Berl & Leah Rappoport
Julius & Anna Zimberoff
Israel Bernard Rappoport
Jonathan Peter King + Carol
Geoffrey David King + Kate
E.T.S. (Jonathan) King [married Miriam in 1935]
Berenica Mestechkin [married Israel in 1938?]
Asher & Aliza Rappaport.
Zyama & Ethel/Yetta Rappaport.
Bernie & Leanore Rappaport
Dani & Shosh Rappaport
Pinchas & Elsie Rappaport
Dov & Eva Rappaport
Nonnie & Clair/? Rappaport
P'nina & ? Guttman
Dubbie & Avi Guttman and their children
Luki & Erela Guttman and their children
Avihu & ? Guttman and their children
Yona & Pinhas Shamir
Esther & David Rosenbloom
...and their children Ben and Aviva
Tamar & Mulya Berkovitz (Barak)
Oded & Yael Barak
Yoram & Lorraine Barak and their children
Ben & Alice Zimberoff
Carla & Chuckie
Dottie (Dassie) & ?
Nate & Emma Zimberoff
Richard & Suzanne Zimbert
...and their children
Sam & Harriet Zimberoff
Sergei & Bunnie/Mary
...and their children Rafael & Tanya
Stefan & ?/?
...and their children
Lela & Jack Fizdale
Jessica & Seymour Radin
...and her children Jennifer & Erin
...and their joint children Annie and Jonathan
Leslye & Mike Janusz/
...and their children Daniella and Halena
........Daniella & Barry's daughter Julia
My father was born in Evankov, a small town near Kiev. He was born in 1900 but the date is not known; he chose February 25 as his birthday.
As the youngest boy he was treated with a lot of consideration. His mother was close to him and he remembers her as gentle and kind. She could be tough, too....had to be, with her husband away at work all week and her alone with the kids in a town with many Jews but with many Russian peasants, too, who got drunk and made uproar. "I see you, I know you!" she would yell, when a stranger wandered into their courtyard. They were neither rich nor poor, always had enough to eat, warm in the winter (my father and two younger sisters slept on the tiled top of the stove, in winter). His mother was Leah, his father Berl. Rappoport was not really the family name, he told me, it was an upscale name that his father or grandfather took. The family name is not known. Berl was a foreman of a woodcutting team on an estate. He used to leave on Sunday morning and come home the next Friday afternoon before Shabbat. Israel remembers him as as a figure of awe, to whom reports of the childrens' behavior were given by Leah so that punishment could be meted out before the start of the Shabbat.
The oldest sibling was Asher; then came Zyama; then Pinhas; then Yona; then P'nina; then Shoshana; then Israel; and then Tamar. Eight. A ninth died in early childhood. Pretty standard size of family, for the time and place.
The bigger brothers went to higher schooling in Kiev, and then spent some time in Moscow. Israel stayed home with his sisters they were taught by tutors. While Yiddish was the language of daily life at home, and they knew Russian of course, they had an unusual encouragement in Hebrew, with live in tutors (one of whom, Pinhas Shamir, married Yona and also led the group - Yona, Asher, P'nina and Tamar - that went directly from Russia to Palestine, walking overland as I heard it). The other brothers went to Brazil and thence to America (Pinhas and Zyama) and Israel was sent to America when he was 14, to live with them.
His parents died in Russia in the terrible influenza epidemic in 1914-1915,
He told me two "greenhorn" stories, of his early times in Chicago. Once, he said, he was given a banana to eat, a new and unfamiliar fruit. He didn't like it, too stringy. Of course he had thrown the nasty soft core away. The second story deals with his wide reading but limited speaking, at first: for years he pronounced "mislead" as "myzld". He was sent to elementary school when he arrived, at 14, because he knew no English. It took him a year to go through six grades, and then he went to high school at 16. He worked at odd jobs for his brothers, who were themselves very poor.
He went from high school to the University of Chicago. He was proud that he had been Phi Beta Kappa in his second year at college. In his later years he was perceived, though not from anything he said - just from his manner - as Dr. Rappoport. Interesting: I too am attributed a higher degree.
