Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Jewish family’

The big move was done in little pieces. We ferried small things over in our car piece by piece, the ubiquitous Pod was delivered and emptied by a team of BellHops, then finally Music City Movers emptied our townhouse. Ten days later I threw a Seder for family and friends – 17 altogether. To say I’m exhausted would be missing the point; I’m feeling like I got hit by a truck and I don’t have the flu….

Remember that book we all read years ago, required reading in every high school English class, “The Things They Carried.”

Twenty years ago, writer Tim O’Brien released a book of stories about young men and war, his war, Vietnam. Among many other things, he listed the weight of each soldier’s clothes, canteens and can openers. From the book: Every third or fourth man carried a claymore antipersonnel mine, 3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried fragmentation grenades, 14 ounces each. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade, 24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorous grenades. They carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.

https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125128156

I’ve been reevaluating all the things I’ve carried around with me from my glory days as a new wife and mother in Massachusetts, to moving back to NJ when the Rocker was just 2 and unpacking was almost impossible, to building our small house overlooking the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Then finally the fantastical move to Nashville, leaving Bob to sell most of our furniture to the new owners of our house, while I stayed here on Nana duty.

Unlike Great Grandma Ada, who cocooned in her home for fifty years collecting the things her two sisters left behind, I’ve had ample opportunity to prune and shed the things that were weighing me down.

I still carry: some of the school papers from my children; the Bride’s baby dresses; a big, antique French cupboard; the heron and guinea hen prints, the kilt I was wearing when I first met Bob; my 1960s avocado green mixer; my 60s blue Dutch oven, the one I found in a store in Cambridge, MA, the same store I’d see Julia Child shopping in from time to time, it’s a heavy workhouse of a pot that found its way back into my heart during Seder prep; the oil painting the Bride did of us on Windsor Pond; the Rocker’s self-portrait from high school. All the old photographs.

And my beautiful desk, the one I’m writing on just now. I’ve missed it for 2 years.

I’ve carried all I can bear, but still the Bride insisted on “Marie Kondoizing” me. She dumped piles of clothes on my bed and asked me, one by one, if they sparked joy?! “Mom, you have two similar black Eileen Fisher dresses, which ONE do you want?”

I was resistant at first, but then I saw how my style, me weight, my essence had changed over the years. No woman wants to be stuck in the same hair style their whole life, and I could finally see that “Pittsfield-me” was too Laura Ashley, “Rumson-me” was too Lilly Pulitzer, and “Nashville-me” is something entirely different. I thanked my dated clothes for their faithful service and bid them farewell.

Bob has always traveled light, and so he was happy to see the Big Purge, but to my surprise he kept a few sentimental things of his own.

We are ready to tackle the garden now, to plant and transplant, to install the fairy house. I hope y’all had a wonderful Passover and Easter weekend and you’re looking ahead to blue skies and warmer days. Ms Bean has her favorite sunny spot on the porch, and I just might join her!

IMG_5342

 

 

Read Full Post »

Ukiyo-e is Japanese for “pictures of the floating world.” It usually refers to scenes from everyday life, and was an art movement that inspired the early Impressionists. Imagine those prints of ocean waves, islands and cranes you once saw hanging in your grandmother’s home. Not this nana though; I’m more of an early 20th Century French advertising print sort of girl.

Still, with this torrent of spring rain, I’m beginning to feel as if I’ll be floating down to the Cumberland River any day now. Last night, during a rain-free respite, Bob and I visited our local Art Crawl – less a walk-about town and more an old factory brimming with live music, food trucks and artists of all media! We were especially taken with the paintings by Shane Miller. I asked if he works from a photograph or does he haul his easel outside? He said the photographs are all in his mind. https://www.shaneartistry.com/

He layers oils onto canvas in order to evoke a dreamscape. I could envision an expansiveness, a floating vista that spoke to a primordial self. I know, it sounds weird. But think about your happy place – the beach? The mountains? A long landscape of wheat grass at dawn bordered by a forest? Now stand back and squint your eyes to blur that image down into its essence. There, if you are lucky, you may find his work.

