May 6, 2012
Three Jewish Mothers
In speaking with both my mother, and the mother of my Englishman this weekend, I was struck by how similar these women are. Not only to each other, but to me. The three of us are all Jewish mothers, living in three different countries, but all with the same hopes and dreams for our children, no matter how old our children are. It was a revelation that made me happy, but also sad. I realized how much my mother misses me, and know that the day will come when I will miss my son in the same way.
I have spoken to my mother every single day for the entire 20 years I have lived in Los Angeles. I suppose I must have missed a day here or there, but some days we talk 4 or 5 times so it all balances out in the end. Knowing that I talk to her daily, she still ends every single conversation with the same question, “Will I talk to you tomorrow?” I have long thought it was charming that she says it. It comes from the place in her heart that misses me and will always see me as her baby. It’s sweet but melancholy.
This weekend my Englishman was talking to his mother in London. He has lived in Los Angeles for 31 years, and they speak every day. She ended their conversation today by asking him, “Will I talk to you tomorrow?” It was the sweetest thing and I found myself loving his mother and understanding her in the same way I understand my mom. We are all the same. We love our kids and feel the sadness that comes with them going off to live their own lives away from us.
I cannot bear to think about the day my son will go away to college and I will not see him everyday. I can hope and pray I will talk to him daily, but the truth is I will probably not talk to him every day and I must prepare for that. I won’t take is personally. By won’t of course I mean I will totally take it personally, throw some major Jewish guilt at him, and cry myself to sleep wondering why he does not love me enough to call. It’s silly I know, but I am a Jewish mother and there is nothing I can do about it.
My mother has spoken to the Englishman and she is happy for me. She thinks he is lovely and appreciated how he spoke of me to her. He has lived here for over 3 decades, yet my mother is now convinced we will fall in love, get married, and move to London. She has been waiting for me to move back to Canada for 20 years, and now worries my move out of LA will be to England, not Canada. When a child leaves the nest a mother begins her prayers for them to not only not go far, but come back one day.
When I spoke with the Englishman’s mother, she told me I make her son happy, and it makes her happy to hear him speak of me. She said, “A Jewish mother never gives up Ilana. You understand right?” He is in his 50’s but her wishes and prayers for him are the same as every other mother. She wants him to he happy, healthy, and loved by a good woman. God willing someone who loves her too so she will bring him home to see her. If the significant other of your child does not like you, it’s going to be hard.
We are Jewish mothers in both authentic and the stereotyped ways. We use guilt as a way to torment our children, insist on feeding everyone, think our kids are perfect, worry about things that are out of our control, and believe chicken soup can cure anything. We dream about being grandmothers from the day we give birth, and worry about who our kids will love. We pray they won’t move away, cry when they do, then pray they will move home when we know they never will. We are Jewish mothers.
I love my mother. I love my son. I love my Englishman, and I love his mother. I look forward to a day when we can all be in a room together. It will be a happy day, but also hilarious. I will be worried about my kid leaving, my mother will be worried about whether I am moving to England, and the Englishman’s mother will be worried about my making it impossible for him to ever move to England. Three Jewish mothers in one room, worrying about our kids in the same way, will be comedy gold.
My mother will read this blog and cry. She will tell me she loves me and suggest I move to Canada with the Englishman. The Englishman’s mother will read the blog and cry. She will then tell him we should move to London to be closer to her. My son will read it and tell me he will never move far from me, knowing that it is a lie just so I will not start crying. Being a mother is an honor. Being a Jewish mother is a privilege. Dating someone who loves my mother, and whose mother I love, is a blessing.
Being a mother is a lifetime job. You don’t stop being a mother when your kids grow up and go off to start their own lives. I think it becomes harder because they leave us with the memories of when they needed us and relied on us for everything. We work hard to raise decent human beings and are proud when they go, but wish they would need us for a little longer. I love the two women who raised my Englishman and me. Will my son’s girlfriend feel the same love for me? I am keeping the faith.