Soon after college and becoming a Hebrew teacher, he became the principal of the school, the Jewish Peoples' Institute of Chicago. Very young for such a responsibility, but he must have earned the trust of those who made such decisions. Of course, he was very smart.
I'm told that his brothers went into all sorts of strange business schemes (one, apparently, was the manufacture of fencing foils) and I have the vague impression that Israel was a partner with them but he never talked about that side of things. In those days he called himself I. Bernard Rappoport (I learned that from my mother, in 1985).
At that stage in his life, my father met and married my mother. They tell stories that are not consistent, and most of what follows is from my mother's stories. (Why did I never ask Israel for details of his life? Avi did, but I never did............).
I was born (in the telling there is an implication that I was not wanted but rather the result of an accidental pregnancy). When I was two, we all went to Palestine and visited Israel's family. It seems that he went back to the USA alone after six months; Miriam says he abandoned her. He told me that they had agreed she and I should stay there with his family while he went back and raised enough money to set up a life for us all. She says she somehow raised enough money to get the two of us back to Chicago with no help from him, and that she found him living the life of a bachelor playboy when we got there. After a couple of years, she saw the marriage as ended and got it into her head to go to Palestine with me (could there have been a lover of hers there? deponent sayeth not). That was when I was sent to Miss Kallen's School, of which more elsewhere in these memoirs.
I was almost 7 when we came back to Chicago. Now I know that Miriam had met Jonathan in Palestine, and came back to get a divorce from Israel. What I remember is this: we were in Chicago, and then somehow Miriam, my mother, was not anywhere at all, she had gone without any warning or explanation to me, and there was this other woman Berenica also called Bunny who seemed to be and in fact was now my father's wife. This seemed very mysterious and confusing to me. And how not? Nobody told me a goddamn thing! Nobody told me that Israel and Miriam had got divorced, that Miriam lost custody of me because she was going to marry Jonathan and live with him in a wilderness called Malaya, and that Israel married Berenica.
I believe that my child's perception was that I was such a rotten piece of shit that my mother couldn't stand me and ran away rather than be with me. This was reinforced shortly after that time, when (it seemed to me) my father couldn't stand me either and that was why this woman (who turned out to be my Aunt Lela, my mother's younger sister) was brought to take me away with her. (My reading of it now is that Berenica, who was in her very early twenties, could not cope with a kid....and that Israel didn't want to, either).
But this is about Israel, not Eli.
Israel showed the world a reasonable and considerate liberal face, and did not show irritation often to anybody, even his family. I remember two exceptions, both startling in their intensity. Once when we were living in Chicago (about 1940, I guess) he got mad at me for throwing a snowball at a passer by in front of our house and he grabbed my arm and slung me from a standing position on the sidewalk up over the stairs on to the front porch. That was quite a powerful throw, an 8 year old boy albeit skinny, up to a height over his shoulder! The second time was in Winnetka a few years later. I don't remember what I had done, but I certainly do remember that he grabbed me by the arm and slung me up over the balustrade and halfway up the stairs leading to the second floor. I think that I learned from this that losing one's temper can have devastating results, so I had better keep mine invisible - even to myself.
By 1936 or thereabouts Israel was working for the Board of Jewish Education in Chicago. At some point he became Supervisor there. He continued with them until about 1943. Berenica joined the WAAC and was stationed in New Jersey, and he moved to New York City to be near her. (Her stories of her experiences organizing cultural events at a camp in New Jersey are florid; my impression is that there was a separation between her and Israel, which he did not accept). He got a job in Manhattan with the American Jewish Committee, but I know nothing about that. After the War, she got out and they went to Europe where he worked for the AJC in Paris. That's where they were when I was imprisoned in Lebanon in 1948. They came to see me in Rome when I was waiting to get to Israel, and visited Israel in 1949. After that he was out of work for a hell of a long time, two years.
