A Tenement Tale ©2019

By Dee-Dee Diamond

The mystery remains. Where did “The Antique” come from? How or why did it end up in our humble kitchen in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Everyone in our family called it “The Antique”. What an elegant eyesore it was!

Dark and tall and ornate. It truly had us outclassed.

“The Antique” was a majestic China cabinet that reeked $$$ with its intricate wooden exterior of carved curlicues that lead to a crown of tangled scrolls. The front door, with a lock, was of clear beveled glass. Four Baroque legs supported the piece. Faded once scarlet velvet covered its interior and shelves. Clusters of an odd sort of bric-a-brac rested on its shelves. A scattering of Carnival glass, Cranberry glass wine glasses, etched in gold, a few heart -shaped cut- glass goblets and fruit enameled dessert plates. In this potpourri was a set of Japanese decorated dishes bought back from overseas, by a merchant marine cousin. All these pieces were treasured by my mother so that “The Antique” was kept locked. It stood on the wall between my younger brother’s bedroom door and the kitchen window, (facing the clothes line), where my mother hung out the family wash. It only completed for dominance in the tenement green kitchen with the Frigidaire refrigerator. The other parts of the room were incidental like table and chairs, small stove and sink.

All that we children knew that it had been “Bubbe Clara’s, (our maternal grandmother), from Odessa.

Without a groan, without a moan The Antique… gave up!

It tried to commit suicide. It couldn’t take it anymore in the Diamond’s kitchen.

So, one evening, in the 1940’s, the top shelf fell on to the second shelf, which collapsed at an angle, on to the bottom shelf.

The fall crashed all the goblets but one. Most of the post WWII Japanese china set… met its demise, too.

What a CATASTROPHE! I remember my mother’s tears and her screams and the racket it caused.

We had been enjoying our chicken- fat- fried cutlets, with mounds of creamy mashed potatoes, when “The Antique” … imploded. So forceful like a bomb went- off.

My father tried to calm my hysterical mother down by saying, “Rosie it was just an old piece of junk, anyway”! (Talk about saying the wrong thing), we kids jumped with anxiety.

Well… that caused such a tearful, howling response from his wife, that he had to promise he would get “The Antique” fixed.

My mother’s first cousin, Rose Merlis’ husband, Sol was a carpenter. So, Sol was called to” The Antique’s” rescue. Realistically, there was a problem in using Sol. You see, Sol was deaf, and we lived in a tenement building, that was to say the least… not sound proof. Our fellow tenants were treated to relentless loud hammering, drilling and sawing. Of course, Sol didn’t hear a thing, not even the banging on the ceiling, or the pounding from the tenants underneath us, or on both sides of our apartment in protest to, you should excuse the pun, the deafening noise.

When the Antique’s interior was restored, all the neighbors of 670 Stone Avenue, came to admire and toast “The Antique”, with our whole extended family. Schnapps and sponge cake were served.

Still the mystery remains; how did “The Antique” end- up in our kitchen, on Stone Avenue?

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Dee-Dee Diamond

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.