Henny let herself into Papa’s old junk shop; and, as she did every morning, made her way to the back where she put the ancient battered kettle onto the little stove and made herself a coffee, before she sat down behind Papa’s wooden desk to work on the accounts. Like all other mornings she felt that creeping sense of discontent; like all other mornings she pushed it down, never letting it show. Mornings were quiet, as always – a good time to do the books, with time left over to day dream or read the newspaper. Henny had never been one for reading much, not like Sarah in the old days; but the long, somewhat lonely mornings had given her more of a taste for it. Nowadays, though, she read the New York Times, not the adventure stories of her childhood; and she tried the newspaper’s crossword puzzle (never managing to solve it, for she did not have the patience). This morning, the front page was full of the outbreak of war in Europe; with a small map showing swift Nazi advances into Poland. Henny thought of Great Uncle Moishe’s stories from his boyhood in Warsaw; he was long since dead but would have been upset had he lived to read about the beloved old country gripped by war.
It was academic to Henny though – far away and touching no one she knew. She bypassed news of war to focus on the fashion pages, feasting her eyes on drawings of tall willowy ladies in beautiful gowns, before perusing the gossip columns with their photographs of celebrities in fantastical hats at the opening of a Broadway show. She smiled a little cynically at the prominent advertisements for Johnny Walker whiskey and Jim Beam, facing one another on pages 10 and 11; and turned the page to find a smaller advertisement touting the qualities of wines from Beaulieu Vineyard in California. She wondered idly if her brother Charlie bought from them—or did he follow his father’s example and make his own wine for Sabbath? In the end, as always, Henny flipped the pages back to read dull political news and the equally boring, but much more vital news about the economy. It all passed time in the quiet shop.
Afternoons were less tedious, as the old peddlers came in, one by one. There were fewer of them now; but they still liked to sit by the stove and warm themselves and exchange stories about the past, catching up with recent gossip about their local Jewish community. Papa came in the afternoons and did deals with them—keeping an eye on things, he said, until his son came back to take over the business. Sagely the old traders would nod and ask after Charlie; and Papa would open and read out the latest letter from California that he always kept folded in his breast pocket.
That would be Henny’s cue to leave. The old men felt more comfortable without a woman there, and Papa might be increasingly frail physically but mentally he was able to hold his own. He knew to the last penny what to pay for the odd bits of twisted metal, or rags, or crockery, or glass ornaments the peddlers brought in. And after they left, he would busy himself sorting through, then polish the best knick-knacks and add little price tags in his neat copperplate handwriting, before he put them in the shop window to attract buyers. He would be happier doing that on his own. At least Charlie wrote regularly, Henny thought; and a new letter had arrived with this morning’s post which she had set beside her father’s place at the breakfast table just before she left for the shop.
Henny stepped out into a glorious sunny day and gently closed the door to the little shop that had kept the family in reasonable comfort when she was a child. It was an anachronistic anomaly from a bygone age, making only a tiny profit each month. She knew; she did the books. But Papa had saved and invested all his life, growing his nest-egg year by year, until the majority of his income came from those wise and careful savings, more than this little junkshop that had been the start of it all. Nonetheless, the habits of a lifetime – no less than the shop he had founded when he first arrived in America – were not abandoned easily. Papa still put by something to save every Friday; he had a standing appointment with old Mr Cohen at the bank. After all these years, she thought that was probably more for the coffee and camaraderie than the money.
The district had changed so much over the years. Papa’s was the last basement shop that had not undergone major refurbishment. The warehouse above it had gone bankrupt during the Depression; over the last few years a series of short-term businesses had come and gone. Currently the dilapidated building stood empty and echoing, imbuing a forlorn air to this end of the street. Papa’s little store was the sole junkshop left on a street that had once had several, along with a shoemaker, wool shop, second-hand furniture store, and sundry other little shops with a variety of downmarket goods. Over the years they had gone out of business or been bought by their neighbours who had transformed their own premises and expanded. The street had been white-painted. There was now an upmarket silversmith on the other side of the road; Henny nodded congenially to old Mr Feinstein who, on a fine day like today, still sat by the front door, smoking his pipe, and greeting customers while his sons ran the business. Next door was another jeweller, this one specialising in gold and fine gemstones, with a doorman in fancy dress who ushered customers from their expensive cars through the door that was otherwise locked for security.
