Francine M. Gordon
Francine M. Gordon

Of Mom, Memories and Jamoca Almond Fudge

Today marks 15 years since Mom died in her bedroom in our Moreland Hills home, surrounded by her children and her grandchildren in the most loving farewell one could hope for. On that Friday afternoon in mid-December, only 9 months after Dad died, I was left to walk this earth without my parents by my side. Those who have lost their parents may be familiar with that feeling of existential loneliness. Navigating the emotional terrain of life, especially loss, is the essence of faith traditions. No matter the narrative that frames one’s morality, there is much wisdom to help us cultivate a life filled with loving, trusting and meaningful relationships. Those relationships sustain us as we say goodbye to our ancestors and hopefully do the joyous work of raising the next generation.

I am who I am because Mom raised us in Akron, Ohio with a New York City sensibility. I am who I am because Mom taught us to connect with the Jewish People and the Divine through song, even though she could not carry a tune. I am who I am because Mom taught me that when you have the capacity, you take on responsibility and you lead the way. I am who I am because Mom lived a life embedded in the core values of truth, justice and kindness, no matter how difficult it was to be honest, just or kind.

Mom was a woman of her time who met her obligations with humor. My fierce commitment to live a life of integrity, passion and grace is the blessing I try to bring to the world in her memory. Her ability to find the good in any situation is what led me to nickname her “Polly Positive.” When I make lemonade out of the bitter situations that arise throughout life, I am following Mom’s eternal advice. When I find myself asking whether a certain person or activity is a cog in my joy machine, I see how I am influenced by her life experiences. After 15 years of her absence, I’ve accepted the hard fact that I am an adult orphan. Yet, how I wish she could have been a great-grandmother because as my children remember, she was truly a great grandmother! If only we could hear her voice, just one more time, encouraging us by saying something simple but true in her accent that marked her as a daughter of the Bronx.

Instead, I have to believe that Mom is Up Above, watching her 4 great-grandchildren thrive in this Covid era, relishing the accomplishments of her grandchildren and wondering what lies ahead for her only daughter. I also believe that Mom, and Gram for that matter, are in the front row Up There when I am using my voice to connect with the Jewish People and the Divine, whether with the Zamir Chorale, Shirei Chesed or with my community in the magnificent sacred space which is the sanctuary of Ansche Chesed, a mere 8 blocks from my 8th floor apartment on 108th Street.

If I could speak to Mom, I would tell her how happy I am to have returned to her beloved New York City, to my new home here in the Manchester, to my synagogue community, to my two Jewish choirs. Being able to go to a Broadway show on a whim, to make a simple errand an adventure by a subway ride, to marvel at the skyscapes from sunrise to sunset from my 8th floor perch, make me happy. My involvement with the UJA-Federation of New York has allowed me to find a place in the organized Jewish world that shares my passion for building a just and fair Israel that reflects the diversity of Jewish life in the 21st century.

I know that would lead me to share the memories of the trip Mom and Dad took to visit us in our Jerusalem home in the tense summer of 2001. We will never forget being at the opening ceremonies of the Maccabi Games in Teddy Stadium. Then, I would smile as I shared the news that her grandson David has just started a new job working for the JCCA in the Maccabi Game division – in other words, David is working in the JCC world doing sports programming. Yes Mom, it is true, the apple doesn’t fall very from the tree.

Finally, those who remember Mom, Arlene Lenore Gordon, z”l, know that she loved ice cream. We all have memories of Mom eating coffee ice cream, scooping coffee ice cream, pouring hot fudge over coffee ice cream. At our local Baskin & Robbins in Akron, her favorite flavor was Jamoca Almond Fudge. So, there is something very sweet and comforting that in the spot where the Manchester Diner once provided me spinach pies and fried fish sandwiches, there is now a brand-new Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins. While I prefer Starbucks coffee and know that there are far better ice cream brands out there, that I can literally nourish myself by enjoying Mom’s favorite ice cream is a source of comfort in these challenging final days of 2021. And who can feel lonely when eating a scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge?

About the Author
Francine M. Gordon is an artist/activist who maintains homes in New York and Cleveland. From November 2010 through November 2016, through The Sacred Rights, Sacred Song Project, she produced over 10 Concerts of Concern in the US and Israel. Since establishing her New York residence, Ms. Gordon has become a member of the New York Federation’s Israeli Judaism committee which focuses on exactly the same issues as SRSS. In addition, she has become a proud member of the Zamir Chorale which allows her to express her Zionism through song.
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