Aug 19 2014
There are two sentences that have impacted my parenting philosophy more than anything else I’ve read about raising children. In “The Art of Loving” by psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm, he writes, “The Promised Land is described as ‘flowing with milk and honey.’ Milk is the symbol of the first aspect of love, that of care and affirmation. Honey symbolizes the sweetness of life, the love for it and the happiness in being alive. Most mothers are capable of giving ‘milk,’ but only a minority of giving ‘honey,’ too. In order to be able to give honey, a mother must not only be a ‘good mother,’ but a happy person.”
I didn’t have children when I read those words for the first time, and yet, I made a promise to myself that when I did, I would make an effort to be happy, no matter what life threw my way.
A few short weeks after I encountered Fromm’s writing, my then-boyfriend brought up the idea of starting a family, and before we realized the enormity of our decision, there was a wonderful baby boy in our lives. Read the rest of this entry →
I have worked with retired “senior” adults for many years. The other day a woman I had never met came in sobbing about the loss of her mother over a year ago. This was not the first time I have been surprised by the intensity of grief experienced by an older woman over the death of a very, very old mother.
But it did pose the question: Can you be too close to your mother?
A few weeks ago, the same thing happened with another woman in my office. Years earlier, someone else told me she had never married or fulfilled her potential because her mother insisted that she take care of her until she died. I recall a man who slept on the floor next to his old mother’s bed in case she needed immediate attention during the night. She lived a long life and by the time he got up off that floor, he didn’t have much else. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 14 2014
“He needs some TLC and gentle handling,” says the assistant head nurse as she hands me the chart of a new patient. “He’s young, he’s a career soldier, and his wife just gave birth to their first child two weeks ago.”
I look at his chart. All that goes through my head is that he is seven years younger than me and has Stage 3 colon cancer. Yet again, I find myself standing there and wishing there was no cancer in this world, even if that meant, as an oncology nurse, that I would need to find a new career. I go look for my new patient in the waiting room. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 29 2014
I was the Peter Pan who was never going to grow up.
I drank regular Coke well into my 20s, loved roller coasters when everyone else my age turned green thinking about them, went back to camp as a grown up for five years, and preferred surprise birthday parties well past adolescence.
Then, somewhere along the way, I changed. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 22 2014
Secrets are not good for a healthy family life.
Discretion is. But secrets are not.
I was already in my 30s when one of my closest friends, the daughter of my mother’s best friend, told me that my grandmother had had multiple sclerosis and my own mother had a mild form of the same disorder. I remembered my grandmother being unable to walk, but my mother would never discuss why. If I asked, she’d say, “It doesn’t matter.” Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 15 2014
I am expecting twins any day now. The excitement is rising and the worries that these babies may arrive too soon are being relieved day by day. But when my colleagues offered to give me a baby shower months ago, I cringed.
As a rabbi, the idea of disappointing every bubbe in my congregation by having a baby shower did not feel right. Members of my own family had already asked, “You’re not going to have a baby shower, right?” As if that is a question and not a statement. Jewish women are not afraid to share our opinions, and often baby showers are simply taboo.
The conversation continued and the other rabbi’s wife, who happens to be a mentor and friend, reminded me that communities like to celebrate with their rabbis, so we had to come up with something. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 9 2014
I was nervous. I didn’t know what reaction I’d get on the other end of the call. Would I be met with joy? Apathy? Had I been forgotten? It had been a while since we last spoke and I felt anxious. As the time of the call drew closer, I had butterflies.
No, I’m not describing the emotions of talking to a guy I was really into… I’m talking about the excitement and anxiety I felt when my husband and I Skyped with our 18-month-old daughter while we were on vacation in Europe and she was back in California with my parents.
Before we left on our 12-day journey, we told my parents that we wanted to try to Skype a few times with our daughter. We went into it with the understanding that if seeing us on the screen made her burst into tears, then we would say goodbye and not see her again until we could do so in person with real life hugs and kisses. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 8 2014
I saw a hitchhiker this morning. It was a woman. She looked like she was in her mid-40s. Scraggly, blond hair, a tiny butterfly tattooed on her neck, a defeated look in her gray eyes.
My first instinct was to pick her up. In fact, I slowed down and pulled up so close that she slung her grungy backpack over her shoulder and started to move towards our car. The lines by her mouth rippled out into a tight lipped smile.
“Who is that, Mama?” Evi strained to get a better view. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 7 2014
I remember my grandfather reading The Forward (in Yiddish) on the back porch. I remember my grandmother in the kitchen cooking all the wonderful Eastern European foods from her childhood for me and my brothers and sisters.
I loved my grandparents, but they were foreign to me. I knew they weren’t born in the U.S. and came from somewhere else. I knew they had to leave their childhood home suddenly and it had something to do with them being Jewish, but the details and the reasons were fuzzy to me. I had a vague sense of something heavy and intense, but couldn’t quite sort it all out. Nobody really talked about it much.
Even though I was just a little girl, I knew my father loved his parents, but also felt ashamed of them. He would avoid driving through the Bronx and Queens where he grew up. He hardly ever spoke about his parents at home with us and rarely said the word “Jewish.” I used to eat my grandmother’s chopped liver by the spoonful when I was younger–it was so delicious. My father, on the other hand, gravitated to more refined food. Read the rest of this entry →
Jul 1 2014
Too early that March morning, my mother came into our bedroom and told us, “You don’t have a Nana anymore.”
My sister and I sat up in bed, sleepy-eyed, and shocked into silence. We knew Nana had been in the hospital, but we had no idea she could die.
Although it is contrary to today’s thinking about children and death, I am still grateful that, at 9 years old, I did not go to my grandmother’s funeral. I know that forever after I would have thought of her suffocated in a box. Despite the trauma, at least my memories are of a smiling, well woman who delighted in me and whatever I did. Read the rest of this entry →