As Mother’s Day approaches, we bring you a gift from one of our Love Revealed Stories’ authors.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Rosenberg,
Anita is adjusting nicely to third grade. She is especially enthusiastic about history, is an excellent speller and is in level III reading group.
However, I have concerns about her many questions beyond the facts of the subject, her need to know “why” all the time. The problem is most evident during reading group and history, for example. Though she always raises her hand for permission to speak (very good manners), her curiosity slows down the daily lesson plans. I hope that you will speak to her about this matter. I would like to avoid making her stay after school or losing recess as a consequence.
Mrs. Gerald Flynn
My mother quit school after seventh grade because of The Great Depression. Her formal education ended but she continued her artistic endeavors on her own. Her innate common sense and intuition were what I believed was intelligence. She was a mom who couldn’t be outsmarted and a resolver of problems.
Dad graduated high school. Were it not for The Depression, he would have gone on to college. Had my brothers and I excelled in school, we may have redeemed his failure to realize his potential. And, poor Dad, his sister had two children he was convinced were “geniuses” because they got straight A’s. Dad fell into the rabbit holes of depression for as long as I could remember; occasionally he was hospitalized. I tried to get better grades in math, but through the eyes of a child I wasn’t smart enough, so I felt my father retreated into himself because he had a stupid daughter and a wife not so bright either.
The note from Mrs. Flynn in the third grade began the collusion of my mother and me when it came to school. She finished reading it and looked to the sky, “Isn’t school the place to ask questions?” Then she looked me in the eye and said, “I’m going to give that teacher a ‘what for’ tomorrow. But listen to me, let’s not mention this ridiculous note to your father. You know how he gets when it comes to school.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Every so often, Mom would go to the window and watch my dad drive off to work in his white Ford sedan.
“Okay let’s get going and get this done,” she would try to sound casual.
• Down on all fours the ever present pain in her hip, the hisses inhaled between her teeth, were in perfect time with each yank on the tool box in the back of the closet.
At the bottom of the steps she says, “You go before me, you know I’m slow.” And then “oy, oy” with one leg up to meet the other on the step, over and over until she gets to the top and into my room. There, she takes a screwdriver and adjusts the hinges dad attached to the desk he made for me, blind to the fact that the legs were so long I couldn’t sit at it. On her knees she inserts shims of balsa to level the legs.
“You don’t have to sit at the desk. Maybe store your school books in there?”
• My father proudly paints my room Blossom Pink, and like many noble efforts as a handy-man, something is off. With a razor blade, my mother scrapes the paint off so the windows will open.
Mom presses her index finger vertically on her lips that form a sly smile. “Don’t forget, not a word to your father that I fixed his work. He should feel like a man.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Years later, my folks have flown from the U.S to Israel to attend my wedding. On the plane are relatives and friends. My father is bursting with joy: I am fulfilling his dream of an Israeli son-in-law. Twenty years post-Holocaust, like many of his generation and mine, Zionism is our redemption. While my father basks in the illusion at the rehearsal dinner, my mother is fixed on my overbearing fiancé, she sees him grab my forearm and won’t let go when I tell him to. My large eyes, where any loveliness of my young face resided, are blank. My mother’s flashing eyes see through the dull whites, while all around us the clinking of glasses of schnapps, my father-in-law bellowing “L’ Chaim!”
“Come with me to the bathroom immediately.” I haven’t ever seen this tiger Mom. She grabs my left hand while the future husband is still grasping my right wrist.
“Let go of her this minute.” He is disarmed.
We are in one of the stalls of the fancy restaurant bathroom. I am sitting on the lid of the toilet and she is standing in front of me, straight and strong, no sounds of pain.
“This boy isn’t for you. I know you know it. Call this off. It’s wrong, all wrong and it won’t end well. Please, Anita.”
I’m shaking, “How can I do that? All the people flew here for the wedding. The money Dad spent for the wedding.” I break down now, “He’s finally proud of me.”
She pulls me up with ropes that are her arms. “Anitale’, to HELL with your Father’s Zionism, do you hear me? He loves you. Come home with us”.
By Anita Rosenberg
To see more of Anita’s work, read her story, “Let’s Change the Subject,” in the new book, Living Through Grief: Love Revealed.