You Make a Better Door than a Window

Samuel Reuben delighted in delighting his children. We knew how very much we were loved by him, and we had the good sense to appreciate what we had. From his deliberately obtuse way of communicating if, for example, we were blocking his view of the television, “You make a better door than a window,” to the one superstition he either had or pretended to have, to wit, if one of us stepped over the reclining body of a sibling on the floor, we had to immediately retrace our steps or, according to my father, that sibling would instantly cease to grow.

Every fiber of my being is saturated with memories of him doing something generous or spontaneous or barely credible or highly original or unimaginably sweet.

Like the little dance he did with whichever daughter happened to be available. First, he’d get us in position to do a tango. Then he’d segue into a step he had invented that went one-two-three …kick. He would reverse directions and repeat one-two-three … kick, until a different daughter or my mother walked into the room, and he’d changer partners and start all over again.



My father also loved to play his beloved violin, even though we gave him the Jack Benny treatment every time he picked up his bow, which was really unfair, because he really could play.

He could sing, too. Not well, but with such showmanship. As when he thrilled us with his favorite fate-bemoaning medley from Fiddler on the Roof. With fancy footwork, beseeching gestures and ironic facial expressions, he would gaze up at God and our living room ceiling and croon, “If I were a Rich Man …”

The Comparachicos who inhabited Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughed and Alexander Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask, were also a big part of our childhood. They bought and sold children, and perpetrated unimaginable horrors on innocent babes. If our hands, ears or elbows weren’t clean enough, my father assured us on countless occasions that the comparachicos would get us … a deliciously hollow threat, like the wooden hanger and the belt, which frightened us not in the least, but which probably had something to do with my choice of a career because, for sheer theatrics, it couldn’t be beat.

Comparachicos.

Upper stratospheres.

Lower Slobovians.

Colleges of Dilapidated Antiquity.

Words. Words. And more words. Long before nutrition became the knee-jerk obsession of just about everyone not addicted to pork rinds, my father warned us, not to chew, but to “masticate” our food.

Anyone gracious or elegant enough to cross my father’s path was a “gentleman and a scholar.”

A woman whose vanity he wanted to tweak would be told, “Your age is exceeded only by your beauty.” Similarly, an argumentative daughter might be cautioned, “Your state of confusion is only exceeded by your misrepresentation of the facts.”

Everything Samuel Reuben did was embued with his style, his humor, his love, his originality, and of course, his iconoclasm.

Shelly Reuben is an Edgar-nominated author, private detective, and fire investigator. For more about her books, visit shellyreuben.com

Copyright © 2009, Shelly Reuben

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