Memories: Real or Imagined?

I just came back from visiting the city in which I grew up. I’m not sure what I expected, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for what I found. We arrived at one in the afternoon our time - noon there. The first place we headed for was the deli we had frequented some 50 and more years ago. It was located about two blocks from where my bubbie and zayde had lived so, in my youth, I went there often. Amazingly, their apartment building and the deli still stood. The apartment was as I remembered it, but the once small eatery a block away now occupied an entire city block and was, according to signs posted all around, world famous. Inside we found at least 50 employees behind glass cases waiting to take orders from perhaps 100 customers. As I recall, in the 30’s and 40’s, there were never more than 4 or 5 workers to help customers at any given time.

Our big dilemma! Do we get corned beef, pastrami or chopped liver on their famous rye bread? Decisions! Decisions! The sandwiches that used to sell for 75 cents now cost about $8 each and could easily still feed 3 people. It was difficult to wrap our mouths around them, because they were piled high with lean strips of beef. My mouth watered at the mere sight of the exquisite piece of art resting on the plate before me. Yet, upon sampling it, I was disappointed! The corned beef was too salty for my liking, and the rye bread was only so-so. Maybe my taste buds had changed over the years or else my memory had envisioned the food as being far more remarkable than it actually was.

Perhaps my biggest disappointment was not seeing anyone I knew in that huge crowd of people. Surely some of my old neighbors or classmates still frequented the place, I thought. When I told this to my sister, she asked, "How would you expect to recognize anyone after all these years?"

"Well," I responded. "Maybe I wouldn’t recognize them, but certainly they would recognize me." Needless to say, I was somewhat miffed at the peals of laughter that greeted my remark.

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