Ver Iz Jerome?

Papa left for work early and came back late, except on Sunday.  We boys saw very little of Papa while living in The Bronx. Papa spoke English to us, and Mama switched between Yiddish and a few words in English.

He wanted to move to a farm so he could spend more time with his boys.  Papa was a Republican and Mama a New Deal Democrat.  While they disagreed on FDR, they both voted for Mayor Laguardia. 

Because Papa was around so little while we were awake, Mama was our main source of comfort, as well as discipline.  I now recall that when Papa came to America he must have been the same age that I was when we moved from The Bronx to our New Jersey farm in 1937.

While we lived in several different apartment houses, the last one was at 1566 Washington Avenue, in The Bronx.  We went to the elementary school across the street and played “immies” (marbles) in the gutter (alongside the curb in the street).

Mama was a kind but strict disciplinarian.  She kept a kosher home and we were raised that way as the normal way of life.  School was the center of our life and doing well was Mama’s constant concern.

We came to Mama when there were problems and she always said, “Go ask the teacher.”

That advice was not given when I came home one day and told Mama about two boys who got into a fight.  I asked her, “Mama, what should I do? Should I go tell the teacher?”

Mama’s quick reply was, “Fishele, mind jerome business.”
I remember saying to Mama that neither boy’s name was Jerome.

She answered, “Mish nisht arayn, (Don’t mix in) mind jerome business.”

Still today, I remember those words and the fact that Mama called someone from the candy store downstairs and told the operator the telephone number and it was Jerome….

While I have no friends named Jerome, there is a relative, and several friends named Gerald.  When I call them “Jerry,” Mama’s words come ringing back, “Mind Jerome business.”