My father’s yahrtzeit and the common-calendar anniversary of his death were both in the last few weeks. On the eve of the anniversary, I attended the last session of a weekly bereavement group at my synagogue. Weeks before, perhaps the second time we’d met, we were asked to think about for what we might want to forgive, or ask forgiveness from, our loved one. I shared some. Not all. Then this morning I saw a call for an essay contest on the subject of mistakes. I likely won’t be submitting, but it inspired me to write, finally, something, about my father’s death…and about the kinds of mistakes that can haunt us, even as greater ones leave us be… Continue reading
“Do you want me to smooth your hair before you leave?”
It’s a refrain nearly every morning in our house, at least those many mornings when my daughter has not had her hair styled in braids in the last week or two. Given the limited skill of my own hands, and the cost of professional braiding, those braided mornings are few and far between these days. So when my 8-year-old rises, it’s usually in a style from the day before, or the day before that, and one that’s got a certain slept-on fuzziness.
When she says, “Nah, I’ll just wear a headband,” I feel both pride and anxiety welling up in my chest. The fuzzier her look, the prouder I am that she doesn’t care, and the more worried I am that she’s making a risky call. Continue reading
No, this post isn’t about gluten-free cuisine, exactly, though it may figure here. Yesterday I posted about making serious change, in the guise of cooking and flipping pancakes. (It was a stretch, but whatever…). Today I’m starting my list of the things that I need to change…to “cook,” and bubble/think about, and hopefully flip…starting with this, since the morning did not go well, after a very good start last week and the week before:
1) Remain Disciplined, Even in the Face of Other Pressures, About Bedtime and Morning Schedule. Continue reading
My son, who is 4, likes to cook. He especially likes making eggs and pancakes (and thankfully is happy with the gluten free mix that’s replaced the standard kind in our kitchen). He not only wants to crack open and beat the eggs, or mix up batter, he is determined to hold the spatula and make sure everything is cooked to perfection in the pan. And he’s rather good at it…and cautious, too (more than his sister at this age, to be honest), or I wouldn’t let him do it.
The other morning he poured eggs into a pan, and after a few seconds, asked when they would bubble. It took me a moment to realize that he was trying to apply our lessons on pancake flipping to scrambled eggs. Eggs don’t work that way, I explained. Eggs are different. You can just keep stirring them until they’re ready. But you’ve got to keep pushing them around, or else they’ll get stuck or unevenly cooked. You want scrambled eggs to be cooked all over, but you don’t turn them the way you do pancakes. You just keep them on low heat and in pretty constant motion.
With pancakes, you’ve got to let it sit, and you’ve got to choose the perfect moment. Once you’ve spooned in the batter, you’ve got to let the heat work its magic for a while without trying to force the issue. When the batter starts to bubble, you still have to be patient–until the moment when it’s bubbling all over. You can test the edge with the spatula to see if it’s ready, really ready. And then you flip. If you’ve done it right, the batter will have become a pancake, the bottom will be golden brown, and the turning will be easy. If you let the batter sit in the heat too long without turning, bubble and bubble until it bubbles no more, it will burn, and get stuck to the pan, and never turn over. Then it can even be hard to remove from the pan.
We were reviewing these principles, my son and I, in the week leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, and a time of introspection and change. Continue reading
He remembered meeting my mother back in the ‘60s, he said. He told me that what he remembered might surprise me.
This was years ago, not long after my mother died. I was talking to a veteran DC-area activist, who as far as I knew had only met my mother at my wedding.
The activist, a guy in his 60s named Mike, already had the distinction of having been the college roommate of the leader of the religious community (or some might say irreligious community) that my family was part of in my childhood. We’d stumbled upon that random connection years ago. Now, he apparently had another small-world revelation for me.
Somehow it had come up that I’d grown up in Bowie, Maryland, in a Levitt development called Belair. Well, Mike had been part of protests in the Belair development, back in 1963, because the developer would not sell homes to African Americans.
I mentioned clear memories of having Black neighbors, but admitted that it was perhaps 1968 or 1969. I actually don’t know when they moved in. I was born in 1966 and simply have no memories, of any kind, before I was two or three. But I couldn’t imagine my very-liberal parents buying in a restricted development I told him. He thought his memories suggested otherwise. He was cryptic. But I was pretty sure that Belair hadn’t even been on my parents’ radar screen as early as 1963, and despite her strong political instincts, my mother wasn’t one to do civil disobedience. So he couldn’t have met my mother then. I didn’t say those things aloud. But I did decide to let it go.
Until this week.
I have no one to blame but myself.
The 50th Anniversary March on Washington this past Saturday was the only commemoration that my 8-year-old daughter could hope to attend (since she will be in school on Wednesday, the actual anniversary of the original March). And I blew it.
The next-to-last stop on my recent family trip to Minnesota was, randomly enough, to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN.
My husband and kids and I had spent two days with my brother’s family at their home in Minneapolis, then four glorious days with them on the north shore of Lake Superior, and three on a smaller lake an hour from both Hibbing (Bob Dylan’s birthplace) and Grand Rapids. The highlight of the small lake visit for me had been, on our last night there, a sighting of a bald eagle taking off from a tree near me, and soaring in all its majesty, right over my head.
It was a week for American icons. Continue reading