Sturdy sons, with something even in their first crescendo wails that bespoke the good heritage of a father’s love-of-life and a mother’s life-of-love.
No Sicilian sunrise was ever more glossy with the patina of hope than the iced one that crept in for a look at the wide-faced, high-cheek-boned beauty of Sara Turkletaub as she lay with her sons to the miracle of her full breasts, her hair still rumpled with the agony of deliverance. So sweetly moist her eyes that Mosher Turkletaub, his own brow damp from sweat of her writhings, was full of heartbeat, even to his temples.
Long before moontime, as if by magic of the brittle air, the tidings had spread through the village, and that night, until the hand-hewn rafters rang, the house of Turkletaub heralded with twofold and world-old fervor the advent of the man-child. And through it all—the steaming warmth, the laughter through bushy beards, the ministering of women wise and foolish with the memory of their own pangs, the shouts of vodka-stirred men, sheepish that they, too, were part custodians of the miracle of life—through it all Sara Turkletaub lay back against her coarse bed, so rich—so rich that the coves of her arms trembled each of its burden and held tighter for fear somehow God might repent of his prodigality.
That year the soil came out from under the snow rich and malmy to the plow, and Mosher started heavy with his peddler’s pack and returned light. It was no trick now for Sara to tie her sons to an iron ring in the door jamb and, her strong legs straining and her sweat willing, undertake household chores of water lugging, furniture heaving, marketing with baskets that strained her arms from the sockets as she carted them from the open square to their house on the outskirts, her massive silhouette moving as solemnly as a caravan against the sky line.
Rich months these were and easy to bear because they were backed by a dream that each day, however relentless in its toil, brought closer to reality.
The long evenings full of the smell of tallow; maps that curled under the fingers; the well-thumbed letters from Aaron Turkletaub, older brother to Mosher and already a successful pieceworker on skirts in Brooklyn. The picture postcards from him of the Statue of Liberty! Of the three of them, Aaron, Gussie, his wife, and little Leo, with donkey bodies sporting down a beach labeled “Coney.” A horrific tintype of little Leo in tiny velveteen knickerbockers that fastened with large, ruble-sized, mother-of-pearl buttons up to an embroidered sailor blouse.
It was those mother-of-pearl buttons that captured Sara’s imagination so that she loved and wept over the tintype until little Leo quite disappeared under the rust of her tears. Long after young Mosher, who loved his Talmud, had retired to sway over it, Sara could yearn at this tintype.
Her sons in little knickerbockers that fastened to the waistband with large pearl buttons!