No Regrets

Like a lot of people I know, I had a less than perfect mother. As a child, my life with her was tumultuous. I could never predict what she would be like in the next moment. I am certain it wasn’t easy being her, but as a little child, all I could think was that it wasn’t easy being me.

As I grew, there were times when I felt angry with her, but there were more times when I felt wounded, hurt, devalued, and misunderstood. Her verbal and physical assaults left me weak and vulnerable.

Sure, there were good times. My mother was an expert at good times. She knew how to take us to fancy restaurants and buy us beautiful clothes and send us to overnight camp. But without warning, her mood could change and the emotional assaults would begin once again.

I couldn’t wait to grow up and leave home.

But of course, there is always love and affection that are intermixed with the pain, and so even after I left home, a warm call from my mother felt loving and reassuring and I looked forward to the times we spoke or saw each other and everything went right.

I remember one such time with special fondness: We had been married about 7 months and I was about 5 months pregnant. We were living in Valley Station, Kentucky, about halfway between Fort Knox where my husband worked and Louisville, where I was finishing college. My husband was going to fly out to Spokane, Washington, for a job interview. When my mother heard about it, she was convinced that I should not be alone, and so she arranged to fly to Louisville to spend the weekend with me.

My husband and I drove to the airport and just as I kissed him goodbye, my mother’s plane from Philadelphia landed. I took her back to my home and from then on we spent three wonderful days together—shopping for maternity clothes, eating ice cream, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Sunday, I took her to the airport and after kissing her goodbye, my husband’s plane landed.

I remember that short period vividly because it was so very special. Most of my adult life, however, my relationship with her was problematic. I hadn’t made the choices in my life that she would have made for me. I hadn’t married a doctor and stayed in Philadelphia and had one son and one daughter and lunch with mom once a week. Instead I had become independent.

But now here was my dilemma: My mother had a lot of ideas about what constituted loyalty and love. She had lots of demands. She could become unpleasant on the phone. But, at the same time, she was my mother and underneath it all, I felt love for her and an obligation to respect her. How could I choose my behaviors toward her?

I formulated my “no regrets” rule. I decided that I would treat her the way one treats a mother who has given birth to one and who loves one despite her inability to adequately show it. I would do it not for her, but for me. In the end, I knew that I would have to be accountable to myself for my behavior. I would have to be able to live with myself in the long run. I would have to be able to look back at my actions and feel proud that I had maintained the relationship, shown respect, and not allowed her shortcomings to limit my ability to be the kind of daughter I knew I should be.

Did I meet all of her demands? Certainly not. That would have been impossible. However, she was always a welcome guest in my house, even when she wasn’t acting her best. I never insulted her, interrupted her, or argued with her. I listened and acknowledged what she said, and then I made my own decisions.

In the last year of her life, when she was weak and sick, she told me that she approved of my life choices. I think the best of them was to act so that I would have no regrets.

Intentional Parenting

Recently I was involved in a discussion about teens who were doing destructive things. These teens were not taking drugs or getting drunk, but they were involved in destroying things—smashing windshields, setting fire to trees, and defacing public property.

Someone said, “But what is a parent to do? Parents can’t follow teens wherever they go.” That is, of course, true. The problem is that once the children have reached their teens, the measures that need to be taken are pretty drastic because the parents have not been successful in their early training of these children.

I think of childrearing as a process through which parents teach their children how to live their lives. It involves instruction in a large number of areas. It starts in the crib and if the parents stays “on message,” by five or six years old, the child will have gained a structure that will help him function for his whole life.

The internal structure of the child, akin to the framework of a building, includes basic trust, honesty, respect, caring, giving, curiosity, cooperation, feelings about others, feelings about his or her own body, etc.

From the earliest days of a child’s life we cuddle them to give them a sense of security, we feed them to let them know that their needs can be met, and we protect them from danger by making sure that their environment is safe.

Later, we teach them that we need to share, that other people have needs, that hitting others hurts them and that instead of hitting, we can “make nice.” We teach them that they need to stay safe and to listen to their parents. In short, we indoctrinate them. By age five or six, if we have done our job, the child will look disapprovingly when someone throws a piece of trash on the ground. They will understand that it is not desirable for someone to shout in a quiet place. They will have a sense of what it means to live in a civilized society where people respect each other.

If we teach them when they are still young, they will carry those attitudes with them for their entire life. It doesn’t mean that they will never throw trash on the ground and never shout in a quiet place, but it does mean that they will know that it is not the right thing to do. They will have heard maybe a thousand times that this is a world that we need to share with others and that we cannot just be thinking of ourselves.

