CELEBRATING MOTHERS’ DAY (U.S.) Part 1: Those Infamous New York Moms

 

1950 Brooklyn, NY – my mother, Zbaida, and me

“A woman in Brooklyn decided to prepare her will. She told her rabbi she had two final requests. First, she wanted to be cremated. Second, she wanted her ashes scattered over the local shopping mall.

‘Why the shopping mall?’ asked the rabbi.

‘Then I’ll be sure my daughters will visit me twice a week.’



Note: This is the first in a three-part series celebrating Mothers’ Day, which is this Sunday. All the pieces were published some time ago – here and/or elsewhere and it just feels right to publish again this year. I hope you’ll enjoy this short series … And Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mothers and to all the dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents and older siblings who are covering for moms who are gone.

I met my Jewish friend, Laurel, when she came to a meeting at our local Insight Meditation Center on the San Francisco Peninsula where we now live. Laurel and I  got on right away. We both like Broadway shows, opera, reading, writing, and good meals seasoned with great conversation. We’re both from New York and we’re about the same age. So we come from the same time and the same place.

Now New York moms get a bad rap, especially Jewish moms – but none of us gets off free. Laurel reminded me of that with a stereotypical New York joke at the expense of mothers. These jokes usually illustrate moms making caustic remarks or tell of their attempts to foster guilt in adult children. While we do use regional idioms and have a distinct style of delivery, I’m really not sure that mothers from our time and place had the corner on either caustic commentary or the laying on of guilt.

Like all of us, my mother was very much in process and very much a product of her place and time. Among other things, what that means is that modesty was a primary concern. For my Catholic mother this included modest dress, which in turn included girdles. Now I’ve got to tell you that until I hit forty I was mostly underweight. In fact at Christmas when I was nineteen, I was ninety-three pounds, stood 5′ 3 1/2″, and was three months pregnant with my son. Nonetheless, from seventh grade and until her death when I was forty-four, my mother was adamant that I should wear a girdle so that I wouldn’t “jiggle.” That would be immodest and unseemly. Only my mother, I would think, would put me through this torture for nothing. As my husband said, “What’s to jiggle? If she turned sideways and stuck out her tongue she’d look like a zipper.”

Those old, typically New York jokes at the expense of our mothers were funny because there’s an element of truth in them. They did pave the pathways to their homes and hearts with guilt. They could be cruelly caustic. Often, their fall-back position was stone-cold silence. They were as tough as life. They tended to be rigid and narrow on some subjects; their lives woefully circumscribed. Often they were unworldly and painfully unread. But they were also largely present.

They were idealistic. They worked hard, often at jobs as well as at home. Many of them worked for hours each week to make the most unbelievably complex old world dinners for traditional Sundays that included religious services and family gatherings. No matter how difficult things got, they did not resort to drugs or alcohol. They got us into the best schools they could afford and kept us in school for as long as they could afford to do so. They protected us from young men who did not have “honorable” intentions. Though they’d never admit to us that they were really pleased with us, they would proudly show photographs of us to all their friends and boast of our accomplishments.

In the parlance of the sixties, it took me years to understand where they were “coming from.” You can tell by the posture in the photo that ends this post, that well into my thirties, I was still struggling with mixed feelings. The reason in this particular case: Before I left for work, I left money on the kitchen table for a pizza. I called home at 5:00 p.m. as I was leaving the office and asked Mom if she’d order the pizza right away because I was “starving.” I got home and “binged”: I ate one slice of pizza and left the crust. “I thought you were hungry,” Mom said. “I was. Now I’m stuffed.”  The fact that I was in my thirties and still “eating like a bird” and underweight disturbed her. In turn, I was disturbed because she was still trying to tell me how to eat, which given my habits was a legitimate concern.  I do the same sorts of things to my son now, not about food, but about other things. Mom’s long gone now, but often I think of her and wish she was here nagging me to clean my plate.


