October 24th, 2008
‘As time goes by…’ is the song, no? Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”… the sense of loss, tenderness and attachment that accompanies the bittersweet reunion, soon followed by departure, that is the basis of all forms of human affection.
Ahh, ‘and what is love?’, as Herr Mann often started his paragraphs in “The Magic Mountain” about time. This strange, bonding quality that unites individuals through the mists of time, the oceans of geography and the echoes of childhood. We travel through time & space, spending our lives shifting from here to there, and occasionally back again, but throughout our personal odyssey there are certain fragrances, call them persons, with whom we are forever attached, bonded, quilted and beholden to.
Mothers are One. One in the sense of our origins, our first becoming and being, the original sin become the original joy and the celebration of the creation of life, the start of family and the longing to protect and be protected. Quite basic, really. One with you from the beginning until the very end of being. There are no separations in this attachment, no complications, no divisions, nothing which can sever the reality of being One.
As the Jews say about the nature of G-d and man, being ‘at-one-ment’, which the Buddhists have wisely transformed into a mediation perceiving every living being as one’s mother during one incarnation or another. How can one not love all of humanity (even the guy who just cut you off while driving…), if they have all been at one time or another, through the amplitude of time, your blessed mother?
Yet, for all those beings who may have been my mother in an unforeseen or unremembered lifetime, respect them -- but for these past fifty-four years (1954-2008) I’ve been blessed by one profoundly precious, caring, loving and forever forgiving mother, Priscilla Rose Leslie. In that, I am eternally thankful to the g-ds for letting us share so many wonderful years together in this fleeting world.
You’ve been the still centerpiece of our family's lives, Mom. The quiet and enduring strength when we needed someone to trust or rely upon; the caring and loving mother who would lift us up when we were down or at risk of capsizing in the turbulent world; the protectoress in the background always watching our backs and making sure that we knew what dangers may be ahead; the judge of our actions and decisions who would try to guide us in the right direction and advise us on the consequences of our choices; the sacred spirit recalling our religious duties and obligations in an increasingly secular and atomized world.
In all of these roles, Mom, you were 'the One'. You were the elegant mother we were all proud of among the suburbanites of Syracuse, cool, refined, urbane, among the earthy chatter of the neighborhood. The Belle of Fieldston, who sought sanctuary Upstate away from the artifice and high society of the City. The well-read deb who chose a career in nursing to care for others while raising her family. The well-coiffed cook who could make the best brisket, as well as roast pork, of any Reform mother in the synagogue.
The station wagon Mom stuffing us in the back for Sunday School or Boy Scouts or summer camp or the Passovers with the Tumans in New Jersey or the unexpected, free-spirited, escape from school, ‘on the road’ journeys down the New York State Thruway from Syracuse to the caverns and excitement of Rose's apartment at Sixth Avenue and 57th St. on a dime and a lark…
Childhood memories mixed with the turmoils of adolescence and unexpected sexuality. The simple joys of high school before the well-planned displacement to college and then beyond. The slow, necessary, complex struggle to become One-in-oneself, separate from the protective shadow of one’s parents, beloved and misunderstood in equal measures.
We all survive, fall and stand up again on that journey. Yet, it is made the more soothing and comforting when one knows that there is a mother who loves and loves without question or limitation.
Thank-you, Mom, for all these years of joy, care and love. I couldn’t have asked for more...
[Note: The Bhakti movement was a Hindu religious movement in which the spiritual practice was loving devotion to G-d, or bhakti. The devotion was directed towards a particular form of G-d, such as Shiva, Vishnu or Shakti. The bhakti movement started in southern India and spread north during the Indian medieval period (800-1700 CE). A bhakta is a devotee of a particular form of G-d. In common use it means 'one who follows the path of bhakti', often referred to as bhakti yoga.]