Feather Pillow

Relationship: Child of im/migrant

Bubbey had two possessions that she'd brought with her from the old country. One was a small, battered brass samovar for brewing tea. When I had a sleep over with Bubbey Goodisman we would drink black Russian tea that she brewed in that little samovar, eat sunflower seeds and play cards. The second was a feather quilt under which we snuggled together as she told me her life stories.

When World War I cut her off from her emigrated husband, she was left alone with two small children, their existence eked out by the bread she baked and bartered, terrorized by marauding soldiers. One terrible day she watched as her worldly goods were piled on the looters’ wagon. As she saw her last sack of flour thrown, Bubbey told me, "something burst inside me and I became completely mad." She leapt up on the wagon, grabbed the sack of flour and threw it to the ground. She ripped open her shirt, baring her breast, and screamed, “If you take this flour you take our lives. Kill me now!” When the captain shouted, "She's a mad woman – a witch – let her keep her flour and her evil spells!” my grandmother screamed, "Yes! and I'll keep these too!" as she jumped to the ground clutching the quilt and the little samovar.

I don't know what became of that little samovar. But when Bubbey died, my mother made two pillows – one each for my sister and me – out of the feathers that came from Paskovitch. Most of all I treasure the memory of my Bubbey Bela Goodisman, a woman of valor and love of whose strong spirit I am a proud and grateful descendant.

Place(s): Russia, New York

– Elly Tepper

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant