Granddaughter of Mildred and Max
I picked up the accordion folder at the top of my basement stairs that had been in my sights for months. I knew it was full of papers, old papers, that I didn’t seem to want to examine. But after a week of cleaning out basement boxes and filling recycling bins with unwanted scraps, I scooped it up to finger through the envelopes inside.
The first pass uncovered my mother’s tax returns from 2008, a folder with the original sales information for our home in Maryland, and other outdated emblems of my family’s life. Though unpractical to keep for any legal reasons as my mother died in 2011 and we sold the house in 2012, they brought me some comfort thinking about a stable life inside a home full of an abundance of memories.
Among the expired documents was a small plastic bag with my hand scribbled note tucked inside that read ‘Goodies to Look at’. I sat quiet and amused to realize that I had looked through this folder at least one other time in the past and put it away unsorted.
I gently removed one of the yellowed envelopes with eloquent handwriting of another age. Inside was the wedding invitation announcing in a lovely script that, on Tuesday the fifteenth of August nineteen hundred and twenty-two, my mother’s mother Mildred Ruderman would be betrothed to my mother’s father Mr. Max Schmidt. I wondered, “Who gets married on a Tuesday?” finding out from a friend later that it was a traditional day for marriages in an earlier time of Jewish life. This was due to a misconception that the ideal day to get married is the third day of Creation counted from Saturday evening, because the phrase “ki tov” (for it is good) is used twice in that day’s story.
I opened the stained folded invitation to find a tiny torn piece of paper. The size of a small classified ad, it was the Pittsburgh Gazette newspaper wedding announcement, unmoored, tucked between the folds. The small headline read “To Have a Home Wedding”. And in the language of the day “Miss Mildred Ruderman, daughter of Mr. and Ms. Harry Ruderman (the Mrs. being Rebecca) has chosen Tuesday, August 15 as the date for her marriage to Max Schmidt of McDonald, son of Eli Schmidt of Pittsburgh. The ceremony will be solemnized in the Ruderman home at 5:30 o’clock in the afternoon. The Rev. A. M. Ashinsky officiating. Only the members of the immediate families will witness the ceremony. A reception will take place in the Ruderman home that evening at 8:30 o’clock.”
Even with just the immediate family present, it would have been a big wedding since Mildred had 7 brothers and sisters.
I rubbed my fingers across this almost 100-year-old artifact, squinting across time, no longer in the present. I am not born. My mother is not yet born [though she will be 9 months later]. My father is 2 years old off in the distance.
I want to freeze these parched papers in time to share with the next generations. I want to breathe normally. Instead I can feel my chest rise and fall with a heavy breath, mouth slack as I open up to a tucked away grief into a waterfall of tears.
I miss my mother, Sylvia Doris Schmidt Hoffman, born May 14, 1923, who saved these scraps of history for us.