1976/2018

1976- we are in the Army. Well, actually, Aaron is in the Army, but the rest of the family is right there with him. We were getting close to 4 years in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Our children enjoyed playing in the swamp near our house, enjoyed the “Mother Nature Tree,” loved the freedom of running around the neighborhood with no fears. The Army base was a safe place. It had everything- an indoor swimming pool within easy walking distance, even a small convenience store a 5 minute walk away.

Like all Army families in our position, we were awaiting “orders” because 4 years in a place was a long time and the Army likes to move people around and we were expecting that soon we would be told where we were moving to.

This was the only home the children really knew. Our children were 8.5, 7, 5.5, and 4 years old. Moving was venturing into the unknown.

Word finally came. We were moving to Wiesbaden, Germany. We had only about 3 months to prepare. We would be leaving behind most of our furniture (furniture was supplied to Army families since it was cheaper than transporting it across the ocean twice- we would see it again when we returned), all of our friends, and yes, our family- our parents and my sister.

There were so many unknowns, so many fears- we had no idea what our neighborhood would be like, what our city would look like, how German people would treat us as Americans, as Jews, how much German would we need to use on a daily basis- in short, we were bewildered. And as much as we tried to reassure our children that everything would be fine, we ourselves were not all that certain about what life would be like for us and for them.

Our parents lived far from us- in New York and Philadelphia. We didn’t see them more than once or twice a year, but we could call them on the telephone and we knew that we could always get in a car and visit. Now we would be across an ocean and the price of telephone calls was outrageous and letters took days to arrive. I know they must have been upset, but they didn’t try to influence us to stay since it was not our choice.

Our time in Germany was pleasant. In some ways, almost idyllic. Anti-Semitism at the time was completely forbidden and when people asked us what language we were speaking to our children and we answered “Hebrew,” we never got anything but positive reactions. We were cushioned by the huge American military community which comprised at that time about 10% of the inhabitants of Wiesbaden. Our children went to US operated schools and had German enrichment classes. They learned rudimentary German and felt comfortable buying candies and sweets in local shops. Their schools took them on day trips to places in Germany. The country was beautiful and we enjoyed exploring it and participating in the recreational “Volksmarches” that were held in different locations where people would walk a circular 10-12 kilometer path that could wind through woods, vineyards, fields, and villages and end in a square with an “oompah” band! The German people were friendly and the landscapes enchanting.

Our parents, Aaron’s dad and my parents, (his mother had passed away in December of 1975) were still relatively young and healthy and they were able to come and visit us.

But now I am the parent and I am feeling sad because my daughter and her family are leaving for their adventure. They tell me that they will return from Austria in 3 years.

In some ways, their transition may be easier because they have seen where they will be living and they have rented a home they chose. Communication with family members here in Israel will be much easier. We are as close as the nearest wifi. The flight is shorter than a trek across the Atlantic and less expensive. In other ways, it will be more difficult. They will not have the cushion of a ready-made community with all of the support and structure it offers.

As I look at the next 3 years, I feel as if I can’t wait for them to pass, but I am conflicted because at this time of life, each day is so precious that each one must be treasured.

I wish for my daughter and her husband and the 3 children who are leaving with them (3 are already adults and will not be accompanying them) a wonderful adventure. We hope to visit you, Rachel, and we look forward to your visits with us. I will be very happy to reminisce with you about your adventure when you finally return home.

50 years!!!!

On July 3, 2016, my husband and I celebrated the 50th anniversary of our marriage with our family and friends.

Rona & Aaron

 

For the occasion, I wrote a poem with poor rhyme and worse meter to quickly summarize the last 50 years.

Here it is!!

In the summer of 1961,

They went to camp Ramah to have some fun.

 

He as a counselor, she as a camper,

At times they spoke but then had to scamper.

 

Camp life included classes, sports, and plays,

But at summer’s end they went separate ways.

 

Occasional letters, clever and witty,

Went between Philadelphia and New York City.

 

One day 4 years later while eating bagels and lox,

She saw news blurb saying he was at Fort Knox.

 

That prompted letters in a constant flurry,

From September until February.

 

Actually, they continued into July,

But that didn’t rhyme, just you try.

