In Memoriam for my cousin, Sandra

Sandra Lee
February 16, 1939 – June 18, 2011

So many memories of my dear cousin Sandy have been flooding my brain since she passed away on Saturday. I’ve been remembering the Sandy of the 1950s and 1960s when I visited Aunt Alice and Uncle Eli in their 45th and Walnut Street apartment in Philadelphia during my summer vacations. I can clearly picture Sandra’s bedroom where we two talked and giggled at night until Uncle Eli would tell us we sounded like chickens cackling, and then we’d laugh even harder. I learned to appreciate classical music by listening to her recordings of La Gaite Parisienne, Les Sylphides, Swan Lake, Grand Canyon Suite and Peter and the Wolf. She let me totter on her pink toeshoes with the long ribbon laces and hard toes filled with cotton. Her room was fragrant with the aroma of Aquamarine perfume and hand lotion which, of course, I bought for myself when I got back to Hazleton. And she was so-o-o beautiful. And she had many boyfriends and very high standards that they had to meet to be allowed to even speak to her. She had three close girlfriends: red-haired Sandra M., dark-haired Louise H. and Nancy R. whose father owned a 5&10-cent store around the corner.

Sandra didn’t come to Hazleton often, although her parents did. When she deigned to honor us with her presence, it was indeed a special time. One winter we went ice skating at Hazle Park. Sandra had her own white skates with shiny sharp blades. She wore a gorgeous red velvet jacket and matching short skirt that swirled out as she spun around on the ice. And there I was in my flannel-lined blue jeans and heavy winter jacket and rented skates, trying to stay upright and so proud of my princess cousin who was attracting everyone’s eye.

Sandy’s star crushes were Eddie Fisher and Tony Curtis. Sandy started a game one day when she told us (Yale, Alan, and me) as we were walking home from a movie at the Capital Theater in Hazleton, that Tony Curtis’ real name was Bernie Schwartz. “He’s Jewish, you know,” she said. “And Edwin Jack Fisher is Jewish, too,” she added. We all began naming other famous people who were Jewish, and we got carried away by our Jewish pride and began saying, “See that pretty bird? He’s Jewish.” And “Look at the neat car. It must be Jewish.” “See those flowers?” and we all yelled, “Jewish.” We laughed and enjoyed the game all the way home.

Sandra went to modeling school and Sandra went to college, things shy little me wouldn’t even think about trying.

As we got older, we’d attend family affairs and sit ‘way off in a corner and make funny and sarcastic remarks about the folks. I felt so privileged that she chose me as the person she could share her comments with. I loved her and idolized her always. When she became a social worker, I loved listening to stories about her cases and home visits. She was so determined to get help for her clients.

Sandy was the family’s brave rebel who secretly married Barry R. When she and I were pregnant at the same time, we planned that if she had her baby 2 weeks early and I had mine 2 weeks late, they’d be born at the same time. But as it turned out, my Rachel was early and Jason was late so their birthdays are 7 weeks apart. I remember the day Sandra and baby Jason showed up at her parent's house, and announced that she and Barry were getting divorced, a rather sad first among the Klemow first cousins.

Sandra’s brief but wonderful marriage to Fred M. and the birth of their son Nathaniel happened while I lived in western Pennsylvania. Our only contacts during those busy years took place by phone or through conversations with our mutual relatives. I was very happy to get to see Sandra at Nathaniel and Shannon’s wedding five years ago.

Once again, I am far away from New Jersey but in the past year, Sandy and I had some very long phone conversations. During our last conversation, I am happy to remember that we each said I love you.

Your cousin, Esther

A Trip Thru Time

Did you wash the dog in here?

Does he have to hold my hand?

Are you sure the topless look is in?

How much longer do I have to sit on this bike?

Now, here's a fellow that makes me smile.

Why do I have to push this carriage?

Uncle Sidney, it's such fun hangin' with you.

Isn't there anyone my age to play with?

Does your mother think you're twins?

I'll hold your hand. Just don't touch my purse!

My purse! My purse! My precious!

My cousins are all midgets.

He's my brother ... and he's all mine!

Pose for a picture. Pose for a picture. OK - how's this for a pose?

With those crutches you'll win the sympathy vote.

Who me? Posing? I always sit this way.

Just suck in your stomach - like me.

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