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My Attic in Flatbush

Libby Rubinstein

Along with her crumb cake, delicious chicken cutlets, and vegetable bowties, we imbibed the unique Big City feel we didn’t have back at home

Thursday, October 13, 2016

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M y aunt’s home was everything an aunt’s home should be: Familiar yet foreign, a place where I could feel completely at home, yet still be treated like a guest. We could go for months without seeing her, yet when we came, the house was ours all over again.

Her three-floor home in Flatbush was our place in Brooklyn, be it for a Yom Tov, a simchah, or any other visit. I still feel the thrill of anticipation as we staggered out of our station wagon in the dark, shaking off crumbs, clutching the pillows and Yes & Know books that kept us company for eight hours.

The house was full of character. There was the little green bathroom that smelled of vanilla and green apple, the pantry stocked with Stella D’oros, Sugar Crisp, and Dried Apple Snacks, the three steps off her kitchen that went down to the nowhere of an unfinished basement.

We’d sidle up the staircase, running our hands over the silver wallpaper with the raised brown-velvet design, stopping at our cousins’ rooms on the second floor and getting lost in their world of books and toys.

Most enchanting was the guestroom we kids slept in — — the attic room on the third floor with the big floppy mattresses. When we jumped on those beds, which we did with glee, we could hit the sloping ceiling with our hands. (The mattresses got upgraded at some point when my aunt hosted Rabbi Moshe Sherer for a family simchah. They never bounced the same way again.) I remember the radiator that hissed to life in the winter, the brown window-unit air conditioner in the summer, and the great noise of buses and traffic below that we could hear all the way up to the third floor, a curiosity to my small-town ears.

I remember the closet in that room that held my older cousin’s dresses, hanging in neat plastic, and the big chest of drawers we could unpack into for our short stay. I remember the bathroom with the charming pink bathtub and the drain that was a long metal pump coming up from the floor. Even the unfamiliar brands of shampoo were exciting.

My aunt graciously opened her home to us over the years, taking interest in our lives, and taking care of our needs. Along with her crumb cake, her delicious chicken cutlets, and her vegetable bowties, we imbibed the unique Big City feel we didn’t have back at home. To step out on Avenue J was a thrill; crossing Coney Island to get to the grocery was an adventure, and Kosher Delight was the stuff of fiction.

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