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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish family’

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.

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“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

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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.

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My first, and possibly last Seder was last year in VA. Yesterday the Bride threw a fabulous feast for 14, after working the night shift the night before, and I am honored to pass the torch on to her! She makes a mean matzoh ball soup, and her charoses was to die for: Chag Sameach! Next year in Nashville with Great Grandma Ada and Cousin Anita if you’re willing and able!

My contribution was a brisket, which is actually the same cut of beef as my St Patrick’s Day specialty, corned beef. I knew the Jews and Irish could align in mysterious ways! Of course, I Googled Ina Garten’s recipe and loved the idea of adding leeks. Leeks are my Celtic heritage, I must admit I put them in everything. https://barefootcontessa.com/recipes/brisket-with-onions-and-leeks

Today we met the kiddos at Cheekwood for an Easter Egg Hunt. There were food trucks, including my favorite Grilled Cheeserie, music and lots of arts and crafts. It started out cold, almost 50 degrees, but the sun was shining and the children were willing. It made me think of my friend Polli’s Easter Egg hunts in her Rumson yard. Since we didn’t go to church Easter morning (being Jewish), we helped hide all the candy. Back then, we tossed chocolate bunnies and jelly beans around like nobody’s business.

Our reward was champagne on her porch while the children searched for treats in Polli’s beautiful garden. She taught me how to arrange flowers for weddings and not to let the Rocker miss the school bus. I miss your wisdom dear friend! Today, in Nashville, the treasure was plastic eggs with plastic toys. The times they are a changin!

Back on my porch, I read my Cville friend’s food/lifestyle blog “Things I’m Afraid to Tell You” https://www.katheats.com

Being vulnerable takes courage. She is around the Bride’s age and has a son from her first marriage. She just re-married this past year and told her readers that she’d had a miscarriage last month.

Some of you may know that I had 3 misses in one year between the Bride and the Rocker. I know what it feels like to mourn the possibility of a child. To curl into yourself and reject anyone’s help. To harbor fear and anger in equal measure, and to feel like the ground you walk on has betrayed you.

You stop driving over bridges.

I’m sending Koop my heartfelt love. Her blog has grown over the years to inspire young women to not just eat real food, but to go after their authentic selves. This time of year is all about rebirth. We clean out the bread, we prepare to tell the story of Exodus, and we talk about Jesus who sacrificed his life to bring Christians everywhere the promise of salvation.

May this sacred time find you surrounded by family. Having Easter and Passover fall under the same full moon is a miracle! The Bride will be working tomorrow, maybe I should deliver a ham to the Groom?

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Hallelujah! Star Wars the Last Jedi has finally opened on this side of the pond; Bob and I started our Friday morning by buying tickets online for the megaplex outside of town. Out of 21 theaters in the art deco masterpiece, 12 were featuring Star Wars! We opted to go after lunch, thinking other times might be sold out, plus first we had a date with the Little Pumpkin!

The Festival of Lights is in full swing and the Temple Preschool invited parents and grands to a Hanukkah Shabbat service. The sanctuary was shimmering in sunlight as the Rabbi strolled in wearing a dreidel on her head! Children played, the Cantor sang and we all laughed and watched an amazing juggler. Pop Bob even had a few latkes, with apple sauce. I remembered why I liked this religion so much.

As our tiny red head sat on the Bride’s lap, clapping and singing, time was suspended for a moment of pure joy.

Now I don’t want to ruin the new Star Wars movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but we all know it’s about an epic fight between good and evil – the Light Last Jedi side vs the Dark Conflicted Kylo Ren side. Returning to its existential roots, the latest film in the series does not disappoint, and seeing General Leia (always the princess to me) was bittersweet to the point of tears. I only wish the latest villain, General Hux, wasn’t a red head…

Returning to “reality-based” villains, maybe Alabama turning Blue was the last straw for Mr T? Because I awoke today to this little tidbit of news from the esteemed Washington Post on my phone:

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”  

The analysts were naturally skeptical, they thought maybe this was a joke? I thought it must be an Onion satire when I first read about our government banning words from official documents. After all, HHS has already archived information on LGBT rights; isn’t it better NOT to relay critical methods used to stop HIV infections in certain communities? It would seem we are slipping into the Dark Ages, where climate change is challenged, evolution can be debunked, creationism taught, and women senators humiliated via Twitter at the puny hands of our Groper-in-Chief.

After a thrilling Friday, my morning is sunny and bleak. We gave our Little Pumpkin a Star Wars super duper light saber kit for Hanukkah. His sister had painted his nails black and we sat outside looking for “mean guys.” We must do better with this next generation, and teach them to put the earth and science above myth and money. It’s time for every American to choose the Light or the Dark side.

