Recently I was walking along the duck pond with my husband and son, listening to their lively discourse on the battery operations of our newly purchased RC boat -- they had just plucked it from the water’s edge in the nick of time, saving it from being stranded mid-pond. My six-year-old son was lamenting the unfairness of having to charge the boat for five hours only to get a short fifteen minute ride around the pond. As he kept mentioning “recharging” I found myself thinking of my own recharging and how I too seem to need a stronger, more long lasting fix, how lately the weekend is not enough, and my tiredness seems now a part of my being. All around me I see moms who look to their own mothers for recharging -- as they can finally hand over the grandchildren and truly rest without worrying, that they can actually go away for a weekend with their husband to rekindle and relax. My mom died when I was twenty-nine years old, and for me and my older sister, motherhood would largely come without a charger.
It seems every year, more and more, I feel the burden of not having her. I suppose it is cumulative this longing for our mothers, possibly because the strain of life is also cumulative and without the release valves offered by our moms, us "motherless moms" just carry an ever-heavier weight. Last week my closest friend from college, Betsy, visited with her two teenage daughters. I remember us at seventeen, at that first intense-bonding week at
I speak a lot to my son about Grandma Helen, just as she used to talk to me as a child about her own father, Grandpa Philip. At six, Ben is now of an age where he is just beginning to notice the hole this death has made in his family, but mostly in his mother’s heart. I tell him she loved the beach -- Bradley Beach -- and that everyday in the summer we’d be there from ten in the morning until six in the evening. That if it rained, she would try and wait it out under the pavilion, only to set up the beach chairs then run back to the pavilion if it rained again. I teach him to make origami boats, as she taught me, aware now of all the steps and folds she must have patiently explained. I tell him she could draw a bit, pointing to the illustrated fashion figures in the papers. Together we sing her own mother’s “Tumbalalaika” in pidgin Yiddish -- “…vemen tsu nemen un nit far shemen… silly lad I’ll answer you, a stone can grow without any dew, love can burn for years and for years, a heart can cry but shed no tears.” And of course there’s her food -- the split second cookies filled with raspberry, her cheese-filled phyllo triangles she learned from her Syrian Jewish friend who in a rare move welcomed my Ashkenazi mother’s friendship, and her wonderful kneidelach the size of pink Spaldeen balls. I try to give him a real sense of her, but of course, in the end, she is still this phantom grandma.
The other day my family and I arrived two and a half hours late to my sister’s seder table, the traffic to
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