Friday, November 16, 2007


I have to admit that I never much liked the last name I was born with: Ozarow. I didn't like its sound, and I didn't like its differentness. Almost everyone I knew had nicer names like Berthen or Koval, Weiss or Bluth. Names that rolled off the tongue with a more melodious, rhythmic quality than the clunky "Ozarow" I was stuck with.

As Id learned in grade school, monikers like Smith or Tailor or Brown or Johnson were linked to specific trades--blackmith, tailor--or to famiy history: calling someone Peter Johnson identified him (at least for one generation) as "John's son". I liked the way names told a story but what was ours?

My sisters and I had little contact with our paternal grandfather, Meyer, who died before we were born. I don't remember meeting any of his siblings or cousins. My father shared few stories about the Ozarows--there were no famous ancestors, not even one of those shady types most families "don't talk about".

But we knew everyone in my grandmoter's family--her sisters, Tillie and Pauline; her brother, Ruby. My father's cousins were mentioned often--especially my "uncle" Ray Parker, who owned the Concord Hotel.

We also knew their "story", beginning with the terrifying pogrom that drove my grandmother (then 3) and her siblings from their village--and their parents. There was a ride in a hay wagon, hidden under a blanket, a voyage to America, Ellis Island, the Lower East Side where they were taken in by cousins (I think). As I understand it, my gradmother's eldest sister, Pauline, pretty much raised the others. And eventually, they all moved to Bayside, Queens, where they established several businesses, including my grandparents' store, M.Ozarow Shade and Awning Company.

I go searching...

Google turns up hundreds of listings, most regarding Jewish cemetery in the Town of Ozarow, Poland, that saw its population of Jews deported on October 22, 1942. There is a town of Ozarow!!!???

Apparently so, and it's on Wikipedia!żarów.

There are listings about other Ozarows, some of them familiar--my cousin Robert, my sisters, Beth and Jennifer, and, to my delight, when you type my maiden name into a search engine, my blog pops up! Now all those high school friends and all the boys who had crushes on me way back when can finally find me.

And here is another one, my cousin Laura, beloved in childhod. Laura, whose trundle bed I slept in, who came to Nantucket with me, who taught me about Eric Clapton and Cream and Yorma Karkunnen. Beautiful Laura, a year older, sensitive, creative Laura with her halo of white blonde hair. Haunted Laura who woke up in the middle of the night strumming a dream guitar, who wore a white cotton nightgown, who gave me her hand-me-downs. Laura, whom I lost as our lives twisted in oppostie directions. Now, here she is, found in a photo on MySpace.

My immediate reaction is awe. Her beautiful spirit released in music and color on her blog. But our relationship was comlicated and when I try to send her a message, and I'm stopped by MYSPACE, requiring a password that I've forgotten, I hesitate. Maybe I shouldn't do this? Maybe it's been too long to reopen this... I want to write friendship, but the word that comes is "wound".

Still, the urge to connect is strong and I sort it out, sending my message across cyberspace to the cousin I recognize in the photo on a blog.

This urge to connect comes up often lately, as my children grow up and out of the house. As I "deal with" my parents, instead of simply loving them. If you're new to my blog, you'll find much discussion of family here, especially since this August, when I turned 50 and my parents fell apart... when I dove into the heart-breaking ocean of confusion that was getting Dad into a nursing home--and the equally heart-breaking (at least for me) experience of helping Mom pack up her home, her artwork--her life--and move to an apartment.

What other Ozarows are out there? What memories does each connection carry back to me?
Linda? Ellen? Mark? Elaine? Dave? Ruth? Each name rings with energy, with reminiscence, with story...


Cindy Breninger said...

Aww, that is great you found your cousin. How did it turn out? Did she write you back? Oh, for a ten dollar name, try Breninger. That was a fun one, as a child, to learn to spell! hehe

Anonymous said...

Your cousin Laura is here! And what an amazing writer you are. I have more personal information that I will not put here for the world to contact me and we'll get in touch more personally...Love you sister...Laura