The Tale of Goldie Fishbein

I never met Tante Goldie, but I’m proud to flash her moniker from time to time.

Little Estelle had a beloved aunt named Goldie, her father’s sister. Since Estelle lost her mother at a very young age, the other female adults in her life made great efforts to spend time with her. Estelle and her Tante would go to the beach in Brooklyn in the summer. Goldie was a very strong swimmer and she and Estelle would swim way out past the wave breaks, lock legs and float in the sea. It was magical — until the time Estelle broke their leg chain and tried to stand up. She realized that they were so far out in the ocean that she couldn’t touch the bottom and she panicked. Goldie brought her back to the beach, but Estelle was too frightened to go back into the ocean. By the time I met Estelle she proclaimed she didn’t care much for the beach — all that sand, but she did allow that early experience made her afraid of the water, too.

I’ve never seen a picture of Goldie at any age, but in my imagination she is tall, statuesque with a formidable bosom.  She has the large Spegiel cranium and curly blond hair.  I have seen photos of her brother — the Guitar Man resembles his grandfather to a great degree.  But rather than taking the lazy (and humorous) way out and imagining Goldie resembling G-man in drag, I think of her as an athletic woman.  Tan, fit and strong, but she’s also brainy and confident.  I can see her playing tennis and then going for a refreshing swim.  Then I see her in reading glasses, and I can imagine her having robust arguments with anybody trying to limit her (or any woman’s) freedom.

The story, or family party-line, is that Goldie was a communist, and she was ostracized by the family because of her political leanings. I have no way of verifying this, but Estelle told me that she did reconnect with Goldie herself as an adult. She didn’t keep the reunion a secret but she didn’t broadcast it to the family either. Despite her communist leanings, Goldie did all right for herself. She even gave Estelle a hand-me-down fur jacket that in turn was handed down to me. It’s a short, mink jacket that is almost too warm to wear. And there is the whole moral issue over wearing fur that always loops though the back of my mind.

So “Tante Goldie,” the communist vintage fur coat, usually only comes out on very cold occasions of high importance.  Bless you, Tante Goldie, and the warmth of your spirit.

Tanta Goldie


2 thoughts on “The Tale of Goldie Fishbein

  1. You know that at an impressionable age, I visited relatives living behind the Iron Curtain, so I’m not overly enthused with the ideology of communism, but at the same time, I know that a lot of the American “communists” of Goldie’s era were politically liberal, intellectually curious types who believed it was their right as Americans to challenge a system with which they did not agree 100%. Who knows what Goldie’s politics were, by the time she gave her beloved niece that nice mink jacket?
    [A jacket, I might add, that was embroidered with her own name, not the name of some People’s Collective 😉 ]

    I say bless Estelle for putting family devotion ahead of politics, and bless you, Rosie, for writing the story down and documenting it for the next generation. As for the the mink jacket, those varmints would have died of natural causes long before you were born, with or without the intervention of the garment industry. By wearing it, you are keeping warm without the expenditure of the petroleum products it would require to make, ship and sell a synthetic ski jacket, and without the suffering imposed on a bunch of innocent waterfowl who’d be tortured in order to create a down coat. Wearing vintage is the purest form of recycling: rock it proudly, my friend!

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