To teach these lessons, parents need to be consistent. Children need to see their parents’ actions as reflections of their instruction. Parents cannot expect their child to be respectful if they are not respectful. They cannot expect their children to be kind and caring if they are not kind and caring. They cannot expect their children to be honest if they are not honest.

Sometimes I speak to people about what I call intentional parenting. What it means is simply to sit down and think of what attributes parents want their children to have and then to focus their behavior and instruction in that direction. If parents have a picture of what their child should be as a teenager—not what sports he or she should excel in or not which subjects he or she could be a genius in but what qualities he or she should have—then their efforts are more likely to be effective.

Being a parent isn’t easy, but if you survive until they are out on their own, you can expect to enjoy the results…. And if you are really lucky, you might have a chance to see your children meet the very same challenges.

Lighting candles with Grandmom

Recently I have been thinking about the impact that one generation makes on another. Someone once quipped that grandparents and grandchildren get along well because they have a common enemy. In my case, my grandparents had a large influence because of their unqualified love for me. I wrote this several years ago as a tribute to my maternal grandmother, Rose Tizer. It takes place in 1949.

My name is Rona. I am 4 years old. I live in Philadelphia. I have green eyes and rosy cheeks and dark brown hair. When my mother washed it this morning, she twisted it, piece by piece, and told me to hold it so that when it dried, I had curls like Shirley Temple. I feel pretty and I feel special because tonight, when my parents are home, I will stay here with my grandmom and grandpop and I know they will spoil me.

I think about what it will be like to stay here tonight. When it’s time to go to sleep, I will walk up the stairs that are at the back of the living room. When I get to the top of the steps, I will turn left and walk through Uncle Albert’s room to the spare room where I sleep. In the room there is a big bed with a bedspread on it. I love the bedspread. It has raised parts that are fluffy when I touch them and they make a design. I think about letting my fingers glide along the fluffy parts and following them all over the bedspread. I can do it even in the dark. But it doesn’t really get dark because in order to get to the bathroom, my grandparents and Uncle Albert have to walk through the spare room and so as not to wake me, they leave the light on in the bathroom. Being here is exciting and the light being on makes me want to stay up.

There is another reason that it is not easy to sleep here. Behind the row of stores in which my grandparents live, there is a brewery. The whole neighborhood smells of beer all the time. When we drive down Second Street I always get excited just smelling the beer and knowing that soon we will be at Grandmom and Grandpop’s. Because the train transports the cases of bottles of beer, there are railroad tracks right outside the window and all night long when the train sits on the tracks, the warning bells ring.

It is a cold winter day. It is a Friday and my grandmother is getting ready for shabbos. I can smell the chicken and I know that there will be soup. She puts very thin noodles in the soup and she calls them “luckshen” but I know they are just noodles. I like fishing around in the soup for the noodles and, to tell the truth, they are the only reason I eat the soup at all. Well, really, there is one other reason. I don’t know why, but whenever I finish everything on my plate or in my bowl, my grandmother gets very very happy. It’s like by just eating, I do something that she’s very proud of.

Now I see her sitting at the table in the kitchen. The table is still not set and it is getting to be late afternoon. She is sitting with a big stack of money in her hands and she is laying it out in piles, counting strangely. I try to count like her sometimes: one-tzik, two-tzik, three-tzik, but everyone starts laughing and I realize I don’t have it right yet, so I listen harder the next time, but she just counts too fast.

Soon the men who work in grandpop’s store come in. One by one, she gives them the piles of money, counting them again as she hands them to the workers. Then she puts the tablecloth on the table and sets it for dinner. Now comes the magical time.

Grandmom goes over to the stove. On the flat part next to the burners she sets up two big candlesticks and two little ones. She puts a scarf over her head and says, “Come, Rona; it’s time to bench licht.” I go to her and she covers her eyes and says something that I cannot hear, but I know it is a prayer. I too cover my eyes and all I can think of is how special it is to be Grandmom’s girl and to light these candles with her. It’s something I can always count on. The kitchen feels warm, and full of candlelight and Grandmom’s love, and the cold, darkening sky is not so cold or dark anymore.

Chana’s Kitchen

This is an article I wrote a long time ago.

Chana’s Kitchen

Last night I saw Chana’s kitchen. It was about 8:30 p.m. and Chana’s husband, David needed to pick up a prescription, but their daughter, Sara, who is three years old, was sleeping soundly in her room, her blue eyes closed and her blond hair curling around her face. He couldn’t leave her alone, so I went to watch Sara while my husband gave him a ride over to the pharmacy.