She passed two fine clothes stores as she walked toward East Broadway. Gone were the days when Jewish women made their own clothes. Now they ran shops which made clothes for other women: the one displaying elaborate cocktail gowns in the shop window advertising its exclusive off-the-rack high-end-market wear; the other – its window showing a mannequin in a finely tailored silk woman’s suit – sold even higher-end-market bespoke clothing. The premises next door, formerly occupied by a shop that had sold knitting wool, now sold finely embroidered linens – not the embroidery thread to sew the linens, but the embroidered goods themselves. Henny walked down the street past the shops, thinking yet again there ought to be a wedding apparel shop; but when she suggested it to Papa he had looked at her as if she had two heads.
“What would I know about selling women clothes?” He had laughed, “paying for them – yes, now that I know about, having paid for each of your sisters’ weddings.”
Henny lingered a few moments to look in the window of a chocolatier on the corner; she remembered the shop selling curios when she was a child. Now it sold handmade confections, beautifully decorated, and displayed in little gold and silver paper cups. She sighed deeply, her discontentment renewed by her walk down the street. There was no point in wishing for the moon, Mama always said. You need to learn to want what you can reach for; otherwise you will just make yourself unhappy.
Henny squared her shoulders and turned the corner and headed toward the butchers. She remembered going with her mother and sisters to Rivington Street market. She had not gone there in years; the quantities she bought for just herself and Papa were too small to warrant the extra effort of that long walk. Mr Fleischmann sold kosher. His shop window was a testament to his skill, the lamb chops with their meaty centres even and deep red, surrounded by thick white fat and displayed in a pattern between whole chickens on one side and knubblewurst and frankfurters on the other. Mr Fleischmann gave her a broad welcoming smiled when she entered to order a pound of ground beef for their evening meal.
“I have a nice side of spiced beef, Miss Klein,” the butcher offered. “I kept a piece aside specially for you.”
That, too, was added to her shopping bag, with a little inward sigh of regret on Henny’s part, at how small a piece it was nowadays. She remembered how heavy the carrier bags had weighed in the old days when Mama had bought pastrami – always a big piece that filled the largest pot in her mother’s kitchen. This little piece would fit neatly into a medium saucepan with plenty of space to spare for the water. But then, there were only two of them round the table now: just Papa and Henny.
The bakery had put aside one braided loaf. Mama had baked her own bread but Henny had never acquired the knack and had a standing order with the local baker for every Sabbath. Last, Henny made a quick stop at the grocer’s for a nice large cabbage, two onions, and some over-ripe tomatoes, before she made her way home. Once there, she boiled rice and shredded onions and herbs, mixing them with the ground meat before she added filling to cabbage leaves and rolled them into neat parcels. Henny put the cabbage rolls to one side while she coarsely chopped the tomatoes, added garlic and water to a large pan, and stood slowly stirring as they turned into a thin tomato sauce. Carefully she placed the cabbage rolls into the pot, covered it and left it on a gentle heat to simmer slowly.
Papa would be home later than usual because this was Sabbath night and he went to synagogue first to pray. She would hear his steps as he walked up the stairs to their small flat, and light the candles just before he opened the door to their rooms. She knew the smile that would transform his face when he saw the dining table set in its Sabbath best and smelled the spicy food. Cabbage rolls had always been one of his favourites and he always said no one made them like Mama, but Henny’s were almost as good. He would wash his hands and say a prayer of thanks to Henny for her preparations, just as years before he had spoken in praise of his wife. In years gone by, he would fill a glass of wine; and, even as a very little girl, she would have a small sip. Nowadays, he filled two glasses and gave her one before saying another prayer in Hebrew. And they would sit and eat. Sabbath meal always brought back fond memories, even if it was just the two of them now. Papa used to read; but these days he would reminisce as he smoked his pipe after supper. He would say his eyes were watering from the Sabbath candles; and she would smile and nod, keeping his pride intact but secretly pleased he still missed Mama. Old stories of childish misadventures would be aired. She looked forward to it every Sabbath.
Henny darned holes in the heel of Papa’s socks while she waited. Now and then, she got up to check the pot, stirring the bubbling tomato sauce to prevent it from scorching, first turning down the heat, then turning it off altogether, trusting the meal would stay hot in the heavy cast iron pot. Papa would not be long now.
