Sexual Magnetism

One of the beauties of Creation, i.e. the universe as we know it, is the passionate attraction that occurs with certain couples. William Shakespeare wrote about it fetchingly in Romeo and Juliet, and ended it quite wisely. Had Romeo and Juliet married, it might not have lasted, and the beauty of their relationship might have ended, in its modern equivalent of divorce or unfaithfulness.

Theirs was a moment captured by time, like a sunset that lasts only four minutes, like a day lily that blooms only twenty-four hours. We can’t push Nature too far — it is beautiful as it is. Romeo and Juliet’s love was beautiful as it was; to demand that it last a lifetime is almost hoping for too much. Yet there are couples whose love lasts forever, as far as I can tell.

Yes, as quantum theory would lead me to believe, the adjective forever is possible. In this world, all things have an end; even the universe is predicted to die. But English and other languages have the word eternal. Don’t give up on that.

Three Squirrels

They have no idea where it came from, that red oak with the abundant acorns to which they come every sunny morning and even some rainy ones. Did they ever ask, “Who planted this tree? Where do trees come from? What do humans mean by a Big Bang?”

There’s one on his favorite perch, with his back against the trunk, breaking into an acorn that he picked at random from hundreds strewn on the ground. He’s on the lowest branch, about eight feet off the ground, keeping his distance from the other two.

Those squirrels never picked the acorns off the branches, probably because they weren’t ripe. Now that the acorns are on the ground, it’s a supermarket. How does a small squirrel, with a three-ounce stomach capacity, eat so many acorns? And how does he survive that hawk, lazily observing from circles in the sky?

With God’s Help

Somwhere in the Bible it says that unless the Lord watches with the watchman, the watchman watches in vain. Well, the Lord was with Tobias when, alone, he raised his daughter to adulthood, and she pleased all who observed her not just as a maiden, but as a married mother.

She could have gone wrong many ways, for she was beautiful and lively, a temptation for many a man to lead her astray. But she would have none of that. She had, under her dad’s guidance, developed a strong sense of self, and in the end she knew she had dignity and character. She would not let that be despoiled.

She now has a handsome son, to whom she devotes time once spent on a cherished puppy and various side interests. She not only spends her time, with her husband, keeping her nuclear family healthy and happy, but is a great help to her extended family, keeping her uncles and in-law aunts under benevolent surveillance. This woman gets the Tobias Award for taking advantage of what she was given.

Another Day

She stood under the fall trees at the entrance to the King Kullen Shopping Center in Syosset, New York. She had a baby wrapped in a white hospital blanket in her arms, and a sign at her feet that read “Evicted. Husband out of work.”

I stopped. Just then her young husband joined her, and I asked why they were evicted. They said they’d been unable to pay the rent. I assumed it hadn’t been the first time, and I asked, “If you came up with this month’s rent, would the landlord let you back in?”

“We’re not out yet,” replied the young mother, “and he’s let us stay before.”

The rent was not exorbitant; my bank was just around the corner. I’d taken chances on the basketball court when I was younger, in tough games, and so I took one now, for her and her husband. They left with a fist full of cash, and I never saw them again.

The Greatest Gift

The feminine half of humanity has a charm that naturally finds a place in my heart. I remember “My Fair Lady,” that musical with its lovely, barely educated heroine. And professor Henry Higgins was able to draw out the best in her — what a tremendous feat to make someone into their full potential. To give such a gift!

I spoke to my brother a few days ago, and he told me, now that he’s in California, people tell him he has a slight accent. “Of course,” I said, “you have a New York, Long Island North Shore accent like I do!”

You see, I met Henry Higgins at the National Council of Teachers of English convention in Baltimore in 1965. We were at a round table of English teachers, and since Loretta and I arrived late, I introduced us to the table. On the opposite side of the table from me, sat a dimly remembered man who announced, “You’re from New York.” Aware that a New York accent is recognized throughout the country, I was at first unimpressed.

Then he added, “As a matter of fact, you’re from Long Island.” I looked at him sharply silently. Where was he from? Then, with a triumphant tone, he spit out the words, “You’re from the North Shore.” Astonished, I searched for a reply. I had grown up in Manhasset, L.I.

“Yes, east of Montauk,” I answered with humor. But nobody got it, not being familiar with the geography of Long Island. Nevertheless, I will always be grateful to that sage, that Henry Higgins, probably from the Midwest, for that brilliant display of phonology.

Little Joys with Big Ones

There are small joys as well as big ones in all of Creation. Outside my patio door there is a red oak that I was able to identify now that it bore acorns. They are beautiful nuts, and last year I was afraid they were going to waste. But this year was different.

One morning I saw a gray squirrel eating an acorn, shelling it while perched on the lowest branch of the tree. The harvest was so bountiful, lying at the base of the tree, that he had to take only a few hops from the base to get another one. Then I saw the other two.

It was Oktoberfest for all of them! They were darting all around, acorns in jaws, and resting on nearby branches to eat them. Ecstasy had arrived in the animal kingdom. All this while Loretta, Paula, Ilana, Freddy and I celebrated Loretta’s birthday.

Without Reason

Things, to some extent, don’t have to make sense for me anymore. Loretta and I were incompatible blood-wise. I was A+ and she was O-, and if we wanted children, that was bad. Nature seemed generous, though, and it was not till our third son was born that it made itself felt.

I saw him in the nursery at North Shore Hospital, jaundiced and scrawny. “Oh God, don’t let him suffer,” I prayed. They call that a blue baby, and Dr. Degnan took charge. He changed that child’s complete blood supply four times! I went to see Loretta in her room. She was doing fine, yet she listened to my complaint about our little son. “I’m going to name him Frederick Emmanuel Von Burg, after you,” she told me. That put me in my place.

I’ll never forget Dr. Degnan’s name. That baby changed color and began to grow! He’s now 6’4″ with a wonderful wife and daughter, and he’s going to buy me new molars. If there is no providence, explain how we’d get through that one if we lived in Siberia!