It’s a small apartment. Just big enough for the three of them. An apartment filled with toys and games and magazines and books and love. And Sara slept , dreaming, perhaps pleasant dreams.

And I sat in the living room and looked into the kitchen and a stab of pain hit me almost as if it were a real knife stabbing into me. There was Chana’s kitchen. There was her microwave and her double oven and the stand mixer. There were the dishrack and the dishes. In that place, Chana made breakfast and dinner, holiday meals and snacks, cookies and cakes for her husband and her daughter and her parents and siblings.

But now Chana is far away. She lies in a bed, connected to a machine that helps her breathe. Since the murderous attack at Sbarro’s last August 9 that killed 15 innocent people, Chana has been in a coma. When Sara wants to see her mother, she is taken to the rehab center and there she lovingly touches her mother, kisses her, brushes her hair. Chana’s parents spend most of their days doing exercises with Chana to try and stimulate her brain so that she will wake up. They gently talk to her, hold items with different aromas under her nose, sing to her, and exercise her limbs, straightening out her contracted fingers. Once, recently, they saw Chana react to Sara. Tears formed in her eyes.

So they pray and we pray. And last night, looking at her kitchen, I prayed that soon she would return to her parents, to her siblings, to her husband, and to her daughter. I prayed to see her smiling face as she returns home and reclaims her kitchen.

The bombing of Sbarro’s took place on August 8, 2001. Chana is still in a coma. Chana’s web page is http://www.geocities.com/racharik/chana.html

Coping Skills

Everyone knows that people are born with their individual packages of abilities. Some people are excellent at doing mathematical calculations, adding multiple digits in their head before they enter kindergarten. Some people have musical talents that seem incredible. Recently I saw a piece on television about a young man whose first drawings were of staves of music and who was writing symphonies when his age was still in the single digits. Similarly, there are people whose bodies are so flexible that at young ages they already are doing amazing gymnastic feats. Indeed, we are not all created equal.

Of course environment is an important intervening factor. A home environment that allows a person to grow and develop in his or her field is very important, and indeed, most of the geniuses we hear about might never have achieved such stature without the support they got from their parents.

There are other talents that are less visible and less recognized. One of them is resilience. Some children seem to be born emotionally stronger than others. They seem to land on their feet no matter how much they are buffeted. These children possess a strength that most people don’t recognize: coping skills.

Coping skills are what allow a person to act in their own best interest in the worst of circumstances. They are what enable people to endure difficult situations without screaming or panicking. They provide for people a mechanism for dealing with difficult situations. Instead of taking the advice, “When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout” (The Notebooks of Lazarus Long by Robert A. Heinlein) these people find a constructive response.

Once I had a young girl as a client. Her parents were going through a long and acrimonious divorce. It included public scenes, accusations, threats, and a lot of yelling. She was brought to me so that I could provide support. During the first session I asked her what she did when her parents were having a fight. She said that most of the time she would go to her room, close the door, and listen to music or call a friend. Sometimes she would take a shower. Sometimes she would go out and take a walk.. She proceeded to give me about ten more ways that she coped with her parents’ fighting. I was astounded. Here was a young girl who had the ability to make the world safe for herself by finding something to do to distract herself from the helpless and sad feelings that she could have been experiencing.

It was knowing her that helped me to understand that coping was indeed a skill that some people naturally possessed and others did not.

Some people, in stressful situations try to go head to head with the person or people who are causing them trouble. Often, that is counterproductive. When others are acting irrationally, then the best response is to stay rational. Often I tell my clients that in a stressful situation, “somebody has to be the grown-up.” Someone needs to keep thinking creatively and decide what the best course of action is. Sometimes it is to walk away. Sometimes it is to remain unruffled. Sometimes it is to comfort the person who is being unpleasant. Sometimes there is nothing to remedy the situation, but the person who copes with it effectively knows that at least he or she remained rational.

Parents can help their children by beginning to teach them coping skills early in life. Explaining to a hysterical three year old, “You don’t have to cry; you can tell me with words,” is the beginning of helping a child to understand that he or she doesn’t have to fall apart when things are not optimal. “Think of how handsome you will look when the barber is finished cutting your hair,” is a way of saying that one can cope with a process for the sake of the result. This will come in handy someday when the child will have tasks that do not give immediate rewards. “You are looking tense; why don’t you go outside and get some exercise” teaches the child that sometimes exercise can relieve stress. Parents should make note of how they themselves cope and teach those tricks to their children.

