By Dee-Dee Diamond
Strolling one sunny afternoon, I spot a new tiny boutique on Madison Avenue. It sells handcrafted home gifts. Killing time now that I’m retired, I wander in. The packed, cluttered shop is empty. Then I heard a lone woman chatting on a phone in its rear. Would you believe that by her body I know who she is?
“Tootsie Travitz!” I scream out impulsively. She drops the phone and turns around like a caught fugitive in her quiet store. The middle-aged grandmother is shaken to be called by her maiden name, Travitz. I see her shocked face and yell out, “I’m Dee-Dee Diamond from Stone Avenue, the Butcher’s daughter. I was a classmate of your sister Aliza”.
Tootsie was taken back to say the least, because this was about 50 years ago. I think she didn’t exactly remember me until she stared deeply into my face, and I mentioned her parents’ kosher delicatessen that had been on a corner, near Baby Swing Park in Brownsville.
Then her eyes glazed over, and we hugged hello and the caught up on the few people we still heard from. I bought some tchotchke just to be nice, then we bid one another a fond “See ya, and call me.”
How did I know she was Mrs. Travitz’s daughter, you ask? I couldn’t tell her, but her appearance was like a ghost of my past. Tootsie had the exact build of her late mother. That made my mouth water, imagining once more the frankfurters, mustard, sauerkraut and knishes I ate in her parents’ restaurant so many years ago, in the 1940’s and 50s. To our neighborhood, this was the ultimate cuisine of deliciousness!
Mr. and Mrs. Travitz ran the place together. Her father was almost a blur to me now, except he was a redhaired, smiley counterman. Their mother, however is clearly etched in my childhood’s eye.
She was a heavy-set, waist-less square, with spindly bird-like legs. Mrs. Travitz had to wear her large white apron tied just over her ample bosom. I often pondered while munching on my potato knish (split and slathered with yellow mustard), how her delicate thin legs held her up while she ran from the counter to tables to serve customers. Those legs did not look like they belonged to her, but to some other skinny mommy, or a stork. My family and I moved out of the neighborhood years ago. I cannot recall ever seeing or thinking of the Travitz Delicatessen or their family since. Now as fate would play it, I encounter this DNA clone of Mrs. Travitz in this boutique, and I’m a kid again again…salivating for a frankfurter, and potato knish