Gains & Losses
My Father's Tzimmes,  1956
tzimmes:  a sweet stew, a big production,  sometimes spelled tsimmes

He made a tzimmes out of everything.  He’d get his feelings hurt at the drop of a hat,  just as I do.  So why wouldn’t I,  his favorite child - his pet - make a tzimmes out of his tzimmes.  He lost the rent money - gave it to the horses a day before the electric came due and the phone was shut off.   Not for want of Mother sewing her fingers to the bone or my brother selling newspapers in the freezing cold or my sister,  Dot,   babysitting,  or me collating brochures in Uncle Izzy's print shop.  Not for want of his own hard work and the hours on end in unemployment lines. He,  a first generation American,  an immigrant - a greenhorn he called himself -   yearning for a country where language was his own.  Not for want of anyone trying.  Still,   on that day when the racing form was right and his horse came in,  when he brought home a pound of chuck and a jar of honey from the Lexington Street market,  filled our aluminum pot,  stirred in raisins, prunes and potatoes,  listened for the door to open and our feet to climb the stairs,  not when he set the table and watched for us to eat would I touch his tzimmes.  Everyone else did  --  my brother and sister.  Mother too.  They were grateful.  But I wouldn’t taste his tzimmes or even lick the spoon he offered.

Copyright 2009,  Esther Altshul Helfgott

Esther Altshul Helfgott is a non-fiction writer and poet with a Ph.D. in history from the University of WA.   Her work appears in Maggid:  A Journal of Jewish LiteratureAmerican Imago:  Psychoanalysis and the Human SciencesDRASH,  the Journal of Poetry TherapyHistoryLink,  and other journals.  Esther curates the "It's About Time Writers Reading Series",  now in its nineteenth year,  at the Seattle Public Library,  Ballard branch.  She facilitates the women's writing group Poeming the Silence,  blogs for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer online,  and is the author of The Homeless One:  A Poem in Many Voices,  (Kota 2000).  Esther can be reached at

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