BEYOND ROZ AND LAURETTE
I have had, to put it most discretely, a rather extended life, and will be celebrating my ninetieth birthday in a week or so; but---please no presents!-- this is far from a triumphal event, but still a most positive one--- since most of my major health systems, both internal and visible, seem to be smoothly cooperating and not ostensibly complaining. Roz and myself had been married for almost 50 years and Laurette, and I with my second wife, had almost 20 years of connubial bliss before her most recent and much lamented death. Indeed all the years with both lovely women seem like almost magical years of accomplishment and joy. And the few “single years” between, as in this period now, seem rather dreary and lackluster. Indeed, I seem to remember feeling quite “out of sorts”, lonely and disaffected, with several interim periods of too long extent, before an event that mutually engaged the joint interest of myself and the new partner I was then dating. Polite but mostly inconsequential drivel----!
But most of the time I was really engaged, most successfully, in the most consequential business of all, the successful trials and tribulations of raising the next generation of our progeny in an era when, in post World War II, we gradually became the most respected --and even feared— sole remaining world super power. But then we had great trouble with the domestic “liberation” of our nascent children, now also demanding freedom from their callous, indifferent parents. Indeed not talking to any adult over the age of thirty!
Two stories seem to be prototypical. An urban group of young male adult parents are enjoying the relaxation of the week end Turkish Steam bath, with their accompanying moans and groans, expressing their mixed joy at the extreme heat of the schvitz, and also, at times , its increasing discomfort. The leader exhorts them most positively. “Fellows, I thought we weren’t going to the talk about the children!!” Also the typical hypochondriac joke. On his tombstone is writ large the saying SO NOW YOU BELIEVE ME?!
Written very large is the epitaph of every devoted Jewish woman, in spirit and deed, as the hymn to the worthy and loving concept of growth of the family----Ayshus Chaya---the valiant wife. This hymn is sung, at the end of the traditional liturgy orthodox service and has always seemed like quiet, but strong affirmation of the wife and mother in the family. In this somewhat still somewhat turbulent era it still stands up to the more extreme aspects of modern feminism, but still celebrates the crucial mother as the core of our faith. Almost from time immemorial. There are 23 short sentences that celebrate her devotion and achievement in the families survival and growth. I shall state only several of the these concepts, each really profound and stirring, and worth a chapter or more. As they do indeed receive in the Talmud, in what we should perhaps call “post graduate Judaism”
An accomplished woman, who can find her? Her value is beyond pearls.
She does him good and no evil all the days of his life’
She arises while it is still night, and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidservants.
She plans for a field, and buys it. With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins in strength, and makes her arms strong.
She extends her hands for the poor, and reaches out her hand to the needy.
She fears not for her household because of snow, because her whole household is warmly dressed.
Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.
She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Many women have done worthily, but you surpass them all.
Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Both of my wives were “women of valor”, tinged or perhaps “compromised” by some seductive Reform or Reconstructionists’ tenets, but still quite dismayed when “ advanced modernity” was starting to make the persistent inroads of the almost overwhelming thrusts of assimilation. In this third generation of American family maturation we senior Jewish citizens are still waiting with dubious feelings about shared Yule tide decorations and a camouflaged “Chanukah” bush with toys and decorative, alluring gifts. While the rate of growth of many immigrants to the United States has accelerated, the Jewish segment has remained somewhat static, resulting in net loss in over all growth rate. Now somewhat less than 5% of the population.
Most Jewish families are stressing not quantity but quality in their family history. More delay until the family unit has reached a higher financial potential. Evidently married couples want the security of higher education and its economic benefits before putting college into the time honored “investment” of more children. Assimilation is now the almost relentless enemy. Throughout its almost four thousand year history, however, the so called “wandering Jew” of history has had no greater haven and homeland than in this country. In the total of about 15 million Jews world wide we can still retain and celebrate our unique and most important contribution to humanity. That is, having and nurturing the unity of strong family life with loving and enduring parents. And especially having such almost peerless and perfect Jewish women as Roz and Laurette to help lead the way!
troublesome but still very world historyflourishing progeny, in the this most successful but still very challenging era in