Politics, Purim, and Mom
search
OPINION

Politics, Purim, and Mom

My mother not only believed in the political process, she also lived it. She launched demonstrations and marches for the causes that were important to her. Often my sister and I could be found carrying placards through the streets of Newark.

Mom was really a very political being. And she was always willing to share her beliefs, especially with members of her family, like me. That’s why, all these years after her death, I can tell you that she would have despised Vladimir Putin, even before he attacked Ukraine, while protecting himself from flying germs by hiding behind the biggest table I’ve ever seen.

Mom also would have been infuriated by some Americans’ love affair with Putin’s fan Donald Trump. I can hear her now. She wasn’t given to yelling, but she was very persuasive and usually she was correct. A couple of miscalls are below!

Mom shlepped us kids along when she marched for justice, say for Paul Robeson, or Marian Anderson, or school integration. Politics were part of the age she grew up in, and she was a profound opponent of Nazis and Communists and all those who would work for any deprivation of human rights. You didn’t want to discuss the hated Senator McCar­thy with Mom, unless you had a lot of time on your hands! She saw exactly what and who he was. I still remember her glued to the old black-and-white TV, watching his televised witch hunts.

She was the consummate patriot, and her love of countries extended to the land of her birth, the USA, and the land where she now lies for eternity, the State of Israel. She could not tell you which place she loved more. She was passionate about both.

She was exceptionally smart, exceptionally well read, a cultured lover of poetry and opera as well as theater, and always politically involved. She did, however, make some mistakes, supporting Henry Wallace in his long-since forgotten race against Harry Truman and believing the Rosenbergs truly were innocent.

But Donald Trump never would have fooled her. That’s a guarantee!

My mother was a lover of humanity, a kind and generous human being. She demonstrated that throughout her life. She was applauded by those to whom she gave comfort and solace and was often known as the soup lady, in tribute to her lovely tradition of delivering home-made, delicious soup to those who were needy. Today I can just imagine her walking around the hordes of refugees at the train stations in Ukraine, doling out hot soup packed with sustenance and love.

Will Donald or Vladimir be remembered for their kindness? As of this writing, hundreds of people, including many children, lie dead in the streets of Kyiv and Kharkov in Ukraine. What will tomorrow bring? Clearly not homemade soup!

Mom was a carer. She took care of those who depended on her. When I was a kid, Mom nurtured two goldfish in a little glass bowl. They were pretty plain-looking fish, the kind you might bring home from a Purim carnival in a plastic bag. One was white and one was gold, and they were named Whitey and Goldy. They each lived more than five years.

Now, I am hardly a fish maven, so I decided to check on the life­span of a goldfish, and I found that our two fish were very lucky. The typical goldfish lives about a year in a bowl (less in a baggy). If that fish has proper water filtration and lots of other sophisticated stuff, like an elaborate tank, maybe it’ll make it to three.

Living in a little bowl in the living room, Whitey and Goldy should have been long dead when they succumbed, each at about 5 years old. Not that these two fish added much to our lives. They were not like real pets. You couldn’t play with them, and their only trick was recognizing when food was heading their way. They were more like decorator objects, not exactly fitting into the color scheme but being somewhat soothing and reasonably attractive.

To Mom, life meant living, and that you had to take care of whatever was in your charge. Even two really dumb goldfish.

I don’t remember how she did it! She was always busy, between politics; our shul, Rodfei Shalom; Hadassah work; and tending to the needs of the Bauman House, which meant making sure during the off that the place would be full for the actual season; and never neglecting all of our needs at home. She always left time for Broadway shows (going once a week with her two lifelong friends, always sitting in the second balcony) and listening to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio. And she was the personification of doing maasim tovim, performing good deeds

So our goldfish outlived their life expectancy by a huge amount, thanks only to Mom. In my hands they would have been overfed on day one. That is not good for goldfish.

She was the same with plants. Give me a living plant and I will show you how quickly I can make it a dried plant, a withered plant, a dead plant. My plants suffer from either overwatering or underwatering. And don’t even talk to me about babysitting your orchid. There are many orchids blaming me from their graves.

Mom’s plants always thrived. They sprouted new growth (something I have yet to see with my own) and she could make so-called clippings from them so you could grow your own. When I asked her how to do it, she would always pooh-pooh and tell me it was so easy! Maybe for her it was easy. Not for me! And she managed to keep the plants alive in Newark when she went to Parksville and when she went to Israel. She knew all the tricks. And she followed them meticulously, without making a federal case out of it either. Her green thumb was just not passed on to me. I am the plant monster. If a plant sees me coming it chooses death in lieu of drowning or dehydrating.

And Phoebe. Phoebe was our famous dog, a pure unadulterated mongrel, born in the slums of Brooklyn and hired to be a companion to Mom’s mother, Peshka. When Peshka died, Phoebe moved to Newark to live with us. She was showered with love, the same kind of love she had shared with Peshka. Mom took wonderful care of her, nurturing her and feeding her delicacies, never dog food. Kosher liver scraps were Phoebe’s favorite, and Mom would get them fresh from the butcher, broil them for kashrut, and serve warm! Yum! Thus Phoebe just kept on living until she neared her 16th birthday. That is a very long life for a dog, an independent free-thinker like Phoebe.

As a matter of fact, Phoebe was so independent that she gave birth to several litters, somehow figuring out how to become pregnant. I was a very young child when I saw movement in Phoebe’s belly. I imagine that these days pregnant mutts are aborted or otherwise ignored. Phoebe was neither, but neither was she followed with any kind of obstetrical guidance from our vet, cousin Yitzchak. She had her pups, self-delivered, and at the appropriate time, Dad always found them homes. Her look of longing when the pups left was very sad, but then again, her litters were always healthy and always at least four pups at a time. No room for them on Aldine Street. Phoebe always managed to forget them pretty quickly anyway.

So living things thrived under Mom’s care. Especially Dad.

Theirs was a love match. When I was 10 years old, they had an argument. I was in a panic. I thought they were getting divorced. That was the first, and truthfully, the last time I ever heard them fight. I assumed all marriages were like that.

Mom was the perfect wife. And in her eyes, Dad could do no wrong. She never made a date to go out with another couple without checking with him first. She catered to his food whims, which almost always called for weekday dinners at about 2 p.m. True, she nagged him about his cigar smoking but never offensively, and he knew she had his health in mind. She nurtured him always, and he was indomitable. When he died, he was a few weeks short of 98 years old, with a sharp and clear mind and a full set of teeth. Mom always took good care of him.

Compare Mom to Vlad or Don. You just cannot! One had a respect for the living and the others have respect only for themselves. Mom would have spotted Trump as an amoral grifter. And she would have seen Putin for the despot he is.

History won’t remember my mother. Good people are easily forgotten. But at Purim we are taught “wipe out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens.” And so may it be for Putin and Trump.

Rosanne Skopp of West Orange is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and a dual citizen of the United States and Israel. She is a lifelong blogger, writing blogs before anyone knew what a blog was!

comments