It was Mrs. Kekelia, my parents’ tenant. Mr. and Mrs. Kekelia lived in the four-room apartment above the storefront part of our house. They’d been living there when Pop had bought the house, and my parents had decided to let them stay.
My parents needed every dollar, so they decided they didn’t need to use their apartment for extra space. When we moved into our four-room apartment, my parents slept in one bedroom, while Charlie and I slept in the other. After Charlie married, my sister Barbara and baby Angelo were moved from our parents’ bedroom to my bedroom.
Mrs Kekelia was a sturdy German woman in her early sixties. She loved to cook. When my parents bought the house, Ma asked Mrs. Kekelia to babysit me while she worked at Lily Tulip. It was convenient and my parents needed Ma’s salary to pay the mortgage.
Aunt Demi didn’t like my being exposed to American or German customs. But since my parents were our family’s pioneers in College Point, they didn’t have anyone else to help them.
Mrs Kekelia gave me a small package. “I come mit little Easter treat for mein little lebkuchen.”
I gave Mrs Kekelia a big hug. Demi stiffened when she saw me hug a non-relative. Ignoring Aunt Demi, I accepted Mrs. Kekelia's gift and said, “Danke... Thank you.” I unwrapped and bit the strudel.
Ma said, “Liz, you remember our tenant, Mrs. Kekelia.”
Sniffing the air, Mrs. Kekelia said, “I stay minute. Vas ist smell? Rabbit? Haf goot German recipe - hasenpfeffer. Rabbit stew. Tina like. You need -”
Ma said, “We had lamb.”
Liz belched and said, “I can still taste the garlic.”
Mrs. Kekelia understood. “Ach. Dat smell. Who can tell? Lamb, rabbit...”
Liz continued, “They put garlic or curry in everything.”
Stung by Liz’s apparent disapproval, Ma said, “I have a very nice Maltese recipe - fenek bit-tewm hu bil-Imbid. Rabbit stew. My family prefers it.”
Liz said, “That has garlic, too. My family always has baked ham for Easter. No garlic. Ham’s traditional in America.”