was Droozy’s first American friend. She was ten years old and liked to play
jacks. It was a fun game. The two girls would throw the metal pieces on the
floor, toss the ball up in the air and with one bounce pick up two jacks at a
time, then three, then four and so on until all the jacks were gone - off to the
side. Both girls were very good at this game of skill.
was almost totally deaf and Droozy would have to shout very loud to be heard.
Helen could also read lips and so the two girls understood each other, at least
in their games they did. They would spend hours together, after school and on
weekends. Helen’s deafness didn’t matter much to Droozy since she couldn’t
speak English too well and the mistakes she made weren’t noticed by her
friend. Helen did, however, notice that the linoleum floors in the Abners’
home were old and scratched. She expressed herself by saying that the floors are
weeping. To Droozy that was an interesting way of saying it. To Mrs. Abner it
wasn’t. She became upset because she believed she was being criticized, the
girl believing that Mrs. Abner didn’t keep her floors clean.
The floors were scrubbed so clean
that Droozys’ mother cooled the cheese cakes, in their large baking pans on
the floor every Friday after baking.
Markich was another friend. She was a girl whose father was usually drunk. He
would beat Irene and her mother when he had too much to drink.
and Irene would often play ball. They would bounce a large ball on the floor and
see who could do the most bounces. They would also jump rope, a game they both
enjoyed. They would say little rhymes like: “Teddy bear, teddy bear turn
around, teddy bear teddy bear touch the ground, etc.’ One day when they were
bouncing the ball on the cement sidewalk, Irene sang out the following ditty:
“Okka, bokka, stona krokka, okka bokka boo, if your father chews tobacco,
he’s a dirty Jew.” Droozy was hurt. She thought for a while that she was
back in Germany, being persecuted by the Nazis. She
day Irene came running up to the Abner house and begged Droozy to come quickly.
Irene’s mother was dying and her drunken father had demanded she sit with Mrs.
Markich for the night. Droozy did what Irene asked of her and accompanied her to
her house. It was a darkened, dingy room that Irene’s mother was in. She was
in a large bed covered with a heavy down feather cover. Her breathing was hard
and labored. You could hear every breath going in and out of her lungs. It was
eerie and frightening. Droozy was listening for those breaths wondering when the
last would come. The two girls sat in silence close to the bed waiting for the
woman to die. It was hours before Mrs. Markich took her last gasp of air. It
came out in a long burst like a whiff of wind before a storm. There was an eerie
silence in the room. It was so still. The room seemed like a tomb with that
lifeless, stiff contorted face lying on the white pillow. Droozy herself felt
like a frozen statue. It seemed an eternity before she went over to Irene to
give her a speechless hug, the only consolation she could muster. It was a night
long remembered by Droozy. She also learned the lesson that anti-semites will
call on you when they need you for something, even if you are Jewish!