 

Because they weren’t living side-by-side,

Rona became a “mail order bride.”

 

Thus on 3 July 66 in Army dress blues,

With Rabbi and chuppah and various Jews.

 

The wedding took place, Philadelphia the venue,

Rubber chicken the mainstay of the menu.

 

Concomitently without any kibbitzen,

That was the day Rona became a rebbitzin.

 

After a honeymoon in Manhattan,

They went to Fort Knox, home to tankers like Patton.

 

Studying philosophy that year, Rona became “well rounded.”

For a reason that provided joy unbounded.

 

In May 67 fears became heightened,

The threats against Israel had us all frightened.

 

Israel’s victory filled all with elation,

And added to the anticipation.

 

And 2 months later Benjy was born,

On 2 August at 5:10 in the morn.

 

Less than 4 weeks later began the roam,

To Columbia, South Carolina, their new home.

 

House of Peace was the synagogue’s name,

As the new young rabbi, Aaron achieved fame.

 

The people in town had a southern mentality,

and racially there was no equality.

 

But a year later, showing their parents merzi,

They moved closer to them, Somerset, New Jersey.

 

Near to parents, not far from the ocean’s water,

The highlight of their time there was the birth of Rachel, a daughter.

 

In 70 they moved to Pittsburgh, all of the famuel,

And shortly thereafter welcomed new baby Samuel.

 

At his brit someone asked “next year will there be another?”

So 16 months later along came Akiva, his brother.

 

By this time civilian life was getting smarmy,

So Aaron decided to head back to the Army.

 

They filled up their cars, rather than amble,

And moved right along to Kentucky’s Fort Campbell.

 

It turned out to be a momentous decision,

As Aaron joined the 101st Airborne Division.

 

Life on the post for the kids was full of glee,

And they played at the swamp and at the “Mother Nature” tree.

 

From where hundreds of copters flew over in harmony,

From Campbell the family moved next to Garmony.

 

They landed in Germany with their pans and their pots,

And taught the children “wir vohnen in Wiesbaden auf dem flugplatz.”

 

Life there was good, they never were sorry,

As Akiva went to preschool with Timmy, Tumu, and Jabari.

 

One day in July the kids called a vote,

“We want a little sister on whom we can dote.”

 

The vacation in England all would remember,

Back in Germany there was good news in September.

 

With walks to Luley’s they were all in cahoots,

And they befriended the “geezer” who let them pick fruits.

 

In springtime near Pesach when trees start to blossom,

Baby girl Leah was born- how awesome!

 

The next summer with 2 month old Leah they flew,

To spend 4 weeks in a place where all spoke Hebrew.

 

Dressed alike the 4 big ones wearing bandanas,

On bus trips sat on strangers and were fed bananas.

 

2 summers in Israel, for children used to roam,

Convinced them that someday, this would be their home.

 

3 ½ years in Germany came to an end,

To Fort Monmouth New Jersey their path did wend.

 

In a big Ford station wagon that sure was a beaut,

The gate guards on the post would smile seeing the children salute.

 

Attending a day school, but not in the groove,

6 months later, it was time to move.

 

Fort Benning Georgia was the next abode,

In the beautiful house on Sigerfoos Road.

 

(Yes, Sigerfoos, not a joke it could be-

But he was not friend or confidante of Robert E. Lee).

 

When Ben entered high school, instead of dealing with Santa,

He went to Yeshiva High School in Atlanta.

 

Meanwhile they raised children, led the Jewish congregation,

And Aaron served soldiers of all kinds for their nation.

 

During three years of this place the children were fond,

With forays to the minimarket and to the pond.

 

The football field near their house for the boys was a dream,

As they made their fortune selling cokes and ice cream.

 

But being stuck down in Georgia for them was exhaustin’,

So they were thrilled when Aaron was sent to study at Harvard in Boston.

 

No matter from where in Boston the children were hailing,

On the Charles River they were offered lessons in sailing.

 

For that year in Boston all of them were learning,

While Aaron from the Army a salary was earning.

 

At the end of that year the Michelson aliya got started,

As Benjy for Hebrew University departed.

 

It was time to get on again with their roam-a

And they set out for their new home in Oklahoma.

