Dad’s yahrzeit is coming up soon. He died shortly before Pesach. So, naturally, that makes me think of my mother. She was seemingly a part of him. I never thought about one of them without immediately jumping to the other. That she died years before he did was a tremendous shock, to all of us, but especially to Dad. How could she? He survived her for about eight long years but it was never the same. How could it be?
They were so in sync with one another. They never fought. She let him make all the big decisions. Buy a new car? Couch? Go out to eat? Whatever it was she was his willing partner.
So, I ponder, what about her needs? She was always seemingly happy. Or maybe content is a better word. But she was so selfless that I know we all often put ourselves before her. Our needs came first. Sad and true.
Yet they, Mom and Dad, were really quite different. He admired culture because of her. She came to the marriage with already defined tastes. She was a lover of the romantic poets, opera, music, theater, literature. Her tastes were classical, not esoteric or eclectic. She enjoyed Keats, Shelley, Browning, Puccini, Beethoven and great literature rather than bestsellers. Broadway shows were her passion. Cheap seats were no deterrent. She’d willingly climb to the second balcony. She’d do standing room at the opera. He was happy to see her enjoy herself but he preferred a basketball game on TV to Madama Butterfly. He read non-fiction exclusively. She never.
And yet these two entirely separate individuals built a bayit ne-aman bYisrael. Ne-aman indeed.
But who was she really?: Her neighbors knew her as the soup lady. When someone was sick there would be Ida at the door with a big pot of one of her very delicious and special soups. Mushroom and barley. Meat borscht (my favorite). Cabbage. Divine chicken with pupiks and those scrumptious baby eggs that my sister and I would fight over. She could always be counted on for bikur cholim plus soup. Empathy was her natural way. If someone was hurting she was there. Lean on me she seemed to say.
Animals were also beneficiaries of her largesse. She lived with and loved a series of dogs, never thinking it acceptable to feed them dog food. Scraps from the kosher butcher, cooked to order and inhaled by whichever canine was happily living with Ida. They lived in dog heaven and they all seemed to know it. Phoebe. Caesar. Gringo. Mutts all but treated like royalty.
Street cats were never forgotten either. She had quite a collection and somehow managed to scrounge enough food for their ever growing families. Lena was the first, the inscrutable gray Lena. But she was followed by an endless tribe of feline Ida fans.
She was the consummate organization lady. Mostly she focused on the Hadassah Henrietta Szold Chapter Bulletin, Newark’s finest, which she churned out month after month. Always done to perfection. Never a your instead of a you’re. Never an it’s instead of an its. Grammar was her thing And spelling. And syntax. Hadassah bulletins never looked so good!
And I dare not forget the Bauman House, a Catskills kuch alein where Mom presided for many decades running the business, with its many stories and characters, as a reluctant career. She was an honest and hardworking baalat ha beit. The tenants returned year after year.
Her parents were worshiped and respected. Always. And she and her two brothers were close throughout their lives. The beloved Uncles Dave and Charlie.
But above all were my sister and me. We were so spoiled! Custom meals for each of us. My sister liked thin well done steak. I liked rare thick steak. No problem. We each always got what we wanted,
So we grew up with an amazing mother who asked nothing in return but taught us literacy and love and culture and family and bikur cholim and kindness to all creatures. We miss her so; and when we soon light the candle in memory of Dad, our minds and hearts will see the two of them, young and happy, standing together in the peace that reigned in their marriage. Always peace.