Our cousin, Stevela, is visiting his Aunt Ada (and us) from NY. He is an orthopedic surgeon who is grappling with retirement and recently started painting. What does a doctor do when he or she is no longer doctoring? Some like to pick up garbage in the neighborhood, while others might pick up a paint brush.

This is our second year in Nashville, and it was our very first Art Crawl. We told Steve that a visit to the Frist Museum is well worth it since their Mellon Collection of French Art (Van Gogh, Monet and Degas) just opened. We’ve seen it already with the Grands, where a docent told us that Van Gogh tried out being a missionary for a few years but failed. He was disabused of the notion that everyone has good intentions.

So he went back to France. “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” 

Did you know that Diego Velazquez liked to paint himself into his Baroque paintings of royal families?  In Las Meninas you will find him painting in a corner, like a play within a play.

“…Manet went to Madrid to look at Velazquez’s work and later wrote to his fellow painter, Henri Fantin-Latour: This is the most astonishing piece of painting that has ever been made. The background disappears. It is air that surrounds the fellow.”  https://www.theartstory.org/artist-velazquez-diego.htm

I was lucky enough to hear Edward Friedman, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of the Humanities, speak about analyzing literature to a group of Great Grandma Ada’s friends this week. He compared writers to painters.

He was using Las Meninas and “The Story of the Bad Little Boy,” by Mark Twain, to illustrate his point – the narrator can be reliable or unreliable. Twain is omniscient, his opinions float in the background of his narrative like the Mississippi River, brown and brooding.

I knew that my stories were all different colors swirling around, flowing fiercely sometimes and meandering at others. I knew that my palette was my laptop’s keyboard. But I had never heard the intersection of writing and painting so beautifully expressed before I met Prof Friedman.

Am I dreaming, or did the rain stop?

IMG_4941

 

Read Full Post »

CAUTION:

The following essay may not be suitable for younger or happier readers!

Christmas songs are now being censored, an Ohio radio station has pulled “Baby it’s cold outside” from its skew. This made me feel really old, since I know all the lyrics to this gem, and I thought to myself, “What is this world coming to???” https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46413209

While I was riding back from yet another Target run, I pushed a button on the radio in my car to a station I rarely listen to – MSNBC. I can’t even watch Rachel at night, not if I want to sleep. But I’d rather listen to music while driving, even Christmas music is preferable. Yesterday however I guess I needed a jolt of news. Good news.

The sound was strangely eerie, at first I thought the station must be having technical difficulties. But within a millisecond I was afraid these sounds were muffled gunshots, and I was listening to an active shooter in a mall someplace with a “Go Pro” camera on his head!

Turns out, it was only the sounds of President George HW Bush being laid to rest. The sounds of a talk show on silent.

I agree, he was maybe the last of the great white Republican presidents, a true statesman and WWII vet; and he knew how to get us out of a war and not just into one. Plus, I always loved his wife Babs and her homage to big, cultured pearls. But I was not about to spend hours of my time listening or watching his casket travel to DC.

I dragged in my Target haul, including a pair of Chewy slippers for the L’il Pumpkin, and started making dinner.

Hannukah always sneaks up on me, still coming right on the heels of Thanksgiving is pretty early. Last night’s dinner was a hodge-podge of leftovers that included meatloaf, olives, zucchini and pasta but at some point over the next week I’ll be making latkes! Actually this is a truly Southern holiday because anything fried is appropriate for Hannukah, including donuts!

On our first night of Hannukah we celebrated with friends over bowls of delicious chili and toppings. Our gracious friend’s art-filled home was humming with music and the lilting melody of small children. And although the Great Grands have apparently caught our colds and missed the festivities, we managed to Facetime with Ada for the candle lighting. Her voice had gone down a few octaves, like mine.