♥ ♥ ♥

© 2011, words and photographs, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved


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Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those who are celebrating; Happy Green Everything Day to everyone

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.
Be.
Attributed to St. Patrick



Okay, it IS St. Patrick’s Day, but the whole green thing, I made up. Why not? Celebrating green: as in the traditional color of St. Patrick’s Day; as in the Emerald Isle with its engaging traditions; as in a sustainable world; as in the lovely green eyes some people have; as in Christmas Trees, front lawns, and forests.



All over the world there are wonderful religious and cultural traditions around this day, which in Ireland is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, meaning attendance at Mass is required.

St. Patrick, a fifth century Roman, went to Ireland to convert its peoples from their pagan* Celtic traditions. He is considered the Apostle of Ireland, equal to the original twelve. He is revered by Lutherans, Anglicans, and the Eastern Rites (Orthodox and Catholic) as well as the Roman Catholic Church. It is a day cheerfully celebrated with long colorful parades and famously or infamously (depending on your view) with a heavy-duty beer-fest, sometimes with beer that is tinted green.

*”Pagan” is often used as a pejorative. I would submit that the pagan path is simply another well leading to the one great Spiritual river. We see evidence on the Earth and in the sky, that the Creative Essence (also known as God) expresses with great diversity. Dishonoring and dismissing other traditions, other mystical expressions of the one Light, is disrespectful and a powerful way manipulative political and religious leaders pit us against one another for their own ends, even to war, torture and genocide. “To connect with the great river we all need a path, but when you get down there there’s only one river.” Matthew Fox The other guy’s religion is sacred, not superstition.


On my nightstand, I keep a copy of Eknath Easwaran’s God Makes the Rivers to Flow, An Anthology of the World’s Sacred Poetry and Prose. Here is St. Patrick’s Prayer shared by Eknath in that small treasure of a volume. Depending on what your tradition or leanings are, you could substitute God, Allah, Being, Mind, Light or some other resonating pointer in place of “Christ” as used here.

ST. PATRICK’S PRAYER

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.

© 2019, Jamie Dedes; illustration from Saint Patrick Catholic Church (Junction City, Ohio) – stained glass, Saint Patrick courtesy of Nheyob under CC BY-SA 4.0.; clip art courtesy of Public Domain Clip Art.

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Ah, Yes! I remember it well … Atlantic Avenue, reading coffee grinds, and the French novelist and woman of letters, Colette

Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954)

“Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth and, without pity, destroy most of it.” Collette, Casual Chance, 1964



I remember it well: my first encounter with Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Picture it.  Brooklyn. A Lebanese restaurant someplace on Atlantic Avenue, ambiance of the Middle East, redolent with fragrances of cinnamon and cardamom and the mouth-watering smell of lamb roasting.

It was 1958. We had just seen the movie, Gigi, starring Leslie Caron, which is based on Colette’s novella of the same name.  You might remember that in the early scenes Ms. Caron wore a wide-brimmed straw hat with a ribbon tied in a bow. The ribbon trailed gracefully down her back. I had such a hat and suffered the illusion that I looked just like Gigi in the film. This illusion was strongly supported by the fact that Gigi is my childhood nickname. In fact, from that day on and until her death, my mother would tell everyone  – as she did at the restaurant on this occasion – that I was Gigi before Gigi. I knew it wasn’t true. I’d read in the newspaper that there was a book written in 1944, which would predate me by six years. I was hungry to get my hands on it.

As the adults talked, I mentally replayed scenes from the movie and imagined a woman sitting at her desk writing the story that became the movie. I might have felt smart and pretty and even glamorous and certainly rather grown-up, but I would soon be relieved of my illusions. My mother allowed one of the restaurant patrons – an artist – to do a picture of me. Much to my dismay all he saw and drew was a scrawny olive-skinned kid with a rather gauche hat that sat too far back on her head. Nothing at all approaching the light, elegant, grown-up beauty of Ms. Caron. Then our supposed* distant cousin, Julia, the restaurant owner, worked her special magic.  She told fortunes by reading the sludge left in the cup after drinking Lebanese coffee. Julia would provide this service . . . “reading” coffee grounds . . . for her favorite (i.e., frequent) patrons.

