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Remembering and Resembling your Parents
By Wendy Reichental
Every day I seem to notice more and more ways that I have turned into my parents. It’s quite extraordinary really since I spent most of my 48 years denying that I was anything like them. My parents were both holocaust survivors and came to Canada from Poland in 1953. Getting acquainted with a new country and language was a challenge to say the least for them but they truly excelled in this field and established a life and a loving home for me and my sister. Growing up I was not rebellious but rather quite mindful of what my parents went through, and felt instead a need to always protect them. I've found myself unbelievably nostalgic lately, partly because my mother just recently passed away and also because it's been an astonishing 10 years since my father’s death. I am finding solace in the memories but I think more than that I am finding comfort in the fact that I have definitely inherited some of their many quirks.
I know people say that a loved one never really dies they live on in your heart and for me I believe this to be true, but as well, they live on in the mannerisms that we might unbeknownst to us start to mimic. Allow me to explain, I've been sighing a lot lately, as anyone who has lost a loved one might be caught doing, I have good days and bad days, and on the more difficult days, I sigh a lot, but apparently, not just sighing but mumbling "oh G_d" quietly. All of a sudden I'm struck with a memory of my father walking around the house and all of a sudden I would hear him blurt out “Oybershter in himmel” translated from Yiddish as “G_d in heaven,” Back then I had no idea what this meant or why he was doing it. I saw it as some strange custom that must be unique to being Jewish and old. Today, I resonate with both.
And lately, I seem to be reproducing things my mother used to do or say, and I’m totally unaware that I’m even doing it. You know how people say that over the years we start to resemble our pets, or our spouses? Well you can definitely add that over time grown daughters whether they like it or not transform into their... mothers! I didn't want to believe it either. For years my husband would mention that I'm doing things like my mother, he would give reference to silly things, like my insistence on forcing family and friends to have seconds on food or in general being too overly hovering, analytical and sensitive. Then of course there were my obsessive shopping habits, which I shared with my mother, and in particular our mutual adoration of purses, shoes, clothes, cosmetics, and all things related to the TV show The Bachelor or Bachelorette. Was he right? Was I becoming my mother? I staunchly denied it!
But then one night I have to concede that I owed my husband an apology. It started innocently enough with laundry. I emptied the laundry into the machine closed the lid, and returned to watching TV feeling proud that I was capable of multitasking. After the laundry stopped, I opened the lid and to my horror discovered tiny Kleenex tissue pieces all over every inch of wet clothes and then saw the culprit...my dark navy top with one sleeve still rolled into a cuff and in it what was left of my Kleenex. You see that top didn't have a pocket, and I grew up watching my mother roll a Kleenex up her arm when a pocket wasn’t available, some how instinctively I must have done the same. And in that instant I realized there’s no denying it, “ot azaih” meaning that’s how, just like that I have morphed into my mother! So my husband was right all along. Today, I could think of no better way to honour my parents than by keeping their foibles and other “narrishkeits” alive and well and shining through me.
from the February 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
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