Mama never used, “s’iz amol geven” (once upon a time.) Invariably it startedwith, “S’iz geven an umglik” (There was a misfortune) and then proceeded by telling us what the family had “durkhgemakht” (endured) We guessed that an “umglik” was not so good and that “durkhgemakht” was something that they encountered or lived through.
There was also Mama’s list of “oys.” We knew by the tone of her voice, and occasional tear in her eyes, that they were not happy times. It started with “oysgehungert” (starved) and then proceeded to “oysgematert” (really tired) and “oysgemutshet”(tormented). Finally she ended with “oysgeshtorbn” (perished).
It was only much later when I began to study Yiddish and had a dictionary that the full impact of Mama’s experiences were understood, and thus her use of these words became clearer to me.
Occasionally one of these words pops into my zinen (mind) and I realize that these “oys” words really are variants of “oy” (woe is me). My mama had many “oys”.