He got the job of Director of the Childrens' Village Meir Sh'feyah, near Zichron Yaakov. The village was supported by Junior Hadassah in the USA. Here Israel, and Berenica too, made a wonderful and heroic contribution to many, many lives. They came to find Sh'feyah a demoralized and harsh institution where unwanted kids - street kids, orphans, kids whose parents were too poor to keep them - were stored until they were old enough to be taken into the Army. (At that time, the IDF was the primary mode of education and integration in Israel). He changed the place completely. He mandated, urged, demanded and exemplified an ideology and the practice of mutual respect and trust between the staff and the children-residents. He supported, encouraged and in fact required autonomy and inner-directed values on the part of the children. He stood up for them and their interests within the Village and in their relations with various authorities, such as the Police, outside of the Village. He overcame great obstacles both in this humanistic approach, since he demanded that the Village staff conform to his ideals and fired those who wouldn't, and in vast improvements in the physical conditions in the Village despite a rigorous austerity prevailing in Israel at that time. He and Berenica made their home beautiful and a haven for the kids and for the faculty and staff too. They raised money, they entertained VIPs for the Israeli government organs and fundraising organizations, they made it a good place. There are hundreds of Israelis who warmly acknowledge their gratitude to Mar Rappoport and G'veret Rappoport. Some were saved from perdition and most were helped achieve better lives by their efforts and their attitude. It is said in Jewish lore: S/he who saves one life, it is as if s/he has saved the whole world. So in Meir Sh'feyah, for the seven years of their being there and the hundreds of kids whose lives they strongly affected - Israel and Berenica saved the whole world. This is true. Those who were helped will never forget that, nor will I.
In 1957 Israel and Berenica left Meir Sh'feyah and left Israel. They came to Los Angeles, where Pinhas had a sanitarium, a nursing home. Israel bought into it, and turned it around from a so-so sort of place to a flourishing and honorable and profitable place. Somehow, Pinhas got him out when he (Pinhas) wanted a job for his own son - and rooked Israel out of his share of the place, giving him back only the money he had put into it rather than the greatly appreciated value of his equity. Somehow, Israel got along, and ended up going into partnership with Nate Geirowitz, a Holocaust survivor, in another pair of nursing homes. These did well, and Israel and Berenica had a good income. They lived in and around Los Angeles, moving every few years as was their wont. Berenica practiced drug abuse on prescription tranquilizers, with periodic pseudo-suicide attempts and bouts of drunken stupor, and Israel maintained her in this. They went to live in Israel in 1980 but returned in 1982 so as to be near me, they said. They lived a hermitic life, with very few friends and no activity outside their home.
Israel had written articles on the theme of "community", relating to the Jewish communities of the USA, for many years. He said he was writing a book, but did nothing about it. For his 80th birthday I had his pride and joy, an article entitled "A Community Is What It Does" , printed on fine paper and finely bound. It pleased him deeply, as an expression of my love for him. After he died, I got it back from Berenica, and it is with me now.
Israel and I were very close in the last few years of his life. I moved to Park LaBrea in Los Angeles, to be near them. For many years he complained bitterly about the sterile and unstimulating life that he lead in order to cater to Berenica's needs. For my part I realized that this was the game that he and she had agreed to play, and while feeling bitterly sorry for them both I realized that it was their choice. But it was pathetic.
He got cancer, and had some surgery. It was a slow moving form of cancer, and his health was good for 80+. But he went down and down. He wanted to die. His one concern was that Berenica, whom he regarded as a helpless child, would come to harm when he was not there to protect her. He knew that I would not take his place, I had said so clearly and often, and he fully accepted my position. Berenica was his only concern.
In January of 1986, after medical interventions that were ambiguous in their value, he told me that he had decided to die. I was living in Berkeley. I came down to visit him after he had a bad spell. He had me cut some coupons from his safety deposit box, and put the money in his money market account. There was a practical nurse that came in every day, and she was helping him dole out the dope to Berenica. When I was about to leave, on a Monday, having done his bank business.....he said good-by to me forever. We both cried. I left. On Tuesday night, he died in his sleep. He may have taken an overdose, I don't know. It seems to me that he died, at 85, because life was too painful and he decided to die. I respect his choice, of course. But I miss him.
