The soldiers walking in front of me smelled like West Point. It’s hard to explain the smell except to say, when I was in high school we would spend weekends dating cadets – and all of them smelled the same way. There are those times when a smell or a color or just a sound can take me back to a time or an event in the past. I guess that’s what’s meant by déjà vu – the feeling that you’ve been there before?
There has been so much déjà vu this week. Perhaps it’s because my mom’s death is so much like the end of an era, or maybe its because after all our years together there was hardly an event at which she (and all my aunts) didn’t have some presence – even if it was just in my head. Often it was in person and someday I’ll tell you about Rose and her friend Cynthia, at the Democratic Convention.
Today, I spoke to Aunt Peppy two times. The first was because I called her to say hello and how are you. The second was when she called me, before she ended her “Shiva” (time in mourning). She wanted to remind me that at the end of the Shiva period, the mourners get up, go outside, and walk around a bit. That signifies that you are getting on with your life –without the person who passed on. And so, I read Kaddish, (memorial prayer for the dead), and walked to work, hoping I would feel better. Or at least feel something.
And I did feel sad and lonely, but it didn’t have the kind of depth I expected. I am not going to whine about what I feel or don’t feel or what I have and don’t have. My memories of my parents are vivid in my mind. My memories of my mother, although not without some drama, are mostly hysterical. She was a role model for being a “character.” For not giving in to the traditional. And for taking the road less traveled. My life, both personal and professional, has been much the same. And to some degree, so have my children’s lives – because of her.
What I do have, that almost no one who has lost their parent has, is her legacy. Not money, we had none. And not things (her taste was never my taste), but “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles.” I have her at her best in a documentary. I have her voice in the “Chronicles” companion cookbook, and I have all of her siblings’ spirit in a developing musical theater show. She and my Aunts and Uncles have had quite an impact on families (not only Jewish), throughout the United States and Canada. If I want to visit with the essence of all of them, I can turn on TV, slip in a DVD, laugh and cry and remember.
Many people have asked if there was a way they could make a donation in her name. If there were a disease or religious organization that she championed. Not really. But it was very important to her that the “Gefilte Fish Chronicles” remain a part of the national conversation –so she and all the aunts and uncles could be the role model for family and celebration. So I guess if you want to contribute to something that gave or would give her, and her still very much alive twin Peppy, write a check to “The Gefilte Fish Chronicles.” It will help us to keep spreading the word, and to keep the flame of family (ours and everyone else’s) alive. And like her Kaddish candle, still burning. We're just sayin'....Iris
Peppy speaks about the Chronicles