I do not claim to be an expert on women. My experience over the years have been colored by the women who raised me (my dad died when I was 4), the woman that I married fifty two years ago, the daughter that we raised, my granddaughters and my daughter-in law. Although I have had individual experiences with many women through my work life, my years as an educator, my friends, and the many young women for whom we provided scholarships, the women in my family have taught me so many things.
I have described my grandmother Frieda many times in these tomes. She was born in Belarus, as was my mother and her siblings. She spoke mostly Yiddish and was as staunch a person as you can find. Her values were ironclad. She brooked no interference from others, including members of her family. Yet her love for her children and grandchildren was boundless. How then can you be so stiff necked (as the bible refers to the ancient Hebrews) and still be a loving person. Evidently that was something that my grandmother had in profusion. She taught me that there were absolutes in the world. Her chief concern was the concern she had for her children and her inability to countenance conceit, two-facedness, and outright liars.
Grandma would call people out in a butcher shop if she saw that there was hanky panky going on. She took out her temper on nosey neighbors and those she felt were not really following the Jewish religion. She never lied, nor had she any need to show a different face to different people. She was who she was. Take it or leave it.
Mom was somewhat different. She was consumed with her family. She was kind and thoughtful to others, but always put her family first. She was much more lighthearted than her mother. She worked with “the public” as a waitress for thirty five years. Her view of life started and ended with her children. She re-married so that I could have a step father. She insisted that I change my name so that he would feel a responsibility for me.
Mom was proud of the fact that he had no friends at all. Yet, she had deep feelings for people who were in trouble. Her world was tattered as a result of World War I. Her life in the “old country” was, in her eyes, a benign and bucolic paradise. I am not sure that is true, but that was her view. I am not sure that my mom’s stories were as accurate as they could be.
She was an inveterate singer of Yiddish songs. Since that was mostly the language of grandma’s house, we all took turns singing up a storm. My older sister and my mother had wonderful voices. They always encouraged me to sing. In 1946, I was going to be in a play, produced by Herman Yablokoff. It was going to be presented to D.P. camps in Europe. It was in Yiddish and I had a major role. Unfortunately, grandma decided that our first stop, Montreal was too far for her taste.
My older sister was the star of our family. She could do almost anything. She could sing beautifully, dance, write, direct among other things. She was actually on the Horn and Hardart Children’s hour on the radio. She was not a small time person. She was my hero growing up. I even helped her study for tests. Her comments on the Rime of the Ancient Mariner were something, I could understand at age 8. She was kind to me and took me along on her dates when no one could watch me. She took me to the library when I was four and five and began my lifelong love of books.
I met my wife of 52 years at a going away party for a friend in 1960. She is one of the kindest and most thoughtful people that I have ever met. She is a task completer, a visionary and the best teacher that I have ever scene. She is an entrepreneur, a wise woman and someone who delights in solving problems that others have given up on. She tolerates my eccentricities and odd behaviors. Thank goodness, I do not sing in stores any more, nor feel women’s undergarments (which I did when I went shopping with my mother and older sister when they went into the changing rooms at department stores). She is pleased that I do not say, “It is a pleasure for you to meet me.” She laughs at some of my jokes and goes ballistic when we see any of the Clouseau movies with Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom.
She has taught me to wait, rather than to react immediately and to do much more listening than talking. She still does not like me telling so many stories when I make presentations, although she knows that it does do some good. I do miss her when she is not around.
My daughter is a special person. She combines all of the talents of their forbearers. She does not take any guff from anyone. She can sing, run an upscale furniture store when she was a freshman in college, invent new jewelry, run an organization of artists, run a psychological corporation at the same time that she and her husband are raising three children. She has the kindness of all the aforementioned women and is a forceful advocate for the down and out and her friends who are having problems. Her affect is a departure from the women in my life because her experiences have been different. She and her brother were the only Jewish kids in the schools that they went to. That had an effect on her, for the better.
Her daughter, my granddaughter is another special person. She is kind to strangers, helps other kids in school who are having trouble, and is an excellent athlete in many sports. She is a talented singer (although she will deny it) and someone who can play many instruments and has settled on percussion. She is a talented academic, and a sweetie pie to the nth degree.
I have not known my daughter-in-law as long as I have known the other women in my life. She and my son make a great pair. She is an only child of two only children. Therefore family is exceptionally important to her. It kind of reminds me of my mother. She is a fierce defender of her family, of which we are a part. Recently, we had some problems selling our house. Her reaction was to blame the realtor and to contact her friend who was realtor to help us get the house sold.
She also was an accountant in her working life and helps us when we need help with some financial issues. She is close to us and would always help us out in a pinch. We certainly can count on her. Her daughter is a wonderful ten year old with aspirations of being an actress. My mom had such dreams, as did my older sister. She can do many ethnic voices and can act up a storm. We have seen her. She loves when her grandma makes dresses for her American dolls. I can see some of the skills and ways of the women in my life in her.
This has nothing to do with the males in my family. Since my dad died early, my thoughts turn to those who raised me and those women who were and are close to me. I fancy myself unbelievable lucky. I really don’t have to understand women. They are at the forefront of my mind.