As I see it, Israel was a bright and sensitive man who lived a life full of self control, masked feelings, and tension in an alien environment. He did allright economically. He earned and kept the respect of his peers, and that was real and well founded. That's interesting. That's how I see myself.
Israel was able to manifest his love towards other kids - at Sh'feyah - but not towards me until the last few years of his life. He protected himself so well against pain that he denied his feelings. Oh, he cried when moved, but mostly he was cool. His greeting to me, until I cured him of it, was "Is everything under control?". Despite the love he generated in Berenica and in me and in the kids of Sh'feyah, he was not alive or open to love as I understand it. He saw love as conditional on good behavior (excerpt, of course, with Berenica where there was a mutually desirable game going). He saw externals, physical attractiveness and good manners, rather than internals. Intellectual matters did excite him, and just about the only praise he had for his grandchildren related to their intellectual discussions with him. Not that he disparaged them otherwise, it was just that only the intellectual side of them engaged him. Intelligence is cool, and under control.
As with all people, he was the best person he could be. I honor his memory. Alahv ha shalom.
In the old country, Russia, her family name was Zimmerman. That's what it was when her parents left Russia because of the oppression following the failed revolution of 1905, and made the first stage of their escape in England where their first child was born. They got to New York in time to have Nate and Mayme and then to Chicago where the other two were born. The immigration officer gave them "Zimberoff".
Mayme's parents, Julius and Anna, were very gregarious and deeply involved in the left wing of the Socialist movement (very, very close to CPUSA). They always had people around the house, visitors, activists, new immigrants. There was always intense political talk, cigarettes, tea in glasses. Julius loved to sing and show off, and Anna was cheerful and vivacious.
They concentrated their dreams - so says M - on their firstborn, Ben. He was to be another Heifetz, and a disproportionate share of attention and resources was lavished on him, to the detriment of the other children.
Then came Nate, a hard worker but in the shadow of Ben. Nate got no music lessons. He taught himself, so well that his lifetime career was as a player in the prestigious Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He was the family success story.
Then came Mayme, the overlooked one according to her.
Then came Sam, always sickly but a sweet person.
And finally came Laykie, who became Lela; she was the baby.
In the early 1920s Julius was a prosperous furrier and helped his relatives a lot and was a pretty big man all around. Came the Depression and he lost it all. For the rest of his life he worked as a tailor and presser, in a tiny rented shop usually near a large hospital. Why near a hospital? Because there he could be the buddy of the interns and nurses, chatting them up and loaning a buck until Friday, making book on the World Series, and generally having a good time while doing a modest but viable business.
Julius had one invariable breakfast, according to M: a piece apple pie, and coffee. (My own memory of him is that he lived on herring and cigarettes, but apparently not; M says that Anna was a splendid cook and served good meals).
Mayme was not seen by her parents. They were out visiting or at meetings so much that the kids pretty well looked out for themselves and Mayme was assumed to be in service to that end. She says they had happy times, playing and fooling around with no parents around. But she resented the lack of attention to her, and felt unworthy.
She dropped out of high school to go to work, and got a job first as a package wrapper and later as an apprentice window display worker, at the big downtown department store, Marshall Field.
She still had a social life within the Jewish left wing movement in Chicago. It was at the Jewish Peoples' Institute that she met a rising young Hebrew teacher and swell, Israel Rappoport. He ran with a fast crowd of intellectuals and idealists (chronicled by Meyer Levine in "The Old Bunch") and was quite a one with the girls. Apparently in shock from a rejection (that she said he always after grieved over), he took after Mayme and in time proposed. Desperate to leave her unhappy home, Mayme accepted.
Once they were married, Israel (who at the time called himself I. Bernard Rappoport) dominated her life. He forbad her to see any of her family at all, and required that her circle of friends be restricted to his. When she had a baby (me; very likely an unwanted accident, from the overtones when she told me about it, but that's not verified) she didn't have anybody to guide her in how to deal with it and smuggled her sister Lela (who knew even less) to be a help to her. Israel required that he dominate and she submerge in his life - but at the same time kept on staying out all night with his buddies and flirting.
