How do you honor the best of yiddische moms this holiday season? Well, in my own way, I’d like to put forth a number of humble lines; specifically, I’m thankful for:
Her friendship, love and affection, which made birthday parties, trips and holidays all the more special … even if I didn’t always get what I wanted;
Her dedication to showing me the variety of cultures in this extraordinary world, which often involved visits to other countries—where my sister and I would be rewarded for our good behavior in, say, the boring crystal shop with a delicious, exotic dinner or a gigantic bag of weird, salty licorice;
Her enjoyment of great cinema, a hobby that introduced me, by way of family movie nights, to the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut and Akira Kurosawa, as well as to celluloid travesties such as You Never Can Tell … a picture she foisted on me in the hopes that I’d like it as much as she did in her youth before admitting that it seemed a lot better when she was a child;
Her appreciation of world delicacies, from calf’s head to sushi, from Danish cuisine to Indonesian cookery, which led me to become an uber-food snob who won’t touch anything less than the highest-quality potato chips and gravitates in restaurants to unusual eats such as squid guts and pigs’ ears … much to the dismay of my brave, long-suffering wife;
Her knowledge of and talent for music, traits that served as the impetus behind my audition for the Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus, which led to my appearance in a variety of productions … as well as a brief moment on TV while running toward the camera haphazardly during a boisterous performance of Carmen;
Her formative experience with anti-Semitism, a disturbing incident in her childhood that, way back when, entailed a couple of kids telling my mother that she “killed Christ” … and ultimately spurred my efforts to counter hate speech with words throughout my life whenever I’ve encountered prejudice;
Her courageousness when it comes to Israel, which involved raising money for the nascent state during periods of great fear and uncertainty in the past and today doesn’t discount criticizing certain policies while retaining an affinity for the country she helped develop;
Her insistence on getting the best education for me, which saw her take a job at Columbia University’s School of Social Work so I could get free tuition as an undergraduate at the college;
Her acceptance and understanding of my obsessive-compulsive disorder and the struggles I go through on a daily basis to complete even the simplest tasks—as well as her willingness to discuss my condition with me whenever I feel the need;
Her on-point critiques of my writing when I was growing up and her encouraging words backing her often-discouraging edits;
Her “do this, do that” suggestions, which are never subtle and always right;
Her relationship with my wife, which is smart and affectionate and real and vital and welcoming, even when they disagree with each other;
Her fearlessness in learning Hebrew and Italian at a late age, and her determination to avoid sitting like a lump in retirement … a hallmark of her psyche that incited the growth of her own blog … plus a tendency to incorporate photos in the posts that juxtapose terrific images of travel and savory dishes with blurry shots of interloping fingers;
Her recognition that I just won’t ever like fronds of dill or chunks of celery in my matzo-ball soup, though I’ll always love whatever she makes nevertheless—and always have;
Her support for me of everything I do, from my love life to my career to those crummy science-fiction short stories that I scribble from time to time … and her unfailing trust in and respect for my decisions;
Her good health, her existence, her voice, her life;
And the fact that she’s my mother, and I love her.
I’m thankful for those things and everything I neglected to mention, too.
From a nice Jewish son, to his mom … for Mother’s day.
God bless you, mom. You’re the best.