Happy 99th Birthday, Mom!


It is difficult to believe, but marvelous to know, that this Wednesday, February 7, Mom will celebrate her 99th birthday. With one year shy of a century on planet earth, Mom has experienced so much - suffering, pain and grief, but also a modicum of happiness, joy, and smachot (joyous occasions), especially in her “golden” years. Yes, it seems as if she has seen it all. But there is no trace of rancor – no bitterness in Mom, and yet, a feeling expressed every once in a while, of having been deprived of a normal family life, with a husband by her side. She often reminisces of her courtship days with her dear Walter, my father.

Mom, the eldest and only surviving sister of 5 daughters, grew up in a family where the father wanted only sons. Little did he know that it was he who was responsible for daughters, and not sons!

Although having lived through 2 world wars, it was World War II and the Holocaust that defined Mom’s great courage and strength. At war’s end, after 6 ½ years of concentration camp life, Mom was a 37 year old widow, weighing fewer than 70 pounds, sick with typhus, weak, penniless, stateless, and yet, consumed with the knowledge that she had 2 young children, age 10 & 12, to care for and rear. No challenge was ever too much for Mom. When we returned to Holland after the war, Mom learned Dutch, and became a masseuse.

When we immigrated to our blessed United States, Mom quickly learned English. She first worked as a domestic –a cleaning lady, the bonus being bringing home some left over food, and “hand me down” clothing. I wore one of those beautiful dresses to synagogue on Yom Kippur in 1951, the day Nathaniel & I met! Mom’s vocabulary is extensive and precise. When Mom lived in San Francisco for many years, before coming east 16 years ago, her letters were so eloquently descriptive of that beautiful city on the bay that we thought she was the publicity director of the SF Chamber of Commerce.

An excellent cook from childhood, Mom became a talented seamstress. To this day, she sews buttons on Nathaniel’s shirts, threading her own needle. She folds our laundry, puts away the dishes, and makes every effort to be useful and productive. When there is something that Mom can’t do, she says, “Old age is for the birds.”

Mom also has a large repertoire of “German expressions,” among which I would like to share 3 with you. I think Mom directs the first 2 to me!

“Stutze den Baum so lang er steht” - “Support the tree as long as it stands”

“Nim Nicht zu fiel Heu auf der Forke” - “Don’t take too much hay on the pitchfork”

“Morgen, Morgen, nur nich heute, sagen alle faulen Leute” - “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, not today, is what the lazy people say”

When staying with us for Shabbat (the Sabbath), she is so careful to be quiet so as not to disturb us, closing doors gently. She carefully makes her own bed, and dresses herself neatly. She enjoys our cooking, and all the dishes, she says, are delicious – but “please, don’t give me too much; that is more than enough.” Mom will even tear a napkin in half to economize, brushing off my “please don’ts.” Mom does have a sweet tooth, and enjoys chocolate, cake and ice cream. Mom actually prefers her own warm and cozy apartment, and keeps it spotless, spic and span, with everything in its place.

No medication – no doctor’s appointments. Just some back pain every once in a while, but I don’t consider the ibuprofen Mom takes a medication. It has only been a few years since we could convince Mom to take a daily vitamin.

Mom loves art, nature, the sea, mountains and the great outdoors.. This is a woman who is self-effacing, modest, hardworking, industrious, caring and wise.

Mom, you are the role model of role models, one who one would want to emulate. A truer Eishet Chayil (Woman of Valor) never lived. We love, admire, respect and think the world of you. And we say –
May HaShem grant you many more years of continued good health and peace of mind, in a world of love and peace. ! Until 120 –!!!

Your devoted children - Marion & Nathaniel and Albert & Diane
And grandchildren - David & Lisa, Susan & Rob, Michael & Rachel
And great-grandchildren – Arielle, Gavriel, Joshua, Dahlia, Yoav, Jordan Erica, Hunter, Ian & Kasey Rose

Photo at top Mama & Papa, April 1932

The first photo below pictures Mom, far left, eldest of 5 sisters, circa 1917 

The second photo below shows Mom with Arielle, her eldest great-granddaughter, at high school graduation, May 2006