We are not all born as well equipped as my little client, but coping skills can be taught and practiced. The more techniques we learn, the better we are able to deal with our day to day lives.

Is anybody listening?

One of the first things I noticed about Israel is that everyone is involved in the country in a way unlike anything I had seen in the US. Every minimally educated Israeli can recognize a large percentage of Knesset members and cabinet members by sight. They can tell you who is a member of which of the myriad parties, what party he or she used to belong to and whether he or she is someone you can trust. Politicians seen on television or in a restaurant are always identified by their faces. Most politicians are identified by their voices on the radio. There are no places to hide.

Israel is simply too small a country. It really is just a very big family. If in the US there are six degrees of separation—that is any random person is connected with any other somehow through only six sets of relationships, in Israel, the number is much lower. In fact, it is rare for us to meet anyone with whom we have no one in common.

Similarly, everyone is involved in the political situation. The country from long before its founding has been under attack. The shomrim guarded the earliest modern settlements from marauding Arabs and in 1929, long before statehood, the Jews of Hebron were massacred. So here we are a big family who have constantly been under attack by our neighbors since before we were born (not to mention throughout history.) That pushes emotions pretty high. Everyone here realizes that survival is a constant struggle. All of us know that we are vastly outnumbered by people who seek to destroy us. So what do we, the common citizens do about it?

We fight with each other.

Actually, although most of us are capable of civil debate, we usually express our strong opinions to those who already agree with us. It saves our noses and cuts down on the use of gauze pads. We are a hot-blooded people and there is nothing more emotionally stressful than a debate over what the government should or should not be doing.

Now add to the mix two more elements (at least… my almost brother is sure to remind me of the ones I forgot) Add the fact that Israel has a limited concept of democracy and the need of Israel never to anger the US who is our benefactor and protector.

Now what we have is a bunch of hot-headed people talking to other people who agree with them and getting more and more stirred up about the rightness of their approach to survival. They decide that they are so right that really the other side should not have the right to oppose their ideas even by what in the US would be called legitimate protest or civil disobedience. They believe that what they want to do is the only course of action acceptable to the US government, So what we have now in Israel is prior restraint. That is, possible protestors and organizers of possible protests are being arrested and questioned for days and sometimes weeks. Today, as the people opposed to the expulsion from Gaza prepared for peaceful demonstrations, buses of young people were stopped and not allowed to proceed so that people could not get to the demonstrations.

In the end, the protest was effective. At intersections all around Israel from the north to the south, protestors held signs and chanted, “Jews do not expel Jews.” The message was expressed, but will it be heard?

Weekend in the Golan

We went away this weekend with a group of people to a place in the Golan called “Keshet Yonatan.” Keshet, which means “bow” (as in bow and arrow), is the Hebrew equivalent of Kuneitra, the nearby Syrian town. Keshet is the name of the village where Keshet Yonatan is located. The name Keshet Yonatan has a dual meaning since it means both Jonathan’s bow (referring to Jonathan, son of King Saul) and Jonathan’s Rainbow. Indeed, the entrance to the community is decorated with rainbows. It was named in memory of Yonatan Vodak, who fell in the Yom Kippur War.

We stayed in what used to be a field school, a group of buildings with spartan accommodations that was used by the Nature Preservation Society for seminars and as a homebase for hiking in the area. Our room was capable of sleeping seven people! Fortunately, we weren’t asked to take in five strangers.

On Saturday afternoon, all of us took a three hour walk through fields of waving grasses, past cows and horses and stacks of hay. We walked past a lake that serves as a reservoir, Standing at the edge of the lake was a sole white horse standing so still, he looked like a piece of statuary. We continued on and walked through fields of high grasses. As the pace quickened, so did my pulse and suddenly looming before me was a most overwhelming sight—a very high mountain with ruins of some sort at the top.

“Oh,” I said to my husband, “that must be the mountain that I am going to watch you climb.” He just ignored me. He knew that I wouldn’t opt out. So we made our way along with the rest of the people, through the tall grasses and briars and brambles and up the rocky path to the top of the mountain, climbing over boulders and feeling the prickly stickers on our ankles and calves.

When at last we reached the top, we continued walking through the ruins to a shady place and listened to our guide, a young woman who was doing her national service, talk about the battles fought in the area during the Yom Kippur War. We heard of the bravery and the innovative thinking that enabled a scant, under-equipped force of Israelis to vanquish the large, well-armed Syrian army.

