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Tag Archives: Greetings



LRK Pisces sculptureAn engineer by training and trade, my father had a firm grasp on reality. He was practical and believed that problems had solutions. He had a fierce work ethic and great determination. At the same time, he was willing to entertain — on an intellectual level — all manner of thought. He was a voracious and eclectic reader and enjoyed pondering the mysteries of the universe.

Among the mysteries that intrigued him were symbols of all sorts. He studied them, sketched them and, eventually, carved them. He had little use for astrology, but its symbols were among those that interested him and when he was about 60 he began sculpting his way through the zodiac.

On my 22nd birthday, he gave me this Pisces sculpture. Balanced on a steel strap above a marble base, the piece stands about 21 inches high. The pair of sanded-to-a-gloss fishes — lemon and orange wood, according to his notes — leap from a teak sea.

Though years, and my father, have passed, and the wood has darkened slightly, the sculpture remains to remind me of his engineer’s precision, his wide-ranging mind…and his love.

Good Cheer

1950 ChristmasMy third Christmas rolled around when I was still a couple months shy of three years old. Dorothy’s card that year was a linoleum block print with the red colored in by hand. The three of us are lined up on the couch, each pair of feet missing the sock that’s hung on the mantel.

Though I’m sure my mother intended it to be amusing, there’s a hint of sadness in this year’s image. She was already feeling the wounds and disappointments of motherhood and she would soon be sent away to “rest” and “get better” (what I was told) for some months. She wouldn’t make another Christmas card for four years.

December 8

jik to LRK birthday insidejik to LRK birthdayMy father’s birthday and a card holds up the faded mirror of my young self. I don’t know how old I was when I made this card, but I was already coloring inside the lines. The heart and the figure of my father are carefully outlined in pencil, and there’s a pencil line to indicate the floor. I loved coloring, and had plenty of crayons and paper, but wasn’t allowed to have coloring books; I had to make my own designs. (The lesson must have stuck; I have no desire for any of the scores of “adult” coloring books currently on the store shelves, just astonishment at the size of the sudden trend.)

With its little brackets, the table is easy to recognize: it’s the card table in my mother’s studio, the one I had occasion to study most often, as I stood in the doorway, hoping she’d show some interest in me, but mostly just annoying her.

Perhaps the big hovering pink thing is a practice cake, where I was working out the concept of roundness. Anyway, the important parts are there: my father, the cake, and love. Happy Birthday, Papa.


LRK to jik 1997In his sculpture, my father returned repeatedly to this form — the object both joined and separate. Reflecting the natural shape of the branching tree, it suggests relationship as well as the individual standing with arms raised in praise or plea.

This small “WINGED FORM,” as he described it in his carefully annotated and illustrated log, was made from two pieces of black walnut “doweled and epoxied together” and affixed to a black walnut base. My father made it for my birthday in 1997. It was one of his last sculptures and it was the last of my birthdays we would celebrate together.

In addition to the “Love — Papa” signature on the bottom, the piece itself is carefully scribed on the four faces of the lower, joined, section: my initials, J and K, on two sides, 97 and his artist’s monogram, a conjoined LRK, on the other two.

It is conceived and crafted and finished with love, infused with memories and embodied with the calm strength of his warm hands. A gift that transcends time and loss.
. . . . .
LRK to jik, 1997, “WINGED FORM,” 10” high, base 3.25” diameter


Kleinberg Special GreetingsI was not yet 2 years old but already had the holidays (and everything else) well in hand, if the depiction on that year’s family greeting card is to be believed.
As always, my mother’s deft lines captured something uniquely right about each of us, the message drifting up from chimneys lining the bottom edge and the red and green highlights added by hand.
Merry Christmas!


first Christmas

I was 10 months old at my first Christmas and this was the holiday card my mother drew and hand-colored that year. As always, her caricatures capture something essential and true and include wonderful details: my father’s tiny bow-tie (I never saw him wear any other kind of tie), my mother’s red “hair” and pearls, the candy canes and holly in the lettering and the tiny row of Christmas trees that connect the three figures.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Everything!

May 30

jik to DAK at 86May 30. My mother’s birthday.

In our family tradition of handmade cards, this was the ‘card’ I gave her when she turned 86, in 1997. Over some weeks, I had sewed and stuffed the numbers and covered every inch of the surface with fabric paint, concerned that it would be fully dry by her birthday.

Dorothy had already slid quite a way down the slippery slope of dementia, no longer able to cook or drive, requiring my father’s help with shopping and cleaning and the many small decisions that form the underpinning of each ordinary day. But she was still able to express herself, recognized most people and took pleasure in choosing her clothes and working in her art studio. Her ability to gauge time and sequence was damaged, but her birthdays were always an occasion much anticipated and enjoyed.