Somehow they raised enough money for a trip to see his family in Palestine. According to M, he left suddenly to go back to the States, saying he'd send money for her and me to join him - but sent nothing, not even a letter. After some months, M somehow got his family and their friends to pay for our passage back to the USA, where she found Israel in another woman's arms and had to bully him to house us. After a year or so it became clear to her that she was not really in a marriage. Inexplicably (and she says she herself cannot say why) she decided to go to Palestine and make a life for herself there. (I have a hunch that she had a lover there). So somehow she got the funds and just off and left I. Bernard, and took me to Palestine. There she dumped me in a boarding school and had a passionate affair with ETS King, whom she dubbed "Jonathan". At his instructions, she brought me back to the States and divorced my father. Both parents sought custody over me (god alone knows why) and the judge ruled that I should not be taken to live in primitive and dangerous Malaya so that's why my father got custody. M. was devastated, and a few years later Jonathan got painfully into debt so she could come to Los Angeles and get me. That's when I spent a year in pre-WWII Malaya.
In 1938 Miriam took me and Peter to England [Peter is Miriam and Jonathan's son who was born in 1937?] . She sent me on alone to the USA, in the "Queen Mary", and about then Geoffrey was born. The three of them went back to Jonathan in Malaya. He was posted to Alor Star I think, in the North.
When the Japanese attack on Burma and Thailand came, Jonathan was mobilized into a Royal Engineers unit and trained to stay behind if the British were pushed out; his task was to blow up bridges and roads behind the enemy lines. When the Japanese did invade Malaya he went off to his unit. Nobody expected the Japanese to advance so very quickly, and Miriam found herself suddenly cut off in enemy-held territory. She bundled the two boys into the car (she was an abysmally bad driver, but never mind) and bullied her way through the Japanese lines somehow, and they got down to Singapore. At first they seemed safe there, but the Japanese started intensive bombing and soon they had completely demoralized the population. Miriam decided it was time to flee, and managed to get on a Dutch ship headed for San Francisco. Turned out it was the last civilian ship to sail from Singapore.
The ship was bombed by the Japanese, and sunk in the straits near Java. A few of the passengers got to shore, Miriam with Peter and Geoffrey in tow among them. The survivors started a trek towards the Dutch city, but first Geoff and then Peter came down with dysentery and the group would not wait while they recovered. One friend of Miriam's, Betty Horn, stayed behind with them in a Javanese village and somehow the two boys survived - barely. After many adventures, Miriam and the boys got to Djakarta where - by a shattering coincidence - they found Jonathan who had been evacuated from Malaya. He got them on a troop transport that escaped to Australia before the Japanese conquered Java.
In Australia, Miriam got a job with the US Army, at MacArthur's HQ. Later she got a job with the American Red Cross, running a rest home for Army nurses on leave. She speaks a great deal of her achievements in making them comfortable. She could not look after the two little boys, and managed to get them on a US Army hospital ship bound for San Francisco, where the indefatigable Aunt Lela scooped them up and they lived with her. Lela had trouble with the boys. Every time a plane flew overhead (and there were many, because Los Angeles was a major center for the aircraft industry) the boys not only hid under a bed but screamed hysterically until EVERYBODY in the house hid under beds. They had been traumatized by the Japanese bombing of Singapore and their ship. Lela asked me to come to Los Angeles to help reassure the boys, and I did come to stay with them for a while. After a year, Miriam managed to get back to the USA. Jonathan had been sent to Africa with a unit training for an invasion force to re-take Malaya.
Miriam lived with Lela for a while. Then she rented a chalet up at Lake Arrowhead (very cheap, since gas was rationed and it was hard to get there, and anyway winter rentals up there were cheap). So there they were (Miriam, Peter, Geoffrey and Lela's girls Jessica and Leslye) when I came up to visit them. In the winter, Miriam had chopped logs to get firewood to keep them warm. Tough lady! A constant visitor was General "Van"; I'm sure they were lovers.
