Dust Pan Memories

The gadget in the photograph is fifty years old if it’s a day, a wonderful hand-me-down dust pan given to us by an elderly cousin, now of blessed memory. Hy cobbled it together from a left over broom handle and a cut away oil can. Hy and his wife Dora were leaving their family home on Avenue P in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and moving to an apartment in Brighton Beach. It was a time of transition, the culling and keeping that we all do throughout our lives, sometimes wrenching, sometimes liberating.

I wasn’t sure how useful it would be; the can’s sharp edges dictated it be reserved for outside use. But I wasn’t about to turn down this offering, no matter how humble, from one of the dearest men I’d ever met. For going on thirty-plus years now, Hy’s ingenious dust pan continues to serve us well as we shepherd wayward leaves to the curb, its knife sharp edge niftily capturing the smallest bits of flotsam and jetsam from the garage floor.

Every time I use it, I think of this sweet, sweet man, a Holocaust survivor who lost his entire family to Hitler. After the war he remarried, finding in Dora a woman whose story of loss, horror and triumph over the unspeakable echoed his own. Dora’s daughter became his, and in their autumn years they were surprised with a child of their own, our cousin Gary. Holding the paint-chipped broom handle that Hy craftily bolted to a cutaway can, I am reminded of thrift and self-reliance. Most of all, I am reminded of the ability of the human spirit to prevail. Sweeping away dust and grit, I am thankful for having known these two, who answered Hitler by seeking love and joy amidst memories of devastation and pain, and finding utility in what others would have readily tossed aside.

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14 thoughts on “Dust Pan Memories

  1. Susan Cole

    Wonderful ! I have many items like this that have moved with me many times and will continue to remind me of loved ones. Hope all is well where you are. It is raining in our desert and we are thrilled!!!
    Fondly, Sue

  2. Kay Osborn

    Hi Debra, I just caught up with several of your past blogs…seems I am off to a slow start for 2013. I always enjoy them so much, so please keep them coming. I see 2013 has started nicely for you with the republication of The Jewish Life, plus all your other projects. Congratulations for your continued successes. Kay

    1. Judy Bardach

      Beautiful. I keep on my night table a little postage scale with markings for 3 cents first class postage. I found it on my mother’s desk after she died, and I took it home with me. She must have looked at it at least six days of every week of her too-brief life, and now so do I.

      With much love, Aunt Judy

  3. Helene Darvick

    I too remember two of the dearest people to me and my family. Hy could and did fix everything. I aspired to have a tool kit like his…a magic box that he would open and rumage through to find whatever was needed for ‘the fix.’
    I was handed my own tool box my very first day of work and took it home bursting with pride. I still have it and now realize why it gives me such pleasure. It is just like Hy’s.

  4. Bensonhurst Gary

    Oh my, how the sight of that rusted old dustpan brought tears to my eyes. The sturdiness of that exceptionally functional device is not only testimony to Hy’s self taught ingenuity but reflective of the sturdiness of the man Hy was. In his own way, very much like an artist who intrigues and delights you with creations you would not have imagined, Hy too envisioned unique ways to re-purpose things. His visions however were borne from a Holocaust survivors instinctive need to save everything as if your life depended on it, because it did. Thank you for treasuring this legacy and more so the fond memories of both Hy and Dora. Two finer people never lived. Gary, son of Hy and Dora.

  5. Cindy La Ferle

    Oh, what a lovely story. And I am glad you’ve kept this memorable dust pan — and what a history it has. I have a few tools that belonged to my grandparents, including my Granny Bee’s sturdy garlic press, which is so much better than the newer models I’ve purchased. I always go back to it.

  6. Laya

    I remember reading this story. I loved it when you first posted it and I love it again. We don’t seem to have enough sweet souls like Hy who see possibility in every scrap. They find the pieces, reconfigure them, reuse them, and revalue them. In my living room I have a watering can made by my grandfather- made out of a tomato juice can and completed with other pieces of metal. Those souls who value the little bits of life also seem to be the souls who value those around them. Thank-you, Debra.

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