All of our lives are random. And while we do make plans, those plans often do not come to fruition. We, ultimately, lead lives that are serendipitous. Things happen.
My mother dancing at her wedding to my father was a beautiful miracle. It was indeed serendipitous. Now they are both gone, lying together in the Herzliya Cemetery. Whatever remaining plans they had will not come to be.
In the narrative of life, we can be deleted in an instant and the world will go on. Without us.
There is, to start, a miracle and that is that we, each of us, have been born. Thousands of layers of love, birth, and living, and death of course, preceded each and every one of us. Quite remarkable that any of us is here. Whether your take is evolution or the Bible, ancient, long gone ancestors are responsible for your being alive today, here and now. And you and I will one day be those ancient ancestors ourselves. It’s the pattern of life which is inscrutable to even the most genealogical genius you know. We are, each, a miracle! The odds of any of us being born are infinitesimally tiny.
You may think the odds will change with new technologies like in vitro fertilization or designer babies. That’s your prerogative. But before you put in your order for a blue-eyed freckled musically talented little Jewess, remember that life offers no guarantees and it’s still more than scary to imagine the results of your mail-order baby.
My parents fell for each other. Most typically so did yours. I know. It doesn’t always happen that way. Just usually. Hopefully.
I think of how my mother met my father. Clearly, without that meeting there would be no me. Nor my sister! Nor our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and, we pray, the generations to follow. The spontaneous meeting of two people is what made me. And probably you. This is a story that you can tell. This is a story that you should tell. None of us know how the thousands of generations that precede us came to be. But we do know the basics of our own contemporary history. This we can pass on to our progeny. This is, of course, true with those who were adopted. Or those who were foundlings. Those are also stories. Let the stories begin.
Edna and Edith Litwak, sisters from Passaic, New Jersey, worked as chambermaids at the Bauman House Hotel in tiny Parksville, NY. The little hotel was owned by Peshka and Yitzchak Bauman. Their daughter, Ida, became my mother. All because those two sisters took a job at the modest little hotel.
In those days, when the world was recovering from the Great Depression, a summer job as a chambermaid was not a stigma. It provided housing, food and a social environment that was entirely Jewish. It also provided the two sisters with an opportunity to make a shidduch, a marriage. And this they did.
The hotel’s proprietors had a lovely, thin, pretty daughter named Ida who was a student at Brooklyn College. Edna, and Edith,not only the sister but the twin to the gentleman in question, thought their brother Sam ought to meet Ida.
The problem was that the Depression had laid waste to Sam’s plans to become a dentist. So, instead, he embarked on an adventure, working his way across the United States to California. With his eternal thanks to the Salvation Army which provided him with housing along the way (and whose “pushka” he never ignored), he was comfortably in California when his sisters suggested he write to Ida Bauman. This, he agreed to do, luckily for me, my sister, and our descendants!
They exchanged letters for three long years. And they fell in love. It was obvious that they would marry.
The lengthy courtship resulted in Sam, a very handsome and gentle man, working his way back east to meet Ida, his bashert.
The meeting did not disappoint. In February, 1936, they were married at the Gold Manor on Brooklyn’s Willoughby Avenue.
Just this week we took our granddaughter Maayan to see the now boarded up wedding venue. We gazed at the old building, imagining the sounds of the many joyous smachot that had been celebrated there. We pictured the many family members rejoicing. We did not know very many of them. If we listened carefully we might have heard the echoes of the foot-stomping pounding of the wedding music, Jewish wedding music, celebrating a miracle. These two had met! How unlikely was that! They were 3,000 miles apart in an era without the internet. Even telephone calls were expensive and often unavailable. Yet there they were under the chuppah at the Gold Manor. Their joyous faces shine at me today from the photo on my kitchen wall. Handsome and beautiful.
But what’s the point? The point is that each and every one of us is part of a series of stories. Some are beautiful and some are not. But we each have, not one, but thousands of these stories. They go back in time to Bereshit, or, if you like, Neanderthals. I cannot comprehend the enormous number of stories that preceded Ida meeting Sam. I ponder this all the time and then I know. I am, in fact, a miracle……and so are you!