I was three years old.

It was my earliest conscious memory.

Maybe there were others memories, fleeting. I remember sitting at the rickety kitchen table in our Williamsburg, Brooklyn, tenement apartment, picking at a plaster hole in the yellow wall. I remember a mouse darting across the floor. We weren't frightened, my sister and I. We were curious. We had no pets or visitors besides our aunts and uncles who lived nearby. They were also Holocaust survivors like our parents. Everyone in our world seemed to be a Holocaust survivor.

Everyone in our world seemed to be a Holocaust survivor

Yiddish-speaking. Check

Accented English. Check.

Tattoo. Check.

No parents of their own. Check.

No stories of their childhood or teenage years. Check.

Occasionally using Polish or Romanian words. Check. Check.

We had taken a trip that day. With my aunt, her husband and their daughter.

It was the first time we had ever been out of the presence of my mother.

We boarded the elevated train at the Graham Avenue station. We passed platform after platform, crossed the Williamsburg Bridge and descended into a tunnel.

The torn wicker seat scratched the backs of my legs. The ceiling fan circled leisurely above my head. I watched the swiftly changing scenes visible through the cloudy windows. The grinding sounds of the wheels and rhythmic movements lulled me.

I kept my hands folded in the flared crinoline skirt of my starched and ironed dress. My curly blonde hair was pinned back by a plastic barrette.

We were going to a television studio.

I knew what television was.

We had just gotten a "TeeVee set."

It was housed in a shiny, double-doored, cherry mahogany cabinet.

It broadcast black and white programming over three channels.

My favorite shows were Westerns. The cowboys didn't speak much. They roamed a foreign, sometimes hostile, country. It reminded me of my parents’ lives.

I was never sure or ever thought of how television shows were transmitted. They were just “there.”

Then, one day, my aunt announced that we were going to a variety television show called “The Children’s Hour.” To a studio. In Manhattan. To see the legendary announcer, Ed Herlihy. His voice was reassuring. His tones were perfect. Even his name seemed welcoming. Herlihy. Hur-la-hee.

Leaving Brooklyn was a shocking event. We were entering an alien world.

What if no one spoke Yiddish?

My aunt had tickets to the show. How had she gotten them?

No one said.

We entered a cavernous room. It was pitch-black except for the brilliant lights focused on the stage. Large boxes on wheeled towers faced the performers.

We sat in the upper balcony.

It reminded me of synagogue.

I looked at my aunt.

She wore a sheath dress, a hat clamped on her graying hair. Her leather purse was gripped in her gloved hands.

I would always be torn

I looked at the sun-filled stage and back at her.

I was mesmerized by the music, the laughter, the excitement below, and yet I knew that I could never be down there with the other children, as much as I wanted to, not then or ever.

I would always be torn between the world of my aunt and our family and their history, and the spectacular, luminescent world before me.

Ed Herlihy began to speak.

I sat back in my seat, my arms on the armrests, my white tee-strapped shoes pointed to the ceiling.