 

Aaron taught ethics at the artillery school,

Rona opened her family therapy office, how cool!

 

Over the next 3 years, Rachel went to Israel- at 16,

And Sam and Akiva left the scene.

 

They studied at a yeshiva in Texas, in Dallas,

And lived in a home that was not a palace.

 

Later off to St. Louis the two boys went,

While in a 5 bedroom mansion the last 3  lived content.

 

Time in Lawton Oklahoma had lots of fun in it,

Concerts, and shows and traffic’s rush minute.

 

After being rural of civilization they needed a fix,

So were happy to receive orders to Fort Dix.

 

Their home was happy, full of jokes,

And only an hour and a half ride from the folks.

 

Rona studied at Penn, Aaron paid the bills,

In summer Akiva worked at Great Adventure a park for thrills.

 

Ben and Rachel were in Israel, Aaron worked as a clergyman,

Rona & Leah visited Israel, Sam was in St. Petersburg or Kyrgystan.

 

Visiting Israel a lot whet their desires,

On Tower Airlines they became frequent fliers.

 

Akiva and Sam made aliya,

Leaving Leah at home with ma and pa.

 

In 93 for sukkot they traveled to Israel in anticipation,

And met Hadas, the first of the next generation

 

Two months later came Tzvi, bright and curious,

After that came more and more, fast and furious.

 

In 95 when Leah came to study at Bar Ilan,

Rona arrived in Israel too, a hanger-on.

 

For 4 years Rona & Aaron commuted across the Atlantic,

The frequent reunions were very romantic.

 

When they bought a home in Modiin,

Aaron’s father agreed to come too, sight-unseen.

 

The rest of the story’s full of nachas embarrassing,

So for you dear people no more harassing.

 

As you know they travel far and wide,

For 50 years, it’s been quite a ride.

**************************************************************************

Now here is  the whole family minus three grandsons- Matan, Yonatan, and Shlomo. Fortunately, Yonatan joined us later in the evening.

The family

 

 

 

 

May 27 2014

Most of my life has been a surprise.

I was surprised when I found out other children came from loving homes that were not at the whim of a mother’s radical mood swings.

I was surprised, that despite what my mother told me, I found someone who was happy to marry me and stick with me through the years.

I was surprised at the depth of love I felt for my babies, my children, my teenagers- even when I was pretty sure they would cause me to go out of my mind.

I was surprised that I was able to fulfill impossible dreams- it was as if everything I imagined I could never accomplish became possible: Teaching Lamaze courses, becoming a doula, becoming a family therapist, becoming a supervisor and teacher of family therapy, and becoming a tour guide in exotic places!

I was surprised that when my children grew up, they would have lots of children and amazed at what good parents they became.

I was surprised at how easy my transition to living in Israel was and am constantly surprised at how much I am aware of the blessing of living here.

I was surprised each year on my birthday, because the years are flying by and while I still think of myself in my 20s or 30s, most of my children are older than that.

My life has been filled with surprises, and I am grateful.

Surprise! It's a begonia!

Surprise! It’s a begonia!

Parting

June 1967

I am 7.5 months pregnant with my first child. My husband of just a year is serving as a chaplain in the US Army. We are planning to leave the Army after our baby is born and to go to a civilian congregation. He has been hired as the new rabbi at the House of Peace synagogue in Columbia, South Carolina. We have just visited there a second time to talk with them about where we will be living and what changes we would like to see in the house the congregation owns. We are in the Atlanta airport. He is flying in uniform back to Fort Knox. I am flying to Philadelphia where I must take final exams at Gratz College so that they can see that I really did study on my own that year so that I can receive my BHL (Bachelor of Hebrew Literature) degree.

I am young, 21 years old, and very pregnant.

We wait for my plane. When we are called to board, we embrace. I cry. I will miss him.

I take my seat on the plane. The man next to me starts to speak. “He’ll be all right. Lots of men return healthy and whole from Vietnam. He’ll get to see that baby of yours.”

December 2011

I am a bit older. That baby is now a man with 6 children of his own. Soon I will be saying goodbye to my husband once again. This time he really is going to Vietnam.

But I am not worried.