98And we did celebrate that birthday, somehow. There was probably a restaurant dinner and cake and candles. My father would undoubtedly have given her a small wood carving, sanded smooth, initialed and dated. I don’t remember the particulars except for joking that we would keep the big 86 and turn it upside down and use it again when she turned 98.

But she didn’t make it to 98 and neither did my father. In fact, that would be the last of our birthdays we celebrated as a family. That May, just before my mother’s birthday, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer; he would be gone before his own birthday in December.

Although, in those early days, there was no reason to be without hope — certainly my father’s choices erred on the side of hope — if my mother understood, she was in denial, and I was plunged into a terrible and surprising grief.

But we did what our small family had to do. We pulled together, faced each day with a measure of good cheer, managed the sad business of my father’s illness and worked together to assure my mother’s care in the years ahead.

The progression of her decline seemed to protect Dorothy from a sense of loss — a small gift to us both.

We celebrated her birthday together five more times, each one marked with a special meal and, of course, a handmade card.
. . . . .
jik to DAK, 1997, 12″w x 13″h

Happy Mother’s Day


LRK to DAK ~ 27th anniversaryMy parents got married on December 20th. Twenty-seven years later, my mother found this small wood object set at her place at the breakfast table, where my father had left it without card or comment. Something she had made — a card, a small painting — would be at his place, and I would have left, or mailed, something for them as well. Hand-made objects, left quietly for discovery, at once expected and surprising, marked all of our family occasions.

This one fits perfectly in your hand, one side rounded, sanded to silken smoothness, the other carved with this anniversary message. The wood is satiny maple, the piece meant to be held, warmed in the hand, set down, picked up.

Sometimes my father came upstairs from his workshop and, extending his arm, palm down, waited for my mother or me to reach out and take something from him. He made many small pieces for the hand and that gesture, the arm extended palm down, was familiar to most of the people he knew. It said “This is for you” as clearly as if he had spoken, and it seemed he could always reach into his pocket and pull out a tumbled slice of agate, a carved and polished wedge of wood — enduring pieces of memory we read and re-read with our hands.

Happy December 20th.

Father’s Day…

Hi Dad ~ by jik ~ undatedI don’t know how old I was when I made this card for my father, but I love the casual fancy-meeting-you-out-here look of the two waving figures. When I open the card, I’m surprised to see the deep pencil impression of the figures pressed into the paper. With a child’s intensity, I bore down for precision, but once I’d drawn the figures and written the greeting, I used the lightest hand to sketch in the tree and plants and sky and ground and a similar treatment inside the card, in pink.

Beside the correction — it looks like I wrote Fathers dad and then fixed it — and the period after the exclamation point, and the tree set partially out of frame, the detail I love is the girl’s skirt, a neat triangle of silver pencil that still has its metallic brightness after all these years.

Happy Father’s Day.

February 26…

birth announcement by Dorothy KTheir Christmas card had pictured Dorothy’s bulging belly.

A couple of months later, this one — hand drawn, hand colored, my mother’s red hair, my dad’s strong chin, and, pink-blanketed, me.

Happy Chanukkah!


their second ChristmasTheir first Christmas together was spent on their honeymoon and by the second, they were ready to sign the card Red & Les & 7/9. (The 7/9 is me.) The hand-colored card is drawn in my mom’s characteristic line, her red hair showing in the candle flame, the angles and postures capturing something distinctive about each of them.

Though unimaginable in my father’s home, Christmas was a lively feature of Dorothy’s secular Jewish upbringing. If my rabbi’s-son father tried to dissuade her from sending Christmas cards, there’s scant evidence of his efforts — or his success.


honeymoon 1946It wasn’t until sometime after my mom moved out of her house, when I began in earnest to sort through the remaining volume of cartons and files and scrapbooks, that I came to fully appreciate the celebratory trail that our small family had left. It stretched across the 50-plus years that my parents had been together and then beyond, into the six years my mom and I remained, without my dad. In all those years, perhaps not more than a dozen occasions were celebrated with store-bought cards, and while we scoffed at the “Hallmarketing” of the holidays, we nonetheless used those same events as excuses for own exchange.

The trail begins here, with my parents’ first Christmas card, December 1946, which also celebrates their marriage. The slightly caricatured features — my mom’s red hair, my dad’s bald pate and cleft chin — were already in evidence and would recur in Dorothy’s drawings and cards through the decades. Here she’s crowned with a bit of holly, while the ball and chain around his ankle is decorated for the season.

This practice, this habit, these illustrations of emotions too complex to say aloud were a legacy to me. They mark every page in the unwritten picture book of our family history; more than anything else, they are a testament to creativity.