Which Way the Tree

by Steven Wolfe

          The Kesslers lived on the other side of the alley from the Kappels, and I recall the day they moved in to their new home.  Days later, I was walking towards Skillman Avenue when Mr. Kessler leaned out of his window and called me over to ask whether I would get him a pack of cigarettes at the corner store.  I resented the request – I felt too old to be his gofer - but I walked to Benowitz’ anyway and got him his cigarettes.  When I returned, I refused the gratuity he offered me:  I did not want him to think I would be available to run errands for him in the future.  

           

          Mel and Mildred Kessler became my parents’ good friends and over time, I too got along with both of them well.  The Wolfes, the Kesslers and the Kappels became very good friends, often socializing while their older boys played street hockey, stickball and touch football on 46th street, the younger ones played and went to camp together.

          In 1944, much of Long Island, including Sunnyside, was struck by a hurricane.  My house adjoined the house in which the Kappels lived.  They had a large front lawn in which was planted a beautiful weeping willow tree.  On one side, the garden’s boundary was the alley which connected 46th Street to 47th Street. 

          The hurricane ripped out the roots of the weeping willow tree which, in turn, fell to the south towards the Kesslers front yard, straddling the alley.  The tree remained in that position for several days until appropriate workmen came, sawed it into manageable pieces, and removed them.  While it was still lying on the ground, I took a tape measure and calculated the following:  if the tree had fallen to the north, it would have crashed into one of my bedroom windows as I lay asleep that stormy night.  Perhaps I have been living on borrowed time since I was five years old….

          Below are pictured my parents Rose and Artie Wolfe at the head of the table at my father's birthday party in 1947.  The Wolfes, the Kappels, the Kesslers, the Dolids and the Lowenherz' formed a tightknit social group.

Artie Wolfe's birthday party 1947.JPG