HOW FINALLY I UNDERSTAND MY MOTHER

96-Me-Young-HPCR-1I don’t remember how many times my mother told me this story and I have, in another context, told it to you too.

My mother, like many young women of her generation, had wanted to attend high school. And college. But the family was poor and there were many mouths to feed. In the end, she had to quit school after seventh grade to take a job. She worked as bookkeeper, a respectable profession. At 14, my mother was respectable. Also naïve and innocent.

The first place she worked was a music publishing house on the Lower East Side where she had grown up. She was there for seven or eight years and finally decided to seek a better paid job.

Immigrant children had trouble breaking into the workforce. And of course, my mother had the additional burden of being female at a time when women were not considered equal. There was no “political correctness” to protect them.

My mother was blond and green-eyed. At 5 foot 7 inches, she was tall for her generation. Her English was better than most of the family since she had been born “on this side” of the Atlantic and had all her schooling in New York.

She was ushered into a room to be interviewed for the job she wanted. A few questions were asked. A form was handed to her and she filled it out. When she came to the box that asked her religion, she wrote Jewish. The interviewer looked at the application, said: “Jewish, eh?”

He tore the application to pieces and threw it in the trash in front of my mother. She said that from that day forward, she wrote Protestant because no one would ever do that to her again.

I’ve told this story before, but I needed to retell it. Because I finally made a leap of understanding between this anecdote and connected it to a part of my mother I never quite “got.”


My mother wanted me to get a nose job. When I turned 16, she wanted me to have plastic surgery to “fix” my nose.

“It’s not broken,” I pointed out.

“But don’t you want it to look ‘normal’?” she asked.

“It’s looks fine to me,” I said. I was puzzled. My sister, by the way, took her up on the offer. I continued to say “no thanks” and my nose is still the original model with which I was born.

Following the last time I retold this story, I realized my mother wasn’t hinting I wasn’t pretty or suggesting my nose was hideous. She was asking me if I wouldn’t prefer to “fit in” with the rest of society, if I wanted to not look so Jewish. Remarkably, this thought had never crossed my mind. Until a few weeks ago.Mom1973Paint

I always knew many children of Holocaust victims refused to circumcise their sons because that’s how the Nazis identified little Jewish boys. I knew non-white mothers frequently sent their lightest skinned children north at young ages hoping they could “pass” for white. But never, until a few weeks ago, did it occur to me that my mother was trying to help me “pass” for non-Jewish.

I’ve heard stories from a lot of people who use racial discrimination as an excuse for all their failures. They see racists behind every rock, anti-Semites behind every smile. There are plenty of racists and bigots no matter where you go, but I’ve sailed through life ignoring it. I was always “just me.”

I never considered the possibility I was turned down for a job because I was, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “too Jewish.” I always assumed it was me. I failed to measure up. My personality was too brash. My skills were insufficient.

I told Garry about my revelation. It was quite an epiphany, especially at my advanced age, and I needed to share. It left me wondering how much I’d missed.

I told him I’d finally realized my mother’s persistent suggestion I “get my nose fixed” was an attempt on her part to help me fit in, to not look so obviously Jewish. I had never considered that anyone might not like me for other than personal reasons. I said I thought perhaps I’d been a little slow on the uptake on this one.

Garry said “And when did you finally realize this?”

“Yesterday,” I said.

“Yesterday?” he repeated. If Garry looked dumbfounded.

“Yesterday,” I assured him.

He was quiet and thoughtful. “Well,” he said. “You’re 67? That is slow. You really didn’t know?”

I shook my head. I really didn’t know. Apparently everyone else got it. Except me.


 

Second-Hand Stories – Daily Prompt

WHY I FOLLOW THE DAILY PROMPT

I’ve been asked why I bother to write stuff based on WordPress’s daily prompt, especially since the quality of the prompts has been more than a bit lackluster in recent months and I’ve needed considerable self-restraint not to snarl, growl, or try to (virtually) bite the editor.

But I do them anyway and finally, I figured out why.

I am an incorrigibly anal-retentive writer/editor. If I give free rein to my natural inclinations, I will edit everything to death. Nothing will be good enough. I will write every sentence over and over until it’s as near perfect as I can make it. What it will not be is spontaneous.

Some of my best prose is written quickly, barely edited at all. Which means that after publication, I spend the following 12 hours finding and fixing typos — a different conversation.

