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Story Archives

Family

Lou Cove

By Lou Cove

My first child joined the world 24 days after 9/11. How could I explain this crazy place?

Afraid for the future, I looked to the past and named my son Sam, after my grandfather.

I owned just one relic left behind by Gramps: the “life story” Grandma Wini made him recite into their Flat-Mic cassette recorder.

Gramps never talked about himself, and he didn’t put much stock in that project. Rather than spend $1.25 to buy a blank tape, he took a foreign language instruction cassette and affixed a piece of tape to the hole at the top, so he could record over the lesson. An autobiography in thirty minutes? And free? Now that’s a bargain.

I had that tape for ten years. I could never bring myself to listen it.

Until now.

“On my first day of kindergarten,” he began, “I was sent home with a piece of tape across my mouth and a note pinned to my sweater that said, ‘Send him back when he can speak English’ because all I could speak was… Jewish.”

And by Jewish, I knew he meant Yiddish. What I didn’t know was how much I almost never knew, because Gramps’ first school lesson was clear: keep your mouth shut.

That little piece of tape sealed his true story. Just forty-two words, yet enough to unlock an entirely new understanding of someone I thought I knew.

 

What's the best thing you've learned about yourself through your family?

 

Lou Cove is a writer and filmmaker.