Bernard Mendelman: Valentine Day story for the young at heart

For many years Sarah Katz and Marie Cyr lived next door to each other in the Snowdon area of Montreal. They were married for over 60 years when both of their husbands passed away last winter. As their children had all moved out, the two widows in their early 80s found their homes too big and difficult to manage so about six months ago they moved into separate seniors residences. Recently they met for lunch on Valentine’s Day.

While eating at the Snowdon Deli they did a lot of reminiscing. Both chose this restaurant because during the 1950s they would often nosh on smoked meat sandwiches and fries with their husbands before seeing a movie at the Snowdon Theatre.

Katz recalled, “I was three years old when I arrived in Montreal from Poland, with my parents. I graduated from Commercial High School and when I was 16 worked for a dress manufacturer where I was the receptionist, typist, bookkeeper and model. At 18, my marriage to Max was arranged with a shadkun (a matchmaker). Max was 24. He came here when he was 15, after his parents died, to live with an aunt and uncle. Max was working as a shipper in a factory when we got married. I was a virgin and two months later I was pregnant with my first child. Max was streets smart and soon started his own textile business.

Cyr then confided, “André was working in France for Air Canada when we met. I was a young, innocent Catholic girl, but he swept me off his feet with his curly black hair, bushy moustache and his manière confiante. Returning to Montreal he became an executive with the airline and we travelled the world, to places like Hong Kong, Australia and the Middle East.”

Sarah then stated, “Max worked long hours all his life to make sure we were well provided. Every summer we vacationed for two weeks in the Catskills, at Grossinger’s or the Concord and every winter for our anniversary we would go to Florida and stay at the Fontainebleau or the Diplomat. One year at the Diplomat nightclub we had a table next to the stage where we saw Connie Francis perform. The bands still play her big hit Stupid Cupid every Valentine’s Day. For an Italian maideleh, she belted out My Yiddishe Mama as good as Sophie Tucker.

Marie chimed in, “André loved to go dancing. Saturday nights, we would have dinner at Desjardins or Dinty Moore’s and then off we would go to the ballroom atop the Mount Royal Hotel.”

Sarah responded, “On Fridays we always had the family over for Shabbos. Saturdays we took the kids for dinner at Ruby Foos or Miss Montreal. Max loved having the gang over for Rosh Hashanah and Passover. I also remember the large gatherings at your house at Easter and Christmas time.”

Mrs, Katz and Madame Cyr had adjusted to life at their respective senior homes. They both had fond memories of past Valentine Days and tonight they were looking forward when both residents would have a party with children and grandchildren invited. Then they told each other a secret. They had each found themselves a “boyfriend.”

They really missed their husbands, but they admitted that it was still nice to have someone their age to share thoughts, take walks and eat meals with.

Sarah told Marie, “For the occasion, my grandson told me that he’s bringing me a CD of Connie Francis Sings Jewish Favourites, so after the party, I’ll go to my boyfriend’s room and we’ll listen and sing Yiddish songs until we fall asleep.”

Marie replied with a wink, “After the party I’ll also go to my boyfriend’s room to, but since we don’t know any Yiddish songs, instead we may just have sex all night long!”

“Aff mir gezogt. It should only happen to me.” Sarah thought to herself.

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