Like my spirits. After spending most of the weekend trying to design a holiday card on Shutterfly – that website needs a complete makeover btw – I started thinking that Mr T can indeed shoot a person in cold daylight and get away with it. My first reaction upon hearing of the death of a president was that this will be good for our current president. The media spotlight will pivot to funeral caravans and away from the mounting evidence of T’s Russian connections, of his blatant lies to the American people. That he has been compromised, bought and paid for by Putin.

I know this is the happiest of seasons, so forgive me for being blue today. My head cold is hanging on, and the temps have dropped from near 70 to near 30. I hope you’ve got your cards done, tree up and cookies baked! I hope you will still listen to Frank Loesser’s song about seduction in 1944. “I really can’t stay,” today I’ve got to buy some potatoes for the latkes!

It’s rumored that Mr T will not be allowed to speak at Mr Bush’s funeral…how much are you willing to bet that the gears of justice may just catch up to the presidential puppet-in-chief after the holidays? Would you bet all of your gelt?

IMG_4293

 

Read Full Post »

The circle of life was evident on Sunday when our Reform Jewish congregation wrapped the Torah around the sanctuary. We were there to welcome the latest students of Torah, over twenty First Graders are beginning their path toward Tikkun Olam – the tradition of repairing the world through acts of loving kindness. When I was studying Judaism, preparing to convert in 1978, I embraced this codified concept; it would become my “raison d’etre,” although I didn’t know it at the time.

” (Hebrew for “world repair”) has come to connote social action and the pursuit of social justice. The phrase has origins in classical rabbinic literature and in Lurianic kabbalah, a major strand of Jewish mysticism originating with the work of the 16th-century kabbalist Isaac Luria. The term “mipnei tikkun ha-olam” (perhaps best translated in this context as “in the interest of public policy”) is used in the Mishnah (the body of classical rabbinic teachings codified circa 200 C.E.). There, it refers to social policy legislation providing extra protection to those potentially at a disadvantage — governing, for example, just conditions for the writing of divorce decrees and for the freeing of slaves.

This was why my Temple’s committee was exchanging stuffed animals for toy guns at a peace fair.

Why I would find myself writing more and more to persuade politically in a newspaper column.

Why I dragged the Bride and my niece Lucia to a Planned Parenthood rally in DC.

We arrived early on Sunday when one of the older congregants opened the Temple door asking, “Are you here for the Consecration?

“Yes, as a matter of fact!” And as we unloaded Great Grandma Ada’s fire-engine red rollator and settled  Great Grandpa Hudson into his wheelchair, I noted there was only one policeman inside; no patrol cars outside, no armed guards, not even somebody directing traffic.

The day before, our country witnessed one of the cruelest acts of evil at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A deranged gunman, shouting Anti-Semitic slurs, killed eleven elderly people and injured more, before being arrested. Yet again, media will ask why and how could this happen? And yet again I propose an answer – because of our beloved 2nd Amendment. There are more guns in our society than any other developed nation.

We don’t have more mental illness! We don’t have anymore Anti-Semitism either! Although if incidents of Anti-Semitism have increased by nearly 50% last year in the US, one could argue that our social climate has changed, that what was once whispered can now find a megaphone in platforms online and in the hate speech of certain politicians. If Mr T tells us there is evil on both sides, if he must be persuaded to speak out against Anti-Semitism by his Jewish daughter and son-in-law, and if his followers believe in fake news unless it’s on FOX, where can we turn?

There is a shift in the fabric of the universe.