Henny’s contribution to Purim was Teiglech. The little balls of fried dough soaked in honey had always been her favourite; but while her sisters still made Hamen taschen, they said they could not be bothered to make the Teiglech. Too much work, they said, especially when they had husbands to care for and children to mind, not like some. Henny felt the slight on her single status keenly. Mama had made them and she had had several children to take care of. Truth to be told, while Henny wasn’t the best baker in the world, she did make the best Teiglech, far better than Sarah’s (which usually turned out too dark) or Gertie’s or Charlotte’s (which could be soggy) or Ella’s (which never seemed to rise properly). Since Mama died, making Teiglech had become Henny’s job. Which would be fine if she hosted Purim; but the flat she and Papa shared was too small, so they always made the trek out to one of her sisters’ homes for the celebration. Henny had made several batches, then packed them carefully in two large white bowls covered with red and white check cloth that she and Papa carried on the train all the way from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
Gertie was hosting Purim this year. She and Charlotte lived in houses opposite one another on the same street, having married twin brothers in a double ceremony the year they left high school. They had both had children within a year and seemed to have gone on having children every couple of years ever since, growing ever rounder with each pregnancy. They were now enormously fat jolly women, secure and happy in their marriages, contented in their motherhood, each having had more than one son to carry on the family name. They lived close to their husbands’ sisters who also had many children; Henny could never keep straight which children were whose as any time she visited they ran freely back and forth between houses. As usual, Gertie’s house was warm and welcoming, and the table groaned under the amount of food being served. As usual, the noise of everyone talking all at once was positively deafening and it didn’t help they were all talking about Papa’s latest letter from Charlie. Henny had a headache within a half-hour.
She filled her plate and went out to the back garden; there was a shady corner round the side of the house with a small table and folding chairs. It was usually a little quieter than the rest. Sarah and Ella had already claimed it but smiled as their sister joined them. Sarah finished braiding her daughter’s hair and gave her a little push, telling her to run and join the rest of the children delivering Purim gifts.
“This is just for us adults now,” she reminded, when young Leah protested. “Go on, now. I want to have a proper conversation with your Aunt Henny, and I can’t do it when you’re here, Miss Nosy.”
But having got rid of the children, Ella and Sarah said nothing of any note, just ate their meals, commenting, as always, on the potato salad.
“I really must get Charlotte’s recipe,” exclaimed Ella. She had been saying this for years.
Henny focused on her own plate, making steady inroads into the gefüllte fish, pickle and coleslaw, and crusty bread, glancing up periodically to see two sets of eyes on her as her sisters continued to make small talk, until finally she could stand the tension no longer, and burst out, “I suppose you’ve heard Papa’s big news.”
“About him going out west to join Charlie? Yes, of course,” replied Ella calmly. “I think everyone in the family heard that within an hour of him opening Charlie’s letter.”
“What we’re waiting for,” Sarah said, “is to hear your big news.”
“My big news - what news! I have no news.” There was a bitter tinge to her voice. “I never have news.”
“Then it’s time you had,” Ella retorted.
“You heard me,” said Ella.
Henny just looked at her.
There was a long pause before Sarah asked wonderingly, “Where did my madcap older sister go? You were always the one who was up for anything, who had all the crazy ideas, who couldn’t sit still, who was planning to go out and make her fortune. Who was going places and doing things and making a difference. Except you still live with Papa; and nowadays you act as if you’re going to stay living with him forever.”
“I didn’t always live with him,” said Henny in a small voice.
“We remember,” said Ella.
And as Henny looked into her sister’s dark eyes she remembered too. She remembered the yelling when she insisted on moving into ‘my own place, where my little sisters won’t always be messing with my stuff!’ which had really been a tiny cubbyhole of a room in a boarding-house. She had a job at a new company that manufactured beauty products, starting as a receptionist before earning a promotion to managing sales to the big department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. She had a boyfriend who wasn’t a nice Jewish lad from the neighbourhood whose family had known her family back in the old country. She had known in her heart that wouldn’t last but she’d rather enjoyed the shocked looks of the Aunties when she introduced him at family gatherings. Papa’s smiles had disappeared. He had disapproved and turned overnight from her indulgent Papa into a stern Father whose diktats she flouted. Mama had worried.
However, Henny hadn’t cared. She was independent – her own person. She had money to spend. She had gone to all night dance contests, wearing pretty sandals with diamante heels that sparkled as she twirled. She ate in restaurants several times a week and drank champagne at parties. She had cut her hair in a bob and made up her face with the glamorous products she sold, their best advertisement ever, her dapper boyfriend (who managed the firm) said. She had had short skirts and high hopes. She moved from the tiny room into her own flat, again small, but three whole rooms for just one person! She bought a fur coat and gave lavish wedding presents to her sisters. She gave no thought for tomorrow.
