GENESSA -- RITZIE!
My Bubby Jenny's Dog, by Gail M Feldman
My mother's mother, my Bubby Jenny Whitman Isenberg, née Czarna Weitman, died of a heart attack, a year younger than I am now, writing this. She was 56; I was three, and an only child (until July of that year) and am 57 now.
I remember her, though, and I remember her dog, a black cocker spaniel named Ritzie, who, being the family dog, was also my mother's childhood dog. One of my two clear memories of Bubby Jenny is a sense-memory: she was warm. I will assume I perceived this from her lap, which was copious. (My mother used to dandle me me on her own lap, as she must've been on Jenny's, and recite, bouncing, "Dai diddly dootsen dootsen, dai diddly dootsen doo!" I believe Bubby Jenny dandled, and recited that snippet of Yiddish nonsense to, me, as well.) The other is somewhat like a snapshot and is also my only memory of Ritzie: I am sitting on a counter near the front door of the Philadelphia wallpaper-hanging business managed by my Grandpop Jack. At the far wall, Bubby Jenny is standing by the doorway to the back of the shop and the rest of the house, for they lived above the shop, on Chew Avenue (which we called Chew Street), as had, for a time, their parents. She is smiling like this:
At her feet stands Ritzie, who loved Bubby Jenny more than anything or anyone in the world.
I was told that Bubby Jenny washed her laundry in the Danube. This makes sense in that she was born in Austria but how old must she have been when her family brought her to America? Too young to do laundry, perhaps. I must have this wrong; maybe it was Great-Grandmother Pearl (Tziporia, after whom I was named -- my middle name in Hebrew is Tsipporah), who did the family laundry in the Danube -- or maybe Jenny came over later than I imagined. But wait, I have news! Since I wrote this paragraph I have learned that Jenny was born in Waslkowitz, which was indeed Austria at the time she was born (1898) but has since moved to Poland. Okay, it didn't move; borders did. She came by ship, via Liverpool, England, with her mother and two brothers and two of her three sisters (see below) to Philadelphia, where they were met by Pearls husband, Jenny's father, Benjamin (Berl).
Bubby Jenny was survived by at least three sisters: Lena, Ida and Rosie, about whom just a smidgeon more, admittedly in passing, here: CANDY. I will mention that Jenny was not Grandpop Jack's intended; coming back from WWI, where he had been stationed in Brest, France (he told me he had a position of some authority, and made a point of remaining celibate during his tour, since he saw the ravages of venereal disease among the enlisted men) he met a nice young woman in a park. Soon afterwards he had gone to her house to ask her out on a date, and was met at the door by one of her sisters: Jenny. Was she the one with the squeaky laugh? There is no one alive to ask now but he married Jenny, not Lena, Ida or Rosie (Ida did have an offer but turned it down to stay with her "old-maid" sister). They lived together in Philadelphia to the end of their days. Lena, the only sister born in the United States (Philly, in fact), moved to Altoona, PA, and I don't believe she ever married, either, but I am still learning....
Their first child was a son, my Uncle Irv, who grew up to be CHESS champion of Philadelphia, and a highly respected physicist in whose honor, after his death, the Marine Biological Laboratory (in Woods Hole, Massachusetts) established the Irvin Isenberg Memorial Lecture. (I met Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi, my uncle's "boss," when I was nine, and thought him quite a sweet old white-haired man; I had no conception that he was a Nobel laureate!) Their second and only other child was my mother, Ada, about whom I have written more than once (check for stories about her in my LIST OF WRITINGS.)
When Bubby Jenny died, Ritzie went looking for her. She had no conception that humans died; she knew she had to find her beloved mistress. She might have remained inconsolable for a long time, perhaps forever, but it was not to be: in her desperation to find Bubby Jenny, she ran into the street and was killed by a car.
Is it possible to miss someone of whom you have only a snapshot memory and a sense of warmth? Yes, it must be, for even now, at her age plus one year, I miss her. I miss everyone I've mentioned on this page; I am the only survivor among them.
Credit: This picture of Ritzie was most likely taken by one of the following people, all now deceased: Jacob Isenberg, Jenny Isenberg, Irvin Isenberg or Ada Isenberg (later Feldman). The picture has been in my possession for decades, as have the other pictures featured on this page, and I feel certain I am infringing no copyrights and breaking no laws in displaying it here.