*Note: Honestly, everyone we met from Lebanon was pronounced a cousin, so I’m skeptical.  Cousin in spirit and language, maybe. Blood cousin? Not so sure. 

At Julia’s my special treat was one cup of Lebanese coffee with my baklava. On this day, Mom let Julia do a reading for me. It had none of Julia’s usual romantic niceties: “You are like the sun and the moon. He is the sun that warms your heart. You are the moon that reflects his strength.” Or, “I see a key. Many doors will open for you. And, see there?  There are two bells entwined with a string.  There will be much love shared.”  There was to be no romance like the fictional Gigi’s for me. No. No.  For me there was: “See that, Gigi. Two books. You must keep up your studies. Therein is your happiness.” Maybe Julia did have something of a seer’s eye. I turned out to be better at reading books than reading men and I’m content with that.


“Then, bidding farewell to The Knick-Knack, I went to collect the few personal belongings which, at that time, I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.” Colette, Gigi, Julie de Carneilhan, and Chance Acquaintances: Three Short Novels


As for Sidone-Gabrielle Colette (a.k.a. Colette), the Nobel nominated (1948, Literature) French novelist, actress, and mime, this was my introduction and the beginning of my appreciation for her life and work.

Colette was a prodigious writer of many popular literary works. The Claudine stories were the first. For La Belle Époque, Colette’s writings were racy but – perhaps unfortunately – by today’s often jaded tastes, not so much.  While Colette’s life was too much on the wild side for me, I appreciate her courage and honesty and I do love her writing, so full of an appreciation for life and so rich in perfume, color, and humor, occasionally wry.


Publicity still of Colette for Rêve d’Égypte at the Moulin Rouge.

Quotable Colette

For the romantics among us:

“I am going away with him to an unknown country where I shall have no past and no name, and where I shall be born again with a new face and an untried heart.”


The story of Gigi is about a young Parisian who – in her family’s tradition – is being groomed for a career as courtesan. A handsome, wealthy, and well-placed young man is targeted by her grandmother (Mamita) and aunt for Gigi’s first relationship. For the movie version, the story is sanitized to get by the American censors. It was 1958 after all.


“You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.”


Colette’s life and work are honored in film, song and story by (among others) The Year I Read Colette (YouTube video) by singer-songwriter Roseanne Cash, The White Rose by Truman Capote (describes his first meeting with Colette), and the movies Colette and Becoming Colette. Les Vrilles de la vigne is number fifty-nine on Le Monde’s 100 Best Books of the [20th] Century. When Colette died, she was denied a religious burial by the Catholic Church because of her divorces but the French people justly honored her literary significance with a state funeral.

If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you’ll likely have to link through to the site to view these trailers from two movies about Colette.

© 2019, words, Jamie Dedes; photo credits – 1.) Colette’s photo, public domain, 2.) Rêve d’Égypte photograph copyright unknown (probably in public domain), 3.) the different types of Arabic coffees with the Hejazi / Najdi golden coffee seen on the left and the Levantine black “qahwah sādah” (plain coffee) on the right 

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The BeZine, December 2018, Vol. 5, Issue 4, “A Life of the Spirit”

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…”  The Art of Living, Wilfred Peterson

December 15, 2018

A Life of the Spirit is a many-faceted jewel. Some of our contributors interpreted the theme for this month as Spirit (Being, the Ineffable, the Divine) and others more as spirited, strong. Some find Spirit and courage in the great love of their life or in their art, in their religion or spiritual practice. Others find it in an inspiring parent or grandparent.  You will see that nature plays a role for nearly everyone.

I don’t think I’ve ever used as many hankies in pulling together an issue of The BeZine as I have with this issue.  Contributors this quarter speak intimately from both joy and heartbreak, which is perhaps not surprising given the theme.