Until her little brother Joseph had got sick with poliomyelitis – first him, and then Mama. Ella was busy with her two children and Sarah had just had her first, a sickly colicky baby who never seemed to settle. Charlotte and Gertie had just got married, and just as quickly got pregnant. In the end it had been Henny – the only unmarried daughter – who had given up her dreams to come home and take care of Papa and Charlie, to nurse Mama, and to bury young Joseph. She had never gone back. A Police raid had shut down the cosmetics company, which actually had made rouge and cold cream, but also turned out to be a front for the real money-maker: bootleg whisky and bathtub gin. The Aunties told her she had had a lucky escape, having quit her job the month before to return to the bosom of her family - and let that be a lesson to her!
And Mama had needed her. So what else could Henny do? When she had been little, it had been Mama who took care of her: bathed her, cooked for her, sewed her frocks and pinafores and knitted her stockings; Mama who soothed her tears when something went wrong, and whose sage words calmed her when Henny’s temper flared. Whose boundless love had surrounded her in a hundred different ways every day, keeping her safe. Mama needed her now; those memories meant there was never really any doubt about Henny’s choice. Mama had survived the polio but been a long time recovering (and never fully regained her strength); her left leg dragged and needed a brace. So Henny had stayed, ‘for a little while’ she had said. Only somehow the years had stretched into a long while. Papa aged overnight when Mama died; now she could not leave him. Gradually, over time, Henny, the wild child, the frivolous, light-hearted and laughing, the adventurous young girl, had become a responsible middle-aged woman who was relied on to take care of everyone else. The old Henny stirred inside occasionally, especially if she looked at family photos taken at get-togethers and contrasted her still trim and elegant, stylishly dressed figure, with the more motherly figures of her sisters (even slender Ella’s waist had spread somewhat after having three children). But she ignored that little inner voice that warned her life was passing her by. Of all his children, Papa depended on her.
Henny could not forget Papa’s deep disappointment when Charlie struck out on his own. He had expected he would hand over the shop to his one surviving son, and had begun teaching him the business on weekends and in the summer holidays while Charlie was still at school. But Charlie had become interested in cameras in his teens and was keen to make his own mark on the world. He confided his dreams in his older sister, but said nothing of his plans. To Papa he was the dutiful son. Until one morning they woke to find a note from Charlie on the kitchen table. Several weeks later he wrote to say he was in California, working as a cameraman on a Marx brothers’ film. (Ella remembered seeing them - they had been headliners when she was in Vaudeville.) It was his big break and Charlie never looked back. Never came home. Now Charlie had written to ask Papa to come out to California to live. Charlie had written six weeks ago when he got married, to some famous film director’s daughter. Now he had written that his wife was having their first baby. As he started his own family, Charlie wanted the family he had been born into close by. The thought of the next generation – the next Klein – provided powerful motivation for Papa. He was selling up and moving home.
“Yes, Papa’s moving,” said Sarah, “we’ve heard of nothing else for the last week. But what about you?”
It was chaos at the junkshop – organised chaos but nonetheless the old store hadn’t seen such excitement in years. Her sisters came over to help sort and move things, bringing all their children, some of whom had never even seen the place before. The little ones ran excitedly from room to room finding treasures just as their mothers had found them years before. Old magazines and books were picked over and a selection put aside for them to take back home with them. The youngest laughed over old-fashioned hats with plumes, and played dress-up with odd lengths of fabric, long skirts, and worn out jackets with frayed cuffs and patched elbows. When it came time for them to leave, they begged to take their most treasured finds with them so they could continue their play. As he had in years long gone with his own children, Papa laughed and agreed. In reality they took very little with them, but the place felt much emptier after they had left. The life was leaving the old shop which had been so much a part of her childhood; it saddened Henny.
A few days later two big commercial salvage companies that Papa had traded with came to take away the contents of the metal and glass rooms and a day later another company came for the rag room. A second-hand bookshop took the magazines and books the children had discarded. Then the shop really started to look emptier, not just feel that way.
But the old peddlers still came by to visit, to see the changes day by day. Henny had worried about how they would feel; they had been selling to Papa for years and there weren’t that many junkshops left. Papa’s place was a mainstay in their lives. She knew it was business but she had known these people most of her life. She need not have worried. Old Joe said his widowed daughter had remarried, “to a nice man dis time – not lika dat layabout she useda be married to.” Her new husband had bought a house in Jersey City and she had asked Joe to come live with them. It was a familiar theme - many of the peddlers had been thinking of retiring anyway; they just had been unable to break the habit of any years, visiting Papa at the shop. Picklenose was even getting married! To the landlady where he lived. He had been doing odd jobs for her for years and she had been so dismayed at the thought he might move away she proposed! (Or so he said.) Henny thought back to the rag-tag appearance of the Picklenose of her childhood. He had been looking better kempt for a few years now – no more holes in his shoes and buttons sewn on his shirt properly. Henny suspected Picklenose’s wedding was likely long overdue.
