Jun 12 2014
It’s ironic that most of my childhood memories of my father involve conversation, yet the big family joke is that he never really talked.
What we mean by the tease is that he was never one to open up and share his thoughts and feelings. If we wanted to know how his day of teaching went, or what he liked to do in his spare time, or how he felt when he lost his mother at the age of 14, or whether he believed in God, we would have to pry it out of him.
Yet, I was always talking with my father. A philosopher through and through, he challenged my thinking at every turn. Read the rest of this entry →
Jun 2 2014
My husband and I have a rule for ourselves: We don’t argue with old people.
This rule applies primarily to our parents and their friends, but also old people in general.
We also have a rule for our three kids, ages 14, 10, and 7: You will respect your elders. Whether you agree with them or not. Especially when you are a guest in someone else’s home. That’s just Etiquette 101 in our book. Read the rest of this entry →
May 2 2014
One recent erev Shabbos (the night before Shabbat, Friday night) was special. My oldest granddaughter turned 3 and we had the opportunity to continue a family tradition through another generation.
On my own third birthday, my handsome, fun Poppa, who lived around the corner and whose delight in me I still remember and hold dear, brought me brass candlesticks so I could light Shabbos candles with my mother. I am the eldest grandchild, and he gave the same gift to each subsequent granddaughter at the same age. Although he often took us to Heshy’s Toy Store on the Lower East Side (which was to me the 1950s and 60s equivalent of Toys”R”Us), and insisted that we could buy “WHATEVER WE WANTED!” somehow, that gift of candlesticks was very special. I was a big girl, I learned the bracha (blessing) for the candles, and from then on, stood beside my mom each week, bringing Shabbos into our home.
When my own daughter, his first great-grandchild, turned 3, Poppa again appeared with his special gift. He did the same for my younger daughter. Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 11 2014
“Mommy, are you going to die?”–My 3.5-year-old daughter as we drove to lunch.
“What do you mean?”–Me, buying time.
“Are you going to die like GaGa Marilyn died?”
My mind raced. What did that child psychologist say when I went to consult her about the impact of my mom’s death on my then 2-year-old? What was in those books that the rabbi gave me after the funeral? What do I want my daughter to believe about mortality? What could I handle talking about as I was driving? Read the rest of this entry →
Mar 4 2014
I grew up keeping strictly kosher, both inside the home and out. My husband, on the other hand, grew up eating pretty much everything from shellfish to pork. These days, we work hard to maintain a kosher household, but do not keep kosher outside the home. For me, that means sticking to vegetarian items, but for my husband, it means all bets are off. And I don’t have a problem with that.
But a friend raised an interesting question a few years back when she observed that although I freely admit to not keeping kosher outside the home, she’s yet to witness me eat anything other than dairy and vegetables in a restaurant setting. “So what are you guys going to do if you have a kid?” she asked. “Will he follow Mommy’s rules, or Daddy’s rules?”
We didn’t really give it much thought until about a year ago, when our then 1-year-old moved up to the toddler room at our daycare center and became eligible for free breakfast and lunch. The idea of not having to pack up two meals on a daily basis was enough to convince me to go for it. However, when I casually mentioned this to my mother, her initial response went something like this: “But have you seen the menu? And just how unkosher is it?” Read the rest of this entry →
If all goes according to plan, this article will come out just shy of my 28th birthday. Since Pamela Druckerman is enjoying a lot of attention for her recent New York Times piece “What You Learn in Your 40s,” I thought I’d piggyback on her success and add my own two cents on what you learn in your 20s.
First and foremost, things you thought only happened to “other people” can very well happen to you. When I was 25 and sitting under fluorescent lighting in a stark office across from a geneticist who informed me—much too blithely for my taste—that my “fetus” was incompatible with life, I remember thinking: “But…but this kind of thing happens to other people. This kind of thing is not supposed to happen to me!” This was the first, rude awakening that expecting tragic circumstances to affect only other people is neither realistic nor very charitable of you. Why do you deserve to lead a more charmed life than someone else? News flash: you don’t. I don’t recommend walking around with the specter of doom and gloom at your elbow while expecting tragedy to befall you at every turn, but it would behoove you to remember that you are part of that amorphous “other people” to someone else. You are not untouchable.
Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 22 2014
Right now, my father is getting over pneumonia, my mother has bronchitis, and I am annoyed.
When I spoke with my mother on Saturday night, she first asked about my daughter and what we did during the day, and then I heard, “Oh, so Dad’s in the hospital.”
Me: “Um. Why?”
Mom: “Well, he has pneumonia and his oxygen level was low.”
Following that conversation, I conducted the “routine.” I have to share the news with my two older brothers as I am usually the first to hear any news in the family. I called each of them and heard the same response: “What is wrong with them that they can’t tell us what is going on?!” Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 16 2014
Deep in the Grickle-grass, some people say, if you look deep enough you can still see, today, where the Lorax once stood just as long as it could before somebody lifted the Lorax away.
One page into Dr. Seuss’s timeless classic and Jewish symbolism is abundant. The presumed gravesite of the Lorax, protector (creator?) of the trees, is surrounded by stones. In the animated movie adapted from the book, the Lorax and forest creatures bring stones to surround tree stumps after they have been cut in vain. Similarly, in Jewish tradition, small stones are placed at grave sites and when we bring these tangible stones and roll them around in our fingers, we can still feel our loved one; we can still feel the impact that has been made on this life.
The Lorax is often mentioned when we talk about Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees, the Jewish holiday associated with environmental conservation. In Genesis, Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden to “keep it and watch over it.” And the value of bal tashchit, “do not destroy,” has become the Jewish earth day anthem. The book absolutely teaches us that trees are sacred, but if we look deeper there is so much more. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 15 2014
Over Christmas week, my parents sold and moved out of the house they lived in for the past 40 years. The house in which I was raised. The place that I, at 39, continue to call my home.
It was sad, but not tragic. There was no death or illness or tragedy that forced them out. My mother has been retired for several years, and my father talks about it more and more. They are rational and practical people who are preparing for the next step in their lives, and they wanted to be well positioned to make it. The house had the potential to hold them back. They left it on their own terms, which is a blessing–but that doesn’t mean I didn’t cry.
I live in Maryland, and went back to New York to be with my parents for the sale and their move. I brought my husband and two children with me. The house didn’t “look” the same as the one I grew up in. It hasn’t for a few years. Long ago my parents took the wallpaper off the walls of the bedrooms, opting for a new palette of paint colors. Some carpeting was replaced by new flooring, new couches were purchased, central air and heating were installed. But it was still my house, and there is a lifetime of me in it. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 7 2014
On a recent morning before school, while zipping up his fall vest, my son Lucien announced that his father and I will make the best grandparents ever.
“When I have a son,” Lucien added, “if I have a son, I’ll let him come see you when he’s 5 or 6 years old.”
I gently explained that in most families grandparents get to know kids from day one, not when they are 5 or 6. This comes as a revelation to Lucien, because he has no grandparents.
I haven’t spoken to either of my parents, or my two brothers, since long before Lucien was born. The estrangement was my choice, the hardest–and best–decision I’ve ever made. But when I decided to cut my parents out of my life at the age of 28, after a childhood of physical and verbal abuse, and young adult years filled with dysfunction, I didn’t think about how the choice would one day shape my child’s life. I’ve protected my son from my family, but I’ve also kept him from knowing what it means to have grandparents. Read the rest of this entry →