’s sister who lives on Long Island, these days. Trudy is her name and she reminded me we had met a many years ago at an airport, when I was still a travelling salesperson. She couldn’t believe it when I reminded her of her teenage crush on Tab Hunter & her Aunt’s dog…Rovero.

*(This from me who can’t remember where I left my keys, 5 minutes ago).

A few weeks later, the publisher’s office got an Email from woman who insisted she must know me. We were the same age & attended P.S.184 Elementary School. She & I would have been in the same grade…maybe even in the same class.

Well, Sheila & I didn’t know each other, after I gave her my phone number, we discovered that. It turned out, but we knew about a dozen classmates, in common. I even had 2 girlfriends, sisters, who lived in the same apartment house, as she, on Powell Street. Sheila recognized “Asparagus Makes Me Cry” subject Gloria Bernstein, as she lived up the block from her.

The craziest thing was her maiden name was unusual one, Eagle, so I mentioned a girlfriend I had that lived on Bristol Street…around the corner, from me. Turns out this is a long-lost first cousin of hers.

“Holy Brooklyn”!

Sheila had moved to Iowa with her husband, who was a classmate of hers, in Brooklyn College. He became a professor there; she became a social worker. They raised their boys and remained there.

Now widowed 3 years ago, Sheila now resides in LA, to be near her married sons.

She sighs, “But Brownsville will always be my heart’s home, just like me”. 😍

Part 2

………………Cousinitis……………

Micheal, Sherry, Shirley, Robin, Gayle, Trina, etc.

Holy Smokes! I have Cousinitis …now!

Don’t know what it is? I’ve coined it it's when cousins you haven’t seen or spoken to for years, & years…reach out to each other.

No not for a wedding, or funeral a cousins’ club picnic, but just plain old communication. my little tome became innocently the catalyst.

“Cuz to Cuz” takin’ joy now that we are “old.” Sharing history of long ago and generations that have passed, that formed us.

We were part of large clan of extended family who all lived in old Brooklyn years ago.

I have not seen or spoke to any of them since when…I do not remember.

Strangely the stories I wrote, came to life. A reward I never expected as I had hidden the fact that I had penned this little book.

One by one the characters or their descendants are finding me…”Cousinitis” I named it. It's caught like a contagious rash.

It started when a 2nd Cousin Micheal, from S.F., California emailed me, after googling his grandmother’s name, who was my Auntie Esther. Her name was one of only real name I used in a story, in the book. (She would be 124 today). Now that he was 80, he wished to know how long his maternal grandma lived. He doesn’t remember my mother’s name, so he thinks its Dee-Dee not Rosie.

(Micheal assumed my mother wrote the book).

Just a day or so ago, my mother’s late cousin's daughter, Shirley called to wish me a Happy Holidays. Her mother was a Rose I wrote about; we referred to as Shuma, (quiet) Rosie, as she was born mute. My family had so many Roses in that generation, that we had to distinguish them from one other as spoke “about” them. Today I probably would not write Shuma Rosie, as it might be hurtful. I never entertained family reading my book.

I told her about Micheal who technically is her 3rd cousin. Shirley remembered him as Jenny’s son. She probably hadn’t seen or thought about Micheal since he was a baby. Shirl & I spoke for about an hour seems mentioning his name started a flow of long buried family stories. Check out “Poison” on medium about the family lore that Rosie & her sisters were also born mute, because their mother, Jenny’s “poison milk” caused it. What was not realized then, that Uncle Abba and his wife were first cousins… too closely related…gene wise.

I related to her how her brother Jake surprised our then new extended family, son-in-law & his kin, & me, when we went to a dining hall only for a dinner party, to see her brother as the singing Cantor in a show. We all had never been to this hall & haven’t been there since.

Rose’s other son also was a singer, and Shirley a pianist.

Imagine these musical kids were the product of both mute parents who ironically could never hear them. This in itself is in the category of you couldn’t make up…this miracle.

……… More cousins peek in…

Cuz Sherry lives in the suburbs of New York…calls in. She is another one of her grandmother’s approximate 18 grand kids.

She has the distinction of having been the most beautiful baby in the family. her son had a daughter who looks exactly like her, she tells me.

Her son Reis is in Fort Bragg with his wife and baby daughter, that clone of her.

History

Sherry’s mother, Gertrude, was working behind the counter in her parent’s luncheonette on Park Place, when this young man started coming every day for his lunch. He was employed nearby in his father’s butcher shop. He, Alvin, fell like in love with Gertrude. When he asked her out on a date, after telling her he was separated from his wife, (being the old-fashioned girl Gertrude was), she would not date him until she saw his divorce papers. This was a hard choice for Gertrude as she was in love with Alvin. It was also during WW2, when most healthy men were drafted into the armed forces…so few other choices, for her. 🥰🥰

When his papers came thru about a year later, they dated briefly, then they married. They were well into their mid-thirties. 😍🥰

Sherry & Trina are the children of their union.

Tonight, I got a call from Robin O’Toole a cousin of mine from Tucson, Arizona. Her children are my 3rd cousins who live in Pheonix. I haven’t seen or heard from or thought about at all as she was many years younger than I. She moved out of New York to Tennessee as a young girl, Micheal’s youngest sister tells she was there for “Mama Sees a Secret in the Tea Leaves” witnessing her sister’s tea leaves’ reading by my mother her great aunt.

Now her brother, Micheal, told her about my book, & she wishes to record our family names & history. Now at my age I’m the oldest…she is the youngest of the clan.

I loved talking to her…she remembers my parents and late siblings.

Now she has broadcasted my book to more cousins. I learnt a long-kept family secret from her little Robin.

My Auntie Esther was illegitimate…” a love child” in today’s lingo. She was the oldest child of my grandmother, Clara…born in Europe. She has dual citizenship. Clara & a mystery man from the old country, Ukraine who migrated to Brazil are her biological parents. That means my other aunt Ann & my mother, are half-sisters to Esther. Who knew???

Long Buried Love Affair comes to light.

“Out of the blue” …when Aunt was a married lady with children, and after Mother Clara had passed, a Brazilian man calls her to ask if he could visit with her. He comes to visit crying to say he saw a photo of his daughter, Esther who looked just like the love of his life, my late Grandma. He offered my aunt money, but the story goes she refused…this happened in the early 1940’s. Guilt and unrequited love, obviously. They never saw one another again. His parents sent him off to Brazil to marry for money…not to wed his beautiful but poor love, Clara. 😢💔💔🤫

Clara had immigrated to Canada and married a Canadian gent who adopted Esther. He fathered my mom & Aunt Annie. Imagine I only learned about this now at 82 years old. It never occurred to me that my little book which I wrote for my grandchildren would a become living book…that is breathing. 😂🙄😏😁

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Dee-Dee Diamond

Born & raised in Brooklyn, 80 years, ago. Interviewed by The Brooklyn Historical Society. I published a funny book called” First Stop Brooklyn” it's on Amazon.