Then she got a place on the beach at Malibu, ten miles from Santa Monica and so also cheap. Jonathan came, on leave. Then the war was over (the invasion of Malaya was preempted by the Japanese surrender after Nagasaki and Hiroshima) and she went back with the boys to be with Jonathan who was posted there again. The boys were soon sent away to school in Australia, to be seen once every year when she went there or they come out to Malaya for the holidays. Ugh!
Miriam and Jonathan were living in Seremban when I got to Malaya in July 1949. Soon he was posted to Kuala Lumpur, and they lived there for a couple of years. Then Miriam took the boys from Australia to England, and put them in boarding school there while she and Jonathan went out to Africa. They spent a year in what is now Malawi, and about three years in the Norther part of Nigeria, in Ibadan. It was while living there that Miriam met Golda Meir, who was visiting as Israeli Foreign Minister. Miriam also saw my Aunt Yona (Rappoport side) - and maybe even Berenica when they visited Nigeria.
Then Jonathan mostly retired and they bought a house in Bishopsteignton, in Devon, by the sea. Jonathan took contract consulting jobs, and all was well with the world. But alas Miriam learned that Jonathan had converted his primary pension into a lump sum cash payout so they could continue their de luxe life style, and they were broke. Miriam had a solution: they would get a job as a couple, she to cook and Jonathan to be general helper. On a live-in basis. Thus they would spend nothing on themselves and have an income from renting out their house, while Jonathan's remaining few pensions would accumulate. They would do this in America, land of the wealthy and snobbish from whom the English accent and style would command a high price.
In the event, they were brought to the USA on a deal with Jessica, Lela's older daughter. Jessica was living well in Mill Valley with her second husband, Seymour, her two daughters from her first marriage and her two small children from her second. Miriam did the cooking, Jonathan the heavy cleaning and the shopping and in fact acted as Nanny to young Annie and Johnno. What a business! I hated the idea, Lela hated the idea, and after the usual honeymoon Miriam hated Jessica. And so they left and got another job in San Francisco, left that and got another job with Arnie Milstein and Nancy Adler. They brought the daughter Julia up from a baby, Jonathan feeding the infant mother's milk from a bottle.
Miriam seemed to flourish in those six or seven years. It griped my ass that she played the role of Lady King when with Jonathan, sycophantically tracking every thing he said. In contrast when she was not with him she sometimes consented to be tough, salty, independent, wise cracking Miriam. What griped me even more and drove to me walk out steaming and cursing after a visit with her was Miriam's complete avoidance of any contact with her wonderful grandchildren. This while Richard was living in Berkeley and Avi in San Francisco 2.5 miles from the Milstein's home. Of course most of my anger was at this new manifestation of rejection, but there.....
Well, Miriam decided that the time had come for them to really retire, so off they went back to their house at Bishopsteignton. After having it renovated and buying new furniture and all first class as before, they moved in and Jonathan died in his sleep.
Miriam seemed to suffer terribly. She talked of going into an old age home. That seemed like a terrible idea to me, and I invited her to come to Los Angeles and we would get a place and live together. Not a well thought out notion. Anyway, she sold off and gave away all her lovely possessions (to her subsequent bitter regret), and came to Los Angeles. First she shared an apartment with Rena Harrison who was newly widowed. Rena moved to Chicago. Miriam moved in with Lela, who was having to cope with Uncle Jack's last years which were rotted by Alzheimer's Disease.
I moved from LA to Kensington. My father died. Miriam could not stand Lela after the initial honeymoon, and she and I agreed that she would come up to Berkeley and we'd get a place to share. She did that, and six months later moved with me when I got the job in Davis. We treated each other with consideration and good manners, and all seemed well. That ended when she began her practice of launching hysterical tirades at me, and at the end of one such episode she moved out to Sausalito.
That's where she is at the time of this writing (August, 1991). She has done well physically, at 83, and emotionally is often sound. Her outbursts at all members of her family continue, and we all know to expect that after a time in her company. After living for two years in one apartment that she said she adored it has now become intolerable and she is on the verge of moving across the street. I don't know how she does it, kol hakavod!
