My Mom (z”l) loved Alexander’s department store.
Located on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, a fairly short bus ride up Tremont Avenue and over to the Concourse (we in the know referred to this stretch of real estate simply as the Concourse.)
Mom, sometimes with her sister Jeanette or Ruthie, would plan a day-long outing to this ‘destination’ playground for grownups, occasionally to purchase an item or two, more often than not, to return said item or two.
I must digress for just a sentence or two.
Sussie is a term I learned from my daughters, who were in a sorority. Sussie is an unexpected little gift. A ‘just because’ gift, as in, a box of caramel, butter rum or coffee flavored Nips. A sweet little photo or card, or in my mom’s case – underwear – or for those who embarrass easily, panties.
Days of the week underwear, to be quite specific. Remember those? I had enough days of the week panties to carry me through many birthdays. I was always told you could never have enough panties, and my mom insured that I did.
Then there were the sets of seven different colored panties. A new color for every day. These sussies required an entire, dedicated drawer of my white triple-drawer dresser. Of course, I could never share the fact that all these sussified decisions were giving me major anxiety attacks.
I began thinking certain days of the week or a particular color panty was the reason I was either doing very well, or not so well on any given school test or exam.
When I requested all white sussies, my mom laughed. Why would she think this a funny request? I was in the throes of an anxiety attack for God’s sake.
Meshugah – crazy – was her response. I’m afraid she was probably right. After all, the white ones did not make one bit of difference in my everyday life. Well, not that I noticed anyway.
My aunt Ruthie (z”l) also gave me a sussie now and again. Usually made of wood, with words carved into the wood like “Welcome to Monroe NY” with a picture of some sort also carved into the wood. Or a sussie from Niagara Falls with a three-dimensional wood cutting of the water falls.
Sometimes the sussie was a leather wallet or bookmark representing a trip she may have taken. I actually loved those sussies. Once Ruthie gave me wooden candle sticks with “Welcome to Newburgh NY” carved into them. I used them for Shabbat.
The real truth here is I love being the person who gives sussies. I feel like the rich uncle, or in my case, the rich tante (aunt).
Of course, I really didn’t have any rich uncles or aunts. Not in a financial sense. They were rich in the love they showered on my sisters and me and all our cousins. They were rich in maintaining a culture that was not so easy a task in their adopted country, a country that allowed them the freedom to purchase any sussie that struck their fancy.
Sussie. I just love saying it. It has such depth. Such possibilities. A sussie can be a sunrise or sunset. A sussie can be a prayer. A sussie can be a friendship.
I wish for you many sussies in this year of 2019.