Brazil has elected Jair Bolsonaro as President, an extreme Right Trump-like politician “His reckless plans to industrialize the Amazon in concert with Brazilian and international agribusiness and mining sectors will bring untold destruction to the planet’s largest rainforest and the communities who call it home, and spell disaster for the global climate,” Amazon Watch program director Christian Poirier said to CNN.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not run again for office in 2021, and speculation is that she may step down sooner. Saint Angela is paying the political price of keeping Germany’s borders open to migrants, stirring that nationalistic fervor, that spark that lead millions of Jews to their death in the last century. A cold chill went down my spine when I heard this news. Will Germany follow in the steps of Brazil, and the recent autocratic elections in Hungary? Will Germany elect a Trump?

While we were gathered in prayer this past Sunday, Mr T was playing the song “Happy” at a campaign rally in Indiana. He joked about his hair. There was one true thing he said, “We just don’t seem to learn from the past.” 

IMG_4021

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Ever since Great Grandma Ada and Hudson moved to Nashville, Bob and I have been busy with the myriad friends and relatives who have come to visit them. First it was Hudson’s son-in-law, then his daughter from Arkansas.  Next up, Kathy and her ex from NC went to the museum with all of us. Then an old friend, Toni from FL came by, and she and Ada Facetimed with Toni’s new grandbaby.  But the last visitor stole the show!

We finally met Dickie’s daughter, Tamara.

When Ada first heard the news during rehab she was ecstatic. It made all her hard work after hip surgery bearable. Dickie was her middle son, the handsome desperado who went to Mexico for medical school and in some ways never returned. He died too young. In fact, the Rocker’s Bar Mitzvah was just a few weeks later. His very first band played at the beach party we threw for all the Eighth Grade! Dickie would have loved that evening.

Why he didn’t tell us about Tamara we’ll never know. He wrote to her, and her birth mother Kathy, once she found him. By that time his daughter was in her early 20s. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to meet Tammy; it must have been a shock to find out that twenty years ago you went to Woodstock but somewhere in NC, in one of those horrible homes for young pregnant girls, your baby was born. And against Kathy’s wishes, Tammy was given up just days later for adoption.

I’d been on pins and needles, waiting to meet her. We saw pictures of Tammy and her family – Ada now has two new Great Grandsons – and I kept trying to see Dickie in their eyes. I just wasn’t sure, until I walked into Ada’s new apartment and looked at both of them, Grandmother and Grand Daughter together. I realized Tammy takes after Ada’s family, like Bob and Jeff. Dickie looked like his father, blonde and fair, it didn’t occur to me that of course DNA can do extraordinary things!

She has Dickie’s wavy hair and his smile, but the rest is pure Ada. Those dark Russian eyes, and the sparkle to go along with them. She loves history and music. Her voice is honeyed by her Southern roots. She is beautiful, smart and sensible, and lucky for her, she grew up in a loving, intact home. Unlike most adopted children, Tammy didn’t seek out her birth parents, so this rag-tag team of Yankee Jewish relatives was a big surprise. For most of her life she thought she was Italian!

We laughed, we ate, we shopped at Talbots, we talked, we celebrated our good fortune. We added another link to our family totem; our tree of life has sprouted a new branch.

IMG_3084

 

 

Read Full Post »

“You have a beautiful family,” the guard at the Frist Museum said, as she opened the door to a hot summer day in Nashville. And I remembered maitre d’s in NYC saying the same thing to the Flapper as we’d exit a swanky restaurant. A family I felt barely belonged to me; I was all of thirteen but my big brother Dr Jim was studying at Columbia and my stunning Upper-East-Side sister Kay would smile warmly. Now I know how my Mother felt surrounded by her brood. She’d done it – she raised them right, despite the poverty and the challenges.

“From 94 to 5,” I said. What the museum guard didn’t know was that yesterday our family turned a corner. We found the amazing woman, Kathy, who had given up her child back in the 60s, only to create an amazing life apart from my late Brother-in-Law. And now she’d completed the circle, searching always for her adopted daughter and finding out that our sweet Dickie, her first love, had died.

We women had few choices back then; many of my friends became sterile after illegal abortions. A good friend joined a cult.