Descending from the mountain, we walked back through the village to our base and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with the group.

After the Sabbath, we walked and looked up at the stars. Even there, the street lights interfered, but not nearly as much as the near-daylight of lit streets in Modi’in.

Sunday morning after breakfast, we left for another hike, this time through woods not far from the Syrian border. The woods were dotted with flowers of every shape and color from deep purple to lavender to pink and red and yellow and white. I couldn’t help thinking that the landscaping was beautiful. We looked down at a huge lake and horse and cows far in the distance. The winds blew a cool breeze on an otherwise hot day and we made our way with awe and thanksgiving for the beauty in the world.

On our way home, we stopped along the east side of the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret) at Ein Gev where there is an excellent fish restaurant situated in a park-like setting along the shore. After a relaxing meal, we continued home.

Independence Day

Living in Israel is an intense experience, and living in Israel this past week has been an extremely intense experience. We all have been dealing with Remembrance Day for Israel’s soldiers and terror victims this past Tuesday night and Wednesday and with Independence Day that followed it on Wednesday night and Thursday.

I suppose Israel can be compared to one of my children. This was a child who was never indifferent about anything. His anger was anger and his joy was joy and no one could cry more bitterly nor laugh more heartily. I used to say about him that his nerve endings seemed to be closer to his skin surface than others. I called him my passionate child.

And Israel is very much like him; it is a place where emotions are high and contrasting emotions occur simultaneously.

So this week, people were buying memorial candles to light either in memory of their family members who had been killed in military service or terror attacks or in memory of all of our lost soldiers and innocent victims of terror At the same time, people were placing Israeli flags on their homes and their vehicles until the country was plastered with blue and while

All over the newspapers, airwaves, and posters appeared information about the memorial services that took place in cemeteries throughout the country. There was also information about all of the Independence Day concerts, ceremonies, street performances, military fly-bys, and fireworks displays that occurred in cities all over Israel.

Each year, Remembrance Day begins with a siren sounded at eight in the evening for one minute during which everyone and everything falls silent. No vehicles move on the road. No one speaks. After the siren there is a ceremony at the Western Wall that is televised throughout the country. By eight o’clock, all of the stores and restaurants and places of entertainment have closed.

There are memorial events throughout the country. The one we attended was a large gathering at the Jerusalem Convention Center at which family members and friends spoke about their lost loved ones interspersed with appropriate music. Most heartbreaking was listening to David Hatuel whose pregnant wife and four daughters were murdered by Arab terrorists last year. He spoke about them and about missing them, of course, but he also spoke of retaining his faith in G-d.

On Remembrance Day itself, stores are open. Children go to school and commemorate the day with ceremonies there, but the atmosphere is restrained. People seem to talk more quietly and have more patience with one another. Throughout the day, all that is shown on television are stories of those we have lost. One after another child appears in the screen as a baby in mother’s arms, a toddler, a schoolchild, a Bar Mitzvah boy, a few pictures of the teen years and then the terrible news that the family received. Sometimes there are stories of how the person died, his last words, his last video, the one that he was taking at the time of his death. Sometimes there are pictures of the scene—and always, the viewer is left with the feeling of loss and emptiness. One after another the precious lives that were lost become part of our consciousness. This year, musicians found poems written by some of the deceased soldiers and set them to music. Then Israeli artists performed these songs as a tribute to those who wrote the words.

Remembrance Day ends at Mount Herzl, in the area around Herzl’s tomb. There Independence Day is declared and the festivities begin. Just as restrained and solemn as Remembrance Day is, that is how exuberant and enthusiastic Independence Day is.

One of the most beautiful parts of the opening ceremonies is the lighting of the twelve torches, one for each tribe of Israel. People are chosen on the basis of their contribution to the society to light each torch. Each one has a story that inspires. One can’t help but be impressed with the people we live amongst, their myriad origins, cultures, religions, races, languages—that all have been woven into this wonderful crazy tapestry that is Israel.

We spent the later part of the evening in the woods not far from our home with about 50 other people, sitting around a campfire and singing songs to the accompaniment of an accordion and listening to their stories of growing up in Israel or arriving as immigrants in the early days of the state. The air was electric as we heard from afar other people singing too and listened to the booms of the fireworks from several nearby communities.

This morning we ate breakfast on our front patio, sitting in our garden, the sun warming us and our flag waving, and we toasted the next year, praying that that our leaders will make wise decisions and that the country will remain strong.