Eli found a way to talk to Miriam without either agreeing or disagreeing: the um-hum method. He would let her say whatever outrageous statement she wanted, and his response would be the neutral "um hum". This soothed and supported her without requiring actual assent. It's a very useful technique in a number of situationsÍ
[Miriam is now in a nursing home in Connecticut, near her son Geoffrey. She suffers from Altzheimers and does not remember much. -- AR, 1998]
Edward Tavey Sirotkin King, called "Ted" by his family and called "Jonathan" by his wife, my mother, died in his sleep, peacefully, in Bishops Teignton, Devon on January 1, 1985. He was 79. He was born in Wallasey, near Liverpool, in an orthodox Jewish family. Left religion when he went to Cambridge. Chess champion, amateur racing car driver. Civil engineer in the Colonial Service, went to Africa as a young man for some years and thence to Palestine where he met Miriam who was there after her marriage to Israel failed.
My first memories of Jonathan are among my first memories of anything. I was in my mother's cool, stone apartment on a quiet courtyard in Jerusalem (aged 5 or 6, I suppose) and Miriam and Jonathan were having tea in the courtyard and he playfully offered me a cigarette which turned out to be made of chocolate. Something along those lines, anyway.
The next memory of him was when Miriam and I arrived in Penang. I was 8 or 9. He was dashing and strong seeming, very decisive. He took us shopping to Whiteaway, Laidlaw for tropical gear. I got a solar topee, but a thick cork one rather than the thin and dashing Police model I admired, but he got me an icecream soda so there was solace. We three drove down to Batu Gajah, the small town where he was stationed. The house seemed very grand, two storeys surrounded by wide verandahs (one let the chicks down - the bamboo shades - to keep out the afternoon sun), with a huge garden. There was also Sarah, a large, wire haired terrier sort of dog, very protective and affectionate. Sarah and I would go for walks down the dusty road from our house, keeping a sharp eye out for poisonous snakes of which there were many. I strolled with stick in hand, dressed in a white Aertex shirt and baggy long khaki shorts, high woolen stockings held up by rubber bands under the foldover at their tops, stout shoes - and of course my solar topee. After lunch I would have a lie-down under the canopy of mosquito netting in my room, until tea time or so. The pantry adjoined a window of mine, and I managed to open the the grate enough to let me reach through and swipe bottles of Fraser & Neave sodawater, my great treat.
After a few months, we moved to Lumut. An even tinier town, it was on a bay and Pangkor Island was offshore. The Sultan of Perak kept a launch and crew at Lumut and we had the use of it for excursions and picnics on the island. Coming back from one such, a poisonous caterpillar fell on Jonathan's neck. It was very painful. We went to the nearest place where there was a European (Caucasian, that is), a rubber plantation, and the planter made Jonathan drink a hell of a lot of gin as a remedy, and poured some over the irritated spot too. It seemed to work, after a while.
Miriam and Peter (and Geoffrey, in utero) and I left Malaya after I'd been there for about 10 months, I think, and sailed to England.
I next saw Jonathan when he visited Miriam at Malibu in the 1940s - or maybe I didn't actually see him since I ran away back to Chicago just when (because?) he came. I have no memory of him then. I have a memory of a visit he and Miriam made to Chicago while I was there: we were walking past the Tribune Tower, we had Subgum Chop Suey in a Chinese restaurant. That's all I remember.
For the war years, see above.
Jonathan ended the war as a Major in the Royal Engineers, of the British army. He had stayed behind to do demolitions and sabotage after the Japanese conquered Malaya, got out and to Australia and spent the rest of the war in Africa. After VE day he was assigned to the troops that were to invade Malaya. Fortunately the Japanese surrendered came a day before they were going to attack.
Anyway, the next time I saw him was in 1949 when I arrived in Singapore after a harrowing flight from Colombo. He and Miriam met me at the airport and took me up to Seremban by car. I saw him as conventional, gracious in public but overbearing in private, opinionated, dogmatic and unaccommodating. I was scared of him. In my usual self-protective mode, I tried to imitate his speech and manner. In fact, he was very nice to me and considerate while staying within his domineering style.
