Monday, August 06, 2007


My father calls me “son” more often than he calls me by

my name, and because I am my father’s son, I adopted the

same usage with respect to my boys. Kimberly, my daughter, I

call: Kimuschkele, Kimmy, Kimmy Babe, Sweetheart, Sweety,

Sugar. You get the idea. The list is as saccharine as it is


When Ben was little, people called him by the diminutive

“Benji.” There was always something so grown-up sounding

about “Benjamin” or “Ben.” You know what I mean? “Ach,

such a shayna punim[1], my baby Sam!’ Sounds funny like

Morris, Irving, Harry or Ben.

I always enjoyed Ben’s name[2]. As a matter of fact, even as

a young adult of twenty-two years, 6’ 2” in height and around

250 pounds, many still called him “Benji”-as did I on occasion

though he didn’t like it very much. So it became my habit to

call him “son” or “sonny boy.”

One evening before bedtime, he mustn’t have been more

than five years old, we discussed ornithology,[3] of all things.

“Daddy?” he wondered.

“Yes, Sonny Boy.”.

“How come the birds don’t fall out of the sky?” he asked

brilliantly, but not without a partly suppressed yawn.

“D’ya feel the wind on your face when you’re outside, son?

“It feels good Dad.” he answered with wonderment, cheerfully following along.

.“What you feel Son, is God’s breath that He blows, that we call

the ‘wind.’”

“Ooookay,” he responded, appearing somewhat quizzical, “but

Daddy remember the birds?” he dutifully reminded me.

“Yes, Son, when God wants to, He blows his breath,” I said.

“Like this, Dad?” he asked, inflating his cheeks and


“Yes, Ben, just like that, but when God blows his breath, it

catches under the wings of the birds and lifts them up.” I


“Ooooh,” he replied, scratching his head, eyebrows perplexed
but clearly intrigued by the answer.
[1] Yiddish: a pretty face

[2] In Hebrew, “ben” means “son."
[3] The scientific study of birds; avian science.

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