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Minya, Queen of Stories: The Sunday I Lost My Nickel Carfare to Get Home From the Park

This is a story written by my Grandmom, Minya Yudenfriend. Her life philosophy was “write it down.” She constantly told the stories of the people she loved, she put her heart and life into every word and I’m sharing them to carry on her legacy and to tell her stories forever. 

The Sunday I Lost My Nickel Carfare to Get Home From the Park 

I usually put my second nickel in my shoe. The first nickel I spent to get to the park. My nickel  was safe in my shoe. I don’t remember having pockets in my dresses. I guess I’m starting the  story backwards. I had to get back to the park. We used to go there when I was very young; maybe I was five or six years old. And then when I was eight or nine, we stopped going to the  park. Just like that. 

Our whole family used to go to the park. My five sisters, my three brothers, my mother and  father, and I went to the park. My mother’s sister, Tante Bubble, and her husband, Philip, and all  their children. My mother’s brother, Uncle Avra Mayer and his wife, Chaya, and their children  also went. 

My mother, Faga Molla, and Tante Bubble actually brought a coal stove and cooked two hearty  meals in the park. Many times they made Prockas (cabbage leaves wrapped around ground meat  and cooked in tomato paste and tomato sauce and seasoned with lemon), soup, and everything  that was needed to complete a meat meal. I can smell it now. We also had a milk meal with  herring and bread and butter and of course we brought a samovar for tea and cake. It must have  been lots of work for my mother and Tante Bubble. But for us it was heaven, and we could not  wait for Sunday to arrive. 

How did we get there? How did we get all our equipment there? My father, Eushea, had two  wagons and two horses and a carriage. Pop used the carriage to take Mom to the park. The  wagons were used during the week to deliver glass. On Sunday, the wagons had to be cleaned  out. Tiny slivers of glass had to be swept out. Blankets were put down for us to sit on. Pop  usually sent out Percup and Yvonne, our two hired men who boarded with us, early in the  morning with the coal stove to select a place in the park and to gather tables and chairs, which  the city of Philadelphia provided at that time. Either Percup set up the tables and chairs and coal  stove and guarded them and Yvonne went back to get us, or the other way around. It is so long  ago. I was six years old then and I am now seventy-five. 

We would wait on the curb outside our house at 519 S. 6th Street for the wagons. Actually, we  usually were jumping up and down until we got on the wagons. It is a good five miles from 519  S. 6th Street to the park at 44th and Parkside Avenue. But what an excursion for us. I couldn’t  sleep the night before, waiting for Sunday to arrive. Anyhow, the bed I shared with my sisters,  Lilly and Bessie, didn’t seem so crowded, and, of course, on Sunday I was up before Pop woke  us. 

Pop had a novel way of waking all of us. He used to take a spoon and hit a pot at the bottom of  the steps and the noise, resounding throughout the house, never failed to shake us out of bed.  

After we got to the park, my mother and Tante Bubble put the stove together and started it up.  Since it was only ten or ten-thirty in the morning, Lillian and I went for a walk, and after we  checked to see if the Mayapple or Mandrake had come up, we went to look for Spring Beauties  and Quaker Ladies. They were exquisite wild flowers. Of course, there were Stars of Bethlehem.  And the hills were laden with daisies. We picked daisies until our arms could not hold one more 

daisy and then Lillian sat down on an old blanket or a grassy slope and made daisy crowns for all  our sisters. We did not pick the other flowers until it was time to come home. We didn’t want  them to wilt. If it was a very hot day, we wandered deep into the woods where there was a  lovely, beautiful brook and though we weren’t supposed to, we took our shoes off and waded in  the brook. Sometimes we walked across the rocks to the other side. Sometimes we played that  we were fairy princesses living in an enchanted forest. It was one of the wonderful and lovely  times of my life. 

