A Look on the Lighter Side: A very happy 90th birthday, Rosalie!

A Look on the Lighter Side: A very happy 90th birthday, Rosalie!

My mom is about to turn 90, which is as good a reason as there is, to write about her.

Mom is very practical.  When my brothers and I got restless during High Holy Day services, many years ago, she took us to a nearby shopping mall to run around.

Not only that — she bought us lunch, even though it was Yom Kippur.  It’s what the situation called for.

I’m not saying that’s what kept me Jewish, all these decades later — but it didn’t hurt!

Although she was brought up in a kosher household, mom was never tempted to have one, herself.

I once asked why not, and her answer was succinct: “More work for the woman!”  And that was that.

Mom combines her practicality with a hatred of clutter.  (That’s one gene I didn’t inherit.)  One time, after one of my parents’ (rare) dinner parties, dad caught mom trying to pour whiskey out of one bottle and into another.

“Can’t you at least pour the cheap one into the expensive bottle?” he asked her.

But all that mattered to mom was which one fit better on the shelf.

This same practicality helped in other ways, too.

After college, there were many years when I found it impossible to get out of New York City in time to get to Maryland for Thanksgiving.

Nothing daunted, mom just moved the whole holiday to Friday — turkey and all — and called it “Thanksgiving Observed.”

I didn’t realize until I tried moving it myself, a few years ago, that with every single store and restaurant closed, and everyone else you know at their own Thanksgiving, it made for a mighty dull Thursday alone.

But mom never complained.

Aside from family, mom’s greatest love is music.

If there was a musical event anywhere in the D.C. metropolitan area, she and my dad would find it — which is how they came to be attending  rehearsals of a chamber group at the University of Maryland, and enjoying them as if they were the main event.

Mom was, and still is, a marvelous pianist.

When she wants to relax, she sits and breezes through some classical pieces — and I mean the kind bristling with sixteenth-notes, that I never followed well enough even to turn the pages of.

She could play anything I put in front of her and make it look easy.

She was playing something — probably Beethoven — before dinner one time, and we both forgot she had string beans cooking on the stove… until the acrid smell of charred vegetables came to our attention.

Now mom has an electric piano, which she likes because she can turn down the volume so as not to disturb her neighbors… and which my children liked because they could turn a switch and have it bark notes like a dog.

She was always adamant that they change it back before they left, because she didn’t trust she could find that switch and use it, herself.

Well, really, she doesn’t trust anything electronic — and who can blame her?  (I got that gene.) She’s only made her peace with the thing because it’s a piano.

My mom is a very smart woman.

When she graduated from Brooklyn College and took the Civil Service exam, she got the second highest score in the entire nation!

Which got her an invitation to come to Washington, D.C. and work at President Truman’s Council of Economic Advisors.

And yet — the stories my mom likes to tell best are the ones where the joke is on her.

For example, years ago she came home chuckling from a trip to the local post office.

“I was buying stamps at the window when I noticed a sticker.  It said, ‘Ask about our Henway.’ ”

Puzzled, that’s what she did.  “What’s a Henway?” she asked the clerk.

“Oh, about three or four pounds.”

But mom was still puzzled.  “Three or four pounds of what?”

“Of hen!”

“I walked right into it,” she says with a laugh, every time she tells the story.

Always the best listener to my stories, and my first and best reader: Happy Birthday, mom, and many happy returns of the day!

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