He arranged for a job for me at Sime, Darby, and gave me money to go down to Singapore by train to be interviewed. I had the interview and then missed the return train, having made a mistake about the departure time. I phoned him and he made it clear that he thought I had missed the train deliberately so as to stay in Singapore overnight. I was very hurt, all I wanted to do was to please and be good. Oh, well.
Over the next few years I made brief visits to them in Seremban and later in Kuala Lumpur. We were polite to each other, but there was no feeling of closeness (nor was there between me and Miriam, for that matter). Closeness with Jonathan did come and grow when Miriam went to Australia to be with Peter and Geoffrey, who were at boarding school there, for a few months. Jonathan came to Singapore to stay with me for a while, and showed his deep distress and helplessness at being separated from Miriam. It was clear that he was deeply dependent on her. (How ever did he manage during the War, when he was in Africa and UK and she was in the USA?!). That crack in his surface drew us pretty close. After that we spent more time together until he was posted to Africa and they both went off. But I never accepted his domineering ways.
They were in London when I went there on long leave in 1955. I'd not seen them for a while, they had been in Malawi and Nigeria. They had a nice house in Cheyne Walk, and they insisted that Jonathan - his usual officious self, but in fact quite helpful - pick out my bed sitting room for me. Then I went back to Malaya and they to Africa and when I got to London in 1957 they were not there.
I didn't see either of them again until 1960, when they visited us in Israel. Jonathan was overfull of his memories of Palestine in the 1930s, and was charming and insufferable at the same time. As always, Miriam was the goodlittlewoman to him, walking one step behind and tracking everything he said.
We visited them at Bishops Teignton on our way from Israel back to settle in Los Angeles. My resistance was low, I was utterly exhausted by last minute arrangements in Israel and by the arduous trip, and Jonathan's overbearing behavior upset me a lot. Also, Miriam was playing Her Grace the Duchess and that didn't help. (eg on the basis of my employment at Shemen, I was introduced as her son "who was in oil in the Middle East, don'cher know.....").
From then until they came to work for cousin Jessica in Mill Valley in, I think, 1979, I didn't see Jonathan. He came over all warm towards me then and after, and allowed as how I was his only really understanding friend, the only one who really knew him..... This amazed and dismayed me, but I did not make a point of showing that reaction.
I visited them in Marin and later in San Francisco, out of a sense of duty, about twice a year (one out of three visits to Berkeley to see the kids). I had them stay with me in Claremont one Xmas. They loved it, and forced an extension of their stay for twice the period I'd invited them for; rolled right over me. All these contacts were really agonizing for me. I did what I thought was my duty, but would go away screaming obscenities and groaning horribly after each encounter. He was just awful, pontificating and showing his contempt for everybody and everything including Miriam and me. Miriam's behavior infuriated me, too: she played Her Grace the bloody Duchess, though subservient to his lordship, with a vengeance. With them, no conversation was possible. I would raise a subject, he would deliver definitive judgement, she would prettily simper assent - and that's all she wrote, folks, there was no more on that topic. Serve up the next topic, if you please, and Big Daddy will smash that one down the alley too! Nada!
Another manifestation that I deeply resented was that they made no contact whatsoever with my children, their grandchildren. For some years, Avi lived about 2 miles from them. No contact whatsoever, except when I came up and took them all out. Then Jonathan and Miriam were quite polite to their grandchildren, just as they would have been to any casual acquaintance. Of course, I tied that in with Miriam's abandonment of me, and hurt myself a lot with that stuff. Adding insult to perceived injury, they made such a fuss about the little girl they took care of, talking about her for hours as others would talk about grandchildren. I got really pissed off and it seemed to me that I had no family relationship with Jonathan - or Miriam - and there was no love or affection between us but family loyalty and some show of sentiment on their part and dutiful response on mine. I was so glad when they went back to England. I was content to think I would not see them again.
But I wept for him when he died, and more for Miriam who had lost her true beloved friend and husband.