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When I was young, and didn’t want to eat something the Flapper served at the dinner table, she would happily chirp, “Good! All the more for us!” She was all about the Freudian theory of opposites, and she thought if she just played up how great a new dish was, my defense would fold and I’d give in to her exceptional strategy. Sometimes it worked!

Which is why I was intrigued with an essay written by Andrew Wilkinson on his tactic of reversing his To-Do-List at work; he applied the theory of opposites by turning his goals upside down and became immeasurably happier. “He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170919-the-power-of-a-not-to-do-list

Last night, as I was explaining simply what the Jewish New Year meant to me while the 5 and “almost” 3 year old partially listened, it dawned on me that I wanted to start off the year 5778 with a new angle. I promised myself I’d try and look for the silver lining when things go south, I’d apply my Pippy Longstocking pigtails to every new challenge. I’d learn something new.

Just imagine making your New Year resolutions, only this time God has his Book open and he’s writing down everything you’re putting on your To-Do-List, making Rosh Hashana a kind of spiritual reckoning that ends at Yom Kippur and you better have confessed all your sins by that time.

“What’s a sin?” the Love Bug asked. I mumbled something about not listening…

So I thought about changing my resolutions, my intention to “do Better” infers that I haven’t been doing enough, right? What if I chose to make this the year I employ some “Anti-Goals?” Like Wilkinson, who stopped meeting with people he didn’t like, stopped holding morning meetings altogether, and never scheduled more than 2 hours of his workday, I might just say “No” now and then. I wonder how he dealt with his emails?

Let’s all try and reverse our thinking for a day, a week or maybe even a year. Let’s just put the wrong shoe on the right foot for once and walk around like a toddler not caring one iota! What will bring you more joy in the New Year? Let’s all make our very own “Not-To-Do-List!”

Happy Birthday to the World and I promise never to stop fighting for climate science education, because otherwise our great-grandchildren will have to populate another planet and start over. And I’m not so sure God would start out with “Let there be Light” again, since we didn’t listen the first time.

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The photographs I have left of my Father, who died when I was a baby, are in black and white. As are my baby pictures, stuffed into a bag in an album that has lost its binding. The Flapper gave me to her friends, my foster parents, after her automobile accident because her only other choice would have been an orphanage. My sister Kay was already taking care of my two brothers, and they had to go back to school, so who else would take care of me?

Nell only had one child, and her daughter was in nursing school when I arrived in Victory Gardens after the War in 1949. And so I was raised by a grandmother figure, as Nell was already in her 50s. And she catalogued my childhood lovingly, pasting black and white pictures with tiny black paper edges onto every page. Only my memories conjure up the white and pink explosion of the dogwood tree outside our kitchen window, the red and white tile in the one bathroom, the green grass under my feet with the white sheets billowing above.

Our TV was in black and white, and after school I would walk home from the bus in my maroon plaid Sacred Heart School uniform, to catch Nell watching Art Linkletter on Kids Say the Darndest Things. A small piano stood in a corner with brass feet and hard white teeth. Our first dog was black and brown, I remember sitting on Daddy Jim’s feet while he read the black and white newspaper, and smoked his pipe after work. I would lean back on his knees and stroke the dog’s fur, listening to his critique of the day’s news. Maybe this is when I thought I might have something to say about world events? clr-on-tricycle-20170127

When we view history through a black and white lens, we lose something of the nuance. The tone is off, and it becomes harder to relate to something that happened so long ago. It creates the distance we need to survive certain tragedies, like my Year of Living Dangerously – my psychologist brother Jim’s description of 1949. Which is why finding this photographer, Marina Amaral, is like finding a jewel in the coal dustbin of time.

Amaral’s passion is restoring and colorizing old black and white pictures. And I found a picture she posted online of a child, a Czechoslovakian girl who was the same age as my sister Kay in 1949, when she died at Auschwitz in 1943. Her name was Czeslawa Kwoka; and I remembered Nell’s given name was Kosty, which was probably changed at Ellis Island. On Amaral’s webpage, you can move a line back and forth over the child’s face, and bring color to her cheeks and blood to the cut on her lip.

“Color has the power to bring life back to the most important moments,” http://www.marinamaral.com

Today more than ever, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we must remember that the Holocaust started with the rhetoric of hate, and the silence and indifference of the rest of Europe and America. And we must vow to resist in any way we can, and we must say her name, Czeslawa Kwoka.

Photograph courtesy of Marina Amaral.

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