And then, this afternoon, like just about every other Israeli family, we all got together for a traditional cookout! Our son and daughter-in-law host his family and hers each year and this year the weather was pleasant and the children were cooperative and it was hard to believe that there were over 30 children in the house.

On our way home we heard on the news that all of the parks in the center of the country were completely filled- so much so that people were barbequing on the roadsides. Similarly, all of the beaches between Ashkelon and Herzliya were completely filled. There were traffic jams throughout the country and people were asked to have patience…

The downs and the ups, the sadness and the joy, the loss and the completeness, it’s enough to make one confused and upset. However, I think that this emotional shifting of gears is just one more example of the strength that has helped us as a people survive.

The theme this year for Holocaust Remembrance Day, just a week ago, was the difficulty of liberation. How does one go on after the pain? Yet people did it and formed new families and achieved and prospered. So each year, Israel gets to exercise its emotional muscles and we learn once again that after sadness there can be joy.

To my father

My father was an artist. His hands were capable of drawing, sculpting, painting, building wonderful creations. He loved creating things. He loved the beautiful things in life. He loved sunsets and rainstorms and the sweet smell of fresh-cut grass. He loved wisteria and roses and the poplar tree he planted when it was a stick he rescued from the woods.

He taught me and my sister to love and cherish beauty. He found beauty wherever he looked. It was as if he had special sensors that led him to the delicate, the fragile, the sweet, and the precious.

I think that part of that gift that he had came from a serenity that he carried within him. He grew up in a home that was not perfect. He was unable to finish high school because he needed to earn money for his family. He married my mother, not the easiest woman to live with, and he worked hard for everything we had.

Yet, I don’t remember my father being upset, angry, bitter, or ever anything but even tempered and optimistic. He loved the people who came into his store. One after the other, they became his friends and came back to him whenever they needed the merchandise he sold. There was an inner serenity that he possessed that I only began to appreciate as I became an adult.

Through the years when our children were growing, life was very busy, sometimes frenetic. But I always had my father’s example to follow– of a man who knew that in the end, things would work out and that anything that did not threaten a person’s health or well-being was not really a problem.

So now the children are grown and we are finally settled in our own home and I enjoy life more each day. I love the varied calls of the birds. I love the perfumes of my garden—sage and rosemary and jasmine and honeysuckle. I love watching the trees bloom each year and then form lemons and pomegranates and clementines and olives. This year, for the first time there are plums too. And the flowers lift my heart—the bougainvillea in fuschia and purple and orange and pink and white. I watch the sun flicker in the shadows as a gentle breeze rustles the leaves of the grapevine, already blooming with clusters of grapes that will be full-grown in August.

I thank G-d for the beauty in the world, for the miracles of life and family and children’s laughter and sloppy kisses and the love of a spouse. And I thank my father for teaching me to appreciate all of the beauty in the world.

Mother’s Day

So it was Mother’s Day. Funny, something that had been a given since my birth is foreign to my experience these days. In Israel, Mother’s Day which has been transformed into Family Day, is observed in February. Most people who were brought up in the US completely forget about US Mother’s Day after their first year or two here.

I flash back to memories of my childhood in Philadelphia when my sister and I would walk to Castor Avenue and go from shop to shop looking for something special to give to our mother. How difficult the choice was! Nothing was good enough, pretty enough. What would she like? One year there was a small pink marble bowl on a pedestal that looked like a birdbath. Sitting astride the smooth shiny marble edges were two rough white marble birds. I loved it. We had it wrapped up and brought it to our mother. So intense was our anticipation of her joy at this quintessentially perfect gift that I have no memory of her actual reaction. I do know that it sat on the windowsill in the living room for many years.

Mother’s day was all about pleasing our mother, something that wasn’t such an easy task. I always wondered what it would be like to be the mother.

Well, what I can remember of my days as a mother of young children is some priceless gifts made of wood and tissue and glue and cardboard. I remember a plaster cast of someone’s hand and a fingerpaint print of someone else’s. But more than that, I remember the bright smiles and the exchanging of secret glances. I remember hugs and picnics and lots of laughing.

This morning, my older daughter called and asked if we would like a visit. She brought over her little girl, not yet 2 months old. Abigail looks so much like her mother did on a Mother’s day some years ago when she was one day old and her grandmothers came to visit me in the hospital. Then as now, I felt a sense of wonder and awe at being a mother, at being able to continue the line from the past into the future. Then as now, I am grateful to G-d for the privilege of being a mother.