©2018 Naomi Baltuck, Chris Spengler, and Allison Cox

Our contributors have also rallied their spirits to speak out against gun violence and to speak up for the LGBTQ community. Violence and cruelty are not an absence of Spirit but a lack of awareness.

c 2018, Anjum Wasim Dar

My country – America – has a gun violence history that is notorious but firearms are ubiquitous on this Earth and complicit in wars and conflicts, hate crimes, terrorism, suicide and accidental shootings. Death by fire arms is grotesquely common in South American countries, Jamaica, and Swaziland.

Gun-suicides: I’ve taken the liberty of including a poem about my big sister, Teresa Margaret, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. She was twenty-seven. I was fourteen. Fifty-four years later, the trauma remains. The questions remain: Why? Where did the gun come from? Who taught her how to use it?

“Although the USA ranked fourth in the world with 12,400 firearm-related homicides, that figure pales in comparison with its 23,800 gun suicides. None of the other 194 nations and territories  [ … ] came close; India ranked second at 13,400.” USA Today HERE

Easy access to firearms is cited by experts as one reason for the prevalence of their use in suicide. Another may be that guns offer an effective means of suicide.

Since there is history, culture, identity, and ethic involved in gun ownership and use, attempts at doing away with guns are not feasible at this time. Complicated core issues need to be defined and addressed first. Will we ever come to a unified place where we agree that murder and torture are not options?  How then would Spirit play in the garden of material life?

Thanks to The Bardo Group Bequines team and to our guest writers for helping us put together an issue that is honest, artful, and inspiring, one that walks “with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground.”

As you read, we hope that you will leave your “Likes” and comments behind to let each contributor know they were read and appreciated and to enrich the experience for others.

In the spirit of love (respect) and community,
and on behalf of The Bardo Group Bequines,
Jamie Dedes
Founding and Managing Editor

TABLE OF CONTENTS


How to read this issue of THE BeZINE:You can read each piece individually by clicking the links in the Table of Contents.
To learn more about our guests contributors, please link HERE.
To learn more about our core team members, please link HERE.


BeAttitudes

A Murmur, John Anstie

Your Freedom Eyes, Linda Chown

Julia Vinograd Slipped Into My Writing, Michael Dickel

Feathers of Grass, Joe Hesch

Whelm, Tricia Knoll

Making White Flags, P.A. Levy

Hope Springs Eternal, Tamam Tracy Moncur

Spirit Speaks, Corina Ravenscraft

A Gift of Courage, Anjum Wasim Dar

Poems

Standing Out in the Straight …, Linda Chown

Stone Love, P.A. Levy

Landing, P.C. Moorehead

Illuminating, P.C. Moorehead

Dense Flesh, P.C. Moorehead

Songbird, Jason A. Muckley

Princess of the Sea, Jason A. Muckley

Four Haiku, Jason A. Muckley

Log Cabin Quilt, Anne Myers

Lit Up With Your Warmth, Scott Thomas Outlar

Catching Leaves and Picking Clover, Scott Thomas Outlar

High Tide Hallelujah, Scott Thomas Outler

The Spirit of Us, poem by Deborah Setiyawait, photography by Carl Scharwath

The Star, Clarissa Simmens

my decision is not new, since …, Anjum Wasim Dar

for those who don’t know the chocolate, Amirah Al Wassif

the poetry is …, Amirah Al Wassif

Windows of Madrid, Amirah Al Wassif

Social Justice for LGBTQ

Telling Tales Under the Rainbow, Naomi Baltuck, Alison Cox, Chris Spengler

Gravy, Chris Spengler

Gun Violence

GunShot, Gary W. Bowers

A Girl in a Box, Jamie Dedes

A Poem for the Tree of Life Synagogue, Michael Dickel

Silencing the Thunder, Joe Hesch

Snow Angels, Joe Hesch

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