We were never a Fourth Of July kind of family — even in my halcyon days.

Al Bogart was not the “outdoors” type. To our father the comforts of air-conditioning and a deck of cards could make any day a holiday.  Moreover,  the persistence of flies and mosquitos would make any event a nightmare. Why, he wondered, would anyone opt to perspire over charcoals in pursuit of barbecue. Was not Jayson’s Restaurant conveniently located at Washington Blvd. and Lee Road?  Did Lodge Brother Leitson not provide ample) parking, seating …..and air-conditioning?

Still at times we convened.  Mom’s side only (of course), yet from certain angles it almost appeared our dad smiled. (Ed. Note 1: Other Bogarts didn’t picnic. First: there were few of them. Second:  Parks didn’t have pianos.  Third: In the canyons of my being is the voice of our late, meek mother. “Albert,” she’d say, “I ask so little of you.”).

I loved family gatherings. Even outdoors. The whole cast of characters…

There’d be Bonnie, Gary, Debbie, Marla — our cousins…and Grandpa Irv and Grandma Cele. And Grandma’s siblings three… and their kids. (Ed. Note 2: Little did I know in those 50’s that Grandpa Irv didn’t like this one or that Aunt Ruthie didn’t like that one, or — for that matter — that Harry, Herman and Herschel Hoffman were all the same person!)

In the 60’s it changed. OUT was Forest Hills Park (which had peaked as venue to Cousin Marla’s 3rd birthday). IN was The Riviera Swim Club at Solon and Richmond.  (Ed. Note 3: Merriam-Webster Dictionary, UNOFFICIAL EDITION, defines “swim club” as “a golf club without a golf course designed primarily as a meeting place for post-war Jews without real money”.

I loved it! Just loved it!

They were all there each Sunday, holiday or not: Uncle Irv, Uncle Phil … the generations of female progeny of still-living maternal great-grandparents Sam and Becky Sharp: Celia,  Lil, Ruth, Karen, Sheila, Barby, Elaine —all laying face up in one-pieces in the second row of lounge chairs along the perimeter of the pool’s shallow end. An airplane view would have revealed a 40’s MGM musical cast at a local Hadassah chapter.   (Ed. Note 4: Grandpa Sam and Grandma Becky were there, of course. Sitting in the shade).

—And each Sunday was a holiday. I swear! (Sometimes even, to my father’s delight, a card game broke out).

—And each Sunday ended the same: The Oriental Terrace at Southgate.  Chinese Food.

Simpler times they were.  Sundays …

— When you didn’t need federal proclamation to make our family one nation.

We went to the cemetery today. The two of us.

Four grandparents I saw. And Uncle Bob …Ruth and Ernie Schwartz….Norm, Charlotte, Herb Diamond.  And Aunt Helen. (Can you believe it?) Aunt Helen.

Noon it was, give or take, as I placed each stone. Through a shining sun, not yet perspiring, I was whispering Kaddish.

For a moment I felt old, even semi-depressed. Yet it passed.

Minutes later we were home. Stace called. We spoke to Meredith’s mom.

Smiling again, holding on to last week’s Chicago I filled with glee with my eye on New York.  Two more weeks. Just two more weeks.

Michael‘ll barbecue today on a deck bigger than the house I grew up in on Bayard. For family. Stace and Jace’ll schlep their girls to a park … full of insects. And family.

We’ve got this thing today at the Baskins. Carrie’s side. Fourth of July and all. They’ll sit on the patio, all of them. And they’ll eat, drink and smile. (Like at Forest Hills. Like at The Riviera. Like when my Mom and Dad were there. And my Grandma and Grandpa. And my uncles, aunts and cousins…).  They’ll be nice tonight. Yes, they treat me like family.

(And with any bit of luck, a card game might break out).


  1. Hal Bogart says:

    Wonderful post. Absolutely

    But, in your recitation of the family members present at the family gatherings you left out one person.

  2. Eddy says:

    Interesting comment.

    My sense is the author did not specifically mention his four sibling brothers (Harold, Hal, H, and Hadoud). This error of omission was, as Al Bogart would have noted “…a mistake of the mind but not of the heart….”.

    Bruce’s brother was so integral to his childhood that OF COURSE HE WAS THERE. They were “The Boys”, forever by each other’s sides —- except when H refused to go to the Army with the older Bruce Although their father (who art in heaven) politely suggested that Hal enlist, the young one refused to follow the patriotic Bruce over hill or over dale as he hit the dusty trail.

    But yes… he was there throughout La Vida Bogart.

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