House Tour

Martin celebrated his 75th birthday a couple of weeks ago. Elliot and his family came in as did Martin’s sister.  It was a great weekend hanging out at home, playing in the snow, playing dress up with the girls.. We were all sad to say goodbye. A couple of days later our son called to Face Time.  “Leah wants to see your house,” he said.  She piped up from the background, “I want to see your kitchen. Where is Grandpa?” Actually, “Where is Grandpa?” was likely the first question.


So began our impromptu FTHT — Face Time House Tour. Kitchen first where I  reminded Leah that she and her sister had finger painted at the kitchen counter during their visit.  Then on to the living room, stopping for a bit of art education. I showed her a floral still life passed down from my grandfather to my mother and then to me. Painted by A. S. Baylinson, a Russian artist who was fairly renowned in his day, I pointed out the red and yellow flowers; we played find the circles. After the livingroom we headed upstairs to the room she and her sister usually sleep in. Leah wanted to hear the music box that isn’t really a music box but a painted china figurine of Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck. We also needed to wind up the Rabbit Mother rocking her bunnies to sleep.

Returning to the kitchen at the end of the tour, Leah said, “I miss you, Aviva.  “I come to your house soon?”  “Yes, Sweetheart,” I replied.  “You’ll come to my house soon.” Oh how a brief FTHT  leaves tiny footprints upon the tour guide’s heart.



photos courtesy of Debra Darvick


















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What’s in a (pen) Name

With some of her saved up allowance, my granddaughter, Olivia, recently bought a journal and special pen.  Once home, she asked her mom to write the name ‘Brenda Myers’ on a small piece of paper and  tape the paper to her pen.  When Elizabeth asked why, Olivia replied something about learning that writers have pen names.  And so she had chosen the name Brenda Myers for her new pen.

Yes.  That’s right. A pen name.  I just might have to give one of my pens a name too.  Stay tuned.

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My Snail Teacher

I was taking a walk last week and came upon a snail out for its morning constitution.  I made this video for my granddaughters. I hope you might like to share it with your little ones as well.   Nature is crucial to our well being.  Any connection made nurtures the soul.

Happy viewing!

My Snail Teacher



My Sweet Max

My dear friend Audrey never got to meet her grandson, Max. Max’s mom Jessie and my daughter met in first grade; their friendship led to Audrey’s and mine. Audrey became Emma’s second mom and likewise, Jessie became my second daughter. Audrey died months before Jessie married. It is a sacred, cherished, and bittersweet role to be there for Jessie at milestones large and small. Whenever I visit,  in my mind and my heart, I take Audrey with me.

Last week our synagogue’s green team sponsored a plant exchange and all sorts of kids’ activities focussed on bees and butterflies.  By happenstance, Max had found a coccoon the week before and the morning of the event, his butterfly — a Monarch, no less! — emerged. There was quite a bit of fanfare when Max opened the jar and eased out his butterfly. During a lull, Jessie and I took Max into the sanctuary.  We brought him to the ark, the enclosure where the Torah scrolls are kept. Its smooth wooden doors are carved into the shapes of animals and Jewish symbols. Jessie, Max and I spent a good few minutes finding rams, birds, and a lion or two.

Next we went stood at the bima, the platform where the Torah is read. We opened the prayerbook and Jessie handed Max a yad, a slender silver pointer, and explained to him that we never touch the Torah with our hands, but use the yad instead to keep the place as the Torah is read.  As Max pointed to words in the prayerbook, Jessie recited them to him. He pointed to a prayer that happened to be one his parents sing to him at bedtime. Oseh Shalom asks God to spread peace over us, over all the people Israel, and over the entire world.  Jessie and I sang Oseh Shalom to Max. He laughed and giggled with joy. I imagined Audrey joining in, her voice audible across time and longing.


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Meeting Them Where They Are

For the first three years of her life, Olivia and her parents lived 11 minutes away. We held her hours after she was born. We held her naming ceremony in our living room. Watching Olivia grow day by day and week by week was a joy beyond anything I could have ever imagined. As Olivia grew, her mind and heart meshed with my dearest passions. She loved being read to. She caught on quickly to the words paired with specific pages. She spoke early and constantly. Her memory was uncanny; she could repeat back to me, with understanding, the French and Hebrew words I taught her.  She learned plant names and knew a hosta from a tulip. She loved running her hands along the lavender plants to release their scent. When we stomped in mud puddles she called our reflections rain shadows.

Saturday mornings, I would bring Olivia to syngaogue with me.  She charmed the adults and bit by bit she developed friendships with the other kids.  She began to parse the rhythms of the service and once said to me, “When the grown-ups speak Hebrew, I be quiet.” My biggest loves — nature, Judaism, language — became hers.

A few months before her little sister was born, Olivia and her parents moved to Chicago.  We were all bereft, though firm in knowing the move was the next step for us all. How would we be a part of Olivia’s life from afar? How would we bond with the new little one? Would I ever be able to establish depth with Olivia’s sibling?

We waited for the call and one cold January morning got news that we had a new granddaughter — Leah Florence. A new flower in our family garden. We attended her naming ceremony a few weeks later and then Covid hit. Thankfully, my daughter-in-law’s mother had arrived just before the pandemic became a pandemic and was with them for their first two months or more. We kept in touch thru email and photos, grateful that we had been able to to hold and bless Leah and to know that our voices and our love were woven into her first weeks of life.

Two years old now, Leah is a total hoot.  There is something about her that makes my heart giggle. There is about her a contagious effervescence. She has not been much interested in books and is just now beginning to speak. Leah is self-contained, comfortably following her own inner song.  While the rest of the family orbits nearby. Leah bops around, pushes her baby in the stroller, sweeps the floor, climbs into the dishwasher. She adores moving her body to music and it’s a thrill to dance along with her. At the park Leah wants only to be pushed in the “wim,” her name for the swing. Her name for the swing is appropriate for Leah is indeed a whimiscal child, a little sprite, an imp. With her dark hair and little pointed chin, she looks a bit like I did at her age.

Being an eleven-minutes-away grandmother and a four-and-a half-hour-car-ride grandmother has taught me that distance matters less than connecting. Constancy can be measured in days, weeks or even months. Connecting with my granddaughters is a constant flow of giving and receiving that forever exists outside of time and place.


(Leah’s parents do not want her image made public, so you’ll have to do with this one snapped of me in Miami, May ’57.)

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