The day he told everyone, he handed Henny a little note inviting Papa and her to the wedding that was taking place at St Teresa’s on Henry Street next Saturday. Henny turned it over and over wistfully. She remembered helping Gertie and Charlotte write out their invitations, hands cramping at having to write the same lines over and over, remembered thinking how much easier it would be if you could simply buy them, pre-printed, maybe on pretty flowered notepaper with a few blank spaces that brides could fill in…. If only she had…. Henny determinedly suppressed that thought.
Charlie came back to New York for a visit, bringing his lovely bride with him. Everyone expected her to be glamourous, but she was actually quite shy. Though Henny thought meeting all the branches of the Klein family all at once when you had only been married three months might account for that! Ella hosted a family gathering where Deborah was introduced to all the old Aunties, half of whom predicted she was going to have a boy because she was carrying low, while the other half predicted the baby was a girl because Deborah had an aversion to the smell of fish, opinions they argued vehemently to any who would listen. Henny thought it all a bit pointless; the girl wasn’t far enough along to show and she didn’t like the smell of fish either (and there was no way Henny was pregnant). By the end of the evening the two sides of the room would not have been speaking to one another except Charlie’s sweet-natured wife charmed them all and smoothed over disagreements. The one thing everyone agreed on was how lucky Charlie was to have married her.
Papa took Charlie off to a meeting with the bank about the shop. He came home looking a bit grumpy, and the next day he and Charlie went to see old Mr Greenbaum, the lawyer who had helped Papa manage the legal side of things when Mama died. Papa acted a bit secretive about that appointment, which worried Henny, but Charlie said it was just paperwork. Papa looked satisfied when a large padded brown envelope arrived in the post a few days later, but said he had to speak with Gertie’s and Charlotte’s husbands – something about the property taxes he said, and nothing for Henny to be concerned about. He took the streetcar uptown the next day. Two days later Sarah’s husband called by first thing; Papa whisked him off to the shop almost before he could hand Henny the kugel Sarah had sent over.
Henny frowned. She was no fool; the men clearly were conspiring over something. But when she asked, Papa said winding down the business had proven more complicated than he had originally expected because it was mid-year; and from that he would not budge. He and one of his sons-in-law or Charlie went out each day on shop business. It was for the men to deal with, he said, and Henny should not worry her pretty head. It was as if Papa had forgotten Henny had been managing the books for the last ten years! Had forgotten how she went to night school to learn how to keep those books to begin with. Men! (Jewish Papas were the worst.)
Left to themselves, Henny got to know Charlie’s Deborah and told her all the old stories about what it had been like growing up in the East side. In return, Deborah recounted lots of stories about famous movie stars and the wild parties they threw. But all the while Deborah crocheted baby clothes, which was oddly reassuring. Mama had tried to teach Henny to crochet, but she’d never had the patience for it. However, Henny had watched all her sisters knit, sew, and embroider baby clothes when they were expecting. Deborah might be from Tinseltown but she was a real person underneath, just like the Kleins. Henny was kept occupied cleaning, and sorting. She washed and ironed and packed Papa’s things. Papa told Henny that he had plans for the furniture (though he wouldn’t say what). But he looked out some personal mementoes and gave them to her to pack. As she polished the ebony frame of her parents’ wedding picture in the old country, before wrapping it in tissue paper, Henny wondered: what would Mama have thought? Except, Mama had come as a bride with Papa all the way over the ocean to this new country, speaking only a few words of English, but as determined as he had been to make a fresh start and leave the troubles of the old world behind. It was more than a few hundred miles from New York to California, but Henny thought that would be nothing to someone who had moved from all the way from Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile Henny made her own plans. She liked Charlie’s wife more and more, but that didn’t mean she wanted to leave behind everything she was familiar with and be the old-maid sister-in-law in Deborah’s house. Henny broached her plans hesitantly to Papa, explaining that she had decided she was not going to California, though she would head as far west as SoHo, where she had applied for a job as a bookkeeper in an art gallery. Papa smiled and nodded, asking her where she planned to live; he had already given notice on the lease to the flat. She would find something, she assured him, but until she did, Henny planned to stay with Ella’s family.
