The Love of Mrs. Lolita Rabinsky

Since only a handful of people follow this blog religiously, and only a fewer handful of people seem to find it, I am emboldened with the pen of obscurity to do a good thing for history.

I will tell you all (that is, all 6 of you) about Mrs. Lola Rabinsky.

She was a Savannah native who returned to her hometown to live her twilight years in the glow of the Coastal Empire after so many decades of travel and adventure.

I met Lola Rabinsky years ago at the Savannah Square Retirement Community, back when I would visit older Americans during my long breaks between semesters at college. I was too mature, so I thought, for the rat race that was the Savannah “scene” in 1994, and she was too young, so she concluded, for a retirement community. So we made a fun pair of girls drinking tea during afternoon low tide.

Lola Rabinsky was a beautiful, older woman, about 5’4″ and slender and preppy, and she wore hats almost every day. Not ball caps, though she had those too in the event of convertible driving or a Sand Gnats baseball game, but wide-brimmed, 1920s flapper, cowgirl, or Jackie O hats. She had tons of earrings, but her favorites were small, real pearls on top of bun-braid of 14k gold. They were delicate and every-day-fare. Her grandmother had given them to her for Christmas as a child.

Miss Lola was once a teacher, and she had taught Third Grade Special Ed. What a herculean feat that was in my eyes, as I was studying to teach high school English, a tremendous effectuation in her eyes. She told me one afternoon over tea that as the population in her district changed, the multicultural elements of her classroom changed, too. She loved the blend of different cultures and rituals and languages her little students brought. I even remember hearing for the first time in her presence the term “code-switching,” a term we teachers now know well, thanks to Lisa Delpit and Ruby Payne. But she told me how she handled nontraditional speech and grammar in her class: “I would tell them, ‘That’s your language at home. In the classroom, we get to speak how you will when you’re president!'”

Once, she told me she could “feel” that I would be a great teacher. Pretty sure my eyes welled up a little at that statement.

I asked her about balance, being married and being a teacher, etc. So she told me about her beloved Saul.

Her husband, Saul Rabinsky, had been a crate maker in Poland. Anything shipped from one village or metropolitan area to another would be tossed in his wooden transport boxes. But moving to Chicago when he was 24 meant that he had to rethink his career. Yes, people needed crates, but a job as specialized as building crates had serious competition. He became a cook in Chicago. Not a bad place for a great occupation, in my book.

They met when she was nineteen. Among a throng of her girlfriends who all tried to flirt with Saul, he would have none of the casual crush concept. Lola won the day. She was Lolita back then, and she was as smitten with him as he was with her. They married almost immediately.

Saul and Lolita never had any children, and that was ok with each of them, it seems. If God would have blessed them with a second generation, they would gladly have accepted the gift. But if He did not, they would still revel in the gift of finding each other. They even appreciated that they were wise enough to recognize the gift of each other. Enlightened sentiments, Miss Lola.

Years progressed, and Saul continued cooking away, apparently becoming somewhat of a local legend in his neighborhood. At some point, Lolita became Lola, especially after the notoriety of Nabokov’s Lolita became an reckless factor for a future in elementary education. Later, Saul wanted to cook only for Lola, so they moved south and east. I believe they made it to Virginia for a time, then to the Outer Banks.

They traveled the highways of America, particularly the eastern parts, and rode in their various cars during the decades over each mountain that makes up Appalachia. They signed in every guest book at every state’s Visitors Center they came across. Even now, I am sure if you look hard enough, you can find a signature of Saul and Lolita Rabinsky in the Grover township guest book as you enter North Carolina from the south along I-85.

I met Miss Lola in Savannah, but Saul had not made it that far. He had passed away just a few months before. To be honest, I wondered if she would last much longer now that her world was solo and her retirement community was new to her. Saul and Lolita had lived the bulk of their lives not as individuals, but as a couple. They were a  cohort of loving souls that felt comfortable, even “normal,” together.

God bless Saul and Lolita Rabinsky.


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