And then we stopped going to the park. Just like that. Percup and Yvonne still worked for us and  boarded with us. But no wagon left early Sunday morning to get our space in the park and to  guard our tables until we could get there at ten. I kept hoping that we could go the next weekend,  the next Sunday. But hoping and waiting did not bring another family picnic. I even asked my  mother whether we were going next week if we didn’t go this week. But she didn’t answer me. 

I knew that my mother was upset about something that had to do with Tante Bubble. Tante  Bubble and Uncle Philip were going to move from Philadelphia to a new home in Atlantic City.  Uncle Philip was going to work as a builder. Maybe it was too hard for one person, my mother,  to prepare two meals for the picnic. My uncle, Avra Mayer, and Aunt Chaya were making  changes too. Uncle Avra Mayer was leaving Philadelphia to seek his fortune in Chicago making  harnesses. Aunt Chaya stayed in Philadelphia until Uncle Mayer got settled, they said. But  anyhow, nobody told me why we stopped going. I only knew that our days in the park as a  family seemed to be over. I was unhappy about this. 

I wasn’t unhappy at school. I liked school. I sang and recited in class. Every day I helped the  kindergarten teacher after school. I liked doing that. And as young as I was, I was having a  difficult time trying to decide whether to be a teacher or an actress. 

But the weekends had gone flat. 

One day, the kindergarten teacher and I walked to the trolley on South Street. She was going  home after school. She told me that she lived near the park. And she took the South Street trolley  to get there after she taught at the Fourten School at 6th and Lombard Streets. I couldn’t believe  it. The South Street trolley, which was one block from our home, could take me to the park for  one nickel. And another nickel could take me home again. Maybe I could go there myself. 

Or if not by myself, with one of my sisters. So, I asked Rose, Minnie, Bessie, and Lillian. No, I  didn’t ask Dora. My mother wouldn’t let me take Dora. She was too little. She was the baby of  the family. My mother wanted her home. Besides, she was only three years old. 

I wanted to go to the park. I wanted more than anything in the world to go to the park. “Please, Mother, may I go to the park myself?”  

When she didn’t answer me, I kept it up. “I want to go to the park. I want to go to the park. I  want to go to the park.”

Until my mother finally said, “Nu, so go.” And then she thought it over and asked, “How would  you get there?” 

“The South Street trolley runs there, and it only costs a nickel, and another nickel to get home  again.” I had been prepared with this answer for a long time. 

She must have known that, even at eight, there are some things you have to do for yourself.  Maybe at one time she had wanted something very much. Anyhow, I did not have to explain it to  her. She gave me two nickels, a brown bag with my lunch, and told me to have a good time. I  never had to ask my mother or father for anything a second time. There were not many things  that I desired. 

The first time I took the South Street trolley I was just eight years old. I was very careful to  notice the trolley’s route. When we came to the end of the line, everything looked familiar to me.  I knew which streets to cross to get to our haven. I was careful not to stay too long because I  wanted to come back again and again and again. What a shame my family had stopped coming!  What a shame that my sisters were not interested in coming with me! Well, never mind. I would  come back again next week and the week after that and the week after that and all the weeks  there are in the world. 

I took the trolley home and got home for supper at six. No one was interested in my trip to the  park. When I tried to tell them all about it, they didn’t listen. Well, never mind, I would keep it  all for myself. I would think of the park when I tried to sleep and could not, because with two  sisters sharing the bed with me, it was difficult to ever get comfortable in the bed. 

After I had gone to the park several times, I got careless. 

It was hot and just being in the park with the flowers wasn’t enough; I wanted to go wading in  the creek that I loved. It was hot and I thought I’d feel better when I cooled off. So, I took off my  shoes and I took off the high white socks my mother made me wear to hide the brown birthmark  that was on the calf of my right leg. I went into the creek and spent the whole day there. I felt  wonderful, cool, and in touch with G-d’s world. I felt fine until I thought of going home. Where  had I put my shoes and socks? I didn’t care that my feet were still wet. It was so hot that they  would be dry in a second. Was that a shoe over there? And where was the other shoe? 