She showed Papa the brass candlesticks that Mama had only brought out at Sabbath, Henny had newly polished them, ready for the move.
“It will be nice to have something of Mama’s to use for Sabbath when I have my own place,” said Henny. “I’m also keeping Mama’s comb and horn-backed hairbrush and the hat pins she used to use, if you agree Papa. As the oldest daughter, Ella got Mama’s gold wedding ring; and Sarah took her watch.”
“And Gertie and Charlotte?” asked Papa gravely.
“Gertie chose Mama’s fine china soup tureen,” replied Henny, “and Charlotte took the best tablecloth.”
Papa nodded. All he said was that it was good to know Mama’s special things would remain with her daughters. It felt odd. Henny had not wanted Papa to be upset about his daughters sharing out Mama’s belongings; but it seemed strange to see him accept all the changes so calmly – no old stories about things Mama used to do, not even one tear. The end of the month came and the old flat echoed after the men had taken the furniture away. Ella came after they left to help Henny sweep and clean before taking the brooms, mop and cleaning cloths down to Jules’ car, tactfully leaving Henny to say farewell to the flat, before locking the front door for the last time. The two women sipped coffee in the little café across the street while waiting for the men to return. This time it was Ella’s husband Papa had taken off to see Mr Cohen.
“There is just one last task to do at the shop, before we can go to Ella’s,” said Papa as he got into Jules’ car.
Henny’s eyes opened wide when they stopped in front of the old building. The previous tenants had vacated the two storey warehouse a few months ago, and it had stayed empty. Now there was a new striped awning and a sign proclaiming in bold print: KLEIN’S WEDDING EMPORIUM.
Stunned she allowed Papa to help her out of the back seat, while Jules helped Ella from the other side. The door to the shop she remembered so well from her childhood opened; and her sisters, their husbands and children and Charlie and his Deborah spilled out, all talking excitedly all at once. Impatiently Gertie and Charlotte caught one hand each and drew Henny down the half-flight of steps into the old junkshop, now transformed into a flat, containing the very furniture that had been moved from her old home earlier that day.
“What on earth…?”
“Here is the key to the flat, Henny,” said Papa handing her the large old-fashioned key she remembered from her childhood. “And this is the key to the new shop upstairs,” he said, handing her a second key, smaller, more modern than the last.
“Come and see!” exclaimed Sarah’s daughter Leah impatiently, and Henny was tugged back out the door to the basement premises, her sisters’ excited children leading her up the stairs and through the main door to the building. Gone was the dingy warehouse. The place had been transformed with white-painted walls, a dove-gray carpet, a series of little changing rooms along one wall, and row upon row of elegant white wedding dresses.
“We all helped to set it up,” said Sarah, “because Papa said he didn’t know anything about women’s fripperies….”
“…except to pay for them,” chorused Henny’s sisters.
Henny turned to Papa in amazement, “Your business….”
“No, your business now,” said Papa, “yours and your sisters, though I think you will find them mostly silent partners, given you are the only child of mine to have inherited a head for business.” Papa shook his head ruefully as he spoke.
“But you were keeping the shop to give to Charlie….”
“Who is much better behind a camera than in front of a cash register,” said her brother.
“Charlie has had his share,” reassured Papa. “This is for you.”
He brought out the padded brown envelope she had seen him pick eagerly out of the post two weeks ago, pulled from it a sheaf of papers, and handed them to her.
“Mr Greenbaum will go over them with you in detail next Tuesday,” Papa said, “but what they mean is the business is yours. As partners, your sisters may have views –”
“When have they ever not had views,” Jules interjected, to which all the husbands nodded and laughed.
“But you are the director of this little company,” continued Papa, “so, you are in charge.” He paused for a moment before continuing, “I may, of course, visit from time to time – maybe help with keeping your books.”
Henny nodded, a big smile on her face, her eyes sparkling.
“Money, at least, I know – the frills and lace I leave to you,” Papa finished.
“Oh, Papa,” Henny exclaimed, eyes swimming as she gave him a hug. “I can’t believe you gave the shop to me.”
Papa smiled wryly. He had so wanted a son to carry on his name, had dreamed of handing over his business to his boy. However, in the end it was his second daughter who grew up to be most like him, to be closest to his heart. It was not something he could say. He shrugged.
“Did my Henny-Penny think I had not noticed her dreams?”