When I saw the prompt Tailor for today, a post I wrote a few years ago came immediately to mind. I am re posting it for today’s prompt.
The letter arrived in the mail the other day. Just as it has in countless mailboxes for the last 60 years. Every year before the Jewish holiday of Passover the letter arrives from the parochial elementary school my husband attended, with a request for a donation to the “Suit Fund.” The donations are used to buy new suits before the holiday, for the boys whose families cannot afford to do so. My husband was one of those boys back in 1956.
My husband was 10 years old when his father died. It was sudden and with no warning. His father had gone into the hospital with a kidney problem, nothing life threatening. My husband and his mother had gone to visit him in the afternoon, he remembers his father joking and kidding as he always did. Four hours later they got a phone call saying he had died. He had been given some kind of injection that had caused a heart attack. He was 46 years old. Today there would be malpractice suits, and investigations, but the year was 1956 and there was none of that happening. What was happening was a young mother of 36 was left with 2 sons ages 17 and 10 and alot of grief. She and her husband had opened a retail dry goods store in Brooklyn just a year before, which fortunately meant there would be some income. But not much. My husband remembers being left alone in the store once a week when his mother had to go to New York City to buy merchandise from the wholesalers. If someone asked for something that he couldn’t find he would tell them, “Please come back tomorrow when my mother is here.” He was 12.
So he was one of the boys who would be a recipient of the Suit Fund. He and six other boys would pile into the Principal’s Car and head off from Brooklyn to Manhattan’s Lower East Side to get new suits. It was handled in a very discreet manner, but he said he remembers feeling a bit embarrassed, knowing that being one of the boys who got a suit this way did set him apart. Once at the store they could pick out whatever they wanted, it was then tailored to fit, and they all got a new shirt and tie too. He made this trip for a new suit from 4th grade until 8th grade when he graduated.
There are events that happen in our lives that change us, shape us, define who we will become. Experiencing the death of a parent at a young age is one of those events. The ramifications run deep and are far reaching. It set my husband apart from the other boys in his class, but at the same time made him more aware of the needs of others, more sensitive to the hardships people can experience that come about not because of anything they have done, but because of circumstances beyond their control.
My husband has given to the suit fund from the day he began working, close to 50 years ago. Every year as he writes out that check, he is reminded of the blessings in his life, and thankful that he is able to give back. Knowing that a young boy will feel good about having a new suit to wear on the holiday, just as he did.