For nearly forty years, Jodie spoke of these memories and her only lament was that she couldn’t share them with me. “I want to show you where I grew up,” she told me repeatedly. In comparison to the unexciting scenery of Sioux City, Iowa, where I was born, “Ithaca is much more beautiful,” she would say. “Someday I want to take you there.”
That someday came in the summer of 2013. We traveled to the States for a family wedding and to meet up with good friends. And we took a detour with our rented car to Ithaca for the long-awaited visit to the town where Jodie had grown up.
Ithaca Falls. Buttermilk Falls. Treman Falls. Taughannock Falls. It took me several attempts to learn how to pronounce the name of these last falls, which are the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies. “This is my grade school!” Jodie told me excitedly as we drove around Ithaca. “Isn’t Cornell University beautiful?”
And then we drove up North Tioga Street and reached the house where she had lived with her family. We stopped the car and stood on the sidewalk snapping pictures. We noticed movement in one of the windows and then someone came out the front door.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“This is where I grew up!”
“Would you like to come inside?”
|North Tioga Street, Ithaca, New York|
The invitation was too good to be true. We walked inside and Jodie was in for a shock. “This is not how I remembered it,” she said. “The front door was on this side and the stairs were over there.”
“The previous owner gutted the house and completely renovated the interior,” the current owner informed us. “Say, what is your name?”
“My family name is Kaufman,” Jodie replied. “We lived in this house over 40 years ago.”
“Yes, that is my father.”
“I sometimes get mail for a Richard Kaufman,” the man said. “And in fact, I just recently received a letter addressed to him.” The man went over to a credenza near the front door and ruffled through some papers. “Here it is,” he said, producing a white official-looking envelope.
It was addressed to Richard Kaufman, resident of the North Tioga Street address where we were visiting. The mail came from the Tompkins County courthouse and the letter inside was a call on Richard Kaufman to appear for jury duty.
Forty-two years after my wife’s family left Ithaca and moved to Israel, her father was still getting mail at his former address.
Jodie couldn’t believe what she was seeing. “If Tompkins County is willing to pay the airfare and accommodations for an eighty-three-year-old man, he will certainly show up for jury duty!”
She thanked the current resident of her family home. “We’ll be back in another 42 years to see if there is any more mail for us,” she joked.