When the little shul closed a half dozen years ago, someone called my sister to ask if we would take some memorabilia. We said we would. My sister retrieved a few paintings and plaques and a scrapbook which she handed to me for safekeeping. The scrapbook had a musty smell, the back cover was torn. I could not quite bring myself to throw it away before looking through its tattered pages. “Someday,” promised and banished the scrapbook to a canvas bag in the garage. And there it has remained until last night when I took it into the house.
The front cover is a faded shade of green with letters embossed in gold. It reads: Ladies Auxiliary of Temple Beth Israel, June, 1948–May,1949. I was three years old in 1949.
Such care someone took to paste in photographs, to insert booklets—the installation of officers, the Purim dance, the annual picnic at Penner’s Lake—postponed because of rain. I remember Penner’s lake. The adults were terrified of children contracting polio from the water.
On one fragile page is a faded picture of four women, my mother among them, in the backyard of the home where I grew up. A newspaper clipping states that they are sewing and folding cancer dressings made from donated sheets and shirts. I look closely at the toddlers playing in background. And there I am, at the sandbox beside the tin garage.
On the following page, a woman holds a pitcher of what is either ice tee or lemonade. She will pour the drink into glasses set out on a tray to quench the thirst of the cancer dressing workers.
I read next about the synagogue auction in which the big ticket items are two horses and a house. There is my father at the podium. He is smoking a pipe. I remember the fragrance of the tobacco. I can see his smiling eyes.
In the minutes of meetings recorded in beautiful cursive handwriting, my parents, aunts and uncles are noted as members of committees, officers and volunteers. I am touched by their names and those of neighbours whose faces have faded from my memory.
It is nearly midnight when I close the scrapbook—a cherished treasure rescued.
For a moment, I think, I will call my mother.
And then, I remember.