My Story, Yours Too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Sounds of Silence around the Kitchen Table - Part I.~ Dedicated to Mom with Thanks to Simon and Garfunkel

Left to right: a tad of mom, Edith Engel (34); Glenn-David Engel (18 mos.); Dawn Engel (4); and Robyn Engel (me, 3) at the kitchen table on the last night of Chanukah, 1969.
Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
I was in a fog. They poured into our home with awkward beaming smiles and words of cheer: uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and family from nearby or faraway places. I hadn’t spoken to most of them in years. I had no idea who some of them were. Others, I despised. Yet they invaded the quiet that now defined our home.

And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
They focused excitedly on the fabulous growing display that forever altered our kitchen table. Contributions included multi-flavored bagels (sour dough, rye, whole wheat, and poppy seed – everything but my favorite, sesame seed), two trays filled with lox, bowls brightly decorated with tropical fruit, kosher pickles galore, and – for dessert – apple pie, pecan pie, and vanilla ice cream. No one brought chocolate.

Within the sound of silence.
All were uninvited but assumed the opposite. They made themselves at home near the kitchen table. One by one or two by two, they sauntered loudly through our living room and headed directly for the kitchen. Next, they placed their contributions meticulously onto the white oval shaped table, with a generously forced love. A few of them nodded at me en route. Most walked by without acknowledging me at all. They were dressed impeccably – the men in suits and ties, the women in dresses, nylons, and heels. Make up had clearly been applied with great care.

In restless dreams I walked alone Narrow streets of cobblestone,
They didn’t try to hide it. They were thrilled to see each other and blatantly ignored me. A ball of pain welling up inside, I quietly distanced myself further from the table. They engaged in loud chatter about their recent vacation travels, their children’s academic successes, and –above all- this glorious spread of food. I remember the looks and sounds of it all. They raved about each and every contribution to our kitchen table, eating as if they had never eaten before.

I ate nothing.

No one mentioned mom. No one asked me how I was coping.

'Neath the halo of a street lamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp
They smiled at dad half-heartedly but resisted getting close. My sister and brothers were lost in the crowd. They played the game better. I refused to play.

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light That split the night And touched the sound of silence.
The intruders stood around the table, grabbing pieces of food during pauses in discourse. Uncle Leo suddenly looked distressed and walked towards the front door. He saw me lingering nearby. “We have a problem. We’re out of cups,” he faced me and declared. “Come with me to get some.” “No. I won’t go,” I responded in one breath that encapsulated my anger and indifference. Instead, Dawn accompanied him on this all-important task. He complained to her about my refusal to obey. She then informed him that my response was none of his business. Uncle Leo quietly acknowledged that Dawn was right.

Dawn was a good sister. She defended me and knew how to be heard. Me, I was silenced.

~to be continued~


  1. You are so darn clever! Very nice...

  2. Can't wait! Why do you make us wait? You rascal, you.

  3. I really love when you break down songs like this. Can't wait for the next installment.

  4. They silenced you? I'm amazed. Is there such a thing as a non-kosher pickle?

  5. please sir,, may I have some more...

    'sposed to sound like that kid from that movie Oliver Twist...but he says it a lot cuter!

  6. I soooo love S & G as I like to call them.
    PS We're going to the kosher deli tonight for corned beef. The local pubs always have long lines but nobody thinks to hit up the Jewish delis -- not to mention, the meat answers to a higher authority :)

  7. Betty, wait til the next one. Thanks.

    Ally, I am SOOO jealous. We have a serious shortage of kosher delis around here!

    Coming soon to a laptop near you, Seductress.

    GB, good point. Kosher pickel is a rather redundant term. Do you eat kosher bananas?

    Thanks so much, especially for commenting so quickly, Pat, Ms. A. and TS.


  8. Not sure if this makes me sad or happy...but I look forward to seeing the rest...

  9. Is this gonna by like a O Henry story? Y'know, The Ransom of Red Chief or Gift of the Magi?

  10. Joe, thanks. Know that my blog is almost purely humorous otherwise. You're visiting during a sad time. Hope you'll stick around.

    IT, I'd have to say "no." But I think I'll have an "Oh, Henry!" chocolate bar when I post Part II. Good idea. Thanks!


  11. I'm really eager to read the rest of this, Robyn! You definitely caught my attention and interest! And you were so cuuuute! I would've talked to you for sure!!:D

    I was like "YEAH you tell HIM!" when Dawn answered!

  12. Any post with S&G&lox to me is a winner. How you do it I'll never know. Happy St. Pats!!!

  13. Thank you for your sweet, supportive comment, Sarah. I'll share with my sis.

    Thanks CB. Throw in shmears and a bagel. What more can one ask for?


  14. Thanks ABAO. I love doing them, and my brain cells are simmering with thoughts of another one.