Oh, how I miss the women in my family. The men, too, of course, but today I’ve been thinking about the amazing group of matriarchs that are no longer with us—from my great-grandmother, Alta Toba, to my many great-aunts and cousins who were such an important part of my life growing up. I especially miss my grandmother, Anita Karoll, and my mom, Judy Miller, whose energy I always feel around Charlie and who I wish more than anything were here to guide him, kvell over him, worry about him, pinch his fat cheeks, and basically eat him alive as I know they would be doing. Charlie is so lucky to have his wonderful grandmothers, Betsy Hailey and Marilyn Roberts, his loving aunts, and many other dynamic women in his life, but during these difficult months I have often thought about the large number of inspiring women on both sides of his family tree who I know are there with him (and certainly with Oliver) on so many levels.
I have strong women on the brain today partly because during a break from the hospital I went to see the Aviva Kempner documentary, “Yoo-hoo, Mrs. Goldberg,” that just opened in Los Angeles. Kempner also directed the superb documentaries, "The Partisans of Vilna" and "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg." This film is about TV pioneer Gertrude Berg, a woman who was a huge success back in the day but who is sadly almost forgotten today. Berg basically invented the sitcom but is given scant attention for the dynamo she was in the entertainment industry including the fact that she single-handedly wrote over 1200 scripts for her quintessential Jewish mama persona. I included a preview of this film last year in a post I wrote 35,000 feet off the ground as I was approaching New York City. I so love the character of Molly Goldberg, especially because she reminds me of so many of my relatives.
When I got back to the hospital I felt that Charlie and I were surrounded by these vivacious, dynamic, often challenging but always interesting women. I will tell Charlie about all of them as time goes by as I know Kendall will share stories of her beloved ancestors. I ache as I remember these one-of-a-kind women, but I also laugh as I think of their humor, wit, intelligence, courage, chutzpah, and neuroses. I’m not saying they were perfect and I’m sure some of their child-rearing philosophies would curl your hair but they were an amazing group of women who will always live on in my heart. There is a Yiddish expression (oops, it's Hebrew, I should have known that—see correction below—I got confused because of my video soundtrack featuring the Barry Sisters singing in Yiddish) “eishes chayil” that means a woman of valor, sort of like the female version of a “mensch” and that describes the women in my family perfectly.
I’m sitting just outside the NICU right now and about to go back in for another late-night feeding. Charlie had a great day today and is happily taking every other feeding by mouth. He is up to 5 lbs. 12 oz. and if my dearly departed relatives could see him they would grab his fat little thighs and shout “kinehora!” Below is Charlie’s homage to the “eishes chayil” on my side of his family tree. Here are some of the women, those long gone and those still with us, who will always be part of his life.