Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Short Story: The Doorman

Batsheva Morgenstern

We knew him simply as Leonid. It was always just Leonid — none of us had ever thought to ask his last name. Unlike the other doormen on West 72nd St. who were, for the most part, African American fellows, Leonid stood out like a mink coat at a vegetarians’ convention. How this uneducated Muscovite septuagenarian landed such a prestigious position (relatively speaking) was anyone’s guess. Yet with his navy officer getup and white gloves, he exuded a quiet pride.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

He knew our Sunday routine like the layout of the building he devotedly guarded. Every week at 2:00 p.m. sharp, he’d be ready for our invasion. Buzzing us in, he’d rush to park Dad’s Caddie, and bring in Lili’s stroller, while kidding around with Benny and nodding politely at Mom. Grown-ups thought him to be taciturn, if not eccentric, but to us kids, Leonid was the benevolent uncle we never had.

            Each Sunday, we’d drive in from Cedarhurst to visit Grandpa Max and Grandma Beth. (They were not our real grandparents, but had adopted Mom when she was a child.) After hanging around their ritzy apartment and savoring Grandma’s sumptuous pastries for about ten minutes, we were ready for action. While the adults sat with steaming mugs of coffee, swapping stories, we either slid down the gold banisters or monopolized the elevator. Destination: Leonid.

Though his features were nondescript — his eyes were neither blue, nor green, and his nose was rather bulbous — we were enamored with him. He did not possess a degree in childhood development or psychology, but he did have an intuitive, magical charm that drew kids to him like bees to nectar. Whether it was making faces at Lili until she laughed uproariously, showing a wide-eyed Benny how the closed-circuit camera worked, or fixing my charm bracelet, he knew just how to warm our young hearts.

            Initially, Mom had frowned upon Leonid giving us candies, but she relented when Grandma Beth explained his background one day. Sweet soul that she was, Grandma Beth had gently gleaned Leonid’s sad CV. He’d been interred in the frozen tundra of Siberia throughout his prime years. His heinous crime? Having associated with observant Jews in some clandestine study group. Languishing among the lowest elements of society, Leonid kept his distance and endured ridicule and derision. After years of this senseless exile, the Communists decided he was “reformed,” and released him on probation. Leonid returned home, a broken vessel. He applied for a visa to the States, in vain. The alarmed authorities were trying to halt the swelling number of emigrants. Leonid remained a refusenik for six long years before receiving his ticket to freedom.

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
Evolution vs. Revolution
Shoshana Friedman I call it the “what happened to my magazine?” response
Up, Up, and Away
Rabbi Moshe Grylak What a fraught subject Eretz Yisrael is, to this day
Where Do You Come From?
Yonoson Rosenblum Could they be IDF officers with no Jewish knowledge?
Heaven Help Us
Eytan Kobre Writing about anti-Semitism should rouse, not soothe
Work/Life Solutions with Chedva Kleinhandler
Moe Mernick “Failures are our compass to success”
An Un-Scientific Survey
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are Jerusalemites unfriendly? Not necessarily
Out of Anger
Jacob L. Freedman How Angry Lawyer was finally able to calm down
5 Things You Didn’t Know about…Yitzy Bald
Riki Goldstein He composed his first melody at eight years old
When the Floodgates of Song Open, You’re Never Too Old
Riki Goldstein Chazzan Pinchas Wolf was unknown until three years ago
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds that boosted performers into the limelight
Your Task? Ask
Faigy Peritzman A tangible legacy I want to pass on to my children
Are You There?
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Emotional withdrawal makes others feel lonely, abandoned
A Peace of a Whole
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt Love shalom more than you love being right
Seminary Applications
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, as told to Ariella Schiller It’s just as hard for seminaries to reject you