He is going to supervise the kosher cooking for a tour. We have been to Vietnam together several times. We lead tours there. It is a lovely place to visit. It is beautiful and has rich traditions and friendly, welcoming people. The war years are barely a memory by now except for in places they have designated as war museums or in Cu Chi where the Vietcong built an elaborate tunnel system. A tour there is a treat and I look forward to returning.

This morning I bought him some instant coffee to take along because Vietnamese coffee is “different.”

We’ll keep in touch over his iPad and my computer.

But there still may be tears when he leaves.

Ooof!

One of the things that people learn when they move to a new country with a new language is that exclamations differ from those they were raised with. In English, pain evokes an “ouch!” In Hebrew, it’s “Ay-ah!” Frustration in Hebrew evokes an “Ooof!” I’ll admit it; I forgot the English.

So why am I frustrated? It actually has to do with the fact that there is so much right with my life these days. I am feeling healthy, have kept off the weight I lost, and have no problem maintaining a healthy diet. We recently witnessed the graduation from high school of our oldest granddaughter and the awarding of a PhD to our son-in-law. My husband and I had a great honeymoon getaway for our 45th anniversary, and our children invited us to a wonderful dinner celebration in its honor, bringing along a nice sampling of well-behaved gorgeous grandchildren. We are in a state of high preparation for the tour we are leading to Vietnam and Cambodia and are looking forward to a week of fun in Thailand on our way back. In the fall, after the holidays, we’ll be taking a trip to the US and when we get back, I’ll be teaching marriage and family therapy once again. And then, best of all, we prepare for my sister’s aliya!

The blessing of a beautiful garden in Israel, filled with gorgeous plants and fruit trees brings with it the worry of the health of our gorgeous plum tree that has been attacked by some type of a worm. The blessing of a great apartment that we are renting out brings with it the work of cleaning it thoroughly between occupants. The blessing of being close to our children brings day to day discussions and concerns about the types of issues that remote grandparents never hear of.

So why am I frustrated?

I guess it’s because I wish I could split myself in two or three or four in order to give adequate time and attention to all of the wonderful people and things in my life.

I worry about letting people down.

Ooof!

Click on pictures for full images!

And so on…

I have been asked to continue writing about getting older. As I said, it’s not a subject that brings great joy, although I do remember asking my father how was it for him to grow older and he said, “It beats the alternative.”

So here goes…

In our teens, the world is all in front of us. Life seemingly will go on forever. We think about what we will do in the future. It’s all about getting more educated, more intelligent, more savvy, more involved, and taking on more and more responsibility.

When we are young adults, we begin to move toward our goals as best we can. There may be bumps in the road, but we have time.

Those of us who marry and have children spend the next years so involved in day to day life that at some point as the children reach adolescence, we think, “When did the time pass?” Suddenly, we are the older generation.

The children grow up and get married and that is good. And then, babies appear. Oh, they are so cute and lovable and sweet. And then we realize, we are grandparents. How did that happen?

But we are still young and active, or so we feel. As much as we look forward to retirement, the 50s and early 60s have us working at the top of our game.

And then, while we are still feeling like we’re in our 30s or 40s, that ugly number 65 appears.

And suddenly we realize that in the best of cases, we have more to look back on than to look forward to. In front of us is decline.

So we again focus on each day. We set up events to look forward to. We go out to eat. We meet friends. We travel to faraway places. We live each day fully.

But the world looks different.

The small concerns about falling or about having a strange lump or bump or reaction to an insect bite suddenly appear to be a threat that finally something is going to get you… because like it or not, at some age, you begin to realize you won’t live forever and then any threat to one’s health becomes a reason for concern. Maybe this is the thing that’s going to get me.

Of course I need to admit that when I was about 33, I had a lump on my arm, just below my elbow. For weeks, or maybe months, I was afraid to go to the doctor to ask what it was. I began having dreams about swimming around in circles with my one arm (they’d apparently amputated the other) and decided that it was time to see the doctor. I don’t even remember what he said, but it was truly nothing and I can still swim straight. But I do tend to envision the worst possible outcome when something is wrong and when I don’t, I tell myself that I am in denial… And, I think it gets worse the older I get.

Let’s hope I have another 40 years or so to worry….