The Day I Was Almost Homeless
I grew up in a nice house in Queens, NY. My parents, my sister, my grandparents and I lived in a single family house in Cambria Heights, near Andrew Jackson HS. We lived there since I was 4 when we moved there from the Bronx.
My second year in college, I was working as a waiter in the Shelbourne Hotel in the Catskill Mountains outside of NYC.
It was traditional for young college students to work the summers in various hotels in the “Jewish Alps” or “Borscht Belt” as it was commonly referred to.
We worked for barely minimum wages but received generous tips from the guests, most of which we spent on betting at Monticello Raceway which was nearby.
We had a great time, seeing shows and famous and not so famous acts at the various hotels. For instance, every Sunday Night, one of the hotels would get “Hullabaloo”, a TV show which aired on Saturday Night in NY, to come up and duplicate the show for their guests. It was a rock and roll show so most of the guests wouldn’t go to see the show and we would sneak in and pretend we were guests.
I didn’t talk with my parents all summer right up until the week before Labor Day, when I called to let them know I would be home the day after Labor Day, the traditional end of the Catskill Season.
After serving lunch that day, I went to the phone booth in the lobby and called home.
My mother answered. “Oh, its you” she said.
“Yes it’s me” I answered. I was having a little trouble hearing her. There seemed to be a lot of noise.
I proceeded to tell her when I would be home. She seemed a little distracted.
After a short conversation asking how everyone was, I was still having trouble hearing her.
“What’s all that noise?” I asked.
“Oh that” she replied, “We’re moving. The noise is from the movers, they’re here to move us out”.
“What, what are you talking about? Moving? Where are we moving to? When did you sell the house?” I was shocked, dismayed and as I quickly thought about it, kind of angry.
“When were you going to tell me?” I said in an accusatory tone.
“Oh, didn’t I mention it?” she said. “I thought I told you”
“No” I responded, “What did you think would happen when I got home and the new owners were there?”
“I’m almost positive I would have mentioned it, besides you would have figured it out” she said.
“Ok, where are we moving to?” I asked.
“Well, your grandparents have a nice apartment in Rego Park, and we haven’t found a place yet” she said.
“And where are we supposed to live?”
“We’re going to stay with your aunt Tillie in Rego Park until we find something” My aunt Tillie, my mother’s sister was very close to us (a few years later she informed us she hated the name Tillie and wanted to be called Natalie). She had a one bedroom apartment; there would be 5 of us living there. It would be tight quarters; perhaps that is why my mother had “forgotten” to tell me about the move?
I got off the phone in somewhat of a daze.
When I told my friends at the hotel what had happened, they fell down laughing. They agreed my theory was either correct, or my mother just “hadn’t gotten around to letting me know” she was kind of ditzy at times. I side with the former explanation.
We all lived with my aunt for a couple of months until my parents found an apartment on the next block.
A one bedroom apartment.
My sister stayed with my aunt, and I slept in an alcove until I moved out a couple of years later, at which time my sister moved into the alcove.
But, that’s another story.