It’s crazy how life comes full circle. Many years ago my husband and I were heading home from an event in North Jersey, and although it just started to snow, we made a stop at Harold's New York Deli to pick up desserts for my Grandfather "Baba". His birthday was soon approaching, so our plan was to surprise him and my Grandmother "Mommom", as they always loved when we stopped by.
Besides the essential Tomata (how he pronounced it) and Vidalia Onion - which he could eat all day every day, he certainly loved his cake and coffee. So we knew this would be the ultimate gift. Hmmm now that I think about it, I probably got my sweet tooth from Baba!
Anyway, one of the best dessert destinations along the Garden State Parkway is none other than Harold's, and yes they have a wide assortment of cakes and cookies, but the real draw is the size. The portions are huge, I mean I don't know for sure, but one eclair is essentially two feet long ha. So you can only imagine what the back seat of the car looked like with just one eclair and a piece of chocolate cake!
With our cakes in tow, we continued our journey, but the snow was getting worse, and it was nearly impossible we would make it to their house. In fact, this particular snow storm was the blizzard of 2010, and made the list of the 10 worst snow storms in NJ history. So to err on the safe side, the closest exit was for my Mother-in-law's home, which is kind of crazy since she lives only a few miles from Baba and Mommom, but it was really one of those times where we were 'so close, yet so far'.
Once settled in, we called Baba to let him know about this surprise planned with Harold's cake, and he completely understood the sentiment. In fact, all of us had a big laugh, and sang happy birthday over the phone, which definitely made his day. And then of course we indulged in the goodies, I mean how could anyone let it go to waste.
This was just one small memory that none of us will ever forget. It's kind of funny, if there's ever a time we are stuck at home due to a snow storm, one of us will usually say "I wish we had some cake from Harold's".
Fast forward to now, a year after my Grandfather - who was a WWII Navy Veteran, written up in
the New York Times , The Patch , The Asbury Park Press , a man who travelled to local schools teaching about the importance of the American Flag, and someone who always kept his word, had all his own teeth at 95, and created tradition for his family - passed away.
Our family traveled to Long Island to pay our respects for the traditional headstone unveiling ceremony - which finally gave us the closure we needed. You see, he passed last year during the height of the pandemic, and was not able to have a proper funeral - absolutely heart breaking. This man hand wrote letters to the various President's, he fought for recognition of VJ Day, he lived with PTSD and the hard memories of watching his shipmates on the U.S.S. Bunker Hill perish so long ago, yet we could not give him the goodbye that he so deserved. So this trip was so important, as the restrictions have somewhat lifted and we were able to arrange for the Honor Guard to be there thanks to some help from Belkoff Goldstein Funeral Chapel. In fact, when we arrived at the cemetery, I had to run inside the main building to get a plot map, and the woman at the desk said,"Your Grandfather must've been a special man, because I've never seen the Honor Guard here for an unveiling." To which I responded, "Yes, yes he was." It was a beautiful ceremony with Taps and Flag Folding (see the embedded Facebook post) which is what Baba deserved. He was surrounded by loving family both in person and online, as well as his fellow Navy colleagues, and the American Flag that he held so near and dear to his heart. Thank you Rabbi Guerari of Chabad of Toms River for your kind words and for remembering that my Grandfather and Cousin Stanley Perlman are the ones who helped install the flag you now have flying in front of your Chabad house, we are forever grateful.
Whew. Ok now that the sad part is over, here's the point of the story. I know, I should've probably started out with, "So, short story long." Anyway, I wound up coordinating all of the aspects of this day, so it was hard trying to figure out where to eat afterwards, since I don't know the area. Of course we brought a nosh ( #oheyyy Water Dog Smoke House) with us in the limo, which by the way, shout out to Elite Limousine , they picked us up from Galloway in a beautiful limo bus, made two stops along the way to NY, and it was a smooth ride that got us from point A to B safely. But I knew that Harold's was right off the parkway at exit 129, so I called a week prior to make a reservation and they said sorry they don't take them. I explained the situation and they put me on with Harold, yup THE Harold, and he said no problem, let me know when you are 30 minutes away and I'll set aside a table for you. It just made our lives so much easier, as he stuck to his word, and the table was ready for us when we arrived.
Everyone was super excited to dine in this family style establishment. There is something for everyone, even those who like tongue, oy vey ismere ha. The whole ride there we were salivating at the thought of finally biting into a hot pastrami sandwich, and yeah our eyes were bigger than our stomachs because we wound up ordering a Triple Decker Pastrami Sandwich that is recommended to feed 9-12 people - we were only a party of 7! Plus, we had to try what they say is "The World's Best Bar-B-Q Beef Ribs", and of course the Chocolate Egg Cream, I haven't had that in so many years. We obviously ordered some sides like the Macaroni & Cheese and their popular Coleslaw with Pickles, Borscht, and even one of the Fish dishes. Plus, did you see the size of that Napoleon!?! Needless to say, there were enough leftovers for everyone and it was a memory we created as a family that I will never forget.
The next day I was filling my Mother-in-law in on the details of that day, and she said, "Oh wow, you went to Harold's, what do you think of when you think Harold's?" and I knew exactly what she was referring to. So although the circumstances weren't the best, it was kind of cool knowing that it all came full circle. I truly feel that Baba wanted us to eat there as a family to honor him and to remember the happy times.
I love you Baba. May your soul rest in peace and know that you lived a long healthy life with family that loved you. It's extremely disheartening to see the emotional toll these men and women endure just to fight for our freedom, when we know that freedom is NOT free! No one knew about PTSD in those days, and it's unfortunate because it had a serious affect on Baba's personal life. But one thing I know for sure, he was amazing Grandfather, and he loved his family the best he could. I want to personally thank all of those who have served, who have lost their lives, and currently serve to protect us and our country.
Baba had his Bar Mitzvah at 83 years old surrounded by many family and friends. So all of the grandkids got together and created a rap of sorts to the tune of "Puttin' on the Ritz", and the words detail the type of person he was and the hobbies he enjoyed. Feel free to check it out:
Original Rap by: Whitney, Margo, Shayna, Deena, & Eric to Puttin' on the Ritz
Achad, Shtaim, Shalosh, Arbah. Baba is a gracious fellow, a mensch who loves the color yellow, plays drums and clarinets, loves to talk to pets. A true Jew head of the seder always equipped with pen and paper, Machiah will get it fixed with proper measurements. (inches and feet) Thought he’d get excitement out of marriage, but he got stuck with Sharlene and Harris. I’m the favorite…..Hershey's sucks real chocolates better, watch the cake isn’t where you sit, or else you’ll squaaaash it. Have you seen what this guy eats. High in produce low on sweets. Wow this guy is 83 and he still has all his teeth. Yard Sales and lots of clutter, no margarine and only butter. Spending all his time, talking to felines (meow)….. always talks but never rambles. He loves magic tricks, his promise always sticks. So let's all cheer for Babas Bar Mitzvah, but you forgot to get the whole picture, after all this, you forgot the second bris!