Well, I found my shoes and I found my socks. But there was something nagging at the back of  my mind. I had my shoes and my socks. I put them on. But that funny feeling in the tip of my left  shoe was missing. That meant that my nickel was missing. Surely it must be in the other shoe. I  put my hand into each shoe. I looked at the ground where I had thrown my shoes and socks. I  sifted the soil with my fingers. I picked up the piece of paper that had been my brown lunch bag  and tore it apart. No, I hadn’t left the nickel in my lunch bag. I tried to look in the creek. But the  shadows of the day ending made me imagine I saw a nickel and then when my hand went into  the water, it was just a reflection of those shadows. No nickel.  

Now the shadows were shadows no longer, but a darkness over the park. There was only one  thing to do. I must start going home now. I could not look for the nickel another minute. I wasn’t 

afraid of the dark. I really wasn’t afraid of the dark, but maybe my mother would worry about  where I was. Maybe she would not let me come back here to this lovely, lovely place that  belonged to me. 

I started to walk, following the trolley tracks. I had the wildflowers I had gathered earlier and a  daisy crown on my head. What if some dangerous person took me away with them? Would I  really be able to find my way home? 

I walked one block and two and three and four and then it was a mile and that meant that there  were only four more miles to go. I made the first mile all right. Maybe I would still be able to get  home. I was so tired. If there were only a bench to sit down on somewhere! If there was some  way to let my mother know that I had lost my car fare and was walking home. How could I do  this to myself? Why wasn’t I more careful? 

I began to cry. But then I remembered that I could not cry. I have very bad eyes and I must take  good care of them. Without my glasses I can hardly see anything. I wiped my eyes. I must be  brave. I will get home all right. I threw the flowers away, angry at my carelessness. It seemed as  if I had to almost walk to another city. I was so tired. My legs hurt from walking. I was so  hungry. Hungry for Mom’s cooking. Right now, everyone was sitting down and eating supper.  They were eating chicken and potatoes and apple cake. That was what Mom had been making  when I left this morning. Would there be any left for me? Would there be any left for me if I ever  got home again? 

There were people on the corner waiting for a trolley. Should I ask them for money to use the  trolley? No. I knew which blocks to walk. I could do it. I could do it. I would do it. I had already  walked a mile. Four more miles and I was home. 

I had walked one mile. How fast that mile was when I was riding the trolley. How slow when I  was following the trolley tracks. I walked another five blocks and another mile. I tried to imagine  myself as the actress Pauline in “Perils of Pauline.” Pauline always got out of a tight spot, every  matinee. If Pauline could find her way out, so could I. Why, finding her way home would be  nothing for Pauline. So, this would be nothing for me. 

I began to sing. I sang every song that I knew. And the distance began to go. I was doing it. I was  getting home by myself.  

I was near the library in the park. I was walking through town. And then Independence Square  and Sixth Street. Now there were only five more blocks. I was at Sixth and Lombard. There was  a drug store at the corner and then just before our store, Levis’s Hot Dogs. And there was our  store, H. Perilstein Glass. I made it. I was home. My brother, Nathan, was outside the store.  “Bella, Mom’s looking for you!” 

Nathan didn’t even know that I had walked home from the park!

Everyone had eaten already. My mother was ironing my father’s shirt in the kitchen. When she  saw me and looked at my face, I did not have to say a word. She knew. The tears had dried on  my face. “Bella, you lost your nickel and you had to walk home.” 

I nodded. 

She put her arms around me and said, “It does not matter. Shea, our little girl, is grown up. She  found her way home herself.” My father hugged me, too. “Come, Bella, you must be hungry. I  saved your dinner.”  

I would never learn to be careful about my nickel. There would be other Sundays that I walked  home from the park. I never was frightened again. I knew that I could always find my way home.

Lisa Green

Lafayette '24

Hi, I'm Lisa and I'm a freshman at Lafayette. I'm interested in theater, politics, cooking and more!
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