The year was 1945, and we were living in our home at the Pine Tree Bungalow Colony in Monticello in the Catskill Mountains of New York -- the Borscht Belt. I was seventeen years old and in my senior year at Monticello High School. Late one afternoon, the front door opened, and my father walked in, beaming, followed by Sheiner and a well-dressed, middle-aged couple. My father introduced the couple as Mr. and Mrs. Greenbaum, and said to my mother, "Bring out the shnaps (whisky) Lina. We just finished a little business." Mother left to get the bottle of whisky and the liqueur glasses we kept for special occasions.
Sheiner, who was never referred to in my home by anything more than his surname, was the most aggressive realtor in Monticello. As soon as I saw him that day, I was gripped by fear. He was the type of salesman who could sell ice to the Eskimos. He had negotiated our purchase of the property from the Gusars, who rana drugstore in Monticello, in 1940. At that time, the property had consisted of fifty acres filled with pine trees and huckleberry bushes. Out of this wilderness, with my father's imagination and my mother's endless uprooting of bushes, had sprung a bungalow colony consisting of twenty-six separate buildings (twenty-five bungalows and our house), a parking lot, a swimming pool, a handball court, and a general store. Now Sheiner was here again. Why?
It turned out that the "little business" Father had just concluded was the sale of our colony to the Greenbaums for $120,000. When I heard this news, only one thought came to my mind. I would not graduate with my high school class. Instead, I would have to transfer to yet another school in the middle of my senior year, as I had already transferred from Antwerp, Belgium, to the Bronx; to Woodridge, New York; to Miami Beach; to Monticello; to Long Beach, Long Island; back to Monticello; back to Miami Beach; and, finally, back to Monticello. Again, I would have to become familiar with a new school building, a new school system, new teachers, and a new class, most of whose students, unlike me, had grown up together. I could not bear it.
I let loose a stream of invective against Sheiner that shocked the assembled small group. I told him no one had put the property on the market (which was true), that his presence was unwanted, that he had no right to come in here with these customers, that we were not going to sell the property, and so on.
He took all this without saying a word. There was utter silence after my torrent of abuse until Mrs. Greenbaum turned to her husband and said, "When we are paying so much money for a property, I certainly don't want to feel like I'm taking it away from someone." With that, she turned around and calmly walked out of the house, followed by Mr. Greenbaum. Sheiner was stunned. He could not believe he was losing a $7,000 commission due to the ravings of a seventeen-year old girl. But he said nothing, and followed the Greenbaums out the door.
I thought my father would kill me. Customers for $120,000-properties did not come along every day. Furthermore, this was the time to sell the property. My father always knew when to get into a business and when to get out. This was the time to get out. The piers were starting to shift and needed to be redone, and the tenants were beginning to demand new services, like a casino, entertainment, and child care.
But, instead of killing me, Father slowly took Mother's arm, walked to the window with her, watched the departing Greenbaums and Sheiner, and calmly said, "Lina, we'll never get a customer like that again." After that, the matter was never raised in my presence.
That spring I graduated with my high school class, and in the fall I began my freshman year at Cornell. During that year, I received a call from Mother one evening. "I have some news for you," she said, with hesitation. "I hope you won't be angry." I couldn't imagine what Father had done now.
"We sold the place again," she said, "But not for $120,000. We got $125,000 this time. Is that all right?" I told Mother it was quite all right, and she heaved a sigh of relief. "Thank God." she said, "Daddy was worried."
c 1996 Sonia Pressman Fuentes
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