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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

The 1924 Romance

The year was 1924. My Aunt Dorothy was just dying for someone to take her dancing at the Avalon Ballroom but her mama said she was too young. "I am not!" said Aunt Dorothy. "I'm almost eighteen but no one ever asks me out."

Aunt Dorothy's mama shrugged her shoulders and sniffed. "You'd have plenty of beaus if you went on a diet," said her mama. "No one wants to take a girl out on a date and spend all his money feeding her."

Aunt Dorothy's eyes filled with tears. She smeared a bagel with sweet butter and jam and took a huge bite. "But I don't want to diet," she said. "I want to dance. There's got to be someone out there who likes 'em soft and cuddly."

And she was right. Philip Moses came from Poland and couldn't speak one word of English. He was even fatter than my Aunt Dorothy and when Billy Aronson introduced him to my aunt, he thought she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He took her to dinner at the Commodore Perry Hotel and the two of them ate two whole dinners each with plenty of apple pie ala mode for dessert. Then off they went to The Avalon Ballroom. The minute they hit that dance floor, my Aunt Dorothy fell in love. Man oh man could that boy cut a rug! He did the Charleston just like in the movies and when that band played Fascinating Rhythm he shook like a volcano about to erupt. My Aunt Dorothy shimmied so fast her silver bracelets jingled like castanets.

The two of them were so big they filled half the dance floor but once they started swinging no one else wanted to dance. They didn't want to miss the show. What a sight they were! Their feet moved so fast they smoked and my Aunt Dorothy kicked as high as those Follies girls. Wow! She was hot! At midnight, the Avalon closed and Philip took my aunt to the speakeasy on Superior Street for few picker uppers. At three in the morning, the two of them staggered out of the place arm in arm singing "Does the Spearmint Lose its Flavor on the Bedpost Overnight?"

By the time they got home, Aunt Dorothy's cute velvet cloche was tipped over her eye and her pearls were hanging to her knees. Her make up was all gone and she looked a lot more like an overfed cow than a flapper but Philip Moses didn't care one bit. He kissed her right on her own front porch and said a whole bunch of words Aunt Dorothy didn't understand.

When she unlocked her front door, her Mama was waiting for her. "What HAPPENED to you?" asked her mama.

"I think he loves me," said Aunt Dorothy

"What do you meant, think? asked her mama. "How long before you'll know?"

Aunt Dorothy thought for a few minutes and then she smiled. "I'll know just as soon as I learn how to speak Polish!" she said.

Well, she dated Phillip Moses from Poland for a whole year and the two of them danced holes in their stockings every Saturday night at the Avalon Ballroom. Aunt Dorothy was a hot cookie and when she dolled herself up, she looked like a bloated kewpie doll. Her hair was shingled close to her head, and her lips painted so bright and full they looked like traffic signals at a railroad crossing. She wore short loose dresses with Peter Pan collars and Phillip Moses thought (in Polish of course) she was even prettier than Gloria Swanson. The minute she walked in the room, he would glow as if someone turned on a light in his heart. "Da," he would say which is Polish for "You look terrific, baby!"

One night in May, they decided to double date with my Aunt Sally and Aaron Goldman.

When Phillip rang Aunt Dorothy's bell, her mama made him sit in the big Morris chair next to their new Victrola. "Hello, Phillip," she said. "Dorothy will be ready in just a minute."

"Da," Phillip said which is Polish for "She'd better hurry. I made reservations for seven o'clock."

Aunt Dorothy came into the room in her electric blue flapper dress that barely reached her dimpled knees and her mama said, "Heaven help me, Dorothy! You don't have any underwear under that thing!"

Aunt Dorothy leaned over to fix a seam in her stocking and even Phillip could see her flowered knickers. "I do so!" she said and wiggled her behind just enough to be outrageous.

"Stand up this minute, you shameless girl!" hissed her mama.

"DA!!!" said Phillip which is Polish for "Do that again, you cute thing."

"They won't let you in a decent place dressed like that," warned Aunt Dorothy's mama.

"We're going to the Park Plaza for a little brain and nerve food and then Philly promised he'd take me to see "The Phantom of the Opera" with Lon Chaney, didn't you, Phillip?" said Aunt Dorothy and she gave her mama a dreadful look that said "Mind your own business."

Phillip smiled even more than usual and nodded vigorously. "Da," he said which was Polish for "Whatever you say, honey."

"Don't wait up for us, Mama," said Aunt Dorothy and gave Phillip her velvet wrap to put around her shoulders. "There's a marathon at the Avalon tonight and Philly and I are gonna show off our routine to "Sweet Georgia Brown. When Phillie swings me higher than that girl on a flying trapeze, I look like a spinning Tiffany lampshade."

"That was a man," said her mama. "Well, you be careful, Dorothy. I don't trust foreigners, especially the ones who drive a violet Packard with a white top. Does he have a driver's license?"

Aunt Dorothy nodded. "From Poland," she said and she pinched Phillip's cheek. "Don't you precious?"

"Da," said Phillip which is Polish for "I can't understand a word you're saying."

Dorothy waved good-by to her mama and the two crammed themselves in the front seat of Phillip's hot Packard convertible with the rumble seat in the back. Off they drove to my Aunt Sally's house. Philip honked and Aunt Dorothy stood up and waved. "Get a move on, Sally!" she shouted. "We got reservations!"

Well, my Aunt Sally was a class act and she wasn't going to be bossed around by a fat floozie who couldn't trap a guy who spoke English. She opened her front door and sashayed out on the porch, elegant as Mary Pickford and even more flat-chested. She wore a tiny white dress covered with sequins that glittered when she moved and her hair was waved all over her head. She carried a long cigarette holder and her eye lashes were so long they fluttered when she inhaled. Her feather boa rippled around her shoulders and Phillip stared at her so hard the engine in his car stalled. "We don't wanna go to a movie tonight," she said. "Aaron and me want to see Carrie Finnel twirl her tassels at The Town Hall."

Aunt Dorothy could see Phillip thinking he might have more fun with someone who fit a little better in the front seat of his car and decided to redirect his mind. "Hurry up!" she called. "We'll be late for dinner. "

She put her arms around Phillip and kissed him to block his view of the competition. "Crank up the car, Poopsie," she whispered in his ear. "By the time you get the engine going again, Sally and Aaron will be in that rumble seat!"

"Da," said Phillip which is Polish for "I can make time with the thin one after I can the cow I'm with."

Phillip revved the motor. "Da?" he said which is Polish for "Ready?"

Aunt Dorothy nodded and off they roared down Mettler Street before Aunt Sally and Aaron even got down the front porch steps. When Philly parked the car in front of the restaurant, he looked at the empty rumble seat and then at Aunt Dorothy. "Vas?" he asked.

Aunt Dorothy smiled the victor's smile and took Phillip's hand. "I guess they just didn't move fast enough for us, snookums," she exclaimed.

She stood on her tippy toes and kissed her rotund Romeo. "Aren't I enough girl for you to handle?" she asked.

"Da," said Phillip which is Polish for, "A fat bird in the hand is worth two skinny ones in a rumble seat any day of the week."

Aunt Dorothy kissed him and batted her eyelashes just like Pola Negri. "Then let's make beautiful music together!" she said.

And that's exactly what they did.

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