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American Guild of Judaic Art New Vision. New Website. New Year. This new “virtual” home for the Guild was created by dedicated  members from all over the country with different talents and skills, who worked diligently to make the site easy to use, informative and—most importantly—the best venue to display AGJA members’ art.  I stand...

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Neshama Interfaith Center Marian Monahan, a founder of the Neshama Interfaith Center, speaks in the voice of a prophet. She preached these words on Mother's Day at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, and has graciously allowed me to share them here: Those of you who know me are aware that I'm quite involved in the interfaith...

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Encountering Angels: Reading Genesis with my Children In this book, my children and I blend traditional Jewish learning and personal experience in our commentary on Genesis, making it unlike any other book written about the biblical text and rabbinic literature related to Genesis.  Like most books of biblical commentary written by rabbis, it examines the text through the...

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Pamela Jay Gottfried is a rabbi, parent, teacher, artist and author. An inveterate Scrabble player and New York Times Crossword Puzzle fanatic, she credits her love of words to her parents, who encouraged her to develop her vocabulary through reading and using the dictionary at an early age. Since her ordination from...

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All the Memories

4

I am blessed to have three children, and each of them was born to a different mother.

When my eldest was born, I was a young woman, married less than three years, unsure if I was cut out for motherhood. I learned that I was pregnant a third time, just six weeks after an early miscarriage, still unsure how my heart would expand to love another child.

In 1999, we moved with our two daughters to Atlanta, then the fourth fastest-growing city in the country and the only city in which we both had job offers. We knew we wanted more children, but it took a while to settle into our new home. By the time I was pregnant with my son, I was in my mid-thirties. I felt young, but the Obgyn’s designation of my “Advanced Maternal Age,” bouts of hormone induced insomnia and a mandatory meeting with a genetic counselor forced me to consider this child would be my last.

On Sunday, my thirteen year old will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah; he will lead the congregation in prayers and song, read from the Torah and share wisdom he has gleaned from it while studying with me.  Before he teaches the community, I’d like to tell him a few things I’ve learned from him:

Perhajonah and imaps the greatest lesson I learned from you is how time passes quickly as we grow older. Although you are my last-born, the child of my middle age, I’ve spent more one-on-one time with you than with your sisters. I was able to stay home with you for the first six months of your life and return to part-time work until you were three. This arrangement turned out to be good for me, for you and for my students, as well. Because you didn’t sleep through the night for fifteen months, and during your waking hours you were in constant motion—climbing, exploring, testing the boundaries—I learned to accomplish much while moving. I discovered I was a kinesthetic learner. You taught me to take risks as a teacher, to engage my students who were also kinesthetic learners in new ways.

I became an art student during your toddlerhood. At first, I took ceramics classes as an outlet for the anxiety I experienced daily: I had begun to feel disconnected from God, probably because I was so exhausted. I attained a true healing of mind and spirit in the hours of silence I spent at the potter’s wheel. Eleven years later, my yearning for creative expression is fulfilled. You taught me I was not too old to try new things.

As you approached adolescence, you brought music into my life. I mean this quite literally. Every morning you would set your iPod to play an appropriate song for our drive to school. You introduced me to Phillip Phillips, whose song “Gone Gone Gone” was a soundtrack of a sad time in our lives, when we said goodbye to our first dog, Jenna. Recently, you downloaded newer songs, including “Raging Fire.” While we were in traffic and I drummed the steering wheel, you suggested that I watch the video.

Listening to the lyrics carefully as I watched, I understood the artist intended this to be a song about romantic love. Still, I hear in the second verse a declaration of a mother’s love for her son, a reminder to cherish the gifts you have given me  and a prayer for this joyous time in our lives.

You know time will give and time will take,

All the memories made will wash away,

Even though we’ve changed, I’m still here with you.

If you listen close, you’ll hear the sound

Of all the ghosts that bring us down,

Hold on to what makes you feel,

Don’t let go, it’s what makes you real.

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Driving Lessons

6

No, I haven’t taken up golf. I am learning to drive a car, again. My instructor is my 17 year old daughter.

After more than 3 decades of experience behind the wheel, I’ve acquired some bad habits. I’m not proud to admit this, but I realize that I must force myself to confront an unpleasant truth: I need to be a better role model for my teen driver. I need to unlearn these habits if I am to be a more credible teacher.

Sitting in the passenger seat, I admire her total focus and thorough grasp of the rules of the road. “Perfect. I can see the tires touching the road,” she says, as she comes to a smooth stop, leaving plenty of distance between us and the car ahead of us.  While quick to grumble about drivers riding “in my trunk,” I know I’m also following too closely in busy Metro Atlanta traffic.

traffic

We are on our way to the pediatrician’s office. Her younger brother is in the back seat, because the law requires an experienced driver supervise her driving until she clocks enough hours of practice to convert her learner’s permit to an actual license. If she waits until her 18th birthday, she can get an unrestricted license. She is patient, in a way I was not at her age.

After her examination, the nurse hands me a thick packet along with a copy of her immunization records. The packet contains helpful information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, including “A Message to Parents of Teen Drivers.”

The following are ways you can help keep teens safe on the road:

Be a role model. If you expect your teen to drive safely, you need to drive safely, too.

— Always wear your seat belt. (Okay, I’m 100% compliant with this rule.)

—Don’t drink and drive. Never allow any alcohol or illegal drugs in the car. (100% compliant, of course!)

—Don’t eat (guilty), drink (guilty), talk on your cell phone (hands-free only, but still guilty), or do anything else that could distract you from driving. (changing the radio station, fast-forwarding the podcast: guilty and guilty.)

I wonder if the American Academy of Pediatrics installed a surveillance camera in my car when researching and preparing this message. If so, did it capture the moment when she asked if we could listen to music and I balked, claiming the radio is an unnecessary distraction?

I smile, remembering her reply. She said, without rancor, “Ima, I’m a less-distracted driver than you are.”

The next time she asks, I turn on the radio. I try not to let it distract me during the remainder of my driving lesson.

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6

 

Grandma’s Wisdom Redux

“If it was a funeral, you’d go.”

Last week I shared this plain-spoken wisdom of my Grandma Minnie, who always encouraged us to make the effort to attend celebrations. I wrote about how I’d been to many funerals and houses of mourning lately, but I didn’t reveal the other reason I’ve been remembering this life lesson I learned from my grandma.

A long-time friend from college and his partner of 25 years will be celebrating their anniversary in June. I was beyond honored to be invited to serve as an officiant at what they’ve cleverly dubbed a “wedniversary.” While marking 25 years of love, commitment and devotion to one another, they are also going to make it legal, which same-sex marriage is in their home state.

love cant wait cover pic

There were a few logistical hurdles to my attendance, all easily surmounted thanks to Grandma Minnie. Last week, I booked my flights. This week, I learned that our entire circle of close-knit friends from college will be there to celebrate together, some with spouses and children.

Grandma Minnie died a few months before my spouse and I were married, shortly after our engagement party and tenaim ceremony, nearly 24 years ago. She probably never imagined her wisdom about being present at happy occasions would continue to guide me for the rest of my life. She probably never imagined my application of her life-lesson to a wedniversary.

I think she would agree: Love can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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