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Pat, My mom, My Sisters Deb and Kayla
In today's "New York Times", Bruce Feiler wrote an essay that inspired me to tell the four people with whom I am closest in the world -- my wife, my mom and my two older siblings -- what I appreciate about them. He talked of Dr. Shelly Kagan's point to tell our loved ones what they mean to us sooner, rather than later.
Feiler also quoted film critic Roger Ebert, who reminded us that we shouldn't try to compare ourselves to similar scenes in the movies, since, "...those scenes are well-written, directed, and performed by professionals." In that spirit, I'll try to be fearless or at least less self-conscious in creating and posting these lists:
Pat, you are:
- The funniest person I know, and without being cruelly so
- Inclined toward doing g'milut chasadim (acts of loving kindness), for example, suggesting that we use our prayers that we were posting in the Western Wall in behalf of the sick granddaughter of a couple in our Israel tour group (who had been strangers just days prior)
- Lovely physically, including your green eyes, dimples, pretty mouth, tall height, appealing gait and more
- Jewish like me
- Nearly photographic with your memory; you know the answer to almost any question I ask because, "I read it somewhere," you say simply
- Action-oriented -- which has rubbed off on me and made me more disciplined, for example, with completing chores -- and your related, dedicated work ethic; you even treat volunteer-work like a job
- Innocent, rather than cynical, that is, you prefer naïveté over suspiciousness
- Accomplished, including having earned an M.S. in Pysch, an MBA, and an M.S. and Ed.D. in Education, and multiple executive jobs in Higher Ed. with giant responsibilities before retiring, and the incoming president of Essex County Master Gardeners
- Well-coordinated -- a great dancer and graceful in sports
- Attracted to me.
Mom, you are:
- Vocally proud of me, which makes me feel good and validated and encouraged and emboldened
- Available whenever I want to talk with you, including offering encouragement when I need it
- Funny and also readily amused by the world around you, including me
- Intellectually curious and interactive/interrogative, especially during Q&A's at lectures, always contributing a nugget as well as asking the best questions
- A good arbiter of what makes for interesting art/cultural experiences, including movies, music, lectures...
- Creative, for example, in:
- Amassing the Jewish folk art collection you have over your lifetime so far
- Designing cultural programs for the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Stamford and the Stamford Museum & Nature Center back in the day
- Stylish -- you have more flair than anyone I know
- Invested in my development since my babyhood, including exposing me to more experimental pursuits than any other parent I know, including tennis, acting, golf, needlepoint, oceanography, clarinet, guitar, piano, journalism, cartoon art, sculpting, skiing...
- More intuitive than anyone I know and routinely, you say the kindest thing at just the right time, even to people you've just met
- Supportive of me unconditionally, for example, though you might have wished I'd have done like you and married a man and had children, you love me actively even though I did neither, including always introducing Pat appropriately when you're acquainting us with your friends.
Deb, you are:
- The most original person I know, including your continual creation of unique, cool and useful silver and copper Jewish ritual objects
- Along with Kayla, the most dedicated sister I could wish for, including reading lesbian literature to understand me better
- A devoted mom, exposing your kids to cultural experiences galore and letting them be who they are, including artists, skateboarders, and Latin and Greek students
- The person who most informed my music-appreciation other than me, including Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, The Crusaders, Michael Franks, and even Madonna, who you spotted super-early; I acknowledge my debt in this blog entry
- A great mother-by-proxy, including giving me shampoos via your "Magic Mask" invention when I was little
- One of our family who showed me Israel at its best, including rowing me down the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv while you had bronchitis when I was 15 and you were 24 -- I hope we didn't know it was bronchitis at the time
- The world's best birthday-card writer, always including a message that shows your love specifically of me
- The most adventurous fiction reader I know, including authors from around the world; your example inspires me to be more wide-ranging in my choices
- A gifted singer with a gorgeous voice, who along with Kayla, always makes me sound better at Pesach Seders
- Proud of me.
Kayla, you are:
- The best rhymer I know, including profound and hip poems tailor-made for poetry slams and publications
- Along with Deb, the most dedicated sister I could wish for, taking care of us whenever we got lost as children, including in the Bowery in New York City when I was five and you were 10 and a half
- A devoted mom, encouraging Zach to pursue whatever makes him happy, including years of playing the sitar and schlepping him to New Jersey for lessons and buying him his own sitar till he became good enough to be paid for gigs at the nicest Indian restaurant in Brooklyn
- The person who taught me three essential skills, to:
- Ride a bike
- Recite the Ma Nishtana
- Play Chess
- My mentor as an educator and you inspired me to pursue a Masters by your example
- A brave leader who, as a high school principal, leadership consultant and vice-principal, has helped hundreds and hundreds of new immigrants and refugees have a better, more meaningful life in America than they would have had if they had not met you
- The first person to:
- Teach me The Facts of Life, when I was seven and you were 12 and a half, while we waited for our school bus
- Learn of my non-heterosexual sexual orientation, when I was 15 and visiting you at college
- Our family member who first taught me the value of immersing ourselves in other cultures by living in multiple countries, going to Israel for six months at 14 with our school, and then to Finland for a year on AFS at 17
- Resilient, surviving cancer while unwaveringly contributing to others' well-being
- Like Deb, proud of me.