Archive | May, 2012

Who is Rich?

21 May

I am, according to Psalm 128:2 in The Old Testament. What matters, my Grandma Ray taught me when I was very young, is that you are rich if you are satisfied with what you have. My mom’s mom, Rachel Shapiro Tabak, was a very special woman who lived to be 93 years old.  I was reminded of this particular phrase/lesson this past Friday night as my Temple’s Cantor spoke during his retirement service/celebration. After 45 years as an exceptionally inspirational clergyman at Temple Shaarey-Tefilo Israel, Cantor Theodore Aronson gave those at services yet another  lifelong lesson.

Grandma Ray’s philosophy and attitude had a great impact on me. She was an inspirational “other mother.” I am sure I did not appreciate my own mother telling me to be satisfied with what I had. She is the one I bugged to buy me another pair of designer jeans, another sweater…. How often are young or teenage girls satisfied with the “things” they have? But, when my Grandma quoted the Bible, I listened. She made sense. “Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion, as it is written (Psalm 128:2) ‘You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.’” (from http://www.shechem.org/torah/avot.html) My Grandma made me feel good—like I was in charge. I could be whatever I wanted to be.  If you enjoy the life you created, if you do your best to create a wonderful life, you can feel good. She never went into that much detail, all she had to do was quote the Psalm and I understood. My Grandma had a very hard life. She fled Eastern Europe in the 1920s, following her husband to America. After a difficult, almost impossible journey via Cuba, she settled in with her husband who was already in New York. She continued to have personal and financial struggles. I am not really sure how she was able to endure the hardships she had. On paper, she was never even close to being rich. But, what was in her mind and heart made her a billionaire.

This saying puts the onus on us to create a life we love, no matter what we have. How many “rich with money” people do you know who are not really rich? I could feel “poor” because I don’t have my parents. I am deprived of their support. I could feel entitled to pity. But, I don’t feel poor. I feel fortunate for the parents I had. There are many worse alternatives. I know that.

“Other Mothers” (Post from Sept. 1, 2011- http://wp.me/p1lBgS-4f) are all around us, they can be our grandmothers and clergy. I really must credit my Grandma Ray for empowering me to accept reality, the lot I am given, and do the most that I can with it. I appreciate Cantor Aronson. He is grateful for the richness he feels. And so was my Grandma. And, thanks to people like them, so am I.

Advertisements

Happy Mother’s Day

13 May

I hope you have had a great day even if it was without celebration. This year more than others, I noticed how this day comes with expectations—for moms and their children, especially adult daughters. I heard women announcing plans to have their moms over for a meal. Some were very happy—for them today is just another excuse to spend time with their moms, something they try to do often. Others complained about having to prepare and cook, as a daughter, when today should be a day of relaxation, as a mother. While this holiday does not get as much press as Christmas, I have been bombarded with e-mail offers for weeks.  Ads for discounted flowers and pajamas overwhelmed radio stations and newspapers.

My own family is so busy studying for AP exams, writing essays, etc., that we could not plan a Mother’s Day family outing. And, since we do not have a grandmother to invite over for the obligatory meal, it was not necessary to call everyone together during the day. With time constraints in mind, I decided we should go out for dinner. Simple and stress-free.

As I condoned a Mother’s Day without much pomp and circumstance, I knew I would have my mom’s support. My mother encouraged us to do less. My mom did not have any need to make a big deal over a “Hallmark” holiday. After all of these years, I decided to investigate how this holiday started-  is Hallmark behind all of the hoopla?  I was surprised to learn that in 1870, Julia Ward Howe proclaimed the day a holiday to celebrate the men who fought in and survived the Civil War and to allow them to be at home with their moms. To follow Howe’s lead, another women’s activist, Anna Reeves continued the quest to make a special day to honor mothers and seek peace (http://www.mothersdaycentral.com/about-mothersday/history/).  My mom would have loved to know that Reeves tried to abolish the holiday when it became too commercial.

So, it seems like we cannot give credit to Hallmark and we should remember that the holiday started because a few women wanted to ensure that young men and women would have time to spend with their moms.

That brings me back to my original question, what celebrations are necessary? What should busy daughters do for their moms? Perhaps because I do not have a mom to shower with gifts and meals or because I wish I did, I take a very liberal stance on this holiday. I hope the celebrations we have are not out of obligation or guilt, but are mutually satisfying. What do you do to celebrate Mother’s Day- if you are fortunate enough to have your mom to celebrate with or if you are not….

If She Could Teach Me Now

6 May

Singer Sewing Machine

I readily admit that sometimes my longing for my mother is triggerd by my own needs—wishing she could do something for me. Rather than feel guilty about this selfish desire, I rationalize that the nature of  the child/parent relationship is about what we do for each other. Right now, in my teenagers’ lives, I do so much for them. I do not expect a “pay back,” but I hope to experience some reciprocity. More importantly, it is a goal, however idealistic, that as parents who do many things for our children, we ultimately teach them to do these things for themselves.

Why is it, then, that I did not learn how to sew?

That is the need I had/have that got me thinking about how much my mother did for me and how much I did not want to learn some of the skills needed to fend for myself. My mom was a master seamstress. She made curtains, slip covers, clothing and even doll outfits (see Barbie’s Runway post).  She altered clothes to make them shorter, longer, etc. I do not wish to create clothing, all I want to do is sew a simple hem. My mother saved us all time and money. I can remember her sitting at our dining room table with her old Singer Sewing machine fixing something for my sister, father, or me. She wanted to teach me the basics and often asked me to sit with her and learn. But, in keeping with typical teenage culture, the more she asked the more I resisted. I recall responding with the all-knowing, “I’ll never have to do that myself.” I remember thinking how boring and tedious sewing looked. And, now I wish for the ability to do more than sew a button onto a shirt. How smart it would have been to learn to sew a simple hem. Almost every pair of pants I buy needs to be shortened.  When making a decision to buy pants, I add the $10 – $12 tailoring charge and figure in the time it will take to be fitted and to pick up the pants. Sometimes those qualifications make the pants not even worth buying! I fantasize, “If I only knew how to sew….I could wear these pants tomorrow… and they’d be a real bargain!”

There is even more I could have/should have learned from my mother, including basic handyman skills and shopping for antiques. She could hang any frame on a wall, drill holes and hang shelves as well as find valuable antiques and sell them in her shop. And, this is just a partial list of skills she had and wished to share, but that I refused to learn.

What I wonder is what special or even ordinary skills you learned from your mom. Which of her talents did you take for granted or refuse to adopt? If you could be her apprentice now, what do you wish she would teach you?