We Look Alike, We Talk Alike
When I was younger, I remember visiting a friend with a new baby. I must have obsessed about the baby crying, worrying and wondering and questioning how the friend could let her cry so. I don’t remember the sequence of events, but all of a sudden, the friend turned on me and, in an attempt to hurt me, told me I was just like my mother.
Back then, without the experience of my own babies (who sometimes cried uncontrollably) or the closeness that grew between me and my mom (when those babies were born), I was terribly insulted. I am nothing like my mother! I wanted to scream.
With time, I’ve realized that the appropriate response to that old-but-not-forgotten insult should have been, “Thank you for the compliment.”
Most of us experience it one way or another: a difficult yet loving relationship with our parents. I know there are people who do not talk to their parents—and do not want to. In my life, I’ve been blessed with closeness to my family, though I do admit there were times—years in fact—when we were at loggerheads.
We may look like them, have similar mannerisms, voices, or stances. We may lead our lives in harmony or, more likely, chart our own path to be their opposite. We learn that our parents are fallible and despite the difficulty, we have the power to forgive them for their real and supposed offenses. We realize that the traits that make us unique are often inherited. We also learn that we must accept those traits so that we can ultimately accept not only our parents but ourselves.
When I took care of my mom for two weeks while my dad was away, we spent such intense time together that I could anticipate Mom’s mood or the song she wanted to sing. When I helped her fall asleep, lying next to her on my dad’s bed, I noticed we would curl up like two identical book ends. I lay there in the quiet of their room wondering in what other ways we were similar.
My mom has always been sweet, helpful, and giving. She continues to be outgoing and friendly despite the Alzheimer’s. She loves social interaction. She stops on the streets to chat with old friends (who recognize her—Mom can't remember most people she meets) or even women in brightly colored dresses. She coos loudly over cute babies and bends to pet small dogs.
I guess I’m like that, too. I find it important to make eye contact with people who are walking by, as if acknowledging them augments my own place in the world. When my 17-year-old and I were out walking recently, he asked me why most people don’t say hello to each other. I suggested that we sometimes suspect the worst in people, that we’re too busy to stop and talk, that saying hello to strangers is not in our genetic make-up. He countered with the idea that the world would be a much more charming place if we did take the time to connect with others. Ah, I thought, we’ve both inherited this from my mom and perhaps her father before her, this desire to reach out and project our happiness.
Mom’s essence seems to have become more concentrated the simpler she becomes. Even during the jagged anger she displays, I know that her sweet nature is there waiting to reemerge. When I took her for a haircut today, she angrily refused to have her hair washed because putting her head backwards into the sink might hurt her neck. I really wanted the hairdresser to wash Mom’s hair, but it just wasn’t going to happen. We figured out a way around it, and when the hairdresser had finished, Mom was all smiles.
When we are together, I play to the happy soul I know she possesses. Her laughter, her joie de vivre, her sweet voice are what keep me coming back for more.
It’s not Rosh Hashanah without beets. They are as ubiquitous as apples dipped in honey and one of the symbolic foods we eat to usher in the New Year. The custom relates to a tractate in the Gemara. In Hebrew, beets are called selek. When we ask God to “remove our adversaries,” we are saying, “sheyistalku sonaynu,” a clear play on the words selek and yistalek.
Moroccan Beet Salad
Having never made beet salad before, I was imagining a long, drawn-out process, but it was easier than I expected. And perhaps I don’t hate beets as much as I thought I did.
4-5 medium-sized (or 2 large) beets, quartered
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped
Wash beets well. Cut top and bottom off the beet, then quarter and place in small pan. Do not peel. Cover beets with water and boil for one hour and fifteen minutes until beets are soft. When they are cool, peel and slice into strips. Mix oil, sugar and spices together then pour over beets. Stir in parsley. Serve cold.
Owing to the upcoming holidays, I'll be on break for the next few weeks. Here's wishing you a sweet new year. May you be inscribed in the book of life.