A Secret Grave 61: The Crow and the Canary

 

The plan had always been for Leonard to live and practice in Toronto, where he had connections and family – cousins, aunts, uncles on his mother, Irma’s, side. Her maiden name was Gurevitz and her own parents had emigrated from Europe a generation before Rudolf’s, making her less rigid and old world than her husband. While she was no happier with Leonard’s choice of bride than Rudolf was (in fact, she seethed at the very thought of his marrying “out”), she wanted access to her son and grandchildren and so she made little compromises, such as going to their house to visit at least once a week. In Victor’s memory she was a thin, quiet, sour-faced woman in a kerchief, long print dress, and those heavy black brogues old ladies used to wear. He remembered not liking when she was there because of the tension between her and his mother, a constant malaise like the buzz of electricity or a door not fitting right in its frame. The two women would sit together, but without conversation unless it was hurling barbed insults back and forth that little boys such as Victor or his brother, Roy, wouldn’t understand. In that way, the subtext for a comment like, “Thank you for the nice cup of tea,” translated to: “Don’t go out of your way, bitch.”

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Irma Gurevitz

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And truly Evelyn Frances Beaumont did not fit in. The Gurevitzes were all dark-haired exotic people, with olive skin and almond-shaped eyes that spoke of the Mongol-Tatar hordes sweeping across 13th century Europe. Evelyn was blond and dainty. Rudolf, whose arranged marriage to Irma Gurevitz took place in 1918, had the curly red hair and blue eyes of some Ashkenazi Jews… but in his perennial black clothing with the tzitzit (prayer fringes) protruding from beneath his jacket, he was a black crow to Evelyn’s pale yellow, well-heeled canary.

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Orthodox Jewish men in Manhattan, Ernst Moeksis, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Irma, with Victor’s older brother, Roy

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These cultural differences made Victor’s early childhood extremely uncomfortable. He didn’t know whether to be true to his mother with her uncovered blond hair and drawling southern accent or his father’s family whose lives were built around dietary law and religion. The truth was Leonard himself didn’t care whether his wife kept a kosher home or attempted to convert to Judaism. He had things – a whole realm of secret knowledge – that had to be passed from his father to him before he could entertain the possibility of living anywhere besides Toronto.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ http://stressedjenny.deviantart.com/art/The-Canary-and-the-Crow-164818381

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