Note from the Bookwriter
by Mark Harelik
This is the story of my grandparents, young Russian Jews fleeing the pogroms of eastern Europe, in 1909.
Having come to America's southern shores on the wave of the Galveston Plan, my grandparents Harelik (originally pronounced Gorehlik) settled in a small town in central Texas where full religious observance was difficult. Through the years, they raised three sons and entered the American community. All outward signs of the shtetl life they left behind were gone.
For the family, however, the experiences of my grandparents' past lives were daily stories that were passed around the dinner table. And for me, the hero of this quotidian legend was my grandfather Haskell. I could almost picture him - the young Jew forced to carry his life in his pocket - his religion, his aspirations, his search for safety and stability, and (strangely the most vivid image of all) me. I could picture myself in his pocket. He was bringing my life to this place - this great open space, this unimaginable future that I live in now.
The day I sat down to write this story, I had been on the phone with my dad. He'd taken my elderly grandfather Haskell on their weekly drive around town, which took all of 20 minutes, maybe. They drove by the clothing store founded in 1911 on the town square. "There's your store, Pop." "My what?" "Your store - Look, see that sign up there? Haskell Harelik- it's your name." "My name? My name...?"
He had forgotten his name. He had forgotten his journey, his life, his story. Lost. Now I reach into my own pocket, and there he is - my great American hero, who traveled so far to live a simple life, raise a family, plant the seeds of my future. We bear these seeds from the faded pockets of our fathers and mothers. We are them, in an unseeable, ungraspable way. And by our single, potent glance back, their invisible lives are made worthy and meaningful and immortal. And in the end, when even memory is gone, that which remains lives only in the telling. I must tell you this story, for it's all that remains of a good man's life, and all that's immortal in me.