Once upon a time there was a was a princess. NO! STOP! She was
not that kind of princess with a king for a father and a queen for a mother. Rather, she was the kind whose immigrant father worked as a clothes presser in the New York City garment industry, and whose mother, a world-class cook of Jewish delicacies, successively and successfully rented and operated small hotels until she finally bought and owned the Bauman House in Parksville NY. This princess was my mother, who I eventually, and often unwillingly, shared with my sister.
The princess, as a young child, had her bed sheets ironed every night when the unheated apartment on New York’s Lower East Side was frigid. And like a true princess, she, born in America, was guarded by two much older brothers, European born. They were big tough guys and she was safe with them beside her. She was indulged throughout her childhood and, big deal that it was, allowed to go to college! Her college entry coincided with the Great Depression when many non-princesses were told they had to work as typists or stenographers if they could get a job at all. This did not happen to my princess Mom. And college was pivotal in her life.
She learned a lot at Brooklyn College. She learned the lyrical poetry of the Romance and Victorian poets. Keats and Shelley and Browning became her friends, her muses throughout her life.
She learned to love and worship the glories of the Metropolitan Opera, especially the genius Puccini. Opera was the music of our home and while I, as a kid, pounded on the piano with nary a sign of talent, Madama Butterfly soared through the kitchen as my mother prepared our meals.
And, above all, she learned to be a liberal, even a socialist, a politically involved proponent of sharing the bounty and despising the oppressors.
Had she been alive today she would have supported Barack and Hillary. She would have been a fierce and active never Trumper. And if I were still her little girl, instead of an ancient myself, she would have had me, and my sister, out there pounding the pavement for Joe and Kamala. She brought us up to be helpers in her long struggle to bring more goodness and fairness to the world.
There were fliers to circulate and posters to hang up. There was always some way of making the world a better place. To tell you how pervasive her activities were you should know that I still remember, over 70 plus years later, all the campaigns that she set her sights on. Sad to say, many of them did not succeed.
So, for example, she did not save the Rosenbergs from execution. She labored endlessly on their behalf to no avail. Being carefully taught I still believe that they were innocent and clearly never were atomic spies. Yet, they were executed and it didn’t matter a whit what my mother thought, or for that matter, what I think or thought.
She was a devoted fan of Paul Robeson. She attended his concerts and sang his songs and his praises. Of course, I too, was a worshiper, a dutiful fan, since what my mother said was always the way I saw life, although I found it hard to ever admit that to her.
Harry S. Truman was a tolerable candidate for president but her choice was Henry Wallace. She worked hard to see him succeed in 1948 but such was her failure that today, many decades later, everyone knows that Truman won but no one even knows who Henry Wallace was. The real crime is that some, in confusion, think he was George Wallace, a guy she really despised.
Don’t even get me started on McCarthy and the blacklists. She was always firmly opposed to his despicable tactics and supported every single person on his blacklists. Today, I know she would have despised some of our many present-day deplorables, like Cruz, Hawley, and Rubio.
Today’s politics would have found her incredulous. In the midst of a horrible pervasive pandemic, the dearth of leadership would have left her speechless. She would wonder where America went and, of course, no one would have the answers. Maybe Joe and Kamala? And then she would comment, as always, if you forget history you are doomed to repeat it. No question or quarrel about her references.
When she was 73 and my father was 80 they moved to Israel.
She was a lifelong Zionist, an always hardworking and productive member of Hadassah, but somehow the years went by and it was not until old age that they finally packed up and made aliyah. My mother, a wonderful linguist who mastered English, spoke more than passable French and Spanish, and fluent Yiddish, remained in Kitah Aleph (first grade in the Ulpan) for the rest of her life. At last, she found a language she couldn’t learn. Chaval, as they say in Hebrew. Too bad.
Since she felt she was living in the most amazing nation on Earth, American politics did not consume her anymore. The princess had arrived in the palace where everyone loved each other and all was well. Candide must have stepped off the plane with her and told her that this land, this Israel, was the best of all possible places. And she would have believed it. Israeli politics and their leaders were simply perfect.
Today, much has changed and, from her underground bunker, next to my father in the Herzliya Cemetery, she might have wanted to get back to work creating a better world. She would have had us passing out fliers yet again, decrying the wrongs she saw, even in Israel. Which Israeli party would she have supported? I simply do not know.
She rests in peace. But, on wintry Saturday nights in Herzliya my sister continues Mom’s campaign, demonstrating and carrying an Israeli flag in opposition to the abuses of the government now in power. And an hour south, in the holy city of Jerusalem, Mom’s great-grandson, our Joshua, does the same.
Here’s hoping these contemporary campaigners for peace and righteousness will be more successful than was Mom.