I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Circle of Life

Today was a day of meditation as we celebrated the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. I inevitably think about my family members who have passed on and about my children and grandchildren who are completing the circle of life in our family.

I grew up in a close family, we lived in a two flat with my grandparents upstairs. As a little girl I sat on my grandmother's bed and listened to her stories about life in czarist Russia. I was fascinated, many of these memories are embedded in my memory as if they were yesterday. She was an independent woman for those days. She refused the arranged marriage her father set up and married my grandfather who she met in a bookstore. It was unusual that girls could read in those days. I think I have her independent streak.

My mother was crippled from polio that she contracted as a 2 year old. She had an amazing spirit and was very generous in nature. She always thought she could overcome anything. In her day, men didn't marry crippled women, and my grandfather arranged a marriage for her at the age of 29. She was happy that she had two daughters and a husband. My parents life was a struggle as they eked out a living in a corner grocery store. I know now that we were poor but I never felt poor. I had the joy of family, my sister, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. It was a wonderful childhood with a lot of love to go around.

I met my husband in college. He was a divorced Catholic and seven years older than I was. I grew up in a conservative congregation. I only knew him 3 months when we went to a justice of the peace and got married. He was from a blue collar family that was also close. Even though he grew up in a different tradition, he was agreeable to being married by a rabbi. In those days, reform rabbis would perform interfaith weddings. So in the presence of our parents and siblings, we were married in the rabbi's study. My mother had a small reception in our crowded apartment. I was happy that my family accepted my new husband. I think the rabbi knew it was a good match. He welcomed my husband and we became members of that congregation. After 19 years of marriage, my husband announced to me that he had decided to convert. He had for all purposes been practicing Judaism for many years anyway. It's not your label that makes you the person you are but the way you live your life. I always knew he was a decent man and I still think so after 48 years of marriage.

We had three sons and many trials along the road. Whatever I wanted to do, my husband encouraged me. He worked in a steel mill and we saved enough to go into business after 12 years of marriage. I had been the editor of my college newspaper and I loved being the boss. I opened an ice cream store with a 4 year old staying in the back room. I was 31. My husband worked all day at the mill, then went home, changed and came to the store so I could spend the evening with the kids. The boys learned to cook at a young age, I think it was called self-preservation...they didn't want to starve to death. When they were 12, I let them come to work in my store. After the youngest went to school, I bought a second store. Our family worked hard. The boys learned a great work ethic. We stayed in that business for 25 years in all. But after 12 years I was getting bored and went back to school to study photography. My husband supported my efforts once again. By this time he was working full time with me so I had the freedom to take classes.

When our sons went off to the military and to college, it was a lot harder to take care of all of our commitments. We saw them begin their own lives and families. We now have 7 grandchildren. Our sons are professional men. One is an accountant and two are engineers. This year our oldest granddaughter started college. She had already spent her junior year in high school in Taiwan as an exchange student. She is studying Chinese and International business. To use a Yiddish expression, I am qvelling. This means: "Kvell" To chortle with pride and glow with pleasure (usually over the achievement of your child or grandchild).

So I finally know that my place is now among the older generation. I am happy in my heart that I have found my way in life. My grandparents embodied an amazing spirit to emigrate to a new life in the United States, they worked hard and took great pleasure in their family. My feelings surely reflect their joy in the family they were responsible for creating. My grandma used to say "the more you give, the more you get" This has been my mantra in life. Even though I think I will live another 25 years, I still reflect on the past as well as the promise of the future. It is exciting and I still want to make a difference in this world. I hope I instill this energy in my children and grandchildren as they pursue their lives.