Summer Vacation

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I used to look forward to summer vacation, but not the summer of 1969. Mommy and Daddy huffed and puffed and slammed every door in earshot, scurrying in and out of the house like Cinderella’s mice lugging boxes and bags filled to bursting drenched like sweatshop shirt pressers. “Good! Good! Work!” My terrifying grandfather Papa Frank shouted at them, just standing at the curb and supervising, his fists resting atop his hips in an arrogant, mocking manner. He said he always knew best. He scared me, his expression sneering, angry about something or another, with a face red and swollen like a boil about to burst. I was too smart for my own good, he said, which I was. But even at eight years old, I knew what was waiting for me in the summer of 1969. While the world dreamed about the upcoming moon landing or fretted about hippies or the Vietnam War, I begged my parents to let me stay home alone in Queens that summer. I did not want to go to Finkelstein Farm.
Family was forever; eternal like Jerusalem. That was Papa Frank Finkelstein’s mantra, repeated until it was tattooed onto our souls. He expected his entire family to believe in his mantra, no exception and no questions, and put his money where his mouth was. He and Bubby, our grandmother, treated the entire twenty-person extended Finkelstein family, three sons and one daughter, three wives and one husband, ten grandchildren, and a couple of animals, to a summer-long vacation — together, under two roofs — every year, from the
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