But what the prompts do for me is give me leave to write quickly, off the cuff about a wide range of subjects that I would never otherwise choose. I post them immediately and don’t let myself get into a never-ending round of edits. Sometimes I get a bit fancy with illustrations, but I keep the writing simple and tight. Rarely does a response to a prompt exceed 500 words. Most are fewer than 350 words.

72-Peacham-Sunday_092

It’s hard for me to be spontaneous. About anything. I’m not sure if I was ever a free spirit, even as a kid. I’ve always lived in my head. Never been a party person. Never a “just do it” kind of gal. My two creative outlets, writing and photography, are the only areas where I can break free of my self-made restraints.

So I follow prompts. Occasionally, I use a prompt to publish something I was planning to post anyhow. The prompt, in those cases, provides a link so a few extra people might to read it.

I wish the daily prompts were more original, less repetitive. A “free write” exercise is not a prompt at all. It is the stuff of school assignments. Otherwise, WordPress prompts, even if they are obviously constructed using little effort and less thought, offer me an opportunity to write about something I would not ordinarily consider. Some of my best stuff has been in response to silly prompts. Some of my worst, too.

And that’s why I follow the prompts. (Phew. Finally answered that question. Took me long enough!)

THIS WORLD SHOULD END

The Path to a New Beginning, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Ask anyone what is wrong with the world, and you will certainly get an opinion, or many of them.  We can all point to things that are wrong with politics, education, religion or whatever it is that crosses your mind, but we don’t all agree on what those things are.  We are polarized to the max, whatever that means, and we can not reach consensus.  Worse, influential people will try to make sure the majority does not rule.

With an eye toward the concept that this world should end, the one that is full of prejudices and deceit, is a video that presents our problems in detail.  That You Tube video has gone viral.  A rap artist and rights activist who calls himself Prince EA has put out a video that quickly hit a million views and is reposted and shared everywhere.  It needs reposting again.

Richard Williams, a 26-year-old advocate for change, has taken a stage name, Prince EA.  It is not unusual for a rap artist to take a stage name, but this one has significant meaning.  For Williams it means Prince of the Earth, for it is the earth he is most concerned with.  The earth, and all of its problems, needs a mighty voice and that is what Williams aims to provide in a well produced video.  He wastes no time in coming to the point.  The video opens strongly:

The world is coming to an end
The air is polluted, the oceans contaminated
The animals are going extinct, the economy’s collapsed
Education is shot, police are corrupt
Intelligence is shunned and ignorance rewarded

The people are depressed and angry
We can’t live with each other and…

He will tell you we can’t live with ourselves. We can’t really communicate with others.  Do we not live in a world of “robotic communication?”  I see it all the time.  There are people too busy with facebook, twitter, tumbler, You Tube or whatever to have real communication.  So perhaps it is somewhat ironic that Williams’ message has gone viral on You Tube.

Presidents lie, politicians trick us
Race is still an issue and so is religion
Your God doesn’t exist, my God does and he is All-Loving
If you disagree with me I’ll kill you
Or even worse argue you to death

When we argue people to death, how often do we do it anonymously, via facebook or Twitter.  How willing are we to really face these problems and seek solutions?  The world we see is one Williams thinks should end.  Do you agree?

Our role models today
60 years ago would have been examples of what not to be
There are states where people can legally be discriminated against
Because they were born a certain way

There are indeed role models today who in past generations would not have been allowed to be seen by youth as a standard to achieve, if they were allowed to be seen at all.  And while we permit this type of role model, we see others that certain parts of society would like to suppress, because of skin color, sexual orientation or religion.  How can we popularize sex and violence while discriminating against love and religion?

So what can we do in the face of all of this madness and chaos?
What is the solution?

Prince EA asks the question and he is not afraid to follow with the answer.  It is a simple answer of course.  It is the answer we have known all throughout time, but rarely seem to apply.  “We can love
Not the love you hear in your favorite song on the radio
I mean real love, true love, boundless love
You can love, love each other”

This is why the world should end.  It needs a fresh start with love.  It is the love we must all provide.  Where do we start to write a new history? Where is that new beginning?  Where is that message that we need to go viral?

“Why I think the World Should End,” by Prince EA, Cinematography and Editing by Brandon Sloan