It was incredible to watch my “Soul Sister” connect with Great Grandma Ada. They held each other’s hands for the longest time. They whispered secrets. My late Brother-in-Law was present, with his long hair and his big smile. It was an accident, he didn’t mean to die.

The Docent had us all look at a painting by an Israeli artist. Her parents had survived the Holocaust, but we didn’t know any of this. The Exhibition was titled “Chaos and Awe, Painting for the 21st Century.” The Love Bug was pointing to the sky, and the birds. I felt the fractured light. And Ada said that when a child dies, Jews cut a limb off a tree in the cemetery. In the middle there was blood, but nobody talked about that. It was a solemn time, a sacred visit. A newly-connected family in the presence of Art.

Maybe because I was separated from my biological family as an infant, I could relate to Kathy’s story. Still I knew both of my mothers. And my Daddy Jim was a hard act to follow! We cannot wait to meet Dickie’s daughter, and Ada’s two new Great Grandsons!

http://fristartmuseum.org/calendar/detail/chaos-and-awe-painting-for-the-21st-century

0-1 2

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

We all know someone who is an expert at “Denial” – that psychological coping strategy that allows you to keep moving, to soldier-on despite obstacles both real or imaginary. That person who nevercatches a cold. Or maybe the one who insists on going river-rafting right after a death in the family. Jewish people know that would never do, you must sit around someone’s home for a week and sing the praises of the dearly departed; it’s called sitting shiva.

Well Great Grandma Ada just sat shiva for herself before moving to Nashville. She left rehab with a walker and a host of friends and family that wanted to send her off with a party every day. It was exhausting I’m sure, but everyone brought cake and goodies and regaled her with their fondest memories. She told me she got to go to her very own shiva and she’s right. Sitting atop a hill scattered with boulders, Ada accepted the accolades with aplomb. Like a Queen.

We are happy she’s here with us, her Southern family, and I really think she loves her new digs even though we are still in the midst of building some new Amazon-delivered furniture. A gorgeous daybed for her art studio/second bedroom, an entertainment unit for the living room. If you recall, she once told me to “Dress for dinner” in Yiddish, which means pick yourself up and hold your head high no matter what is happening.

Which is kind of like denial…

But I’d never heard of a “non-denial denial” until I read this article about Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has perfected the art of dodging and weaving around the White House Press Corps. She’s been asked if it was true that she was leaving her job as Press Secretary? This is what she told the Twitter bird:

Does @CBSNewsknow something I don’t about my plans and my future? I was at my daughter’s year-end Kindergarten event and they ran a story about my “plans to leave the WH” without even talking to me. I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS

Now the Bride happens to have a Kindergarten graduate at home this summer, and when she’s working her extended family take over some school activities. In fact, the Groom is now attending a special Father’s Day event at the Pumpkin’s pre-school! So excuse me for wondering about a Kindergarten graduation, especially when Sanders doesn’t actuallydenyshe’s quitting…

Yet she does not say that the report is inaccurate. She just says she did not talk to the reporter before the piece was published.

As David Cay Johnston, author of The Making of Donald Trump, says, she is using a communications strategy that her boss, the president, often relies on.

“Her denial is: ‘I don’t know anything about this.’ She doesn’t say: ‘I’m not leaving’,” Johnston explains. “It’s what we call a non-denial denial.“”  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44479635

This administration is very tricky, those are Trumpian tactics. Say something outrageous and deny you said it, and refer it to somebody else, and hope reporters forget about it with all the rest of the garbage your minions are spreading.

Meanwhile, back at the Grands new apartment, we have many more boxes to go through, because 50 years in one house creates many tchotchkes (aka trinkets, knickknacks, vintage items).  And even though Bob is at the opposite side of the tchotchke spectrum, I cannot deny their appeal. In fact, the more pillows, the merrier! The needlepoint elephant my sister Kay made, and the parrot is from the South of France.

IMG_2799

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: